cherry tart

© Depositphotos.com / Bedolaga

Once upon a time, there was a baker of cherry pies. There were dozens of fresh cherries in each pie, which were very popular with his customers, and his bakery prospered.

Then one day the baker was visited by an accountant, who examined the baker’s finances. “You’re doing well enough,” the accountant said, “but look at what the cost of all those cherries is doing to your bottom line. You could double your profit on each pie sold if you just reduce the cherries by 20%.”

The baker listened to the accountant and followed his instructions. Sure enough, in the first week, his profits doubled. But starting in the second week, his customers noticed the change, and a growing number of pies went unsold. Total profits slid to where they had started, then continued lower.

The baker called the accountant to ask what to do next. “To get those profits back to where they were, I calculate that you’ll need to cut another 30% of cherries from those pies,” the accountant replied. The baker agreed, and again, his profits rebounded for a week before sales slumped even further. These cycles continued until the pies contained almost no cherries, every customer abandoned them, and the baker went out of business.

The moral of this fable is that you can’t grow your business through austerity. As Yogi Berra once put it, “If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s gonna stop ’em.”

There are a lot of business people today who don’t understand this. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that to them any short-term gain is worth losing an unknown percentage of the customer base. In particular, a lot of over-the-air TV stations don’t get it.

The Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media laid it out last month. “The effects of a decade of newsroom cutbacks are real – and the public is taking notice.” Stations are programming larger blocks of news but with a smaller budget, and the resulting filler is driving away viewers. But stations are reacting to these shrinking audiences by, you guessed it, cutting back even further on news budgets.

TV news departments should see the decline of newspapers (another austerity failure) as an opening to ramp up coverage and become the trusted beacons of local journalism. When audiences learn where to turn for the inside scoop on what affects them at home, the ratings they’ll drive should reward any station bold enough to make that investment.

Or all the corporate-thinking news departments will continue to care only about meeting their next quarter’s numbers by trimming a couple more staff members. That’ll work only as well as did for the baker, until there’s no one left to buy what’s left of his pies.

Gary Shapiro and Kazuhiro Tsuga

CEA’s Gary Shapiro introduces Panasonic’s Kazuhiro Tsuga to deliver the opening keynote at the 2013 International CES.

Today’s post comes from Andy Marken, president of Marken Communications. Andy has been involved in the strategic marketing and promotion of hardware and software storage technology for more than 20 years. For more information, visit www.markencom.com. For more photos that accompany this post, click here.

Everyone – except people who have a clown or big crowd phobia – loves the circus. The International CES is one of the world’s biggest circuses on the globe with acts of all shapes, sizes and quality; each hungering for the cheers of the crowd.

It isn’t often you see a lawyer as the ringmaster, but Shapiro (Gary, head of CEA – Consumer Electronics Association) does a pretty good job of handling the tempermental acts.

The main acts (those in the center ring) are the big boys who pay bigger fees to put on their keynote speaker acts. Just like the real circus, some of the acts are good, some bad, some “What the ….!!!!” A few of the CES 2013 keynotes – Panasonic, Qualcomm, Samsung – were acts you found interesting, put you to sleep, dazzled, puzzled. The others were phone and car guys.

The Good
Coming off a pretty rough year (you lose a couple of billion and smile), Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga was the first to take the center ring with one of the more focused acts of CES.

Even though he had the parade of paid personalities you expect at keynotes, Tsuga highlighted the company’s new message as an eco-engineering company saying his people were committed to delivering innovative, eco and smart solutions to the market. Sure, he showed off his new 56-in OLED TV; but he stayed focused on folks who buy stuff:

  • “Your TV” that lets you personalize and customize, and deliver a range of service choices
  • “Your Home” energy solutions that let you create, store, save, manage energy
  • “Your Car” solutions for electric vehicles and connected automotive solutions
  • “Your Business’ B2B2C strategy for end-to-end solutions for retailers
  • “Your Journey” avionic, in-flight entertainment, communications solutions
  • “Your Community” informational kiosks, digital signage, business/industry energy solutions and global entertainment support like the Olympics, soccer

Of course, to show that Panasonic really understands what folks want, the company’s North American boss, Joe Taylor, made a cameo appearance with TV personality Lisa Ling. Oh yeah, and he lugged out a 20-in 4K tablet that someone said was compensating for certain inadequacies.

To quiet the snickering crowd, Tsuga proved he was serious about bringing the company back by saying, “If we are to achieve our goals, the imperative to transform and innovate has never been greater.”

What the…
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer forgot he had turned over his normal keynote slot to Qualcomm’s Paul Taylor and showed up anyway. Good thing, because the mobile chipmaker’s boss worked hard to make an IC (integrated circuit) look cool, hip. Unfortunately, Ballmer didn’t give Qualcomm any more lift than his Win 8 did for boosting PC sales.

Still, Jacobs was fired up to be on the stage – he said so – of course, you would be too if your company sold 11 billion parts over the years. Lots of them go into the 6.4 billion worldwide mobile devices. That number will soon pass the number of folks on our little blue orb. Working hard to make a great first impression, Jacobs noted that 84 percent of the people say they can’t live without their connected device.

To prove how popular their Snapdragon 800 processors are with faster WiFi links, advanced broadband wireless capabilities and speeds up to 150 MB/s, Jacobs brought in the big guns. He had a parade of singers, dancers, drivers, actors, directors, gamers and … Big Bird! Yes, Big Bird and friend helped blur the lines between the real world and virtual world … It worked for us because at that point, we had no clue as to where we were! Before our brain could settle down, Jacobs threw a recorded message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu talking about how mobile will have a “transformative effect” on health in Africa and around the globe.

With all that going on everywhere and sales growing 27 plus percent to $13B, it’s no wonder Shapiro felt he simply had to have Qualcomm’s Jacobs in one of circus’ outer rings. It was “different!”

Wooing, Wowing
If you had just finished your fiscal year with a record $8B profit and soundly beating your lawsuit dancing partner, you’d probably be as upbeat as Samsung’s System LSI business president, Stephen Woo.

While the company was hyping everything from washers, dryers, ultra- ultra-HD TVs, bendable displays, oh cripes everything; Woo and several of the firm’s senior executives were on stage to show Apple what it was going to miss by ignoring their 8-core Exynos 5 Octa processor. Woo said the chip was designed to deliver a level of pure processing power never seen in a mobile device and would finally enable the units to do heavy-duty multitasking. Designed for high-end smartphones and tablets, Woo said the processor would easily handle HD streaming movies without dropping frames and would deliver razor-sharp picture quality.

Focused on selling stuff with his keynote, Woo was wowing the audience with facts about the world’s first mobile chip based on ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture. According to Woo, “It’s an architecture that gives you all the power you want to run intensive apps, but is smart enough to conserve energy when running more basic tasks. Ultimately, we are saving energy and prolonging battery life.”

Woo confirmed the whispers about the company’s next-generation flexible display technology that would let you bend and fold your mobile devices. Proving that Samsung is a whiz at engineering, but not so good at naming products, he said the new technology was called YOUM. It’s super cool and “virtually unbreakable” but there was no pricing or availability mentioned at Woo’s keynote.

With a flawless sequel, Woo again wowed the crowd by introducing former U.S. president Bill Clinton to discuss how technology was advancing the Clinton Global Initiative. He was also at the keynote as ambassador of Samsung Hope for Children effort, which educates children in the developing world and partners with the Bill Clinton Foundation. Proving his ability steal the scene, Clinton joked, “When I became president, the average cellphone weighted five pounds.”

During his 30-minutes of owning the stage, Clinton also pointed out that South Korea is number one in the world for download speeds and the U.S. is 15th. “Our speeds are one fourth of South Koreas,” he said pointing out that technology would help the world move forward. Turning to his other pet subjects, he urged the audience to help address gun control, climate change, and the ways technology can topple governments and boost developing economies and bigotry. “The world has huge challenges,” he said, “and I think technology can help solve them.”

Too Big?
After hearing a number of the keynotes, some attendees said that CES was on its last leg, pointing out that organizations like Google, Apple and a few others weren’t visible at the show.

You saw Google on every screen when folks started a search. They were busy your searches and clicks, fanning the flames of CES excitement.

Apple? Sheess, there were a gazillion great to mediocre to stupid cases for the iPhones, iPads. Every new phone, new tablet, every phablet was touted as the Apple killer.

We’d like to see Shapiro limit the amount of space any given company could rent for the show. It’s impossible to get around an exhibit that takes up 37 football fields to even hope to see a fraction of the 3,000 plus cocky to desperate exhibitors from around the globe.

CES doesn’t need to have a bigger venue, Shapiro needs a bigger whip!