Can upset employees sell Forever?
- Created: Thursday, 22 August 2013 11:09
- Written by Martha Bartlett Piland
Even a casual Star Trek viewer has heard of the legendary Borg. So united in purpose and mission, they were stronger than almost anyone else. The Borg were also scary, evil and incredibly nasty.
There are lots of reasons to read the Art of War. Though it's literally about military strategy, I'll argue that it's equally applicable to a company's success:
"He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks."
Process (or lack of it) is an R-Value for brands that leads directly to ROI.
The behind-the-scenes drama at the famed Russian Bolshoi Ballet has made worldwide headlines since the acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin in January. But the poisonous culture at the Bolshoi has long been reported prior to this.
The '50s song "Hold the Phone" is full of silly gibberish. At the time it was released, most people didn't have the technology to slow it down to decipher the actual words. Some of today's brands are unwittingly speaking gibbersh that audiences won't even try to decode.
Collaborate… cooperate… cohabitate… The stongest brands are a co-mingling of attributes that are co-owned and co-created by the company, the customers and the employees.
A brand can't be all things to all people—nor should it be.
I love my closet. My friends know it's merchandised. The hangers match. Items are organized left to right, short to long and light to dark.
My sister in law says it looks like a store.
Wikipedia calls crowdsourcing "distributed problem solving: assigning a problem to a large group of people to mine collective intelligence." Many companies use crowdsourcing for product development. Dorito's has famously used it for commercials in the Super Bowl. Is it for you?
Companies everywhere have a proverbial watercooler. It's the place to chat about sports, or a new Dilbert-esque project from above. Yawn. The special ones—high growth companies who rely on innovative employees—have a roaring campfire.
Rapidly growing companies are moving fast. Some are kicking furiously in the Shark Tank. Others are trying Lean Startup methods to evolve their brand or launch something new. They're pivoting, exploring and trying to propel ahead.
What happens when an employee leaves? Beyond the exit interview, it's safe to assume that several people will post online reviews that are either wildly flattering—or excruciatingly unflattering. Are you paying attention? Ignorance is not bliss.
HOGG Heating & Air Conditioning Company has a smart internal brand that infects its customers faster than a summer cold. They know they're more than just an HVAC company. They see themselves as the ones who come to the rescue.
A problem for many high growth companies is that their operations are changing at such a rapid rate that their culture and intentional strategies fall by the wayside. At the same time, they probably have a strong external marketing campaign adding fuel to the growth.
Someone just asked me when I knew MB Piland was "there," or that our company had made it. It surprised me. I believe a high-growth company is never "there." But without an intentional plan, it's easy to get trapped in a roundabout. Here are three things to help you keep driving your brand forward.
Obligatory rules and regs and a so-called motivational poster in a company break area make me think of something Despair.Inc. lampoons. The other stuff that's posted (or not) can signal an alarm about the health of the internal brand.
H&R Block has been under fire for its recent foul ups on electronic filings. But that aside, they make me feel like they're real people who love what they do—and they'll take care of me. I bet their employees feel the same way, too.
Another thought-provoking read from Seth Godin's daily blog: Choose your customers first. In this post, Seth talks about how we often rush to the end: creating a product, and then trying to shoehorn in our brand and customers. This is especially dangerous for rapidly growing companies.
Separating the "real" from the "Hollywood" is always tough for a movie based on a true story. Wonder about details and characters in the film Argo? A recent interview on Huffington Post says one thing's certain: the famous, "Argo f*** yourself" was real.
There's been a dizzying amount of talk about the Maker's Mark decision to cut the alcohol content in its bourbon—then reversing the decision because of the public outcry.
Famed restauranteur Danny Meyer's book Setting the Table: The transforming power of hospitality in business should be on your nightstand if you want a powerful internal culture.
A good read from Art Petty's Leadership Caffeine: We've all worked for intense people. Maybe you're an intense person who's had to lead a team.
So, you get it. In order for your rapidly growing company to succeed, your internal brand needs to align with your external brand, and your employees are the most important customers.
What can Sim City teach us about our internal brands? Investment in infrastructure is always a smart move. Cities know it. Civil engineers understand it. Without strong infrastructure, things start to crumble.
I stongly believe a company's brand is only as strong as its talent. That's why our Expert Source model is such an asset in our work.
But whether your structure is traditional or nontraditional, the truth remains: talent will make or break you.
I've noticed that in some companies, an employee talking about the organization will say they, instead of we. That bothers me—a lot—because it's an indication that the employee doesn't feel like part of the company.
It's smart to combine fun and function with internal social media.
The Republican and Democratic conventions have provided plenty of fodder for political pundits and late night comedians alike. But for those of us focused on creating, sustaining and nurturing strong brands, there are valuable insights.
Attention C-Suite: It might not be for you
Recently, we heard a C-someone say an internal communications effort was unnecessary. Our answer: maybe it's unneccessary for YOU.
Pretty much everyone in the C-suite knows what’s going on: where the company is headed, financial goals, benchmarks.
Do these pants make my brand look big?
(Or, 3 things your brand and skinny jeans have in common.)
They are not for everyone.
Skinny jeans have a certain number of loud detractors. They probably have an equal number of people who are ambivalent. That’s OK.
Just call us curiosity nerds. That’s fine. But this week, I was thinking about hot candy.
I got to wondering about the insides of Hot Tamales. So instead of just chomping down on a Hot Tamale like I normally do, I let it dissolve in my mouth.
Three ways to power up your internal brand
Every day, millions of companies are working on their communications to customers. They’re honing and refining—what to tweet, new services to offer, the next quarter’s sales promotion. At the same time, the majority are overlooking the need to devote well-focused attention to their inside audiences.
Do your employees know—really know—the brand "guts" of the organization they represent? And if they can articulate that certain something, have they also adopted it into their work-time way of life? If they have, then you’re going to outlast your competition. If they haven’t, then here are some steps you can take to help.
What if fast food workers lived the brand?
I've been buying a lot of iced tea lately—stopping by some of the numerous fast food chains to satisfy my curiosity: is it really fast-fast-fast at Jimmy John's? Do they really want me to have a refreshing experience at Burger King?
Sometimes I went to drive-thrus and sometimes walked into the stores for service at the counter. For the most part, my experience was the same.
Nearly everyone has an employee manual. It dictates policies and procedures, vacations and jury duty. Great! So a new employee knows the basics and you've covered yourself on all the legal must-dos.
But wait! How does your brand relate to internal customers? What does it mean to be part of your company? How does it feel? Sound? What should an employee say when someone asks why he came on board?
That employee has hitched his star to your wagon. He's accepted your invitation because he thinks you have something he wants to be a part of. Don't let him down.
Birds and brands: both can be small and mighty
The first thing I noticed as I looked out my kitchen window Wednesday morning was that my bird feeders were pretty much empty. A bit of guilt hit me as I thought about how I’d procrastinated for the last few days on making the stop at the hardware store for more birdseed.
But then I noticed something that made me smile. On the feeder closest to the window, I saw a very tiny, buff-colored bird sitting on the feeder and—what? Feasting. That bird was so small, she could fit more than half her body into the opening in the feeder. She was making a veritable feast of the seed that hadn’t spilled out. That's the seed that most other birds would never be able to reach because they’re just too big, or couldn’t see.
There’s a lot of talk about the crimes at Penn State. Experts are talking about how to correct some very deep problems and move ahead, how to deal with the loss of sponsorships—and how to salvage the brand.
All this focus on outward communications is justified. There’s much work to be done, decisions to make. They should be made quickly. And actions should be decisive so crimes such as these cannot be committed again. It would appear those efforts are well underway.
What's "inside" your brand?
A good read! This book is available for the iPad and other e-readers, so you can have it right now. What's Your Strategic Heartbeat? is more like a long article than a book. But it has some solid tips and inspiring thoughts about cultivating new ideas and innovation out of one's true brand essence.
At MB Piland, we know that when communications and promotions are created as an outgrowth of your brand's "soul," they really click. That's because they're really authentic. We help clients figure that out all the time, because it can be hard to see inside yourself without some good diagnostics. Luther's book helps you see how he identified this soul—what he calls Strategic Heartbeat—and used it to take his companies to great new heights. This is good for self-examination.
Listening between the lines
At MB Piland, we know that listening is a critical ingredient in great account leadership. We also know it's a skill that's intentionally developed. We ask lots of questions, listen between the lines, then ask again to be sure we've asked the right questions.
We also find that asking questions of all the right people is important. Clients, of course—but customers, referral sources, distributors, bloggers—and others will also tell us a lot if we just pay attention and listen.
We always place a lot of emphasis on internal audiences. They're highly important and often overlooked. Employees, strategic partners, volunteers and others on the inside know a lot, and are glad to share if we ask. Now we have a much more accurate view of what's really going on "out there."
It's the highest praise when a client says "How did you know that's exactly what I wanted? I didn't even know." That means we're doing our job. Today's Harvard Business Review features an article by John Baldoni on asking better questions. It's a worthwhile read.
The new JC Penney is here. Its reinvented, reimagined jcp magalog hit mailboxes this week. It's bright, high-energy, cheerful and oh-so-much chic-er that I ever thought the retailer could be.
Part fashion, part beauty, part interior design—with some food/entertaining features, it definitely makes me want to shop. There's also a new brand promise: a square deal and no hoops. "We want to be your favorite store." Gee, after reading this, I want them to be my favorite store, too!
Four things we love about Angry Birds
At MB Piland, we know that deep, strategic thinking is imperative to success—not just marketing success—but business success. And we know that thinking on its own isn’t enough. It also has to be paired with smart, targeted tactical executions by some extraordinarily creative people. When you put it all together, that’s the killer combination.
A book I pick up again and again. My friend Patti Bossert is a very successful businesswoman. She recommended this book to me and I confess I still have her copy. Subtitled "a little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)" the dip offers insights into whether that setback is merely a temporary occurrance, or a Cul-de-Sac that you will never leave, no matter how hard you try.