Author Archive for: dlackey

Slow and Steady Works Again

AppleMarkMasai

Slow and steady. It is the way we like to do things at TempPro and it also applies to my two main interests outside of business which are Toronto sports and Investing.  While we may or not be with you for the long term, we want our impact to last.

As for our Toronto hockey and basketball teams, I have lately found the offseason and the building process almost as fascinating as the play itself. Yesterday, the Toronto Raptors made the Conference Finals for the first time ever and it was the culmination of 4-5 years of steady improvement. There is still work to be done and frankly I am rushing to get this online before they meet the force of nature called LeBron James. But I find some admirable management philosophy in the methods of Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey.

Slow and Steady. Could another word for this be Stability? Let’s look at the relationship between the GM and his coach. First, he did not even hire him, so to scapegoat and axe him along the way would have been considered standard industry practice. But instead he worked with him, supported him and provided enough rope to fail or be successful. Guess what; he responded with 5 straight seasons of incremental Improvement. (23-34-48-49-56 wins). How many other teams have had 3 or 4 coaches in that period?  This style lets you follow “Kaizen”, continuous improvement, constantly learning, growing, keeping what works and replacing what doesn’t.

Build on what you have. No situation is a total loss. The responsibility of an incoming leader is to assess what he or she has to work with. You inherit products, patents, people, brand equity, customer relationships just on the Sales and Marketing side. You could argue that the Toronto Raptors were the previous manager’s team. 4/5 top players were acquired by trade or drafted by Bryan Colangelo as well the coach was hired by him. But it was the constant improvements by Masai that made the difference. In the end he had to change less than he originally thought to achieve top 5 status. Now, it may be to get to the final finish line, it will require a more radical line-up adjustment, but it will be from a base of 3-4 years of improvement with stability and thus have a bigger chance of success.

Treat your Team with Respect. The team’s two key players have been great regular season players but had not delivered in previous play-off appearances. The awareness of how to win that so many champions exhibit was not there. Yet Coach Casey never wavered in his confidence and in the end they came through. Every player on the team had a well defined role and sometimes it was second unit that won the game. Sometimes players played for very brief spurts in specific circumstances, yet could be seen encouraging their teammates during every time-out.

A little luck along the way helps. Early in Masai’s tenure he traded the team’s highest paid player, Rudy Gay out of the line-up. He also supposedly had reached an agreement to trade Kyle Lowry to the Knicks. The owner of the Knicks, still smarting by the fleecing of previous trades with the Raptors and Denver by Masai nixed the deal. Thankfully once Gay was out of the picture, the team took off and Lowry has been the catalyst ever since. I always will maintain “Do Nothing” can be a viable option. Sometimes you just get lucky.

At TempPro we will help you build your business, your client base and your brand in this same, long term focused, deliberate manner. And, hopefully one day soon, we will see you in the Finals! Go Raptors!

 

Highlights from the Chicago Housewares Show

 

Show Floor2016Last week I spent two days at the Housewares Show after a more or less 4-year hiatus. While not the conclusive guide to the show, let me share my observations as one who has exhibited and attended since 1983. I concentrate mainly on the electrics side, but the overall trends apply to the entire show.

The International Home and Housewares Show is more than just a product exhibition. It’s a global gathering of the industry players, the definitive place to learn about consumer trends, cooking trends and observe how an industry is evolving against the macro forces of globalization, retail and manufacturer consolidation, technology and home fashion. Every marketer should listen to Tom Mirabile’s keynote each year. He does a great job breaking down the key trends in food, household, consumer and retail behaviour and of course this analysis can be applied over many industries. It will eventually be posted Housewares.org for you to check out.

In no particular order here is the big picture:

InventorsEntrepreneurialism is Thriving. I believe that disruptive innovation generally comes from outsiders rather than established brands. Inventors, direct response sellers, start-ups and commercial technology that migrates downwards are usually the source of new ideas in the home. Before becoming a multi-billion dollar enterprise, Keurig started out in office lobbies. While the mainline coffeemaker brands tried to adapt the “pod” innovation from Europe, it was the outsider who put the winning hardware quality plus coffee variety equation together. This year, there continued to be a plethora of new companies introducing this year’s innovations. My first question was often “Who are you people ?” With Kickstarter and other tools, entrepreneurs have more resources than ever at their disposal.

The Shark Tank Influence. It seems that industry nurturing of invention is gaining steam. A whole area of the show is dedicated to Innovators and Inventors. Shark Tank is the new Food Network, inspiring and trend setting. Lori Grenier had a whole aisle section showcasing her investments. Lori, who would be my target shark based on her credentials with the consumer market, is becoming this generation’s Ron Popiel.

E Commerce is Still Booming. The final piece of this entrepreneurial troika is the phenomenal growth of online channels. Speaking to exhibitors, it seems that most brands count the major online site we all know in their top 5 customers and some companies exist based primarily on their online presence.

Smart Home. Each industry trade show features the latest machine to machine technology. This show was no different. There was no shortage of small appliances and panel discussions on where the smart home sits on the adoption curve. The Nespresso coffee machine now can track our consumption of pods and automatically reorder them. On one hand, it seems silly and trivial. On the other hand, we have been out of stock on capsules in our home for about 3 weeks. The best line was from an audience member at the IDEO seminar who said he was marketing a web-enabled sewing machine even though his target consumer is 65 years old. This technology is going to be big; maybe we are not there yet, but we all need to be ready.

15-thumbMillennials and the market. The millennials may not be so different than boomers according to Marsha Everton and Whitney Ryan of Aimsights Group who made an excellent presentation on the 3 phases of life (0-30yrs;30-60 and 60-90). As the Gen X hits 40 and Millennials pass 30, it seems the normal course of life activities – marriage, children, household formation, career progression cause all of us to eventually behave in a similar way. They certainly shop differently, relying on Apps and Social Media more than brand image or store personnel and Millennials are having a major positive impact on trends such as smaller houses, sustainable products and technology. And best of all for the industry, they are Foodies, ultilizing according to Tom Mirabile, their “You are what you eat” philosophy to drive such ideas as time saving tools, fermenting, artisan food prep and creative meals in a bowl.

Commercial Like Appliances for the Home. If you have read my blog before you may recall my admiration and kudos to the Vita Mix company. They really personify the barbell effect and have led the way in bringing commercial quality in to the home. You can see the influence of Vitamix as all appliance brands now have high power, robust blenders. As an industry, the move away from bottom feeding is inspiring.

Imitation and Bandwagon Effect. At my first Housewares Show in the 80’s, the smell and sounds of popcorn makers seemed to come from every other booth. If you went by this show alone, every household in America will soon be cooking their steak with a sous vide oven. Patent protection offers innovators some protection against blatant knockoffs and patience is required for new concepts to take hold. As pointed out above, you can see the inspiration of a Vita Mix or Keurig in virtually every booth. We all love to chase the next big thing.

And now I am off to New Orleans and the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Show. Its travel season!

 

Challenging Times for Importers

160115One-Peso

It is show season which usually means Product Marketers are putting the final touches on their programs for Fall 2016. From my sphere, the Consumer Electronics Show, International Builders Show and Air Heat Refrigeration Expo are behind us and we still have the International Housewares Show, Hearth and Patio Expo and Highpoint Market to come.
Let me take a moment to empathize with those fellow marketers currently setting prices for Fall 2016. I have lived through a couple of these cycles, but this one is a real challenge as a consumer, an investor and as a marketer. There is scant discussion of the winners and losers of the current low dollar policy of the Mr. Poloz. Photos of $8.00 cauliflower go viral for a day or two as a punchline. But importers and consumers who are savers are both getting hit hard while some benefit accrues to the manufacturing sector that has been hollowed out over the last 20 years. Thankfully, the Bank of Canada did not lower interest rates further last month, but with low oil prices forecast for  the foreseeable future and other geo-political risks present, a low Canadian dollar could be with us for quite some time. Certainly this will take some special marketing acumen to navigate these waters, maintaining market share and margins. In well managed companies, Sales, Marketing, Finance and Sourcing will be collaborating to find solutions. In dysfunctional ones, it’s probably another nail in the coffin.
And the Iowa caucus results aside, my American friends and colleagues possibly have their own challenges on importing from China the horizon.
“I would do a tax. And the tax, let me tell you what the tax should be … the tax should be 45%,” Donald Trump told the NY Times editorial board in comments on Chinese goods that were published Thursday January 7.’
None of the factories that I have dealt with have the means to emulate Haier’s solution of buying GE Appliances to comply with U.S. Trump style protectionism. Setting up a new factory to manufacture 50,000 vacuum cleaners or toaster ovens is often a monumental task. Imagine shifting production of millions of I Phones back to the developed world?
A 2017 North America market with a $.59 Canadian dollar and a 45% tariff on Chinese produced goods into the US. Think for a moment what that will do to the price of a coffeemaker?
Here are some thoughts on coping with  currency challenges:
• This may be a good time shake the tree a little and prune those complacent underperforming partners who are not offsetting the new realities of the global economy with innovation, brand building, supply flexibility and value improvement. For successful companies, these times are the opportunities to build share. Weak ones, step aside.
• In any environment price increases are difficult. Buyers at all levels in the supply chain are trained to fight them. The best face saving strategy is to slightly upgrade the product and disguise the increase. Consider taking a $79.99 price point to $89.99 or even $99.99 by adding a small improvement that costs little. New sku #, not a price increase.
• Remember we are in a North American market. If you subsidize a multinational retailer in Canada, his or her US counterpart can pull out a calculator and figure out the 10X larger market is overpaying. In the early 90s was when we had similar currency challenges, this level of integration was in the future. The prices of name brand goods in the two Home Depots in both Niagara Falls should be the same pre-tax, currency adjusted +/- 5%.
• At the end of the day all competitors face the same pressure. Watch the market leaders in both national brands and retailers for clues that prices are going up. When Nike and Apple move, it resets their whole industry.
Ladies and Gentleman, start your Excel programs!

The Incredible Vitamix Story and the Barbell Marketplace

After visiting the liquidation segment of the market last time, for the final blog of the year, I will return to our true mission at TempPro Marketing Solutions Inc. which is creating mid-high to high end profitable businesses.
A constant theme at companies through my career has been the constant and sometime elusive search for success at the premium segment of the market. From the attempt of Sanyo to use Fisher as their high end brand (not successful) to Black and Decker in power tools moving to DeWalt (unbelievably successful) most Marketing groups I have worked in have spent significant sums of time plotting ways to achieve this progression.

Vitamix Booth
The market has evolved to a barbell with the low cost on one side and profitable premium products with accompanying value on the other. The middle has become nowhere land – never good enough to compete with the best and often too expensive versus the value segment. I believe it to be true that over the last 30 years society has split into “haves and have nots” with a more distinct wealth gap, especially in the US. But marketing to the premium segment is more nuanced than that simple explanation. Baby boomers in particular have grown fatigued with disposable products. No product has embodied this trend more in the last year than the Vitamix blender.
On my first trip to China, I was developing a blender that could retail for $39.99, Target FOB cost $13.00 to compete against the Sunbeam blender line, the dominant volume brand then and probably still today. In 2015, we bought a Vitamix from The Shopping Channel for over $500, becoming the 3rd household in our extended family to do so. I admit that paying $500 for a blender after all my experience in the industry took some time to process. If we are going to upscale, why not a Cuisinart or Kitchen Aid for $200? Happy to report, no buyer’s remorse and in fact quite the opposite, I found remarkable value and customer satisfaction.
Using Vitamix as a case study, let’s break down some of the elements which make a successful premium product:

  • Outstanding Quality. Not just words – marketers are confronted throughout their development projects with decisions about quality. A component imported from Europe, a higher grade of material, a name brand motor or control: these are all decisions which impact the life span of your product. Obviously the Vitamix is a 10/10 here. It is truly commercial grade quality at home.
  • Reframe the Comparison. You want the consumer to compare your product favourably to something with highest price and perceived value. While the price of the appliance is significantly higher than average, it is a tool which enables you to make professional smoothies and other foods at a fraction of the price of buying it prepared. It also has many functions because it replaces a number of other products. This further establishes value in the consumer’s eyes.
  • Demonstrate and Sell. The high end requires an explanation of the value proposition. Knowledgeable staff at Williams Sonoma. Demo booths at Costco and Whole Foods. In our case it was TV shopping. We even watched the next appearance cycle for recipe ideas.
  • Pricing is Key. However, not in the way we have been automatically programmed. Here, when in doubt go up. Many premium brands in small appliances have been successful just because they push the limits of what consumers will pay for products. Be bold but back it up with value.
  • Make it Affordable. When you use the TSC Easy Pay program of 12 easy interest free payments of $42.00, suddenly $500 is more attainable to a larger group.
  • Brand Integrity. I don’t think you will be seeing low price line extensions from Vitamix any time soon. A brand that aspires to premium status must never comprise these attributes in price, quality, distribution. Make sure those online reviews and weekend flyers support your brand in the long run. Don’t give those flagship resellers a reason to doubt you.

At TempPro Marketing Solutions Inc. our mission is to create separation from the futile race to the bottom. As “custodians of the long term” we can help you in short or long term engagements build your business on the lucrative side of the barbell.

Barbell-Effect

 

Marketing Lessons from The Liquidator

liquidatorLast week I had the opportunity to meet “The Liquidator”, Jeff Schwarz. As a career Marketer of new products, my world has always been about innovation and the eternal search for the next hit product or big idea. Based on the experience of working on products that have been sold in national chains from Walmart to Williams Sonoma, we never know if we have been successful until that first interaction with the consumer.

 
Its perhaps for that reason that I have found the OLN show ‘The Liquidator” such a strangely compelling TV. It is Marketing stripped right down to the core at the opposite end of the spectrum with Jeff being offered all kinds of distressed and obsolete merchandise, by sellers still grasping at delusions of the value of their goods. The rawness of the interaction between Jeff and the sellers illustrates the old maxim, a good or service is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. The consumer doesn’t ultimately care whether or not your factory is in a high cost region, or you forecasted the wrong amount or that feature someone thought was a good idea was really too expensive. The show constantly demonstrates that while the product cost is a major input into your pricing decision process, ultimately it is the market which determines your price. The role of a good Marketer is to understand the market, manage the risk and price the line profitably while optimizing quantity.

 
One of the lessons from the show is “don’t fall in love with your merchandise”. Example: I always believed there was a market for a premium, multi-compartment food steamer. I was dismayed when another company licensed the Richard Simmons brand and even introduced it on an infamous segment on the Late Show with David Letterman (although this could inspire another blog on PR opportunities gone wrong). For competitive benchmarking, I purchased 1 of the 2 display units at my local hardware store. Three years later the other piece was still there at the same original price. My opinion has changed.

 
“Keep the goods moving” is another phrase used in the opening of the show. Even consumer durables have a shelf life . The chances of a buyer who has passed on a unit once, adding it later diminishes over time unless an unexpected event occurs or the marketing plan has been incredibly successful. Canadian buyers can be notoriously cautious about giving new products a try. A strong Marketing department will always have a well thought out product roadmap efficiently uses the company’s capital. A peak performing team needs a mix of creative types to drive compelling product development and Marcomm programs to create winning brands but you also need that quantitative skill set to ensure efficient use of the company’s resources.

 
Jeff is also a master negotiator. Business strategy is often reduced to a game plan to keep as much of the pie between the cost to make something and the final price at the register. The importer, the retailer and factory constantly do a dance over who pays for all the related costs of marketing, quality, service and distribution. In Season 4 the show shifted focus and showcased Jeff sourcing furniture items from Asia (another shared experience). It is an entertaining guide to sourcing and importing. Provided you have a market and channel of distribution, it’s a great lesson on entrepreneurship and doing business today in the global community.

 
At TempPro Marketing Solutions Inc., we help companies create successful products and marketing programs that hopefully never reach the liquidation phase. If you have challenges in your current product line, we can help you develop a new business plan to get back on track. And we will even try to bring you a little of the street smarts of Jeff Schwarz because inspiration can often come from unlikely sources.

The Benefits of Adding Experience to Your Team

LouPhoto

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a mostly futile history since last winning the Stanley Cup, only reaching the final four three times in 49 years. Devoted fans have suffered the ignominy of witnessing such hockey hotbeds as Anaheim, Raleigh, Newark and Tampa hold championship parades while we “wait until next year”.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of May 1967, the team finally committed to stop the constant short term fixes and build properly like the hockey Red Wings, the baseball Cardinals, the football Patriots and the basketball Spurs. An inspirational, empowered leader was hired, the best coach in the game was lured by an 8 year contract and a bevy of young promising “high potentials” with knowledge of the newest analytical techniques were recruited. The only objective is achieving best practices with no announced timetable for winning.

It was what they did next that I find interesting. They hired a General Manager to oversee the implementation of the plan. The person they selected was Lou Lamoriello, eminently qualified as a 3 time champion. But Lou is also 73 years old, not the expected age when you are launching a 5-8 year rebuilding program. Here is where this hiring somewhat intersects with our vision for TempPro Marketing Solutions (and no, we are a long way from having our age start with a ‘7’).

Experience and Wisdom

There is value in experience. After being the General Manager of the New Jersey Devils for 28 years, Lou learned a thing or two about acquiring and developing players. For me, I worked in the format wars of VHS vs. Beta on the losing side and then years later in the single serve coffee market on the winning side. It was amazing to see the parallels between the two situations and in the coffeemaker market, the superior product won this time. Perhaps lessons were learned by Keurig so they combined their superior brewer with widest variety of coffee flavours, just as VHS ultimately won with their superior movie selection despite an inferior hardware technology.

Industry Contacts

Bright young minds bring the latest ideas, but industry contacts and knowledge can also provide a quicker path to success for an inexperienced team. In the sourcing world, anybody can sign up with Alibaba and find factories, but at TempPro we have deep knowledge and relationships in China that can help locate the best, most reliable partners.

Ability to Set Aside Ego

In the new job, Lou has chosen to be part of a management team rather than function as the dictator as in his last position. Facing a figurehead role with his old employer, I can only guess he valued being in the action and accepts a new work dynamic. To be fair, there is skepticism about whether he can endure this lack of total control. In our TempPro case, there is no doubt. This flexibility is a critical component of our vision and values.

It Buys You Time

There should be constant development of employees who become internal candidates for promotions through a well considered succession plan. But sometimes there are gaps and unlike the sports world where 3 year contracts are the norm, TempPro works in short term assignments that may run anywhere from a few weeks to a year. There is no pain to part ways – you define the parameters and we will design you a custom program and serve either as a consultant, an interim manager or provide referrals through our network.

At TempPro we love working with enthusiastic young companies and marketing teams. Talk to us about how to add our experience to supplement your organization. And wish me well while I suffer through another long season of rebuilding.

The Age of Personal Branding

Me IncWe are in an exciting era of Marketing and more specifically the age of the personal brand. From the Summer of Trump to the millions spent to disparage the Justin brand to Kanye musing about taking his brand into the political arena, election periods magnify this trend. And hey Maple Leaf land, are we not excited about the Babcock brand coming to Toronto. The principles of branding can be applied everywhere.

Personal branding and the concept of Me Inc has developed over the years as corporate life has changed and businesses have become much more flexible in adapting their organization to changing requirements. Whether employees or not, we are in sense selling our service to our clients (employers). As a new Twitter user, it seems we are in the relative early days of social media. Self marketing is not optimally practiced, even by other marketing firms. Today’s marketplace puts a premium on trust and credibility. With so much choice, would you not award your business to people who have demonstrated their capabilities, proven they are easy to deal with and promise to stand behind their work.

How do you do take that step forward? Go online and build your business and personal brands:

Write your mission statement. What do you do? According to Rick Spence, a noted small business expert, most entrepreneurs can’t easily explain what they do in a simple understandable manner .Carve out your elevator speech which is your abbreviated pitch when you have the ear of someone for 1 or 2 minutes. Explain what you do, why people should deal with you and then you are well on your way.

Our mission statement is “TempPro Marketing will deliver outstanding Marketing and Sales results to customers in any time frame by assisting them in their short and medium term staffing needs”

But don’t just develop a corporate brand name .You are the product and accountable for its performance. As a person who is going to stand behind your work – tell everyone. Within your business is a big “Me Inc.”. What is the one word that you want people to describe you? For me its Integrity . Tracking down old colleagues after 30 years and hearing “you were always a stand-up guy” is the best thing you can say to me.

Our web site has a Who We Are tab where you can read each of our personal branding statements .Click on my photo and you will see words like strategy and analytics. Jane’s is heavier on the creative and people side. We both have a passion for marketing and innovation.

At TempPro, we can build or improve your online presence for a very reasonable price. We can handle the entire process including website design, photography, and copywriting. We can even provide hosting and ongoing content for your followers and clients. Build long term relationships with your client base so they always come to you for their “insert your product here” needs. It does not matter where you are in your own growth cycle from start-up to well established; a prudent course of action is always to “protect the house”. Your current audience will increasingly expect this type of interaction from you.

To learn more, just drop us a note or give us a call .We will be happy to share our plan to build your company and personal brand.

Introducing TempPro Marketing

David Lackey

David Lackey, Founding Partner

I am pleased to introduce a new consulting and interim staffing firm, based in Southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto area, called TempPro Marketing Solutions Inc. (www.temppromarketing.com)

Together, with my co-founding partner and recent colleague, Jane Laurie, TempPro Marketing Solutions Inc. is a dedicated group of proven, trustworthy Marketing and Sales professionals who will seamlessly blend with and augment your Senior to Middle Management team on an interim or project basis. We intend to offer a different kind of service: a Temp agency that will provide highly qualified Marketing personnel to cover short to medium duration absences or vacancies on a contract basis. We are also a project based consulting firm who can help you find success in the big box, independent and online marketplace. We bring the expertise of executive level marketers who are capable of stepping in to your organization to keep you on track or pursue opportunities that currently do not have resources assigned to them.

Our sphere is Marketing from the brand perspective. My specialty is product development and innovation in consumer products and I have been deeply involved in the changing technology of the home right up to the current Internet of Things trend. Jane has built successful programs with leading retailers across North America and is widely respected for her creative product and brand solutions. We also have recently managed successful public relations, app development, online marketing, sales promotion and branding campaigns together.

It is our belief that an effective team has a mix of skills, personality styles and experience levels. TempPro offers the “Pros” of utilizing experienced, proven managers in a defined time span without making a long term commitment. Our role will be to augment your team, fill in the short absences and help you tackle the difficult challenges facing your business. We can offer the benefit of quick integration and have the ability to facilitate teamwork. We are happy to share our experience, but also recognize that we are engaged for a brief period, so we “do” more and “debate” less. Finding the right senior Marketing personnel requires due diligence, so plant a TempPro associate in the chair and take the time needed to find the most suitable person who will be an asset to your company in the years ahead. And we will even stay in a support role for a few weeks and assist them to start their tenure with your company effectively.

Our vision is simple. High value work for a well defined short to medium time without any complication. Our values have been formed over years of working for leading brands in a variety of cultures from Canada, USA, Europe, Japan and Hong Kong. We have worked with Fortune 500 public companies and family businesses which have grown to billion dollar enterprises.

Learn more about TempPro Marketing and how to put us to work for you at our website. We would be happy to take a few minutes of your time to further explore how you can utilize us as part of your team, for a week, a month or a year. Contact Jane at (519) 939-3586 or David at (416)816-0660 or send us an email at info@temppromarketing.com to learn more.

A week, a month, a year, we keep you on track!