leadership dot #3131: crumbs

In a savvy merchandising move, Dot’s Pretzels has now converted the crumbs of its signature product into a new item instead of disposing of it as waste. The company sells “Crumble” as an accent that you can use to enhance pork, fish, chicken, or to create pie crusts. How have we lived so long without it?!

There is likely some “crumble” in your organization – content that can be repurposed for additional uses, resources that can be packaged into something new, or even people who can function in different roles to create new value. Others have already seen the obvious innovations. Look around for the crumbs to leverage what has not yet been discovered.

leadership dot #3123: snow days

Every kid dreams of waking up to hear that a snow day has been declared. But as if we needed one more thing to polarize us, it now seems that there are two distinct views about whether or not school districts should continue to cancel classes and declare snow days given the pervasiveness of remote learning.


Soup company Campbell’s is out to influence the decision by creating a campaign “to preserve and protect the most magical of winter birthrights: the snow day.” Their Save the Snow Day website is beautifully done and helps rekindle the joy that snow days bring.

While e-learning can continue no matter what the weather, having that spontaneous time for winter fun is a treasured part of childhood and should outweigh another day in front of the computer. If you agree, you can sign their pledge, stating that you believe:

  • In saving the snow day because of the unbridled joy it brings
  • Every snowflake dreams of becoming a snowball
  • Hills were made to be sled down
  • Cold days call for hot soup
  • The world can always use more snow angels
  • In powering down screens for more snow day family-time

Campbell’s campaign is a clever way to raise the awareness of its product and engage consumers outside of direct, overt advertising. Watch their website for lessons not only about snow days themselves but for how to align your brand with a current topic in ways that are strategically smart.

Thanks, Mike!

free download from http://www.savethesnowday.com


leadership dot #3117: dumpster fire

We often use greeting cards to convey sentiments that we feel but can’t quite put into words, and our thoughts about the pandemic are no exception. In a sign of the times, Hallmark features a fun line of virus-related cards designed to share our thoughts during COVID.

Some examples:

  • You’re like Netflix during a pandemic – I couldn’t live without you
  • Fire is red, dumpsters are gritty. I’m sorry right now – isn’t great
  • Look at the bright side of a virtual birthday party! – No need to share your cake. No need to wear pants.

You can take a cue from Hallmark and share sentiments that acknowledge reality, even if that is a dumpster fire right now. Don’t hold back from letting others know you’re thinking about them just because you don’t have a litany of rosy thoughts to share. Your communication always needs to be real, but not always cheery.


leadership dot #3103: holiday

At first glance, breakfast foods and holiday sweaters have nothing to do with each other but the folks at Kellogg’s thought differently. They marketed a special version of Pop-Tarts with silly sweater designs that could serve as novel stocking stuffers, package embellishments, or morning pastries and the “limited edition” sugar cookie flavor earned it a prominent display in the store.

Saying something is the holiday version of a product is often enough to make the ordinary special enough to spur purchasing. Look around at all the holiday soaps, paper plates, dog treats, air fresheners, cereals, cakes and just about every item imaginable that features a Christmas version of the same product. It happens in the fall with pumpkin spice flavors for everything as well as for Valentine’s Day, Easter and just about every opportunity manufacturers can find to make something appear new.

It doesn’t take much to make an ordinary product seem festive. Look at what you offer in a new light and with a broad imagination. If Pop-Tarts can feature ugly sweaters, maybe your offerings can add a bit of holiday fun and reach a wider audience as a result.

leadership dot #3095: scars

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to receive Harry and David’s Riviera Pears, you’ll know that they are normally near-perfect specimens of the fruit. But not this year. Today, the pears come with noticeable brown spots and blemishes that make them appear quite ordinary.

To protect the reputation of Harry and David as well as proactively avert disappointment by its customers, these pears come with a brilliantly-written explanation:

Wind-Scarred Pears

Noticing unique markings on your Royal Riviera Pears? These blemishes are called wind scars and are the result of high winds whipping tree branches and causing abrasions to the skin of our delicate pears. Sadly, these same winds contributed to the spread of devastating fires in our Southern Oregon community – destroying homes and displacing countless people.

 We often pride ourselves in the beauty of our Royal Riviera Pears, and this harvest is no exception, if only in a different way. These scars are a reminder of what our community has been through and how we’ve rallied to support one another. The untouched, juicy, delicious interior of the pear demonstrates –it’s what’s inside that counts.

 If for any reason you’re not happy with your purchase, just let us know and we’ll make it right with an appropriate replacement or refund.


My guess is that no one is going to request a refund for their order, whereas without the note, a host of people would have been disappointed or angry at the fruit’s bruised appearance. With a few well-chosen words, their writer saved the harvest.

If you have an unfortunate situation in your organization, you may be tempted to gloss over it or respond only when customers contact you. Take a lesson from Harry and David and do the opposite – turn your misfortune into a proactive, brand win by being upfront and thoughtful in your accompanying messaging.

Thanks, Mike.

leadership dot #3082: rotten apple

The keyboard on my computer frequently sticks – causing the spacebar to malfunction and the words to mushalltogetherlike this. As you can imagine, it’s quite annoying. So, when I finally had access to an Apple Store, I eagerly took it in for repair.

“Yes, we’d be happy to replace it. Yes, you need a whole new keyboard, not just a fix. Yes, it’s faulty – we’ve had many of them and would replace it for free even if you did not have the AppleCare service program.” Great. Until we came to the kicker: “Just leave it with us and we’ll have it back to you in 7-10 business days.” Gulp.

Two weeks without a computer seems impossible to me. There are the daily dots. Zoom meetings. Documents. Calendars. Well, everything is on my computer.

Apple is worth $2 trillion and is considered the most valuable company in the world. Wouldn’t you think that they could do a better job of handling problems like this? Provide a loaner computer. Do repairs on-site. Expedite repairs that need to be sent out so it takes a day or two, not a week or two. Be proactive in offering options for repair instead of having people make service appointments only to be told: “yeah, we know, but mail it in.”

Problems happen. But if you become aware of them in your organization, try to be more empathetic and responsive in addressing them. Handling issues well can actually endear your customers to you even more than if something bad did not happen. If only Apple had learned that lesson.

leadership dot #3075: delighted

We’re getting a Jersey Mike’s sub restaurant in town (in three days – not that I’m counting.) I am very excited about this. When I was walking by the store this weekend, I peered into the window where the crew was undergoing training. An employee started walking toward me and I left, thinking that I interrupted them and they were only going to tell me that they were not yet open. Instead, she came running after me and handed me a coupon for a free sub!

Yesterday, I happened to be in the area with a friend and he peeked inside. This time, the manager came out, chatted with us for several minutes, gave both of us another free sub coupon, and then asked us what our favorite sandwich was — and then made it for us! Free Jersey Mike’s before it even opens! Oh, the joy.

Except for a sign in front of their storefront, I haven’t seen any overt advertising for the chain but think their method of delighting those that show interest is wise. It seems smart to capitalize on those who are most likely to spread the word and stimulate early business instead of spending the money on paid promotion.

Who could you deploy as ambassadors for your brand just by providing a small incentive? Make it easy for those who know you to love you even more.


leadership dot #3047: phygital

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember that getting the Sears Wish Book was a highlight of the holiday season. We would pour through the pages, soaking in all of the options that we might ask Santa to gift us. Then the Sears catalog went away, and eventually, Sears went away, replaced by the online giants such as Amazon.

So, it was a puzzlement to me to learn that Amazon mailed out a holiday catalog this year – real paper sent in “snail mail.” It seems to be antithetical to their entire business model. Even more astonishing is that they have opened up a physical presence – a 4 Star Store – in a mall, no less. (Everything in the store is rated 4 stars or higher.) The company that essentially delivered the death blow to malls and catalogs is embracing both strategies this holiday season.

Amazon’s move is indicative of “phygital” where you merge the best of a physical environment and digital presence. Instead of one or the other, it’s now both. It turns out that deep down, we’re a tactile bunch and prefer to have some physical interaction before we buy.

Amazon has just raised the bar for everyone. How will your organization respond?

leadership dot #3033: box

The Dream Summit I referenced on Friday was part of a two-day remote conference. In addition to providing all of the content for free, the first 100 to sign up were sent a box of treasures in advance. What a delight to unexpectedly receive a package of branded gifts: a blanket, mug, doodle pencils, poster holder and the program for the event!

If you’re hosting a remote program, can you model their practice and send something in the mail in advance? The sponsor, American Family Insurance, may have more resources than your organization but don’t consider this an all-or-nothing proposition. In this heavily screen-driven era, anything tangible increases in value. Even a piece of mail – the program, a handwritten note of welcome, a “Bingo” card to play along for keywords – can help your event feel more special.

Give your program an added dimension by including a physical enhancement to your virtual programming. It will help make “just another Zoom meeting” become an actual event.


leadership dot #3026: adapt

If only everyone would adapt as quickly as manufacturers to the pandemic! If you walk in any store or scroll through your social media feed, you’ll find a host of products targeted at new needs. There are “Hygiene Hands” and “Germ Keys” to allow you to be touchless, a full fashion assortment of masks, screen backgrounds to set up a home studio, UVC light and sanitizers in every size. Companies have jumped on the bandwagon to promote branded masks and virtual backgrounds – things that would have been laughed at in January but are now in hot demand.

Retailers have rearranged their space to provide a full selection of pandemic-related products in the front of their store or an aisle of masks along with the school supplies. They are capitalizing on new demand and leveraging their ability to meet it.

And what about your organization? Have you introduced new offerings in light of all the changes 2020 has brought? Have you shifted how you feature things, maybe resurrecting that previous resource that suddenly has new relevance? Or created new training for staff that focuses on wellness or physical safety instead of traditional professional development?

It’s time to reevaluate your branding and your services to see if some rearranging might be warranted to meet the needs of today.