Category Archives: enterprise watch

brand nursery: start up idea #2

Coke_adI like the idea of creating a consultancy that specializes in the creation of brands…brands that are product free.

The idea is to create a brand before it has a product attached. The consultancy brings it along and then sells it to a corporation.

In this case, the brand consists of the following things:

brand concept

brand name

design identity

an industry vector

a demographic vector

a cultural vector

some preliminary research

some preliminary marketing

Let’s take an example for the tech industry. The consultancy creates a brand called "plates." It has all of the things noted above. It is actually already launched. "Early adopting" consumers in the tech world know the name "plates" and it looks interesting.

Two things are true of "plates." It is sufficiently vague, at this point, that it could be used for a PDA, cell phone, even a laptop. It is sufficiently defined that it gives Motorola momentum, allowing it to remove 6 months from time to market.

Pricing should be easy. The closer the brand idea is to fully formed, the more it costs. So the corporation is buying the early work and adding their own value, or they are buying brands that are close to "turn key" ready.

But doesn’t the corporation want to define its own brands? Well, in a perfect world, yes. But with things moving as quickly as they do these days, a batton model is "indicated" as the medical people say. You don’t want to get the batton and then start running. You want someone to pull up beside you when you’re in full stride, and give it to you.

I like the idea of marketing people visiting the brand consultancy, in our factory space in Brooklyn, and say, "yeah, I will take one of those and one of those. I will put down a reserve bid on that and that. Call me when you’ve brought it along a little further. This one looks interesting, but we have to see more before we commit."

For those who believe there is or must be an organic connection between the product and its brand, this notion is a bad one. But the rest of us know that brands have their own origins, logics, and etiologies as surely as product ideas do. The connection can be made relatively late in the game without damage to either one.

Clearly this is all about cultural, branding and marketing architecture.  What is the idea that is most compelling, legible, and opportune?  This is a test of real marketing, because this is, mostly, exactly what marketing brings to the party, the enveloping idea that makes a technological package make irresistible sense to the consumer. 

Book Extraction (supplying the long tail)

BooksHere’s an idea for a start up. It’s called "Book Extraction." It’s a way of getting books out of people who’ve got books in ’em.

There are lots of people who should be writing books. I meet them often. They are smart and observant. They have lived fascinating lives and they have been paying attention and, sometimes, taking notes.

In a perfect world, we would give them a sabbatical. Six months later they would give us a book.

But this isn’t a perfect world, and even if it were, writing is hard. Part of the problem here is that we insist on a sensationally odd production model. This says that books come from single individual locked in a garret somewhere communing with gods who may or may not want to have anything to do with them.  From this model, an almost unlimited amount of misery has come and legions and legions of creative lives have been wasted.  There has to be a better way.

I give you "Book Extraction." Book extraction says, here’s a team of people to help the author:

1. draw out and work up content

2. find an order for this content, an architecture

3. find an expression for the content, a rhetoric

This should be done on a strict brain storming basis. The author goes into a room with smart, experienced people who put themselves entirely at the author’s disposal. (Check egos at door.) The idea is to find the best book this person has in them. Solicitude is the order of the day.

The title of the start up, Book Extraction, is deliberately coarse. We do not think, and we do not like to think, about books as something extracted. The point is to emphasize the pragmatic quality of the exercise. What the group cannot get by solicitude, it will get by force.

Pragmatisim must win over solicitude because as we know the chances of actually completing a book are very, very low. Many books are called, few are chosen. And there is a rule of thumb that I recall from my dissertation days: the longer it takes, the longer it takes. (Less economically: the longer it takes to write a thesis, the longer it is going to take.) Any hesitation, uncertainty, resistance, ambivalence will multiply, and before long the student is carrying all these burdens in his or her quest for the perfect thesis. We could also put this in the form of a offering at the shrine of St. George: your thesis is a dragon. You must slay it before it slays you.

All of this is to say that Book Extraction means to get the job done even when this means we must depart from the model of the tortured artist in his or her garrett. When I regaled Pam with this notion, she said, "Oh, like a book boot camp. Not a spa." "Exactly!" I said as if this was not vastly better than anything I had come up with. (But of course it is.)

Book Extraction should be designed to take 2.5 days. The author arrives Friday around noon and gets on a plane Sunday night. He or she leaves with a very clear outline and the work of supplying everything that stands between this outline and a finished book. Further editorial interventions are available, but really the most agonizing work is done.

There are lots of questions: how does BE add value that ghost writers and co-writers do not or cannot, how large is the universe of authors, how practical is the model, how much would people resent/resist extraction.  How much could we charge?  How much would we make?  How much fun would this be?  These are all key.  If I hadn’t spend all day in the city ignoring my writing, I would take them up. 

The larger issue, I think, is this. Now that we have a long tail distribution system, it’s time to fill it. The industry has just removed its chief barriers to entry. Now, if we can just remove the other entry costs, we will see many more than a 100 poppies bloom.