Lego Takes the Life Out of Its Own Party

20130114-191437.jpgThis past weekend, there was a Lego expo here in Portland and my youngest son went with my wife. We’ve been to these kinds of shows in the past – and they can be really exciting.

Sure, these shows have had Lego brand goods. But far more interesting are the aftermarket products – specialized figures, unique model sets created by innovative designers, amazingly innovative models created by Lego enthusiasts, Lego topical shirts for sale, etc…

Did you know you can buy aftermarket Lego figures painted with specific WWII uniforms and holding replica guns to match? Or aftermarket Halo figurines? Or rare collectible sets no longer on the market? Or unique sets creating interesting new Lego creations? Read more of this post

“Practicing on the Bandstand”. Some Thoughts about Miles Davis, Improvisation & Business.

Business has a tremendously complicated relationship with improvisation – often preferring a mythological quest for risk-free management and ignoring the value of leaving room for improvisation.

I think it’s a fear of losing absolute corporate control (absolute control being another myth) and fear of mistakes. In fact, some companies spend so much money avoiding mistakes that the mere cost of doing business skyrockets to where its impossible to do new things. And by rewarding detailed planning over end results (usually implicitly rewarded through corporate politics), too many companies ensure that no one will take the risks necessary to drive new innovation.

20130114-191437.jpgSo I was struck by a story about Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Miles and his band were on a road trip in the 1960s when one night the sax player trotted out a set of new solo licks and used them during the performance – flawlessly and perfectly. The report is that Miles was furious and chewed the guy out saying “I pay you to practice on the bandstand.”

Yes. Miles meant practicing in front of an audience. He meant making mistakes in public. And all this can be a very uncomfortable idea – especially if we don’t grasp it in context.
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Challenge the Myths of Internet TV with Reality

There’s huge money to be made, apparently, for consultants who project radical future change. In TV, that means suggesting TV becomes a variant of online video. (Really? We need better produced cat videos?)

But the rest of us have to earn our money based on reality. And lately there have been some interesting truths to help anchor TVs future in reality.

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Space Jump Gets Viewers. But Does Branded Content Really Fly?

Wave Goodbye to Branded Content Myths

Humanity loves watching the truly daring. From NASA projects to high altitude ballooning and trips around the world, my adult life has been paced by some fascinating events.

So it was with tremendous awe, excitement and fun on Sunday that my family watched the TiVO playback of Discovery Channel coverage of the space jump – where Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, lost control in a tumble, fell at more than the speed of sound, then opened a parachute and landed on his feet. (And, tested a possible high altitude emergency escape for astronauts.)

This morning we find that apparently around 8 million YouTube viewers watched the event. (Link here.) (As always…we’re not really certain what a YouTube viewer means since I can count as 15 YouTube viewers given all the devices I use.)

True to form the online advertising enthusiasts are ready to jump on these numbers as “proof” of the power of branded content. Branded content? Articles I read today remind me that Red Bull sponsored the jumper (I’d forgotten already). So, enthusiasts are taking “sponsored” and deciding that it is clearly “branded content”. Whatever.

Anyway, when it comes to numbers we need to be more skeptical.

What the Space Jump Really Proves is That Traditional Media Remains the Best Driver of Demand. After all…

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Lets Hold the Panic About Retail Showrooming – It’s Driven by Research Errors

I discovered an excellent blog post (link here) this week about marketers being mis-led by major research mistakes. One of his main examples? How “showrooming” fears have been blown out of proportion..

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Apple vs Samsung Reminds Us: What’s Obvious Today Was Obscure in the Past

‘The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.

“Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along.” Alan Ashley-Pitt as quoted in “The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age” by Eda LeShan

And so we find on Page 46 of 109 in the Apple-Samsung jury instructions this rather concerning issue: “Obviousness”. Specifically:

“A utility patent claim is invalid if the claimed invention would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the field at the time of invention”

Now I’m no expert in the specifics of this trial. But this fundamental idea concerns me. Because there’s a strange relationship between what’s obvious today and what would have been obvious before a product was released.

Copying Apple makes it far easier to introduce new phones and give them the appearance of “exciting”.

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Research Shows that Smart Phones HELP Retail

The tech theorizers have suckered us into a mythology – the one where the Four Virtual Horsemen of the Tech Apocalypse destroy whatever they touch.

So, as soon as someone saw the first retail store shopper pull their smart phone out, tech titans started taking credit for the destruction of retail. But, new Deloitte research (link here) suggests we might want to keep our retail outlets open after all.
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Cable Cutting? Census Suggests Just Sharing Households.

Much was made of Nielsen numbers released recently that suggested a small drop in homes with multi-channel TV (cable, satellite, etc.).

Of course, those wishing to become rich in a new digital world told us, once again, that this was the harbinger of the death of TV…just like newspaper is dead (which it isn’t) and magazines are dead (which they aren’t).

But truth is often quite complex. And today I came across this release (click here). Read more of this post

Future TV Skepticism: Why I Don’t Think Apple will Conquer TV

It’s been a crazy week of reports on TV. It started with the extremists predicting nothing less than complete destruction of TV. They report this, of course, with tremendous glee – after all it’s good for your career to predict the demise of TV.

On the other hand, we’ve been fortunate to read responses from savvy TV watchers who observe TV with more clarity and better awareness of history. In particular, check out this post by Wayne Friedman of Media Post. (Link Here.) And I highly suggest you read this one about why internet HBO would cost far more than cable HBO cable – far more than anyone would pay. (Link Here.)
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Why Does JC Penney’s Struggle?

After all the hoopla of hiring an Apple magician (only magical, of course, because he was at Apple) and the hype surrounding some really odd advertising, why is it that JC Penney’s is struggling?

Let me refer you to two really interesting posts on the topic.

The first post is found on the HBR website (link here) and suggests that there’s a fundamental flaw in the idea of “Fair Price”.
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