Black Hop Burns is…? Well, actually, it's a beer, hot chile sauce and vinyl record store…obviously. In Dulwich - London, England. It's owned and run by a couple of kiwis and it is booming. The London Evening Standard just rated it a one of the city's great shops. Not bad for a fledgling business that seems to defy any kind of convention. Really, if a management consultant had prognosticated on Jen & Glenn's business plan they might well have advised 'concentrate on one of the three legs of their business stool, or maybe drop the hot sauce because that's just…weird…what's your core business?' I know, I nodded off writing it too. Beware of management consultants. Go with your gut.
But this post is about point of sale systems. One of the things I notice in dealing with small business owners, specifically shop owners - it's that they are run off their feet with the sheer number of things they have to take care of. From stock management to marketing, sharing their wares and experience with customers to make them insanely happy and even cleaning the place every day. Then there's dealing with suppliers and doing the accounts. You can't just concentrate on the fun, sexy things. Growing takes time and massive amounts of energy. Note I didn't say massive amounts of money?
Most small stores rely on cash flow, rather than investment from 'angels' or venture capitalists. It's the life blood of your business. A healthy business has good cash flow that is the product of getting the parts of the business iceberg below the waterline right - product selection, pricing, promotion, staffing, merchandising sorted so that when the doors open every morning new customers and returning fans are presented with an experience they love and products that satisfy their needs and wants. They show their pleasure and gratitude by exchanging their hard-earned cash for your goods and services and you process the transaction through your till…
Wait…your till? Remember Arkwright, the corner shopkeeper who's till had a mind of its own? Times have changed. Cash has given way to EFTPOS, debit cards and credit cards. The idea of a transaction has changed and with it how transactions are handled in store. One of the most important decisions you can make that will positively effect most other parts of your retail business is the choice of point of sale management systems you choose. Stock management and ordering, building your customer database and integrating with your accounts will all be made so much easier if you commit to a system early on. The best time to decide is when you are planning to open your store - but any time after that is fine too.
You have plenty of things to do and the more streamlined your business is the more time you will have to spend attending to the needs of your customers. And let's be honest, if you are anything like the people I work with, the more time you will have to enjoy life outside of trading hours.
The video about Hop, Burns & Black was produced by Vend, a New Zealand based point of sale system that is growing very quickly with small and growing retailers around the world. I recommend you have a word to them. Their site has a number of case studies of retailers in a wide range of categories you might find useful.
John Oliver has a a news and satire show Last Week Tonight on HBO that follows on from his popular segments on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. In this piece he asks some interesting questions and makes some valid points about 'native advertising' - ads that are camouflaged as editorial content. It is a practice that is becoming more common. Partly because people don't want to pay for their content (any more than they every did). So news gathering and reporting outlets are having to compromise to pay the bills and compete with newcomers like BuzzFeed that have no tradition of journalistic integrity or independence to preserve.
Oliver is unflinching. As he points out he can afford to be. HBO is a subscriber funded channel - so brands who want to reach their audience have to do it in other ways (like product placement in their shows - which isn't discussed in this item).
The point that is most important is whether consumers will, ultimately, backlash against this kind of subversion. Oliver's barb that 'deer aren't stupid' is a reference to this. Nothing spoils trust more than the realisation that you have been cheated or played for a fool.
I make my living from advertising but I realise it is a lot like fishing. If you treat your resource with disrespect then the catch will collapse. I've always felt that it is important that there is balance in the transaction between brand and consumer. If an ad has hyperbole to make an extravagant point then it should obviously be hypebole - not just some crazy claim. pretending to be a fact. When 'native' ads or content marketing are used to promote products where the facts are either sketchy or 'repurposed bovine waste' then nobody wins. Consumers will not only turn their backs on the advertiser and the media brand that provided cover and violated the trust that they have earned with the consumer - via a reputation for quality news and information - but they will also turn to social media (their own channels) to spread the word.
There has to be genuine value offered and received by brands who want to enter this space. Done well and transparently then everyone will be happy. Covert, creepy invasion is never a good way to start or maintain a relationship.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Last Week Tonight Website
Walt Stack - 80 years old.
On the road. Just him, his shorts and shoes. And that's pretty much it.
This ad challenges the idea that the people in your ad should be the people your product is targeted to. (I guess that's why there are so many ads out there in the market with beardo hipsters and young families - or any number of sterotypical markers for the 'target audience'.)
Was Nike targeting 80 year old marathon runners? That's a pretty narrow niche for a mass market brand.
No, they were targeting people with spirit and commitment - everyday heroes who drag themselves out of bed every morning while others sleep for an extra hour and dream of double shot lattés.
Not Walt though. Walt's out there pounding the pavement and putting a smile on our faces. Hell, if he can do it…maybe I can see myself in his shoes.
Well, maybe not his actual shoes.
But I think you know what I mean.
There's something Maya Angelou said, I think, about how people will forget what you said or did but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Without getting into a debate about whether advertising's role is to entertain or engage or inform (or all of these things by degrees and turns) most ads are supposed to sell something, to be persuasive. If you feel nothing as a response to a message my opinion is that you have failed.
A little while back Kevin Roberts wrote his book Lovemarks - about brands that transcended just being there, credible, worthy consumer choices - to become almost fetish objects in people's lives. What is the opposite of love? Is it hate? No, it is indifference. If you just don't care it is over - sometimes before it begins.
In marketing today there is a lot of conversation about the processes that are being deployed to reach consumers - conversations about content marketing or native advertising, social media, landing page marketing…there will always be another fad emerging or just over the horizon.
What we need to get back to is to imagine how we want people to feel as a result of being exposed to our brand and its messages. Once they are receptive emotionally then the relationship can begin.
Is love the only desirable feeling? Not really. Revulsion can work too - I will never forget an ad by the advertising legend David Abbot that showed a dead dogs in a sack - a doggy bag. A strong statement to make an urgent message (from a more genteel era, admittedly).
When you produce and advertising message don't forget to consider how people feel as a result of being coming into contact with your brand. They will forget the details but will never forget you make them feel empowered, hopeful, energised or even loved - or any one of the gamut of human emotions. Likewise, if you make them feel angry, cheated or insulted you will probably never have another chance.
As that advertising legend from the other side of the Atlantic, Bill Bernbach, also, famously, said: 'The facts are not enough'.
J.Crew are a catalog retailer in the US. Michelle Obama wore their kit at her hubby's first inauguration bash and set the tone for a presidency that was styish but not so so much Jackie O prêt-à-porter as a Yo! to go .
Something happened the other day that is worth noting. A blogger for New York magazine wrote an open letter to the company asking them to bring back a discontinued swim suit. The retailer responded - taking out a double page spread in the magazine to announce that the togs were back in all their scoop backed glory.
The blogger acknowledged the acknowledgement online and the story loop closed.
Bloggers can be influential - it pays to listen to what is being said about your products. If they are super-fans (raving fans as Tom Peters famously labelled them) then they may be incredibly influential…'mavens' - as we are throwing around the nomenclature of big-name commentators.
Be human - even if you're a big brand. Nobody cares about faceless corporations anymore. We all know that there is someone in a cubicle or a corner office pulling the levers that make things tick…don't be too slick.
If your customers ask for something - there might be value - not just at the cash register - but also as evidence your brand is responsive and fleet of foot.
Heard of BetaBrand? Neither. But they have some interesting ideas such as crowdsourcing garment concepts - like these crossover yoga pants that do double duty as dress trousers for work. So you can salute the sun or downward dog at your desk. The brand also engages it community with Model Citizen - offering a discount if customers take a picture of themselves wearing BB kit and it appears on their home page.
I like the Think Tank "This is the place to purchase upcoming products, help us develop new prototypes, and even submit ideas of your own. At Betabrand, you create the future of fashion."
Seems the whole brand is about engaging its customers in a conversation not only about what they sell but also what they should sell.
Obviously their constituents (a term I've been using for many years now - because 'consumers' is to narrow a definition and implies a passive grazing - like sheep), their constituents are active in all dimensions of their daily lives. Who would have thought there would be a category of clothing for people who cycle to work? I like the idea of a blazer with reflective details when you flip the collar or lean over the handlebars.
1. Don't make/sell the same shit as your competitors. The world has too much same/same already.
2. Don't just 'listen' to customers - engage with them, conversations are two-way - especially if your brand is in a particular niche and its all 'us', rather than 'us and them'.
3. Have some fun with it - disrupting convention (cycling and yoga work wear?) see where things that seem nutty will spill.
Do they ship to New Zealand? - Looks like they do.
There's an interesting profile of BetaBrand here on The Verge
As a footnote: Here's a video about production progress of the crowdsourced yogapants - if you have been thinking of developing video for your business - don't over think it - just get going.
Have you encountered BetaBrand? What do you think? Leave a comment.
One of the problems some people encounter in business as they get more experienced is the fallacy that they have to know everything. When you start to think you already have the answers before anyone asks any questions you are dead in the water.
Curiosity didn't kill the cat - that's a parable from a time when unthinking allegiance to your master was the norm and change happened over generations, not over a flat white.
If you are going to have good idea you have to wonder why people do things. Why do certain things get done the way they do? There are no stupid questions - but blind faith in what you are doing now is stupid behaviour.
Look at what is happening in your industry - what are the general trends? What is happening in areas that don't even seem related? Making connections between seemingly unrelated things is the essence of creating new things. Pull things apart. Put them together in different ways. I used to teach design research methods at Massey University's School of Design. The most important discipline designers (and anyone for that matter) has to be curiousity. Avoid orthodoxy. It's all research – and the point of research isn't to prove a truth - it's to discover more interesting questions.
Know your audience.
Sitting in your office staring at your degree - or surfing the internet isn't going to stoke the fires of passion. Get out there amongst the people you will be communicating with. Learn their issues and listen to their language. I guarantee that the messages in your communications about the products you are advocating for will seem a whole lot less like 'persuasion' and a heck of a lot more like common sense coming from a like mind. Factory tours can be interesting too. It's amazing the stories you will hear from employees who've been with the company for 25 years. It might be the marketing guy who got recruited from another marketing company just hasn't had the time to learn the company while he gets his resumé ready for the next marketing company he's angling to work for. And don't forget the people who use the product. If you let the market researchers speak for them you might miss some nuance. Even in the era of metadata an insight can come from a single observation. A little bit of anthropology can go a long way.
In the Korean War* jet fighter pilots had to figure out how to shoot each other down. The propulsion technology had rocketed ahead of other systems on the aircraft. So hurtling through the air at twice the speed while trying to aim cannon and rockets at the enemy with tools that were not much better than World War 2's kit mean pilots had to think a different way. They had to be far more decisive. They came up with the O.O.D.A Loop –Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The person who could put everything together systematically the quickest got to fly home alive.
Choosing your target, positioning yourself to take the advantage and acting decisively will make a huge difference. Choosing your mission is important too. MacGregor Media doesn't tout for grand strategic partnerships with global brands. We're Good. Fast. Cheap (pick any three). You can't be all things to all people.
Focus - that's what strategy is all about.
*Ever see M.A.S.H.? - Hotlips, Radar O'Reilly, Hawkeye, Klinger…that was the Korean War.
Be The One & Only
Gerry Garcia from the rock band The Grateful Dead said something long the lines of 'Don't be the best at what you do - be the only one who does it.' I think that sums authenticity up pretty well. If you are interchangeable then your customers will shop around for what you do at a cheaper price. A client recently told me that they wanted to be like Apple. Not Apple in the beginning. Apple now. Audacious but lacking in ambition. As I'm lobbing quotes around here's another - the source is a magazine I was flipping through, maybe Vanity Fair, to be fair I don't remember: "If you want to be like Kate Moss…be yourself." Think about it.
When you are in the supermarket, with your kids in train (or, more likely, running riot) there is only so much time you have to pay attention to the claims made on packaging. Claims like 'Natural' and 'Fat Free' seem reassuring - even though close consideration might reveal they aren't quite what you think you are getting. But it makes you feel a little bit better and, really, how bad can they be?
This video is an interesting exposition on the problem - admittedly from a group lobbying for all-organic food.
It is made to be 'viral' (we're sharing it) - but it's funny and makes its point well. Which raises another point about communicating important messages in the right pitch for the audience. But we can talk about that later.
I put the ideas in this presentation together to show a bed manufacturer and retailer how creating 'social objects' - talking points becomes a focal point for a social strategy.
One of the things that is misunderstood in social media is the idea of 'going viral' - most things go largely ignored. But in the era of 'the long tail' you have to fill the pipeline and let your customers and prospects cine to you over time.
Remember the rules:
1. Be Useful
2. Be engaging
And don't worry too much about creating the perfect work of art in your promotions. Perfectionism will freeze you - or just slow you down so much that the world will pass you by.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.