Google+Apple=Goople, Goople = Game Changing

March 13th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

From Umair on what makes Google and Apple so great:

The ends they’re working towards are similar: Goople aspires to – with laserlike intensity – change the world for the better. And where most of their competitors will sell out everything they believe in for a few bucks and a latte, Goople is deeply, radically purposive: they won’t compromise much, if anything, to achieve the goal of changing the world for the better. (One can argue that Google’s policy of following local content-filtering policies in China is a notable exception.) You’ll never see an ad on Google’s homepage, or a Mac that’s not a joy to use, even if Bill Gates, Gordon Gekko, and Lucifer held a fire sale, and mortgaged the world to Goople.

And that DNA opens new paths to strategy and advantage. Goople finds value chains and industries in deep strategy decay – where innovation and choice are stale, and consumers are besieged by lameness – like marketing, consumer electronics, TV, and perhaps the most troubled of all, mobile and music. Then Goople utterly eviscerates them: it reconstructs radical new ones – where friction has been vaporized, where complexity and variety explode – and so everyone really is better off. When Steve Jobs makes the iPhone carrier-neutral, kiss the traditional mobile value chain goodbye.

What will that influence look like?

The key components of DNA Google and Apple share let them overthrow yesterday’s stale approaches to strategy and advantage, and pursue entirely new ones with a vengeance. Goople does exactly the opposite of what orthodox strategy counsels: it makes peace where there was war, conquers through love instead of hate, listens to instead of shouts at consumers, perhaps most critically, takes huge risks to make the world better instead of avoiding risk to make it worse.

Goople is rewriting the rules of a very stale game: industrial-era strategy itself, which is really the prime mover behind the gathering economic storm on the horizon.

How Apple and Google Dominate – Umair Haque, Harvard Business

It couldn’t be more true and it the definition of Change the Game. As Umair says, “Google does exactly the opposite of what orthodox strategy counsels…” And that is why they continue to dominate, that is why they continue to innovate.

Rewrite the rules. Change the Game.

Branding it is a changing

March 10th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook

Link – http://www.deborahschultz.com/deblog/2008/02/the-economics-o.html

Where google got it right and yahoo got it wrong.

March 4th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

“There are no ads on Google’s homepage. Why not? Orthodox strategy tells us that Google’s crazy not to plaster the homepage with ads: that real estate’s worth literally (hundreds of) billions of dollars. Why is Google passing up free – and seemingly easy – money?Because ads impose costs on consumers – and that’s why consumers are busy tuning them out, and tuning each other in. And that’s how Google invests in consumers: Google is foregoing revenues so consumers aren’t forced to view costly ads on its homepage. From an economic point of view, in fact, the amount of revenue Google foregoes is the amount Google is investing in consumers, every second of every day.”

-Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab

The Race to Free

March 2nd, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

In a sense, what the Web represents is the extension of the media business model to industries of all sorts.” -Chris Anderson

Zipcar Game Plan

March 1st, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

zipcarlogo

Car sharing meets car rentals. I love Zipcar (www.zipcar.com) because it changes the game. It creates green pastures of new business opportunity and growth, while it helps solve two pain points – car ownership & car rentals. The Cambridge, MA based company just announced the acquisition of Seattle based competitor Flexcar making it the only national car share company.

Zipcar excites me because they are solving consumer problems. We’ve all been through the hassles of trying to rent a car and know what a unpleasant time consuming process can be. For those living in a big city or attending a University know the troubles with car ownership and the simple task of parking. Zipcar solves both problems and in the process changes the rental car industry.

To join Zipcar all you need to do is become a member. You pay a low yearly fee ($50) and in return receive access to the zipcar online reservation system. In most cases Zipcar secures permanent parking spaces in parking lots or on campus where cars can be picked up and returned. You can rent the cars by the hour or the day and everything including gas and insurance is included in the membership.

In the last five years Zipcar revenue has soared from $2 million to $100 million. A recent INC. magazine article broke down the company’s road to success and I’d like to highlight a few points.

zipcar_mini

Before you grow – find your profit point. Zipcar figured it would need 40 members per car. To get it’s founding three cities profitable it would need 20,000 members. To get to these membership levels the company asked consumers what they required. The answer – better locations, better reliability. Zipcar answered by breaking each city into zones. Once they got one zone to work they would move to the next. They took a bigger problem, broke it up into little pieces and focused on making each piece work.

Get technical. Too often companies forget how important technical systems are to their growth. If your technical systems can’t scale with your growth, you’re done for. Make sure your tech works when you’re small and can scale when you get big. Zip car chose to go with the Japanese quality process Kaizen. Whichever operations approach you choose – follow it through.

Customize your branding to your customer segments. Zipcar highlights and places fleets of Prius hybrids in bohemian neighborhoods and BMW’s in upscale neighborhoods. Knowing your customer and delivering the right message to that customer is a key foundation for growth

Power, profits and rewards to those actually working. Give your managers and employees the power to make decisions and share in the profit and rewards. Zipcar puts its city managers in charge of their own profit and loss. This creates a competitive environment between city managers and sense of entrepreneurship. Each city figures out what promotions, events and service is most important to that specific city. Plus each manager has a cash incentive to keep things growing.

Expose your competitors weakness. Zipcar gladly allows consumers under 25 to become members. Traditional car rental companies charge huge fees or don’t allow rentals for insurance reasons. Zipcar knows college students paired with a sense of ownership means better driving records and lower insurance rates. The company also likes the Apple model of getting product into consumers hands quicker in the hopes they become lifelong customers later.

Prove you’re ready for the prime time. Zipcar didn’t raise money until they could prove the concept worked. This meant technology, cars, service, managers…all the things highlighted in this post. Once your company or product has proven it can scale, then raise money and scale like crazy. $2 million to $100 million in five years is proof in this continual growth through scale approach.

Zipcar plans to go from $100 million to $1 billion and based on how well they’ve executed to this point I wouldn’t doubt it. Zipcar is Changing the Game. Zipcar is a New Revolutionary.

Great Entrepreneurial Points

February 29th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

Excellent post and insightful information.

Escaping the Entrepreneurial Seizure: Interview with Michael Gerber

Enough With The “Next Google” Talk

February 25th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

Is anyone else starting to get a little annoyed with every tech article about a promising company being called the “Next Google”? There isn’t a next Google, Google is Google, its a search engine and a lot other cool things. Google is not the next Microsoft. Can we stop with all the silly comparisons? Each company is a success based on it’s own defensible quirky merits. Google does not want to be Microsoft, Microsoft does not want to be Google. Each company is it’s own creation.

At some point in the last five years of tech journalism Google came to mean no business plan, unexpected advertising success, multi-billion dollar valuation. I don’t know if I would want my company to be called the next Google, it would imply the company has no plan other than burning through money until lightning strikes. Not a business model I would want to be involved with.

Please stop with the “Next Google” talk and please start talking about real companies with real revenue opportunities. And just because it worked for Google doesn’t mean it will work for social networking, media or road side fruit stands. I’m not interested in entrepreneurship that rushes the gold fields and hopes for a winning lottery ticket. That methodology never works out for the other 99%. Unless I’m the one selling the shovels and picks.

Gold Rush Photo

The In-N-Out Burger Formula

February 20th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

In-N-Out Burger Night For those of us living outside California, Arizona and Las Vegas a visit to In-N-Out has become a ritualistic requirement when visiting the southwest. I had the opportunity to once again bite into burger perfection this last week while on a golf vacation to Phoenix. Is there a fast food chain with a bigger cult following?

What makes In-N-Out a game changer is their constant pursuit to not be like the other fast food joints. Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s they all play the market share game. If Wendy’s has a spicy chicken sandwich then Burger King and McDonald’s add one. What entails is a bloated menu of choices without a clear direction. Side Note – Carl Jr.’s/Hardees also thought the market share game played by the big 3 was a losing proposition. A few years ago they rebranded themselves as where you go for over-the-top, enough fat intake for two days in one burger and it has worked.

In-N-Out Menu

The first thing that sets In-N-Out Burger apart is the menu. There aren’t a bunch of crazy choices from salad to tacos. You get three combo choices a couple different drink choices, but thats about it. The beauty is in the simplicity, this is industrial engineering at it’s best. Everything at In-N-Out is made to order so building in efficiencies to the order/delivery process is very important. Advanced computer systems and algorithms developed by In-N-Out are rumored to actually predict 70-80% of the orders before they happen.

These slight enhancements only help speed up and deliver product sooner without sacrificing quality.

The easy lesson here – less is more. Less allows you to focus on what’s important to the customer (quality), focus on something and do it right, don’t worry about the 3% who want a salad, don’t let feature creep happen. Ask what can be taken away not what can be added.

The 500 Mile Rule. In-N-Out limits its expansion to 500 miles from its distribution center. This ensures each restaurant is getting the highest quality ingredients possible. In-N-Out doesn’t truck frozen patties across the country. They don’t truck frozen fries either. Everything made at In-N-Out is fresh. You can watch the employees slicing potatoes whole, preparing things like tomatoes and lettuce in front of you. With everything made fresh to order the company has made a decisive statement within the industry. You know exactly what you’re about to get when you visit an In-N-Out burger and I like that.

The Secret Menu. One of the easiest ways to build a cult following is through exclusivity. Not only do you have to be in one of three states but you can also order things not on the menu if you know what they are. The secret menu at In-N-Out is really not that secret. They post it on their own website and many fan websites list the options. But by offering a Flying Dutchman or Animal Style, In-N-Out creates a feeling of insider knowledge within their customer base. It never ceases to amaze me how excited people will get because they ordered something off the menu. This empowerment of the customer creates evangelists that help spread the company lore.

In-N-Out ad

For these reasons and many more In-N-Out helps define Change the Game strategy. They break out of bloody market share battles and create their own green pastures. They focus on quality and simplicity when the others focus on speed, price and multiple choice. They empower the consumer, they rely on word-of-mouth, they create an air of exclusivity.

In-N-Out Burger is 50+ years old, but in my book they are a New Revolutionary.

Chapter Ends, New Chapter Begins

January 7th, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

I’m excited to announce that I will be leaving my post as Director of Innovation for Little Giant Ladders in January 2008 to begin my new role at reformID. Little Giant is what brought me to Utah from Minnesota and in those two years I have met and made friends with an incredible bunch of people. We set up an R&D department, hired on engineers and developed what we feel will be 3 new revolutionary ladder products for an industry without innovation.

Leaving Little Giant marks the end of one life chapter and the beginning of a new one. I’m extremely excited to be splitting my time between MN and UT in the upcoming year as reformID launches multiple product lines. With over two dozen new products in development I’m excited for the challenge in making the new company a success. Look here for more updates this spring as we roll out a new home/kitchen product line. reformID – Innovating Everyday Tasks

The Argument for a New Web Experience

January 1st, 2008 by Keith Emmel No comments »

Factors for Change

Browser sizes are bigger and better.

More than 80% of web browsers are at least 1024×768. I know this means some people are still on 800×600 but is grandma or the guy with the old computer really the ones we should dumb down are design to, are these the people reading digg? ESPN and the nytimes are 1000 pixels wide, if the largest media companies in the world are comfortable with forgetting the 800×600 crowd than so am I.

Page view metrics are killing the user experience.

Because sites need to offer advertisers some sort of metric to buy ad inventory, page views have become something of an advertising standard. But this has also created a major problem. Websites break articles and activities up into little chunks. These tactics easily make the user experience almost unbearable while adding multiple useless steps that waste time in order to increase their page views.

Try reading an article on cnet, nytimes, or any other news source without having to click multiple times to get the entire article. They break the articles up into different pages. Go to techcrunch or digg and you have to run through the same hoops with internal page views without ever taking you to the actual website or article. More on this later.

Speed and efficiency matter.

When google came onto the scene it was refreshing because the entire focus was speed, the best results and no clutter. Search became easy again, but more importantly it was quick. The results were instant.

But if your search isn’t resolved within the first page of results this process can bog down, take extra time and create unnecessary results. The act of delivering the search results is great, but the second act of actually finding what you desire from those results is still imperfect.

More effective ad delivery.

The advertising message is lost when it is splattered all over my face. Just because an ad gets 2% click through does not mean it is an effective ad delivery solution. People click ads because they interest them or resolve problems for them, they don’t click them because the ad drives a flash car across my screen, always shows as a banner on the top of my page or forces me to stare at it before it takes me to the page I requested.

Sure the website owner can invent these methods to take advertisers money, but it does nothing for the user experience and again, 1-2% click through should mean the delivery solution is broken, it’s ruined, don’t do it!!!!!

What I’m suggesting is a fundamental change in how we use the internet. It is so simple yet 100% more effective it would be stupid not to explore how this change might work.

The problem is it isn’t revolutionary technology, it isn’t a secret formula, it’s a change in how we format and deliver results, so I’m a little wary on how to monetize and protect the idea but here goes.

The Idea

Websites need to expand to at least 1000 pixels wide and in a very web 1998 move they need to break their format into two parts. The page needs to be split into two parts. The left side 300-400 pixels wide, the right side 600-700 pixels wide.

It seems so simple and un-innovative but it actually revolutionizes the user experience.

The easiest way to demonstrate the process is to use existing websites as examples and create a before and after effect. In creating the demo screen shots I hope to show the problem with page view metrics, how speed and efficiency will improve 100% and expose some new ways to think about advertising online.

Search

Google is great for search, but it only tells part of the story. There really isn’t any context to your search results unless you click through to view the page or click to view the highlighted words in the cache. Both require me to click, load a new page or tab, then click back to my search results. This takes time and it’s really inefficient.

Recently there has been a bit of press about a people powered search, one that in theory will delivery better results. The nice thing about the split screen display method is that it combines both worlds. In theory you could have google results and human editor results on the same page and be more efficient.

Google uses Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as an example on their zeitgeist page, so below is a google search for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Notice the wasted white space on the right taking up half the screen usually used for serving up ads.

If you apply the two panel layout, you get more defined results, without wasting clicks. Instead of clicking the cached link to view where and why google thinks that particular link is relevant, what if you could view that information right on the same page? Without leaving the search page you actually view all the results to find the one that best fits your search.

Lets say your doing a book report on Longfellow, in 2 min you can sort through the entire first page of results without ever leaving the original page, this eliminates 7 clicks out of google and then 7 back clicks to get back to your search results. What if after 14 clicks the first wikipedia result was the best? Wasted time, wasted clicks, very inefficient. People would literally save minutes of time using this new method.

Below is the two panel layout, 1000 total pixels wide. This would auto scale wider for larger resolutions. It comes off looking like an open book.

The above sample shows how the two panel layout saves useless clicking and increases speed and efficiencies. Now add to it your advertising layers and a bit of human editing and you create something fast and useful but also profitable. I’ll use the most searched term of 2007, the iPhone.

When the search is first executed, editor based results and advertising fill the left panel. Obviously it isn’t refined because I threw it together in 5 min and the sponsored links box got stretched to fit my image, but you get the idea. There could be human editor type results on top and a nice large area for sponsored links below. You never lose the google search on the right, but instead the whole search is enhanced with the ads taking a more prominent eye friendly location.

The cache feature would work just like the Longfellow example; the human guide would shrink to one line that could be expanded. The ads would shift to that space, cache below. The cache area would also play videos in full 400 pixel wide clarity as shown below.

That’s a basic rundown of the idea in google or youtube with video. And I know its so technologically unimpressive it’s slightly disappointing. But that’s not the point. The point is to utilize wider screens and change the way we interface with the web today. The 2 panel layout is highly more efficient and eliminates a bunch of pointless clicking back and forth. It delivers advertising in the eye’s sweet spot and allows for some human editor notes to enhance the search.

To sample how this idea works with other sites I’ve quickly put together more examples.

Techcrunch – Instead of frustrating the user and making them click and load an entirely new page (the page view metrics problem), my inquiry could load on the same page. Less page views for techcrunch but a much happier user. I get to see the Crunch Base Profile in the left panel, I don’t have to click through to it.

Blog Search Inquires – When I search articles on a blog and quickly view them in the left panel. I can work through 10 posts in a couple minutes finding the articles that most interest me.

Wikipedia – All those underlined references on the topic I’m reading can load to the left and I can keep reading my topic. I hate how I click a link and it takes me away from what I’m reading. I’m not motivated to click words that would enhance my understanding because it disrupts my process. The two panel solves this. As I’m working my way through the information I can view deeper definitions of words or topics right on the same page, never losing my thought pattern.

Craigslist – Again I can work through search results very quickly. Without having to do all that clicking and clicking back and clicking that is pointless. Keep it all on one page and make the users happy. Using the two panel design I sped up my search process and made it 2X-4X faster without all those pointless clicks.

The fact that it is so simple and so unbelievably un-technical does limit the earth shattering effects of what a functional change like this could mean for page views, user experience and how we interact with the web. But I do feel it should be considered.

I know something like this isn’t the next google and so I don’t know how money could be made off this idea. It seems it would just have to be a site like google, craigslist, ebay or a blog software that would just implement it for the good of the user experience.

It’s ironic this blog is only 800 pixels wide. I need to fix that.