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WhatsNext I have been trying very, very hard to ignore WhatsApp, the mobile messaging startup. But WhatsApp is now the second most popular app on earth, enjoys almost a billion users and was purchased by Facebook for a modest $19 billion in 2914. In the immortal words of Glenn Close, “I won’t be ignored.” So let’s dive in. Since the Facebook purchase, WhatsApp has begun to look at ways to monetize their substantial user base. And get this, they’re not using the “A word”. (Advertising, duh.) WhatsApp is looking to partner with businesses to allow users to make reservations and purchases using nothing but messaging. Why launch OpenTable or Seamless on your phone when you can just message your favorite ramen joint to get a table or place an order? Application to Marketing: WhatsApp’s plans to monetize are a substantial user interface and development challenge. (How can you text a delivery order when you don’t have the menu handy?) But assuming these challenges can be addressed, this would disintermediate a stunning number of transactional apps. If I were a company looking to develop a content-heavy app, I would look to approach WhatsApp and see if you couldn’t partner with them. Particularly if I was interested in markets in the developing world. Availability: There’s really too many moving parts to make an accurate prediction. But whatever is coming from WhatsApp, look for it to be tested in Brazil first. Read More Calling Shenanigans. Technology companies have an itsy-bitsy problem with the truth. Spend time listening to people in tech circles and you get used to substantially discounting their claims – half the userbase and double the time until the next feature release. That was fine when tech companies were only talking to other tech companies. Everyone was in on the joke. But the last few months have seen a couple technology darlings exposed as “creative interpreters of truth” in the broader press. Is this just a matter of a few bad apples? Or is it indicative of a more pervasive problem? Application to Marketing: It’s a more pervasive problem. The go-go-atmosphere of fast startups and faster billionaires encouraged founders to engage in some wishful mathematics. It’s everywhere and, if the general press starts reporting on it, it’s going to be a major scandal. My recommendation: do not repeat numbers, dates or features for a technology product unless you can independently confirm them. Availability: There’s going to have to be more embarrassing scandals before tech companies remember how math works. Read More The Stack Fallacy I got this from a great article in Techcrunch (link below) by Anshu Sharma. The idea is that tech companies have a mistaken belief that it is trivial to build the layer just above their own. It’s easy to see how knowledge of the underlying technology would lead a company to believe it could build the next level up. Database companies imagine that SaaS technologies are “just a database app,” yet they struggle to compete in that sphere. Application to Marketing: Marketing has its own Stack Fallacy. Consulting companies think they should be able to do advertising. Advertising agencies believe they should be able to do social. And social media agencies believe they should be able to do consulting. (It’s a weird stack.) The lesson, for all of us, stick to your knitting. Whatever expertise you think is “just” a derivation of your own has its own complexities and challenges you know nothing about. Availability: You see the Stack Fallacy play out every time you tell your Uber driver which route to take. Read More Recurring Revenue Comes to CPG Every month, a package of diapers and wipes arrives at my doorstep. (I have kids.) I’ve got a standing order with Amazon. Periodically, I throw something else on to that standing order. (Hello, Kind Bars!) I rarely take anything off. It’s an amazing source of recurring revenue, both to Amazon and to Pampers. Now Amazon is relieving me of the pain of actually adding things to my standing order. Amazon dash replenishment service will someday allow my dishwasher or refrigerator to order things for me. Thanks, Amazon! Application to Marketing: If you are in a CPG category, your company is going to be completely at the mercy of Amazon and its ilk once they get these replenishment services up and running. People are going to make this decision once and never make it again. So I would suggest getting up to Seattle and telling our new corporate overlords whatever they want to hear. Because the corner store is going the way of the record store. Availability: They’ve been messing around with these services for a while. I give it another three years before we see stores start to close. I’m mostly not kidding. Read More

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