Thursday, July 14, 2011

100-watt lightbulbs: A marketing case study or a fight for freedom?

The government would like to see traditional 100-watt lightbulbs replaced with corkscrewy, “energy-efficient” fluorescent bulbs.

As I was reading this article in THE WEEK magazine, I couldn’t help wonder if this really what lightbulb marketers had in mind when they developed such an innovation.

“Are you stockpiling incandescent lightbulbs?” said Rick Moran in “You should.” As of January 2012, the traditional 100-watt lightbulbs most of us grew up with will be contraband items in Barack Obama’s America, replaced—in a fit of  “nanny-state nonsense”—by those dim, corkscrewy, “energy-efficient” fluorescent bulbs. The fluorescents are far more expensive, give skin a corpse-like pallor, and contain a trace amount of the toxic element mercury. Should you drop one, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you open your windows and leave the room for 10 minutes. The real issue here is freedom, not safety, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Most Americans prefer traditional lightbulbs, which is why they’re now engaging in an act of “civil disobedience” by stockpiling them. If the new fluorescents are so superior, “why does the government have to force people to buy them?”

Those arguments are “light on facts,” said Robert Farley in the St. Petersburg, Fla., Times. Much as conservatives would love to spin the government’s new bulb standards as a “socialist assault on free enterprise” by the tyrannical Obama administration, the bill in question—which will phase out incandescent bulbs of 75 watts and 50 watts in future years—was actually signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Because fluorescent bulbs last for thousands of hours, they’re actually significantly less expensive than the cheap old bulbs, which burn out or break easily. And the law does not  “ban” incandescent lightbulbs. Manufacturers are simply required to make new bulbs 25 percent more efficient than the average bulb today. If you insist on an incandescent bulb, all the major lightbulb companies are now making incandescent halogen bulbs that meet efficiency standards, and produce light like that of the classics.

That isn’t the point, said Virginia Postrel in If government bureaucrats want to curb electricity use so that we pump less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then they should just impose a new tax on electricity, to make it more expensive. That would at least give individuals the choice of whether they wanted more “efficient” new bulbs. But nanny-state regulators don’t believe in giving individuals a choice. They’d rather express their “cultural sanctimony” by deciding, in the marbled palaces in Washington, what food we eat, what cars we drive, and what kind of bulbs we plug into our bedroom lamps.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Love of the story -- Lipsyte remembers when Ali burst onto the scene

“Muhammad Ali was my first Big Story. He put my name on Page 1. He made me a columnist. He was also the single most important sporting lens through which I learned about politics, religion, race, and hero worship. Loving Ali has been easy. It’s grasping what he stands for at any given moment that’s been hard.”

Because I love to study stories, I was attracted to this new book by celebrated sports journalist Robert Lipsyte, the New York Times’ longtime lead sports columnist. In An Accidental Sportswriter, Lipsyte mines gold from his long and eventful career to bring readers inside the personal relationships and culture of sports.  An Accidental Sportswriter interweaves stories from Lipsyte’s life and the events he covered to explore the connections between the games we play and the lives we lead.

Here’s more from the book that expresses his thrill of seeking the story:

“Our journey began as sheer joy. The first time I ever saw him…his name was Cassius Clay. He was 22 years old. I was 26. The New York Times was so sure that Clay would be knocked out early in his heavyweight title fight in Miami against the champion, Sonny Liston, that the paper didn’t bother to send its boxing writer. Instead, it sent a feature writer whose time was less valuable. I was thrilled with the assignment.

“The first inkling that the prohibitive 7-to-1 odds against Clay might be a mistake came when the fighters met in the middle of the ring. Clay was bigger than Liston. Round by round, I kept losing my breath. Except for the moments when he was apparently blinded by some chemical from Liston’s gloves, Clay totally dominated the fight. Clay danced around Liston, he jabbed, he slugged, he mocked the brute. Then Liston sat down on his stool and wouldn’t get up, and it was over. Clay capered on the ring apron, yelling at the press, ‘Eat your words!’

“And then it was my turn, minutes to deadline, banging out a paragraph on my little Olivetti, ripping out the page, handing it to the telegrapher at my side, banging on. I loved the rush of writing under the gun. I’d never say it was better than sex, but it was in the same ballpark.

“The front-page, above-the-fold story I filed began, ‘Incredibly, the loud-mouthed, bragging, insulting youngster had been telling the truth all along. Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight title tonight when a bleeding Sonny Liston, his left shoulder injured, was unable to answer the bell for the seventh round.’

“I don’t remember what I did with the rest of that night, but I don’t think I slept. I still have the scrawled notes of my future-story file: Muslims, Malcolm, Clay’s early life in Louisville,  Liston’s reputed mob connections, whither boxing?, a new model of sports hero. I wanted to hang on to this story.

“This was going to be a big story, and it was going to be around for a while, and I was going to ride it to the buzzer.”

Click here for a link to a video with the author. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

N-of-8 inspiration: book review of “Brainsteering”

I’m always on the look-out for more references to support my use of the N-of-8 creative group innovation model.

And I really like the one-column book reviews in Inc. magazine.

That’s where I learned about Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas by Kevin and Shawn Coyne.

Here is what the reviewer said to read if you read nothing else: The chapter on developing effective questions analyzes queries that produce good answers. Such questions identify customer problems and reveal approaches that don't fall under standard operating procedures.

Click here to go to the review article.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Creating an Ideal Profile of "Practice Influencers" for N-of-8 groups

In my view, the desired group of N-of-8 advisors will be comprised of KPIs (key practice influencers).  That's why we’re looking for a far-reaching scope of expertise and decision-making influence in the clinical area.

Furthermore, with the significant variances between protocols and guidelines, it’s a key need to identify those advisors who have the most power to influence change within their institution or organization.

Thus, the search for a representative sample of KPIs will need to be much broader. By defining common characteristics among the disciplines and between institutions, we end up with an ideal profile from which to assess the desired qualifications and criteria of the advisor group.

The KPIs in a screening profile for N-of-8 groups might be:
  1. Regularly sought out by their colleagues for opinions or advice
  2. Speak often at regional or national conferences
  3. Published articles in a major journal (during the past two years)
  4. Consider themselves early adopters of new products
  5. Help establish protocols (locally, regionally, even nationally)
That’s just the start.  Most searches for KPIs are based upon this profile. In other words, methodology alone drives the search.

Now, I believe we should add another component – a brand innovation strategy.

Strategy is directional and prompts us to identify “Where we are” from the customer’s point-of-view. For advisors in N-of-8 groups, you can focus on situation analysis in three areas:
  1. How are the products used within the institution?
  2. Who are the likely users?
  3. What are the key issues?
Then, you can examine how best to achieve your objectives: identifying a qualified group of multi-disciplinary experts from key institutions. This objective is the “Where you want to be”, again from the
customer perspective.

Based on your knowledge of the market and experience with identifying experts within institutions, I believe that this is quite different from simply conducting a KOL search.  The operative difference being the word “opinion” as the defining criteria.

You are not needing an institutional “concept sell.” Life science customers want and need better products. Their opinions are already formed. Your search is more a matter of identifying leaders who can help in getting your new products on formulary. Instead of opinions on therapy options, the need for “protocol” influencers who can impact institution protocols and guidelines are essential.

That said, the proposed strategic approach is to focus on N-of-8 advisors who can rewrite protocols.  Following this strategy drives the search in identifying experts that are influential in creating the need for change. Again, these experts are KPIs who have the most power to influence protocols and guidelines on the national, regional and local levels.

In summary, taking a strategic approach that drives the methodology in finding the “right” experts to serve as change agents is key.