February 21, 2018

We're Not Doing That



SETTING:  Gliebers Dresses Executive Conference Room


Glenn Glieber (Owner/CEO):  The extended forecast is calling for warm weather. I told all of you that the silly groundhog in Pennsylvania has no idea what is going on.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley (CMO):  Can we get started?

Lois Gladstone (CFO):  What's the hurry? Are you prepping your resume for the day that Amazon opens their second corporate office in Boston?

Glenn Glieber:  Wait, what? Pepper, you'd leave us to work at Amazon? They don't even have a catalog. What would you do for a job?

Roger Morgan (COO):  You couldn't get a job there, Pepper. Your skills don't port over to the digital world.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley: What do you know about skills?

Roger Morgan: I read a Woodside Research white paper, valued at $1,495. It said that all marketers need to radically reinvent themselves in the "Age of Amazon". It's a thought provoking piece written by an analyst who has been at Woodside Research for 20 years and does not have a Twitter presence to speak of and speaks at conferences like he always has and has consistently turned out white papers with quarterly regularity.

Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer):  Sounds like he needs to radically reinvent himself first before telling Pepper what she needs to do.

Roger Morgan: He gets paid when he scares people into doing exactly what the vendors who ultimately pay his salary want the client to do. Isn't thought leadership wonderful?

Lois Gladstone:  Did the article say anything about what companies need to do to compete in the "Age of Amazon"?

Roger Morgan: That was in a different paper that we paid for, called "Brands Need To Radically Reinvent Themselves In The Age Of Alexa".

Lois Gladstone:  Alexa?

Roger Morgan:  By putting technology in the title, Woodside Research learned they can sell more reports. It's a data-driven approach to thought leadership!

Lois Gladstone:  For God's sake, what did they have to say about what brands should do?

Roger Morgan:  The article says that brands are being squeezed. Amazon and Apple and Facebook and Google are like vending machines and brands are hungry for Twix bars and the only way to get the Twix bar is to pay a nominal fee for it.

Meredith Thompson: And then all you get is junk food after paying them, #amirite?

Roger Morgan:  The article suggests that we're going to have to make changes. The article thinks maybe 2018 is the year to sell.

Meredith Thompson: WE'RE NOT DOING THAT.

Roger Morgan:  Don't react like that.

Lois Gladstone: You mean don't over-react like that.

Meredith Thompson:  I put my entire career into this company. The last thing I want is for my hard work to be absorbed and unappreciated by Wal-Mart.

Roger Morgan: Oh, the article said Wal-Mart and leading brands have no interest in catalog brands. They only want to acquire companies that have a path to the future with a younger-than-average customer.

Meredith Thompson:  Then we're safe, nobody wants to buy us. End of discussion.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  Not true. I'm sure the folks at Bricolage Brands would be happy to have us. I'd hate it, but they'd love to pulverize our customer file for their benefit.

Roger Morgan:  Pepper is right. We bring a diverse customer base to the table. Catalog Holding Companies would love to have us become part of their family.

Meredith Thompson:  We're not doing that.

Roger Morgan:  Why not?

Meredith Thompson:  Because I have no interest in having my customer file become free marketing for Bricolage Brands.

Glenn Glieber:  I love free marketing!

Meredith Thompson:  Free marketing works when it benefits us. I don't want to live in a country where I have to give so that lesser deserving people get.

Roger Morgan:  The people at Bricolage Brands are lesser deserving? They make more money than we make on an annual basis.

Lois Gladstone:  I'm going to say something I never thought I'd say. Roger, you are right.

Roger Morgan:  We could go down the path that Duluth Trading Company went down.

Meredith Thompson:  We're not doing that.

Roger Morgan:  Why not?

Meredith Thompson:  The last thing I want to emulate is a lazy catalog who uses crass male humor to get the customer to purchase.

Roger Morgan:  Their sales tripled in the past decade!

Meredith Thompson:  We're not doing that.

Roger Morgan:  Don't we have to do something different?

Meredith Thompson:  We just had the best year in the past five years!

Roger Morgan:  And our results were laughable.

Meredith Thompson:  You are laughable.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  Lois, how much might we fetch if we sold out to somebody like Bricolage Brands?

Meredith Thompson:  We're not doing that.

Lois Gladstone:  We're certainly not going to get top dollar. Maybe twenty-five million dollars? Twenty million? That's on a good day.

Meredith Thompson:  We have fifty million in net sales!

Lois Gladstone:  And only a million-and-a-half of earnings before taxes.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  They'd be licking their chops, wouldn't they? They'd scoop us up for ten million, force a ton of change upon us, harvest our customer file, and then what?

Meredith Thompson:  We'd be told that 20% of our merchandise assortment would have to be comprised of items that their other brands sell. I tell you what, I'd quit on the spot!

Roger Morgan:  Who says they'd want you to come along with them in the first place?

Meredith Thompson: What?

Roger Morgan:  Who's to say they wouldn't just fire all of us five minutes after acquisition? Glenn would walk away with ten million and the rest of us would get a quarter million as a going away present.

Meredith Thompson:  You know how you stop that from happening? You don't sell.

Lois Gladstone:  But don't we have to do something different?

Meredith Thompson:  Why?

Lois Gladstone:  Because sales have been flat for five years and we keep cutting expenses to make the p&l work and next thing you know the only employees we're going to have are you and Roger managing a bunch of robots.

Meredith Thompson:  What is wrong with making a million-five in profit on fifty million in sales?

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  Because if you look five years into the future, we won't be able to acquire customers because our customer base is retired or dead. Neither audience has money.

Meredith Thompson:  I suppose we should become an online-only brand? I've heard that one a million times in the past fifteen years. That's what the idiots and simpletons tell us to do. We're not going to do that.

Lois Gladstone:  What are you willing to do?

Meredith Thompson:  I'm going to keep plugging along until I retire in five years. And y'all are coming along for the ride.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  We'll be out of business by the time you retire.

Meredith Thompson:  I don't care if we're out of business five minutes after I retire.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  So you don't care about the four-hundred people who work here with you. You only care about yourself? That's pathetic.

Meredith Thompson:  Think about all of the people who've had great careers because of my Leadership? I rained money down on tens of thousands of people during the course of my career.

Lois Gladstone:  Just not in the past decade.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  Are you afraid?

Meredith Thompson:  Afraid of what?

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  Are you afraid of doing things in a different way? Are you afraid of doing something different?

Meredith Thompson:  We merchandise websites, landing pages, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. Most of those brands didn't exist fifteen years ago. Everything I do is different.

Lois Gladstone: Except for the catalog.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  That's the constant. Everything we do has to align with the catalog. Meredith, you won't even let me post new images off of my iPhone on Instagram - you demand that we re-purpose catalog creative so that we have an omnichannel presence.

Meredith Thompson: Watch your mouth! We'll never post hideous images from a phone on Instagram. We're a professional, aspirational brand.

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  And our potential prospects want us to be authentic. They don't want something taken in a photo shoot up in Franconia.

Meredith Thompson:  It's beautiful up there!

Pepper Morgan-Pressley:  Let me do something different.

Meredith Thompson:  No. This is who we are. If you don't like it, go work at Amazon when they open up in Boston in a few years.

Roger Morgan:  They'd never hire us. None of us have the kind of resume that speaks mobile success in the past decade. Well, I do. But not the rest of you.

Glenn Glieber:  Well, another meeting has come and gone. We sure had a spirited discussion, and that's what I love about my company. We can talk about anything, can't we?!

A CMO In Over His Head

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