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Category : Thinking

Don’t Go Out There Without a Beloved Brand

Today, even the largest corporation in the world is naked without a beloved brand, full of positive content.

Not so long ago, I received a call from a senior leader of a large corporation, and he was clearly in significant emotional distress.

This distress reflected the emotions of senior management and of the people in his organization.

This was one of several similar calls over the past couple of years.

All of these organizations had been world-beaters, with seeming strangleholds on their categories, at least, in their strongest regions or sectors.

At the times of these calls, each was being trashed in social media, destroyed in the press, and humiliated in the U.S. congress.

The reasons for their turnabouts varied. Suffice it to say that bad things were done, or the right things were left undone. The companies had fumbled, and the world had decided that they no longer deserved to exist.

Empathizing with my callers, I invariably told them some version of the following story:

“You may be aware that Warren Buffet said that his idea of a perfect business would be to own the only toll booth, on the only bridge, to an island.

Many large businesses share qualities of Buffet’s fantasy. While not being perfect monopolies, they have elements of a monopoly. Perhaps their bridges are not the only ones to the islands, but just the most convenient ones, for example.

People inside these companies say things like, “We have the size. We have the relationships. We have the supply. We have the data. We own the cables. We laid the pipes. We’re the only ones who have it… We don’t need to waste time or money building a brand. We don’t need to be loved – it’s enough to be rich!”

But here’s the thing about companies like that – people hate them.

They won’t say that in surveys nearly as much before, as after, the lapse, because the hatred is mostly unconscious, implicit, and waiting for a trigger to emerge.

But, make no mistake, people are waiting to get even. When you have power like that, people are waiting to set things straight.

Invariably, these brand owners who had called me had spent years trying to get their senior management to embrace brand strategy and brand-building processes. To a one, these senior managers had fought for efforts to make their brand experiences delightful, and to express  noble purposes to the world and prove those purposes with inspiring on-strategy actions. And every one of them noted sadly that he or she had, more or less, lost those battles.

The companies had been fat and happy; but now, they were bleeding and miserable and mortally wounded… by what? By shame. By infamy. By the fury of a global mob empowered by social media, by the people who prosper by attracting their eyeballs, and by those whose pensions depend on their votes.

And… now they were very much interested in the brand, the purpose, the experience. Now they were interested in being delightful,  customer-centric and socially valuable. Now, they needed a quest, and hoped that we might help them find their purposes, above and beyond commerce.

And yes, we can.

But, the time to have a purpose is before. The time to build a brand is before. The time to be delightful and meaningful and worthy of cheerful word-of-mouth and sharing, and 5-star reviews, and thousands of caps and t-shirts, and maybe even a few permanent tattoos, is before.

Because, even before social media and the monsoon of shaming, it was coming for them. Organizations with purposes, understanding the inspiring ideas that drove them, expressing them not just through communications, but through iconic actions, infusing exceptional experiences with the ideas, and generating waves and ripples of word-of-mouth – these organizations were coming to take away their clients and customers anyway. They just didn’t know it.

When selling is just selling, you are building a house of cards today, more than ever.

When your inspiring idea is your best-selling idea, you’re not only selling more, you’re building something that can stand the test of time.

Every large corporation stumbles. No collection of people that large is without a few bad actors. But, some companies are protected by the powerful, positive feelings that people have for them. There are companies about which most people don’t want to hear anything bad. Their love for those companies, their belief in their goodness, and most of all, their identification with the heroic qualities they attribute to the companies, dramatically alter their behavior. This is why building the brand in this way is the ultimate behavior change marketing strategy for brand and business growth.

Some organizations planted those seeds from the beginning, from their startup phases; and that’s always best. Others found their inspiring ideas in the growth stage; and that works really well, too.

The important thing is to find it, live it, act it out, communicate it… before.

You’re naked in the icy winds of change without it.

 

Inspiring Action Organizations

Some organizations so outperform most organizations that it seems wrong to put them in the same category.

While most organizations fail in their early years, most of the survivors also fail. Among the majority that survive, generating average growth means growing at a few percentage points per year.

Only a small minority are fast-growing companies. Of the fast-growing companies, many are in fast-growing categories. No doubt, the leaders of these companies know that they are beating the odds. Likely, they feel very successful. But the fact is that most of these companies only grow fast quickly for a limited time, and then they revert to the mean — or fail. Particularly in gold rush industries, there may be many fast-growing companies, but nearly all bubbles end in pretty much the same way. They burst.

I’ve long been fascinated with the extreme exception — the company or organization that builds an iconic brand and inspires a movement.

Most businesspeople miss the most important things that make for this kind of success. Perhaps this is because they try to reduce the life of the business to just business. Working closely with the leaders of rare outperforming, high-impact organizations, I’ve always found them to be on a mission to create something very different in the world. While the people at the top of these organizations are typically extremely savvy about business, they haven’t been so much business managers as movement leaders.

Call it “purpose” or “meaning” or “an inspiring idea” that fuels these businesses. Behavior change scientists might call it “a moral frame” that attracts, inspires and encourages the identification we measure as brand affinity, customer loyalty and advocacy.

While most businesspeople seem to judge incentives by the simple measure of whether they bring about the desired action, the leaders of these companies see incentives differently. They realize that all action is not created equal, and they appreciate that the meaning behind the behavior is actually much more important for long-term success and impact. The results of behavioral economics experiments actually bear this out.

Most business managers incentivize action, but great leaders inspire action.

Part of inspiring action is actually forgoing the easy results that could come from generating action with cheap but unaligned incentives. Don’t read that wrong — they don’t forgo the results. In fact, their results are much, much better.

It’s not the results they sacrifice. It’s the ease. Cheap tricks are common, easy to explain and relatively easy to execute. Copying your competitor’s “loyalty” program, for example.

Building a distinct and meaningful brand with an entirely integrated experience is a whole other thing entirely. It just happens to work so much better.

Behavior Change Science Update: Moral Reframing

When Steve Jobs was trying to hire John Sculley, then the CEO of Pepsi, to come and work with him at Apple, Jobs said,

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

Sculley did leave Pepsi and join Jobs at Apple, becoming CEO. At first, it was a lovefest, but over time they clashed, leading to Jobs’ ouster from the company he had founded.

It turned out they didn’t share the same values.

For Jobs, changing the world was a moral imperative. For Sculley, the technology business was a cool consumer products business that was first and foremost a business.

This cautionary tale is a good way to introduce the topic of moral reframing. It contains all the tensions a behavior change marketer must resolve in order to successfully use this technique.

The news is that Robb Willer, a Stanford sociologist, has found that an effective way to persuade people in politics is to reframe arguments to appeal to the moral values of those holding opposing positions (https://news.stanford.edu/2015/10/12/framing-persuasive-messages-101215/).

We know from testing and experience that similar reframing works outside of the political realm as well.

For example, let’s say my company has invented a new way to get you to exercise more.

I believe that if you were to try my product, you would exercise more, be healthier, live longer and feel more energy and vitality.

In other words, in my moral universe, exercise is about health.

But, maybe my audience cares about cool experiences and being part of an “in” crowd. If I reframe my presentation of my innovation in that frame, I’ll make many more sales. My persuasive communication will be much more successful, creating much more behavior change.

If we design our experience around this frame, we’ll create much more sustainable behavior change.

So, why doesn’t this happen more often?

“Moral reframing is not intuitive to people,” Willer said. “When asked to make moral political arguments, people tend to make the ones they believe in and not that of an opposing audience – but the research finds this type of argument unpersuasive.”

Most people tend to pitch from their own frames of reference, and moral frames are the least flexible.

But, understanding the audience and employing the audience’s frame of reference is the core of successful communication.

So, let’s get back to that Steve Job’s story.

Did he know something about Sculley? Did he know that Sculley had achieved wealth, respect and power and was now looking for a legacy?

Very likely. Jobs was an excellent salesman.

Or, did Jobs just speak from his own moral frame and it happened to work in this case?

Jobs was a true believer, so this is likely.

I tend to think it was both. Jobs thought he’d found someone who was ripe to be influenced by a moral frame they could share.

This is the tension between leadership and sales, between brand and response, that must be managed.

Excessive personalization tends to obliterate integrity in the brand. By attracting people who don’t share your values, you end up with a customer, an employee – or in Job’s case, a boss – who doesn’t really share your values.

And, bad things happen.

One approach that works particularly well in politics is to look for a larger frame. This is a way to get beyond my frame or your frame.

For example, Lincoln believed “if anything is evil, slavery is evil.” Others believed “slavery is our God-given institution,” while still others believed “slavery is an evil, but it’s not worth risking war over.”

Lincoln looked for a new moral frame that could be shared by more of his audience. He found several. The first was: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This, from the Bible, spoke to a broad swath of Lincoln’s audience. He employed the frame he later used in the Gettysburg Address, when he argued that the Founding Fathers had already dealt with the issue of slavery, that they had worked to set it “on a course of ultimate extinction.”

At the time, respect for the Founding Fathers was very great – it was a moral frame shared by a large percentage of the audience.

So, in sum:

  • Speaking from your own moral frame is integrity, but it is often ineffective integrity.
  • Speaking from your audience’s moral frame is more effective, but it can be manipulative and hurt the brand.
  • Finding a frame that can include both the brand’s values and the audience’s too ultimately creates the most sustainable behavior change while it builds the brand.

For our client, Weight Watchers, which believed in healthy weight, healthy lifestyle and healthy community and then found that their audience had shifted focus to healthy lifestyle, we found that their frame was already broad enough to adapt, and all that was needed was to refocus the members themselves.

For Sallie Mae, we saw that “Let’s Make College Happen” could unite all the constituencies – parents, students, guidance professionals and Sallie Mae employees – all of whom are focused on making college happen.

TradeStation was obsessively focused on the most powerful trading technology while living the Miami lifestyle. When it became clear that the audience cared about both, rather than just the awesome technology, TradeStation widened the marketing frame, and the result has been like a beautiful big blue wave.

Frame like a master, and you’ll love the results.

This has been your Behavior Change Science Update: Moral Reframing.

Happy #InspiringAction

Behavioral Economist Wins Nobel Prize

Thanks to the brave and brilliant contributions of one renegade, economic theory as we know it has been changed forever.

Richard Thaler, the world-renowned behavioral economist who has long challenged the standard economic model, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize earlier this month. His work, which Nobel Prize committee member Peter Gärdenfors simplified as “[making] economics more human,” has influenced our education system as well as government policy.

Thaler joins a small list of behavioral economists to win the award. Robert J. Shiller was among the winners in 2013, and Thaler’s longtime collaborator and friend, Daniel Kahneman, shared the award in 2002. Though they won before him, it is Thaler who is widely credited with bringing behavioral economic theories to the mainstream.

Thaler has dedicated his life to helping people understand how individuals make choices so that they can be led to make better ones. His best-selling book, Nudge, was the culmination of decades of behavioral science research, and was written to prevent people from making mistakes that can negatively affect their individual and collective well-being. That’s an inspiring mission, and one that resonates with all of us here at DiMassimo Goldstein.

We use behavioral change marketing to drive growth in brands and businesses that change lives for the better. We study the work of behavioral pioneers like Thaler to become experts at providing our clients with the strategies they need to drive profound behavioral change in the areas of healthy, wealthy and wise. Understanding human behavior is key to empowering brands to provide their consumers with a self-actualizing experience, — and that experience is what will ultimately inspire them to make better decisions and form more empowering habits.

This has been our mission for 21 years, and it’s never been more important than it is today.

We applaud people like Thaler for continuing to push the conversation forward, and for persuading more people to pay attention to human behavior. To read more about Thaler and his work, check out this article in The New York Times.

Congratulations on the honor, Richard, and keep up the good work!

The A-List Podcast: Episode 016 with Bobby Hershfield

This week on The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann interviews Bobby Hershfield, Partner and CCO at SS+K. Hershfield started his career in account management before eventually shifting over to copywriting during his time at Wieden+Kennedy, and since then he has spearheaded the creative for some of the world’s biggest name brands such as Dell, JCPenney, Target, CNN, and Johnson & Johnson.

Listen in as Hershfield talks about what makes an all-star account person, working with former A-List guests Eric Silver, Ty Montague and David Angelo, and why he ultimately took a pay cut to become a creative. Full episode and show notes below!

Show Notes

  • [0:00 – 1:19] Intro
  • [1:20 – 3:59] Hershfield talks about what it was like moving around a lot as a child, how he had to adjust, and meeting new people
  • [4:00 – 5:18] How Hershfield first discovered advertising from a Tom Hanks movie
  • [5:19 – 6: 53] Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, applying to letterman, and graduating in a recession
  • [6:54 – 11:01] Getting his first job at DDB in account management, being let go and having to work as a video store clerk before finally getting another job at Chiat\Day
  • [11:02 – 13:29] Working with Eric Silver, Ty Monague, David Angelo at Chiat\Day
  • [13:30 – 17: 34] The first “virtual office” and taking creative classes
  • [17:35 – 19:00] What makes an all-star account person?
  • [19:01 – 23:31] Hershfield’s mentors in account management, the feeling you get after he was let go, and the story of how he hung around until he was rehired
  • [23: 32 – 27:00] Accepting an offer at Wieden+Kennedy, the difference between New York and Portland, and how the culture at Wieden focused on the work and not the lifestyle
  • [27:01 – 31:19] Moving to New York to take a pay cut and shift to the creative side
  • [31:20 – 35: 24] Thinking irresponsibly and the different line of thinking you have to adopt to be a creative
  • [35:25 – 39:44] Working Albert Brooks for his first commercial
  • [39:45 – 43: 35] What it was like working under Ty Montague and the benefit of tough love
  • [43:36 – 47:20] Managing a team, being a mentor, and when you know it’s time to become a creative director
  • [47:21 – 53:47] What Bobby looks for in a young creative, what made Gerry Graf a special teacher, and the many advantages of attending Adhouse
  • [53: 48 – 54:43] Outro

“The A-List” is a podcast produced by DiMassimo Goldstein, recorded at the Gramercy Post, and sponsored by the Adhouse Advertising School, New York’s newest, smallest, and hippest ad school. You can subscribe and rate the show on iTunes or listen along on SoundCloud. For updates on upcoming episodes and guests, be sure to like the A-List Podcast on Facebook and follow host Tom Christmann on Twitter

Welcome to the Direct Age.

People have never had access to so many amazing tools for connecting with organizations and services that can inspire them to achieve incredible things. Not so long ago, “consumers” were out there. Marketers needed to learn about their customers and their preferences from “the channel,” the sales team, or from expensive market research. They needed to be recruited through retail or sales. It was hard to know much about them as individuals. Today, your customer holds you in her hand. Texts you. Tweets you. You are the button she pushes. You are the apps she launches. You are the tool she uses to get from here to there. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. You are your customer’s utility. Today, consumers have unprecedented direct access to the organizations that serve them. Equally, companies have unprecedented direct access to their customers and prospects. The direct age is the age of interactive selling. It’s the age of collaboration. It’s also the age of social customer service. If your service and your story works best for inspiring action in the customer, and if that action becomes habit, then you win.

We inspire greatness in individuals and in the companies that serve them through great direct experiences that inspire action.

 

(more…)

The A-List Podcast: Episode 015 with Omid Farhang

In the fifteenth installment of the A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann is joined by Omid Farhang, the chief creative officer at experiential agency Momentum Worldwide. Over the course of forty-five minutes, Farhang quotes the Wu-Tang Clan, talks about growing up as the child of an Iranian cowboy, and shares some of the most valuable lessons he learned working under and alongside the biggest names in the industry. Full episode and show notes below!

  • [0:00 — 1:36] Intro
  • [1:37 — 8:05] Farhang tells Tom about growing up the child of an Iranian cowboy, and the pressure he felt to become a doctor or a lawyer
  • [8:06 – 11: 53] How Farhang discovered advertising, and the emotions that ran through his head when he first walked into the Chiat\Day office
  • [11:54 –  18:14] How the Honda “Grrr” spot inspired him to go into advertising
  • [18:15 – 20:55] Wanting to be a writer and going to ad school with a sense of purpose and urgency
  • [20:56 – 22:55] How the definition of titles is changing in the industry, what he learned from the Wu-Tang Clan, and how he has been influenced by comedy and hip hop
  • [22:56 – 27:25] Starting as an intern at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, living in a basement, and the benefit of writing 200 headlines
  • [27:26 — 31:18] The lessons Farhang learned working as a young creative on Miller High Life
  • [31:19 — 36:12] Farhang walks us through his plea to Alex Bogusky for a full-time gig and why he dropped out of ad school without a job
  • [36:13 – 38:37] The interview process toward becoming a first time CCO, Momentum Worldwide, and the power of an honest business relationship
  • [38:38 – 41:00] Working with the children of NBA superstars for SAP’s “The Simple Report”
  • [41:01 – 46:00] The benefits of freelancing, releasing ideas into the wild and experiential advertising
  • [46:01 – 47:50] What “Malicious Obedience” is, and how young creatives can avoid it
  • [47:51 – 48:45] Outro

 “The A-List” is a podcast produced by DiMassimo Goldstein, recorded at the Gramercy Post, and sponsored by the Adhouse Advertising School, New York’s newest, smallest, and hippest ad school. You can subscribe and rate the show on iTunes or listen along on SoundCloud. For updates on upcoming episodes and guests, be sure to like the A-List Podcast on Facebook and follow host Tom Christmann on Twitter

Inspiring Action Brand of the Month: 23andMe

If you could give people access to their own DNA, and interpret what it could potentially mean for their health in the future — would they change the way they lived? Would they exercise more? Make alterations to their diet? Stop smoking?

Would they change the way they behave everyday?

That’s the bet that Anne Wojcicki waged when she started 23andMe, a world-changing, first of its kind direct-to-consumer genetic testing company that aims to shift the way we think about healthcare from its current diagnostic model to one based on prevention.

Before launching 23andMe, Wojcicki had already led a successful career as a health care analyst on Wall Street. This career path also came with a front-row seat to the red tape and lack of action that was plaguing the health care industry. Convinced that America needed a more efficient and more consumer-focused way to treat illness and invent drugs, she decided to pioneer a path forward. By founding 23andMe, she made championing that change her life purpose.

It’s a mission that landed her on the front page of Fast Company, accompanied by the bold headline “The Most Daring CEO in America.”

“We’re not just looking to get a venture-capital return.” Wojcicki told Fast Company. “We set out with this company to revolutionize health care.”

23andMe’s $999 saliva kit, which was delivered right to customers’ doorstep, allowed consumers to track their ancestry. It analyzed their DNA, tested for 254 health risks, and alerted consumers on their susceptibility to certain diseases – all without having to go to a doctor. Just a few weeks after submitting your kit, the results would come in with tips and guidance on how to reduce those health risks. Wojcicki was using technology to shorten the cycle of optimization.

Having this type of information could potentially spur people to make healthier lifestyle choices. Learning that you are at a higher risk for a certain disease, simply because of your genetics may propel you to mitigate that risk by making changes where you can, like quitting smoking or beginning to exercise more.

After a blazing hot start, the company’s personal genome test kit would go on to be named “Invention of the Year” by Time Magazine in 2008 – just two years after the brand was launched.

More venture capitalist funding came pouring in, and 23andMe drove the prices of its tests down from $999 in 2007, to $399 in 2008, to $99 in 2012. The product was intentionally being sold well below its marketplace cost, because the real growth potential, and the world-changing impact that comes with it, doesn’t lie in the saliva kits.

Instead, 23andMe was steadily building a gold mine of health and DNA data by building on its wide community of consumers – a valuable commodity to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and even governments.

Each consumer is asked to participate in research, with a clear majority of them providing consent. All of the information gathered is under anonymity, with no individual data being sold. Through partnerships, this aggregated data could now be used to research and discover cures for diseases that spring up from troublesome genetic mutations.

23andMe was disruptive. It utilized technology to supplant an ingrained habit with something that didn’t formerly exist. An entirely new experience – and one that was less expensive, more convenient, and more consumer-driven.

And the disruptive brand is one that is met with confusion, uncertainty and resistance – and, in November of 2013, that resistance came by way of the FDA.

With a harshly worded email, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanded 23andMe to withdraw all its tests for genetic risks related to health from the market – limiting the company to providing information about ancestry and ancestry alone.

23andMe had failed to communicate with the agency and meet their compliance standards – leading their health analysis to being terminated due to the USFDA’s growing concern of inaccurate results — and the consequences that come with it.

And while its popular ancestry product has brought us hundreds of heartwarming stories, like this man who gained an entire family from conducting the test, Wojcicki founded 23andMe with a higher purpose in mind.

She and her company were in a difficult spot. Following the moratorium, sign-ups had dropped by more than 50 percent. The company was barely surviving on their ancestry services. This was a sink-or-swim moment.

But Wojcicki was a challenger, and 23andMe was a challenger brand. She started the company with a vision, and she wasn’t going to separate what they were doing from why they were doing it. This was simply another problem she had to solve – and when you have an inspiring idea, nothing is insurmountable.

If 23andMe was going to survive, Wojcicki would have to find a way to cut through the red tape. With her back against the ropes, she and her team began working closely with the FDA.

Two years later, in 2015, the FDA granted 23andMe approval for a different kind of testing. This test would be focused on “carrier status” reports, which tell you if you have a copy of a mutated gene for a disease like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. The mutation would not affect the consumer directly, but it could affect their future children. Still, 23andMe was not authorized to tell the consumer about their personal risk.

A far cry from the 254 tests the company used to offer, the FDA decision was a still victory for 23andMe. It was the first step in the right direction, albeit a small one.

Determined to lift that bar even further, the 23andMe team continued to work closely with the FDA, and earlier this year that hard work was finally rewarded.

On April 6, 2017, the FDA came out with a press release allowing the marketing of 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk (GHR) test for 10 disease or conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

This was a groundbreaking moment. The first direct-to-consumer test authorized by the FDA that provides information on an individual’s genetic predisposition to certain medical diseases or conditions.

Until that moment, the only way for people to get such genetic tests was to see a medical professional. Now, 23andMe consumers can log in to an online account and see their report and its interpretation. Behaviors were being changed.

Wojcicki discovered that she had to work with the FDA, rather than against them, to really drive that change. And in doing so, she proved that there is a market for direct-to-consumer health care.

The door is now open. The FDA has established new and less rigorous guidelines for approving at-home genetic testing, which will allow other direct-to-consumer health companies to enter the market with less resistance. Plenty of competitors are already waiting in the wings.

Today, the company is still growing rapidly. Its products have been used in several research projects, including studies on female fertility, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and even nail biting.

With a current valuation of $1.1 billion, the company now boasts well over two million customers. This past June they were ranked #4 on MIT Technology Review’s 50 Smartest Companies List – right behind Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Behavior change is hard to create – but courageous marketers who obsess over helping people make more inspiring decisions and live more empowering lives will stop at nothing to do so.

Anne Wojcicki is that type of inspiring action marketer.

That’s why 23andMe is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Month!