My Favorites of October: Trello’s Product, Calorie Counting & Can Data Dream?

calorie countingIn October, product strategy meets finance and marketing. One of the articles is about the perilous idea of prompting people to walk, especially when it comes to colored pastry comparisons. The last link is about Nike’s design process, more precisely an interview of the apparel brand’s chief design officer, who “doodles all day” while still managing to impart a creative direction to 1,000+ people across the organization. While I did read and enjoy all of this in the last month, I hand it over to you, and spend some time somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

This op-ed by Rana Foroohar (FT columnist and author of “Makers and Takers: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street”) has a rather uninteresting title, but its content has some interesting facts in it. She argues that “there’s a core truth about our financial system that we have yet to comprehend fully: It isn’t serving us, we’re serving it [as] about 15% of the money coming out of the largest financial institutions goes to [business]. The rest exists in a closed loop of trading […] that mainly enriches the [top] 20% percent of the population.” It’s not necessarily bad, since no one ever ruled that finance should only serve small businesses and lower-tier income classes. But it will be interesting to observe if fintechs will go along the same route of serving the rich, which is not our ethos at WiSEED, and how much of the alternative finance will go down that path.

Amy Gallo, contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, sat down with Jill Avery, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, to discuss the concept of marketing ROI and what it tells us about marketing spending. “While the calculation looks straightforward, there are a lot of complexities to actually using it,” she writes. “Since marketing expenditures tie up capital, managers may also wish to include the opportunity costs associated with this spending, taking into account the company’s cost of capital in their calculations.” They key learning is that marketing ROI is almost impossible to get right. There is, however, a consensus that it contributes to building brand value, which is in turn easier to turn into financial value.

The vision for Trello was to create a wide product that was so simple and useful, just about anyone could use it. It caught on like wildfire,” Hiten Shah writes about the project management tool we use daily at WiSEED, like millions fo others, and that sold to Atlassian for $425 million. The technical presentation and the product’s evolution are of lesser value – I believe – than the discussion of the developement strategy. From competition (“The Kanban board turned out to be a really cool UX feature, but not a difficult one to replicate“) to the commercial approach (“Trello could have carved out a seat at the enterprise table by allowing large companies to configure Trello to their organizational charts“), many points are discussed.

Here comes the cupcake and the map. Google tested a Maps feature by which users were shown the calories they’d burn by walking, which was illustrated by food (like mini cupcakes with pink frosting), which caused some hostile reactions (“‘Cupcake?’ Let’s talk about all the signifiers that contains about assumptions of gender, culture, and food.”) because of the type of equivalence being displayed (The app offered no option to convert calorie counts into Budweiser or raw venison). Call me old-fashioned or conservative, but I don’t agree with the conclusion that this “means a serious burden/opportunity on designers to advocate responsibly and strategically for health.” Come on.

This article is like a checklist for every marketer who wants to quickly assess his professional readiness and soft-skills. It applies to CMOs as any other C-suite executives and aspiring leaders, I believe. To the Olenski list (adaptability, management, affinity for data), I would add some other qualities like autonomy, communication skills, vision and ability to take risks, which I look at when hiring. It’s paramount! And it might make management a little easier.

I love design, creativity, and sports; which is why I was interested in this piece about Nike’s design process. The title is stupid (but it worked as it got me to click, read & watch) but the portrait of John Hoke, chief design officer of Nike (“discusses how his dyslexia made him look at the world differently [and] how he manages 1,000 designers“) is highly insctructive. “I’m intrigued by designers that go deeper and go almost to the level of the atom, where we’re co-creating with data. […] I’m really intrigued by how technology can give us a great head-start. But a head-start is a rough draft. We know data can’t dream. That’s where designers come in.

Thanks for reading. And greetings from Taïwan, where I’m spending some time as this post is being published 🙂


Image via Travel Wire Asia

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