Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CEOs Need to Be Chief Story Officers

The CMO is in charge of the brand's story at most companies. This can be a mistake, says Ty Montague writing for Harvard Business Review.
Marketing, you see, should only be one part of a company's story efforts. Take Amazon. Story is its lifeblood. In fact, it drives everything that the company does — from product development, to advertising, to HR policies.

Montague is the author of True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business and a founder of co:collective, a consultancy that helps clients develop their strategy and brand story using the principles of storydoing.

Amazon, of course, isn't the only company that does this. Red Bull, Jet Blue, and TOMS shoes follow the same strategy as well, and their CEOs, just like Jeff Bezos at Amazon, are the ones who oversee their company's story — not their marketing departments. 


They're the only ones who have the reach to do so.

If you are a CEO or an aspiring CEO, the evidence is clear: 
  1. Become a student of the underlying narrative of your business;
  2. Learn how to manage and tell that story through coordinated action;
  3. Make understanding and telling your company's story both a shared responsibility across the whole organization and a core value of the company. 
If you do this, you (and more importantly, your shareholders) will reap the rewards.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2012 supplement of Standard Highway Signs: branding guidelines for the road

On a recent road trip, I observed that all highway signs are the same design, font, colors, etc. 

As a branding guy, I asked: Who makes them? Where are graphic standards?

So I researched to find the Federal Highway Administration has developed the design details of the new signs added in a book called "MUTCD" (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).

The signs are published in a special section of Standard Highway Signs.

The contents of the 2012 Supplement incorporate new additions of signs and markings, with details for all signs and pavement markings, expanded sign design guidelines, and details for symbolic traffic and lane-control signal indications.

It's everything you'd expect in a combination of a brand standards guide and a government publication.

Click on the link to check it out at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov


Monday, August 12, 2013

3 investing insights from Edward Jones -- what you'd expect from their solid brand

I really appreciate the straight-forward financial insight I get from Jennifer Wilken – and from the firm that supports her, Edward Jones.

Her personal brand is unrivaled, and the Edward Jones brand is solid in my view.

The Edward Jones ads invite consumers to “join us,” if for example, “you buy the renegade idea that investing should be done face-to-face, not just inbox-to-inbox”; “if you believe that your relationship with your investments shouldn’t be long-distance”; or “if you endorse the radical theory that investors should spend less time playing the market, and more time understanding it.”

Here’s some of the latest advice Jennifer has shared with us from Edward Jones:

U.S. stocks again reached new record highs in the second quarter, as earnings and economic growth improved. However, long-term interest rates began to rise – and, in response, stock and bond prices fell. We expect a choppy third quarter because every economic indicator is likely to provoke an outsized, or abnormally large, reaction – up and down – as markets try to guess when the Federal Reserve (Fed) will start to slow its bond purchases. Remember, you don’t control what the Fed will do, but you can ensure your portfolio is ready.

  1. Stocks still near new record highs – U.S. stocks largely shrugged off the Fed’s signal of possible policy shifts and the increase in long-term interest rates, since continued economic growth tends to be good news for stocks. In our view, the fundamental drivers of rising stock prices remain in place, but the focus on every economic indicator means greater volatility.
  2. Rates start to rise – Long-term interest rates rose sharply in the second quarter, although they remain at quite low levels historically. Bond prices move in the opposite direction from interest rates, and you may have been surprised by their declines. We think long-term rates are likely to continue to move higher over time, reducing bond values, but don’t be surprised if interest rates fluctuate.
  3. Policy shifts move all markets together – The Fed’s monetary policies have always affected financial markets, but for the past few years, the Fed has been a steady, calming hand. As a result, Fed announcements – especially any signs of policy changes – tend to provoke sharp reactions. U.S. markets reacted, and international stocks, especially many in emerging markets, dropped sharply. Although policy changes may move all markets together short term, over time they’ll react differently.
Action for Investors
You can’t control interest rates or the stock market. But you can control the quality and diversification of the investments you own and your reactions to market ups and downs. Make sure you’ve constructed a properly diversified portfolio with the right mix of stocks, bonds and international investments based on your situation, your financial goals and your tolerance for risk. Then prepare to stay invested as markets shift in anticipation of policy changes ahead.

Friday, August 09, 2013

4 percent of doctors have made at least one blog posting in the last year: Vanguard survey

On the heels of a report by Pew Research Center revealing that 35 percent of Americans use the Internet to figure out a medical condition, an independent survey finds that only one-third of physicians in three American cities offer direct website help to health care consumers trying to understand their symptoms.

In an analysis of 300 doctors with the highest patient-satisfaction ratings in Boston, Denver and Portland, OR, the medical marketing firm Vanguard Communications found 69 percent of the physicians have websites.

However, only 33 percent of those doctors’ sites provided much more than online biographies and general practice information – just 99 doctors have websites offering patient-centered information on medical conditions and possible treatments.

The portion of physicians using their websites to update patients on research and trends that could affect their health was even smaller: only 4 percent (12 doctors) had made at least one blog posting in the last year.

“Doctors in these cities are still using their websites primarily as electronic brochures about their practices rather than as online health resources,” said Ron Harman King, Vanguard CEO.

Doctors certainly have no legal or ethical obligation to do any more, King noted, especially when online health encyclopedias abound on the Internet. Nonetheless, offering more health information online could create a win-win for providers.

Vanguard’s analysis spanned three medical specialties: urologists, orthopedic surgeons, and obstetricians-gynecologists. To select the physician sample, the firm chose doctors with the highest patient-satisfaction ratings on HealthGrades.com, an Internet company that provides quality and safety ratings of health providers. All 300 physicians had “100-percent patient satisfaction” ratings.

More details of the survey are at VanguardCommunications.net.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

3 types of collaboration with customers as "co-researchers"

There will always be a gap between what a consumer is sharing and how a researcher understands it, according to authors of a recent article in Quirk’s Marketing Research Review.

This disparity is created by a gap in culture, generation or objective knowledge.

These different gaps make it difficult for a researcher to put things in the right perspective.

But consumers can help us out.

By becoming our co-researchers, they complement the researcher’s tasks and help to find more and new insights that would otherwise not have been captured. Customers feel empowered and honored when they are asked to become co-researchers. There are many ways to collaborate with co-researchers throughout the research process, from moderation until reporting.

In this article, the experience of research firm InSites Consulting using co-researchers is illustrated in three case studies from Campbell’s, Air France and KLM, and Philips.

Here is a summary to 3 types of collaboration:


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

5 innovation to take medical care home -- to make it more patient-centered, outcomes-driven and collaborative

Chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems are reaching epidemic levels. 

And as the population ages, the drain on our healthcare system is only going to get worse. 

So to alleviate some of the bloated costs of caring for the chronically ill, we must take some of the burden away off institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. 

One way to do that is to bring back a relic of the past: house calls. 

"Years ago, as a family physician in Louisiana, I made house calls," writes Michael Fleming M.D., chief medical officer of Amedisys and past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"Certain patients were too sick or too hurt to get to my office. Sometimes a condition or injury had worsened, requiring my evaluation bedside. I would visit patients at home for the simplest of reasons: home was where they needed care," he says.

Here are the things Dr. Fleming suggests:
  1. Define the discipline better
  2. Get in sync
  3. Physician, educate thyself
  4. Adopt new technologies
  5. Remove policy obstacles

If doctors (or nurses or aides) visited patients at home on a more regular basis, say, to monitor blood pressure, diet, and activity, there's a great chance that ER visits, hospital stays, and re-admissions would drop.
Click to read more on this point of view at blogs.hbr.org

Monday, August 05, 2013

Olympic-size tactical thinking

Photo Credit: Reuters/ Lewis Whyld/Pool
I recently facilitated a tactical ideation workshop in which we applied “Olympic” thinking to the client’s media planning.

Digital media spending by London 2012 Olympics sponsors amounted to as much as 20% of budgets.

Digital outlets attracted funds that might have gone to television in prior years.

And while ad agency and brand representatives don’t provide budgets or spending estimates for their Olympic campaigns, it’s believed that a comprehensive multimedia Olympic campaign cost between $30 million to $50 million.

The pricetag was worth it, most brand executives said, because they believe they were able to weave tighter connections between their brands and target customers during the Olympics compared to other events.

Here are some of the media ideas inspired by our Olympic-size thinking:

Friday, August 02, 2013

How a premium brand experience anchors a business model: case study of SV Travel

When Studio Velo, a high-end bicycle shop in Mill Valley, California, wanted to give its business a competitive edge, it created SV: Travel. 

“Our new division lets us offer our customers on-the-road travel adventures that create community, strengthen customer loyalty, and drive sales,” says founder and owner Scott Penzarella. 

“And the focal point of that experience is our Studio Velo Sprinter. From the moment you depart to the moment you arrive, the Sprinter becomes your home away from home. It’s what you see from the distance, awaiting you at every turn. It’s the safety blanket for our clients and our staff on a long, challenging ride down the California coast.”

Scott Penzarella first became enamored with the idea of leveraging high-end cycling as a business model in the U.S. while studying in Spain. During his time there, he worked at Suraventura, the leading high-end cycling shop in southern Spain, and he became convinced that a European approach to the cycling business could work here. 

Launching Studio Velo in Mill Valley, California, proved him right, and he credits the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as a central factor in helping him build the brand image he was after and driving subsequent growth.

Studio Velo has been growing at a 20 percent annual clip during the past two years, with much of that growth driven by its travel division, SV: Travel, which conducts single-day and week-long trips for cyclists. 

"SV: Travel introduces our brand to new clients whose business is acquired via impromptu in-store purchases," Penzarella says. "These same clients tend to frequent our store more often, pre- and post-trip. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a dream vehicle for our business concept. I wouldn't consider anything else."

The SV: Travel Sprinter started out as a 2011 Model 2500 High Roof Passenger Van with 144-inch wheelbase. The vehicle is outfitted to provide "the same professional, comfortable, and premium brand experience we offer in our store," Penzarella says. "To put our highly discerning clients in anything other than a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter would rob them of the premium-brand experience Studio Velo built its reputation on."

Penzarella's most important considerations in choosing a van were reliability, driver and passenger comfort, and fuel efficiency, and the Sprinter has surpassed his expectations in all three areas, he says. The combination of Sprinter's outstanding standard features and the ability to customize it to Studio Velo's specific needs just sealed the deal. 

"Our tagline is 'passion, precision, and performance,'" he says. "The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter gives SV: Travel the exact premium-brand experience we desire and our clients expect."

Selecting a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for Studio Velo's travel business was "a no-brainer," says Scott Penzarella, the company's founder. The high-end image it projects was important, but equally critical was the scope of options it presented for customizing. 

The SV: Travel Sprinter had to be functional and fashionable at the same time. Studio Velo achieved that with a full graphics wrap; a wireless hotspot; front and rear receiver hitch mounts welded to the frame for bike racks, portable work stands, and equipment racks; a custom cabinetry system; and full mobile kitchen, which includes a commercial espresso machine, where the professional chef who accompanies every outing prepares gourmet meals for the cyclists.

From "Sprinter Chronicles" by Mercedes-Benz in INC.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

8 words to inspire more SHOW in your brand story

Here is one of the most important concepts I promote in N-of-8 story development:  the difference between SHOW and TELL.

A complete brand story SHOWS a customer how, not just TELLS them what.

Look for ways you can add more persuasion in your story.