Jeff Sexton wrote a long blog post earlier this week on his dislike of the term, “personal branding”. He doesn’t disagree with branding on a personal level, mostly he dislikes the term. As part of that post (read it here), Jeff scanned and posted a short essay by The Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams. I think it makes a great point about telling your brand story in a way that makes people care about what you do. So, I lifted it, and reposted it here as this week’s Friday Inspiration:
Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category
Last week, Forbes printed a short interview with Dick Foster, Senior Partner and Director at McKinsey & Company. Foster is most famous for his book, Creative Destruction. From the interview, it would appear that Foster is more than a little skeptical of business gurus who advise doing the same things you see high-performing companies doing: “There was no such company, and there never had been such a company!”
The Dick Foster interview is today’s Friday Inspiration. Here’s a short excerpt:
“Let me tell you how I got to the term “creative destruction.” In the 80’s, I was in a search for “the excellent company” – the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise company that made all the right moves in advance, and that made more money for its shareholders than any of its competitors. This was the permanent outperformer stock – the really good deal. I looked at 4,000 companies over 40 years, and what I found stunned me. There was no such company, and there never had been such a company!
“I thought something had to be wrong. Was I looking at the problem in the right way? No company had been able to outperform the market for any substantial length of time. (GE came as close as any, but didn’t do any better than the overall index). Somehow the market – managed by nobody – was performing better than all the brains on the planet. But why? Then I realized that the reason markets outperform companies was closely tied to what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.” This was actually a phrase that came from the Hindu religion, dealing with the transformation of an individual throughout their life, from creation, onto death, and ultimately rebirth.
“That whole notion of creation, life, and destruction seemed a like a good model for what was going on in markets. When the time comes for a company to face its maker and file for bankruptcy, it does it – the markets don’t care. And when there is opportunity out there to create something new, hundreds will go after it. Most will fail, but one or two will succeed (and we’ll assign Apollo-like status to the latter, while quickly forgetting about the 500 others who failed). Markets are better at creation than any individual company, and they are much better at destruction. A company cannot perform better than the markets that are adapting more rapidly – it’s just a fact of life.”
Check out the rest of the interview at Forbes.com.
From time to time, I receive books from authors who are hoping I’ll like the book enough to write about it. This is one of those times.
I write (and read) a lot about brands, story, marketing, and strategy, so when I get a book on one of those topics, I’m generally inclined to read it.
Such is the case with Peter Guber’s upcoming book, Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story.
Mr. Guber has worked as a high-powered movie executive, political fundraiser, and a university professor, and he shares personal experiences from his life to show how stories sell ideas and move people to action.
The book isn’t about marketing (at least not outwardly). Or how companies can use stories to move the customers to action. But after reading it, the reader will have plenty of ideas that apply directly to telling any narrative, including brand stories.
Why do stories convey information more effectively than a recitation of facts, numbers, or other figures? Guber quotes Robert Rosen, the former dean of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television:
“Stories put all the key facts into an emotional context. The information in a story doesn’t just sit there as it would in a logical proposition. Instead, it’s built to create suspense.”
Among the many stories Guber shares is one about how Lynda and Stewart Resnick (owners of Teleflora, FIJA Water, and POMWonderful) spent more than $200,000 for a string of imitation pearls worn by Jackie Kennedy. So why did they do it?
“…owning them gave Lynda the right and ability to analyze and copy them, right down to ‘the sterling silver clasp and the three little cubic zirconiums and the silk cord and the seventeen coats of lacquer.’ More than 130,000 of these exact replicas sold at $200 apiece, for a net profit of more than $26 million—all of it told and sold through story… ‘The promise of the story has got to deliver. If it doesn’t deliver, who would care?’”
Lynda tells Guber: “I don’t do companies that don’t have a story, because if they don’t have a story, they don’t have a business.”
Tell to Win is jammed with stories from and about Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Steven Speilberg, Pat Riley and many others—all to illustrate how stories work to motivate, inspire, and sell. In fact, there are so many interesting stories in the book that sometimes it feels a little disjointed as you jump from one to the next. But all in all, it still makes a pretty good read.
One more quote from the book (from Steve Denning) that relates to telling stories in a marketing environment:
“The goal of story telling is to get the listener to take over your story. You want your story to become their story. Then they’re going to create a new story from your story. It’s going to to be adapted, changed, adjusted.”
A short excerpt from Baked In by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor:
“Marketing people like to say that product is more than a physical object. As in a cup of coffee is more than a cup of coffee. A pair of sunglasses is more than a pair of sunglasses. A car is more than a car. There’s a story that the car represents. A promise. And that’s what we’re really selling. That’s what the brand is made of.
“Sometimes this story is true, and sometimes, unfortunately, it’s not. Sometimes a car really is just a car. So the process of marketing is to uncover, coax out, and tell a story that is buried inside the product. Most of the time a story can be found, but too often the story is only tenuously connected to the product, and in some cases the story is just wishful thinking on the part of all the marketers around the table. Perhaps the product was created without a clear narrative and audience in mind or is just another me-too product with nothing new to offer. What happens next is too often the sad state of affairs that passes for marketing. A battery of focus groups, ethnographies, brain scans, and more are arranged to go forth and uncover what the consumer wishes the product really was. Then the marketing budget is spent telling lies about the product.”
I think we can all agree, there’s a better way.
It’s a little pricey for its length, but it’s a quick, worth-while read.
You can buy Baked In here.
I recently wrote an article for the Logoworks Newsletter that is posted at the Logoworks Biz Blog. It’s my list of seven books that every small business owner should read—plus three more books I think you’ll enjoy. In case you’re interested in my recommendations, click here to read the article (and add your favorite book in the comments).
I have long been a fan of Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, having read several of his books: The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Innovator’s Solution, and Seeing What’s Next as well as many of his personal essays on his website. A few days ago, Dan Pink tweeted a link to this an article from the Harvard Business Review by Dr. Christensen called, How Will You Measure Your Life?. It’s a reworking of a speech that Dr. Christensen has given in a religious setting. This particular version is directed at recent graduates from Harvard Business School. It’s excellent advice and worth reading. Here’s a sample from the article:
Allocate Your Resources
Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.
I have a bunch of “businesses” that compete for these resources: I’m trying to have a rewarding relationship with my wife, raise great kids, contribute to my community, succeed in my career, contribute to my church, and so on. And I have exactly the same problem that a corporation does. I have a limited amount of time and energy and talent. How much do I devote to each of these pursuits?
Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term perspective.
When people who have a high need for achievement—and that includes all Harvard Business School graduates—have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can neglect your relationship with your spouse, and on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.
If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.
The rest of the article is today’s Friday Inspiration. You can find it here.
It was always Steve Jobs’ mantra: “Let’s make a dent in the universe”.
I liked that phrase so much, I incorporated it into theHughtrain Manifesto:
Whatever you manufacture, somebody can make it better, faster and cheaper than you.
You do not own the molecules. They are stardust. They belong to God. What you do own is your soul. Nobody can take that away from you. And it is your soul that informs the brand.
It is your soul, and the purpose and beliefs that embodies, that people will buy into.
Ergo, great branding is a spiritual exercise.
Why is your brand great? Why does your brand matter? Seriously. If you don’t know, then nobody else can- no advertiser, no buyer, and certainly no customer.
It’s not about merit. It’s about faith. Belief. Conviction. Courage.
It’s about why you’re on this planet. To make a dent in the universe.
I don’t want to know why your brand is good, or very good, or even great. I want to know why your brand is totally frickin’ amazing.
Once you tell me, I can tell the world.
Really, is there any better way to spend one’s working hours? I don’t think so…
I am fascinated by the power of stories to stimulate change in the people that hear them. Sometimes the story is told in an advertisement that piques the interest of a customer and the result is a purchase. Sometimes the story is told by an executive who needs to get buy-in from employees on a new strategy or direction. And sometimes it comes from an author or movie maker who tells a story so brilliantly that you feel better for having read or seen their work (American author Pat Conroy has had this effect on me several times).
A story is a powerful tool.
Today’s Friday Inspiration is a few quotes about the power of stories in life, in books, in business…
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” —Robert McKee
“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story.” — Janet Litherland
“Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” —Howard Gardner, Harvard University
“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.”
“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”
Earlier this week, I finished reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson. It’s a good read, full of small bits of wisdom—the kind of book you can read in an hour or two, or come back to from time to time for another hit of inspiration. Today’s friday inspiration comes from the section called Pick a Fight:
If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you’ll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side. Being the anti-_____ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.
For example, Dunkin’ Donuts likes to position itself as the anti-Starbucks. Its ads mock Starbucks for using “Fritalian” terms instead of small, medium, and large. Another Dunkin’ campaign is centered on a taste test in which it beat Starbucks. There’s even a site called DunkinBeatStarbucks.com where visitors can send e-cards with statements like “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”
Audi is another example. It’s been taking on the old guard of car manufacturers. It puts “old luxury” brands like Rolls-Royce and Mercedes “on notice” in ads touting Audi as the fresh luxury alternative. Audi takes on Lexus’s automatic parking systems with ads that say Audi drivers know ow to part their own cars. Another ad gives a side-by-side comparison of BMW and Audi owners: The BMW owner uses the rearview mirror to adjust his hair while the Audi driver uses the mirror to see what’s behind him.
Apple jabs at Microsoft with ads that compare Mac and PC owners, and 7UP bills iteslf as the Uncola. Under Armour positions itself as Nike for a new generation.
All these examples show the power and direction you can gain by having a target in your sights. Who do you want to take a shot at?
You can even pit yourself as the opponent of an entire industry. Dyson’s Airblade starts with the premise that the hand-dryer industry is a failure and then sells itself as faster and more hygienic than the others. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter puts its enemy right there in its product name.
Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers, too. (Emphasis mine.) Taking a stand always stands out. People get stoked by conflict. They take sides. Passions are ignited. And that’s a good way to get people to take notice.
But in the case of The Brandgym (by David Taylor and David Nichol), the book isn’t just a tool to be included, it is all of the tools in the box. Reading The Brandgym is a little like taking an in-depth seminar in brand management. With it as a guide, you probably don’t need to go anywhere else for ideas, principles, or to-do-lists to help you manage a brand. (You might choose to, but you won’t need to.)
The Brandgym covers eight “workouts” that will help you strengthen your brand’s foundation and focus your branding efforts on initiatives that will generate income. It’s also loaded with ideas and techniques for creating promotions that support the brand’s position and move customers to action.
Workout #4: Build Big Brand Ideas alone is worth getting the book. I found myself underlining and marking pages to come back to again later.
But what I love most about the approach taken in this book is the focus on a brand’s substance (remarkable products, growth, and the core business), not the so-called “exciting” part of branding (new design/advertising/launch). It’s a resource for serious brand managers. In fact, it’s good enough to replace many of the marketing books currently used in business schools.
If you’re looking for ways to grow a stagnant brand, or new ideas for stretching a brand into new product categories, or ways to co-ordinate your marketing activities to maximize your spending, this book is a good place to turn. If you are in the process of launching a new brand, it is an essential resource to help you succeed.
I highly recommend The Brandgym.
Full-disclosure: I was given a copy of the book by David Taylor shortly after it was published. But that doesn’t change my recommendation, it’s well worth the read.
Other Brandgym Links: