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12/31/2004

Couple days off

Filed under: — 6:50 pm

Today there was little postage becuase I came down with a terrible stomach bug last night. What little I did get accomplished today took a lot of strength. Anyway, drama aside… as I was skimming RSS feeds really quick I came upon the Business Blogging Awards hosted by InsideBlogging. If you’re not familiar with the company I find it really quite interesting. It started when Jeremy C. Wright sold his ‘blogging services’ on eBay a bit ago. Darren Barefoot soon followed. Together they super-blogged up to create a company devoted to helping companies with their “blogging needs”.. .or something. They’re already hired an employee.

So, don’t expect much tomorrow.. my head hurts and I’m going out tonight. Happy 2005!

Clever criminals cheat Wal-Mart

Filed under: — 12:06 pm

I’m assuming that most of the readers here find Wal-Mart’s prices to be ridiculously low enough. Apparently a ring of criminals from 19 states didn’t think so. Actually, these people were caught putting home-made UPC codes on expensive merchandise (thus marking it down). Then, they’d come back to return the merchandise and recieve gift cards which they then proceeded to sell. First, this provides more support for the RFID argument. Sure, hackers can break into anything (even german bikes) but the move will surely slow them down. Second, it takes a pretty special kind of employee to notice that TV going for $2.99, wouldn’t you think? Okay, merely kidding, but still, Wal-Mart was cheated out of over $1.5 million. That’s a lot of bluelight speci– wait, no, nevermind.

(via Boing Boing)

12/30/2004

Starbucks to print notable quotables

Filed under: — 4:29 pm

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Starbucks will begin printing quotes from various contributors — be they actors, economists, philosophers or kings — on all of its coffee cups in North America, beginning early next year.

The idea behind the quotes would be people would talk about the comments on the cups. I can picture myself chatting with the barista, but I don’t usually find the 6am “pre-caffeinated” to be overly warm and chatty. Who knows, perhaps some discussion will arise. But, there certainly is some potential for insightful, respectful conversations to place. Heck even if they don’t occur, reading one quote from Aristotle would certainly beat picking up the in-shop copy of USAToday.

Unwanted gift cards have an outlet

Filed under: — 4:17 pm

A new type of website has emerged: swap-sell websites. For those of you who feel trapped when someone gives you a crummy gift card, think again. Sure, the cards liberate you from having to deal with a return, but what if you don’t want anything from JC Penny’s? Simple: sell or swap your gift card. Sites like SwapAGift.com and CardAvenue.com provide an online marketplace where you can barter or even sell your cards. eBay, of course, provides nother outlet to sell your cards (but no trading). Some people even find bargins! A Denver man bought a $25 Target card for $17. Who can argue with $8 off at Target?

As I mentioned earlier, gift cards play a huge role in post-holday sales. Those people who leave the cards in their wallets never to be used just hurt themselves. Sure, the company can write the money off later, but people need to realize that unused cards are just money wasted. Don’t waste money. :-(

Super Bowl ads still really expensive

Filed under: — 4:01 pm

The title says it all. The largest watched TV program in America will be airing soon enough and companies have already scurried to pick their prime spots. Its said that nearly 130 million people will watch some portion of the game next month. Some interesting things to point out (besides the inability to really sell anything) about the ads:

  • Fox is charging a record $2.4 million per ad and is expected to rise as advertisers scurry for better slots (up from $2.3 million last year)
  • Anheuser-Busch has bought five minutes of advertising which is 10 of the 58 30-second slots
  • Bush still has its “category exclusivity” deal in place which means no Miller nor Coors
  • Small internet companies GoDaddy.com and CareerBullder.com will be appearing this year

We’ll see a lot more hype in the days to come. The truth though, the ads only serve the one purpose: entertainment. If they don’t entertain, people don’t like them, if they do, they blend in with the crowd. It’s a loose-loose situation. I think Coors has spent its money much better: official sponsor of the NFL. Think of it this way: five minutes or a couple of months?

12/29/2004

Existing home sales at record high

Filed under: — 2:48 pm

Yahoo! reports:

Sales of existing U.S. homes rose unexpectedly to a record high in November and prices surged as low mortgage rates fueled home-buying, a trade association report showed on Wednesday.

These lowering mortgage rates coupled with job expansion and economic growth have meant good conditions for the housing sector. “NAR’s Lereah said while the price jump may raise some eyebrows, he was not concerned about a housing bubble…” That’s interesting, Fortune most certainly is.

Activity has been so strong that sales of new and existing homes hit all-time records last year … What’s more, we’ve seen record growth in mortgage refinancing, and annual home-price increases between 6% and 8% nationally for three years in a row. “That’s unsustainable by any measure,'’ says David Levy…

Hopefully we’ll see a slow-down in the coming months… never thought I’d be saying that.

The Big Picture on CD sales

Filed under: — 2:38 pm

A recent post by The Big Picture gives a comprehensive overview of the recording industry’s response to becoming commoditized. Where do you find the highest margins? Duh, the hardcore listeners. The same ideas are supported by Seth Godin’s post about a recent conference in Aspen. Though, TBP says the CD industry may be moving into the DVD industry. Some food-for-thought and certainly material for discussion…

Disney begins new advertising campaign

Filed under: — 2:09 pm

The Wall Street Journal reports the upcoming celebration of Disneyland’s 1955 opening will be felt throughout “every Disney destination, including the company’s ten parks and its two Disney Cruise Line ships”. The theme parks have taken a hit since 9-11 and have now begun a world-wide advertising campaign.

The festivities are part of an aggressive effort to herd travelers into Disney’s theme parks all over the world — including the company’s U.S. resorts in Orlando Fla. and Anaheim, as well as properties near Paris and in Tokyo. Ads will kick off during the New Year’s Day broadcast of the Tournament of Roses Parade, which will feature Mickey Mouse as grand marshal and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle as one of the floats. Another flight of ads will begin appearing in Europe and Asia in the spring. The new campaign will continue for much of the year.

Disney is optimistic. “We are starting to feel like within the next 12 months we could see levels coming back pretty strongly,” Mr. Rasulo says. “The previous highs are in reach.” I’ve never visited any of their destinations. I love Disney, but hate lines.

PeopleSoft CEO quits, Oracle takes over

Filed under: — 1:52 pm

There’s been lots of talk around the PeopleSoft - Oracle deal. I read a month ago that the majority of PeopleSoft customers wouldn’t remain with the company if Oracle were to buy them. Talk about a vote of confidence. Now the time has finally come for Dave Duffield to resign. PeopleSoft earlier agreed to the $10.3 billion dollar acquisition and Oracle then said that none of PeopleSoft’s seven board members, including Duffield, would have a role in the merged company. PeopleSoft has since been taking off the S&P 500 index. (via Reuters)

Now that about 75 percent of PeopleSoft’s shareholders have tendered their shares, Oracle has announced that it has taken control.

Viral marketing at its best

Filed under: — 1:40 pm

One term Godin used throughout his book was the “ideavirus”. The concept that there is group of “early adopters” that will catch onto new ideas, then “sneeze” and spread the idea to others. He argued that these are the ones to market to, not the general public who will ignore you. The term comes from the idea of “viral marketing” and BusinessPundit.com makes a great point regarding the Live Strong wristbands. Take a few “early adopters” such as “Bruce Willis, Matt Damon, Ben Stiller, Jay Leno, and John Kerry”. What originally started as a $1 fundraiser turned into many other (viral) ideas.

12/28/2004

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Filed under: — 8:58 pm

I recently read Purple Cow by Seth Godin (blog). Amazon.com’s customer reviews give it four out of five stars (based on 115 reviews) and is ranked number 730 in sales. If you’re not familiar with Seth Godin, he’s a contributing writer for Fast Company, has started a number of successful companies, and “has changed the way people think about marketing, change and work”.

Godin begins the book with a history of how marketing has worked. There was the time before advertising where word of mouth made people popular. Then advertising came, where a company could reach a vast number of people and become very successful. Now we’re upon the After Advertising stage. We have less time to analyze products. People are satisfied, new products are ignored, and word of mouth is now faster. Why? Because we don’t have the time to research our choices, we listen to our friends’ valuable opinions. Proof: I bought this book. I read Fast Company and know of Seth Godin, I’ve read his blog, I’ve heard speakers talk and mention his book. Therefore, I walk into Barnes and Noble, I look at the vast ‘Marketing’ section, and immediately can pick out a purple book cover which I’ve already heard about. The guy kneeling below me was looking at the backs of dozens of books. Sadly, he no longer represents the typical consumer.

The point that Godin drives home in the beginning of the book is the ineffectiveness of the (majority of) traditional advertisements. He uses good examples of how television ads no longer play a role in driving products. Coke hadn’t seen an increase in sales even though it had created some of the most entertaining ads at one point. He also tells readers that he hates the Wall Street Journal because full-page ads cost “more than a house in Buffalo, New York”. Yet, when he asks a group of WSJ readers to name two ads they had just read past, they can’t complete the task. He notes though, “Just because it’s an ad, doesn’t mean it can’t be remarkable”.

Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department. -David Packard

Godin strongly suggests that its not about creating an image through marketing; it’s through the product. “The marketing is the product, and vice versa.” Keep in mind his evidence throughout the book is not all anecdotal; he uses companies we all know (and love): Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, JetBlue and even Tide. He goes even further to suggest that these successful companies are all “cheating”; why aren’t you? This book was densely filled with thought-provoking case-studies and conclusions. His ‘takeaway points’ were like little pearls of wisdom provided immediately after his analyses.

One may wonder, then, why don’t we see more Purple Cows? It’s not because we’ve run out of great ideas, its because people are afraid of standing out. Godin provides that the American education system is an example. Children are trained to play it safe and follow the rules because, assumingly, those are the “best ways to avoid failure”. But, as Godin proves, “fitting in is failure”.

Hey, if it was easy to become a rock star, everyone would do it!

Godin illustrates that being risky is the safest thing you can do. The rewards that Purple Cows reap are amazing, whether it’s a hit-record or best-selling book. Seth Godin’s book was an enjoyable read that provided fun stories and intelligent insight. It’s a quick read and highly recommended.

Employment and profitability will increase

Filed under: — 4:57 pm

According to TEC International, a survey of executives shows that more than the majority “expect their company’s work force to rise”. The survey consisted of 2,308 CEOs of small and midsize businesses that have said they also “expect that economic conditions in the country will improve in the next 12 months”. Not only do they forsee improvements in the economy but nearly three-fourths say they expect their own company’s profitability to improve. Yet another sign that the U.S. economy is rebounding. (via Richard Breeden, WSJ)

Rich got richer this year

Filed under: — 3:53 pm

Forbes talks about the superrich that got richer this year:

For these Forbes 400 members, 2004 brought better tidings and joy. A frothy initial-public-offering market, a resurgent technology sector and an ongoing love affair with gambling helped send the fortunes of these notables flying.

Their article is actually a slideshow that features such billionaires as Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), and Stephen Wynn (Las Vegas).

Innovation hit “critical mass” in 2004

Filed under: — 3:38 pm

The Innovation Weblog just published its year-in-review and outlines a number of milestones and trends. Its an interesting read that cites such things as the Front End of Innovation Conference where organizers had to scramble to find a larger hall due to overwhelming popularity. The article goes on to talk about new research, new directions, and even new tools this year.

Heck, look at Microsoft, it scrambled in less than a year to compete with Google in search technology. There’s some innovation for you…

Consumer confidence increased in December

Filed under: — 3:25 pm

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. consumer confidence jumped sharply in December, after four months of decline, amid an improvement in consumers’ assessment of the labor market, a private research group reported today.

Economists were expected a more “modest” increase, but December ended up haveing the highest confidence level since July. Simply, this can be attributed to recent economic expansion and and job growth. Why is this such a good thing: consumer spending makes up nearly two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States.

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