Archive for the ‘2007’ Category


I was chatting with a friend about budget-conscious brand revitalization strategies, the importance of creating employee-friendly corporate cultures and how to drive more passionate employee engagement today, and I was suddenly reminded of something John Moore – over at Brand Autopsy – wrote on his blog back in 2007:

“Astonish employees and they will, in turn, astonish customers.”

Simple enough, right?

Yet so rare.

Most companies have fallen into a little bit of a rut when it comes to doing something special for their employees, except around Christmas time or when they’ve had a decent quarter. And even then, we are talking about a $25 gift certificate to The Home Depot or your choice of a company pen, T-shirt or flashlight. Nice, but not exactly stunning.

The term John used is “astonish,” which implies a little more effort and attention than just giving your employees an empty token of “gratitude” that is as bland as it is… (well, let’s say it) kind of insulting.

Note to all department managers: If you’re going to reward your staff with T-shirts, make them the types of T-shirts that you want your employees to actually get excited about. (Hire a hot local graphic designer to design something unique or fun or cool . It’s cheaper than you think, and the impact will be pretty phenomenal.)

But enough about T-shirts. We’re talking about “astonishing” your employees – not merely giving them a perfunctory nod, which is exactly what the folks at Macintosh did a while back when they surprised all of their US employees with a brand new iPhone.

In John’s words:

“Giving every full-time employee a $600 (retail value) iPhone is an astonishing act that will only help to feed the already vibrant evangelical corporate culture within Apple. (…)At Starbucks, we would also spend marketing money on employees. We knew if we could get Baristas jazzed, they would get customers jazzed.”

Think back to an experience you’ve had recently (or not so recently) when you walked into a store or dealt with someone who was absolutely in love with either their job or the company they worked for. How was your perception of that company affected by their enthusiasm? (How likely were you after that experience to a) recommend that business to friends and peers, and b) do business with that company again?)

Now think back to your last experience with a bored, apathetic grocery store cashier, or with an unqualified telephone customer service rep, or with a passive-aggressive waitress who REALLY needs a vacation. How different might your perception of that company be? How likely is it that you will make that business your first choice? How likely is it that you will speak well of this business and recommend it to friends?

All things being equal: Pricepoint, quality of the work or food or product, product performance, cool packaging, etc. – the quality of the experience surrounding human touch-points becomes primordial.

Two average grocery stores can have a radically different image or reputation based SOLELY on the way their employees behave. The same is true with any business in which people (employees) interact with other people (customers): Restaurants, banks, retail establishments, medical offices, auto mechanics shops, etc.

Employee behavior can be radically impacted by their managers’ positive or negative treatment.

Therefore, customer experience can be radically impacted by the way a company treats its employees:

Average treatment of employees = average customer experience.

Good treatment of employees = good customer experience.

Great treatment of employees = great customer experience.

… And so on.

So rather than tossing the occasional cheapo bone to your employees to maintain morale (or whatever,) start thinking of ways that you might make them feel special. Think of ways of rewarding them, or of saying “thank you,” or making them feel truly appreciated that kind of… well, stand out. Get them jazzed about working for you. Make them feel proud and excited and vibrant.

The point here isn’t to bribe them or buy their loyalty with expensive gifts. The point is to show genuine, profound, unmistakable appreciation for what they do and for the importance of their daily contribution. If you don’t have a budget for something like this yet, get creative. Give them Friday off, out of the blue. Give them an extra vacation day, on the house. Mail them a thank you card with a real message inside, not just some cheesy drugstore quotation. Offer to introduce them to people they don’t normally have access to. Bring them into projects they aren’t senior enough to have a voice in.

Though fancy electronics like iPods, Zunes, Flip cameras and the likes usually do the trick as well.

This isn’t “team building,” mind you. This is just saying thanks. This is just giving them a hug and a pat on the shoulder, looking them in the eye and saying “We’re really glad you’re here.” And meaning it.

Every once and again, you have to stop what you’re doing, put off fighting your daily little fires, and remember to make your employees feel that they aren’t just easily replaced pawns. (And if you’re hiring intelligently, they are most definitely not easily replaceable pawns.)

Make your employees realize that you truly understand their value to the success of the brand they help shape in the public’s eye every single day.

The way you treat your employees is the way your customers will be treated.

Perhaps this should be the very first rule of management.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. πŸ˜‰

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As we turn the page on yet another year, I just want to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog regularly. I would post to it quasi-daily even if a handful of you bothered to check by every few weeks or so, but it’s nice to have so many of you swing by here daily. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You make my day. πŸ™‚

I wondered how I would end the year – maybe with a Top 10 list or some kind of recap of some of the stuff that happened this year (maybe a Brand “Celebutante” writeup, or a Bonehead CEO roundup, or even a tribute to all of the great branding blunders and successes of the year,) but you know, I would much rather open up a bottle of bubbly, put on a silly hat, and watch the calendar roll back to Jan 1 with colleagues and friends. (Especially since I actually have to work today. Yes, all day.)

Have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve, and we’ll see you next year!!! (err… tomorrow.)
Update: Doh! Virginia Miracle – formerly of local identity company Brains On Fire – wrote a pretty sweet list of things she learned while at BoF that I thought was good enough to share with you guys:
From the home office in Greenville, South Carolina, here are
the Top 10 Things I Learned (at Brains on Fire) …
10. Blogging is a Muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
9. Meetings should be used strategically & sparingly.
8. No one will die if you leave your laptop at the office.
7. Nurture long term client relationships with ideas. (…) The way to keep (things) fresh is to proactively brainstorm and share at least 1 new idea a week with your client. It keeps everyone energized and focused on the future.
6. Like brands with true personality, Popcorn is Polarizing. A lot of great people love it, but certain people find it abhorrent. If no one hates you, chances are no one is moved to be passionate about you either.
5. Sow 10,000 seeds (this was originally a Guy Kawasaki principle). Small gracious acts will (always) come back to benefit you tenfold.
4. There is no greater way to instill ownership than by giving fans a piece of a brand to give away.
3. Everything is your brand.
2. Don’t be a chameleon. I personally have a bit of a chameleon tendency – I can echo back tone, topics and language of those I am trying to reach or persuade. This is not always a good thing in the agency business. While chameleon behavior can help land new business, staying true to your identity no matter what will attract kindred spirits. Working with partners who have been attracted to you as you truly are is a strong foundation for long term success.
1. Have fun. Fun is contagious and attractive. All things being equal, people will always chose to work with people who are having fun.

And on that note, have a fantastic very last day of 2007. πŸ™‚

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