Category : Marketing trends

Slow trends, emerging opportunities


When life slows down during the summer I notice more, read more, and reflect on changing trends and emerging opportunities. Here are some of my random observations.

Chief Communications Officers/Chief Marketing Officers:

There are a lot of C-level titles in companies and one that is slowly fading away is the Chief Communications Officer. The duties of that position are increasingly being folded in under the Chief Marketing Officer. SAP, FedEx, IBM and other companies have all recently made this change.  Much of marketing and communications is similar, particularly the shared goal of building the company’s reputation.  But reputations need to be earned, not just communicated, and therein lies customer experience, product and service, front line employee engagement, customer service and a host of other factors that fall largely into the marketing bucket.  There are still some special communications skills distinct and separate from marketing but do they warrant a C-level executive and another organizational silo?


Press releases/one or two sentence explanation:

Not to pick on the PR profession here, but I am on a distribution list where I get  press releases and pitch emails, most of which seem kind of  dumb. Most are irrelevant to me and written in such gobbledygook corporate-speak that I don’t know what the point is. Please tell me in a straightforward sentence or two why your idea or news is relevant and worth me taking a closer look at.  You can also skip writing those phony press release quotes that no one publishes and probably lengthen the review process inside the company . If you use a formulaic press release style I just hit “delete.”


Less reading/ more tweeting:

As people spend more of their discretionary time on social networks they seem to be reading fewer books. I’ve talked with people of all ages this summer who told me they “just don’t have time to sit down and read a book” and yet their Tweets and Facebook posts are voluminous. While I find great value and enjoyment from social media, what I learn from reading a book is of much greater value, from learning and spiritual perspectives. Is there a future for both?


Newspapers at the end of the driveway/tablets:

When I walk down to the end of the driveway at 5:45 a.m. to pick up my New York Times in its blue plastic bag and The Providence Journal in its clear bag I look around at my neighbors’ driveways and realize we’re one of the few houses that still subscribe to the paper editions.  My ritual of reading the papers and drinking one good cup of strong coffee before the house wakes up may be ending. The online iPad editions of newspapers are becoming  good reading experiences, perhaps even better than the paper versions.  (And I do know that trudging through the snow and ice in the winter to get the paper is  miserable.)


Focus groups/unstructured data + communities:

A client recently asked for a focus group to better understand a situation. I was kind of shocked that he thought getting 10 people around a table  for a couple of hours would be worth the time or money. There are so many  easier and less expensive ways to quickly tap into the wisdom of the crowds and get a read on an issue or an idea. And the insights are likely to be better than the old facilitated focus group format.  By polling people in one of the company’s communities we had 140 thoughtful considered responses within 24 hours. Cost?  A few hours to design the questions and analyze the results.  For meatier issues where it does make sense to get people together to think more deeply about a topic I see the opportunity in the Art of Hosting type approaches.


Suburban McMansions/neighborhoods, co-housing:

With the middle class being squeezed financially and the Baby Boomers aging, the appeal and maintenance cost of big houses is diminishing. People are beginning to choose new options — smaller homes in neighborly neighborhoods and co-housing communities, like this one in Vermont that I recently toured, and this one in Rhode Island, focused on the arts and agriculture.  Or moving into cities and embracing the no-car life, like in new city centers like Brickell in Miami.  The real trend, however,  may be that people want to be part of communities with people, not just living next to people.


Large scale shopping malls/e-commerce, neighborhoods, Makers:

Those big sprawling shopping malls are starting to sag as people look to shop in areas with smaller stores and more of a neighborhood feel. The headline in Neilsen’s recent “Brick by Brick: The State of the Shopping Center” report — Go Big or Go Small — captures the trend.  The WalMart and Target super-centers are thriving, but the days of the shopping mall are waning. E-commerce continues to grow, as do smaller, more neighborhood-like lifestyle centers where you shop, eat, go to a movie, and take a walk. The big trend to watch, however, are inidivdual DIYers and craftspeople creating products and new markets for selling them, like  the Maker Movement and its Maker Faires and marketplaces like Etsy, a personal favorite.


Less consulting/more job seekers:

The hardest work of a consultant is developing business opportunities, and many marketing consultants I know are looking for positions with agencies or inside companies for this reason. I have a hunch too that it’s just much more rewarding to work with a team than work solo.  It’s similar to the desire to live in a neighborhood with people vs. living on a three-acre lot in a big house where you never see people.  People are longing for people. Many employers don’t look favorably on resumes where people have been self-employed for a while; they haven’t been on a neat track.  Keep an open mind, there’s some tremendous talent available if you change your lens (and don’t rely on those resume keyword scanners.)


Tans/diet & exercise:

Seeing people coming out of the tanning salon next to my dry cleaners with the goggle marks still around their eyes, makes me go, “Hunh?” People with those deep, dark Coppertone tans seem as trendy as people who smoke.  Fortunately, tans are fading. (excuse the pun). The opportunity: people who eat healthy food and exercise seem to have a healthy glow, much more attractive than tans.  While at a recent yoga retreat I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful women at all ages, up through the 70s, looked sans makeup. And tans. (Or maybe I’m just envious that I haven’t been able to get to the beach this summer and am justifying my longing for a wee bit of a tan from swimming and body surfing.)


Enjoy the rest of your summer, and keep on noticing the slow shifts that are opening up new opportunities in every field, as well as signaling what to let go of.



What a question

Every once in a great while you hear  a question that changes how you look at things, how you approach strategy, design, marketing, innovation, and maybe even your own life. Here’s one that’s rocking my thinking:

“Who do you want your customers* to become?”


In his book of the same name, MIT’s Michael Schrage says, “Successful innovators don’t just ask customers and clients to do something different, they ask them to become something different.”

Who do you want your customers to becomeBecause customers are always changing, strategy shouldn’t focus on existing customers but on who tomorrow’s customers will — and should — be, and then designing our offers to help the customer become that person. To realize new attitudes, behaviors, values, and habits.

  • Facebook asks users to become more open about sharing their personal information.
  • Disney helps little girls become princesses. Amazon has asked people to become different kinds of shoppers.
  • Google has asked us to  become impatient searchers who demand speed. Social business is asking us to share and tap into our collective intelligence.
  • My Rebels at Work movement is asking people to stand up and lead change within organizations.
  • Uber is asking us to demand lower costs and easier booking for chauffeured transportation.
  • The Khan Academy is asking us to rethink teachers as tutors and coaches.
  • Bobbi Brown is asking us to keep our make-up simple and easy.
  • FedEx is asking small businesses to consider the world their market, not just their local countries.

Once you articulate The Ask, you can more clearly see what you need to do to help your customers  become someone different. This becomes the strategy discussion.

Schrage notes that few company vision statements address the customer. Most are about the company and provide little direction on how to  add value to the customer.  “A customer vision statement, explicitly identifies the qualities and attributes the organization aspires to create in its customers.”

* Note that you could insert client, boss, donor, citizens, association members and other types of customers into this question. How do you want to transform that group of people? How will they benefit?  Do the benefits offset what they’ll need to do to transform?

Schrage’s short and provocative ebook is available on Amazon for $3.03. It’s a must-read, and its question is a must-ask.

Is social media becoming PR?

Is social media becoming PR?

When I started my career in public relations it was a function that tried desperately to show value and “results.”   The assumption was that lots of press and “awareness” or “impressions” were good, less was less good.  None of the PR measurement models correlated to business goals like sales, customer satisfaction, brand preference, competitive intelligence — or the performance drivers of those goals.  PR was one of those “have to have” functions and leaders didn’t take it all that seriously. A career in PR, much like its pink cousin HR, was a “soft” career.

One of my good friends, a well known PR executive,  and I use to joke that our career goal was to get out of PR because it was so hard to convince executives that it could be and should be something more than publicity and crisis communications.  When I ask him how he is he jokes, “Still in PR.”

I see similarities between PR then and social media today.  Instead of impressions people are measuring  social media “engagement.”  But to what end?  How does what kind of engagement support what business goals?  Alas, I see company reports that show “results” being more and more engagement. 2,000, 5,0000, 10,000 Twitter followers.  3,000 likes on the company Facebook page.  2,000 views of the latest company video on You Tube.

My question is, so what.  It’s like the old publicity awareness goal. Awareness of what and how does that help what business strategy.

The potential value social strategies can bring to business is extraordinary.  Data mining of unstructured social data to see ways to develop new types of products and services way ahead of competitors.  Incorporating social apps into products and services to earn customer preference. Crowdsourcing to develop products and services more quickly and with much more predictable adoption rates.

These opportunities require heavy lifting.  Big brain data analysts, developers, new business processes. Willingness to experiment and iterate vs.  the traditional research, plan, develop, market (and publicize!) New types of external partner and developer relationships vs. “the agency.”  Systems thinkers vs. project managers.  You get the picture.

Most companies see social as a better way to communicate.  PR on networked, social steroids.

When I was a young woman in PR the president of my company advised me. “If you really want to get ahead, make sure there’s revenue attached to your job.”

If your company wants to get the most value from social, make sure it’s attached to revenue.  (Or a worthy strategic equivalent.) Not to meaningless impressions or  engagement numbers.

Just sayin.


Predicting behavior


This week behavioral scientist John Furey shares some of his scientific discoveries from his MindTime project. I’ve worked with many different behavioral models, and believe there’s something very big here for marketers, leaders, and each of us as individuals.

1. Your MindTime mapping system has been called the world’s most accurate personality test and the digital Myers Briggs of the 21st century.  For we non-scientists, what is the system based on that makes it so informative?

Personality tests such as the MBTI are based merely on describing traits and behaviors, categorizing behavioral patterns. MindTime reveals the drivers behind the behaviors and therefore why we behave the way we do, or as scientists might call it, the adaptive value of the behavior. What is significant is MindTime is looking at causation, not simply outcomes.

Understanding why people behave the way they do, rather than simply describing what they do, provides a greater ability to predict what they will do.

MindTime uses a phenomenological framework—Past, Present and Future Thinking—as a means to understand people. These basic concepts of thought— Past/Certainty, Present/Probability, and Future/Possibility—all have adaptive value; in fact, they explain almost all the concepts of the cognitive mind.

So, by measuring how people think, we can use this knowledge to predict behavior, attitudes, and even the personality traits they manifest. By knowing why a person does what s/he does, and the why and how of their strategy, we can use the knowledge in just about any environment to facilitate individual and organizational success.


2. What are the perspectives of Past, Present and Future Thinkers?

Here’s a brief snapshot of each:

3. When people get their individual maps, what insights do they learn about themselves and how does this help them professionally?

Our maps provide people with an in-depth interpretative report on their thinking style. It quickly and accurately helps a person to understand the value they bring to the world. We explain a person’s:

  • Communication style
  • Leadership style
  • Relationship needs
  • World-view
  • What they will resist doing. Knowing our resistances helps us navigate our limitations.

The most common comment we hear from people when they take the MindTime profile is “Aha!! That explains so much about me.”  When used in team building it provides this same kind of epiphany for our understanding of others.

However, while these insights are invaluable I think there is a more significant learning that comes out of all this that impacts our professional abilities in a profound way.

We each know people who we can rely on to bring ideas, inspiration and a sense of possibility to our lives. In fact, this might describe you. We also know people who are much more likely to bring order, planning, procedures and stability to bear. They’re much more engaged in creating continuity than they are engaged in bringing change. Likewise, there are those among us who are more keenly aware of and driven to understanding the meaning of data and facts. These folks bring us depth of thought, a need for truth and trustworthiness and can be relied on to think deeply about things rather than coming up with ad lib answers to good and necessary questions.

Knowing that a person is driven towards creating order and harmony versus being driven towards opportunities and risk-taking versus being driven towards information and analysis of a situation can change the quality and value of our interactions significantly.  It empowers us to manage, motivate, listen and speak in a more empathetic, or at least consciously aware, way.

Empathy, messaging, motivation, management, collaboration, roles, engagement style, motivation, change readiness, adaptability, and so on, are all positively impacted by this basic human awareness of each other.


4. How can MindTime help teams of people working together? Why do some project teams work very well and others get stuck?  What could managers do to create more consistently high performing teams?

MindTime can accurately predict how well a team will function at a task or towards a goal in view of the mix of thinking styles of people on the team and the roles people are playing. It can also predict the kinds of pitfalls a given mix of thinkers will encounter, both interpersonally and in team dynamics.

MindTime helps the team understand the thinking styles of each team member so that people can understand and value different people’s contributions. Future thinkers will be focused on possibilities, while Past thinkers will want proof and certainty of ideas, and the Present thinkers will want to be able to predict outcomes. Understanding people’s thinking helps us create the right setup and awareness of what’s really going on instead of leaving us to fix what is bound to go wrong.


5. You say that how people think influences how they behave.  Many of us are trying to change behavior as part of our work, like getting people to try a new product or approve a new policy.  What should we know or be doing about thinking to affect behavior?

People’s thinking processes are very difficult to change so the best strategy is to figure out how we can align our objectives with a person—or group of people’s—natural inclination.

By understanding people’s motivation, which you do by understanding their thinking styles, you can align your goals with their fundamental objective (to pursue Possibilities, Probabilities, or Certainties). Alignment becomes a simpler way to elicit the desired behavior.


6. If you understand how your customers think, how does that help you market to them?  Can you give us an example?

Sure, but given that you’re going to blog this why don’t I give you two visual examples and brief explanations?

This first map is of a target market for a product. Through a separate study the ads used were found to be messaging a Future audience. They contained works such as: ideas, possibility, and phrases like “What could you do?” And, ”What’s next?” Can you spot the problem here? Why did the campaign fail?

Yes, the target and messaging was to Future thinking, the audience on the other hand was very much Past and Present in its thinking. A total miss.

The second map is of a group of people recruited to help with brand innovation. These were loyal supporters, not just customers of the brand, recruited by a brand community management company. Remember here, as you look at this map, that the desired outcome was brand innovation. Innovation typically starts with Future thinking. Do you see why brands were often less than enthusiastic about results? The recruited brand community had self-selected. They were of a mind to turn up on time once a week and participate by offering their opinions, predictably Present/Past thinking people.

The conclusion was that this audience, which lacked in Future thinking, was not really innovating at all. They were discussing problems that needed solving and identifying other “new” ways that the product might fit with their needs.


7. What use of your MindTime mapping system has been the most personally fulfilling for you? What happened?

I remember a specific event. I was asked by a headmaster to work with students and faculty on the opening day of school.  The Sage School was a new alternative school in Sun Valley, Idaho. On the opening day I addressed the assembled school and everyone learned the simple MindTime model and how it works. We mapped everyone in the school and spent the day practicing how to collaborate more effectively.

We learned how everybody has value to bring if we would only see it. And, by pointing out the likely pitfalls in human communication between the archetypes, we gave everyone both an awareness and tips on how to avoid them, or at least recognize them before they became an issue. I received a wonderful letter from the headmaster about a year later telling how enduring this learning had been and how it was still being used in lots of ways. That kind of work makes my life sweet in a really good way.


8. What potential application of the system would you most like to see happen?

I would support any application of MindTime that decreases violence in all of its forms and increases human empathy. That’s the driving force behind all of this work; it is an ideal shared by all of the partners in the MindTime Project.


Note: if you self-identify as a change agent, maverick or rebel at work, Foghound invites you to take  a complimentary MindTime thinking analysis test to get a personalized profile of your thinking style, leadership style, relationships needs, communications style, and what you are most likely resist doing. Click here to get your profile, which takes just a few minutes.

If you’re interested in learning more about the potential application of MindTime for your organization, contact Lois ( or John (


Has marketing become the screw aisle?

Lisa was cutting my hair and talking about how she fixed her own toilet.

“The worst thing about hiring guys is that they talk so much about the job,” she said. “They get to your house and start talking about all the things they need to check, all the things that could go wrong, and how the project is probably doing to stretch out over a few weeks  because the distributor might not have the right parts in stock.

“In the time it takes a guy to tell me all this I was able to go Home Depot, buy the toilet kit and finish the job.”

Empowered by her success with the toilet Lisa was now building a deck in her backyard.

“The standard sized boards made the project straightforward,” she said, “but the challenge was the screws. Have you ever walked down the screw aisle? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different sized screws. To make matters worse you need different kinds of tools for different screws. I mean, c’mon, how many different kinds of screws do we need? Why can’t I build my deck with one or two types of screws? I really resent the screw aisle. Why do people make things so complicated?”

I closed my eyes as she started cutting again.

Screws. Financial investments. Health care plans. Government legislation. Business strategies. “Expert” advice. Diet plans.   15-step proven methodologies on everything from marketing to living a better life.

Over-complicated, over-thought and so overwhelming that most of us just freeze. The paralysis numbs us and dumbs us. Making us reliant on experts, products and services that we may or may not really need. Or, like Lisa, just making us resentful, angry and suspect.

Has marketing become the screw aisle?

I fear that it has.

While choice is a wonderful thing, have we gone too far in product extensions?

Have  ‘content marketing’ emails started to sound like the guys who drive us crazy yakking about how complicated the job will be, how tough it might be to find the right parts, how they’ll have to come back again to measure and that’s going to be tough because….”

Are too many preying on people’s fear, uncertainty and doubt? Exacerbating anxiety to sell more than a person really needs?

Is our marketing building a screw aisle or making it easy — and maybe even enjoyable — for Lisa to build a beautiful deck?


New study: Corporate reputation more important than ever

If people don’t like your company, they’re not going to buy from you.

In a new study by my old employer, Weber Shandwick, 69% of participants aid they frequently or regularly discuss how they fell about a product they bought. 70% said they avoid buying a product if they don’t like the company that makes it. And, no surprise, 88% said that word of mouth is still most  influences their opinion of a company.

More can be found here on the Forbes blog.

My take from the study: marketing (brand) and corporate communications (reputation) need to be one, or at least work a whole lot more closely than these organizations do in most large companies.

Herd or bird?

When it comes to attracting customers, engaging employees, and earning recognition, this one question may be the most important.

How can we move from this…..



To this….?

In today’s competitive world the most effective way to attract customers and talented employees  is to offer something special and different that attracts people to seek you out. You don’t have to be an Apple or a Google. You just need to be a company that knows and cares for its tribes so well that those tribes, be they customers or employees, seek you out.  Your passion for their success attracts their passion for your company.

The old way of pushing messages onto people is akin to herding cows.  It’s a lot of work, costs a lot of money,  you have to continually push, and the ROI stinks.

Here are some examples of why pushing and herding fails.

Most leadership training is failing

In a conversation last week Case Western business professor and author Richard Boyzatis said that most leadership development programs fail. Why?  Most companies require people  to take courses (herding), but they’re just not really into them. Without the attraction and motivation to learn, people don’t learn. You can require training (herding) but it’s unlikely to stick.

Most brands are becoming commodities

A study by marketing strategy firm Copernicus found that people buy on price because they view most product categories as commodities; there’s nothing attracting to them to one brand over another. None of the 51 product and service categories analyzed in the brand trends study are becoming more differentiated over time and 90 percent are declining in differentiation. So if nothing is attracting people to your brand,  marketers resort to the herding strategy of promoting cost savings.

Most employees are job hunting

In a recent workplace study by Monster, human resource managers reported that employee loyalty has decreased slightly this year. Yet 82 percent of the workers surveyed said they have updated their resume in the past six months, and 59% say they’re looking for a job all the time.  Challenge and inspiration trumps salary and status: When asked what they want this year, nearly half (41%) of respondents want to be challenged and inspired by their jobs; a subset also want to make a difference in their jobs (17%)

Creating an attraction strategy

So as you step back and evaluate your marketing, HR, leadership and organizational development strategies, ask “what will attract and inspire people?” A better customer experience? New ways to work that challenge people? Training that is completely out of the usual training box?

For more insights into the power of attraction, check out the book, “The Power of Pull.”  My summary of the book is here.


Social media obsession dies, real work starts

Now that we’re getting over social media lust and obsession, it’s time to get to the real work.

As Seth Godin points out in his post today, “Bring me the stuff that’s dead, please,” the real work is focusing on what we’re saying, not how or where we’re saying it. It’s creating new value with all the tools at our disposal.  Not just using the tools willy-nilly.

Much deserved attention — and too much undeserved hype — has been spent on the need to have social media.  It’s an amazing way to communicate.  But what are you communicating?

Edward Murrow wrote more this than 60 years ago. Replace “the newest computer” with “social media’ and his advice is still relevant.

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem of what to say and how to say it.”

Marketing assisted living homes: take two

The secret for  marketing assisted living homes: provide an extra ordinary client experience that makes people feel good.

Indeed, this is the basic marketing principal  for all services and products.

Sounds simple, but so many nursing and assisted living homes put operations first, client needs second, much like most industries. Whatever our fields, we become lulled into thinking that how we do business is the way to do business.  We rarely step back and question whether there’s a better way.

So let’s step back a minute.

Do you really need to  run your operations where  everyone lives on the same schedule, eats the ‘right’ foods, socializes with set group activities, sleeps at the appointed times?  Why must people live their last days in ways that may not fit how they lived most of their life? Does disciplined scheduling benefit your clients — or your organization, making it easier to run things?

Positive emotional experiences: good for people, good for business

New research shows that breaking away from operational norms and creating more positive emotional experiences is good for clients and good for business.

The New York Times recently wrote a fascinating article, “Giving Alzheimer’s Patient’s Their Own Way — Even Chocolate,” that explored the benefits of  flexible, client-centered care, finding that positive emotional experiences disminish distress and behavioral issues, especially among people with dementia.  (Note:  approximately two-thirds of people living in nursing homes have some dementia.)

In fact, providing a flexible living environment that works for each patient is proving to  dramatically reduced the need for anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs, which often cause terrible side effects in the elderly. Flexibility means things like softer lighting, comfort foods, one-on-one vs. group activities, availability of food so people can eat when they’re hungry, encouraging clients to stay out of diapers, and personal touches, like using a perfume that the client so enjoyed earlier in her life.

The times article highlights the  research. More interesting to me are the interviews and stories of  Beatitudes Assisted Living in Phoenix, an innovator in client-centered alternative living. So innovative that many other facilities around the country are receiving Beatitudes training and now looking to adopt their practices.

These comforting personal touches improves behavior and enhances people’s lives because they “send messages that they can still understand;  ‘it feels good, therefore I must be in a place where I’m loved,'” explained Jan Dougherty, director of family and community services at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix.

All great marketing is the result of providing experiences that customers feel good about — and set you apart from the competition.  When people — usually adult children — are making decisions for their parents, most assisted living facilities “feel” the same and provide similar services and the same promise of keeping a loved one safe and healthy.

Beatitudes sets itself apart, providing emotional benefits to its clients and their families.  On top if it all Beatitudes has found that its innovative approach  saves money. This is marketing at its most effective.


Note: I wrote a post about marketing assisted living facilities almost four years ago, and that post has become one of the most read posts since I began blogging in 2005, which tells me that the interest and desire to innovative assisted living marketing is significant.  I will continue to address this topic as the demand for assisted living is increasing, as is the challenge of running profitable, client-focused assisted living facilities.

Social media chaos: the customer is confused

What a social mess in big companies. Every organization seems to be creating their own social media strategy. Advertising. PR. Customer service. Direct marketing.  Sales. Product marketing. Market research. Oy veh.

Here’s the problem. The customer is getting confused. So many different company Twitter handles, Facebook pages, multiplying blogs.  Customers feel like they’re hearing from five different companies rather than one.  That’s because your five different organizations have only been thinking about their organizational strategy — without thinking about the customer strategy.

You’re not alone. I could name five big companies who this month are sitting down to try to make sense of how they’re engaging with customers. Things have gotten out of hand amid the social media exuberance. Every organization wants a “social media presence.”  And every ambitious marketing and communications professional wants social media accomplishments on their resume.

But what do customers want? If you keep one marketing New Year’s resolution, make sure you lay down an enterprise strategy for how your company/brand will connect with customers based on building a valuable relationship with the customer.

Then establish the processes, workflow, and internal rules of engagement. Keep it clear and succinct, make sure it’s easy to follow, and honor it as you honor the revenue that comes from each customer.

Then everyone can succeed.

Book review: Chief Culture Officer

The most important point of the excellent book “Chief Culture Officer” by Grant McCracken is this — and it’s big:   Today’s fast-changing external cultural environment presents significant opportunities and dangers for companies.  To manage risk and seize opportunities somebody needs to own culture — understanding patterns and uncovering insights,  and helping the C-suite understand how make better decisions based on this understanding.

This isn’t traditional market research, but anthropological research for business, noticing and assessing ideas, trends, emotions that make up the life of customers and employees — and determining what these cultural shifts mean to a company. This applies not just to marketing, but to leadership, HR and workplace communications.

This understanding and empathy, Grant notes, is often viewed as a “soft competency” by executives and business schools.

“To refuse empathy is a kind of managerial malpractice. It costs us essential knowledge of our colleagues and our customers…In fact empathy is frequently the blade that finds the right insight, extracts from it the real strategic and tactical opportunity, and crafts it into a final, compelling form. Is this really a ‘soft’ skill?

Value of a Chief Culture Officer

  • Better informed C-suite decisions based on opportunities and risk that come from culture, both strategic and tactical decisions.
  • Serve as internal entrepreneur, an innovation agent

What a CCO does

  • Finds patterns among chaos of cultural trends and conjure what they mean to a company
  • Insinuates cultural knowledge into the CEO

How the chief culture officer does her or his job

  • Talks to anyone who will talk with you.
  • Figures out the thing that makes a person interesting.  Find what they know best and what this means to them, how it looks to them, how it feels to them
  • Is open and guileless, never, ever “hipper than thous”
  • Treats everyone as more knowledgeable than him or herself
  • Is a fearless “noticer” or observer — “spotting things that defy expectation, that don’t compute.” Pays special attention to things that puzzle. Pays attention to any failure in attention.
  • Develops empathy, the ability to feel how another person feels, and find insights from those feelings.
  • Admits ignorance and asks naive questions.

Beware: what culture strategy is not cool hunting

Today’s Fast culture is a huge challenge for businesses: miss a trend or misread customers and your brand can quickly become irrelevant. Similarly, slow culture also  presents opportunities and risks and is perhaps more overlooked as the “cool hunters” have no interest here at all.  Grant warns us to beware of the “cool” people; they tend to be into themselves and what’s hip, not real listening, observing and empathy needed to uncover insights.

Quotes I liked

  • “We should think of our CEO as a Soviet-era Moscow audience and the CCO as Radio Free Europe. The CCO is trying to penetrate an air space constantly being “jammed” by other things.”
  • “Knowledge can stand in the way of innovation.”
  • “Without emotional sonar, there are many things an executive cannot know. This person in a sense is trapped in himself.”
  • “There is no code to “crack” culture. Just good listening.”
  • “We are not seeking perfection. We are seeking to construct and idea just robust enough to get us from confusion to clarity.”

This is a motivating, highly-readable book, chock full of insights, things that make you wonder, and motivation to make you  want to wander more in order to notice more. It’s also so refreshing in its pragmatic approach, reminding us that culture strategy is a form of anthropological science and not about what the cool people think.

Five stars for this book.

Social media as predictive forecasting tool

As the interest heats up in understanding the business value of social media, there’s an interesting report out from HP Labs that shows the predictive forecasting potential of Twitter.

Sitaram Asur and Beranardo Huberman built two models to predict the box office sales of movies based on Twitter. The model for predicting first weekend box office sales was 97.3 percent accuraate and the prediction for second weekend performance was 94 percent accurate.

From meetings I’ve had recently with marketing scientists I’m convinced that we’ll be seeing many more mathematical models that will not only help quantitatively measure the return on social media engagement but will also link those measures to business metrics like sales, trial, leads.

MIT’s “Technology Review” article about these Twitter models raises an interesting question:

Can they change the demand for their film, product or service buy directly influencing the rate at which people tweet about it? In other words, can they change the future that tweeters predict?

To download the “Predicting the Future with Social Media” study click here.

Video marketing: Here's the Noodle

One of the big trends in marketing today is telling your story on video, largely because video has such an ability to convey the rational and the emotional elements of a story.  Here’s my video book trailer for my new book, “Be the Noodle,” produced by First Priority Media.

More about the book can be found here. I’m just filled with so much gratitude about the response to the book. Clearly people have been looking for a book where “inspire, wisdom, and humor” are linked with end of life and dying. A big outpouring of thanks goes to Justin Evans, partner of the Montreal design firm Stress Limit Design, who created an extraordinary cover. And of course, my remarkable family. Together we can do so much, except for the singing thing.

18 ways to use social for business

Social CRM chartJPEG

Jeremiah Owang has just published a solid report on how to use social techniques and technologies for sales, customer service, CRM, innovation. In other-words, all those critical functions that help a company build stronger relationships with customers.  I found his assessment of the market readiness of CRM use cases, based on market demand and tech maturity, to be especially insightful. Here’s the report.

Hiring your own beat reporter: LA Kings jump onto trend


If there are no media left to cover your company or sports team, what do you do to build a fan base besides Tweet and run a company blog?  For the past two years our company has created independent blog properties for big companies, written by independent writers, free of any control by the client.  (The blogs focus on issues relevant to the clients’ businesses.)

This week the LA Kings adopted a similar approach when it hired Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Daily News to cover the team  — not as a publicist, but as a journalist covering his sports beat but being paid by the team.

Sports teams used to have several full time “traveling beat writers” covering them. Now major league sports teams are lucky if they have one. For the LA Kings, they’ve had no one covering them, aside from spotty AP reports. (This is hockey, not major league football, but still….)

By  hiring a verteran sports reporter,  the Kings expect to see much more news about the team, not just about games but about player profiles, previews, etc.  A steady stream to connect with the fan base and hopefully attact new ones. It’s a trend that we expect more and more companies to adopt as well.

Here’s what Rich Hammond wrote about the move:

To put it as plainly and simply as possible, I will draw a salary from the Kings, but none of the stories and/or blogs I write will be reviewed for approval by any member of the Kings’ staff. Topics will not need approval and interviews will not have any additional supervision. I have been hired to blog, write stories — including coverage of home and road games — and produce other content for the website. This is not public relations. I have been told, pointedly, by the highest levels of Kings management, that I should continue to report and write as normal.

Be certain of two things: I will not “go easy” on the Kings out of any fear of retribution, just as I will not take gratuitous shots at the team and the organization simply because I have retained the right to be critical. Things will continue on course. Praise and criticism, to the extent I feel either is warranted, will continue to be distributed fairly.

That’s out of the way. Now let me tell you what to expect. I can say, with complete confidence, that you will have better, more comprehensive Kings coverage than ever before. When the team is away on its 10-day road trip next month — and on all of its road trips — I will be there, giving up-to-the-minute updates on the blog and writing stories for the website. For the first time ever in my career, I will be able to dedicate every working hour to covering the Kings.

It will be interesting to see of the Kings do give Hammond complete editorial control.  In our experience, it’s hard for “the owners” to be hands off when a writer writes something they disagree with, or knocks — legitimately – the company or product in some way.   Yet  research shows that people believe sources that provide the good and the not-so-good. Those souces have more credibility than the “official company spokesperson.”

And, who knows, if the Kings get this right, maybe the good karma will help them win more games too. :)

Renting eyeballs or owning the customer platform?


Seth Godin nails the big, big change in marketing in his post, “The platform vs. the eyeballs”: it’s not about renting customer “eyeballs” by advertising in media, whose purpose is aggregating a big volume of eyeballs. And where you might get a .5% conversion rate.

Value comes from owning your own platform, e.g., a communities, blogs, and filling it with people who people who want to hear from you, and maybe getting 90% conversion rates.

Suddenly the new media comes along and the rules are different. You’re not renting an audience, you’re building one. You’re not exhibiting at a trade show, you’re starting your own trade show.

If you still ask, “how much traffic is there,” or “what’s the CPM?” you’re not getting it. Are you buying momentary attention or are you investing in a long term asset?

The challenge we’re seeing is that marketers are measured by old metrics, so they don’t have the time or interest to build a platform of fans.  The measure of big volumes still dominates — we have  40,000 page views a month, we had 800 people register, we had 4,000 people watch the video.

But, as Godin points out, this is momentary attention. To build interest and affinity, marketers have to give to get, constantly providing value in new ways to customers and potential customers.  They have to be more interesting to get interest.  This new fan-based marketing is expensive and hard work. But those companies who do it will ultimately realize much greater ROI on their marketing investments.

New best practices paper on social media monitoring, engagement, measurement

We’ve just release a new study on emerging best practices in social media monitoring, engagement and measurement based on interviews with large corporations like Cisco, Intuit, GE and with the top monitoring technology providers (Visible Technologies, Radian6, Cymfony, Market Sentinel), who have fascinating stories based on existing clients and from the RFP/sales process.

(Economy be damned, one technology provider even had to fire a big brand company because its agency was basically spamming bloggers and Tweeters.)

The report includes sections on:

  • Guidelines for responding, engaging, working with legal, staffing
  • Measurement
  • Biggest surprises
  • Most common mistakes
  • Advice
  • Next steps

What I found especially interesting:

  • Universal agreement that people in companies should be engaging in social media conversations– NOT outside agencies.
  • Creating monitoring systems is straightforward; developing engagement strategies is much more complex, requiring a lot of employee education and process redesign (ex: customer service)
  • The stronger the corporate culture of trust and employee empowerment, the easier it is to implement and scale enterprise-wide monitoring and engagement approaches.
  • Insights from social media monitoring are extremely valuable, but creating the right reports to glean that value for different functions is challenging.
  • For most companies legal has not been an obstacle. But collaborating with legal is essential. (See tips on dealing with legal in the report.)
  • How few conversations require or could benefit from a response. Many companies think the cost would be exorbitant to assign people to respond to Tweets, blogs and forums, but once they analyze the data and do a business case analysis the investment for the value provides a good return on investment, whether it’s for customer service, sales, or reputation management.

To get a free copy of the report, click here.

Would love to hear  your thoughts about these best practices based on your experience. What’s missing?

8 ways to "social mediafy" marketing, PR campaigns

Creating marketing and public relations campaigns within a social media context requires some new steps– and greater attention to steps that hopefully have always been considered.

Here are eight ideas to “social mediafy” your campaigns.

1. Know what’s relevant and current: First, know what your audience cares about. What issues, topics, ideas are front of mind.  Not what your company wants to talk about, which is usually your own products and service features/functions (boring), but what people are already concerned about and interested in. Do this by analyzing the digital ecosystem for your category — blogs, tweets, news articles, YouTube videos,  Digg posts/rankings, Google searches, etc. What’s most popular, triggers the most responses?  If you have a corporate blog or a customer forum — what are the most popular topics?

2. What’s the business goal: Before doing anything, clearly understand the intention of the campaign. Is it to develop preference for your brand vs. another? Change a perception about your company? Make people more aware of the company’s expertise in a particular area? Help people understand an issue that is an obstacle to sales? Generate leads? Make your brand more likable?  The more specific you can be, the more effective your program will be — and the easier it will be to measure it.  I see far too little time spent on this important step. “General Awareness” is too superficial — nor does it guide how to execute.

3. Formulate a provocative point of view: What’s your take on a topic of current interest to your audience — and how does your point of view connect with your goal? Make the point of view is fresh, thought-provoking and even provocative.  As word of mouth author Emmanuel Rosen points out in an interview with Sean Moffit of BuzzCanuck, one of the worst practices in marketing is having nothing interesting to say. My research has found that there are nine themes that people like to talk about; here’s more on “The Nine Best Story Lines for Marketing” from Guy Kawasaki’s blog.  My favorite is taking a contrarian or counterintuitive view. Done right, this approach creates interest, debate and longevity — and can help address a number of goals.

4. Put that point of view together in a shareable form: Take your point of view and develop it in a form (or multiple forms) that people can easily share with other people — eBooks, videos, ChangeThis manifestos, blog posts, presentations, white papers. And put those not just on your own site but where people are browsing — YouTube, SlideShare, Delicious, etc.  Some recent examples of content easy to share: Disney Park’s “make your own personalized video,” which you can then share with friends. IBM’s “Art of the Sale” mainframe videos by Tim Washer. And a great white paper, “EMC/One: A Journey in Social Media” by Chuck Hollis. Having some thing makes it easier to share. Of course, it needs to be interesting enough that you want to share it with your colleagues and friends.

5. Get your views out into the ecosystem: Now stir things up and let people know about your point of view– and where they can go to learn more.  Use Twitter, Facebook, blogger outreach,, YouTube, Digg, Sumbleupon and all the many, many other places out there.

6. Stay in the conversation: As people start talking about the topic, stay in the conversation, adding new perspectives, answering questions, providing other people/places about the issue. Set up Google alerts at a minimum to keep up with the conversation and post responses to what;s being said. The days of dropping a press release, talking to some media, and calling it a campaign are over.

7. Repackage: Take the highlights of what ensued and repackage them to further achieve your goals — use for customer newsletters, sales presentations, management reports, in employee communities/Intranets.

8. Measure what sticks: Lastly, learn from all the issues you initiate. Which garnered the most interest — and why? What fell flat? Was it the topic — or was it the execution. This execute-and-measure-and-learn is the only way to find what works for your audience — and is an ongoing education for you.