Packers lose NFC championship because of stupid coaching

After the Packers loss to the Seattle Seahawks, tons of ink was spent analyzing what happened. I believe most of the analysis suffers from “availability bias”: our tendency to treat recent events (the things most “available” in memory) as the primary cause. We tend to look at the last major play or two and give them outsized credit - the Seahawks’ two-point conversion, or their successful onside kick, for example (and we blame the individual players involved).

The outcome of a game, of course, isn’t because of a single play or a single player. It’s the result the entire game – and in this case, it’s the result of game-long conservative coaching.

I wrote off the game after the first series, when Green Bay didn’t go for a TD on fourth and inches. Obviously that series worked out (recovering a fumble on the kick return), but it was representative of an overall conservative outlook. The final score wasn’t the result of poor play by the players – especially poor Brandon Bostick – but poor coaching. It’s tempting to identify a single play or two, but if your gameplan rests on a single play or two, it’s not a good game plan.
The dagger for Green Bay was self-inflicted and came early in the fourth quarter, when the Packers had two three-and-out series in a row. In both, they basically tried to run it up the middle for no gain or a loss of yards, and eventually kicked it. After the first, they got an interception and another chance. A lot of columnists are blaming the guy who intercepted the ball for going down instead of running.
It’s a key play, but there is green in front of Burnett for yards and yards and if he had continued to return it, he might have at least put the Packers in field goal position. All he had to do was get around a couple of offensive linemen and get a block on Russell Wilson and the game may have been over.
Sure, he could have gained a few extra yards (or more). But the real blame lies with the Green Bay offense (and coaching), which took over and decided to do the same thing for three more downs, finally punting it away. The safety got an interception; that’s outstanding. It’s not up to him to put points on the board; it’s up to the offense to capitalize on his great play and put the game away. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers and an elite offense; instead, they just handed it to Starks (not even Lacy) for lost yardage each play. If we have a problem with the defense – who just intercepted the ball! – not playing aggressively enough, we should have a much bigger problem with the Green Bay offense not playing aggressively after having time to think about it.
One might argue that their defense had played very well all day, so it makes sense to leave it up to them. But the truth is that Packers were very lucky – Seattle has one of the lowest turnover ratios in the league, and to suddenly turn it over a zillion times is uncharacteristic. Part of that can be attributed to a Packers defense that had them dialed, but there’s no way that turnover ratio is sustainable. Russell Wilson isn’t some third string yahoo. He’s one of the league’s best quarterbacks, leading one of the league’s best offenses. There’s going to be a regression to the mean.
Anyway, that’s what it comes down to for me: a conservative game plan and conservative play calling. You don’t win championships like that. The gameplan has to set up players for success, not count on them to make miraculous plays.
Can you imagine what Bill Belichick would have done with this? Not only would he have gone for it on fourth and inches, but he would have made every effort to put a dagger in Seattle’s heart, running up the score. You can call it classless, but it wins games. When your opponents are reeling and on their heals, you finish them off. You don’t lollygag around and wait for them to gather their wits. Overall, Seattle is a better team than Green Bay – Green Bay needed to get lucky and be smart. They got lucky but weren’t smart.

Rules of modern marketing

  1. Competing with feature parity

There are lots of examples of companies with well-insulated technological advantages. But most of the time, a feature or two is only unique for four to six months.

In a world of feature parity, what are you really competing on? Price or something less tangible? For the most successful companies, it’s the latter.

  1. Rationalized decisions

We like to think that B2B decisions are rational purchases. But really they’re emotional purchases made by individuals, and later rationalized.

You can still win if you don’t emotionally connect, but you have to be outstanding because your competitors are being given the benefit of the doubt.

  1. Consumerization of business

It used to be that people used different things at work and at home. No longer. Now they use Facebook at work and Microsoft Excel at home, and their iPhone wherever they are. B2B companies need to learn lessons from B2C companies and make products that offer great customer experiences, and use marketing that appeals to business buyers as individuals.

4. Tell a story

It’s no surprise: people connect to stories. What’s your story? Why were you founded and what big problems are you solving?

5. Looks aren’t everything, but they are a leading indicator

Your mom loves you regardless of what you wear, but the rest of us judge. If you look sloppy or amateur, what does that indicate about your product? Being put together, with every detail in place doesn’t make you detail oriented, but it is an indicator.

Same thing with your company. If your marketing material is sloppy, your work is probably sloppy. If it’s not, you had better be prepared to jump through hoops to prove it.

6. Revenge of the nerds (metrics matter)

All this emotional stuff doesn’t mean that metrics don’t matter. They matter more than ever. Now we can track everything, so do!


Updated Go Bag list

I’ve updated my Go-Bag slightly. Most of things remain the same, as does the goal: prepare for what is likely. This is the key thing about disaster preparedness, of course: many people prepare for insane highly unlikely events.

Unfortunately, this means that they’ve not only put their resources into things that’ll never be used, it usually means that they are ill-prepared for events that actually might happen.

Alright, here’s the new list:

Bag Nalgene for water Some sort of sterification for water Spork Change of clothes Running shoes Rain gear Flashlight Some food (bars + beef jerky) Duck tape Multitool warming packs Extra wool socks Lighter Warm jacket Warm hat (wool beanie) Paper, pen, perm marker Toiletries Hand sanitizer Whistle Earplugs Plate

Clever extras: car inverter Lantern Extra batts (but not necessary) Television or radio USB Battery pack First aid kit USB surge protector thing Emergency sleeping bag Can opener Wet wipes Paracord Wool Blanket

Don’t forget your brand’s most important audience

Who is your brand’s most important audience? A particular customer segment? A market?

For many companies, their brand’s most important audience is internal: their employees.

A well-defined corporate brand creates clarity and purpose, and communicates a clear vision of to work towards. When everyone in a company pulls in the same direction, they can achieve incredible results.

Many corporate brand efforts are laser-focused on external customers, and lose sight of people inside the organization. A corporate branding effort is a great chance to rally the troops, to re-inspire, and to reinvigorate your entire corporate effort. Use it wisely.

Corporate brands are different than product brands

It’s pretty easy to conflate a product brand and a corporate brand.

But they are different and require different strategies.

Corporate branding is (drum roll) all about the company or organization. Product branding is, not surprisingly, all about an individual product.

For many purchases, the purchaser’s relationship with the selling company is tenuous at best. If you buy a Coke, you don’t care where it was bottled (or canned). If you buy Tide, you don’t care about Proctor and Gamble. Your relationship with the brand is almost all (though not entirely) through the product. In these cases, purchasers are buying the brand the company has created around the product through product qualities and advertising.

On the other hand, many enterprise or large purchases are dependent on a corporate brand. A customer is theoretically buying a product, but what they are really buying is a relationship with the company behind the product.

In these cases, purchasers care about the culture of the company as much as the features of the product itself.

Both types of brands have internal drivers: a product brand needs to be backed up by features, and a corporate brand needs to be backed up by features and culture.

The mistake many make is thinking that they have a product brand when they really have a corporate brand. Which is yours?

Thoughts on things, uncollected and poorly written