Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Essential Books for Your Summer Reading List


Every summer, we plan extra hours for all sorts of activities. From beach excursions to museum visits to outdoor hikes, the summer is the time to catch up on all the adventures that don’t happen during the rest of the year. In addition to all the fun outdoor adventures, another activity on our summer “to do lists” is reading. Some of us even build a stack of “must-read books” all year-long with the intent to read them during our summer vacations. While you may have some non-fiction or novels on your reading list, I highly recommend that you add these three business books, more specifically these three marketing and leadership books, published this year to your summer reading list.

MORE IS MORE by Blake Morgan
The buzz in today’s competitive and social economy centers on the brand experience, which relies heavily on the customer experience. Businesses stand out by providing the most positive and most memorable customer experience. But how do you accomplish this? There is no secret sauce, and every industry has differences, whether big or small. According to Morgan, there is a customer experience crisis underway, and most brands have no idea how to move their brand from mediocre to extraordinary.

“Instead of being intimidated and shying away from the abundance of new channels and digital platforms, brands need to act quickly and figure out meaningful strategies that can help them meet potential customers at these new touch points...Contrary to popular belief, the customer experience boils down to far more than just sales and customer service…Customer experience is an attitude embraced within the company; it’s a company-wide approach to building an operation that has the customer at its center.”

Here are eight pieces of advice from Morgan:
[1] Hire someone to own the customer experience. Some businesses use the title “Chief Customer Officer,” others use “Chief Engagement Officer,” and others use “Chief Branding Officer.” But no matter what title you use, this individual will represent your customer at the highest level of your organization.
[2] Involve your entire organization. Create and maintain a customer-centric culture. One example is the Walt Disney Company, where all employees or cast members attend Disney University to learn about the culture, corporate lingo, and more.
[3] Meet and serve customers in their preferred channels. If your customers post lots of photos on Instagram, you should have a large and growing presence on Instagram. If your customers post comments or ask questions on Twitter, you should have a large presence on Twitter. Don’t spend time on social platforms simply to say you’re there.
[4] Don’t ignore mobile technology. How does your brand leverage mobile technology to improve your customers’ lives? The answer will determine your mobile strategy.
[5] Offer a strong employee experience. Do your employees have authority to fix problems, or do they pass off the customer from one employee to another with no end in sight?
[6] Be a good corporate citizen. Participate in local, regional, or international philanthropy and involve your employees. Some businesses are known for offering employee philanthropy or volunteer days whereby the businesses close for the day and employees volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a literacy program, or others.
[7] Embrace change. One example is the evolution of retail. If you only sell in a physical store, your brand may soon disappear. But if you’ve developed a digital presence and strategy, your brand has a better chance of surviving.
[8] Ask this question: What role do customers play in your business? This question should be at the core of all your key discussions.

MULTIPLIERS: HOW THE BEST LEADERS MAKE EVERYONE SMARTER by Liz Wiseman
This book is a revised and updated version of a previously-released book from 2010. The concept behind the book was that “there is a type of leader called Multipliers, who saw, used, and grew the intelligence of others, while other leaders called Diminishers, shut down the smarts of those around them.” There is probably a bit of this concept playing out in every business in America today, and the result is a waste of intellectual capital. This waste of intellectual capital can be viewed in terms of productivity, intellectual growth, and overall manpower hours. The bottom line is that employees suffer because they don’t work to their full potential, leaders suffer because they don’t empower their employees or inspire them, and businesses suffer because they only witness a percentage of work product by their employees – not 100%.

“Some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, everyone else had to look dumb…In countless settings, these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.”

“Other leaders used their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. They applied their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them. People got smarter and better in their presence. Ideas grew, challenges were surmounted, hard problems were solved.  When these leaders walked into a room, lightbulbs started switching on over people’s heads…These leaders seemed to make everyone around them better and more capable. These leaders weren’t just intelligent themselves – they were intelligence Multipliers. Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.”

Wiseman explained the five disciplines of Multipliers:
[1] The Talent Magnet: Attracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution.
[2] The Liberator: Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work.
[3] The Challenger: Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch.
[4] The Debate Maker: Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate.
[5] The Investor: Gives other people ownership for results and invests in their success.

If you know or work for someone who is a Diminisher, you can make a difference in the workplace by sharing the disciplines of Multipliers.

THE INSPIRATION CODE: HOW THE BEST LEADERS ENERGIZE PEOPLE EVERY DAY by Kristi Hedges
Who has inspired you? This is the question that author Kristi Hedges used as an icebreaker when making a keynote or presentation. Responses included first bosses, colleagues, parents, friends, teachers, politicians, members of the clergy, and more. Every time, though, it had the same result despite the fact that may people were in attendance because they had to be: excitement and passion.

Hedges thought more about the issue and wondered why this level of excitement was missing from many workplaces. “If we want to have inspired companies, then we need inspirational leaders. And that involves being the kind of leader who communicates in a way that creates the conditions for inspiration in others. It’s about making the right connection and letting the inspiration take off from there.”

Hedges offered the following settings for offering inspiration:
[1] One-to-one meetings.
[2] Group meetings: team meetings, status meetings, leadership meetings, and brainstorming meetings.
[3] Presentations.
[4] Networking.
[5] Difficult conversations.

Lastly, “People remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. If you can engage people in real, meaningful conversations that inspire them to think and do more, you’ll be making strong connections that endure…Capture conversations that would otherwise slip by, and use them to give a positive bounce. Make them zing, Inspire because you can. Inspiration can happen anytime, and anywhere, started by you. Be the spark.”

What business book would you recommend reading this summer? Please chime in and share.

Connect and follow these great authors on Twitter:
Blake Morgan: @BlakeMichelleM
Liz Wiseman: @LizWiseman
Kristi Hedges: @KristiHedges

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Five Tips to Create Your Brand Style Guide


What’s one of the most important documents that your company has? While you might think it’s the list of passwords to gain access to your customer database, and that’s certainly important, a brand style guide is critical. In today’s competitive and social economy, a consistent and positive brand experience leads to future business and new customers. Therefore, a brand style guide is essential for the future success of your business.

This post provides five tips to create a brand style guide. A note, this document is a living, breathing document, so it will evolve over time – just as your business evolves. But if you don’t have one, don’t delay, create a brand style guide immediately.

[1] Showcase Your Brand Voice

Is your brand playful or serious? Do you have industry-specific jargon that’s easy to understand, or do you need to provide definitions? It may be easier to explain your brand’s voice by sharing examples with sample sentences. Another way to explain your brand’s voice may be by way of comparisons. Here’s an example from MailChimp: “We’re fun but not silly, expert but not bossy, confident but not cocky.”

[2] Showcase Your Brand Visuals

Is your brand associated with a specific color or colors? Think UPS and brown. Is your brand associated with a specific font? Think Coca-Cola’s swirl. If yes, know the Pantone or PMS colors as well as the CMYK and RGB versions. Also include “Don’t Use” examples with your logo and tagline.

[3] Showcase Consistency

Your brand is not just one logo, one tagline, and one or more colors. Think of how the Apple brand has evolved from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. When your main brand evolves and co-brands are created, consistency with the main brand provides credibility. Consumers, users, and stakeholders have developed a bond with your brand, and as a result, you want them to also develop a bond with your other brands. The best way to make this happen is to provide brand consistency. Apple did this by including the “i” in its brand naming structure.

[4] Include Your Legal Team

Ask your legal team to review the style guide. This will accomplish two important goals. First, the legal team will be involved in the process so that if any brand or trademark infringements happen, the legal team will be aware of the document you’ve created. And second, the legal team can share its trademark law expertise and possibly add something to the style guide that was missed by the marketing, design, PR, and/or personnel teams.

[5] Share Your Guide Company-Wide

Once the brand style guide has been completed, don’t toss it into a drawer in the personnel department leader’s office and forget about it. Include it as part of your onboarding process and hold quarterly brand training sessions. Feature it as a PDF on your website in the online press room and feature highlights in a blog post or blog posts on your company’s blog. Apply the guidelines to all other company marketing applications including letterhead and envelopes, business cards, email signatures, PowerPoint presentation templates, meeting agendas, flyers, and more. Use the logo or an approved tweaked version on all social platforms. Make sure that your employees know that they are encouraged to associate themselves with your company/brand when they post in social media but that they must clearly note their online posts as their own (for example, in their Twitter profiles).
 

And lastly, it is a good idea to provide an introduction to your brand style guide. Here is a sample introduction:

"These guidelines are provided to help carry our brand message to the community. Along with the brandmark, typography, color palette and other visual elements, directions are included to help manage the visual communication materials. This guide should be used as a reference when working with outside vendors and also with internal departments to ensure that everyone is using the (include your company name here) logo and other brand tools in a consistent manner."

What else have you included in your brand style guide? Please chime in and share.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Tale of My Favorite #Hashtags

When I think of social media hashtags, I think of storytelling. These words, shortened words, or combined words preceded by the number sign often tell a memorable story or introduce a story. I have three favorite hashtags, and here are the reasons why.

As a brand marketing professional, my most-used hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is #BrandTip. I share my blog posts, quotes from other branding experts' posts, and highlights from other brand experts' books with this hashtag. I enjoy making new connections especially on Twitter and Instagram, and I've met many amazing people as a result of using this hashtag.

Every Monday, I look forward to seeing #MondayMotivation tweets on Twitter. Two users who regularly share corporate culture, employee engagement, and customer experience insights with this hashtag are @DisneyInstitute and @ValaAfshar. One recent tweet by the Disney Institute was "Spring into action – nurture your workplace by cultivating a thriving team environment." Another was "Ready, set, go. Drive success by providing a clear path forward." Without a doubt, everyone can learn from the business insights shared with this hashtag – and it is also an energizing way to start each work week.

Do you have another name for Saturdays? I do. #Caturday is another way to refer to the sixth day of the week. This hashtag is a fun way for cat owners and fans to share photos, illustrations, and videos of their cats in funny poses, with clothing, or simply playing. While there may be other animal hashtags, especially on Instagram, such as #catsofinstagram or #dogsofinstagram, the fact is, no other animal owns a day of the week.

All three of these hashtags improve overall brand experiences, whether the brand is a product, service, or cat with a stand-out personality (for example, Grumpy Cat). As for me, I enjoy my social media marketing more thanks to these hashtags.

What are some of your fave hashtags? Please chime in and share.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Disconnect Between Customer Service and Customer Experience Marketing

Many marketers and other social influencers understand that the way to stand out in today’s competitive social economy is to provide an outstanding customer experience. This can be interpreted or played out in many ways. Some businesses offer loyalty programs to repeat customers. Other businesses offer discounts. And others personalize all forms of communication. But what happens when a business doesn’t understand that the other side of service is a positive customer experience?

Recently, I made an online purchase from a small online retailer, which had previously been a catalog-only business since the 1970’s (according to its website). I chose two products, added my credit card, added my mailing address – and this is where it gets silly. I added my email address and telephone number. Remember this as the story goes on.

At the two-week mark, I wondered where the items were. I called the toll-free number and spoke with a customer service representative. After much discussion, we learned that my package had an incorrect digit in the street address and was en route back to the retailer. The shipping process began with FedEx, who then transferred the package to the US Post Office. At no time in the package’s journey, neither FedEx nor the Post Office thought about using my email address or telephone number, which were on the shipping label, to reach out to me to ask for my correct street address.

Instead, the package was simply MIA. The customer service rep had no idea when the post office would return it, so she could not issue a refund. She did, however, offer to take my credit card number over the phone to place a new order, and she even offered to pay for the shipping cost. Wow, a big gift of eight dollars!

I wondered, did the representative have any authority to make sure I had a positive customer experience? Could she have offered to send me one of the two items that I had initially ordered at half price or even free – as a token of understanding my frustration and disappointment? Or was it more important that the online retailer balance its books and ignore the entire concept of customer experience marketing altogether?

Before I ended the call, I told the rep that I understood customer experience marketing and that, if I had been in her shoes, I would have done something to make sure that I did not lose a customer. The Potpourri rep replied, “Sorry,” and hung up. I wonder how long until I notice the refund on my credit card statement. With service like I experienced, I wonder how long this retailer will remain in business.

Have you ever experienced a disappointing customer experience that turned around at the end? Please chime in and share.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Brand Experience Lesson: Think Like A User or Customer

Think back to the time you got your first smartphone. What did you do first? You probably added some favorite apps, such as, weather, maps, news, social media platforms, and games. (There was a time when all people talked about was Angry Birds!) But what happens when a game is no longer supported by its developer? Developers need to put themselves in the shoes of marketers. When the time comes to end a game, developers need to consider their users, customers, and fans.

Nowadays, when a movie opens, there are co-branded retail products, food partnerships, and games. When the movie "The Secret Life of Pets" appeared, there was a game called "The Secret Life of Pets: Unleashed." The game featured all the movie's memorable characters (dogs, cats, rabbit, and more) and was fun to play.

And then, one day, a message popped up on the screen. It read in part:
"We've had an incredible time together solving puzzles, but soon it will be time for us to make our final match...The Secret Life of Pets: Unleashed will be retired and no longer available."

While the message continued by asking users to play other games created by the same developer, there was something missing from the message. There was no human element, no understanding of the connection that a user had made to the game. Users most likely used the game as a form of relaxation and maybe even used the puzzles as a form of escapism. Or fans of the movie wanted to know how smart the characters could be in challenging puzzles. Above all, users had a clear brand experience with the game that had carried over from the movie.

So, why did the developers end the game with the above-referenced message? Where was the recognition for fan support? Why didn't the developers go further with their goodbye message and add friendlier language? These developers made a mistake by making the final interaction between users and their brand a disappointing one. With so many people placing an emphasis on online reviews and ratings, this developer should have thought a little more strategically before retiring this game. Users may voice their disappointment and/or displeasure where other apps/games by the same developer are listed or sold.

Have you ever had a favorite app or game that was retired? Please chime in with how the developer or brand made the announcement.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Inspiring Leadership Quotes


Recently, I saw five leadership quotes that have remained with me. While there are countless quotes surrounding this important business topic, what separates one from another? Is it the length of the quote? Is it the person who stated the powerful words? Or is it the company behind the person behind the quote? You decide. In the meantime, check out these five memorable quotes and see if they inspire you to be a better leader, to become a leader, or to simply improve your interactions with your colleagues and team members.

"Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.” --Susan Vobejda


"A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." --Arnold H. Glasow

"Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." --Mark Herbert

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” --Sheryl Sandberg

"Create an environment that allows your employees to thrive." --Kevin Eikenberry

What's your favorite leadership quote?

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Review of the #Ads from #SuperBowl51


Super Bowl 51 may easily go into the history books as the best in history with its overtime surprise win, but if you live and breathe marketing and branding, the ads are the day’s focus. With a staggering cost of $5 million for 30 incredibly short seconds, is it possible for a brand to tell its story effectively and memorably? Were there any ads that rivaled Apple’s 1984 ad or Oreo’s Tweet during the 2013 power outage? Bottom line, can YOU recall any of the ads?

According to Landor Associates, "Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”

During the game, Jim Joseph of Cohn and Wolfe in New York hosted the #SuperBowlExp party on Twitter (minus chips and guacamole). Although it's always fun to see what fellow branding and marketing folks say about the ads in real time, there are a couple of challenges. First, some ads run in regional or local markets, so there were some instances that Tweets referenced ads I didn’t see. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the ads that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up. In addition to Jim’s party, there were these hashtags that I followed: #BrandBowl, #AdBowl, #SuperBowlAds, and #whartonfoa.

For a complete recap of my Tweets during the #SuperBowlExp chat party, visit my Storify link:
https://storify.com/DebbieLaskeyMBA/superbowl-51-ad-review

This year, many brands and brand icons were noticeably absent. There were no Oreos, M&Ms, polar bears wearing scarves featuring the colors of the competing teams, or the entire group of Clydesdales with their pal, the adorable Dalmatian. This year, politics was in the air. According to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, “Great Super Bowl ads this year. Shows the country moving the right direction, pro-women, pro-environment, pro-immigrant, pro-diversity.” Without further ado, here were my five favorite ads:

AUDI – A father and daughter were featured with the theme of #EqualPayForEqualWork and #DriveProgress. While some viewers complained about the ad afterward by stating that the company has an all-white male Board of Directors, the critical issue is that equal pay for equal work must be implemented before women will earn a place in the C-Suite and Board room.

BUDWEISER – During a national and international time of immigration crisis, this ad pushed the envelope. Adolphus Busch came to America in 1857, and during his lifetime built an enduring brand, the King of Beers. America represents open doors and opportunity around the world – and always will. Most of us are hail from immigrants – something we must remember. Allegedly this ad was created quite some time ago, but in the current economic climate, the irony was not lost on anyone.

AIRBNB – In an uncertain and troubling political climate full of protests, demonstrations, and political disagreements, AirBnB presented an ad with a powerful and uplifting statement that, no matter where you live, who you love, or what you believe in, the answer is #WeAccept.

KIA – Comedienne Melissa McCarthy appeared as an Eco Warrior tasked with saving the planet. She saved trees, whales, rhinos, and icebergs while simultaneously introducing the new Kia Niro vehicle. Her hashtag was #SmarterWay, and her humor was contagious.

TIFFANY AND CO – This ad featured half-time entertainer Lady Gaga as she talked about being a rebel, being true to herself, determining her own direction, and creating change. Tiffany jewelry has been a timeless brand, always unique – and representative of Gaga’s themes. Created in black and white and without any color, this ad was a good representation of rebellion combined with beauty.


To answer Landor Associates’ questions, these five ads were totally on brand – true to their core brand promises. I will remember the ads, and, all were incredibly timely – just recall Senator Schumer’s comments.

If you’d like to see some stats about how the ads rated, here are some links:

USA AdMeter:
http://admeter.usatoday.com/results/2017

Kellogg School’s Super Bowl Advertising Review:
http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/news-events/super-bowl/results.aspx
 

AdWeek Tracker and Roster of All Ads:
http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/super-bowl-ad-tracker-all-about-2017s-commercials-175124/

Don’t forget to check out Jim Joseph’s post on Huffington Post:
http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.com/XHBJj

If you need a Budweiser Clydesdale fix, here’s a link to their party via the #ClydesdaleCam on Periscope:
https://www.periscope.tv/Budweiser/1BRJjEzAvABGw

And lastly, this ending appeared in my post last year, but it’s just as appropriate this year. Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households. "The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."

So, are you counting the days to Super Bowl 52? Will that mean a trip to freezing cold Minnesota or simply tuning in to watch and critique the ads?



Today's post-Super Bowl game Instagram share.



Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon at the top of this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at www.marketoonist.com.