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warbyparker770Fast. Cheap. Good.

We’ve mentioned this cliched business tenet before. You know how it goes; pick two because you certainly can’t have all three.

But stop. Why can’t I have all three? Why can’t there be a business that breaks down that barrier that limits and prevents differentiation within an industry? I may have found one that does. Warby Parker. Continue Reading →

rsiWhen you talk to Jay McMillan, founder of Royal Services, you can’t help but be inspired not only by his passion for his business, but by the passion he has toward yours! In an era where too many business owners are only looking out for their bottom line, Jay eschews the “what’s in it for me” mentality and serves to connect people. It’s refreshing to meet someone like Jay who realizes that business relationships are formed when you first seek to help someone other than yourself. Continue Reading →

Screen Shot 2012-07-30 at 1.01.44 PMThis is exciting. What you are about to read is the first installment in our “This is Working” series. What we’ve set out to do with the series is highlight entrepreneurs and their businesses. We’re not just looking to feature anyone with a tax ID number. Ideally, these are business owners who have something that really gets us excited here at SOZO / PIVOTAL. Our first featured company does exactly that! Continue Reading →


We’re intrigued by the work that people do on their way to becoming successful. You’ve heard it said before, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There isn’t a bigger truth out there.

Behind every overnight success is hours, days, weeks, months and years of hard work and behind-the-scenes struggle to make it happen. To shine the light on some of that not-so-glamous toil, we’re going to bring back our “This is Working” series to feature metro Detroit businesses and entrepreneurs who are not only working hard, but truly have something to show everyone that what they’re doing is really working.

Let us have it. Tell us about yourself and why you should be featured on This is Working and we’ll get in touch. Email us with “This is Working candidate” in the subject line and two sentences in the body describing why you’re unique and should be featured. Please, no e-mails from PR people representing companies or business owners. We want to hear straight from you. It doesn’t matter whether your company is big or small, new or old. All that matters is that your energy and enthusiasm shows and that you have a product or service that is truly unique in the marketplace.

Here are a few more details about the initiative:

WHO: Entrepreneurs.

WHY: We want to meet and showcase some of metro Detroit’s finest entrepreneurs. Everyone has something to share and everyone has something to learn from others. It’s a perfect way to promote a business and learn from it at the same time. The segment isn’t so much about the company’s product or service, but how they’re going about growing it and how they got to where they are.

WHAT: The format is wide open. The feature may take the form of a video, a Q&A or a feature story. It all depends on how we’re able to connect.

WHEN: Once a week. The first feature will debut the week after the 4th of July.

Me too. Or is it Me Two, as in number two. The second one to come along. The one that saw the opportunity and joined the party.

We roll our eyes at companies that follow closely behind the release of a new technology with their own twist on what’s hot. We cringe when a mobile phone comes out looking embarrassingly close to the one that, with much fanfare and success, preceded it. We laugh when Steve Ballmer marches out with a Zune, a Bing or whatever their new iPad-killer is now called and thinks we’re really going to buy stuff that’s clearly inferior once you get past the exterior shell that so closely resembles the market leader.

Here’s the bad news for companies looking for a short-cut — the consumer’s too smart. Me too products never go far because the people behind creating the copy-cat didn’t go far. They didn’t go far in their understanding of what made Product #1 so good. Their biggest mistake was not going far enough in understanding how their product could be better than Product #1. They looked at the hysteria, not the reasons behind the hysteria. If Microsoft wanted to come out with a new tablet, I better know by now why this thing is better than the iPad. If it’s going to cook dinner and clean the house, you better make sure I know that. Seeing a picture of something that looks just like an iPad is disappointing and the video only conveys a message of “hey, we can do this too.”

This is why me too is different than me two. In some fashion we all have some sort of me two in us. Is there really an truly original idea anymore? Aren’t all great products and companies spin-offs of some idea improved upon? It happens all the time. With the Walkman, Sony beat Apple to the portable music player market more than a decade before the first iPad was loaded with digital tunes. In fact there were other mp3 players before the iPod.

We all know the story. Apple made their product better. Facebook and Netflix did the same thing in their industries when they essentially knocked MySpace and Blockbuster out of business, respectively. They weren’t first, but they were better. Me two is about being better and in many respects it’s about catching your competitor resting on its laurels.

Chances are you weren’t the first. There’s likely competition out there that’s been hard at work a little longer than you. It’s not enough to go out there and form a company and say you’re going to do the same thing as the competitor. Too many people create their own company because they think they’ll just naturally do it better.  They overlook the fact that they must truly create and present something different than what we’re accustomed to. Otherwise, why bother? Why bother creating the company and why should the consumer bother switching over to you?

If someone has to ask you why you’re different than your competitor you’re already off to a bad start. But if they do ask, your answer—which is built into your brand and message—better be clear and obvious. Take a look at the Nest thermostat. Spend 30 seconds on the website and you’ll have no doubt why this thing is better than the traditional $30 thermostat in your house. Nest didn’t create the thermostat, it made it better and then it made sure you knew about it…quickly.

XSP& — Pronounced "expand"

While we like to keep this blog focused on current events and thoughts on marketing, branding and design, every now and again it’s good to put up some old fashioned shop talk. We hope you don’t mind this small form of self promotion…

XSP& 2.0

You may be familiar with a program we launched a few years ago called XSP&. Well, after receiving some outstanding feedback from our clients we’ve been hard at work to evolve the program to include group workshops, weekly meetings and phone conversations, lower fees and the very exciting living XSP& book. We’re putting the finishing touches on it now and look forward to launching it soon.

Does your business…

If you know anything about SOZO / PIVOTAL, you know about our tagline:  Does your business…

Over the years we’ve had a lot of fun with it and now we using it as the title to our new e-newsletter. Yes, an e-newsletter! For years, we’ve written a blog and now we’re looking to engage even further with our colleagues, clients and friends through this newsletter.

Tips. Commentary. Interviews. Promotions. SOZO / PIVOTAL news. Client News. It will all be there in the DOES YOUR BUSINESS newsletter. Please take a moment to subscribe today!

Every year, it seems, there’s a Super Bowl advertiser that regrets signing off on a spot that runs during the big game. This year’s Monday morning advertising quarterback is Groupon. Continue Reading →

News this morning that Borders has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and may be closing up to 200 of its stores is yet another defining moment in publishing and may forever be the true beginning of the end to the entire bookstore experience. Continue Reading →

Ahh, the Chrysler Super Bowl spot. I better get to this while it’s still somewhat timely. Where do I begin and how do I write this so it doesn’t sound like a negative piece? I can start by saying what I liked about it from a creative standpoint or I can begin by talking about how I really think it missed the mark. Oh well, I’ll just begin… Continue Reading →

SOZO / PIVOTAL is growing and rather than looking for individuals jumping from one agency experience to another, we’re seeking entrepreneurial-minded marketing and design professionals in the areas of public relations, web programming, video/photography and business development who clearly understand the business and creative side of a full-service agency. Continue Reading →