Network Marketing? When Bad is Good. GOLing and LOLing

December 28, 2009

Social Media are providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to build new businesses. A recent example demonstrates how the Groan out Loud effect leads to effective viral marketing

When you get one of those terrible Christmas Cracker questions you groan out loud. But you also want to share the groan with someone else. That’s the basis of the GOL effect and helps explain one trigger which leads to effective viral marketing.

This thought hit me recently after I received an offer of the services of a network marketing outfit. The basic service on offer was a way of augmenting your web-presence. The principle is as old as advertising itself : get your message promoted as widely as possible. The method involves using taking an article and cloning it to look like six articles and then cloning each of the six into ten versions.

As the comment pointed out

Article marketing is extremely powerful used this way. That would cost around $150 to have the articles re written and distributed. A further $150 would get them again spun a little and added to some very high ranking web 2 properties like hub pages, propeler, squidoo etc. and these would link to your other articles submitted to the directories and to your main site (very powerful, your site will start ranking higher almost immediately with this).

Such offers demonstrate creativity applied to a ‘get-rich quick scheme’ There will be people who are attracted to its central premise. In more sophisticated forms, the basic idea has been around for a long time. It is the electronic version of the old market research approach of testing the response rate of small ad variants.


The GOL effect

I was already sufficiently interested that I followed up the comment. What I found produced in me what I will now refer to as the GOL effect. The entrepreneur wrote in such bad English that it made me GOL (Groan out Loud). But it made me want to tell other people about it. Suppose, I wondered, if such experiences induce a compulsion to sharing them with others (like sharing a really bad pun from a Christmas Cracker)?

This is what produced my GOL moment

These are the every around prizewinning meshwork marketing tips for success. This analyse itemize module not exclusive wage you with a instruction for success with meshwork marketing but success in anything you opt to administer the method to. I?d feature that?s pretty coercive clog eh?? What some grouping seem to hit pain control is the fact that success it self, be it with business, sports or modify academics, has the rattling aforementioned formula. Basically, if you undergo what it takes to be flourishing at digit thing, you crapper ofttimes administer the rattling aforementioned move in a assorted environment and replicate that aforementioned category of success for yourself over and over again.

Viral Marketing and the GOL moment

In some way, the writing has a high attention-grabbing quality. And that, combined with the impulse to share lies at the heart of viral marketing. That is the message offered in this post. Not for $300. Not even for $150. Please use the concept of GOL to help you design creative and compulsive GOL messages for your own products. Maybe it will help you crapper ofttimes administer the rattling aforementioned move.


Mark Hughes, Leadership and Governance

December 21, 2009

Mark Hughes’ dismissal as Manchester City Football Club coach appears to have come as a shock to him. The manner of his dismissal offers a case example of leadership and governance issues

This story can be treated as a local level but also one with a global dimension. It has much to do with sport, while at the same time has to do with wider international issues of globalization, and governance of global organizations.

The local story is of a venerable Premier league football team in Manchester England, with its tribal fan base of loyal supporters. Over the years ‘City’ has enjoyed periods of success, which have provided comfort in longer periods of relative lack of it, made worse by the increasing success and wealth of its neighbour, Manchester United.

The Club began to change managers with increasing speed. Heroes from their playing days at the club came and went. Outsiders also came and went, sometimes by mutual consent. Mark Hughes was one such outsider, following the charismatic but ephemeral leadership of Kevin Keegan and Sven Goran Ericsson.

Hughes was considered a promising if inexperienced manager, who had been successful with limited resources at Blackburn and before that as national coach for Wales. His status as a much-loved player at rivals MUFC was only an initial talking point, and he began to earn the respect of the fans after his arrival in 2008.

The takeover

Then an event took place which plucked City out of the also-rans of the Premier league. It was taken over by a Middle-Eastern consortium promising to back the club with unrivalled wealth. The fans, if not the incumbent manager, rejoiced. Hughes went on a spending spree to fufill the ambtions of the new owners.


A Chelsea Rerun?

The story was seized upon as a rerun of the take over of Chelsea, by multi-billionaire Roman Abramovitch. Like City, Chelsea was a club rich in tradition but lightweight in financial backing. Chelsea made it clear that the takeover was to lead to it becoming a super-club which would compete with the world’s glamour elite, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Barcelona, and of course Manchester United. The outcome for Chelsea has been spectacular improvements in performance at national and European levels. Another outcome has been a managerial roller-coaster including the arrival and departure of the self-styled ‘ Special One’ Jose Mourinho as head coach.

But the City story differed in several respects. Mr Abramovitch is an extremely hands-on owner and football enthusiast. City’s new masters were cooler, more distant. Their regard for City as a symbol of prestige was less blatent. And they signalled intentions to leave their young manager in place.

The Drama unfolds at City

The drama unfolded. Hughes spent big, but failed to attract the very best footballers in the world. In hindsight, Chelsea’s wealth had succeeded more in acquiring an entire squad of strong international figures, rather than super-stars. And Chelsea had a stronger base of such figures to build around in the first place.

Hughes began his first season with an agreed target of success including win/loss figures understandable to any sales director of a retail consortium. The team continued to improve, but a run of drawn games was producing speculation of how long Hughes had at the club. This week in spectacular fashion the answer was revealed.

The Succession Plan

In the manner of big commercial interests, the owners of MUFC had a contingency plan which was being put in place. According to Hughes, while his team were slightly off their agreed points target, its owners had covertly reached an understanding with another manager. Shortly before or after Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 win, [December 19th 2009] Hughes learned his fate. His successor Roberto Mancini was said to be in the crowd.

Disgraceful, unethical, or what?

I have written quite a lot about Mark Hughes in LWD. Recently he seemed to have been under strain in public. Mostly, however, he confirmed a view that his leadership style was non-charismatic but that of a so-called fifth-level leader, of ‘quiet but fierce resolve’.

His statement shortly after his dismissal noted

“Notwithstanding media coverage to the contrary, I was given no forewarning as to the club’s decision … At the beginning of the season, I sat down with the owners and it was agreed that a realistic target for the season would be sixth place in the Premier League, or in the region of 70 points.”

The general view expressed in the media was that The City Board had been hasty and even unethical in their treatment of Hughes. They had not even secured a ‘Special one’ although a highly promising young figure. I leave the matter open for comment.


What do I know about network marketing?

December 19, 2009

What do I know about network marketing? Not a lot. But I need to know a bit more

This morning I came across a concise outline of a business model. I suspect its originators had dumped it on multiple websites in a rather crude bot-aided way. So at one level it gets a lot of people ignoring it as spam. Yes it is almost spam.

I followed up the dodgy message and found a wretchedly written-article, which appeared to have been generated by a speech-to-text system to produce something intended to pass for English.

Conclusion: I won’t be dealing with this particular e-business, but the model it suggests is arguably important. On the other had it may have been so cunningly constructed that its very crappiness gives it some potential for viral ‘success’.

Here’s the message I received on the LWD comments page:

With those keyword phrases identified say for example choosing 3 at a time then you can get 6 articles done for you and optimized, two articles per keyword, that would cost around $90 for all These articles can be given to someone to be spun (changes slightly in terminology, working etc to make each article unique, and spun into around 10 versions of each, you now have 60 articles which can be distributed to over 60 sites giving you extremely high ranking backlinks. Article marketing is extremely powerful used this way. That would cost around $150 to have the articles re written and distributed. A further $150 would get them again spun a little and added to some very high ranking web 2 properties like hub pages, propeler, squidoo etc. and these would link to your other articles submitted to the directories and to your main site (very powerful, your site will start ranking higher almost immediately with this).

And here’s what I found when I followed the link:

“These are the every around prizewinning meshwork marketing tips for success. This analyse itemize module not exclusive wage you with a instruction for success with meshwork marketing but success in anything you opt to administer the method to.
I?d feature that?s pretty coercive clog eh??
What some grouping seem to hit pain control is the fact that success it self, be it with business, sports or modify academics, has the rattling aforementioned formula. Basically, if you undergo what it takes to be flourishing at digit thing, you crapper ofttimes administer the rattling aforementioned move in a assorted environment and replicate that aforementioned category of success for yourself over and over again.”

I particularly like “you crapper ofttimes administer the rattling aforementioned move”

Is there an important idea lurking here somewhere? I’d like comments, particularly from colleagues more experienced in network marketing. But please think carefully before you become a participant in this bit of modern day snake-oil salesmanship.


Marc Bolland joins M&S Xmas party

December 15, 2009

Marc Bolland joins Marks & Spencer earlier than planned to join in the Xmas festivities. Share price swings lead him to be dubbed the billion dollar man

So what do we know about the new leader, and the task ahead of him? Websites, usually reliable fast access to such information, are a bit sluggish at present. The Guardian has been following the story more carefully than most, and offered a snapshot view

The 50-year-old Dutchman has certainly been a crowd pleaser at Morrisons, which he has quietly reinvigorated in the past three years. When he arrived in 2006, profits had crashed to a low of £54m after the botched takeover of Safeway. This year, profits at Morrisons are expected to top £750m, well ahead of larger rival Sainsbury’s, which is expected to make £540m. Such was the impact on the share prices of both companies following the announcement of Bolland’s appointment – Marks surged 6% while Morrisons sank 5% – that he is being dubbed the “$1bn man” in the City.

The article went on to outline the challenges facing M&S.

Food

M&S used to lead the market here, but has been left behind as rivals have raised their games. This area should be Bolland’s forte. But he must decide whether to plough funds into online delivery – where no one makes money apart from Tesco – and its convenience chain Simply Food.

Ageing customers

According to research by Datamonitor, more than 75% of shoppers in the food halls are over 45. In the fashion department the problem is worse: 65% of its main clothing shoppers were aged over 55, as were those who accounted for 48% of spending on M&S clothing last year. Bolland will have to find a way to make the stores, the ranges and the brand appeal to younger shoppers, particularly those with young families.

International growth

[Sir Stuart] Rose reckons his predecessor’s decision to shut down its European stores was an act of retail vandalism and has been busily re-opening branches overseas, many as joint ventures and franchises…A much-hyped first store in China had a disastrous first few months…Analyst Katherine Wynne at Investec reckons overseas growth is vital for M&S’s future and expects Bolland to beef up the retailer with international expertise.

Brand values

For a while, after Rose and his marketing sidekick Steven Sharp moved in, the tired old brand did look a little different but recently it has been back to dull old Marks with little brand appeal…Bolland – who learned about marketing in the beer business says he has “worked a lot in re-energising brands” . Bolland will have to repeat [his success at Morrisons] at M&S.

Distribution

Since May, finance director Dyson has been leading an internal project updating M&S’s systems and distribution network. When he unveiled the first results last month, the reaction of some analysts was: “Why didn’t Rose tackle these problems earlier?” The network of 110 warehouses has to be reduced to four “mega-shed” distribution centres. Too many stores in the wrong place – on high streets rather than retail parks – and its internet sales are far lower than they should be, reflecting the age profile of M&S’s clientele.

A Xmas Story

There was another Xmas story at Marks. I add it as it may offer an insight to the corporate culture. I must have watched a typical treacle-sweet advertisement. but my attention span hadn’t taken in its so-called offensive finish. This involved a model (presumably) prancing briefly and ironically (presumably) through a pantomime-style forest in her M&S lingerie (presumably).

Somehow the slow build-up to its ‘offensive’ end seems to me to typify the struggles and conflicts at the company as it tries to modernise its image while holding fast to its traditions.


Co-Creativity: The Book with a Hundred Authors

December 10, 2009

The Industrial Design Engineering Faculty of The Delft University of Technology celebrated forty years in education with a spectacular display of co-creativity

Under the direction of Professors Frido Smulders and Han van der Meer, a hundred and six students became creators, authors, and production-managers of a book created and published within a three-month design project. The students had assembled on Sept 9th [2009] to receive their project brief, which was short and to the point. It was to collaborate in whatever way seemed appropriate to write and produce a book. The finished product was to be launched at the end of the project in December.

So it was that the students gathered on December 9th in the main lecture theatre on the appointed deadline. They had come from around the world to study at Delft’s celebrated Industrial design department. As they took their places, a large trolley was rolled in, carrying the books straight from the publishers. A first copy was handed over to Paul Rullman, Vice President Education, of the University.

The Project

What had happened between the first and last days of the project? Professor Smulders explained.

“Our Project Leadership course is part of the Strategic Product Design Masters degree. There is a great deal of problem-based learning. But we realized there were problems for students and Professors about how to conduct team work. That was the starting idea. Meike Brehmer and Geertje Roodbol did a pilot study which led to an internet survey of 15,000 of our students. They got 20% response, and we knew there was a lot of interest in giving students all around the University a book dealing with the problems of working in teams. Meike went on to be our student co-editor for the book”.

So the project was born, grounded in a lot of information about student needs in project work. In the next stage (after Sept 9th) the information was restructured into a conceptual framework of 70 themes identified by ‘root-cause analysis’. This led to the four main categories in the book, and to 12 main chapters.

Content

Each chapter was allocated to a student team, with a further set of issues framed as ‘how to .. ‘ challenges such as ‘how to initiate a good team atmosphere’ , and ‘how to give and receive feedback’. At the book launch, a hilarious video showed the team leaders in a wild scramble for a chapter for their team.

Smulders again: “This is not a final product. It’s ‘ a zero edition’ like you get a zero series in such products as cars. But we can build and develop it.”

I suspect he is right. The product is indeed a bit raw around the edges, but in my view it reaches a remarkable level of technical competence of its content. It is also meeting a niche need. Frido and Han van de Meer always saw the potential beyond that of the needs of their design students . It may well be that the pioneering product will go through further editions, and attract international attention. I would encourage students and tutors to take a look at the zero edition.

Notes

Smulders, F., Brehmer, M., & van der Meer, H., (2009) TeamWorks: Help Yourself By students for students, Delft, NL: Delft University of Technology, ISBN 978 90 81 5053 1 4

Studentteamwork.com


Towards a Better-informed Climate Debate

December 7, 2009

Informed debate on climate change is hindered by naïve interpretation of trend data. I have more confidence in the understanding of stock-market traders than in that of most climate change commentators

The more I look at the arguments on climate change, the more concerned I am at the crude misapplication of statistical methods that I find in them. This note is at least as reliable as views being expressed by many major contributors to the climate debate.

Lies, damn lies and crappy statistics

How much faith do you have in statistics? If you have formed a view on climate change, you should at least also have a view on what can and can not be concluded from a statistical examination of a database. And on the credibility of the analyses made by other commentators. My position is this. Statistics are generally considered to be the collection, analysis and interpretation of data applying various mathematically derived methods. That will do as a working definition. Data is plural of a datum. Data are the bits of stuff collected – the daily temperature readings from a weather station for example, or for a patient in hospital, or the price of a Corporate stock. As a matter of fact all of these data look rather similar when visualized as a time series.

We are pretty sure that the fluctuations of the patient’s temperature will ‘spike’ but in general will return to a standard basal level. Stock-prices as we know too well are less predictable. And as for charts of data about climate change, well these are in a different class altogether.

The First law of statistics

The first law of statistics for me is that statistical interpretation has to follow statistical understanding. Opinion is OK, informed judgement is different from opinions. Public debate tends respects the rights of individuals to express honestly expressed views. Phone-in programmes and the majority of blogs are not much more than that.

The second law of statistics

There is no safety in numbers if you don’t know what they mean. This brings me to one difference between climate debate numbers and those stock market and patient temperature charts. Climate debate numbers are increasingly highly complex abstractions which have been developed to examine a theoretical model.

The third law of statistics

Correlation is not the same as causality. My old statistics teacher used to quote the example of storks found perching on houses with the greater number of children born in them in one study. There was a correlation (perhaps because big warm houses attracted storks) but not one which can confirm a causal relationship between stork presence and human birth data.

The fourth law of statistics

Trend lines are treacherous.

I base this on the mathematical fact that there are a very large number of ways of drawing a line through thirty of so data-points. The zigzags of the data points are smoothed out in all sorts of cunning ways. The simplest smoothing is a straight line. It invites you to decide what all the deviations from that straight line mean.

A simple illustration

I have been playing around with a simple way of visualizing trend data. Let’s take the yearly data on temperature changes over a thirty year time period, the recent battle-ground in the climate debate

Many charts have appeared showing a trend as a straight line (so we have to beware of the fourth law). I find the following little thought-experiment revealing. Take a thirty point trend chart and select the highest and lowest items on the chart.

Mentally add each point in turn as the first datum of the chart. Almost always, one or both new visualizations change your perspective of the trend line and where the chart is going into the future.

Now repeat the experiment with each of the same two points in turn at the end of the trend chart. You will again find the visualizations offering one or maybe two fresh perspectives

Doesn’t that just confuse the issue?

Maybe it does. It weakens confidence in just what the trend-line might be telling you. But perhaps a bit more confusion and a bit less conviction is what is needed at the moment. Anyway, I do hope you will be able to contribute to more productive discussions on climate change in future.

Notes

I am no Fellow of the Royal Society of Statisticians, but I check my views from time to time with someone who is. The post captures my beliefs as a relative outsider to the Climate debate. I am suggesting the ‘laws of statistics’ in the sense of guiding principles on which I develop my case, rather than universal truths. Nor am I suggesting that visual inspection of trends is a substitute for careful application of statistical testing. But developing skills of visual inspection may enable more people to develop a sense of what a trend-curve might be signalling, and have a more informed discussion with those generating and interpreting such data.


Creativity and Design Processes

December 5, 2009

It is broadly accepted that creativity and design are related processes in practice. But there is still need for further research to link in theory and practice. A promising approach is described for application within courses on design methods.

Most design courses offer students the opportunity of designing, and also provide know-how of general principles supporting the execution of design. Similar approaches can be found in courses on innovation and creativity.

It is hardly surprising that the areas are related. This idea was elaborated recently by Professor Margaret Bruce in The Companion to Creativity recently. As she put it

“Design is about doing things consciously and not because they have always been done in a certain way”.

Together with innovation researcher, Professor John Bessant, Margaret has developed a model in which design and innovation are linked through creativity. It occurred to me that the model could be tested within training programmes. I selected an approach which engaged the students in thinking about a specific product and then challenged them to design a new version of the product applying structures (process designs) to do so.

Partly because of my interest in Chess, I chose Chess Sets as the first artefact to be studied. There have been enormous variations in these over several centuries, and they have been to subject of design competitions for many years. Pilot studies began in November 2009, with the illustrations shown above.

I welcome contact from anyone wishing to try out the approach which I believe has wide application when modified for students of design, engineering, creativity and related fields of application. If you would like to contribute in any way, please contact me through this website.