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Archive for the ‘marketing leadership’ Category

Great post from Gavin Heaton over at Servant of Chaos this week about the changing face of business management. Gavin mentions an emerging new breed of business leader that might sound a little familiar if you’ve been paying attention to what our little community of Marketing+ bloggers has been talking about these last few years. Check this out:

By far, the most radical transformation will be the one thrust upon us by the generational change that is now under way. With 60 million baby boomers about to be replaced by 60 million Millennials, the workplace will never be the same again. Managing the “knowledge transfer” that needs to take place over the next 5-10 years will be a fundamental responsibility of the Business Designer.

What is a Business Designer, I hear you ask? Per Gavin:

The Business Designer does not sit in a creative studio. Rather, she operates across business units — touching marketing, customer service and new product design. The BD has a finger on the pulse of finance and lives cheek-by-jowl with the legal team. There is the touch of the management consultant in the way that the BD navigates the org chart — but also the fervour of the evangelist. She may be T-shaped. She may be a green egg. But above all, she is an experienced business professional. That’s right — she knows how to get things done.

The BD will perform the important role of “change manager” or perhaps “transformation manager” — for the domino-like changes that will occur in every facet of a business will change the nature of the enterprise. What has been rough and ready in the consumer space will become refined and repeatable in the business world for the BD will select and orchestrate the practices, tools and approaches that correspond with a company’s business strategy. Of course, this will breed a whole new round of innovation in the technology space — we have already begun to see this with Yammer, the business version of Twitter.

And there will be a corresponding transformation in the process of business, and the goals and approaches of groups charged with managing brand touch points. This goes without saying.

What’s the difference between a Business Designer and a traditional business manager? The way I look at it, the difference lies in a handful of subtle yet crucial traits exhibited by this new biz whiz breed:

1. The T-shaped trait: These folks combine a strong mix of Marketing Management and Experience Design, and understand the importance of storytelling, Brand Strategy, and Experience Design. They are gifted strategists with extremely well developed creative, communications and context-building skills. They are intellectually curious, deeply entrepreneurial problem solvers.

2. The Green Egg trait: Process improvement, an eye to new markets and a passion for Innovation are their biggest professional drivers. These folks are agents of change. These are the people who will take your company to the next level in its evolution (if you let them).

3. The “good enough” aversion trait: These folks are way too passionate to tolerate a “good enough” mentality. Their job is about much more than turning a crank and picking up a paycheck. They’re change agents – not for the sake of change, but for the sake of driving to necessary leaps in a business’ evolution.

4. They ideation trait: These folks bubble over with ideas. They sketch a lot. They prototype. They like to test out their ideas. They seek out peers who can help them bring their ideas to life. They tend to be gadget and accessories freaks, even if they only own a few. They are designers at heart, if not technically in practice.

5. The connected trait: These folks have connected with their time. They understand the underlying strategic shifts going on right now that will change the landscape that your company operates in. They are good at connecting the dots: By being plugged-in to the world today in ways that most are not, they can clearly see what the business landscape will look like in two, five and ten years. This gives them the ability to be the architects of your company’s future. You may frown at their interest in social media tools like Twitter, Seesmic, Yammer and Facebook, but these are the tools of their trade: This is how they connect with their peers, with information, and with the shifting tides that will drive the market changes that will either sink or remake your business in the next decade.

Here’s more on that from Gavin:

We are also reaching a certain maturity in the way that marketers work with social media. There are now case studies on the effectiveness of social media, there are tools that help us measure and react to conversations and there are an increasing number of corporate roles for “community managers” or even “directors of social media”.

In this environment, the focus is no longer on learning the tools, but on refining the way that we interact with them. It is about bringing social media into our businesses, integrating it with our other marketing efforts and focusing efforts in a way that deliver business results.

Read the whole post here.

I am glad you brought up the notion of this new type of business leader, Gavin. I’ve been trying to put my finger on this for a few years now. Still not quite there yet… But for those of us living at the intersection of Business Management, User & Community Engagement, Marketing Communications, Product Design, Innovation, and the evolution of Social Media tools, starting to put a name to the thing is way overdue. With most business leaders spending at least 85% of their time turning the crank and making sure their businesses run properly, who is in charge of actually driving the business to its next evolution? Department managers? Sales? The COO? The CMO? 15% or less of a business leader’s day potentially devoted to improving – not just running – their business. Scary. In a rapidly changing world/economy/market, it pays to have at least one person (better yet, a whole team of them) a) focusing on what’s next, and b) getting the business ready for it.

Does the opportunity for such folks exist as a layer between the CEO and the other C-suite execs (CMO, COO, CFO, Manufacturing, Design Engineering, Sales, etc.)  Is the role better suited to function as a team-based cluster of upper-mid-level Business Directors? Perhaps a Brand Czar who provides direction to all departments but answers directly to the CMO? Is there a better name for the role? Can this type of individual force an overhaul of the traditional corporate org chart?

Big tip of the hat for getting that discussion started, my friend.

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Don’t call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear…

“Mama Said Knock You Out” – LL Cool J

As I’ve already lamented, moving the brandbuilder from blogspot to wordpress several months ago effectively destroyed its search engine relevance: Years of hyperlinks, trackbacks and traffic were left behind at the old url, and the brandbuilder’s new web address essentially rolled the odometer back to zero. The impact on my readership wasn’t too bad – you guys quickly found your way to the new URL and RSS, and daily visits went back to normal after a few short weeks – but solid daily traffic alone can’t rebuild my technorati and other search engine relevance overnight. It’s going to take time to get back to the various Marketing blog rankings put forth by Technorati, Viral Garden, Power 150, etc. I am just going to have to be patient and let technology do its thing. Grrrr.

That being said, Buzz Canuck‘s Sean Moffitt may just have tossed the (new) BrandBuilder blog its first bone by including me in his Ryder Cup of Word-of-Mouth, Buzz, and Viral dream team:

With the advent of golf’s best entertainment showcase about to take place, I thought I would provide the WOM version of the famed Ryder Cup tournament.

Why not pit the top 36 bloggers from the USA that speak on the subject of word of mouth, viral, buzz, influence and the engaging brand against the top 36 international bloggers that muse on the same subject?

Unlike some of the social media- and tech dedicated marketing and media bloggers, these broad-minded bloggers and company heads (below) have distinguished themselves by helping visitors understand how ideas spread, online and offline, through a range of different strategies and tactics and each recognizes the importance of having brands getting noticed, talked about and advocated in a 2.0 world. In my opinion, they are much closer to explaining the purpose and benefits of a range of new media, web 2.0, co-creation, social networks and other web, cultural and social phenomenon.

For my social media appetite, they are also among the best at understanding the art and science of buzz, not getting too hung up on the Silicon Valley gossip, the backslapping self-promotion (with the race exception), the technology minutiae, the journalistic ethic or political meaning behind peer-generated ideas, content and advocacy.

To my knowledge, no one has yet built the all star list of word of mouth savvy blogs – too often our best are muddled with overarching marketing categories (The Power 150) or not fully descriptive, catch-all social media lists. So here is my list, I’ve visited and read them all – my apologies to some of the non-english speaking International squad (there are limits to my comprehension even with pictures) and to some inevitable oversights.

To see my name next to such industry thought leaders like Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell, Andy Sernovitz, Sam Decker, Joseph Jaffe, John Moore, Mack Collier, Tom Asacker, Corante and Marketing 2.0’s very own Francois Gossieaux, and fellow Greenville resident and favorite sparring partner Spike Jones – to name but a few – is pretty humbling. I am very honored.

Check the whole list here. It’s pretty solid.

Segue:Imagine what would happen if you put us all in one room? Seriously. One firm. One think tank. One agency. All of us there. We could be like The Justice League of the Marketing world. Scary.

I definitely raise my glass to Sean Moffitt’s 100% non-scientific method for generating the list. Well played, sir. Well played. Thanks for marking the start of my return to “the lists.” (The check’s in the mail, buddy.)

Have a great, internet fame filled day, everyone! 😉

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Ah. Air travel. One of my favorite topics (usually filed under “broken system report”).

So… according to a recent study of air travel satisfaction, the US air travel infrastructure seems to be heading in the wrong direction. While technology, marketing and customer experience design are making giant forward leaps, the airline industry in the US seems to be taking giant steps backwards… or maybe not since a giant step backwards would actually mean comfortable seats, friendly staff, real onboard food/drink service, on-time arrivals, and no one getting bumped. Ever.

The reality, however, is pretty scary, as anyone who flies the friendly skies on a regular basis already knows. (Don’t even get me started about the steel cart of death.)

From MSN.com:

On-time arrivals dropped for the fifth straight year, with more than one-quarter
of all flights late, according to the survey. The rates of passengers bumped
from overbooked flights and bags lost, stolen or damaged also jumped in
2007.

Stolen bags. Hmmm. Yeah. I hope that Homeland Security and the TSA have a backup plan in case the whole baggage handlers as a first line of defense thing doesn’t work out.

Six airlines — Frontier, Northwest, SkyWest, Southwest, United and US
Airways — showed declines in every area in the survey, although Southwest still
had the best on-time arrival mark at 80.1 percent. The Dallas-based carrier also
had the lowest rate of consumer complaints, 0.26 per 100,000 passengers.

Still, the airline has not been immune from problems. It is fighting a
record $10.2 million fine from the Federal Aviation Administration for
continuing to fly dozens of Boeing 737s that hadn’t been inspected for cracks in
their fuselages.

American, Delta and United airlines recently canceled flights to
perform unscheduled inspections of certain aircraft, and US Airways found
problems on some Boeing 757s after a wing part on one of its planes fell off
during a flight.

Wonderful. In retrospect, maybe having to pay $7 for a ham-like-meat sandwich and being forced to deal with passive aggressive flight attendants with questionable hygiene are the least of my worries.

The Airline Quality Rating study, compiled annually since 1991, is based on
Transportation Department statistics for airlines that carry at least 1 percent
of the passengers who flew domestically last year. The research is sponsored by
the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and by Wichita
State University. The other airlines in the survey were AirTran, Alaska,
American Eagle, Atlantic Southeast, Continental, Jet Blue and Mesa.

Among the study’s conclusions:

– More than one-third of Atlantic Southeast Airlines flights were late, the worst on-time performance in 2007.

– The airlines also bumped passengers more often, at a rate of 4.5 per 10,000 passengers. JetBlue and AirTran were far ahead of their competitors in avoiding bumping passengers from flights, at 0.02 and 0.15 per 10,000 passengers, respectively.

– AirTran had the best baggage handling rate, at 4.06 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. American Eagle ranked last in baggage handling with 13.55 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

Crazy.


Growing up in France in the 70’s and 80’s, I learned at a pretty early age to discern which European (and non-European) countries had the highest standards of living by experiencing their travel infrastructure – including airlines.

If we are to be a shining beacon to the world, we really can’t afford to allow the quality of our air travel to sink this low. We already don’t have much of a rail system, so it isn’t like we can fall back on Plan B. There are no bullet trains that can get us from Houston to Chicago, from DC to Miami, or from Atlanta to San Francisco.

Some airlines are managing to thrive in this dreadful state of disrepair, as they should. Shame on the airlines that can’t adjust to rising costs and aging aircraft. Yeah, sure, prices may need to go up a bit, but you can offset a 5-10% uplift in ticket prices by giving passengers something in return (and no, I don’t mean sky miles). It’s like everything else. When the conversation drifts to price, then you haven’t done a good job of selling value.

If you want to change the conversation and talk about something other than price, then you’d better have something great to talk about. How about this:

1. First, make sure you have the most impressive safety record in the industry, and TALK ABOUT IT. (If US Air’s wings lose parts during flight, you want to be on the total opposite end of that spectrum.)

2. Hire professional looking/acting staff. You’re in the airline industry, for crying outloud. Bring a little bit of glamour back to your brand experience and make your company’s name synonymous with that hint of luxury. I want to be greeted with smiles at the check-in, at the gate, and onboard the plane. I want to be treated like a valued guest, and not like another ass-in-seat hassle. I don’t want to be berrated by a power-tripping ogre struggling to deal with another 2-3 lousy years left until retirement. Give me smiles and professional looking people. You know, with uniforms that a) fit properly and b) get pressed every once in a while. Give me enthusiasm and manners. If hotels and most companies in the US can do it, surely airlines can as well.

3. In-flight service: Look it up. Hint: Charging $7-$10 for a POS vending machine sandwich is just dumb and beyond gauche. #1: You’re ripping off your own customers, and they will remember it. #2: Food of such insipid quality doesn’t belong on your flights. (Not unless you stow wooden crates and live poultry in the same hold as your passengers.) Treat your passengers well.

4. Scratch overbooking from your MO.

5. Invest in some toiletry kits. That way, when the baggage handlers at one of your twenty+ airports steal a passenger’s Vuitton suitcases, you’ll at least give your angry passenger a) Fresh breath, and b) the notion that while the airport may not care about them, you sure as hell do.

6. Buy aircraft with comfortable seats. (Before buying the damn things, get your senior execs to fly from coast to coast in one of them.)

7. Drop routes that don’t make sense. Better to be small and great than big and crappy.

8. Be insanely nice to your passengers when they exit the plane.

9. Toys or coloring books for kids. Yes, even in the era of Gameboys, iPods and PSPs, the ubiquitos free branded toy goes a long way.

10. I hate to sound like Papa Seth, but make te experience memorable (in a positive way). Just like The Standard Hotel makes a point to make every detail of the guest experience cool and story-worthy, an airline can (and should) as well. Redesign your uniforms. Redesign your aircraft interior. Redesign the entire experience of booking, checking-in, waiting at the gate, boarding the aircraft, flying, landing and exiting the terminal memorable. (It doesn’t need to eat into your profits either. A little bit of forethought doesn’t hurt.) In other words, get your heads out of the numbers for a bit and take a more holistic approach to managing your business/airline.

In other words, build some value.

Stop whining, stop complaining about the price of fuel and the pilots’ unions and overcrowding at most of our country’s airports, and do whatever you have to do to become the best damn airline in the US (and then the world).

If the issue is Wall Street, fire your board, appoint people to it who can put together a rejuvenation plan, and send them to speak to your investors with a kickass proposal they will rally behind. Make them understand that business-as-usual and damage-control won’t cut it in the long-term, and that you have a real plan to get back on track. Not just financially, but from a true market leadership standpoint.

Easier said than done? Sure. Of course. But that’s no reason not to try.

Just for sport, let’s have a show of hands: How many airlines are doing this right now?

1? 2? 3, maybe? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

For shame.

This is not a problem that can be fixed by cutting costs (the equivalent of ancient medicine’s practice of bleeding sick patients). This is a problem that must be fixed through cultural change from within the organization: Airlines that stand for something and deliver on the expectations of their most critical passengers will stand out and do extremely well. Those who are merely content to stay afloat, those who fear Wall Stree and fickle investors, those who have no plan to rebuild their airlines as opposed to slowly bleeding them to death or relying on government bailouts will continue down this ill-fated path.

When I bite into a stale $7 POS sandwich on a crowded flight with dirty floors, mean flight attendants and no chance of making my next connection, all I see is lousy leadership, and it sucks.

This really needs to be fixed.

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Every company I’ve ever worked with (or for) that shifted its focus from innovation and market leadership to playing it safe and letting their competitors take chances with new technologies, designs or business endeavors saw their brands erode faster than beach-front property in a hurricane.

The pattern is always the same:

1) Decide that innovation is too risky or costly or time-consuming.
2) Settle into a reactive – follow-the-leader – mode. Let other companies innovate and test the market for you.
3) Find yourself playing catch-up (get used to being 6-18 months behind the market leaders for all product releases and rolling out new services). Lose relevance.
4) Within two years, watch your sales drop, your contract renewals crumble, and your margins erode.
5) Realize that the most direct effect of brand erosion is finding yourself having to compete at lower pricepoints (i.e. against those pesky asian imports).
5) Start discounting products and services to compete against second and third-tiered “competitors” you never had to worry about before.
6) To reduce costs, part ways with your best vendors and settle for cheaper ones.
7) Outsource manufacturing and/or other business functions – like customer service – to a lower bidder (usually overseas somewhere).
8) Start having to deal with lower and/or inconsistent quality: More returns, more complaints, increased costs of doing business – further margin erosion.
9) Start having to deal with inconsistent deliveries, back-orders, etc.
10) Erosion in customer satisfaction = erosion in customer referrals = erosion in customer retention.
11) Increase advertising and PR budget to counterbalance negative image and try to regain market share.
12) End up spending more on useless Marketing and PR than on actually building a better company.
13) After a few years of steady brand erosion, get suckered into spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to update your logo and tagline in an effort to re-brand yourself.

And so on, and so forth. The pattern is ALWAYS the same.


So… be careful. Don’t assume that innovation and great ideas are too expensive to develop or to complicated to put into action. That kind of thinking is not an option. Don’t settle for being reactive when you should be proactive. Don’t just hire people who will manage workloads: Hire people who will give you an edge over the rest of your industry. Change your mindset. Redefine your purpose.

Drive your company’s evolution – Not next week or next quarter, or next year, but today. With your next project meeting. With your next marketing campaign. With your next design. With your next hire.

It isn’t all that hard. It starts with the decision to just be better.

So just be better.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. 😉

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