Shooting Arrows at Hilary Clinton’s New Campaign Logo

We see the “right” direction you’re going in, but where does it lead and does it work? Thoughts with Alan Rappeport, April 14th, 2015. The New York Times:

Why are Luxury Brands Discounting in China?

How much???!!! You’ve got to be kidding. What’s luxury worth to you in China? Here’s my POV with Michelle Makori, April 9th, 2015 on CCTV:

Brand Jacking – Is It Serious And How To Handle It?

A successful brand is not just about its power in the market, it’s about shellresponsibility in our community and society. Brand jacking is a barometer of that responsibility or lack there of as was demonstrated by Greenpeace’s imaginative, ambitious, audacious brand jacking campaign sundering Lego’s long-standing relationship with Shell.

Brand jacking is perfect for the digital age because consumers want to connect and want that connection to be intense and to move them and when brand jackers push hard enough they evidently can get someplace. With regards the future, social media players are turning to a pay for play model working closely with advertisers so there will be acute pressure to ensure there is no fake paid advertising with the threat of revenue being lost. Omnicom has recently undertaken a $230M mobile marketing partnership with Twitter who will be held accountable. Is this enough to stop brand jacking or is there emerging trouble in the future where we can expect to see more brand jacking that’s well funded? And are big brands in the spot light worried that this trendy new type of activist brand jacking will sow instability?

We’re in a copycat society where Twitter and Facebook are a petri dish for brand jacking. twitterIt’s difficult for brands to control the fall out and one big question remains, what happens when you’re brand jacked? Customers take fright, brand jackers gain ground, revenue and credibility are lost and the brand collapses to demands. Here’s how brands can take the necessary steps to identify and counter the threats of brand jacking in this digital world:

Constant online monitoring
Avoid ignoring the brand jacking
Regularly communicate with user, fan and consumer sites
Bake social media deep into crisis management strategy
View the brand through the eyes of your detractors
Open all lines of communication
Use social media as the main platform for your response
Actively engage with the brand jackers

MoneyThere’s nothing more valuable to a business than its reputation and the ability to secure it so the last point jangles nerves for most brands because it’s typically a burning platform. Plus they’re scared of becoming embroiled in the enmities because the brand is not entitled to its own facts the detractor is.

Brands are supposed to be a promise to consumers and an insurance policy against difficulties so when brand jacked they need to find a tone between adamantine rebut and abject prostration, one that bolsters the brands sincerity rather than forfeiting it. The truth has consequences and with brand jacking there are two things for certain: you don’t make peace with your friends and brand jacking’s got legs and those legs dance.

Dodging Taxes – Big Time Companies Are Moving Their HQs Overseas

There is nothing but cold contempt for the alarming headline on the cover of Wood for treesFortune. It reveals a sleazy course of conduct by many large US corporations and reads like a tragicomedy. Making it worse is the fact that these corporations still believe they’re good corporate citizens that deserve the same benefits in the US!

Clearly the US Government has been drafted into a war that it created and needs
to shatter its complacency and ensure that strong rhetoric is not left to stand on its own, without strategy to translate words into positive action. This spreading sore
is a hangover of America’s lacks corporate tax system and requires the cleansing fire of restructuring with a conference of action that closes loopholes and reasserts the interdependence of US corporations and American society with shared responsibilities, shared values and shared benefits. Shareholder value might be
a result not a strategy, but tax is the picture and it doesn’t change the issues.

images-11What has made American corporations great is their passion for acquisition, exchange and accumulation, but the grim fact is that many large US corporations haven’t paid billions of US taxes for years so this maneuver is the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy (after this therefore because of this). The Government must stop being shackled by the crippling decisions it’s made in the past regarding US Corporations’ legitimate and sanctioned avoidance of US taxes. It’s akin to junk food – it has little nutritional value (for the country), is bad for your health (economy) and is a hard habit to kick. Facts are stubborn things and this news just makes avoiding US corporation tax official so get your wallet out and pay their share.





Missing Customers Lately? Try Going Back To Basics

It seems that a great confusion has arisen in the process of brands doing their branding these days. Allow me to sort this out. A brand, in itself, is not marketing—a brand is who you are. And marketing, in itself, is a means to an end; marketing and innovation exist to draw customers. Unfortunately, these distinctions seem to have blurred, or even switched places, in the minds of many companies. In their relentless drive to maximize shareholder value, many brands have left the customer out.Im certainly not the first one whos noticed this confusion. Jack (“Neutron Jack”) Welch of GE has pointed out that “shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees, products and customers.” Welchs observation holds true regardless of whether the brand is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C); in the end, its all about business-to-people (B2P, if youll indulge me). And so, these days, as we reap the grim harvest of imprudent lending amidst insider dealing, bankruptcy, accusations, claims and counterclaims—we can see that the misconduct of big brand names has changed the perceived value exchange of B2B brands. In the process, it has transformed the meaning and context of trust.

Look no further than the banking industry if you want an example. Historically, banks focused on acquiring, growing and


protecting their clients’ assets, and by lending money and making profit out of the assets under management. But, long about 2000, the value relationship between banks and clients abruptly changed. It switched to banks trading their own products at the expense of their clients. Seemingly overnight, the base of the compensation model shifted to how much money you could make by the volume of products sold, not the number of clients under management. The outcome, of course, is something we all know. As for B2C, the excitement has just begun given that Prop 37 will be raising the debate in CA this November on genetically modified food labeling (GMO).

Trust is a crucial ingredient of all brands and their reputations—but that contract of trust has been shattered. Stocks do not have a memory-recall button, but investors and customers do. That’s why fewer than half of all Americans have a favorable opinion of business today. Compounding the brand fatigue that has besmirched many B2B brands is the belief that customer-centricity can be achieved by companies entering B2C’s Temple of Mammon and bedecking themselves with happy logos, comforting language and stock photos of smiling people, all to lift them from their somnolence as staid corporations and market them as genuine, complete, crystalline and pure. (The irony, of course, is that many B2B brands are anything but sweet, friendly and pure.)my life's logos v.2

The financial breakdown has not only eroded consumer trust, but it’s also shifted where consumers place it. Our notion of trust has moved from trust in “the company” as such to trust in the people who run the company. Today, as brands refer to market share, profit share, revenue share, etc., theyre overlooking that what theyre truly competing for is share of trust. To succeed in this era of mistrust and cynicism, B2B brands will have to make several adjustments. First, they must identify who they truly are and why they are in business. This will provide a picture of their future, their organizational style and the direction they need to take. As Jim Collins writes, “All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.”

The second priority is to understand that if customers dont believe in you, theyre not going to come. So, what messages are you delivering that they can believe in? Third, there is a brands culture. According to research by Bain & Co., the average company loses more than half its customers every four years. The two determinates of value creation in business are how tight the ship is run and the closeness of the relationship with the customer. Dont forget that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to hold onto the one you already have. Retaining your customers can be achieved only by developing a culture that espouses shared responsibility, shared benefits and shared values.

That last one is critical. Understand that people and businesses live their lives in the future not the present. Whilst many B2B brands have attempted to shift from being functionally oriented to emotionally oriented brands, the real leap is in being values centric brands. It is no longer enough for B2B brands to define themselves in terms of what they are; they must make a commitment—environmentally and socially—about who they want to be.


The current mind-set misguidedly encases itself in the moment; it forgets the prosperity of the past and, worse, ignores our ability to shape the future. John Maynard Keynes identified sinking confidence and pessimism as causal to sustaining and deepening economic recessions. The psychology of investors and ordinary consumers is in many respects more critical than what might be described as “objective economic conditions.”

The time is now for influential companies to gather and take on the responsibility of advancing the common good as an antidote to the debilitating fear that will assuredly delay economic recovery. Finance might be the brains of corporations, but brands are the heart.

Disney stole Ted Turner’s “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” line. Here’s my POV broadcast on Nightly Business Report

Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Was it bird, was it a plane, was it a government body, no, last week’s super hero was Disney’s CEO, Bob Igor, stealing Ted Turner’s line, “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” with the announcement that the Disney network will slim down access to brands deemed unhealthy and become the world’s brand champion for healthy kids – along with a “Mickey Mark” that endorses appropriate products.

What more could an investor and a mum share in common than Disney (NYSE:DIS), a game changing brand we all trust, with channels free of unhealthy product advertising, garnishing world applause, increased ratings and a Mickey Mark that provides mum the short-cut to decide if a product is a good choice for her children whether on 4-screens or down the aisle.

Disney’s ability to focus on efficiencies that can create and capture demand make any competition irrelevant from being able to usurp Disney’s lead due to its arsenal of assets for ‘healthy kids’ brand endorsement deals. Creating a new revenue stream for Disney and a new business model by taking an ethical stance whilst being a boon for business – and not just Disney’s – in the $2.5 Trillion combined media and CPG categories.

By cracking the world’s toughest brief: making it easy for mum, Disney has unleashed a game changer, taking a page right out of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy (by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne). Disney has set its sights on creating a giant footprint in a fiercely contested health category. Mum neither knows what to give her children or what to allow them to innocently watch; she is confused by the endless cacophony of messages and icons embedded in a frivolous sea of promotions on screen and down the aisles filled with their gleaming category cues.

Image representing The Walt Disney Company as ...
Image via CrunchBase

Disney’s Big Idea is made more brilliant by the limited impact on their return on capital employed (ROCE) as the bulk of the new investment effort will no doubt be shared with brand partners and from marketing and licensing deals. Alongside the ‘Mickey Mark’ strategy that will eventually offer up its advertisers, the inevitable foray down the grocery aisle with their own Disney portfolios and licensing with those brands Disney endorses as ‘healthy’.

In an industry that thrives on exciting customers with new products, innovation
is key and Disney’s treasure chest represents a gargantuan brand and licensing opportunity for targeted health & wellness programs. Many pundits currently eye greater value in splitting up CPG companies like P&G and PepsiCo. As for media, finding growth past the election and the Olympics is foreseen as tough and networks are in flux. Just last week during Dish Network’s announcement of its new ad-skipping device, CEO, Charlie Ergon, was vocal about the need for better advertising strategies from the networks whilst warning that Internet video threatens the pay-tv ecosystem.

Let’s face it if you don’t like change, you’ll enjoy irrelevance even less. The last time a business reinvented more than one industry simultaneously was Apple – and they had a big idea also. The ‘shock and awe’ of this audacious move by Disney has mammoth implications for all media players, especially Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, who will have to lead a path or follow suit – Disney has ‘the con’ as they say in the movies.

Growth begets growth and major brand and media owners are going to be forced to be good at what they do and take an holistic view of the customer and create new methods of engagement and seamless experience that can give customers what they want with the products and services they offer. So after a week or two of navel gazing, they need to look to Disney’s initiative and aim to create either new products for licensing, bundled portfolios of existing ‘good for you’ products for Disney endorsement strategies or review what they have in their portfolio that could be modified to satisfy the stringent criteria of Disney (NYSE:DIS): acting as an industry seal of approval.

In risk there is opportunity and Disney has masterfully leapfrogged an entire category to become the voice of health and wellness for kids around the world. By simply staying on brand, this win-win business strategy alone reinvents Disney’s franchise as it broadens its ‘Masterbrand’ role beyond the boundaries of entertainment, products and hospitality services. There will be a progression and it might be sluggish, but done well, it’s hugely likely that publicity and demand will create a successful pull through strategy. Ultimately this is a ‘show me’ industry that survives by exciting customers with new products. Now the magic’s started, it’s show time folks.

Meg Whitman does not have the luxury of 100-days

I recall Lou Gerstner making us laugh when we asked him about the 100-days he’s so supposedly famous for at IBM and he retorted “What 100-days? Where do you think I was in that time when the business was on fire, upstairs with my feet up saying my isn’t this is nice and toasty warm?”

Focus, commitment and energy are apparently the essential ingredients for a CEO about to work a turnaround because they’ve been hired to turn the hard into the possible. The fire already burning at HP is useful cleansing for Meg; people tend not to complain so much when there’s a cause and this one is for survival.

Meg has four immediate components to outline: what is the business to do, how is the brand to support it, what communications and
initiatives are required inside and outside the businesses and how to implement the program in a timely manner.

This is going to be like open-heart surgery – a program that will cost millions to achieve and Meg surely knows that. I’d recommend after she’s carried out a few more bodies she gather her remaining top 50 lieutenants together, get them briefed and out there in the market talking to employee groups, key customers and partners – not selling, but learning and reporting back within 8 weeks with a succinct download. This will generate an abundance of actionable insights that could move the needle and get senior management focused.

There’s also my recent Forbes blog on how a leader can learn from the kitchen table for the boardroom table:

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