Lessons from the Lemonade Stand

The dependable lemonade stand is not only an enduring summer icon but also a slice piece of trade rich with business lessons. This past summer I made a point of stopping at those I spotted. I learned that the exchange of flavored water for a few coins may appear simple but represents aspects critical to business. If you look closely the humble stand provides a mini-MBA covering funding, strategy, production, marketing, customer service and reinvestment. It all starts with thinking about the lemonade stand “industry” which is:

Fiercely competitive with low barriers to entry

Both seasonal and weather dependent

Reliant on a commodity, easily substituted product

Seemingly undifferentiated overall

Unattractive from a revenue and profit perspective

For each of these conditions, one has to tailor the business to succeed. As daunting an industry as it is this has not stopped thousands of young people from starting them up each and every summer. Here are five lessons for your children and your own enterprises.

Delight with a Superior Product

Of course, we will all part with our loose change to help out a tiny entrepreneur. But if the lemonade is tart, weak, overly sweet or thimble size we will force a smile, wish them luck and complain about the product back in our car or as lemonade-stand_5we cycle away. This reaction is no different from any other disappointing purchase. I have gone back to a stand twice if the lemonade is legitimately pleasing in taste.

A superior product differentiates, communicates care and quality, provides value in the exchange, engenders loyalty and prompts word-of-mouth.

Pick a Smart Spot

Location has always been critical to business. As a child, I ran a stand at my home in Winnipeg, Canada situated on a quiet street and later that day while dumping the warm, unsold liquid treat down the drain vowed to learn from the experience. The next time I loaded up my wagon, trundled half a mile, and set up outside the gates of The Tuxedo Golf Club. With that experience I learned another lesson – have adequate stock. My location was so good that the would-be Tiger Woods cleaned me out fast.

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The Advantage of Critical Thinking

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Jeff argues that there is too much me-too marketing.

Jeff spoke at the Canadian Marketing Association’s 2014 National Convention and the presentation is now a paper. Download it here SC_SpeedKills_Paper_web. Tweets from audience members capture reaction to the content.

“A welcome call for a return to critical thinking in marketing.” Josephine Coombe

“@jeffswystun rockin it at #cmac says the ‘vast majority of businesses are mediocre’ and the pink shirt is fab!” Andrew Simon

“The majority of brands out there are mediocre. That’s why the same brands get celebrated over and over.” Kelly Mack

“It is not about speed, it is about better!” Douglas Foley

“Behind every concept, idea & challenge there is complexity. We lose the magic every time we over simplify.” Gabrielle James

“A deflated and dispirited employee base will never build anything great.” Allison Fraser

“#cmanc @jeffswystun Hallelujah! Simple and faster is not necessarily better. “Slow down to speed up”.” Brian Etking

“Thanks @jeffswystun we could not be happier at the response to your talk.” Canadian Marketing Association

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Authors with Marketing Roots

Many famous authors got their start writing copy for ad agencies, positioning products and services, and finding ways to convince consumers to try and buy. Branding and marketing has always been about storytelling. It is a compelling narrative that first links consumer and brand. The ability to spin a yarn with credibility is an admirable talent that few possess. Among now-famous-authors who got their start promoting brands are:

Salman Rushdie

An Ogilvy & Mather alum who penned the Daily Mirror’s tagline, “Look into the Mirror tomorrow—you’ll like what you see.” He also produced “Naughty. But nice.” for a cream cakes company and “Irresistibubble” for Aero, which remains the candy-bar’s slogan in certain markets.

standardoilTheodore Seuss Geisel A.K.A Dr. Seuss

The famous children’s author and illustrator drew and wrote for brands far before ‘green eggs and ham’. Beer companies received his unique treatment and soon Ford, NBC, GE, Flit, and Standard Oil were among his clients. The “Moto-raspus” for Essolube five star motor oil is immediately recognizable as a Dr. Seuss creation as are the boys in this 1932 ad for Standard Oil. Read more

Jeff Talks Agency Strategy in Advertising Age

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What Digital Agency Clients, Staff and Lead

 

ers Say in Private
These Shops Market Themselves as Hip, but They’re Actually Pretty Old-School
By: Jeff Swystun

Digital agencies enjoy a reputation of being cool, cutting-edge and creative. They even have a bit of a bad-boy persona because they talk about challenging the status quo. Their offices are hip and their employees are hipsters. They are positioned as the future of marketing and advertising.

In the past year I have consulted to six digital agencies on branding and marketing. Between them they operate in over 12 countries, employing over 2,000. The results are revealing. First up is the dissatisfaction among employees. This cannot be attributed solely to the stereotypical millennial, because,many who shared these experiences were over 35. Comments included:

“We lecture clients about technology when our time and expense sheets are manual.”

“Fun perks promised are always sacrificed because of proposals or client work. I understand business is business, but don’t promise it if you only hand it out when convenient.” Read more

It is Tough to Be Original

I have always wanted to be an investigative journalist and blow a story wide open. Something on par with Watergate would suffice. Then I really thought I had my own ‘Deep Throat’ in the form of Netflix. This provider of on-demand Internet streaming media distributes content that is an archival treasure trove of pop culture.

This is especially true in the eclectic and never-ending seasons of television shows it offers. As a subscriber you can toggle bewitched-cartoon-openingbetween Quantum Leap and Knight Rider and Fawlty Towers. Or you can enter the worlds of Dexter, American Dad, Lost, The Rockford Files, and McMillan & Wife. Not to mention Portlandia, Twin Peaks, Charlie’s Angels, and Breaking Bad.

There is even a little show called Mad Men. The charmer of critics and frequent award winner has legions of fans. These acolytes wait for Sunday nights to witness the shagging and drinking shenanigans of Don, Roger, Peggy, Pete, and Joan. Then they gather around the water cooler at work on Mondays to ask, “Did you see it?” Read more

Social Media is All About the Details

Social media is an ongoing experiment that continues to perplex many companies. The challenging (and fun) part of social media has been figuring out if, where, and how a company should play. The variables are a veritable Rubik’s Cube of choices.

Many companies think they nailed the strategy but fail to anticipate the day-to-day details. This is why countless efforts crash or disappoint. Shocking too, is how little this is mentioned by the experts who prefer to tantalize with metrics of social media’s use.

We assisted a North American law firm on their marketing strategy, a subset being social media. The work has retaught a lesson: if you choose to go for something, really go for it. To their credit, this firm decided to pursue, for their industry, an aggressive social media strategy.

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Nonprofit Brands Depress

Did you know that the World WildLife Fund’s mission is “to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature”? You probably did because over the last several years this organization has grown in influence and now touts 5 million supporters and 5,000 staff. It also appears to sport a serious advertising and awareness budget. The problem is everything it communicates is a problem. I do not care how clever the advertising is…the net result suggests that we humans are just awful and should feel extremely guilty.

The WWF’s current messaging is analogous to the famous Christian Children’s Fund now ChildFund. A few decades back their ubiquitous advertisements featuring sad, malnourished children with spokesperson Sally Struthers initially worked by raising awareness. But after a time they became preachy, judgemental, and downright depressing. People began to change the channel as their own problems took precedent or they became inured to the imagery and cause. Read more

You Had Me At Gin

I appreciate cool packaging but in the case of liquor am usually quite happy just with the liquid.

BOMBAY-SAPPHIRE_Electro_MediumNow Bombay Sapphire is being distributed a “The Electro Global Travel Retail pack”, a limited edition gift pack using electroluminescence. Electroluminescent ink is used to light up the Bombay Sapphire design, accentuating the motto, “Infused with Imagination”.

The current is conducted from the battery on the base of the pack which uses a hidden mechanical switch to activate it. When the package is picked up, the current runs through the various pathways illuminating them sequentially thereby creating a cascading effect. Each cycle of animation is 18 seconds long at which point the sequence stops until activated again.