Monthly Archives: March 2020

Future of Work Part Six, circa 2011.


To Free or not to Free…

The new economy paradigm:

  • Information and communication should be free. (Internet users bill of rights)
  • Tools cost money. And are worth it.
  • Content should be shared (free-ish.)
  • How should we treat Google? Let’s let them do their thing, they are already going off-piste.

            (Big question – Should service be free? SaS.)

Implication for FOW: We need to create value and charge for it. If people are will to pay for virtual goods, they should be willing to pay for improved achievements.

Well I’m not sure virtual goods lasted more than a few months but certainly value is still worth something. I have to admit, though, most of the apps on my phone are free. Ad supported or not the digital world is still filled with free. And I know one particular technology company that is thriving, in part, thanks to giving away IP and code. Often I argue that altruism isn’t a brand plank, but in the case of this company (and client) raising all boats is. It’s who they are — part of their mystique.

So honestly, to free or not to free is still exists today as a business conundrum. At What’s The Idea? I offer a free day of planning to good prospects. It’s often how I get to fee.



Insight 5, The Future of Work, Circa 2011.


(Number 5 in a series. Click here to read initial post.)

Work ergonomically.      

Less key strokes. Need a .com button on the keyboard. Better email (Facebook found some inefficiencies.) The masses seek order. Stand to the right on the escalator in highly trafficked parts of NYC. It’s a Fast Twitch World. Biggest news breaks on Twitter. MSFT works the way you work.

Implication for FOW: Usability, arguably a MSFT weakness, can be made into a positive thanks to real demonstrations, e.g., One Note, Printing from the cloud, Windows 7 Mobile Hubs vs. Apps.)

Most of this still holds up. There is a .com button on my mobile now. We are finding keystrokes replaced by voice commands. Slack, as an online business tool, has advanced ergonomics though it still hasn’t penetrated the way it should (and will). That said, Microsoft reported daily use of Teams has reached 44M, the spike for which can be partially attributed to the corona virus.

There are very few workers who want to work with more friction. Water runs downhill. As was noted in the first post on the Future of Work, consumer apps have outpaced business apps when it comes to innovation; businesses still have a way to go to improve the ergonomics of work. There has been some incremental positive change, but not enough.



Future of Work Part 4.


Today’s installment of the Future of Work, penned in 2011 looks at the

“Logged and tagged” workplace.

  • Businesses have required information to be logged and tagged. (
  • Localized to centralized. Knowledge worker to log-in ID.
  • Cloud computing, (and private cloud), interoperability and improved usability allow “better access for all.”
  • Culture and fealty diminished.  

“If you want to go faster and you want a                                         system that is more reliable, you have to                                         be willing to spend less.”                                                                                                             Larry Ellison, Oracle, 9/10

Implication for FOW: We can provide anytime, anywhere access and achievement – MSFT should reinforce the muscle memory it owns around productivity. Become the top-of-mind facilitator for this, but with a communal heart.

The so-called gig economy resulted from the logged and tagged workplace. When this new, temporary, as-needed workforce was overlaid with GPS, it opened up the market for Uber and other interesting economy-altering businesses.

The implication of this insight was to turn a negative (on-demand worker lemmings) into a positive (communal businesses of fluid workforces), the benefits of which are lower cost, higher productivity and perhaps a pinch of creativity.

I’ve always like the insight, but think companies did not foresee some mental health implications among participants due to loss of control. Software like Slack and Teams has helped. And MSTF’s Teams is ripping right now.





Future of Work Part 3.


Today we look at the third insight developed in 2011 for a JWT/Microsoft project to see how it weathered after all these years. Insight number 3:

For many work bleeds into play and vice versa.

  • Gaming in marketing growing.
  • “Always On” blurs the lines.
  • Who pays the phone bill? Who owns the laptop?
  • Should be a backlash at some point (a fight against always on).
  • The recession has conditioned employees to work harder.

Implication for FOW: By providing helpful, meaningful ways to support the work/life phenomenon, MSFT should help users in do both.

It seems to me, with the exception of gaming becoming more a part pf marketing, these all held up. Everyone is different and not every job is as strategic as the next, but always being on and having a mobile phone to record in real time your work improvement observations allows those to think about work when they are not at work. Just as making a parenting observation at work won’t keep you from taking that home.

Though gaming didn’t overly impact marketing, Virtual Reality will. Especially in a post-Corona Virus world. Which, by the way, has created a recession. Which will condition employees to work harder.

Insight 3 was a handmaiden to yesterday’s about mobile changing everything. Businesses that enable work to integrate comfortably into life, will earn some serious revenue points. And right now, I’d say that will be a win for hardware companies more so than for software and service companies. I’m guessing devices will morph toward more talking and less typing – virtual assistance stuff.



Future of Work Part 2.


Yesterday I began sharing a Future of Work deck from 2010-11.  Today we are looking at Insight Number 2.

Mobile is changing everything. I cannot imagine anyone arguing this point. Here are the support points:

  • 292m subscriber in the U.S. (pop. Of 308m)
  • Messages about to replace MOU (minutes of use) in mobile
  • Smartphone to surpass functions phones in 2010.
  • Mobile connected workforce puts more hours into the work day.
  • Mobile is chaotic with huge interoperability issues. (, a solution provider).
  • Customers expect more and

The only point that doesn’t stand up is mobile is chaotic. Interoperability is pretty seamless these days albeit the Apple (IOS) and Google (Android) operating systems aren’t the friendliest of cousins.

Implication for FOW: If we (Microsoft) create a more usable, kinder-gentler mobile experience, we can be seen as leader.

My prediction that the Windows mobile operating system (and eventual purchase of Nokia in 2013) would win the day was absolutely wrong. MSFT and Steve Balmer had an opportunity but played the wrong cards. 

The reality is, mobile has changed the Future of Work. But work and play will continue to merge via the mobile phone until such a time as security issues and hacking change the landscape.




The Future of Work, Ten Years Ago.


Ten years ago (time flies me droogies), I was hired to work for a few months in the JWT account planning department on Microsoft. It was one of the highlights of my planning career.

One of the key assignments was something we called the “Future of Work.” I wrote a trends deck that acted as a starting point for the assignment. I’ll be sharing key insights from that deck over the next week or so to see it they still hold up 10 years later. (When written, the deck was only about trends, not about selling product. Eventually it morphed towards an Office 365 piece, where it was to help defend against Google Docs – it is a business after all. My approach was upstream however.) Insight number one:

  1. Most of the innovation in technology over the past 4-5 years has been on the consumer side.

Prior to Facebook, most major technology innovations were business to business. Mainframes, LANs, PCs, private date lines, enterprise (corporate) email systems, cell phones, and VOIP and voice mail. But this all changed in the middle aughts when Twitter, Facebook, the iPhone, Kindle, Netflix, the App Store, Foursquare and tablets emerged. Developing and marketing products directly to consumers rather than IT departments forced technology to be user-friendly. Accessible. It was a sea change. It was a cleansing moment. Ease of use paved the way for use and innovation. The market was not just the geeks who understood PC Magazine, but everybody.

Implication for the Future Of Work (FOW): With all the action on the consumer side, someone could fill the innovation void on the business side of the market. Business workers could thrive thanks to usability-inspired innovation.



Unhealthy Healthcare Advertising.


Healthcare branding is my jam. I know, I know, it sounds sort of geeky and sans luster but it really is a deep and emotional category. When I first dabbled, I expected it would be a downer. Most healthcare organizations, especially systems, couldn’t find their ass with their hands when it came to promoting – let alone positioning. But over the last 15 years or so, brand craft in healthcare has inched forward. Sadly, not everywhere.

Two local health systems here in North Carolina like to promote how thoroughly they cater to their patients. How the patient is job-one. (Here’s a secret, that’s the promise of 70% of hospital systems out there.) Today I read an ad from one of these systems Advent Health that spoke about Corona Virus preparedness. The headline “Your trusted source for Corona Virus Care,” sat atop a subhead “Nothing is more important to us than you.” The copy contained more promise, no a lick of proof.

Most healthcare orgs. and systems don’t have a brand strategy – a discrete framework of value. A claim and proof array, as I refer to it. Had Advent a brand strategy, they would have been able to write an ad that was not simply unsubstantiated claim, but was an evidentiary tale. Filled with reasons to believe/

Poor or non-existent brand strategy leads to poor paid communications.

It’s crime. It’s a waste. Frankly, it’s unhealthy.



Adopt a Business.


What do brick and mortar businesses do when the supply chain of money comes to a halt? Effectively it turns into a ghost town economy. No peeps, no money, no products, no services.

There’s an old Mike Tyson boxing axiom “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well folks, we’ve been punched in the mouth. What shall we do? Business as usual? Sit back and wait it out? Can’t do the former. Shouldn’t do the latter.

The government believes the way forward is to keep the money supply chain running. Send out gov’t checks so we can continue paying bills. The only winners then become the banks.

What if we were to have a bill paying moratorium? Say for 3 months. No mortgages. No electric or water bills. No credit card bills. (But also, no credit card purchases.) What would it free us up to do? It would free us up to isolate and heal. It would free us up to help one another in thoughtful, meaningful ways. It would free us up to innovate. It’s a big idea and one that only the federal government can pull off.

But since that’s not likely to happen what can we do for our brick and mortar brethren? How about this — Let’s get everyone to adopt one brick and mortar business. Then offer them help as safely as is possible. A little money, paint, food, sweat equity – even a shoulder to cry on. Maybe, even just some new ideas.

Isolation is great for pandemic, but it’s not the best way to innovate out of a crisis. Let’s help one another, but be safe doing it. It will free up many of the burdens of this illness. But we must do it safely.



The Golden Rule.


Branding with a brand strategy is simple. But it starts with having a brand strategy. At What’s The Idea? framework for brand strategy is one claim and three proof planks. The claim and planks never change; however, the proof points comprising the planks can, do and must. By finding new proofs for your claim you keep your brand fresh, relevant, topical and dare I say social.

By way of example, I’ll share the brand strategy for a commercial maintenance client. The claim was “the navy seals of commercial maintenance.” The proof planks were “fast,” “fastidious” and “preemptive.” When marketing or content creating if the work did not support the claim and at least one element of the proof array, it didn’t get approved.

Branding without a brand strategy and tight framework for same, is difficult. It lacks pragmatism. Branding without strategy is fluid, determined by the artist not the business person, and often ever-changing. Marketing directors come and go, campaigns come and go, agencies come and go, but a brand strategy should be indelible.

To quote David Byrne, “This ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.” We’re trying to make money here. In good times and bad. The framework for successful marketing starts with brand strategy. Extensible, scalable, replicable and creative brand strategy.

The golden rule. Peace.


The Wix Logo Maker.


I was watching TV the other day and a Wix ad asked “Need a professional looking logo for your brand? Then Try the new Wix logo maker.” Oy.

I made a career out of working in emerging technologies. I love the digital age. Google’s brand promise “the world’s information one click away” shows me that digital companies are good marketers and branders too. But marketing and, especially, brand building are not Do It Yourself pursuits. A logo making machine, come on!

Trademarkia has made it cheap and easy to establish a brand name. Wix has made it cheap and easy to create websites. Google Adwords has made it cheap and easy for small business owners to advertise. But building a business or growing and scaling a business is not a just an add water process.

Here’s the strategic input required to create a new Wix logo.

Enter Your Brand Name – Add the name of your brand, business or organization, and tell us what you do.

Tell Us What Your Logo Is For – Describe your business, so our logo maker can create a logo that fits your brand.

Share Your Design Style- Let us know more about your personal style—from colors and fonts, to icons and more.

Customize Your Logo Design – Edit and polish your logo online till it looks exactly the way you want.

Abracadabra, out pops a logo.

This is the most narcistic marketing tools known to man. The business world will be littered with Wix logos in 20 years. Why? Because these logos have nothing to do with the consuming public. It’s all me-centric strategy. And more importantly, machines aren’t designers. They’re machines. Oh, the horror.