How I learned to love access over ownership

Up to my mid-20s I dutifully built up my CD collection by buying new releases on a regular basis, by the time MP3s started hitting the online stores I wasn’t as big a music purchaser but I still picked up a few albums and tracks from iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store. After ripping all my CDs I had a little under 4000 legally acquired tracks in my iTunes library.

I’ve been a reasonably happy iTunes user despite having to break out junction a few times to enable multiple windows users to share the same media library. Having two computers as well as an iPod nano and iPod touch was starting to get a bit painful. The straw that broke the camels back was having to work on another computer for a few months that I didn’t own. Not having my music collection available was a real pain so I spent a few nights uploading all my music Amazon’s Cloud Player.

Having all my music in “the cloud” and being able to play it from there worked really well. I still had to use iTunes to sync tracks to my iPods but I don’t buy as much music as I used to so that isn’t too frequent a problem. After a few months I was starting to get bored listening to the same tracks over and over and I wanted to listen to some of the more recent releases that I had heard on the radio so I checked out iHeartRadio.

I liked choosing a specific artist and then letting iHeartRadio generate a playlist based on that artist, I heard a few new artists that I liked and bought a couple of tracks from them. After a while though the same songs kept repeating themselves and it got a bit frustrating not being able to listen to a specific track when I wanted (at which point I’d switch back to Cloud Player for a while). Eventually I decided to move to Spotify which gives much greater control over the songs I listen to as well as giving me access to people’s shared play lists.

“We’ve found that the more social our users are — i.e., they’re sharing music — the faster they grow their own music library. [And] the faster they grow their music library, the faster they become paying customers.”

Daniel Ek, Spotify

Amazon have made some recent changes to their cloud player to make music discovery a easier by leveraging their recommendation engine. While the move by Amazon is a step in the right direction I don’t typically buy new music until I have heard it a few times. the discovery options available via iHeartRadio and Spotify are much more integrated into the overall listening experience.

Alternative Twitter Advertising

Twitter followers of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand were treated to a series of unusual tweets recently. It appeared that the footballer had taken up the delights of knitting…

These first tweets were in fact teasers for a marketing campaign for Snickers UK which would be revealed in the final tweet of the campaign.

This twitter campaign, using Rio Ferdinand and some other UK celebrities, was one channel used to deliver the marketing message. The message was also pushed out over TV adverts and other media.

Using social media to promote products is certainly not a new idea, and using celebrity endorsements has a long history as well. In this example however it was interesting to see that the campaign didn’t use any specific twitter advertising features such as promoted tweets and trends. The campaign instead used the built in social media features to reach the celebrities existing audience.

What are your thoughts about using twitter for celebrity endorsements like this?

MBA Tech Treks

One cool thing about the BYU MBA program is the Morning Market Call program. It provides an opportunity for MBA students to discuss issues related to the program, interview guests from a variety of companies and get more comfortable being in front of a camera. Recently there have been a couple of programs discussing the tech treks that BYU MBA students go on to visit tech companies in Seattle and Silicon Valley.

In the first program Melanie and Ryan discuss their visit to Silicon Valley.

In the second video Panu and Jared discuss their trip to Seattle.

I went on the Tech Treks last year and found them really useful in getting to see a bit more of the internal cultures of the companies we visited. For me the most useful aspect was being able to meet face to face with the BYU alumni who I’d previously spoken with on the phone and get to know them a bit better.

First Impressions of SlideRocket

In my last post I talked about some of the lessons I learned from my strategy simulation class. Luckily I was able to take the class again this semester with a couple of my class mates and had another really great experience. As part of the class we have to do a brief presentation on the results of the simulation and I thought it would be neat to share it online.

Having used, and been unimpressed by, some online presentation tools in the past I decided to try something new. Having recently learnt about SlideRocket I figured that importing my presentation into SlideRocket would be a good way to put the application through its paces.

As you can see the results are quite good. The free version was easy to sign up to and the import process handled the animations and transitions in the original PowerPoint pretty well. There were some minor fidelity issues, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted within a couple of minutes editing. All told I was able to sign up, take the interactive tour, import and tweak the presentation in under ten minutes. I was pretty impressed.

In addition to standard presentation tools SlideRocket offers some interesting looking analytical features in the professional version such as who is looking at your slides and how long people are spending on each slide. One question I couldn’t find answered in my brief excursion on the site though is how well such analytical data can be shared with other analysis tools for further investigation.

Update: According to SlideRocket you can export your analytics as CSV files:

Games for MBAs

During my MBA I have taken several classes on strategy, one of my most enjoyable was the strategic simulation course. Teams are pitted against each other in a simulated world and are judged on how well they perform in a particular industry. Two of the key things I took from the Fall 2011 class were:

  1. Focus on the strategy not just on the financials.
  2. Depend on operational excellence

Focus on the Strategy

One of our failings was that when our strategy was going well we were tempted to deviate from our strategy in an effort to capitalize on the strength we had built up in the market. For example at one point with our low cost base we were operating profitably in one market without competition who could undercut us without them losing money. We took advantage of this to drive out competitors. We then decided to raise prices substantially only for a new competitor entered the market and undercut us. We came back into the market with aggressive, but profitable, prices and won back our market share. Later in the game this competitor responded by lowering their prices below cost in an effort to damage us financially. If we had not seceded this market by raising our prices and instead stuck with our strategy I think it would have made the market less attractive to others and prevented some of the aggressive moves that occurred.

Operational Excellence

One of the keys of our strategy in the game was to invest in quality and operational efficiency. We tried to lead the industry on capacity and so we could leverage our fixed costs and cumulative quality investments over a larger number of products, thus lowering our variable costs per item and keeping a low cost base. Ensuring our operational decisions were always aligned with our strategy allowed us to be really efficient and operate at levels other companies couldn’t approach cost wise.