For those who might still be stumbling across CentroThink, we remain on hiatus in 2013. Which is not to say that we haven’t been busy. The interns have launched a dog exercising business, my accountant has gone into real estate development, and I’ve signed on at the Massachusetts Medical Society as NEJM Managing Director.

You can still reach me via rstuart@centrothink.com


Rob Stuart

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centroThink on Hiatus

Thanks to all of you who have participated in the centroThink conversation over the last 12 months and 122 posts. The interns are back in school and the consulting tools have been traded in for a permanent assignment as Publisher at CFO Publishing in Boston and New York.

You can still reach me at rstuart@centroThink.com


Rob Stuart

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Netflix and the Brand Blunder Backtrack

We got our e-mail from the “Netflix Team” yesterday, not from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, following up the brand blunder e-mail he sent us on September 19.   Maybe they all decided it was for the best that Reed not send out any additional e-mails to the tattered customer database.

So, did Netflix listen to the customer? We are sure that they listened to the street, which wasn’t so pleased with the hare-brained scheme to split the company in two, losing all its brand equity along the way. The customer? Well, the customer still gets hit with the 60% price increase to receive physical DVDs, but he or she can watch a ton of truly awful movies via streaming. Last night, as our interns streamed Tron: Legacy, we seriously considered taking the advice of one of our readers to start using the Redbox that sits outside our local grocery store.

It will be interesting to watch Netflix attempt to recover the good graces of its subscribers, though admitting its stupidity and cluelessness is certainly a good first step.

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Life without Jobs

With the passing of Steve Jobs today we are about to enter a period of incremental technological advances. There will be fewer disruptive technological changes like the ipod, iphone, app store, or ipad. We will have to settle for incremental advances.

Think where we would be today without his vision. He didn’t do much market research, because to create the sorts of products he envisioned was beyond the target market’s imagination. Without him, we would all be using a Blackberry Playbook tethered to a BB. We would use it, but it wouldn’t be all that good and we’d be wishing it was better. It would be missing something, but we wouldn’t know what.

That’s what Steve knew. He will be missed.

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Netflix and Qwikster — Brand Blunder

I awoke this morning to find an e-mail from Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, sitting in my queue and explaining to me why Netflix will no longer be in the DVD business. That chore will be handled by a new brand called Qwikster. Reed goes on to tell my how this is a great thing for us customers — we’ll have two different charges to our credit cards, two different websites to navigate, two different queues to manage — two of everything! Isn’t that just great?

All I could think of, laying there in bed, was, isn’t that just stupid? Despite their recent troubles with the unbundling of streaming from physical DVD subscriptions, Netflix still enjoys high brand equity. And, despite recent Wall Street handwringing over the latest correction to subscriber counts, Netflix is doing boffo at transitioning customers to streaming while maintaining a respectable DVD business that provides customer choice and one-stop shopping, without concern for platform. Qwikster, which I can barely spell, might as well be Blockbuster. This is not a customer-centric brand strategy.

So why change the brand? The only answer is that Netflix wants out of the physical DVD business altogether. Hastings is basically calling the DVD format dead. It’s an 8-track, a cassette, a VHS tape, a CD. He’s right, but penalizing his customer base at this juncture in the technological curve will only cost him customers and increase the churn on his business.

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Amazon’s New Tablet Should be Free

We hope that headline got you. Maybe the upcoming Amazon tablet shouldn’t be free, but it should certainly be less than $250. It really should be less than $100. To our thinking, the point of this tablet isn’t to sell hardware on which to consume information — it’s a tablet on which to buy stuff from Amazon. All kinds of stuff. Not just e-books, but music, movies, toilet paper, fish tanks, golf clubs, heck, everything. It’s a gateway shopping drug in tablet form.

A free Prime account is nice, but it will take me a few years to break even on my Amazon tablet. And, by then, I’ll probably want another, newer, Amazon tablet. So, that argument doesn’t work for me. I’ll pay my Prime, plus increase my lifetime value to Amazon by purchasing even more stuff through their seamlessly integrated shopping portal; I mean, tablet. I’m not sure I want to pay $250 for that privilege. At that price point I will wait for the iPad 3.

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Avoid Superficial Interviewing

Executive Street has been writing about hiring mistakes and just posted Mistake #2 — superficial interviewing. We all know the story and hear it all the time. That latest hire was so polished in the interviews and had all the answers but none of that has translated into success at the company. The problem wasn’t the answers — it was the questions.

We need to get away from that moldy list of questions about strengths, weaknesses, and teamwork and focus much more closely on specifics — challenges overcome, innovations implemented, cost savings realized. Check it out before your next interview walks through the door.

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Google and Zagat – It’s A Data Play

Google’s acquisition of Zagat is positioned in the Wall Street Journal as a content creation play for the search giant. We see it as less of a traditional publishing play and much more of a straight database acquisition. And, we think it is brilliant.

Instead of thinking of Zagat as a traditional print publisher, Google is thinking about Zagat as a hyperlocal database of restaurant data points, each one with a numerical rating assigned to it. Imagine the ways that numerical data can be segmented and integrated into Google’s existing local search results, especially when deployed through mobile.

This deal is a reminder that we should envision our content as data, and imagine how it could be structured into a database architecture and parsed out to users in different ways for different purposes. Zagat’s deal should prompt us all to undertake such a review of our assets.

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How Good is your Google Analytics Dashboard?

Christopher Penn will tell you that if your company isn’t setting goals and goal values in Google Analytics then you are doing it wrong. Follow this link to a good basic overview of how it works. If nothing else, use this article as an excuse to find out whether your team is on top of this. They might be already doing this, but the results may not be bubbling up as far in the organization as they should.

Goals and results against goals plus the variances on a weekly, monthly, and YTD basis sound like the making of a good dashboard to us.

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Who Owns Content Marketing?

So who owns content marketing in your B2B organization? Marketing or Editorial? Social Times will tell you it lives with Marketing. PR Daily will tell you it must live in Editorial as even a whiff of “marketing” will sully your content marketing strategy. So who’s right? Neither. Both. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

To create great content marketing as part of your thought leadership strategy, you need both ingredients — content and marketing. If you allow talented editors to work alone on your content marketing strategy you’ll get great content. If you allow talented marketers to work alone on your content marketing strategy you’ll get plenty of offers, key benefits, and probably some content that misses the mark somewhat. We believe this sort of strategy requires a team effort.

The best editorial people for this sort of work understand the difference between features and benefits — all content marketing needs to contain benefits. And where marketing comes in is to ensure benefits-driven content is being created and that editors don’t forget to remind the readers and browsers that the company actually has solutions for the issues being discussed in the content marketing.

Remember — it’s okay to tell prospects how you can help them.

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