The Karate Kid: A Classic franchise from John G. Avildsen

Last month I came across the book “The Films of John G. Avildsen” by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett.

My primary goal was researching brand and audience connectivity leading to brand loyalty. Therefore I was first interested in researching successful brand and franchise developers. After reading the book I realized that Director John Avildsen was exactly that person in his field of expertise. What brand or franchise did he develop?

Well, Rocky and The Karate Kid.

Rocky was an amazing franchise and years later, John Avildsen repeated his talent on The Karate Kid, making Robert Mark Kamen’s script a landmark of the 80’s.

 

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Looking back in time, it probably would had been difficult to believe that a movie based on a storyline about a struggling teenager, having a hard time to adapt to his new environment, learning Karate in an unusual way (painting fences and waxing cars…)  would be a great success.

However, The Karate Kid not only was a worldwide success, it conquered an audience for decades to come. Basically, paving the 80’s with a tangible message of friendship, respect, love and anti-bullying.

The audience was conquered by the story of a struggled son and mother that moved from New Jersey to California (Just look at their vehicle to summarize the word “struggling”… ). The boy Daniel, played by Ralph Macchio, did not adapt to the new reality in California, but found in Elisabeth Shue “Ali”, a point of support and later in Pat Morita “Miyagi”, a point of reference and guidance, as Ralph confronts bullying and harassment by the students of a local Karate dojo – “Cobra Kai”.

What surprised me the most in this franchise, was the fact that John Avildsen did not have a huge budget in the making of The Karate Kid, but he had a huge talent. A talent that he already had displayed in the making of Rocky.

The result can be measured by the spontaneous reaction from the public.

The film was recorded mostly in San Fernando Valley – CA. It is amazing to believe that after 30 years, you can still find articles and blogs – with extreme detail – commenting the filming locations for The Karate Kid. Fans simply seem to enjoy comparing how the sites were back in 1984 and now. Often these sites are “every day” common places, as we can see on the slide show below, from a 2014 article. That is artistic influential power of a brand!
The interesting part of the filming location was that Robert Kamen, the screenwriter, had never been to the San Fernando Valley prior to the movie. He drove around the whole area to capture the environment that later became the main storyline of Pat, Ralph and Shue’s filming location.
For the 30th anniversary of  The Karate Kid, director John Avildsen, screenwriter Robert  Kamen, Ralph Macchio, Elisabeth Shue and producer Jerry Weintraub did an interview to the L. A. Weekly titled “How a Movie Shot in the San Fernando Valley Made Us all The Karate Kid”.
They commented the early stages of the movie, the storyline, how they selected the cast and the filming location:
During the interview Jerry Weintraub said: “...You can see the birth of Daniel LaRusso in that first audition, available today on Avildsen’s YouTube channel.”
So, 30 years later there are plenty of articles and blogs about this movie. It shows how The Karate Kid franchise expanded its original niche fan base.

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(L.A Weekly: Elisabeth Shue, John Avildsen and Ralph Macchio in 1983)

The Karate Kid had recognizable “signatures” that helped perpetuate its franchise among the audience worldwide. Pat Morita teaching Ralph karate based on painting fences and waxing vehicles, creating the unconventional slogan “wax on wax off”.
Another “signature” that retained great acceptance by the audience, was the “Crane Kick”, which became iconically linked to the franchise. During an interview with John Avildsen (linked below on Youtube), Darryl Vidal, the creator of the “Crane Kick” explained how this “kick” became a reality for the movie:

 

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(Columbia Pictures)
The audience all over the world was captivated by Kamen’s script brought to light by John Avildsen. What a great combination of talent.
The audience understood the Franchise message that everybody has struggles in life but people still can conquer difficulties, and good things can come out from these difficulties. If “Daniel” had stayed in New Jersey, he would never had met “Ali” or “Miyagi” in the storyline.
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(Columbia Pictures)
Despite being a successful franchise, the only thing I found regarding Karate Kid not developing its full brand spectrum, was the breaking of brand continuity. Fans worldwide were expecting a development of the franchise based on the core values of the brand. Therefore they were expecting a development on the relationship of “Daniel”, “Ali” and “Miyagi”, which would have brought The Karate Kid franchise to an even more popular phenomenon.
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The audience did not understand why “Ali” simply vanished from the sequel after all they had been through. Keeping them together would had maximized the brand equity.
Reading the book “The Films of John G. Avildsen” I realized that it was not John Avildsen nor Robert Kamen’s intention to remove “Ali” out of the sequel. The producers did not agree to pay for her role on part II. Therefore, ending Ali’s storyline abruptly. A big mistake from the branding stand point.
The sequel ‘The Karate Kid II” was a worldwide success, surpassing the original one. Ironically, because the audience was interested in the continuation of Ralph, Elisabeth and Pat.  Even Peter Cetera’s song “Glory of Love” in The Karate Kid II, would had made more sense in the context of the strong story between Ralph and Shue, written by Kamen in The Karate Kid I.  (Youtube link to Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love”)
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Despite that, The Karate Kid II, had a good storyline, the idea of Ralph following Pat into his Japanese hometown, and confronting difficulties there, was well received by the public. It helped the audience to understand more about Pat’s past. Also Tamlyn Tomita was great as acting as Ralph’s new girlfriend, but her role also would not continue on in The Karate Kid III.
Finally, The Karate Kid III did not finish the franchise well. It led many fans to believe that a sequel as a final instalment would be more appropriate, bringing the core values of the brand back to its original roots. Actually, John Avildsen had a different vision for the third movie, but was not supported by the producers.
Fans started suggesting “ideas” on how to end the story, even prior to the 30th anniversary of the franchise. A tribute to John Avildsen, Pat Morita and a closing for Daniel and Ali.
Particularly, I don’t think that the final story should be revolving around a “Karate tournament”, because the stature of the franchise deserves a more profound story. Daniel can not be seen now as a “kid”, but as a mature person. Therefore he should be well skilled in the martial arts, perhaps speaking Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin as he had traveled to Asia with Miyagi. The story can take place 10 years after the first one, bringing Daniel and Ali back, as Daniel faces the final strike, meaning, dealing with the loss of a friend and mentor.
I imagined John Avildsen with his career talent (or another director like him), directing a final instalment of the franchise. Perhaps director, Derek Wayne Johnson, since he already directed an amazing documentary on the life of John Avildsen.
Let’s see if a final story will ever be written and a final movie ever made.
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Amazon: The Success of “Virtual” Store

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I am going to use the world “stunning” because I could not describe how impressed I was with this CNN Money article: “Amazon hiring 30,000 part-time workers, including 5,000 work-from home positions” with the intention of hiring 100,000 full-time employees in the next 18 months! Wow, that is a stunning success!

Steve Jobs once mentioned that retail stores always will part of his business. He was against others that suggested Apple should be away from retail stores. So far Steve Jobs is right, Apple stores today, represent one of the most visited retail stores in the North America.

However, brick and mortar (B&M) stores are being re-shape in our days. Apple has a unique feature that other stores can not bring to the consumers. Customers want to talk to an Apple employees and see products being demonstrated in front of their eyes. That is unique for them, plus Apple also offers the online shopping experience.

E-Commerce is redefining how we shop today. The business landscape is now being divided between B&M vs E-Commerce. The former is definitely gaining momentum.

According to the same CNN Money article:

  • “The company also said it plans to hire 100,000 full-time workers in the next 18 months in the United States. Amazon’s announcement comes as many popular retailers are closing stores and eliminating jobs. In the last month alone, Payless Shoesource, Dollar General, JCPenneyand GameStop each announced a significant number of store closings.”

The huge success of Amazon is a sign that consumers are relying more and more in the internet as first option for product acquisition. Basically you can buy almost everything through E-Commerce, without visiting a B&M store.

Also, most of the B&M are not open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Online shopping literally is open any time you want to place an order. But B&M stores are not a concept in “extinction”. Apple is a clear example of that. Amazon now has its own B&M store; Amazon Books!

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The reality was different for stores like Radio Shack, Payless, GameStop, etc… the cost of maintaining a B&M store at the same time that consumers could buy the same product online was not feasible for them. Perhaps the solution for them, was 5 years ago, started reducing the number of stores and/or size, at the same time investing on E-Commerce. But now is too late for some of them.

Beautiful Destinations: a successful Instagram story

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I found an interesting article from Bloomberg titled: “How much is an Instagram Story Worth?” The article basically explains how a social media platform – Instagram – shaped the travel industry worldwide. The most interesting point in the article is that social media and human talent were the main factor for this successful story.

Basically, it relates to Jeremy and Tom Jauncey the founders of Beautiful Destinations Instagram page. It all started in 2012 and by the end of the year they would have reached 1 million followers! An amazing accomplishment. Today they have over 8 million followers.

  • “Jeremy and Tom Jauncey were among the first to turn being good at Instagram into a travel advertising and marketing business. Jeremy launched the travel-themed Instagram page Beautiful Destinations in 2012 and was soon joined by his brother. …The brothers have built a portfolio of customers in the travel industry, mostly hotel chains and tourism bureaus, who pay to be touted to Beautiful Destinations’ enormous number of followers”.

What surprised me the most in this case, is how places that were already famous – like NYC post card destinations – received an even huge boost and tourism influx, when  Beautiful Destinations mentioned them. The Travel Industry capture that momentum and realized the benefit of working with Jeremy and Tom.

  • “…In the fall, Beautiful Destinations posted a series of Instagram posts and a Story from the Empire State Building for New York City’s tourism board, NYC & Company, that registered 3 million likes, comments and views for the client’s @nycgo handle in less than a week. Beautiful Destinations has been garnering 30 million weekly views since Stories was unveiled; individual story posts have been averaging 5 million views. Before that, videos were a smaller part of the business“.

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The combination of brand awareness and marketing costs were a new factor in the social media era. Beautiful Destinations became the “page” to be or to follow. But when you hear about low costs you will be surprised that Beautiful Destinations charges for annual contracts: $50,000 to $1 million for their marketing campaigns. Many companies are willing to pay that price because they see the return.

  • “Clients are drawn to the brothers’ ability to cultivate brand awareness. Marketing costs are lower, too, compared with those of traditional television and print advertising. “The traditional hotel photo shoot is a thing of the past,” says Hoyt Harper II, a former senior vice president for Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Luxury Collection. “Sending professional photographers to destinations is very expensive.

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Today Beautiful Destinations has travelled the world and Jeremy and Tom’s  dedication and talent can be seen in each picture by 8 million followers since they started 5 years ago!

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The business term:”open door policy” is that real or just a term?

I recalled hearing this phrase “my door is always open for you”; a term that resounded from every single environment I have worked. Talking to other co-workers as well as friends, all had the same experience in their previous workplace. It seems that all managers or business leaders have this “open door policy” as a concrete statement.

The “open door policy” is a statement that should reflect a position of respect in sharing opinions in the workplace. But we all know that sometimes this is not the necessary case.

According to an article from Harvard Business Review  Leaders often have an inflated idea of how easy it is for others to speak honestly to them. Our two-year research study, including interviews with over 60 senior executives, as well as workshops and case studies, illuminates a glaring blind spot: We simply don’t appreciate how risky it can feel for others to speak up. This is because, if we are in a powerful position, we often take power for granted. As a member of a privileged in-group, we forget what it is like to be in the less privileged out-group.Consider the phrase “My door is always open.” It contains a number of assumptions. First, people should meet you on your territory, rather than the other way around. Second, you have the luxury of a door. Third, you can choose when to close or open it.”

Funny enough the term “open door policy” was created by United States Secretary of State John Hay at the end of the 19th Century, dealing with several countries. It stated the principles for protection of equal privileges trading with China. (Britannica.com)

Yes, a long time ago… and even at that time the “open door policy” had its bumps in the road. Today the term is almost misused by managers. As a matter of fact it became just a term. Not a reality.

'Come in, come in. My door is always open for you!'

Although it is a fact that most companies, especially successful ones, encourage directors and managers to create an environment that is receptive to receiving opinions; however like the HVR article mentioned “If you are wondering why others aren’t speaking up more, first ask yourself how you are inadvertently silencing them.”

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the leaders to have that sincere “open door policy” that will help the company and its employees to achieve success.

(below photo: taigacompany.com)

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The cost of discount stores: good or bad?

According to an article on CBC News, Giant Tiger and other discount stores are in an expansion mode! Usually when companies are expanding is a good sign, but in a case of discount stores what is that good or bad?

For Marvin Ryder, a professor at McMaster School of Business, the case of discount stores has an interesting factor: “Ryder believes that debt-burdened consumers remain nervous about the economy, and are therefore cautious about spending… “.

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The article goes to state that: “(the) Average Canadian incomes have barely risen over the last year, according to Statistics Canada. For workers in retail, accommodation, and food services, wages have actually fallen by about two per cent.”

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It seems that the expansion of discount stores also means a harsh reality; consumers in general are having less income to spend and therefore are more selective on where to buy.

 

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Anonymous Browsing data: It is not so anonymous anymore

I always was interested to know how companies can track our browsing habits and consequently advertise similar products or brands back to us. Well, it turned out that  we are not so “anonymous” in the internet browsing.

According to the latest Forbes article “Anonymous Browsing Data Isn’t Anonymous As you Think” our browsing habits are carefully analyzed by marketing experts.

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The author of the article Lee Mathews writes: “When you visit a website — just about any website — your visit is logged by third parties in a digital record. Advertisers use that information to make sure you see ads that are relevant to your interests. Content providers use it to make sure they’re posting videos and articles that you’ll want to watch and read”.

So, how secure and private is our internet browsing? It appears that it is not so secure nor private, based on the marketing strategists and the number of advertising we get after shopping on-line.

I understand that in one side, companies want to sell and make their brand “present” to us. But on the other side, certain people don’t want to have unsolicited products or brands showing up on their internet browsing all the time. Just think when was you last time shopping for a trip or any product on-line. Surely, you may have received  unsolicited advertising related to your latest browsing.

On a positive side, based on the issues of privacy and security, companies are investing on new services to accommodate customers. For example, there are internet applications that are focusing on protecting your information when you are browsing on-line. Creating a niche marketing for consumers interested in buying products or applications to protect their privacy.

According to the same article: “There are steps you can take to protect your digital privacy, of course. Using a VPN can help, and so can the right privacy-focused apps and services.” 

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It is interesting how the internet can evolve in creating new services that in turn will generate business. Privacy and security is one of the most invested services in the IT department for most of the companies.

In a certain sense, that same service is being sought by regular consumers. We all know that when dealing with Internet, e-commerce, social media platforms in general, the clock never stops, we always have a different product being offer out there.

How Internet changed every business

I was reading an article from Forbes magazine entitled: “3 Ways The Internet Of Things Will Change Every Business” and found curious that the author Bernad Marr, purposely placed the word EVERY, meaning  that the era of business was one before the Internet, and another after the Internet.

According to Marr; “Take John Deere DE -0.85%, for example.  For decades, they’ve sold the tractors that make farming on a 21st century scale easier and more profitable. But since 2012, they’ve added data connectivity to their equipment, giving farmers information about which crops to plant where and when, when and where to plow, and even the best route to take while plowing.  They are essentially now in the business of selling data as much as they are selling tractors“.

images-14The article highlighted 3 major factors that changed and helped business in general. The creation of smart products; the option of smarter business operations and smart decisions, and finally, a change in business model as a whole.  The list of  smart products developed are almost endless. Just think about high tech sensors and remote access to products in real-time is one of few innovations from the Internet.

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Definitely it was an amazing transformation from the business stand point, comparing the business today interfacing with technology, with the business before the Internet. Now is just wait to see what the future has to offer in this never stop changing world of business and technology.

 

The future of Twitter: Not even Trump is helping Twitter’s growth

Twitter has just over 10 years as one of the most solid and well established social media platform. But now that “maturity” is no longer an issue for Twitter, the company is facing some challenges.

According to CNN Money not even President Trump is helping Twitter’s growth: “Even being President Trump’s preferred communication platform isn’t enough to save Twitter.”

That was the introduction of the CNN Money article regarding the future of Twitter.

Despite all the slow growth, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s cofounder and CEO, he believes that “Twitter’s influence in everyones life outpace its competitors”.

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The CNN Money article continues: “Twitter (TWTRTech30) posted sales of $717 million for the fourth quarter, missing Wall Street estimates and increasing just 1% from the same quarter a year earlier. 

 

The lackluster sales growth was due to a decline in advertising revenue, particularly in the U.S. where ad sales declined 7%. Twitter is struggling to compete for ad dollars with larger or faster-growing Internet services. 

Twitter’s user growth remains stalled. It had 319 million monthly active users in the fourth quarter, a gain of just two million from the previous quarter. 

The stock fell 10% in pre-market trading Thursday following the earnings release. 

“The whole world is watching Twitter,” Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s cofounder and CEO, said on a conference call with analysts. “While we may not be currently meeting everyone’s growth expectations, there is one thing that continues to grow and outpace our peers: Twitter’s influence and impact.”

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I think that Twitter is one of the most important social media platforms in the market. But like any other social media company, there are huge expectations for growth and development. The article even pointed out that, in comparison Twitter has 319 million users vs Facebook reaching almost 2 billion.

Maybe Twitter will be facing a huge challenge in the next 5 years. The company will either develop something new attracting new customers – some experts are seeing Twitter more involved with Sports and Business – or facing the reality of being no more one of the leaders in the social media environment. The future will tell us.

 

 

Social Media Pushes the Home Renovation to Record Growth

According to an article on Financial Post: “Renovation spending has been rising for 15 straight years and reached a record $63.4-billion in 2013, which accounted for 3.7% of total Canadian gross domestic product, Altus said. More money is being spent on renovation than on all new home construction.” 

I think this is a great example of the power of Social Media influencing people and creating new trends. The Home Renovation Industry had a tremendous boost with TV Shows that can be watched basically anytime and anywhere. Plus Social Media helped to share the success and frustrations of home renovations.

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We also factor the “product placement” and the sponsorship in certain shows. For example, a brand new kitchen bought at Home Depot, Lower’s or Ikea. The show also take opportunities to advertise non related home renovation products, such as a bank service. In one HGTV show, the host showed how to deposit a cheque using your smartphone, a bank service that can be helpful during your buzzy home renovation. (Below a TD Bank advertisement for some HGTV shows)

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I think that to capture the whole scope of Social Media, we should factor that people influence people on new trends, like home renovations with ideas, inspirations, tips and resources that are everyday share on Social Media. Definitely a bonus for the home renovation Industry. (Photo below: TV Show hosts for home renovations)

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Social Media and Travel Industry

The Travel Industry took by surprise the number of people who “by-pass” them and simply ordered travel trips online in the 90’s. Specially after the “internet boom” in the late 90’s with websites being created at a fast pace.

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I was surprised to know that the Travel Industry instead of “fighting” against online e-commerce and social media in general, they became part of this new reality. Maybe some travel agencies downsized or simply closed – the ones that did not adapted – but the Travel Industry started to focus on educating the customer on the benefits of having a reliable travel agency vs booking online.

The Travel Industry first took social media as a “threat”, then as an “opportunity”. They noticed that for some customers that are only interested in book a flight, they are most likely to use online services and simply book online. This new trend was explored by many new companies like Trivago, Expedia,Travelocity, TripAdvisor, etc…

Travel Agencies now focused on providing a service that goes beyond the fact of an airline ticket, they are now focusing on  all-inclusive packages for resorts, cruise line, or a combination of flight/hotel/transportation package.

As marketing experts pointed out: “agents need to embrace social media and use it as part of their marketing strategy, according to Ron Cates, international director, digital marketing education for Constant Contact: You engage with your customers – they are advocating for you.” .

I think that the Travel Industry, is an example of an industry that at first took online e-commerce as a threat, then learned how to adapt and use Social Media as an opportunity to target customers. (Below photo: a Travel Agency that became less popular after online booking).

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Most of the large travel agencies have a Facebook, Twitter and several social media tools in their portfolio: “Content creation for travel and hospitality brands has traditionally been filled with imagery showing off the sights, accommodations and benefits of picking one brand over another. But social media, combined with new generations that favor experience over prestige, has created new influencers who often showcase different approaches to sharing their experiences…” (By Chris Kerns – VP of Research and Insights) Below photo:  an example of a Travel Agency that adapted to the competition of online booking.

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Finally, Social Media helped to bring more attention to beautiful places in the world, and helped share the experiences of many travellers, therefore collaterally boosting the Industry.