My New Gig

 

I am sure many reading this would agree 2020 has been quite challenging. It has been a crazy and (at times) exhausting year. Personally, things have been a bit more hectic as I relocated from AZ to FL to start my new gig with Virgin Voyages as their Manager – Music Production & Operations.

 

The cruise industry was not on my radar when I was looking for the next chapter in my career. Having worked on ships as a musician and later operating as a booking partner for all the major lines. I just didn’t feel that the cruise industry aligned with my goals. I was looking to create something new in the live music industry and in my opinion that doesn’t happen too often at sea. But when I came across the gig listed for Virgin Voyages it caught me as different. I felt compelled to apply and I am lucky that I did.

 

My enthusiasm to hit the high seas quickly elevated as I made my way through their interview process, spoke with their team, and learned about the Virgin culture. If you don’t know, Virgin got its start as a record club on the streets of London.  Shortly after, they opened a recording studio called The Manor, which morphed into a record label. Their first release Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield would eventually become the theme for the 1974 classic The Exorcist. In 1977, Branson himself convinced The Sex Pistols to join Virgin and together they dropped a piece of Punk Rock history called Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

 

When you join the Virgin namesake you quickly witness the correlation between their early days as a record label and what the (dare I say) conglomerate has become today. One where it doesn’t matter if you create progressive cinematic rock like Oldfield, screamed for anarchy like Johnny Rotten, or are made up of an eclectic group fronted by an openly Irish gay man like the Culture Club. If the product is good and you care deeply about it, Virgin has your back.

 

And so here I am. A Virgin employee getting ready to help launch our first ship – The Scarlet Lady with two more visible on the horizon. I am surrounded and supported by some of the most driven and intelligent cruise and non-cruise people in the game. The excitement of what we are creating is powerful. It has motivated me to reclaim my passion for music in ways I never thought the cruise industry could provide.

The Email Operations Killer

The Email Cc’ combines a benign appearance and exponential results that can swallow-up the average office worker’s day. Let’s take a look at why the email Cc’ should come with a warning label much like a pack of cigarettes.

 

If I were to email an employee, they would likely reply. That is (at a minimum) two emails.

 

Not too shabby.

 

Consider instead, I “Cc” two people on that email. This increases the likelihood that a number of different exchanges could result. Cc’d party one (1) could email the employee directly. The employee could email Cc2. Cc2 could email the whole group… the list goes on and on. To calculate the number of potential exchanges we need to utilize the permutation formula from the mathematical study of Combinatorics.

 

To calculate the permutations of potential interactions between the sender, receiver, and the two “Cc’d” parties we will apply the permutation formula Four choose Two (4!c2!), which is 4×3 or 12. We then need to add four since each entity can also email the entire group. This results in 16 possible permutations.

 

Whoaa… those two Cc’s just increased the email chain potential interaction by 700%.

 

Imagine, a few days ago, I received an email with thirty plus Cc’s and I know I am not the only one swamped in electronic correspondence. Just look at what Harvard Business Review reported:

 

“The average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering email, according to a McKinsey analysis. For the average full-time worker in America, that amounts to a staggering 2.6 hours spent and 120 messages received per day.”

 

For many, the Cc’ seems so innocent and that is where the problem starts. We add our bosses to that quick response to a client to show them we are on it. We Cc’ Sharon in accounting, because it seems like the right thing to do. We may even Cc’ other members of the client’s team since they always include those people in their emails anyway. And why wouldn’t we? It takes barely any time to include them in the chain and it doesn’t cost us anything.

 

Or does it?

 

Harvard Business Review’s article demonstrates that this afterthought can be detrimental to your entire operation. I contend that much of those 2.6 hours per day spent working on one’s inbox can be attributed to the overzealous use of Cc’s in many organizations. We already demonstrated that four people on a chain can result in the potential for 14 additional email interactions. Add two more on the Cc’ line and the total potential interactions jump to 36. Now consider that HBR’s research tells us that it takes, on average, either 15-30 seconds for someone to read an email or three-seconds to delete it. Then, it takes that individual another 64 seconds on average to return to their normal state of work. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out this is an unsustainable practice.

 

Sure, we are not reading every single email we are Cc’d on and it doesn’t take many of us 64 seconds to return to work after reading every email. These are just averages. The point of this article is to demonstrate through sheer math just how dangerous those Cc’s can be.

 

Use them wisely my friends.

The Psychological Importance of Brand Parity

Differentiating your product, service, or brand is not only good.  It is imperative.  However, the marketer should not overlook the psychological importance of establishing brand parity before engaging in this practice.

 

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely discusses the consumer behavior of herding. His theory is built upon decades of research which reinforces that, when making decisions, buyers need a point of reference from which to weigh their options. We rarely blindly pick that new car or cup of coffee.  Rather, when considering a purchase, our subconscious is weighing the opportunity in front of us against our history with, and what we have learned about, the choice in question. Inexperienced marketers will forget that regardless of how new or radically different the product is, the customer needs to weigh it against like options to complete their decision. This is where brand parity comes in.

 

Brand parity is the attributes that all products of a specific classification share. Soda comes in 12oz cans.  Cellphones include a charger and loaves of bread come with a twist-tie.  These elements are of strategic importance for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most vital is that they set-up your product for proper differentiation. I will borrow Ariely Starbucks’ example to explain.

 

Anyone who has visited both a Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks knows that the two differ on many levels. Dunkin’ is a transactional business. Stores are designed for the customer to get a cup of Joe and get out. Sizes are easily labeled as Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-large. The ambiance is bright. The chairs uncomfortable and there is an overall “cafeteria” vibe throughout.  Starbucks is designed for customers to hang out. Their stores are characterized by deeper-earthy tones. Lighting is soft and subtle. Customers are surrounded by expensive cups, grinders, and coffees they can buy to take home. Even the product sizes are labeled uniquely as Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti.

 

Regardless of these differences, the core product of both of these brands – the coffee remains similar. Both organizations serve theirs fresh, extremely hot, and provide basic accouterments to enhance the taste such as cream, sugar, and sweetener. Both serve their java with lids and offer drive-through service.  It is this brand parity that helped Starbucks slip into the coffee game and then initiate the power of its product differentiation genius.

 

It may be hard to remember the first time you visited a Starbucks. If you can, you would probably recall it as a little overwhelming. I still have trouble remembering which size coffee I get. Is it the venti or the grande? However, when faced with that initial decision. You likely (even if you didn’t realize it) weighed the Starbucks’ option in front of you against something you knew. As an East-Coaster myself, that was Dunkin’. Since the Starbuck’s option was close enough. I mean it’s still just coffee, right? You were probably like me and gave them a shot.

 

Now that Starbucks’ brand parity with Dunkin’ has done its job to get you through the door it is time for the company to separate themselves with cohesive differentiation. This is when a company aligns all of their branding, packaging, and overall feel in a way that places them in a certain price range relative to their competition. For Starbucks, that position is “premium,” so they have aligned their brand pieces in a way to promote that ideal. The ordering process is refined and “classy.” Patrons ask for a “Venti” as opposed to an “Extra Large.” Customers are placed in a nicer atmosphere that encourages them to hang-out and pen their next screenplay. (This consequently increases the feeling that one needs to “pay rent” to stay longer and contributes to increased revenue per visit). When seated, patrons are surrounded by expensive cups, grinders, and coffees.

 

All of these elements work together to shift the consumer’s perception of where Starbucks sits in relation to other options such as Dunkin’. You still know that both Starbucks and Dunkin sell coffee and can give you that morning pick me up. However, the cohesive elevated experience you found at Starbucks has pushed it further away from your relative experience at Dunkin. It has now become harder for you to see them as similar and you lean towards one or the other moving forward.

 

The thing to keep in mind is that none of this differentiation would work without first establish brand parity. Your prospects need a reason to “jump ship” and check out your option. If you present yourself as too different… too radical, you will confuse them and they are more prone to stick with what is known. However, if you can find that unique balance between brand parity and differentiation. You too could become the Venti of your product world.

 

 

Using Balance to Facilitate Stakeholder Management

 

Your business needs stakeholders to survive. From customers to employees, vendors, and even the community you operate within all have a stake in your operations. Jeremy discusses how to achieve balance between these competing groups.  You can read more about Jeremy’s views on stakeholder management by clicking here.

 

Incremental Changes in Marketing Your Venue

Even in today’s fast-paced world, slow and steady still wins the race when it comes to retaining, attracting, and motivating your entertainment customers to buy. Jeremy discusses how incremental changes reduce sales friction and increase accountability in operational changes.

 

Demographics Aren’t a Catch-All

 

Too many entertainment managers misuse the phrase demographics as an excuse to sound marketing-savvy when they don’t understand entertainment strategy. Jeremy discusses how to properly use this marketing term for your venue.