Monthly Archives: October 2015

Bosses Who are !#%*!

Churchill knew, it well. Rhe mark of a great leader is the ability to succeed in adversity.
Churchill knew it well. The mark of a great leader is the ability to succeed in adversity.

Iffy thinking. A bad temper. A shortsighted view of the branding process.

That’s a boss we heard about from a business friend of ours.

Our friend is a marketer with more than a few accomplishments to his name. Lead generation is second nature to him.

But he’s had it with his job. Fed up with the boss.

Still, to be fair, ‘iffy thinking’ describes his boss on a bad day.

Normally he’s okay when things are going smoothly.

Of course, that applies to most everyone, doesn’t it? Who isn’t even-keeled when everything is going to plan?

The thing is, this boss has no abilities when things are going wrong.

He doesn’t function on a bumpy road. When projects go sideways good sense goes with it.

In the thick of difficulties his chief skill is to lay the blame elsewhere.

Who needs a fair weather leader like that?

Opposite to that you have Winston Churchill’s undercover operatives in the dark days of WWII.

With a brief to ‘Set Europe Ablaze’, Churchill sought those who could succeed behind enemy lines in impossible situations.

He needed leaders who could turn the tide on peril.

Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d value for your company?

Isn’t the capacity to function in a crisis the mark of a true leader?

With Churchill in mind, you might want to look at a business management book by two ex-Navy SEALS.

The SEALS are nothing if not cool-headed and capable when it comes to the crunch. They flourish in perilous situations.

You could say they’re past masters of leadership and turnarounds.

Normally for books on business leadership you’d turn to those like Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, Jim Collins, and Warren Bennis.

But the book, Extreme Ownership. How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, stopped us.

It’s an engaging read by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

You get a picture of the SEALS in combat. Then in each chapter military leadership skills are directly related to business applications.

In that way the book takes a different approach to getting you involved and getting you to think.

It concentrates your thought process on direction, teamwork, solidarity, smarter decision making, management and achievement.

Equally, it’s an education for the times when your efforts don’t go to plan. When everything goes awry and the way forward is unclear.

Our friend with the iffy thinking boss was impressed with the book.

Here’s betting Winston Churchill would have been as well.

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Just What You Need in the 21st Century. 17th Century Thinking.

Isaac Newton, 1689, by Godfrey Kneller. It wasn’t until 1705 when Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. From then on he was Sir Isaac Newton.
Isaac Newton, 1689, by Godfrey Kneller. In 1705  Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. From then on it was Sir Isaac Newton.

You can’t beat Thursdays. Dinner with friends is on the calendar.

Chosen restaurants are usually in the back of beyond — somewhere in the Five Boroughs of New York City.

Join us and you might find yourself having Italian on Staten Island, seafood in Far Rockaway or Ethiopian on West 135th Street.

You won’t go begging for variety.

While we’re all good friends, our group still sets ground rules. Nobody talks about himself/herself.

The me-me-me-thing is out.

So the conversation is often more than passable.

Recently a quote from Sir Isaac Newton came up.

‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’

That dates from around 1689 or so, early in the Enlightenment.

To us the message is clear: ‘pay attention to those who know’.

As dinner friends we do just that.

We stand on each other shoulders, so we reckon we’re something like 42-feet tall when together.

Of course, you can stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to your communications.

You can learn from the giants of marketing and advertising.

That should encourage you to make your messaging less about your company and product and more about your target audience.

Bill Bernbach took that approach.

Those like Bernbach — Howard Gossage, David Ogilvy and John Caples — would probably say, you need to concentrate on your customers’ needs, wants and problems.

Why haven’t all marketers learned this? Where’s the enlightenment?

After all, your prospects’ perceptions outweigh a CMO’s opinion about his/her brand.

That opinion often equates to what people already know or believe. Will that quicken heartbeats? Not really.

You don’t have to be Isaac Newton to understand that the answer to marketing problems — both online and brick and mortar — lies in the way customers think.

They’re the ones who dip into their wallets for you.

So write accordingly.

Instead of beginning Web content or an email, with words like ‘We’, ‘I’, ‘Our’, ‘My’ or ‘Here at the XYZ Company’, put your customers first.

Ban the ‘me’ words.

Make your first word ‘You’, then craft your customer benefit message from there.

That way you’re on the shoulders of giants instead of struggling somewhere below.

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Industry Best Practices. You Can Do Better Than That, Right?

Honda commercials. They're the opposite of uncharismatic and grey.
Honda commercials. They’re the opposite of uncharismatic and gray.

We’ve been watching TED Talks over lunch the last few days or so.

Riveting stuff is how you can describe them. An education in every way.

Still, there was one thing that raised a question or two.

The subject of industry best practices.

We heard they’re a yardstick for success. They lead to better key performance indicators.

There’s truth in that, of course, they can help when it comes to your next quarterly earnings report.

But is it going far enough?

Don’t best practices make you like other companies when you adopt the same approaches and milestones?

Isn’t there a bit of a problem being equal to but not better than your competitors?

So … wouldn’t it be an idea to meet best practices standards then move ahead from there?

After all, your competitors are probably doing all you’re doing to succeed in the marketplace.

You can bet that includes everything from Logistics to HR to Training and Product Development.

But why conform to the kind of creative work your competitors run? Why follow the accepted approaches of your product category?

With originality you can stand apart.

Your physical resources and technology can be copied but the right kind of creative work can’t be.

Further to that, maybe you’ve seen the  Honda spot called ‘Paper’.

It doesn’t follow anyone else’s lead to present a line of products that includes business jets, motorbikes, cars, racing cars and lawnmowers.

It’s stunning work and could be the subject of a TED Talk in itself.

If only for the fact it neatly showcases everything the company makes without the usual inert thinking you get in a product line commercial.

Quite the opposite, it’s easy to watch again and again.

A 20-something in our office added to that by saying, ‘I bet it’ll sell its ass off’.

‘Paper’ qualifies as best practices as far as other Honda spots are concerned.

It adds to the high standard of Honda commercials like ‘Cog’, ‘Hands’ and the Ayrton Senna ‘Racing’ film.

It also goes well beyond the typical level of creative best practices.

And for that reason it will probably sell its ass off.

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Got an Idea That’s Half Good? Keep Working on It Until It’s Damn Good.

A half-good idea can always be bettered, right?
A half-good idea can always be bettered, right?

More than a few companies don’t go far enough with their marketing and advertising thinking.

They often run with half-good ideas … ideas that have just enough power to reach the mediocre level.

They let their brands down.

Of course, nobody wants that.

So why not go further with your thinking.

Why not question old certainties about your customers and marketplace to discover a fresh understanding.

Why not find new creative approaches to differentiate your brand.

Why not boost conversion rates for email campaigns and Website content with smarter, more arresting ideas.

Why not rid yourself of the drag of conformity.

Why not work closer with your ad agency to be more effective against your competition.

Of course, it takes hard work to achieve all this. It takes an unrelenting effort.

The ‘unrelenting’ thing reminds us of John Lennon.

He was unrelenting in becoming a guitarist.

As a kid he played constantly … a fact that didn’t sit so well with the auntie who raised him, Aunt Mimi.

She wanted him to do something else with his life. Her idea was that he should become something.

It’s apocryphal, we know, but his auntie was said to be like a broken record on the subject.

On and on she went about practicing guitar.

As you probably know, John Lennon was a bit of a card.

So when the Beatles became a success he had a large gold plaque made for his auntie.

In engraved, bold letters it sent Aunt Mimi’s broken record words back to her:

‘You’ll Never Get Anywhere

Playing That Guitar.’

You might want to keep that in mind next time you’re working on a project and begin to grow tired of thinking.

It can help you push on.

Because as John Lennon’s auntie came to realize, it’s worth it to keep plugging away.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn: