leadership dot #2283: prize

In its literal form, “crackerjack” means exceptionally good, but most people think of the snack product when they hear that term. I wanted some Cracker Jack for a baseball-themed meeting and had to resort to ordering it online since I could not find it in a store. Cracker Jack – a staple of every Christmas stocking, camping trip and of course baseball game of my childhood, has become very difficult to find.

It may not be prevalent in stores, but it’s still available, as it has been since 1896. Some consider it to be the original junk food! What has kept Cracker Jack around this long, in my opinion, is the famous line in the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” song that first came out in 1908. For over a decade, this immortal tune has kept Cracker Jack in the public consciousness.

When I was a frequent consumer, Cracker Jack consisted of “candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize” (sung to a catchy jingle), but today it is caramel-coated popcorn and a download to a free game. Since 2016, there has been no prize inside. Maybe it isn’t nostalgia or its links to baseball that have created its longevity, rather a willingness to evolve with the times.

A plastic ring used to be coveted, but now would be tossed aside as trivial. Better to engage consumers with a link to a digital experience and foster ongoing engagement with the brand. So today, after finishing your snack, you can “blipp a surprise” and play any of several augmented reality games that appear in the app after you scan the Cracker Jack icon.

How can you take a lesson from Cracker Jack and keep your eye on the real prize? Their aim is 120 more years of making popcorn snacks, not of distributing plastic tokens. You can let go of anything, even something as integral to your product as the “prize inside.” Don’t let the past prevent you from having a future.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracker_Jack

leadership dot #2269: unbox

As a prize for winning a golf tournament, a local teen received a Wheaties box with his picture on the front. “Back in the day”, having your picture on that box of cereal was just about the ultimate recognition in sports. It was reserved for Olympians, MVPs and All-Stars. It meant something.

But that was in an era before everyone had computers with desktop publishing software. It was time-consuming and expensive to do a mock-up so it was even hard to imagine what your image would look like under the famous Wheaties logo. Today amateurs can put their picture on cereal boxes, magazine covers and movie posters with a green screen or a click of a few computer keys. It takes something away from the specialness of it all.

Take a look at your recognition programs. Are you still offering something that had great meaning at one point but has lost its luster now? Does your demographic truly value the prize that you are providing? It might be time to think outside the box for your rewards.

leadership dot #2207: develop

It used to be that there was a photo developer on every corner. Drug stores, department stores, drive up kiosks, separate one-hour photo stores – everyone had a substantial amount of space and equipment dedicated to processing pictures.

And then came the camera phone and sharing took place digitally instead of through print. Approximately 52 million photos are uploaded onto Instagram each day, and none of them need a developer for processing.

Some stores still offer photo developing, but I wonder how long they will continue to utilize prime retail space for such functions. Target, for example, has a large photo center in the front of one of its stores – it was virtually empty while I was waiting to meet someone. It seems that they could be more profitable by offering other goods or services instead of having a large, unused area showing signs of entropy. While I am sure these centers were quite profitable in their day, I believe their time has come to an end for most retailers.

Think of whether you have services in your organization that are past their prime and should be reimagined – in other words, how to capitalize on the growth in picture taking while acknowledging the decline in photo developing.

Are you dedicating space and assets toward something that once provided you with benefits but no longer does? Maybe it’s time to develop a new plan about how you picture your future.

leadership dot #2185: reclaim

At airports and public spaces around the country, there are vestiges of phone booths from days gone by. Most establishments have removed them and replaced them with something else entirely, but the Denver airport repurposed them into private workstations. While passengers may not require the physical phone itself, they still appreciate the sound buffering that the padded sides afford as well as the desk space in order to accomplish their work.

Think about spaces you have in your organization. Have they remained stagnant or outlived their usefulness? Perhaps you could refresh them to add a different level of functionality: the counter that holds the fax machine could become a clear workstation, an alcove could gain a small table instead of just seats to make it easier to work on a laptop, tellers could sit at a desk instead of behind a counter or hotels could replace spaces that hold physical phones and alarm clocks with wireless printers for their guests.

Just because something claimed a space at one time does not give it the right to keep it forever.

leadership dot #2143: shopping

The trend seems to be that people can order things online and pick them up in the store. In the past few weeks, Michaels, Target and Lowe’s have added prominent signage and pick-up areas for people who avail themselves of this service. Some will even bring it to your car.

Perhaps it is a strategy to get consumers into the brick and mortar stores – having them do additional shopping when they come in to pick up items. Maybe it is an incentive to have people shop more because they can do it more leisurely online. Maybe it is because we are getting lazy.

A few years ago, having groceries delivered to your home was a luxury for the rare few, and now it is commonplace. Will Target begin direct deliveries soon – not waiting a whole day to receive something via UPS or the Post Office, but having it arrive as quickly as a pizza? Will stores just become distribution centers instead of places to shop?

For whatever the reason, the buy online/pick up in store movement is gaining momentum. How will your organization be impacted by this? Think about the products or services you expect people to come in person to receive and consider whether there is an easier way to deliver them to your customers. Going shopping in person may soon be as antiquated as having to go in a bank to do your transaction with a teller or calling a travel agent to book your flights.

leadership dot #2138: learning

The old television show ER started streaming on Hulu. I was riveted to the series when it originally came out in 1994 – planning my evenings around each weekly episode so I didn’t miss its singular airing. Now that the show is available again, I felt the tug of nostalgia to watch it for the second time.

What has been most prevalent for me is not the flirting between Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway – the main theme of the original airing – but the vast improvements that we have made in technology since the show was made. There were no cell phones or hand-held computers, and no camera was to be found even when Bulls star Scottie Pippen came in. Surgeons lived by their pagers which displayed no more than a number to call from the closest pay phone. The televisions were consoles. The phones were landlines, even rotary dial ones, and were attached to voicemail recorders that became full. There was no electronic social media. Patient records were kept by hand on paper charts while the surgical schedule was maintained on a whiteboard. Lab results were returned via dot matrix printer and ultrasound results were stored on VHS tapes. Thick phone books were the lifeblood of the admitting desk.

Think of all that we have learned since 1994. Most of us have a working proficiency on the new technology that has come our way – and we have done so without any formal classes. We have learned continually, through trial and error, through one-on-one tutorials and by general sharing of information.

Expand this behavior and don’t limit your learning to just the new gizmos and gadgets. Keep abreast of trends in your industry, of innovations in the world in general or just learn a new technique in your hobby. If you stop and look back at all the knowledge you have amassed since 1994, you will amaze yourself. Be able to say the same thing when you’re watching This is Us beamed onto your wall twenty years from now!

leadership dot #2133: scheduled

At a mall in Minnesota, they literally tore down the JC Penney anchor store to make room for a new fitness center. It is a sign of the times – not only that brick and mortar retailers are struggling – but that gyms are thriving. There seems to be one on every corner.

I don’t think that “back in the day” we had any gyms, save for a sweaty little place where weightlifters and aspiring boxers went to work out. They certainly were not for the average person.

As a kid, our exercise was sunlight-driven or when-mom-calls-you-home driven. We got our exercise through play. Now children seem to get the majority of their exercise through structured activities that are calendar-driven: when there are practices or games. Our exercise came through goofing around with kids in the neighborhood, pick-up games of basketball or kickball in the street; today it comes through sports.

I think that gyms provide that structure after high school or college when the organized athletic events end. Gyms allow exercise times to continue to be scheduled – through classes at the gym or appointments with a trainer — and keep “exercise” as a defined event rather than an outcome of other activity.

Think about how your calendar dependency has evolved. Are there things besides exercise that need to be scheduled on it – time for friends, time to be alone, time to read or meditate? Do you need to self-impose a membership plan (like at a gym) where you make that commitment to do an activity that you know is good for you? Very little “just happens” anymore; we don’t just go out and play. Reserve time on your calendar for the things that are important.