leadership dot #2780: print this

Many emails come with a notice in the signature that includes “Don’t print this email.” or “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”

Thus, it was a surprise when I read the email from my printer who takes the opposite view:

Notice!  It’s OK to print this email.  Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees.  Growing and harvesting trees provide jobs for millions of Americans.  Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air & water, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage.  Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.

 It’s a perspective that you don’t hear very often but one that caused me to pause.

Your point of view is shaped by the information that you have and how it intersects with you personally, so for a printer, printing is good, even if it is an email. The signature is very on-brand, even if it is environmentally controversial.

To print or not to print — Don’t overlook the role that your emails play in conveying your values and message.

leadership dot #2766: material

During a recent trip to the fabric store, I was amazed at the amount of branded material that is available. Back in the day, you could only buy florals, gingham and generic patterns, but today fabric is liberally licensed. There are authorized versions of material featuring Girl Scout emblems, 4-H, Dr. Seuss, Disney characters including Mickey Mouse and princesses, Harry Potter and more.

Somewhere along the way, companies realized that they were better served by giving up some control of their characters and gaining revenue from direct licensing instead of the lose-lose scenario that resulted from the thriving knock-off market instead. Yes, Disney may cringe if executives saw some of the uses for its material, but in the end, the trade-off seemed to benefit them.

Social media has shifted some of the power away from the C-suite, and in a similar vein, so has branded fabrics. Companies today are wise to explore avenues to give their customers or clients more latitude in how they interact with the organization and embrace ways that your clients can make your brand their own.

leadership dot #2764: leveraged

If I asked you what Girl Scouts sell, your almost-instantaneous reply would be “cookies.” And you would be right – in part. The Scouts have capitalized on the popularity of their product and the proliferation of brand extensions everywhere to move beyond cookies into a multitude of products featuring their famous Thin Mint and Samoa (coconut & caramel) flavors.

You can now purchase Thin-Mint-flavored chickpea snacks, Coffeemate flavored creamer, gum, yogurt cereal, tea and ice cream sandwiches. Samoa fans can find the flavor in ice cream, cupcakes, Coffeemate, and gum. Their peanut butter chocolate cookies also come as yogurt. Instead of selling cookies, they have morphed into licensing flavors.

The Girl Scouts have also expanded beyond partnerships to sell additional items directly. Troops can offer chocolate raisins, fruit slices, caramels and toffee in addition to their delectable cookie assortment. Their brand extension offers lessons to women about how to take an established core product and leverage the brand beyond the item itself.

Think about what strength in your organization can benefit from partnerships or direct growth. Capitalize on the reputation of the old to make it into something new, yet familiar.

Thanks, Wendy!

leadership dot #2761: alchemy

Have you noticed that Polaroid – the company once thought of as dead when instant photos were supplanted by digital – has made a resurgence? Polaroid retained its iconic rainbow packaging and reappeared in several places during my holiday shopping.

The company has returned with a new lineup of products that all revolve around imagery – now more broadly defined. Instant photos are back and so is Polaroid; plus, they have expanded into digital frames, and even more cutting-edge is their entrée into the 3D printing market with filament and 3D printers.

I think about the contrast with Kodak who has all but disappeared from the retail space and amateur market, but Polaroid seems to have found new ways to utilize its technology to sell directly to consumers. I especially am intrigued by their combination of relaunching the original Polaroid instant photos (capitalizing on the vintage/everything old is new again trend) and their futuristic outlook with home-based 3D. It is a prime example of “preserving the core and stimulating progress” recommended in Built to Last*.

 As we start the new year, take some time to both look back and look ahead with your product or service offering. Can you take a lesson from Polaroid and find the alchemy between the two?

*Built to Last by Jerry I. Porras and Jim Collins


leadership dot #2747: autograph

I received an early present that was an autographed CD – and I love it. Of course, the music is good but having that Sharpie-scroll from the artist makes it extra special. I treasure my autographed books, too, and this gift caused me to lament the loss of autographs and cover art that has been supplanted by Kindles and streaming and all forms of digitization.

I wonder if selfies have become the new autograph. Now, instead of a signature, people take pictures with the “famous person” as I have done with presidential candidates coming through town. It’s nice, but not the same.

As you move to new technologies and update your operations, think about how you can preserve some of the aspects that made things special. Autographs may be old school but they’re still endearing to some.


leadership dot #2739: decorations

Most organizations decorate for the holidays but few pay attention to how those embellishments align with their brand. An exception to this is ChickFilA. Their wreaths, tree and even garland is done in the consistent cow-like black and white with cow ornaments everywhere.

I’m sure that headquarters coordinated the purchase and design of the supplies and invested a bit of extra time and money in doing so but the effort reinforces the ChickFilA brand and allows each franchise to remain consistent within the entire chain.

The same idea can be accomplished for a lot less money as illustrated by this photo that circulated on Facebook showing how nurses expressed their identity in their decorations:

Source: Facebook CNA and Care Givers November 30, 2019

Take a look at the holiday symbols around your organization. If they were placed in another setting, would others know they were yours? Do they communicate your message in addition to adding a festive element for the season? Do they represent you?

The 2019 season is wrapping up, but the time to think about next year is now. Take advantage of hindsight and after-Christmas sales to utilize your décor as another vehicle to reinforce your brand.



leadership dot #2738: opt to act

There is no One. Big. Thing. that can solve the climate issues that we are facing but many people doing many things is a good first step. Toward this end, outdoor outfitter REI is encouraging people to participate in a weekly Opt to Act challenge to incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into their routine. “On their own, none of these 52 actions are going to save the world,” reads the REI website, “But each week offers a chance to incorporate more eco-friendly behavior into your everyday life. And if we all start being better, together, we can do a lot of good.”

The outfitter has prepared a checklist suggesting actions people can take each week. Most require only modest effort, such as using public transportation to one event this week, set your thermometer one degree lower this week, count the number of single-use plastic items you use this week or go meatless one day this week. I think it illustrates that helping the environment can become part of your habits and doesn’t have to involve a major sacrifice or lifestyle change.

Access the checklist here and Opt to Act responsibly in 2020.