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Archive for June, 2011

So, last week, thousands of lucky advertising industry professionals from every corner of the globe flew, drove, rode, sailed and railed it down to Cannes, France for the 2011 edition of the Advertising Creative festival known across the world as the Cannes Lions. I was there, and since I keep being asked what I thought about the week-long event, this is my very unofficial recap. But first, a few quick thoughts.

What didn’t rock (aside from the €35 cocktails).

The wi-fi. Clichés, clichés, clichés, and more clichés. The fact that the Lions still haven’t gotten rid of “viral” categories in spite of the fact that there can be no such thing. The preponderance of #3 Ralph Lauren polos. The guy in the Audi R8 who tried to take up two parking spots on the Croisette just as I was parking behind him. (Bad idea.) A surprising lack of social media integration savvy or focus. A surprising lack of spelling acumen in regards to banner ads (the kind that airplanes tow over the beach). The mindless retweeting of whatever pre-packaged soundbites “influencers” might deliver on stage, regardless of how poorly thought through they may be.

What rocked.

Cannes in June. The food. The Carlton, Martinez and Majestic hotels. The Haute Corniche. Robert Redford. Patti Smith. Ogilvy’s clever #DO100 campaign. The big book. The ads. The giant kitty. The Croisette and the beaches. Sorbet cassis & sorbet poire (the most perfect 2-scoop sorbet combination in all the world). The parties (although I only managed to go to one). One of the biggest gatherings of the world’s most talented creatives in recent history.  Excellent coverage from several industry insiders via blogs and twitter. Fireworks.

Speaking of coverage, I have to give serious props to the Porter-Novelli team for the job they did both on their blog and on Twitter this year, and particularly Danny Devriendt and Marta Majeska for taking over the #CannesLions hashtag on the twitternets. If Gold goes to Porter Novelli, Silver goes to the Fast Company blog. Bronze can be shared by everyone else.

Some key articles you should look over:

Analysis of conversations at #CannesLions

Applying the Silicon Valley approach to Marketing

Why ad agencies should act more like tech startups

To viral or not to viral is not even a question

Interbrand’s Jez Frampton talks CSR and Cause Marketing

45 Quotes from Cannes Lions 2011

And now, for a  few talking points.

What viral is and isn’t. Once and for all.

“Let’s agree on something, please, here from the beaches of Cannes: you cannot buy viral! You cannot make viral! You should not sell viral! Period! Viral is something that will eventually happen, if the online public decides it will. There is no magic formula, no guaranteed ways of making it happen. It is, by definition, purely an organic thing. Whether marketers and spin doctors like it or not, going viral is a community driven phenomenon. Seed all you want!

“Buying a gazillion online views and paying for countless banners does not guarantee a campaign to be/become viral. It guarantees views, eyeballs, and opportunities to see. Nothing wrong with that: that is what the job is about. Getting the message to the audience. Simple.

The online world has no need for more viral. The online world has a need for more quality, more skill and more community understanding. As Robert Redford says, more compelling stories. Instead of burning all this useless energy and money in trying to fake something viral, I’d rather see the effort invested in state of the art insights and metrics, strategic choices that drive change, awesome engagement strategies and a flawless execution and delivery plan with respect for the organic nature of the social web.” – Danny Devriendt

Beautiful. Read the rest here.

- Fear, misunderstood.

“Fear is the enemy of creativity.” – Sir Ken Robinson

With all due respect to Sir Robinson and the hundreds of people who wrote that down during his lecture, fear is not the enemy of creativity. In fact, fear and creativity coexist just fine. Fear can be a catalyst for creativity. It can also be a crucible for it. Ask any artist about fear, and you will find that it is an integral part of the creative experience. Fear is often also a language of creativity.

What Sir Robinson should have told his audience is that fear is the enemy of execution.

- Regurgitate less. Challenge more.

I want to caution event attendees (at the Lions and elsewhere) to occasionally challenge speakers, not just agree with them just because they are on stage or touted as an expert. Listen to what they are saying. Analyze what you are hearing. Digest it before regurgitating it. Not everything they say might be accurate. Don’t just assume that they are right because they are delivering a keynote. Don’t just assume that something is true or accurate or awesome just because dozens or even hundreds of people are retweeting it either.

Since we just talked about Sir Ken Robinson, let’s use his session (one of the most retweeted of the festival, and possibly the richest in soundbites) to illustrate my point. Almost everyone agreed that he was inspirational, charming, brilliant and engaging. No question. Having said that, check this out: (Quotes taken from tweets from the session.)

First, some of the statements that struck me as perhaps slightly less than impressive, either because they were far too obvious or not super well thought through.

“We can’t predict the future but we can anticipate it to make things better in the present.” – SKR

“Creativity is the process of having an original idea that has value.” – SKR

“We have to redouble our commitment to creativity.” – SKR

“We are living in times that have no precedence.” – SKR

“We don’t perceive the world directly. We do it through our perceptions.” – SKR

And then a few that were actually solid (though not exactly earth-shattering):

“It is more painful to restrain creativity than to release it.” – SKR

“Great leaders know their job is to create the right conditions. Not command and control.” – SKR

“Real innovation and creativity quite often happens within tight restraints.” – SKR

All of these statements (the good and the not-so-good) were equally retweeted, equally praised, equally shared. The lesson here: Don’t become a digital lemming. Whether the speaker is Seth Godin, Bono, Sir Richard Branson, Will.I.am or in this case, Sir Ken Robinson, don’t assume that every word out of their mouths is fact, and don’t act as if everything they say is game-changing wisdom, especially when it isn’t.

PS: Thanks, Sir Robinson, for being a good sport. ;)

- “Advertising is dead.” (Again?)

“Ad agencies are yesterday. Agencies that turn consumers into agents/advocates should be the model.” – will.i.am

Yes and no.

Yes: Agencies that play a part in turning consumers into agents and advocates for brands, products and causes will always be more effective and successful than those that don’t. It is the model (and has always been the model).

No: Ad agencies are not yesterday. I just spent some time around quite a few of them and saw their work: Advertising is still relevant, valuable and cool. Hell, when done well it’s fun and it works. So let’s not eulogize advertising just yet.

Where we go from here: Ad agencies have a decision to make: Stay old school and make it work, or evolve by integrating disciplines like PR, digital, mobile, reputation management and social better. The third alternative is to be complacent and fade into irrelevance, but that will be a decision made by individual agencies, not the industry as a whole.

Why am I so hopeful when it would be a lot more rock & roll to throw stones at the advertising industry? Five reasons:

1. I am not in 8th grade.

2. There are new and exciting revenue models for agencies in mobile and social. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure them out and build service offerings around them. Knowing this, why wouldn’t anyone in the agency system not want to go there?

3. Clients/brands are already asking for it. Who wants to be the first agency to tell a major client “no?”

4. Ad agency leaders aren’t stupid. They understand the value of awards like Lions, but they also understand that awards only go so far; they also need to be able to demonstrate results for their clients beyond impressions and estimated media value. With an increasing number of us out here in the world capable of tying campaigns to increases in sales, changes in consumer behaviors (and ultimately ROI), big advertising probably won’t want to be left behind for too long.

5. If ad agencies don’t own new services like community development, digital reputation management and all things social, someone else will. Who in the ad world wants to see a chunk of their clients’ budgets vanish into the hands of a bunch of digital startups? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Speaking of digital startups…

- Cultural alchemy.

Agencies need to start acting more like tech startups.” – Rei Inamoto

Yes and no.

Yes: Agency professionals who aren’t technically savvy today (including the upper echelons) need to become literate – no, fluent – in mobile, digital and social. It isn’t just a matter of survival. It is also a competitive necessity.

No (1): Agencies don’t need to become technology innovation engines. It just isn’t what they are good at. They just need to become technology adoption ecosystems. (There is a difference.)

No (2): Since the majority of tech startup seem to follow a “build it now, worry about revenue models later” philosophy, be careful what you wish for. Agencies can’t bank everything on an idea, partner with VCs to develop it, then worry about making money 2-5 years down the road.  Different models = different cultures. Different cultures = different models.

Where we go from here: Agencies simply need to start collaborating with technology pioneers on an ongoing basis. That’s really it. Two reasons: 1. There is no tactical advantage to falling behind. 2. Technical innovation can increase agency capabilities, cut costs, accelerate the campaign development process, and blow everyone’s socks off (consumers and clients). Who wants to turn that down? You?

In other words, agencies whose creatives, account teams and strategists don’t already completely grasp both the potential of social, mobile, gaming, geolocation, and sCRM (for starters) and the way they plug into consumers’ lives, aren’t exactly taking the pole position in their industry.  From Old Spice to BMW to Jay-Z, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the possibilities. Digital isn’t just websites, apps and content. Find a way to mainline technology into your model, even if that means building an internal team whose job it is to manage that for you.

- Talk is cheap.

A global campaign will never be successful globally, if it’s not relevant locally. How can you ensure your audiences get culturally relevant messages wherever they are in the world? Involve the locals. Have all communications signed off by a local product manager or marketing manager. Have a local community manager who communicates and engages with the local audiences. Think globally, act locally – I know this slogan has been overused, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

“Speaking a language is not enough. In order to successfully blend into a culture, you must know that culture inside out. And that goes way beyond the language.” – Marta Majewska

The #CannesLions closing gala on the Carlton beach

- The power of stories.

“Stories have been around us since the beginning of the humanity. They have been a fundamental part of human communication and the essence of human experience. It is the stories that provide us with context through which we learn, understand and remember.” – Marta Majewska

A good story is something you haven’t known. Something that hits your gut, your heart and therefore your emotions.” – Robert Redford

Yes.

- More Redford.

“You can’t be alone in your sandbox if you want success.” – RR

“To be trusted, you need to prove integrity. It starts with authenticity and quality.” – RR

“Nobody votes for a new idea. If you believe in something, you’re going to have to do it yourself.” – RR

“The only thing that really succeeds is change.” – RR

“The first time he came to Cannes, he was broke and backpacking through Europe, and found himself sleeping in the winter cold beneath the famous Carlton Pier. As he huddled in his sleeping bag, he heard the sounds of people above him, people drinking, gambling, wearing tuxedoes, and he wondered what it would be like to be up there in that luxury.

“16 years later, he returned to Cannes, this time for a film. He put on his tuxedo, opened up the doors to his balcony at the Carlton, looked down and saw the pier. “I saw myself sitting under the pier,” he said, “wondering what it was to be like where I was now.” – Jeff Sweat, Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo! Advertising Blog

Class act. I love it when someone has nothing to sell. They always speak from the heart.

On the other hand…

- Cliché soup y crouton.

As for statements like “we must take more risks”, “we must embrace technology”, “we must be more creative”, “we must innovate more”, etc. yeah, I think we know. It’s always nice to hear it and all – and it pumps everybody up – but if entire keynotes are going to be based on stating the obvious, please also include some concrete examples outlining how you suggest agencies make that happen. Same with statements like “we should serve clients better”, “we should create more relevant advertising” and “we should build cultures of courage.” Give the audience a blueprint. A game plan. A process. Something. Otherwise, all we end up with is tweetable hot air. And if that’s all audiences want, here is my contribution to this year’s utterly cliché and incoherent #CannesLions twitbites:

“Adopt new technology. The future of now is the future.” – #StepfordTBB

“We really need to organize around the bread, not the cheese.” – #StepfordTBB

“If the mother of invention is necessity, culture is her second cousin.” – #StepfordTBB

“The more authentic our branding is, the more people will trust our messaging.” – #StepfordTBB

“We must re-invent everything.” – #StepfordTBB

“Community management is the new viral.” – #StepfordTBB

“If mobile is the new web, social media is the new mobile.” – #StepfordTBB

“Silicon Valley is the new Madison Avenue.” (Ooops. Someone might have actually already said that. Doh!)

“We will be the first agency in the world to attract one billion likes for a brand on Facebook.” – #StepfordTBB

Okay, I’ll stop here. You get the idea. We can do a lot better.

- Originality. Or not.

I didn’t verify this. I don’t know if it is true. But if it is, perhaps the Cannes Lions jury needs more time to evaluate entries. (Source: joelapompe.net)

Speaking of jury mistakes, how exactly does the Cannes jury explain this fiasco? (And I am not even talking about the agency-client confusion. I mean how does the Cannes jury justify awarding a Silver Lion to an ad campaign that uses pedophilia as its narrative?)

A new buzzword.

“Too much marketing messes up the communities. So think ‘communiting’, not marketing,” other wise words by Will.I.am. “Communiting” as a word might not have existed until yesterday, but we like the word and we definitely like the idea that lies behind it.  “Communiting” is about enabling and fostering communities. About facilitating, not dictating. About engaging, not trying to sell. About truly becoming a part of the community, contributing to it and showing that you care. – Article by Marta Majeska

Like I told Marta, yes, the spirit of the thing is great. More community focus is imperative, and ad agencies (and their clients) need to both understand this and live it every day. (Burst the bubble, break down the walls, mingle with consumer communities, and whatever you do, don’t just broadcast). BUT… the last thing we need right now is a new made-up buzzword. So with all due respect to Mr. Will.I.am, perhaps we should take the time to fully grasp what enabling and fostering communities means before we start making up awkward and unnecessary words. Communiting? Ugh.

Tell you what: If you want to adopt Will.I.am’s terminology, go ahead. But first, you have to be able to clearly explain what “enabling” a community looks like for a brand and its agencies. Go ahead: Draw a sketch of the process. Once you’ve done that, outline the process of “fostering” a community. Then and only then, if you still want to, can you get away with using a term like communiting, or communitizing, even.

And please, please, please, don’t you dare create a “communiting manager” role. Community managers are happy with the current nomenclature.

Footnote: Marketing and Community enabling/building/fostering are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. In fact, the more you build your consumer-facing programs in a way that allows different functions like marketing and community management to complement each other and be well integrated with one another, the better your results will be. It isn’t an either/or equation. It’s an and equation: Marketing AND community building. Together.

Source of the discussion: http://blog.porternovelli.com/2011/06/24/think-communiting-not-marketing/

Spelling is irrelevant.

I can hear it now: “Our guerrilla campaign resulted in 379,000 impressions in 52 countries in less than 76 hours, for an estimated media value of $12,350,480.”

I guess that’s better than “I’m a copywriter, damn it, not a spelling champion!” or even “I didn’t think it was my job to make sure the printing company didn’t screw up the spelling,” or even “I’m in digital, not tow plane marketing!”

Ah, good stuff. And the perfect example to use in your marketing class before discussing the age old question: Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

In closing:

Advertising isn’t dead. Quite the opposite: Advertising is evolving into a richer, much more complex, more intricately integrated discipline. From what I have seen, advertising is still as cool as ever. And yeah, the industry has its share of annoying, insecure, egocentric twats, but even that is changing. People’s backgrounds in the agency world are becoming more diverse, which is one of the best things that could happen to the industry. For the first time since perhaps the late 80’s, the gates are coming down. Agencies are looking for different kinds of skills and backgrounds and abilities. They are experimenting more with their new hires. And with the incredible opportunities open to the agency world in the coming decade, (we might actually find ourselves on the verge of a second golden age for advertising) all I can see is work, work, and more work (really cool work) just waiting to be taken on. That’s pretty exciting. Let’s meet back here again next year and see if that potential is still just potential and pretty talk, or if it is starting to be realized.

Okay, that’s it for me. Congrats to all the winners! If you want to get the official story, check out the Cannes Lions site.  Lots of stuff there for you to look at.

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Oh, one last thing: Social Media Day is being celebrated globally on June 30. Join me in Antwerp for a 1/2 day of social media integration and management workshops & a pretty fly afterparty. (Or send one of your minions if you can’t make it.)

Click here for details.

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One final shot from the Cannes Lions, before they take down the flags:

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Today’s post isn’t going to be about brand management, marketing, advertising, PR, or best practices for social media programs. In fact, this post isn’t going to be about any of the things I usually talk about on this blog. I won’t give you any advice, share any professional insights or teach you how to do anything that will enhance your campaigns or make your companies kick ass. Today, I just want to lend a helping hand to a few people in my life who have fallen on hard, if not slightly dark and scary times. Some of these friends are people I have known for a long time. Others are people I have come to know through Twitter, Facebook, or this blog. More still may be people I haven’t met yet, but will thanks to this post.

All of these folks have something in common: They have had a shitty week. One found out she has a rare health condition that could change her whole life. Another buried her sister. A third lost a job he absolutely lived for. A fourth is heartbroken. A fifth lost hope, which is just about one of the worst things that can happen to a human soul.

I could sit here and wax philosophical about ups and downs, cycles being mere moments in time, about the need for patience and courage and even perseverance, about the fact that as humans, we fall on our faces sometimes, we screw up, bad things just happen out of the blue and for no apparent reason, but you know how long-winded I can get. So instead, here is a collection of insights from people far smarter and wiser than me, that will hopefully bring some solace, if not comfort, to anyone having a really horrible week:

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
– T. S. Eliot

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.
– Thomas Edison

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
– Japanese Proverb

If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.
– Lee Iacocca

Failure does not exist. Failure is simply someone else’s opinion of how a certain act should have been completed. Once you believe that no act must be performed in any specific other-directed way, then failing becomes impossible.
– Wayne Dyer

Celebrate endings – for they precede new beginnings.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
– Nelson Mandela

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.
– Helen Keller

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.
– Dolly Parton

To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.
– Theodore H. White

This thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.
– Mary Pickford

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.
– Raymond Lindquist

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

The starting point of all achievement is desire.
– Napoleon Hill

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
– Anne Frank

Let me end this post with a quick anecdote. Yesterday, an old friend posted this to his Facebook page from his cell phone:

if I had not pulled the woman back onto the sidewalk just now, she would no doubt be dead.

holy shit. really.

Which, of course was followed by this:

what if I had gone to lunch at a normal time instead of 2pm? what if I had been texting? what if I had decided to go to subway instead of lamazou for lunch?

Life is a pretty wild little adventure. You get beaten to a pulp sometimes. Other times, you’re ready to take on the world. Truth is, very little of it is really ever under your control. You do the best you can. Sometimes things work out, sometimes things don’t. But in spite of all the success and failure, in spite of the great moments and the horrible ones, everyone gets to save the world in some way at pretty regular intervals. We impact each other’s lives every single day. The butterfly effect is still real and relevant, perhaps more so today with human beings becoming ever more connected through technology and social platforms. We all share each other’s wins and losses. We all participate in each other’s lives. We can help each other better, faster, longer, and across vast distances.

If today sucks, if it is the hardest day you’ve ever had to endure in your entire life, hang in there. Someone’s life might depend on it tomorrow or next week. Your next tweet or blog post could change someone’s life. Your next idea could revolutionize an industry. Your next walk to Lamazou (or Subway) for lunch could save someone’s life.

Hang in there. It’s important that you do.

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Between the video and this link, you will have all the information you need. (Oh, and please excuse the outtakes. After 120+ takes, I decided to leave a few of the “distracting” moments in there. It was either that or losing my sanity. Cheers.)

The skinny:

June 30 is Social Media Day. Events celebrating this most auspicious date are taking place around the world. One of the biggest (I am told it is the second biggest, after NYC) takes place in Antwerp, Belgium. This year’s edition is a two-part event:

1. A half day social media management workshop.

2. A very large party following the workshop.

You can register for the workshop, the party, or both.

To make things interesting, the workshop is broken down into 5x 45-minute sessions, each separated by a 15 minute break. Session 1 is an executive briefing on strategy and integration. Session 2 will focus on Social Media and the new Marketing mix. We will talk about amplifying reach and stickiness, and blending social media with other marketing activities. Session 3 will focus on digital reputation management, real-time crisis management, and monitoring with purpose. Session 4 will focus on measurement. In this session, we will cover financial aspects of performance measurement for social media (ROI) as well as non-financial metrics, and then bring the two together. Session 5 will be an open forum. That’s right, a whole hour of live Q&A. So bring your questions, because I don’t do this very often.

For the full program, click here.

To skip the info and register right away, click here.

Man, these prices are RIDICULOUSY low.  I have no idea how they managed that.

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Read Part 1: Assholes are bad for business.

I know what you are going to say: “Olivier, what’s up with the poopy-words all of a sudden? The other week, it was “assholes”. This week, it’s this. Didn’t your mom raise you to be a polite young man?” Answer: She tried. But sometimes, the polite version of a word just doesn’t do the job. Case in point: I could say “care.” Care about your customers. Care about designing the best products. Care about giving it your all every day. Care about taking your business into the stratosphere.

Care.

Except no. This isn’t about caring. This is about giving a shit, and yes, there is a difference.

When the word “care” no longer actually means caring.

“Caring” about something can mean a lot of different things. I can care about matching my shoes to my belt. I can care about the way my rainbow sprinkles touch the peanut butter ice cream but not the ball of Nutella ice cream underneath. I can care about maybe watching Curb Your Enthusiasm tonight, or waiting until tomorrow or next week. I can care about trying to sound pleasant on the phone, or maybe not so much. I can care about something if the conditions are right, and care less about it if circumstances change. Caring lives along a broad scale, as demonstrated by this awesome home-made graph:

But when you give a shit, that isn’t any kind of passive caring. Giving a shit means caring to the max. It means committing heart and soul to caring about something. Giving a shit is to caring what running a full-on sprint is to jogging. It is the storm to the light drizzle, the bazooka to the cork gun and the bear hug to the friendly nod. Giving a shit means you won’t sleep tonight if you screwed it up. It means you are going to take it all the way to the line. It means you are going to excel rather than settle for average… or mediocre. Giving a shit means you are driven by something more than a paycheck. It means you are driven by passion. And that, boys and girls, is some mighty strong secret sauce. Nothing can crush that. Nothing can get in its way.

When I walk into a store and talk to one of the salespeople there, I don’t want them to “care.” I want them to give a shit. The chef in the kitchen, I don’t just want him to “care”. The customer service guy on the phone, “care” is just the price of entry. You want to make your company kick ass? You have to take it a step further. That politician I just voted for? Guess what: He needs to do more than just “care.” The surgeon operating on my kids, yeah, her too, what I want her to do is actually give a shit.

When you give a shit, excuses don’t work anymore. Falling short (failing) becomes less of an option, if at all. Giving a shit means you’re invested, and that is when I know you are bringing your A-game. You aren’t just there for a paycheck, the dental plan or the free tickets to Wally World every summer. You are there because you want to be. Because you give a shit.

Look, everyone acts like they care when you interview them. “Oh yes, Mr. Jones, I really want to work here!” Right. In six months, that new hire will be spending half his day complaining to their office-mates about you, about pesky customers and their temperamental complaints, about having to work late, and about how poorly he gets paid. When you walk by his desk, you won’t even catch a glimpse of the Facebook tab or the game of computer solitaire you just interrupted. That’s what “care” will get you. And you know what? You’ll be to blame. Here’s why: Because your company culture made them that way.

When I call a company’s phone number and get an automated message telling me “… we care about your call,” what that company has just told me it doesn’t give a shit. And since companies don’t think – people do, namely executives making decisions (like having a computer answer my call instead of a human being), I know that this wasn’t an oversight. Someone made a deliberate decision to communicate to me and everyone else who calls them that the people in charge of building the company’s internal culture don’t give a shit. Way to get things off on the right foot.

The importance of creating “I give a shit” cultures.

None of this is rocket science. If you hire people who aren’t passionate about what you do, about what your company is about, or even people who don’t particularly care about their profession save getting a big fat check at the end of the week, you are going to create a culture of mediocrity. If instead you hire people who love your company, who were fans long before the job ever opened up, you will get a completely different result. Likewise, if you hire someone who is passionate about what they do, they will probably not disappoint.

A few years ago, one of my then employees admitted to me (when her bonus didn’t seem as guaranteed as she would have liked it to be) that she was considering transferring to HR. Puzzled by that admission, I asked her to elaborate. She told me “they just make straight salary over there.” I studied her for a moment, and asked her “Don’t you want to do this? If HR is something you’re interested in, why are you here?” She sighed and told me “I don’t really care what I do. I just want a steady paycheck.”

This is someone whom, if asked, would have told the CEO that she cared about her job, that she was passionate about it, that she loved it. That’s the average value of “care.”

Nb: I made sure my team hit its targets that month and the one after that, and she did, in fact, hit her bonus.

People like this are everywhere. It isn’t that they are necessarily lazy. Some are, but some are just apathetic. Doing what they do is a job. A paycheck. Nothing more. They spend their day watching the clock. They are out the door as soon as their work day is over and not a minute more. This is not the kind of employee you want. I don’t care if you are managing a hospital, a restaurant or a global brand, people like this are poison. They are engines of mediocrity, lackluster service, and lousy customer experiences. And god forbid they should become managers, or worse yet, SVPs or C-suite executives.

Imagine a CEO who doesn’t give a shit, for example. Or one who at least gives the impression, through their actions or words, that they perhaps don’t give a shit? What would that look like? What would be the impact of that type of “leadership” on the entire organization? On the brand’s reputation? On decisions being made up and down the corporate ladder inside its four walls? What kinds of ripples would this create?

Ken Lay of Enron

BP's Tony "I'd like my life back" Hayward

Now imagine a CEO who does give a shit. What would that look like? What kind of company culture would that generate? What kind of profitability and customer experience excellence would that drive?

Tony Hsieh of Zappos

Sir Richard Branson, of all things Virgin

Company cultures don’t grow from a random churn of interactions. They are engineered and designed from the inside out, deliberately, by people who give a shit. Or by people who don’t. The difference in outcomes between the two is typically fairly spectacular. We have all seen amazing companies falter under the direction of this CEO or that, solely based on their degree of giving a shit.

Why am I emphasizing that company cultures are engineered? Three reasons:

1. People who give a shit tend to hire people who also give a shit, and so on. Companies like this tend to hire carefully because they understand the importance of only hiring what you might call kindred spirits. Fans. Like-minds. They aren’t hiring as much as letting the right people into their little tribe of believers. When your entire company gives a shit, customers notice and become loyal. Why? Because they like that you give a shit, and they respect that. Besides, since you give a shit, you treat them well, which is more than anyone can say about companies that don’t give a shit about either their employees or their customers.

2. When customers like you (see 1. above), they tend to do a number of things: a) They love doing business with you, b) they do business with you as long as you keep giving a shit (which could be their own lives), and c) they recommend you to everyone they know, which in turn helps drive your business.

3. One CEO can make or break a company. Just one. Remember what happened to Apple when Steve Jobs left, back in the day? Should I mention some of Home Depot’s ups and downs? Show me a company whose CEO gives a shit, and I will show you a company about to bloom like a flower in sunlight. Show me a company whose CEO doesn’t, and I will show you a company about to race headlong into a very rough patch.

More than anything, customers instinctively know that they will eventually get screwed by someone who doesn’t really give a shit. They also instinctively know they will never get screwed by someone who does. This is important.

Even if giving a shit didn’t generate better design departments, better products, better service, better customer relations and generally healthier businesses, this point alone should catch the attention of CEOs, boards or directors, and investors alike: Consumer perceptions, trust, loyalty, these things matter in the mid-to-long term. Heck, they matter today. This very minute. Every single consumer making a purchasing decision right now is weighing one company against another. One will win. The others will lose. How are you feeling about your chances?

Leadership isn’t all about skills and experience. It’s also about attitude. And giving a shit, boys and girls, is a pretty important component of the sort of attitude we are talking about today.

The reciprocal effect of giving a shit.

Hiring people who give a shit, but not those who don't.

The above diagram illustrates the process of engineering loyalty and positive WOM (word of mouth) by sticking to a no asshole policy (see Part 1) and making sure you hire people who actually give a shit.

Note the jokers in red ink who didn’t really give a shit and are therefore not hired. The fact that they are not invited to spread their apathy and inevitable passive aggressive disdain to their coworkers and customers like a CSTD (Customer Service Transmitted Disease) ensures that your company maintains its edge.

Now let’s look at another kind of organization – one which doesn’t discriminate quite so much:

Hiring people who give a shit, and those who don't.

Note how in this alternate version, a company having allowed such individuals to breach its inner sanctum begin to spread mediocrity across their entire business, and how that trickles down into customer experiences and perceptions.

In short, giving a shit is contagious. From the CEO on down to everyone in the company and outwardly to customers. Positive attitudes and perceptions spread virally through recommendations, discussions and general perception. In the same way, not giving a shit is contagious as well, and it too spreads like a virus across departments, front-line employees, customers, and to their social and professional networks.

This is how reputations are both made and unmade, depending on what kind of culture you decide to engineer.

What are some of the obvious symptoms that a company doesn’t give a shit?

This is important, because these are common red flags. When consumers spot any of these (or several,) they know that perhaps your company doesn’t really care a whole lot about you, your loyalty, or your affection for their products or brands.

1. Customer service is outsourced. (Because nothing says “We care” like handing you off to total strangers working under contract for less than minimum wage.)

2. The recording says “your call is important to us…” which is kind of funny coming from a recording.

3. The company’s employees look at the clock more than they look at you.

4. The CEO, in the middle of a crisis, says things like “I’d like my life back.”

5. Outsourced social media accounts, especially when it comes to customer service functions.

6. When the product fails, technicians will be happy to “look at it,” and repair it for about 70% or more of the value of the product in about 6-12 weeks. This is usually followed by “you could just buy another one” type of “caring” advice.

7. False or misleading advertising.

8. The company spams your inbox, twitter feed, phone, or otherwise valuable channel.

9. The average customer has no idea who the CEO of the company is. Until they see him or her on TV, defending pretty bad decisions.

10. After several interactions with company employees or management, you begin to suspect that everyone who works there might actually be some kind of asshole.

11. Poor product design, characterized by lousy user UI/UX.

12. The manager, in an empty store or restaurant, still manages to blow off his only customers… assuming he is even there.

13. The company sells your personal information to third parties.

14. The CEO’s Twitter account, blog and/or Facebook page – all proof that he “cares,” wants to “engage” customers and feels that social media is “important” – are all managed and fed by a proxy, (or ghost writer) preferably working for an outside firm or agency. (Sorry Mr. Pandit, but you have been advised improperly on this one.)

15. More excuses than solutions, followed by buzzwords and lip service.

16. The CEO spends more time on the golf course than he does listening to customers.

And there you have it.

Three questions.

So the three questions you have to ask yourself are these:

1. What kind of company culture are my customers experiencing whenever they interact with one of my employees, colleagues, bosses, products and services? The kind that gives a shit, or the kind that clearly doesn’t?

2. What kind of company culture should I be building?

3. Once I cast aside the propaganda, tag lines, mission statements and sycophantic reports, what kind of company culture am I really building?

Be honest.  Are you setting the right example? Are you hiring the right people? Are you teaching them to give a shit? Are you rewarding them accordingly?

… Or are you banking on a mission statement to communicate to your employees that they should “care”?

Giving a shit is hard. So is kicking ass. So what?

Yeah, giving a shit is hard. It’s expensive too. It requires all sorts of investments: Financial, cultural, temporal, even emotional. (Perhaps especially the latter.) Giving a shit means that your business isn’t just about balance sheets and incremental basis points of change. It’s about creating something special for and with your customers. It’s about building the foundations of a lovebrand – like Apple, Harley Davidson, Virgin Airlines and BMW. It’s about investing in market leadership, in customer loyalty and evangelism, in your own reputation, and in the strength of your own brand. In short, it means investing in long term success, in stability in tough economic time, and in a demand vs. supply ratio that will always be in your favor. Giving a shit is an investment, yes, and not one that might immediately make sense to financial analysts, but one that pays off every time. It is the genesis of everything that ultimately makes a business successful: Professionalism. The endless pursuit of quality, of great design, of remarkable user/customer experiences.

The moment you lose that, the moment you start giving a shit a little bit less, the moment you start cutting corners, that’s when you start to screw up. When you lose that competitive edge. When you start sinking into the fat middle with everyone else. That’s when you start to lose. Before you know it, you’re stuck picking between BOGO pitches and worrying about price wars with foreign imports. I’ve worked with companies like this. You don’t want to go there, trust me. It’s ugly. It’s stressful. You wake up one morning and realize that even if you tried to give a shit anymore, you couldn’t. There wouldn’t be enough time. It wouldn’t make a difference. It might even get you fired. Everything you’ve worked for all your life is hanging on the edge, and it’s a long, hard road back too the top. Most companies never make it back. I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to never fall than to have to climb back up again, but either way, it’s a daily battle.

In fact, giving a shit is so hard that very few companies do anymore. It isn’t how the game is played any longer. “The customer is always right” is a relic of the past, isn’t it?

Or is it?

Have you listened to what people are saying about your company on Twitter and Facebook lately? Do you know what they are saying about your competitors? In a year or two, do you think companies whose leaders don’t give a shit are going to be able to compete against companies whose leaders do? If you don’t see giving a shit as a competitive advantage yet, as a differentiator, even as a normalizing agent, then at the very least see it as a matter of survival. The age of the “I don’t give a shit” CEO is done. Game over.

Time to make a change or two?

*          *          *

Since it’s June, here are this month’s three quick little announcements:

One – If you haven’t read “Social Media ROI: Managing and measuring social media efforts in your organization” yet, you will find 300 pages of insights with which to complement this article. It won’t answer all of your questions, but it will answer many of them. If anything, the book is a pretty solid reference guide for anyone responsible for a social media program or campaign. It also makes a great gift to your boss if you want him or her to finally understand how this social media stuff works for companies.

You can sample a free chapter and find out where to buy the book by checking out www.smroi.net.

Two – If you, your agency or your client plan on attending the Cannes Lionsfrom June 19-25, I am planning something a little… “unofficial” during the festival. If you are interested in being part of it, let me know.

You can send me an email, a note via LinkedIn, a Twitter DM, or a facebook message if you want to find out more. (The right hand side of the screen should provide you with my contact information.)

Three – If the book isn’t enough and you can’t make it to Cannes later this month, you can sign up for a half day of workshops in Antwerp (Belgium) on 30 June. (Right after the Lions.) The 5 one-hour sessions will begin with an executive briefing on social media strategy and integration, followed by a best practices session on building a social media-ready marketing program, followed by a PR-friendly session on digital brand management, digital reputation management and real-time crisis management, followed by a session on social media and business measurement (half R.O.I., half not R.O.I.). We will cap off the afternoon with a full hour of open Q&A. As much as like rushing through questions in 5-10 minutes at the end of a presentation, wouldn’t it be nice to devote an entire hour to an audience’s questions? Of course it would. We’re going to give it a try. Find out more program details here. Think of it as a miniRed Chair.

The cool thing about this structure is that you are free to attend the sessions that are of interest to you, and go check your emails or make a few phone if one or two of the sessions aren’t as important. The price is the same whether you attend one or all five, and we will have a 15 minute break between each one.

The afternoon of workshops is part of Social Media Day Antwerp (the Belgian arm of Mashable’s global Social Media Day event), and I can’t help but notice that the price of tickets is ridiculously low for what is being offered. Anyone can afford to come, which is a rare thing these days. (Big props to the organizers for making the event so accessible.)

The event is divided into 2 parts: The workshop in the afternoon, and the big Belgian style party in the evening. You can register for one or both (do both).

Register here: Social Media Day – Antwerp

My advice: Sign up while there are still seats available, and before #smdaybe organizers realize they forgot to add a zero at the end of the ticket prices. :D

Cheers,

Olivier.

Read Full Post »

Thank you.

D-Day, 6 June 1944 - Archival Photo

6 June 1944: D-Day.

Thank you.

You know who you are.

*          *          *

Three quick little announcements:

One – If you haven’t read “Social Media ROI: Managing and measuring social media efforts in your organization” yet, you will find 300 pages of insights with which to complement this article. It won’t answer all of your questions, but it will answer many of them. If anything, the book is a pretty solid reference guide for anyone responsible for a social media program or campaign. It also makes a great gift to your boss if you want him or her to finally understand how this social media stuff works for companies.

You can sample a free chapter and find out where to buy the book by checking out www.smroi.net.

Two – If you, your agency or your client plan on attending the Cannes Lionsfrom June 19-25 and want to participate in a small but informative 2-hour session about social media integration, measurement, strategy, etc. let me know. I just found out that I will be in Cannes during the festivals, so we can set something up – either a private session, or a small informal discussion with no more than 6-7 people. First come, first served.

You can send me an email, a note via LinkedIn, a Twitter DM, or a facebook message if you want to find out more. (The right hand side of the screen should provide you with my contact information.)

Three – If the book isn’t enough and you can’t make it to Cannes later this month, you can sign up for a half day of workshops in Antwerp (Belgium) on 30 June. (Right after the Lions.) The 5 one-hour sessions will begin with an executive briefing on social media strategy and integration, followed by a best practices session on building a social media-ready marketing program, followed by a PR-friendly session on digital brand management, digital reputation management and real-time crisis management, followed by a session on social media and business measurement (half R.O.I., half not R.O.I.). We will cap off the afternoon with a full hour of open Q&A. As much as like rushing through questions in 5-10 minutes at the end of a presentation, wouldn’t it be nice to devote an entire hour to an audience’s questions? Of course it would. We’re going to give it a try. Find out more program details here. Think of it as a miniRed Chair.

The cool thing about this structure is that you are free to attend the sessions that are of interest to you, and go check your emails or make a few phone if one or two of the sessions aren’t as important. The price is the same whether you attend one or all five, and we will have a 15 minute break between each one.

The afternoon of workshops is part of Social Media Day Antwerp (the Belgian arm of Mashable’s global Social Media Day event), and I can’t help but notice that the price of tickets is ridiculously low for what is being offered. The early bird pricing is… well, nuts. Anyone can afford to come, which is a rare thing these days. (Big props to the organizers for making the event so accessible.)

The event is divided into 2 parts: The workshop in the afternoon, and the big Belgian style party in the evening. You can register for one or both (do both).

Register here: Social Media Day – Antwerp

My advice: Sign up while there are still seats available, and before #smdaybe organizers realize they forgot to add a zero at the end of the ticket prices. :D

Cheers,

Olivier.

Read Full Post »

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