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Customer Feedback Systems to Go Beyond Customer Expectations

Customer Feedback Systems to Go Beyond Customer Expectations

There used to be a sofa in Microsoft’s telephone customer support center called “the Mail Merge couch”—named for a feature in Microsoft’s word-processing program that lets users customize form letters. The early version of Mail Merge was so complicated that whenever a customer called for help, Microsoft’s representative would lie down on the couch, knowing the conversation was likely to take a long time.

Clearly, something was wrong with that feature. Microsoft fixed the problem in the next generation of Word (and eliminated the need for the couch), but the story illustrates just how important customer feedback can be.

Most business managers understand that using customer feedback to guide the development and improvement of products and services is critical to success. However, some companies and individual managers are better than others are at collecting feedback and using it to make strategy decisions.

Nine Customer Feedback Rules for Managers

Managers who want to help their companies be customer-driven might observe the following nine rules.

  1. Create a system for effectively soliciting customer feedback, and then put that system to work. Boeing uses extensive customer involvement when developing new jetliner models. United Airlines influenced the design of both the 767 and the 777, and British Airways and Eastern Airlines participated in developing of the 757. As a result, the airlines were able to tailor the planes to their specific needs and preferences.
  2. Make sure your feedback system provides reliable information from a cross-section of customers. When a company has thousands or millions of customers, it can’t involve many of them in the product design, but it can involve a representative sample of customers.
  3. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback. Some companies offer a customer-feedback phone number. Surveys are another system for gathering feedback, but many people, including me, are not willing to spend much time answering them. Observing customers while they are using existing products and services is habitually the only way to identify hidden frustrations that they may not even be deliberately conscious of.
  4. Microsoft's Nine Customer Feedback Rules for Managers Send e-mail surveys to customers and offer incentives to fill them out and return them. The incentive may be a little digital money or coupons to buy products at a discount. The electronic survey will be immensely efficient for the company, because the survey results will be in electronic form, making results easier to compile and analyze. Some companies already use the Internet in this way. Encyclopedia Britannica recently e-mailed people who had accepted a free seven-day trial of the company’s online reference, offering another free week to those willing to fill out an online survey about their reactions to the product and its price.
  5. Use focus group and customer councils. Getting a few customers together to discuss their reactions to current and new products or services is another good way to collect customer feedback, although these groups and councils, too, have their limitations.
  6. Go beyond what market research tells you. The transition to graphical computing is an example of an instance where Microsoft needed to go beyond what Microsoft’s market research was telling us. Most software customers who were surveyed did not know they would prefer graphical computing because they had not tried it. Microsoft believed that customers would prefer the new way of interacting with their computers, even though Microsoft’s market research was not very positive. Microsoft’s gamble proved right.
  7. Log and evaluate all service requests, customer suggestions, and product complaints. Microsoft logs and evaluates hundreds of thousands of calls made to Microsoft’s support technicians every year. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Observe them using products and watch for frustrations they may not even notice.
  8. Require that the software engineers who develop products spend some time listening to calls from customers. These engineers need to get firsthand feedback. To get the attention of Microsoft’s group managers, Microsoft charges their departments for the cost of providing technical support to customers who use their products.
  9. Request, receive, and act on input from your salespeople. Microsoft seeks and use input for the people who are out in the field with customers. In this industry, customers are eager to share their ideas, frustrations, and enthusiasm. Microsoft is also lucky to be in an industry where products are so adaptable. Whereas it might take an automobile company five years to retool a car model to adapt to customer preferences, software companies can—and do—update their products constantly in response to customer input.

Beyond Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is critical to success of a business No system of market research is foolproof, of course. Even companies that do a good job of listening to customers can make mistakes. Business partners are relying on questionable information to make customer-related decisions. Our new understanding of customer-related decision making should be the starting point for a research approach that has impact on a greater proportion of high-value customer-related decisions.

I am a strong believer that heeding customer feedback is critical to success in any business, especially a dynamic, fast-moving industry such as ours. Despite Microsoft’s willingness to look beyond customer input, 80 percent of the improvements in products like Windows result from customer feedback. Experience has taught us that it is also important to trust your instincts, to take risks, and to provide leadership, even when the customer is not demanding that you do so.

Apply these rules to your business and use the feedback to make improvements. Companies often make the blunder of organizing customer feedback systems around one structure—say lines of business or channel—and employee feedback systems around another—say geography or function. In the end, well-designed feedback loops facilitate employees to be more empowered and companies to be more approachable, creating the competitive edge companies need to adapt and thrive.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand The pressures of work are constant. In a world of discombobulated messaging, you can communicate with more impact and integrity by engendering a personal leadership brand. Personal branding can increment mindshare among audiences as much as branding for products can increment market share.

What rate of return do your speeches, interviews, and visits with customers and partners generate? What impact do these efforts have on your bottom line? A high Return on Communication means that with every interaction, you meet one or more strategic objectives, deliver clear messages that people understand and remember, and enhance your brand and the company’s brand. Executive branding ensures that the time and money you spend on communication translate into desired business outcomes.

Senior executives often communicate without making much of an impression. Either they don’t say anything memorable, or they are remembered for all the wrong reasons-a bad media quote, poor slides, annoying body language. Worst case: their communication is mistrusted and misinterpreted, achieving exactly the opposite of what they intend. High turnover rates and a paucity of effective leaders suggest either that there’s no correlation between studying leadership and leading or that the scientific approach could benefit from a bit more art.

Personal Branding Building a brand is about creating value for other people. The business reasons for executive branding are pellucid: the CEO’s reputation accounts for about a moiety of the reputation of the company; the CEO’s personal brand impacts employee allegiance and resilience; and a brand is the premium that shareholders are disposed to pay for the stock or the product. No bellwether can leave to chance the way that he or she is perceived.

While many leaders know how to brand companies and products, few know how to brand themselves. Why go to the trouble? Let’s look at what personal branding can do for you:

  • Differentiation: A personal brand differentiates you from others, enabling you to stand out and be memorable.
  • Consistency: A personal brand ensures that you are consistent-reliably the same in situations, which creates trust. People know what to expect of you, and you communicate from the same platform, whether announcing good news or bad news.
  • Clarity: When you have a brand, you stand for something. Your brand leverages the power of clear non-verbal messages, and helps determine the verbal messages you want to convey.
  • Authenticity: Personal branding allows you to speak with authenticity. Your brand communicates who you are. When leaders speak with sincerity, they are much more persuasive than when they speak the party line.

There’s been an increased interest in leadership presence over the last few years, perhaps because simply being present has become one of the chief executive obstacles in our highly distracting 24/7 culture. The spread of highly injuctively authorizing, even invasive, technologies is no doubt partly to inculpate. But many organizational cultures have in effect become toxic, which is a designator of pristinely human failure. If we can’t muster up the presence of mind to recognize this state of affairs, we have little chance of learning better leadership.

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

Marketing Demographics by Age

Marketing Demographics by Age

Companies seeking long-term business growth can find it by emphasizing the earning power of young workers, near-retirees, and women.

We all want to be treated equally and fairly during the buying and service process, regardless of our age. Let’s examine how you, as a service provider, can give exceptional service by understanding the needs and values of each age group.

Marketing to The Veterans

Marketing to The Veterans These people were born before 1943. Their beliefs and values include: Everyone should adhere and conform to the same rules, regulations, and policies. Those who are older or in positions of authority automatically deserve respect. Patience is an important virtue. The bigger the better. Personal pleasure is secondary to job responsibilities and tasks.

To win them over as a lifetime customers, make them feel special by remembering their name. Honor them by calling them Mr. or Mrs. or Sir and Ma’am. Thank them for their patronage with a personal note. Add a personal touch, and show genuine interest in them as a person.

Marketing to The Boomers

Marketing to The Boomers These people were born between 1943 and 1960. Their beliefs include: If it’s not working, either fix it or move on and find something better. They value personal growth, health, and wellness. They are optimistic. They believe they are the star and deserve center stage.

To keep them as lifetime customers, provide service that treats them as individuals, not just clients. Be personable. They value personal relationships that grow with time. Be solution oriented. If you can’t fix something, be honest; and then offer alternatives. Boomers value their time and want solutions now. Don’t tell Boomers what they can do.

Marketing to Generation X

Marketing to Generation X Baby Busters or 20-somethings were born between 1960 and 1980. They have a need to be self-reliant. They value family and friends. They tend to be informal and look for fun in every situation. They treat everyone as an equal regardless of “rank” but tend to be skeptical. They have respect for knowledge and technology.

If you want them to do business with your company, show interest in their family and friends, and admire their children if they are tagging along, or their pictures are prominently displayed on their desk. Treat them as equals. Approach situations in a relaxed and informal manner. Let them ask questions and seek information. Show that you have nothing to hide. Use technology to demonstrate your product and services.

Marketing to The Nexters

Marketing to The Nexters Generation Y or the Internet Generation were born between 1980 and 2000. They tend to be optimistic, street smart and very computer and technology literate. Achievement oriented, they are also strong believers in civic duty. They learn flexibility early since many come from divorced families.

If you want these customers to do business with your company, appeal to their strengths. These young people like to spend money, and they are more likely to purchase your product if your business donates to non-profit organizations. Also, appeal to their technical shrewdness. If it makes life more convenient, easier or is the latest in technology, they will probably want it.

Conclusion: For successful marketing by age-demographics, consider each age group and customize your service

Service providers can give exceptional service by understanding the needs and values of each age group. I give these guidelines to assist you in providing the best possible customer care, but nothing will ever surpass kind and equal treatment to each and every customer you serve.

Learn to present information in a different manner to appeal to core values, which are different for each generation.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Calls It a Day

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson is the right replacement for CEO Howard Schultz

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has called it a day, and that’s causing some investors a bit of worry, primarily because the coffee giant struggled the last time Schultz left in 2000.

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson Replaces CEO Howard Schultz

Kevin Johnson, the current president and chief operating officer of Starbucks, will take over as CEO. Johnson is a 30-year veteran of the tech industry held senior leadership roles for 16 years at Microsoft and a five-year stint CEO of Juniper Networks.

Johnson’s consumer technology background is impressive and is a key asset for Starbucks in expanding the company’s already-leading digital platform across channels and geographies in the years to come.

Former Starbucks COO Troy Alstead Quit in January 2015

When Starbucks’ longtime COO Troy Alstead quit, Schultz wrote, “Looking back on the 23 years we spent together side-by-side as Starbucks colleagues, I can recall so many memorable moments and accomplishments in which Troy can take pride in a job well done. Troy is a beloved Starbucks partner and has played an invaluable role in our growth as an enterprise and in the development of our culture as a performance-driven company balanced with humanity, which is unique for our industry. Troy’s humanity and humility will be missed and we wish him the best.”

Starbucks' Premium Roastery and Reserve Stores

Schultz Focused on Sustaining Revenue

For the last several years, Schultz focused on sustaining revenue growth by moving beyond his coffee house roots. In 2012, he purchased Teavana as another brick in the road, which has encompassed instant coffee, energy drinks, juice, a single-serve brewer and food to sell in its shops and in grocery stores. In 2013, Starbucks and yogurt-maker Danone, declared a plan to cooperatively create an assortment of specialty yogurt products in contributing Starbucks stores in 2014 and in grocery channels in 2015 as part of the coffee chain’s growing Evolution Fresh brand. With cafe-like atmospheres and a brand that evokes a high-quality customer experience, Starbucks appreciates pricing power benefits over nearly all specialty coffee peers. This will be expanded by the development of the Starbucks Reserve sub-brand to deliver exclusive, higher-end coffee blends.

While Schultz’s forethought and attention to customer experience have been significant motives that Starbucks has established one of the widest-moat and most consistent growth stories in the global consumer coverage universe, Starbucks has one of the deepest benches in the consumer sector. While most of the focus is technically on new CEO Johnson and his wide-ranging consumer technology background, Schultz will still be immersed with the development of Starbucks’ Premium Roastery and Reserve stores.

'Onward How Starbucks Fought for Its Life' by Howard Schultz (ISBN 1609613821) Don’t liken Schultz’s switch to that of 2000, when he undertook the chairman role and assigned Jim Donald as CEO. Schultz ultimately returned as CEO in 2008 in the wake of disappointing sales figures and a “watering down of the Starbucks experience”. In his turnaround memoir Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, Schultz wrote “The merchant’s success depends on his or her ability to tell a story. What people see or hear or smell or do when they enter a space guides their feelings, enticing them to celebrate whatever the seller has to offer. Intuitively I have always understood this. So when, in 2006 and 2007, I walked into more and more Starbucks stores and sensed that we were no longer celebrating coffee, my heart sank. Our customers deserved better.”

How Starbucks Became Successful

How Starbucks Became Successful

Brand, channel, and technology advantages have positioned Starbucks for a long runway for growth:

  • Starbucks coffee is robust, and people get used to the taste, making it difficult for them to be content somewhere else, either to coffee chains such as Dunkin’ Brands, Tim Hortons, or McDonald’s. Joh. A. Benckiser’s amalgamation of Mondelez’s coffee properties (D.E Master Blenders, Peet’s, Caribou, Einstein Noah, and Keurig) are emerging as Starbucks’s noteworthy competitors. Despite the tenacity of the legend, Starbucks doesn’t really burn its beans. Nonetheless it uses two tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water, which is beyond a lot of other places.
  • Decades ago, in many markets, the only place a customer could get a cappuccino was a restaurant, and there indeed weren’t any flavored or distinguished coffees anywhere. Starbucks was the pioneer in bringing those to the masses. There’s countless brand loyalty they’ve built up over the years. As good the coffee beans are a good amount of training goes in the way they make specialized drinks. Wet, dry cappucino, lattes in perfect ratios of coffee, milk and foam.
  • Starbucks has been known for being pretty generous to its employees, together with presenting full benefits to those working as a minimum 20 hours per week. That made customers feel good about buying coffee there.
  • Customers appreciate the consistency of Starbucks products. A customer can go to a Starbucks pretty much anyplace in the world, and know what they’re getting. A grande vanilla latte will be on the menu and taste the same whether in Seattle, New York, London, Istanbul, or Moscow.

The Recipe to Starbucks Success

The Recipe to Starbucks’ Success

Yet same-store sales have been decelerating, however from very high levels, and the company ran into difficulty the last time Schultz stepped back from the CEO role. Regardless of impressive growth plans, and commodity cost and foreign currency volatility, Starbucks can endure a 40%-45% dividend payout ratio over the next decade.

Some analysts and investors aren’t worried about the management change. Wells Fargo’s Bonnie Herzog acknowledged that while Schultz’s departure is “a loss, in our view the show must (and will) go on” and added, “While we acknowledge that Schultz is without question one of the strongest and most visionary leaders in the consumer/retail world, we believe the succession planning put in place several years ago assures the recent exceptional performance will likely continue.”

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Speaking of how Starbucks’ invigorated food and beverage menu and store reformats have uplifted the Starbucks customer experience, pierced new markets and times, and enhanced unit-level productivity metrics, Herzog also wrote,

The leadership change announced today has been a long-time in the making, starting nearly 3 years ago with the shuffling of the senior leadership team, and subsequent promotion of Johnson in early 2015 to the role of President/COO. We believe that Johnson is a very capable leader, with strong experience working side-by-side Schultz for the past two years. Importantly Johnson has an exceptionally good relationship with Schultz, which should keep Schultz sufficiently removed to allow Johnson to lead effectively given his trust in Johnson, while also remaining sufficiently nearby to ensure the ship remains on course… We believe Johnson’s technology background positions him well to ensure SBUX’s mobile and digital initiatives—key to SBUX’s long-term success, in our view—will remain a primary focus of the company. Importantly, Schultz will remain focused on his ongoing efforts to premiumize the SBUX brand and experience through Roastery and Reserve stores, which should support accelerated innovation and allow the broader store network led by Johnson to continue to thrive.

Investors are also cheerful about Starbucks’ mobile, digital, and loyalty program collaborations across the various business lines, affiliations with Spotify, New York Times, and Lyft, and new payment technologies. Starbucks’ worldwide opportunities are undisputable–particularly in China, India, Japan, Brazil, and Eastern Europe–and Starbucks will apply its best practices from the U.S. to accelerate its growth aspirations.

Starbucks has organized an investor meeting next week, during which its leaders are expected to release news on current and future initiatives.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

Innovate Around Your Brand

Innovation

The world is filled with brands and products competing for our attention and our dollars. It can be mind-boggling. That makes breaking through the clutter a never-ending battle. So, how can we stand out and own a share of the consumer’s mind?

The answer is through innovation the constant challenge to the status quo, the relentless, restless search for something new and better. Companies grab market share and reinforce positions with fresh ideas that create fresh profits.

Innovation is the life-blood of any industry. And yet, as the economy cooled off, so did funding for innovation. The focus turned from the “next new thing” to the quarter’s earnings. But we have not turned our back on innovation. In fact, innovation is happening at a fast and furious pace.

Our consumers have always wanted choices, and we have always responded. Today, as consumers’ tastes change and their desire for variety, wellness and convenience grows, we continue to respond. Just look at some of the great examples of innovation in our industry. Whether you’re taking about Red Fusion, Mr. Green, Pepsi Blue, Simply Orange, or Vanilla Coke, we’re giving consumers a rainbow of new choices in colas, flavors, juices, nutritional beverages, waters and sports drinks.

When you add 25,000 other product introductions a year from other industries, you know how many consumers feel bombarded.

This brings me to the question we must ask about innovation, about any new product, package, or service we introduce: What is its value? And is it meaningful? To me, that’s an easy litmus test. Meaningful innovation is sustaining. It stands the test of time because it continues to add value.

The problem with the dot-com companies wasn’t a lack of good ideas. Webvan and pets.com were great ideas. But they didn’t have the right business models to support the innovation and sustain long-term value.

Innovation isn’t all about flash and sizzle. Innovation is very much about substance. And that’s the foundation for our vision for innovation: Innovation must be a “difference engine.” It must make a real difference and drive real growth. And for innovation to be worthy of our investment, it must add value to our brands and create long-term value for everyone touched by our business. When there isn’t meaningful innovation, we lose momentum. When we innovate around trademark Coca-Cola, our growth accelerates.

Through our emphasis on innovation, we’ve learned five key lessons:

Innovation comes from listening and from understanding consumers.

Consumer relevance drives everything. To be relevant, we must be observant and understand what’s important in our consumers’ lives.

That’s how Red Bull did it, starting in the early ’80s, when its founder noticed the popularity of a new beverage while on business in Asia. He brought a few samples back to Austria and created not only a brand, but also a new beverage category—energy drinks.

At Coca-Cola, we used to think about painting the world red. Now, we think about painting the world relevant. Vanilla Coke is turning out to be very relevant. It reminds older consumers of simpler times, when they stopped by the soda fountain after school for a soft drink and some fries. And for younger consumers, it’s giving them a distinctive new taste and new look with its Coca-Cola trademark packaging.

Connection with consumers in relevant ways got us off to a great start with Vanilla Coke. We attracted more than 7 million new drinkers and sold more than 60 million cases; and when we learned that many consumers wanted a diet version, we created Diet Vanilla Coke. If you’re listening, your consumers will tell you where to look for innovation.

Brands, not products, create sustaining value.

And innovation builds brands. Brands are made in hearts and minds because brands provide two things that products can’t—time and trust. Brands deliver both by making choices easier and more reassuring. Great companies create and sustaining great brands through innovation.

  • Harley-Davidson, one of America’s great brands, stirs passion in it riders, dealers, and employees. And it translates that passion into profits. Since going public in 1986, its shares have risen 15,000 percent. Forbes named Harley-Davidson “Company of the Year” last year because in its 100th year of industry leadership, Harley Davidson flexed its innovative muscle—a motorcycle with a liquid-cooled engine that revs the bike higher and hotter in each gear and makes you go faster. It was a giant step for a company that made only air-cooled engines for 100 years. It also helped Harley appeal to the audience it was after—young, urban, hip Americans and Europeans.
  • Another innovation-driving brand is PowerAde. After living in the shadow of a formidable competitor, we gave it a complete makeover—new formula, graphics, advertising, and flavors. Now, it’s a serious contender, driven by an innovative consumer proposition—real power.

You really aren’t committed to innovation unless you’re willing to fail.

Thomas Watson, IBM’s legendary chairman, once said, “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” Inventors know that failure is a prerequisite to “eureka” moments, but in business we have a hard time with that.

Does anyone remember New Coke? We sure do. New Coke was a lesson. When consumers turned their backs on New Coke, we were reminded of the deep emotional relationship consumers have with great brands. Brands should cherish those relationships. It’s a lesson we value, and one we’ll never forget.

Our former CEO, Roberto Goizueta, used to say: “You can only stumble if you’re moving.” Innovation is about moving, hopefully forward, but occasionally, a few steps to the rear. Often innovation takes us into uncharted territory, where risk goes up. And that’s good. The key is to keep moving.

Innovation is more than products and packaging

Innovation is more than products and packaging—it’s everything and everyone.

Innovation permeates everything—operating strategies, tactics, systems, supply chains, information technology, distribution, and marketing.

When it comes to marketing, there’s always room for innovation. We found a new opportunity with the series “American Idol.” The innovation was in how we integrated the consumer messaging. In addition to customized advertising, Coca-Cola played a role within the framework of the show—in the Red Room, with the Red Couch, and with product placement. The show became a blockbuster hit, leading to an innovative marketing strategy.

If innovation is all-encompassing, it should be done systematically. In other words, define the problem and solve it. What are the objectives? Who will do the work? How will we measure success? Innovation is everyone’s business. At Delta Air Lines, a menu planner noticed that most people never touched the lettuce leaf under their salads. Her suggestion to eliminate the lettuce leaf saved Delta $1 million. A good idea is a good idea—no matter how small it seems.

In Coca-Cola North America, we’re trying to build a culture that encourages innovation through the same sort of observation and curiosity. Our goal is that every employee starts to think about ways they can do their job better—more efficiently, more productively with greater innovation. In such a culture, companies leverage their people and assets to their fullest. One example is our “good answer” program, created to help our Fountain customers handle their customer calls. Our “good answer” team now receives phone calls, emails and regular mail from consumers on behalf of a growing number of our restaurant customers. In addition to responding to the consumer’s issue, they also provide an analysis of the calls to help the operator make better decisions about their menus, facilities and service.

Coca Cola Brand

We must apply innovation to our social contract with communities.

This lesson is bigger than brands, packages, and marketing campaigns. It’s about our reputation and our image. We’re all under constant scrutiny these days regarding the ways we affect our communities. And the focus is intense in two places—the environment and obesity.

Soft drink packages are already the most environmentally friendly recycled consumer packages. We find creative ways to increase the recycled content we use in packages. During the Salt Lake Olympics, for example, our people created a recyclable, biodegradable cold drink cup from renewable resources.

The obesity issue is complex because it’s not just about what you consume—it includes a healthy and active lifestyle. We recently launched an innovative program called “Step with It” in cooperation with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education to increase physical activity in schools.

Pepsi formed an alliance with respected health, nutrition and exercise experts to educate and encourage Americans to reduce health risks through informed choices and an active lifestyle.

Conclusions

We need to be just as innovative in the ways we protect and sustain our business as we are in the way we market and sell our products. These five lessons are our guiding principles—an imperative to continue to delight our consumers with innovative brands, packages, and business systems that create value. When we’re creating the next great innovations, we’re creating sustainable value, and we’re leaving our businesses, communities, and industry a little better.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

Process of Building a Personal Brand

You already have a personal brand. What do people feel when you walk into the room? And what do you want them to feel? With successful branding, your key audiences think about you the way you want them to think.

The branding process has four steps.

Consider the corporate brand

The more senior the executive, the closer the fit needs to be between corporate brand and personal brand. CEOs should consider themselves an extension or an embodiment of the corporate brand. What does your corporate brand stand for? How does your CEO’s brand fit within it? If the branding does not fit, the CEO’s tenure will likely be short. Successful branding does not mean that the CEO needs to layer another persona over his or her own. Nor does it mean that the CEO needs to be conventionally charismatic. The branding of many CEOs is modest, low key, and but their personal brand stands for something that key constituents relate to.

Some CEOs have star power and are extremely media-genie. In this case, the challenge is to ensure that the CEO’s personal brand contributes to the corporate brand rather than distracts from it. The spotlight is put on the mission of the company, rather than on the personality of the CEO.

Articulate your personal brand

How do you identify and articulate your personal brand? Consider using archetypes-themes that tell a story. All business communication involves the telling of stories. An annual report is a story. A press release is a story. Archetypes tell the maximum story with minimum effort. We have all certain archetypes within us. In personal branding, focus on one or two major archetypes that explain your core motivation and strategies. For example, President George W. Bush is most effective when he takes on the Regular Guy persona. Al Gore is a Sage brand. The ability to make each person feel heard is the hallmark of a Lover brand and Bill Clinton personifies this. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a true Ruler brand-fully in control.

In business, Apple Computer is an Outlaw brand (” Think Different“), and its CEO Steve Jobs is a Creator/Outlaw brand. The close alignment between the company and its leader works well. Another Outlaw brand with a flavor of Warrior is Hong Kong entrepreneur Richard Li, whose career was built on taking risks and turning away from convention. Oracle Software is a Warrior brand, as is its CEO, Larry Ellison. Executives who work in healthcare often exemplify the Caregiver brand.

What archetype is dominant for you and your company? When coaching executives, we use assessments and questions to uncover an executive’s dominant archetype, the basis of his or her personal brand. To discover your archetype, ask yourself: What do I value above all else? What do I represent? What is unique about me? What is my call to action? What is my greatest fear? What story am I living?

Adjust your brand

Once you have articulated your brand, check for congruence. Ask others, “Does this brand evoke me?” You should get agreement from your audiences. Is your brand aligned with your actions and words? Are your actions aligned with your desired branding? Are there conflicts within your archetypes? For example, if you have a strong Regular Guy streak, you probably fear standing out. Does this prevent you from stepping into a Ruler role when your leadership calls for it? Or does the Lover aspect of your personality conflict with the Wnniors need to achieve? Finally, ask yourself: Is this really who I want to be? How can I aim even higher? What quirks of mine can I incorporate into my branding? Most of us spend our lives trying to conform. This is a chance to celebrate our uniqueness.

Live your brand

As you implement your brand, you will find that you have some clear strengths and liabilities. Your brand will alienate some people, and that’s okay. Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people. Each archetype presents both opportunities and traps. A Warrior leader can be powerful, but may not create a nurturing work environment.

A Creator leader can be invigorating to follow, but may not be a structured thinker. Your strategy should be to mitigate your liabilities by flexing your behavior to meet the needs of the people and groups who are important to your business. For example, if you deal frequently with Ruler archetypes but are not a Ruler brand yourself, you will need to learn certain strategies and skills. By noticing your impact on your key audiences, and by stretching your skill set, you become a stronger, more flexible brand. Successful leaders who live their personal branding exercise a paradox. They are both deeply steeped in their own personal identities and deeply flexible toward their key audiences. Leaders who are good at both elements are authentic (true to themselves) and influential (powerful with others).

A Brand is A Promise

Remember: a brand is a promise, one that you make and fulfill, over and over. What promises are you and your company fulfilling? Fulfilling the business promise through effective communication yields a high Return on Communication.

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Posted in Education and Career

The Cowboy and Masculine Trademark of the Marlboro Man Brand Image

Research has proved that when products are in effect equivalent, people go with what’s familiar, even if the product is only familiar because they know its name from advertising and recognize the brand.

'Twenty Ads That Shook the World' by James Twitchell (ISBN 0609605631) According to James Twitchell, author of “Twenty Ads That Shook the World”, the key insight that shaped modern advertising came to cigarette manufacturers in the 1930s. Twitchell’s book is subtitled, “The Century’s Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All.”

During market research, cigarette manufacturers ascertained that smokers who taste-tested several cigarette brands without recognizing which was which couldn’t tell them apart. So, if any manufacturer wanted to sell more of his specific brand, he was either going to have to make it distinguished or make consumers think it was distinctive, which was significantly trouble-free. That insight give birth to the practice of selling a product by associating it with a glamorous lifestyle.

Marlboro is one of the best successful examples of changing the consumer behavior through a complete gender re-positioning. Ad agency Leo Burnett’s brilliant campaign made Marlboro one of the most valuable brands of all time. By creating the “Marlboro man,” Burnett transformed what was seen as an very feminine brand of filter cigarettes into a rugged, sexy masculine one in a matter of months. The image of the “Marlboro Man” projected rugged manliness in an effort to position Marlboro as a filter with flavor.

The Marlboro Man was first conceived in 1954. As the all-American cowboy, he was rugged and he was cool. He was the epitome of masculinity.

Back then, Jack Landry, the brand manager for Marlboro at Philip Morris said,

In a world that was becoming increasingly complex and frustrating for the ordinary man, the cowboy represented the antithesis—a man whose environment was simplistic and relatively pressure free. He was his own man in a world he owned.

Leo Burnett experimented with other ‘Marlboro Men’—ball players, race car drivers, and tattoo-covered hunks. They were all successful, but it was the cowboy that really “shook the world.” The macho spokes-model traveled the world. He crosses cultures and translated ideas of masculinity in a nonverbal manner, and became one of the most famous icons of all time.

In 1955, when the Marlboro Man campaign was launched, sales were at $5 billion. By 1957, sales were at $20 billion, representing a 300% increase within two years. Philip Morris easily overcame growing health concerns through the Marlboro Man campaign, highlighting the success as well as the tobacco industry’s strong ability to use mass marketing to influence consumers.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Health and Fitness

Before You Start a Business

Before You Start a Business

  • Come up with a great business idea: Great businesses are built on great ideas. Discover your own great idea by drawing on some basic principles plus inspiration from famous entrepreneurs. But first, you must know who your customers are, which is not as straightforward as it sounds.
  • Understand your market: Starting a business is risky. Give your business the best chance to survive and thrive by taking three important steps: conduct primary and secondary research, understand the five key success factors, and create a competitive landscape table that rates the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
  • Prototype your idea to make your idea a reality: Add two important skills to your entrepreneurial toolkit: writing a theory of business and building a prototype. By following these two actions, you’ll be able to refine your business idea, demonstrate that it’s possible to achieve, and show that your idea delivers what your customers want.
  • Perform market analysis and develop a marketing strategy: Continue your examination of the business plan by focusing on the marketing portion, which should include your research and analysis of the market as well as a comprehensive marketing strategy. Stress the importance of telling a persuasive story.
  • Conduct risk analysis: Potential investors reading your business plan will want to know that you have a plan to deal with possible obstacles and catastrophic surprises. Discover tools such as the Porter Five Forces Model and the SWOT analysis, which provide insight into critical risks and how to address them.
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Posted in Business and Strategy Education and Career

Enhance your Professional Presence in 10 Simple Steps

Enhance your Professional Presence

Professionals dedicate themselves to their careers and their companies. Amateurs are casual about their careers and often blind to advancement opportunities. Professionals also make more money.

In selling situations and in life, how you present yourself plays a big role in how people think of you and how much attention people pay to what you say. A dedicated professional commands more respect than a casual amateur does. Always.

How can you acquire professional presence? Take these 10 steps:

  1. Start with your attitude. Are you a professional? If so, why not let everyone know it. If not, maybe that is why you are not as successful as you would like to be. What adjustment in attitude do you need to make?
  2. Enhance your personal appearance. Are you really satisfied with your appearance? Grooming is important, good clothing is necessary, and how about your health? Shape up your body and it will shape up your attitude.
  3. Boost your business appearance. Your customers and clients relate financial success with competence. Does your car communicate financial success? How about your briefcase? Your organizer or planner? Do you appear to be well organized or stuffed to the gills with miscellany?
  4. Earn the confidence of others with your organization skills. Customers relate being organized to being competent. Organization is recognized as being on time, having a neat desk, being ready with the answers, and diligently following up on what you promised to deliver. All these things tell your people that you are a person worthy of their confidence and the confidence of their friends.
  5. Talk like a pro from the prospect’s point of view. Avoid slang and industry shoptalk. Some people think that using all kinds of fancy terms means that they are experts. A real expert can explain a complex, technological process in plain English. So ask questions. Choose your words carefully. Moreover, plan your presentation from the prospect’s point of view.
  6. Stay in tune. Every profession is changing, but none more than sales and marketing. Pushy, obnoxious salespeople are gone, along with the less competent. People demand excellence from sales and service people, and reward that excellence with referral after referral. Devote a regular part of your week to learning new skills and sharpening existing ones.
  7. Respect your fellow team members and salespeople. They have the same challenges as you do. They deserve the same credit and recognition when successful, the same help and encouragement when faltering. Everyone wins when the team gets stronger.
  8. Remember your family and friends. They want a high quality relationship, too. Plan time for family and social needs. This will assure you of their understanding and support when business takes you away evenings and weekends.
  9. See the people. There are thousands of people in your area who need and deserve the professional services and products that you provide. Make them aware of what you do. Be vocal about your abilities and qualifications. If you do not take it to them, they may be shortchanged by someone who is not as good as you are.
  10. Integrity keeps you there. Nearly every day an opportunity arises to take unfair advantage of someone. Stretching the truth, selling without the facts, omitting information, and avoiding present challenges by stalling or blaming someone else is not professional behavior.

It is important to look at the effect professional presence has on you and others. If you are not sure about how you come across to others, request feedback from people you trust and admire. Ask for feedback from people who will tell you the truth and give you insights into how you can improve your professional presence.

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Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

Union Advertisement Slams Southwest Airlines and asks, “Has Southwest Lost its Way?”

On 25-Nov-2014, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) of America issued a half-page advertisement in USA Today bashing Southwest Airlines management about their baggage handling operations.

Southwest Loses More Bags Than Any Other Major U.S. Airline

Southwest Loses More Bags Than Any Other Major U.S. Airline.

Southwest Airlines, historically known for rarely losing luggage, now loses more bags than any other major American airline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, released this month. What happened?

Quite simply, under the leadership of Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines places profit ahead of people and a quality product. The airline now flies larger planes packed with more bags than ever before but doesn’t hire additional baggage handlers and, in the last four years, hasn’t provided a raise to half of its ground workers. More suitcases, larger planes, tighter schedules and an overworked ground crew not only mean lost bags: it means delays for al Southwest customers—even those who don’t check luggage.

This year will be Southwest’s most profitable. During the second Quarter alone, the airline earned nearly a half-billion dollars in profits. Gas prices have fallen, more seats have been filled, revenues have been growing. Wouldn’t it make sense at this time to invest in ground workers and on-time performance?

Southwest’s stock ticker symbol is LUV. But is Southwest still the “luv” airline or is it just a heartless machine? Losing bags is bad—but eventually they find their way home. Losing a successful company culture can be forever.

The TWU posts advertisements which are intended to be perceived as harmful to the airline in order to attempt to extort a better package.

Although the “facts” being displayed in this union-paid ad are certainly up for debate, there’s no doubt that the workload of the rampers has increased because Southwest is the only airline that doesn’t charge checked baggage fees.

This is the latest manifestation of the dramatic evolution that has Southwest over the years, both from external and internal forces. In a nutshell, economic reality is now catching up with Southwest Airlines. The fuel hedges are spent, the network carriers have restructured and merged, and at the same time Southwest has gone from being pretty much the lowest-cost operator in the market to middle-of-the-pack and has high labor costs than ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines.

Southwest Airlines Free Checked Luggage Baggage Policy

Southwest has to control costs somewhere to remain competitive. They’ve probably tried, to at least some extent, to do it through productivity gains, by making rampers do more with less (same workload with fewer rampers, or increased workload with same number of rampers). But that, too, of course, has its repercussions, such as the one detailed in this TWU advertisement.

While paying employees well and treating them with respect will ensure better performance, Southwest Airlines is having to learn to cope in a more challenging economic environment, especially as to cost. Reduce cost, increase productivity – something has to give.

Southwest Airlines recognized this as union propaganda and integral part of contract-negotiation season. To the union bosses, nothing’s ever enough … their workers are always underpaid and under-appreciated. Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King responded,

Although it’s a common practice, informational picketing does not change the Company’s approach to negotiations. We continue to share the Union’s sense of urgency to secure a fair agreement. Reaching the right deal for both Employees and the Company remains a top priority; and it must be one that is fair to all Employees, enables the Company to grow, and protects our position as a low-cost leader in the industry.

We have a renewed focus and effort on improving baggage delivery and over the past few months, we’ve seen a steady decline in our mishandled baggage rate. In October, we proudly delivered approximately 99.5 percent of our bags correctly and we continue to see improvements.

Regarding the number of bag carried, the packing habits of Southwest passengers haven’t changed. Customers continue to pack the same number of bags since the “Bags Fly Free” campaign was initiated in 2008. What the campaign has done is attract more Customers to Southwest, improving the bottom line. At the same time, the number of bags carried on other airlines has decreased, which improves their overall DOT ranking.

As the number of Southwest Customers increase, we continue to hire in response to that growth. Over the last three years, the annual number of bags handled per Ramp Agent has steadily declined, not increased.

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Posted in Airlines and Airliners Management and Leadership