Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#Leadership Matters.

I have on my desk a quote that a very dear friend of mine gave me years ago when I was President of Y&R in Southern California:  "Those on top of the mountain didn't fall there."  I've kept it there for the past seven years as a reminder that it takes a lot of hard work to get lucky.  And lucky I've been!

I recently revisited a speech on leadership that I gave to the Executive MBA program at the University of California Irvine's Merage School of Business.  I shared with these executives what I've learned about leadership through observation, trial and (much) error.

Here's a summary of some of the core beliefs I've developed over the years:
  • The role of leadership:
    • Great leaders don't create followers – great leaders inspire more leaders to achieve things that matter.
    • Great leaders define the organization's inspiring "why."
    • Telling employees what to do is management.  Showing employees how to do it better is direction.  But inspiring people to make a difference is leadership.
    • CEOs need to be the Chief Talent Officer.
  • The traits of great leaders:
    • Leaders communicate a short list of priorities that remain consistent over time.  They get the organization to accomplish these goals by prioritizing alignment over consensus; by driving the mission deep into the organization through "line of sight" goals"; by providing people with the necessary resources and support; and by establishing accountability through clear measures of success.  
    • Leadership is about credibility.  Words and actions must be in sync.  If not, why should people follow your words?
    • Leadership is about humility – "we > me." 
  • Leading change:
    • When attempting to inspire change in an organization, leaders need to understand the "Principle of the 20th Row."  The average employee seated in the Town Hall Meeting wants to be sure that this is not another "lucite block" exercise.  They need to hear what leadership will begin doing differently before they themselves decide to work differently.
    • Great leaders earn their reputations during the dark days, not the glory days.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand during moments of comfort, but where they stand during times of challenge."
  • How leaders fail:
    • According to Ram Charan, leaders tend to fail for the following reasons:  They lose touch with what is going on the marketplace; they don't confront reality (hope is not a strategy!); they don't make things happen; they don't take action on poor performing direct reports.
    • Employees don't measure a leader by the greatness they advocate.  They measure the leader by the mediocrity they tolerate. Again, words, values and action must be in sync.
I am reposting the slides in the hope that it might just inspire one other future leader.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's true in real life is true in marketing.

I’ve embraced a simple truth when it comes to brand planning:  what’s true in real life is true in brand building.  Over time and across categories, I've observed that the ways in which people form personal relationships mirrors how they form brand relationships.

Forces such as empathy, experiences, energy and endorsement help shape our real life relationships.  Think about the people with whom you enjoy your most lasting relationships.  It’s likely those individuals who “get you” because you share the same values, sense of style, point of view or sense of humor; these same people are likely those with whom you've enjoyed truly memorable experiences; people who always seem to be up to something new and interesting; they are likely the people you trust most because their reputation is consistent.

What’s true in real life is true in brand building.

These same human dynamics –  empathy, experiences, energy and endorsement – create a clear and actionable planning model to help marketers create more customer-centered brand platforms.


Empathy is persuasive because it is seductive – by creating a common ground, empathy draws people closer to you.

If empathy is how we bond with each other, it stands to reason it is how customers bond with brands. We gravitate towards brands that get us.  Empathy occurs when customers project onto your brand their own feelings and attitudes.  Define a brand's source of empathy with its customers and you'll find its essential truth.  What's the basis of your relationship with your customers?  What is it you share in common on a deeper level?  What are your shared values; your shared dreams; your shared sense of style?  

Empathy isn’t a squishy measure.  We find its surrogates in the leading brand equity research models.  Brand Asset Valuator, one of the world's largest and most robust brand equity tools, identifies personal relevance as one of its leading indicators of brand health.  Research International’s Equity Engine measures affinity as a key measure of brand equity.  We also find empathy in B2B research in measures such as understands my company's needs and trust.


Like people, brands are ultimately judged by what they do, not just by what they say. We tend to believe something after we have experienced it first hand.  

Building awareness only goes so far.  Successful marketers orchestrate immersive experiences to turn perceptions into deeply held beliefs and behaviors.

Long term success is no longer assured by the quality of the product or service – it's about the total experience.  Every interaction defines the brand, e.g., the craftsmanship of the packaging, how the phone is answered; the quality of the customer service team (are they brand ambassadors or employees?); the online experience; events; the trade show booth; mobile gaming.  You name it, the list goes on.  Why?  Because experiences turn perceptions into beliefs.

Again, this is not a soft measure.  The 2011 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index shows that customers are increasingly defining value through the total brand experience, and that experiences have a strong impact on customer decision-making.


Energy is a powerful force.  We’re drawn to its heat and light like moths to a flame.  Energy casts an aura of infectious momentum that people often interpret as being successful, innovative or popular.

Again, what’s true in life is true in brand building.

Think of those friends in your personal life who never stand still – those rare individuals who actually have an interesting answer when you ask “what’s new?”  We enjoy having these people in our circle of friends because the relationship never gets stale or predictable.  They inspire us.

Just as we desire this in our friendships, we seek this from the brands we choose.

Brand energy can be channeled in many ways.  Richard Branson is a master of using PR stunts to create news for Virgin.  Hyundai has gained share through a steady cadence of new product launches and bold customer service initiatives. Marketing practitioners know full well the attention-getting power of the words “new” or “introducing.”  Most often this comes through well-sequenced product introductions, in which every 6 to 12 months we are re-inspired to explore what the brand has to offer.  Most marketers are good at planning launches.  Maintaining energy requires that we think through what happens in the months after a launch to project a sense of ongoing momentum.

It is the absence of energy that causes otherwise loyal customers to get bored; to flirt with other brands; to spice up their life by trying something new and interesting.


Building empathetic brand relationships, immersive experiences and an aura of energy and momentum will fall short if word-of-mouth runs counter to personal perceptions.

Word of mouth didn’t begin with social media.  We thrive on the opinions of others.  From our earliest years to adulthood we learned to seek and follow the opinions of friends, embracing what’s popular at the moment.  Social media simply put on steroids what used to happen on the playground and at the proverbial water cooler.

If brands are built on empathetic relationships, then we must acknowledge that the relationship is now a menage a trois.  In a social media environment, brands are increasingly defined by the relationship that exists between the product and the customer and the other customers who also use the product.  (This observation is why I coined "wikibranding" at an ad:tech panel years back.)

Many marketers assume that customer advocacy is a way to convert others in the customer’s circle of friends.  While this is often true, advocacy can also serve a bigger goal, because giving customers channels through which to share their experiences is also a customer loyalty strategy.  When a customer advocates a brand, they are deepening their commitment to the brand by putting their name and reputation on the line. 

What's true in real life is true in brand building.

The true power of this planning approach is in mapping out the "4Es" as a holistic strategy. Each of these dynamics – empathy, experiences, energy and endorsement – can inspire specific, integrated and measurable tactics.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Social TV: second-screen viewing

Since my recent post on how the Super Bowl mainstreamed Social TV, I read the announcement that Turner Entertainment is creating companion apps to enable second-screen viewing for its hit shows like Conan and Big Bang Theory.

These apps will use audio-fingerprint technology, similar to Shazam, to offer viewers deeper content and offers that correspond with the action in the program.  The trend toward second-screen viewing recognizes that TV viewers are increasingly watching TV with the remote in one hand and the smart phone or tablet in the other.

The dream of interactive TV is alive and well.  However, unlike the early prognostications that viewers would interact with the TV screen through their set top box, the interaction is likely to take place through the ever present smart phone.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The mainstreaming of Social TV.

The 2012 Super Bowl set a new high water mark for Social TV.

TV has long been a personal experience, perhaps shared in real time by one or two fellow couch potatoes in your den or the following morning with co-workers.

Social media has changed that.  Now TV is shared in real time with friends and strangers who share your passion for Grey's Anatomy or SNL. This trends blows up during major events.

According to Bluefin Labs, the 12.2 million social media comments during and after the Super Bowl represented a 578% increase over last year. During the final three minutes, tweet volume was about 10,000 tweets per second.  There were 985,000 comments about the commercials alone. (That's wikibranding in action.) H&M/"Beckham", Chrysler/"Clint", and Doritos/"missing cat" led this conversation.

A couple of smart marketers recognized this by integrating a social aspect into their Super Bowl promotions. Chevy offered an app to use during the game as part of a real time car giveaway. Coke let viewers stream the Polar Bowl and watch the bears react in real time to the game and the commercials.

Social TV requires that we plan a conversation, a social experience, not just a campaign.  Yes, we want to reach our audience. But then what?  Enable the conversation with social tools.  And, as always, inspire the conversation with a killer creative idea.