Converge: A book review by Bob Morris

ConvergeConverge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology
Bob Lord and Ray Velez
John Wiley & Sons (2013)

“The villain throughout this book is the silo.”

Increasingly and more extensively, successful brands are using technology to create memorable experiences for their customers, guided and informed by customer centricity, rejection of silos (many of which are disguised as human beings), thinking and behaving like a start-up, developing a multi-disciplinary mindset, and viewing the brand as a service in a relationship rather than as a product. That is to say, Bob Lord and Ray Velez assert in this book that there is a process during which creativity, technology, and media are converging to a point at which they will soon become indistinguishable from one another.

Of special importance to me is the process by which they devised what they call the “Razorfish Model,” based on their real-world experiences with their own firm bearing that name. Here’s what they learned from two of their clients, explained in the Introduction: “Cisco needed to think past its organizational prejudices to create a Web presence that made sense to customers; MLB needed to get its various stakeholders on board to create a consumer-centric experience rather than a fragmented one. Now its content id available everywhere consumers are: on computers, tablets, and mobile phones, on Apple TV, Roku, and Xbox.” The information, insights, and counsel they share in this book is based on more than 15 years of living “at the center of convergence.”

Readers will appreciate the provision of a “Convergence Catalysts” section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-11. This material will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points later. I also commend Lord and Velez on their skillful use if boxed mini-commentaries that are strategically located throughout their narrative.

These are among the dozens of passages of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Lord and Velez’ coverage.

o Traditional Disciples: Media, Technology, and Creativity (Pages 14-16)
o The Five Principles of Convergence (22-24)
o The Death of the Mad Man and the Birth of the Technologist (29-35)
o Collaboration: Chief Creative Becomes Chief Curator (38-48)
o How “Targeting” Is Failing Customers (63-67)
o A Five-Step Process to Better Targeting (71-75)
o Grasping the Cloud (80-83)
o Clouding the Cloud Issue (92-98)
o Retail’s Challenges (108-113)
o The Moosejaw Model (120-122)
o How the Fickle Customer Uses Media (129-134)
o How Business Can Respond to Ubiquitous Computing (160-165)
o Establish a Collaborative Culture (185-186)
o Emergence Process #5: Change Incentives/Compensation (191-194)
o How We [at Razorfish] Use Agile (201-203

Before concluding their book, Lord and Velez observe, “Keeping up with all this may seem like a dizzying prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Winners in the twenty-first century won’t be distinguished by how fast they master buzzwords or how many faddish new digital marketing campaigns they undertake. Those winners will be organizations whose main focus is on their consumer’s journey [one that determines the nature and extent of their own] and who possess a relentless desire to understand and improve that journey from beginning to end…Rather than stay married to the old way of doing things, embrace change and think about how innovation can be put to work to benefit your customer. Approach technology the way a consumer would, without fear or fervor and with a sense of wonder and curiosity. And always remember that if you follow your customer you can’t go wrong.”

Steve Jobs would take a different approach while agreeing with those comments in principle. For him, customer-centricity meant creating products and services that may have no appeal or value until they are experienced. He once observed, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” Years earlier, Henry Ford said that if he asked people what they want, they’d say “faster horses.” For Jobs as well as for Bob Lord and Ray Velez, creativity, technology, and media are interdependent and rapidly becoming interchangeable. That process, in a word, is “convergence” and for business leaders, its only limits for them will be self-imposed.

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