Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

You can subscribe to this site via RSS (the humanity!) or .

How Lance Happened

I’ve been a little obsessed with this Lance Armstrong story over the past few months. I devoured The Secret Race and have been reading everything I can since. With today’s announcement that Armstrong will be stripped of his Tour wins I’m sure we’ll see another round. The two questions I was left with through all my reading have been: First, what long-term effects do these drugs have on a person? (For those that haven’t dug deep, most of the doping revolves around EPO which, in my non-medical understanding, raises your blood oxygen level.) Second, how did it all happen? The latter question is a common one after a house of cards crumbled (how many financial meltdown books and stories did we read).

While lots of people have gone through how it happened from an athlete perspective, it’s interesting to read this piece by Steve Madden, former editor of Bicycling Magazine, on how he was complicit in the whole thing. Here’s a snippet:

Armstrong exerted a Corleone-like influence in the cycling industry. Through his various sponsorship and endorsement deals, he could make an advertiser disappear from our pages with the same flick of an elbow that one rider uses to silently tell another to pass him. Helmets, sunglasses, wheels, bikes, all of these companies’ ads were the lifeblood of the magazine, the one that paid my salary and that of my staff. If we couldn’t make money during the boom years, when could we? Besides, dirty or not, it was a thrill to watch a cyclist, one of us, assume what we all knew was the rightful place among the sports world’s elite. Cycling is populated with misfits and loners. Very few of us sat at the cool kids’ table in the high school cafeteria, and none of us was a homecoming king or queen. And all of a sudden, there’s Lance, Sportsman of the Year on the cover of Sports Illustrated, hanging with Bono, dating Sheryl Crow and having a building named for him at Nike headquarters. A cyclist! One of us leg-shaving geeks, right up there with Michael Jordan. Finally! Now our sport would break out!

October 22, 2012 // This post is about: , , , ,

When “Innovation” Runs Amok

Fast Company posted an interesting infographic from the folks at Help Remedies documenting the insanity that is the pharmacy, specifically the headache medication aisle. The article explains:

Each of the myriad offerings laid out, whether its gel-caps or something else, was intended to produce a slight edge on a tightly packed, insanely competitive store shelf where virtually identical products can be found just an inch away. As drug makers compete for more and more differentiation, what you get is simply overwhelming. An innovation process that started with the original intention of offering better products leads to anoverall product experience that’s horrible.

Which immediately reminded me of a quote I found when I was working on that innovation presentation. It’s from a very good Harvard Business Review article from 1980 titled “Managing Our Way to Economic Decline”:

Inventors, scientists, engineers, and academics, in the normal pursuit of scientific knowledge, gave the world in recent times the laser, xerography, instant photography, and the transistor. In contrast, worshippers of the marketing concept have bestowed upon mankind such products as new- fangled potato chips, feminine hygiene deodorant, and the pet rock….

I don’t think it’s quite this simple, but the ebb and flow of markets like this is really interesting. Help’s take is that you need less choice, not more, and they seek to simplify the conversation. But clearly at some point the conversation was simple (it had to start somewhere). I wonder where the turning point is in a category: When does the variety of products for different use-cases start to hurt overall sales? Or maybe it doesn’t, maybe all the specialized products only serve to strengthen the leading brand when confused consumers turn to what they know. (I’m sure someone with experience in this sort of CPG knows the answer to it.)

November 3, 2011 // This post is about: , , ,