Lessons from The Bay Way

Lessons from The Bay Way

With all the recent breaking news, stories and reports about: Facebook, Uber, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Alphabet, Twitter, Theranos, AirBNB, and Salesforce, I have often thought about all the massive changes in the marketplace in which we all operate these days.

I have witnessed and experienced since I was involved in launching Omnicom’s Direct Partners in San Francisco in 1999. We had accounts like: TiVo, E*Trade, EA.com, EA Sports, Shutterfly.com, PlanetRx, EarthLink, Palm, OnStar, Universal, Stamps.com, eToys, SiriusXM, CareerPath.com and numerous other high-profile businesses.

Since then I have watched significant and disturbing changes. In fact, massive restrictions, suppression, blackouts and control, things that simply weren’t even around in 1999. In fact, the ‘Fake News’ scourge could throw platforms, publishers, advertisers, and political candidates into a tailspin wasn’t even consideration two decades ago!

Some of the most fascinating and puzzling moves I have witnessed over the past two decades from my perspective are:

  1. Twitter censoring thousands (if not millions) of  ‘conservatives’ has seemingly suspended thousands of suspected bot accounts, and numerous ‘conservatives’ claiming it’s a deliberate political crackdown on non leftist, progressive or Democratic views.
  2. Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of Congress was very interesting to watch as members of Congress grilled Zuckerberg about all the company’s data privacy issues and the networks alleged bias against conservatives. In fact, some Congress members claimed he attempted to steel the 2016 election.
  3. Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt secretly resigning from as executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Schmidt, had close ties with Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, became Google’s ‘adult supervisor’ when he took the company’s reins in 2001.
  4. Watching the rise and fall of UBER – from  “world’s most valuable startup” to “world’s most dysfunctional’. The investor lawsuits, federal investigations, mass resignations, controversy have been epic.
  5. Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos surrendered control of the blood testing company and paid more than half a million dollars in penalties to settle charges of “massive fraud” brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The blood-testing start-up that she had founded as a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, which was valued at some $9 billion collapsed.
  6. Amazon – clinching of a $600m contract alleged to provide cloud services to the CIA– for the flow of stories to the Washington Post newspaper which is also has the same owner. Additionally, according to an unsubstantiated article by the Washington Post, anonymous CIA officials have confirmed that the Russian government hacked the United States election to favor Donald Trump. Though it’s entirely possible the Russian government attempted to influence the election, the Washington Post has been criticized.

Looking Back at San Francisco in 1999…

Looking back at what inspired Building Global Digital and Internet Brands and seeing how San Francisco had a history of rapid growth, Multiculturalism and constantly changing ecosystem, learning from companies like: AOL, Blockbuster, Pets.com, Webvan.com, The Collapse of Lehman Brothers and more.

Who can’t remember – on September 15, 2008, when Lehman Brothers, founded in 1884 in Montgomery, Alabama, filed for bankruptcy? With $639 billion in assets and $619 billion in debt, Lehman’s bankruptcy filing was the largest in history, as its assets far surpassed those of previous bankrupt giants such as WorldCom and Enron. Lehman was the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank at the time of its collapse, with 25,000 employees worldwide.

The first significant growth period in San Francisco was in 1848, when gold was discovered near Sacramento. Hundreds of thousands of prospectors were attracted to California from all over the world. By 1849, the Gold Rush (the prospectors of the time were known as 49ers) was booming and turning San Francisco into a wild frontier city.

Some 170+ years later, San Francisco is still a wild frontier city BUT the rush is NOT for gold found in the foothills BUT gold found in the Internet Frontier. Today, as was the case over a century ago, we are in a ‘land-grab’ of historic proportions. With Angel Investors, VC’s and capital markets all providing relatively inexpensive financing for global expansion.

The massive Earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906 caused one of the biggest disasters in US history BUT, the decline of the stock market in 2008/9 has also been a disaster for many Internet startups in San Francisco as well as other major markets worldwide. But, like the 1906 Earthquake, people quickly realized that you have to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding. But, rebuilding in a smarter, better, faster, more innovative and sustainable manner.

Global Interactive Brands are a relatively new phenomenon in the marketplace and are directly linked to the use of the new media – especially the Internet. Because the difference between the Internet and every other type of media to which a brand is exposed is its interactivity.

On the Internet, a brand will live or die on its capacity to become interactive and build amazing customer experiences. And, it is this unique characteristic, which gives a brand its competitive advantage on the Internet and in other new media.

Essentially, Digital Brands pick up where the traditional “Brands” of the past have left off. This is because the rise of the Internet as a media has changed the marketing landscape forever. Although there are still “green fields” available for traditional brands and brand strategies, the greatest potential for profit exists in being able to successfully take a brand into the ever expanding interactive landscape. The global village, and all its inhabitants are now well within the reach of interactive brands.

I am not arguing with the legendary advertising guru, David Ogilvy (and my ex boss) who in 1955 stated, “A brand is a complex symbol. It is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes, its name, packaging, and price, its history, reputation, and the way it is advertised. A Brand is also defined by consumers’ impressions of the people who use it, as well as their own experience.”

Therefore, we must not only pick up on David’s break through thinking, but we must also make it more relevant for today’s media marketplace. This is because today’s landscape has greater product and brand proliferation, more “media noise”, more complexities and intricacies, less product differentiation and infinitely more media alternatives than ever before.

With about 40,000 -50,000 distinct items (SKU’s found in a typical US supermarket, it is a tremendously sobering landscape with an endless variety of choices. (Up from 7,000 SKU’s in the 1990’s)

Note: SKU (stock-keeping unit, sometimes spelled “Sku“) is an identification, usually alphanumeric, of a particular product that allows it to be tracked for inventory purposes. Typically, an SKU (pronounced with the individual letters or as SKYEW) is associated with any purchasable item in a store or catalog.


The “new generation” of media users are able to select from literally hundreds of millions of web sites, permission based emails, text messages, media rich banner ads, a plethora of cable television options and other forms of highly targeted, Interactive and digital media. I believe we must now build actionable, valuable, long-lasting customer relationships that transcend any individual program.

Importantly, Brands must now be protected by balancing automation, audience and context by your strategically planned journey to customer-obsessed marketing innovation.

“Consumers attention is divided across different screens and multi-tasking so the fight for attention is tougher than ever” ~ Geoff De Weaver

The marketing landscape is now more fragmented than at any other time in history. In fact, the average person is now exposed to over 10,000 commercial messages daily – ranging from promotions on cereal boxes to 60-second television commercials.

Consumers switch between screens up to 21 times an hour according to a British study, which correlates with Microsoft’s claim that the average person’s attention span is now just eight seconds.

Looking back over the lessons I’ve learned over the last two decades, I firmly believe that marketers or agencies should never be cranking out mediocre content and spamming their customers’ inboxes. Marketers must do much, much more now to protect their ad spend and brand reputations.

Plan your content strategy deliberately and give the people what they want while keeping it relevant to them and your brand. Only then will you earn yourself a slightly larger slice of the attention pie. PLUS, having a rich continuous source of data will provide the relevant messaging to win in today’s crowded and complex markets.

Finally, turning your competitor’s customer into your own, is a game of love, war, purpose and strategy. To do it effectively, you need to capture their attention and then prove you’re a worthwhile investment. Remember, every advertiser or marketer today MUST choose QUALITY over QUANTITY to win. Although Marketing in 1999 has come a long way, it is not yet customer obsessed BUT it sure is getting a lot closer!







About Geoff De Weaver: 

Super Strategist for the Fortune 500 – Expert at developing a strategy and creating a vision.

Geoff is a leading international expert on new business development, brand marketing, innovation, 1:1 and growth. He has also directly assisted hundreds of Fortune 500 brands and clients generate billions in new business revenue from North America to Asia to Europe.

Geoff has successfully built businesses, agencies, opened offices worldwide, saved companies and helped clients generate billions of dollars of revenue and growth with their brands. Soliciting advice and guidance, when appropriate, from a Board of Directors.

Management Experience ranges from “start-ups to” running Multinational companies with gross income of $65+ million, EBITA 23.2% and staffing in excess of 5,000+

I help Fortune 500 clients define their strategy, harness their internal innovation, grow their business and drive revenues. I get results!  Visit me at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/geoffdeweaver/ 

OR: https://geoffdeweaver.com/



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