Mar 132012
 

Article first published as Mad Men: Back (Finally). And Back To The Future. on Blogcritics.

Compelling Content And Characters Transcend Time And Place.


Mad Men
 Season 5 is upon us and we’re ready to head back to the ’60s—the Golden Age of advertising, decades before the internet, digital communications and social media. Mad Men is quintessential 1960s Madison Avenue, yet the show has been enthusiastically adopted and adapted by today’s digitally enabled viewers as well as modern Mad Men (and Women). While the narrative of Mad Men is firmly entrenched in the ‘60s, the show enjoys a thriving present life in both the real and virtual worlds of its fans. These connections flow from an enduring interest in the ad world, a fascination with the ’60s and, perhaps most of all, the deep, character driven, storytelling prowess of the show. Compelling content brilliantly executed. And now, Google has enabled a way for us to experience the iconic advertising of the Mad Men era interpreted through digital eyes – a tribute to the creativity of the real Mad Men who lived it. Compelling content brilliantly re-imagined.

Follow us @

As expected, the show set up its own @MadMen Twitter account and it has a nice following. But something unusual happened as Mad Men took hold. Independent of the show’s marketing campaign, MadMen characters started popping up on Twitter with their “personal” accounts. We got to meet @dondraper, @peggyolson and the rest of the cast in real time. These “unauthorized” Mad Men Twitter personalities were created and painstakingly brought to life and cared for every day by dedicated fans and followers. Fictional characters from the ‘60s actually live a fan generated parallel life in the present day. Their digital personas became intertwined and interconnected with their lives on the show and a Mad Men character driven Twitter sub-culture evolved.

Interestingly, when these “unauthorized” Twitter accounts popped up, the network acted like they were stuck in the ‘60s and moved quickly to shut them down. But reaction from viewers to bring them back was so strong that the decision was reversed and they live today in our digital lives. Don Draper’s sobering welcome to the power of social media.

Creativity Inspires Cultural Infusion

Beyond these personas on Twitter there are fan generated Facebook Fan pages, stunning Pinterest boards, countless blogs, You Tube Videos, etc. The scope and creativity of this fan adoption and adaptation is impressive. Mad Men infographics visualize a range of facts and information from achronicle of events across each season to a Wired magazine “who slept with who” bed hopping show all. There are “What Would Don Draper Do” articles about everything from problem solving to Occupy to advertising the Olympics. An article in The Huffington Post covered the growing popularity of a new meme that one-ups #Tebowing…#Draping. These are fan created visualizations that mimic the iconic Don Draper silhouettes from the show’s advertising that reside on tumblr.

A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled a wide array of planned virtual and real world events to mark the return of the show. There’s even a special “Mad Men In The City” package being offered by The Roosevelt Hotel where Don Draper stayed after his wife Betty threw him out. Mad Men has found its place in our present day virtual and real world culture.

Google Meets & Morphs The Ads Of Mad Men

All of this is exciting, entertaining and fun. But as an ad guy and a Mad Man, one of the most interesting and unique events that captured my attention isn’t about the show. It’s a very special project that celebrates the advertising campaigns that were created in the Mad Men era. Google’s Project Rebrief: “A grand experiment whereby Google partnered with five of the brightest “old-school” advertising legends to re-imagine their most iconic creative work from a half-century ago for the modern web.”

Thanks to this marvelous undertaking by Google, we get to see famous campaigns for Coke, Volvo, Avis and Alka Seltzer re-imagined and executed for the digital age. What makes this especially wonderful is that Google pairs up the original Mad Men that created the ads with Google’s young, bright, energetic creative staff. We watch them work, interact and ideate. Magic happens. Thanks Google, Amil Gargano, Howie Cohen, Bob Pasqualina, Paula Green and Harvey Gabor for making this digital Mad Men adventure possible. Shining Lights…still.

What Would Don Draper Think

This is indeed an exciting time to be bringing great advertising ideas to life. Technology enables better, more personal ways to tell stories and connect with people 24/7 wherever they are. The Project Rebrief melding of traditional and digital ideation and media creates a very special story and a captivating journey that even Don Draper would have loved. Sure, Don would have been a bit skeptical at first, just like some of the real life Mad Men and Women in this series. But in the end, Don would have enjoyed more than a few cocktails to celebrate the end results and seize the opportunity to lay down some Draper dogma at SCDP:
1. Big emotional ideas are at the heart of all great advertising
2. Passionate invested people create & bring great ideas to life
3. Big ideas stand the test of time and travel well across all media
4. It still all comes down to the art of great storytelling

Sage advice that modern Mad Men would be wise to follow. No matter how much things change, some things stay the same.

Season 5. About time.

 

 

Share
Jun 062011
 

Article first published as Innovation – It Makes The World Go ‘Round on Blogcritics.

The Social Media Inside Of Innovation

Innovation is all around us and impacts just about every aspect of our lives. In today’s digital, technology empowered world the pace of innovation is ever increasing. Concurrently, the performance bar is also being raised in everything from product development, service delivery, creativity, design, and workplace management. It is very easy to get swept away by the technology of innovation…it can be amazing. So, it is very important to constantly remind ourselves that the essence of innovation still lies with people and their passion for ideas and discovery. And this week I am very lucky to be surrounded by some of the most innovative and passionate people in the world. How good is that!

A Collaborative Innovation Summit

The World Innovation Forum 2011 is being held in New York City this week and I am honored to be one of about 50 people designated as “some the very best business bloggers” embedded right in the middle of all the action. The World Innovation Forum brings together ideas and insights from a unique group of experts and practitioners offering their personal perspectives on how innovation is being implemented across an array of different fields. This is a powerhouse group of innovators including one of my all time favorite big thinkers and innovators Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

Listening “Softer” To See Deeper

As an asset-based thinker I’ll be looking at how speakers tell their stories about unleashing their personal power and innovative spirit, how they persevere by seeing threats as challenges, turn shortcomings into aspirations, and leverage collaboration versus competition. Learning how these asset based approaches have helped motivate and leverage the power and promise of innovation in the past can serve as invaluable guideposts for the future.

Another great opportunity at this event will be listening to the buzz and chatter of the businessmen, academics, and innovators in the audience, observing their body language and feeling their enthusiasm. There will also be a Bloggers Hub complete with high speed internet access, cloud resources, and all the electronic bells and whistles we’ll need to report live from the conference.

Positive Social Media Amps Up Engagement

The event organizers, HSM Global, get a big Asset-Based Thinking shout-out for creating the Bloggers Hub, a unique feature at the event. It is a state-of-the-art resource placed right in the middle of the action that provides the featured bloggers with full access to everything happening at the event—upfront and behind the scenes. The bloggers hub is a very smart communication idea for conferences, with some great “ABT” benefits.

• Facilitates a friendly, open platform for bloggers to provide real time updates, commentary, and coverage of the speeches of some very smart and influential leaders.

• Serves as a micro-community of a diverse group of bloggers to connect around a common interest…live reporting and disseminating information of significance…what I call “Content of Consequence.”

• Creates an environment of mutually supportive and connected energy that feeds on itself. A special “vibe” that brings a new collective dynamic to a usually solitary writing process.

• Provides a “streaming commentary” on topics and discussions as they happen and invites real time response and interaction from each blogger’s audience which we in turn can use as fuel for our reporting.

• Links a network of “Trust Agents” and enables their power to apply leverage to issues and opportunities. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) describes this as the “Archimedes Effect” in his book entitled (of course) Trust Agents.

Stay Tuned. More To Come

 

 

Share
May 302011
 

Article first published as Unleashing the Soft Impact of Knowledge Sharing on Blogcritics.

Creating Commitment, Connection And Community

Technology and the people driving it are changing the way we see and experience just about everything, especially the dissemination of knowledge in meetings, events, seminars and classrooms. Over the past few years  I’ve been honored to speak at a number of events… everything from digital marketing summits, social media conferences, event planning think tanks, American Heart Association global conferences, Asset-Based Thinking workshops to local town hall meetings with moms and kids. And now, I am fortunate to be teaching at USC’s Marshall School of Business creating lectures and engaging students in the digital classroom. For me, these experiences have been an invigorating, ever expanding exposure to a new world of communications, information exchange and a re-discovering the art of personal persuasion in a digital age.

The Gift Of Positive Disruption

After almost five decades in the marketing communications business and at the ripe young age of 67, I find myself in awe of and thoroughly energized by how the nature of knowledge based meetings, conferences and facilitated learning has changed. As a communications person I was fascinated by (and sometimes leery of) the pervasive influence of technology…it is everywhere, every time and with everyone. Live-streaming, iPads, open laptops, video, i-reporting, real-time blogs, tweet streams, back-channels, podcasts, blackberries, personalized video channels, i-phones, webinars, etc. are now standard fare. As an asset-based thinker, rather than being intimidated and threatened by these tech tools and rapid-fire changes, I looked at them as challenges and powerful positive gifts of disruption and jumped on board. My leeriness about depersonalization, disconnectedness and distraction dissolved into a firm embrace of these tools as assets and a belief that, when properly utilized, all this tech is helping create richer, deeper, more connected and sustainable knowledge sharing.

Technology Enables. People Experience.

Over the years we’ve come to expect the dissemination of information and knowledge to be continually enabled and enhanced by the latest and greatest technology. What’s changed now is that this impressive array of technology is also in the hands (literally) of recipients, attendees and casual observers. This means that everyone involved…teachers, technicians, organizers, facilitators, speakers, recipients, support media….everyone, has the opportunity to raise their game and their expectations. Knowledge management is now as much about listening as it is broadcasting and engaging as it is educating. We’ve all heard the term “listen harder” which implies narrowing your focus and blocking out distraction. Enlightened use of technology enables  “listening  softer” so we can actually pay deeper attention to a person and listen with our eyes and hearts as well as our ears. Everyone involved hears, speaks and feels more. Connected, engaged communities emerge.

Inside The Softer Side Of Technology

Earlier this month I was invited by Sonic Foundry, a leading edge rich media webcasting, lecture capture and knowledge management company, to deliver a keynote address at their 5th annual Unleash Conference in Madison Wisconsin. Each year they bring together over two hundred of the best and the brightest in their fields to look ahead to what’s next in technology, network and share ideas and best practices. Attending the Unleash event gave me an even greater appreciation for the power and promise of technology, reminded me of the responsibility we all have to use and share it wisely and provided the motivation for this article. It was an honor to have the opportunity to talk to the attendees about Asset-Based Thinking and how it could help them make the most of the rapid change influencing their professional and personal lives. Here’s a link to my talk enabled by their Mediasite technology.

The practical knowledge I gained through the presentations, workshops and individual discussions will make my work easier and better. What impressed me most, however, was something that went well beyond the amazing technology and expertise present at the conference. What stood out was the emotional side of the experience. The energy and passion of the people behind the technology, their sense of mission and higher purpose and the open, collaborative community of sharing they created was wonderful. It was all about people creating,developing and refining ideas together. A wonderful example of technology being in service to people and their ideas, not vice versa.  Asset-Based Thinking at its best. Sonic Foundry’s mission statement captures it well.

Helping create the libraries of tomorrow with technology that doesn’t compound the world’s information overload. We are working to put a human face on all knowledge online, and we believe the world will be more knowledgeable, more connected as a result.

Technology driven change presents opportunity and challenge. The opportunity to engage people in communication experiences (large or small) that are interactive, iterative, participatory, shared and sustainable. The challenge is to remember that great ideas and powerful content make technology its most meaningful and valuable.

This quote from advertising pioneer and creative genius Bill Bernbach sums it up best.

An idea can turn to dust or magic depending upon the creative talent that rubs against it.

Now. Unleash the Magicians!

Share
Jul 092010
 

Over the past few months I’ve attended or spoken at more than a half dozen events and meetings. All different and very worthwhile. Last month I was fortunate to attend The World Innovation Forum in New York City. This particular event was a gathering of some great thought leaders across an array of industries, causes and companies. (More on the highlights and impressions from this powerful conference soon.)

This post is about how technology and  connection are changing the very nature and experience of meetings, events and conferences….for the better. As a communications person, I was fascinated by the pervasive presence of technology at all of the conferences I recently attended – everywhere and with everyone. We’ve come to expect the event organizers to employ the latest and greatest technology to deliver a powerful experience. What’s changed now is the impressive array of technology that is also in the hands (literally) of the attendees and how smartly and creatively people are using it to build relationships and connections that enhance their event and meeting experiences.This convergence of technology is definitely changing the way everyone “experiences” the event experience…organizers, attendees, speakers and media.

Events Inside The Event:

Video, livestreaming, i-reporting, laptops, tweet streams, blackberries, i-phones, i-pads, podcasts, videographers are everywhere. In some ways the energy and buzz around all of this activity and technology creates mini events within the events. For me, these were all positive experiences that generated energy, enabled new forms of engagement and added spontaneity to the events. My most recent experience at the World Innovation Forum was particularly interesting and worth sharing.

I was fortunate to be one of about thirty bloggers invited to “cover” the event as part of what was called The ‘Bloggers’ Hub”….a private social media press club. We had great seats, full access to everything at the event, and all the power and broadband internet connectivity we needed. (Well, most of the time…we did crash it a few times). We had free reign and were encouraged to be active and free flowing. None of us really knew what to expect. It turned out to be a very positive and productive experience for the bloggers, our audiences, the speakers, attendees and the organizers. The open and diverse mix of people created a “bloggers’ hub effect” with some very tangible benefits. Here are few:

Bloggers Hub Benefits:

• Facilitates a friendly, open platform for bloggers to provide real time updates, commentary and coverage of the speeches, presentations and other content. These are simultaneously shared with everyone at the event, over the internet and archived for later use.
• Serves as a micro-community of a diverse group of writers connecting around a common interest…live reporting and disseminating information of significance from the event…on the spot content creation centered on innovation.
• Creates an environment of mutually supportive and connected energy that feeds on itself. A special “vibe” that brings a new collective dynamic to a usually solitary writing process.
• Provides a “streaming commentary” on innovation topics and discussions as they happen and invites real time response and interaction from each blogger (and their audiences) which in turn fuels better reporting and writing.
• Links a network of “Trust Agents” to leverage the content being presented and discussed among the attendees. We created our own mini “Archimedes Effect” at the event.
• Provides a sustainable linked in platform for follow up commentary, analysis and networking that lives well beyond the event itself….in some cases for months.

As Asset-Based Thinking Perspective:

Technology is changing the way people see and experience just about everything, including meetings and events. Technology driven change presents opportunity and challenge. The opportunity to engage people in meeting experiences (large or small) that are more interactive, participatory, shared and sustainable. The challenge is to remember that it’s great ideas, substance and powerful content that make technology meaningful and valuable.

Now, where’s the cocktail party?

Share
May 102010
 

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS CHANGING MADISON AVENUE

No, I’m not Don Draper from Mad Men. But I’m an ad guy. I teach advertising in the grad school at USC and, yes, I am a twitterholic, @hankwasiak.

My career in advertising started in the Mad Men era and I am fortunate to still be doing what I love at The Concept Farm, a very cool creative company located on .85 acres in the heart of Chelsea in New York City. I’ve gone from a Mad Man to a Happy Farmer and along the way have lived through just about every shift and change in the advertising business over the past five decades.

And, coincidentally I’m right in the middle of putting together a syllabus for my class, picking a text book, and selecting case studies. It became obvious pretty quickly that the way business schools teach advertising has not yet caught up with actuality and, in many ways, is a metaphor for the mindset of Madison Avenue today. All of this has mashed up in to a point of view and perspective on where social media is taking the advertising business.

The Times They Are a Changing — Fast

Unlike the conventional doom and gloom wisdom about the death of advertising as we know it, I can honestly say that my enthusiasm for the future of advertising has never been higher. This enthusiasm and optimism is fueled by social media. Social media is the game changer, the killer app that is reshaping Madison Avenue at its very core in three major ways:

  1. The fundamentals of the marketing mix
  2. The nature of how advertising is supposed to work
  3. The measurement metrics of success

This is big time change. It’s powerful, exciting stuff. It’s all happening at once and it’s happening fast. Now is the time for Madison Avenue to re-invent itself by focusing on the endless upside possibilities opened up by social media. And, to do this, today’s Mad Men must change the way they see social media because the term social media has becomes a self-limiting frame of reference. To put what’s next into perspective, it’s helpful to look back.

Back To The Future? No Way

My first job in advertising was in 1965 at an ad agency called Benton & Bowles as one of those account men you see at Sterling Cooper on Mad Men. I often get asked if the show is an accurate reflection of what it was really like. In most respects it is. Sterling Cooper is eerily similar to Benton & Bowles. The client situations, office dynamics, and, of course, the drinking, sex, and smoking are all spot on. Except when I arrived, most of us were smoking something a lot more stimulating than Lucky Strikes.

Mad Men is a great show that beautifully captures a time when Madison Avenue was seen as a trendsetting arbiter of American values and these Mad Men showed us who we wanted to be and told us what to buy. And, for the most part, we loved it. While it’s clear that Madison Avenue as Don Draper knew it is gone forever, the fundamentals of the advertising business have remained essentially the same, until now. Just about the time that advertising was catching up with how to harness the power of an Internet-driven digital media world, along comes social media. Social media has created a “watershed moment” for Madison Avenue because of these fundamental systemic changes.

The Pillars of the Marketing Mix: The 4 Ps

Four fundamental pillars of the marketing mix have been embedded in marketing plans and practices since the 1960s: Product. Price. Place. Promotion. As relevant as ever. So, when social media came along the conventional wisdom was to see it as a new form of advertising — another way to “reach” consumers. While treating social media as a subset of advertising might have been okay initially, it grossly undervalues social media’s real role today. So, if social media is more than media, what has it become? Social media has morphed into the fifth pillar “P” of the marketing mix: People. Today a marketer must have a People Strategy developed in concert with its Product Price, Place, and Promotion strategies.

Time Magazine named YOU as its Person of The Year in 2006. The power and potential of what that cover foretold is just now coming into its own. When People Strategy becomes as fundamentally important as the other four Ps,it changes the way you strategize, organize, monetize, and commercialize a business. This isn’t semantics. It’s fundamental change.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is a person I admire. He is a visionary who saw this potential long before everyone else and he nailed it with this quote: “Embarking on social media strategy to help with marketing is like embarking on a facial muscle strategy to help with smiling.”

The 5 Ps. It is fundamental systemic change.

The Advertising Communication Model Has Expanded And Stretched

For decades, Mad Men have used a simple, four-letter shorthand for what advertising has to accomplish to be effective: AIDA Attention. Interest. Desire. Action. Not bad but then but not good enough today. Social media has added two other dimensions that are critical to success. The first is the letter “E” for Engagement. Consumers welcome getting involved with products and brands on many levels — on their own terms. People want to talk amongst themselves before they interact with a brand or a business.

The other dimension is the letter “S” for Sustainability. Today ideas and messages must be crafted to also encourage shareability so they sustain themselves well beyond their initial delivery and media contexts.

So now the shorthand should look something like this: A+IDEAS. They are connected and interdependent. Unless creative ideas and programs organically lend themselves to this construct they will miss the mark.

A New Success Ethic Has Changed the Metrics of Effectiveness

And again, social media has been the catalyst for much of this change. This really came into dramatic focus for me earlier this month when I had the opportunity to be a real-time blogger embedded at the World Business Forum in New York City. CEO after CEO and some of the best global thought leaders talked about the future of business. Here are the relevant highlights.

The hard assets that are traditionally used to gauge the strength and value of a business are as important as ever. However, they are the “table stakes” of today — the costs of entry. Soft Assets are increasingly seen as the business differentiators of the future. Here’s a sampling of the descriptions and comments that permeated their talks and filled the blogs.

  • Values based business – culture
  • Purpose driven marketing – passion
  • Trust built on transparency – truth
  • Corporate responsibility that fosters collaboration
  • “Healthy” companies that act “human”
  • Motivation that creates aspiration

If these words and expressions sound familiar, they should. This IS the language of social media. And, these differentiators are changing the way socially responsible businesses see “profit.” Now there are three tiers of profit that matter.

  • Dollar profit – The fiscal performance of the business
  • Emotional profit – The rewards for employees and stakeholders
  • Greater good profit – The positive impact on the community

These are major, important, enlightened shifts that are taking place in big, medium, and small businesses everywhere. Mad Men can lead by listening to them.

Mad Men&Women 2.0

This convergence of changes brought about by social media ( the five pillar “Ps”, the new communications model, enlightened metrics of success) has created a perfect storm for a mindset makeover on Madison Avenue. My top five thought starters:

Spend as much time talking with people as creating ads to reach them and shift from shouting and selling to sharing and helping.

Suppress the urge to say “we can do it all” and deliver the best of what you do best. Protect the integrity of your ideas, not your “turf.”

Embrace collabetition. Collaborate with like-minded competitors to create and deliver A+IDEAS for clients. Fair compensation will follow from value added.

Move from a master of the universe mentality to thinking like a maestro conducting a symphony orchestra of communication “instruments.”

The quality of an ad agency’s culture and values should be as visible and award-winning as its work.

Don Draper would not like what he sees on Madison Avenue today. But I sure do. We’re on the cusp of big change. As with most disruptive change, innovation and bold new thinking usually come from the fringe and then go mainstream. I’m very excited and grateful to be part of what’s next. And, I can’t wait to get in front of my class at USC and see what they have to teach me.

Also, we are launching a new regular feature series in the Video section of Blogcritics called Mad Men Confidential featuring real Mad Men commenting on advertising and AMC’s Mad Men TV show. Informative. Entertaining. Provocative. True.

Check it out and stay tuned.

Share
Feb 082010
 

Pepsi’s “opt out” of the Super Bowl and “opt in” to Social Media Is A Game Winner.

Sure, with over 90 million viewers the Super Bowl is the one of the most watched events on the planet. Its commercials have become an essential part of Super Bowl appeal and folklore. Super Bowl spots generate more buzz than the half time show spectaculars. Last week Nielsen released a study that shows more viewers like watching the ads than they do the game by a margin of 51 to 49%! Even in a challenging economic environment and at $2.5 to $3.0 million per :30, CBS sold out its Super Bowl inventory of 60+ commercial slots in record time. As a long time advertising guy who has been part of all this commercial fun and frenzy since Super Bowl I, I readily admit that I too eagerly awaited the 2010 commercial line up and the subsequent debate over the hits and misses. (For the most part this year’s crop was disappointing, but that’s another story) Nevertheless, there will always be a market and demand for Super Bowl advertising stardom. That’s not in question.

So, What’s The Big Deal?

After 23 consecutive years of paying big dollars to air some of the best Super Bowl spots ever, Pepsi’s decision to opt out as a Super Bowl sponsor when Coca Cola stayed in, was big headline grabbing news. It certainly was the number one topic of discussion among the students taking my USC graduate school advertising strategy class. So, we decided to apply some Asset-Based Thinking and look for the “teaching moments” in all of this media hype. The more important story that emerges with even bigger implications lies in what Pepsi is doing in lieu of spending all that Super Bowl cash. Pepsi turned the deficits and problems associated with pulling out of the Super Bowl into brand assets and opportunities by implementing a smart, creative, values based marketing program.

The Refresh Project: Fostering Innovation In Social Good Through Social Marketing

Throughout 2010 Pepsi will be doling out at least $20 million to fund great ideas that improve America’s communities. “Pepsi will fund ideas that will move the world forward in six categories: Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods and Education. People are encouraged to submit their ideas and cast a vote for their favorite projects at the Refresh Project website www.refresheverything.com.” There will be commercials to promote the project, substantial digital media, customized content created by media partners and extensive use of social media. A year long consumer engagement program that Pepsi hopes will become a key element of the Brand’s relationship with people and demonstrate that doing good is also good for business.

A Very Smart Brand Building Decision.

The Pepsi brand has established a reputation for thinking differently and aligning itself with the exuberance of youth, upbeat messaging and being ahead of the communications curve. Pepsi’s Super Bowl side step and concurrent social media plunge hit the mark in six important ways:

  1. Pulling out of the Super Bowl is a provocative way for Pepsi to question conventional wisdom and very much in line with its brand values. The brand’s absence generated as much, if not more, coverage and discussion than usually afforded the actual commercials.
  2. Their opt-out is in sync with current and emerging consumer values of responsible consumption and spending. Meaning matters as much as money and much more than hype.
  3. Pepsi’s opt –in to Social Media is recognition that it understands and values the new way people connect and communicate.
  4. By aggressively embracing cause marketing with a significant financial commitment ($20 Million+) Pepsi tangibly demonstrates a respect for and commitment to corporate social responsibility. This resonates with youth and shows that Pepsi is willing to do what it takes to deliver on that promise.
  5. The Pepsi Refresh Project is a powerful delivery of the Brand’s new global campaign theme… “Every generation refreshes the world. Now it’s your turn.” (I posted an earlier commentary on the Pepsi campaign)  The Refresh Project provides the delivery system for people to bring this theme to life in their own way.
  6. Pepsi is trading a perishable advertising message for a sustainable communications platform upon which a wide array of people engagements can be developed, grow and take on a life of their own.

The Medium (or absence of it) Is the Message.
Having an advertising presence in the Super Bowl carries with it a certain cachet and gravitas. Participating as an advertiser “says something” about a brand or company’s importance, resources and creativity. The message delivered can range from being a fleeting moment of creative fame or flop to becoming an institutionalized part of one of America’s most beloved and iconic sporting events. Pepsi certainly has become part of the Super Bowl sponsor elite so its decision to opt out spoke volumes about the Pepsi Brand. Here’s what it said.

Pepsi is….

  • Bold enough to move from being one of the “usual suspects” expected to show up on Super Bowl Sunday to being the “exceptional exception” that people seek out and personally engage with all year.
  • Has the confidence to trade the immediate, center stage brand buzz of a spectacular event for an on-going, meaningful conversation that builds a sustained shared experience.
  • Proud to share and live its brand values through the values and passions of other people.

This quote from Lee Clow, the legendary chief creative office of Pepsi’s ad agency, TBWA Worldwide sums it well.

Our idea was that this year we’d try to shift the marketing and communications to something that’s truly walking the walk. The goal is to develop a mechanism for young people to create ideas to make things better that will ultimately become part of the global behavior of the brand.

The “P” In Pepsi Stands For People

All of this reaffirms my belief that for companies and brands to survive and thrive in the future they must value people as asset and embrace a transparent and ongoing People strategy as the fifth pillar of the marketing mix….right along side Product, Price, Place and Promotion. My article from a few months ago, “From Mad Man To Twitterholic”, describes how Social Media has fundamentally changed the game on Madison Avenue. What we’re seeing with the Pepsi Refresh Project and their exit from the Super Bowl is a manifestation of these systemic changes and a sign of exciting and positive things to come. Trust, Transparency and Truth are the new currency of marketing. The Pepsi Refresh Project spends the Pepsi brand currency very wisely. By the way, is anyone talking about the Coke commercials?

Oh yeah. Super Bowl XLIV turned out to be one hell of a game….much better than the commercials. Kudos to the Saints.  Congratulations to the winning spirit of the people of New Orleans.

Can’t wait until next year!

Share
Oct 082009
 

The sky is falling….maybe

The beginning of the afternoon at the World Business Forum can best be summed up as a sobering barrage of the pitfalls, perils, and problems ahead of us. David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, presented a non-stop litany of facts to drive home his admonition that “Just because the recession will be ‘over’ soon doesn’t mean it’s all going to be OK.” His command of the numbers and their implications was simultaneously amazing and numbing

sachs

Then Jeffrey Sachs gave us on a macro view of the unprecedented challenges we face as a result of living in a totally interconnected world, a planet bursting at the seams and not able to sustain itself, a US political system and governance gone awry over the past 25 years, and America’s ever dimming presence and influence.

Whew. Do we have anything to look forward to? Hopefully.

Two Asset-Based Thinking takeaways:

  • Vigilance is Virtue – There still are tough times ahead. Consolidate your assets…personal, relational and situational…so you’re ready to face them.
  • Cooperation and Collaboration on a global scale will be core drivers of a better future. No man is an island…positive, inter-dependent relationships are valued assets.

T. Boone Pickens: Building Value and Living Your Values

Substance. Style. Soul.

pickensThe discussion with Mr. Pickens had the feel and tone of a nice living room chat with one of your favorite uncles or mentors. The interviewer started out with a review of Mr. Pickens’ great wealth. Mr. Pickens was quick to point out that it wasn’t until he was 70 that he made his “first billion” and added that his five children and thirteen grandchildren are an equally important measure of his wealth. Now that’s a set of values that all of us should emulate.

Immediately, it became apparent that Mr. Pickens views wealth as a consequence of hard work, risk taking, passion, and resilience. Perhaps more important, he believes that building and leveraging a portfolio of softer assets is also essential: listening, connection, service, purpose, and values. He feels that CEOs must have a sense of caring and connection to their shareholders and, unfortunately, most do not, putting themselves before the good of their shareholders. Ain’t that the truth.

He really came alive when the discussion turned to his most recent venture, The Pickens Plan For Energy Independence. Mr. Pickens said he does not view himself as an environmental activist. He sees himself as being in pursuit of his Noble Cause, Security for America though energy independence…the positive environmental impact is an ancillary benefit.

Some great T. Boone Pickens Asset-Based Thinking advice:

The pursuit of your Mighty Cause and making “profit” go hand in hand. You have to change the way you see profit. It’s multi-leveled. Money. Emotional Rewards. Greater Good.

He is very proud of the fact that his Pickens Plan now has an online following of over 1.6 million people – what politicians call his “army.” He sees those 1.6 million advocates as more powerful leverage that all his billions and corporate holdings. Another example of the value that Mr. Pickens places on softer assets and his sense of values.

I’m signed up for the Pickens Plan and he’s on my Mount Rushmore of people I admire and respect.

Kevin Roberts and Building Brands – Love Me!

Kevin is the Creative Director for Saatchi, a large multi-national ad agency. In his book, Lovemarks, he very smartly discusses why brands today have to create “loyalty beyond reason” by delivering “emotionally priceless value.” Then, a brand can transform itself into a “Lovemark.” The art of creating emotional connections with consumers to build brands is not new in the advertising business. In fact, satisfying emotional needs is a “cost of entry” in today’s communications business. The major “now” dynamic taking the art of emotion to new levels are the power and control of the consumer and social media.

The Asset-Based Thinking insight in Kevin’s presentation was a simple one. To build a Lovemark, businesses have to let go of their brands and turn them over to the consumer. Let the brand speak for itself. In Asset-Based Thinking terms we call that “Losing Control to Get Traction.” This works just as well in your personal life as it does in building Lovemarks. Try it. You’ll like it.

George Lucas and Creative Innovation – Class!

George LucasGeorge Lucas capped off the day with an intimate and personal discussion of his life and his journey through the film business. He is the antithesis of Hollywood. Calm, classy, reasonable, values-based, independent…and one of the most inventive and creative people on the planet. The total package. He learned early on how to work with the assets and opportunities which present themselves.

Here are some wonderful asset-based thinking insights I heard from George Lucas.

  • Art is communicating emotions from one human to another…we need technology to enable that transfer. The value of emotional connections drives much of what he does.
  • As Yoda might say, be careful with what you hate because you might become it. – Commenting on the fact that he really doesn’t like writing scripts. He wanted to be an illustrator and make documentaries.
  • Never make your hobby your business. – Advice from dad on the importance of commitment to professionalism.
  • Practice reasonable civil discourse as the best way to get things done. Don’t yell, demand or intimidate. Enough said.
  • It’s not about writing a script. It’s about telling a story. Great advice on how to approach communication in general.

Finally, he encouraged everyone to put their passions to use for the greater good. What Asset-Based Thinkers call finding their “Mighty Cause.” George Lucas’ Mighty Cause is learning and education. He founded the nonprofit Edutopia and is using his talents and resources to study how teachers teach, find and document best practices, and share them online with the world. His vision is to create “learning machines.”

The afternoon started out with a barrage of the downside, the problems; then it gracefully moved though to a vision of upside possibilities and potential. A perfect setup for cocktails and the bloggers’ dinner.

More to come tomorrow from Day 2

Share
Oct 072009
 

Bloggers hubSitting in the front row in the Bloggers Hub at The World Business Forum. Wired, ready to go and surrounded by 50 of the best bloggers on the planet. A bit intimidating. These are some of the most savvy social media folks around, smart thinkers, great writers and they type a lot faster than me.

Undaunted, I’ve put on my Asset-Based Thinking lenses and will be viewing the conference with an eye towards how speakers address positive change and momentum. I’ll also be drawing on the energy and support of my fellow bloggers.

Some Asset-Based Thinking take-aways from the morning session.

Setting The Stage
Les Hinton, CEO of the Dow Jones Company summed up the past year with a quote. “If you ride through hell, you don’t stop.” He advised the audience to be vigilant and “keep on riding” since there are still challenges ahead. It’s not over yet. He was simultaneously optimistic about focusing on the future, the importance of small business and sticking to what business does best. Creating value!

Bill George & How Crisis Shapes Leaders
Bill George, from Harvard, delivered a personal and practical talk on “Leading In A Crisis” based on his excellent book, “7 Lessons For Leading In A Crisis”. Overall, he’s concerned that the aftermath of the crisis may be worse than the “storm” itself because of the jobs issues. Bill believes that leaders have been too focused on saving jobs rather than creating jobs and that small business is the job creation engine that drives our future. Amen.

Bill also said this. “Crisis is the true test of a leader and great leaders never let a good crisis go to waste”. Only by taking the crisis head on and looking deep into the eye of the storm can a leader see the opportunities on the other side. And, great leaders actively learn how to “anticipate” crisis and be ready.

His best Asset-Based Thinking advice was this. When facing a crisis one should lead by his or her True North Values. The beliefs and values by which you lead your life should be the way you lead in your business. Another humbling thought. The career you have built over 30 years can be lost in 30 minutes if a crisis is not handled with leadership and integrity.

Bill Conaty & Making The Most of The Human Resource

Bill served as head of HR at GE under the legendary Jack Welch. Together they built a World Class company built on performance based values. He underscored the need to have Human Resources move beyond being viewed ad the “pensions and picnics” to being positioned a real business partner, employee advocate and “trustee” of the company values. (love they concept of a values trustee)

Theses are the ingredients necessary to build a performance based culture

  • Passionate CEO commitment.
  • Well understood values.
  • Real goals and measurements.
  • Trust and candor in evaluations. (Trust Agents in your company)
  • Consequences for failing.
  • Always raising the bar

Bill’s best asset-based thinking advice was this.

“Making the numbers and embracing core values are the metrics of success. Too much time is spent on the number…without the values superior performance is not sustainable”

To borrow a phrase from a past election…It’s about the values, stupid. The best leaders make sure that values are deeply embedded into a company, at all levels, and that there is a clear succession plan to carry them on.

Pat Lencioni – Trust Shall Set You Free.
A real deal Team Building guru. Pat was the energizing finale of the morning. The ultimate “infotainment” speaker, Pat made transformed the simple principles of building effective teams into profound, practical and powerful insights.

He believes that for any business to maximize its potential the business needs to do two things very well….be intellectually SMART (the nuts and bolts of the business) and operational HEALTHY (The emotional & personal engagement of the business) The right balance of these two critical ingredients build a teamwork culture that minimizes politics and confusion maximizes morale, productivity and retention.

Some other pithy tips and advice:

  • Health lets a business tap more deeply into its smart side.
  • A cohesive leadership team requires both Intellectual Clarity and Behavioral Clarity
  • Don’t fear redundancy. Over communicate the clarity.

Pat identified what I believe is the “silver bullet” in enabling functional teamwork to flourish and help make a business great. Trust. Predictive trust (to say what one believes) and vulnerability based trust ( to feel free to admit shortcomings and be vulnerable)

This multi-dimensional trust helps everyone overcome their fear of conflict – not personal conflict – but debate and positive conflict over issues. Without conflict there can’t be true commitment.

Pat’s simple wisdom – Conflict with trust is pursuit of the truth. Without Trust its politics. Foster an environment of “Disagree and Commit”.

Finally, Pat made an emotional appeal to the audience to realize that as leaders they have profound influence on the everyday lives of the people they work with. He summed up leadership as a “profound ministry”. An inspiring Amen for all of us in the audience.

Lunch time. Refuel for an exciting afternoon of Jeffrey Sachs and T.Boone Pickens.

Share
Oct 062009
 

Positive Social Media Adrenaline Amps Up Business Events

WBF Radio City

Reporting live on Day 1 as a featured blogger at the World Business Forum (#wbf09) at Radio City Music hall in NYC. A beautiful day in the Big Apple for a Big Idea business conference.

Bloggers Hub Buzz
Even before the speeches begin one of the event’s unique features is generating a great deal of positive chatter. The event organizers, HSM get a big Asset-Based Thinking shout out for creating the Bloggers Hub. It is a state of the art resource placed right in the middle of the action that houses about 50 featured bloggers providing us with full access to everything happening at the event. The bloggers hub is new and very smart communication idea for conferences, the benefits of which are apparent even at this early stage.

Bloggers Hub Benefits That I See

  • Facilitates a friendly, open platform for bloggers to provide real time updates, commentary and coverage of the speeches of some very smart and influential leaders.
  • Serves as a micro-community of a diverse group of bloggers to connect around a common interest…live reporting and disseminating information of significance…what I call “Content of Consequence”
  • Creates an environment of mutually supportive and connected energy that feeds on itself. A special “vibe” that brings a new collective dynamic to a usually solitary writing process.
  • Provides a “streaming commentary” on topics and discussions as they happen and invites real time response and interaction from each blogger’s audience which we in turn can use as fuel for our reporting.
  • Links a network of “Trust Agents” and enables their power to apply leverage to issues and opportunities. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) describes this as the “Archimedes Effect” in his brilliant new book entitled ( of course) Trust Agents.

So, stay tuned for live blog posts, tweets, twirtpics, twitvids, facebook updates and more from The World Business Forum. Welcome to what Jeff Pulver  (@jeffpulver) has dubbed The State of Now.

Share