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10 posts from September 2005

iPod – iDon’tGetIt

I know Apple is the king of MP3 players. In fact, one could argue Apple is now more of a music company than a computer company, but that’s a whole separate post…

I admire the way Apple innovates. There’s no question they have some of the most awesome looking products in the industry. That said, why do people continue to pay a premium for a commodity like an MP3 player? I know…it’s a fashion statement. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fashionable guy, so it’s no surprise that I own a Creative MP3 player, not an iPod.

In perhaps the latest example of how life imitates art, Apple comes out with yet another, even smaller MP3 player with less capacity than most others available today. The reason I say “life imitates art” is because Apple is getting dangerously close to the scenario presented in this great spoof ad created by Scott Kelby. Take a moment and watch it. It’s hilarious, only because each new iPod model seems to be getting closer and closer to this “flea” version.

I’m sure Apple will sell a gazillion of the new “nano” model. It’s trendy. It’s tiny. Holy cow! I feel like such an idiot paying $199 for my Creative 40-Gig player when I could have waited to buy a 4-Gig iPod nano for only $249.

I wonder if these iPod shuffle and nano customers are the same people who routinely overbid on eBay? More importantly, how do I get a mailing list full of them so that I can start tapping into this segment?…


First in Thirst – The Gatorade Book

As I mentioned earlier, Darren Rovell arranged for me to receive a copy of his latest book entitled First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon. I drink the stuff from time to time, and while the story of its origins is interesting, the best part of this book is chapter 8, “The Gatorade Rules”. Rovell lays out “the nine business principles that helped Gatorade become one of the most powerful brands in modern-day business history.” Here are my two favorites:

Learn from your mistakes – Did you know there was a “Gatorade Light”? I didn’t. It sounds like it suffered the same fate as New Coke. This section talks about the dangers of overextending your brand, or trying to make it something it’s not. By coincidence, I happened to be reading the September issue of Fast Company magazine today. Right there on page 34 was a vivid example of how Coke continues battling that same temptation with their line of diet products. Take a look at that comparison, noting that they didn’t include the 5th variation, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, and tell me these guys aren’t creating market confusion.

Form Smart Strategic Alliances – OK, this one seems obvious, but look at how well Gatorade has leveraged their partnerships. Have you ever seen a football game on TV without also seeing at least one of those orange Gatorade coolers? Heck, Gatorade is so tightly linked to football that it’s customary for the winning coach to be doused in the stuff, right? Gatorade is always on the sidelines, not necessarily because the players like it, but because the Gatorade people know how to work the system.

First in Thirst does a good job documenting the Gatorade history, but I found the branding and business coverage to be the most valuable lessons in this book.


Brainstorming at Alias

I just returned from a great visit with one of Sybex’s key partners, Alias. After spending a couple of days with the team at their Toronto offices, all I can say is “wow!”. I can’t tell you the last time I saw such incredibly high levels of passion and energy at a software company. It was quite impressive. Do yourself a favor and poke around a bit on their website; their products are the tools behind the special effects of many of the movies you’ve undoubtedly watched over the past several years.

I’d like to thank Michael, Danielle, Carla, Lorraine and the other folks at Alias for their hospitality this week. We covered a lot of ground and came up with quite a few interesting new ideas. Here’s to a great future for Alias and Sybex/Wiley!


Bookscan – Week Ending 8/28/05

A few readers were curious as to how the publisher market share changes when you look at more than just the top 50 titles. Here’s a snapshot of how it looked for the top 750 titles for the week ending 8/28 (by units sold):

1. Pearson/Penguin            34%
2. Wiley                             27%
3. O’Reilly                          17%
4. Microsoft Press              11%
5. Osborne/McGraw-Hill        5%

See there…I’m willing to show data cuts where Wiley isn’t in the #1 position. As I’ve mentioned before, these numbers change from week to week due to promotional activities, new releases, etc. It’s generally a tight race between Pearson and Wiley for the top slot. Pearson is just coming off a promotion at one of the key brick-and-mortar accounts, hence the 7-point advantage. Check back in around Dummies Month or one of the other Wiley promotional periods and you’ll often see these numbers flip.

I would offer to show the same sort of information by topic area, but that would mean I’d have to manually code all 750 titles. I like this blog and all, but I don’t have the time for something like that. Unfortunately, the coding that exists in the raw data file isn’t all that useful for this sort of analysis. Keep an eye on the O’Reilly Radar blog though, as they have done a lot of Bookscan recoding and occasionally share the results.


Amacom

I wanted to say thanks to my new friends over at Amacom. Why? Two reasons:

  1. They continue to supply me with interesting, new reading material.
  2. They “get” the benefits and values of blogs.

Darren Rovell, sports business reporter for ESPN and author of Amacom’s First in Thirst book about Gatorade read my blog and asked if I’d like a copy of his book. Being a sports fan, I said “absolutely”. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I can tell you it’s not just a history of the popular sports drink – this book is also an interesting read with valuable business and branding lessons.

I thought I heard the last from Amacom, but last Friday I got a care package in the mail containing a couple of books and their latest catalog. Kama Timbrell of Amacom read my earlier post about eBay and sent me eBay The Smart Way, 4th Edition and Publishing Confidential: The Insider’s Guide to What It Really Takes to Land a Nonfiction Book Deal. Now that I’ve completely switched over from a PocketPC to my Blackberry 7100t, I plan to unload the former on eBay. I’m going to start flipping through that eBay book shortly… I’m also very interested in reading the perspective in Publishing Confidential, especially to see how it compares to the advice I’d give. Since this blog seems to attract a lot of aspiring authors, I suspect many readers will also want to take a look at this book, which leads me to point #2 above…

Kama Timbrell is obviously keeping an eye out for interesting and useful publishing-related blogs. Rather than just sitting back collecting a few tidbits, she’s reaching out and helping to seed the market for Amacom’s authors. OK, I realize my blog’s small readership isn’t going to make or break any book. But, I’m betting Kama is feeding other bloggers with galley/PR copies in a truly grassroots approach. It would be easy for her to simply send a stack of comp copies to the “usual suspects” (e.g., the same old reviewers and “influential members of the community”) and “see what happens”. I applaud Kama’s effort to look for new promotional opportunities in the blogosphere.

That said, I also promise to always state my unbiased opinions of any book I read. See my recent post about Jack Welch’s latest book for a good example. I appreciate the ability to get a free book every now and then, but my review won’t be swayed by whether or not I had to shell out a few bucks in the process.