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Why are leading brands turning to progressive Brand Activism?

How do brands align their values with the values of their customers, their employees, and society at large?

LOCATION

We offer the workshop in two locations:

(1) in Sarasota, Florida (workshop led by Professor Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar)

(2) on your company's premises (workshop led by Christian Sarkar)

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

Senior executives responsible for company/brand strategy and direction

CONTENT

The workshop introduces executives to the strategic power of Brand Activism done right.

  • What is Brand Activism?
  • How are leading companies stepping up? (NIKE, PUMA, Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Patagonia, The Body Shop, Kenneth Cole, and more)
  • The role of Trust: local, national, and global
  • What are the existing models for Brand Activism?
  • An introduction to the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework
  • Understanding Brand Activism strategy
  • The CEO as Brand Activist
  • How do you find your authentic Brand Activism story?
  • What could possibly go wrong?
  • Aligning values and building movements
  • Measuring the impact of Brand Activism (Return on Trust)
  • Discussion
  • Follow-up

TOOLS

  • Brand Activism Mapping
  • The Brand Activism Canvas

Contact us to learn more via our ActivistBrands website >>

I have joined Mark Blessington and Karl Hellman as partner in a new type of marketing firm, one that's centered around customer consent. The name of this enterprise, appropriately enough, is Consentric Marketing.

We believe customer-centric thinking takes a great leap forward when consent is placed at the center of the marketer's thinking:

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Here are three papers that we offer without requiring registration:

Between us, we have eight key areas of expertise:

  • Marketing Transformation
  • Ecosystem Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Product Management Training and Coaching
  • Brand Activism
  • Customer Data
  • Buyer's Journey
  • Personas
In addition, here's a sample of our blog postings:

Learn more about us, and what we can do to help your business grow.

A Defense of Philip Kotler

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Recently, my dear friend and mentor - Professor Philip Kotler (yes, that Kotler!) got entangled in a squabble between Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, and Rahul Gandhi, the dynastic leader of the Congress party.

The fun began when Professor Kotler presented the Prime Minister with the inaugural Philip Kotler Presidential Award, an award that recognizes Shri Narendra Modi's leadership qualities on the global stage. 

Because his physician had advised him not to travel, Professor Kotler chose his friend Professor Jagdish Sheth, an eminent marketer in his own right, to present the award on his behalf.

The award was presented by a delegation led by Professor Sheth on January 14, 2019. Also part of the delegation were representatives of the World Marketing Summit which had held a conference in Delhi in December of 2018.

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The Reaction

The next day, this tweet from Rahul Gandhi poked fun at the award, seeking to undermine not just the PM, but, more importantly for me, the integrity of Professor Kotler as well:

Almost immediately, the comments inspired by the post fell into two categories - insults and praise; insults from Rahul Gandhi followers and praise from PM Modi supporters.  The tone of these comments was shrill, with many attacking Professor Kotler directly.

Professor Kotler and I were shocked.  The article questioning the award was written by a leftist outlet which casts doubt on the award: 

The government's press release makes no mention of jury members, nor the exact organisation behind the new award.

The media pounced on the story and added to the controversy:

Even one of my literary heroes - Shashi Tharoor - piled on, going so far as to call the award a fake.

Questions & Answers

As questions were raised, I decided to collect and answer them:

Is the award real? ("...little information has been shared about the provenance of the latest award, or the organisation presenting it.")

Yes, it is real.  And why would people like Tharoor assume it was fake? The "journalists" in Rahul Gandhi's tweet did not follow the first rule of journalism which is - check your facts with the source.  How easy it would have been to Google Philip Kotler and contact him through his Northwestern faculty page.

Who is Philip Kotler?  What qualifies him to give this award?

Along with Peter Drucker, Professor Philip Kotler is considered to be one of our greatest management thinkers. Who is the leading business scientist in history? According to the Hirsch-Index its Philip Kotler with an h-index of 163, followed by Michael Porter with 159. 

Ask any MBA student anywhere in the world, and you will find that they have studied Professor Kotler's books. He has received 22 honorary degrees from around the world, and published over 70 books. His 50+ years of work with the Kellogg School of Management has resulted in building the #1 Marketing department in the world.

Professor Kotler is a man with great integrity and openness. He is also one of the smartest thinkers to grace the planet. He is in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame (2013), and is featured as a "guru" in the Economist.

Who chose the award? Why is there no jury?

Professor Philip Kotler made the final decision after a committee for the World Marketing Summit came up with a list of possible candidates.  

Professor Kotler explains via a letter published on his blog: 

lettertopmmodi_small.jpgWhy is Kotler's twitter account not verified?

Because Twitter has stopped verifying accounts, and Prof. Kotler never thought to ask. I messaged Jack Dorsey to ask him if he could make an exception for Professor Kotler.

Why was there no mention of the award on the Kotler website?

Professor Kotler's site is not updated often. When the Indian press started questioning the authenticity of the Award, Professor Kotler tweeted about it:

Why was the Indian site for the World Marketing Summit taken down?

After an event is over, often times the microsite that's used to describe the event and/or register participants is usually taken down.  The global site for the World Marketing Summit, Kotler Impact and Kotler Awards are still running.

What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about India?  

Professor Kotler is not just the "father of modern marketing." He is an economist and studied with some the greatest Economics teachers on the planet.  His involvement with India began in 1955, when he spent a year working on his PhD thesis in India. If the journalists bothered to read My Adventures in Marketing, they might have known that. Since then he has visited India often to teach and speak.

What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about democracy?

Professor Kotler has published books and written numerous articles on capitalism and democracy.  See: Democracy in Decline and Confronting Capitalism.

How to Argue 

Bottom line, I'm disgusted with the trash-talking that I see from the left-leaning Indian journalists and social media participants. 

Too many of our disagreements fall in the bottom two layers of Paul Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement:

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If someone wants to question PM Modi's track record, they would do far better through Refutation rather than Ad Hominem and Name-Calling.  Let that be a lesson for you, young Rahul, and for all who would seek to look childish: focus on the substance instead.

Professor Kotler, please excuse the mess caused by this controversy. 

DISCLOSURE:
I have worked and continue to work with Professor Philip Kotler on several projects, including The Marketing Journal, ActivistBrands.com, and FIXCapitalism. We've written a book together titled Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action (the print version is forthcoming).  No one asked me or paid me (in India, as elsewhere, paid-journalism is a thing) to write this.  I simply felt compelled to stand up for a learned man of great integrity. 

Professor Philip Kotler - the "father of modern marketing" - and I have co-authored a book: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action

Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It's what a good citizen does.  

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available in the following countries

US UK DE FR ES IT NL JP BR CA MX AU IN

The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator - for customers, for employees, and for society at large.  We also examine the role of the CEO.  

Here's a look at the table of contents:

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 5.54.07 PM.pngThe book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.  

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The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:

  • Scott Galloway
  • John Elkington
  • Raj Sisodia
  • John Ehrenreich
  • Christopher Davis
  • Stephen M. R. Covey
  • Hennie Botes
  • Stuart L. Hart
  • David "Dread" Hinds
  • Clark Fox

and 

Philip Kotler

Finally, we've launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more - www.activistbrands.com.  We hope you find it useful.

The Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporate personhood, or Citizen’s United.

In fact, I wonder what they’d think about capitalism as an enemy of democracy and a grave threat to the very survival of life on Earth.

Is democracy doomed?

What must we do to save capitalism from itself?

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Enter Phil Kotler. The legendary marketing guru is marketing a new sort of product these days. He is trying to fix Capitalism, a system he believes has helped create more wealth for more people than any other economic model.

Says the esteemed Professor Kotler (he’s taught at Northwestern for 50 years!) >>

“Capitalism must evolve to serve the needs of all citizens, not just the very affluent. Our goal is to discuss the 14 Shortcomings of Capitalism and systematically analyze the problems and potential solutions. We want to gather opinions and recommendations from everyone - and begin the process of saving capitalism from itself.”

It’s great to see one of the greatest capitalist minds working on reforming capitalism with a capital C.

According to Kotler, the current state of capitalism is falling short because it:

1. Proposes little or no solution to persistent poverty

2. Generates a growing level of income inequality

3. Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers

4. Doesn’t create enough human jobs in the face of growing automation

5. Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities

6. Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation

7. Creates business cycles and economic instability

8. Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons

9. Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy

10. Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens

11. Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning

12. Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anti-competitive behavior

13. Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth

14. Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.

So that’s my latest project - helping Kotler and friends get the word out and make a difference.

Like the $300 House Project, I’m helping build an “ecosystem of concerned folks” to face the challenge.

We began by enlisting the Huffington Post as our media partner. 

We now have a FIXCapitalism channel; we’re slowly beginning to get some attention with these articles:

Check out our FIXCapitalism website, read the book, like our FIXCapitalism Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter.

The future is too important to leave in the hands of the corporations and their paid stooges - the politricksters in D.C.!

Can you help? Connect us to others who are interested - who may have a point of view they want to share - and can help move the conversation forward. Join us!

Help spread the word!

In McKinsey's latest survey on business technology, few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT's ability to support growth and other business goals is waning.  Furthermore, "executives' current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative."

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This sort of criticism of IT is not new.  

In fact, it goes all the way back to Nick Carr's 2003 IT Doesn't Matter article in Harvard Business Review. At the time, Carr managed to infuriate the CEOs of numerous IT companies, including Craig Barrett, Intel's CEO, along with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.

"My point, however, is that it (IT) is no longer a source of advantage at the firm level - it doesn't enable individual companies to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. Essential to competitiveness but inconsequential to strategic advantage: that's why IT is best viewed (and managed) as a commodity."

- Nicholas Carr

At the time, there were numerous rebuttals to Carr's view, but none more powerful than the one from John Hagel and John Seely Brown.  They argued:

  • Extracting business value from IT requires innovations in business practices. In many respects, we believe Carr attacks a red herring - few people would argue that IT alone provides any significant business value or strategic advantage.
  • The economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations, rather than "big bang" initiatives. A process of rapid incrementalism enhances learning potential and creates opportunities for further innovations.
  • The strategic impact of IT investment comes from the cumulative effect of sustained initiatives to innovate business practices in the near-term. The strategic differentiation emerges over time, based less on any one specific innovation in business practice and much more on the capability to continuously innovate around the evolving capabilities of IT.

According to JH3 and JSB: far from believing that the potential for strategic differentiation through IT is diminishing, we would maintain that the potential is increasing, given the growing gap between IT potential and realized business value.

So how does IT become more strategic?  

The Wall Street Journal's Rachael King recommends:

CIOs also need to bring some transparency to their operations by sitting down with business leaders and going over the budget and setting priorities together. The CIO needs to also actively market how the IT department is driving value in terms that business can understand. For example, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson recently published an annual IT report where she detailed how her department implemented advanced data analytics that helped drive $351 million in revenue for the company.  

The ability for Ms. Stevenson to demonstrate the value of her organization's work in dollars and cents is changing how IT is perceived in the company. It changes the relationship from that of a service provider, a department that helps people set up servers or configure PCs, to one that uses technology to solve business problems.

CIOs must demonstrate and quantify the business value of IT.

What does this mean for the sales people of IT company's trying to sell to CIOs?  It means that the role of the CIO is often supplanted by business executives.  (In my discussions with our clients, I often emphasize this point.)

IT is so strategic, one could argue, that it is no longer left to IT.  Often it is CMOs and other non-IT business executives who are actively pursuing the mobile, social, and analytics strategies that are creating the organizational pull for new approaches to rapid application development, and as a by-product, the cloud services offerings needed to enable those strategies.

The new generation of IT will support new business strategies. This means that any vendor selling IT solutions will have to speak the language of business strategy.  And most importantly, the vendor will have to show the client how to achieve the "promised" benefits of IT.

So here's the takeaway: CIOs must work on getting a place at the strategy table.  When they do, they are viewed as effective business partners.  What must the CIO do to be viewed as a strategic partner?

Ask:

- Does your company have a clear view of how advances in IT (Big Data, AI, IoT, Cloud Computing) is likely to reshape your relevant markets over the next five years?

- What areas of business growth can IT contribute to?

- Does your company have an equally clear view of the implications for the changes you will need to make to continue to create value?

- Are these views shared effectively among your senior managers across the organization?

- Does senior management recognize the risks and uncertainties as part of the decision-making process?

- Has your company been sufficiently aggressive in using IT to improve strategic areas of your operations?

- Are there opportunities to use IT to improve operations around existing products and services?

- Are their opportunities to use IT to significantly reduce costs and cycle time in existing work processes?

- What are the data sources? How will you monitor them? How do you trigger events based on the intelligence gathered from the data? Is there a profit or cost-savings optimization opportunity?

FURTHER READING
Why CIOs should be business-strategy partners Feb 2015, McKinsey
Most CIOs are Not Seen as Influencing Corporate Strategy: Report, Feb 2015, Wall Street Journal
Public Cloud a first choice for minority of projects: Gartner CIO survey, March 2015, ARN

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Surely Richard Scarry would approve!

There's plenty of advice out there for UK-based TESCO' s new CEO Dave Lewis as pledges to return to the core of Tesco's business, "in price, availability and service."  

For me, there's a critical question: what one change will deliver an 80% difference in results?

I think I know.  I spent 6 months visiting TESCO at least twice a week when I was in Hertford, and all I can say is "wow." If you just view TESCO with the eyes of a typical US customer, it's obvious what that 80% difference is. 

There really aren't as many difficult calls as it seems.  

So, what's the one thing TESCO has to focus on?  Restocking shelves to meet demand during and after peak traffic.  

Every evening, right after after-work traffic died down, here's what the TESCO produce section would look like:

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Seriously.

And that's not all, their soft drinks are not replenished either. So if you go buy a Dr. Pepper in the morning, and then come in the next day - guess what?  No availability.  

This was a problem all over England.

Dave Lewis, just fix it.  Whatever it is they do here in the US to keep stocks replenished, copy it.

That's it. The one thing that will save TESCO.

Here's an interesting classification or segmentation of change makers (from Deloitte) along with some advice on how to make a difference via collaboration >>

Steady Supplier: Combine your contextual knowledge with the Public Value Innovators to create new value

Multirational Multinational: Engage with Citizen Changemakers to gain local insights and ideas

Investors: Connect Wavemakers to amplify impact

Public Value Innovator: Leverage the reach of the Multinationals to reach more communities

Citizen Changemaker: provide feedback to all in order to get to root issues

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The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>

The 2008 video version is here >>

I'm guilty. 

I go to my local bookstore, drink a coffee and browse the shelves. When I get home, I rush to the computer and buy the books I fancied - online! If it's a business book, I download a copy on my digital reader, and if it's a literary work, I buy the physical book at a discounted price. 

As a way to assuage my guilt, I've thought of some ways to help my local bookstore survive - because, like so many of us, I love the physical bookstore experience - nothing beats the Zen practice of disinterested info-grazing - and I'd like to continue to enjoy it.

However, I notice at my local Barnes & Noble that they're busy selling Nook ereaders in every cranny. [Do they really think they can compete with the iPad or even Kindle?] Is this really going to save the physical store?  Nope. 

Most likely, it's an idea dreamt up by the financial types at headquarters who've been "missioned" to tap into the digital value-stream. After all, why should B&N just stand there and watch their profits drift lazily down a South American river? It's important to note that despite B&N saying the Nook is a "success," they still rely on brick and mortar stores (retail and college bookstores) for over 75% of their revenue and the competition is going to become even more intense with dozens of new tablet and reader devices being introduced this year.

And how does B&N take a trip down the Nile? Apparently, the secret sauce is that they allow Nook owners to take their devices into any B&N physical store and read any e-book for free. Nooktalk tells us  that in reality, it's not exactly a seamless reading experience.  And now that Amazon allows Kindle owners to "lend" books to each other, the Nook may find itself in the, ahem, corner.

So what can your local bookstore do to take advantage of its strengths? 

Here are three suggestions to shake up the physical bookstore business model:

Daily Book Rental
Why can't the bookstore become a pay-as-you-read library? As a kid growing up in India, I remember borrowing books (alright, some these were Asterix and Tintin comics) from the bookstore for a daily fee.  This business model shows some reverse innovation promise. Can you imagine "tiered pricing" linked to free coffee rewards?  Sign up for the all-you-can-read buffet. And of course, we get to pay fines if we return our books late.

Publish and Distribute Local Books
What if a physical copy of your book gets published in-store and sold in your town's bookstore?  Can you visualize a "Newbie Authors" section where one copy of your book gets to sit on the shelf for a week?  If it doesn't sell in a week, you can either pay for shelf space or you can buy your books back.  The minute you or your mother buys your Great American Novel, a new one is printed and placed on the shelf. The top 5 bestsellers in each town get national distribution and placement for a week.  Book fest!

Nurture Communities of Interest
Some book stores think they are already doing this by sponsoring author readings and cheese tasting events.  But what we need is more focused on the actual needs and interests of the customer - practical and impractical.  Here are some examples of the types of participatory communities that could be grown and nurtured in your local bookstore:

  • Healthy Living
  • Relationships
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Food + Wine
  • Storytelling/Writing
  • Music
  • Art History
  • Travel

How does a bookstore do this?  If you're Barnes and Noble, you could hire retired teachers to do this; pick people who are enthusiastic and spread their love of the subject.  If you're a small bookstore, you can still find enthusiastic community leaders to do the same - in fact you can specialize, and create a niche around the main clientele in your store.

Does all of this sound a bit off the wall?  Good, then it's worth a try.  The Nook, I'm sorry to say, isn't going to save Barnes & Noble.

P.S. Over at HBR, Sarah Green gives us another suggestion: Amazon should partner with Independent Bookstores!

What's Good about the USA

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Despite all the whining about the decline of the USA, and charts showing the downsizing of the American dream, today's a good day to reflect on why we still hold the promise of Abraham Lincoln's words in 1862: "the last best hope of earth."

A few thoughts:

1. The individual can still make a difference:  Check out Paul Farmer, Paul Polak, Michael Moore and, yes, Barack Obama. Give me an example of any other country in the world where someone like Obama could even remotely hope to be elected president.  See what I mean? Of course, the flip side of this is that you have corporate puppets like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, but I'll take the voice of the individual any day.  What's the alternative? China.  Enough said.

2. The rich aren't all money-grubbing pirates. More than any other country on earth, our rich turn to philanthropy to leave a legacy.  Check out the Gates Foundation or the Clinton Global Initiative.  Where else do we see this kind of private philanthropy at the individual level - from both rich and poor? Have you seen what happens in Bangladesh?  Note: I know, we do have folks like the Koch brothers who are busy strangling democracy while they protect their "freedom."  What about India?  Nope.

3. The United States is the world's largest source of humanitarian aid. Yes, despite all the whining, our government is still the largest donor by far. We can do better, but hey, you don't see anyone else even close in real dollars. This type of comparison is a statistical game.

4. We're far less sexist than Europe.  Seriously, that's a fact.

5. Class and caste barriers are far lower here, and can be overcome.  See point # 1.

6. Customer Service.  If you think customer service is bad in the US, you should see the rest of the world. Speaking from plenty of experience, we are in another league.

7. Independent thinking.  Not so widely seen on Fox, but still here.  The sheep to thinker ratio is far healthier in the US. 

8. Tolerance.  We are a tolerant nation. It's kind of funny when the most intolerant group we have is the atheists.

9. Melting Pot of People and Ideas. True in business, but also in social terms.  I'm still a fan of E pluribus unum.

Keep on keeping on, America. And may tomorrow always be better than yesterday.

Bin Laden lost.

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The story is captured in this snippet borrowed from a larger infographic from the New York Times. The middle class is under historic assault in the US, explains Robert Reich, and this bodes badly for democracy, not just here, but all over the world. 

Here’s the money quote:

Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.

During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.


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We’re losing our competitiveness, as well as our ability to lead.

There’s a growing sense in the business community that we must find a way to work together again. To do this, we have to reject political terrorism - the political brinksmanship which prevents us from finding common ground or even beginning to look for honest solutions. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, recently created a stir when he suggested that it was time to halt all political donations. Warren Buffett did the same with his no-nonsense plea to raise his taxes.

Welcome to the third world, America! Looks like we’re headed on the fast-track back to serfdom.  Brought to you in large part by the GOP and corporate Democrats.

The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.

Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?

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Keeping fingers crossed.  Thanks to Ingersoll-Rand for the sponsorship and to all the judges and advisers at 300House.com!  Thanks jovoto and COMMON. Thanks Shaun.

Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course - VG, my partner in crime.

For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields - software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement - and here's what I came up with at the end of the study. I'm interested in one metric - conversion to sales.

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Conversion to Sales

Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
Seminars: 5%

The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.

See you later, FB and Twitter... 

This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:

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Then it hit me.  This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities.  If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.

Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He's talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the device pays for itself (if it didn't, they wouldn't buy it.) So a drip irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three harvests a year instead of one.

Read all about it >>

The $300 House Challenge is showing us that individuals and companies are willing to make a difference.

Check out WorldHaus from Bill Gross and his team at IdeaLab. Read his Harvard Business Review post on the "design challenge" here >>

The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.

But Umair Haque asks the right questions:

  • Do designers have a seat in the boardroom -- or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
  • Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters -- or vice versa?
  • Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to "real" business decisions -- or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
  • Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff -- or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow's big ideas?
  • How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot -- or, as for most companies, almost none?

Seriously.

We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn't going to work anymore.


David Smith's HBR post on the financial challenge of the $300 House raises some very important issues:

Cracking the challenge of slums is the world's biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.

Join us >>

We're building a "creationspace" (JSB's word) for the $300 House-for-the-Poor at 300house.com >>

Please sign up, and tell your friends!

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

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The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered - without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe - from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

The political intentions of our GOP friends would leave the US with a hollowed-out economy.

Here is an example of how Obama’s unpopular bail-out for the auto-industry led to the creation of a new and critical cleantech industry - electric batteries - in this country. What say you, FOX News?

Watch:


Good for you Alex Bogusky! Can this ex-ad-man save the planet?

More on Hunter Lovins and Catherine Greener >>

Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client - the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them...

I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he's talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP's mess in the Gulf):

Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!

The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is - years ago - by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.



Jail time for these environmental terrorists.Call your congressperson…

For the first time, in 2010, online advertising will pass traditional advertising on TV and print:

admoney2010.gif

While this is remarkable, I can tell you where the highest ROI is. 

It's with the Republican party.  You can buy every single Republican vote for a paltry $34 million, as the health care circus has shown us.

Wow. Who needs Google when all you need is the budget for one Superbowl ad.  Think about that: all it takes to buy the entire GOP is one Superbowl ad.  There goes the future of our country. 

PS - On a side note, I wonder what it takes to buy our Supreme Court... 5 bucks to Clarence Thomas' wife?

Just a few days ago I praised Forrester’s decision to create individual blogs for all their analysts.  So they finally get it, I thought.  Boy, was I wrong!

Yesterday I noticed how their migration to the new blogging platform was executed:

forresterkaput.gif

Yes, that’s the dreaded “The requested page could not be found” message. 

Apparently, for Forrester, moving to a new platform means all old URLs die.

This is just so wrong. Linkrot is a common mistake that companies and institutions make all too often. For this to happen at an institution like Forrester shows me they don’t understand web basics.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of big companies have made this mistake, but for Forrester it’s inexcusable!

Maybe Forrester should have a chat with Jakob Nielsen.  Check this:

Any URL that has ever been exposed to the Internet should live forever: never let any URL die since doing so means that other sites that link to you will experience linkrot. If these sites are conscientious, they will eventually update the link, but not all sites do so. Thus, many potential new users will be met by an error message the first time they visit your site instead of getting the valuable content they were expecting. Remember, people follow links because they want something on your site: the best possible introduction and more valuable than any advertising for attracting new customers.
and

At other times, it becomes necessary to re-architect a site and impose a new structure. Even then, the rule continues to be: you are not allowed to break any old links. The solution is to set up a set of redirects: a scheme whereby the server tells the browser that the requested page is to be found at a new URL. All decent browsers will automatically take the user to the new URL, and really good browsers will even update their bookmark database to use the new URL in the future if the user had bookmarked the old URL.

I remember when the same stupid mistake was made by Harvard Business Review back when they switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org. Overnight, they destroyed their online ecosystem, as Forrester has just done.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  In today’s connected world, this is brand destruction plain and simple. Not the way to build an attention platform.

In 2000, back when I was working at a large software company, I was responsible for building their online communities. And part of the challenge was trying to explain to executives that “marketing is a conversation” and that conversations occur between people - opinionated, passionate people - not PR departments.

I’d make everyone read the cluetrain manifesto.

People are brands. And like brands, they can be fake or real. The real dilemma is this - is there a line, a demarcation between the voice of the company and the voice of the individual?

My point has always been this: when companies allow their employees to blog, they are strengthening their brand by making connections, building relationships, improving the quality of the conversation with the market, etc. etc.

And yes, there are times when people go off the deep end and act unprofessional. So you’ve got to have an employee blogging policy; and these days that means you’ve got to have a social media policy which covers Twitter, Facebook, and god-forbid, MySpace, along with the rest of the social stuff.

But all of this boils down to common sense; see Sun’s, Oracle’s blogging policy, for example.  The older version spelled it out like this:

1. Do not disclose or speculate on non-public financial or operational information. The legal consequences could be swift and severe for you and Sun.

2. Do not disclose non-public technical information (for example, code) without approval. Sun could instantly lose its right to export its products and technology to most of the world or to protect its intellectual property.

3. Do not disclose personal information about other individuals.

4. Do not disclose confidential information, Sun’s or anyone else’s.

5. Do not discuss work-related legal proceedings or controversies, including communications with Sun attorneys.

6. Always refer to Sun’s trademarked names properly. For example, never use a trademark as a noun, since this could result in a loss of our trademark rights.

7. Do not post others’ material, for example photographs, articles, or music, without ensuring they’ve granted appropriate permission to do this.

8. Follow Sun’s Standards of Business Conduct and uphold Sun’s reputation for integrity. In particular, ensure that your comments about companies and products are truthful, accurate, and fair and can be substantiated, and avoid disparaging comments about individuals.


When it comes to thought-leadership or a CEO blog, the voice of the individual is even more important.

Forrester gets this, finally.  In a recent blog post, Cliff Condon, Forrester’s VP in charge of their social media efforts, explains the company’s official position on the topic of analyst blogging:

   1. Forrester wants more analysts using social tools because it makes for better research.  The research we write for clients has always depended on a rich two-way conversation with experts and practitioners in the marketplace.  The rise of social tools like blogs and Twitter allows analysts to extend that conversation with more people in the marketplace.  The more smart people our analysts interact with, the better our research will be.  That’s the basis of the Groundswell.  Therefore, Forrester is investing in building social tools and associated best-practice training for our analysts so that more of them get involved. 

   2. We are building a new blog platform to provide each analyst with a personal blog.  Our platform today supports team blogs based on the professional roles we serve - such as the Forrester Consumer Product Strategy blog.  The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area.  We are doing this so that our analysts can have direct conversations with key players in the marketplace and so clients have the flexibility to engage at an individual analyst level or a team level.

   3. We want to make it easy for our clients.  Our clients rely on us to help make them successful.   They have told us that they are starved for time - they subscribe to our services in part because they conveniently get the insight they need from us and others who join in the Forrester conversation.  Therefore, we can best serve client needs by placing all of our blog content in one place (at blogs.forrester.com), and put it in context alongside the rest of our data and analysis.

I hope that adds some clarity to what we are working on - I’ll share more as we move closer to roll-out later in the quarter.  However, I felt it necessary to add to the conversation now since there has been discussion about analysts’ brands and the Forrester brand.  The fact is we want to do everything possible to give analysts a high degree of visibility. Giving every analyst a personal blog is a step toward that goal. Our analysts’ reputation and our own are tied together.  Our new blog platform is being designed to boost them both.


Definitely a step in the right direction for Forrester.

Every now and then, a CEO or company founder asks me one (or both) of these two questions:

1) must I have a separate blog from the company site?
2) do I have to use my name on the blog?

My answer depends on the individual. It's quite simple, really.

If I think they're a thought-leader in their industry - that's to say their opinions and ideas lead the field - then I often encourage them to blog under their own name on a blog that stands outside their company domain (more on that in a second).

The key assumption is that they are thought leaders. If  I don't get this assumption right, we are all wasting time. There's no point setting up a double-loop model if you aren't going to have something important to add to the conversation. Here's what to do instead: have a company blog, put your press releases on it, and talk about your products. Have your agency Twitter and Facebook away to their heart's content.  Just don't call it thought leadership, because it isn't.

So, now that we've established that, let's look at what is thought-leadership. 

thoughtlead.jpg

How do you know you are a thought leader?  Here are some clues:

1) people you've never heard of start emailing you long (relevant) notes about something you said on your blog

2) your clients start reading your blog - so do analysts, journalists, and others you respect

3) you notice your blog gets ten times more traffic than your company website

4) you start getting calls from prospects asking for your services (and products)

If these four things don't happen, (1) you're not blogging right, or worse, (2) you aren't a thought leader.

Now let's talk about individuals and why using your name is actually a very good idea.

Authenticity. People relate to other people.  We see this in entertainment: Oprah, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Elvis, Bob Marley; in sports: Shaun White, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Ali (and unfortunately Tiger Woods); and in business: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jeffrey Immelt. So if you're the founder or CEO, and you have a message worth getting out, you want people to know who you are. The connection is personal not corporate.

Passion. If you believe fiercely in what you say, do, and think, then it is this passion that people want to connect to - directly. Without that PR person.  Passion can't be staged.

Trust. Your voice as an individual is far more trustworthy than a faceless corp. And you are believable when you believe.

Findability. People search for names.  So if you write a book, they'll search for you, the author. "Byron Katie"* gets 10X more searches than "The Work," for example.

Longevity. As a person, you live till you die. You may switch companies, or labels, or publishers.  You, the brand, stays constant. Your attention platform is how you go direct to the customer, no resellers necessary. Your followers stay with you forever.

Ideas. Companies don't have good ideas, people do. Good ideas originate in the heads of your people.  These are your thought-leaders. Don't make them anonymous thinking this will help your company; it won't.

The Brand. Too much has been said about you, the brand. A company can renovate its brand by hiring an ad agency.  You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to be real.

Lately, even large companies are seeing the benefits of using thought leaders as ambassadors for their brands. 

So we see Don Tapscott and Tammy Erickson* at NGenera, JSB* and John Hagel* at Deloitte, Chris Meyer at Monitor, etc. etc.

At academic institutions we see examples like Vijay Govindarajan* at Dartmouth and Tom Davenport* and Larry Prusak* at Babson College.

ceo_lead.jpg

The CEO blog works well for startups and SMBs as well: Gaurav Bhalla* for Knowledge Kinetics, Francis Cholle* for The Human Company, Dean McMann* for McMann & Ransford, Phil Townsend* at Townsend and Associates, Bob Freling at SELF, and Steven Feinberg* at Steven Feinberg Inc.

When a blog is shared - i.e. when more than one executive participate -  then it is alright to pick another name, usually connected to the topic we want to blog about. See: Steve Lesem* at Mezeo.

* disclosure: Tammy Erickson, JSB, JH3, VG, Tom Davenport, Larry Prusak, Gaurav Bhalla, Francis Cholle, Dean McMann, Phil Townsend, Bob Freling, Byron Katie, and Steve Lesem are some of my clients.

No excuses.

First Tylenol, now Toyota. Same old story. Silence is not damage control.

Now the NHTSA is looking at the pedal maker. There must be a way to check the electronics - some way to look at the log files, perhaps?

Note that both companies are blaming their suppliers.

Is this the result of in-house PR?

Hail Corporatocracy!

Brought to you by our Corporate Supreme Court and the Corporate Propaganda Machine, er, Media.

Quote of the Week: I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country. - Thomas Jefferson

Is America Melting?

| No TrackBacks

Orville Schell's portrait of a Nation that says "No, We Can't".

Somehow, I think that the US still offers the world the best way forward.

Yes, despite the lobbyists and the money-grubbing pirates in high office, there is still hope.

Don't give in, America.

Go Google, Go!

It's time. The Chinese government never has any qualms about "doing evil," so it's good to see Google stand up for some principles.

FREE_XIAOBO.gifWhat a wonderful world. While you were wrapping Christmas presents, China decided to lock up Liu Xiaobo and throw away the key.

Xiaobo's crime?  He drafted Charter 08, which demands the open election of public officials, freedom of religion and expression, and the abolition of subversion laws.

His wife's cell phone mysteriously stopped working so she could not be reached by the press. Nice touch.

See Wikipedia >>

More info from PEN >>


This is something that keeps happening with IBM's FTP server.

ibm_oops.gif

I was just trying to download this report: Seizing the advantage. When and how to innovate your business model"...

I have to say, this happens all the time on the site.

What's going on IBM? This is not exactly the best way to win friends and influence prospects.

P.S. - will let you know if I ever get to the document!

UPDATE: Not sure if this is the same document, but I found it on the UK site.

UPDATE #2: Look what I found at Booz >>

UPDATE #3: And this from EY >>

According to MIT and the Internet, this is who I am (click to enlarge):

persona.gif

Find out who you are here >>

Listen to this:

Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the behaviors of rats addicted to heroin, a new study finds. Pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food. The results, presented October 20 at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, may help explain the changes in the brain that lead people to overeat.

So is this another example of addiction as a business strategy - similar to what the tobacco companies were doing earlier?

Maybe that's why the IT geeks have such a hard time implementing Lean IT >>

Alan Grayson makes the case for reconciliation at StopSenateStalling.com:

Throughout the administration of President George W. Bush, the Senate passed much of its key legislation by majority vote:

* The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 passed 54-44
* The Energy Policy Act of 2003 passed 57-40
* The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 passed 51-49
* The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 passed 54-44
* The FY2006 budget resolution and Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed 52-47
* The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act passed 55-45
* The FY2007 budget resolution passed 51-49

Today, under the administration of President Barack Obama, the House has passed bills preventing climate destruction and reforming our broken health care system, while the Senate searches for 60 votes in the face of Republican obstruction. Every day the Senate delays, more people die from lack of health care.

The filibuster should apply to the initiatives of both parties or to neither. Why should launching wars, and cutting taxes for the rich, require only 51 votes while saving lives requires 60?

Why indeed? Go to StopSenateStalling.com >>

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