Perhaps it Means a Little Bit More?


Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, seasonal music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world and is a significant, vital supporter of many nations’ economies.  In an ever increasingly diverse and often divisive world, Christmas is one of the few times when many millions of people come together to enjoy a shared experience.

For marketers of all things marketable the season is a time when annual sales objectives are realized, financial losses turned into gains and prospects and promise for another year realized.  The season is filled with many traditions formed by many generations, yielding many memories and emotions. Selling to those traditions, memories and emotions provides a cornucopia of marketing tactics; anticipation, trust, surprise and admiration.  As a result of the effort, this year the holiday season will produce an estimated $602.1 billion in sales and revenue for the nations’ retailers, who will hire an additional 750,000 seasonal workers help them realize the increased sales volume throughout the holiday period.  The impact of the season on the economics of this nation and many more around the world cannot be overstated. But with it all, the Christmas holiday brings with it a whole other dimension:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~Dr. Seuss

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and peace on earth, good will to all.

Is Your Company a Storyteller or Storydoer?

Story Teller or Story Doer

After a very significant, extended period of economic challenge many companies are finding themselves in a rebuilding phase, beginning to re-assemble their marketing teams and forming a new comprehensive marketing strategy for the future, deciding whether they want to be a storyteller or storydoer company.   Ty Montague, CEO and co-founder of co: and author of “True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business”  says, “The fundamental difference between these two different kinds of companies is the way the leadership team thinks about “story.” Storytellers think of story as the domain of the marketing team.  A company’s story, thought of as separate from the corporate strategy and product development team, is most often expressed through advertising.  Storydoers, on the other hand, think of their story as a strategic asset and a competitive advantage.  Because of this the entire leadership team, including the CEO, embraces the company narrative and helps to enact it.  The narrative of storydoing companies is advanced through every action they take: product development, marketing, customer service and even the allocation of Human Resources (HR).  Reebok, TOMS shoes and, increasingly today, Nike are storydoers. Dr. Pepper is a storyteller. RedBull is a storydoer.

Storydoing companies tend to be on a mission to make the world a better place. They have a quest that transcends revenue. Their customers see and feel this higher goal in everything the company does and it makes these companies magnetic, creating fierce loyalty in their customers.  The contrast between these two different management and marketing styles is most obvious by the stark difference in an organizations philosophy.  The common purpose of all commercial enterprises is the pursuit of profitability, the condition of yielding a financial gain through a predetermined business practice, but the why and how the profit is achieved determines whether a company is a storyteller or storydoer.  Storydoers tend to be passionate about the journey on their way to achieving revenue goals, focusing on the “art”, as well as, the “science” of those endeavors that in the end put the numbers on the financial page.

Nick Saban, Alabama University Head Coach, is the most dominant head coach today in college football, and maybe all of American sport.  His Alabama Crimson Tide (The Tide) is once again undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country, and is gunning for a modern day record third straight national title and fourth championship in five years.  The Tides success can be attributed to Sabin’s revolutionary approach he designed years ago called, The Process.  “Ignore the scoreboard”, Saban preaches to his players, “Don’t worry about winning, just focus on doing your job at the highest level, every single play, and the wins will follow.”  In the big business of College football, Coach Saban is clearly a storydoer and a leader that is on a quest for perfecting the process.

Leaders and associates of storydoer companies tend to find their work experiences richer and more deeply satisfying and receive considerable personal satisfaction from the process of making the profit.  They tend to better understand the importance of the how and why’s of what is instrumental in putting the numbers on the page.  There is growing evidence that suggests storydoer companies are more efficient businesses that perform better financially over time.  Is your company a storyteller or storydoer?

Marketing Education In A New Reality

Online University

In a makeshift production studio at the University of Pittsburgh, adjunct professor Larry Foulke is speaking passionately into a camera, preparing his online course, “A Look at Nuclear Science and Technology,” for the masses.  So animated is his delivery in front of a video crew recording his lecture, it’s as if he is speaking face-to-face to his class. But chances are nil that he will ever meet most of his students, and even if he did, there would not be enough time to greet them all. That’s because nearly 12,000 people in the United States and abroad have signed up via the Internet for the course.

Welcome to the world of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a phenomenon that is spreading rapidly, prompting even some of the nation’s leading universities to gamble that giving away free instruction by some of their top faculty will pay dividends down the road.  With enrollments that can push 100,000 or more, these virtual courses generally are noncredit, though many involved in the movement see a future in awarding certificates for a fee.  Some even see potential for giving full academic credit, among them San Jose State University, which last month announced an experiment with online education venture Udacity Inc., to develop courses in algebra, college algebra and elementary statistics at $150 per course.

The past few centuries have witnessed technological revolutions in virtually every area of our world; health, transport, communications and genomics, to name but a few. But education seems to be the one area stuck in the past.  Contrary to massive increases in public sponsored spending on education, mainly on brick and mortar and teaching theory, statistics that measure performances remain dismal at best.  Millions of underperforming students are trapped inside the public, tax supported education marketplace, which rewards the status quo and discourages experimentation in new fundamentally bold techniques and the use of technology to improve teaching performance.

Enter Sal Khan, a former stock market analyst and MIT graduate, who stumbled upon a unique technique to help teach complicated mathematics to a few of his younger family members.  His teaching techniques became an immediate sensation and quickly went viral across the internet, resulting in the birth of Khan Academy, and once again demonstrated that revolution in an industry and the marketplace most often comes from outside of the establish community. The experiment has proved to be very successful and has turned the traditional educational model on its head. Today, Khan Academy’s mission is to provide a free world-class education for anyone anywhere at any level, kindergarten thru post graduate.  The greatest challenge to expanding this new and successful approach remains in breaking into the traditional monopoly of public education.  Bringing in new ideas from the free market is one thing, developing a state-of-the-art strategy to introduce a totally new education delivery model into the current closed, public funded establishment is quite another.

But the nation’s post-secondary colleges and universities have long understood the importance of marketing to attract students to their various institutions.  Even public funded institutions must compete with private free market educators to attract and maintain a viable student base, advertising their universities many features and benefits, utilizing a wide range of media vehicles to include digital, mobile and the internet.   But this year college tuitions have begun to rise to a level which many believe will be unsustainable in the future.  Whether at public or private schools, college tuition over the past few years has skyrocketed, due largely to the federal government’s growing role in the financing of a college education.  With a year of tuition, at even the most middle of the road institutions quickly approaching $50,000, the electorate is casting a more jaundiced eye toward federal spending, the argument is that student loans will be clipped and the tuition ‘bubble’, heavily relied upon by both private and public education entities, will soon burst prompting the arrival of a new era in marketing post-secondary education.

Such prestigious institutions as Harvard, MIT and the University of Texas System are creating free online versions of some courses, and hundreds of thousands of students across the globe are signing up.  In a recent publication, Issues in Science and Technology, two experts explain some of the factors behind this new approach to education and speculate about how it could benefit students and the nation.  The paper’s authors, William B. Bonvillian of MIT and Susan R. Singer of Carleton College, argue that the combination of new technology with advances in the science of learning is making it possible to experiment with a new model that could make education more effective as well as less expensive. The goal is not to replace in-person learning with online courses but to blend the two in ways that enable each approach to do what it does best.

The success of MOOCs as a vehicle to transition to a newer marketing reality for the educational industry remains to be realized.  The tactic of giving away free samples of product to an emerging market is certainly nothing new to business of marketing and in the internet arena it has been a strategy long tested, resulting in extended periods of profitless quarters, and in many cases, years.  In an era of monumental change and challenge in business, nothing, if it is to survive, can afford the luxury of remaining the same.