This is the briefing for the week of November 14th. Highlights this week are the new Disney and Coca Cola ads, some good data on lead generation from Marketing Charts, and Spotify's new artist promotion program..

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This week's essay was on the what the poor poll results from the election has to teach us about market research. Next week's essay covers what matters in manage product and company reviews (pushed back a week due to the polls story)

Edward, Startup Curated


  • Vaccine: Yesterday’s news looks very promising. I don’t have much to add - it is far outside my expertise - but it obviously affects just about everything in the world more than anything else I could be writing about. It is far better news than I think anyone was expecting. We might have a “normal” Easter… Just need to get through the next few months… Stay on target… Pfiser press releaseHow Pfiser is using the moment to focus on brand building.

  • Ballot Initiatives 1: There are more changes to privacy law in California. It expands personal protections for race, health, location and religion. It also establishes a California Privacy Protection Agency to enforce the rules. This will not change much, except make it harder for small companies to compete (have you signed up with Osano yet?)

  • Ballot Initiatives 2: California tried to make Uber and Lyft convert their contractors to employees with a broad law. When they realized it would also made freelancing (including much of journalism and hairdressing) illegal in the state, so they passed a series of “exceptions” to the law. So the ridesharing companies (along with the delivery companies) got together and create a ballot initiative to add their businesses to the exception list (as well as make it impossible for the new legislation to overrule it without a 7/8th majority). These companies have money, but they also have millions of consumer and contractor touchpoints to push their message. The ballot initiative passed and the gig economy lives. Uber may find they have another monetizable lever - the ability to influence votes in future referendum…

  • TikTok: Now that they are safe from government shutdown, they are continuing to innovate. TechCrunch announces they are testing a “learning tab”. Instead of just being entertained, you can learn something in a short video. This is a big category for YouTube, and TikTok is far more a disruptive YouTube than they are a disruptive Facebook.

  • Visa: The US government has sued to block Visa’s acquisition of Plaid. Plaid is a financial services company that has built a data transfer network to power Fintech and digital finance products. It is not a competitor to Visa, but it COULD develop the capabilities to become a competitor. This is the first example I know of where the government has learned from Facebook’s Instagram acquisition. (Note: The government is suing based on the DEBIT card market, not the credit card market, but the long term risk to Visa is credit as well as debit)

Marketing For Employees

  • Facebook: Facebook released an internal employee survey last week. 51% believed Facebook was a positive influence on the world (down 23% from May). 56% believe the executive leadership is doing a good job (down 20% from May). But… 69% think Facebook is a good place to work (flat), and the average employee expects to stay for 4.3 years (up 13%). Remember: Don’t trust what people say, trust what they do…

  • Whole Foods: In Canada on November 11th (Veteran’s Day) it is considered a sign of respect to wear a small artificial poppy on your lapel. Whole Foods has banned employees from wearing the poppies due to a “uniform code”. Consumers don’t care much, but employees are upset. Expect Amazon to change the code.

  • Shared Beliefs: Rob Terrin, a consultant at Deloitte, writes that “Firms are arrangements of people with a common belief system, such that instructions and delegation of tasks can be easily communicated and even spontaneously anticipated. Firms exist because people seek a higher purpose”. If true, that would necessarily imply that company's outwardly displayed beliefs would need to align with their employee beliefs, or else a schism would arrive [Hat tip: The always amazing Jessica Webster and her newsletter about newsletters, NarrowScale). Academic paper on why employees at a firm have shared beliefs.


  • Advertisements: Disney has a pretty incredible 3-minute Christmas advertisement (apparently over a year in production). And Coca-Cola has a 2m30s spot directed by Taika Waititi. Both are too long for traditional air play - this is very much for “augmented PR”. Dare you not to cry.

  • Google: SearchEngineJournal comes out and says it in so many words: “Stop Listening to Google”. Google does NOT want anyone reveres engineering their search result algorithms, so you really really can’t trust what they say in theory. In practice they have been shown to be wrong again and again.

  • Ad Spend: Digiday summarizes how the largest spenders, including Amazon, P&G, Coca-Cola, VW, etc, have shifted their spend (or not) over 2020.

  • Lead Generation: How many times should you attempt to reach a lead on the phone before giving up? It’s a quantifiable question - what is you cost per attempt, what is you connection success rate and what is your (conversion rate per connection) x (revenue per conversion). Each additional attempt is going to be worth less than the last (due to lower connection rate) until the attempt has a negative expected value (then you should stop). MarketingCharts shares data that most companies quit after 3-5 attempts - which is likely getting 80-90% of the value, but leaving a lot on the table. They also share data on how fast the first call is made and, unsurprisingly, most are far far too slow… Only 17% try within five minutes and less than half get around to calling their customers back within a half an hour. It is simple stuff like this that can transform a business:

Edward, Startup Curated


AI/Maching Learning/GPT-3

  • Walmart: Walmart is ending its test of using robots as cashiers. It turns out that a process optimized for humans is still cheaper when it employs humans. Meanwhile, in less “front page” news, Walmart if turning four of their stores into partial ecommerce hubs. It’s billed as combining in-person and online shopping, but what it really does is combine employment of humans and “robots”. The rollout will be done by a “products and technology team” who will iterate on both the processes and technologies used. Workers will be outfitted with an in-house “augmented reality” app that will flag products and direct the workers to their next task. Robots are not going to replace humans anytime soon, but humans are going to be more and more augmented by robots, which may mean a different type of human may be needed to be successful in any given role.


  • Proximity: From Jason Lemkin at SaaStr, “…most top talent wants to be close to the CEO.  You would.  It’s just so much easier to excel that way, and so much riskier to be far from the CEO if you’re a top executive”. His point is that this is changing with COVID. But sooner or later (maybe sooner given yesterday’s news) people will be able to be in the same room, and this will revert.


Keep it Simple,


Edward, Startup Curated