Don’t Bet on the Consumer


Consumers (Photo credit: lagaleriadeARCOTANGENTE)

Being in advertising, I have a love and hate relationship with consumers. “It’s complicated” doesn’t begin to describe our feelings towards each other.

In part, I believe (or want to believe) that consumers are truly smarter and more informed than ever before. That with information at their fingertips, that decision-making should be a cakewalk for many of them.

In other parts, I am repeatedly proven wrong.

I love the consumer, but they gotta meet me halfway.

I have talked about this before, but there is a popular behavior theory out there called the Prospect Theory. In short, it suggests that people value losses more than they value gains. For example, if you have a chance of winning $10, or the chance of losing $10, consumers would give a higher value to the chance of losing $10.

Consumers then, are naturally risk-averse.

Which makes sense- that’s why word-of-mouth is still, and will continue to be, the most effective form of marketing; it shows that the product/service recommended is a low-risk venture.

When my agency compiled research about the consumers’ perception of advertising, the majority thought that more information was good. But after digging deeper into the data, they didn’t quite understand why it was good.

This is my gripe with “big data” and crowdsourcing. Will you get data, yes. Will it show you what the consumers want? Maybe. But should you base your strategy on what the consumers tell you they want?

It depends. You know how your product or service works. You know what moves you need to make to improve your product/service. Consumers don’t like risky moves, so if you’re venturing out to do something different, something a little unusual, I wouldn’t bet on them to be sage advisers.

Listen to your consumer. But don’t bet on their advice.


Back to Business Basics: Bartering

Business has taken quite the turn in the United States in the past few decades. The country went from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy. From there it can be said it turned further into a consumption-based economy. Now markets plummet when “consumers aren’t opening their wallets.”

Yay industrialization?

This didn’t use to be the case. Even before the Industrial Revolution, business in the U.S. and beyond was surviving. How?


Yes, people made goods or provided services in exchange for other goods or services. For example, a grocer/farmer may trade their yield for clothing. In modern times, a farmer may have traded certain crops for a haircut, accounting services or even medical attention.

Would I blow your mind if I told that in 2012, yes in our modern age, bartering is making a comeback?

Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog network contributor talk about this very topic. Of course our society had to modernize the inferior term of bartering, today the activity is known as “reciprocal trade.” The article even links to the International Reciprocal Trade Association. According to the IRTA, over 400,000 businesses and $12 Billion dollars worldwide can be linked to bartering.

Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing?

It’s hard to say. Businesses need to be diverse and adaptable in order to stay in business. Participating in barter exchanges may open businesses up to new markets and partners whom they would have missed. But it is very interesting to see that over 400,000 businesses worldwide are avoiding the use of “real currency”, i.e. American Dollar, Euro, and the like, in exchange for tangible goods and services.

I would even venture to say that barter exchanges could be more sustainable internationally than trying to figure out which currency in which to do business. Think about it; in accounting assets are always more valuable than cash-on-hand. Bartering, in that simple analogy, makes sense.

As a marketing guy, I immediately thought of how this throwback business practice would work in the marketing and advertising industry. Would I be willing to offer my services to Tesla Motors for, let’s say, its newest coup model?

I could work for that.

But then I thought, what would I do for food, utility bills and entertainment cash? As sweet as the car would be, bartering my services for a car doesn’t fulfill my needs like the Almighty Dollar.

Our society is not built for barter exchanges. But if this could serve as a “black swan“, we should stay alert for systemic changes that would better suit such economies.

I guess my Tesla Motor Model S will have to wait.


What’s Been Goin’ On the Past Month

I can’t believe it has been a month since my last post. Talk about some serious slacking.

I wish.

As this blog has been a priority of mine for some years now, this summer marked a shift.

First, I accepted a position as Lead Blogger at Talent Zoo’s Beyond Madison Avenue, a blog that talks about marketing and advertising, and the world between. I write once a day there, so the time usually dedicated to this blog has been consumed by my researching and writing for them. It’s also a paid position.

Paid to write? Yep, I’ll take it.

Then, we’ve been quite busy on our accounts, which is a very good thing. Ignite Charlotte and Live Out Loud! are just wrapping up, and we’re currently compiling research for our AV/IT client while stirring the pot for some new business.

Things are looking up.

“Looking” is the key word. Though we have things going on, there is still much work to be done for The Charlotte Agency to prosper. We’re still hunting for that “big deal”. We’re now open to contacting freelancers and expanding our creative capacity.

Are you a design or creative freelancer? Contact us.

We are still centered on working with and succeeding with small businesses in Charlotte. Watch the Charlotte Viewpoint panel I was on where we talked about idea incubators.

Anywho..I hope to get better in balancing all the stuff I’m working on and keeping this updated regularly again. Sorry to the ten people who check this frequently.



The Young Business Owner: My Typical Day

Running your own gig requires effort, determination, ambition, motivation and thick skin. It takes a while to understand that not everyone is going to buy into your idea, and in the beginning you are going to hear many more “No’s” than “Yes’s”.

Once you get over that, then you can start building your organization.

We’re in our third year. It’s been a wild ride, with that as many successes as setbacks. The economy and Charlotte small business environment will have that effect.

Since I run The Charlotte Agency‘s daily operations, as well as principal, I wanted to show you a snapshot of my typical day.

7:45am- 8:40am – Reading latest ad/world news and updates

8:45am- 10:00am- Writing for Beyond Madison Avenue (Lead Blogger)

10:00am-11:00am-Reading and responding to important email

11:00am-2pm- Working on accounts

2pm-2:15pm- Break, throw some darts to relax the mind, maybe watch something funny, or read something smart

2:15-3pm- Prospect

3pm-4pm- Work on accounts/JDW housekeeping (project management, updates, etc.)

4pm-5pm- Wrapping up/Email/Meeting or call/proofing creative

5pm on- Networking/ volunteer meeting/ part-time gig/ nap/news

There you have it. A jam-packed day, but its enjoyable.

“Too Stubborn to Quit”- Being an Entrepreneur

“It’s easy to quit. To succeed, you have to be too stubborn to quit.”

I was a company advisor at Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week or PFEW, last week and during a break I received that advice from a fellow company advisor and entrepreneur. He is more seasoned than I am, in his second business and has been a business owner for 20+ years.

We had a chance to talk about the ups and downs of being a business owner, and I got a chance to vent my frustrations in business development, being a young black business owner in a very white-dominated industry, and all the fun stuff I try to not bother me.

He said that I’m one step away from having that big break, and that I shouldn’t quit before that happens. Because, cue his quote, it’s easy to quit.

Why are all the simple pieces of advice so freakin’ profound?

It is easy to quit. I could just stop trying to help small and medium sized businesses. In these past few years, they certainly haven’t made it easy for me.

But from reading about great leaders, and taking advice from other business leaders, I’ve learned that the great ones have been just too stubborn to stop.

Theodore Roosevelt couldn’t get the nomination from the Republican Party. What did he do? He formed the Bull Moose Party and was one of the only presidents in history to win as a 3rd party.

To stay in the family, FDR had a ton of, at that time, radical ideas to get the nation on the right track. He faced obstacle after obstacle in the forms of political opposition, spousal opposition, the Supreme court and even family. But he stayed his course, and left a legacy that is regarded as one of the greatest of our time.

The owner of FedEx gave up most of his equity in his business to survive. He believed so much in his idea he was willing to basically sell it to others. I guess he did okay.

Stubbornness, with a good idea, is a good quality to have.

Now, my idea of supporting the small business community in order for them to succeed and reinvest in the community, does not match up to the New Deal, obviously.

But it can make Charlotte a better place to do business. It will make young, bright people want to stay and start something. It will help people in Charlotte want to be a part of something.

This is a pep talk. Entrepreneurs, if you wholeheartedly believe that you are good at what you’re doing, and have an idea that will improve an industry or community, don’t quit.

More people are going to say no than yes, accept it.

More people will doubt you than support you, deal with it.

More people will ignore you than listen to you, preach it.

People are afraid of change, of something new. Entrepreneurs represent exactly what the public fears, yet are the ones society needs most.

Thanks for listening.



Small Business- How We Doin’?

Well, according to The State of Small Business Report by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland, not so hot.

C-. Not so hot at all.

The researchers compiled information from 500 small businesses, and compared the change of the small business environment since 2009 to now using an index they created that is meant to measure small business success.

As one goes through the report, the findings are not very surprising. Disheartening? Sure, but it is no shock that small businesses are still struggling.

Quick Tidbits:
– According to the index, 53% of all small businesses are either Marginally Failing or Failing.
-Businesses noted that they are having a tougher time competing with the big companies than ever before
-But the future is bright. Small businesses are continuing to embrace social media, mobile marketing, and are planning to hire in order to compete

So it is not a totally bleak picture.

The report notes what key factors are most important when it comes to success as a small business. They placed the areas on four quadrants, the graph is below:

As you can see, Capital Access (cash-on-hand, investment, operations) is the most important factor. But what is the second?

You guessed it- marketing and innovation.

Small businesses are having trouble:

-Coming up with advertising and marketing activities to show their competencies
-Translating their marketing and advertising dollars into sales
-Finding platforms where new audiences are going to be

If you are a small business owner, you are not alone. According to this report, many small business- more than you think- are going through the same struggles.

This is why JDW: The Charlotte Agency started. Our goal is to help small business eradicate these issues.

We want to help small businesses survive, and grow. But we can’t do it unless you are willing to focus on your business, and let us worry about reaching your customers.

Help us make the next State of Small Business Report conclude with a happier ending.

Do You Hear Me Now? Good.

Statue of Robin Hood, in Nottinghamshire, England.

Image via Wikipedia

It takes a while for an organization to find its voice. It must really dive deep and decide what values it will support, the kind of businesses it wants to work with, and the kind of client or customer it wants to serve. Then and only then can a voice be developed.

Has The Charlotte Agency found its voice in its 3rd year? I would like to think so.

First, we came out blazing, “Good Ol’ Boys rest here“,  “Charlotte get your s**t together there“,”we’re tearing down the streets with an army of midgets” there, and the messages about down with the Bourgeois continued.

Then, we noticed all the glares and “tsks tsks” from the ‘established’ marketing and communications arena, and decided that maybe we should play nice, and get invited to all the fancy events, have drinks over at the club (or Blumenthal, whichever) and then meet a Bank of America exec who loves “up-and-comers” that remind them of themselves.

We took a step back and realized…we’re not really the play nice type.

So entering into round 3. The gloves are back off, and we’re feeling good.

Really good.

The organizations that we’re working with are artsy, edgy, but full of heart. They love Charlotte, and the people in Charlotte.  Our people don’t worry about the status quo. Or, for that matter, status in general. If they blow up (which most of them will) it will be due to the fact that they’re better than their competitors.

We agree.

There’s something in the air here in Charlotte. We’re trying to figure out how we can breathe it all in. Charlotte does have a boys club of folks controlling the BIG ideas. Cue Center City Partners. Enter Arts and Science Council. Release the hounds in the Charlotte Sports Commission. Add a dash of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

But that’s okay. Because that means, the people need a voice. Small businesses need a business-savvy, creative front group that will tell, nay, yell what this group needs.

And business-savvy, creative front group practically screams us.

The Charlotte Agency doesn’t take any prisoners. If you’re with us, great, if not, get out the way. We’re like the Robin Hood of marketing, giving a voice to the small folks while exploiting the fat cats.

And we’re only picking up speed.

Do you hear me now?