Sometimes, you must first fail before you can succeed.
Few can speak to this as much as Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of team collaboration tool Slack.
In many ways, his “failures” are also his “successes”.
It started with Game Neverending, his first project, and his first public failure. Developed by his then company, Ludicorp, Game Neverending was intended to be an online multiplayer game for the masses, but it never saw the light of day. When it became apparent that the game would not survive, Butterfield shifted his focus to the game’s photo-sharing tool, turning it into its own stand-alone product, Flickr.
Determined to make his game-developing dreams come true, he would try his hand again. With much of the same team from Ludicorp, Butterfield cofounded Tiny Speck, and began building a new online-game in Glitch.
It was during this development process where Butterfield would inspire a worldwide behavior change revolution – though he didn’t know it at the time.
Frustrated by existing communication tools, Tiny Speck developed its own tool to help better manage the creation of the game. During the three years leading up to the game’s launch, the Tiny Speck team, consisting of 45 people, had only sent 50 emails.
Then, at the end of 2012, the eureka moment came. Butterfield closed the book on Glitch, and Slack, the communications tool his team had developed, sprang forward.
But the Slack squad only knew how their team interacted on the platform, and if the product was to work across industries with varying company sizes and workflows, they needed a bigger sample size.
For the next seven months, Butterfield and his colleagues begged friends at other companies to trial Slack. This gave them the opportunity to see the tool from an outsider’s perspective, and each new company armed the team with unique observations and feedback that they would later use to optimize and tweak the product.
Finally, in August of 2013, Butterfield felt the product was polished enough to be shared more widely and announced a preview release. The launch amassed a large amount of media attention, and within 24 hours, 8,000 companies had signed up for the service. Two weeks later, that number doubled to 15,000. Slack was an instant hit.
That type of staggering growth, although unprecedented, was an accurate indicator of what was to come. Slack quickly became the fastest growing business-app ever, and was considered a unicorn shortly after its first year. Last September, just four years and a month after the company’s launch, it was valued at over $5B.
How did it all happen? What was different about Slack?
Team Communication For the 21st Century
First and foremost, it was created at the perfect time. Built for the era of mobile phones and short text messages, Slack’s growth coincided with the rising trend of companies operating remotely, and offered a less formal, more user-friendly way of keeping in touch with co-workers.
Around the same time, Microsoft Office, Windows, and seemingly every other tech company that could were churning out new tools left and right. Each trying to better each other. In most cases, the competition was healthy, and the tools themselves evolved greatly. But what was left was a scattered ecosystem of tools and services. The fragmentation led to friction and inefficiency. While the tools themselves had improved, the user-experience was left behind. There was no glue to hold it all together.
Enter Slack, integrating all the tools and housing them all in one place. Twitter. Salesforce. Dropbox. Google docs. You name it, it’s all on Slack.
And when you combine that seamless third-party integration with a thoughtfully-designed interface, full of vibrant and playful colors, and an endless amount of customizable applications like to-do lists, reminders, project management tools, scheduling assistants, and hundreds more, what you get is a communications tool that boosts your productivity tenfold.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Slack’s growth is its customizability. Created for any workplace, the product can be catered to your team or individual needs. Channels can be made for departments, projects, office locations, or whatever you deem fit. If a channel becomes too loud, you can “mute” it. If you need to conduct deep, uninterrupted research, you can activate “Do Not Disturb” mode. You can customize “highlight words” that are important to you so that you are notified every time that word is mentioned – be it your name or an urgent project you’re working on. If you’re going to be busy for the day at work conference, or are going to in a long offline brainstorm, you can set your status to reflect that. Files, images, PDFs, spreadsheets and other documents can be shared in real-time with a simple drag and drop.
In group chats, or “channels”, Slack allows you to overhear conversations, giving you an ambient awareness of work developments that you do not get from email. If you want to share something confidential, you can do so through a private channel or direct message.
Files, images, PDFs, spreadsheets and other documents can be shared in real-time with a simple drag and drop. And everything on Slack, from notifications to links to images, are all searchable so that you can find what you need and find it fast.
Consistently evolving and introducing new features to meet user demands, Slack is delivering on its mission to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.
A Behavior Change Revolution
While it may not be obvious on the surface, Slack is one of the leading behavior change companies of our time.
In a medium post, written on his page, Butterfield states the following:
“The best – maybe the only? – real, direct measure of “innovation” is change in human behavior. In fact, it is useful to take this way of thinking as definitional: innovation is the sum of change across the whole system, not a thing which causes a change in how people behave. No small innovation ever caused a large shift in how people spend their time and no large one has ever failed to do so.”
“By that measure,” he goes on to say, “Slack is a real and large innovation”.
And he’s right.
Butterfield knew he couldn’t sell a “group chat system”. People simply wouldn’t buy that. Instead, what Slack sells is “organizational transformation.”
“We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy and it is a much better thing for us to sell in the long run. We will be successful to the extent that we create better teams.”
This is not a one-to-one behavior change. Slack must be sold to companies, both massive and tiny, and everything in between. Companies that adopt Slack are betting on a massive, positive behavior change. They want effortless communication. They want to work more efficiently. They want a business tool that works for them rather than against them, helping them make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits.
“We’re asking a lot from our customers. We are asking them to spend hours a day in a new and unfamiliar application, to give up on years or even decades of experience using email for work communication (and abandon all kinds of ad hoc workflows that have developed around their use of email). We are asking them to switch a model of communication which defaults to the public; it is an almost impossibly large ask. Almost.”
The change is both dramatic and far-reaching. We know this to be true because we at DiMassimo Goldstein are a proud member of the Slack revolution.
We weren’t looking to abandon email entirely, but to reduce it, and Slack has done that. We found ourselves having too many meetings, which Slack has helped cut down. The transparent communication makes it the perfect place to review projects as a team, on the go, and from anywhere.
Put simply, it has made our work lives easier and most importantly, it has pushed the work we create to help inspire others forward.
That’s why Slack is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Month!
I recently discovered in reading my copy of The Daily Drucker that I’ve long shared one of Peter F. Drucker’s main management philosophies – the concept of two-track planning.
For decades, I’ve heard the following sentiment.
“We can’t solve your problem because we haven’t done our strategic work yet.”
When I worked at other agencies, I always thought this to be the ultimate bureaucratic blindness.
Building the BRAND while we build the BUSINESS.
This is the core promise of our agency, DiMassimo Goldstein. This is the experience our clients have bought when they’ve bought us.
Not: “First we’ll build the brand, then we’ll build the business.”
Not: “First we’ll build the business, then we’ll build the brand.”
Instead, we do both, and simultaneously. Like you do!
Sometimes this translates as “Building the brand while lowering the cost of acquisition.”
Sometimes it’s “Building the brand while driving sales efficiency.”
Sometimes it’s just “Growing the business and the brand.”
Our clients never wait months to see returns from an agency engagement. We typically deliver measurable revenue within the first 30 days, and we don’t have to sacrifice future success to do it.
Drucker calls this the harmonization of the immediate and long-range future, going on to state that “a manager must, so to speak, keep his nose to the grindstone while lifting his eyes to the hills.”
At DiGo, we call this practice two-track planning, and it’s implemented in everything we do. Imagine two columns on a page, the left titled URGENT and the right titled IMPORTANT.
Some urgent things are truly unimportant, but some we term “The Runway.” The board meeting coming up. The quarterly results reporting. The partner’s meeting.
If a plane doesn’t get aloft by the end of the runway, it doesn’t matter how good the food service and the movie were going to be. There are things you just need in the short run to make the long run possible. Often these things include results. That’s the Runway.
And, we don’t lose our strategic heads. We see the long-term opportunities in urgent problems.
And we manage them both, so that our clients can move forward, paying for tomorrow’s opportunities with today’s wins, all while strategically planting the seeds that ensure growth for the future in a time-starved world.
Let’s talk about inspiring action in the short and long term!
A call to action to people everywhere to direct their attention to the ecological challenges facing our environment. To use this day as an opportunity to adopt new behaviors and habits that benefit our planet, and to ensure that those actions become part of our daily routine moving forward.
No action is too small. No action is insignificant. It is our collective responsibility as humans to be advocates for the protection of our environment, to continue to push the dialogue, and to commit to lifestyle changes that ensure the safety of our planet.
Brands, too, share this responsibility. With large audiences and the ability to captivate, influence, and inspire movements, it is vital that brands create purposeful actions to raise awareness around the many challenges facing our environment, and to implement alternative eco-friendly methods to help solve these issues, in all aspects of their business.
Here are some brands that inspired us by stepping up to the plate on Earth Day this year, reaffirming their commitment to make this planet a better place.
Apple debuted Daisy, a robot that can disassemble iPhones to recover valuable materials, getting one step closer to its goal of making products with only renewable or recyclable materials. Apple is one of the most innovative companies of our time, and inspiring action with inventions like Daisy further stamps their commitment to use technology toward protecting our world’s resources.
Republic Services, the industry-leading sustainable waste disposal company, encouraged its staff, the communities it serves, and its customers to commit to “#1More” action each day to become better at recycling. They released a series of tips to help educate, build awareness, and inspire action in people to recycle properly.
Staples expanded its Electronic Recycling Program to include coffee brewers, and for this entire week, Staples Rewards members who recycle an old coffee brewer at the national retailer can get a $10 coupon for any purchase above $30. Since starting its Electronic Recycling Program, Staples has collected more than 400 million pounds of electronic waste, including ink and toner, which is the weight of roughly 13 Brooklyn Bridges.
Popular outerwear brand The North Face partnered with the National Park Foundation to clean up waste in parks by pulling over 160,000 pounds of single-use plastic bottles and recycling them into “The Bottle Source Collection.” One dollar of every purchase made will be donated back to the parks.
With its new campaign, “Earth Day Every Day,”1 Hotels announced a year-long initiative that will include activations across all properties focused on raising awareness of environmental issues, specifically around saving our shores.
Though not yet an action, ride-sharing service Lyft announced its plans to become completely carbon neutral. If the direct-economy brand can follow through on its promise, millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide can be offset, which would be the equivalent of planting tens of millions of trees or taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road. It’s a lofty goal, but one that would protect the environment and prevent the continuation of mass pollution dramatically if achieved.
As reported by CNET, home automation producer Nest used Earth Day to make an inspiring promise: to install one million smart thermostats at little or no cost to low-income homes over the next five years. The pledge is part of Nest’s “Power Project,” an initiative aimed toward raising awareness around energy efficiency and consumption.
The best marketers don’t sell products. They sell ideas.
Ideas they want you to believe as a consumer. Perceptions that have been thoughtfully designed and delivered. Because in branding, perception is often reality.
But the hard truth is this: The message that marketers want to convey is often not the same message that consumers receive. Your brand isn’t what you tell people it is. Your brand is what people tell people it is.
So, marketers monitor the conversation. They compile metrics from their social platforms, track their mentions, and look at engagement rates. And maybe, the data they’ve gathered is enough to prove the value of their social marketing efforts.
But it’s not enough. Not even close.
The best marketers don’t just monitor the conversation; they listen to the conversation.
Through social listening, you can discover what people are saying about your brand, even if they don’t tag you. This difference is critical, because far more conversations are being had about you than with you.
Social listening can determine what the sentiment is behind these conversations. Social metrics are terrific, but they only tell one side of the story. Having a high number of engaged consumers is great, but only if those engagements are positive. To quote Dan Neely, “Monitoring sees trees; listening sees the forest.”
But unquestionably the biggest power of social listening is its ability to inspire action. Through analyzing the conversations being had around your product, brand, and industry, marketers can identify an entirely new world of opportunities to delight their consumers.
Social listening gives marketers a chance to be directly involved in the consumer experience. It reveals common frustrations that are plaguing your consumers. Then, they use these insights to inform their next business decisions, working to obliterate the gaps, drags, and blocks causing friction for their consumers. Whether it be product development, identifying influencers, or customer care, social listening should influence the way your brand chooses to interact with its consumers.
If social listening isn’t incorporated into your business strategy, you’re operating with blinders on. Simply put, if you aren’t social listening, then you don’t care about your customers, and the customer is king. Always.
On the latest installment of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann is joined by David Baldwin, the founder and CEO ofBaldwin&, an ad agency based in Raleigh, North Carolina, that was named Small Agency of the Year twice in its first five years. Baldwin is also the former chairman of the One Club in NYC and was an executive producer for the Emmy Award-winning film Art & Copy.
His advertising has been recognized by The One Show, Cannes, D&D, the Clios, the Effies, the Andy Awards, and more.
Tune in as Baldwin and Christmann share stories from working under some of Advertising’s most famous superheroes, talk about the challenges facing the industry today, offer sound advice to young creatives, and much more. Episode and show notes below!
[0:00 – 2:22] Intro
[2:23 – 5:49] Growing up in a little West Texas town and being in advertising since age 12
[5:50 – 10:39] Superheroes of the industry, being interviewed by Gary Goldsmith, and living on floors in Manhattan
[10:40 – 15:00] The importance of humility and Baldwin’s transformative educational experience at the University of Texas
[15:01 – 16:44] Baldwin talks about getting hired by McCaffrey McCall and his first assignment as a copywriter
[16:45 – 18:15] Baldwin shares stories about his first partner, Steve Rutter
[18:16 – 24:40] The story behind the Emmy Award-winning film Art & Copy
[50:28 – 53:25] Baldwin talks about why he started his agency in North Carolina and why young people should look for a boss to work for, not just a company
[53:26 – 56:54] How Baldwin is building more doors into his agency, being committed to creativity, and what he’s excited for moving forward
[56:55 – 58:00] Outro
“The A-List” is a podcast produced by DiMassimo Goldstein, recorded at the Gramercy Post, and sponsored by the Adhouse Advertising School, New York’s newest, smallest, and hippest ad school. You can subscribe and rate the show on iTunes or listen along on SoundCloud. For updates on upcoming episodes and guests, be sure to like the A-List Podcast on Facebook and follow host Tom Christmann on Twitter.
At DiMassimo Goldstein, every member of our team plays an important role in bringing our clients’ ideas to life and helping them inspire action.
“A Day in the Life” is a new blog series that shines a light on the many faces behind our agency and the different roles that we each play, showcasing the creativity in every corner of our office.
This week’s post provides a glimpse into the daily routine of an Assistant Brand Manager at DiMassimo Goldstein. Matt Zani brings unrivaled enthusiasm and energy to every account he works on, including TradeStation, Sallie Mae, National Jewish Health, and Starr Companies. To learn more about a day in Matt’s life, read his story below.
Having spent exactly a year at DiGo, the five images below accurately represent my every day at the leading Inspiring Action and Behavior Change Agency.
Stepping into this beautiful world isn’t bad every day. The agency aesthetically reflects its inner soul which can be seen clearly through the walls teeming with award-winning work. A glance at the décor and a cup of coffee from the DiGo kitchen is all I need to get my day going.
DiGo breathes strategy. The agency’s process and work are strategically infused, bringing insights and measurements into creative work that allow it to work harder.
Don’t even get me started about the eats. I don’t know what I like more: Salad Wednesday, Bagel Friday, Friday happy hours or Mimosa Mornings?! Not to mention, we have some of the best snack-sharing in the ad agency game. A bowl of Cocoa Puffs is never more than 10 steps away.
DiGo is a culture designed for growth. The employees inspire each other to achieve and tease the most out of the work. The leadership team has instituted structures and programs that allow for employee transparency. There is opportunity for development and learning for whoever is hungry and willing to seek it.
The people are truly what bring this place to life. At the end of the day, DiGo is filled with bright and beautiful minds infused seamlessly to create campaigns, branding and work that hit home in the universes they aim to reach.
– Matt Zani, Assistant Brand Manager. Photographs by Will Jellicorse.
John Foley, the CEO and founder of Peloton, joins Rebecca Jarvis of ABC for an interview on May 5, 2016.
Calmly and confidently, he says the following.
“I think that the Peloton brand will be bigger and more influential than Apple in 10 years.”
Now, maybe you’ve heard of Peloton, the all-in-one stationary bike and at-home cycling class platform, and maybe you haven’t. Either way, you’re probably wondering how, or why, the founder of a stationary bike start-up, then just four years old, could make such an ambitious claim.
The company has already proved Foley’s inspiring idea to be true: that people would pay to re-create the cycling class experience at home – but to have more influence than the most influential brand of the past decade? That is a different beast entirely.
I’m not here to say that his prediction will be true, but what I can say is that the Peloton riders, all 600,000 of them, likely believe it to be.
On the surface, it’s easy to think of Peloton as, well … a stationary bike company.
And from there, one might assume that they compete with other cycling and fitness-based brands SoulCycle, Flywheel and Barry’s Bootcamp.
But ask Foley and he will adamantly tell you that Peloton is not a stationary bike company and instead considers his competitors to be Tesla, Amazon and Apple.
To understand this line of thinking, you must first understand Foley’s philosophies. There’s no goal too grand, and no vision too wide. Later in that very interview, he goes on to say:
“You hear that goals should be achievable. I don’t think that goals should be achievable because you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. I think that if you hit every goal that you set out for yourself, you will never know how far you could have gone.”
In the two years since saying that, he has taken the company very far. For the second year in a row, Peloton tops the list of New York City’s fastest-growing companies, as subscribers tripled this past year alone.
Today more than ever, consumers are going to market to become more of who they aspire to be. They are constantly searching for brands that will help them change their behaviors for the better. They have a natural desire to change and improve. Peloton does just that, innovating an outdated category with a fusion of revolutionary software and masterfully designed hardware, they have inspired audiences in ways that benefit their well-being tremendously. Riding Peloton becomes a part of your weekly routine. It’s a lifestyle.
So, if Peloton isn’t a stationary bike company, then what is it?
It’s a great question, and one that Foley gets often. Peloton transcends so many categories, and because of that, it stands in a category of its own.
Yes, the company became popular for selling its own state-of-the-art bikes, but Peloton is far from a hardware company.
That bike comes equipped with a 22-inch tablet computer, one that Foley claims, in addition to being three times the size, is even better than Apple’s. If you don’t want to purchase the bike, you can still enjoy Peloton’s classes through a monthly subscription via its award-winning app, and although they recruit software engineers from the likes of Google, technology is only a part, albeit a very large one, of what they do and offer.
On that tablet, Peloton streams cycling classes led by professional instructors to its legion of subscribers live from its television production studio in New York City. It’s an aspect of their business that has people labeling them “the Netflix of fitness,” turning instructors into celebrities with hundreds of thousands of social media followers and giving its riders over 8,000 on-demand classes to choose from – uniquely positioning Peloton as a media- and content-production company that’s attracting executives from Netflix and HBO.
And with 31 showrooms nationwide, a number that’s expected to grow to 50 by the end of 2018, Peloton is also an e-commerce and retail company. When purchasing the bike, whether online through their website or through one of their showrooms, you can pay an additional $250 for the bike to be delivered in one of their Peloton-branded Mercedes Sprinter vans by Peloton employees, who then install the bikes into your home, which also makes Peloton a logistics company.
It’s not the most economical way to deliver the bikes, but it’s an important differentiator for Peloton, as it gives them 100 percent control of the consumer experience end to end. Uncompromising in their direct-to-consumer approach, the deliveries are made by brand enthusiasts who are equipped to deliver a high-touch, on-brand experience. They can answer any questions the consumer may have, give the brand a voice and build relationships. Most importantly, they know how to get them set up and riding in no time.
So, if you’re following along, that makes Peloton a part hardware, part technology, part media, part logistics, part e-commerce and part retail company, all while not truly being any one of those.
“At Amazon, they make the Kindle Fire, and they make it for $250 and they sell it for $150. That disrupted all the Dells and HPs and IBMs and Acers who also tried to make tablets, but they were hardware business models. When you make a tablet, and you make it for $250 but sell it for $500 because your business is making money on hardware, you can’t compete with Amazon, who makes their money on the digital content after the fact.”
For Peloton, it’s not about the hardware, as the company primarily has a subscription digital content business model.
That’s not to say the bike isn’t the best bike in the world, because it is, but what truly differentiates Peloton from anything else is the content, community motivation and software it provides its consumers.
The bikes are suited with an electronic dial that displays your exact resistance from 0 to 100. It shows your cadence (pedaling speed), calories burned, distance ridden and total power output (a combination of your speed and resistance). The tablet constantly compares your current ride to your personal record, minute by minute, pushing you each time to reach new milestones. The tablet also shows you where you rank among others who have taken the same exact class, giving you incentives to climb the leaderboard.
If you take a live class, the instructor will often shout out your achievements, like breaking a personal record or riding your 100th ride. This make the Peloton experience immersive, entertaining and interactive. You become a true virtual member of the class, giving you the magic of being in the room all from the comfort of your home. You can even video chat with other riders and friends while the class is in session.
With over 8,000 classes to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Rides vary in length, difficulty, music genre and by instructor. Some combine riding with an upper-body workout, and Peloton has even added yoga, ab workouts and stretching classes to their library as well. Skip a trip to the gym and enjoy the rush of your favorite classes at the tap of a screen, on your terms.
Everything at Peloton has been designed with intention. That intention is a bit of a tongue twister.
Peloton wants to make you want to want to work out more.
And they’ve succeeded. Through a synthesis of social marketing, word-of-mouth advertising, persuasion design, behavioral science and design thinking, Peloton has mastered the art of behavior change marketing. Proving that emotion leads to motion, they’ve inspired their audience, increasing their commitment to improving their health. Sprinkling in behavior change ingredients into every brand touchpoint, they have created a cult-like following that has become the envy of brands everywhere.
Ninety-six percent of riders would buy the bike again if they could go back in time. On average, riders ride eight times a month, or twice per week.
But more impressive than that is their Net Promoter Score, an index that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. Peloton has an NPS of 91, which, per Foley, is the second-best NPS in the world and far ahead of Amazon, Apple and Netflix. Foley has stated that his goal is to make Peloton the first company ever with an NPS of 100.
This brand loyalty makes word of mouth a powerful acquisition tool, as over a quarter of Peloton’s customers first learned about Peloton through a friend or a family member.
So what’s next for Peloton?
Earlier this year, they announced their entrance into the treadmill market with the Peloton Tread, a $3,995 Internet-connected treadmill with a 32-inch HD screen, so that if you step off the treadmill to participate in any of the guided core exercises, you still have a fully immersive view. The Peloton Tread will be available this fall.
The treadmill market is five times bigger than the stationary bike market.
Peloton is already working on a third product, and it won’t be their last.
“We want to build the biggest consumer-products brand in the world. We’re going to make Apple look small-time,” Foley tells Bloomberg.
As for taking the company public, Foley has stated that he eventually will, but not for financial reasons. Instead, he looks at an IPO as a marketing event – a way to generate awareness and get the word out about Peloton to the masses, helping as many people as possible improve their health and fitness.
That’s why Peloton is our inspiring action brand of the month!