Friday, August 29, 2008

The Truth Flirts

"You do what?"

"And, you've turned that into a business?"

Every once in a while I am stunned to hear a remarkable business idea that is both astonishingly simple in concept, yet so brilliant in appeal. Call it a blinding flash of the obvious.

Let me explain.

Earlier this month, I am attending a business conference and bump into Elizabeth, an outgoing sort of gal who instantly struck me in the initial ten seconds with her charming British accent, and lively, yet profesional demeanour. The positive first impression is then re-inforced when I notice the way she makes solid eye contact, smiles warmly and displays a genuine interest in the person she is meeting. Even when it comes to small talk, little things do mean a lot.

Within a minute of this conversation, I ask Elizabeth a standard networking question ..."So tell me, what do you do?"

"I'm a professional flirting and charisma expert. They call me the Flirt Guru and I teach people how to banter more effectively in a business context so they can seal more deals and get promoted".

Hmmm ... tell me more.

"It all comes down to the fact that if somebody likes you, they are more likely to want to do business with you. Whether you are flirting or networking, you are using exactly the same skills - only with different results.

Elizabeth founded her company, Rapport Unlimited, because of her experiences as a human resources manager. "You would find directors who were competent, on paper, but in person, God! Zero charisma." As this mother of two from Manchester UK explained to me, business ‘flirting’ is not about sex. It’s being more skilful in the way we communicate with each other, an intricate blend of body language, appearance, attitude and confidence. Her corporate training and speaking work serves a diverse range of clients in Europe including, Daimler-Chrysler, Bank of Scotland, KPMG, Royal Air Force, Gillette, Sandals, Xerox and others.

Here is the "Flirt Guru" doing what she does best.

Author of the highly acclaimed "Single to Settled", learn more about Elizabeth and how she is helping to change the business world one eyebrow flash at a time at

More than just someone who truly lives her brand, what I admire most about Elizabeth is the incredibly simplistic, yet brilliant way she discovered her gift, nurtured it, took a few chances and turned it into her profession. Her career choice and the path she is following made me recall a quote from Leonardo DaVinci who once said "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".

What is your true gift?

Are you sharing it through what you do for a living?

Do you ever stop to think about what it is you were meant to do?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Essence of Clarity

"I love the smell of Wikipedia in the morning"

ESSENCE: The attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity.

CLARITY: The property of being clear or transparent; one's ability to clearly visualize an object or concept, as in thought, understanding, and the "mind's eye"

Deep within each business is a brand essence that may or may not be expressed to its full potential. Key to unlocking that potential and drinking from the fruit of that vine is clarity. But, clarity often comes with a cost, usually in the currency of unvarnished truth.

"So what do you and Darren plan to be when you grow up?"


Those words, which came crashing down about a year ago, still echo in my brain, as my partner and I travelled more than 3,000 miles and invested mucho danero plus a week of our lives, searching for brand clarity. However, the investment and the sting felt by a provocative question was worth way more than the price of admission. In fact, there are times when Darren and I still get intellectually tipsy over what we learned on our jaunt to America's 28th state.

Reason I'm bringing this up?

As it turns out, I have been in no fewer than four meetings this week with business owners from various backgrounds and experience levels, attempting to "pick my brain" on their most pressing issues. Inevitably, the conversational pattern begins with a focus on the message and tactics currently used to deliver their products and services. However, message and tactics are a shaky way to begin unless they are based on a sound business strategy and that strategy is much more effective when its built on a foundation of clarity on what their brand represents and who it matters to.

An example of a clarity question: Is the goal of advertising to be liked - or is it to sell products"? In other words, in order for a brand to stand for something that matters, it will automatically repel those who don’t like it. But far too often, business owners meekly sign up for batches of vanilla-sounding ads that get lost in the "white noise" of the market, with mindless messages that speak of "quality, selection and service you can trust from our friendly and knowledge staff". Can you picture this conversation ever happening?

"Holy dogshit Margaret, cancel the dinner plans. We're pulling over and heading to Happy Harry's right now. Can you believe they have friendly staff to go along with their everyday low prices and on the spot-financing!"

Let's be clear.

Ad speak stopped working on audiences more than a decade ago but the persistent echo of blah-blah-blah still pours from car radios because few business owners take time to consider the real cost involved. The customers who cost you the most are the ones you never saw. Why? Because nothing you said or did caught their attention. Weak, predictable messages are predictably ineffective because so little thought is given to what needs to happen first.

In our experience, owners need to spend far more time focused on acquiring clarity and developing strategy (working ON their business) as opposed to jumping in with new, clever, different messages and tactics in a desperate effort to acquire more customers (working IN their business). How will you be able to know what to say or deliver to a potential customer or employee if you don't know who you are - if you haven't yet discovered your brand essence?

And where is it written in the marketing gospels that you need to advertise at all?

Starbucks, The Running Room and Costco are several examples of companies that have based their business strategy on an unmistakable, uncompromising, brand essence. And nothing would stop you from following that formula. For example, in a recent edition of Atlantic Progress, brand essence was literally oozing from its pages while profiling Halifax optician Doug Gaudet. Reading about his splashy, sharply tailored wardrobe, complete with polka-dot tie, pointed shoes and designer eye wear, spoke volumes. Doug's look is 100% his own and I don't think it's a coincidence that all other optical shops pale in comparison. Customers walking into Gaudet Optical are greeted by a riot of bright colours, original artwork and a guy who believes “Eyeglasses are art for your face”. Some of the more outlandish or funky styles are not for everyone and as Gaudet explains "Sometimes people walk in the door, look around, and leave. They know right away they’re in the wrong place, and that’s fine.” You can digest the entire article at

Your confidence in your brand and its subsequent strength will be in direct proportion to the clarity you possess on what constitutes its essence. Want to avoid or delay the pursuit of clarity? Whether its on a personal or business level, just be prepared to suffer and deal with the apocalyptic consequences. One of the best teachers on this matter of clarity is a man they call "America's Business Philosopher". Here is Jim Rohn sharing his insights on clarity.

Jim Rohn has influenced the careers of many in the personal development industry, including Anthony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen, Brian Tracy, and Jack Canfield. He has addressed over 6,000 audiences, 4 million people worldwide and is the author of 17 different books, audio and video programs. Jim is also fond of saying, "If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn't need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around."

If your firm is on a treadmill to nowhere, fancy-schmancy messages or clever tactics are useless without taking time to gain clarity on brand essence and business strategy. In my experience, clarity often comes from following the lonely path of self-education. Being alone with nothing more than your thoughts and a good book. One of the more remarkable, self-taught professionals I know is Dan Martell, instrumental in launching Spheric Technologies out Moncton with clients that range from Warsaw to Washington. And, coincidentally enough , Dan e-mailed me this morning to share his latest nugget called the Top 77 Business Books . It's an intriguing list but I would add to it selections such as E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, Purple Cow, by Seth Godin, Talent is Never Enough, by John Maxwell, How to Sell a Lobster by Bill Bishop and the Wizard of Ads trilogy by Roy H. Williams, along with his weekly flavorings at

What about your own business education and professional development? Has a lack of clarity been holding you back? Are you having difficulty distinguishing between "busyness" and "effectiveness"? Do you get mired in the muck of messages and the tyranny of tactics? Are you able to sit still long enough to reflect on your brand essence as you sip from the glass of clarity?

Before you can enjoy the aromas and bouquet of success, you have to be able to "see" it. Your business will only ever grow according to the size and scope of your vision.

Are you beginning to see how the high cost of clarity is but a small fraction of the price of ignorance?

“People who are creative in business have a compelling vision or mission. They are successful because they love what they do; they seem to live directly from Essence, without the static from a false personality” DOUG GAUDET, Halifax NS – Progress Magazine, May 2008

p.s....if you're curious to know even more about clarity and its impact on business results, this story was written especially for you. I was there to watch it happen.

Just Call Me Coach in the Morning

Is a business, truly a business without a customer?

In JB's case, what do you do when your book isn't selling and you aren't getting any bookings for your speaking business? Can someone truly call himself an author/speaker if he doesn't have an audience?

Picture the scenario. Time, money and effort has been poured into traditional methods to try and acquire customers with little, if any, results. Maybe you know someone who has been faced with that situation. As recently as June of 2007, JB Glossinger found himself in that predicament and listened to the voice of a friend.

"Why don't you do a conference call - for free?"

"Bert, you don't understand, the whole idea of being a professional speaker is to get PAID! Otherwise, that makes me an amateur".

"How much are you getting PAID right now?"

So JB took Bert's advice to heart and started posting ads through craigslist, myspace and other forms of social media to promote his first FREE conference call to help people accelerate their personal development. After eight weeks of marketing this concept of a FREE call, building a website to support it, the moment of truth finally arrives.

DAY ONE. The first 15-minute call.

Three people are on the line.

DAY TWO. The second 15-minute call.

Ten people have joined the call.

One month later, more than 200 jam the lines, breaking the conference bridge and a daily podcast is born. Each weekday morning, at 7:45, JB Glossinger is hosting the number one real-time personal development Web site in the world. The podcast from is currently ranked top five in the world on iTunes daily. And he does it LIVE from Miami, Florida, for FREE each morning for an audience that has now surpassed 17,000 in at least 76 countries. One of the very few people on the planet to hold an MBA, and a Ph D in Metaphysics, his brand has skyrocketed through having the resourcefullness to teach himself the inner workings of social media. His self-acquired knowledge on this subject as escalated to the point where one of his other companies, is helping national-level clients leverage future trends through Internet marketing platforms. Here is a look at JB sharing with his audience.

JB Glossinger is a great example of someone who closes the Knowing-Doing G.A.P., referred to in yesterday's post. Academically brilliant, JB refuses to rest on intellectual laurels and instead jumps in and deals with issues that need dealing with. His groundbreaking book, Get Out of Neutral: Manifest the Life Experience You Desire, captures the story of how his sales career soared—from street-peddling cosmetics to buying and selling jumbo jets. His dissertation, on bringing spirituality back into the workplace, is finding a growing audience interested in more than making a quick buck through work that lacks meaning. Incidentally, several people e-mailed yesterday about the G.A.P. and what it stands for in relation to turning "knowing" into "doing". So here it is:

GROWTH. A personal decision.

Have you decided to grow as a person and as a professional? Are you serious about it? What new books have you read or people have you encountered in the last three to six months that have inspired growth on your part? Do you deliberately put yourself in a position to grow? According to Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, "five years from now, you will be pretty much the same as you are today except for two things: the books you read and the people you get close to".

ACTION. Deciding to do something, even if it isn't perfect the first time out.
Don't worry about your first few clumsy attempts as you try and form a new habit or learn a new skill. Everyone else starts the same way. Get over yourself. Just do it.

PASSION. Do you feel a sense of emotion over this thing you want to learn or do?
If you don't have a true passion for it, stop now and find something you are truly passionate about. So much so you would do it even if no one paid you. Personally, I find it tragic that some studies reveal about 70% of the working population are in careers or jobs they don't especially love or enjoy.

Like him or not, take him or leave him, there is no denying the passion JB Glossinger is bringing to the world of personal development. He positively lights up like Times Square; illuminating those who experience the power of his presence. If you find yourself lacking in the passion department and are ready for action to spur growth, you might want to listen to what JB has to say as part of your balanced breakfast in the morning.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Talking Shadows

In his poem `The Hollow Men', Nobel Prize winner T.S. Eliot may have captured the essence of human inertia.

"Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow. Between the conception and the creation, falls the shadow".

When it comes to the world of business, have you ever noticed how this shadow is often formed by the dark cloud of empty words? As though discussing an issue and planning for action are the same as actually fixing it?

Years ago, after participating in a global experiment on the subject, I started refering to this pattern of behaviour as the Knowing-Doing G.A.P. It is fascinating to me why we can often think of a great idea or hear something that we very much would want to do, but will be hard pressed to act on it. Much later, I discovered others (Eliot, for example) who had already dissected this aspect of the human condition, leading me to wonder how it impacts business and personal performance. For example, how many people do you know are able to "read" their way into fitness? Or learn to manage and lead people simply by taking a class? With respect to creating a "seamless" brand that makes and keeps a promise that matters, closing this G.A.P. is of paramount importance if one seeks to boost the amount of "doing" in an enterprise so often lost in the shroud of "talking".

You might be wondering, why does this G.A.P. exist in so many corporate environments? How does that happen? Is there an underlying reason?

One explanation is that business education is quite different from other kinds of training. Soldiers, pilots, truck drivers, nurses, surgeons and even some radio announcers all receive classroom training, but it quickly gets turned into learning by doing. Infantrymen crawl on their bellies and pull triggers on the firing range. Pilots climb into the cockpit and fly. Truckers jam gears, while doctors, nurses and radio announcers confront inner fears. In fact, there is an old saying in surgery that describes how residents learn a procedure: "Hear one, see one, do one." In business education, it's more like , "Hear one, talk about one, talk about one some more". The G.A.P. doesn't exist for a lack of available knowledge. The "knowing" part is well taken care of with more than 30,000 business books published each year; corporate training is a $70 billion dollar a year business in North America alone and more than 90,000 MBAs graduate annually.

Maybe we know too much. Could being too "smart" prevent many of us from just jumping in and doing what Nike wants us to do. It doesn't take a brainiac to figure out doing it actually requires DOING something! Tackling the hard work of making it happen. It's much easier (and safer) to sit around, pontificate intellectually, gather research, absorb technical details - without actually implementing anything.

Think back to when you learned to ride a bike, swim, use a computer, swing a golf club or play an instrument. It started with taking a leap into unchartered, unknown waters. At a critical point, you made a decision to overcome what fears and anxieties that existed and jumped in. You took an action, saw the consequences, and decided to either continue, or take a new and different approach. Experience and reflecting on what happened always taught you more than any manual or lecture. If mastery is the grail you are chasing, active participation is the only route to follow.

So, by definition, "doing" means conquering F.E.A.R.* and learning and in the process, learning means you will be making some mistakes.

But, if companies genuinely want to move from just knowing to "doing", a culture of forgiveness needs to be in place so people who come up with smart ideas, implement and learn in the process are given some slack. We all need to know it's OK to try things, even if we think we might fail. That means an end to Accountability Witchhunts in favor of a "we've got your back" culture that exists at companies like WestJet.

WestJet isn't interested in pinning blame when things go wrong, as they inevitably do. They only want to get planes in the air, in a profitable manner and learn how to prevent hiccups in the future. WestJet is second-to-none in Canada when it comes to creating the kind of winning spirit that every company wishes they had but few possess. From what I have observed, WestJet enjoys the benefits of it's culture (record profitability, sky-high customer and employee satisfaction ratings,etc.) because they just don't wish for it or talk about it. The Calgary-based airline actually makes it happen and they've been doing it ever since they started in the mid-1990's. You will get a sense of that spirit in this archival footage.

There isn't a company I've encountered where they all don't talk about how much they like people, believe in their people and want to do well by their people. Fact is many firms will spend very little, if anything on the development, care and maintenance of the people who are most responsible for executing the delivery of the brand promise on the front-line. According to WestJet co-founder Don Bell, “A brand is a promise. You can spend millions of dollars on advertising but if that flight attendant treats a customer badly, or she doesn’t know what the current promotion is all about – all that money is gone. A smile is a logo too. And that’s what WestJet understands better than most.”

For successful companies, like WestJet, the Knowing-Doing G.A.P. does not exist when it comes to delivery of the brand promise. There is no difference between how they think, who they are, and what they do. I have experienced this first-hand many times as a passenger and again in making arrangements with the VP of Talent, Janice Webster and the "Rock Star of People" Tyson Matheson who are among the featured presenters at "TAKING FLIGHT", the Atlantic HR Conference coming to Moncton, October 1-3, 2008. You can learn more at

So when it comes to building a great brand from the inside out, you might be asking, "What do I do? When do I get started?" Why not follow the advice of former San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci who once said, "I never wear a watch, because I always know it's now -- and now is when you should do it."

Leaving the shadow of the G.A.P. will mean taking a leap into the unknown, following a path of uncertain destination. Doing something you may not have experienced before. Forsaking the true cause of hollowness- failing to take action on a choice being offered.

How will you respond when the shadow appears?

*F.E.A.R. (False Expectation About Risk)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brand Candy

"And to make this seminar even more comfortable, we have bowls of M&M candies available ... with the brown ones removed for your protection".

With that one line, I was able to create intense curiosity in the minds of about 75 people who attended "The Branded Networker" several years ago at a regional conference. Since the program was split over two days, attendees were kept somewhat in suspense, to the point where people would approach me out of the blue at the evening social, offering their theories. For the first time in conference history, there were more attendees on the second day of the education session as more than 100 people showed up for the last half of "The Branded Networker" and discovered the mystery behind the "Brown M&M's".

As any fan of the rock group Van Halen can tell you, the standard performance contract during their glory days in the late 70’s and early ’80s contained a provision calling for them to be provided with a bowl of M&Ms, but with all the brown ones removed. David Lee Roth explained the method behind the madness in his autobiography, Crazy From The Heat:

"The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes . . .” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show."

Van Halen's recent reunion tour with the detail-obssessed Roth grossed more than 93 million U.S. dollars, making it the most successful tour in the band's 30 years. It also marked the first tour with 15 year-old bassist Wolfgang Van Halen on board joining his father, guitarist extraordinaire Eddie Van Halen and uncle drummer Alex Van Halen. Nearly one million fans attended the tour during 74 arena shows throughout the U.S. and Canada, including a crowd estimated at 90,000 this past July in Quebec City.

History even repeated itself during the Detroit stop on the tour when Wolfgang Van Halen requested “no Brown M&M’s” in his dressing room as a tribute to his father. The caterer ensured all of the brown ones were then placed in a bowl and left in Eddie’s dressing room.

The "Brown M&M's" story is a great example of developing a unique signature to attach to the everyday things you do in your business. It speaks to the need to pay strict attention to the tinest of details that impact your brand experience - in a way you can have fun with!

What sort of branding signals could you create in an effort to make delivery of your product or service even more "seamless"? Are there other brands that have effectively applied this approach in making sure customers are served in the way they intended?

Looking forward to seeing how you "Jump" on this posting.

p.s....We will keep you updated on when "The Branded Networker" will be offered again this fall.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Social Media Takes Flight

A growing, muscular beast of inter-connectivity.

The rise of Social Media is changing our habits and the way we interact with brands like never before. Social Media is forcing all of us in business (whether we like it or not)to re-examine what we thought we knew about marketing.

Personally, I'm starting to think that Social Media in all of its many forms (podcasting, blogging, you tube etc.) is similar to what was experienced in the early days of television in the 1950's. When TV first came on the air, it took some period of time before stations, networks and sponsors could figure out the best way to harness the power of the new technology. I think this period in history is similar to the era of black & white TV as far as Social Media is concerned, with few of us having any idea where it will all go - only that it's going to be one hell of a ride.

A great example is the upcoming Atlantic HR Conference coming to Moncton, October 1-3, 2008 and featuring some of the top business speakers in the world, including Roy H. Williams (aka, "The Wizard of Ads").Registration is being driven primarily by people like you, telling their friends, forwarding links and spreading the word virally via the web. Conference organizers have just released a web-based newsletter with links to video updates like the one seen here featuring Ken LeBlanc, CEO of

Far from a typical HR conference, "Taking Flight" is attracting heavy interest among CEO's looking for ways to address the growing issue of finding and keeping great people.

And I'm also seeing more owners and chief executives become curious about the evolution of Third Tuesday NB which at last count has 217 officially registered Social Media Enthusiasts. Sparked by the likes of Lisa Rousseau, David Alston and Dan Martell, Third Tuesday NB meets once a month, beginning again September 16th at Studio 700 in Moncton. It always attracts a diverse crowd with people from IT, marketing, business, tourism, health, and entrepreneurs getting together to better understand the dynamics of this collaborative medium. A great opportunity to learn why this mouse is truly starting to roar!

How is Social Media changing your world? Are you gathering information and making buying decisions differently than you were even a year ago?

Where do you think this Social Media monster is heading?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dream Driver

Three workmen are standing at the edge of a busy construction site, taking a break from their heavy, dusty labor. A passer-by asks the first of the workmen, “What are you doing”? With sweat dripping from his brow, he barely looks up before grunting, “I’m busting rocks”. When the passer-by asks the second workman the same question, he shrugs, “I’m earning a living”. Walking a little further, the passer-by encounters the third member of the work crew and asks the same question, “What are you doing?” The third workman turns, smiles broadly and says,“I’m building a cathedral”.

According to Peter Schutz, the former chairman and CEO of Porsche, people who are working towards a shared objective will always outwork and outperform a bunch of rock busters. The job of the executive, according to Schutz is to get everyone on the team to see the cathedral.

I had the honor of meeting Peter recently, at an invitation-only session hosted by Mike Mallory and the TEC 390 group out of Fredericton. Credited with sparking a dramatic turnaround at Porsche in the early 80s when the company quadrupled its sales over a 7-year period, Schutz believes if you build an organization of ordinary people who work together to build cathedrals you have created the only competitive edge capable of withstanding change. As he puts it, Porsche is NOT in the automotive business. Porsche is selling memberships in a dream.

Peter held his Fredericton audience spellbound for more than 2 hours as he spoke on the role a CEO plays in leading cathedral-building organizations. His book, "The Driving Force" quickly found a spot at the very top of many reading lists, including my own, as I seek to understand even more about a man who has made his mark on one of the world's greatest brands.

As Schutz sees it, "People buy other people before they buy the organization and the products and services it represents. You need to create a culture that bubbles with excitement so that people will dig in, spend their discretionary time and recruit more top talent". Referring to the success enjoyed by Porsche at the 24-Hour of Lemans, he explained, "Cars don’t win races. People and the way they work together is what wins races”.

After experiencing the wisdom shared by the former Porsche chairman it was fairly obvious to see why the commercial inserted in this post possesses a certain kind of magic. One that just might make you dream just a little.

Are there any other brands you have noticed that can make you feel like a kid again?

Any brands that cause you to dream?

"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral." --ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buying Gitomer

You are a salesperson.

Each day you are selling something.

A product, service or an idea.

Just trying to make plans for dinner and a movie will often see you trying to make a sale about where to go and what to watch. Either that or you just buy what someone else is selling.

Given that you are a salesperson by default, you now have a choice if you would prefer to conduct yourself as an amateur or a professional when it comes to how you operate in the world of business. If you opt for the latter, there are two words and only two words you need to be intimately familiar with.


If you are serious about learning how to sell as professional, Gitomer's "Little Red Book of Selling" is a must for your business library.

On August 4, 2008, I had the privelege of being in the room when Jeffrey was inducted into The National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame. For more than 30 years, the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame has honored professional speakers who have demonstrated mastery in 7 categories: originality of material, uniqueness of style, experience, delivery technique, image, reputation, professionalism, and relating to their audiences.So far, 191 of the world's greatest speakers have been inducted including Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, Colin Powell, Norman Vincent Peale, Earl Nightingale, Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar. Up to five people are selected each year to receive the award and Gitomer was part of that group honored at the NSA Annual Convention, held this year at the New York Marriott Marquis on Times Square.

Another must is Gitomer's "Little Black Book of Connections", as he continues to explore his overarching theme about giving value first. His material is first rate and - when implemented - it actually works! Gitomer has created a brand matched by few of his peers because he also has the courage to reveal what he stands against. Don't expect same old, same old from a guy like Gitomer. If that's what you want in a sales trainer, shop somewhere else.

Personally, I admire those who seek to give value first instead of trying to use schmaltzy sales techniques from the 80's and 90's as a way to manipulate me into buying something. Give me some frickin' value first, then allow me the freedom to decide if I want to buy. It's really quite simple when you think about it.

Is it just me or do you feel the same way? Who else have you noticed that is giving value first these days?

Now, if I can only decide what to do about dinner tonite ... Hmmm ...wonder if there any flicks worth catching?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Strategy that Packs Whack!

Ever wonder why the price of most printers has dropped to bargain basement levels?

It's called a loss leader.

In other words, many companies will sell you the printer dirt cheap only to get you hooked and paying through the nose on ink cartridges. That's where the real money is.

One company has decided to stay out of that game. And adopt a different strategy.

In an earlier post(August 8, 2008), I talked about the powerful effects of the re-branding initiative underway at Eastman Kodak, led by VP of Business Development, Jeff Hayzlett. He is the guy who stood his ground in a war of wills with Gene Simmons on NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice", beleiving his vision of a Kodak world is more sharply focused and in touch with what's going on than the KISS co-founder and proven marketing genius. It would appear recent events are proving Hayzlett right as he navigates through a transformation strategy that is allowing Kodak to bridge from a 20th-century product into a 21st-century brand experience.

Here is an example of how this strategy is impacting the message Kodak is sending to the world as one of Simmons "Celebrity Apprentice" co-stars Vinny Pastore takes out his frustrations on companies that subject consumers to high ink prices.

Interesting to note that Kodak was able to parlay its placement on “Celebrity Apprentice” into a 50% increase in sales of consumer inkjet photo printers in the week after the show. According to Hayzlett, Kodak was able to generate 4.4 mentions per minute of its "Easy Share" product over the length of the 43-minute episode. While Canon, Epson, HP and many others are locked into similar loss-leader strategies, Kodak is playing on a different field taking, with a different approach -one with vast consequences on the "message" being sent to consumers.

Have you ever stopped to think about the connection between your "strategy" and how it impacts the "message" you are sending?

Can you see where the high number of weak, predictable ads filled with the blah, blah, blah of white noise (friendly & knowledgable staff, quality, selection and low prices, etc) can be linked to an equally weak or copycat strategy?

What have you noticed lately about unique business strategies that drive a remarkable brand message and customer experience?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jockeying with Camels


This is about to get controversial.

Today we explore the deeper implications of the proverb "a camel is a horse designed by a committee". Essentially, this phrase is used to condemn group decision-making, emphasizing the headache of incorporating too many conflicting opinions into a single project. In this figure of speech, the distinguishing features of a camel, (humps and cranky demeanour), are taken to be flaws that resulted from poor design.

"Design by Committee" causes needless complexity, wasted time and the lack of a unifying vision; cleverly portrayed in this video which shows us what the creative process would be like if the STOP sign was created in 2008.

The video illustrates not only the inherent flaw in a "design by committee" approach but also the "spine of a jellyfish" character of the designer. Do you think any designer or creative person worth their salt would permit that level of bastardization of their work? At one point does a professional speak up in an attempt to STOP this Insanity? Are there not cases when the customer is not always "right" and as such requires a caring and courageous professional to save them from themselves?

If you are that designer or "creative" type (writer, videographer, sculptor etc.), it would appear that if "they" came up with the camel, then by default "you" have become its jockey. Hey, you let the nonsense happen against your better judgment and it's your signature on the work.

If you are the "customer" in this scenario think of it this way. The next time you are in a meeting with a "creative" type and they start defending their work with passion, disagreeing with the 47 changes you want to make, perhaps it's because they DO know what they're doing and have the balls to stand up for their craft - even at the risk of insulting you or losing your business. Maybe it's because they can see a thoroughbred that you can't.

Not every jockey can ride a thoroughbred. Do you think this video sheds any light on why it's so rare to see Triple Crown winners in any business or profession?

What are your thoughts?

P.S...The origins of "a camel is a horse designed by committee" has been attributed to Vogue magazine, July 1958 and also to University of Wisconsin philosophy professor Lester Hunt.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Give Peas a Chance

Cheryl's mother always said ...
“Eat your peas!
They’re good for you.”

Each one of Cheryl's "Eat Your Peas" books are filled with nutrients of another kind. Nutrients that feed the relationships that we treasure most.

I met Cheryl Karpen at a gathering earlier this summer in St. Andrews, NB and discovered a woman who has been touching lives on a whole new level with her 3-minute books that include one three unique promises. Her first book in the series - "Eat Your Peas for Young Adults" - was written for a special young friend, who lived more than 1,800 miles from her and going through an especially difficult time. "I wanted her to know she could call me any time, at any hour, and I would be there for her," Karpen recalls. "At the very beginning of her book I made a place to write my phone number so she knew I was serious about being available. And right beside her phone number I put my promise to listen---really listen---whenever that call came. Finally, I promised to listen without judging.

Soon after "Eat Your Peas for Young Adults" was published, people began to ask Karpen if she had the same promise for adults. As she puts it, "I realized it isn’t just young people who need to be reminded how truly special they are. We all do".

What I have come to admire about Cheryl in the time I have gotten to know her is that she embodies an ideal that many talk about but rarely act on. As Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying, "If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it. Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person".

Karpen's publishing company, based in Anoka, Minnesota is doing it person-to-person in a big way ; selling more than 10,000 books that touch hearts and souls each month. You can discover more at

Have you ever wished someone would just listen to you without judging? Listen and accept you unconditionally? If we're lucky, we might come accross a handful of those kind of people during our lifetime. If you are fortunate enough to stumble on to a genuine listener, do you return the favor?

On a scale of 1-to-10, how do you rate in the listening department?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rock Steady Branding

A double thumbs up and a pumped-fist salute today to Marc Little and the Watermen with their efforts to become part of the fabric of our national culture with their submission of a new "Hockey Night in Canada" theme. The reason for the accolades has little to do with their video entry(which by the way, I find brilliant and at least deserving of some serious consideration). Instead, I find myself admiring the level of perserverance that forms 90% of what is underneath the tip of the iceberg you will watch and listen to on-screen.

I can recall the first time I saw Marc Little belt out a scorching version of the Eagles "Desperado" back in the late 80's when he was an up-and-comer, starting to get serious about the music business. I have watched with interest how his career has unfolded and no matter what turns it has taken, Marc has steadily built up a fan base of people who admire the heart and soul he brings to his music. With his latest project, "The Watermen", Marc has strategically added branding elements which are slowly starting to make waves in the market place with professional visuals and a growing web prescence. (

Along with fellow "Watermen" Tom Thompson, Paul Boudreau, Denis Mongrain and Gilles Savoie, the band produced a self-titled, debut album which has been released by Magada Distribution out of Montreal. The decades of hard work may be about to pay off in a big way but no matter what comes of this HNIC project, one can't deny the sincerity of the effort that Marc has demonstrated in following his passion for music and nurturing his skills as an artist along the way.

To learn more about the HNIC challenge, check out:

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work". THOMAS EDISON

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Taking Flight" - An Update

Registration numbers are growing and buzz is building for what will be THE major business conference in all of Atlantic Canada for 2008. Thanks to David Cannon, Rachelle Gagnon and other smart folks at the Human Resources Association of New Brunswick, they rolled the dice in designing an event that will make all other HR-type conferences pale in comparison.


The entire "Taking Flight" experience (October 1-3, 2008) will be seen through the sharply-focused lens of the CEO. The benefit is that HR people will better understand how to influence agendas at the executive level while the C-suite gains more appreciation of how HR can be leveraged as a brand-builder.

That's why securing both Don Schmincke and Roy H. Williams as keynote speakers is a coup that rivals that of Elton John appearing at the Moncton Coliseum. (OK , it's bit of a stretch - but not much for those who have experienced and implemented what these two authors write and talk about).

In the case of Roy (aka "The Wizard of Ads") conference attendees will get a chance to experience first-hand what many students of Wizard Academy leave with after attending one of his classes at the campus located just outside of Austin, TX.

To learn more about Wizard Academy, check out

To learn more about "Taking Flight" (cleverly disguised as an HR Conference) zip on over to . The Conference Newsletter is in its final stages of preparation and will be blasting through e-mail servers shortly with a number of interesting insights to keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

UnCommon Clarity - Do You KNOW What Your Customer is REALLY Buying?

In his landmark Harvard Business Review article, "Marketing Myopia," Theodore Levitt stressed the need for businesses to define themselves not in terms of the products they sell, but in terms of the customers they serve. Marketing Myopia is something one avoids by answering a simple question, "What business are we REALLY in?"

As an example, Levitt was suggesting as far back the early 1960's that the railroads stopped growing because they assumed they were in the "rail" business rather than the transportation business. He contends if they had seen themselves and their customers in a different light, they might have been able to own the technology created by the Wright Brothers and kept existing customers through owning the development of aviation. Instead, the new technology inspired competitors to jump in and take customers and market share away from the dinosaurs of rail.

So what is your customer really buying? Does the husband really buy a diamond ring or is he buying the expression on her face? Do you really pay for fertilizer, or do you just want green grass? Am I really buying four bicycles, or am I buying good health and family togetherness?

Too many times I have seen businesses depend so much on the rational value of their products/services alone (features and benefits) they wind up on a track to obsolescence. What if you discovered what your customer really wants - and then gave it to him?

Here is an example of one company that has addressed this issue ...

Can you figure what the people who manufacture these products are really selling? Don't think you need to be a Harvard professor to figure it out.

But, when is the last time you stopped to figure out what your customer is really buying?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Seeing the Impossible Become Possible!

A week later and I still can't get over what Bill Strickland is accomplishing in Pittsburgh with the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. I am sure I have told at least a dozen or more people that it felt like being in the room with Martin Luther King as Bill addressed the 2000 or so delegates to the National Speakers Association conference, August 4th in New York City.

I was so taken by Bill’s story that I found myself choking back tears while smiling and laughing in between. Take a look at this video and see if you don't draw similar conclusions about the value of Bill's work.

With his friend Herbie Hancock tickling the ivories, I found a video where Bill Strickland outlines the work that he is doing to fight poverty. It's people like him that we can learn so much from and can only hope that the political and governmental world will some day tap into this kind of mojo.

Personally, I have no trouble picturing Denzel Washington playing Strickland in a major motion picture some day in much the same way Will Smith portrayed Chris Gardner in the Pursuit of Happyness.

Friday, August 8, 2008

This is so NOT your Father's Kodak

I really admire what Jeff Hayzlett is doing in his current role as Chief Business Development Officer and VP of the Eastman Kodak Company. In his recent presentation to the National Speakers Association Annual Conference in New York City, Hayzlett shared what I thought were some remarkable ideas on how Kodak's re-branding efforts extend far beyond a new look with a new logo.

It was especially impressive because it's not often you see a Chief Marketing Officer speak extensively on how Employee Ambassadors are a huge part of their growth. Hayzlett shared what Kodak is doing internally to re-engage a work force that has turned over by about 60% in the last four years. This video ( shot exclusively for and shared with Kodak employees) is a part of this internal branding strategy.

Take a look. Enjoy the moment.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

NSA Rocks!

Just back from four unforgettable days in the Big Apple and the annual conference for the National Speakers Association. NSA Rocks! featured the likes of Omar Minaya, Cathie Black, Steve Forbes, and many others providing a multitude of thought-provoking insights.

From Jerry Simmons, I learned that publishing is a 25 BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR INDUSTRY. Six major publishers control 90% of that market, primarily though their arrangements and shelf space fees with major retailers such as Costco, Target, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart etc. Basically, about 250 people are making the decisions about what the world reads. Shelf space is just real estate for lease. 90% of the revenues come from 10% of the titles. That works out to 45,000 titles generating 90% of the 25 billion dollar pie. These are the works of about 1,350 authors. Approximately 292,000 books represent the remaining 10% of the market. Check out Jerry at

Can't say enought about Marshall Goldsmith who advised delegates to "help more, judge less". Marhsall is a generous guy who gives away his best stuff at . In his words, “I’m going to die anyway, might as well do some good while I am here”.

Jeff Hayzlett of Eastman Kodak made us appreciate the level of complexity in rebranding a company that was selling $15 billion dollars worth of film five years ago. It’s now down to $50 million dollars as Jeff meets the challenge of getting 19 business units to speak with one voice. It is so not your father's Kodak.

Simon Kirke, co-founder of the rock group Bad Company advised us to "Save the planet because it’s the only one we’ve got. And don’t be an asshole”.

Speaking legend Les Browne beleives that "people are living in desperation because of the stories they believe. Through guidance, practice and patience you can change people through a speech". Browne is the kind of guy who reads 2/3 books a week and does 140 pushups at the age of 65. “Not to impress you but to impress upon you but if information could change people, everyone would be skinny, rich and happy"

Best of all, in my opinion, was the riveting keynote delivered on the final day by Bill Strickland, the man who is changing the world one slide show at a time. Bill beleives that people are born into the world as assets – not liabilities. Environment drives behavior and poor people deserve to see beauty. Founder of the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, Strickland shared that people are a function of little things like sunlight and flowers that serve as cures for spiritual cancer.

You will be fascinated by what you will discover if you explore what Bill is up to and how one person can change the world at

Many thanks to NSA President Marc LeBlanc for all his efforts to lead this world-class show, to Dan Martell for making the trip with me to the Big Apple and Martin Latulippe for pushing me to take this plunge in the first place.