Gangsters get corner offices. Plus, Amazon paying for college and the impending end of the American car dealership.
I've always wanted a corner office.
To me, the corner office signals achievement. Gangsters get corner offices.
For decades, corner offices have served as aspirations for countless workers dreaming of grandeur and accomplishment. "You know what I'll have in my office when I get one? A La Marzocco Dual-Boiler Espresso Machine. That'll be when I know I've made it." That's what I imagine people dream about. Doesn't everyone want their own espresso machine in their office?
But that's the nice thing about aspirations. They serve as lighthouses in a sea of noise and distraction.
We're approaching two years under this remote / work from home experiment, and according to Pew data, 36% of polled adults who are currently working from home report that they struggle with motivation. A third of these individuals polled report struggling to get work done without distraction, and one in five reports not having an adequate space to do their work (after 18 months of doing this).
It's understandable, though. Without the hustle and bustle of an office, and the constant jostling of individual ambition and ability that occurs in an office environment, it's not surprising that motivation erodes over time. What's my solution? Picture the corner office.
Amazon announced this week that it is offering to pay college tuition for some 750,000 employees in the US - offering the benefit to both full-time and hourly workers. It's a big, sweeping move that will put significant pressure on its competitors, and the rest of the labor market, as companies will need to figure out how to compete at the talent attraction level with the behemoth that not only has a market cap equivalent to the 9th largest GDP by country but also now is willing to help all workers avoid one of the largest debt burdens they would face in college education. You can do these things when you're sitting on $32 billion in free cash. But Amazon's employee experience is not without its controversies, and as with any strategy, there is still an opportunity for smaller companies (which is basically everybody) to differentiate.
A Great Distraction
For most brands, social media is a distraction. Think of two of the largest brands in the world: Apple and Tesla. They're comparatively weak on social media. Yes, they have big followings, but are they doing anything earthshattering? Do they do anything especially innovative? Do they even use the platforms as customer service vehicles? Not really.
One of the fundamentals of marketing strategy is understanding your organization's core competencies through company analysis (one of the three C's) and your organization's sustainable competitive advantage. Social media for a brand like Wendy's is a core competency and a sustainable competitive advantage. They own a snarky, fun, and entertaining persona. It works for a brand fronted by a logo of a freckled, pig-tailed mascot. But what about the B2B manufacturing job shop? Social media can become a distraction - noise in a sea of vein attention.
So here's the prescription: tick the box, post enough to show to the world your brand is alive, and get back to focusing on the product. If you have a truly differentiated product or service, you don't need to waste resources competing for the attention of people who spend all day on social media.
The End Of The Car Dealership?
Interestingly, the advent of the American car dealership can be traced back to a clever accounting strategy. With Ford Motor Company's newfound ability to mass-produce cars via assembly line in 1908, the company needed some way to book revenue from their cars quickly while avoiding current assets in the form of inventory sitting on their books. Hence, the rise of the neighborhood car dealer. Another benefit of this model? Ford Motor Co. no longer needed to do the hard, expensive work of finding and closing end-consumers. Instead, it could delegate that work to the car dealership, and pour its resources into a blend of product innovation and pull marketing (investing in advertising to drive end-user demand versus the logistics of servicing individual customers).
But e-commerce is really putting a wrench in this time-old business model. Today, Carvana - the digital-first used car retailer - has a valuation of $57 billion. Guess what? That's larger than Ford Motor Company. And while Carvana's sales only account for about 1% of the used car market, Carvana's mammoth market valuation means it has access to cheap capital such that it can supercharge its own growth. Barring any PR nightmares, I expect Carvana to really make a dent in the way people buy cars over the next few years. It wouldn't surprise me if locations that we now know as car dealerships end up become distribution centers for digital-first, e-commerce car retailers like Carvana shortly.
A Good Read
Rookie practitioners think that the marketing function is attention and social media. How many followers do we have this week? But the real value of great marketing is positioning. The right tactics fall into place when you understand the appropriate market position your company needs to assume, which is informed almost entirely by positioning analysis. Any time I get frustrated by modern-day marketing, I flip open Al Ries' classic "Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind" and read two or three of the mini positioning cases at the end of the book and I fall back in love with the function. If you're looking for a great marketing read that succinctly, and simply, explores the importance of marketing, I'd highly recommend it.
Until next week,