Archive | November 2013

Find the Revolution Before It Finds You

Do you have the right strategic mindset to find the revolution in your industry?

by Bill Taylor  |   January 24, 2011

Ray Davis, president and CEO of Umpqua Holdings, is one of my favorite CEOs. That’s not because he’s brash, colorful, or combative — he’s none of those things. But over the last 16 years, he’s done something few leaders ever do. He’s figured out how to stay ahead of the transformations in technology, markets, and culture that have shaken his competitors in the financial-services world, and built a brand that stands for something special, hopeful, even meaningful in an industry that is profoundly broken.

The core challenge of leadership, Davis argues, is to “find the revolution before it finds you.” In their search for that revolution, he and his colleagues have created a one-of-a-kind brand in a world of me-too thinking. In the process, they have also created a case study in how to deliver long-lasting results in fast-changing times — a case study from which all of us can learn.

Ray Davis took charge of Umpqua back in 1994, when the bank was a pipsqueak of an outfit with six branches in and around the southern Oregon town of Roseburg, assets of $150 million, and, in his words, a “plain vanilla” competitive strategy. Since then, Umpqua has been one of the banking industry’s rising stars. It now has 183 branches stretching from San Francisco to Seattle, assets of $11 billion, and a unique strategy that positions Umpqua as a lifestyle brand rather than as just another local bank.

Umpqua’s 15-year track record of growth has little to do with the products it markets, which are virtually identical to the products offered by other banks. What’s distinctive about Umpqua has to do with how it offers those products — its commitment to reimagining the experience of interacting with a bank. Davis puts is this way: “If you took a person, blindfolded them, sent them to a bank, and took the blindfold off, 99% percent of them would say, ‘I’m in some bank somewhere.’ We want our customers to say, ‘I’m in an Umpqua bank.’ We don’t want the experience of banking here to feel like banking anywhere else.”

That’s why Umpqua designs its branches to appeal to all five human senses. What should a banklook like? In Umpqua’s case, its branches evoke the spirit of a sleek hangout space, more like Starbucks or a well-appointed art gallery than the neighborhood savings-and-loan.

What should a bank sound like? In Umpqua’s case, it’s the sound of music. The bank signs indie bands to its Discover Local Music project and invites customers to listen to songs on in-branch kiosks or download them from the Web. It even sells compilation CDs of the best songs.

What should a bank smell like? Being the Pacific Northwest, the answer, of course, is coffee. Branch employees are happy to brew customers a cup of the bank’s own Umpqua Blend (which it also sells by the pound), and they end every transaction with a piece of gold-wrapped chocolate served on a silver platter. (That’s what Umpqua tastes like.)

Moreover, during and after hours, the beautifully appointed branches host community activities as well as banking activities. There are book clubs, movie nights, neighborhood meetings, “business therapy” gatherings, “stitch and bitch” sessions in which participants knit and gossip. Umpqua’s Innovation Lab, a branch filled with high-tech gadgets in Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood, even hosts bowling leagues — not with balls and pins, but with Wii video bowling on 144-inch high-definition screens.

Why does Umpqua bother? To change the conversation with customers and the community, to make itself interesting in a world where most banks are boring, to become a passion brand in an industry sorely devoid of passion. In other worlds, to find the marketing revolution before that revolution finds and upends the bank.

“People come to the South Portland store in the middle of the day with their bowling shirts on,” Davis marvels. “Some customers are waiting to see their banker, and others are bowling! It’s incredible. It creates an environment where people say, ‘That was fun, let’s go back.’”

This distinctive personality and market presence, it should be noted, has served Umpqua well during the financial meltdown. Back in 1994, when Davis took over, Umpqua’s market value was a trifling $18 million. Today, despite all the economic setbacks in the Pacific Northwest, and even after investors have turned their backs on banks across the country, Umpqua’s market value is close to $1.5 billion.

CEO Davis explains his bank’s approach to business, in boom times or dark times, this way: “In an industry like ours, which is so old, where people are used to doing things one way, with blinders on, this model is not just shifting the paradigm. It’s crashing and burning and nuking the paradigm! That’s how you stay relevant. And if you can’t stay relevant, you’re done. The banks that are failing have no value proposition — nothing — other than, ‘We are a bank and we will offer you a higher rate.’ We have a one-of-a-kind value proposition in our industry.”

That’s the strategic mindset that allowed Ray Davis to “find the revolution” in his industry. Do you have the right strategic mindset to find the revolution in your industry?


William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself. Follow him on Twitter at @practicallyrad.

~ Curated by TME Pass the Idea (



Strategy: Your biggest competitor isn’t necessarily your biggest competitor

Three Strategy Lessons From the Latest Round of Xbox vs. PlayStation

by Walter Frick  |   November 27, 2013

In 2008, when the Harvard Business School case study was written on the launch two years earlier of the PlayStation 3, the question was whether it was “game over” for Sony. The electronics giant had seemingly lost its dominant position in the gaming console market, with the Nintendo Wii’s surprise success overshadowing the more powerful but pricier PS3.

Few product releases are as hotly anticipated, fiercely competitive, or widely debated as those that keep the console wars waging. And as Sony and Microsoft each released a new console last week, the latest battle for gamers’ dollars is finally here. While it is, of course, far too early to declare a winner of this “8th generation,” two case studies written since the last round offer insights into the state of the industry heading into this holiday season. There are already strategy lessons to be drawn from the contest.


Learn From Your Mistakes

The easiest way to understand Sony’s position with the PS4 is to review the mistakes it made last time around, beginning with its price. Ranging from $499 to $599, the PS3 was significantly more expensive than previous consoles, and than both the Xbox 360 ($299-$399) and the Nintendo Wii ($249). The Xbox 360 had the advantage of beating the other two consoles to market by a year, while the Wii introduced a novel motion-sensing wireless controller that allowed for significant innovation in gameplay. Despite its impressive specs, the PS3 was widely viewed, according to the case, as too expensive.

Both the price of the PS3 (which Sony reportedly sold at a loss at launch) and the timing of its release could be attributed in part to the inclusion of a Blu-ray Disc player, then a new technology of Sony’s that was in competition with Toshiba’s HD-DVD format to become the standard for high definition discs. The inclusion of Blu-ray in the base model not only allowed for better, faster games; it meant that the PS3 was a next generation DVD player as well as a gaming console. It was the ultimate home entertainment device. (By contrast, the Xbox 360 offered an HD-DVD drive only as an option with its premium model; the Wii played DVDs but not in high definition.)


The HBS case quotes Holman Jenkins of The Wall Street Journal writing in 2004 about Sony’s strategy:

…somehow, some way consumers in the future will probably need a device to organize all the digital fun streaming around their lives. Sony believes the superbox will sneak into the living room in the guise of a non- threatening consumer appliance…In one swoop, Sony will place a supercomputer in an innocent-looking piece of entertainment hardware and drop it into the home, leading couch potatoes painlessly to their digital nirvana.

But as Sony soon learned, what mattered most to gamers was, not surprisingly, games. And a weak lineup of games at launch, combined with the high price translated into a weak holiday season for Sony in 2006.

“They were touting both messages,” said Elie Ofek, Harvard Business School professor and author of the PS3 case. Sony talked up its gaming platform, of course, but also that it “want[ed] to be the center of your home.” In Ofek’s view that created “confused messaging.”

Sony responded to its mistakes quickly, notably by lowering the price of the PS3 over time, to eventually sell 80 million consoles, roughly equivalent to the Xbox 360. But evidence of these stumbles can also be found in last week’s PS4 launch. This time around, Sony came to market a week ahead of Microsoft, priced its console $100 cheaper than the new Xbox One, and has been careful not to muddy its message — it’s talking the PS4 up simply as the ultimate gaming platform.

In other words, Sony learned from its mistakes. The problem is, it could be over-correcting.

Yesterday’s Mistake Could Be Tomorrow’s Advantage

While Sony may be stressing gaming above all else with its latest console, Microsoft is offering a different narrative with its Xbox One, as The Washington Post summarizes:

The main difference between the two is that Microsoft wants the Xbox to be an all-in-one entertainment system while Sony is sticking to making games the main feature of the console.

Despite early pushback from the gaming community, Microsoft hasn’t shied away from this positioning, advertising the Xbox One’s television integration, as Polygon reports in its review:

It’s not just that Microsoft is more aggressively courting video content and providers with Xbox compared to the competition. With Xbox One’s TV integration, their plan seems to be that you’ll never need to switch away from the system for all the entertainment you’re already consuming in your living room. It becomes a part of the television experience seamlessly and drifts into the background until you’re ready for it — or, say, when you receive a game invite or Skype call.

At first glance, Microsoft seems poised to repeat some of Sony’s mistakes. It has the priciest console on offer (Nintendo’s Wii U came out last year and has not been selling very well) and it includes the latest and greatest in non-gaming entertainment. It’s too early to know how this strategy will work out for Microsoft, but there’s an argument to be made that the console-as-entertainment-hub moment is finally here.


“In 2000, when we taught about the 6th generation it was already a question of whether this should be the entertainment hub,” Ofek told me. Sony’s attempt in the 7th generation was not successful. But the proliferation of entertainment across multiple devices and apps makes such a hub more useful. “Now we’re on the 8th generation [and] the need for what I’d call a digital entertainment convergence is more acute today than it was before.”

Despite differences in positioning, it should be noted that while the PS4 does not have the same level of TV integration, it does offer streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video.

“The boxes aren’t that radically different at the end of the day,” said Lewis Ward, an analyst with IDC. “Gamers have absolutely embraced the idea of streaming movies and TV at least on their consoles. The game consoles are moving out from a beachhead of gaming into multimedia in general.”

But if consoles are finally broadening their competition beyond gaming, the threats are as notable as the opportunity.

Your Biggest Competitor Isn’t Necessarily Your Biggest Competitor

For all the attention paid to the head-to-head competition between Sony and Microsoft, the biggest threats to the console makers are external, as explained in the 2012 HBS case “Videogames: Clouds on the Horizon?”. In it, authors Andrei Hagiu and Kerry Herman argue that the industry faces challenges from the rise in mobile and tablet games, as well as from cloud-based gaming.

“Both cloud gaming and tablets and smartphones are essentially substituting away from the console gaming market,” Hagiu told me, adding that “the most vulnerable victim is Nintendo” because of its focus on more casual gamers.

Cloud-based gaming poses a higher risk to the casual end of the market because it allows relatively complex games to be played on simpler, cheaper devices.

“Both Sony and Microsoft are very reluctant to embrace cloud gaming,” said Hagiu. “They’d be very happy if they’re able to delay [it].” That’s because, he says, the widespread adoption of cloud-based gaming could lower barriers to entry in the gaming industry, increasing competition and lowering profit margins for the incumbents.

“Cloud is one of these perennial ‘right around the corner’ technologies,” according to IDC’s Ward. Nonetheless, the threat and opportunity was imminent enough for Sony to last year shell out $380 million to acquire Gaikai, one of the pioneers of cloud gaming. For now, Sony plans to use the service to stream PS3 games for the PS4, and to stream game previews.

Finally, to the extent that Sony and even more so Microsoft are in the entertainment hub business, they must compete with Roku, Apple TV, and similar entertainment devices which, particularly if cloud-based gaming catches on, could also encroach into the casual gaming market.

Sony and Microsoft each have their own strategy for dominating the living room, and edging out the other this holiday season. But for all the spec comparisons, the PS4 and Xbox One may not be each others’ biggest threats.

~Curated by TME Pass The Idea (, November 28, 2013


What We Learned From Twitter’s IPO: The Value of Innovation Is at an All-Time High

We have officially entered the “ideas economy,” where innovative ideas are more valuable than physical assets or existing cash flow.

By  November 18, 2013

What We Learned From Twitter’s IPO: The Value of Innovation Is at an All-Time HighPhotograph by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Getty Images

Wall Street investors spoke loud and clear when they made Twitter (TWTR) one of the most valuable companies in the world at a $24.9 billion valuation. Twitter has only $500 million in revenue, no major physical assets, and no profit. Its staggering valuation is based on one thing: a great innovation that is changing the way the world communicates.

The initial public offerings of Twitter and others recently demonstrate that we have officially entered the “ideas economy,” where innovative ideas are more valuable than physical assets or existing cash flow.

Shares in several other innovative companies have been on a tear lately. Tesla Motors (TSLA) has sold fewer than 50,000 vehicles, yet it is valued at $17 billion—already about one-third the level of General Motors (GM). LinkedIn (LNKD) is worth $26 billion. Even Facebook (FB), despite a poorly executed IPO 18 months ago, has charged ahead to a value of $120 billion, making it one of the 30 most valuable companies in the world.

A number of other innovative startups are poised to go public in the coming months and are expected to do so at valuations that will immediately place them within the ranks of the S&P 500 in terms of market capitalization. Some of these include Airbnb, Dropbox, Jawbone, Spotify, Pinterest, Uber, and Alibaba—all of which have innovated but have small but growing revenue and little or no profit.

While some may argue this is another bubble like the bust at the turn of this century, it is actually part of a longer-term trend that is valuing innovation at increasingly higher rates due to the impact it has had on many businesses. Apple’s(AAPL) tremendous runup in value from $2 billion in 1997 to more than $600 billion in 2012 was fueled almost entirely by innovation, notably the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, as well as an expectation among investors that more was to come. When it became evident that Apple was unlikely to continue to launch new blockbuster devices at its historic pace, the company lost $200 billion in value, even though Apple continued to increase its revenue.

Historically, company values have been based on such solid metrics as past revenue, profit, and physical assets, and valuations assumed the business world was operating in a steady state. The most prized companies—blue-chip stocks such as IBM (IBM) and General Electric (GE)—were large, stable, high-market-share companies with large asset bases. But innovation is a wild card that trumps everything else, and it is making these old metrics obsolete.

In the past 10 years, many of those blue chips suffered shocking, rapid defeats at the hands of tiny startups with great innovation. In just a few years, Eastman Kodak lost 70 percent of its revenue, leaving it bankrupt. Blockbuster Video,BlackBerry (BBRY), and bookseller Borders: all innovation victims.

Companies that generated the greatest returns in the past 10 years include Netflix(NFLX), Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), Monster Beverage (MNST), and—all companies that have reinvented their categories.

These successes are leading investors to apply an “innovation premium” that is much larger than it was 10 years ago. Google (GOOG) went public in 2004 at a value of $23 billion, just 25 percent of the level of Facebook. Amazon (AMZN)and Netflix went public in 1998 and 2002, respectively, at values of just $450 million and $750 million—just 2 percent to 3 percent of the level of Twitter, despite having similar risk/return profiles.

Innovation is increasing in value partly because it is becoming easier to convert to higher sales. Products can be made, marketed, and sold faster than ever, so exciting new offerings such as Green Mountain (GMCR)’s K-Cup can become overnight successes. In just a few years, Green Mountain turned into a $4 billion enterprise selling more than 6 billion K-Cups per year.

Many established companies are still managed using old metrics such as quarterly earnings per share, rather than building great innovations. For this reason, many of them are turning in mediocre results.

Most of these companies have R&D budgets that are bigger than a VC fund, so they have plenty of resources to innovate; they just don’t use them effectively. All the effort goes into tweaking existing products instead of developing real innovations.

~ Curated by Pass The Idea (, November 20, 2013


Lessons about real-time marketing from Oreo

Are we ready for Real Time?

Link to: Lessons about real-time marketing from Oreo

With the long-awaited Twitter IPO now over the world has become even more focused on how the social media platform is being used. The timing for the IPO couldn’t be better. 2013 has been the year that many brands finally “got” Twitter. A standout example is Oreo’s real time marketing during the USA’s Super Bowl. So what did Oreo do to get it right?

The tweet that every marketer wished they were behind happened during the face-off between Ravens and the 49ers during the February Super Bowl. During the game the power to the New Orleans Super Dome went out plunging the stadium into darkness. Oreo saw an opportunity and shot out a tweet saying “Power out? No Problem” with a link to an image of an Oreo with a caption saying “You can still dunk in the dark.” The really impressive part is that the creative could be designed, written and approved in minutes. It resulted in over 15,000 retweets and while it’s not possible to know exactly how many people saw the message the average Twitter account has around 200 followers. That’s an approximate reach of 3 million Twitter users.

With that simple timely tweet by Oreo, real-time marketing became the “in” thing with advertising professionals. After it won a Grand Prix and five other awards at advertisings premier awards ceremony in Cannes, marketers everywhere took notice. Shortly after the recent royal birth, many marketers tweeted out images and messages in an attempt to look spontaneous, but none had the impact of the Oreo tweet.

The truth is that Oreo had over 18 month’s of planning and preparation behind them to make sure they could capitalise on any opportunity. Bryan Wiener, the Chairman and CEO of 360i, the social media agency behind the Oreo’s social media strategy said, “The Super Bowl tweet made our social media outreach seem like an overnight success, but it took a year-and-half of practice to prepare for that moment.”

Locally it has been the sports team themselves that have been leading the way. Many of the AFL teams such as Richmond, Essendon, Geelong and Hawthorn had injured players take over their account during games to give a unique real-time spin. And now Coke is planning for global real-time marketing around the Football World Cup which will be staged in Brazil next year.

What is clear is that all of these brands have empowered teams with the ability to act quickly and take advantage of events as they happen. They have thrown out the normal approval processes and have made sure the social media teams know how to represent the brand.

So after the dust has settled on the Twitter IPO and we move into 2014 and begin looking at the major sporting and public events for the year, you may have to be asking yourself “Are we ready for real-time?”

~ Curated by TME World of Marketing, November 19, 2013


New rules of the road for the Subscription Economy

Marketers like Zipcar are changing how we sell, deliver and value products and services.

NOVEMBER 14 2013

In the 21st century, changing consumption habits are changing the global business landscape, perhaps forever. There is a massive shift underway in the way we—as both consumers and businesses—are looking to consume goods and services. In particular, we now value the convenience and flexibility of subscribing to services rather than buying products outright.

Today, we subscribe to streaming music on-the-go, rather than build up bulky CD collections. We subscribe to services like Zipcar and avoid the need to buy cars. In business, we prefer to use subscription-based services like for CRM, or FireHost for cloud hosting. Why invest in storage when we can use a subscription service like Box?


At Zuora, we call this the onset of the Subscription Economy.  This means the rules of businesses have had to be rewritten from the bottom up. This provides significant opportunities, as well as new challenges.

Indeed, a recent survey of 293 business executives in the US, UK and Australia, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Zuora, demonstrates the extent of this shift in the global landscape. Four out of every five businesses surveyed are currently seeing changes in how their customers prefer to access their services.

As a result, 51% are integrating new pricing and delivery models such as subscriptions, sharing and rental goods and services, rather than selling products outright. Of those, subscription-based models have emerged as the primary means to do so, with 40% of these companies implementing subscription services as part of their core business.


The survey also makes it clear that it is not just consumer and business demand for more flexible and tailored services which is driving this phenomenon. Businesses are also recognising the significant long-term economic benefits that subscription business models make possible. 12% of respondents say these already represent more than half of their revenue. Critically, this number is expected to grow rapidly, as 84% anticipate that this share of revenue will increase somewhat or significantly over the next two years.

However for this to be realised, significant business transformation will be required. Success is no longer gauged by counting how many product units have been sold. Rather, success derives building valuable customer relationships, which only come from gaining greater customer insight and using this to build mutually beneficial two-way relationships. You need to be measuring how many customers are using your service on a recurring basis and how successfully you are monetising those recurring relationships.

Businesses will be measured on the forward-looking revenue potential of their customer base, rather than backward-looking revenue generated from shipped products. Subscription-based companies operate on recurring revenue and recurring expenses and therefore care about recurring profit, not operating profit, and familiar financial measures will have to change to accommodate.

It also means that the legacy systems that businesses once ran on must be re-thought. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) suites in particular were designed for the 20th century manufacturing era rather than the 21st century services-based world we now live in. ERP systems don’t help you price recurring services, don’t support a model where customers are amending their services, and don’t provide key metrics such as churn or renewal rates.

The Subscription Economy opens up a worldwide market opportunity conservatively estimated at $500 billion. However, it requires new models of thinking, and new flexible systems which allow you to understand your customers and tailor and price your services to them specifically. This change won’t be easy but, in today’s transformed business climate, success depends on it.

~ Curated by TME World of Marketing, November 18, 2013


Apple’s New iPhone 5C and 5S: The Results of Creativity or Innovation?

Article image
Every idea, no matter how ingenious or successful, will eventually need to be replaced with a new one. But business leaders, as human beings above all, tend to cling to their existing ideas, beliefs, and other mental models—or what we call boxes—longer than they should.
  • author image
    Alan Iny is the senior specialist for creativity and scenario planning at The Boston Consulting Group and a coauthor of Thinking in New Boxes.
  • author image
    Luc de Brabandere is a fellow and a senior advisor with The Boston Consulting Group and the author or coauthor of several books, includingThinking in New Boxes.
OCTOBER 09, 2013

Every idea, no matter how ingenious or successful, will eventually need to be replaced with a new one. But business leaders, as human beings above all, tend to cling to their existing ideas, beliefs, and other mental models—or what we call boxes—longer than they should. For instance, Henry Ford famously insisted on continuing to manufacture the Model T long after his competitors were creating dazzling new automobiles that significantly cannibalized sales of his once best-selling car.

When Apple first created its highly disruptive, history-making iPhone, the company unleashed years of innovation not just in its phone offerings, but in a seemingly infinite stream of related accessories and applications. The release this week of Apple’s long-awaited iPhone 5C and 5S should offer business leaders everywhere a vivid reminder of the distinction between paradigm-shifting “creativity” and the “innovation” that often follows. Creativity and innovation are two separate processes—both important, but not identical.

Creativity can be defined as people’s ability to change their perception of reality; by doing so, they can then create new ideas, hypotheses, approaches, and other “boxes.” Apple couldn’t come up with the original iPod, for example, until its leaders changed their mental boxes regarding what a portable music player was—from the Sony Walkman to one associated with a broader ecosystem. The iPhone was not the first mobile phone, but it fundamentally changed the box of what a mobile phone could be (as Apple also did with the iPad and mouse).

Innovation can be defined as a change in reality. In other words, innovation means taking an existing idea or box, such as the idea for a new product, service, or business model, and turning it into reality (for example, by manufacturing the product or implementing the business model). Once the first iPhone was developed, Apple was free to create all sorts of new features for and iterations of the iPhone and iPad—encouraging customers to change their own understanding of the products’ possibilities.

Incremental innovations—think of BIC introducing double-bladed or triple-bladed razors once they were already in the razor business—do not require the creation of a new box. But transformational innovations—such as when BIC transformed itself from a pen manufacturer to a company that makes all sorts of disposable plastic objects, including pens, razors, lighters, calling cards—do require a new box.

The development of the earliest lanterns and light bulbs was based on the assumption that “light is created by burning something.” Once this box was established, engineers innovated by trying different materials, such as various wicks or oils, to improve the quality and duration of the light. Only when Thomas Edison shifted his, and the world’s, perception to embrace a new box—that light is created by preventing something (the filament) from burning—could he then create the first incandescent light bulb.

In creating the new iPhone 5C and 5S, did leaders at Apple have to change some of their most fundamental perceptions of the company and the products and services it provides? Put differently, did Apple create a whole new box or did it use its legendary R&D skills to innovate further?

One thing is clear: no matter how robust and dominant this technology is today, eventually the iPhone and its ecosystem, and the ideas and assumptions underlying them, will need to be reexamined and replaced. And just imagine the tremendous new opportunities and offerings that Apple will provide the world when it does so!

This commentary originally appeared on

~ Curated by TME Pass The Idea, November 15, 2013