The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Humor: Has Google Gone Too Far? Wall Street Journal Op Ed

Excerpt Reprinted

Dear Google User: We're Sure You're Going to Love This

Dear Google User,

As you know, on March 1, we introduced a series of exciting changes to the privacy section of our terms of service agreement. Though we've done our best over the past month to systematically suppress search results and social-media commentary that have criticized these exciting changes, we have come to realize that this may not be the best way to deal with the massively negative feedback from those who use Google.

So we have decided to respond by doing what we do best: rolling out a new round of intrusive changes to the privacy section of our terms of service agreement.

But no need to worry. After using one of our patented algorithms to analyze a matrix of your Web-search behavior, online shopping habits, Google +1s, personal emails, confidential Gchat transcripts and cached browser data (including the stuff that you tried really hard to delete), we have determined, with statistical certainty, that you are really going to fall in love with our new privacy policy.

Read More...


Is There a Role for Product?

Recently, I have found myself in several discussions about the value of product management.  On the west coast, specifically in Silicon Valley and the Pacific Northwest, there is a engineering-driven notion of product, borne from sort of a "maker" culture, which values the kind of invention that comes from tinkering in your garage. On the other hand, though my time here in New York City has been short, I have gotten an acute understanding of how differently product is defined to the businesses and industries that populate this centuries-old city.  Not surprisingly, media behemoths and financial services mega-corporations have for decades conceived of their products in board rooms and b-schools, not in garages (although DUMBO lofts seem desperately trying to become the east coast version of a mid-century tract house garage.)  I don't mean to disparage either as a source for great ideas. On the contrary, I simply suggest that both produce vastly different perspectives of the value, scope and purpose of a pure product management role. 

Steve Johnson, in his e-book, The Strategic Role of Product Management, writes, "Companies that do not see the value of product management go through a series of expansions and layoffs. They hire and fire and hire and fire the product management group. These same companies are the ones that seem to have a similar roller-coaster ride in revenue and profit." Service industries, especially the kind of which New York has no shortage - financial and professional services, are the ones that seem to struggle the most with defining a role for product managers. Why would that be the case? The answer lies in how the service is delivered, and who owns that workflow and the resulting customer experience it creates.  

Think about it...the organizational handoffs to deliver a service-only experience can produce a mosaic of interactions and customer touchpoints, based on each individual or system required to execute it.  In some companies, the only team that can wrangle the responsibility to oversee how these all knit together is a Chief Operating Officer, who might use a legion of business analysts to offer performance metrics which drive business and technical priorities, budget and resource allocation and decision-making.

This would also explain the challenge product teams can have finding a home in the reporting structure in these kinds of companies. If product is to be a front-line oriented job as part of the sales and marketing organization, then positioning, pricing, promotion and packaging become the lion's share of that PM's job. Ten years ago, I used to hear people call this an "Outbound" Product Manager job. (Johnson refers to this role as a Product Marketing Manager, but in today's economy, few companies can afford those to be two separate positions, and even if they do, they may call both functions Product Manager.) Alternatively, product may be absorbed by IT systems, taking requirements orders from internal stakeholders to evolve their executional platforms, like CRM and point of sale. 

For a great case study to review that highlights the impact of these different perspectives of service and technology companies on the role of product management, one need only look at Yahoo, and the inflection point it has revealed it is facing. After Terry Semel re-chartered Yahoo from being a search and communications platform company to a media company, one supportive employee posted this on his blog, "Cisco is a technology company, Yahoo! is a consumer services company — the fact that those services are delivered via IP is just a detail." But did that perspective provide the optimal vantage point for products to emerge that would allow Yahoo to compete successfully? For the first year or two, maybe, but with the downturn in the economy came a number of missed product opportunities for Yahoo, notably the failure to grow Delicious or make any deeper move into social networking after Messenger, and the stock has never recovered.

Kara Swisher writes on AllthingsD, "The way products are made got a long look-see this past week, in a day-long meeting that Thompson had with Yahoo’s top team execs. Thompson reportedly quizzed the group on its plans, and pressed it to look less at short-term features and maintenance than on finding the next great thing.

'I think it’s fair to say that Scott is wondering why Yahoo did not come up with innovations like Pinterest and Instagram,” said one person about hot new start-ups that are in the sweet spot of Yahoo’s business. “Or, at the very least, why it did not even try to buy them.'"

Steve Johnson points out that "8% of product managers report directly to the CEO, acting as his or her representative at the product level," because those leaders believe that markets, not marketing, should drive product strategy.

Just this week, Yahoo's Chief Product Officer announced via a memo revealed  “We have a bias toward action in Products and expected that our new org design would be in place well before any corporate changes took place. However, it is clear now that the two efforts are starting to run in parallel, and making Product org changes prior to corporate changes no longer makes sense.” 

But that does beg the question, when does it make sense to not consider those efforts in parallel?


Pew Research On The State Of Mobile America


Going "Beyond the Obvious" to Spark Innovation


"The spirit of innovation abhors a vacuum, and human integrity wants to flourish in all organizations."




Flexibility - It's the Next New Thing

It seems flexible is "in" with the next gen credit card leading the way, and thanks to organic radical batteries, we'll soon see these ultra-thin flexible plastic credit cards. Also recently, Slashgear explored Samsung's flexible display patent, and the variety of form factors it might take when commercialized.

And then there is this Nokia prototype of a flexible and transparent mobile device, unveiled last fall. I might dump my current smartphone for this baby.



Have You Created a "Golden Rule" Culture?

Whether or not you believe in the Net Promoter Score methodology of measuring customer satisfaction, or some other metric that gives you a sense of your customer's propensity to be an evangelist for your brand, if you are the steward of your company's customer relationship, you need to ask yourself, "Have you created a golden rule culture?"

What is a golden rule culture? It is where your employees treat your prospects and customers as they would like to be treated themselves. (I mean, really, do the people who work at call centers ever want to hear someone tell them when they have a problem, "I am sorry, but that is not a choice in my drop down menu" or "my screen won't let me do that"?) 

In a recent post on, entitled "The Value in Wowing Your Customers," the author, Fred Reichheld, discusses the value of "intelligent" acts of surprise and delight, those moments of "wow" that individual employees feel empowered to administer and which enable brands to connect with customers on a personal level. The notion is simple to understand, but not always elegantly executed - recognize that your employees are the embodiment of how important your customers are to your business.

Then ask yourself if your employees are in the best position - empowered mentally, technically, and physically - to reflect the level of kindness and empathy your customers should expect? 



Fun Tweets of the Week

There have been a flood of tweets this week from Austin, and SXSW. Some are tech related, some are personal, and most are intended to make you feel like you are missing the biggest and best party in the world. Here are a few of my favorites.

@aprils_pen: Things heard at #sxsw "I didn't know you guys had so many freeways here in Texas" said by New Yorker"//NY view of the world!

RT @aschweig: My Hotspot's Name is Mark

RT @ConsensusLive: Up next at #sxsw w/ @Pinterest CEO. We just need to know is it only for housewives in Oklahoma? If it is, that's cool we just want to know.

RT @michaeldain SXSW ~ brought to you by Apple products, wi-fi and Twitter. None of them are advertising.


When The Consumer Doesn't Matter

Courtesy of Seattle Times


Creativity, Madness, and Genius

In this TED clip, "Eat, Pray, Love" Author Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.


From Ubergizmo: How Far Can You Leverage A Brand?

[Excerpted from a guest post on Ubergizmo the past week.]

With the launch of an Android-based Sidekick and the close of the Danger service, can the brand recover its status as a cultural icon?

The inevitable shuttering of the Danger service earlier this month came and went without a lot of hoopla, providing an inauspicious end for the original T-Mobile Sidekick, the first truly consumer-focused smartphone. The Sidekick name was cleaved from the Danger intellectual property after the acquisition of the company byMicrosoft and the subsequent dissolution of the exclusive distribution agreement that Danger had with T-Mobile.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile, which maintained the rights to only the Sidekick name and the subscriber base, transferred the moniker to an Android-based device produced by Samsung (previous generations were made mostly by Sharp,). Built over eight major releases and six Limited Edition co-branded versions, the Sidekick name lives on as the moniker for a new mobile phone experience, and raises the question – how far can you leverage a brand?

For the rest of the post, click here.

Jun252011 on Thinking Inside the Box at CM Summit

How does an artist like from the Black Eyed Peas take on a role at corporate technology giant, Intel, and maintain his personal brand as an innovative businessman? Oddly, he doesn't recommend thinking outside of the box.


Retail '11 - How Technology is Changing the Customer Experience

Holly Brown, the Chief Innovation Officer of our company, r2i, and I attended a great conference today at the University of Washington on retail management. The event was keynoted by the elusive EVP, Jamie Nordstrom.  I asked Holly to share what she thought that was the most interesting takeaway from today's discussions. Here's here answer. 


The D9 Swag Bag - AKA My Soon-To-Be-Favorite Things


My Philosophy of New Product Development

"We should cultivate the ability to say no to activities for which we have no time, no talent, and which we have no interest or real concern. If we learn to say no to many things, then we will be able to say yes to things that matter most." Roy Blauss via Compendium


The Dbar is opening in Seattle!

We are entering a time in the digital landscape when most product information is already known and readily available to all potential consumers. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other peer-to-peer communication networks have created dynamic communities of interest which inform customers about product options and influence their purchasing decisions.  The content that is created through these communities, the people that publish into them and the places where these interchanges occur are all now connected. That's why I am looking forward to this event - The Networked Consumer - How Content and Community Are Driving Commerce.

The panel brings together local digital thought leaders to discuss the conversations and innovations that are impacting consumer buying behavior and brand engagement. There will also be an interactive lab for hands-on product experiences. 

Here's the 411 for you all to come. And here is the RSVP link to the Eventbrite. Sign up now because seating is limited and it's almost 50% full already!

Where: Founders’ Co-op, South Lake Union, 511 Boren N., Seattle, WA 98109 

When: April 28th, 2011 5:30-8:00 PM

Event Moderator: Tricia Duryee, eMoney columnist,

Event Participants: James Lively, COO DIY Media, Scott Blanksteen, CEO AppStoreHQ, and Kathy Savitt, CEO Lockerz, and Jordan Williams, Digital Engagement Lead, REI.



A Cartoon History of Social Networking


Favorite Tweets Of The Day

@dannysullivan can we agree? it's not an NYT paywall, it's an idiotwall. designed by idiots to get money from idiots, the idioci. Prob will work a bit, too

@gary_hustwit "You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free." Jasper Johns

The importance of storytelling RT@PeterGuber How to Make Your Career A Hollywood Blockbuster


4 Ways Verizon Can Benefit From an AT&T/T-Mobile Deal


Originally published on

The recently announced acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T, if approved, potentially vaults the second and fourth place wireless carriers into first place, with their combined subscribers tallying more than Verizon’s total subscriber number. Verizon will spend a lot to convince the government that a combined AT&T/ T-Mobile is bad for consumers and to ensure closing that deal will be no small distraction for its two competitors.

T-Mobile can’t exhale in relief just yet, as the agreement, including the billion dollar fees they’ll likely get if the deal does not go through, could be challenged in court by everyone from Nokia to Google to Comcast to Apple.

Surely, there will be a lot of time, money and effort spent on selling this deal in to the federal government, generating a lot of work for PR agencies, lobbyists, hardware vendors and consumer advocates. While AT&T and T-Mobile fight the battle on Capitol Hill, Verizon could be claiming victory on the front lines with consumers.

Here are 4 ways Verizon might capitalize on the announcement:

  1. Stay on message: Verizon’s clarity of message—it's about the network—has clearly positioned them as the most reliable consumer choice. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have suffered from the strength of Verizon’s network message in light of their own network evolution challenges (not the least of which were T-Mobile’s late arrival with 3G and AT&T’s call handling problems with the iPhone.) Staying the course with their current, well established network position will continue to serve Verizon well.
  2. Comfort confused consumers: If consumers aren’t sure who’ll own their contract two years from now, they may be loathe to sign a new agreement with ATT TMoT-Mobile. In addition, T-Mobile’s television commercials have specifically poked fun at AT&T’s network. A well-positioned message by Verizon could capitalize on customer’s sense of confusion or betrayal.
  3. Be the anti-corporate brand: Verizon has focused heavily on consumer messaging, and with its successful launch of the Envy, Chocolate and Droid brands, has shown it can build and maintain a franchise line-up of consumer focused devices. (Okay so I’m choosing to forget about the Kin because it was practically stillborn.) AT&T built a strong enterprise customer base, not just through the sale of a large portfolio of smartphone devices early in the category’s development, but also through volume pricing deals for corporate buyers. T-Mobile has a heavy consumer and Android base, and a very strong family focus, especially with its MyTouch and Sidekick brands. Verizon should continue to focus on super-messaging phones that appeal to the young and social, 'Gen C' customers, who are Droidalways  connected and communicating.
  4. Deliver service innovation: In today’s economy, it’s typical for an industry with few providers (like the airline industry, for instance) to provide much less service for more money than a few years ago. As sales automation and cloud services technology begin to drive down operational costs, Verizon can seize the opportunity to support customers in new and efficient ways, like bundling FiOS home broadband services, or packaging Gogo Inflight wireless data services on your iPad, or securely enabling physical purchases through a personal cell phone account as if it were a credit card. Given all the infrastructure and systems work AT&T and T-Mobile will be pre-occupied with to support the acquisition, Verizon, and its customers may be best served by a focus on service innovation.


New Places To Go, Things To See

My friend, Holly, talks about how much she enjoys the "social serendipity" of discovering new websites or fresh ideas from her Facebook feed.  

Here are a few of my recent favorite discoveries, the home of interesting curators assembling original ideas. Add these to your app readers, your real time feeds, or like their Facebook pages.

Notcot offers Ideas + Aesthetics + Amusement

Design Milk and its sister site Dog Milk are online magazines dedicated to modern design

Doodlers Anonymous is the permanent home of spontaneous doodle art.