CMO 2.0 Conversation with Vicky Lozano, VP of Strategy and Development at Crayola

Written by on April 11, 2013 – 5:48 pm -

I had fun conducting my CMO 2.0 with Vicky Lozano, former CMO and current VP of Strategy and Development at Crayola. Vicky came to Crayola in 2009 by way of Cadbury. She is a life-long marketer.

From the beginning of here tenure with Crayola, Vicky focused on making sure that the company was capturing and articulating what the Crayola brand stands for, what business they should consider themselves to be in, and what higher purpose they might have as a company. Her current focus is still on how to make the brand and brand idea come to life as well as how to engage customers in a more personal, hands on, and emotionally relevant fashion than they would otherwise experience simply by buying the product.

It’s not as if Vicky had to go through a re-branding exercise, as the Crayola brand has always been very strong and most loved amongst moms for years. What needed to happen is to redress what happens with many fast growing companies — they lose sight of what they are about, why they exist, and what their higher purpose is, or as Vicky calls it, their true north. Successfully articulating their “true north,” which is well represented in the Crayola Inspire video, led to some fundamental business changes — exiting certain lines of business and redefining the corporate culture. This whole effort also positively correlated with the performance of the company.

In the past, Crayolians (that is how they call themselves) would have described themselves as being in the business of color or safety and trust. But those are simply brand attributes; they are not your higher calling. Crayola is about kids, and their mission and purpose is to help moms and teachers raise creative and inspired kids. It is also about allowing kids to express their ideas and thoughts in very visible and colorful forms.

Defining their “true north” was, of course, a cross-functional effort that was moderated by an outside firm. The whole process took three to four months, not including the internal and external launches.

Launching the new “true north” internally required them to look at how their new manifesto and brand needed to come to life across all parts of their business. Culture was a big part of that. First they re-articulated their shared cultural system of beliefs — making them all compatible with the new branding language. So instead of saying that they were “be risk-oriented,” they changed that to “last one in is the rotten egg,” or instead of being consumer-focused, they now say “best friends forever.” It’s all inspired by kids — how would a kid say it?

Extensive cultural and branding training and orientation programs for existing and new employees also become part of the mix to make sure the whole organization’s culture became aligned with the external brand. Office spaces were redesigned to look more like playgrounds, and employees were given the choice to have their phone greetings recorded by their own kids and their email signature pictures be pictures of themselves when they were kids. It’s not as if they want people to act like kids, they want the whole culture to be inspired by kids.

With so many different beliefs systems floating around as it relates to raising kids, it’s no wonder that understanding consumer cultures is very important at Crayola. It also drives how they communicate with their consumers — e.g., they never define success, nor do they ever tell parents or teachers what’s right and wrong. They help parents and teachers achieve their goals. The only strong point-of-view that they take in their communications is that creativity is really an important part of a child’s development — it helps with critical thinking, it helps with communications, and it helps with problem solving. Creativity is a skill that can be learned and is needed later in life to be successful.

Social media has affected Crayola in positive ways. There is now much more user-generated content available to help moms and teachers make critical decisions about educational methods and tools, and that only benefits a company like Crayola.

Trust is another important brand ingredient at Crayola. It reflects itself in the physical product — no matter where you put it, it will not have any toxic effects — as well as in the brand as a whole and in the internal culture — where there is a decision-making culture that engenders employee trust.

Other things we discussed include:

  • How to actually launch with a re-articulated “true north.”
  • The marketing challenges associated with the buyer and the end-user not being the same.
  • How to measure how well employees keep living the cultural values.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Aaron Davis, CMO at Schneider Electric

Written by on April 4, 2013 – 6:12 pm -

I truly enjoyed my CMO 2.0 Conversation with Aaron Davis, the CMO at Schneider Electric — a 170-year-old company with 24B Euros in revenue. Aaron grew up as an engineer in a family of engineers — with even his grandmothers being engineers. When he got out of school, however, he was attracted to advertising — leading to his life-long perspective that good marketing operates at the intersection of science and art. He was a co-founder at APC, which was acquired by Schneider Electric a few years ago, and subsequently named Aaron the CMO for the company.

The CMO role at Schneider Electric was created as part of an interesting transition — one in which the company transitioned from a corporate holding company with multiple sub-brands to more of a large well-recognized brand that can drive the economies of scale that allows for cross-organizational innovation needed to capitalize on fast-changing markets and opportunities.  During this transition they went from 130 different brands to 10 associated brands — brands that can keep using their name in association with the Schneider Electric brand — and a few that can keep operating on their own for competitive or market amplification reasons. Those brands that survived as associated brands had to be the number one or number two brand in their space.

At Schneider Electric they truly live their brand values as part of their organizational culture. With sustainability being a cornerstone of their brand they also happen to be one of the top 20 sustainable companies in the world. They gamefied their internal process of sustainability — resulting not only in a better bottom line, but also in a more collaborative culture, one in which people work more closely together across functional boundaries.

For Aaron, one of the most exiting changes in marketing was caused by collaborative technology — Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Those technologies allowed for widespread intimacy — a contradiction of terms, but clearly a reality. What he is even more excited about is bringing those technologies in-house allowing his organization to compete not just on price but on agility.

Aaron has an interesting approach to making sure that new marketing channels, processes, or technologies do not lead to silos in marketing. First off, whenever something new comes on the horizon, he rarely forms a dedicated team Instead he tasks a trusted person from one of his competence centers to go and become an expert on the topic, and to report back to the team with recommendations in 3-6 months. If something becomes real he will always try to make it part of the genetics of the marketing organization, and he forces it through training and KPIs.

For example, everyone on his team is knowledgeable about SEO. He also tries to anticipate which technique or function will likely be cannibalized or eliminated if something new becomes real. He then gives that team the responsibility for the new function or the new tool — thus making cannibalization more natural and avoiding silos fighting with one another. Another technique to avoid silos it to constantly force people to have a much broader view of the marketing mix than their own area of expertise — be it demand generation, social, or events.

The advent of social media has forced a shift in marketing content development, one which Aaron describes as a shift from polished content, the way you would create a brochure, to more raw content, the way you would send an email to someone. Social amplifies raw content, not polished content.

Aaron is a firm believer in the premise that culture trumps strategy. At Schneider Electric they are trying to foster a culture that’s mostly driven by speed and a willingness to fail, but to fail fast. They also have a measurement culture, which makes for a self-correcting system. You screw up, you fix it, and you move onto the next thing.

If you do not have speed as part of your culture, and this is true especially for large companies, you can end up with situations where your strategic implementation cycle is longer than the strategy cycle itself — and you fool yourself if you think that your strategy is what the market is actually feeling.

Like with many companies that I recently interviewed, at Schneider Electric they try to have a unified corporate culture that trumps the local cultures, the age-related cultures, or any other culture layers that people bring to work.

The benefits of having a great culture include brand building, employee retention, and less failure of new employees.

Changing or creating culture in a large company is much harder than in a small company. The advantage that they have at Schneider Electric over other more unified competitors is that at those competitors it already means something to be a company person while it’s much more of a blank slate at Schneider Electric. They just need to get people to stop talking about their shared local history, great stories, and local lessons learned and instead focus on talking about the shared vision and how they are going to work moving forward.

In terms of talent acquisition, there is a generational aspect at Schneider. Many of the big problems that Schneider Electric has identified will not be solved in a year — they’re all 15 and 20 year problems. So knowing that a person’s peak in the corporate world is 40-50 years old, it is the 30-year-olds that are going to change the world.

Other things we discussed include:

  • How to change a legacy brand and make it relevant while not losing the benefits of the legacy.
  • How everything new in marketing, with the exception of the fax is additive.
  • On the use of Centers for Competence for various marketing functions.
  • The importance of depoliticizing failures and encouraging people to fail fast but document what they did so others can avoid it.
  • The importance and real benefits that companies derive when they create cultures of trust.
  • The need to measure people not just on KPIs but also on cultural traits.
  • How to develop metrics integrated success metrics to avoid friction between sales and marketing.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Peter Mahoney, CMO at Nuance

Written by on March 11, 2013 – 4:30 pm -

Peter Mahoney, the CMO at Nuance, and I have been crossing paths on and off for the past few years in social media. So, it was great to finally speak in person and prove to one another that we were in fact not social media bots.

After getting a degree in Physics, Peter started his career in marketing and sales at IBM, even though that was the furthest from his aspirations at the time he started to work. After stints at PictureTel he ended up with Nuance, where he has been for the past nine years — seeing it grow from $150M in revenue to more than $2B in revenue this year.

Peter believes that marketing has become more strategic in the past few years — especially in the tech sector, where it had not been seen as a strategic piece of the business on par with some others. It has also become much more technical — involving optimization, lot’s of data, and digital capabilities. However, fundamentally, marketing is still about connecting people with the right product.

Even in B2B environments, marketers need to realize that it is people who are buying products, not companies. Another huge change in marketing has been caused by social media, which allows a marketer to have a different and deeper kind of conversation with their customers. It also allows your customers to have conversations about you without you being there. In fact, engaging in social conversations may be the biggest sea change in the marketing mix.

Nuance has grown primarily through acquisitions, and in the nine years that Peter has been there, there have been around 65 acquisitions. The good news of being in constant integration mode is that there is a good relationship between marketing and IT — a requirement for success as marketing is becoming more and more technical. That being said, marketers also need to beef up their technical capabilities internally.

Part of Nuance’s brand is to humanize technology — they sell, after all, technology that can hear, talk, reason at some level, see you, and have memory and context, — so having a humanized brand, especially the ability to listen to social conversations, comes almost natural to them — it’s part of their DNA.

The role of marketers has really shifted to one of being connectors rather than communicators. Marketers no longer need to consider themselves the spokespeople of the company in market place but instead need to think of themselves as the company advocate within the company.

When it comes to branding, companies need to be honest — and honesty means many different things. It is about connecting the right audience with the right product — not some kind of made up hyperbole. Marketers need to communicate very precisely what the product or service does in the terms that are interesting and relevant to their audience. Honesty is also something marketers need to have when engaging in social media conversations — which at scale are really good at outing falsehoods.

Next we talked about the importance of culture in marketing — both employee culture and consumer culture. As many other CMO’s I interviewed recently, Peter is convinced that there cannot be a dissonance between the internal employee culture and what the brand stands for. You cannot come up with a brand attribute and make it happen — it has to be part of your true essence and your values for it to be perceived as real in the marketplace.

The way Nuance deals with the various cultures that come through acquisitions is by celebrating diversity — including diversity of culture — as part of their culture. They don’t try to strip new groups of their personality or their individual group culture, but they instead understand how that links to the overall corporate message and culture. Peter compares it to marrying into a family that comes from a different culture — you do not want to completely throw out the old culture. You want to bring it along and add it to the mix and change it a little, but also recognize the fact that there’s this broader thing that has a set of values and a culture that they are interested in.

Other things that we discussed include:

  •  The importance to having a good core set of technical vendors as partners to marketing.
  • Understanding the role of the marketer in social conversations — when to engage and when not to.
  • The changing role of content marketing in the age of social recommendations.
  • The challenges for marketers that have products embedded in other people’s solutions.
  • The future applications of speech recognition, and the possibilities that open up when you combine speech recognition with data.
  • How to walk the fine line of promoting “do good” applications as part of your marketing mix when you in fact help people with disabilities and other impairments.
  • What to do when the culture of partners is different from your own culture.
  • The importance of understanding consumer cultures as part of marketing.


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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Jim Davis, CMO at SAS

Written by on February 26, 2013 – 5:50 pm -

My CMO 2.0 conversation with Jim Davis, the CMO at SAS was  insightful and covered a lot of ground. Jim grew into the CMO position through the ranks of R&D and product management — a great path for a technology company. At SAS, Jim is not only the CMO, but he also runs HR, professional services, and education; positions at the executive table that should work much more closely together than they usually do. With his responsibility, Jim can  not only focus on providing a great product experience for the customer, but also a great place to work — resulting in being Number 2 on the Great Places to Work ® list and having a 2-3% employee turnover rate in an industry that averages 20-22%.

We discussed the long term benefits of investing upfront in the employee base and how unfortunately, public companies, driven by Wall Street’s relentless search for cost-cutting,  cannot always make those investments. For Jim, there are three types of relationships: the company-customer relationship, the customer-employee relationship, and the company-employee relationship; which is where most people fall down. At SAS, they are convinced that if you can satisfy the last leg of that relationship triangle, the other two will work well as well. Or as their CEO, Jim Goodnight, says — “If the employees are happy, then the customer is happy and if the customer is happy, the business thrives.”

While the cultural SAS Way and attitude in terms of how they treat people  is the same all over the world, employees in different cultural regions have different expectations of what it means to work for an exceptional employer — hence the need to execute a little bit differently depending on where you are in the world.

Realizing that people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, they treat their employees as family. A great example of that was what happened when the global financial crisis hit in 2008. Instead of hunkering down and laying off employees, as most companies would have done, the CEO did a global webcast and said, “I want to tell you something right now: I promise you I will guarantee no one will lose their job. I just need you to look after the company, look after the expenses and continue to produce quality software and build great relationships with our customers.” As a result, employees did not rush to update their LinkedIn profiles, and instead watched out for the business — resulting in the most profitable year in SAS’s history.

Next we talked about the impact of customers becoming increasingly digital and social on marketing plans and strategies.  Gone are the days of marketing getting the message out. Instead marketers now need to focus on listening and responding to the sentiment of the crowd. Marketers no longer need to be the company advocate in the marketplace — customers will do that, — but they instead need to become the customer advocate within their company.

Next we switched to the topic of big data and big data analytics. Jim described the various big data problems companies have and mapped them out in a two-by-two matrix that includes Business Intelligence (BI) and Big Data BI, both focused on reactive analytic capability; and Big Analytics and Big Data Analytics, both focused on proactive analytic capabilities. Jim has a great blog post detailing the different big data problems that companies may have.

Big data didn’t just happen. We have always had it. What was missing was the ability to gain meaningful and actionable insights from it to allow us to proactively make future marketing, product, and customer decisions.

We also talked about the benefits of real-time analytics, which has recently become in vogue. When you can place real time analytic models in line with the process by which we’re communicating with the customer, amazing new  up-sell and cross-sell opportunities present themselves.

In a recent poll SAS did with 800 executives at their Premier Leadership Series conference, 81% of respondents said that they are not doing a good job in terms of real-time, fact-based decision making. While we are still in the early stages of maturity, big data is definitely going mainstream, often driven at the board level.

In order to truly capitalize on the promise of big data, CIO’s and CMO’s need to work hand-in-hand. A good way to make that happen is to make sure that the CIO and the CMO have shared metrics for success. If the CMO is measured on customer retention or customer response or cross-sell, up-sell, then the CIO needs to be measured on those same metrics, not uptime and fall within budget. Here again, we are in the early stages of seeing this marriage between CIO’s and CMO’s happen, with many CMO’s still going at it on their own.

Lastly, we talked about the need to develop a fact-based decision-making culture — one in which human decision making gets supported by analytics and data modelers. If the human decision maker gets replaced with analytics and modeling, then we are in for big trouble — just look at the derivatives and the subsequent financial collapse.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • We briefly reviewed the results of the Social Workplace Trust Study that Human 1.0 produced with The Great Place to Work Institute, IABC and the Society for New Communications Research.
  • How they do not differentiate between consumer brand and employee brand.
  • The benefits of not being a public company with a quarterly time horizon.
  • How SAS has a deep culture of innovation and what that means.
  • How agencies are struggling with the decision to get into data or not — with the value of how you address the customer not being available in external data.
  • How to leverage social media data as part of Big Data solutions.
  • Metrics used by the SAS CMO to gauge progress and success.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with John Kennedy, VP of Corporate Marketing at IBM

Written by on October 2, 2012 – 7:38 pm -

My CMO 2.0 conversation with John Kennedy, the head of corporate marketing at IBM, was a truly great discussion. John started his marketing career at one of the best on-the-job training companies for branding — Proctor & Gamble, where he worked on some well known brands like Downy, Spic and Span, and Cinch. Following that he joined IBM’s consumer division in the mid-90s, and subsequently, spent 8 years with IBM in Tokyo in a variety of product marketing, geography marketing, and sales roles.  So, John is another true and true marketer in this ongoing series of  CMO 2.0 Conversations.

According to John, the main causes for the recent changes in marketing come from the digitization of business and the increased interconnectness of people. The fundamental change that marketing has undergone is that it has once again become a social science — it is about understanding how people connect, what they aspire to, and what motivates them to do what they do.

At IBM they use three lenses to understand how the marketing function is fundamentally changing — knowing the customer, knowing markets, and knowing audiences. In the past marketers were mostly limited to understanding their customers in terms of big demos and big psychographics. Now, big data allows marketers to understand their customer at the individual level. Big data also gives marketers the ability to serve market segments better — moving from a transactional focus to a much more customer-centric conversation around the benefits of products and services.  The last lens relates to the fact that both companies and customers now have a much higher visibility and transparency into one another’s business —  with customers who now being able to see behind the firewall and assess whether the way a company operates actually matches with what it promises through its marketing.

Like other leading marketers that I interviewed recently, John too believes that the brand is not just embedded in the promise that marketing makes about its products and services and how well those products and services deliver against that promises, but it is also embedded in the culture of the company — how the company actually behaves behind the firewall. Along those lines, IBM has done a lot of work in humanizing its brand by allowing the IBM brand to be defined by the IBMer. They see themselves as an intellectual capital company, with their employees delivering the value that gets created and offered for their customer.

Next we talked about the shifting advocacy role that marketers need to embrace. They increasingly need to take all the learnings that they develop about the customer and bring that back to the C-Suite rather than think of themselves as the corporate spokesperson in the marketplace. While marketers will continue to have the need to communicate messages to the marketplace, a majority of the content about a company’s products and services now flows through word-of-mouth.

Once again, marketers need to become more inter-disciplinary, and be concerned about more aspects of the company’s operations than they have traditionally been involved with. With the brand being impacted by so much more of the company’s operations, marketers need to think way beyond the four P’s when they think about their role. Not only do they need to become more knowledgeable, they also need to rely on more of their C-Suite counterparts to help execute the brand. And with marketing becoming increasingly technology-enabled, which is especially true of their relationship with the CIO.

Marketing in the future will not feel like marketing. It will increasingly feel like a welcome service. With marketers developing a better understanding of consumer behavior, both through social sciences and data, marketers will be able to deliver a whole new level of value to their customers. In order to so, however, marketers will need to develop a level of “digital empathy” — by not only contacting customers with the goal of achieving commercial results.

Following this conversation on the changing role of marketers, we switched to the topic of culture. According to IBM research, leading marketers are focusing more on corporate character than on the products they sell. As I said before, marketers have to become concerned with not only how a company comes across in its marketing, but how the company actually operates — and that is called culture, or in IBM parlance corporate character. Culture, of course, is the externalization of shared corporate values and beliefs.

We closed the conversation on the topic of measurements and ROI, which is increasingly tricky as marketing contributions spans both the range of hard things and soft things. Marketers are going to have to be careful to select those key analytics in this growing amount of information that best represent their contributions.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • How market researchers need to shift their thinking from consumer segments to consumer tribes.
  •  How to leverage social media and communities as part of marketing.
  • The importance of listening to what is being said about your brand and gauge the sentiment of those conversations.
  • The importance of matching internal tribes with external tribes.
  • The changing need for talent within the marketing department.
  • How the promise of gaining actionable insights from big data is still very much in the early stages.
  • How to transition from a transactional customer relationship to one that is focused on the customer journey.
  • How to balance an historic/iconic brand like IBM with having a brand that appeals to new generations and consumer tribes with the example of Smarter Planet as a platform to make that happen at IBM.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Phil Clement, CMO at Aon

Written by on September 25, 2012 – 5:30 pm -

My CMO 2.0 conversation with Phil Clement, who is the CMO at Aon was truly enlightening. Phil is an anthropologist by training with a background in econometrics as well — which makes for an interesting mix. Throughout his career, Phil has been in business development and marketing roles. He joined Aon, a $10B company operating in 120 countries, 7 years ago and recently moved to London to have better access to their worldwide operations.

Aon grew primarily though acquisitions — 419 acquisitions in fact. They range from startups to companies that have been around for more than a century — making for a rich mix of cultures, but also resulting in a tough job to brand a unified company. They built the brand from the inside out and spent more than two years making sure that everyone inside the company lived the brand promise before embarking on an external branding campaign. Phil truly believes that the 62,000 Aon employees are the ones that have the biggest impact on their brand. That is why they made the five qualities of the brand (e.g., teamwork, innovation, etc.) also an integral part of their HR system — with employees being evaluated by the same characteristics that are important to their clients. They truly “humanized” the Aon brand.

They account for local cultural difference in marketing through a program called Jazz — in which a global marketing platform gets developed and locally customized. One such platform was the sponsorship of Manchester United, one of the most recognizable soccer franchises in the world. In fact, more people have conversations about soccer than about religion, politics, and family — hard to believe. They developed a global marketing program whereby a football would go from one office to the next until it reached London, but what happened at the local offices when a football reached that office was totally localized — some might have a feast while others might have a show with native dancers for their customers. So they achieved global consistency while staying locally relevant.

Aon has not quite reached the level where they can do heavy customer segmentation based on behavior-based segmentation, which is one of the promises of big data, but they do know what makes a difference at different stages of the sales cycle.

Phil then explained how they have been moving from a more traditional insurance conversation to one that is centered on what we term “risk intelligence,” or he calls “empowering people’s decision making.” The main reason for this move is that their overall product footprint is now too large for the brand to stand for any particular offering.

Content marketing is a very important element in Phil’s marketing mix. It allows them to let the customer see how they think, it furthers their image and reputation, and it helps explain the depth with which they are approaching the problems in both risk and people. When they think about content, they use the acronym CUTT. Which is, Is the content compelling? Is it useful to the person? Is it timely? Does it lead to a transaction, or is it information about things you actually sell?

Next we delved deeper on the topic of culture. Phil being an anthropologist by training, of course, means that he focuses much of his marketing thinking on human behavior. He looks for hierarchies and symbols that dictate behavior, he looks at what gives people status and power, and always tries to understand social roles. He is also very aware of consumer cultures, and how you can sometimes influence those cultures. Internally there is a global work culture at Aon, one that emanates from their internal branding efforts mentioned earlier. Shaping culture can be very effective — in the absence of rules or the absence of a management decision, for example, culture dictates you what to do.

Lastly, we talked about the need for measuring the impact of marketing, and the difficulty associated with measuring some of the softer elements of marketing that we talked about. Phil thinks that marketing cannot be faith-based and wants to be able to measure everything. He will not embark on a program that cannot be measured. Measurement-based marketing is the only way to achieve consistency in marketing. The soft stuff, like the fact that a 15 year old will always see Aon as a big company in their life because of the Manchester United sponsorship, has to be a bonus — it cannot be the reason you embark on a marketing program. Good metrics include unification of the company, number of leads created, awareness increase, renewal rates, shortening sales cycles, etc.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of excellence in marketing and branding
  • What it truly means to have a team-work based culture
  • The importance of having a global brand on marketing budgets
  • How marketing is a mix of quantitative analysis and creative
  • The findings of the Social Workplace Trust Study

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP

Written by on July 2, 2012 – 2:04 pm -

I was truly looking forward to my CMO 2.0 Conversation with Jonathan Becher, the CMO at SAP, and I was clearly not disappointed. Jonathan came to SAP through the acquisition of an analytics company, where he was the CEO/CMO. Within SAP he went up the ranks through product marketing before becoming CMO 15 months ago. He is responsible for the development, oversight, and execution of marketing strategy worldwide.

Next we discussed Jonathan’s views on the changes that marketing has undergone in recent times. For SAP one of the biggest challenges is the need to change the legacy perception that they are the big expensive German ERP vendor, when in reality they now play in five distinct product categories and have price points that are all over the map. Another big shift in marketing is that we have to move away from the notion that we can control the message to a mindset where we orchestrate the conversations. Jonathan also feels that being in B2B or B2C is an arbitrary distinction. Buildings don’t buy from buildings, people buy products from people, and so marketers need to focus on people, not B’s or C’s.

In order to change positioning in a world where you cannot control the message anymore, you need to take on an outside-in view more so than an inside-out view of the marketplace. That means developing an understanding of what people already believe and what they are already saying, and developing stories that describe impact that will be able to fit within the existing narrative and travel among networks of people who do not work for you. At SAP, they are trying to turn every single employee into a brand ambassador who can tell such stories, not just the marketing people.

People have always been social and making a buying decision has always been a social process. What changed is that the technology and media have become social, allowing the social for which human beings have been hardwired for eons to scale. People can now make social buying decisions about anything without having to rely on the vendors that sell the products. Jonathan quoted research that says that 80% of customers do not visit corporate web sites prior to making buying decisions – leaving marketers to wonder whether to put a lot of energy in their own web site or engage where people are. At SAP they do both, but they have a goal of having 50% of their own website content authored by third parties in the future.

Jonathan believes that in the future Marketing will be responsible for 5 things: represent the voice of the market, be the champion of the overall experience, the steward of the brand, the evangelist of the future, and the integrator/force multiplier. Representing the voice of market is bigger than representing the voice of the customer: It encompasses what your competitors are talking about as well as people who never bought from you.

Next we switched the conversation to a favorite topic of Jonathan, which we actually share – that of culture. Internal employee cultures can stand in the way of strategic initiatives and external customer cultures can stand in the way of successful product launches. Jonathan gave several internal examples of cultures that stood in the way of collaboration, and at the end he says, many teams achieve a local maximum without ever achieving a global maximum. We talked about the importance of shared beliefs and shared objectives in creating cultures that are more conducive for collaboration, and more acceptant of change, and which are requirements to make new strategies work. One of the strong shared beliefs they have at SAP is “All Brains on Deck” – meaning that when you see a problem, even if it is not within your area of responsibility, you own it.

Passion in the workplace is important, but if it is not connected to productivity it can be useless. Passion needs to be organized, it needs to be channeled, and otherwise it can become misdirected compared to where the company wants to go. Another reason why passion needs to be channeled and connected to productivity is because traditional hierarchical management structures are set up to measure KPI’s, not passion.

On the consumer culture side of things, SAP has started taking consumer cultures into consideration for their product positioning as well. Right now they do it primarily around regional cultures. For example, Americans like analytics for the exception management capabilities that it brings, while Germans use it to bring order to chaos. We also discussed the challenges with finding transnational tribes that might have a shared passion, shared interest, or shared pain – such as people who share a passion for sustainability worldwide. One of the issues is that if you do not get deep enough into the essence of the passion, you may be focusing on tribes that are too nomadic. So, you might have focused on the Star Trek tribe only to realize that when the show stopped, most people left the tribe. If you had focused on the Sci-Fi Tribe instead, then people, who were Star Trek fans and left, are most likely still part of the Sci-Fi tribe.

We finished the conversation by talking about the changing nature of measurements in marketing. While people at SAP are huge believers in analytics, Jonathan cautioned that not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted. Measuring the wrong thing can be as detrimental as not measuring it.

Other things that we talked about are:
• How to retrain internal people to tell compelling stories that can easily be retold.
• How to measure the success of social media exchanges.
• Why social should not be used as a shouting platform, but rather as a listening platform.
• The three rings of social.
• The changing roles of sales and marketing.
• The new methods for market segmentation.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Steve Pinetti, SVP Inspiration and Creativity at Kimpton Hotels

Written by on May 29, 2012 – 1:28 pm -

pinetti-100My CMO 2.0 Conversation with Steve Pinetti, the SVP of Inspiration and Creativity at Kimpton Hotels was inspirational to say the least. Steve has been with the company since the beginning and embodies all that Kimpton stands for. He did not end up with his job by design, but by happenstance and serendipity — which is why Steve is a big believer that everyone needs to keep themselves open to possibilities. If you’re open-minded to possibilities, things will come. If you’re closed-minded, you miss.

The vision for the company came from Bill Kimpton, the founder of the company who loved travelling and staying in small hotels that had great food and good wines. From the get go, the way he managed was to empower his people to make sure that every guest had a terrific experience — no matter what it takes. That allowed them to rely on word of mouth to grow the business and to never have to focus on advertising. Steve considers it a good part of his job to make sure that the legacy of Bill Kimpton lives on as the company keeps growing and as they hire more people. His primary goal is to inspire people and make sure that the spirit of creativity is alive in everything they do — from the wake-up call to how to greet the guest at the front desk, how to say goodbye when they leave, and so on.

Kimpton is a very people-centric company which focuses first and foremost on the well-being of their employees. In fact, they don’t necessarily see themselves being in the hotel and restaurant business, they consider themselves being in the business of people. They realize that if an employee is not happy, then the guest won’t be happy and the investors won’t be happy. That is why in the last Fortune top 100 companies to work for, they came in number 16. They also realize that you can only empower people, and achieve consistent emotional connections with customers, by having a shared set of strong values, not rule books or scripts. In their case the values are: focus, passion, creativity, integrity, commitment to self-leadership and continuous improvement. All this employee-centricity leads to very low employee turnover, and very high investor returns.

At Kimpton, humanizing the brand is not an empty slogan — they truly want the personalities of their employees to come through and to be the representatives of the brand — not some faceless corporate personality. One of the important tools that they use to successfully achieve this is Kimpton University – where senior executives spend at least a quarter of their time training others. A formal mentor program in which at least 300 senior level managers are being mentored forms the other part of the investment they make in their employee commitment to continuous education. Another promise they make to their employees is that they’re going to have a safe workplace — one in which people feel comfortable coming to work and one where they feel comfortable with the people they work with.

Next we tackled the topic of creativity — which is hugely important for the company — dating back all the way to its origin. Interestingly enough, Steve is convinced that creativity can be taught. Creativity at Kimpton is focused on how to do things differently so that “when customers finally make their Kimpton stop on their journey of trying different places we want to blow their hair back, we want to stop them in their tracks.” It centers not just on big things but also on small things like what to tell the customer when they get out of the cab, or how to make the wake-up call more memorable. Everyone has to be creative at Kimpton — you cannot have employees wait for the marketing department to become creative.

Next we switched to some more traditional marketing topics — including branding. Originally Kimpton Hotels was branding every property differently — with its own style, its own restaurant and its own local environment. As they grew, and since they do cater to a business audience, they developed the need to provide customers with an umbrella brand. In developing their corporate brand they went from zero to 100 overnight and it actually resulted in a significant uplift in business — with customers now easily finding the boutique hotels they wanted, but with consistent corporate promises like being pet friendly, having kids’ programs and wellness programs.

If you doubt whether people-centricity can pay off, think again. 60% of all their first time customers are there because of word-of-mouth — that compares to 20-25% being considered successful in the industry.

Other things we talked about include:

  • How to maintain a startup mentality in a 31 year old company
  • How Kimpton built in guerrilla marketing as part of their culture
  • A successful corporate wide ideation campaign they are currently running
  • The importance of loyalty programs to focus on individual preferences

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CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Steve Shapiro, author of Best Practices Are Stupid

Written by on September 28, 2011 – 7:56 pm -

steveshapiro(Re-posted from the Collaborative Innovation Community) It was a pleasure to interview Steve Shapiro about his latest book – Best Practices Are Stupid. I love the title, although for reasons that are slightly different from the reasons that Steve gives in his book. For him, implementing best practices is copying what others have already done and therefore not the best way to innovate. For me, best practices are so context sensitive, that it is really hard to recreate them within a different organization. Companies are better off understanding worst practices and avoid those rather than recreate best practices – no matter how you look at it.

Many companies try to innovate by asking customers and employees for ideas – not a good practice when it comes to innovation. As Steve explains, when you ask people for ideas you end up with a whole bunch of really bad ideas. The signal to noise ratio in open ended idea generation campaigns is typically very low. The sheer volume of ideas that needs to be sifted through to find the good ones would stretch the organizational capabilities of most innovation departments – creating frustration among those who have to manage the process. Not only that, but the low number of ideas that typically gets implemented also frustrates the idea submitting community, who feel like they are not being listened to. So frustration all around and poor results – maybe it’s time for companies to STOP asking for ideas.

Instead what companies should do is focus on giving employees and customers business challenges – problems for which you are actively seeking solutions. A good example of that is when Netflix launched its $1M Netflix prize to get outside teams to help them refine their recommendation engine by 10%. Not only did they only pay for results, they also outsourced the failures that are typical with the serial trial and error nature of  innovation processes. In the podcast we discussed the differences between innovation tournaments and innovation bounty campaigns and when to use one over the other or when to set them up as competitive challenges versus collaborative challenges.

We also talked about the power of the crowds in innovation, and how crowds are notoriously bad at helping you find the good ideas among a mountain of ideas. If you use the simple voting up and down system, like the ones that are very popular in crowd-sourced innovation programs, you often end up with the most popular idea – not the best one. A better use of the crowd is to have them help you identify the duds – something they do really well.

It is amazing to realize that the main reason for new product and service failure is still “not meeting customer expectations.” While companies are getting better at doing market research, most need to change as their “market research really sucks.”  Instead of asking people questions that make their conscious part of the brain find an answer, which is not the part of the brain that makes buying decisions, companies should use anthropological techniques and metaphor based methods to uncover people’s unconscious needs. They also need to get out there and talk to non-customers instead on blindly focusing on their in-house customer data.

Motivators are another important factor to understand when managing innovation – and companies should understand the limitations of monetary incentives to stimulate proper behavior.

Steve closed the conversation by talking about USAA and how they found a way, through an innovation center for excellence and innovation ambassadors within the business units, to make innovation part of their DNA. This should be the ultimate goal of companies looking to change their practices. As an organization, you need to create an adaptability to change that will match the rate of change that is happening outside your corporate walls.

Other things we talked about include:

  • How companies who are 2nd or 3rd in their markets need to change the game in which they are playing rather than to play by the rules of the leader
  • VC like boards in innovation management initiatives
  • How Innovation Centers and giving people 15 or 20% of their time to innovate outside of their area of responsibility is better for recruiting purposes than for actual innovation
  • How measurements can kill your innovation initiative
  • How you need constraints to foster innovation
  • How expertise and innate cognitive biases can kill innovation
  • The importance of culture in innovation

You can listen to this podcast on the Collaborative Innovation Community.

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CIO 2.0 Conversation with Dan Greller, Consultant, Speaker and former CIO at Legg-Mason

Written by on September 27, 2011 – 12:57 pm -

dan_grellerDan Greller, the former CIO at Legg Mason, and currently technology innovation consultant, speaker and writer (with a great blog), was kind enough to join me for my second CIO 2.0 Conversation.

Dan has 30 years of experience managing global technology organizations, mostly within the financial services industry. Having first entered the job market when the debate between mainframe and desktop computing was raging, Dan has seen his share of technology innovation battles – which made it particularly interesting to discuss this latest battle between innovation and control taking place within most companies around adopting new technologies.

According to Dan, that balance between innovation and control has remained the hardest balance for CIO’s to manage. Between the increasing demands that organizations put on their IT departments and their CIO’s, the accelerating pace of change, and the ease with which employees can now bypass their IT department – that balance will become harder to manage, not easier.

The consumerization of IT, which refers to the phenomenon that consumer technology innovations are increasingly driving enterprise tools development, and also to the fact that many employees now expect their personal tools – their phone, tablet and home laptops – to work within their work environment, is clearly here to stay. The user experience that enterprise tools provide sorely lacks the experience that consumer services provide. Think of doing a Google search vs searching for content in your corporate knowledge management system, compare your corporate procurement process with the Amazon buying process, or look at how your corporate software provisioning differs from the experience you have in the iPhone or Android app stores. There is no comparison, and it is that difference in experience that leads to the consumerization of IT. CIO’s react to these forces in different ways – some say NO, and some put their head in the sand. Clearly neither one of those strategies is a workable strategy. Both will leave your users dissatisfied and relegate your IT department to irrelevance. CIO’s need to partner with key constituents and business unit owners and decide on strategic technical directions that match the culture of the company and deal with the risks associated with those strategies – human resource (HR) risks, compliance risks, legal risks, reputation risks, security risks, IP leakage risks, etc.

Risks are a thorny issue for many companies, and one that can stop innovations in their tracks. Many people, who by nature are averse to change, will hide behind potential risks, often unreal ones, to avoid having to deal with that change. In assessing risks, Dan suggests that people look at the Netflix manifesto about their culture, where they talk about a concept called the waterline. The way they look at decision-making and risk is that they think of their company as a boat, and they think of decisions being above or below the waterline. If a decision is below the waterline, then the risks of having something go wrong is much higher than if the decision is above the waterline.

We then talked about the changing role of IT and CIO’s as it relates to shifting their position from order takers to strategic business partners. CIO’s need to be the leaders who understand technologies and how they apply to the business. They need to be the ones that recommend and provide guidance on how to leverage social computing, mobility, universal access, cloud computing and “big data” as part of business processes.

Social computing should be on every CIO’s agenda, not because it’s a fad, but because eventually it will have to become part of every enterprise process and the systems that support them.

On the topic of measurements, Dan believes that there are two types of measurements – hard measurements and the anecdotal comparisons with peers. And while Dan is not a big proponent of hard benchmarks, which would require the ability to compare apples with apples, something that is virtually impossible in diverse organizations,  he does believe that comparisons with other people and companies in your industry are important. This makes sense in a competitive environment where the winner is the one that can stay ahead of the others. One of the most important measurement criteria for IT departments should be customer satisfaction, but that needs to be balanced with metrics that reflect the increasing strategic partnership that needs to exist between IT departments and the business units.

Culture trumps all and CIO’s should be thinking about culture as part of everything they do. It is what motivates people to do what they do, and it is what ultimately determines the effectiveness of all organizations. Dan believes that companies should listen to Daniel Pink when he says that people have three motivations, autonomy, mastery and purpose. They want to have a say in their destiny, they want to be recognized as a master in certain fields, and they want to be connected to a higher purpose. It’s important to have a culture that understands and promotes those values, both for your employees and also for your customers.

To create or change a corporate culture, you need to articulate where you want the culture to be, communicate it clearly with your employees, walk the talk, and reward and recognize behavior that supports that culture. The latter is especially important for IT departments, where metrics around on-time delivery and zero tolerance for failure have often stood in the way of creating a collaborative and innovative culture.

Dan ended the conversation with a few pieces of advice for IT professionals – don’t just focus on the bits and bytes, but focus on humans, their cultures and their biases; reach out to other disciplines like psychology and economics; think beyond your technical expertise when you think about the competencies that are needed to get your job done.

Well said.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • How smart companies now deal with risks through a combination of education and guiderails rather than through policies alone
  • The importance of e-discovery and archival systems in regulated markets
  • The positive aspects of operating in regulated environments where everything gets recorded on business communications
  • The importance for CIO’s to stay abreast of what happens to their industry by networking with peers
  • How companies and individuals deal with innate human/cognitive biases like the confirmation bias

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CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Tom Asacker, author and speaker

Written by on August 19, 2011 – 8:30 am -

tomasackerI truly enjoyed my CMO 2.0 Influencer conversation with Tom Asacker – who I consider a friend and also admire as an original marketing thinker. Tom is the author of multiple books, including Opportunity Screams: Unlocking Hearts and Minds in Today’s Idea Economy, and also blogs at A Clear Eye. Before becoming a successful author and speaker, Tom started his career at GE, where he participated in a management buyout of an electronics firm. After that he became the founder and CEO for a medical devices company.

The first topic we tackled is that of marketing in a world where everyone, including executives, is increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of information that is coming at them. Tom is convinced that most executives need to pause and rethink their purpose and how they will execute that purpose. While the priorities of marketing have not changed all that much  - drive top line growth and grow marketshare -, those are results that come from understanding and feeding the hungers of your audiences and the customer insights, and from better defining one’s brand and how to deliver a differentiated value proposition. Marketing executives cannot optimize their way to success by measuring everything and everyone to death. They need to care deeply about their audience and create unique value that improves their audience’s lives. You cannot expect results from spreading messages all over the place hoping that somehow you will connect with the feelings of your audience – you have to really care.

Marketers also have to rethink their content, and develop it in a way that it will travel in those circles where buying recommendations are being made. That means that we have to understand what value people will derive from using the content we develop with others. After all, most people only do what they value – and that is true for making recommendations and reusing vendor content. Marketers need to switch from their traditional inside-out perspective and start looking at everything they do through the eyes of their audiences.

People need to realize that everything in the marketplace has changed – the amount of products and services is overwhelming, and the amount of information is overwhelming, buyers’ attitudes about how they filter and process information and how they are making their decisions has changed.

Next we switched to one of Tom’s favorite topics – branding. Branding is of course something that exists in the mind of a customer – it’s an expectation of value that gets created through interactions in the marketplace. Those interactions can include advertising, pricing, social exchanges with other users, packaging, financing options or interactions with company employees. As you can see, many of these interactions are happening with touch points that are somewhat controlled by the company. So to say that the consumer owns the brand is a fallacy. Tom wishes we would have a Deming-like figure in the branding space – someone who could influence how everyone in a company feels responsible for the brand.

About engagement, Tom said: “People at successful companies love what they do, they believe in what it is they get up in the morning and go to work to do every day. Secondly they love who they do it for; the’re interested in in their audience and what they’re all about and how to improve their lives and how to make things better. And the third thing, is which I call engagement, is that they like the process of keeping what they do and what they love connected to others: others’ interest and others’ values. They love the idea of injecting energy into their idea and bringing it to life for everyone’s benefit.” How is that for a definition of engagement? Much better than most definitions being bantered around in the agency space if you ask me.

Continuing on the topic of engagement, Tom described the three steps you need to follow to engage people – three steps that are described in more detail in his latest book “Opportunity Screams: Unlocking Hearts and Minds in Today’s Idea Economy.” The first step is you want to engage people’s conscious attention. How do you get someone to stop and think about what’s being presented? You do that by charming them and by providing some cue to value. Once you feed their hungers and you’re reflective of them and their self-identities, you entice them to participate. All they want to do then is believe, and you can help them believe in what you do by conveying purpose through your actions, by stimulating interaction and sharing like you discuss all the time. But you always have to have value and unfortunately most businesses don’t believe in the distinctive value they add to people’s lives.

You cannot have a conversation with Tom without talking about culture and so we talked about this whole notion that culture trumps strategy, and what that means for older companies that may not have ideal cultures to roll out new strategies. In older companies you often have what Tom calls cultural immune systems that end up blocking new ideas and new perspectives. Leaders need to be aware of this and be willing to take off their cultural glasses and expose themselves to new ideas (Note that we will be conducting a research project on culture and strategy in partnership with the Schulich School of Business at York University, email me if interested).

“Business is about people, it’s about culture, it’s about feelings, it’s a way to help people feel prosperity and well being. It’s not about numbers,” said Tom, and I must say that I could not agree more.

We talked about a lot more things than can be captured in this blog post. I hope you will find the time to listen to the podcast.

Other things we discussed include:

  • How Drucker’s moto that business is marketing never materialized
  • The importance of the last transaction on the brand perception
  • How the expectations that we have from brands has soared
  • The role (or lack thereof) of agencies in meaning making
  • How engagement is not the same as sustained attention
  • The resistance of middle management to cultural changes
  • Ways to change corporate cultures that do not involve a near-death experience
  • The importance of finding meaning at work and being able to bring passion to work

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Tom Nightingale, CMO at Con-way

Written by on August 18, 2011 – 4:07 pm -

tom-nigtingaleMy CMO 2.0 Conversation with Tom Nightingale, the CMO at Con-way, a $5B publicly traded transportation and logistics company, was very enlightening to say the least. When I spoke with Tom, he had been the CMO at Con-way for 5 years, where he overlooks public relations, web and digital marketing, product marketing, lead generation, events, direct marketing, new product development, customer satisfaction and voice of the customer – generally what you would expect the responsibilities of a CMO to be. He is also responsible for internal communications and enterprise sales management. One of the things that was intriguing, and that I think we will see more of as part of a CMO’s responsibility in the future, is that he is responsible for recruitment marketing, a major effort as they recruit over 6,000 drivers a year at Con-way (Note: we will be launching a research project on recruitment marketing in partnership with — more on that later, email me if you have an interest in participating).

When Tom talks about being in charge of recruitment marketing, he talks about having the responsibility to fill the funnel, which then gets processed by his partners in HR. His role is to bring in quality candidates who align with the Con-way brand and their employment value proposition. Being in charge of employee communications means he communicates with employees from the day after they process through the HR funnel till the day that they leave.

Like most CMO’s, Tom has seen some big changes in marketing over the past few years, with the two most notable being the rise of social media and the decline in effectiveness of TV and print advertising. Another big change is the increase of content curration across all channels.

As in most industries, word-of-mouth is an important vehicle to reach customers, prospects, and prospective employees. At Con-way they make sure that the content they create can easily travel and be used when friends recommend them as a potential vendor or employer. A good example of that is how they share their job feed on their Facebook page for others to see and share with friends.

As said earlier, social media has made a big difference in Tom’s job over the past couple of years. While on the commercial side of their business the use of social media is still in the early stages, they see it playing an increasing role in customer service related inquiries as well as in requests for proposals and quotes. They also use social media internally, one example being the use of twitter to connect truckers with their load boards.

An interesting challenge facing Con-way marketing is that they have thousands of customers with whom they have a pretty shallow relationship, in essence moving freight for them from point A to point B, and which differ from one another on a regional basis. They also have several hundred customers with whom they have very deep relationships – those that outsource their entire supply chain to Con-way, and who have needs that are different based on industry. Tom is convinced that the latter group presents a bigger opportunity to connect customers with one another using social media or social CRM – ensuring that the collective becomes smarter than the individuals. When he thinks about a community for those customers, he also envisions hyper-local and face-to-face components – which is the right way of looking at customer communities when you have that opportunity.

We also talked about accountability and metrics – a topic that is top of mind for many marketers. At Con-way, marketing is accountable for three things – reducing the cost to acquire and retain customers, attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees, and positioning the company for growth. All metrics that are being used at Con-way support those three overarching goals.

The conversation then switched to the role of culture in a services company like Con-way. Con-way has a simple set of values that they truly live by – integrity, commitment, safety, and excellence. With a business where the brand is impacted by lot’s of employees who interact with customers, it’s critical to  the brand to have simple values that everyone can live by.  That is also why the employee brand and the customer brand have to be the same – if employees are the ones that will influence the brand promise in customers’ minds, they need to live that brand promise. The values at Con-way are so important that they are discussed every day during pre-work meetings with 8,000 drivers who interact with an average of 25 customers every day.

We closed the conversation by talking about innovation. At Con-way, they make a distinction between process innovation and product innovation. Process innovation is key when you have to constantly increase efficiency in a low margin industry to maintain profitability, while maintaining very high levels of customer service. Product innovation at Con-way is based partly  on Voice of the Customer and partly on trend spotting to see where the industry is headed. Launching new products in a service company like Con-way can be a tricky proposition. Unlike with product companies, where they can launch a product that is 80% complete and fix it later, in a services company the product has to be 100% perfect when you launch it.

It’s really interesting to see how the issues of a CMO in a more traditional business are not all that different from those in more recent industries, like for example the high tech space.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of alumni  in marketing and new employee training
  • More detailed conversation on how the overarching goals drive metrics
  • The integration between sales and marketing
  • Marketing content co-creation with sales
  • The use of social media for internal communications
  • The importance of content curration and thought leadership
  • How you need to adjust your business practices to the local culture
  • The differences in employment marketing in different cultures

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Karen Quintos, CMO at Dell

Written by on June 18, 2011 – 2:54 pm -

quintos_karenI truly enjoyed my CMO 2.0 conversation with Karen Quintos, the CMO at Dell. Karen has somewhat of an unusual background for a CMO at a high tech company. She spent almost half her career in the pharmaceutical industry and did a stint in the financial services industry before landing at Dell 11 years ago – a rich background that was clearly reflected in the conversation. Karen also has a passion for being close to the customer – a good trait for any CMO.

We first talked about social media, a topic we had discussed at length with Erin Nelson, the previous CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, the VP of social media and communities, during an earlier CMO 2.0 Conversation. Karen confirmed that social media absolutely has to be built into the fabric of the company and that the (social) customer has to be at the core of everything. In fact, Karen believes that customer centricity is key to win in the marketplace. At Dell, they leverage social media as part of everything they do – product development, sales, marketing, HR, IT, finance, and service and support.

Karen then described the evolution of IdeaStorm, the Dell innovation communities, and how they now include Storm Session – focused and directed customer feedback sessions bound in time. Examples of successful Storm Sessions included discussions with CIO’s around virtualization, sustainability, and data center-type solutions – where customers could discuss how they think about ROI and total cost of ownership rather than just talk about technology deployment issues.

The Dell Social Monitoring Command Center, which was launched last year, is set up for employees to monitor, respond, and trend the conversations that are going on about Dell all over the world. On any given day they get upwards of 25,000 different conversations about Dell. A small team of people triage the conversations  by coding them red, orange or green, and feed them into processes like product development. Karen made the point that when it comes to social media monitoring companies need to realize that it should not be about hearing, but about listening and making sense.

“Leveraging social media cannot be a bolt-on strategy,” said Karen, “it has to be built into the culture…it cannot be someone’s second job, it cannot be something that they think of once a week. It has to be something that’s integrated into their day-to-day operations.” Right on! But amazing to hear that and then realize that more than 60% of those companies that participate in our Tribalization of Business Study (co-sponsored with Deloitte and the Society for New Communications Research) have 1 or less than a full time person associated with these efforts. Those companies need to wake up and listen to truly Hyper-Social organizations like Dell.

There are of course risks associated with social media. One of the early risks that Dell identified was to react too quickly – either latching on to negative comments first or latching on to proposed product ideas that very few people want. Sounds a lot like not giving in to the “tyranny of the minority” and instead reacting to real trends. Another risk they identified early on was around transparency – especially when eager employees don’t disclose that they work for Dell. Karen believes that many of the risks can be mitigated through training and education.

As many other CMO’s at successful Hyper-Social Organizations, Karen pointed to the importance of having simple values to ensure consistency across the multiple employee touch-points that they have with their customers – in their case be open, be transparent, be simple, and be caring.

Next we switched to the topic of culture, which Karen believes is, if not the most important, one of the most important elements in a company’s success. She considers Dell’s culture fairly young at 27 years old, but truly believes that is what guides behavior and brand. She also believes that it is extremely important to link your own culture(s) with that of your customers – especially in the B2B and public sector space, which make up 80% of Dell’s business.

An important part of culture is the culture of innovation. Over the last two years, Dell has fueled innovation not just from within but also through acquisitions. Interestingly enough, but not surprising (the world is not flat after all), Dell sees aquisitions from major innovation centers like Silicon Valley as being totally key to continue to bring the spirit of innovation within the company.

We closed the conversation by talking about a super-cool program that Dell is doing in partnership with the University of Texas – the Dell Social Innovation Competition. It’s open to higher education students around the world who have a passion for taking a social issue that they see within their community and coming up with a plan to address it. They submit ideas, business plans and videos which get voted on. The best ones get to travel to Austin where a finalist gets selected. With kids from India, Nigeria, France and the United States competing with one another, they are able to create a cauldron of diversity of thought necessary for innovation that would be hard to create in any corporate environment.

That is definitely something I would want to tell my 16 year old son about!

Other things we talked about include:

  • The recommendation for companies to listen and engage with the both the good and the bad in social media, and how the sooner you engage the more successful you will be
  • How Dell has training programs in place to teach people (9,000 people trained so far) how to listen and how to engage
  • How to ensure that the proper experts get involved in deeply technical discussions
  • The importance of trusting employees to do the right thing
  • The importance of being able to trend conversations and launch more in-depth discussions with customers about important topics
  • The importance of hiring people with a passion to win
  • The importance of tying compensation and rewards to a set of behaviors – not just “what” behaviors, but also “how” behaviors
  • The importance of social rewards in fostering the right culture
  • The importance of employee rotational programs to foster innovation

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CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Grant McCracken, author of the Chief Culture Officer

Written by on June 17, 2011 – 10:28 am -

grant_mccrackenHaving known and admired Grant McCracken for a few years, I knew I was in for a intellectual treat with this CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation. Grant is an academic with a background in anthropology, economics and complexity theory, a blogger and also the author of multiple books, his latest being The Chief Culture Officer, how to create a living, breathing corporation.

Grant has always focused on contemporary American Culture, making his knowledge a real treasure trove for marketers who are trying to understand people’s buying behavior rather than shoving products down people’s throat. His interest in economics comes from the fact that when you study American Culture, you quickly see that it comes from the interaction of culture and commerce.

Having so many definitions of culture out there, we started the discussion by defining what culture means for Grant. Forgive the technical nature of this part of the conversation (and also the fact that Grant was cut out for a bit – we my rerecord that part in the future), but being a new student of Culture, it was important to me. Grant does accept the classic definition of culture as presented by Geertz – which says that culture if a transmitted pattern of meaning embodied in symbols by which people communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge about and they attitudes towards life.

Grant then took us through the evolution of culture over time. In hunter gatherer societies, culture was very egalitarian, like language – everyone shared it and nobody had a disproportionate influence over it. In more developed and structurally more complicated societies with hierarchies, we saw the creation of elites who decide what meanings should be and what shape culture should take. In Western societies and all the way into the 20th century we had magazine editors, the keepers of mass media, marketers, and agencies that shaped public opinion and cultural meaning making. In the last 10 years, we have entered a new era, one in which the production of meaning and culture became more egalitarian once again. A kid with $2,000 worth of computer equipment in his parents’ basement can now influence public opinion as much as the elites do. A question in Grant’s mind is whether, with the democratization of culture and the emergence of the long tail, we may lose the centricity and shared-ness that Geertz was talking about and end up with a solipsistic world when everyone is their own universe. We both agreed that while it is structurally a possibility to end up there, we probably will never see that happen.

Next we talked about the importance of culture in business – and started with the example of Coca Cola, which without culture would be nothing more than sugared fizzy water. In the early days Coca Cola had the world to itself, with Pepsi not showing up for another 30-40 years. At the time, Coca Cola’s advertising shaped America’s concept of itself and even influenced how we think about Santa Claus. But then came the competitive phase , and a market crowded with alternatives. Brands now had to keep up with contemporary culture rather than shape it – you would pick a trend and ride that wave into mainstream acceptance. Now that world has completely gone as well. With culture coming from so many places, in so many forms, and lasting such a brief time. It’s like a perfect storm out there, you pick a trend and it’s gone before you know it. And so many companies end up engaging in a desperate game of catch-up, which means that they don’t really have any strategy at their disposal.

That is why Grant makes the case that every company should have a Chief Culture Officer (CCO).

We then talked about the role of agencies in the marketing and meaning making mix and how Grant believes  that  30 seconds spots are still powerful tools in shaping meaning. Contrasting a Volvo ad with the Ford Fiesta Movement program in social media, he argues that the Volvo ad did great things for the brand that could not be achieved in social media. In fact, and while the Ford Fiesta Movement was a brilliant program, it did not sell any cars.

Next we talked about slow culture vs. fast culture, and how most companies forget slow culture. Fast culture comes from the cool hunters who know only the hippest things. What they don’t understand is that 80% of all the meanings in our culture are relatively ancient – they come to us from the 19th or 16th century, or even beyond that. Focusing on the 20% cool hunting or fast meanings is what causes everyone to play the desperate game of catch-up he talked and to constantly repudiate their own brand.

I could have written a book with all the information that flowed during this conversation. You will have to listen to the recording to hear Grant talk about some of the other things we discussed, which include:

  • How many companies have lots of CCO kinds of people on staff, but no-one in the C-Suite
  • How agencies will have to adapt moving forward and how cultural intelligence is so important that you cannot outsource it to them
  • How successful brands are a set of meanings that are exquisitely responsive to the consumer and delicately and brilliantly crafted by the tactician, the brander, the marketer or the ad agency.
  • How brands are bundles of meaning that need to be manufactured and can be a conduit for sociality
  • The lack of culture training in business education
  • Whether co-creation of meaning making with consumers can work
  • How the older generation had multiple group memberships while teenagers have multiple selves
  • How social status no longer plays a role in American culture and how it was replaced by celebrity culture
  • How Gen Yers get their security from their networks where we got it from the workplace

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation | 2 Comments »

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