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My newest adventure with Michael Companies

The summit. Most people view it as an ultimate achievement……a tangible destination and the highest reward for a long climb. 

As for me? I favor the climb itself – the adventure of it. 

Don’t get me wrong. Summits are great. They offer killer photo opps and a moment to pause, reflect and celebrate. Summits are an outcome and an end. This latter point is why I’m all about the adventure. I savor those spaces between a climb’s start and the final objective. That’s the true adventure, and it’s what drives me. 

Here’s why: ultimately, those spaces represent moments with clients I serve and the teams I lead as CEO of The Buddy Group, the storydriven strategy and marketing company I founded in 2006. Through them, shared stories of impact, triumph and hilarity manifest themselves, sparking memories that all of us involved will talk about for the rest of our lives.

We know that together we climbed. Together, we identified and navigated opportunities and challenges. Together, we learned. Together, we charted a brilliant course and executed with purpose. 

Importantly, I know that if I’m present to the adventure and everyone on it, summiting will be that much sweeter. 

With this said, today I’m excited to talk about my latest, brand new adventure. One of our Buddy Group clients, Michaels Company (NASDAQ: MIK) asked me to take the reins as its Head of Innovation (or Chief of Innovation in some circles). In doing so, I will remain as CEO of The Buddy Group; an opportunity made possible by the capable tenured leadership team we all commonly refer to as “Buddies”.

For me, serving in this dual capacity coalesces the whole of my professional journey. Throughout my career, I have collaborated with artists and technologists, focusing on the strategic and execution-centered components of branding, marketing, storytelling and technology. All of this expertise has been dedicated to drawing brands and their communities closer together. 

In the case of Michaels, a creative, technology-forward company in its own right, it is their commitment to customer and community that has proven both inspiring and powerful. Unlike many other innovative firms that build a product in search of an audience, Michaels is (literally) made by Makers – individual artists and entrepreneurs who leverage the company to create one-of-a-kind, small batch or scaleable items such as jewelry, food, art and clothes for selling or for sheer joy. Because Michaels has undertaken an ambitious collaboration with this uncommonly dedicated group, the company is positioned to co-create unique maker-centric experiences within the $100 billion Creative Economy. 

The Buddy Group’s close work with Michaels senior leadership to-date in this endeavor made their offer irresistible and I’ve agreed to our new adventure together for two key reasons. 

First, I have a heart for makers. In many ways I’m one of them. My early creative adventuring sparked the flames of entrepreneurship, teaching me that nothing comes easy, that quality counts and that leaning in to talent and passion is a huge competitive advantage. 

As I pursued my education and career I grew to appreciate the spirit of collaboration and the power of story. Working day in and day out with and learning from artists and creators such as, Ashton Kutcher, Google’s Zoo team, early product development at AOL, members of the Pentel of America’s Creative Collective and our own in-house creative talent over the years provided me perspective on empathy and appreciation for accomplishing adventures together vs. alone. Said another way and to leverage our early company mantra, I learned that buddies working together are always better than one working alone.

Second, what I’m doing at Michaels will directly shape and evolve what we do at The Buddy Group. It will inform how we design and execute our storydriven strategies in service to drawing our current lineup of brands and the communities they serve closer together. That means we’ll continue applying what we call Adventure Capital – a blend of strategic and tactical solutions optimized for the likes of Epson, GE, YouTube/Google, Mozilla, Bosch, King’s Hawaiian Bread, Pentel of America, TakeyaUSA, Western Digital, Blaze Pizza, Bain Capital portfolio clients such as Virgin Voyages, BigTex, HealthDrive, Zelis, Vertafore, and yes, Michaels. – in ways that catapult these exceptional brands to the forefront of the markets they serve. We all know the importance of having empathy for the customer- this move enables us to live as the customer and continue to provide value in the process and programs we support.

So, for The Buddy Group and me, these are exciting times. As I spend a majority of my time over the next year on Michaels, know that your Buddies are here, and we’d always like to share more about what we do and how we do it. Here’s how:

To understand and access our storydriven expertise in ways that can directly impact your business, brand and marketing trajectory, connect with Buddy Group Vice President David Ferguson or Director of Production Jonathan Neubauer by visiting

The best way to connect with me and the entire ecosystem of makers, technologists, business leaders and brand experts in my community, follow me on Twitter @mybuddypeted.

To learn more about the vision and passion of the Michaels leadership team, click here

The Buddy Group’s Chief Buddy Pete Deutschman Takes On Head of Innovation Role at Michaels Companies from Pete Deutschman on Vimeo.

Undercover Seller. A brief experiment on reselling

Even before COVID, the need for some extra income and the flexibility to work from home was a growing trend. With 44 Million people filing for unemployment, side hustle is no longer a Millennial game. One of the high-growth areas that we are paying attention to for a multitude of reasons is that of second hand or reseller space. The second hand market is forecasted to hit 64 billion dollars in the next 5 years, forcing the donation and thrifting models to rethink the customer experience.

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In order to better relate to the market and behaviors emerging real-time, we took on the life of a modern reseller. Our hypothesis for this effort at the onset was that by becoming a reseller we’d better understand where the sticking points are and what it will take to grow and scale side hustle into a full fledged business, something that more and more people could do these days. We deployed an online persona to better understand the landscape, the gaps, what works, what doesn’t and what information is available to resellers today. We immediately observed that there is not one selling platform on the market that is taking advantage of the opportunity that lies within successful customer management, simplicity of usage, or reasonable selling fees; ultimately, no platform has it all. People are leveraging the technology that’s being provided to them in order to create efficiencies and own their own destiny. Because the reseller mindset is transactional, there’s no loyalty to any one platform. If the reselling ecosystem is sounding fragmented and labor-rich, you are on the right path. It takes an expert product marketer to know how, where and when to promote a unique one of a kind item. Through this process we have earned deep respect for today’s modern tech-enabled reseller and we can all learn from these self-made product entrepreneurs.

For 7 weeks we immersed ourselves into the reseller lifestyle. Once our online persona was created, we began experiencing spammers, packages getting lost in the mail, last minute canceled orders, shipping delays, huge profit margins, quick sells, slow sells, and much more. While the shipments of items piled up and the car filled with boxes, we got a serious taste into the world of reselling. We found flaws in every platform out there; what they could be doing better, or what they should stop doing, no platform is flawless. Each week we got together to go over which items have sold, new findings, and how much effort was put into the project that week.

We made accounts on 8 different reselling platforms but Offerup, eBay, Mercari, and Poshmark were the most successful.

Here a few of the pros and cons we noted:

  • OfferUp is simplistic, and makes customer interaction and selling easy
  • eBay is a complicated site, but getting eyes on the item is their forte.
  • Poshmark is an extremely saturated, social selling app.
  • Mercari is well, quiet.

No platform offered customer relationship management nor did we find a reseller specific tool that could foster and track relationships and encourage returning customers. In order for us to keep track of the items, which category they fell into (fashion, technology, home goods), when they sold, and to whom, we created a tracking sheet. By doing so we broke down the steps consumers have to undergo, and created ways to measure and track hypotheses. By putting ourselves in those shoes we began to understand the nuances and details that are not shared on the platforms.

There were 3 perspectives we took data from to understand the consumer behaviors: financial, selling life cycle, and customer relationship management. When purchasing an item to resell, the reseller needs to make sure they’re buying the item for less than what it normally sells retail, then determine what to sell it for, subtract platform fees and shipping costs, and even then, it needs to be more than what it was purchased for in the beginning. Jessica, the buddy who spearheaded the persona said, “I did my best to predict potential revenue on each item, but over time negotiations came into play, some of the revenue dropped a bit, but that’s a given and you need to be prepared for it.” Consumers will always want to pay less than what it’s selling it for, so it’s important to have it set a price with wiggle room.

To better understand if the juice was worth the squeeze, we made sure to study how we were using our time. How long does it take to receive a shipment, how many days past from listed to sold, and how many interactions take place in between in order to make a sale. When we ran into longer delays of selling, we began to really focus on ways to bring that down. Getting the items to sell is difficult, even if it’s name brand and in great condition.

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More than 60% of our time was spend getting customers to see it, (i.e. Marketing of a unique item) relisting, promoting, and offering price drops are a few of the time consuming tactics that were used to get a product sold. Simply listing and walking away is not enough. Being quick to reply to customer questions is key.

This experience has given us many exceptional insights into the reselling world.

  • Financially, it has amazing potential, but it does take some time to realize what to do and how to do it efficiently.
  • The selling lifestyle took longer than anticipated with receiving items, and then there’s the time between listing and selling to take into account as well.
  • Consumer relationships are a big factor to selling the goods and receiving a good rating.
  • Timely responses, follow up, and their experience is important but quality products matter too

Each platform has something to offer that’s different from the other, but to make an honest living out of this, a system in place for customer management would be an effective way to excel sales on these online services. It’s the creation of this modern way of finding incremental revenue that has us really optimistic. This community is thriving and is getting more popular thanks to the self-made marketing resellers. It can be a real source of income if invested in. Each platform has it’s pros and cons, not one is ultimately superior. Under the right conditions and understanding it can be very successful and these platforms that enable the side hustle has us excited.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Jessica who led this initiative.

“It was a different experience and opened my eyes to the effort and research that goes into being a successful reseller. The only way to truly learn how to participate in this industry was to jump in, because no matter how much you Google ‘how to be a reseller’ you will always come up short,” — Jess

6 weeks ago we didn’t know what we were going to learn, but this experience has enabled us to find relatable elements and better understand the community within it.

Customers make strategies, not executives

Millennials are the most diverse generational cohort in US history,” according to a Deloitte report. Consumer diversity is an inescapable reality for most companies. Brands that recognize this the most make all efforts to understand the heterogeneity of their audience and tailor their strategy to the needs of their customer base.

In this time of diversity, inclusiveness is an important factor in growth and also serves as a risk mitigation strategy for companies. To successfully leverage consumer diversity for success, companies must seek to understand their audience base and put the customers before their strategy.

Benefits of Diversity

  • Growth: Millennials are the generation that values inclusion the most and is influenced by a brand’s display of diversity and inclusion. And Gen Z on a fast track to more variety than the generation immediately preceding them. The rising generation consists of conscientious buyers who are ready to amplify brands that create a positive experience for diverse customers while avoiding and dissuading others from organizations with a negative reputation of diversity.
  • Inclusiveness: These days, you don’t need to be a global brand to have a diverse customer base. Everyone is different in some way, and acknowledging those differences is good for business. If you keep targeting a narrow set of people, you would lose the goodwill of the minorities. A diversity marketing strategy signals to your customers that you care about them, no matter how different they may be from the other customers.
  • Risk Mitigation: From a purely business perspective, diversity can be a risk mitigation tactic. Having a diverse consumer base shields your company from the consequences of the economic challenges of one customer segment. While it is great to maintain a focus when targeting prospects, hyper-concentration might have you using less of your potentials.

Managing Diversity

Because of the apparent diversity in today’s market, a multipurpose strategy can no longer work for reaching your growing customers. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you need a marketing model that acknowledges diversity without differentiating your audience, and that personalizes customer experience while communicating inclusiveness.

  • Customer Segmentation

The purpose of segmentation must be to understand your customers better rather than to amplify stereotypes. In fact, what you deem important to learn about your customer base would inform the segmentation method you adopt. This may be geographic (location-based), demographic (features-based), behavioral (habit-based), or psychographic (personality-based).

In an impressive example of psychographic segmentation, the marketing team at GoFare, a travel app, ran a campaign that targeted people in each category with an upgrade offer, determined based on their lifestyle information. But this was not until they had identified their most frequent travelers, segmented them according to their attitudes, and created multiple buyer personas to clarify their targets.

By finding common attributes between groups in your customer base, you can serve hyper-targeted ads with direct messaging that would attract more leads.

  • Uniformity vs Differentiation

PepsiCo’s Lady Doritos gaffe is still fresh in the memory of marketers, serving as a reminder to never confuse diversity marketing with necessary differentiation. CEO Indra Nooyi sparked controversy when she hinted at the introduction of new versions of its chips that matched female snacking preferences, which she described as different from men’s.

But what was the problem? Was it that there were no gendered products at all? Of course, there are. But according to business lecturer Jill Avery, “consumers are generally open to gendered products and brands when they can perceive real, meaningful differences in how men and women consume a product.” Therefore, the real problem was that PepsiCo assumed stereotypes about its audience base. A major key to maneuvering diversity is to let the data speak for itself and involve the customers in your marketing strategy. Collecting information directly from the consumers ensures authenticity. Regular engagement with your customers makes them know that they have a voice. But engagement isn’t just saying and doing what your customers want; it includes communicating with them how they want.

  • Omnichannel marketing

Companies have many digital channels to interact with consumers. On the other hand, consumers, particularly millennials, want companies to focus on seamless cross-channel service delivery, rather than needless expansion. This is the age of omnichannel marketing, a strategy that ensures an integrated customer experience across multiple means. The average internet user has 8.5 social media accounts. And with the majority of people now owning numerous devices, cross-device shopping is much more common, impacting sales by up to 31%. It only makes sense that companies target consumers via multiple channels, and while at it, maintain a uniform CX.

The omnichannel model is an upgrade to multichannel marketing, which only extends the mediums of communication but without focusing on delivering cross-channel consistency. While multichannel marketing puts the medium first, omnichannel marketing puts the consumer first. Hence, greater customer retention; marketers using three or more channels to interact with customers record 90% higher retention rates.

The most common examples of successful omnichannel strategies are Disney, with its My Disney Experience, Virgin Atlantic’s personalized customer experience, the Bank of America’s dynamic experience, and Starbucks rewards app, among many others.

  • Brand Communications

“One in three customers from diverse backgrounds say their needs were often unmet over the past 12 months. Further, they were three times more likely to avoid an organization and dissuade others from their potential interactions, because of an organization’s negative reputation on diversity.” So says a Deloitte report, which underscores the fact that, more than ever, a company’s reputation depends on how they embrace their diverse customers.

The most foundational marketing strategy today is customer-centricity. When a company that serves a different customer base alienates a group of its audience, it affirms that it does not put customers first. Elevating minority voices, in particular, shows that a company holds every customer in esteem. And according to a survey by Google, 64% of consumers took action after seeing an ad it considered diverse or inclusive. The report concludes, “if you seek to enter diverse markets, your organization must become the market you seek.”

The beauty company, Dove has won hearts by embracing the diversity of its customers in an industry infamous for reinforcing stereotypes. Through its multiple campaigns, Dove exemplifies an understanding of the varied psychological needs of their market. A worthy throwback is the Ad makeover campaign in which they let their customers choose their ads messaging themselves, challenging the negative ads messaging that the industry had promoted over the years.


On the one hand, there is the idea that businesses should differentiate themselves by focusing on specific market segments. And then there are buyer personas which are templates for marketing targets. On the other hand, there is diversity to deal with. Unless you are planning an expansion, diversity marketing does not necessarily mean expanding your target. Rather, it is recognizing the differences in your existing customer base and leveraging that to connect with your customers better.

Multiple studies have established a strong link between consumer diversity and brand performance. Today, the talk is not about whether you have a diverse customer base or not. The major question is on how you tackle diversity in your customer base.


Try it…data shows you will like it (Augmented Reality data)

Most consumers have not tried augmented reality on their smartphone, but those who have tend to use it frequently.

These are among the findings in a survey of 2,200 U.S. adults conducted by Thrive Analytics and Artillry Intelligence.

About a third (32%) of consumers have tried mobile AR. Of those who use it, 66% are active at least monthly and 54% are active weekly or greater.

Top AR uses are games (83%), social (36%) and product visualization (31%). As to AR desires, consumers want more games (72%), city guides (39%), sports (35%) and retail apps (33%).

Of those who use augmented reality, 73% report high or very high satisfaction. Of those who do not use augmented reality, 53% report definitive disinterest and 28% report confusion.

For pricing, 65% of mobile AR users say they would pay $1 or more for an app and 14% say they would pay $5 or more.

A majority (55%) of non-mobile AR users say they are unlikely or extremely unlikely to try it and 28% don’t know where to look for apps or if their phone is compatible.

Of those who use augmented reality, 54% are male, 46% are female, 61% have an income level of $50,000 or more, with 41% of those having an income of $75,000 or more, according to the survey.

Some of the CES 2018 honorees in the smart-home category, including lighting controls, security systems and this year’s class of home automation hubs.

by Julie Jacobson · November 24, 2017

Each year, specialists in consumer electronics, smart-home, IoT, vehicles, robotics and other technologies review thousands of entries for the CES Innovation Awards. It’s a tedious task and many (most?) of the “winners” never make it to market. Even so, the honorees do at least give us a glimpse into the near-future of technology.

Here we look at some of the CES 2018 honorees in the smart-home category, including lighting controls, security systems and this year’s class of home automation hubs. For each one, I share my thoughts about the product and its prospects, including: Do I want it? and Will it make it?

The CES 2018 honorees in the smart-home category include some usual suspects like:

  • Amazon Echo Look
  • Arlo Pro 2 wirefree camera system
  • Nest Thermostat E
  • Ring Spotlight Cam

There are some other recognizable products from the past, like WooHoo from SmartBeings – one of the darlings of CES 2017, and yet another smart thing that tries to do way too much. In that same vein, we have another honoree, Ensembl from Ashley Chloe Inc., that tries to pack every single home-automation, audio, video, lighting and surveillance application into one tiny package.

And then, of course, there are the obligatory home automation hubs that profess to do everything, like Beak/IoT and SmartBeing’s WooHoo — ZigBee, Z-Wave, BLE, AI — and promise to “surely redefine the concept of Smart Living” (Beak) or deliver the “world’s first AI based interactive and affordable Smart Home Hub and Platform” (WooHoo).

Register for the Ultimate CES 2018 Preview Webinar

There are other more interesting and realistic products that we have talked about in Webinars but have not given a thorough writeup, like Samsung Connect Home ProBrilliant Home and Aura Home.

There’s this weird one called Ugo from Otodo, a “smart and soft pebble” that you tap against various surfaces to enact pre-programmed commands. Tap it on the door to unlock it. Knock it on the end table to turn on the light. It’s the “magic wand” accessory for Otodo’s home-automation hub.

In this installment, we look only at home-automation hubs and related smart devices. Later, we’ll take a look at award-winning cameras and other smart-home categories.

SEE THE SLIDESHOW to learn more about the smart-home honorees for CES 2018 Innovations, plus my own opinions on their prospects.

55% Of Consumers See IoT, AI As Risks To Privacy

New connected technologies are continuing to cause serious concerns around privacy and security.

The two are really separate issues, as we continually document here.

For example, consumers have varying degrees of trust, based on who is providing the service, as I wrote about here earlier this week (Cybersecurity Study: 3% Of Consumers See Marketing, Advertising As ‘Trustworthy‘).

The same study that found a low level of trust from marketing and advertising businesses around cybersecurity, also examined privacy.

There are many technologies here and coming soon that pose serious privacy considerations.

These range from chips being embedded into people, which already is being done, to virtual and augmented realities.

The majority of consumers see the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence as a potential threat to their privacy. Here are the percentages of consumers who view each technology as a potential threat to their privacy:

  • 67% — Chips in human skin
  • 55% — Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things
  • 54% — Digital payments
  • 49% — Machine learning
  • 47% — Chatbots, self-driving cars
  • 45% — Drone delivery
  • 42% — Wearable tech
  • 40% — Bitcoin
  • 35% — Augmented reality
  • 32% – -Virtual reality

Amazon Key’s big privacy test is now in your hands

Amazon Key uses the company’s new Cloud Cam security camera, a smart door lock and the new Key app to grant someone temporary access. A delivery person can unlock your front door using his phone, slide in a package, then lock the door again. The idea is to prevent packages from being stolen from the front stoop or have them get soaked in the rain.

Magic is when a brand embraces experiences where their customers can see, hear or taste them. 

When you add something for people to see, hear, taste and do at the forefront of your messaging, you are creating a positive memory that is much more powerful than an ad alone. It becomes a moment in time that participants will enthusiastically remember and talk about. And, it’s a heart-felt connection to your brand that will make consumers more receptive to your messaging every time they see your ads in the future