Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Category Archives: Marketing & Advertising

The State of Inbound SPAM Sales Messages – It’s Bad

SPAM from MSNBC

Inbound sales messages, emails, and phone calls aren’t new. The proliferation of social networks made sending SPAM easier. Despite attempts by federal and state governments to corral SPAM, things haven’t really improved.

I’d argue, things have actually gotten worse. There are 3 things, in particular, that helps explain why they’ve gotten worse:

  1. Cyber Breaches: Did you shop with company X? Did they have really bad security around their consumer data? Were they hacked? Was your email address exposed? If so – you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a lot of SPAM.
  2. Registration: Have you ever looked at the nitty-gritty terms and conditions of many registration forms? For example, are you signing up for a promotion or a chance to win something? What about signing up to attend a conference or to gain access to white paper? Many of those registration forms automatically opt you in to have your contact information shared with all of their sponsors and vendors.
  3. Social Media Connections: To some, the idea of becoming a follower, friend, or connection equals permission to try and sell you. You’ve seen this play out a million times on LinkedIn. You’ll receive a connection request. You accept the connection request. 5 minutes later you have a message from the new connection offering to sell you something.

I’m a firm believer that you can only control, what you can control. To mitigate cyber breaches, I try to never register for an account with the retailer and I try to avoid using my credit card. Where possible, I use Apple Pay to mask my account info and my credit card info.

To avoid SPAM coming from registration, I make sure to check the box opting me out of communication, when they’re available. When they aren’t, I either don’t use a primary email address or I use a dummy email address. Sometimes, you need to use a real email address. The minute I get that auto-confirmation, I click the unsubscribe link. This doesn’t work 100%, but it makes a difference.

Social media connections are the most challenging. I’ve tried to educate salespeople. I’ve tried to make it clear in my profile that I’m not interested in inbound sales and/or I am interested in hearing about certain things. For example, there was a point, several years ago, where I did want to hear from different programmatic buying platforms. You can choose to ignore them, but many are very persistent. You can remove the connection, but what happens if, at some point in the future, you actually do what to hear from them?

I’m at the end of my rope with social media SPAM. So, as an experiment, I decided to create a templated response that would be as random, unwelcomed, and off-topic as their original message to me. My hope is that seeing such a random message will help train/teach inbound salespeople to be better. My response to every inbound, unwelcomed, random, and off-topic message is:

Are you looking to sponsor youth sports teams? I have a girls soccer team in need of a sponsor. Could that be you?

As you’d imagine, I haven’t received many follow-ups. Actually, I’ve only received two follow-ups. 

LinkedIn Message Exchange

As you can see in the exchange above, salespeople are very persistent and almost seem to be bot-like. In sharing the above, I’ve made every effort to anonymize the message. It’s often not their fault; they’re typically being forced to follow a script. Additionally, while youth sports sponsorships are great, I’d never trade sponsorship for a meeting or anything else. That type of quid pro quo is wrong and unethical.

My hope is that by offering something random, that also makes an appeal, it will drive inbound salespeople to reflect on their actions. We’ll see how the experiment goes, but I’m not optimistic.

By design, the LinkedIn’s of the world need spammers. Spammers equal users and users are how valuations are set. Additionally, it’s the spammers that are likely paying for the “advanced” features that average users don’t buy. It’s an unhealthy symbiotic relationship that’s unlikely to change in the near future.

The Changing Formula For Winning

Formula and Equations

Sometime in the near future, I’ll be publishing a deeper dive on youth sports, how programs operate, the politics, and more. But, for now, I want to focus on an interesting parallel between success in youth sports and success in the office.

My son, John (11), and daughter, Cora (13) have been playing sports since they were both 4. I’ve seen, what feels like, a million basketball and soccer games. I also grew up playing sports and played well into college. What’s very clear is that the winning teams do succeed because of:

  1. Tactics: Did the coaches put in place a winning game plan?
  2. Personnel: Were the right people playing in the right positions?
  3. Quality of Play/Effort: Did the players perform?

For the most part, I’ve avoided coaching my kids’ teams. As I’ve written about before, being coached by my dad was a tough pill to swallow. On occasion, I’ve filled in, and once I was an assistant coach. That one year as an assistant validated that tactics, personnel, and quality of play/effort are the 3 critical elements that drive a winning team.

These same 3 areas make all the difference in the office as well. We simply tend to label them differently. For example, tactics are often considered strategy. And the quality of effort is often called execution.

What’s fascinated me and inspired this post is how different the priority order of impact is for different sports and office/work environments. For example, in basketball, a single truly dominant player can trump tactics and the quality of play. Or, as my dad used to say, “Son, you can’t coach height.” I remember a basketball game when Cora was about 8 years old where they had a player that was a good 2 feet taller than the next player, and ~50 pounds heavier. Regardless of the tactics, or how hard the team played, there was simply nothing you could do about this player. She was unguardable.

Conversely, even a single dominant player on a futbol or football field can be completely stifled by tactics. This happens all too often in futbol, when managers employ tactics designed to “park the bus“.

When you step out of sports, youth, professional, or otherwise, and look at companies, things get even more complicated. The best “personnel”, could be trumped by a great set of tactics/strategy and vice versa. For example, see Snapchat vs. Facebook. Snapchat is routinely applauded for having brilliant product strategies, that are often quickly copied by Facebook and then scaled. In this instance, Snapchat might have a great strategy and the best people, but Facebook’s tactics of simply copying Snapchat’s ideas and then scaling them trumps Snapchat’s approach.

Additionally, few people would challenge the notion that at the time, Blackberry had some of the best and brightest engineers and a tremendous product. But, Apple’s strategy of making the phone a phone, an iPod, and an internet device was bold and ultimately, won them the day.

You can chase yourself in circles trying to formulate the perfect order or ratio of these 3 categories. If forced to rank or ratio these 3 categories, it would be:

  1. Tactics (50%)
  2. Personnel (30%)
  3. Quality of Play/Effort (20%)

But, here’s the thing I’ve come to realize after leading teams and developing organizations for the past 10+ years – you can’t blanketly apply a model consistently and to every scenario. For example, if you’re a mature organization, with the capital flexibility to make a mistake, you can afford to prioritize getting the “best” people, while you figure out the best strategy/tactics. But, if you’re in growth mode in a competitive category, tactics, and execution make a world of difference.

When Walmart was at the very beginning of developing its digital and e-commerce capabilities, it was clear they lacked the personnel and the quality of play/execution mastery needed to win. So, what did they do? They grew through a number of smart acqui-hires. Kosmix was the first big one, with Jet.com being the most recent significant acquisition. Their ability to constantly juggle the order of these 3 categories, over time, based on the environment is one of the major reasons they’ve been so successful.

Keep a watchful eye on the operating environment, so that you can adjust the priority order and emphasis of strategy, people, and execution is what top organizations do. And, yes, even when those organizations are sports teams! We’re seeing this play out during the pandemic, specifically in the restaurant world. The best chefs, at top restaurants, where the dish by dish execution was second to none are struggling as other eateries are changing their tactics to adjust to the environment.

David Chang, the restauranteur behind Momofuku, amongst others nailed the intersection of sports and business, as it relates to strategy, people, and execution in an interview with Bloomberg.

BG: Your thoughts about the difficulty of it all — I imagine they’ve been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic?

DC: Yeah, absolutely.

BG: Will young chefs now have to find a very different path, because of the way you came up is no longer possible?

DC: Well, we all have to pivot. We can’t do what we did before, because what we were doing before wasn’t working that well. A lot of chefs are asking themselves very serious questions, because they signed up to express themselves through food in a way that’s no longer possible. Dave Beran is a chef in Los Angeles and he just closed down Dialogue, one of the most intimate, best restaurants in the country, an expression of himself. He trained his entire life to do that, and that no longer exists. There’s no guarantee that comes back.

I’d be lying, straight lying, if I said I have the answers. But before we start asking the questions [about how to cope with the crisis], we need to ask what was working and what wasn’t working before, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes if and when we’re going to start over again. If you have a three-Michelin-star restaurant and you’ve had to close down, would you reopen the same restaurant?

I’m just trying to figure a better analogy. Do you watch any sports?

BG: I’m a soccer person.

DC: Alright. Let’s just say there’s no more television footage of Chelsea, or any Premier League club. That’s going to have a dramatic impact on sponsorships. And that changes the players’ salaries and the club revenues. Everything has to be recalibrated. It doesn’t take away the people’s love for the game but players ask themselves, “Can I make a career?”

And that’s where we’re at.

It’s not just the player. Say you’re the owner of the franchise: You always wanted to own a soccer team, and now you can own it but you’re not going to have the guaranteed revenue. There might be new ways to raise revenue, but you don’t know. That’s where we’re at: we just don’t know.

I’m not sure there’s more I can add to that fantastic exchange. Sun Tzu famously said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Over the years that philosophy was overtaken by Peter Drucker’s, the famed management consultant’s, quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I think we’re at a point where agility and adaptability are the driving forces to success. How you balance and emphasize strategy, talent, and execution is what will drive wins.

2021 Will Be A Defining Year – My Predictions

Zoltar Machine

Predicting 2020 was already challenging. Adding a global pandemic to the mix made it even harder. To see how I did with those 2020 predictions, click here.

Typically, I focus the majority of annual predictions on marketing, advertising, digital, and technology. Those are the verticals I know best and I try to stick with what I know. However, when I started making predictions a decade ago, the pervasiveness of “digital” was still fairly limited. As I look at 2021 it’s nearly impossible to decouple digital from anything. From education to shopping and from travel to entertainment, digital is everywhere. With that in mind, my 2021 predictions will seem to stray a bit from predictions in previous years. But, rest assured, my focus is still digital.

Additionally, please note, I stay away from any prediction that might even be in the realm of what my employer focuses on. These are my predictions and don’t represent them. 

We will still have COVID-19 acting a hangover in 2021. What became clear in 2020 was the state-by-state impact of COVID-19, based on specific policy choices. This makes predicting 2021 harder. To that end, here’s how I’m approaching my 2021 predictions:

  1. Short and Long-Term: I wanted to have a healthy mix of both. Yes, 2021 still ends on December 31st, but I wanted to look at things that would happen because of the longer view many are taking.
  2. More of a National and Global Focus: I wanted to avoid, where possible, the influence of local policies. By local, I mean a specific country (e.g. France), state (e.g. Illinois), or city (e.g. New Orleans). There are a few that toe this line, but again see #1.
  3. No Layups: We’re keeping the no easy predictions rule.
  4. Categories: Instead of a random list, I’m going to categorize predictions into 4 specific buckets.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it.

Category 1: 2020 Pull-Forward

These are all predictions I made for 2020, that didn’t happen, but I’m still bullish on.

  1. We will see an ad-supported version of Netflix in 2020 or some other option beyond a monthly fee model.
  2. Snapchat will implode. TikTok and other snackable content platforms/apps will create a more competitive environment.
  3. Tesla will start to license its battery technology to other car manufacturers as a means to bring in an additional revenue stream, increase the number of electric cars on the road, and make the environment better.

Category 2: Long-Term Impacts from COVID-19

These are predictions that will happen in 2021, based on the impact of COVID-19, and people/society/investors/etc. taking a long-term view.

  1. The number of private schools will increase 20%, along with enrollment in private schools increasing 15%. Both are an increase on 2020 numbers. If there’s one area that has failed completely during COVID-19, it was education. We have already seen a significant shift away from public schools and with few concrete and consistent plans in place for public schools, this is going to scale. While I am avoiding “local” predictions, I do think you will see a greater call for school choice models across the country.
  2. Movie theaters are not done for. Much has been written about their demise. I’m not suggesting they will thrive. But, I think some combination of these 4 things will happen. A theater chain or two (e.g. AMC) will sell to a “movie” company like Disney. Alternatively, we may see the reverse of this happen. For example, maybe Cinemark buys/becomes a production company. Blockbuster movies that were held back, that some speculated would be released digitally first (e.g. Top Gun 2), will be released in theaters, sparking their rebound. Theater companies will band together and/or merge, to create a streaming alternative service. If this happens, you could totally see some type of hybrid offering where you can subscribe to watch at home and see X number of movies a month at a theater.
  3. Social and shopping will continue to grow as we finally see the social deliver revenue at scale. Instagram’s shopping redesign was the big 2020 signal. But, there’s been a steady and slow drumbeat for a few years. COVID-19 forced companies and in some cases, whole industries, to embrace digital sales and revenue models. Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of publicly available data to use as a starting point for a tight prediction, so we’re going to have to get creative. We will see two things happen. The first is fairly straightforward; major retailers (e.g. Gap, Nordstrom) will launch “shopping fronts” on major platforms (e.g. Instagram) and we will see more shopping options/features from social platforms. The second will be the increases in references, during quarterly earnings, about social+commerce growth, from retailers and social platforms.
  4. The digitization of models, industries, and services that accelerated in 2020 will go even further in 2021. Food delivery, retail pickup, high education, car buying, house buying, and so many other services fully-embrace digital services transitions in 2020. Some of these happened after years of fighting digital purchase models. Ahem…car buying. I think the most likely one here is actually government services and actions. Think about how many things have to be done in person. Your license, passport, marriage certificate, and so many other tasks, all require mail-in forms or an in-person visit. This is going to change. How do we make this something we can analyze and evaluate? In preparation for the 2024 presidential elections, all states will either offer or announce their intent to offer online voting, in place of in-person ballots.
  5. We will see a reduction in the usage of video conferencing. The meteoric growth was almost, you could argue, necessary, as people transitioned out of the office. However, the number of early studies that indicate how poor the constant use of videoconferencing is people’s mental well-being, will yield more studies and eventually actions. For the purposes of a prediction, let’s say 1 of these 3 things will happen. Microsoft will announce A.I. powered features to help managers manage “zoom” fatigue. Videoconferencing usage will drop 30% from 2020. A formal study between Cisco, the makers of WebEx, or someone similar, and a higher-education institution (e.g. Stanford) to study the mental impact of “zoom” meetings will be announced and findings will be shared.

Category 3: Simple, Straightforward, and Digital Industry Focused

  1. Jack Dorsey will step down as Twitter CEO. Continued poor earnings, the Section 230 shadow, and Square’s growth will force this to happen.
  2. Facebook will prevail in defending its position against the Federal Government’s antitrust investigation. What does prevailing look like? They’ll be able to keep Instagram and WhatsApp.
  3. Digital music sales, as defined by single songs and full albums, will fall to less than $500M in revenue. We are living in a streaming world folks.
  4. Pinterest opened 2020 at around $18.50 a share. They closed the year around $65. I’ve always felt like they’re the one to watch. Their stock is going to hit $92 at some point in 2021.
  5. We will see draft legislation in the United States for something that starts to mirror Europe’s GDRP. I have a feeling that privacy and transparency in advertising practices are going to remain a focus in 2021.

Category 4: Digital Influenced

These are predictions where digital, in some way, shape, or form is a reason for something to happen but isn’t the overriding one.

  1. NBA, MLB, and NHL viewership will increase relative to 2020, but will be down significantly to 2019. The decrease will be so dramatic, the salary cap for at least one of these leagues will go down by at least 10%.
  2. As cryptocurrencies become more mainstream, their growth curve will normalize. I think Bitcoin, closes 2021 at less than $40,000. While the scale of the growth slows, this will be a good thing for the average person/consumer. While not a prediction to be judged, I do think you’ll start to see more public companies investing in cryptocurrencies in the same way they invest in commodities and futures.
  3. As work from home, becomes work from anywhere, we’re going to see more and more tech-industry corporations relocate their headquarters from California. In fairness, this started to happen in 2020 (e.g. Tesla, HP). While it won’t be Google or Facebook, expect 3 significant names to announce moves. This isn’t part of the prediction, but likely candidates include Uber, Lyft, Cisco, Nvidia, and Adobe.

Phew. If you read all of that, thanks. Get yourself a cup of coffee; you deserve it. As I always do, I’ll assess these predictions at the end of 2021, and possibly mid-year.

Cheers!

Reviewing and Analyzing My 2020 Predictions

2020 Dumpster Fire

When I said, “2020 is going to be a firecracker;” I wasn’t forecasting a once in a lifetime global pandemic. COVID-19 changed the course of so many industries and lives. Too often, this year, we’ve focused on the grave, sad, and tragic aspects of COVID-19. With so many other people having covered those stories so well, I’ll pass on adding my voice to that dialogue.

However, COVID-19 accelerated and brought about positive changes in a number of areas. To start:

  1. Mental health and the stigma associated with it, change, for the better. Access to a plethora of mental and emotional wellness services seemed to double overnight.
  2. The scaling and adoption of telehealth services increased access to healthcare like never before.
  3. The digital transformation in organizations was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. We saw the updating of legacy systems and the changing of end-to-end supply chain operations (e.g. order online and have someone deposit your item in your trunk). And, of course, wholesale changes in business models (e.g. launching new movies on-demand first). We saw it all.
COVID-19 and Digital Transformation

A quick reminder, I’ve been offering predictions since 2012, with a historical scoring rate of:

  • 2019: 8.5/20 for a 42.5% hit rate.
  • 2018: 18/22 for an 82% hit rate.
  • 2017: 7.5/10 for a 75% hit rate.
  • 2016: 8.5/15 for a 56.7% hit rate.
  • 2015: 6.5/10 for a 65% hit rate.
  • 2014: 8/10 for an 80% hit rate.
  • 2013: 3/5 for a 60% hit rate.
  • 2012: 9/10 for a 90% hit rate.

As I review my 2020 predictions, there will not be a COVID-19 curve. The scores are what the scores are. The original prediction is in bold font, with my assessment in regular font.

  1. Apple will continue its efforts to be seen as the tech company that cares about your privacy by taking one or more of these actions. They will buy/launch a VPN service to keep your internet usage data private from telecom and internet service providers. They will buy DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is the de facto search engine for people who care about their privacy. In many ways, they are the anti-Google. Purchasing DuckDuckGo and making it the default search engine for all iOS devices and Mac Computers would be a significant declaration. There will be a mass expunging of apps from the App Store that originate from China, Russia, or other countries in the Middle East and/or new rules brought about for the App Store that imposes higher thresholds for data collection transparency. A lesser person would take a full point. But, I specifically said there would be an acquisition and there wasn’t. But, everything else happened. iOS 14 brought about massive new privacy features. Apps were kicked out, suspended, or forced to change. Oh, and there was the whole TikTok thing, that wasn’t a thing, that was a thing, that might be a thing. Net-net, Apple was tougher on privacy, expunged apps, added hire thresholds, and became more transparent about data collection. But, they didn’t acquire a company in this sector. 1/2 point.
  2. Global TV Ad Sales dropped by 4% in 2019. Many ad executives believe we’ll see a massive rebound in 2020 because it’s an election year for the United States and the Summer Olympics take place. I don’t think this is going to happen. I see more money in politics shifting online at the expense of TV. In my opinion, this was going to happen no matter what. COVID-19 simply made it worse. By all accounts TV ad sales were dismal and most of the money shifted to digital. I’ll take the point.
  3. Speaking of politics, President Donald Trump will be re-elected. This did not happen.
  4. This will be a very pivotal year for the retail industry. We’re going to see 3 things happen. First, iconic and historical brands like Macy’s, J.C. Penney’s, and Gap will shrink their footprint. Second, we’re going to see 3 brands of significance change their CEOs and/or file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Likely candidates would include L Brands, Ambercrombie, and Bed Bath and Beyond. Third, we will see brands that were once shuttered come back as online-only operations. For example Radio Shack. ALL of this happened. Seriously. Here’s what GAP said, “We will be shrinking our North America footprint and getting out of mall-based locations, and by 2023, we will have reduced our store fleet by 35 percent. The goal is to create a new operating model in a cost-effective way, and all of the changes will help us become a digitally-led brand.” On the bankruptcy protection side, you can take your pick. I said, 3, so here’s 3: J. Crew, JCPenney, and Nieman Marcus. Radio Shack did come back as an online retailer, as did Pier 1, and a host of other formerly traditional retailers. We will take the full point!
  5. Despite the slings and arrows that continued to be thrown at Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook will continue to thrive. We will see stock growth, record revenues, and 2 or 3 meaningful acquisitions. I could see them buying Roku to bolster TV/content streaming offerings…that would be personalized, of course. Yeah, this happened. Despite being in the cross-hairs from both sides of the aisle, the reality is, the business has never been stronger. They also made acquisitions that are clearly aimed at diversifying their revenue streams. Specifically, Giphy and Mapillary. A full point here.
  6. Apple will make all their “+” offerings free, so long as you are enrolled in the Apple upgrade program, have an Apple credit card, or have a phone/iPad that’s less than 2 years old. This includes Apple News+ and AppleTV+. These services become choice differentiators for why you would pick an Apple device over a competitor. I AM NOSTRADAMUS!!! This was the obvious move from Apple. Buy something new and get things for free. Although, it’s not really free; it’s more like free for a period of time.
  7. Netflix can’t continue to spend what they’re spending on content creation. The debt they’ve racked up and the current cost structure won’t allow for it. We will see an ad-supported version of Netflix in 2020. This didn’t happen. But, I wonder if COVID-19 hadn’t happened, if we would have seen this shift. I think Netflix was getting a bit of a pass on financials because of short term adoption numbers during COVID-19. They’ve already announced another fee hike for 2021, which gives a tiny indication of things. All that said, it’s a miss.
  8. Snapchat will implode. There are too many short-form content platforms to compete with. One of these years, I’ll be right about Snpachat imploding. This was not the year.
  9. Related to #8, TikTok will implode as well. The concerns over data privacy will see it stricken from app stores and parents taking more action to restrict access for their kids. Boy, this is a tough one. I’m taking the point. If your business is forced to sell because of privacy concerns and without the sale, you can’t operate in the U.S.A., I think that’s an implosion – regardless of usage metrics.
  10. Much like vinyl sales and record store growth, we will see a resurgence for independent book stores. This happened and based on the data, one could argue that without COVID-19, it wouldn’t have happened.
  11. We will see the start of companies like Facebook or Google, offering to pay off your debt and/or fund your health insurance, if you actively use their platforms. Impressions and MAUs are the currency for ad dollars. Without them, platforms make less money. Someone will figure out a model where it’s financially sound to pay down $X against your student loan so long as you agree to be tracked in a way that allows the platform to monetize your usage habits. Maybe next year. I’m still bullish on this one.
  12. Tesla will start to license its battery technology to other car manufacturers as a means to bring in an additional revenue stream, increase the number of electric cars on the road, and make the environment better. This could happen through a direct license for building the car or by allowing other car manufacturers to leverage Tesla’s Super Charger network. The critical word in this prediction was, “start”. While Musk and Tesla did announce they would be willing to license their technology, it hasn’t started to do so. I missed this one.
  13. With real estate being one of the most costly line items for organizations, 2020 will be the year we see a sizable shift in companies actively pushing for more remote workers and leveraging co-working spaces as part of everyday business. By the end of 2020 will see the % of remote workers go from under 5% to above 5%. That seems small, but it’s a massive number of people. Is 33% above 5%? Um, I think so! Clearly, getting this right was influenced by COVID-19. But, I think it would have happened without the pandemic’s impact.
  14. One of these two new California laws enacted in 2019 will be repealed and/or found unconstitutional. AB5, the law the impacts regarding freelance workers, seems the most likely. But, the mandate for a quota system on a company’s board of directors, SB826, is the other likely candidate. Both were challenged. Those challenges, thus far, have been squashed. I’m not surprised about AB5. Though, in the end, it might be irrelevant given the stance of companies like Uber. They’ll simply elect to not operate in California and may relocate to Texas or Florida as so many other tech companies are doing. But, the feeling from most legal minds was that SB826 would never persist. They were wrong, as was I. No points.
  15. The robot/automation/AI economy will finally arrive in earnest. There will be more than 1 million jobs lost to robots, automation, or artificial intelligence in 2020. While there won’t be any federal laws enacted to combat this trend, it will be debated and discussed as part of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. We get half a point here. There have been more than 2 million jobs lost to automation this year. But, A.I., automation, robots, etc. were not part of the debates.
  16. Peloton is going to have a challenging year. Every few years a new workout fad takes center stage. Eventually, they all fade away, some permanently. The model isn’t sustainable. One of 2 things will happen. The “talent” will seek to unionize, go on strike, or demand something that will reduce the number of personalities that riders have grown to love. There will be a data breach/breach of trust in the data collected from members. This was actually happening, and then COVID-19 happened. The gyms couldn’t open. Places like Soul Cycle couldn’t happen. Peloton and companies similar to them took off. We don’t make excuses though. No points here.
  17. Disney will have a down year at the box office. After carrying 80% of the box office hits in 2019, there’s simply no place to go but down. But, Disney+ will be a massive success. In fairness, everyone had a bad year at the box office. Disney+ has more than 60 million subscribers. That’s simply astonishing. It’s also a massive success. Wow!

Ok, so how did I do? Well, I struck gold on #2, #4, #5, #6, #9, #10, #13, and #17. I got half a point on #1 and #15. I completely missed on #3, #7, #8, #11, #12, #14, #16. For those of you without a calculator that means 8/17 for a 47% success rate. Ouch!

Like many, I’m already looking toward 2021! If you read the whole piece and made it this far, thanks. Have a safe and healthy New Year!

The Instagram Shopping Problem

Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item

COVID-19 and the quarantine lifestyle has shifted an unprecedented amount of shopping online. That isn’t all that surprising. We can’t go out. Or, if we can, the places we want to shop at aren’t open.

Amazon has been the biggest beneficiary of the massive shift to e-commerce. Walmart and Target are right behind. But, if you’ve scrolled through your Instagram feed, you’ve probably seen at least one ad for a product. In 2019 1/3 of ALL Instagram users bought at least one item, directly from an Instagram ad. We’re you one of them?

In 2019, I had only bought one item from Instagram, a pair of Allbirds. After being inundated by ads from them for a year, I finally caved and bought. Their shoes were a great buy. I can’t say the same for everything I’ve purchased in 2020.

Let me place a sharper point on that. The end product might be good, but the shopping experience is broken. Instagram isn’t necessarily to blame for this problem. It’s probably 90% the company advertising and 10% Instagram.

Let me break down the typical experience:

  1. You see an interesting product. It catches your eye. So, you click.
  2. The page you land on often doesn’t include the item you were advertised or, it does, but it’s not in stock.
  3. But, for argument’s sake, let’s assume it was in stock. You add it to your cart and you check out. The check out process is typically through ApplePay, AmazonPay, or PayPal.
  4. So, you pay the retailer. You might even pony up for the expedited shipping.
  5. Within 48 hours you’ll receive 3 emails. The first email is an order confirmation from the retailer. The second will be a notification from the payment platform (e.g. Amazon). The third will be an exciting email that tells you your item has shipped!!!
  6. But, your item hasn’t actually shipped. The clock of the promised ship to receive time frame hasn’t actually started. When you cross-reference the tracking code, which is often a USPS code, with USPS’ site, you’ll get this message, “Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item” – this is code for, your retailer hasn’t actually shipped your item; they’ve only created a label.
  7. Your item will sit in purgatory. The retailer will claim it has shipped and to be patient. USPS will tell you they don’t actually have the item. Many days later, which the retailer blame on COVID-19, USPS will finally receive the item you ordered. And now the shipping window you were promised will be in effect.

In essence, from the minute you’re targeted, a long con and pseudo bait and switch scenario will have started. You are the sucker. And you’ll be duped again and again.

Over the past few months, I’ve ordered from a number of retailers. 75% of my experiences match the above. I want to be fair, for the 25% that didn’t, it was a perfect, almost Amazon-like experience. For example, t-shirts from Ultras, face masks from Ledbury, and sunglasses from Sunski are a few great examples of positive shopping experiences. On the other hand…we have PingPongly, where 90 days later, I still don’t have the item I ordered. Avoid them at all costs. Then there’s Elegatto, which issues a label immediately and then ships ~10 days later. The clothes from HIPSTOW are nice, but take 3x as long as they promise to deliver and they follow the formula above.

I started this post by saying, this is 10% on Instagram. Here’s why; they have a responsibility to make sure the ads being served are legit. Here’s 3 easy things they could do to fix the experience I outlined above.

  1. Feedback Loop: If you purchase directly from an ad you should get a survey. That survey should enable you to provide feedback on the product and the entire experience. Retailers who fall below a certain threshold are booted off of Instagram.
  2. Improved Ad Standards: This is simple. You shouldn’t be able to advertise a product that’s no longer available or not in stock. Not only is that good for the consumer, it’s good for the retailer.
  3. Built in Reviews: Amazon and eBay do this really well. Before you click on the ad, you should be able to see the retailers rankings and feedback across dimensions from the “feedback loop”.

All of these are simple to make happen and they’d make the shopping experience better.

Why The Athletic is the Only News Paywall Worth Paying For

How many times have you seen a post on Facebook or Twitter that links to a news outlet? For this example, let’s say the news outlet is the Wall Street Journal. You’re intrigued. You click on the link and you start to read the article. You get one paragraph in and then BOOM – you’re presented with a call to action to log in or signup for an account.

If you’re like most people, at this point you click the back button. Paywalls are incredibly ineffective but are still widely implemented. The general belief from studies is that:

For most print media firms, the net effect of a paywall on digital sales is negative, as digital subscription revenue is offset by a significant decrease in digital advertising revenue due to reduced website visits.

In addition to paywalls, media outlets are becoming an echo chamber for your political ideology. The chasm between “red” and “blue” news outlets has grown and with it, the distrust from readers. This Pew study outlines it really well:

As an N of 1, I can tell you that I’m less invested than ever before in reading and consuming news. The hyper-partisan tone means I need to read at least two versions of the same story to feel informed enough to have a point of view. Additionally, I’m less and less entertained. I think this comes from the lack of quality in the people who are writing these stories.

Ok – The Athletic. Why should you pay $10 a month or $60 a year for their content? Here’s 5 reasons why – but, to be clear, you have to be interested in sports. The Athletic is a sports news publisher. So, if you’re looking for information about The Bachelor, changes to laws, or election coverage, look elsewhere.

  1. There is no “blue” or “red” slant. Well, unless, you’re talking about Manchester City vs. Manchester United. The content you get is factual, leverages data, and presented without bias. Even the “beat” writers for a team aren’t partisan. Sam Lee, who drafts most of the content for Manchester City, isn’t even a Manchester City fan!
  2. The best writers and reporters work for and produce content for The Athletic. For baseball you have Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, and Ken Rosenthal. You’ll get David Aldridge and John Hollinger for basketball. The afore mentioned Sam Lee, in addition to Michael Kay and Sam Stejskal. The list goes on an on. If you will – imagine only reading books from the best authors or watching movies from the best directors; sounds great, right?
  3. They don’t focus on “breaking news.” Yes, they cover news of the day and trending topics. But, you won’t see 2 paragraph “stories” announcing a trade. They have made a clear decision to emphasize quality over quantity.
  4. The Athletic is fully customizable and cross-platform. You pick the sports, the leagues, the teams, and yes, the writers. A custom feed is built for you based on those choices. Desktop, mobile, tablet, app – it doesn’t matter. You get a great reading experience regardless of how you choose to read.
  5. While I’ve emphasized the writing, The Athletic offers far more than just articles and stories. There are podcasts, videos, and chat rooms/discussion rooms. Again, many of these are specific to YOUR interests. I can listed to a Manchester City podcast, and watch videos specific to the University of North Carolina.

Let me be clear, The Athletic is not paying me for this. But, their approach to content is simply worth talking about. The one thing I haven’t mentioned at all to this point, but is yet another reason to spend $60 a year for a subscription – there are NO ads. None. No pre-rolls. No interstitials. Nothing stopping you or interrupting you from consuming the content you’re interested in.

Nothing is perfect, not even The Athletic. There’s one feature I feel like they should add – a section called From the Fans. Here’s how it would work:

  1. Let fans submit pieces for consideration
  2. Eventually have a small group of consistent fan contributors and…
  3. …A consistent pool of new perspectives
  4. They could narrow the scope and focus of submissions to being Season Previews, Game/Match Reviews, Mid-Year Perspective, End of Season Feelings, etc.

But, if that’s the opportunity for improvement, it gives you an idea of how good The Athletic is. They’re setting the stage for how a modern news website can succeed and succeed with a paywall.

People Lie, Data Doesn’t

Dr. House - Everyone Lies

Dr. Gregory House is my all-time favorite TV show character. My dad and I would often talk about his taste in turntables, Mcintosh Amps, sneakers, and canes. Fun fact, I actually once owned a replica of his flame-styled cane. I received it as a Christmas present.

Beyond his great taste in “things”, we both admired his mantra of, “everybody lies”. At its widest aperture, he’s 100% right. People will eventually lie about something. Granted, we all know all lies aren’t created equal. There are white lies, grey lies, black lies, red lies, and probably every other color in the rainbow.

I want to focus on the lies that are used when we don’t like what the data says. This happens more often than you’d think and you’re probably guilty of having “lied” when it comes to data. Let me give you some familiar scenarios.

Steady and Strong: Let’s say you’ve been trying to lose 10 pounds. If after hitting the gym 3 days a week for a month, eating healthier, cutting out soda, and walking more your weight was exactly the same as it was when you started. Would you characterize your weight, relative to your goals, as steady or strong? Sure, there’s a glass is half-full view that would say, but I didn’t gain any weight, therefore, my weight is holding steady. That’s true. But, the goal was to lose weight. Characterizing your progress as steady, while not a lie, isn’t exactly telling an honest story. A more truthful interpretation of the data would be something like – I have been unable to make meaningful progress towards my goal. If you take that approach, you might revisit your strategy and approach and ultimately achieve your goal.

Full of Opportunity: When the data shows you continue to spend more on advertising than you’re generating in net-profit you could characterize the situation as being full of opportunity. When you say that it comes across as some things are working, some things aren’t, but with just a few tweaks we’ll be right as rain. A more honest characterization of the situation might be, our current implementation strategy is not working, we’re losing money with every dollar spent, and we must change course.

We’re Seeing Lots of Activity: This comes across in a wide variety of flavors. For example, we’re getting a lot of traffic. Ok – but what about the conversions? Then, we have, there’s a lot of engagement. Ok – but was engagement the goal? And, there’s the infamous we’ve got a lot of initiatives going right now. Ok – but are we those initiatives generating results? The core truth of this situation is that activity does not equal accomplishment. Some call this the “busy trap”, where looking busy gives a false sense of value being created.

It’s tough to look in the mirror and face the data. Sometimes the data offers you good news. Other times it’s a stark reminder that you’re failing. But, lying to yourself and others, by putting lipstick on the pig that is the data is not the path forward.

So, how do you avoid doing this and help your organization not fall into this trap? Here’s 3 recommendations:

  1. Make your Insights Team, Switzerland: One of the reasons many organizations outsource their analytics and insights functions is to eliminate bias. But, you don’t need to outsource to achieve that goal. However, having a centralized analytics and insights function, not attached to any single goal, project, or asset is crucial. This operating model ensures your analytics team can look across goals, projects, assets, initiatives, channels, audiences, etc. to tell an honest assessment, without fear of retribution.
  2. Democratize Data: Why do we hide the data? Often, because we’re ashamed of what people will think when they see it or we’re fearful of how others will react or what people might do with the data. Think about it, how many times have you heard someone say, “let’s keep this report to a limited audience”? The best organizations and the most modern organizations understand the key to avoid all of that is to simply make the data accessible to everyone. There’s a retailer that has digital screens in each hallway that show the out of stock rate, the current consumer satisfaction score, the stock price, and the wait time to speak with customer service. Everyone is accountable to those metrics. Everyone. You can’t hide from them. In fact, when you democratize data and give everyone access, you don’t want to hide from it – you want to talk about it.
  3. Reward Outcomes: Strong, measurable, detailed, roadmaps and plans are hard to create. It requires discipline. It requires tough and honest conversations. It requires constant pruning, optimization, and reviews of performance. But, when you do adopt this approach to planning you’ve shifted from emphasizing activities to focusing on outcomes. The activities, no matter how sacred they might be, become interchangeable so long as you’re achieving the right declared outcomes. All voices in the room become equal because it doesn’t really matter whose idea it was. The person 6 months out of school has as much of a voice as the Executive Leader. In fact, you could argue, instead of people protecting their favorite ideas (often known as their own ideas) the start embracing and supporting the ideas that drive the outcomes.

Culture drives changes. Changing culture can be hard. But, if you want a culture of accountability and a focus of accomplishments over activity, consider adopting the data-driven model I shared above.

Also – this isn’t limited to the office. One of these days I’m going to be honest with myself about why I haven’t lost those last 10 pounds.

Career Limiting Decisions

CREDIT: A.POTEMKIN / ISTOCKPHOTO and ScienceMag.org

During my time at Leo Burnett, I crossed paths with a smart, grizzled, and jaded Creative Director who I’d often lean on for advice. He’d been at Leo for more than two decades. Which, if you know agency life, is simply remarkable. During a happy hour at Catch 32, I asked him how he’d been able to survive for so long? When I say survive, keep in mind agencies are notorious for mass layoffs after they lose an account, being incredibly fickle with creative staff, and often listen to clients about personnel decisions. So, yeah, survive. He offered me two pieces of advice that explained his ability to survive.

The first was there are only two types of decisions you make. There are career-limiting decisions and there are ones that aren’t. Sure, there are decisions could that could be career accelerating, but simply put, you either make decisions that limit your career or you make ones that don’t. There are no guarantees that you can make a decision that will advance your career, but there are very clear decisions you can make that limit your career. He always chose the decisions that were guaranteed to not limit his career. Push back on the client? Nope. Take a cab with a Jr. female staffer after hours? Nope. Ask an honest and hard question at a town hall? Not going to happen. The list goes on and on. He focused on simply avoiding the career-limiting decisions, even at the expense of his potential career growth. While he didn’t grow as fast as his peers, he was also never without a job.

The second was to avoid gossip and be judicious in who you trust. Gossip, as I’ve written about before is one of the worst things that can happen in an organization. Like a virus, it infects companies, culture, teams, and people. He explained that he never peddled gossip and he never listened to gossip. The idea of a “circle of trust” isn’t new. It’s been made into some memorable movie moments. However, I don’t think he even considered the idea of a circle. That seemed even too big and inclusive. He more favored the idea that trusting people is playing with fire and eventually you will always get burned. I remember saying something like, but isn’t that a lonely way to go about things? And, as if the conversation was happening right now, I remember his answer, “Adam, there are two types of decisions you can make, career-limiting decisions and ones that aren’t.”

This was in 2003. He’s still there.

2020 Is Going To Be A Firecracker

Parody and humor about weather reports.

Making predictions in any year is a fool’s errand, but attempting to make meaningful predictions during an election year is simply bananas. But – what can I say, I’m here for the lols.

My 2019 predictions did not age well. I took a point of view on 20 topics and had a 42.5% accuracy rate. Ouch! Although, I think that’s better than the weatherman. However, when you have a no softballs policy, getting 100% of your predictions right is simply an impossibility.

For 2020 I’m focusing on business, marketing, technology, and consumer trends. Although, as noted, being in an election year, we’ll see meaningful overlap between those categories and politics.

  1. Apple will continue its efforts to be seen as the tech company that cares about your privacy by taking one or more of these actions. They will buy/launch a VPN service to keep your internet usage data private from telecom and internet service providers. They will buy DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is the de facto search engine for people who care about their privacy. In many ways, they are the anti-Google. Purchasing DuckDuckGo and making it the default search engine for all iOS devices and Mac Computers would be a significant declaration. There will be a mass expunging of apps from the App Store that originate from China, Russia, or other countries in the Middle East and/or new rules brought about for the App Store that imposes higher thresholds for data collection transparency.
  2. Global TV Ad Sales dropped by 4% in 2019. Many ad executives believe we’ll see a massive rebound in 2020 because it’s an election year for the United States and the Summer Olympics take place. I don’t think this is going to happen. I see more money in politics shifting online at the expense of TV.
  3. Speaking of politics, President Donald Trump will be re-elected.
  4. This will be a very pivotal year for the retail industry. We’re going to see 3 things happen. First, iconic and historical brands like Macy’s, J.C. Penney’s, and Gap will shrink their footprint. Second, we’re going to see 3 brands of significance change their CEOs and/or file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Likely candidates would include L Brands, Ambercrombie, and Bed Bath and Beyond. Third, we will see brands that were once shuttered come back as online-only operations. For example Radio Shack.
  5. Despite the slings and arrows that continued to be thrown at Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook will continue to thrive. We will see stock growth, record revenues, and 2 or 3 meaningful acquisitions. I could see them buying Roku to bolster TV/content streaming offerings…that would be personalized, of course.
  6. Apple will make all their “+” offerings free, so long as you are enrolled in the Apple upgrade program, have an Apple credit card, or have a phone/iPad that’s less than 2 years old. This includes Apple News+ and AppleTV+. These services become choice differentiators for why you would pick an Apple device over a competitor.
  7. Netflix can’t continue to spend what they’re spending on content creation. The debt they’ve racked up and the current cost structure won’t allow for it. We will see an ad-supported version of Netflix in 2020.
  8. Snapchat will implode. There are too many short-form content platforms to compete with.
  9. Related to #8, TikTok will implode as well. The concerns over data privacy will see it stricken from app stores and parents taking more action to restrict access for their kids.
  10. Much like vinyl sales and record store growth, we will see a resurgence for independent book stores.
  11. We will see the start of companies like Facebook or Google, offering to pay off your debt and/or fund your health insurance, if you actively use their platforms. Impressions and MAUs are the currency for ad dollars. Without them, platforms make less money. Someone will figure out a model where it’s financially sound to pay down $X against your student loan so long as you agree to be tracked in a way that allows the platform to monetize your usage habits.
  12. Tesla will start to license its battery technology to other car manufacturers as a means to bring in an additional revenue stream, increase the number of electric cars on the road, and make the environment better. This could happen through a direct license for building the car or by allowing other car manufacturers to leverage Tesla’s Super Charger network.
  13. With real estate being one of the most costly line items for organizations, 2020 will be the year we see a sizable shift in companies actively pushing for more remote workers and leveraging co-working spaces as part of everyday business. By the end of 2020 will see the % of remote workers go from under 5% to above 5%. That seems small, but it’s a massive number of people.
  14. One of these two new California laws enacted in 2019 will be repealed and/or found unconstitutional. AB5, the law the impacts regarding freelance workers, seems the most likely. But, the mandate for a quota system on a company’s board of directors, SB826, is the other likely candidate.
  15. The robot/automation/AI economy will finally arrive in earnest. There will be more than 1 million jobs lost to robots, automation, or artificial intelligence in 2020. While there won’t be any federal laws enacted to combat this trend, it will be debated and discussed as part of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.
  16. Peloton is going to have a challenging year. Every few years a new workout fad takes center stage. Eventually, they all fade away, some permanently. The model isn’t sustainable. One of 2 things will happen. The “talent” will seek to unionize, go on strike, or demand something that will reduce the number of personalities that riders have grown to love. There will be a data breach/breach of trust in the data collected from members.
  17. Disney will have a down year at the box office. After carrying 80% of the box office hits in 2019, there’s simply no place to go but down. But, Disney+ will be a massive success.

That’s it. That’s all I got. Let’s hope I do better than my 2019 predictions! As I’ve historically done, I’ll revisit these predictions in the middle of 2020 and then provide an end of year analysis in December.

Don’t Make Predictions

This is always one of my favorite posts to write each year. We’re only 13 days away from 2020. While anything can happen, I think we’re at a point where I can fairly evaluate how my 2019 predictions fared.

As I always do, each prediction will be evaluated as being properly forecasted, forecasted incorrectly, or partially forecasted correctly. I really do try not to assign a partially forecasted score.

I’ve been doing this since 2012 with some inconsistent success:

  • 2018: 18/22 for an 82% hit rate.
  • 2017: 7.5/10 for a 75% hit rate.
  • 2016: 8.5/15 for a 56.7% hit rate.
  • 2015: 6.5/10 for a 65% hit rate.
  • 2014: 8/10 for an 80% hit rate.
  • 2013: 3/5 for a 60% hit rate.
  • 2012: 9/10 for a 90% hit rate.

Quite the nice upswing the past 2 years. Let’s see if the trend continues.

In creating my 2019 predictions I brought forward two predictions from 2018 that didn’t happen, but that I thought would play out as forecasted in 2019.

  • Whiskey will have a down year. Year over year we will see a decline in units sold. The plateau is right around the corner. Rum and Gin will fill the sales gap. People’s love of the brown stuff hasn’t waned at all. I give up on this. Rum did have a great year, but whiskey continued to grow in popularity. Drink up!
  • Robert Mueller’s probe will conclude and will yield nothing of substance. Substance will be evaluated as yielding something that would have grounds for an impeachment vote. There will not be an impeachment vote. This is where the details of a prediction are really important. The probe concluded. By my definition of substance, I was correct. There was none. There was no vote. However, it does appear the House will hold an impeachment vote before the end of 2019…but it has nothing to do with the Mueller Report.

So – out of the blocks I’m hitting at 50%. Not exactly encouraging. On to the full set of 2019 predictions.

  1. Apple will make a bid for Tesla. Complete and total whiff. Never happened.
  2. Snapchat’s stock will fall below $5 AND the board will entertain methods to replace Evan Spiegel. Also didn’t happen. Snapchat has stabilized around $14. Not exactly lighting the world on fire, but certainly not $5.
  3. Pinterest and Uber will IPO at billion dollar plus valuations. Check and check!
  4. Amazon or Walmart will make a play for Target. I really thought this would happen. It wasn’t for shock value. For a lot of reasons, a move like this would make sense. Instead of Target being acquired they’ve had an incredibly strong year. They’re a reminder of the value in branding.
  5. Netflix’s debt and expenditure for content development will force one of two things to happen. One, it will sell/merge with Fox, Amazon, etc. It will take on a massive share buyback undertaking. Debt continued to be a problem. They also spent more than ever in content. A merger never happened, but Netflix did continue to execute significant stock buybacks. I’m calling this a ½ point.
  6. More than 25% of states in the USA will offer recreational marijuana policies and laws. That tax money is too seductive for it not to happen. The country-wide adoption by Canada simply adds more pressure. This happened, but in a different way than I outlined. Here’s a link to a fascinating map that tracks each state’s status. Between fully legalized states and those that have decriminalized marijuana, we’re at nearly half the country. I’m calling this a win…from a certain point of view.
  7. Accenture will make a bid to extend their ad agency competition model, by doing one of two things. They will either purchase/merge with WPP, ironically becoming that which they’ve tried not to be. But, they’ll need to if they want a foothold on the paid media side of the equation. Alternatively, they’ll avoid the agency models, but instead, choose to own more pipes. Building on their 2018 acquisition of Adaptly, Accenture will look to purchase an organization like MediaMath. This really didn’t happen. Instead, two completely different things did. One, Publicis gobbled up Epsilon, extending their ownership over “pipes.” Meanwhile, Accenture continued to buy creative agencies.
  8. Liverpool will win the English Premier League. Manchester City will finish second but will win the Champions League. In doing so, Pep Guardiola will be back to manage Manchester City in 2020. This didn’t happen and I couldn’t be happier. Manchester City caught up and passed Liverpool to the title. They also did something that had never been done before. They won EVERY single trophy in England. Liverpool won the Champion’s League. Pep was also back for the 2019-2020 season. I will gladly take the loss on this prediction.
  9. Kevin Durant will stay with the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers will fail to recruit another big name to play alongside Lebron James. Half a point here. Durant left for Brooklyn. Lebron was unable to recruit a big name. I don’t count Anthony Davis’ trade as recruitment. He wasn’t a free agent. I’ve also 100% given up on the NBA. The politics, player movement, and gameplay had me leaving the NBA for another soccer team.
  10. In 2014 I wrote about the idea of a Human API, where people would be operating in a more transparent environment and become brokers of their own data. 2019 is the year where it starts to happen. This will be lead out of the E.U., who have a far more restrictive approach to a free economy and are infinitely more anti-data use for commercial purposes. I think in 2019, it starts with a mandate to opt-out of certain data being collected or used and a means for compensation if you specific forms of personal data. Slow steps towards this…lead by the E.U., but not quite at scale. I’m taking it as a win because I said, “2019 is the year where it starts to happen.” And – it did.
  11. Roku will be acquired. It’s too small to beat out the direct competition but just big enough that with the right partner it could scale. I could see AT&T, LG, Samsung or Verizon being potential buyers. This went the other direction. Roku acquired DataXu, enabling them to be a larger player in paid advertising.
  12. Travis Kalanick will be back in a big way. Since I try to be specific, I think a “big way” means founding another primetime startup or returning to the CEO role at Uber. I’m calling this a win. Travis founded a new startup called CloudKitchens that looks to be the WeWork of the restaurant industry. Time will tell if he’s successful. But, he’s back.
  13. Globally, we will see a decline in mobile/cell phone purchases. We are at peak saturation. Last year’s phone is just as good, if not better than this year’s phone. Little reason to upgrade. Decline they did – per Gartner, 3%.
  14. The 5G cellular spectrum will be made broadly available and two things will happen. One, Apple will NOT release a 5G phone. 5G will be so fast and accessible, organizations and countries will forego WiFi in favor of 5G. This was a home run. No 5G Apple Phone. We are seeing countries like India, Switzerland, and South Africa jumping right to 5G.
  15. LiveRamp will sell to someone in 2019. It won’t be Salesforce. If you’re a company like Publicis an acquisition of LiveRamp makes far more sense than yet another “disruptive” creative agency. However, I don’t see them or another large holding company purchasing LiveRamp. I think it will come from someone like Google or Verizon. Why them? They’re two companies who rely on data for ad-targeting, but are generally blind to many forms of 1st party data, but for whom have enough data about people that a LiveRamp acquisition would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. Another one that went the opposite way. LiveRamp did the acquiring this year.
  16. We are at peak subscription box services. Blue Apron, Kiwi Crates, Birchbox, Trunk Club, Hello Fresh, Frank and Oak, and the list goes on and on. Too many services. Not enough money to go around. We’re going to see massive consolidation in the marketplace happen through merger, acquisition or bankruptcy. I think this story from TechCrunch really covers the situation well. Meal kit companies are struggling, we aren’t quite at peak saturation, but we’re close. However, given how I outlined this prediction, it’s a miss.
  17. Ford, GM or Fiat Chrysler will have a bailout/bankruptcy situation. We will see the same happen for one of Indian Motorcycle, Harley Davidson, Triumph or Ducati. None of them offered a lower cost, less exciting and more electric offerings. The market isn’t big enough to sustain all of them. Didn’t happen. Total whiff. But, I think we’re getting closer. Seems more like 2021, not 2020.
  18. The scooter rental craze taking over the country will hit serious resistance. The South Park Scooter episode will become art imitating life imitating art. Too many scooters. Too little regulation. Too many potential problems. This happened. This happened so hard, South Park made an episode about the situation. Bird in particular had a bad year. They’re burning through $100M every quarter.

I walked into 2019 with 20 bold predictions. If you’ve read my annual list of predictions in the past you know I try not to take on softballs. Of course, that means I’m often going to miss more than I get. By my count, I nailed 1 of the 2 carryover predictions and scored 7.5 out of 18 on the core 2019 predictions. The half-point came from #5. Between the two sets of predictions, I scored 8.5/20 for an abysmal 42.5% accuracy rate. Ouch!

That brings the 8-year total to 68/97, otherwise known as 70%. Quite the solid C.

A number of these prognostications are prime for coming true in 2020 or 2021. I have a feeling I’m a year or two ahead. For example, I just don’t see whiskey continuing its boom and I can’t see Roku being anything but an acquisition target.

My 2020 predictions will be up in a week or so. Thanks for reading.