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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.

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.

How does innovation happen? Most company's struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today's tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:

  • new ways of thinking,
  • new business models,
  • new processes,
  • new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
  • and new products (offerings including services)
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In his classic book - Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the late Peter Drucker found seven sources of innovation. The first four sources were internal, inside the enterprise, whereas the last three are external, outside of the company.

1. The Unexpected
2. Incongruities
3. Process Needs
4. Shifts In Industry And Market Structure
5. Demographic Changes
6. Changes In Perception
7. New Knowledge

A good description of the seven sources is here. Unfortunately, not everyone stumbles into innovation like the legendary 3M Post-It notes, or the unexpected discovery of Aspartame, but innovation can, and should be pursued in a systematic way.

Larry Keeley's Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs gives us a glimpse into how that might be:

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Here is an added insight from Keeley and friends: the things we love in the world--the services and systems we value and use--are the ones that make it easy to do hard things.

What does all of this have to do with business results?

Clearly there is plenty of room for innovation when it comes to designing superior, differentiated experiences for customers.  Every interaction with your customer can be differentiated, integrated with the purpose of the customer.  Make it easy to do business with you, said Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert, many years ago.

What about the power of ecosystems?  At the individual level, ecosystem thinking can help you create better ideas. it's all about disorganization.

Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:

  • Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
  • Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
  • Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
  • Wandering minds are more creative.
  • Studying a field "too much" doesn't limit creativity -- it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
  • The "accept everything" mantra of brainstorming doesn't work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
  • ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you're drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
  • Even with teams, it's better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
And at the organizational level, there's ecosystem strategy.  That's a post unto itself...

Ask:
- How do you make it easy for the customer to do business with you?
- What outcomes do you want to see?
- What is required to achieve those outcomes? 
- What must be done? What needs to change?
- How do we make innovation a embedded process?

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.

One of the reasons why Houston will never get a shot at hosting the Olympics (not that we want it, at this point) is because we don’t have a world-class transportation system. So while Houston is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US, we’re not even close when it comes to public transportation (can you believe we’re behind Dallas?). According to the 2010 U.S. Census, we have a population of over 2.1 million people and a land area of 599.6 square miles (and that’s not counting the suburbs). 

Houston is second only to New York when it comes to resident Fortune 500 companies.

So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t Houston have a world class transit system at this point in its history? And what can be done?

The traditional finger-pointing is political. Suburban taxpayers who supported referendums in 2003 and 2012 have demonstrated a desire for development, only to have officials shortchange them.  The latest in line is John Culberson, but to be fair, past opposition has come from both sides of the political aisle.

And who is behind these politicians?  You don’t have to look very far to see that Houston is an energy town - in fact it’s the “energy capital” of the world.  Our energy companies are not interested in a world class transit system;  for them, seems like widening the freeways is the only solution. This lack of civic leadership reflects poorly on our city and is going to be a burden going forward. Those Fortune 500 companies that call Houston home will find a better place to live.

To be clear: between the lack of leadership from business and the misleadership of our elected officials, Houston has a third rate transit system, used by less than 3% of the population.

There is no long-term plan in place. That, in itself, speaks to the magnitude of the problem.  Furthermore, any plan we do get is probably going to be a constrained plan that does nothing to address the real challenge.

What can be done? 

How can we bring our politicians and business leaders together? Or is Houston doomed to remain a third-class city when it comes to mass transit?

The reason I wrote this blog post was to highlight a third way. Let’s look at an example from a country and place where things are a lot harder than Houston. Delhi - the capital of India - is a city with 9.9 million, with horrible infrastructure problems.   Over the years, like Houston, no real attempt was made to build an infrastructure equal to the needs of the citizens.

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Then, in October 1998, ground was broken on a comprehensive metro system that had been talked about for over three decades. Today, the Delhi Metro is the world’s thirteenth largest metro system in terms of length. The network consists of six lines with a total length of 189.63 kilometres (117.83 mi) with 142 stations, of which 35 are underground, five are at-grade, and the rest are elevated. All stations have escalators, elevators, and tactile tiles to guide the visually impaired from station entrances to trains. It has a combination of elevated, at-grade, and underground lines, and uses both broad gauge and standard gauge rolling stock.

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What can Houston learn from Delhi?  At least three things:

1) build a METRO system worth having: don’t build a system that just clogs up already busy lanes to shuttle folks from one business hub to another.  Focus on the real issue: mass transit, specially the mass part.  We should aim for getting around 20-30% of our citizens on the METRO during rush hour, and that will only happen if we focus on real solutions.

2) use the right-of-way on existing freeways: the genius of the Delhi rail line is that it is elevated and runs along the main highways already in place. In Houston, this would mean our HOV lanes would be turned into METRO lines - elevated, above the traffic. Even the stations are elevated; which sounds weird, but actually it works very well. The image below is a METROstop along the line - well above the freeway:

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3) mass transit is too important to be left to METRO alone: in Delhi, and you have to appreciate the extent of corruption in public office to understand this, a special purpose organization was formed called the DMRC.  This cross-agency team was vested with great autonomy and powers to execute the gigantic project. In Calcutta where they did not have such a cross-agency team, the Kolkata Metro was badly delayed and 12 times over budget due to “political meddling, technical problems and bureaucratic delays.” The first phase of the Delhi Metro project was completed in 2006, on budget and almost three years ahead of schedule, an achievement described by Business Week as “nothing short of a miracle”.

So can miracles happen in Houston?  They can, if only our politicians and METRO folks would actually share some values - like putting aside their petty interests for the good of the city. I’m not holding my breath.  Hey, maybe we can build some more public funded sports arenas; those projects seem to have no problem getting funded!

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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MIT Sloan

This is going to be a central theme in business going forward: what is our purpose?

Here’s William Cohen talking about Peter Drucker’s perspective:

“…until Drucker came along most everyone believed the basic “fact” that the purpose of a business was to make money. That is, to make a profit. This belief leads to a corollary, another myth, believed by all—that is, that the goal of any business is profit maximization. Another words, whatever your business, your goal should be to make as much profit as possible. If you accept making a profit as a business’s purpose, the second part just follows naturally. This might even seem worthy to many. To quote Michael Douglas’s famous (or infamous) statement in his role as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movieWall Street: “Greed is good.” Even today many “know” greed, or profit maximization to be the correct prescription for business success, even if it is amoral or shouldn’t be “good” from a moral perspective. Not so fast, Gordon. As Drucker so often said, whatever everyone knows is usually wrong, Hollywood films not excepted. Drucker told us first that profit is not the purpose of business and that the concept of profit maximization is not only meaningless, but dangerous.”

Now Ratan Tata and gang (myself included) have a similar message

The problem with industrial capitalism today is not the profit motive; the problem is how the profit motive is usually framed. There is a persistent myth in the contemporary business world that the ultimate purpose of a business is to maximize profit for the company’s investors. However, the maximization of profit is not a purpose; instead, it is an outcome. We argue that the best way to maximize profits over the long term is to not make them the primary goal.

So what is to be done?  

What is your company doing to create purpose beyond profits? The future of our planet depends on your answer.

Read: Why Making Money is Not Enough

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

The 2008 video version is here >>

I know what some of you are thinking - "Well, did America have a soul to begin with?" I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is "We, the people..."

Furthermore, I'm quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)

But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I'd like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan's Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

inclusivity bookbuy now

BUY now >>


So what's all the fuss about? The book is about asking questions:

  • How can companies take better care of their employees--and thrive?
  • Why don't they see the opportunities in creating social value?
  • Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
  • What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
  • How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
  • How can public education prepare all students for the future?
  • How can better health care be made available without doctors?
  • How can communities do something about global warming?
  • How can you make a difference?
  • Why should you care?

Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people--starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.

The very idea of the "United" States is based on the principles of inclusivity--all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.

What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other - finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.

The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.

This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won't have one without the other.

The book includes the following sections:

  • What Is INCLUSIVITY?
  • Inclusive World
  • Inclusive Entrepreneur
  • Inclusive Economy
  • Inclusive Cities
  • Inclusive Education
  • Inclusive Health
  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Inclusive Future
Let us know what you think!

P.S. - We don't want this, do we?

Michael Gordon's book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers - the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world. 

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The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:

1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?

2) What's the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?

The reason I'm helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world's biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn't making things any easier...

Are you a changemaker?  Go find out >> 

P.S. - you can download the PDF version here >>

Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.

Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:

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Thanks, Adrian!  Read the article here >>

And if you haven't already, submit your ideas to the $300 House Open Design Challenge!

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... 

Report: Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist: Be Proactive or Become Social Media Help Desk
View more documents from Jeremiah Owyang.

I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang when a  “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly what happened with corporate community managers - back in the heady days of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain). 

Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own. 

That’s what I did with Double Loop Marketing. And it’s still the best professional decision I ever made.

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 Solar Electric Light Fund's Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.

Here's Bob waxing eloquent:

Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care, educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and sustainable future.

Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>

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?

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In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina. Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.

Take away government nuclear subsidies, and the case is closed!

Read the report >>


Watch:


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

More on Hunter Lovins and Catherine Greener >>

Watch:

The book that tells the story is Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It's truly inspirational, as is the story told by Will Harlan - he's in the video - about his encounter with the Raramuri, the Running People.

Of course, the main man is Caballo Blanco. Check out Norawas as well.

Now, where's my Iskiate?

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:

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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.

My client, Dean McMann, discusses the "customer intimacy" journey on his site: proservmm.gif

This is what we are fed daily... small wonder we don't watch the news!

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?

Looks like God is playing dice with the Universe.

Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), in cooperation with colleagues from Oxford and Bristol Universities, as well as the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, have for the first time observed a nanoscale symmetry hidden in solid state matter. They have measured the signatures of a symmetry showing the same attributes as the golden ratio famous from art and architecture.

And the winning number is:

\varphi = \frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}\approx 1.61803\,39887\ldots\,

or

\varphi = [1; 1, 1, 1, \dots] = 1 + \cfrac{1}{1 + \cfrac{1}{1 + \cfrac{1}{1 + \ddots}}}


The proper response to this should go something like "OMG!"

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

persona.gif

Find out who you are here >>

Step one: Know who you are...

businessclarity.gif


borrowed from Alina Wheeler's Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team  >>

Phil Townsend wonders why GE hasn't opened up it's Reverse Innovation model in his post: Opening up Reverse Innovation >>

Townsend makes a good point:

So why can't a company like GE follow down this path with "open reverse innovation" - inviting small companies in India and China to submit their products, services and ideas to be evaluated by GE for global distribution.  Of course, the open model would require an environment of trust - but what better way to create goodwill in new markets than to be seen as a development partner in the China, India, and resource-starved Africa?  A.G. Lafley sits on GE's board; surely he could help them get started.
Townsend also proposes the formation of innovation collaboratives funded by companies like GE to create a pipeline of new products for GE. 

Not a bad idea, if you consider that a recent McKinsey survey found that 20% of companies have opened up their innovation processes to employees and customers and they report a 20% rise in the number of innovations, on average.

Edo Segal has an interesting guest blog at TechCrunch describing the “Future of Media.”

He points to Apple’s App Store as an example of what the rest need to learn:

The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a media company can generate is to couple said experiences with extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation. They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is the future evolution of the media industry. It has arrived from a company that is delivering the goods. Apple has made it painless for consumers to spend money and get the media they want where they want it, proving that consumers are happy to pay for media if delivered in ways that make it easy and blissful to consume.

He also states, rather matter of factly, that “he premise of extending the media experience to the cloud is a core necessity for the survival and growth of the media industry.”  I agree.  The media industry needs to “sell access and experiences, not media files.”

So how does an artist or a media company build these experiences?

I’ve been doing some thinking along these lines for a band I’ve followed for many years - Steel Pulse. What’s interesting is that while the band has a huge, global, cross-generational following built over the past 35 years - the media companies that were responsible for promoting them have done absolutely nothing to tap into this enthusiasm.  Not one thing.

The same goes for most of my business thought-leader clients as well.  The publishing houses do nothing to create a conversation with the passionate fans. 

Engagement is the key.  How does a musician or an author engage with their audience, their fan-base?  It starts with the quality of the conversation. And let me tell you, it’s far easier for an individual thought-leader or musician to do this than companies, largely because companies are too formal, too corporate, and don’t usually communicate with a human voice.

What’s needed is a way to go direct. 

Let the celebrity or thought-leader engage with their fans directly to build an attention platform, unique to the celebrity. The company that empowers this attention platform, and builds new services for the fans, will build the next media empire with the “lock-in” that comes with authentic engagement. 

Of course, none of this works without authenticity.  The celebrity must remain true to themselves. In Steel Pulse’s case, this means they need to stick to their core brand dimensions.  So each successive album, each song, each product, each statement, builds on the Steel Pulse Experience.wordle_spbrand.gif

They could even track the core messages of a successful album - in this case “True Democracy” - and extend their meaning in new songs and releases:

wordle_truedemocracy.gif

So now let’s talk engagement, and I’ll break it into two simple phases - push and pull (borrowed from JSB and JH3).

Phase One: PUSH

So what does the celebrity do today?  In Britney Spears’ case, she’s tweeting her launch of a new song.  To me that’s not much of anything. Yes, she’s reaching out through social media -Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace - but these are all still one way marketing pitches - push media.

The artist pushes their songs, their products, their newsletter, their tweets, etc. etc. No discussion, no give and take.  Products are created and sold. One market, one size fits all. Core fans are treated the same as newbies. Nothing special except the show and the products - media files: audio or video. See what I’m getting at?

All of this is still just pushing product.

Phase Two: PULL

What happens if the fans come to you - with their suggestions, requests, and insights? What happens when they want to participate? Is it possible to co-create products and services based on insights from yoru fans?  Of course it is.

Start the conversation. Go 80/20: focus on the 20% of fans that will get you 80% of your profits. Start talking (and listening) to your biggest supporters.

Engage: physically meet the 20%. Create special events for them. In soccer for example, fans pay $30-50 dollars just to watch Cristiano Ronaldo practice. What’s wrong with doing a 30 minute sound check for your fans?  Invite them to the sound check - and have exclusive “sound check products” available only for these fans - available at the event, and online as well.  You could even have a question and answer session that they get to download later that evening.

Then of course you sell the live version of the show - for a “limited time only.” Vary the show slightly with the song set, so every night is a different.

Let your fans download the raw tracks and make their own mixes. Have a contest for the best mixes. Sell the mixes to other fans.  Use them in your album.

And when you create a new album, it’s version-time.  Reggae music has a long history of selling versions. What’s sad is they’ve stopped this traditional practice when really they need to be exploiting it. (See Hal Varian on versioning.)  So every song should have the following versions: album version, extended version, dub version, accapella version, acoustic version, dance version, Nyabinghi version, etc. etc.  

Talk to the fans about the songs through webcasts, band-calls.  Let then know where and what’s next.  Let them vote on what you should do next.

For legacy songs, make sure you sell versions-in-time. The 1983 version of Chant a Psalm a Day is quite different from the 2000 version, which again is totally different from the 2009 version. Real fans want them all.

All of this is do-able today. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude, and the ability to communicate, to lead.  For a cause-driven band like Steel Pulse, this is their opportunity to shine.

And let your fans share in creating and spreading your experience.

Now let’s take a quick look at the business world. 

VG, as he’s called affectionately, is an author and well known strategist. His latest article in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Jeffery Immelt and Chris Trimble, has been a huge success - introducing the world to a concept called reverse innovation.

What we’re doing now is building his engagement strategy - through his innovation newsletter.  The idea is to start a conversation about innovation with the people most interested in this topic.

A small step to start, but I know from experience that a “simple” newsletter can drive over 50% of monthly sales online.

The great news is anyone can build an attention platform like this. And if you have something important to say, your platform will bring you the attention you deserve. 

It may even elect you President!

As I was finishing up on this, I just saw a tweet from John Hagel on author platforms (read here). Again, if Apple can help an author or musician build that platform, then Apple will “lock-in” that artist for life.  Same goes for Amazon.com. The distribution model for media is changed forever, period.

This is a digital reprint of an interview I did about ten years ago with UC Berkeley’s Hal Varian. At the time Varian was co-author of a bestseller: Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy; it’s still worth reading today. Today he’s the Chief Economist at Google. There are still a number of good things in this interview that the media companies could learn from…  (I’m a bit embarrassed by the silliness of my questions, but hey.)

I suppose we should begin by asking you for your definition of “information” and what you call “information goods”.

When we talk about information goods, we mean anything that can be digitized. Text, pictures, moving images, sound, all the media that can be delivered over a digital connection. Some people call them digital goods.

Information goods have some interesting properties. On the supply side there’s normally a big fixed cost to create the first copy, of say a movie, and then a negligible cost to create additional copies. On the demand side, the interesting feature is that you don’t really know what information is until after you’ve consumed it. So you have to experience it to know what it is.

When you’re selling information, you’re dealing with how do you give free samples, how do you give part of it away, how do you establish a reputation so people will purchase the information you’re providing, etc. etc.

I read about a travel publishing company that put its contents on-line, and their book sales went up, because people wanted the books with them when they traveled…

Yes. Another example is the National Academy of Sciences. They found when they put all their content on line and people could actually look at what the content was, they were more likely to buy.

What are some of the techniques you find companies use to create and sell information products? How do you sell an information product to different customers at different prices? How do you find out what the different customers will pay? Can you do this on a website?

The trick is to “version” your information product: construct a product line of your information goods that will appeal to different market segments. A common way to do this is to use delay: issue a book first in hardback, then, a few months later issue a cheaper edition in paperback. The people who are really interested will get the hardback, whereas people who are only casually interested will wait.

We see financial sites on the Web that sell real-time stock quotes, but give away quotes that are 20-minutes delayed. A movie first comes out first in the theater then six months later in video.

Then there are other things, user-interface, for example. If you look at Dialog, which is a search company, they have two types of search engines- one is a professional search engine, with Boolean searches and all sorts of options, and then they have an “ordinary-person” search engine, with a stripped down interface. It’s nice because the ordinary person wants to use the simpler interface, while the paying professional uses the professional interface. So there isn’t any cross-market cannibalization.

Other dimensions on which to version your product are user convenience, image resolution, capability, features, tech support, etc.

You mention Gresham’s Law of Information in your book. What is it?

Gresham’s law said “bad money crowds out good”. We coined “Gresham’s Law of Information” which says “bad information crowds out good”. Low-quality, cheap information can displace high-quality, authoritative information: look what happened with Encarta and Britannica. However, Britannica is now fighting back and has come out with products that are much better suited to computer use. Smart consumers will look for quality information.

Your example of the struggle between Encarta and Britannica, how Britannica lost out to the upstart $49 Encarta…

Right, although they’re coming back. They’re doing some clever things now. What happens there is the incumbent in the industry has a very low marginal cost, so they should be able to beat the entrant but they can’t quite change their business model. It’s hard. Telephone companies are having this problem, the print/publishing media is having this problem, TV networks have this problem vis-a-vis cable.

(This was before Wikipedia!)

Since there’s a high cost of innovation and a low cost of imitation on the web, isn’t it harder to keep “first-mover” advantages?

You’re right, we talk about this — the competition is only a click away. But the clever company, which has that first-mover advantage, will try its best to create “lock-in” for their customer base. For example, look at what Amazon has done- one click ordering, keeping information on what you purchase so they can recommend books to you. If Amazon is recommending good books to me and I want to switch to say Barnes & Noble, I have to start all over.

Another good example of that is e-toys. You put in the birthday of your nephew, your neice, and your cousins, whatever, and they send you a reminder that your nephew’s birthday is coming up and here’s a nice stuffed rabbit that’s very popular with children in his age group.

Can you tell us a little more about your lock-in strategies?

Since the competition is just a click away on the Web, it pays companies to invest in building customer loyalty. The best way to do this is to produce a product that is so much better than the competition that they don’t want to switch! But there are other ways too, such as loyalty programs, like frequent flyer programs that reward frequent purchasers.

What about lock-in strategies for suppliers and partners?

What we were thinking about there was that if you have a group of loyal customers that are purchasing your products, and there may be other complementary products that they would also purchase, but you may not be the best firm to supply that. So then what you do is sell access to your customers.

The portal companies are doing this. For example, I go to Yahoo, and Yahoo charges other companies to have access to me. Let’s say e-toys wants to move into baby or children’s clothes. They might not do that themselves, but they could partner with other companies that do that.

So once you have a loyal customer base, then you can sell access to that customer base for other products that complement what you are selling.

What about the dangers in this, with privacy issues?

It’s certainly convenient for me to be reminded when my anniversary is or my nephew’s birthday or something. That’s a service, a good thing. Of course they can use the information about me in ways that could be detrimental- they could sell it to mailing lists and I get deluged by email. So the trick is to make sure that consumers give their consent; you want to know exactly how the information is going to be used by the company in question. There are companies like e-trust which meet a very important need.

I was looking at ANX, the auto-industry supplier network, and I found out that Chrysler, despite its enthusiasm during the pilot, isn’t part of the production version of ANX. And if you go to the Chrysler supplier website, you find they’ve created tons of business applications. So when does it make sense to join a standards organization and when does it make sense to go it alone?

There’s this fundamental equation that says that the value to you is your share of the market value times the size of the total market. So some of your actions, like standardization, can increase the total size of the market, but it can decrease your market share because it creates more competition. So you have to trade-off these two effects.

So you’re saying if the total size of the market gets bigger, and you make a bigger profit despite a lower market share, then you are on to something… How do you protect intellectual property on the web? Will the current move of providing patent protection to internet business models help or hurt the future of e-commerce?

The point is to maximize the value of your intellectual property, not maximize its protection. You can charge a lot lower price for content on the Web because you can reach a much larger audience.

I’m quite unenthusiastic about patent protection for Internet business models and feel that it will retard progress in this area.

(Like I said, my questions are quite stupid, but the versioning of information goods - that’s still something the media companies can learn about! This cartoon was also done about the same time…)

http://www.onewwworld.com/noodleman/noodle98.gif

Finally, to get you up to speed, here’s a decent interview with Prof. Varian with the global-warming deniers at Superfreakonomics >>

Now this is business service management at its finest!

Watch as BSM guru Malcolm Fry explains the way to higher productivity >>

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