CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Dave Logan, Senior Partner CultureSync

Written by on July 27, 2009 – 10:01 am -

Dave_LoganI had another great CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Dave Logan, the co-author of “Tribal Leadership,” professor at USC and co-founder and Senior Partner at CultureSync.

Dave started off by talking about the research that he and his colleagues, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, did over a period of eight years and which led them to uncover five distinct organizational cultures. The context: as you move up through the various stages, everything you want – such as effectiveness, productivity, and innovation – increases, while everything that you don’t want – such as stress, anxiety, and even workplace violence – decreases.

Dave then took us through the aspects and details of the five tribal leadership stages and what the key motivator is for each. Worth noting: the reason they settled on a tribal metaphor is because they found that it is not the individual that determines a company’s culture, nor is it the organization as a whole. Rather the culture gets determined by ‘tribes’ – those naturally occurring groups of 20-150 individuals in organizations through which the work gets done.

Here is a summary of the five stages of Tribal Leadership:

  • Stage 1 is motivated by the motto “life sucks.” This is the domain of workplace violence and it makes up about 2% of tribes.
  • Stage 2 is motivated by the theme “my life sucks.” These tribes move very slowly, they don’t collaborate and they have very low performance – in fact they do the bare minimum not to get fired. They also have a high degree of cynicism (done that, been there) and they comprise 25% of the tribes.
  • Stage 3 is where people think “I am great, but you are not.” Productivity and effectiveness in these tribes increases, but they need to verbally compete to operate.This stage is very typical of professions where knowledge or personal achievement is key – or where you need to outperform you peers to get ahead. Again there is very little collaboration at this stage and people talk a lot about themselves. They comprise 48% of the tribes.
  • Stage 4 is where people are motivated by “we are great and they are not.” You find those cultures primarily in young organizations and high tech environments where there is little bureaucracy, making it easier to get things done. Because they are based on shared values, there is less politicking going on, less anxiety and much more collaboration. They make up 22% of the tribes.
  • Stage 5 cultures no longer need rivals and their theme is “life is great.” It’s focused purely on values – e.g, curing cancer. This is where the breakthroughs happen and they make up 2% of the tribes.

As a leader, you need to stabilize the level that your tribe is operating before you can work on moving them up to the next level. If you do not push into a new level from a stable position at the previous level, your tribe will operate in a position of weakness and have a high likelihood of regressing back. Of course, that also means that you cannot skip a level. Dave used the example of many dot.coms to make that point. They deluded themselves into thinking they were operating at level 5 without having gone through the previous stages. When the bust hit, many of those tribes regressed multiple stages – some as far as Stage 1.

As he describes it, one’s goal should be to reach Stage 4 and then stabilize your tribe there. That requires you to constantly review the values that you share with your team – always making sure that you are still fighting for the same thing. You also continuously need to connect people with other people as Stage 4 is characterized by fused relationship – where groups of three operate as a single unit.

Organizational change can come by changing one tribe at a time, and if you want to change the level of an organization as a whole, you have to start with the most senior executive tribe first. That is especially hard considering that traditional management structures are very much designed as Stage 3 environments – the leader is great and most others are not, they are dominated by two-people relationships, and they are very political.

The most important leadership skills for tribal leadership are: 1) the ability to notice and identify tribes, and 2) the ability to assess tribal stages, which is primarily based on listening skills to uncover what language tribes are using and what values they share. Transparency is important as well. Without it you cannot build the trust to get to Stage 4 and 5.

Other topics we discussed include:

  • Co-existence of the different tribal leadership stages within companies
  • How people in Stages 1-3 feel threatened by people who are better than them and therefore hire people who they can control – and how companies at Stage 4-5 develop processes to avoid this
  • Some simple techniques to help move an organization forward
  • How people can belong to multiple tribes, some of which span the corporate boundaries, and what that means for companies.
  • How good leaders get (re)defined by their tribes

As usual you can listen to the recorded podcast below and soon we will be putting up a transcript.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Mark Gambill, CMO at CDW

Written by on July 20, 2009 – 9:48 am -

Mark GambillI just had another great CMO 2.0 Conversation – this time with Mark Gambill, the CMO at CDW. As usual we started by having Mark provide some context about his company and his focus there. In this case the company is an $8B provider of software, hardware and services to a variety of industries that has more than 400,000 customers.

The conversation then moved to how some of fundamental changes in the industry – e.g., the fact that people are making their buying decisions based on information they gain online and in social networks, that they increasingly bring their own tools to work, and that mobile devices are more and more looking like full fledged computers – is affecting marketing. Mark talked about the blurring lines between consumer and business applications and about the need to not flail as a marketer when it comes to integrating social media as part of your marketing mix.

He also talked about the need to segment customers differently and how deep consumer research allowed them to uncover six customer profiles that help them better answer the questions: “what do we stand for?”, “who do we serve?”, and “how do we win?” Interestingly enough (and we see more and more marketers follow this trend), much of the segmentation was based on behavioral characteristics of potential buyers and not traditional market segment data. Other information that came with the profiles include data on where those people like to hang out, how they prefer to receive and consume their information, who else they are listening to, and more. All of this allows them to create and distribute content – both online and offline – in a much more effective way than what they were able to do before.

We then talked about the challenges of developing a recognizable brand when you do not manufacture your own products but instead distribute those of companies that may have pretty strong brands themselves. The way CDW tackles this complex problem is by being “technostic” (meaning technology agnostic) and by positioning themselves as a trusted solution partner. They also realize that buyers establish trusted relations with people more so than with companies or organizations, and so every customer gets a dedicated account manager. With a maniacal focus on customized personal service for every customer they hope that this is what will allow them to deliver against that “trusted partner” brand promise.

We also talked fairly extensively about CDW’s commitment to and use of social media. They had started a small business community but then decided that they would be better served by engaging, as participants as well as sponsors, in places where people were already hanging out. (It is always good to speak with a marketer who resists “the not invented here syndrome” that we have witnessed so many times when companies deploy communities as part of their business processes. They feel like the only way to be successful is by hosting the community on their own platform, even if a strong community already exists on some other platform.) Mark sees social media as a meaningful way to engage people in the context of customer support, but he thinks there is a scaling issue when it comes to leveraging it for lead generation. This is something we have heard from other marketers who need hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers to be successful. The key here may be to develop a comprehensive leader/ambassador strategy and to understand how those people will help amplify everything you do across the various platforms where your customers, prospects, and detractors hang out.

Although, as usual, we ran out of time, we did get to talk about the types of people that Mark is looking for in staffing his marketing department. Besides finding people who are a good fit from a corporate culture point of view, Mark is looking for well rounded people who, while they may not yet have the full battery of skills one might desire, can be trusted to learn them as well as embrace future skills that we don’t yet know will be valuable. Another important hiring criteria in Mark’s business is diversity. Mark is also convinced that a CMO has to increasingly become a well rounded generalist, with knowledge that goes well beyond marketing.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of face-to-face meetings in customer relations
  • The importance of good customer service in brand building
  • How they are monitoring what is being said about them in the social media space and how they are engaging
  • The importance of understanding “human 1.0″ in explaining what is happening in a web 2.0 world
  • The importance of appealing to the altruistic part of the brain instead of the pleasure side of the brain when running communities
  • The impact of the “green wave” on technology sales
  • The importance of ROI, customer loyalty and other marketing metrics

As usual you can listen to the interview below and soon we will put up a transcript of the call.

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CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Center For the Edge at Deloitte

Written by on July 8, 2009 – 7:19 am -

John_HagelI had a lot of fun conducting this CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with John Hagel, the Co-Chair of the Center For the Edge at Deloitte, and one of my all time favorite business thinkers.

John started off by explaining the meaning behind the name of the center which he co-leads with John Seely Brown – the Center For The Edge. For them, the edges are those areas on the periphery where you first see emerging new opportunities. The challenge with the growth opportunities at the edges is to scale them – either by connecting them to the core where all the money and all the people are, through collaboration, or through competition. There are many different types of edges, including geographic ones (think China, India), demographic edges (e.g., the younger generation entering the workforce), marketplaces with unmet needs, or technology edges. The key take-away for executives is to keep focusing on those edges as they are the places where future growth opportunities will first show up. They also need to realize that many of those edges are not part of their organizations or their existing ecosystems.

Next we talked about the newly released  Shift Index, a set of three indices and 25 metrics designed to make longer-term performance trends more relevant and actionable (you can download the full report here). The Index, which was based on a yearlong research project, helps explain, among other things, the intensification of competition that many companies are witnessing today, and which has lead to the mean for company survival to come down to 10 years compared to 75 years in the 1930′s. Other metrics within the index help executives measure the consequences of that intensifying competition and also allow them to measure their performance relative to others. The research also uncovered some concerning trends – one of which is that ROA (Return On Asset) in the US decreased by 75% in the last four decades. And that in the face of consistent increases in labor productivity over that same period.

One of the key conclusions of the study is that competition is intensifying and that companies are not doing so well – their existing management practices are not keeping up with the changes.

We talked about some of the things that companies can do in order to cope with the changes afoot. One of those is to shift from a knowledge stock mentality, where you aggressively protect and hoard proprietary knowledge, build scalable offerings around it, and then extract value from it for the longest possible time, to a knowledge flow mentality, where you realize that what you know today has rapidly diminishing value and where you refresh your knowledge stocks by participating in knowledge flows. One of the big challenges for companies is that unlike information or data flows, knowledge does not flow easily – as it relies on long-term trust-based relationships. So the key to success in this new economic reality is to move from a transactional world to a long-term trust-based world. Examples of taking on a knowledge flow approach include letting your key customers participate in product innovation, or turning them into affiliates to allow them to help one another.

In this increasingly fast-cycle world, John believes that the role of serendipity will be progressively more important. He defines serendipity as “unexpected encounters that are valuable and generate pleasure when you encounter them,” and rather than believe that serendipity is based on pure luck, he believes that we can shape serendipity – both by increasing quality and quantity of unexpected ecounters. One way of doing that is by selecting location. By choosing a “spiky” physical location where there is a high concentration of talent you are much more likely to encounter serendipity than if you were on a farm in Iowa. The same is true for the virtual locations you decide to hang out in – whether social networks or communities. Choosing location by itself won’t do the trick however. If you want to shape serendipity you still need to set yourself up so that you are attracting attention, and increasing visibility and findability for yourself.

Another thing that companies need to focus on to better deal with this new economic reality is to shift from a push model to a pull model – one in which you attract partners, customers and talent, instead of pushing out products and messages. John reiterated the importance of shifting from an intercept, insulate and inhibit marketing mentality to one of attracting, assisting and affiliating customers and prospects.

We wrapped up by talking about John’s evolving views about business communities since he wrote Net Gain almost 12 years ago (to date, and in my biased opinion, probably still one of the most important books on business communities). He would reaffirm that there are huge challenges to building communities, but that if you build them around the needs of the members they can be very powerful. He would also expand on the need for three distinct, and sometimes conflicting, skill-sets or cultures that  are required to ensure successful communities – centered around content, social interactions, and economic business models. Unfortunatelly, most communities only have one or two of those skill-sets engaged.

We also talked about:

  • The need to shift from firewall around the company mentality to a modularized firewall around core company IP
  • How you cannot participate in knowledge flows for very long if you are only a “taker”
  • The importance of face-to-face in building trusted relationships
  • The importance of having hyper-local face-to-face components in large online community
  • The balance between the need to increase the number of partners we engage with with the need to build deep relationships in order to allow knowledge flow
  • The talent Dilbert paradox and how talent is motivated by the talent development
  • How you need a high growth strategy to attract and keep talent
  • The importance of the “collaboration curve”  in scaling the organizational learning, which they described in detail on their new blog - The Big Shift
  • The importance for companies to start adopting a federated view/architecture for their online community efforts

You can listen to the actual CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation below and soon we will be putting up a transcript of this conversation.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Ram Menon, CMO at Tibco

Written by on June 8, 2009 – 2:52 pm -

Ram menonMy CMO 2.0 Conversation with Ram Menon was an enlightening one, and definitely another conversation with some real teachable moments. Ram is a no-nonsense marketer with a great deal of common sense.

Ram has an interesting take on the changes in technology marketing. He believes that the 90′s spoiled technology marketers. There was an unprecedented technology boom with plenty of IT  budgets to go around, so as a technology marketer the only thing you had to do was set up a pretty web site, put out some collateral and declare victory. In the last few years however, budgets disappeared, technology buyers became disillusioned with technology solutions, and new technologies turned traditional marketing on its head. Consequently, the marketers who did not keep pace are finding themselves in tough times.

One of Ram’s interesting points of view is that bonding is the new branding. You have to bond with 1000′s of people, and at any time…you can no longer plan for a launch, come up with nice messaging, launch and then forget about things until the next launch. In todays world we are facing launches that are on 24/7 and that require ongoing bonding to all of our constituencies.

Marketers need a good understanding of the technologies that are at their disposal to allow them to become better marketers. While he does not see much of a change in the type of people they hire in marketing, that is probably due to their culture of focusing on hiring people who are smarter than you – not necessarily people who have a lot of past experience. For Ram, past experience is no indication of future success.

We also talked about the fact that even though the number of different value propositions for different buyers keeps increasing and that the channels through which you can reach those buyers keeps multiplying, his job as a marketer has in fact become easier and cheaper. The main reason for that is that the most important conversations are no longer the ones you have with your customers and prospects, but instead those that happen among them.

That led to an interesting follow up conversation on their use of communities. They run both a customer community as well as a sales community. Early on they realized that by providing a platform for customers to talk with one another and to help one another, they could in fact make their own job easier. Plus it allowed them to reduce their cost of customer support in the process. They also understood that for the community to work, they needed to be ready to engage – so they encouraged all their engineers to engage with their customers through the community. On the sales side things, they found the same forces at work. By giving sales people a platform in which to help one another, they found that sales professionals started to actually do that across geographic boundaries. Not only that, they started modifying marketing materials and mashing up content to make it work for micro-segments that marketing could not have served in a cost effective way. In effect, they turned their sales process into a social process.

Of course we could not have had a conversation with the CMO of a technology provider who markets a sales and marketing analytics solution without talking about marketing measurements. As we have seen in previous CMO 2.0 Conversations, one of the most important metrics for Ram is customer loyalty. And while they are very metrics-driven, which could in some cases stifle innovation, they support marketing innovation through a dedicated marketing R&D budget.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • Offshoring marketing
  • How they use social media as part of marketing
  • Integration between marketing and customer service
  • The issues related to letting go of control
  • The need for marketing to formalize sales enablement
  • The shift from physical events to virtual events in the marketing mix

As usual, you can listen to the podcast below and we will be posting the transcript soon.

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CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Dan Ariely, author and Professor in Behavioral Economics at Duke University

Written by on May 24, 2009 – 3:51 pm -

Dan_ArielyMy CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who is also the author of one of my favorite books, Predictably Irrational, was particularly insightful and instructive.

Dan started the conversation by talking about his past, and how a life changing event – having about 70% of his body burned  by a magnesium bomb that detonated close to him – led him on a path of human experimentation.

We quickly moved to one of my favorite topics – how people make decisions either in a market framework or a social framework, and how mixing the two, which inevitably happens in the world of business, is not a good idea.

People are inherently social creatures, and when we talk about money we create a different set of expectations than the ones we have in our social world.  The social world and the market world have different rules and regulations. What do you think would happen if instead of taking a bottle of wine to a dinner party you were to give the host cash so that she could buy her own bottle? It would no go over so well, would it?

In the business world we have no choice but to mix the two together, as we hire people in return for a salary, but also tap into social drivers that money cannot buy (i.e., an extreme example of that is firefighters putting their own life on the line, which could not be motivated by any amount of money). Too many companies try to put a monetary value on things where they would be better off leaving it in the social realm. They need to understand the trade-off between economic efficiency and social efficiency. Who would be more motivated to work overtime when you need it – the person who got a $1,000 cash reward for doing well or the one that was sent on a trip to the Bahamas worth $1,000? Research shows that it is the person getting the gift. The same is true for healthcare – why put a monetary value on the healthcare services that you provide to your employees? It does not buy you social efficiency which you could otherwise derive from providing them with that service as a social reward.

Next we talked about group dynamics, especially herding, and how that affects people’s buying behavior. People tend to herd – buy the music that got the most downloads, stand in line at the restaurant that has the longest line, etc. We also follow the herd of our own self, meaning that we buy things based on the way we bought before – even if that was based on a random act.

Dan also reviewed recent research that shows how we internalize the social. In an experiment he gave some people shirts with the term generous printed on it and others with the term stingy printed on it. After wearing the shirt in public for awhile people who had the generous shirts were behaving in a more generous way than those that had the stingy shirt. The interesting part of the experiment is that he got the same results when people were wearing shirts with the same terms printed on the inside of the shirt – so in a way that they were the only ones to know.

Another issue near and dear to many marketers is that of free trials. Free trials for products that are known quantities, i.e., Godiva chocolates, will not lead to the depreciation of value of those products in our mind. Free trials for products that we do not know, and do not assign value to, will diminish the value of that product so that when you start charging for it we will refuse to pay for it.

Other things that we talked about include:

  • The dark side of social rewards
  • How the feedback you get from focus groups can be very suspect because people have bad intuitions about their own behavior
  • How ideation works best when other people can build on your ideas
  • The importance of experimentation and business education in business
  • How pricing is not determined by supply and demand and the importance of self-herding
  • Behavioral economics and its impact on the economy and the stock market
  • The honesty mindframe and its influence on cheating

As usual you can listen to the podcast below and soon we will be putting up transcripts of this CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Porter Gale, CMO at Virgin America

Written by on May 15, 2009 – 9:03 pm -

Porter_GaleI was looking forward to interviewing a marketing executive from the airline industry, and speaking with Virgin America’s CMO Porter Gale was no disappointment.

As usual, we started the conversation by setting some context – in this case we are talking about a new airline which started flying just one and a half years ago, has 28 airplanes, and 1,400 employees.

The motivation for Virgin to start a new airline in the US was driven primarily by the opportunity that presented itself to redefine the category in the face of rapidly deteriorating customer expectations. I think that is putting it rather mildly – and would have categorized the state of the industry as one in which the service providers seem determined to make their customers lives’ miserable while they are with them. At any rate, it was a perfect fit for Richard Branson’s philosophy for Virgin companies to be customer champions.

We spent a fair amount of time discussing the essence of the Virgin America brand, and how they are making deliberate efforts to humanize the brand and the service. In order to ensure consistency of this experience throughout all the customer touch-points, and to get buy-in from all the employees, they have a very rigorous hiring and training process. Showing respect and a human face to the customer may seem like common sense, but it is a tough thing to scale – it requires the right culture and zero tolerance for mediocrity. Another important aspect of Virgin America’s success in humanizing their brand is not to brainwash people into telling the corporate story, but rather to empower them to tell their own stories. To support that personal passion they also continuously focus on making sure that they have a product that employees can be proud of – so it is a big closed loop system.

Porter spoke at length about the importance of social media in customer support, branding, innovation, and marketing. From how they monitor everything that is being said about them and deploy customer recovery actions when someone twitters or blogs about a bad experience during flight, to how they empower people to act as they see fit when they see some negative comment online. For some reason they attract a very tech-savvy crowd, which makes it a natural choice for them to social-media-fy their marketing, or to use Porter’s words “to explore the digital space, look at all of the trends that are happening, the social media changes, and find more ways to engage and have deeper relationships with people who love the brand through digital.”

Another interesting aspect of Virgin America’s marketing strategy is that they find themselves to be not just be an airline or travel company, but also a media company (which I think will be increasingly true for companies who are successful in harnessing consumer movements, communities and tribes). In the case of Virgin America, they were basically able to fund the launch of a new city through a paid media partnership with HBO.

Other topics we covered include:

  • How there are totally new career paths in marketing
  • How they are continuously trying to reinvent the category
  • The importance of fairness in how you deal with customer problems
  • How they focus hard on ensuring brand consistency throughout the travel “ribbon” – including the flight experience, the website, check-in, and where they can, even the terminal experience.
  • How Wifi in the airline industry is a true game changer
  • The role of advertising in awareness building when launching new markets and new offerings and  the shift to social media after awareness is created.
  • How they were able to create a movement before they even flew – rallying people around the cause to let Virgin America fly

When you have an airline and passengers write to you to tell you that they wished the flight was longer, or that they rescheduled their honeymoon so they could fly with you – you know you are doing something right. I wish I could interview some other CMO’s from the industry to get their perspective.

As usual, you can listen to the podcast below and we will start posting transcripts next week.

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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Pete Blackshaw, EVP Nielsen Online Strategic Services

Written by on May 8, 2009 – 1:06 pm -

Pete_BlackshawIt was fun to have a CMO 2.0 Conversation with Pete Blackshaw for a variety of reasons. First, it was reminiscent of a great SkypeCast conversation he and I had a few years back (right after Skype launched Skypecasts – we felt like pioneers), but also because he brings three distinct angles to the CMO conversation – that of a CMO, that of a person who markets to marketers, and that of a thought leader and author. Pete is the author of Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, and also blogs at

We delved straight into one of Pete’s favorite topics, which is what he calls the great “Conversational Divide” that exists between marketing and customer service. Pete believes, and I agree, that is unfortunate that customer service is so frequently considered a non-strategic part of the business, with little integration between what companies know about their customers from their CRM systems, their social media strategies, the promises they make through marketing , and what actually happens in their customer service departments when they talk with customers. Pete’s take is that it is time for CMO’s to step up to the plate and define a unified conversational ecosystem. It makes no sense, he says, to have different rules in the different parts of the organization.

Companies should also start capturing information about their customers’ influence in their CRM system, i.e., do they have a popular blog, do they have a lot of twitter followers, etc. – especially since the people who typically use the customer service back channels are the same people who tend to use megaphones to express their dissatisfaction. If you do it right you could develop a so-called user contribution system, where consumers help one another and become advocates for the brand, reducing not only your customer support cost but also other costs like consumer research.

Pete talked a lot about the importance of credibility in the age of consumer generated media, and described in detail the six drivers of credibility: trust, authenticity, transparency, listening, responsiveness, and affirmation. He is convinced that trust is perhaps one of the most important competitive differentiators that companies can develop.

We also spent a fair amount of time talking about the benefits of building brand communities, and whether companies should all have their own or affiliate with one another to deliver better value to their members. And we discussed the community efforts at Intuit as we both have familiarity with Scott Wilder’s work – and especially highlighted the importance of setting up a cross-functional center for excellence to capture all the potential benefits of communities, as well as the power of a credentialing model to ensure quality control when customers help one another.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • How Dell Hell could have been prevented
  • The importance of emotion and fairness in word of mouth
  • How the new customer service motto might be “this company is being monitored for quality improvements”
  • How there is a real risk that bad marketers will spoil it for the rest of us
  • The symbiotic relation between traditional marketing tools and social media based tools

We wrapped up the conversation by talking about the challenges that Pete is facing as a marketer, and how he measures progress and success. Not surprisingly, his primary way to measure success is by monitoring his client advocacy. Are customer willing to get on a stage with him? Are they willing to recommend his company?

We also talked about the challenges associated with competing in a world with many free offerings – and with Nielsen actually having their own free offerings. Interestingly enough, the way Pete looks at it is the same way you would look at it from a consumer packaged goods manufacturer’s perspective like P&G – which is that “sampling” does lead to purchases.

As usual you can listen to the recorded podcast below, and we will put up a transcript as soon as we can.

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CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Rob Kozinets, Marketing Professor at York University and author

Written by on May 7, 2009 – 9:01 pm -


For my first CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation, I spoke with Rob Kozinets, a professor of marketing from York University in Toronto, about communities, consumer tribes and word of mouth marketing – not surprising considering that Rob was the editor of Consumer Tribes, a collection of research papers on consumer tribes, recently finished a book on word of mouth, and is one of the few researchers looking at the practice of business through the eyes of an anthropologist/ethnographer (among other things).

We started the conversation by talking about the disconnect between the world of academics and the world of business, especially as it relates to marketing. It is an unfortunate fact that many mistakes could be avoided if marketers were making informed decisions based in part on some of the recent findings in the fields of behavioral economics, anthropology, complexity theory, sociology, and psychology.

One of Rob’s main themes is that consumer learning, opinions and transmission of influence happens in smaller groups – hence the idea of tribes. Today’s tribes have looser affiliations and are more hedonistic in nature than ancient tribes. They are nomadic by  interest, rather than geography, and centered around expertise and commercial culture. Consumer Tribes are also not typically focused on a single brand but rather on a whole group, a whole culture or lifestyle, or a set of activities.  Another challenge for marketers, according to Kozinets, is that consumer tribes don’t typically develop long-lasting relationships. Even some of the stronger tribes, like the Star Trek groups that were so popular in the 90′s, aren’t as active anymore – people move on as they get more options. It would actually be interesting to see if the Harley community is still as strong as it used to be. People move in and out of consumer tribes, and the tribes seem to have a natural life and death cycle – including a revival stage sometimes.

Of course, most marketers don’t think of their customers as tribes yet, or don’t realize the enormous impact that successful customer communities can have, so for many of them this is an non-existent problem.

According to Rob, one of the big problems with communities is that companies are setting them us expecting fixed ROI. In reality the measurement of the the impact of communities is very hard. They are hard to set up, take time to take off, and are challenging to maintain. And, as Rob points out, a lot of the successful community marketers have had their communities formed for them by their customers – much like Harley.
We also talked about the proliferation of special interest communities sponsored by various companies – e.g., small business focused communities, of which there are dozens. Obviously members will not want to belong to multiple small business communities, so what then? Consolidation, with most members gravitating towards the most successful small business community, or further fragmentation, with more user-driven communities aggregating around micro objectives? It’s hard to predict where we will see consolidation vs. fragmentation of communities as we do not quite understand how people move in and out of those spaces.

An interesting concept which Rob brought up was “share of community time,” which, in a way, is a measurement related to John Hagel’s Return on Attention (John has also agreed to conduct a CMO 2.0 Influencer conversation with me – stay tuned for a date). The problem with calculating share of community time is that there is a huge spread in the estimated number of people who participate in communities – between 100M and 1b.

Other things we talked about include:

  • The role of payments and incentives in communities
  • Whether online focus groups are stretching the possibilities of online community environments
  • How to engage with your detractors as well as your champions
  • How, if you are going to open things up, you should have a strategy to deal with criticism that will come
  • The pros and cons of having a neat classification system for communities based on the different needs that they are trying to solve
  • How community organizers need to think about members first and brand second

We also touched on word of mouth and how most marketers expect word of mouth to amplify their message, when in reality most word of mouth will transform your message.

As usual, you can listen to the podcast below, and we will be releasing transcripts soon.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation | 1 Comment »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Mark Colombo, SVP Digital Access Marketing, FedEx

Written by on May 4, 2009 – 5:58 am -

mark_colombo100I had the pleasure of conducting another CMO 2.0 Conversation with many teachable moments – this one with Mark Colombo, the Senior Vice President of Digital Access Marketing at FedEx. For the sake of full disclosure, I should say that Mark is a client of Beeline Labs, the company I co-founded and where I am a partner.

Mark set the stage by giving an overview of the FedEx business, a $36B company.  Mark described his business as a “network business,” with very similar characteristics as telecom carriers, railroads, and airlines – facing unique challenges in that they can not easily reconfigure their network based on specific market segment requirements.

We talked a fair amount about the changes in marketing caused by shifts in audience expectations. In this case the audience expectation shift has to do with how customers interact with FedEx and with one another. People increasingly want to interact on their own terms. In Asia that may mean through a text based interface on a cell phone, while in the US people expect a richer Web experience. Meeting expectations gets further complicated by generational differences – with some people using technology only when they interact with FedEx, and others expecting the same rich interfaces that they have grown accustomed to in using other online environments and applications. FedEx now handles 13 million digital experiences with their customers every day, making them not just a business services company, but also a software application development company – and one that has to deliver on its brand promise of trust and reliability through all those software applications. Managing the shift from having most of your customer touch-points happening through digital interfaces instead of through humans (the FedEx drivers) is not a trivial challenge.

From a brand perspective marketing has gone through some interesting transitions. In the 50′s and 60′s, brands used to be built on a set of attributes. Now brands are built by customers, one experience at a time, and those experiences are, obviously, more and more online experiences. Fedex has seen additional changes in branding as their offering is increasingly becoming a critical part of their customers’ offerings – thus becoming an “ingredient brand.”

Mark also talked about changes in market research and in measuring marketing effectiveness – with the most important measure of marketing effectiveness at FedEx now being customer loyalty instead of customer satisfaction. It’s not hard to understand when you realize that a 1% increase in loyalty comes with an extra $100M straight into the bottom line. Interestingly enough, loyalty is strongest among people who had a problem that was resolved to their satisfaction, not among those that never had a problem. When discussing market research we also talked about the power of the 2.0 world and how it makes it so much easier to get instant feedback.

Other interesting topics that we touched on include:

  • How Fedex uncovered affinity-based group behavior in their community, and the role of cognitive surplus in brand champions and customer (self-)support
  • How the new “word of mouth” is increasingly coupled with customer support
  • How they set up a listening infrastructure to monitor what is being said about the company and to be able to quickly turn negative word of mouth into positive word of mouth to increase customer loyalty
  • The importance of co-marketing with customers
  • The role of listening in innovation, and how listening is the most important thing you can do as a marketer
  • How fairness plays an important role in customer loyalty. You can fail to solve a person’s problem but still instill loyalty if what you did appeared to be fair in the eyes of the customer.

Mark also touched on the type of marketing people he is looking for – well rounded people with strong technical skills who are good listeners.

You can listen to the recorded call below and soon we will be posting a transcript of the conversation as well.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 3 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Susan Lavington, Senior Vice President of Marketing at USA Today

Written by on April 15, 2009 – 2:48 pm -

Susan LavingtonAnother great CMO 2.0 Conversation – this time with Susan Lavington, the SVP of Marketing at USA Today. It’s always fun to talk with someone who is passionate about her job. In this case, being the head of marketing at USA Today was a dream come through for Susan so there was plenty of passion in this conversation.

We set some context by talking about Susan’s personal journey on her way to become head of marketing at USA Today, the changes she had seen the industry and her profession undergo over the years, and by looking at her current responsibilities as head of marketing.

USA Today seems to be weathering the storm that is currently hitting the newspaper industry better than others (they are actually growing circulation) in part by having been designed from the ground up to be internet compatible – small bite sized articles, quick reads, and color pictures. They also benefited from never relying on classified ad revenue.

They went “digital” early on and after a false start they developed a very rich online experience for their readers. Unlike many other publishers, they seem to try to put the user at the center of the online experience and not the content – although as with any community both content and members/readers form a virtuous circle. One thing that I had not thought about is how hard it is for a publishing company to develop a product development mindset. In traditional publishing there is no such thing as a beta product – you work really hard to deliver the best product, every day. But when you start having online offerings, you need to think like a traditional product development company – which features will you prioritize over others, how will you test the product, how long will you be in beta, etc.

By going digital and social, they were able to do two things differently from a market segmentation point of view. First they were able to address market niches that they knew they had but could not effectively serve through their print product, e.g., cruising families with kids. Second, they were able to uncover tribes that traditional market segmentation had not exposed, e.g., the mixed martial arts community or the gaming community.

It was interesting to hear Susan talk about consumers all the time. On the one hand you would expect nothing less from a head of marketing, but on the other hand, and for a newspaper whose slogan is “capture the conversation of the nation,” you know that the content side of the house does not think of them as consumers. Susan talked about how those creative tensions always get resolved by going back to their original mission.

Other interesting topics that we covered include:

  • How the half-life of news poses interesting challenges in how to recommend popular content to community members – some content becomes stale overnight while other content is very much evergreen.
  • The changing expectations of their advertisers and the increasing need for USA Today to do research as part of their offering so they can come back with additional metrics.
  • The shift from “we bring the audience and you bring the creative and if it does not work it’s your fault”  attitude that newspapers had for years to that of a true partnership – “if it doesn’t work it’s our collective problem”
  • How the marketing culture changed over the years and how the skillset that she is looking for in marketing hires has changed – flexibility over specialization, i.e., you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

You can listen to the podcast below, and in the near future we will actually start posting transcripts from the interview.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 2 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Beth Comstock, CMO at GE

Written by on March 6, 2009 – 1:33 pm -

Beth ComstockToday’s CMO 2.0 Conversation with GE’s CMO Beth Comstock was packed with interesting insights. On a personal note it was certainly neat to get a one hour personal marketing tutorial from the CMO of one the largest companies in the world. By working in a real marketer’s laboratory, Beth must be one of the luckiest marketers around.

We touched on three main topics: the role of a corporate marketing group in a large diversified company with strong operating companies, how to foster innovation at GE, and general changes in marketing.

As a central corporate marketing group, Beth’s team is responsible for sales growth, innovation, and the GE brand platform. Even though the company has very diverse operating companies, her team has also been able to find opportunities for developing a customer platform (i.e., cross-sell accross business units), as well as product platforms (i.e., ecoimagination, the GE green platform, and a cross-operating-business battery project).

On the innovation side of things we touched on the importance of having a robust pipeline of innovations and on the need to have the right resources deployed across the right portfolio of innovations. We also discussed the need to kill ideas faster and the opportunity to create an innovation marketplace for ideas that may not be a good fit for the company. Beth described GE’s robust innovation process, and how they have both a formal process that very much resembles an in-house venture process as well as an online imagination network that relies much more on the wisdom of the crowd – in this case their employees. Other innovation related topics we covered include:

  • how they use outside coaches and customer discovery sessions to bring outside insights into their innovation process
  • the importance of including detractors in the innovation process
  • how innovation is not just about technology innovation, but also about commercial innovations – and how they are constantly looking for new ideas around product, space, and business model
  • the cultural changes required for fast-paced innovations and the creative tensions between being a process-driven organization and the inherent messiness and chaotic nature of innovation
  • how in some cases you need to step away from traditional metrics to measure progress and success of ideas that are being incubated

We also talked about the changes afoot in marketing and how the new marketing challenge is in fact a knowledge management challenge – knowing enough about your customers so you can feed them data that will make them smarter.

On the need for new marketing skills Beth listed what she is looking for in marketers – people with new world skills, people who can simplify things and engage in customer communities, and people who can curate an experience for the customer. She also described how they set up a team of “rogue marketers” within the company, whose job it is to come up with rogue marketing techniques. It would be really interesting if at some point they would publish their findings in rogue marketing innovations.

You can listen to the podcast below, in the near future we will also post the transcript from the interview.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 5 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Will Prest, CMO at Transamerica Retirement Management

Written by on February 26, 2009 – 3:54 pm -

will prestYesterday I had the opportunity to interview Will Prest, the CMO for Transamerica Retirement Management, for yet another great CMO 2.0 Conversation (these are proving a ton of fun for me – hopefully for you, our listeners, too). Will and I talked about some of the issues and obstacles around creating  a new “challenger” brand within a larger company and in an environment that is heavily regulated.

From a marketing perspective, Will faces unique and interesting challenges. While retirement investment decisions may be some of the biggest decisions in one’s life, most people procrastinate and actually spend very little time making those decisions. Unlike the tax world, where you have to pay your taxes every April 15th, the retirement market has no such deadlines. For most people, retirement investment decisions are, surprisingly perhaps, not top of mind. Add to that the fact that the products one can choose from are fairly complex and you start understanding the unique marketing problem he faces – how do you get people’s attention in a space like that and how do you alter their behavior when you know that current behavior is not in the person’s best interest?

Here again we covered a wide variety of topics, including how:

  • you switch market penetration strategies when your initial plans prove harder to achieve than previously thought
  • to reach people when they increasingly make buying decisions based on information that does not come from the company
  • to insert branded content into conversations that you do not control and in a heavily regulated space
  • you can get customer and market insights into your product innovation process

We also talked about the importance of the company culture in allowing a startup to flourish by trying things, failing fast and learning.

You can listen to the CMO 2.0 Conversation below. We will also be posting transcripts of the interview soon.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 2 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Paul Levy, CEO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Written by on February 18, 2009 – 6:04 pm -

paul-levyI had a great CMO 2.0 Conversation today with Paul Levy, the President and CEO of the Harvard affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) here in the Boston area.

Just as with his blog Running a Hospital, or his Twitter and Facebook streams, Paul’s no-nonsense attitude and his sharp mind provided for a really fun and insightful discussion.

Paul spoke at length about how transparency was a key factor in changing the culture within BIDMC that allowed it to transform itself from a near failing Academic hospital to a viable institution. He also talked about how they reframed themselves with a focus on the science of care delivery instead of cure delivery (it reminded me of the Eli Lilly story where the reframing of their purpose led to a true transformation.)

In the case of BIDMC, success meant a fair amount of behavioral changes for a staff that does not necessarily take top-down advice – something that is really hard to do. In that context Paul described the importance of creating a blame-free zone as well as including the people whose behavior needs to change into the change management training process.

The conversation went into many different and interesting directions – including:

  • the role of social media in scaling word of mouth and changing the way people make health care decisions
  • the role of social media in transforming marketing, advertising and communications
  • the importance of customer satisfaction in the health care space
  • the difference between protecting brand reputation vs. earning it
  • how far to take openness
  • general health policy issues

You can listen to the full interview below. We will soon put edited transcripts on the site as well.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 7 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO at Kodak

Written by on January 30, 2009 – 2:44 pm -

jhToday I had another opportunity to interview a true CMO 2.0 – Jeffrey Hayzlett, the CMO of Kodak.

Jeffrey and I started off by talking about the remarkable transformation and near-death experience that Kodak had to go through to remake itself as a digital company. We covered a wide array of topics, including how:

  • “branded content” can become part of the conversations
  • social media is in fact nothing more (and nothing less) than the platform that allows the “socialness” that makes us humans to scale
  • you have to be pragmatic in the ways you measure the impact of all marketing activities on sales
  • you need to train people to engage with others in a 2.0 world
  • generational differences impact marketing and new product innovation
  • gaining market insight and new product ideas have changed over the years
  • the acceleration of product lifecycles is impacting the way we develop, launch and release new products

It was truly a rich and informational conversation. I will update this post with additional topics in the near future, and also make this and other CMO 2.0 conversation transcripts available soon.

(this interview will also be make available in the Marketing 2.0 Group –

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 4 Comments »

Interview with Best Buy CMO Barry Judge

Written by on October 24, 2008 – 3:02 pm -

Barry JudgeI had a lot of fun interviewing Best Buy’s CMO Barry Judge yesterday as part of our CMO 2.0 Conversations. Barry is truly a 2.0 CMO – no doubt about that.

We talked about the changes that are shaking the fundamentals of marketing, and what that means for a multi-billion dollar company like Best Buy. Topics ranged from obvious changes – like the fact that broadcast messages no longer work – to changes that are not as often covered – like the impact of labor laws on social media marketing and the potential scalability issues of social media-based programs.

I will try writing up more posts with additional information from the interview, but for now you can listen to the recording below.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 5 Comments »

Fiskars + Fiskateer community

Written by on October 9, 2008 – 3:06 pm -

Jay GillespieThe second CMO 2.0 Conversation was a truly fun discussion with Jay Gillespie, the VP of Marketing and New Product Development at Fiskars, Suzanne Fanning, Director of Communications at Fiskars, and Geno Church, the Word of Mouth Guru at Brains On Fire.

If you are not familiar with the Fiskateer community, you should listen to the interview. It is a great case study of how very traditional companies can leverage the marketing 2.0 techniques and programs. What they created is not a community – it’s a movement. You could not shut it down, even if you wanted to. And it also delivered some hardcore results – think 300% increase in store sales and 600% increase in online chatter.

I will distill some of the other nuggets from this great interview in a later blog post, but for now you can listen to it below.

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 4 Comments »

CMO 2.0 Conversation with Paula Drum from H&R Block

Written by on September 25, 2008 – 3:04 pm -

pauladrum100I had the pleasure to interview Paula Drum, the VP of Marketing for the Digital Division of H&R Block. It was a lot of fun to speak with a forward thinking marketer like Paula on a variety of social media marketing programs.

Topics that we covered include:

  • How did social media change marketing at H&R Block?
  • What are the scaling issues for marketing 2.0 programs?
  • How do you overcome internal resistance, and especially legal objections?
  • How do you measure progress and success?
  • How do you decide to extend a brick & mortar brand into the digital world vs. creating a new brand?
  • How does marketing 2.0 affect the organizational structure of marketing?
  • Should you integrate traditional marketing programs with social media programs?

We will write additional blog posts with content from the interview, but for now I wanted to make sure the interview was up there as quickly as possible.

Comments, suggestions, or ideas? Send them my way at francois [at]

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Posted in CMO 2.0 Conversation | 2 Comments »

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