Weblog Entries for February 2005
February 28, 2005
Open Sauce update
James has just published a great Open Source Marketing manifesto at Change This. A really good primer.
Getting out of the business
I think I'm getting out the marketing/advertising business.He's spending more time working on this English Cut project which sounds a pretty good idea to me.
There are days when I feel like getting out of the branding/marketing business too. It all gets way too theoretical for my liking. Debates about brand concepts become a mask for what are probably much more interesting conflicts below the surface. I guess today is one of those days!
February 26, 2005
Chris Corrigan on facilitation
Chris has a great post today: values, tools and authentic facilitation which really resonates with me. This passage gets to the nub:
Chaordic confidence describes the ability to stay in chaos and trust that order will emerge. It's a subtle art, but it is essential to working with groups who are themselves confronting chaos. If you can stay in the belief that order will emerge from what Sam Kaner calls "The Groan Zone" then the group has something to hitch its horse to, so to speak. But if you are married to your tools, and things go off the rails, you feel like a fish out of water, and you flop around unable to deal with the uncertainty around you. I've seen it happen - we probably all have - and it's not pretty.I think my own experience reflects Chris'. I trained in a variety of techniques and processes and I have let go of a great many of them. In particular, I use very few of the techniques developed in NLP, although I still admire some of the practitioners. I think the most important practice of all is to really show up to groups, to really be there and attend to my own experience as well as observing that of others.
Developing chaordic confidence is more than acquiring more tools. It is about integrating an approach to life and work that is anchored in a a set of principles and values that serves our clients. For me these values include believing in the wisdom of the group, trusting that chaos produces higher levels of order and seeing conflict as passion that can be harnessed in the service of progress.
Chris gets the emphasis right when he describes the methods he prefers, saying
When I use those approaches to working with groups, my clients are getting ME, and not just a set of tools.I like to talk about "robust uncertainty". I can say to myself "I don't know" in a voice of plaintive panic, or one of curiosity and excitement. On the whole, I favour the second. Robust may not be quite the right word, but I want to convey the idea of holding myself in a way that is well-formed rather than collapsed. I sense that this is the sort of thing Chris means when he talks about confidence.
For techniques, I favour simple ones that let the participants do the complexity themselves. I feel this really respects their talents as human beings. Like Chris, I'm a fan of Open Space. I use Improv ideas a lot, I think many of those activities really bring out our deep talent for making stuff work without following a lot of complicated rules. I also like to use things like Virginia Satir's temperature reading, a simple framework for reflection on the quality of a relationship.
Chris also says
We facilitators don't talk much about this stuff, but I think it actually preoccupies a lot of our time and thinking. My own preparation for group involves many hours of design and reflection on process and principles so that I can go to work offering the highest level of service to the people with whom I am working. And for me, this means reflecting on what is core to my life and work.I realise that I find it hard to put down in words what it is about facilitation that so engages me. When he talks about hours of design in preparation, at first I think: no, I don't do that. But then actually I realise I do; not sitting at a computer in a highly structured way; instead I do a lot of daydreaming about what might happen and, in effect, reflecting on what I might bring to the party. What I realise is: this stuff truly fascinates me.
Mickey mouse management skills
In one section, Stewart recounts in minute detail how Disney ended up paying $280 million in severance to former company Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg because Eisner's ego got in the way of approving a pre-negotiated deal to pay out a mere $90 million.Sometimes strong relationships unravel surprisingly fast and unpleasantly; sounds like Eisner:Katzenberg is one of those. Incidents like this really highlight the absurdity of an over-zealous focus on hard measures of business performance; human relationships can destroy - and create - value in a moment.
That's $190 million down the crapper simply because Eisner couldn't deal honestly with a man who'd also been one of his best friends for 20 years. Eisner is reportedly stepping down next year. Maybe my stock will finally start going up when he's gone.
February 25, 2005
WSJ going nowhere?
Good spot by David at AdPulp:
Adam L. Penenberg an assistant professor at New York University, writing in Wired says, "It might be hard to believe that The Wall Street Journal is in danger of becoming irrelevant, but it is.
Because you have to subscribe to access both current news articles and the archive, the Journal is leaving only a faint footprint in cyberspace. I googled "Enron" -- an issue the Journal covered exhaustively, and which two of its reporters even wrote a book about -- and not one article appeared within the first 25 pages (250 results.)"
February 24, 2005
Oops My Blooper
I am going to record the first BrandShift podcast on Monday.
Between now and then I need to prerecord a 2 minute talk by someone interesting from the world of branding/marketing (and if you read my blog, you qualify as interesting). The subject is one mistake from your career that you can look back on and laugh about, and maybe what you learnt from it.
Please volunteer yourself or a colleague by either emailing me johnnie (at) johnniemoore (dot) com or commenting below. If we get more volunteers, we might be able to use several!
Or pass this invitation on.
We can record you on the phone, or by Skype at a time to suit you as long as our producer is awak (he's on West Coast time).
Likewise, how about a 1 mintue Rant or Rave on anything from the world of marketing, brands or advertising that you love or hate.
Reward: negligible except the fun of doing it and the glory of being in the first show.
Don't hold back, please contact me.
February 22, 2005
We didn't get our act together for our original date but we are now committing. The first workshop will be on the morning of Friday March 18th at The Hub, a really interesting venue in London N1, 2 mins from Angel tube. Price of admission will be £125 for corporates, £50 for non-profits. (Plus VAT). Three and a half hours of lively discussion on how to get better value from marketing and (dare I promise) some inspiration on creative approaches to co-creation and collaboration with customers. More details soon.
We've also agreed to run a bespoke workshop, (so that will be errr... closed open sauce?) for a big PR agency here in London, with another in the frame. So looks like we're onto something...
February 21, 2005
More excellent bullfighting
I was ambushed a week ago, my nap time – reliably scheduled for the midday presentation at our quarterly meeting – interrupted by a surprise burst of useful information.Jon goes on to describe a platitudinous presentation full of nice words and no narrative grip of any kind.
The topic wasn’t all that promising. It had something to do with contracts for consulting work, and how we need to make sure our clients and ourselves have a precise understanding of what we’re supposed to deliver. Dull enough, but the presenter was clever enough to toss in some real world examples of how misunderstandings come about. ("Oops. Wait. Oh, yeah. We’ve screwed it up that way before.") So much for the traditional quarterly meeting nap. This guy had my attention, because I could see myself making the kinds of screw-ups he was talking about. Luckily, an opportunity to tune out and catch up on my sleep wasn’t far behind: a PowerPoint-based presentation on ethics.
It reminds me that some of the most pivotal points in meetings I've attended come when someone in the audience stands up, interrupts the speaker and says, in one form or another (and usually more politely than this): I'm bored. Let me tell you, the boredom vanishes from the meeting like a shot. And something pretty exciting follows. So next time, Jon... I dare you. I double dare you...
Vicars and Charts Party?
Typically eloquent piece by Simon Caulkin in yesterday's Observer: The devil is in the details:
How would you appraise a vicar's performance? By the number, length and quality of sermons? Attendance at church? Out of wedlock births? Ratio of marriages to divorce? Doctrinal purity?Caulkin does a great job articulating the paradox of performance measurement. If you are in too much rush to read the whole thing, here's his key point:
This intriguing question was raised by proposals put forward last week by the Church of England's General Synod to make incompetent vicars easier to sack, and to subject them to the kind of performance measures that apply to other workers.
Don't laugh:... In one study, a Norwegian hospital chaplain had performance measures that counted not only bedside visits, but also the number of last rites he performed. In fact, the church's measurement problem illustrates with blinding clarity the tensions inherent in all performance management.
If performance management is both inevitable and impossible, what's to be done? The answer is to disconnect measurement from control - to reconceptualise it, as professor Andy Neely of the Advanced Institute for Management Research has put it, as a system of learning rather than control.Yes... mind you, that's how schoolteachers tried to "sell" me on exams; they had a hard time convincing me of their sincerity!
Voice marketing defended
Eric Holmen says Voice marketing is not your father's telemarketing. It's a well articulated pushback to my earlier rant on Phone Spam (and those of other bloggers).
Eric puts up a case for voice marketing, pointing out how tightly regulated it is, how easy to opt out, how it's for customers only. How it saves time compared to real staff calling (in the jargon, voice marketing is about automated, prerecorded messages being dropped on your telephone).
He rightly pours scorn on the many half-baked attempts at "relationship marketing" that wither in the face of WalMart's highly disciplined, cost-based strategy.
Then you realize it. Your CRM communications plan is simply noise among noise. The marketing department has turned it into a ‘traffic generating’ program, and the lofty ideals of CRM, customer dialog – they’re gone out of pure pragmatism that your business needs revenue to compete with Wal-Mart.Eric suggests that bloggers have unrealistically high expectations of relationships that WalMart's success mocks.
What I think we're looking at here is what some call the law of the excluded middle - if you're going to compete with WalMart you'd better offer something with tangibly superior service or look out. There's only so much value in the middle ground of ok value and ok service. (I think there are exceptions to this, but let's pass on that tangent for now).
Where I differ with Eric is that I suspect that voice marketing is right in that awkward middle territory, a fumbled half-baked pseudo service - and he doesn't. Eric says, come on, it's not that big a deal:
All the CEO wanted to do was tell the customers, “Thanks for shopping with us when you could have shopped somewhere else. We will do whatever we can to continue to earn your trust and your patronage.”Hmmm, if this CEO's idea of going the extra mile were to have a computer simulate an actor announcing this to me, I'd smell BS. I would infer that what the CEO really means might be 1. We'll do whatever we can on our shoestring margins and 2.I might as well be on the golf course while this actor delivers this half-truth to you. This doesn't sound much like a start of dialog to me.
But that's just me. And Eric also says
Never mind that – lets look at results. Did any blog-critics notice the startling results that voice marketing is producing? For the skeptics – did you notice the opt-out rates? A typical voice marketing message is 35 seconds long, and about 5 seconds is dedicated to giving instructions on how to opt-out. In that case – if so many consumers are offended by this, then why would only 2 tenths of one percent opt-out, consistently? And for 20% of voice marketing calls, the caller merely has to “press-1” to opt out! It doesn’t get much easier than this, and if voice marketing is so intrusive, shouldn’t the opt-out rates be at least in single, if not double digits?I'd be interested in chapter and verse on the stats, but I don't dismiss them lightly. Maybe a lot of people do at least tolerate this stuff. Weird.
The fatal flaw of a poor marketer is letting personal experience and emotion conflict with results.I'd say that a well-functioning human (in marketing or not!) is willing to experience that conflict and not deny it. Really interesting things happen when our emotions and experience conflict with the numbers. Because, as always with numbers, they tell only part of the story.
What happens to the culture of a business that gets into low-cost, robotic ways of talking with its customers? What's it like to work for a business that relates in this way? There are always side-effects to activities that the "core numbers" don't witness.
One of the upsides of blogging is that it provides at least a back-channel for these kinds of less-measurable but still very real forms of feedback to happen.
OK, maybe voice marketing has its uses. But boy, I hope its done with way, way more panache than the rubbish I have to listen to on my phone.
So Eric, I hope we can avoid making this an either:or story. The numbers OR our feelings. Friendly people OR technology. Let's have room for both. Maybe you can share more of these statistics about how customers respond to this activity. And let's maybe see your numbers on opt-in and opt-out in a broader context of how these businesses see their relationships with customers.
(I also want to say something about scarcity-thinking vs abundant thinking, as I think that may go to the heart of what this debate is about. But I don't have time for that now... )
February 20, 2005
Individuals and teams
Kathy Sierra stands up for the power of one.
I'm not dissing teams--our books are all collaborative efforts, and far better because of it. And we consider ourselves to be on a team that includes our publisher O'Reilly. It's not teams that are the problem, it's the rabid insistence on teamwork. Group think. Committee decisions.Yeah, too often the plea for teamwork is a confusing demand for a kind of bland conformity. And like Kathy I am bored of that mantra about "There is no I in team", often uttered by egomaniacs. (I know an achingly funny true story about that phrase being used by a top manager who truly got his comeuppance, but it is so vulgar I dare not blog it here. Skype me and I'll tell you though.)
I could give an equally effusive raspberry to the idea of the solitary genius, the passionate misfit with no clothes sense and an unusual take on ideas of personal hygience. The old artist-in-a-garret model of creativity. That's not altogether accurate, either.
Isaac Newton famously admitted that he stood on the shoulders of giants. (Though it may be that this was actually a wicked jibe at this close rival who happened to be a very short man).
This is not an either/or debate. What most excites me is seeing teams that function way above the dull consensus, where diversity leads to thinking that is beyond the capacity of one person. When the ideas happen between people and no-one's fighting to own them personally. I think that's what Kathy points to in her conclusion
I do believe that a team can change the world, but it's still a team of individuals supporting each other in being brave, strong, innovative, and passionate.I might stick a "com" in front of passionate though. That's an under-rated quality in organisational life.
Chelsea on big companies
From Chelsea Hardaway's great post: Dirty little secret
This is precisely the problem with most big companies -- they don't learn. They get paid to do something, and then they get successful at it. So they try to make it repeatable. They come up with all kinds of rules and processes to reinforce that one thing, and suddenly, there is no motivation to try anything different. There's no need to learn any new skills. And no time. The people inside are kept frenetically busy with meetings and memos, so they never realize life is passing them by.I do think one of the biggest challenges for any successful business is the avoidance of sclerosis.
The so-called problem of engagement
My new pal Jake has signed up as a BzzAgent, to see what it's all about - despite his considerable scepticism.
But this post is not about the ethics of BzzAgent. Let's put that (those?) to one side and notice that something rather interesting is happening here. I think it's related in some way to what I said in my Cloudmark post yesterday. We sometimes participate in things we don't necessarily "believe in"; we join despite, not because of, the stated benefits. We may offer some interesting rationalisation for our choice, but that might just be a story we tell ourselves to preserve the comforting fantasy of a rational world.
This all feeds my sense that the desire for participation is natural, it's in our bones. All those consultants who say you need to "install belief changes" to get people to do things may be barking up entirely the wrong tree. (Read that link and you can see why I largely repent my training in NLP).
But I wonder if we could look at it this way: there is no problem about engagement. When I do Improv training, it's hilarious how passionately folks engage in apparently pointless games. Occasionally, some of the most active players then sit down afterwards and demand tetchily to know what the point was; I'm inclined to ask them to tell me - they were the ones who seemed most motivated.
The real problem here may not be engagement, but what people are engaged in - which doesn't conform to the corporate ideal. Now that's a different and more interesting topic for a conversation. That might lead us to a very engaging chat about what it is that folks aren't talking about. A year ago, I quoted Chris Corrigan on this point:
When I am working with organizations who complain that they have communication problems, I always ask about gossip. I ask how long it takes for a juicy rumour to propagate through the organization. People usually respond with some lightning fast time.I'm probably always only one statement or question away from a very engaging conversation. But will I take the risk to say/ask it? (And note that it's me that needs to change - not the other person).
I always point out that this means that there is no communication problem, the problem is that people are just not passionate enough about issues that are "communication problems." This always leads into nice discussions about working with more passion, rather than devising some useless set of easily broken communication commitments.
February 19, 2005
Daily Show on blogging
Fun with Jake leads to new feed
Just has a great Skype chat with Jake at Community Guy. One by-product was that I've now created yet another RSS feed, this one is the full monty feed - entries, comments and trackbacks all in one bloated package. Enjoy! (Thanks to this guy for the tech insight on this)
Several other ideas brewed up in a short chat, dontcha just love the inkernet?
Rich...! kicks around some interesting ideas in his seductively titled post, "Sex isn't sexy, kissing is" (but sex remains the endgame) He's responding to Martin Hattingh's thinking:
Profit? Nah, it doesn't really interest me per sé.Rich...! seems to like Martin's drift but concludes, for himself,
Don't get me wrong, I'm just as tickled by imaginative business models as you guys are. I can relate to the beauty of an operation which allows for almost infinite scalability in output (and thus revenue), while following an input curve which reduces exponentially, at least up to a point. Sometimes, it even makes me feel good thinking of how securely I'd be able to support a family with the profits that such a business generates.
But, for me, that's not where it's at. Me, I like to understand - and with that I mean deeply understand - how the income which makes those profits possible is actually generated. Again, I'm not referring to revenue models, or to any operational, accounting or cost-structure aspects. I'm referring to what makes the people who this revenue comes from spend that money in this first place. Why are they willing to pay, what tickles them, what entices them to part gladly with their hard-earned income?
Profit though, and I refuse to apologise for this, is my purpose…!Well, I'd like to suggest that the direct pursuit of any single goal can be counterproductive. Which means that Rich...! might do himself a favour by feeling good about the many postive outcomes of his work beyond the cash. And Rich...! I'm not going to let you get away with portraying yourself as a guy primarily interested in making profit; I think that might be a story you're telling yourself that doesn't actually match the facts.
For a truly brilliant take on obliquity, check out John Jay's article on the topic. Here's the intro:
Strange as it may seem, overcoming geographic obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting global business targets are the type of goals often best achieved when pursued indirectly. This is the idea of Obliquity. Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people.Jay gives several great examples from history and business. The British victory over the French in Canada, the route of the Panama Canal, the beating of forest fires are all instances of obliquity.
If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in the other. Paradoxical as it sounds, goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. So the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented, and the happiest people are not those who make happiness their main aim. The name of this idea? Obliquity.
For the money-minded this gets personal when he points out how companies that start to fixate on creating shareholder value often achieve the opposite of what they seek. He tells compellingly how this has afflicted ICI and Boeing, dating their falls from glory from their decision to drop more inspiring objectives in favour of focussing on making money. Serious brain food.
(By the way, this probably will interest Tony in his championing of Chris Locke's love of bricloage. One of the reasons some folks may not get "the value of blogging" is that they misunderestimate the joys of obliquity.)
Bonus Link: No sooner do I post this than I find Robin Diane is on a similar wavelength
When I was young, I played on my school's basketball team for a season. I wasn't any good. It wasn't for lack of physical ability or effort; when somebody passed me the ball, my only goal was to make a basket. I wasn't out for glory, I just didn't get it. The best player on our team spent the most time dribbling in place. She would position herself in such a way that her defender couldn't steal the ball, and then she would carefully survey the court before she made her move. I sometimes still find myself driving towards the goal with my head down, taking no time to pause and take in the landscape.UPDATE: Intersting riff on this them at sift everything - the sports star who tries to hard to achieve, and then does better when he just has fun.
I'm currently trialling the Cloudmark's SafetyBar anti-spam software, after learning about it from Chris Anderson. Here's what interests me: at the moment, I am not plagued with Spam and the built-in filters on Outlook 2003 work pretty well. So far, Cloudmark seems a slightly more discriminating filter but not that much more. And yet, I feel I'm going to be tempted to subscribe at the end of my 30 days.
Because I love the operating model for SafetyBar. It's collaborative, pooling the indvidual decisions by subscribers to label various items as Spam, Fraud or Benign to create a constantly updating database to guide filtering. First that's ingenious and the geek in me likes to support ingenuity. Second, in a small way it gives me a sense of belonging to something worthwhile. The sense of being part of a movement of the good guys to combat the antisocial spammers.
Although Cloudmark attempts to assess the cost (and time) savings its filter gives me, my own guess is that it may be not be saving me that much of either... but I still want to support it.
This interests me. And I think it contains a rather intriguing thought experiment for other folks trying to sell stuff. Are you creating the value of community for your users?
PS. I'm also now evaluating the latest version of Zempt, the offline blog editor. So far, I'm impressed. I still get the occasional bug when uploading. This seemed to happen quite a bit with the the earlier version and made me stop using it - so far this one seems a lot more reliable and it does save me time posting. I'm jolly grateful to the open sourcers who've created this out of the kindness of their hearts. I'll be evaluating it further over the coming weeks.
February 18, 2005
"Branding" climate change initiatives
I'm coming at these documents cold but I notice how apprehensive I feel. Here's why.
The opening paragraph of Exec Summary says:
This strategy includes a series of recommendations to change attitudes towards climate change in the UK. It is an evidence-based strategy drawing upon the extensive research, consultation and experience of the specialist communications consultants FUTERRA.I think it's always a bad sign when an agency insists on spelling its name in capitals everywhere. Smacks of rampant egotism to me. And what's with this awkward jargon of "evidence-based"; are they afraid we'll think they made it up in the bath last night? Why do they have to labour the concept of "extensive"?
Then it says
• This is an attitude change and not a behaviour change strategy. Evidence shows that these recommendations are unlikely to have any direct impact on specific public behaviours.This is weird. There seems to be some kind of subtext here. I wonder if this means "Actually, this isn't going to work but, hell, you want to spend money on it, spend it with us." The assumption that behaviour change always follows attitude change is the pretext for this government wasting a lot of money on patronising advertising. I fear more of the same.
• However, attitude change is extremely valuable in itself. We can generate support for policy changes, and use growing awareness of climate change to open the door to behaviour change.
From the recommendations:
Recommendation 8: BrandingBig alarm bells ringing here. Yes folks, all the tell-tale signs of top-down communications at its most presumptuous.
A branded statement, aligned with the BHAG, be used across the activities of
the strategy and all the communications.
Recommendation 9: Ownership of Brand
We recommend that Defra ‘own’ the brand, supported by the existing Working
Group members. This group should also develop the criteria and terms for its
Futerra (sorry FUTERRA) sum their plan up in this baffling diagram.
I've got a thing about diagrams like this. They are meant to simplify and summarise but I find them utterly confusing. There is a ton of information in a visual image but I don't think they've given any real thought to it. Like what's behind the choice of shapes and sizes here? Are they really just saying "Oh, there's lots of elements to this and they're all inter-related somehow"? Beats me.
These are just my top-of-mind responses. They're based on my own experience of watching too many uninspired ad campaigns - always preceded by this kind of laboured argument. If I'm being horribly unfair, put me right.
Fight the bull
February 16, 2005
Rage Boy exuberant
Chris Locke aka Rage Boy is on top form today, writing about the announcement of a new version of Internet Explorer. Let's just say Chris is a bit sceptical about Microsoft and exuberant about Firefox.
I guess it's just that I like a good firefight every once in a while. It clears the air. Like everybody in town getting wasted for carnival. I just went over to the IEBlog, which I'd never even heard of before today, and was rolling on the floor laughing at all the Firefox molotovs being tossed into that um conversation...Plus a good one-liner which I'm sure Robert Scoble will take in good part.
I knew the net was going to do this someday. I could feel it in my creaky old bones ten years ago, maybe 20. One day, I thought, some giant company is going to make some major announcement -- or what it would like the world to believe is a major announcement -- but the carefully crafted if utterly empty rhetoric will be drowned out by the block party going on next door.
Now, I like Robert, and I know he's got a tough job over there at Microsoft, walking that fine line between truth and dare.
Now that IS clever...
So like most Londoners, I give Transport for London a fair bit of stick. And I do like to pick holes in much of the direct marketing I get.
By way of contrast, here is a piece of smart marketing by TfL. I have just got an email, letting my know that my nearest tube line is going to be disrupted by enginering works over three forthcoming weekends.
At first, I wondered how the heck did they know this was my line? Then I realised, it's probably by tracking the data from my Oystercard (the smart card I swipe at the ticket gates). So they've seen I use the Northern Line a bit and they send me some relevant info. And they've not plagued with info about the myriad other bits of engineering that aren't so important.
February 15, 2005
Mark Brady (fouroboros) observes:
You can't change organizations. You can only reveal them to themselves. And they like what they see. Or not.I think the most powerful generator of change is a powerful acknowledgement of the the present. Clear and honest information about where we are now, and how our relationships stand, warts and all, will often lead to change in the moment, without resort to the "vision thing". Sometimes the vision becomes a distraction from dealing with what Jim Collins calls the brutal facts.
If they follow the "or not" path, you can offer suggestions as to the alternatives that fit for them, and for what they believe. If they haven't evolved to the point of knowing what they believe, you start there and the rest reveals itself.
The perils of market research
I've posted some thoughts about the pitfalls and delusions of market research at BrandShift. Some of it will be familiar to regular readers here.
February 14, 2005
Paging Barry Edwards
Alan Singer is running a blog experiment to locate his friend from Dubai, Barry Edwards.
The activist in me
Call me subversive, but I like seeing brands challenged, to have the advertising imagery questioned and supplanted. I don't know the facts behind the email Neil Turner received from his mum, but I like that people are taking on brand imagery in this way.
Dear Friend,A comment at Neil's blog questions the effectiveness of such tactics. I don't know, but this is by a large measure the most interesting communication about a chocolate brand I've been exposed to in ages. And I wonder if anyone at Altria is watching... or are they on a break, sponsored by KitKat?
Please join me in sending an UnValentine’s Day card and boycotting Terry’s All Gold. The parent company of Terry’s - Altria (formerly British American Tobacco) - is a company that has given $6.8 million in recent years to the Republican Party and George Bush; funded extremist right-wing groups; and lobbied against proposals to regulate corporations that profit at the expense of our health, environment and human rights. Terry’s All Gold is the biggest selling boxed chocolate in the UK. Send an UnValentine’s Day card by visiting http://www.owos.info/unvalentine/ to let Altria know exactly why you are doing it. Thank you for your support.
UPDATE: Here's the email I received from Altria
Thank you for contacting Terry's All Gold careline and sharing with us your concerns about Altria's alleged involvement with a number of organisations. It seems there may have been a misunderstanding.
Terry's All Gold is a brand of Kraft Foods Inc, a public company of which Altria is a majority shareholder.
I would like to reassure you that neither Altria nor Kraft make political contributions to US presidential candidates and did not donate $8.6 million to the Republican party in the last election campaign.
Furthermore, neither Altria nor Kraft fund or support the Traditional Values Coalition.
As a responsible company, Altria has long supported and taken a leadership role in calling for effective regulation of tobacco products and actively works with the World Health Organisation to advance the Framework Convention on tobacco control. Kraft also has taken significant steps to address health issues, including obesity. We are committed to working with other food companies, to collaborate and cooperate with governments, policy experts, industries and communities throughout the world to achieve progress on global health initiatives.
We very much value your loyalty to Terry's All Gold and your interest in the company. I do hope the information we are able to provide helps allay any concerns you may have. We greatly value our customers and hope that you will be able to continue to enjoy Terry's All Gold in future.
Hmm, interesting rebuttal. Mind you, I'd also cite this from Altria's website, relating the success of its tobacco operation.
Philip Morris International’s brand portfolio includes seven of the top 20 international brands, including Marlboro, which has been the best-selling international cigarette brand since 1972, and L&M, which is now the No. 3 brand in the world over the last decade. Other brands include Philip Morris, Chesterfield, Bond Street, Lark and Parliament.There's obviously a whole load of complex issues, much as I'd like to posit an easy answer...
Performance and Financial Strength
Shipment volume for Philip Morris International increased 1.8% to 735.8 billion units in 2003, as gains in key markets and additional volume from acquisitions during 2003 were partially offset by declines primarily in France, Germany and Italy.
FURTHER UPDATE (21 Feb) Email from OurWorldOurSay:
Thanks very much for emailing Kraft Foods as part of the Boycott Terry's campaign. Many of you will have received a reply from Justin Wylde, Consumer Care, Terry's on behalf of Kraft Foods. His response included a number of statements which you might like to challenge. Our response is in upper case against the comments from Kraft Foods.
1. Terry's All Gold is a brand of Kraft Foods Inc, a public company of which Altria is a majority shareholder.
ALTRIA OWNS 84% OF KRAFT FOODS WHICH REALLY GIVES THEM TOTAL CONTROL OVER KRAFT.
ALSO SEE: http://www.politicalaccountability.net/Corporate%20Profile%20-%20Altria.pdf THIS DOCUMENT GIVES A FAIRLY DETAILED OVERVIEW OF ALTRIA AND THEIR POLITICAL DONATIONS. YOU NEED ACROBAT TO READ IT. http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html
2. I would like to reassure you that neither Altria nor Kraft make political contributions to US presidential candidates and did not donate $8.6 million to the Republican party in the last election campaign.
WE DIDN'T SAY THAT ALTRIA HAD DONATED $8.6 MILLION TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN THE LAST ELECTION. WE DID SAY ALTRIA HAD DONATED $6.8 MILLION TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN RECENT YEARS. THESE HAVE BEEN MADE AS 'SOFT' (FOR A DEFINITION SEE - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_money) AND POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (PAC) DONATIONS. IN THE US A LOT OF DONATIONS ARE MADE THROUGH POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES - THIS ENABLES COMPANIES TO DONATE TO CANDIDATES, SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO DIRECTLY. ALTRIA SPENT AT LEAST $2.2 MILLION IN 2004 - THE BALANCE OF THE $6.8 MILLION WAS GIVEN BETWEEN 2000 TO 2004. ALTRIA IS ONE OF THE LARGEST DONORS TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. www.opensecrets.org
3. Furthermore, neither Altria nor Kraft fund or support the Traditional Values Coalition.
WE STATED THAT ALTRIA HAVE CHANNELLED DONATIONS TO "EXTREMIST GROUPS" - ALTRIA HAVE MADE A DONATION TO AMERICANS FOR A REPUBLICAN MAJORITY - WHO THEN GAVE MONEY TO THE TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION. SOURCE: www.politicalaccountability.net/pr4-29-04.htm
4. As a responsible company, Altria has long supported and taken a leadership role in calling for effective regulation of tobacco products and actively works with the World Health Organisation to advance the Framework Convention on tobacco control. Kraft also has taken significant steps to address health issues, including obesity. We are committed to working with other food companies, to collaborate and cooperate with governments, policy experts, industries and communities throughout the world to achieve progress on global health initiatives........."
ALTRIA HAS WORKED AGAINST THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL, WHICH WAS AIMING TO CONTROL THE WAY TOBACCO COMPANIES OPERATE IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD. SOURCE http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/cms/page1228.cfm
Let them affect you
Tom Guarriello's on good form today. He's challenging a cultural bias in favour of talking over listening:
Well, I think it has a lot to do with power. The power dynamics in relationships are very important to Americans and giving opinions by speaking, expressing, influencing, (selling) is the power position in conversations. Traditionally, the masculine position. Listening, receiving opinions, appreciating, modifying (buying) implies lesser power. The feminine position.This reminds me of a good Improv lesson: that to create good drama you have to let your partner affect you. It's not about topping their line with a funnier one, but letting them affect you.
We glorify talking. Speech class for students. How to win friends, and influence people. Public speaking for executives. Think of how funny the opposites of those sound. "I've got to go to my Listening class." "How to win friends and be influenced by other people." "Public Listening."
Random acts of madness (3)
Thousands and thousands of us walked through Central Park today, experiencing something unique. It's hard to describe what it's like to walk through thousands of "gates" draped with saffron fabric, glowing in the winter sun, blowing in a 15 MPH wind.
There we all were, saying things like, "wow, it they really look different this way," or, "those are wider than the others," or, "listen to them rustle in the wind."
Apparently, Christo and Jeanne-Claude spent $21 million of their own money to put on this amazing display.
What's it like?
Well, the first thing I noticed were the smiles. Lots of smiles. People just walking around the Park, smiling.
I don't know, but I had some ideas while I was there smiling with them.
Absurdity. Childlike. Here/Now.
Walking through these miles of gates, I thought, "wow, this is a sure-enough incongruous and bizarre moment; all these things lined up here in Central Park." Absurd.
I also thought, "Man, this is the kind of thing kids do; put up miles of stuff just to do it." Childlike.
And, "Wow, this isn't about anything at all." It's only about Here/Now.
What else can you do when faced with this much irrationality in one place, but smile?
Experience this if you can...it's only gonna live for 16 days...here one day, gone the next.
Hmm, sounds familiar: Absurd; Childlike; Here/Now; Mortal.
Ahhh, that's what the smiles were about.
February 11, 2005
Howard Mann's sparked some interesting debate with his post purpose before brand, prompting me to add this comment:
The question that interests me is this: do organisations need to have a purpose or do they simply need to have purpose? This may sound pedantic but I don't think it is. The "a purpose" route risks taking us towards the Big Idea fallacy.Which generated this interesting riff by Pat:
The "purpose" route might admit that any organisation is a dance of many stakeholders, many of whom are not after the exact same thing. So you may not need to bother so much with agreeing some always dubious explicit statement of mission, and worry more about whether, day-to-day, people are engaged in something that means something to them..
Or maybe I am being pedantic after all.
I think this is starting to flesh out something that has been bugging me. Johnnie, I think you are correct that there is a difference between a purpose and purpose. The Big Idea and A Purpose seem dangerous because they start to feel like Mission Statement. It seems there is a huge gap between coming up with a short statement that represents the organization's purpose and the actual gut feeling and Purpose-filled Gestalt that is the real driving force. Apple may say "Think Different" but that barely begins to capture the force that makes them attractive to so many people.BTW, Pat's running a fascinating bit of "Open Source Marketing" for his PezMP3 idea.
Is it fair to maybe compare it to the effect and affect that a great piece of art creates? Everyone who views a great painting sees it through their own eyes. The viewer's life and interpretation are all part of the experience. The great artwork works on many different levels. To say that "The Scream" has A Purpose is to miss the whole point. Maybe the same is true for an organization. Different stakeholders, different interpretations, multilayered purpose. And like great art, trying to describe it properly is difficult if not impossible but generally we know greatness when we see it.
I'm going to be co-hosting (with John Winsor) the first Brandshift Show, a podcast linked the corresponding blog. We're aiming to record on February 24th, and the theme is going to be co-creation, a particular passion of mine.
Okay, the word's a bit jargony, but I'm fascinated by creativity that arises from teams of people working together - exactly how Improv works. I believe it's a theme that runs deep through some of the more exciting developments in marketing these days.
The idea is that the podcast is going to be weekly and we're already cooking up some good ideas for future productions.
More on Sainsbury's
Is CSR bunk?
I suspect a lot of sponsorship and Corporate Social Responsibility activity is a distraction for organisations that need to do better at getting the basics right. I've blogged a rant on this over at Corante's Brandshift blog.
Improv in New York
When I was in New York I spent quite a bit of time with Cathy Salit of Performance of a Lifetime.
Cathy and her team are offering a one-day Workshop on Improvisation for Leaders in New York on April 15th.
I'm a huge believer that Improv training has great gifts to offer us all for managing our lives. And the POAL team have a particularly stylish and impressive way of articulating its value.
I don't know if you think of yourself as a Leader. Personally, I think we all get to lead at different times in our lives. But if you're within reach of NY and can find a way to pony up the cost ($625 early bird), I can't think of a better way to spend a day than going to this.
Here's a the flyer (pdf).
And this video about POAL is quite interesting too.
February 10, 2005
Communities and brands
My pal Alan Moore was on the phone last night. Al's been going through one of his manic working phases, beavering into the small hours whilst the rest of us were celebrating Christmas and New Year. He even persuaded his colleague Tomi Ahonen to join him.
The result is a new book, Communities Dominate Brands, out next month. Here's Al's synopsis:
The book explores the problems faced by branding, marketing and advertising facing multiple radical changes in this decade. Communities Dominate Brands discusses how disruptive effects of digitalisation and connectedness introduce threats and opportunities. The authors compellingly illustrate how modern consumers are forming communities and peer-groups to pool their power resulting in a dramatic revolution of how businesses interact with their customers. The book provides practical guidance of how to move from obsolete interruptive advertising to interactive engagement marketing and community based communications, with dozens of real business examples from around the world.
Better put that on the reading list for March!
Some more inspiring words from Peter Block's The Answer to How is Yes.
Good questions work on us, we don't work on them. They are not a project to be completed but a doorway opening onto a greater depth of understanding, action that will take us into being more fully alive.I really like his suggestions for changing standard blocking questions, essentially from references to a world out there to challenges to the speaker himself. Instead of asking "How long will it take?", ask yourself "What commitment am I willing to make?". Instead of "How much does it cost?", ask "What is the price I am willing to pay?". And instead of "How do you get those people to change?", ask "What is my contribution to the problem I am concerned with?"
I also loved this statement:
Idealism is hard to defend, for data and history seem to be on the side of realism and practicality, almost by definition. How can you defend idealism... by measuring its value? Idealism dissolves in a world where measurement and instant results are the most acceptable answers. The result is a socially acceptable cynicism. Cynicism is a defense against idealism, and cynicism is so powerful because it has experience on its side. We each have our wounds. We each have our story of idealism unrewarded or even punished. Cynicism is the safe ground, for it is the ultimate defense against disappointment. The effect is that the idealist is discounted, even considered a fool.Fabulous writing.
I am one of those fools. One of my character flaws is that I am a dreamer. The rap against the books I write and the talks I give and the way I am in the world is that I am not realistic. That I am out of touch with the harsh reality of life. That I view life from a lofty perch, forgetting what it is like in the trenches. All of which is true.
February 9, 2005
Thanks to Fight the Bull for this observation about some achingly bad anthems:
Does your company have its own corporate anthem? Lately we've noticed an amazing number of these insanely stupid ditties exist.My guess is that the singers would have been wetting themselves in the bar at the end of the day. I'm struggling to imagine the committee meetings, strategy documents and ROI evaluations inside the firms commissioning these extraordinary tunes.
Check out this boy band hired by Ernst & Young, or the ghetto fabulous hip hop rappers that PWC snared, or this ode to Sarbanes Oxley. The hired talent (?) who accepted the money to sing such schlock should be ashamed of themselves! Can you imagine the We-Are-the-World, head-swaying, sing-a-long that went on in these recording studios?
Oh. El Blogador has had it with me:
I have unceremoniously removed mssrs Hughtrain and Johnny Moore from my blogroll today.Wow, I didn't realise I was making that much noise. And I'm sorry El Blogador won't read my thanks for having listened in the first place as I'm no longer in his reader. It's the "unceremonious" part that stings, surely a flag ceremony and bag pipe jig (or lament) would be justifed?
They've spent the past couple of weeks frenziedly banging nails into coffins and I just can't stand the racket any more. We have arrived, as they would no doubt be at pains to point out, at the tipping point. (or perhaps the flushing point?)
Methinks the gaping gob should stick to his quaint little business card doodles - though recently even these have been getting a bit freaky-deaky - the kind of thing some psycho with a pink slip would pop in an envelope and send to some girl that once dumped him.
One to watch
Maybe your company doesn't need "The Big Idea". Maybe it just needs a stronger sense of purpose.Which I think is a great question for companies to ask before engaging in another rebranding exercise.
Beyond the Brand
It's a refreshingly different take on branding, one that goes beyond the usual fixation with image making. Talking to Jennifer Rice on Skype, I realised that John doesn't come from a conventional branding background and I think that makes his take more interesting. I'm on board with John when he talks about branding backwards - basically abandoning the idea of inventing a brand and stamping it on an unsuspecting audience, in favour of a more collaborative approach.
John puts forward a structured way for businesses to get to grip with smart, connected consumers that draws heavily on notions of storytelling and interaction. There is good material in here, and it will be fun to explore ideas of co-creativity with John at Brandshift. With his background in research, John's good at diagrams and multi-step processes which a lot of clients will like - I'm pretty phobic to diagrams so this part didn't grab me quite so much. Notwithstanding, I'd say this is way deeper and more interesting than 90% of the literature on how to do branding.
Raymond Tse has been on a training programme in communications.
This got me thinking about the quality of blog conversations. Certainly there are more voices. The intent is there with thought provoking concepts like Hugh Macleod's Smarter Conversations.Good question, one I ask myself a lot.
However many blog conversations go like following:
1.I have an opinion and broadcast my point of view (POV). You will either agree with me and link me OR you will disagree and write how I am wrong and you are right and link me.
2.We will write a series of follow up posts further detailing how right we are and how wrong the other is. Attack - defend - attack - defend... Both of us will link to the growing coalition of bloggers who agree with out POVs.
3.Occasionally the great majority will pile onto the same side (e.g. Lovemarks) and produce a frenzy of idea fundamentalism - where non-believers are not tolerated.
Does this really facilitate genuine conversations, discovery or learning ? Possibly but I suspect that we can improve the quality of conversations by advancing our ideas - ideas rather than absolute truths - and inviting conversation and debate.
What do you think ?
I think there's room for both approaches, and lots inbetween. Sometimes, a furious exchange of colourful positions may be what it takes to break a cosy consensus. Sometimes this is how elephants under the table get named. I think politeness gets over-rated and expressions of anger get stigmatised.
At the same time, I yearn for more of those open-ended conversations, where we aren't either a)talking or b)reloading. They take on a very different quality and I find they start to hint at a great deal of connection that is going on between people below the surface level exchanges.
I'm increasingly drawn to working with organisations that want to improve the quality of their conversations; I suspect that this is often a more powerful intervention than showing up from the outside with a new strategic vision.
I'm part way through William Isaacs' book Dialogue and it's pretty interesting stuff. I'll be blogging more on this.
Laura wants more Cowbell
Adam Curry's podcasts often cite the Saturday Night Live spoof in which Christopher Walken plays a mad record producer. Walken interrupts the recording of a classic rock track with incessant, crazed demands for "more cowbell".
I thought of this reading Laura Ries's blog this morning, when she comments on Super Bowl ads.
However not all of Budweiser’s ads were winners. The biggest disappointment was the lack of airtime given to the Clydesdales. One ad featured them briefly, as an ostrich, giraffe and pigs try to audition to join the team. Why does A-B keep trying to bring in other animals into their commercials? They are much better sticking to the horses which so epitomize the brand, its heritage and its leadership. Forget the donkeys, frogs, pigs and kangaroos. Focus on the Clydesdales.I can't quite find the words to articulate my despair at reading this kind of thing. If I could, it would be something about ephemeral comments on the already utterly ephemeral.
Peeking inside O & M
Anyone looking for a revealing look at the kind of office politics, duplicity, and general CYA that occurs at ad agencies ought to check out Adweek's recaps. It seems prosecutors have been very aggressive in trying to expose how and why Ogilvy folks falsified their timesheets, and some of the witnesses have been caught in their own web of lies.
February 8, 2005
Drury Lane Action
A good comment at 173 Drury Lane from Adrian Trenholm
Sorry, but I think "affinity" is another nonsense marketing word. "Convenience, trust and service" should all be givens. Let's get clear about this: for foodies, it's about quality and access. For everyone else it's a class thing.
For me it boils down to who sells the best food and can I get there. Waitrose sells the best, but it's too far away. Sainsburys is next best and just down the road. I am a foodie. So I go to Sainsburys.
Chris Lawer takes aim at Peppers and Rogers. The champions of one-to-one marketing are hitching their cart to "voice marketing".
That's Phone Spam to you and me. Idiotic answerphone messages trying to sell me things. I'm increasingly weary of answering the phone to this sort of crap, whether a message or some poor sod slaving in a callcentre sweatshop in the third world. It used to be exciting when the caller ID displayed an international call... now it just puts me on my guard for the tell-tell 3 second pause while some computer somewhere in India or wherever tries to find a human being (not yet burying his head in despair) to try and flog me a new energy supplier.
And just look at the language they use to describe this tat.
Voice marketing helps retailers strengthen brand and communicate with customers more effectively by combining pre-recorded, telephone messages with professional voice talent. Designed to connect with existing customers, voice marketing allows retailers to accelerate their relationships with individual customers and capture higher valueI'm sick of this sort of consultancy gobbledigook... How does this "strengthen" a brand? What the hell is an "accelerated relationship"? Sounds like the pursuit of a one-night-stand to me. "Capture higher value"? Yuk. I feel for the workers caught up in this miserable practice. It's exactly the sort of marketing I want nothing to do with.
As if the world needs to hear more from me... I'm pleased to say I'm one of the four bloggers at Corante's latest, BrandShift. I feel like I'm in some classy company there. My opening thought was to challenge marketers to move from being spectators to players.
February 7, 2005
The answer to how is yes
I'm slowly working through Peter Block's The Answer to How is Yes. It is one of the very best things I've read, ever.
Block illuminates the way in which real change is stifled by "how" questions. Here's how Block puts it:
Despite its rhetoric, the culture does not value independent action. The culture wants to ask the family of How? questions: What does it cost? How long does it take? Where else has this worked? And we may have no good answers to these questions. When we say Yes instead, we acknowledge that acting on what we choose costs us something, which is what gives it value. If there were no price in saying Yes, to acting in the face of our doubts and meagre methodology, then the choice we make would have no meaning.Here's another quote that is right on the money
Also, remember that the question of "How do you do it?" is more often an indirect expression of our doubts than real curiosity. So let the doubts be stated directly and let them be owned by the doubter as an internal struggle in their thinking rather than detached observation of the external world.And this thought rang loud bells for me:
When we do talk about money, or a budget, is is usually other people's money we will be spending. If we want to raise the stakes so that the decision is of some consequence, better to make it a personal question.I have painful memories of a hugely expensive branding campaign run by a guy who prided himself on his budgeting prowess. It was a complete failure, though never has £30 million been wasted with such efficiency. His focus was entirely on book-keeping, and he put not a whit of his personal credibility on the line for getting a project that actually meant something.
Not getting it
Tom Guarriello has a good post about Jack Trout. Jack's having a panic attack about the rise of amateur advertising.
"It's a real problem," says Jack Trout, a veteran marketing consultant at Trout & Partners, in Greenwich, Conn. "And the problem gets bigger the more people see this stuff. It begins to muddy the message." He concludes: "The ad industry should rise up against" amateur ads.This is, as Tom says, pretty laughable stuff.
I've never been much of a fan of the Ries:Trout view of marketing as war, in which organisations attempt to own parts of our minds. It was always a bit grandiose to suggest marketing could somehow dictate the image of an organisation. These days it looks downright stupid too. As Tom puts it
Please. The power structure is obviously so threatened by what's going on out here that some of the big-timers are starting to become delerious.
For the first time, people who want to borrow money have a real alternative to going to a bank or other financial institution for their loan.This looks pretty exciting.
You'll be able see immediately what market you are likely to be able to borrow from, the money available and the rate offered. If the rate's not right, you can always save your loan request and come back another day to see if it's improved.
You'll be borrowing from other people like you, not a big corporation and you'll be making the exchange what it is. Your decision whether to borrow or not will affect the rates that are offered by lenders.
173 Drury Lane
Over coffee a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves interested in the fate of Sainsbury's. (A food retailer in the UK, once pre-eminent, now troubled.) We realised we each felt a sentimental attachment to this brand (in my case, because I worked for Lord (Alan) Sainsbury for a year).
We thought it would be interesting to read a weblog about Sainsbury's. So as the company hasn't created any that we've seen, we've created one ourselves.
We named it 173 Drury Lane, after the address of the the very first Sainsbury's, opened in 1869.
Here's how we describe the purpose of the blog:
We created this website because we wanted to generate an online discussion about the future of Sainsbury’s. To be very clear, this site is NOT authorised or written by J.Sainsbury plc.I hope you'll take a look - better still, please add a comment. Many of you are not from the UK, but please feel free to share your own experiences of food retailing.
Most people know that Sainsbury’s has been in the headlines lately, and often for the wrong reasons. We think it’s a shame that the company is having a tough time; that’s not good for anyone who works there, shops there or invests in Sainsbury’s.
So we thought: what could we do about it?
Although we are all marketing consultants, we wanted to avoid the usual mistake of smugly coming up with miracle solutions for problems. And the last thing Sainsbury’s needs right now is another bunch of experts complacently telling them what to do.
Instead, we thought it would be more fun, and more productive, to host a discussion – between ourselves, and with anyone else – about how Sainsbury’s could do better.
What we’re aiming for here is constructive debate. We welcome heartfelt criticism as well as praise, with the intention of pointing to some more positive futures for Sainsbury’s.
So, whatever your relationship to Sainsbury’s – shopper, investor, employee, director, shareholder or competitor – you’re invited to join the discussion.
Still on the subject of detail, this is what struck me about my flights on United. On the way out to New York the service was fine, but the cabin announcements, as usual, deeply cliched and scripted.
I'm always a bit bemused by the adspeak they get the cabin crew to recite. Especially that ghastly line about the tiddly seatback video being "for your viewing pleasure". No real person talks like this. I feel sorry for the staff having to do this, and when I feel sorry for the staff it's a sign of a missed opportunity by management.
Then in contrast, I noticed what a difference it made when the Captain started calling out the sights out of the windows as we followed the US coastline. Not because the sights were so remarkable, but because the intention seemed positive and this wasn't a script. Likewise his simple updates about what was happening when our taxiing at JFK was held up. It really doesn't take much to establish some kind of human contact.
A little bit of Improv training wouldn't go amiss at United.
Here's something else I liked in New York. The Affinia 50 where I stayed. I got a really good room, decorated as if by a person, rather than a committee. And the staff were great, helpful without a hint of weariness. The doormen would welcome us back at night saying "Welcome home" and it sounded sincere, not fake.
Details interest me. The doormen had really stylish hats instead of the usual boring semi-military peaked caps. Not designer pretention, just good outfitting that - to me - would feel good to wear, rather than some restrictive uniform. I got a real sense that this place treats its staff well, and they treat the guests well. Not rocket science, but something that seems to elude many of the chains.
They host free evening drinks for guests Monday-Thursday.. and with not a hint of trying to sell you anything.
For me, it made a refreshing change from your standard "luxury hotel" with vast retail operations on the ground floor and an apparent desire to sell you more stuff at every turn.
In New York I stumbled upon a bright orange cafe. Ok, you might think, just another caffeine-bazaar in garish colours. But no, this turns out to be the retail operation of ING.
The place is staffed by Barrista-Bankers. They can serve you coffee and cake and/or can get you a mortgage. Customers can surf the net, sip their coffee and - if they like - do some banking.
I really liked this idea. This is not just adding a coffee pot to the banking hall, this is a fairly radical rethink of what a retail bank should look like. And it takes a primarily internet bank to think of it.
The detail was good too. Interesting books and gizmos related to money, and staff that seemed very happy to chat informally.
The other banks in New York suddenly looked deeply dull and conservative in comparison.
I'm sure this innovation didn't come from benchmarking. Somewhere in ING a person or group of people stuck their necks out, took a risk, and did something genuinely different. And really showed they get the idea about creating space for conversations.
February 3, 2005
I'm interrupting my blogging holiday to bring you this unfinished thought: Branding isn't.
It's genuinely an unfinished idea. I'm saying it partly to challenge the frequency with which people are busily defining brands. (Evelyn gets on the back of the "brand is a promise" crew here) A brand is this, a brand is that, people say, like they own the word and it's theirs to define. It's fine to speak this way (I'm sure I do myself) but it does seem to lead to a lot of abstraction wars.
And there's a nice irony there, as I think that a lot of talk about brands carries an assumption that stating an opinion as if it is some kind of fact constitutes the act of branding. Take any brand slogan and you're likely to find exceptions and mismatches if not downright massive contradictions in reality. Indeed those exceptions, paradoxes and contradictions are part of what makes the brand what it is... something we can approximate but not define.
I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this idea. I just know I feel like saying Branding Isn't and seeing what happens.
And now back to my blogging holiday. You may feel that I need it...
February 1, 2005
So I'm having a great time here in New York, having lots of great meetings with interesting people, kicking around all sorts of interesting ideas. And I notice that whilst I think I should be blogging all of this stuff, I just am not finding the motivation to do so. I don't know what this means. Maybe you and I need a break.