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122 posts categorized "Interesting Articles"

April 24, 2007

No Recipe for Originality

UPDATED | Bill Breen's Fast Company article is now posted.
Bill Breen authored a provocative piece on Brands & Authenticity in the May issue of Fast Company. (It’s a must-read for every marketer but right now its available only in print, not online.) In the piece, Breen asks and offers credible answers for the following questions:

• What does it take for a brand to be authentic?
• How does a brand stay authentic even as it teeters on ubiquity?
• Can a brand truly be authentic when it tries hard to be authentic?
• Can a brand be viewed as cool while still maintaining its authenticity?

Early on in the article Breen shares some smart marketing fodder...

“Both the promise and the peril of ‘getting real’ are, indeed, very real. ‘Authentic’ is derived from the Greek authentikos, which means ‘original.’ And unfortunately, there’s no recipe for originality. Each brand must build its own primary source code for the authentic.”

“There’s no recipe for originality.” Brilliant take. Love it. Love it almost as much as what offbeat marketing professor Stephen Brown says about how authenticity is unachievable …

“… it is important to appreciate that, for all today’s fixation on the authentic, there is no such thing as authenticity, only varying degrees of inauthenticity.

The traditional Irish bar is assembled from mass produced, cod-Celtic kitsch. The free range chickens are free to range around a fetid factory farm. The classic blue jeans are pre-shrunk, pre-faded, pre-ripped, pre-grimed, and doubtlessly, pre-impregnated with pre-washday adolescent aromas. Authentic authenticity, so to speak, is unattainable. But it can be staged, it can be created, it can be evoked.” [source: FREE GIFT INSIDE!! | Stephen Brown (2003)

Read a little more from Stephen Brown in this vintage Brand Autopsy post.

February 11, 2007

The Hidden Influencers


If a posting on your blog has ever been dug by Digg or dotted by Reddit or tagged by then you know how much influence social bookmarking sites have in not only driving traffic to your blog, but also in spreading the reach of your idea. A simple mention on such popular social bookmarking sites can catapult a blog and/or an idea into a new realm of awareness.

But would it surprise you to learn that of the 300,000 registered Digg users, a mere 30 users are responsible for submitting 33% of the postings which regularly land on Digg’s homepage? Would it also surprise you to learn that one of Reddit’s most influential users is a 12-year-old boy? (Sounds like another occurrence of the “1% Rule.”)

The Wall Street Journal recently dissected the underbelly of social bookmarking sites by detailing how the few impact what the many view as being popular online with a well-written and highly informative article titled, “The Wizards of Buzz.”

This article also explains how payola schemes, which pay people to plug certain websites in hopes of gaming the system, are impacting the algorithms social bookmarking sites use to filter out the most popular postings on the web. Interesting stuff!

If you subscribe to the WSJ, you can access this worthwhile article here. For free access to this article, click here.

February 10, 2007

Treat Employees Like Family

“In a business where front-line employees represent the face of the company—where every transaction counts—it only makes sense to treat the store-level employees with the same respect (and benefits) as those in upper management.” -- John Moore | TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE


Steven Bigari, a successful McDonald’s franchisee from Colorado Springs, understands the importance of treating front-line employees with compassion and respect. In what began as a plan to reduce employee turnover has blossomed into a business ethos where the Golden Rule of treating others like you would like to be treated became standard operating procedure at his Golden Arches McDonald’s locations.

In 1990, Steven Bigari was a struggling McDonald’s franchisee dealing with dire cash flow problems. His first plan of action was to reduce costs across the board, including the elimination of paid vacations for front-line employees. Bigari presented his cost reduction plan to a mentor of his who promptly shot down the plan by saying, “You can afford to give up your rizzing-razzing vacation, but they [front-line employees] can’t, so I hope you have a better plan than that.”

Bigari understood exactly what his mentor was saying:


So instead of reducing employee benefits to curb costs, Bigari increased the benefits he offered to employees. He added services such as day care, transportation to/from work, and small loans to the mix of employee benefits. Bigari made the business case for adding such expensive benefits believing it would not only reduce employee turnover, but also keep employees more focused on daily customers at work than on their daily problems at home.

Bigari was right.

Employee turnover at his McDonald’s locations fell to 100% which is remarkable considering employee turnover at most fast food places is 300%. (To bring those percentages to life, Bigari’s McDonald’s locations would turnover its staff once every twelve months compared to other fast food places that change over staff three times in the same period.) Employees at Bigari’s McDonald’s said they felt motivated to work harder because of the benefits they were receiving. And in turn, profit margins increased by more than three percentage points at Bigari’s McDonald’s locations.

To add day care to his list of employee benefits, Bigari partnered with a local church to provide such services. In order to provide employees with transportation to/from work, Bigari used to buy abandoned cars from police auctions and resell them to employees at cost. Now, a local car dealership refurbishes donated cars and resells them to the employees. The short-term/no-interest micro loan program Bigari setup lent nearly $30,000 to front-line employees, which all but $960 was repaid.

Treating front-line employees as family not only changed the lives of his employees, it also changed his life. In June of 2006, Bigari sold his McDonald’s franchises and based off his experience treating employees like family, he created and now runs a non-profit group called America’s Family to offer similar services to low-wage employees at other companies.

The lesson for us all is to Practice the Golden Rule. Treat employees as you would like to be treated and the company will be ultimately rewarded. Endearing and enduring companies are those that develop meaningful relationships with its employees that go beyond being professional to being personal.

Thinks Big About the Little Guy | New York Times (Feb. 4, 2007)
Further Learning:
McDogooder | Westword (Aug. 24, 2006)
America’s Family website | "Success Stories"

January 31, 2007

McDonald’s Inside/Out Success

“American companies are obsessed with window dressing because they’re reluctant, no, afraid, to look at whatever it is they really do and evaluate it from the inside out. When things are down, CEO’s look to consultants and marketers to rethink, rebrand or repackage whatever it is they are selling, when they should be getting back on the factory floor, into the stores, or out to the research labs where their product is actually made, sold, or conceived.” --- Douglas Rushkoff | GET BACK IN THE BOX


Since posting its first-ever quarterly loss in 2002, McDonald’s has been on an amazing run of 45 consecutive months of increasing sales. And in December of 2006, the company recorded a 6.9% increase in same-store sales as compared to December of 2005. That’s a remarkable comp number for a mature company like McDonald’s. Just as remarkable is the fact McDonald’s market share is 3x bigger than its two main competitors (Wendy’s and Burger King). Additionally, the company is being rewarded for driving sales with a stock price at/near its seven-year high. Good times abound for McDonald’s these days.

The business media has picked up on this story and published recent profiles detailing the ins/outs of McDonald’s successful resurgence. As I’ve read these articles the one theme that has struck me is how McDonald’s has taken an inside/out approach to driving sales. Instead of solely relying on outside advertising to drive sales, McDonald’s has driven sales by improving its inside approaches of store operations, product offerings, and customer experiences.

Traditionally, McDonald’s growth engine has been fueled by opening new locations and not necessarily on improving the operations of existing locations. That strategy has changed. McDonald’s has purposely slowed the growth of new store opening because as McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner puts it, “We proved that we were getting bigger but not better. And we have to be better. Your experience today at McDonald’s has to be a better experience than it was yesterday."

From an operations perspective, McDonald’s is delivering better customer experiences by extending its store hours beyond the standard 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. time period. According to a BusinessWeek article, "Since 2003, more than 90% of the 13,700 McDonald’s in the U.S. have extended their hours beyond the basic 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. day. Nearly 40% operate non-stop [24 hours].”

Increased breakfast sales at McDonald’s reflect the impact the widening of store hours has had on the company. Breakfast sales now account for 30% of sales and nearly 50% of profits at a typical McDonald’s location. (For comparison, the sales breakdown per daypart are Lunch 24%, Afternoon 15%, Dinner 16%, and Overnights 16%.)

The “being better, not bigger” mentality also extends to new product offerings. The McGriddle breakfast pancake was introduced in 2003 and has become an iconic McDonald’s offering rivaling the McMuffin in stature and sales. Last year, McDonald’s introduced the Snack Wrap, a fried chicken strip wrapped in a tortilla with cheese and lettuce. Sales of the Snack Wrap are 20% higher than company projections and have helped to increase sales significantly during the afternoon daypart.

By slowing new store growth and instead focusing on delivering better experiences and better products, McDonald’s is awash in billions of dollars in capital which it is using to increase its dividend to shareholders and using to remodel its stores. In the last three years, over 3,000 McDonald’s locations have been remodeled. Going forward, McDonald’s has plans to spend dollars to remodel every one of its locations around the world.

For McDonald’s, success these days has come about by focusing on inputs and not outputs. Companies that focus on outputs sell the sizzle but fail to deliver the steak. They tease us and tantalize us with creative window dressing advertising but displease us and dismay us with dismal customer experiences.

If a mature company like McDonald’s can wean itself off its obsession to window dressing, your company can too. Your company can focus its time, money, and energy on delivering better products, better services, and better customer experiences to drive better sales. This is the inside/out approach to building your business which when successful, will not only produce profits but also create an endearing and enduring brand.

In TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, I wrote the following which plays off this inside/out strategy …

“A business can’t sustain itself on image, no matter how much money is dumped into sporadic, heavy-up ad campaigns. Companies that put their money behind their brand and not their business fail to realize that the business is the brand. And to realize the full potential of the brand, one must work on and work in the business every day of every year. You cannot create a brand before you create a business—the process is simultaneous. As you build your business, you create your brand.” --- Me | TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE

NOTE: Source articles for this blog posting include:

McDonald’s 24/7 | BusinessWeek | Feb. 5, 2007
How Jim Skinner Flipped McDonald’s | Wall Street Journal | Jan. 5, 2007
For McDonald’s, It’s a Wrap | Wall Street Journal | Jan. 30, 2007

January 18, 2007

20 Common Mistakes of Eager Leaders

Did you read the BusinessWeek sidebar article where Marshall Goldsmith, superstar executive coach and prolific author, shares common mistakes made by eager leaders? I did and I found them to all be thought-provoking. I also found the complete list inside the BusinessWeek website.

These 20 mishaps are culled from Goldsmith’s newest book, WHAT GOT YOU HERE WON’T GET YOU THERE. Good stuff. Enjoy …

20 Common Mistakes of Eager Leaders

1. Winning Too Much. The need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.

2. Adding Too Much Value. The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.

3. Passing Judgment. The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.

4. Making Destructive Comments. The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.

5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However.” The overuse of these qualifiers, which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”

6. Telling the World How Smart We Are. The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.

7. Speaking When Angry. Using emotional volatility as a management tool.

8. Negativity. The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we weren’t asked.

9. Withholding Information. The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.

10. Failing to Give Proper Recognition. The inability to praise and reward.

11. Claiming Credit We Don’t Deserve. The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.

12. Making Excuses. The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. Clinging to the Past. The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.

14. Playing Favorites. Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.

15. Refusing to Express Regret. The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.

16. Not Listening. The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to Express Gratitude. The most basic form of bad manners.

18. Punishing the Messenger. The misguided need to attack the innocent, who are usually only trying to protect us.

19. Passing the Buck. The need to blame everyone but ourselves.

20. An Excessive Need to Be “Me.” Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they exemplify who we are.

*** NOTE: The following list was compiled and written by Marshall Goldsmith. ***
SOURCE: BusinessWeek article (sub. req'd) | Jan. 8, 2007

January 14, 2007

TRUE BELIEVERS | article abstract

The Winter 2006 edition of Business Week’s SMALL BIZ supplemental magazine includes a very interesting article on how passionate customers can transform companies. It’s a worthy read but for those suffering from acute time fatigue and/or from an attention deficit disorder, I’ve whittled down the nearly 3,000 word article into a 500-word abstract.

TRUE BELIEVERS: Passionate Customers can Transform your Company. (by Amy Barrett)

CEOs have been talking about customer loyalty for years, but entrepreneurs know that making people truly loyal to your company—to make them really, really like you—takes a lot more than a frequent buyer program. It means nothing less than getting people so jazzed about your brand that they become engaged contributors to your company's sales, marketing, and innovation efforts, and ultimately its success.

How does that happen? By knocking down the walls between "you" and "them" and creating a larger, looser community that is inviting to both your customers and your employees.

For many companies, transforming customers from passive buyers to active participants demands a seismic shift in thinking. You can't just slap up a blog and expect people to get excited. It requires an intense focus on customers that shapes everything you do, from how you hire and motivate employees to how you design products.

Then it's a matter of spotting loyal customers and starting a real conversation with them. Customers should have multiple channels through which they can express their views, and employees should respond by addressing their concerns, enlisting their involvement, and collecting their suggestions to improve existing products and services and create new ones.

Every company has loyal followers who may become advocates. It's simply a matter of finding them. One way to get into customers' heads is through surveys. Blog postings can also be revealing, which is why CEOs or top managers should regularly blog on a company Web site about products and issues of interest to customers and encourage customers to respond.

It's also a good idea to see what is being said about your company on industry blogs. Ben McConnell, a Chicago marketing consultant, suggests hosting a party or reception, possibly with an educational or training component, and inviting a large number of customers. Those who show up may be good candidates to become advocates.

Customers who see themselves mirrored in your brand are more likely to be loyal. You can develop that reflection by building a community in which customers can interact with your employees as well as their peers.

"By bringing customers together you give them the chance to talk about their experience with your product or brand," says McConnell. "And if you invite [prospective customers], then existing customers often become the salespeople."

You can't create [customer] loyalty if your employees aren't putting your customers' needs front and center. Think long and hard about how you want customers to be treated, and then set firm rules about who you'll hire to work with them. Continuous training of employees is crucial to keeping them focused on customers. Try having a lunch session once a month [with employees] on topics such as listening more effectively or handling angry customers. And ask employees to share stories regularly about the creative ways they assisted customers.

SOURCE: BusinessWeek SMALL BIZ (Winter 2006)
Full article | TRUE BELIEVERS [sub. req’d.]
Sidebar article | LISTENING UP [sub. req’d.]

January 10, 2007

The Case for Informal Business Plans

Did you know that 41% of Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing private firms were started without a formal business plan? Did you also know that a recent study from Babson College found that businesses started without formal business plans were just as successful as those businesses started with formal plans?

Even if you did know those facts ... I recommend you read Kelly Spors highly interesting and very contrarian Wall Street Journal article on why the length of your business plans has no bearing on the success of a burgeoning business.

The findings in the article give credence to Guy Kawasaki’s ART OF THE START thinking that entrepreneurs should “stop typing and start prototyping.”

January 08, 2007

Jim Skinner Says Smart Stuff and Stuff that Smarts


In a recent Wall Street Journal article, current McDonald’s CEO, Jim Skinner, is being credited with spearheading “… one of the most successful streaks in McDonald’s 51-year history." Since Skinner took over as CEO of McDonald’s in 2004, the company’s stock price has increased 45%, year-over-sales have increased, and profits have risen.

All this has happened while the company was awash in negative publicity from books (Fast Food Nation), movies (Super Size Me), and society at-large (“Childhood Obesity”). Plus, Skinner and McDonald’s had to recover from losing two CEO predecessors—one to a heart attack the other to cancer.

Skinner’s winning strategy was named PLAN TO WIN and it focused McDonald’s on improving the service, the food, and the experience at existing locations. Previously, the company’s growth engine was fueled by opening new locations and not necessarily on improving the operations of existing locations.

When asked why McDonald’s choose to focus on being better and not bigger, Skinner had this super-smart reply ...

”Because we proved that we were getting bigger but not better. And we have to be better. Your experience today at McDonald’s has to be a better experience than it was yesterday.”

Cool. That’s the same smart thinking which drives Starbucks Coffee. In TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, I called this business mindset, BE THE BEST, NOT THE BIGGEST.

Starbucks never sought to become the biggest coffee retailer. They did, however, seek to become the best coffee retailer. And this unrelenting desire to be the best at what they do has fueled Starbucks uncompromising growth. Starbucks’ steadfast drive to become the best coffee retailer has resulted in its being the best coffee retailer. It can often work out that way … but it never seems to work in reverse.

Once a company puts its needs—faster growth, increased market share, bigger profits—ahead of its customers, it loses its soul. It’s simple … an endearing and enduring company cannot be self-serving while professing to serve its customers. Dig?

In the same Wall Street Journal interview, Skinner also said something that smarts. Read the following and see if you feel a sharp pain in your stomach that smarts

WSJ: Has Starbucks changed the restaurant environment?

Mr. Skinner: ”I think that they certainly have brought to people's attention the great opportunity for coffee. But if you really look at the impact on the restaurant business, I don't know I could say they've had an impact.”

WSJ: Are they a company that you watch very closely?

Mr. Skinner: ”We watch all companies very closely. Starbucks is a company that we're watching because we could argue that it's a very successful company. They've done a lot of great things. But they've done a lot of the things that we did - took a great concept and replicated it.”

Oh my … did the McDonald’s CEO just say he isn't sure if Starbucks has had an impact on the restaurant industry? Huh? If it weren’t for Starbucks helping to revolutionize the fast casual dining experience, Chipotle might not exist. (For those unaware, McDonald’s had controlling ownership of Chipotle from 1999 to 2006). PF Chang’s wouldn’t have launched Pei Wei. Pot Belly wouldn’t be opening locations far outside of Chicago. Cereality would never have entered our reality. Panera Bread wouldn’t be baking new locations. So yeah … I would say Starbucks has indeed changed the restaurant environment.

And, if I were a McDonald’s shareholder, I’d hope Skinner is watching Starbucks closely. Starbucks has solved the riddle of how to get customers to overcome aversions to higher prices but McDonald’s is solidly stuck in the low-price/low-margin game where new items on the dollar menu are the sales drivers. Low margins forces companies on cutting costs, not adding customer experiences. McDonald’s competes on low prices while Starbucks competes on priceless experiences. Big difference! — A difference that every fast food and fast casual restaurant should watch closely. Double Dig?

December 05, 2006

The Brand Called Mel Gibson

Last week I spoke with Peter Hoy of Fast Company about the brand called Mel Gibson. Apocalypto, Mel’s latest cinematic piece, is set to open this Friday and many folks are curious to know if Mel’s brand image can bounce-back from his damaging drunken tirade earlier this year.

Hoy’s online article asks the question, “Will the end of civilization on the big screen coincide with the end of Mel Gibson's career in Hollywood?” Karen Post and I are quoted in the article. >> READ MORE <<

November 04, 2006

A Comical Blog Post


Yep, this ingenious post from The Amateur Gourmet was written comics-style. Super clever! And super fun to read.

If you wanna learn more about applying lessons learned from comic books to workplace presentations … read Garr Renoylds' posts (here and here) dissecting Scott McCloud’s "Understanding Comics" book.

>> Kudos to Kawasaki for the heads-up.

September 20, 2006

Follow-Up | Tailoring the Ann Taylor Brand

Last year I summarized a lengthy Wall Street Journal article on the challenges facing the woman’s wear retailer Ann Taylor. At that time, Ann Taylor was in a rebuilding process trying to shore up sales at its higher-priced Ann Taylor stores all the while continuing to drive the success of Ann Taylor Loft, its lower-priced, more causal off-shoot brand.

Part of the rebuilding process included developing specific customer profiles of which customers fits the “Ann” persona and which ones the “Loft” persona. Every marketing and merchandising decision for these two similar, yet different, brands was based upon the two personas.

Hopes were high back in July 2005 that this branding work would result in better sales for Ann Taylor.

Well, Ann Taylor’s 2nd Quarter financials tell us sales are definitely stronger in 2006 than 2005. Year-over-year sales at Ann Taylor are up 6.4%. And at Ann Taylor Loft, year-over-year sales have risen by 14.2%. Overall sales and gross margins at these two retailers have also increased significantly.

The Wall Street Journal recently followed-up on this story by running an interview with Ann Taylor CEO, Kay Krill. In this piece, Krill discusses the evolution of the “Ann” and “Loft” persona work. She also gives five tips on reviving a fashion brand:

# 1: Know your client—not only what she wears, but how she lives.
# 2: Have an action plan, and have total agreement from the senior leaders who need to execute the plan.
# 3: Evolve. Retail is not a static business; there’s great danger in staying still.
# 4: Constantly communicate with employees at all levels.
# 5: Stay positive and optimistic.
SOURCE | Wall Street Journal article | Sept. 15, 2006

September 14, 2006

I Feel for the Bud.TV Marketing Manager

So Budweiser is creating an online entertainment network called Bud.TV. Plans call for Bud.TV to have seven channels of programming ranging from comedy to sports to news to the now trite “consumer-generated media.”

Sure that’s interesting marketing stuff, but what I found more interesting were comments made by Tony Ponturo, VP of Global Media & Sports Marketing at Anheuser-Busch.

When asked by the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 13 issue) to talk about the dangers of emphasizing the measurement of marketing programs, Ponturo replied, “Companies, marketing departments and the top-level executives need to give a little room for experimentation. I don’t think you want to allow measurement to override creativity and the adventure of new media.”

The Wall Street Journal followed-up with a question asking Ponturo to talk about the traffic goals Anheuser-Busch has for Bud.TV. Ponturo replied, “So we are saying: ‘Can we be in six months what YouTube is?’ Bud.TV is unknown today, but with our marketing and awareness programs that reach is not an unreasonable objective for the first 90 days.”

This is where I feel for the Marketing Manager responsible for Bud.TV because s/he is setup to fail. By setting the success bar at equaling YouTube’s impact, Tony Ponturo is asking a lot of Bud.TV to accomplish from the get-go. YouTube streams over 100,000,000 videos a day and handles 60% of all videos watched online. Is it realistic to expect Bud.TV to deliver stats like that? I don’t think so.

Coca-Cola has similar widespread marketing and awareness programs to Budweiser. However, we recently learned Coke’s efforts to attract viewers to their online entertainment network, The Coke Show, have faltered.

Maybe Tony Ponturo should revisit his earlier statement saying companies should allow room for experimentation and not allow measurement goals to override the adventure of new media.

September 13, 2006

Do Talented People Need the Organization?

Dan Pink, author of A WHOLE NEW MIND, recently shared his perspective with Advertising Age (Sept 11 issue) on creativity. He touches upon lots of interesting issues, but I found the most interesting to be his perspective on the challenges advertising/marketing agencies are facing in hiring talent that is skilled with both left-brained acuity and right-brain ingenuity. Here's the snippet I found interesting ...

AD AGE: So you say people are being trained in the right-brain, creative skills, yet every marketer and agency I speak to is struggling to find talent that has a sufficient mix of left and right brain to thrive in the businesses we cover. Why?
DAN PINK: ”That big agency or marketer needs you a lot more than you need them. I mean, what do you need now to reach potential clients? A phone, a computer with an Internet connection. Karl Marx said the revolution would come when workers can own the means of production.

Well, you know, now workers own the means of production.

Marx was thinking of factories, which are too large for one person to purchase. But he was sort of right, because if the means of production are your brain and your computer, you don’t need an organization. It’s cheap enough for one person to buy, easy for one person to operate and small enough for one person to house.

Maybe that explains the talent shortage. Talented people don’t necessarily need the organization.”

Dan’s right. Given today’s environment where tools are inexpensive and widely available, the organization needs talented people more than talented people need the organization. Well said Dan … well said.

September 12, 2006

Talking Shop with Jena McGregor of BusinessWeek

Last week Jena McGregor (BusinessWeek reporter) and I chatted about “authentic marketing.” This was in conjunction with the article BusinessWeek ran in its Sept. 18th issue detailing the recent marketing makeover at Safeway. You can access the audio of our conversation here but you might wanna familiarize yourself beforehand with the BusinessWeek story we reference in our chat.

BusinessWeek subscribers can read the article here, others can read the gist below …

The same-store sales pendulum at Safeway has swung from a negative 4.5% 2003 to a positive 4.3% in 2005. Safeway insiders are crediting its major renovation efforts as the reason for the dramatic change in sales.

Beginning in 2003, Safeway committed to spending billions of dollars to remodel all 1,775 of its stores. The remodeling efforts were more than just cosmetic as Safeway made a concerted effort to improve the quality of the food it stocks, as well as the quality of the experience it delivers to customers.

Perishables have been upgraded to include more organic offerings and exotic choices. Beef and poultry have been upgraded and the floral department has also undergone a significant quality upgrade. Additionally, Safeway enlisted the assistance of Orangetwice to remodel its stores to exude a much more authentic look and feel.

Safeway wisely waited until its stores were remodeled and its merchandise was upgraded before it began running its “Ingredients for Life” advertising campaign.

In our conversation, Jena and I touch upon the importance of going inside/out when brands undergo the renovation process. We also discuss how Whole Foods Market and Starbucks Coffee have it seemingly easier when it comes to “authentic marketing.” Plus, I share my thoughts on a few steps traditional mainstream brands can take to tell a more authentic story.

[17:29 minutes | 8.3 MB]
Jena McGregor & John Moore chatting about Safeway, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and "authentic marketing."

September 05, 2006

The ‘P’ of Panache

In a just-published MarketingProfs piece, Ricky Gold spells out his 3 Ps of Marketing. Sure, outlining marketing ideals into alliterative Ps (or alliterative anything) has become somewhat tired and trite. Every marketing class in college harps on the 4Ps of the marketing mix from product, price, promotion, to placement.

What Ricky does that's different is including one of my favorite non-marketing words into the alliterative mix of Ps—PANACHE. Here’s how Rickey talks about panache in marketing …

For most businesses, when I refer to panache, I mean "that extra something." An edge. It might not even be anything you can define. Call it flair or spirit—charisma or energy. It's what makes people want to listen to what you have to say. Or see what you have to sell.

For more, read Rickey Gold’s super-snappy “Three Ps of Successful Marketing.”

September 03, 2006

From Consumer Reports to Consumers Report


”Product reviews written by real people are perhaps the most underappreciated slice of the consumer-generated-media universe, the explosion of which has captivated the advertising and media worlds. But as marketers fixate on getting their virals on YouTube and making friends on MySpace, these relatively unsexy product write-ups have quietly become the most common form of consumer content -- Forrester [Research] puts it as the most-used form of peer-generated content -- not to mention the one with the most direct impact on purchase decisions." [SOURCE: Ad Age article, August 28, 2006]

Used to be for product reviews and ratings we would turn to Consumer Reports magazine. Nowadays, more of us are turning to reports from actual consumers to give us guidance on products to buy and products to avoid. Could it that Consumer Reports is on its way out and Consumers Report is on its way in?

For a nice sum-up of the Ad Age article with sharp analysis, read T. L. Pakii Pierce’s take.

September 01, 2006

Tips on Magnetizing Luck

Written fourteen years ago in Liberation Management, Tom Peters shared 50 strategies on making luck happen in business. Many of them are just as chew today as they were yesterday. Thanks to recent a posting on Tom’s blog, we now have access to these ideas on getting lucky … PDF link.

I was struck with how some of Tom’s luck-finding strategies from yesteryear are exemplified heavily in today’s blogging/social media culture, including …

#18 | Listen to everyone. Ideas come from everywhere.

#28 | Start an informational deluge. The more real-time, unedited information people close to the action have, the more that “neat stuff” happens.

#34 | Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance, don’t let the ruts get deeper than they already are.

#37 | Stir curiosity. Igniting youthful, dormant curiosity in followers is the lead dog’s tap task, according to Sony chairman Akio Morita.

#48 | Nurture peripheral vision. The interesting “stuff” usually is going on beyond the margins of the professional’s ever-narrowing line of sight.

SOURCE: Tom Peters, “The Pursuit of Luck” (.pdf) |Liberation Management

August 30, 2006

The Employee Experience Matters

There’s been lots of chatter lately about Dell’s demise. The company has displeased analysts working on Wall Street by missing sales or earnings projections three times in the last five quarters. And Dell has also displeased customers living on Main Street by producing boring computers and by failing to give prompt, proficient, and enthusiastic customer service.

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Christopher Lawton breaks down the Dell breakdown (free article access here). One breakdown area I found most interesting is where Dell’s desire to gain financial efficiencies resulted in displacing full-time workers in its call centers with less expensive part-time and temporary workers. Lawton explains …

”As the tech downturn ended around 2003, Dell continued cutting costs and focused on being efficient. Around that time, Dell executives decided to hire temporary workers to man their five U.S. call centers, rather than recruit more-expensive full-time staff. By 2005, 75% of Dell's call-center staff -- those who take calls from customers wanting to buy a PC -- were temporary workers. Three years earlier, the majority of those staffers were full-time employees.

The move backfired. By late 2005, Dell noticed its U.S. consumer sales were flattening. Ro Parra, a Dell senior vice president who was asked to look into the problem, pinpointed call-center problems as one cause. He discovered that the temporary call-center workers who wanted full-time jobs weren't being promoted. Turnover in the centers had soared to 300% a year from 30% in 2002.”

Oh my! Turnover rates jumped from 30% to 300% in Dell's call centers. Oh my, oh my, oh my!!!

Dell is learning the hard way that “The Employee Experience Matters.”

August 29, 2006

That Guy with a Way Worthy Post we all Should Read

It’s official. That Guy with The Nametag can now be called That Guy with a Way Worthy Post we all Should Read. I’ll be chewing on Scott Ginsberg’s thoughts about how it's not the idea that matters but rather, what becomes of the idea that matters. And, I’ll also be chewing on how “It’s not about the nametag.” Great stuff Scott.

August 28, 2006

Tom Peters on Competition and Katie Couric

Last week I highlighted BusinessWeek’s COMPETITION double-issue and in particular, the oh-so chewy guidance of … “Obsess about Customers, Not Rivals.”

Today, Tom Peters has a great riff off a quote from new CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric. In the issue, Katie contributes this take on competition in television, "Television is one of the most competitive arenas anywhere. I think the only way to thrive and survive in that atmosphere is to have the love of competition in your blood."

Tom smartly and rightly says, “That quote helps me realize why I don't watch evening news. If your ultimate goal is to ‘compete,’ presumably for ratings supremacy, in my opinion you are/one is doomed to mediocrity.”

He riffs further by saying …

"Here's the sort of thing I dearly wish Ms Couric had said: "Ratings are the least of it. Evening TV news is stale, in the tank, even laughable. It doesn't need a 'cool' or 'refreshing' 'female' anchor. It needs to be blown up and re-thought from the ground up. If the program I anchor looks or smells or feels anything at all like evening news of the Cronkite-Rather era I will have failed miserably and horribly abused a golden opportunity, even if I do edge out the guys at the other networks."

Read Peters’ full post as its loaded with insight.

August 01, 2006

Smart Musings from Bradley Horowitz

There’s a worthwhile sidebar column (sub. req’d) in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal where Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s product strategy vice-president, makes some interesting comments as it relates to the kinetic Web 2.0 activity. (As you know, Yahoo has added to this kinetic activity by buying Flickr and

The article highlights that Horowitz’s Yahoo team looks at hundreds of proposals per week sifting through “everything from the ridiculous to the sublime.” Horowitz readily admits he’s tired of seeing business plans from companies saying they are the “Flickr for blank.”

Horowitz’s most interesting comments were in response to being asked, “What’s wrong with someone starting a company just to sell it to Yahoo?” Horowitz rightly says this is what’s wrong …

”You want people in it for the right reason. Selling to a big company typically isn't the right reason. We like people who are passionate about their product. If you have people with a pure financial motive, in my experience, the product suffers. Certainly, someone could figure out a way to scratch a user's itch and sell the product to us, and perhaps it would make great sense. But we are also looking not just for new products but also to be able to bring the world's best and brightest people into Yahoo.”

Horowitz closes the interview with built-to-last advice for built-to-flip focused entrepreneurs …

”Find something you would do irrespective of financial motive or whether it will be the next big thing. In that case, you win either way.”

Follow your folly. Now that’s great win/win advice for all us business folk.

July 20, 2006

The Ending of Trendy?

I loves me some marketing satire …

U.S. Trendsetters Go On Strike
Nation's 'Hip' Seek Recognition, Royalties

THE ONION | NEW YORK — More than 11,000 trendsetters, tastemakers, movers, and shakers gathered in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood Monday to declare a strike against the broad segment of the American population that they say routinely copies their fashions, musical tastes, and sensibilities. Should the strike persist, experts said, it could bring the pop-cultural life of the nation to a standstill. READ MORE from THE ONION


As I was choosing way-worthy articles from past Fast Company issues for Volume 2 of my FAST COMPANY’s COLLECTVE GENIUS series (Vol. 1 here), I started wondering why Fast Company didn’t ask its subscribers to submit a list of articles that had significant influence on their business life. Or, why not simply include a line listing of the most read/downloaded articles from in the book.

Hmm … there are countless ways Fast Company could have tapped into the collective wisdom of its subscriber base to choose articles for inclusion its book.

Instead, the editorial staff at Fast Company selected articles for inclusion in Fast Company's Greatest Hits: Ten Years of the Most Innovative Ideas in Business. Not including its community of readers signals a missed opportunity that may speak volumes about the magazine losing some of its relevance with its readership.

But wait … this just in … David Lidsky of Fast Company has posted a blog entry on FC NOW asking readers to submit their favorite reads along with a story. It’s a contest so have at it boys and girls.

Anyways, I hope Volume Two of my favorite Fast Company reads from issues #41 to #72 become some your favorite reads. (Volume 3 will be posted early next month and Volume 1 can be accessed here.)


How To Make Your Mark
ISSUE #41 | December 2000 |pg. 205
”Ultimately, making your mark means making a contribution -- to your company, to your professional field, to your coworkers, even to the world -- by making the best use of your talents.” Right on!

Want to Grow as a Leader? Get a Mentor!
ISSUE #42 | January 2001 | pg. 58
I served as a mentor for a young, whipper-snapper Starbucks marketer but unfortunately, I never took the initiative to establish an official mentor/mentee relationship with a super-duper Starbucks executive. Don’t do as I didn’t do. Read this short article and get a mentor!

Rule #3: Leadership is Confusing as Hell [PART 1 | PART 2]
ISSUE #44 | March 2001 | pg. 124
The shrapnel from the Internet bubble burst litters every page of issue #44. With that context in mind, Tom Peters shares 50 Rules leaders should follow in order to thrive during confusing times.

Lead Softly, but Carry a Big Baton
ISSUE #48 | July 2001 | pg. 46
At a Starbucks Leadership Conference back in the day, symphony conductor Roger Nierenberg delivered a killer presentation drawing parallels between conducting an orchestra and managing a project. This article touches upon some of Roger’s crescendo notes.

In My Humble Opinion (Seth Godin)
ISSUE #48 | July 2001 | pg. 84
By this time in my Starbucks career, I was becoming very worried the company had become too big and too ubiquitous. Seth’s article on how and why the authentic becomes inauthentic only added fuel to the fire burning inside me. Thought-provoking stuff!

Marcus Buckingham Thinks Your Boss has an Attitude Problem
ISSUE #49 | August 2001 | pg. 88
This is yet another article I spent time slaving over a photocopy machine autopsying paper jams to produce countless handouts for countless Starbucks middle managers. Starbucks has been heavily influenced by Marcus Buckingham’s great book, NOW DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS. And this article shows company leaders how to maximize the strengths of its employees rather than (a) trying to change people and (b) looking to outsiders to solve insider problems. A must-read!

Love is the Killer App
ISSUE #55 | February 2002 | pg. 64
If you haven’t read Tim Sander’s LOVE IS THE KILLER APP, you should. In the book, and in this summary article, Tim muses on why/how we grow as people and professionals by giving generously. Giving of our time, giving of our knowledge, and giving of ourselves will actually give us the opportunity to succeed. It’s the real world business application of the more you give, the more you receive proverb.

Memo to: Media Monopolists
ISSUE #60 | July 2002 | pg. 90
I must have missed this way worthy read from Seth Godin when it was first published. Or maybe the lasting echoes of the Citizen Marketer theory and the Long Tail theory help to make this treatise on how not to think like a monopolist more relevant today than it was yesterday. Good stuff.

Handle with Care
ISSUE #61 | August 2002 | pg. 102
Great profile piece on how UPS delivers the right package to its employees. The advice on “It’s all right to drop a few” is priceless.

SIZE is Not a Strategy
ISSUE #62 | September 2002 | pg. 78
Before Think Big Act Small. Before Small Giants. Before Small is the New Big. And before jumboSHRIMP, there was Keith Hammond’s article scrutinizing the strategy behind bigger is better.

Keith Yamashita Wants to Reinvent Your Company
ISSUE # 64 | November 2002 | pg. 88
Fast Company put Keith Yamashita on my marketing radar screen and once I saw his UNSTUCK book … I knew I HAD to buy it. This is a way tasty and thought-provoking article. Don’t sleep on Keith’s “10 Ways to Reinvent Your Company” sidebar … it makes for great fodder.

Sophisticated Sell
ISSUE #65 | December 2002 | pg. 92
As a marketer, I adore Anthropologie. They do a masterful job of making sure every store is the same, yet different. “The same, yet different” retailing strategy is something we strived to do at Starbucks and because of me, this article found its way on many a chair at Starbucks’ HQ. In fact, I still freely share this article with retailers wanting marketing advice.

Bigger. Better. Faster.
Size and other issues aside, Wal-Mart is a “great” company. This piece has Jim Collins putting Wal-Mart through his GOOD TO GREAT lens and offering up some reasons why Wal-Mart has become truly great at what they do.

Is Your Company Up to Speed
ISSUE #71 | June 2003 | pg. 81
This worthwhile piece includes “10 make-or-break questions to evaluate your company’s performance.” I guarantee if you ask these ten questions, your answers will deliver tens of new ideas to improve your business.

How To Make Your Own Luck
ISSUE # 72 | July 2004 | pg. 78
Maybe you don’t need to read this particular article on how to increase your “luckability.” But you should read this line from the article: ”Unlucky people are stuck in routines … Lucky people always want something more.” Heck, slap that line on a PowerPoint slide, print it out, and post it in your office.

July 10, 2006


Fcsgreatesthits_1In July of 2006, the folks at Fast Company magazine gathered 32 of the “best and most enduring articles” and compiled them into a GREATEST HITS book. Fast Company's Greatest Hits : Ten Years of the Most Innovative Ideas in Business does indeed contain some great articles from the first decade of the magazine’s existence.

However, as a long-time subscriber and big-time evangelist of Fast Company, I felt this collection was missing some way-worthy reads. So, in true brand hijack fashion, I decided to compile a collection of articles that have greatly impacted my perspective on all things business-related.

But in compiling my list of way-worthy Fast Company reads I encountered a problem—too many articles! So I decided to put together a three-volume set of what I’m calling FAST COMPANY’s COLLECTIVE GENIUS.

I hope my favorite Fast Company reads become your favorite reads.

(Remember kiddos, this is only volume one … volumes two and three will be posted later in July.)


Handbook of the Business Revolution
ISSUE #1 | October 1995 | pg. 8
I wasn’t maven-enough back in the fall of 1995 to know about the inaugural issue of Fast Company. But I am smart enough today to know how on-target the founding fathers of Fast Company were when they the distilled the reasons for the magazine’s being.

It Doesn’t Take a Wizard to Build a Better Boss
ISSUE #3 | June 1996 | pg. 10
A solid piece taking The Wizard of Oz and applying the archetypes of The Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion, and The Tin Man to explain the different types of bosses that exist in the workplace.

Hire for Attitude Train for Skill
ISSUE #4 | August 1996 | pg. 73
This article on the right ways to hire the right people hasn’t lost any relevance since being published a decade ago.
What Comes After What Comes Next
ISSUE #6 | December 1996 | pg. 73
This was my first exposure to Watts Wacker and his visionary thinking ways. Sure some of his thoughts are kooky, but most times there is brilliance in his kookiness.
The Gary Burton Trio: Lessons on Business from a Jazz Legend
ISSUE #6 | December 1996 | pg. 110
Timeless business leadership advice from a jazz man who has lead duos, trios, quartets, etc.
The Brand Called You
ISSUE #10 | August 1997 | pg. 83
I cannot begin to express the impact this Tom Peters article has had, is having, and will continue to have on me. Brand Autopsy, the business nor the blog, wouldn’t exist today had I not read this article many yesterdays ago.
You are the Company! : The Definitive Handbook for Great Customer Service
ISSUE #11 | September 1998 | supplemental pages
[This was a supplement piece that is not available in the archive section of]
Picture an energetic junior-level marketer at Starbucks buying 15 copies of Fast Company issue #11 and distributing those copies to higher-ups within the company along with a photocopied note explaining how great and actionable the piece is to the Starbucks Experience. That picture is a picture of a younger me.
Here's an Idea That's Not Quite Ripe
ISSUE #11 | September 1998 | pg. 50
This piece debunking the oft-cited “low hanging fruit” action step helped to fuel the tanks of this part-time marketing contrarian.
This is Brain Surgery
ISSUE #13 | November 2998 |pg. 146
A classic Fast Company article taking something seemingly unrelated (the pressures and risks a brain surgeon faces) and making perfect parallels to the business world.
Permission Marketing
ISSUE #14 | March 1998 | pg. 198
Before I read Seth Godin’s book on PERMISSION MARKETING, I read this interview where Seth discussed how interruption marketing was dying and why permission marketing was/is rising.
Are You a Star at Work
ISSUE #15 |May 1998 | pg. 114
This article is essentially a companion piece to Robert Kelley’s HOW TO BE A STAR AT WORK book. Both are excellent and both helped me to perform better at Starbucks. The notion of building a “knowledge network” of smart, helpful people has stayed with me through these many years.
How to Give Good Feedback
ISSUE #17 | August 1998 | pg. 144
Can’t say the Starbucks HR department was all that helpful in prepping me for how to give feedback to direct reports. The Starbucks HR department certainly wasn’t as helpful as this FC article was. I just read it again … and it’s still a worthy read.
Great Harvest’s Recipe for Growth
ISSUE #20 | November 1998 | pg. 46
This article awakened me to the Great Harvest Bread Company and their theories for building a proactive learning community with franchisees. Every franchise-based business should allow the ideals from Great Harvest to spark ideas with their business.
ISSUE #23| March 1999 | pg. 91
In Fast Company’s glory days, the Unit of One section, where notables sound-off on a topic, was always a worthy read. This particular Unit of One has notables ranging from Scott Adams (Dilbert) to Warren Bennis to Anita Hill giving their advice on managing up and on how to champion ideas up the corporate food chain.
The WOW Project
ISSUE #24 | April 1999 | pg. 116
Throughout my marketing career, I’ve lived in the projects and to a great extent my project experience defines my work experience. I learned so much about project management from this classic Tom Peters piece. It’s an article I still find myself sharing with eager marketers seeking career advice.
The Leader of the Future
ISSUE # 25 | May 1999 | pg. 130
This is a quintessential ethereal FC piece on leadership. It’s inspiring. It’s optimistic. It’s thought-provoking. And it’s still relevant today.
Why We Buy
ISSUE # 29 | October 1999 | pg. 282
When I was at Starbucks I hopelessly pitched radically changing the box that our home espresso machines were sold in. Instead of it merely being a functional cardboard box, I hoped it could become an emotional and aspirational gateway like the box that houses an iMac. This article profiling Jonathan Ive, iMac designer, is a MUST-READ for any marketer.
Built to Flip
ISSUE #32 | February 2000 | pg. 131
This might be my favorite FC article of all-time. When this article from Jim Collins was published in March 2000, the Internet hubris was still sky-high. However, with sound reasoning and effective prose, Collins helped to deflate some of the sky-high Internet hubris. This is another article I photocopied a gazillion times and passed around throughout Starbucks corporate headquarters.
Unleashing the Ideavirus
ISSUE #37 | July 2000 | pg. 115
Part One:
Part Two:

I have a confession to make. I never bought Seth Godin’s IDEAVIRUS book. I did, however, read this Ideavirus abstract over and over again. This article on how and why ideas spread has become a pillar of modern Word-of-Mouth marketing strategy.
No Brands-Land
ISSUE #38 | August 2000 | pg. 236
Many times I learn more from a dissenting voice than an agreeing voice. This Naomi Klein profile piece about the cultural perils of strong brands had a profound impact on me. After reading it and after reading Naomi’s NO LOGO book, I began asking lots of questions about the role of brands in cultures both global and local. A thought-provoking piece that is even more relevant today than it was yesterday.
Design Principal and
Mau’s “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth”
ISSUE #38 | August 2000 | pg. 164

This is where I first read about Bruce Mau and his super-smart Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. Bruce’s manifesto has become a Brand Autopsy tradition where I begin each new blogging year with a post reminding us all of “going beyond thinking different to doing different.”

>> That's Vol. 1, click here to read Vol. 2

June 22, 2006

Moviemakers or Movie Marketers?

Really smart chatter has been happening from my Arresting Slumping Box Office Sales post with many comments echoing some of the sentiments expressed in a vintage Brand Autopsy posting.

In that post from last summer, I riffed off two articles that were exploring where to place blame for a dismal summer 2005 movie season. Were slumping sales the fault of moviemakers or movie marketers? As you can read below, I found blame with the moviemakers …

[From the Brand Autopsy archive (August 20, 2005)]

Who’s to blame for the dismal summer movie season … moviemakers or movie marketers? Year-to-date box office sales are half-a-billion dollars less than last year and there is a lot of finger-pointing going on in Hollywood.

Moviemakers are blaming marketers for the box-office slump. They say Hollywood marketers have abused the heavy-up television advertising tactic to the extent audiences have grown tired of the relentless hype machine.

Movie marketers are blaming changing consumer habits. They say their core consumer (12 to 34 year olds) are spending more time playing videogames, surfing the internet, and using their cell phones than going to the movies.

Movie theater owners are even getting to the action by blaming moviemakers. Theater owners are say this year’s movies are just not as good as last year’s movies.

I side with the movie theater owners and place the blame on the moviemakers.

If moviemakers make truly remarkable films, people will remark about them and audiences will flock to see them. Case in point … CRASH, a remarkable movie people remarked about this summer. I saw it because my sister-in-law remarked to me how much I would like the film because it depicts an honest look at racial relations.

So … who do you think is to blame for the summer box office slump? Moviemakers or movie marketers?

June 20, 2006

Arresting Slumping Box Office Sales

In Monday’s Wall Street Journal TECHNOLOGY Report, movie director Barry Sonnenfeld shared an interesting idea to address a movie’s week-after-week decline in box office sales. [SOURCE LINK (sub. req’d)]

These days a movie’s first week is its biggest sales week. Box office sales in the second week of a movie’s opening are about half of what the movie did in its first week. And sales in its third week are about half of a movie’s second week sales take. For example, CARS opened last week with box office sales of $60.1 million. In its second sales week, CARS took in $33.7 million which is about half of its opening week sales. So next week … CARS will probably take in about $17.0 million.

To arrest the week-after-week sales decline movies experience, Barry Sonnenfeld offers the idea of releasing a special edit of a film with extra scenes to goose sales during week four of a movie’s release. Digital editing and digital distribution of movie prints makes this idea financially feasible from a cost standpoint. Sonnenfeld is realistic though and rightly tempers his expectations, “No one's going to come back to see RV again, with 10 minutes of new stuff, but you would if it was STAR WARS or KING KONG.”

Ya know … this marketer thinks Barry Sonnenfeld might be onto something here. We’re already buying DVDs of our favorite movies with additional scenes and alternative endings. Why wouldn’t we also be apt to buying tickets to see a movie that has extra scenes and other cinematic doo-dads a few weeks after a film’s initial release. Interesting idea, eh?

April 11, 2006

Expert who Blogs or Blogger who Experts?


SOURCE: Guy Kawasaki’s The First 100 Days: Observations of a Nouveau Blogger blog posting.

Hmm … I can’t decide if I’m a blogger who experts or an expert who blogs. Besides, isn’t an expert someone who used to be a pert? Anyhow … chewy quote, eh?

April 06, 2006

THE Lensmaster


There are lensmasters and then there is THE LENSMASTER. David Fleishman, an eyewear enthusiast, is THE LENSMATER. See for yourself at his eye-opening website – it’s quite a spectacle.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal article (free access)

March 07, 2006

George Knocks Trout Out of the Water

George Silverman has come out swinging with knockout blows directed towards Jack Trout’s Forbes column on why Word-of-Mouth (WOM) marketing isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Check out this tasty touché from George’s must-read “Jack Trout Attacks WOM marketing” blog posting.

“In a dazzlingly out-of-touch article for, Jack Trout has attacked word-of-mouth marketing. This probably means that word-of-mouth marketing is now a big enough threat to the establishment that it is worthy of attack. It's rather sad to see such a venerable old-line marketer so out of touch. It's also sad to think that a lot of old-line companies are going to listen to him.”

You go George ... read more HERE.

My beef with Trout’s take on WOM is that Trout wants to control every aspect of every consumer conversation about a product. Trout writes the following,

“There’s no way to control that word-of-mouth. Do I want to give up control and let consumers take over my campaign? No way. They aren’t getting paid based upon how many widgets get sold. If I go to all this trouble delivering a positioning strategy for my product, I want to see that message delivered. Buzz can get your name mentioned but you can’t depend on much else.”

Jack … it’s not about you. It’s not about how you, or any one marketer or one company for that matter, can control consumers with marketing missives. It is about how consumers can help marketers spread marketing messages.

In today’s multi-channel, multi-dimensional environment, marketers cannot begin to place marketing messages everywhere consumers are. The costs do so are way too prohibitive. WE NEED HELP. WE NEED TO ENLIST THE HELP OF CONSUMERS TO HELP US. The game has changed from when and where marketing messages are delivered to HOW and WHY marketing messages are delivered. Some companies get this (Apple, YouTube, Google, Scion, Skype) and some companies don’t (AT&T).

Trout has been touting the marketing concept of positioning for over three decades now. I’ve studied his writings on the topic and I’m a firm believer in this positioning concept. But I believe that if a marketer has properly designed a positioning strategy for a product/service, WOM will not only get people mentioning the product’s name … WOM will also get people mentioning why that product/service matters. Dig?

Ya know … when it comes to meaningful words on Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Trout is a fish out of water.

February 19, 2006

Double-Double Trouble for In-N-Out Burger?


I’m a big fan of and big believer in In-N-Out Burger. I cite them constantly when sharing my jumboSHRIMP Marketing beliefs on getting bigger by acting smaller. In-N-Out Burger is a quintessential jumboSHRIMP Marketing business because they steadfastly follow the jumboSHRIMP Marketing golden rule of being the best, not the biggest.

However, this week I learned from BusinessWeek (sub. req’d) of some intra-company shenanigans where, allegedly, In-N-Out Burger heiress, Lynsi Martinez, is maneuvering to take control of the business. Currently, In-N-Out Burger has around 200 locations in only California, Nevada, and Arizona. Rumor has it that if Lynsi gets control of In-N-Out Burger, she will seek to take advantage of accelerating the growing of the business. Let’s hope this hullaballo is more rumor than fact.

Scarcity and privacy have been two of In-N-Out Burger’s main business strategies. By choosing to be inconvenient with its judicious and methodical expansion and choosing to remain a privately-help company, In-N-Out Burger has so far not fallen victim to the Krispy Kreme trap.

The Krispy Kreme trap? That’s when you take a cult regional brand and decide to take it national by any means possible. (We all know where that strategy got Krispy Kreme.)

For more on the developing situation with In-N-Out Burger’s intra-company shenanigans, read this LA Times article and this Washington Post article.

January 29, 2006

MINI’s Uncommon Practices

Minilogo_2Seems as though making the common uncommon is baked inside the company culture of MINI USA. MINI made the common car uncommon. Through its ad agency, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), MINI made the common advertising campaign uncommon. And now since CP+B resigned the MINI ad account in favor of a much larger Volkswagon assignment, MINI USA has made the common ad agency selection process uncommon.

The normal way companies select ad agencies is to use an outside selection firm to manage the RFP process and then a select number of agencies are invited to make their pitch to the company in a series of boardroom meetings. Afterwards, the company selects their ad agency of record.

MINI began its search for a new ad agency using the normal process of hiring an outside firm to ferret through proposals. However, once MINI narrowed the list of ad agency candidates down to four, things got uncommon … very uncommon.

MINI CEO Jim McDowell organized a weekend-long “boot camp” immersion where all four remaining candidates performed in front of each other. The first assignment McDowell gave the ad agencies was to introduce themselves to each other by creating interesting name tags on the spot. Next, McDowell tested the quick-thinking improv skills of the agencies by asking them offbeat questions like, “If Arnold Schwarzenegger runs for President, who should be his running mate?”

During the boot camp, the agencies were sent out on a scavenger hunt in rainy weather to drive MINI Coopers and collect items to be used in a scrapbook which were later presented in front of MINI marketers and the other ad agencies.

After the boot camp, one agency dropped out citing chemistry differences. The three remaining agencies had open access to the MINI team but McDowell again did something uncommon – he gave each agency open access to every nugget of information requested by one agency. If one agency requested something, McDowell shared that something with every agency.

McDowell put these agencies through this uncommon pitch process “… to get closer to how each agency thought, behaved, and went about their business when unexpected situations were thrown at them.”

MINI ultimately selected Butler Shine as their new ad agency.

SOURCE: BusinessWeek | Getting Creative With Mad Ave (sub. req’d) | Feb. 6, 2006

December 14, 2005

Mainstreaming of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

The mainstreaming of word-of-mouth marketing continues with this satirical take from The Onion.

>>>>>>>>> Link to the full "article"

Thanks Vee-Dub for passing along this ditty.

December 12, 2005

Jetsons 1962 | NFL 2005

Fun stuff from the New York Times

Few football fans in 1962 could have envisioned today's N.F.L. The game may be the same, but much of what surrounds it - Skycams, wireless communications, dome stadiums, ticket scanners - has changed. It was all there in 1962, though, for viewers of "The Jetsons" (George, Jane, Elroy, Judy, the robotic maid, Rosie, and their dog, Astro). [reg. req’d.]


December 05, 2005

Carnival of Marketing #4

UPDATED | Dec. 8 | repaired a broken link


For this week's installment of the Carnival of Marketing, I have divided it up into two parts. The first part includes smart marketing-related posts culled from reader submissions. The second part contains a few links to worthwhile marketing reads as selected by me. Since you are all over-achievers, I expect you'll be interested in reading both sections. Right?


Be Proud of Your Mistakes

Matt Heinz explains how to turn failures into learning experiences creating a culture of innovation.

Book Review: GRAPEVINE
Spike Jones shares his take on GRAPEVINE, the recently published book on Word-of-Mouth Marketing from BzzAgent's Dave Balter.
Your Brand = Your Employees.
Jonathan Dampier reminds us to not forget the Employee variable in the marketing equation.
Pay it Forward
Peter Caputa explains how connecting people with people leads to creating a sales machine.
MarketingSherpa's "Landing Page Handbook" -- Who to believe?
Louis Gudema ponies up thoughts on a recent MarketingSherpa study about website landing pages.
Advertising Relevance
Michael Caffin offers up some sharp advertising “Do’s” and “Don’ts.”
The Gap in The Gap's Strategy
Laura Smart has smart musings on Gap’s strategy of using celebrity endorsers.
Why People Don’t Pay Attention to the Price of a Room at The Four Seasons
Doug Davidoff riffs on creating remarkable experiences for customers and clients.


Participate in the Reputation Marketplace

John Winsor’s thinking syncs up with my thinking that managing a brand is really just managing a reputation. Yep, brand management is reputation management.

Interview: Douglas Rushkoff, author of GET BACK IN THE BOX
Marc Babej posted a thought-provoking interview with Douglas Rushkoff. Yeah, I’m pimpin’ Rushkoff again.
Preaching About Your Products
Jackie Huba eloquently and passionately makes the case for companies adopting customer evangelism practices in this online only interview with US News & World Report.
Direct-to-Brain Marketing
A new application for the MRI brain scan has marketers hoping they can create more effective ads. (From -- 3:00 audio)
Tapping the Field of Conversation
Evelyn Rodriguez links to and riffs off a worthy read article on what we can learn from the American civil rights movement as it relates to making change happen at our businesses.
NPR’s Podcast Success
An informative article on how National Public Radio has become a leading podcaster in just two months.
Christmas Creep: The Shopping Season Is Longer, But Is It Better?
Every year, retailers seem to start the Holiday shopping season earlier and earlier. Knowledge@Wharton examines if a longer shopping season is better.
Media Age Business Tips From U2
Sound business lessons from the brand … I mean the band … U2. [PDF version available here.]

December 01, 2005

Capitalizing on Conversational Capital


Don’t sleep on this way-worthy white paper about Conversational Capital from Diesel Marketing. In just a few pages, this Montreal-based marketing firm shares thought-provoking insight into the art of Word-of-Mouth marketing.

Diesel contends that in the experience economy, storytelling or the way people can talk about their experiences is as important for consumers as the actual consumption experiences themselves.

We call this conversational capital because this form of storytelling is a powerful currency that transforms the economic relationship between brand experiences and their consumers. In this new type of transaction, by successfully delivering outstanding and meaningful consumer experiences, marketers provide their clients with some valuable conversational currency that helps them effectively define themselves in their social interactions. In return, consumers who talk positively about certain products increase the value of brand experiences by becoming efficient, inexpensive and credible advocates.

The novelty of the concept of conversational capital is not the acknowledgement that bragging rights play a key role in consumer behaviour. Rather, it is the recognition that 1) “bragging rights” have a real economic value for consumers as well as providers of goods and services and that 2), these “bragging rights” can be engineered.

Conversational capital arises when organisations manage to deliver products/services experiences that are remarkable and meaningful enough to prompt consumers to want to talk about them.

DOWNLOAD the 10-page “Conversational Capital” pdf

>>> Mucho kudos to the Experience the Message blog for the hook-up. <<<

November 29, 2005

Carnival of Marketing

Following the lead from the well-read Carnival of Capitalists (COTC), Noah Kagan has started the CARNIVAL OF MARKETING. Brand Autopsy is hosting it next week and on Monday (Dec. 4), I’ll be posting links to a variety of recent ultra-worthy marketing blog postings from a diverse cadre of marketers.

I’m looking for submissions so send me an email [john (at)] to alert me of a whiz-bang marketing-related post you’ve written recently.

Submissions are due by Sunday afternoon (Dec. 3).

Past CARNIVAL OF MARKETING postings include:

  • WEEK ONE | | Nov. 13
  • WEEK TWO | | Nov. 21
  • WEEK THREE | | Nov. 27
  • November 22, 2005

    Lowest Common Coffee Denominator


    Last year, I had some thoughts about the Fast Company web-exclusive article on Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) be faster and be cheaper business strategy to siphon customers away from Starbucks. And recently I shared some more thoughts with Stephen Rodrick, writer from NEW YORK MAGAZINE, on DD’s push into New York City.

    In his “Average Joe” article, Stephen writes about DD's lowest common coffee denominator approach …

    “At Starbucks, your coffee is lovingly prepared by that eager, bright-eyed barista, cup by custom-made cup. At the second Dunkin’ stop, a pencil-thin store at 43rd and Second, the Dunkin’ Eight watched approvingly as a nameless staffer took three orders in a minute, hitting a red button for two sugars and a green one for a dash of milk. Customers came and went as if on an invisible conveyor belt. “See how quickly we move them through?” said one of the Dunkin’ ocho. “In and out, in and out.”

    What I was witnessing, of course, is the McDonaldization of coffee. Following the model of the Golden Arches, Dunkin’ prizes speed and sameness above all else (Dunkin’ is owned by Pernod Ricard, a French conglomerate, but its stores are all franchised). In addition to its state-of-the-art push-button standard-coffee machines, each Dunkin’ store has an $8,000 espresso-and-latte machine. The goal is simply for every cup to taste identical, whether you’re in midtown or Park Slope. It may not be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had, but you can rely on its predictability. And, again copying the McDonald’s model, it will be there instantly.”

    SOURCE: New York Magazine | “Average Joe” | Stephen Rodrick

    October 31, 2005

    Measuring Word-of-Mouth

    I’m surprised there has been virtually no chatter about Adweek’s feature story on Measuring Buzz. It’s probably because the article has been trapped deep inside Adweek’s guarded online gates. Consider the article hostage no more …

    DOWNLOAD | Psst! How Do You Measure Buzz (pdf) | Adweek | 10.24.05

    ”Indeed, the rise of word-of-mouth and buzz marketing couldn’t come at a better time – or a worse one. On one hand, it offers marketers the chance to bypass increasingly spotty communication channels and avoid the middleman known as paid media in favor of one of the oldest and most effective forms of communication. On the other hand, it is enormously difficult to quantify return on investment from this most ephemeral of media. A whole cottage industry has sprung up around the demand for word-of-mouth measurement. But so far, not even the companies that are best at monitoring word-of-mouth feel they’ve cracked the code.”

    That’s how Catharine Taylor, Adweek writer, sets up her story. From there she gives a quick run-down on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) from its purpose/vision to the Association’s terminology framework (WOMUnits, episodes, etc). [Click here for a PDF of WOMMA’s Framework Terminology.] Taylor then touches upon the work from Intelliseek, BuzzMetrics, and BzzAgent.

    However, the article never fully answers the question of how to measure word-of-mouth because that question has yet to sufficiently answered. WOMMA (of which Brand Autopsy is a member) and other groups are still working on figuring out the metrics issue.

    While Brand Autopsy is a WOMMA member, I’m less concerned about solving the measurement issue. Instead, I believe the bigger issues facing marketers today have to do with the WOM message more than the WOM metrics.

    The major reason why word-of-mouth hasn’t taken off is not because marketers lack the metrics to measure it. It’s because most products, services, and businesses simply aren’t worth talking about. Marketers should worry less about the metrics of “WOMUnits” and more about the message of the word-of-mouth activity. The more compelling and interesting the “WOMUnit,” the more people will talk about it.

    Also marketers need to realize word-of-mouth is more than a marketing issue -- it’s a business issue. Marketers cannot simply sprinkle magical word-of-mouth marketing dust to create long-lasting word of mouth. For endearing and enduring word-of-mouth to happen, the activity must become part of the company’s culture. Sustainable word-of-mouth is much more a way of doing business every day than a component to a two-week heavy-up marketing blitz.

    The Adweek article closes by quoting some smart thinking from Jim Poh, director of creative content at Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

    ”The more you measure it [word-of-mouth], the more you find ways to manufacture buzz. And manufactured buzz starts to feel like that.”

    Well said Jim … well said.

    October 18, 2005

    Magazine Clips


    Forgot where I first saw the collection of the 40 Best Magazine Covers from the last 40 years … oh yeah, at the Tom Peters blog … and Worthwhile just mentioned it so I’m jumping on the blog bandwagon.

    The .PPT slide show the ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors) plopped up on their website showing the winning covers is worthwhile viewing for creative (and non-creative) marketing types. However ... after some slight tweaking, like trashing the garish gradient red background and adding covers # 1 - #10, it shows better. Take a two-minute break and have a look …

    ASME 40/40 Magazine Show
    [6.2MB (.ppt) download]

    September 12, 2005

    Another Wal*Mart Feel-Good Story

    In this Wall Street Journal article, we learn more about how Wal*Mart’s finely tuned supply chain operations is being used for the greater good.

    Ya know … action speaks louder than advertising. And this action by Wal*Mart is a far better image-builder than the mega-millions of feel-good brand image advertising the company has been trying to jam into our consciousness. Mucho kudos to Wal*Mart for being a good corporate citizen during the relief efforts.

    from the Wall Street Journal (Monday | Sept 12, 2005):
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency could learn some things from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

    On Wednesday, Aug. 24, when Katrina was reclassified to a storm from a tropical depression, Jason Jackson, the retailer's director of business continuity, started camping out in Wal-Mart's emergency command center. By Friday, when the hurricane touched down in Florida, he had been joined by 50 Wal-Mart managers and support personnel, ranging from trucking experts to loss-prevention specialists.

    On Sunday, before the storm made landfall on the Gulf Coast, Mr. Jackson ordered Wal-Mart warehouses to deliver a variety of emergency supplies, from generators to dry ice to bottled water, to designated staging areas so that company stores would be able to reopen quickly if disaster struck.

    Then, when the hurricane knocked out Wal-Mart's computerized system for automatically updating store inventory levels in the area, he fielded phone calls from stores about what they needed. He also alerted a replenishment team to reorder essential products, such as mops and bleach. And by Tuesday, scores of Wal-Mart trucks, some escorted by police, were setting out to deliver 40 generators and tons of dry ice to company stores across the Gulf that had lost power.

    Katrina is the biggest natural disaster Wal-Mart has ever had to confront. Initially, 126 of its stores, including 12 in the New Orleans metropolitan area, and two distribution centers were shuttered because they were in Katrina's direct path. More than half ended up losing power, some were flooded and 89 have reported damage.

    But by this past Friday, all but 15 of the idled stores had reopened. From Boutte, La., to Pass Christian, Miss., Wal-Mart frequently beat FEMA by days in getting trucks filled with emergency supplies to relief workers and citizens whose lives were upended by the storm.

    Wal-Mart's speed in responding to Katrina underscores the extent to which it and other big-box retailers like Home Depot Inc. have become key players in responding to natural disasters. Whereas FEMA has to scramble for resources, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has it owns trucks, distribution centers and dozens of stores in most areas of the country. It also has a specific protocol for responding to disasters, and it can activate an emergency command center to coordinate an immediate response. [MORE]

    UPDATE: Investor's Business Daily has a nice article on how/why Wal*Mart is helping during the Katrina aftermath.

    September 11, 2005

    Feel-Good Wal*Mart Stories


    Hard to find fault with Wal*Mart’s response to the Katrina aftermath …

    “Wal-Mart was able to get essential supplies to rural parishes in Louisiana before FEMA or the Red Cross arrived. The company's logistics and transportation system made it well suited to respond to an emergency like Katrina.” [National Public Radio audio]
    “The world's largest retailer has struggled on numerous public relations fronts in a prolonged battle with critics who say the company represents the worst of low-cost retailing. But Wal-Mart's response to the catastrophe - seen as far more effective than government efforts - has drawn praise from nearly all quarters.” [Associated Press article]

    September 02, 2005

    Worthy Weekend Reading

    Inc. Magazine | The Anatomy of a Sale – Ours
    Bo Burlingham writes a very revealing insider look at the Inc. & Fast Company fire sale to Joe Mansueto.

    Wall Street Journal | Instrument Giant Plays Local Tune
    The Guitar Center is a prototypical jumboSHRIMP company. In this article, you’ll learn how this $1.5B company gets bigger by acting smaller.
    Strategy+Business | The Advertising Saturation Point
    A great piece about advertising’s “tipping point” of when going heavy becomes a heavy burden to growing sales.
    NY Times | Reaching for Success But Not Too Much of It
    A tasty read profiling homegrown entrepreneurial businesses who believe small is the new big.

    June 03, 2005

    Ford Mustang’s Emotional Design


    NPR’s All Things Considered aired an interesting story about the emotional design aesthetic behind the redesigned 2005 Ford Mustang.

    Ford's Special Vehicle Team Director, Hau Thai-Tang, went to great lengths to remain true to the iconic muscle car all the while tweaking elements to further seduce car buyers.

    One such emotional design tweak involved tuning the exhaust system to match the growling and groaning of Steve McQueen’s ’68 Mustang in a famous car chase scene from the movie Bullitt. Hau Thai-Tang’s team accomplished this design asthetic by digitizing the soundtrack to Bullitt and essentially tuning the '05 Mustang’s exhaust system (much like one would tune an organ) to match McQueen's menacing-sounding '68 Mustang.

    Click to listen to the 8 minute-long story. (Good stuff.)

    May 02, 2005

    Greg Brenneman, the endearing CEO

    The other week we mentioned the indifference shown by Ken Ferree, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in a NY Times Sunday Magazine profile.

    Burger_kingCompare Ken's indifference with the endearing comments from Burger King’s CEO, Greg Brenneman.

    In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Brenneman comes off as being down-to-earth, transparent, and downright giddy about Burger King and its products. It’s also worth noting his responses use crisp and clear language. (How rare is it to hear a CEO not use vapid and vacuous jargon? Too rare.)

    Highlights from the very smart interview are below and you can download the article by clicking here (.doc).

    WSJ: Your turnaround formula includes boosting a restaurant's average annual sales from $970,000 to about $1.3 million. How will you do this, and sustain it?

    Brenneman: It's the million dollar question. We knew Wendy's was at $1.3 million. McDonald's was at about $1.9 million. I said, what's a good interim goal? If you said $1.9 million, everyone would look at you like you're on drugs. We said, we can get at least as good as $1.3 million. That doesn't happen in a year. You can only develop things so fast.... There were a ton of gaps that existed in our offerings versus our competitors. The pantry was fairly bare. There was no thick burger. No whole-muscle chicken sandwiches. No salads. No chicken strips. No limited breakfast menu.

    WSJ: Speaking of indulgent, you call your best repeat customers "Super Fans" -- the 18-to-34-year-old males who come in three to four times a week. How are you strengthening efforts to appeal to them?

    Brenneman: If you think about what drives our business, "Super Fans" are something like 25% of our customer base, but 50% of spending. If we just get one more visit out of the Super Fan, it's like a 10% increase in comparable sales. It's about understanding who the core consumers are and getting the kind of indulgent products they want. You can't be everything to everybody. If you look at the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, we didn't beat around the bush with the name. It's an indulgent breakfast sandwich, and it's absolutely geared at the Super Fan.

    WSJ: What do you eat?

    Brenneman: I'm a Double Whopper fanatic. What I go in for on a regular basis is the salad. With chicken on it, it's terrific. You can put reasonable dressing on it and have a terrific meal if you need to watch your girlish figure.

    WSJ: You've described Burger King's culture as having had an "entitlement attitude." What do you mean?

    Brenneman: We were part of Diageo. This was a subsidiary of a British business. Because no one told people how they were doing, no one knew if they were making money or losing it. People just began to think of it as something they were entitled to -- this salary, these benefits. It was coming from a booze business that made 80% margins. So we started telling people...we're making this much money, we got bonuses tied to profitability. We're just ourselves now. The guy who's saving us is the guy who's looking in the mirror.

    WSJ: How does your relationship with Burger King's owners help, since you answer to them rather than to public shareholders?

    Brenneman: We have a great relationship... because they're friends, they're business partners, they're incredibly smart businessmen and women, and they're a phone call away. Sales are up. Profits are way up. They go work on whatever else is troubling them in their portfolio.

    WSJ: You've got about 11,000 restaurants globally. How many do you think you can reach in the next five years?

    Brenneman: I don't have a number. The thing in the past was, let's just grow. I'm more concerned about profitable growth. As the cost of building the restaurant comes down, the return on capital changes dramatically...that will drive how many restaurants will get built.
    There are many places where we want to put more Burger Kings. Internationally, we are in 65 countries around the world. Not one of those 65 countries [is] totally built out. We entered Brazil this year, it's growing like gangbusters. We'll enter China later this year. We have many markets where we can grow our presence without over-saturating or cannibalizing our own sales.

    WSJ: How soon might we see an IPO?

    Brenneman: If we do an IPO -- and that'll be up to the sponsors how they want to exit. I don't think they're in any hurry, but everybody knows these guys don't hold onto things forever. My guess is not in calendar year '05, maybe in calendar year '06. To do an IPO you need company performance, and it's good right now. You also need the market to be solid. I think it'd be a great thing for our system. Being able to read about yourself in the stock exchange everyday is something our franchisees look forward to. But it's by no means critical to us.

    April 24, 2005

    Ken Ferree, the indifferent CEO

    I’m not sure if this is refreshing or regrettable. In a Q&A with the NY Times (req. req'd), Ken Ferree, the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), openly admits he doesn’t really watch CPB supported/funded PBS television programs nor does he go out of his way to listen to CPB supported/funded NPR radio programs.

    NY TIMES: What PBS shows do you like?
    Ken Ferree: I'm not much of a TV consumer. I like ''Masterpiece Theater'' and some of the ''Frontline'' shows. I like ''Antiques Roadshow'' and ''Nova.'' I don't know. What's your favorite show?

    NY TIMES: It would probably be the ''NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.''
    Ferree: Yes, Lehrer is good, but I don't watch a lot of broadcast news. The problem for me is that I do the Internet news stuff all day long, so by the time I get to the Lehrer thing . . . it's slow. I don't always want to sit down and read Shakespeare, and Lehrer is akin to Shakespeare. Sometimes I really just want a People magazine, and often that is in the evening, after a hard day.

    NY TIMES: For the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you don't sound like much of a PBS viewer. Perhaps you prefer NPR, which your organization also finances?
    Ferree: No. I do not get a lot of public radio for one simple reason. I commute to work on my motorcycle, and there is no radio access.

    Interesting … an indifferent CEO.

    Wouldn’t you want your CEO to be a Champion for the products and services your company creates for people? Sure it's refreshing for a CEO not to be an over-the-top cheerleader who regurgitates the company talking points at the drop of a hat. However, I’d feel much better working for a company with a CEO who is publicly supportive of what the company does.

    Then again, the CPB is a US government-created organization and we’ve come to expect indifference from government workers.

    April 10, 2005

    Making Over the CBS Evening News

    Cbs_evening_newsLeslie Moonves, CBS chairman, wants to reinvent the CBS Evening News broadcast which has “aired fundamentally unchanged for more than 40 years.” Despite generating at least $100M a year in ad revenue, viewership of the CBS Evening News has fallen significantly in the past decade and the average age of its viewer has risen to nearly 60.

    The NY Times asked four media notables to kibitz over how they would remake the CBS Evening News to be more relevant. [Article link (reg. req’d.)]

    Lizz Winstead, co-creater of the Daily Show, suggests CBS should take more of a nonpartisan editorial stance by telling how other media outlets (Fox, MSNBC, NY Times) are covering stories and pointing out where they have it right and wrong. Lizz also thinks a panel discussion should be incorporated into the half-hour newscast where she proposes creatively using the CBS eye icon to provide subtle commentary on the panelists' contributions.

    Mark Burnett, of Survivor and Apprentice fame, litters his take on remaking the CBS Evening News with megalomaniac musings. Check out this egotistical drivel, “Of all the people you’re likely to speak to, I’m the most likely to get it right – because I have my finger on the pulse of young people.” (No wonder he and The Donald hit it off so well.) Burnet’s advice to CBS? Sensationalize the newscast by having field correspondents be news agitators more than news reporters.

    Don Hewitt, founder/longtime exec. producer of 60 Minutes, suggests CBS should add young-skewing thought-provoking commentary at the end of each newscast from the likes of Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres. He also suggests adding more of a female voice in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the stories themselves.

    In my opinion, the best advice on remaking the CBS Evening News comes from Al Primo, broadcast news pioneer. Al opines,

    “I've seen enough research in the kind of work I do to be absolutely 100 percent sure that the evening network newscasts have no relevance to people's lives.

    I would, first of all, say to CBS, "Forget about being the newscast of record." There is no need for a newscast of record when you have CNN and Fox and news radio all day long, and even Google News.

    The newscast has to be designed to work across many platforms. So while you'd have an anchor desk, you'd also have an Internet site on the left hand side of the set. You'd have monitors and a group of people monitoring blogs. Young people are multitasking all the time. They watch television and work the Internet at the same time. You have to have a component in there where you push that part of the show - what's the audience telling us, in real time, on the Internet.


    The newscast would also be simulcast on the radio every single night, coast to coast. And it could sell its own ads on the radio. Most everybody I know in the world - in their car, at their desk, on the train - is away from the television set when the news is on. This gives them the opportunity to listen to the newscast on the radio. You would also have it sent to satellite radio.

    I would also advise that on at least three nights - Thursday, Friday, Monday - that there be a sports segment. For the Final Four, you could bring in Greg Gumbel and Jim Nantz, two sportscasters who already work for CBS. We're trying to make a show that's interesting and compelling to watch. You'd have him sitting next to the anchor, not just out there in TV land.

    The new newscast has to emphasize enterprise reporting. I don't mean investigative reporting; I don't mean four-month old studies on crime. I'm talking about stories that nobody else has, or that are highly interesting. For example, I would have a business unit that has only one job: to pore over reports from companies. You can say, "Company XYZ filed its 1090 form today and guess what: Joe Shmo, the CEO, made $75 million." Then you go out and get him. Chase him down the hall. I call this little thing "the High-Interest Business Report," instead of those Dow Jones averages that are on the air every single day.

    You've got to have fun with these things. One of the things we learned doing research for the teen program is that young people like to laugh. They like to laugh at their elders, to see examples of waste, to see examples of who is getting away with what. This should have a sort of edginess. You've got to find a way to do that on the network level, not just the local level.

    Okay … let’s throw it out to you … how would you remake the CBS Evening News to increase its relevancy given today’s micro media landscape?

    April 03, 2005

    Kasparov on Business and Chess

    Kasparov_2The April edition of the Harvard Business Review has a great interview with Garry Kasparov, the recently retired World Chess Champion.

    The interview explores the rich territory of chess as an analogy for business strategy/competition. It is a way worthy read for all and below you’ll find a scalpel/suture of my key takeaways from the interview.

    Kasparov on … Chess as an Analogy for Business Competition

    “There’s a massive amount of uncertainty and almost boundless variety in terms of the moves you can make in both chess and business. Think about it: After just three opening moves by a chess player, more than 9 million positions are possible. And that’s when only two players are involved in the game. Now imagine all the possibilities faced by companies with a whole host of corporations responding to their new strategies, pricing, and products. The unpredictability is almost unimaginable.”

    Kasparov on … What it takes to be a Grandmaster CEO

    “There is nothing cute or charming about chess; it is a violent sport, and when you confront your opponent you set out to crush his ego. The world chess masters with whom I have competed over the years nearly all share my belief that chess is a battleground on which the enemy has to be vanquished. This is what it means to be a chess player, and I cannot imagine that it is very different from what it takes to be a top-ranked CEO.”

    Kasparov on … What Businesspeople can Learn from Winning Chess

    ”The first rule is: Never, ever, underestimate your opponent. Whenever I am playing at grand master levels, I always, always assume that my competitor is going to see everything I do—even when I plan to make an unexpected move in order to confuse him.”

    “It’s also critical to keep a psychological edge. I am not a big fan of pop psychology, but I do believe that getting the other guy off balance is a real skill. You have to go on fighting even if you are in a winning position—in fact, especially if you are in a winning position.”

    “You also have to make yourself comfortable in the enemy’s territory. If you can convince your enemy that you’re comfortable on their ground, then you can often trick them into moving into your own territory.”

    Kasparov on … Intuition in Chess (and Business)

    “… it takes more than logic to be a world-class chess player. Intuition is the defining quality of a great chess player. That’s because chess is a mathematically infinite game. The total number of possible different moves in a single game of chess is more than the number of seconds that have elapsed since the big bang created the universe. I can think maybe 15 moves in advance, and that’s about as far as any human has gone. Inevitably you reach a point when you’ve got to navigate by using your imagination and feelings rather than your intellect or logic. At that moment, you are playing with your gut.”

    “It’s often at the very toughest moments of their chess battles—when they [great chess players] had to rely on pure intuition—that great players came up with their best, most innovative moves.”

    Kasparov on … Staying Competitive After Accomplishing Everything

    ” Where does a virtuoso go after he has accomplished everything that he’s ever wanted to accomplish, even beyond his wildest imagination? This is the question for all world masters, whether they’re in business, sports, or chess.”

    "I call it the champion’s dilemma, and it’s a real problem for people and companies at the top of their game. In the end, I believe that there is only one answer: You must be lucky in your enemies.”

    “For me it was Karpov, Karpov, Karpov. If it were not for Karpov, I would probably be the victim of the same complacency that dooms most other people. But in Karpov I found my archenemy, whom I had to fight. He never gave me the time to enjoy my title.”

    “Without Bill Gates, Steve Jobs would surely not be the man he is today. If Karpov had not existed, you might not be talking to me today.”

    March 21, 2005

    Run, Gun, and Have Fun -- Whole Foods Market style

    “Whole Foods is more like a fast-breaking basketball team. We’re driving down the court, but we don’t exactly know how the play is going to evolve.” -- John Mackey, Point Guard forWHOLE FOODS MARKET

    Ya know … as a former bench player for Whole Foods Market, that’s probably the best way to describe the playing style of the company. Whole Foods fast break style is indeed frenetic, focused, and fabulous.

    You can find more compelling candor from John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO, in this liberated Texas Monthly interview (.doc). And when you read this interview, you’ll learn Mackey refuses to shop at Central Market, Whole Food’s biggest competitor in Texas.

    Interesting. I wonder if he shops at Trader Joe’s ???

    If not, he should. Trader Joe’s is positioning itself nicely to compete against the Whole Foods Market juggernaut.

    March 08, 2005

    Mike & Kevin’s Excellent Executional Adventure

    Is it just me or has the Harvard Business Review become more action-minded and less academic-driven? I’ve been reading HBR for years now and typically found most articles to be too aloof and too obtuse to apply to my everyday business life. But the March issue is chock-full of great articles with learnings you can apply immediately to improve your business and how you manage your business.

    Dell_rollins_1I’ve already posted my takeaways from Marcus Buckingham’s article, “What Great Managers Do.” And now I’m posting takeaways from the highly informative interview with Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins. Michael is DELL’s Founder and Chairman and Kevin assumed CEO responsibilities at DELL in 2004. (Click here to purchase the entire article from HBR.)

    I learned more about the culture of DELL in twenty minutes from reading the article than I have in twenty years of knowing the company. After reading the interview, I now understand how and why complacency has never and will never creep into the culture of DELL. This is a truly remarkable read. My takeaways are below …

    On why competitors haven’t been able to copy and beat DELL at its game …
    ROLLINS: The same reason why Kmart can’t imitate Wal-Mart. What Wal-Mart does isn’t rocket science—it’s retailing. Why can’t everybody be Wal-Mart or JetBlue or Samsung or whatever the best company in their industry is? Because it takes more than strategy. It takes years of consistent execution for a company to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. So while Dell does have a superior business model, the key to our success is years and years of DNA development within our teams that is not replicable outside the company. Other companies just can’t execute as well as we do.

    On the fallacy of high R&D spending …
    ROLLINS: Asset reduction, inventory reduction, speed and time consolidation—these became more important than how much you spend on R&D. High R&D spending, when you do it to create proprietary products, leads you into a niche strategy, not a broad-based strategy. Yet many companies continue to argue that the winner will be the biggest R&D spender.

    DELL: That paradigm belongs in the Smithsonian with the dinosaurs.

    On the perception DELL is not an “invent” company …
    DELL: We invent quite a bit but have a different approach. Our business model reflects what customers truly believe is important. We were the first in our industry to really embrace the Internet and to identify the role that standards would play in the server and storage markets.

    For every dollar we put into R&D, we get about six dollars back in profit. When Samsung puts in a dollar, it gets three or four dollars back. Those are both pretty healthy ratios. Microsoft earns about $18 billion in operating income on about $7.7 billion in R&D spending. But Sony invests $1 billion and gets back only $200 million in profits. Sony is overinventing. They invest in things that might be exciting but that aren’t valued by customers. So they can’t generate good returns.

    ROLLINS: Our competitors can’t beat Dell while also spending a ton of money on R&D and trying to be “invent” companies. Those two goals are mutually exclusive.

    On implanting the DELL DNA throughout the company …
    ROLLINS: We drummed into our people’s heads, through presentation after presentation, what’s good performance and what’s bad performance. They saw data on inventory every day. They got rewarded when inventory came down and punished when inventory went up.

    DELL: By the way, the reward and punishment didn’t come from us, it came from our people seeing for themselves how much better their businesses worked when they didn’t have inventory.

    On what happens when a DELL manager doesn’t deliver positive results …
    ROLLINS: You become a pariah. We’ve had a no-excuses culture from the beginning. Whenever we hear that a business might have to lose money for a while, we challenge the GM to figure out how to run the business better than anyone ever has and not lose money.

    DELL: If you start accepting the idea that a business doesn’t have to make money—for reasons that you might convince yourself are real—then that’s what happens. The opposite is also true. If you say, “No, we’re going to make this business profitable,” good things happen. Of course, the first kind of culture is easier to live in than the second.

    On creating a high-performance and high-expectations corporate culture …
    ROLLINS: It requires discipline and consistency. We know, down to our toenails, that our model works. When Dell fails to execute, it’s either because the GM is applying the model wrong or he’s not the right GM. In either case, Michael and I are to blame. When you fail to execute, our culture says, “Fix it. Find what’s wrong, and fix it. Or ask for help.”

    On DELL managing by ‘fear’ or by ‘truth telling’…
    ROLLINS: We’ve tried to create a culture where openness and honesty are encouraged.

    DELL: The worst thing you can do as a leader at Dell is to be in denial—to try to convince people that a problem’s not there or play charades. A manager is far better off coming forward and saying, “Hey, things aren’t working, here’s what we think is wrong, here’s what we’re going to do about it.” Or, even, “Hey, I need some help. Will you help me?” That manager won’t have a problem. The manager who covers up and says it’s really not as bad as it looks—he’ll have a big problem.

    ROLLINS: Our culture has evolved from a fear of the consequences of not telling, to where you just know you have to tell. It’s the way we all operate. Everybody sees everybody else’s numbers and gets to help with suggestions about their businesses. Here you can’t tell your boss or your peers, “Stay out of my business.” Openness and sharing are part of success at Dell.

    On decision-making at DELL …
    ROLLINS: The first rule is: Make your decision fast—even if you don’t have complete data. Get the best data you can, because making a decision with no data is a sin. But delaying a decision while you overanalyze the data is not good.

    On the perception of DELL’s innate conservatism in decision-making …
    ROLLINS: We are very risk averse.

    DELL: In our industry, many promising new ideas become short, dead-end roads. We have a pretty good record of not going down them. That’s why our competitors accuse us of not being innovative—because we’re not investing in tablet computers or artificial intelligence.

    But are we innovative? Show me another company that’s 21 years old, has $50 billion in revenue, and hasn’t done acquisitions. We’ve achieved massive organic growth, despite our caution about entering new businesses. We’ve led the market in the areas of innovation we believe will be important to customers—like the Internet, the commoditization of servers and storage, and converting from CRT monitors to LCDs. We’re not looking for the most challenging problems, we’re looking for the easiest problems that have the most opportunity.

    On other companies poaching DELL’s high-performing employees…
    ROLLINS: They [other companies] think hiring a Dell manager will allow them to replicate our operational and financial success. But it’s not that easy. If you hire a Dell-trained GM, you’ll get a smart, tough P&L manager. But a single manager cannot create Dell. That’s why Michael and I don’t take as much credit for the success as people might like to give us. It’s taken a team of a lot of people to create Dell.

    A Dell GM couldn’t be as successful without the tools he gets at Dell. At another company he’d find himself asking, “Where’s my dashboard? Where’s all the talent?”

    March 07, 2005

    Things Great Managers Do

    Marcus_buckingham_1As mentioned earlier, Marcus Buckingham has written an outstanding Harvard Business Review article outlining the traits of great managers. The article is a synopsis of his recently released book titled, The One Thing You Need to Know … and below is a scalpel/suture of my takeaways from the article.

    However, I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to go beyond reading this article outtake and purchase the entire article online or buy the March issue of the Harvard Business Review at any number of offline retailers.


    Great managers play chess, not checkers
    Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves.

    Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.

    Being a Manager is different than being a Leader
    Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share.

    The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.

    This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.

    Great Managers capitalize on people’s unique abilities
    All that said, the reason great managers focus on uniqueness isn’t just because it makes good business sense. They do it because they can’t help it.

    Like Shelley and Keats, the nineteenth-century Romantic poets, great managers are fascinated with individuality for its own sake. Fine shadings of personality, though they may be invisible to some and frustrating to others, are crystal clear to and highly valued by great managers. They could no more ignore these subtleties than ignore their own needs and desires. Figuring out what makes people tick is simply in their nature.

    Identifying a person’s strengths …
    To identify a person’s strengths, first ask, “What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?” Find out what the person was doing and why he enjoyed it so much.

    Remember: A strength is not merely something you are good at. In fact, it might be something you aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something you find so intrinsically satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time. This question will prompt your employee to start thinking about his interests and abilities from this perspective.

    Identifying a person’s weaknesses …
    To identify a person’s weaknesses, just invert the question: “What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past three months?” And then probe for details about what he was doing and why it grated on him so much.

    As with a strength, a weakness is not merely something you are bad at (in fact, you might be quite competent at it). It is something that drains you of energy, an activity that you never look forward to doing and that when you are doing it, all you can think about is stopping.

    Great Managers recognize great performance
    The most powerful trigger by far is recognition, not money. If you’re not convinced of this, start ignoring one of your highly paid stars, and watch what happens.

    Most managers are aware that employees respond well to recognition. Great managers refine and extend this insight. They realize that each employee plays to a slightly different audience.

    To excel as a manager, you must be able to match the employee to the audience he values most. One employee’s audience might be his peers; the best way to praise him would be to stand him up in front of his coworkers and publicly celebrate his achievement. Another’s favorite audience might be you; the most powerful recognition would be a one-on-one conversation where you tell him quietly but vividly why he is such a valuable member of the team. Still another employee might define himself by his expertise; his most prized form of recognition would be some type of professional or technical award. Yet another might value feedback only from customers, in which case a picture of the employee with her best customer or a letter to her from the customer would be the best form of recognition.

    Great Managers find ways to amplify a person’s style
    Great managers don’t try to change a person’s style. They never try to push a knight to move in the same way as a bishop.

    They know that their employees will differ in how they think, how they build relationships, how altruistic they are, how patient they can be, how much of an expert they need to be, how prepared they need to feel, what drives them, what challenges them, and what their goals are. These differences of trait and talent are like blood types: They cut across the superficial variations of race, sex, and age and capture the essential uniqueness of each individual.

    Great Managing is about releasing not transforming
    To excel at managing others, you must bring that insight to your actions and interactions. Always remember that great managing is about release, not transformation. It’s about constantly tweaking your environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each employee can be given free rein. Your success as a manager will depend almost entirely on your ability to do this.