Site moved to, redirecting in 1 second...

233 posts categorized "Business Book Musings"

December 17, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 9

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER'S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


The Critical Factor

“Leadership is not magnetic personality … it is not ‘making friends and influencing people’—that is salesmanship.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker clearly delineated the difference between being a leader and being a manager. He famously riffed, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” The right things for a leader to do, according to Drucker, include these ideals:

1. Courage with Character
It takes courage to practice “purposeful abandonment." It also takes character to make connections with people who are genuine and compassionate. Natural leaders do both.

2. Articulate a Clear Mission
“The foundation of effective leadership is thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it, and establishing it clearly and visibly. The leader sets the goals, sets the priorities, and sets and maintains the standards.” (THE ESSENTIAL DRUCKER, 2001)

3. Foster Loyalty
A leader must be worthy of receiving loyalty. To be so worthy, Drucker maintains leaders must set their standards high and always live by those high standards. When loyalty is fostered throughout a business, employee morale increases as does employee effectiveness.

4. Make Strengths Stronger
“Nothing destroys the spirit of an organization faster than focusing on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths, building on disabilities rather than on abilities. The focus must be on strength.” (THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT, 1954)

5. Hire People Smarter than You
Ineffective leaders worry about their direct reports usurping them. Effective leaders don’t. Effective leaders encourage their direct reports to assume greater responsibility and to make more meaningful contributions to the business. Effective leaders measure their success by the success achieved of the people s/he hires, manages, and promotes.

6. Earn Trust
”To trust a leader is not to necessarily like him. Nor is it necessary to agree with him. Trust is the conviction a leader means what he says. It is a belief in something very old-fashioned, called ‘integrity.’” (THE ESSENTIAL DRUCKER, 2001)

7. Develop People
Peter Drucker understood no business will survive if it is lead by only one leader. A thriving organization needs leaders throughout and not just at the helm. According to Drucker, “The gravest indictment of a leader is for the organization to collapse as soon as he leaves or dies.”

Next, Chapter TEN of the The IDB Project.

December 16, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 8

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Auditing Strengths

“Most organizations take their employees’ strengths for granted and focus on minimizing their weaknesses. They [identify] ‘skill gaps’ or ‘areas of opportunity,’ and then pack them off to training classes so that weaknesses can be fixed. But this isn’t development, it is damage control. And by itself damage control is a poor strategy for elevating either the employee or the organization to world-class performance.”Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton (2001)

Psst … decades before Marcus Buckingham became the poster child for “building upon strengths, not weakness,” Peter Drucker heralded the cause. In THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT (1954), Drucker actually launched the strengths movement by writing:

“Nothing destroys the spirit of an organization faster than focusing on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths, building on disabilities rather than on abilities. The focus must be on strength.”

“One can only build on strength. One can achieve only by doing. Appraisal must therefore aim first and foremost on bringing out what a man can do … a man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths.”

“One cannot do anything with what one cannot do. Once cannot achieve anything with what one does not do … Appraisal must therefore aim first and foremost on bringing out what a man can do.”

Drucker revisited the concept of strengths-based development with a must-read Harvard Business Review article (MANAGING ONESELF, 1999). He updates his stance by writing:

“Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at - and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

“Waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and far more work to improve from incompetence to low mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”

Also in MANAGING ONSELF, Drucker explains how “measuring feedback analysis” is the best way to discover your strengths. He encourages executives to, at the time they make a key decision, write down the expectations they hope come from that decision. Then after nine or twelve months, compare the actual results with the written-down expectations. It’s a process that worked for Drucker to identify areas he excelled and areas where he struggled to meet expectations.

From my experience
, a more scientific way to identify one’s strengths is to use the StrengthsFinder test from Gallup. This online test formed the basis for NOW, DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS (2001) and for Tom Rath’s STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0 (2007).

Next, Chapter NINE of the The IDB Project.

The IDB Project | Chapter 7

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Abandon All But Tomorrow

“The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon. In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown, the absolute, [and] the unproductive.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker preached “purposeful abandonment.” He felt the best way for a company to grow is to first stop doing what’s not working. That is, abandon projects that fail to deliver results. Abandon products that fail to increase profit. And abandon people that fail to make worthwhile contributions to the company.

Drucker’s “purposeful abandonment” is very similar to Jim Collins’ “Stop Doing List” concept.

In GOOD TO GREAT, Collins brought renewed relevance to “purposeful abandonment” by giving it a catchy name — Stop Doing List. Collins writes, “Take a look at your desk. If you're like most hard-charging leaders, you've got a well-articulated to-do list. Now take another look: Where's your stop-doing list?” [source]

Collins continues, “Those who built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of ‘stop doing’ lists as ‘to do’ lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.” [source]

For sound advice on what to include in a “Stop Doing” list, we look to Peter Drucker. In MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES FOR THE 21st CENTURY (1999), Drucker shared, “If what looks like an opportunity does not advance the strategic goal of the institution, it is not an opportunity. It is a distraction.” Both Drucker and Collins agree, distractions must be avoided.

Next, Chapter Eight of the The IDB Project.

December 15, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 6

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


The Jeffersonian Ideal

“Everybody from the boss to the sweeper must be seen as equally necessary to the success of the common enterprise.”Peter Drucker

Beginning with CONCEPT OF CORPORATION (1946) and continuing with THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT (1954), Peter Drucker shared his belief in the Jeffersonian Ideal of equality and empowerment for all employees.

It’s hard for us to believe treating employees as valuable assets (not dehumanized cogs) and giving them the responsibility to make decisions are revolutionary business concepts. But they were when Drucker began writing about business management matters in the 1940s.

In MANAGEMENT: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973), Drucker shared how he learned lower-level employees were more knowledgeable and competent than senior-level management gave them credit. During World War II, Drucker was conducting research inside a corporation. He was unable to talk with many management-level employees because a lot of them were serving in World War II. Instead, Drucker had to rely on lower-level employees for information. He learned the average worker was smarter and better adjusted than previously thought.

For decades, Drucker trumpeted the importance of engaging and empowering the “knowledge worker.” He viewed corporations as social institutions, not nameless and soulless assembly lines. His writings routinely argued the needs, goals, and strengths of individual employees had to be addressed by corporations. And, corporations needed “to be organized so as to bring out the talents and capacities within the organization.”

Next, Chapter Seven of the The IDB Project.

The IDB Project | Chapter 5

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


When Naturals Run Out

“When you need large numbers of talented managers, you have to convert management into something that can be learned or taught.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker used the word “natural” to signify a superstar manager. He shared an interesting story with Jeffrey Krames which explains why he used “natural” to mean star performer.

In an interview with Krames, Drucker talked about how, before corporations ruled business, family businesses were the leading businesses. And, family businesses were naturally managed by family members. Drucker said the best of these family managers were “naturals.”

However, at some point, the family business would run out of “naturals” and they would need to look outside the family for managers. A process was needed “… that could transform non-naturals into competent managers.” Thus, making the matter of finding, training, and developing managers a critical business discipline.

Throughout his career, Drucker shared lots of ideas on what makes someone a natural manager.

For example, people who can hire and fire employees without getting emotionally involved are “naturals.” Those who can effectively manage their time to focus supremely on just one or two priorities at a time are “naturals.” People who can make difficult decisions and ask difficult questions at the most opportune time are “naturals.” And, “Naturals” know it is their responsibility to foster a positive and welcoming corporate culture.

Next, Chapter Six of the The IDB Project.

December 12, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 4

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)



“The executive is within an organization. Every executive … sees the inside—the organization—as close and immediate reality. He sees the outside only through thick and distorting lenses, if at all. What goes on outside is usually not even known firsthand. It is received through an organizational filter of reports, that is, in an already predigested and highly abstract form.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker warned businesses about the dangers of developing an insular corporate culture. The business reality is, many executives lose perspective of what matters most and fall victim to fire-fighting inconsequential issues rather than addressing fundamental business issues that impact attracting, retaining, and growing customers.

In MANAGING FOR RESULTS (1964), Drucker outlined eight business realities managers must address to develop a customer-driven outside-in perspective.

1. Only Cost Centers Exist Within a Business
Employees do not create sales. Products do not create sales. Processes do not create sales. Only customers create sales. Every department inside a business is a cost center and not a profit center. Drucker says, “It is always somebody outside who decides whether the efforts of a business become economic results or whether they become so much waste and scrap.”

2. Solving Problems Solves Little
Jeffrey Krames summarizes Drucker’s wisdom by writing, “Solving problems can only return the organization to its prior status quo. To achieve results managers must exploit opportunities.” Constantly fire-fighting problems will never allow a company to grow. It is only by finding and taking advantage of opportunities that causes a company to grow.

3. Effectiveness is Better than Efficiency
Drucker once said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” And, Drucker also said, “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.” Enough said.

4. A Business that Fails to Lead Will Become Marginalized
Genuine market leaders, according to Drucker, must achieve their leadership results in an area that is meaningful to a customer or market. Such as, leadership in product development (think Apple), leadership in customer service (Container Store), leadership in distribution (Wal-Mart), or leadership in bringing ideas to market faster (Zara).

Achieving a leadership position is imperative for a business to stave off becoming marginalized or commoditized. Drucker argues a business “… may seem to be a leader, may supply a large share of the market, may have the full weight of momentum, history, and tradition behind it. But the marginal is incapable of survival in the long run, let alone of producing profits. It lives on borrowed time. It exists on sufferance and through the inertia of others. Sooner or later, whenever boom conditions abate, it will be squeezed out.”

5. Market Leadership is a Temporary Condition
The reality is simple: a business must not become secure in its leadership position. Customers change and markets change. Businesses that fail to adapt to the ever-evolving marketplace will lose their leadership position. Drucker says its normal for businesses “to drift from leadership to mediocrity.” Given this reality, Drucker urges executives to “reverse the normal drift” by focusing the business ”on opportunity and away from problems, to re-create leadership and counteract the trend toward mediocrity, to replace inertia and its momentum by new energy and new direction.” source

6. Decisions Age Quickly
Drucker once wrote, “Any human decision or action starts to get old the moment it has been made.” So true, and so very applicable to business. The job of a manager, then, is “not to impose yesterday’s normal on a changed today; but to change the business, its behavior, its attitudes, its expectations—as well as its products, its markets, and its distributive channels—to fit the new realities.”

7. Misallocation of Resources is Certain to Happen
Drucker contends too many employees are misallocated and required to work on “yesterday” projects and “yesterday” programs that will not result in helping a company achieve market leadership today. He claims executives, working under ”managerial vanity,” are so desperate to turnaround poor-performing products and programs that they allocate resources to solve problems rather than to find new opportunities.

To combat this misallocation reality, Drucker recommends “constant reappraisal and redirection” of resources to improve the effectiveness of a business.

8. A Business is More Effective When it is More Selective
Businesses try to accomplish far too much. They lose concentration and give in to the temptation of being all things to all people. Drucker asserts, “Economic results require that staff efforts be concentrated on the few activities that are capable of producing significant business results. Managers must minimize the amount of attention devoted to products which produce primarily costs.”

Next, Chapter Five of the The IDB Project.

December 11, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 3

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Broken Washroom Doors

“Every business has its ‘broken washroom doors,’ its misdirections, its policies, procedures, and methods that emphasize and reward wrong behavior, penalize or inhibit right behavior.”Peter Drucker

No business is perfect. Every business has flaws. Peter Drucker calls these flaws “broken washroom doors.” Obviously, in order for a business to achieve sustained success, it must minimize flaws that “reward wrong behavior” and “inhibit right behavior.”

By 1990, Drucker had turned much of his attention to helping non-profit businesses succeed. He was disenchanted with for-profit businesses because he felt the compensation system had evolved into a broken washroom door.

Drucker strongly believed executives were being wrongly rewarded with excessive stock options and sky-high salaries. He reasoned stock options are inappropriate compensation because they gave executives the incentive to manage for immediate results and not for long-term results. Drucker also bemoaned the escalating pay rate for CEOs. In 2006, the average salary of CEO from an S&P 500 company was 364 times greater than the pay of an average employee [source]. Drucker felt CEO pay should not exceed 20 times the average employee.

According to Drucker, another broken washroom door are the mission statements that attempt to give companies focus. Drucker says, “Mission statements have to be operational; otherwise, it’s merely good intentions.” The more specific a company’s mission statement, the easier it will be to have employees focused on making a worthwhile contribution.

The tendency to burden employees with an array of priorities becomes another broken washroom door. Drucker long-advocated assigning managers no more than two priorities. From his experience, he learned no manager could expertly deliver upon more than two priorities at any given time.

Next, Chapter Four of the The IDB Project.

December 10, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 2

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Execution First and Always

“Management must always, in every decision and action, put economic performance first. It can only justify its existence and its authority by the economic results it produces.”Peter Drucker

Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan wrote the best-selling business book, EXECUTION: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (2002). As Jeffrey Krames points out, “Execution” was a concept Peter Drucker wrote about extensively and much of the Bossidy/Charan book is a rehash of earlier Drucker writings.

Peter Drucker failed to give his concepts catchy names. Instead, he was more concerned about bringing new and worthwhile business concepts to light. Drucker wrote extensively about “execution” … he just didn’t call it that.

Krames summarizes Drucker’s thoughts on execution by sharing six ways managers fail to execute consistently.

1. Failure to Abandon Bad Projects
Drucker once said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” He was a strong believer in having managers conduct regular performance reviews of products. And an even stronger believer in abandoning projects that fail to meet objectives.

2. Too Much Management Bureaucracy
Having to navigate through unnecessary corporate red tape will stifle the ability of any manager to execute upon good ideas.

3. Poorly Defined Objectives and Business Values
Effective and efficient execution is helped greatly when a business outlines clear project objectives and when the values of a business are not just articulated, but lived.

4. Inappropriate Management Structure
“The right [management] structure does not guarantee results. But the wrong structure aborts results and smothers even the best direct efforts.” (MANAGING FOR RESULTS (1964), Peter Drucker)

5. Poorly Communicated Strategies
If employees do not understand how their individual contributions fit into the overall company strategy, execution will suffer.

6. Not Embracing a Customer-First Point-of-View
In THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT (1954), Drucker wrote, “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.” Companies that embrace and foster an insular corporate culture will result in having employees lose focus of what matters most — the customer.

Next, Chapter Three of the The IDB Project.

December 09, 2008

The IDB Project | Chapter 1

The IDB Project is a series of posts sharing summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER’S BRAIN (Jeffrey Krames)


Opportunity Favors the Prepared Mind

“Opportunity favors the prepared mind. If opportunity knocks at the door you have to open it. You have to be receptive to it and I was.”Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker opened the door of opportunity in 1943 when he was asked by General Motors to conduct a study of the company’s management system. At the time, Drucker was a professor of politics and philosophy at Bennington College (Vermont).

He had come to the United States six years earlier from Austria after earning a doctorate degree in public/international law (University of Frankfurt, 1931) and spending a few years as newspaper reporter (The Austrian Economist and Daily Frankfurter). He wrote two books during this time, The End of Economic Man (1939) and The Future of Industrial Man (1942). Drucker’s business experience was limited to short stints as an investment banker and economist in Europe.

While at Bennington College, Drucker was interested in studying the inner-workings of a large corporation. However, no corporation was willing to allow Drucker internal access for such an in-depth study. That is, until the serendipitous phone call from General Motors.

Drucker was prepared for this opportunity and the resulting work, CONCEPT OF CORPORATION (1946), changed the game of business management.

The concept of managing a corporation had always been about top-down decision-making from senior-level executives. After studying General Motors, Drucker learned to believe decentralized decision-making was the recipe for sustained success. He argued employees needed to be viewed not as dehumanized costs, but rather as valuable assets. Drucker went further by writing that employees should be given more responsibility to make decisions in order to create a “self-governing plant community.”

The CONCEPT OF CORPORATION was written over 60-years ago, but its impact can still be felt today. It took a few decades, but by the 1980s, the majority of Fortune 500 companies had implemented some form of decentralized decision-making.

Next, Chapter Two of the The IDB Project.

December 08, 2008

The IDB Project | in full detail


Jeffrey Krames has written a remarkable book titled, INSIDE DRUCKER'S BRAIN. In it, Krames shares Peter Drucker's best management ideas and updates the relevancy of these ideas for today's marketplace. Krames had a lot of material to work with — Peter Drucker, in his six decades career as a teacher, author, and consultant, wrote nearly 40 business books and countless articles.

The impact of Peter Drucker's influence cannot be understated. He's viewed as "The Man Who Invented Management" by the likes of Jack Welch, Tom Peters, and Jim Collins. But Collins has gone beyond just calling Drucker "the leading founder of the field of management." He has also said Drucker's "primary contribution is not a single idea, but rather an entire body of work that has one gigantic advantage: nearly all of it is essentially right." (Whoa.)

Long-time Brand Autopsy readers know I'm a business book junkie. My appetite for biz books stands on the verge of being insatiable. However, I've never been able to fully appreciate Peter Drucker's business writings. I've always found Drucker's books a touch too unapproachable. I get lost in the densely simple language and the dusty examples used in such classic Drucker books like: THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT (1954), MANAGING FOR RESULTS (1964), and THE EFFECTIVE EXECUTIVE (1966).

The beauty of INSIDE DRUCKER'S BRAIN is Krames updates the language and adds modern context to provide clarity and acuity to Drucker's classic writings. (Krames did a brilliant job!)

For two weeks in December 2008, the Brand Autopsy blog shared summaries, snippets, and takeaways from INSIDE DRUCKER'S BRAIN in a series of posts called ... The IDB Project.


Below is a jump list of each post:

Opportunity Favors the Prepared Mind (Dec. 9)

Execution First and Always (Dec. 10)
Broken Washroom Doors (Dec. 11)
Outside-In (Dec. 12)
When Naturals Run Out (Dec. 15)
The Jeffersonian Ideal (Dec. 15)
Abandon All But Tomorrow (Dec. 16)
Auditing Strengths (Dec. 16)
The Critical Factor (Dec. 17)
Drucker on Welch (Dec. 17)
Life-and-death Decisions (Dec. 17)
The Strategic Drucker (Dec. 18)
The Fourth Information Revolution (Dec. 18)
The Leader's Most Important Job (Dec. 18)
A Short Course on Innovation (Dec. 19)

November 29, 2008

BREAKDOWN | Colvin vs. Gladwell

UPDATED: Dec. 19 | Malcolm Gladwell and Geoff Colvin explained their understanding of how people achieve world-class success/performance with Charlie Rose. Great interviews. Watch Gladwell. Watch Colvin.

Two books were recently published about how people achieve world-class success: Geoff Colvin’s TALENT IS OVERRATED and Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS.

Both books are remarkably similar. They each dispel the notion that talent and intelligence are predictors of success. Both rely heavily on Anders Ericsson’s research into “Deliberate Practice.” And both highlight the success pathways achieved by Mozart and Bill Gates.

Colvin’s approach is geared towards business-interest and focuses mainly on one determinant of success. While Gladwell’s approach is much more general-interest and thus, includes a variety of success determinants. Both are worthwhile reads.

To help give you a basic understanding of both books, we’re going to give each one the "WHAT? | SO WHAT? | WHAT NOW?" treatment.


“Talent is overrated. The gifts possessed by the best performers are not at all what we think they are. You are not a natural-born clarinet virtuoso or car salesman or bond trader or brain surgeon—because no one is.” (pgs. 6, 7)

Great performance isn’t a result of inborn abilities, intelligence or experience.

“The fact that seems to explain the most about great performance is something the researchers call deliberate practice.” (pg. 7)

“A number of researchers now argue that talent means nothing like what we think it means, if indeed it means anything at all. A few contend that the very existence of talent is not, as they carefully put it, supported by evidence. In studies of accomplished individuals, researchers have found few signs of precocious achievement before the individuals started intensive training. Similar findings have turned up in studies of musicians, tennis players, artists, swimmers, mathematicians, and others.”

“Such findings do not prove that talent doesn't exist. But they do suggest an intriguing possibility: that if it does, it may be irrelevant.” (source)

To achieve great performance, you must practice, practice, and practice some more. But you must approach practicing with tremendous intensity and be absolutely deliberate with your practicing.

“Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.” (pg. 7)


It’s not extraordinary talent that makes you successful. It’s the extraordinary opportunities that you take advantage of which make you successful.

“Success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you were born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing will all make a significant difference in how well you do in the world.” (pgs. 175, 176)

“We are so caught up in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth.” (pg. 268)

“People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact, they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” (pg. 19)

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” (pg. 42)

“Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” (pg. 41)

“The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.” (source)

“The other interesting thing about that ten thousand hours, of course, is that ten thousand hours is an enormous amount of time. It’s all but impossible to reach that number all by yourself by the time you are a young adult.” (pg. 42)

You will need extraordinary opportunities in order to reach that amount of practice time. Such extraordinary opportunities will include having encouraging and supportive parents, having the financial wherewithal to allow yourself the time to practice, having fortuitous timing, and having the advantageous experience of being involved in a special program/circumstance where you can focus on deliberate practice.

November 03, 2008

SNIPPET | Age of Conversation

The other day I shared some “Money Quotes” from the AGE OF CONVERSATION book. Today, I’m sharing a snippet from my essay in the book … THE MARKETING MATRIX: Ignore or Explore?

(Remember, there are 237 essays in the AGE OF CONVERSATION book. Here’s hoping you choose to explore all of them and not just this snippet.)

A major shout-out goes to Kelsey Ruger for inspiring this essay. In a presentation at a GOT SOCIAL MEDIA event in Houston he referenced the red pill/blue pill idea.

November 02, 2008

MONEY QUOTES | Age of Conversation

If you run in the same social media circles as I do, then you’re aware of the Age of Conversation collaborative book. For those unaware, the Age of Conversation is collection of essays from social media champions testifying and evangelizing the merits of businesses using social media tools to better connect with customers.

You can learn much more about this collaborative effort by visiting:

To entice you to order a hardcover copy or PDF copy of the book ... riffle through this short collection of “Money Quotes” from the Age of Conversation essays:

October 27, 2008

Red Rubber Ball at Work

I’m a Kevin Carroll fan—it’s not hard not to be one. His enthusiasm for unlocking the unbridled playfulness we once enjoyed as children is as contagious as it is important.

Kevin uses a symbol of our childhood—a red rubber ball—as a metaphor for us adults to rekindle our passion for playing.

As Kevin shared in his first book, the red rubber ball represents “play” and ‘play’ is “any activity, topic, or purpose that makes you excited about the day.” Everyone has a red rubber ball. Some of us just need a little inspirational prodding to find it. According to Kevin, “Your red rubber ball is what grabs you by the soul. It’s what captures your imagination. It’s what you do when no one tells you what to do.”

Recently, Kevin published a follow-up book profiling how “play” shaped the lives of notable business leaders. In THE RED RUBBER BALL AT WORK, we learn how the professional lives of well-known chefs, marketers, authors, surgeons, and engineers were influenced by the seemingly childhood games they played as children.

It’s a worthwhile read.

Take a few moments to riffle through some of the money quotes plucked from the introductory chapter to THE RED RUBBER BALL AT WORK. (Once done riffling, get to buying and reading the book.)

October 19, 2008

Head or Heart? Perhaps Both.

My short riff about Seth Godin’s TRIBES book sparked an impassioned comment from The Brand Builder guy, Olivier Blanchard. I’m sure others think as Olivier does when he asks, where should we put our experience, insight, knowledge and leadership to good use when its apparent our boss doesn’t value it or want it? (Hmm.)

Let’s keep in mind … my earlier post isn’t a complete summary of TRIBES. One aspect of TRIBES is to inspire us to be leaders at work. Another aspect is to become leaders outside of our day jobs and lead someone and/or something somewhere else.

Years ago, a boss shared some smart advice with me addressing this question of where should we put our experience, insight, knowledge and leadership to good use?

Any job you work in has the opportunity to capture both your head and your heart. When a business captures your head, you are fully involved with the decisions/outcomes of every business activity. When a business captures your heart you are totally passionate about how the business positively impacts people and society.

It is rare to find a job that captures both your head and your heart. It is more common to find a job that captures either one’s head or heart. And unfortunately, too many people dwell in jobs that fail to capture either their head or heart. However, one’s head and heart must be engaged to live a worthwhile life.

The advice I was given was if your day job does not capture either your head or heart, you need to find something to fill that human need outside of your job. Perhaps, volunteer your strategic thinking talents or contribute your passionate beliefs to a cause you support. Maybe, rekindle an old hobby. Or, make that long-dormant business idea happen.

We all have choices in the lives we lead. We can, as Seth writes in TRIBES, choose to put fear and discomfort aside and carve out a leadership role within the companies we work for. Or, we can choose not to.

We can also choose to get our head and/or heart involved with activities, be it at our jobs or with some extracurricular activity. The choice is left up to us.

October 18, 2008

Make Leadership Happen


For years, Seth Godin has urged us to make something happen at work. This urging has usually been centered around launching Purple Cow products and services and telling authentic stories to make our products/services better.

With TRIBES, Seth has evolved his urgent advice from making something happen to making leadership happen. He writes, “Leadership doesn’t always start at the top, but it always manages to affect the folks at the top. In fact, most organizations are waiting for someone like you to lead them.”

Seth scatters a barrage of worthy riffs into this small book. One such worthy riff is how fear and discomfort paralyze people into not becoming leaders. The fear of setting ourselves for criticism and the discomfort that follows is enough to deter many of us from ever becoming a leader.

However, according to Seth, because of this fear and discomfort, it makes leadership worth pursuing. Seth explains…

“In other words, if everyone could do it [be a leader], they would, and it wouldn’t be worth much.

It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.
It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.
It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.
It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.

If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

Leadership is a choice. It’s the choice to not do nothing."

TRIBES is smart stuff worth being influenced by. Get it. Read it. Share it. And be influenced by it.

September 26, 2008

The Do:ology of Slide:ology

Earlier I raised the issue about THE HOW IS MISSING from recently published books on presentation slide design. The comments riffing off the post were great with some passionately arguing for presenters to hire graphic designers to create their presentation slides.

Paul Williams, from the Idea Sandbox business/blog, is someone I respect immensely for his PowerPoint prowess. (Back-in-the-day, Paul and I were the go-to folks within the Starbucks marketing department for PowerPoint tips. Part of our shtick was to go from cubicle-to-cubicle sharing PowerPoint MakeOver advice.)

Paul read my post on THE HOW IS MISSING and decided to recreate the AFTER slide example you see below.

image from slide:ology (O'Reilly)

It should be noted, Paul only used tools available in PowerPoint to do his slide recreation. As you’ll read, this wasn’t an easy task … even for an PowerPoint pro like Paul. Kudos to Paul for doing the Do:ology of Slide:ology.
PAUL WILLIAMS: For grins I tried to recreate the slide you used in the example in your post about the slide:ology book. It took me just over 38 minutes to create. I only used the shapes provided in PowerPoint. (I had to use white blocks to mask certain parts to match the look of the original slide).
I consider myself an advanced to expert PPT person and this was a big challenge... and my version still looks like crap compared to what appeared in the book.

I do have access to Illustrator and it would have gone faster for me if I had used that. But I wanted to keep it in PPT.

(I do have access to Apple Keynote and it would have taken me just as long, I'm sure. This is not a PPT vs. Keynote issue).

What's not fair is that there are all sorts of custom shapes and shading and stuff in the book illustration that are not part of PPT.

So, it took me 38 minutes to simply make a copy of what existed... The only "creativity" I used was figuring out how to bend PPT to my will...

To have produced this slide originally, you'd have to first have to create the concept of placing a yellow "person" on a curved stage with curved backdrops... THAT is truly the hardest part.

September 17, 2008

The HOW is Missing

I’m a marketing ideas guy, not a graphics design guy. I know my way around PowerPoint but am clueless about how to use a program like InDesign. When designing presentation slides I know enough to know fewer words and bigger pictures are better. And when delivering presentations I know to speak to my slides and not read from my slides.

So as a marketing ideas guy who designs and delivers presentations, I’m always looking to improve my game. That’s why I’ve read books on presentation design and delivery like the just-published slide:ology.

slide:ology does a brilliant job of explaining WHY simplicity matters, WHY slide design matters, and WHY storytelling matters. Unfortunately, the HOW is missing.

For example, we see many Before/After makeover slides throughout slide:ology. Here’s one:


The “Before” slide is somewhat satisfactory, but certainly boring. The “After” slide is so much more dynamic and interesting — it rocks! However, as a marketing ideas guy (and not a graphics design guy), I have no idea how to create such a killer graphic.

slide:ology tells me WHAT should be done but shares very little step-by-step direction on HOW to make a killer graphic like the one above. I want to know how to make that killer graphic without having to call on the services of a freelance graphics design guy.

I recommend reading slide:ology because it shares thought-provoking advice like … “The audience will either read your slides or listen to you. They will not do both. So, ask yourself this: is it more important that they listen, or more effective if they read?” … and … “It’s laziness on the presenter’s part to put everything on one slide.

However, if you, like me, lack graphic design skills and rely on the capabilities of PowerPoint to craft presentations … I recommend you also read BEYOND BULLET POINTS from Cliff Atkinson.

What I appreciate about Cliff’s book is he gives step-by-step directions on how to create better looking and more effective PowerPoint slides. Cliff not only explains the WHAT, he also details the HOW. Now that rocks!

(Note: You can learn more about BEYOND BULLET POINTS from this vintage Brand Autopsy post.)

August 27, 2008

This One Time at Brand Camp…

As part of the Post2Post Book Tour, we’re pimping Tom Fishburne’s newest collection of cartoons illustrating the funny side of business life in the trenches of brand management.


BRAND CAMP is basically Dilbert for Marketers. With Dilbert, Scott Adams focuses on finding humor in every department of a big business. On the other hand, Tom, with super-strong CPG marketing chops, focuses his humor on every day happenings within a company’s marketing department. Nothing marketing-related is out-of-bounds for Tom’s sharp and sometimes painful wit…

He mocks the belief of Brand Loyalty (image)...

He makes light of Psychographic Profiling...

He pokes fun at Buzz Marketing...

He ridicules Consensus Decision-Making...

He shows the derailment in developing Brand Promises...

He shoots straight about Concept Testing...

He lampoons Co-Branded Partnerships...

He redefines the meaning of earning Street Cred

He shares what really happens when we Take it Offline

He explains why too many marketers spoil the Attribute Soup

He sounds the alarm for Brainstorming Sessions


Tom says his dedication to churning out one Brand Camp cartoon a week has made him a better marketer.

Now, I can’t say reading THIS ONE TIME AT BRAND CAMP will make you a better marketer. However, I am confident doing so will make you a smarter marketer. Why? Because you will find yourself questioning the many long-held branding practices and marketing philosophies you’ve been trained to accept.

Get on the Brand Camp bandwagon by reading his blog. You can also subscribe to his weekly emailed cartoons. Or, BUY THE BOOK. (Heck, buy 10 books and pass'em around your marketing department.) Oh yeah … Tom also licenses the use of his cartoons, read here for details.

Learn more about Tom, his marketing career, and his unique perspective on all things marketing-related by following his Post2Post book tour junket ...
>> Fresh Peel | Aug. 25
>> Church of the Customer | Aug. 26
>> Dan Roam | Aug. 28
>> Seth Godin | Aug. 29

August 16, 2008

Currently reading ...


>> What are you reading?

August 08, 2008

#3 -- Biz Book | Tweet by Tweet

My "Biz Book | Tweet by Tweet" experiment ends today. For those unaware, I’ve been sharing super-tight and ultra-pithy takeaways from a worthwhile book, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF BUSINESS FAILURE (Donald Keough). (If you need more backstory, go here.)

Below is the collection of nearly 30 knowledge nuggets from Keough’s book which were first shared on Twitter. Keep mind, I’ve shortened, paraphrased, and augmented Keough’s original lines. However, I did keep the quotes from notable people as is.

Enjoy the snippets and consider reading THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF BUSINESS FAILURE. The book obviously has the Brand Autopsy seal of approval.

Nuggets from Business Failure Commandments

Failed programs are necessary for the lessons they teach us. Part of the price of staying in business is failure.
“The world belongs to the discontented.” – Oscar Wilde
If a company has never failed, they are too complacent and not discontented enough to risk its current state to impact its future state.
“I’m in favor of leaving the status quo the way it is.” — Yogi Berra
Being inflexible and having an infallible belief in having THE formula for sustainable business success is a recipe for failure.
“History is downstream – the future is upstream.” Meaning, it’s easy to go where history guides you.
“History is downstream – the future is upstream.” Meaning, it’s difficult to fight the downstream waters to go upstream into the future.
When managers/execs isolate themselves and build barriers between them and employees (as well as customers), failure is assured.
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” — John le Carre
Execs that isolate and alienate themselves breed rumor and revolt. However, it’s a winning strategy for business failure.
Success comes truer to businesses when managers/execs know the names of their employees and regularly break bread with employees.
“It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.” — Dick Cavett
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” — John Wooden
Failure in business is sure to occur when executives never admit to a problem or a mistake. Assuming infallibility is highly destructive.
Fail faster by always cloaking the truth. Lie. Never shoot straight. Make it a point to fool people at every turn.
Business failure will happen if you never stop to think.
Taking time to think isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. If nobody stops think, a business will make the same mistakes time and time again.
Business failure will occur if you avoid the responsibility to think strategically and instead, put all your faith in outside consultants.
Besides suppressing employee creativity, adding layers of bureaucracy will make a smart company dumb.
The more excitement behind a project will increase urgency and increase the chance bureaucratic blunders will bring about failure.
Failure in business is sure to occur when execs allow administrative concerns to supersede all other day-to-day business activities.
“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” — George Bernard Shaw
Sending mixed messages to employees and customers will result in business failure because it will destroy your competitive positioning.
“Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.” — Michael Pritchard
“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land.” — Helen Keller
Fearing business failure is paralyzing. Fearing the future of your business only guarantees its future will be a failure.
The most serious risk to the success of a business is to not take any risks.
To succeed in business, a business must sow the seeds of failure. Why? … because a company that has never failed, will never succeed.
“To quit taking risks is a serious risk!” Donald Keough, author of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF BUSINESS FAILURE

August 06, 2008

#2 -- Biz Book | Tweet by Tweet

You may have missed the first two days of my tweeting meaty and super-tight takeaways from Donald Keough’s Ten Commandments for Business Failure. No worries, I got ya covered.

Catch-up by reading and scrolling below. And feel free to play along by following me on Twitter this week. This experiment ends Friday.


August 04, 2008

Biz Book | Tweet by Tweet

I’ve highlighted Donald Keough’s Ten Commandments for Business Failure in a recent post. It’s a worthwhile read because Keough points out tried and true pathways for any business venture to fail. If we follow Keough’s advice of not following his advice, then business success is sure to follow. (Follow me?)

If you do follow my thinking, then follow me this week on Twitter as I will share over 25 knowledge nuggets from Keough’s book.

Since Twitter limits posts to 140 characters or less, these tweets will be nugget-sized. Meaty though — just super-tight and ultra-pithy. Here are the initial tweets:


To follow along … hop on Twitter and follow me.

NOTE: If you have no desire to wander over to Twitter, that's cool. I'll be sharing my Biz Book tweets on Wednesday and Friday ... right here on the Brand Autopsy blog.


Heads-up … you may wanna watch The Colbert Report tonight (Aug. 4) … Lucas Conley of OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER notoriety will be a guest on tonight’s show.

For a refresher on OBD ... read this.

For more on Lucas Conley ... click this.

For more on The Colbert Report ... peep this.

UPDATED: Video of Conley's appearance on TCR has been posted, click below to watch. They went the awful line extension route more than how over-marketing and over-branding breeds consumer skepticism. Funny clip though. Lucas follows Colbert's lead nicely.

August 01, 2008

Business Failure Commandments


What you just read is a money quote from Donald Keough’s recently published, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR BUSINESS FAILURE. For years Keough, a former long-time Coca-Cola executive, has been flipping the script by giving presentations on How to Fail in Business. Keough rightly reasons, by learning why companies fail, we can learn what NOT TO DO in order to achieve business success. Now these fail-trap lessons on business failure are available for us to read and learn from.

Keough, like his good friend Warren Buffet, is a smart businessman who doesn’t try to overcomplicate business theory and uses plain everyday language to share smart advice. Thus, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR BUSINESS FAILURE appeals to big business execs, small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

I was hooked early on when reading the first commandment leading to business failure: QUIT TAKING RISKS. Keough writes...

“Over time, many, many successful companies have failed to take important risks at critical points, and they have paid a price. Some have merely stumbled and found later redemption, but quite a few have not only fallen but disappeared. In the 1980s alone, 230 companies disappeared from the FORTUNE 500. In fact, only 16 of the 100 largest companies that were around in the early 1900s are still with us.”

To support this commandment, Keough gives us a history lesson by retelling classic failure stories from Xerox and Coca-Cola as well as mixing in new lessons in failure such as this one about Apple …

“In business, you can make a good argument for mistakes like Steve Job’s Lisa or Power MacCube because the highly creative Apple environment that spawned them also produced big winners like iPod and iPhone.”

“As Peter Drucker pointed out nearly fifty years agao, it is management’s major task to prudently risk a company’s present assets in order to ensure its future existence. In fact, if a company never has a failure, I submit that their management is probably not discontented enough to justify their salaries.”

Go ahead, chew on that last line cause its worth thinking about “… if a company never has a failure, I submit that their management is probably not discontented enough to justify their salaries.”

July 21, 2008

Pete Blackshaw on Credibility


Just finished reading Pete Blackshaw's book about "running a business in today's consumer-driven world." Those of you deep into word-of-mouth marketing and social media will already know much of what Pete shares. However, most of your business buddies will learn a lot from Pete's book. (And some of you could use a refresher course on why transparency and credibility matter immensely when citizen marketers are in control.) It's a worthy read.

One of the most worthwhile sections in the book deals with CREDIBILITY. Pete says credibility isn't on a company's balance sheet, but it should be because it is the only true resource a company has when the marketplace conversation is controlled by consumers. Pete continues by saying ...

“I would argue that today companies don’t just need to tell good stories; they also need to tell credible ones.

Credibility rules the day, and if a company’s story doesn’t foster trust, if it doesn’t convey transparency and authenticity, if it isn’t informed by listening and responding to customers, and it isn’t positively affirmed by what consumers are saying to one another, then it’s just another phony story. And consumers will see right through it.” [TELL 3,000 | pg. 39]

Right-on. Smart stuff.

July 18, 2008

Toy Box Leadership

The following Money Quotes presentation shares an interesting angle from the recently-published, TOY BOX LEADERSHIP. As the title conveys, this book takes classic childhood toys and extracts basic leadership lessons we first learned at a young age. It isn't a must-read book, but it is an interesting book.

Sample some of TOY BOX LEADERSHIP by learning how playing with Slinky Dog taught us a lesson on how leaders use their vision to pull followers along for the ride.

RSS Readers … click here to view the presentation.

July 12, 2008

Simplexity (Jeffrey Kluger)


Jeffrey Kluger's book on why simple things become complex seems interesting. Read a review today in the National Post that sparked my interest. The money quote from Araminta Wordsworth's review is ... "Simple things can be more complex than they seem, and complex things more simple."

>> Read the review
>> Learn more from Amazon

June 30, 2008

Obsessive Branding Disorder


Lucas Conley’s OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER book is receiving some nice media attention. And for good reason … it’s well-written and provocative.

Conley’s book began as a Fast Company essay from Oct. 2005. He’s since beefed up the premise and added in lots of relevant and unique case study examples.

For the cynical marketing crowd, which includes me, this book will be right in your wheelhouse as it delves deep into the superficial side of the arts and sciences of modern branding.

To give you a taste of Conley’s take, below is my trademark pending WHAT ? — SO WHAT? — WHAT NOW? summary of OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER. (Just kiddin' on the trademark-pending quip. Tom Ehrenfeld is the rightful owner of this idea.)

“Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance, and packaging over experience.” (p. 197)

“More than marketing, advertising, or positioning, branding is an all-in-one ideology—a facile reduction malleable enough to govern all facets of modern business.” (p. 5)

“By abandoning the trusty, dusty principles of business—innovative products, good service, solid management—for the idealism of branding, companies reveal the true escapist appeal of their new religion.” (p. 10)

“Successful, enduring brands are either truly innovative and outstanding or a great value. They have never needed much advertising. They don’t have to reinvigorate their employees with brand-morale building or rely shamelessly on empty company taglines. Their products fulfill the legitimate purpose of the brand.” (p. 64)

“But the effect of … [obsessive] branding has been a steady erosion in the public’s trust.” (p. 110)

“The world is cheapened when everyone sees it with a marketer’s eye. We lose trust for each other and grow skeptical of one another as we try to determine what we’re being sold. We become more isolated and more self-conscious, more prone to rely on brands for status and to ally ourselves with other brand loyalists for company.” (p. 199)

“To combat this obsessive branding disorder, we must acknowledge that we will always have brands—they are an inevitable medium for communication and commerce.” (p. 201)

“But if we acknowledge that we must rely on brands to some degree, and if we keep our focus on the products rather than the promotions, we can begin to extricate ourselves from a world of brand churches, tribes, and religion.” (p. 202)

“Run a good business and your brand will follow.” (from Lucas’ Oct. 2005 Fast Company essay)

June 16, 2008

Dave Balter on Word-of-Mouth


First came GRAPEVINE, now comes … THE WORD OF MOUTH MANUAL (TWOMM). Dave Balter, founder/ceo of the notorious BzzAgent managed word-of-mouth media company, shares his unique perspective on how best to get people talking about products/services in TWOMM.

True to his credo, he’s doing something to generate buzz. Instead of releasing the breezy-to-read TWOMM through a major publisher, Balter is self-publishing it. And, as any self-publisher must do, he’s self-promoting it by offering the manifesto as a free PDF download. He’s also offering it as a bound book for sale on Amazon.

But if you are of the read it on the screen ilk, DOWNLOAD the manifesto HERE.

Long-time Brand Autopsy readers know I ain’t the biggest fan of BzzAgent. On the WOM pendulum, Dave swings to the side of Creationist WOM and I steadfastly cling to the side of Evolutionist WOM.

While I dislike the BzzAgent model of using its BzzAgents as a media channel to produce organized word-of-mouth, I do like Dave. He’s a smart guy who seeks to be provocative. And being provocative is exactly what he’s doing when he writes, “99.999% of [marketers] will never achieve pure word of mouth.

Consider me part of the 00.001% as I’ve been fortunate to be a marketer who has relied on tapping into PURE word-of-mouth from evangelical customers from my marketing days at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market. Both of those businesses were built upon designing and delivering a product and experience worth talking about.

Judge for yourself as to the validity that pure word-of-mouth happens only when the stars align a certain way. Do that judging by downloading/reading Dave Balter’s THE WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING MANUAL.

May 10, 2008

Steve Yastrow on the WE Relationship

I love the premise from Steve Yastrow’s recently-published book, WE: The Ideal Customer Relationship. In the opening chapter, Yastrow writes …

Relationships have become powerful differentiators. Customers can’t tell if your product is better than your competitor’s product, but they can tell if they have a better relationship with you than with your competitor.

If relationships are such powerful differentiators, what is the most productive, profitable, and sustainable relationship?

The We relationship.

In a We relationship, you think less about what separates you and more about what intertwines you.

In contrast, if your customer’s view of your relationship is not “We” but “Us & Them,” he will focus more on what he can get from you—and on what he believes you get from him—and less on how you can collaborate to reach your goals together. [Steve Yastrow, SOURCE]

For those needing to see this premise in a chart, peep the following from pg. 13 of WE: The Ideal Customer Relationship ...


Learn more about Steve Yastrow and get yourself a copy of WE.

April 24, 2008

Digging Inside Steve’s Brain

If you’re following me on Twitter, then you know I’m reading Leander Kahney’s newest Apple-related book … INSIDE STEVE’S BRAIN. It’s a worthy read.

Lots have been written about Steve Jobs and Apple. Kahney’s book, though, runs the full gamut on sharing the business mindset that drives Jobs and drives Apple to succeed. You’ll learn insights into developing new products, designing the customer experience, fostering an innovation spirit, hiring top talent, and sharing passion to “… put a ding in the universe.”

I judge the worthiness (and worthlessness) of business book on three factors: IDEATION (helps me generate new ideas), INTELLECTION (gives me a new perspective on a business topic) and MAXIMIZATION (increases my current understanding of a business topic). INSIDE STEVE’S BRAIN ranked high for me on all three factors. That’s why it’s a worthy read.

Sample some of INSIDE STEVE'S BRAIN through these tasty Money Quotes

RSS Readers ... click here to read the Money Quotes

April 07, 2008

The Internet is your Marketing Department

“Right now, your customers are writing about your products on blogs and recutting your commercials on YouTube. They’re defining you on Wikipedia and ganging up on you in social networking sites like Facebook. These are all elements of a social phenomenon — the groundswell — that has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works.”
GROUNDSWELL (Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff)

If you are reading this blog then you have a clue about the Groundswell that Charlene & Josh detail in GROUNDSWELL. Others you know in the office are probably clueless about this Groundswell. They have no clue about the power to be unleashed from embracing the Groundswell. They do not realize the Internet is your marketing department.

GROUNDSWELL is the definitive guide to what is happening now in the citizen marketer online world we live, work, and frolic in. You’ll learn about the online tools people use and the motivations for why people participate in the Groundswell. You’ll also gain access to previously super-spendy analysis reserved for Forrester clients … such as … ROI of an Executive Blog, ROI of Online Ratings/Reviews, and ROI of Online Community Forums.

Charlene & Josh refresh some of their smartest blog posts in GROUNDSWELL. They’ve written about the Social Technographics ladder before, but the updated analysis in the book will help you better understand the motivations and activities of consumers today. And, their easy-to-understand P.O.S.T strategy to participating in the Groundswell will help many in demystifying how to get started using online media to connect with customers.

GROUNDSWELL is must-read material for all Marketing Managers and Marketing Directors who want to use the power of the Internet as an extension of their marketing department.

[Prerequisite reading includes: THE CORPORATE BLOGGING BOOK (Debbie Weil) and CITIZEN MARKETERS (McConnell & Huba).]

March 25, 2008

Five Biz Book Excerpts of Note

1 | GROUNDSWELL (Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff) is about to be published. An excerpt is now available.

2 | GOOD IN A ROOM (Stephanie Palmer) was just published, read an excerpt here.

3 | BOUNCE! (Barry Moltz) is on bookshelves and on my reading list. Excerpt? Ya sure, you betcha.

4 | STOPWATCH MARKETING (John Rosen & AnnaMaria Turano) is also newly released. Sample some of it with what else ... another excerpt (.pdf).

5 | PIRATE'S DILEMMA ... yeah, I've already raved about it. This interview with Matt Mason is worth reading too.

March 11, 2008


I’m doling out more Money Quotes with a few sharp lines from Jim Champy’s just-published book, OUTSMART!: How to Do What Your Competitor’s Can’t. These quotes share Jim’s thinking on how growth businesses outsmart incumbent businesses. Enjoy.

RSS Readers … click here to view the presentation.

March 09, 2008

The Myths of Innovation

I’m a little late in reading Scott Berkun’s THE MYTHS OF INNOVATION. Not sure where I got hip to the book, but it was somewhere online. I’m sure glad to be hip to it because it’s a smart take on when innovation happens and how it happens.

The following Money Quotes presentation shares tasty nuggets from THE MYTHS OF INNOVATION. By no means is this a synopsis. It’s just a smidgen of what you'll learn when you read Scott’s way worthy book. Learn more about Scott from his blog. Learn more about his book by viewing the following. Enjoy.

RSS Readers … click here to view the presentation.

February 09, 2008

second serving | MEATBALL SUNDAE

Earlier I shared a summary and some sound-bites from Seth Godin's newest book, MEATBALL SUNDAE.  I've collected a few cast-offs from the editing room floor that didn't make the initial sound-bite cut.  Just because these money quotes and action-figure photos didn't make the cut, doesn't mean they aren't chewy. They are.  Enjoy.








January 29, 2008

The Pirate’s Dilemma | REMIXED

“Remixing is about taking something that already exists and redefining it in your own personal creative space, reinterpreting someone else’s work your way. [It’s about] taking an idea and making it suitable for a whole new audience.”Matt Mason, THE PIRATE’S DILEMMA

Consider the following post a remix of Matt Mason’s THE PIRATE’S DILEMMA. The twist I’m adding is whittling down the gist of Matt’s message into a WHATSO WHATWHAT NOW structure. The WHAT is the core of Matt’s idea. The SO WHAT explains why the WHAT matters. And the WHAT NOW is advice on how to action upon the WHAT.

NOTE: All direct samples lifted from Mason’s original work, THE PIRATE’S DILEMMA, are quoted in italics.


“Entrepreneurs look for gaps in the market. Pirates look for gaps outside of the market. By thinking like pirates, people grow niche audiences to a critical mass and change the mainstream from the bottom-up.”

Matt Mason reasons today’s capitalism is influenced by Pirate entrepreneurs who are rocking the boat by “doing things differently and working out new ways to share information, intellectual property, and public space.”

American Apparel
is a company run by a Pirate entrepreneur in Don Charney. Influenced by the punk capitalism ideal of “putting purpose next to profit,” Charney is reinventing the apparel industry in America. All of American Apparel clothes are produced in a sweatshop-free factory in downtown Los Angeles. American Apparel factory workers earn an average of $13/hr, plus they receive benefits like subsidized lunches, bus passes, free bicycles, and health insurance. 20% of the cotton used by American Apparel is organic, 20% of the power used at their factory comes from their rooftop solar panels, and all fabric scraps are recycled. By selling both substance and style, Charney is making a healthy profit and upending the market in the process.

Tomoaki Nagao is a Pirate entrepreneur impacting the sneaker trade. Nagao remixed Nike’s Air Force One basketball shoe in garish colors and high-gloss patent leather. The result of this remixed shoe is the sought-after and super-expensive BapeSta shoe line (known as Bapes). Thanks to the success of Bapes, Nike has reintroduced the Air Force One shoe in similar garish colors. Not a surprising move for Nike given that its co-founder and leader, Phil Knight, is an O.P. (Original Pirate) having rocked the sneaker trade in the early 70s.

“Finding a space to get your idea across is as important as having the idea itself. If the idea is good, growing an audience won’t be difficult. It’s the audience that gives pirates their power.” Shawn Fanning’s Pirate prowess was boosted when his idea went viral. At one point, 70-million people were freely sharing MP3s using Fanning’s ultimate pirate creation—Napster.

The entire music industry business model has been rocked by Napster and other peer-to-peer music sharing programs. However, “as quickly as society figures out new ways to share ideas that advance the common good, private interests move in to stop this from happening, to maintain the old systems that benefit only the elite.” The music industry levied a litany of legal charges against Napster, forcing this Pirate business to reform its rock-the-boat ways and go from a free service to a paid service.

The music industry is still waging legal battles against free download sites. But the irrevocable damage has been down. Pirates have forever changed how people view the accessibility, portability, and usability of music. The music industry is facing the “PIRATE’S DILEMMA” of how to respond when an outside force finds new ways to “share information, intellectual property, and public space” that bypasses the capitalistic models of the old guard.

Responding to the PIRATE’S DILEMMA is a dilemma for companies competing a marketplace that has been rocked by Pirate entrepreneurs. Do you steadfastly cling to how you’ve always done business and choose not to compete in the Pirate-created market? Or do you compete with the Pirates in the market they’ve rocked?

In Matt Mason’s words, do you “fight these pirates, or accept that there is some value in what they are doing, and compete with them?” That’s the dilemma facing businesses in all types of industries.

Mason believes “resistance if futile” and if you choose to ignore the Pirate-created market or choose not to adapt to the changing marketplace … you will lose. The solution to THE PIRATE’S DILEMMA, according to Mason, is to act like a Pirate by “recognizing the pirate within” and to view disrupted markets not as problems, but as opportunities.

Further Mixes:
>> THE PIRATE’S DILEMMA | website and blog
>> Matt Mason presentation| video
>> Matt Mason presentation | slides

January 14, 2008

Meatball Marketing


Paul Williams (from Idea Sandbox) has resurrected a version of the Business Blog Book Tour (BBBT) which Todd Sattersten began years ago. Paul’s version is called Post2Post and will work much like the BBBT did where an author goes on a blog junket discussing ideas from their book.

Seth Godin is first-up and Brand Autopsy is hosting day one of the Post2Post tour talking about Seth’s newest book, MEATBALL SUNDAE.

I’ve worked up three posts sharing tid-bits and such from MEATBALL SUNDAE. Have a look-see and a read-through:

1 | summary | MEATBALL SUNDAE
2 | sound-bites | MEATBALL SUNDAE
3 | silly stuff | MEATBALL SUNDAE



from the Post2Post tour highlighting Seth Godin’s MEATBALL SUNDAE…

Remember the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial where two different tastes combine? It went something like this …


In MEATBALL SUNDAE, Seth Godin updates this Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial scenario with Old Marketing as one flavor and New Marketing as another flavor. However, unlike the chocolate and peanut butter combination, the haphazard combination of Old Marketing with New Marketing is a case where two marketing tastes DO NOT taste great together.

Seth says the flavor of Old Marketing is about “… interrupting masses of people with ads about average products.” New Marketing, according to Seth, has a flavor that “… treats every interaction, product, service, and side effect as a form of media.” Promoting products and services using a marketing mix of television commercials, print ads, and billboards is Old Marketing. While, promoting products and services using non-traditional marketing methods that invite influential customers to spread the word is New Marketing.

The problem is, as Seth sees it, Old Marketing-based companies are so anxious to embrace New Marketing ways that they end up with a MEATBALL SUNDAE—two great tastes that DO NOT taste great together.

Wal-Mart created a MEATBALL SUNDAE when they decided to combine their Old Marketing strategy of promoting low prices to the masses through traditional advertising with the New Marketing ways of social media consumer generated media. The result of this combination was THE HUB, a myspace wannabe that failed miserably.

Anheuser-Busch created a MEATBALL SUNDAE with its Bud TV marketing initiative. Eager to capitalize on viral online marketing goings-on to reach twentysomething beer drinkers, Anheuser-Busch has routed over $40-million from their television advertising marketing budget to create an online entertainment network called Bud.TV. Launched in the fall of 2006 with aspirations of becoming the next YouTube, Bud.TV has failed to catch-on and is in danger of being axed.

Wal-Mart and Anheuser-Busch are mainstays of Old Marketing. They are accustomed to accosting consumers with a blitzkrieg of mass media advertising to influence their buying behavior. Given that, are we surprised their New Marketing follies failed? The go-to-business ethos at Wal-Mart and Anheuser-Busch isn’t built for New Marketing.

Seth isn’t advocating all companies eschew Old Marketing for New Marketing. Instead, he’s saying, “Don’t use the tactics of one paradigm and the strategies of another and hope you’ll get the best of both worlds. You won’t.”

What Seth is advocating is twofold, “First, the structure of organizations needs to radically adapt to this new model. Second, products need to be designed that don’t depend on old-school advertising but instead spread on their own.”

Throughout MEATBALL SUNDAE, Seth outlines 14 New Marketing trends and showcases how enduring and emerging companies are successfully using those trends to create marketing magic and not a meatball sundae.

1 | sound-bites | MEATBALL SUNDAE
3 | silly stuff | MEATBALL SUNDAE

sound-bites | MEATBALL SUNDAE

from the Post2Post tour highlighting Seth Godin’s MEATBALL SUNDAE…


1 | summary | MEATBALL SUNDAE
3 | silly stuff | MEATBALL SUNDAE

silly stuff | MEATBALL SUNDAE

from the Post2Post tour highlighting Seth Godin’s MEATBALL SUNDAE…


What’s your favorite pizza topping?
SETH: I don't eat cheese. I like arugula, really good anchovies and yes, Union Square cherry tomatoes. If yuppies didn't exist, I'd have to invent them.

Have you ever had a crush on a celebrity? If so, tell all!
Well, I had a crush on Tom Peters for a while...

If you were abducted by aliens, what CD, book, and movie would you bring along for the ride?
This is usually a trick question, because you need something that's either really long and violates the spirit of the question or is repeatable. So, in that spirit, I'm going to go with Wikipedia on CD.

What’s in heavy rotation on your iPod?
I have an EP from Georgie James, then there's audio from Pema Chodron and piano from Keith Jarrett. And the Monkees, of course. I had a long long Fatboy Slim period as well.

Do you have any pets? If so, tell us about them.
Woodie the wonder dog. The usual. Oh yes, and Fisheye, who's a tarantula. Megan has a parrot named Doctor Jones.

What’s your favorite vegan dish?
All my favorite dishes are vegan. I particularly like really good brown rice with tofu and tahini and dulse and boy do I sound like a crackpot or what?

Who’s better Soulja Boy or T-Pain?
Soulja Boy has a dance for god sake! Do you have a dance? I don't.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
85% and up dark chocolate, plain, a square a day whether I need it or not. Scharffenberger is my home skillet.

What do you do when you chill?

When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
Don't be stupid. Nobody takes a picture of cheese.

1 | summary | MEATBALL SUNDAE
2 | sound-bites | MEATBALL SUNDAE

December 10, 2007

2007 Brand Autopsy Marketing Book Awards

Yep, I’m an avid biz book reader and since 2003, I’ve shared with you the Brand Autopsy Marketing Books of the Year awards. (Review winners from 2003, 2004, and 2006).

2007 is no different. Below are the recipients of the Brand Autopsy 2007 Marketing Book Awards.

Business Lexicon Obfuscation Accolade
*** THE STRATEGY PARADOX *** (Michael Raynor)

After reading page 16, I gave up on this book
. I couldn’t understand the basic principles behind the book because Raynor’s reliance on using business speak gobbly-gook greatly hindered my ability understand. Academic-types might be all over this book but I, a simple-minded marketing-type, didn’t have the patience to decipher the business hieroglyphics from Raynor. Maybe you’ll fare better.
Best Marketing Advice Book
*** NO WINNER *** (empty)

Sorry y’all — no winner in this category. I searched through all my marketing-related books from 2007 and couldn’t find THE ONE that truly kicked-ass in helping me generate new marketing ideas. If you’ve read a marketing book published in 2007 that unleashed a stream of ideas within you, share that book with us in the comments section.

Surprise Book of the Year
*** WHAT WERE THEY THINKING *** (Jeffrey Pfeffer)

Jeffrey Pfeffer is an academic that doesn’t get caught up in the “Raynor Way” of using highly-flatulent words to get his message across. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING is a fast-paced, easy-to-understand book that’s laced with knowledge nuggets from a broad spectrum of business angles. Each chapter is an extended remix version of Pfeffer’s articles from Business 2.0 magazine. I’m a much smarter business thinker and doer because of this book. Click here to read some choice knowledge nuggets from the Brand Autopsy “Surprise Business Book of 2007."

Best Business Book That is Not a Book

I've tired of slogging though 260-page business books hoping that somewhere within the far too repetitive pages I’ll find a few money quotes. I continue to believe most business books can be slimmed down to a svelte 25-pages without losing much. THE SECRETS OF MARKET-DRIVEN LEADERS is a super-slim 16-page manifesto that delivers more money quotes than most lengthy business books.

In this must-read manifesto, Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott share practical advice on how businesses can be more successful by being market-driven rather than being just customer-driven, competitor-driven, or sales-driven.

The Philip Kotler Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award
*** SETH GODIN ***

Seth Godin is the author of nine international bestsellers, most recently the New York Times bestseller THE DIP. His other books include PERMISSION MARKETING, UNLEASHING THE IDEA VIRUS, PURPLE COW, FREE PRIZE INSIDE!, ALL MARKETERS ARE LIARS, and SMALL IS THE NEW BIG. He is also the founder and CEO of Squidoo and the most popular marketing blogger in the world.

That’s his short bio from the sleeve of his to-be-published book, MEATBALL SUNDAE. But I understand Seth Godin to be the author who has most influenced my worldview of marketing. It’s my pleasure to award Seth Godin with the 2007 Philip Kotler Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award.

Past recipients of The Philip Kotler Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award include:
Al Ries & Jack Trout (2003) ; Sergio Zyman (2004) ; Adrian Zackheim (2006).

Best Business Strategy Book
*** WAL-SMART *** (Bill Marquard)

Bill Marquard worked deep inside Wal-Mart as a strategic thought-leader. Besides his first-hand Wal-Mart experience, Bill also spent 17 years at Ernst & Young, did a stint as the EVP/Chief Knowledge Officer at Fleming, and served eight-years as an adjunct professor of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. (So, he has some business chops to speak of.)

Bill’s brilliant book, WAL-SMART, sheds new light on Wal-Mart’s business DNA and how companies can profit in the Wal-Mart world we live in. (For a more thorough look inside WAL-SMART, read this post and this post from the Brand Autopsy archives.)

If you are responsible for managing business activities of any retailer or any supplier/distributor, I implore you to read WAL-SMART. It’s chock-full of smart strategy musings which will help you better compete against any big dog dominant company in your competitive set.

Best Marketing Book of the Year
*** MADE TO STICK *** (Chip & Dan Heath)

MADE TO STICK is absolutely the breakthrough business book of 2007 for creatives, marketers, and anyone else responsible for communicating ideas and/or messages. (Anyone else includes writers, teachers, lawyers, salespeople, project managers, pastors, rabbis, etc.)

MADE TO STICK makes actionable the chapter on “Stickiness” from Malcolm Gladwell’s THE TIPPING POINT. The Heath Brothers have dissected the traits for what makes ideas stick and explain it so that we can shape our messages for maximum stickiness. According to the Heath Brothers, Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Stories stand a better chance of sticking with people than do ideas presented in some willy-nilly, off-the-cuff way. Brilliant book. Get it. Read it. Do it.

December 07, 2007

Advice For Wannabe Authors …

If you’re reading this, chances are, you already know the importance of getting involved in all this online conversation stuff.  But it’s worth sharing this advice for wannabe authors which was first shared by Jeff Gomez in his thought-provoking book, PRINT IS DEAD

"Authors who choose not to take part in any sort of online promotion or to curry online exposure, and unwilling to do things like start a blog, post clips on YouTube, have a page on MySpace or otherwise engage in an Internet audience in any meaningful way will find themselves at an increasing disadvantage.” (p. 151)

“To begin with, they will have a harder time getting a book deal in the first place.  Publishers will be increasingly unwilling to sign authors who do not already have an Internet audience, or have no desire to do any online promotion or outreach.” (p. 151)

“For a prospective publisher, [working authors who have an active online presence] is a safer bet than signing up a first-time author who is starting to build an audience from scratch.  Blogs can offer a track record, showing that a writer can indeed connect with readers and that people are interested in his work.  For the writer without any kind of recommendation other than his manuscript, it’s going to be a much harder sell.” (p.152)

“Writers who are unskilled in the ways of the Internet, or just don’t want to play any part in the online discussion and want to write books and be left alone, will be like movie actors at the end of the silent era who were forced to have elocution lessons when talking pictures were suddenly the brand new thing.

For some, the advent of sound allowed them to shine in a way silent films never did.  Others, however — those who didn’t have good voices or couldn’t act in the way that talking pictures demanded — found themselves suddenly without a career.

Many modern day writers will find themselves in similar circumstances, unable to deal with the ramifications and changes that a new technology has brought to their art form. (pgs. 153-154)

“True, there will always be some major writers who do nothing but write, but they will be exceedingly rare and they will appeal to smaller and smaller audiences as time goes one.” (p. 154)

“New writers will have to embrace not only new techniques of online promotion and participation, but will also have to embrace the new literary forms with digital reading and delivery made possible.  Because of this, the Internet will kill as many careers as it gives birth to: for every blogger who is given a book deal, another novelist who simply wants to tell stories will be unable to get a contract. 

Cumulatively, all the changes of a digital world will transform the experience of being a writer so much that the profession may not resemble in the future what it is today.” (p. 155)

SOURCE:  Jeff Gomez | PRINT IS DEAD |  blog, website, purchase

December 05, 2007

Alex Frankel | Undercover Marketer #3


If you are just joining us, this is the third (and final) post in a series where we are digging deep into Alex Frankel’s PUNCHING IN: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee.   (You can play catch-up by reading the FIRST POST and the SECOND POST.)

Since PUNCHING IN reads more like a cultural studies book than a business book, some of us might struggle to apply Frankel’s observations in a business setting.  Mark Lasswell, deputy books editor at the Wall Street Journal, sure did struggle to find business-applications from PUNCHING INIn his review of Frankel’s book, Lasswell writes, “Mr. Frankel's observations are, of course, essentially meaningless: A few days or weeks spent in a low-level job might result in lots of impressions, but such forays simply cannot produce much informed analysis.”

While Lasswell found Frankel’s observations "meaningless," I found them anything but meaningless. I found lots of lessons business geeks like us can implement in order to better connect with employees, who in turn, will better connect with customers.  Below are five such lessons…

“UPS used that tagline [What can Brown do for you?] in everything from recruitment advertising to prime-time TV ads, reaching both internal and external audiences.  By extolling the importance of the organization to the world at large, UPS gave its employees a rallying cry, a connection to the brand, another reason to want to be part of UPS.” (PUNCHING IN, p. 12)

Business Lesson #1
A great advertising campaign can inspire employees far more than an internal memo ever could.  Frankel illustrates this with how the UPS branding campaign has impacted the employee culture at the company.  I also know from experience when front-line employees see or hear an ad campaign from the company they work for, they feel a sense of pride along with a motivation adrenaline rush.  And for an upstart company, when front-line employees see they are advertising, they feel more secure about the company they have chosen to work for.

“There was no doubt in my mind that the [UPS] uniforms we wore had a galvanizing effect on the workers. I felt a slight, almost magnetic tug when I walked by a coworker similarly dressed, even if we had never met.” (p. 27)

Business Lesson # 2
Don’t under estimate the power of a killer uniform.  Many times the uniform of front-line employees is an afterthought for businesses.  Shouldn’t be.  A uniform has the potential to jazz-up the spirits of employees or deflate them.  Don’t go the cheap route with uniforms for front-line employees … go the chic route.  Make them look good so employees can feel good when they put on their workday uniform.

“Part of what interested me about the companies that relied on front-line employees was the methods they used to decide whom to hire.” (p. 52)

“The Container Store fills its ranks with just the kind of people who would, without prodding, buy what the store sells because they love the stuff.” (p. 76)

“Interviewing and hiring at Gap was quite easy … never during Gap’s interview was my passion for Gap products evaluated.  I wasn’t convinced that this was necessary for employment, because Gap needed to hire scores of workers with the approach of the holiday season.” (p. 120)

Business Lesson #3
Don’t hire people for the ‘right now.’  Hire the right people now.  In the annual Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” rankings, the Container Store is a top-ten mainstay.  There’s a reason for that which goes beyond the fact they pay front-line employees very well.  The Container Store self-selects its employees.  Frankel talks about how they want to “hire only die-hard customers” to become Container Store employees.  Despite trying, Frankel wasn’t hired at the Container Store.  He failed to impress the hiring managers at the Container Store because it was obvious he lacked a passion for organizing stuff.

Gap is struggling these days from a financial perspective and a brand relevance perspective.  Hiring “anybodies” and not impassioned people certainly plays a role in Gap’s continued struggles.

Most businesses today are satisfied with hire anybody to work the front-lines.  Big mistake.  Major lost opportunity.  In lots of businesses, it’s the front-line employee that has the most contact with customers.  Yet, not enough businesses pay attention to this.  All throughout PUNCHING IN we learn the best practices and worst practices companies are following in hiring for its front-line positions.

“Forget changing the store design adding new cuts of jeans—employees like Moses were Gap’s only hope of Salvation.” (p. 135)

Business Lesson #4
Evangelical employees can perform miracles. While Frankel has few positive things to say about his work experience as the Gap, he was able to spend time with a Moses, a Gap front-line employee fanatic.  Moses is a believer in all things Gap and he brought that belief with him every time he talked with a customer and a fellow employee. 

Gap is trying lots of things to turn the company around.  They’ve tried adding a new business unit, Forth & Towne.  (It failed.)  They’ve tweaked the merchandise assortment.  (Hasn’t worked.)  And they’ve tested a new store design.  (Never made it out of test phase.) 

As Frankel says, maybe Gap should spend more of its time and money designing a better interview process than trying to design new concepts, trendier clothes, and better store layouts.   That way, the company would have more front-line employees like Moses who could, working together under the unified belief that Gap Rocks!, turn the company around from both a financial performance and brand relevance perspective.

“To attract employees, you need something to offer them, and that certain something goes under the different names of a brand, a calling, a corporate culture.” (p. 204)

“Many front-line jobs are ones that job applicants choose by matching themselves up with the company’s culture, and those companies that promote their self-selection process are often able to better serve customers. (p. 204)

“Big Jim at UPS, Moses at Gap, Zoe and L.J. at Enterprise, Erika at Starbucks, and Leon and Marco at Apple.  These were the believers who dominated their retail or service environment and had the most to teach a new recruit like me.” (p. 202)

The Business Lesson #5
Every business needs a few “Culture Key-per” employees.  These are employees that totally believe in the company and are evangelists for the company on-the-job and off-the-job.  These are the employees that, to Alex’s point, can have the greatest influence on welcoming, teaching, and inspiring new employees. 

What’s with the odd “Culture Key-per” moniker?  Back in the day at Starbucks, there were a few store managers that took it upon themselves to be the protector and promoter of the Starbucks culture.  To identify themselves as keepers of the company culture, they wore a necklace with a symbolic key.  They were the company’s “Culture Key-pers.”  Any company would be fortunate to have such dedicated and inspired employees.

read PART ONE  |  read PART TWO

December 04, 2007

Alex Frankel | Undercover Marketer #2


We continue our conversation with Alex Frankel, marketer and author of PUNCHING IN: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee.  (If you’re just joining us, read PART ONE here.)

johnmoore (jm):  One of the more interesting observations you make from your front-line worker experience is about company uniforms.  When talking about the iconic brown UPS uniform you write how the uniform had a “galvanizing effect on the workers” and that the UPS uniform was an “indicator of a special bond with the group.”  You continue by saying, “More than once on the job, I ran into delivery people from FedEx and Airborne, and I was immediately struck by how unimpressive their uniforms were and what those companies were losing in terms of image.”  Talk about the role a uniform plays in how it impacts a front-line employee’s demeanor and performance. 

Alex Frankel (AF):  Uniforms and dress codes are prevalent on the frontlines of commerce and can make the employees feel differently depending on what specific rules he or she must follow.

UPS is a great example of a uniform that I think works well. UPS drivers can rest assured that customers and members of the public think highly of them when they are in uniform. And they also have some latitude to be different than their colleagues. One driver might wear shorts, another pants. There are choices of jackets, vests, sweaters--and this allows people to express at least some individuality.

The UPS uniform also harks back to the old days, when customer service was more common. I interviewed one former UPS driver who delivered for years in the World Trade Center. He had never delivered in New York City, outside of those office towers. After 9/11 he was transferred to a new post delivering outside. He found it amazing to witness the attachment perfect strangers had for him based on his uniform.

On the flipside, strict dress codes can make employees feel alienated from their workplace. At Gap, for example, we were told to wear no jeans that had signature stitching of competitors. I for one had to leave my Levi's at home and it felt constricting to have to suddenly conform.

Starbucks had a pretty loose policy—black/white/khaki and your green apron--though the hygiene restrictions (such as no visible tattoos) seemed too harsh.

jm: You tried to get hired on at The Container Store, but didn’t.  What happened?

AF:  That was one of the more interesting episodes of my project. I was immediately impressed when I applied at The Container Store because the application featured short answers instead of multiple choice questions. There was even an open-ended question that asked us to share anything we felt worth sharing.

I was invited in for a group interview, which was held right in the middle of a store. The ten of us assembled participated in what amounted to an audition, including an exercise in which we each picked a product from the store and held forth about what we thought about it. It was quite clear from that exercise alone just who had the necessary passion for the job. For my part, I did not shine. It was great to see a creative interview process firsthand, even if I didn't make it to the next level.

jm:  From your experience, what’s the most effective way interview process that results in hiring the best, most well-suited to task employees?  Conversely, what’s the least effective way you experienced?

AF:  That experience at The Container Store won, hands down, as the best way to interview applicants and isolate the most passionate prospects. The application was human and real and allowed people to express themselves and the interview process sorted the passionate applicants from those less committed to the cause. Very few companies ask much about an applicant's interest in their product or service, though they should.

The least effective interview was also a group interview I went to at Gap. The exercises we did there had very little to do with the Gap; questions like "share with the group your favorite dessert." I dumbed down my own presentation and had an easy time landing a job.

read PART ONE  |  read PART THREE

December 03, 2007

Alex Frankel | Undercover Marketer


Alex Frankel is a curious marketer and writer—a dangerous, but fitting, combination.   He became curious to “know whether the strong corporate cultures that companies bragged about were really as great as advertised.”  But instead of quenching his curiosity by researching this topic from the outside-looking-in, Alex went the inside-looking-out route as a front-line employee to tell this story.

In order to tell this story from the front-line employee perspective, Alex went undercover as a UPS package-delivering employee, Enterprise Rent-a-Car insurance up-selling associate, clothes-folding Gap employee, Latte-slinging Starbucks Barista, and Apple platform-converting sales evangelist.  You can read all about his brand adventures while in the trenches in PUNCHING IN: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee

We’re gonna take a three-part deep dive into Alex’s book and share insights on how the right corporate culture, expressed in the right ways, can take “anybodies” off the street and transform them into “somebodies” willingly obedient to live for the brand they work for.

Alex and I traded emails and the following is a snippet of our exchange.

johnmoore (jm):  Alex, what surprised you the most about your time as an undercover front-line employee?

Alex Frankel (AF):  I went in convinced that each of the jobs I would be doing would be soulless and the people I’d be working with would be somehow plastic, but I was wrong.  Some of the corporations I worked for don’t get it when it comes to creating an appropriate and vibrant place to work, but by and large the people I met were not robotic at all.  At every company I worked, there was always a person on staff that believed in out given enterprise and that was surprising to see.

jm:  A theme that runs thick in your book is the importance of creating a corporate culture that employees can believe in.  As a front-line employee, you write that you believed in the UPS corporate culture, but found the corporate culture at Starbucks inauthentic and forced.  You described the Starbucks approach to instilling its corporate values as “heavy-handed culture-building.”  Explain why you believed in UPS but were cynical about Starbucks.

AF:  A lot of why I believed in UPS but not so much in Starbucks had to do with me, not the companies, but this is something I did not understand at the outset of the project.

Essentially, the best of the frontline corporate cultures match the people who are hired. I am someone much more hardwired to be a good fit at UPS than at Starbucks. This is largely because I am more at home in jobs where I have a bit more autonomy from hour to hour and I like to be active, as opposed to standing behind a counter.

I found my work rhythm faster at UPS than I did at Starbucks though I must admit that my colleagues at Starbucks who were masters at making drinks on the bar were definitely in the groove.

Also, I found the mode of culture building much more fluid and bottom-up at UPS. At Starbucks I immediately encountered many documents (such as one titled The Green Apron Book) that codified the culture in a top-down manner; at UPS I felt I was learning quickly about the culture from my fellow employees not "headquarters."

{Backstory note:  The Green Apron Book (photo) that Frankel refers to is a pocket-sized booklet that has codified the Starbucks customer service culture.  Inside the booklet, Starbucks shares five core values it wants front-line employees to embody:  Be Welcoming; Be Genuine; Be Considerate; Be Knowledgeable; Be Involved.  This booklet is relatively new to Starbucks, having been introduced only a few years ago.  Learn more here, here, and here.}

jm:  What would you say is needed most for a business to establish a great corporate culture?

AF:  If you can attract customers to work for your company who arrive as fans of the company before they even start work, you are in good shape.  The Apple Store is lucky enough to have a huge group of Apple fans from whom to choose its workers, as is The Container Store. 

If you don’t have a fan base, the next best thing is to match a corporate culture as close as you can to the type of people who will end up working at your company or stores.  Enterprise Rent-A-Car is filled with hard charging achiever types and training is catered to that group specifically.

jm:   You have a lot of hot opinions about Enterprise Rent-A-Car in PUNCHING IN, especially as it relates to the training, or more appropriate, the indoctrination of new employees. What did you find most effective and most egregious about the Enterprise new employee orientation/training process?

AF:  Enterprise was the one frontline workplace in which I worked where the new hires were sent away for a week of intense off-site training. (My group of 12 lived at a hotel and took classes by day.) This was really effective and a great way to teach us everything in a condensed, focused manner. We learned about the history of the company, the ways of operating, the corporate mission, and got a good dose of indoctrination into the culture.

At the same time, because of this intense weeklong orientation, I became a cynic pretty early on. We were told over and over that this was not just an hourly job, but a career path we were commencing. I knew that for some there would be great upward mobility, but that for most of the new folks the job would be not much greater than an hourly gig and a demanding one at that. (FYI, new hires are expected to work 60 or so hours each week, getting paid hourly and overtime, but not a salary.)

read PART TWO  |  read PART THREE

December 01, 2007

Barbara Cave Henricks is Blogging

For those wanting to get inside the mind of a top-notch business book publicist, you should peep the just-started blog from Barbara Cave Henricks.

Barbabra's publicity machine has been behind some great business best sellers and now she's sharing with us her view on the biz book world.

She has a take on Kindle, about the importance of knowing who your audience is, and about the process she goes through to select which books she'll spend time helping to turn into a best seller. All worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the business of business books.

November 21, 2007

The Business Case for Curing ALS

Approximately 30,000 people worldwide suffer from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Each year, about 6,000 people are diagnosed with ALS. Once diagnosed, almost 50% of all ALS sufferers die within two-years and within five-years, nearly every ALS sufferer dies. There is no cure for ALS.

ALS is a neurological disease where motor neurons from the brain stop reaching one’s voluntary and involuntary muscles. When muscles no longer receive neurons, muscles cease to move and the sufferer becomes paralyzed. ALS sufferers become trapped inside a body that doesn’t respond. Eventually, ALS patients lose the ability of their involuntary muscles, namely the ability to breathe, and subsequently patients lose their life.

Augie Nieto is on a quest to find a cure for this devastating and nearly hopeless disease. As the co-founder of Life Fitness Inc., Augie helped to popularize the fitness industry. Much of the equipment you see in your local health club is from the company Augie co-founded.

For most of his adult life, Augie has embodied living a healthy, active life. But in an ironic twist of fate, Augie was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2005. At first, he wallowed in pity and attempted suicide. Then, he resolved to use his business skills to find a cure for ALS.

However, the business case for finding a cure to ALS is difficult to make. Pharmaceutical companies will invest billions of dollars every year on research to find cures for diseases. Drug companies invest these billions because they seek to get a significant return on their investment by providing medicines that the masses will buy to cure them of a disease.

Since only 6,000 new cases of ALS are diagnosed yearly and at any given time, only 30,000 people worldwide live with ALS, a very small market exists for the drug companies to earn money from a drug that cures ALS. In other words, ALS is not a profitable disease for pharmaceutical companies.

Along his quest to find a cure for ALS, Augie met a kindred spirit in Sean Scott. Sean is a television commercial director by trade but an ALS researcher by passion.

The ALS disease has profoundly impacted Seans’s life. His mother died from the disease and so have five of Sean’s grandmother’s eight children. Sean is genetically predisposed to ALS—which means he runs a much higher risk of being inflicted with the deadly disease. Because of this, Sean has dedicated his life to learning as much about ALS as possible. Despite having no medical research training, Sean read every neurological textbook he could find and became expert in ALS research. Sean also became frustrated at how non-collaborative all the ALS research findings were.

When Sean and Augie met, a friendship and life-long partnerhsip developed. They both shared the frustration of how ALS research suffered from a silo mentality where academics and researchers, being protective of their data, rarely shared their findings with one another. They also shared the belief that researchers were behaving too much like academics and not enough like healers.

Together, these two are setting forth to change the research process for finding a cure to ALS.

Sean Scott is today the president of the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALSTDI). The ALSTDI is involved in groundbreaking ALS research, which is openly shared and not privately-kept.

And as the ALS disease marches on rendering more of Augie’s body unresponsive, he continues to work on making the business case for why and how it is profitable for drug companies to find a medical cure for ALS. Through his Augie’s Quest Foundation, he has raised millions of dollars for research into studying the disease in order to find a cure.

You can learn more about Augie’s life and his quest to find a cure for ALS in the just-published book, AUGIE’S QUEST: One Man’s Journey from Success to Significance.

I share this story with you as Thanksgiving 2007 approaches because my mother, Glenna Moore, was born this Thanksgiving day in 1936. Unfortunately, she will not be with her family to celebrate all we are thankful for. Glenna passed away as a result of the ALS disease on July 27, 2007.

I am thankful for everything my Mother taught me and gave me. She will be missed this Thanksgiving.

November 12, 2007

Who got Starbucked?


Taylor Clark’s STARBUCKED: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture is receiving lots of positive ink. The Wall Street Journal loved it. As did the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s being positioned loftily as a “Part Fast Food Nation, part Bobos in Paradise” treatise on coffee and capitalism.

Taylor’s book is interesting reading but not necessarily mandatory reading for business folk and cultural studies folk. He traces the Starbucks story well from its inception in 1971 to its impact in 2007. However, it lacks punch.

(Keep in mind, I’m very close to this story having spent my formative marketing years working at Starbucks Coffee as well as written a book about what I think makes Starbucks a successful business.)

In expected alt-weekly journalism fashion, Taylor, a former writer with Portland’s Willamette Week alt-weekly, runs down the same old story of Starbucks opportunistic and capitalist ways.

Yes, Starbucks is hyper-competitive. Yes, Starbucks seeks prime real estate locations. Yes, Starbucks could do more to support coffee farmers. Yes, Starbucks added sizzle to the experience of drinking coffee. Yes, the familiarity of Starbucks brings about opinions of homogenization. Yes, Starbucks charges an ungodly premium for its coffee drinks. Yes, Starbucks has a strong corporate culture ethos. That we know.

While I found much of Taylor’s book to cover well-trodden territory, he managed to talk with lots of former Starbucks executive heavies. And the quotes these ex-Starbucks higher-ups shared with Taylor are at times fascinating. I wasn’t expecting to read such sulliable and ego-laden quotes. Which leaves me wondering if these past Starbucks execs weren’t Starbucked.

Taylor caught Howard Behar, former big-time Starbucks exec and current Starbucks board member, with some choice comments When asked about Howard Schultz’s vision of selling espresso beverages back when relatively few people could pronounce it, much less enjoy the taste of it, Behar is quoted as saying, “Howard will always say he knew this would work, but he’s full of shit. We didn’t know how it would turn out.” (p. 53)

When the topic of Tom O’Keefe, founder of regional coffee competitor Tully’s, comes up, Behar is quoted as blurting out an emphatic, “Fuck him.”(p. 128) And when Behar talks about critics referring to the taste of Starbucks coffee as burnt, he’s quoted as saying, “What used to piss me off was when they’d say ‘Charbucks.’ That’s like walking into a gallery and saying, ‘Your art is shitty.’(p. 70)

Scott Bedbury, former Starbucks Marketing VP, provided Taylor with some choice fodder as well. In talking about the role quality espresso drinks play at Starbucks, Bedbury is quoted as saying, “To be honest, you could train a monkey to pull a double-shot. It’s just not that hard.(p.88)

Engle Saez, another former Starbucks Marketing VP, shared some candid comments about Starbucks true competitive advantage. Taylor quotes Saez as saying, “Starbucks doesn’t have a lockdown patent on the environment; it doesn’t have a lockdown patent on the experience; and it doesn’t have a lockdown patent on the bean or the roast. All of those things can be duplicated. So what it comes down to is the dominance of real estate. That’s the one area where no one can out muscle Starbucks.(p. 115)

You’ll have to read the book to take in more choice candid comments from past Starbucks players. Starbucks insiders will get a kick outta how Taylor portrays former Starbucks Real Estate head Arthur Rubinfeld. (Oh my.)

Taylor and I actually spoke some months ago when he was in the process of writing STARBUCKED. I do not recall much about the conversation we had except the writer seemed young and guarded about the angle he was taking with the book. The quotes Taylor includes in the book from me are benign. Then again, I’ve already shared lots of pointed comments about Starbucks on this blog and Taylor had many former executive-level Starbucks people eager to riff about the company they once worked for.

Kudos to Taylor Clark for getting ex-Starbucks folks to open up and share some off-brand and at times, acrimonious remarks. I’m sure some of these folks will not be pleased with how they are portrayed.

As far as STARBUCKED being a book business enthusiasts would find worthwhile, I don’t think so. Just not enough business knowledge nuggets for us business wonks to learn from. However, the cultural studies crowd might find this book somewhat worthwhile … just not near as worthwhile as Fast Food Nation or Bobos in Paradise.