Showing posts from July, 2013

The Data & The Truth

Photo by Theophilos Papadopolous via Flickr
We are so obsessed with "data." But too often we don't really know what to do with it, or how to evaluate its worth.
Sometimes we look at garbage and decide it's data. Because it kinda, sorta looks like data and is presented in a data-like fashion -- it is packaged or branded the right way, so to speak.
Data can be garbage on three levels: The data itself - by which we mean the number, usually - it can be wrong or irrelevant.The methodology surrounding the collection of that data - the "how" - e.g. biased survey questions, a non-generalizable sampleThe social context dictating the methodology - the relationships that determine how "quality" data is defined, who is qualified to collect it, and so on - e.g. whether the research is "sponsored" by a corporate brand or whether the larger social structure is sexist or racist in its assumptions
We use junk data all the time to make judgments -- online poll…

Internal Branding: Three Documents You'll Need

Declaration of Independence via the Library of Congress.
Most organizations inaccurately see internal branding as a process of indoctrination when in fact is is about leadership and management. They underestimate the employees' need and capacity to think and be engaged. In reality, internal branding should bring the following three things together so that employees understand how to work effectively:
Culture: All employees understand the mission, vision and core values and how these translate into the work environment.Consistency: The operation runs according to a defined set of standards that all must adhere to.Communication: There is a method of self-expression that is unique to the organization, e.g. you can tell the "brand voice" when you hear it.For each of these elements the organization should have a defining document that employees can refer to, whether they're new to the organization or veterans; whether they're "clued in" to what's happening…

The Power Of Hello

Saturday Night Live screenshot via TV Worth Watching
The other day an old friend and I were catching up and the conversation as always turned to work.

"I don't think much of the senior leadership where I am," she said. "They can't even be bothered to say hello."

The exchange made me think of the power of hello. How it really makes a difference to me when people actually take a moment to greet you. Putting themselves aside for five seconds.

How impactful it is when important people take a moment to do that.

If you want to assess someone's leadership potential, see what they do with the opportunity.

Someone I know of once shared an elevator ride with President Obama, while he was still a Senator. The President said hello.Another person met Kourtney Kardashian in a backstage setting, and she was extremely nice and said hello. Khloe Kardashian, however, apparently did not.Many, many years ago my daughter took a karate class with newswoman Anne Curry's child, …

Department of Crazy

Thanks to Vine, Porschia Coleman and Jezebel we get to witness the meltdown of the day. Apparently a woman did not have an appointment at the Apple Store and really needed to have that appointment. Or perhaps a therapy appointment.

It is hard to watch this video mainly because I feel bad for the kid sitting in that stroller as Mom slaps away on the handlebar.

Secondly I feel bad for the adult Apple store employee at whom the woman is yelling.

How much do employees get paid to hear rants like that? Probably not enough. But they are trained to deal with disgruntled customers.

Most employees are not trained to deal with crazy behavior in the workplace.

The term "crazy behavior" goes beyond mere "failure to follow procedures," although that is undoubtedly stressful. The question has to do with workers whose behavior stretches if not breaks the bounds of normality as most of us understand it.

A blogger at "Untemplaters" writes:

"It’s really freaky how some peopl…

Four Success Factors For The Human Economy

The company of the future is Airbnb. Some high points from Thomas Friedman's article in The New York Times, 7/20/13:


Origin: Roommates desperate for cash rented out air mattresses in their apartment to people who were also desperate, to attend a 2007 conference. Read the story in their own words hereThe Name: It stands for "Air Bed & Breakfast."Success: Six years later, competing in the big leagues: As of July 12, 2013 they have 140,000 guests in 34,000 cities and 192 countries.
4 Success Factors That Translate More Broadly
Trust: Before Airbnb the concept of blindly renting a room out to a stranger, or of renting a room from one, was alien to most people. Yet as Friedman points out the founders created "a framework of trust" fueled by technology. Buyer and seller are not anonymous to each other and the rating system ensures that your reputation follows you for better or for worse.Comprehensiveness: You can rent more than a room from AirBNB. There …

New Slide: Overview of Brand Transparency - Why & How

5 Brand Killers & How To Fend Them Off

X-Men Photo via, "Top 10 Best Superhero Costumes In Film"
Brand equity means that I will pay more for Tide detergent than a no-name.  This could be because "I know Tide cleans better" or because "I know good mothers would not skimp." Either way, Tide commands more money.

If I am like most consumers, I develop these perceptions based mostly on fantasies rather than on what is real. I have not tested Tide against the other products available, nor do I want to. If I have a choice, I choose Tide because it leaves me feeling secure.

Why would that be? My own mother uses Tide and she also takes a lot of pride in laundry-doing: it is a show of love. Tide advertised on TV a lot when my kids were little and I watched the daytime soaps. It has amazing packaging. It seems to dominate the laundry aisle. 
Except that I don't need Tide, and frankly it costs more. So I buy the no-name, but feel guilty about it.

Clearly, fantasy is critical to brand value -…

How Much Trouble Can One Employee Cause?

Image source: CaptainComics

Please tell me you remember Alfred E. Neuman and Mad Magazine or I am truly, truly old.
Every time I look at this picture I have to smile and remember that classic line: "What, me worry?"
Back in the day, this being the late '70s, I would go to my grandparents' house in the Catskill Mountains. They had this candy shop, Joe Rota's a few blocks away. My mom would give me a couple of dollars and I would go to this fun place and get some atomic fireballs from the plastic jar, flip through a copy of Mad, and just laugh.
In any case watching the whole Snowden affair play out I have to ask myself how much time and money is being wasted, waiting and wondering about what this person could say, how to deal with it, what the timing ought to be, and so on.
Like so many of my internal communications colleagues over the years have said, if only the company would invest more time upfront in engaging people, in taking their pulse, they might have to spend …

True Religion Jeans, Brand Value, & Invisibility

Ultimately, what makes a brand valuable to the consumer is the ability to buy their way out of personal insecurity. Whereas you are not good enough on your own, by purchasing the product, you take on an identity, and this gives you confidence.

By purchasing the product, you take on an identity -- a human identity congealed within a product. The product itself is just a thing, but you project meaning onto it. Another way of saying this is that you have a "brand fetish," or a psychological fantasy, in which you ascribe to the product properties that it really does not have.

This applies whether you're buying steel parts, consulting services, or a pair of women's jeans, but it's pretty easy to apply the women's jeans example and so we'll go with that.

Consider the following:

1) Women's True Religion jeans at Bloomingdale's, 1 pair: Reg. $176, on sale for $132 "Low rise and micro flare leg opening. The streamlined silhouette flatters the leg, fitting …

Response To Comments On "Supertemp vs. day laborer, brands & the broken circle of trust"

There definitely is an issue regarding "truth" here. Whose version of reality, is reality? My husband says to me -- you see the world through the lens of brand, but where is the brand relevance here? I buy a pair of jeans, they are cool, what does the worker have to do with it? If you want to talk about Bangladesh then do so, but explain it. (This I am planning to do, over time, more in the next blog on "invisibility" and the brand system.)
So generally I am trying to explain how the worker's personal truth coexists with the consumer's personal truth (remembering that the same person is both worker and consumer). Your truth, my truth, objective truth - a huge and growing gap between the haves and have nothings.
I am as bothered as you about those articles on working conditions in the U.S. I did not know either about these conditions, or maybe I did not want to think about it. Good old Amazon right? And everybody else. I too thought those days were over.
That w…

Supertemp vs. day laborer, brands & the broken circle of trust

I took this photo outside a Metro Station near the White House.
In "The Divided Self," Dr. R.D. Laing explored how schizophrenic people are actually made that way by so-called "normal" people.

Schizophrenics experience a shattered sense of self. That is, parts of the personality are experienced as though they are external, distinct, foreign.
When the individual is pulled too far in contradictory directions, illness emerges in which they no longer know what reality is. 
We are living in an economy that exerts contradictory and fragmenting pressures on the individual worker. 
There is no longer a unitary, stable sense of "me and my job" in relation to "my employer and what they do," situated in "my hometown," surrounded by "my family," "church," "school," and so on.
Rather, there is only:
Labor, sold to the highest bidder for as long as they are willing to payOrganized capital, in business and delivering only as lo…

Alienation, The Basis For Emotional "Bonding" With A Brand

It is going to be difficult to capture all the thoughts I want to share about branding now. 
In a sense this is a voyage of self-discovery. It is an attempt to figure out what this intangible thing called a "brand" -- a reality that is not real -- has done to my own mind and life.
I sense that the impact has not been overall positive, even as I rely on brand concepts for a living. One could say that I have become addicted to a toxin, and having been poisoned, must now find the cure.
Branding is fundamentally about alienation. To really understand this, you have to understand a little bit of Karl Marx.
Marx -- who lived in the Age of Industrialization -- offered a theory of how the new world of the factory became acceptable to the masses. For unlike on the farm, they were not at all connected to their work, each other or even to nature. 
To vastly oversimplify, Marx said that a shift occurred in people's minds to help them adapt. To overcome a true lack of connection, of integ…

Think Brand First, Moving Forward - Areas Of Focus

Volume I of my collected blog posts (July 2007 - April 2013) is available at the Internet Archive as a free download. It's available under Creative Commons so feel free to peruse and share, with attribution please.

Going forward (Volume II), I want to make clear my intention in writing about branding. Following are the basic areas of interest: How branding works - essentially the principles or dynamics of brandingHow branding creates economic value - the economic aspects of brand equityHow branding affects us psychologically - impact on consciousness as individuals, consumers, workersHow branding affects or could affect the work site - opportunities gained or missed, the interplay with organizational dynamicsAnalysis of decisions that companies and other organizations make about their brands -- good, bad, or indifferentPredictions about where brands are going, connecting with with social trendsThe impact of communication technologies and trends on branding, particularly social media…

Management Best Practice: Mystery Shopping

So I was checking out of the grocery store today and thinking what a pleasant experience it was to shop there.
Looked up at the community bulletin board on the way out and there it was:
"Mystery Shop Report"
...posted for all the world to see.
The one-page report ranked the store's performance on 5-10 factors and gave it an overall grade of about 80 percent.
It also showed that mystery shopping checks had been done at intervals throughout the year, so this was a year-to-date score.
What a quick, simple, no-cost and highly effective management tool!
If you knew that at any time you might be interacting with a mystery shopper, how would you behave?
How would your boss?
How would your weekly meetings run?
And how would your group act differently knowing that team scores would be posted on the wall -- for visitors!
Mystery shopping - a simple concept with a wide range of applicability. 

"Brand Is More Than Logo" - Convincing The Client

In the realm of brand, to get beyond logo, your goal is to show very tangibly that:
*  The "real" brand has to do with delivery not just image.
* Delivery occurs through employees.
* Employees therefore drive brand value.
The problem is that people convince themselves - rarely are we convinced by others. Pure "facts" and "feelings" are not enough.
Your job as the consultant is therefore to facilitate the process of self-convincing.
Generally there are 5 factors leading a person or group to shift their point of view or belief system. All go back to "WIIFM" ("What's in it for me?")
1) Biological incentive - The new belief system energizes me, makes me feel good
2) Financial incentive - I will make more money 
3) Psychological incentive - I will experience positive emotions or negative ones will be alleviated 
4) Social incentive - I want to be respected by my peers, I want to be "in the know"
5) Spiritual incentive - I want my life to…

Don't Let Your Brand Become A Free-For-All

Free-for-all brands quickly become garbage dumps. Photo by McKay Savage via Flickr.
I used to support a Brand Enforcement Unit, client-side.

People tried to sneak stuff past us all the time, and sometimes they succeeded. We enforced external.
At every layer of the organization it happened. A pitched battle for independent symbolic expressions of brand.
Posters, brochures, websites external and internal, names and acronyms, even comic books and frisbees.
Watching how the battles went down you would think they were fighting for real estate.
Actually - yes they were. And often they got away with it due to lack of unified and enforced brand standards.
People understand that your name and the way that name is portrayed means everything. It is the beginning of organizational reality.
So even if something is "wrong" at the start, with enough repetition it becomes "right."
That is why there can be no exceptions when it comes to brand enforcement. 
The minute you open that door, armi…

New Presentation at SlideShare: Branding & Compensation Strategy