Can Private Equity Save Playboy? -- Daily Intelligencer Keach Hagey at The Wall Street Journal has a good story today about Playboy Enterprises' attempt to reinvent itself as a leaner, meaner soft smut purveyor. The company was run by Hugh Hefner's daughter Christie until 2011, when Hefner himself — in collaboration with a private-equity firm called Rizvi Traverse Management — took it private in a leveraged buyout. Since then, it has gotten a new CEO (Scott Flanders, whom the Journal implies is a bit of a lecher) and embarked on a restructuring plan that has reduced its staff from 585 people to 165, and shaved millions of dollars in costs from its operations. Now it's trying to reinvent itself as a licensing giant — a business that makes money by sticking Playboy's name on all kinds of clubs, TV shows, and merchandise. Put less gently, today's Playboy is much more focused on branding than boobs. In many ways, Playboy is a classic media story. The new strategy seems to be working, sort of: Today, Playboy is both smaller and more profitable.
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Try To Be Apple In 2011, struggling department store chain J.C. Penney hired the guy who was behind the Apple stores. He applied the same principles that had made Apple’s geek chic boutiques some of the most profitable retail spaces on Earth. So much for all those “five ways you can be as successful as Apple” articles that have been churned out over the past few years. Everybody, it seems, wants to be Apple. Employing Oompa Loompas won’t turn you into Willy Wonka, then. But really it’s not. 1. Kate Moss and Queen Elizabeth are two of the great iconic figures of our time. Apple is the corporate equivalent of the queen. 2. Management gurus who reverse engineer Apple’s go-to-market strategies tend to look upward into the sky and point at the glittering stars. Apple’s commitment to integrating hardware, operating systems, and software has been hailed as the reason it’s been able to create a glistening and slick user experience. 3. Strategy guys have been asking an awkward question recently. 4.
The 5 Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself “One does not begin with answers,” the legendary business consultant Peter Drucker once said. “One begins by asking, ‘What are our questions?’” The notion that questions may at times be more valuable to a business than answers is counterintuitive. But as Yamashita notes, that can only happen if business leaders are willing to question boldly. What follows are five big, bold questions every company should be asking, according to Yamashita, Ries, Harvard Business School professor and author Clayton Christensen, and consultants Jack Bergstrand of Brand Velocity and Tim Ogilvie of Peer Insight. 1. Keith Yamashita Sure, it’s a bit grand, as Yamashita acknowledges. In terms of tackling the first two questions, Yamashita believes companies “must develop a culture that is excessively curious about the outside world”--and be able to identify deep needs as well as the right “hairy problem” to focus on. 2. Jack Bergstrand 3. Clayton Christensen 4. Tim Ogilvie 5. Eric Ries
Emotional Brand – Why Emotions Sell Better Than Discounts Why do people open, click and convert in response to your message? Is it the competitive price that drives their interest and engagement? Or is it something else – the elusive, indefinable IT THING that some marketers manage to grasp in their emails and that touches and engages the recipients deeper that discounts? What drives buying decisions? As the latest Creston Limited “Brand Enrichment” research shows, the most important factor that drives peoples’ choices is not the monetary value; it’s actually the emotional value brands offer via their product. The research clearly shows that it’s not only the products and services that you sell. The other 5 emotions that affect consumer choices are: Confidence 17%Status 14%Responsibility 14%Effectiveness 11%Individuality 9% Material value comes next, with impact on only 7% of respondents’ decisions. This sheds a completely new light on how brands should construct their emails, starting with the subject line. Other factors behind buying patterns
What Steve Jobs Taught Me After I Said "No" To Him I worked for Steve Jobs at Pixar Animation Studios in 1997 and '98 before he sold Pixar to Disney. I don't have many heroes in my life, but Steve was (and still is) one of them. Meeting him and having him ask me to work for him were dreams come true. Like so many dreams, reality was very different from what I had envisioned. John Lasseter, the director of the early Pixar movies (he now runs Disney animation) recommended me for the position. Pixar is an awesome place to work. The combination of my enthusiasm for Pixar and Steve's relentless vision ended up with my job looking more and more like the one I said no to: the marketing middle man between Pixar and Disney. So what did I learn from Steve Jobs? I learned that you must pay incredible attention to what someone wants to do when you hire them. Steve also taught me about transparency. Building relationships first and doing business second is another lesson I learned from working with Steve. [Red Light: Bloody via Shutterstock]
Businesses With A Strong Sense Of Purpose Are More Successful You may have already sensed that companies with a clear sense of purpose do better than those without one. A new study from Deloitte confirms it: organizations that focus their energies beyond pure profit do better than those without a "culture of purpose." And yet, the survey also reveals that most executives and employees think that businesses aren’t doing enough to create this kind of culture. The survey, which sampled 1,310 U.S. adults, found that 90% of people who believe their organization has a strong sense of purpose also report a strong financial showing in the business over the past year. They also report high employee and customer satisfaction. There’s a disconnect, though, between how employees and executives view their organizations. Dunder-Mifflin, the fictional paper company portrayed in The Office (RIP), is the perfect example of a company without a culture of purpose. Creating this sought-after culture of purpose sounds simple in theory.
From Cabbage Patch To Wii: The 3 Secrets Behind Christmas Crazes Close your eyes. Think about the best gift you ever received. The gift that made you involuntarily jump out of your chair and give the gift giver an enormous holiday hug. Chances are, the gift wasn’t something that you asked for or even needed. The best gifts are those that are unexpected and fulfill some unarticulated desire. You might not have even realized you wanted it until you received it. Creating these kind of moments is the goal of countless companies, who work year-round to create the next holiday hit--the Tickle Me Elmo or Kindle that will fly off the shelves in December. As head of the product design group at the global design and innovation consultancy Continuum, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to design products that make people jump out of their chairs. 1. We all require products and services that will make our work life and personal life run smoothly. 2. Or consider a gift such as the first two-wheeled bicycle that you received as a child. 3.
Can Don Draper Pivot? Lessons From Second-Chance CEOs Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, And Mickey Drexler We’ve watched him show up intoxicated (from liquor or sex, or both), yet seamlessly spin a captivating pitch for anything from cigarettes and baked beans to a slide carousel and a Chevy. But as Mad Men’s sixth season drew to a close, Don Draper’s pitching prowess took a sharp detour into a dark night of the soul--at the conference table with potential new client Hershey’s. Raw and emotional, he revealed his roots and sucked all the air out of that conference room. Don Draper’s character joins a group of top dogs who were asked to leave the executive suite. There are lessons for Draper in these stories of resurrection--and for all of us. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Like Draper, Schultz sprouted from humble stock (sans the whorehouse). But he couldn’t stay away. Starbucks landed on our list of Most Innovative Companies in 2012. And the billionaire boss puts his money where his mouth is. Jobs may not have been able to code or engineer a product’s design from the drafting table.
The End Of Advertising As We Know It--And What To Do Now "How are we supposed to judge a creative idea versus a product idea?" This was a question that surfaced during one of the many long judging sessions last week in the South of France where I got to preside over the Mobile category, one of the 16 categories at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It caused quite a stir in the jury room. Some strongly argued that creative ideas and product ideas should not be in the same category, while others countered that real users don’t necessarily differentiate the two. This question about campaigns versus products was raised simply and partially out of confusion. Yes and Yes. Kodak filed for bankruptcy while Instagram was bought by Facebook for $1 billion. Chris Anderson put it. The reality is this: Business ideas from the least expected players and angles will disrupt your brand faster than advertising can save it. Now what? Here are a few principles that can guide the shift from the Old World Order to the New World Order. 1. 2. 3. 4.
3 Big Insights From Today's Top Design Thinkers A few weeks ago, at the Fast Company offices, we convened an all-star panel of designers and design leaders to talk about the problems that they found most vexing in the past year, and what they were trying to do to solve them. The group included: Margaret G Stewart, director of product design at Facebook Karl Heiselman, CEO of Wolff Olins Melody Roberts, senior director, experience design innovation at McDonald’s Corporation Joe Gebbia, CPO and co-founder of Airbnb Erica Eden, founder, Femme Den Mauro Porcini, chief design officer at PepsiCo To get us started, Roberts laid out a problem that every company faces at some point or another: How do you turn idea generation into successful execution? Karl Heiselman, had an interesting response: "One thing that’s worked really well with our clients is to work with prototyping. Wolff Olins pushes this prototyping across the entire company, to be spearheaded, not by one department, but several teams in various departments. The Next Age