Archive for May, 2006

… yeah, but what about weekend warriors?

Patrick Marzullo – of Respond 2 Communications – pointed me to Tim O’Leary’s new book this morning: “Warriors, Workers, Whiners & Weasels,” which you can preview here. (Whether or not it was an email blast sent out to a bunch of us “business bloggers” is kind of irrelevant at this point. I followed his links and was entertained enough by what I saw that I’m posting about it.)

What’s the premise of Tim’s book? Well, it’s that there are basically four types of people in any organization: Warriors, workers, whiners and weasels:

The Warrior: Successful companies need at least one Warrior—the aggressive innovator who conceptualizes and defines the organization and who fights the
tough battle to make it successful. Some companies have many Warriors,
which can sometimes make for really great organizations or, in other cases,
can lead to disaster, depending on whether or not the Warriors can work

The Worker: The backbone of any company is the Worker—the dependable soldiers who take direction from the Warriors and make things happen. Great com- panies always have great Workers. Workers understand their essential role in society, and they also tend to live the most balanced life among the four categories. Great Workers take tremendous pride in their craft, be it building jets, answering phones, driving a truck, designing microchips, writing legal briefs, or managing a large staff. Workers come in every shape, size and economic category; they perform duties that range from the mundane to the complex.

The Whiner: Whiners might be competent workers, but their negativity and dissatisfaction over- shadow their performance. Often, their whining is a mask for their incompetence. They spend a disproportionate amount of time complaining about others and blaming everyone else for their personal lack of success. They usually attempt to recruit more Whiners from the workplace, creat- ing dissatisfaction among the Workers. One of their great pleasures in life is to contemplate and spread other’s troubles (hence they tend to be big gossipers), as it provides a welcome distraction from their obsession with their own perceived problems.

The Weasel: Weasels are always negative, personally and professionally. They operate from a profound sense of insecurity that clouds their existence and drives them to destroy, for the strangely misguided sense of fulfillment it provides them. They have no regard for honesty, relationships, long-term credibility, or friendships. Weasels tend to be strong in personality, which can make them diffi- cult to identify at the onset. They may initially appear to be a Warrior or Worker. But the core trait of a Weasel is to instill confusion and distrust within his or her structure. Trace back a nasty rumor mill, and usually there was a Weasel involved in its initial development. Weasels delight in stirring up trouble between factions, fueling it with distrust, rumors, and outright lies. They will claim to be everyone’s friend, while not honoring any friendship. Every motivation they possess is designed to fill their in- ternal void, and true friendship is almost impossible for them to attain. Due to their aggressive personalities and relentless methods, they can often become successful and achieve positions of power.

Read the complete descriptions here. Interesting stuff. Jung would be proud. I don’t know if the book will be any good, but it should at least be entertaining.

Also be sure to check out its tongue-in-cheekish companion site: exposeyourweasel.com, which cleverly lets you submit your own weasel and maybe win a 30 gig iPod for your trouble.

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I had a fascinating conversation with a friend a few days ago who is on the verge of quitting his job. He’s always loved working where he is now, is friends with all of his colleagues, likes his boss, loves what he does… but the magic seems to be gone.

I was kind of curious about what happened to so radically change his point of view. Was it the customers? Nope. Was he being treated differently by his boss? No again. Had anything changed in the last six months? Niet.

So what was the problem?

His answer: “I’m just not happy there anymore.”

Interestingly, he isn’t the only one. Several of his coworkers have also seemed to me like they were just going through the motions in the past few weeks. They smile, but they aren’t excited about their jobs like they used to be. I know it isn’t burnout, but it sure looks like burnout. Something definitely isn’t right.

I guess it wouldn’t be a huge problem in and of itself, but I am beginning to hear from customers of this business that the magic is starting to fade for them too. Shopping there isn’t as fun as it used to be. They’ve started to shop around again. The business is doing great, but is starting to lose its edge. Its cool. Its uniqueness.

Before I go on with my story, check out this bit from a piece I wrote a few months ago that addresses this very issue. It was inspired by something Brains On Fire’s Spike Jones posted way back when. It’s this: “Happy employees make happy customers.”

Likewise, unhappy employees make unhappy customers.

There are ways to make your employees happy. Perhaps more importantly, there are ways to make your employees feel proud. And no, rewarding them isn’t something you can fake or buy off with plaques and pins and little bonuses. It’s something that has to feel real.

If you want to inspire your customers, you first have to inspire your employees. If you want to do that, you have to make them feel like they truly are a part of your company and not just worthless pawns.

You have to make them feel like they are on a mission.

You have to make them feel good about the work they do for you.

Does that sound complicated? It really isn’t. It’s actually the simplest thing in the world. Starbucks is doing it. So is Apple. So is Loreal. So is Nike. So is Coca Cola.

Treat people with respect. Give them something worthwhile to do. Inspire them to be knights in your kingdom… or at least happy to be there for as long as they want to stay. That’s it. That’s all you really need to do to get things rolling in the right direction.

So… back to my story. Back to my friend and his career woes. Back to what’s fishy in Denmark. Back to the fact that unhappy employees may not make unhappy customers, but… they sure don’t make happy ones either. Back to what my friend told me next:

“I feel like we’ve all become commodities. We aren’t very high on (the boss’) priority list these days.” And then he went on to tell me what he meant.

Pow. There it was.

Broken windows also happen in your relationship with employees. The people who work for you are your brand at least as much as your products. They are your designers, your evangelists, your human touchpoints, your knights, your fans, your friends, your problem solvers, your band of brothers (and sisters). You can’t take them for granted. Perhaps more importantly, you can’t make them feel like you are. Ever. Not for one minute.

Pay them what they’re worth. Protect them. Empower them. Put your trust and faith in them. Don’t ever think for one second that they can be easily replaced.

Treat your employees like they’re your best customers.

That’s advice you can take to the bank.


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Memorial Day

yours truly, in a previous career – circa 1993.

Though I was born in 1971, I grew up in the shadow of WWII. My grandfather was a Cavalry Officer in both WWI and WWII. A hefty chunk of my family was killed by the Nazis. I grew up in France, surrounded by memorials, military cemetaries and the pockmarked landscapes of Normandie, Ypres and the Ardennes. Think old bunkers, craters and fields of white crosses. My mother, who was 11 when Allied troops finally landed and remembers the war all too well, still – to this day – keeps an emergency supply of sugar and butter… just in case, I don’t know, the Germans decide to give it another go.

I grew up with the paratroopers’ prayer framed over my bed, and the annual ritual of having my father let me hold my grandfather’s medals. (The Legion d’Honeur and the Croix de Guerre.) I grew up with countless stories of sacrifice and courage and bravery. I grew up with a profound love for all things American, simply because long ago, decades before I was born, thousands of them crossed the Atlantic to come save us… and died on our beaches and in our fields.

What does this have to do with branding? Very little… but it’s Memorial Day… and I didn’t want to just let it go by.


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Michael Wagner has another great post on his Own Your Brand blog today in which he uses Blu Dot (yes, the furniture company) to illustrate the first five steps you should consider taking if your goal is to create (and more importantly own) your own brand.

First: Stop dreaming and do. Co-founders Maurice Blanks, John Christakos and Charlie Lazor all quit paying jobs to start Blu Dot. Christakos, a Bain & Co. consultant, was the first to leave. He then waited for his two college buddies to say “adios” to their architecture firms. Brand ownership embraces uncertainty.

Second: Stop complaining and create. All three knew they were sick of “compartmentalizing their creativity while toiling at their day jobs”. Either bring your creativity to work every day and let the chips fall where they may or make your own place where you decide on how things are done. Brand ownership is about YOUR creative difference.

Third: Stop wishing for a solution and be the solution. Blu Dot is the solution for those who live in the land between budget-conscious IKEA and label-conscious Philippe Starck. Blu Dot supplies relevance on at least three levels: great design, great price, great simplicity. Brand ownership is relevance defined by the people you sell to.

Fourth: Stop hoping for more money and find your version of resourcefulness. These college buddies paid their logo designer with plans for a tree house and their web designer with tables. Christakos likes to say, “Furniture’s our favorite form of currency.” Brand ownership is about resourcefulness in an age of limited resources.

Fifth: Stop thinking you’re “all that” and be who you are gifted to be. Blu Dot founders learned to submit to each others gifts and abilities. Christokos is the business guru. Blanks, the operations/administration guy, and Lazor remains the designer. Brand ownership is seldom about the lone genius and more often about co-workers humbly finding their place on the team.


Read the entire thing here. (And Michael, welcome to my blogroll. It was way overdue.) 🙂

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At 99 degrees Centigrade, water is hot.

At 100 degrees Centigrade, water starts boiling and turns to steam.

Steam can power locomotives, factories and ships. Hot water can’t.

The difference between just being hot and being capable of moving a twenty ton hunk of metal is just 1%. That’s it. 1%.

The difference between winning a race, coming up with a better design or a stronger concept is in that 1%.

Plan 1% better. Prepare 1% harder. Work 1% longer. Think 1% further. Proofread 1% slower. Research 1% deeper.

Forget about the ridiculous notion of “giving 110%.” Forget about giving it an extra 20%. Or even 10%. Those numbers mean nothing. Even if they did, they would be unrealistic.

Focus on the 1%.

Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already hitting that 99% pretty much every day. If not, you come pretty damn close. (It’s okay, you can admit it.) The point is that you’re already doing 99% of what you need to do to be kind of successful. What’s 1% more?

1%. That’s where the magic happens. It’s the tipping point of design and ideas and insight. The difference between pretty good and great. The sliver that stands between running a 6:00-mile and a 5:57-minute mile. It’s what separates the top percentile from… well, everything else.

I’ts just 1%, folks. That’s all it is.

Choose to be great today.

Thanks to my good friend Frank Roth who used this analogy yesterday to explain to me how he went from being a decent age-group triathlete to being a top finisher in almost every race he enters… in just one season.

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Heads-up: Two very important conferences are coming up next month (that’s June… if you’ve been so busy that you don’t remember what month this is).

The first is Corante’s Innovative Marketing Conference (June 8-9) in New York (at Columbia Business School). Scroll down for details, or just hang out for a sec while I tell you what the second conference is.

The second is WOMMA’s WOMBAT #2 in San Francisco (June 20-21).

Due to scheduling issues and circumstances beyond my control, it still looks like I will be unable to attend Corante’s IMC (ugh…), but I will at least be able to make WOMBAT this time around. (One out of two is better than none, I guess.)

Update – I’m still working on trying to free myself for Corante’s IMC, so there’s still hope.

Transparency notes:
Conference #1 – I am Corante’s Marketing Hub editor.
Conference #2 – WOMMA graciously invited me to be one of four bloggers who will cover WOMBAT #2, and I have accepted.

Here are the details (from Corante’s site):

Corante’s Innovative Marketing Conference:

The theme of the conference: innovation. Companies today are facing increasing pain points as marketing struggles to keep up with innovations in the marketplace. Media proliferation, product choice, consumer networks, “the TiVO effect” — all are posing immense challenges to the old ways of building brands.

At the same time, radical innovations in the practice of marketing are turning the field on its head. Search marketing, viral marketing, customer experience, word of mouth, mobile communications, customer involvement – each has shown promise for building incredible value. But can these cutting-edge new tactics really work for any brand? And should we really throw out the ad agencies—when the best campaigns are still generating incredible buzz, brand awareness, and bottom-line growth?

The 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference will tackle head-on the question of the future of marketing — drawing on the best practices from the past, and the real promise of the future. The conference will comprise a CMO Summit, and a larger Marketers Forum. Both days will assess the painful challenges and exciting new possibilities facing marketing today. Participants will gain practical tools, real world case studies, and the chance to network and share best practices with peers in a non-competitive environment.

How can we build the foundation for a new marketing that will deliver value in a new marketplace? We hope you will join the conversation.

Join Corante and Columbia for this intense 1-2 day conference and workshop (see below) that is designed to offer implementable insights and actionable learnings for companies and individuals looking to get a grasp of the forces that are remaking the marketing industry. We are convening many of the field’s leading thinkers and doers for a series of lively panels, interviews, talks, and informal events that will help marketers understand where things are headed and how to get there.

Day One: The CMO Summit

The first day of the conference will be open to a limited number of CMO’s and VP’s of Marketing from a range of industries. A select group of non-competitive peers will focus on the most critical issues facing marketing leaders today and the best practices for innovative marketing. Participants will share their challenges, lessons learned, and most effective strategies, with colleagues in other industries who face similar issues. (Again, space is very limited for this exclusive event: we urge you to sign up for this event quickly. Please proceed to this page to apply and register – you’ll hear back from us promptly.)

Day Two: The Marketers Forum

The second day of the conference will provide a large forum for marketing practitioners from a wide range of industries. Cutting edge thinkers and business leaders will present new models for innovative marketing and lessons from companies that are leading the way towards a new marketing foundation. Key learnings and case studies that emerged from the CMO Summit the day before will be incorporated in the Forum’s speeches and panels.

Among the companies and organizations that have attended the conferences:

* McCann-Erickson, Weber Shandwick, Interbrand, Avon, Estée Lauder, Adidas, American Express, Citigroup, Absolut Vodka, Coca-Cola, Unilever, HP, eBay, Microsoft, IBM, BMW, McKinsey & Company, AOL, BusinessWeek, The Economist, The New York Times, UNICEF, Bell Atlantic

Find out more.

(from WOMMA’s site):

Smart marketers have always known that word of mouth marketing is the secret weapon of the greatest companies. Satisfied customers telling their friends are your most powerful advocates.

Word of Mouth Basic Training 2 is the forum to share what we’ve learned and how to do it better.

What you’ll learn:

* Learn from real case studies and how-to lessons.
* Meet the world’s leading word of mouth experts.
* Master the core skills to succeed with word of mouth.
* Discover how to implement word of mouth at your company.
* Network like crazy at the biggest word of mouth conference ever.
* Understand critical issues around ethics and honesty.
* Measure and track the ROI of word of mouth.
* Enjoy an official WOMMA event, the association that brings together the amazing people who are building this fantastic industry.

Who’s going to be there:

The best minds in the business, all connecting and participating. WOM marketing experts from major brand marketers. Viral marketing masters. Bloggers. Grassroots organizers. Researchers, tacticians, professors, and pioneers. And lots of smart people who have developed unique ways to reach out and understand their customers.
A focused agenda featuring diverse speakers

We’ve created a focused agenda with an unusual diversity of speakers and panelists. You’ll meet the experts who have mastered word of mouth and get a chance to ask questions up close and personal. No aloof speakers who walk out the door when they’re done — just the right people getting together to learn and share.
You need to know this!

Word of mouth marketing is rapidly becoming a core part of the marketing mix. It’s amazingly powerful – and it’s easy to make mistakes. If you are actively using word of mouth marketing, you’ll learn the strategies and tactics to make your campaigns more effective. If you’re just starting out, you’ll learn what you need to know to be successful in this exciting new industry.

Right. So there you go. Mark your calendars, book your flights and hotels, and attend what I think will be by far two of the best conferences you’ll attend all year. (I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t think they were worth your hard-earned cash.)

In the immortal words of Rusty Longshanks, “These things are going to rock!”

I couldn’t agree with him more. ;D

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Note: I just wrote this piece as an editorial for Corante, but since it applies to this blog, I decided to post it here as well. Enjoy:

Hail the one-percenters. The rabid fans. The most hardcore users. Apple has them. Harley Davidson has them. Porsche. VW. BMW. Ford. Corvette. Marlboro. Cartier watches. Yves St. Laurent. Weston shoes. Pinarello bikes. Speedo (no, really). Rudy Project. Calvin Klein. Tommy Hilfiger. The New York Times. Fox News. Canon. Nikon. Michelin tires. John Deere. Hincapie Sportswear. Mavic wheels. The New York Yankees. The Atlanta Braves. Turin’s Juventus.

If your company has rabid fans, you’re already on the right track. If you learn how to listen to them, you’ll stay on the right track for years – and decades – to come.

Via Johnnie Moore, Ben McConnell (co-author of the well-read Church Of The Customer blog points us to a great piece on the importance of the “One Percenters”:

“It would appear that small groups of people often turn out to be the principal value creators of a democratized community. Over time, their work fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones. If continually nurtured, the community can become a self-sustaining generator of content and value.” – Ben McConnell.

That being said, here’s what’s really going on in most organizations:

“It’s easy for organisations to stigmatise the one-percenters. Marketing types often sneer at fanatical customers for their lunacy in being more passionate about the organisations’ product or service than the professionals are. Focus groups exercises tend to average out the views of a wide customer base rather than looking at the core enthusiasts. New business drives focus on acquisition of the new rather than enthusing with the existing customers.

“Seems to me that this is a mindset worth reviewing.” – Johnnie Moore.


To illustrate his point, Johnnie points us to the case of how Harley Davidson (arguably one of the most widely recognized and iconic brands in the world) turned its fortunes around by embracing – rather than marhinalizing – its one percenters:

“On our trip to New York we met Richard Wise, Chief Strategic Officer at Agency 16, modern marketeer and a very saucy fellow to boot. He has paid close attention to that great US company Harley Davidson and the history of its brand. He explained that at one point the bikers that are so closely associated to the epic motorcycles were quite reviled by the company’s management. So much so that they were referred to as the one-percenters – as in the one percent who spoil it for everyone else. HD’s mindset was that it was best placed to decide what its customers wanted. The management were shocked when…

“…tattooed-hooligans started taking their beloved bikes apart – or chopping them – to meet their own warped ‘hog’ desires. It was only when the company’s worth hit rock-bottom and a younger member of the HD clan took control of the business that that view changed. The company embraced the one percenters and reframed their destructive tendencies as a guide to what their most hardcore and loyal customers wanted. As a result, the company’s fortunes were reversed and its value soared. This struck me as a great example of open source marketing and the value of a co-creative approach. Hells Angels as lead-users – what a great notion.” – from the Modern Marketing Blog‘s January 16, 2006 “Why Hells Angels Know Best”, by James Cherkoff.

Not to put any limits on the concept of co-creation, but perhaps a good place to start for most companies is to focus on the one-percenters first… and then, after a while, graduate to full-on co-creation. By focusing on customers and users who already understand your product as well as (and in some cases better than) you do, you can keep customer-generated input manageable and focused. You can learn how to integrate co-creation into your product development process without drowning in “noise”.

Perhaps more importantly, by learning to listen to the one-percenters first, it’s pretty unlikely that you will be tempted to gravitate towards the seemingly safe, boring, soft, generic middle. This is a topic often covered by one of my favorite bloggers, Kathy Sierra, who routinely reminds us to stay away from the boring “middle” in favor of the edgy… well, “edges” of design. The worst thing a company can do when it comes to building a powerful brand is to try to be all things to all people. It just doesn’t work that way. Looking for the fat middle is a sure-fire way of becoming instantaneously “generic.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with being generic, but when the object of the maneuver is to create a strong – or I’ll say it again – “iconic” brand (is there any other kind?), being “generic” is the complete opposite of what you are shooting for.

Per Johnnie:

“To some marketers, the polar opposite of the 1% Rule — the Law of Big Numbers– might doom any decision to dedicate resources toward a democratized community. Should it? Not necessarily, although any community organizer should be prepared to accept the reality of slow, incremental growth, not a big, Hollywood-style opening.” – Ben McConnell.

The fear in many executives’ minds is this: We know the 80/20 rule works. Will listening to the one-percenters really pay off? Will the other 99% of our customers adopt changes made by our 1% of insanely loyal and passionate users?

If your business is based on producing generic products or on simply providing a quality-light substitute for other products at a lower pricepoint, no. If, however, your goal is to differentiate yourself from would-be competitors, to develop a strong brand, to lead your company into a market leadership position or to help it become as iconic as Apple, Harley Davidson, Nike and Canon, yes.

Remember we’re talking about listening, here. What you choose to do with what you see and hear is entirely your business. You don’t have to act on every suggestion. But when it comes to focusing your attention on a particular segment of your customer base, you could do far worse than starting with the one-percenters. It seems counter-intuitive and yes, it’s a bit of a leap of faith when you’ve been told for decades to follow the big numbers, but these are the people who hold the key to your brand. Listen to them. Learn what makes them tick. Let them help you stay relevant. It worked for Harley Davidson. It worked for Apple. There is no reason why it won’t work for you.

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