leadership dot #3886: cooking

In the competitive hotel market, there is a continual quest to have the latest feature to set a property apart from others. As a result, such amenities as free breakfasts, streaming services, workout rooms, and internet connections have become standard in many chains. Now, it seems, the attention has turned from focusing on the bedroom component of your stay to upgrading the kitchen as well.

As part of this niche, Marriott’s Townplace Suites promotes a “Something Borrowed” campaign where guests can borrow various tools to help with food preparation on the property. The hotel prominently features grills near the entranceway and facilities now offer grilling seasonings, a Suite Eats cookbook, mixing bowls, slow cookers, rice cookers, and blenders. You can check out supplies to use in your in-room kitchen and have a home-cooked meal on the road.

There is only so much a chain can do to distinguish itself when it provides a narrow service so Townplace broadened its definition of what they offer. Maybe your organization can cook up a new way to serve your clients.

leadership dot #3874: hay

When the caretaker went to feed the Clydesdales at a traveling exhibit, I noticed two things about the process. First, the bales of hay were smaller than a typical bale — sized in the right proportion to feed the horses. There was no messy process of pitching out straws from a larger bale and leaving it in a pile; these were designed to be the amount that each horse needed.

What I also noticed was that even though the doors to the enclosures were in the rear, each bale was tossed to the front of the stall. In this way, the visitors could see the head of the horse instead of the rear as he ate.

Both of these practices are very small but they speak to the attention Budweiser pays to the Clydesdale experience. Everything about the exhibit was considered, down to the last details.

Have you thought through your experiences through the lens of the end user? Take it straight from the horse’s mouth and listen to Bud on how to master the minutiae and maximize your branding.

leadership dot #3873: party

If you are of a certain age, you probably remember Tupperware parties — the highly successful distribution system for what has become the generic name for plastic serving containers. Until recently, Tupperware was only available via distributors who sold the products to groups gathered in homes for demonstrations of the signature sealing “burp” or via those who sold the goods at vendor fairs as a licensed representative. Tupperware parties were almost synonymous with the product.

But no more. Today, you can buy the Tupperware brand at your local Target mixed in with all the other domestic products that are distributed to the masses in the same way. Whether due to the changing (mostly female) workforce, a belief that its quality will distinguish it from lower-cost plastic containers, or the declining interest/time for home events, the company has abandoned its pioneering exclusivity.

Is it a good move that allows Tupperware to acknowledge realities and evolve with the times or is it a serious error that compromises a core element of its long-standing brand? How you reach your customers is a key element of your organizational strategy. Don’t leave the party too early.

leadership dot #3857: timely

Even if you’re not a football fan, most people are aware that an NFL player collapsed during a game in January and required resuscitation on the field. That player, Damar Hamlin, is now pairing with the American Heart Association to promote CPR education and solicit donations so that others may be saved by CPR as he was.

It’s a smart partnership and kudos to the Heart Association for jumping on the opportunity. They are using Hamlin as a spokesperson to promote their 60-second video teaching hands-only CPR techniques and challenging people to tag three of their friends after they do so. If their campaign is successful, it could not only raise millions but also save lives.

When the Association did its annual planning, Hamlin wasn’t on anyone’s mind and certainly wasn’t included in their strategy. But someone recognized that plans should be living documents and evolve as circumstances change. Creating a campaign around a very visible event where CPR was the hero was not only timely but smart.

Take two lessons from this dot: first, use 60 seconds to gain a lesson in CPR, and second, be alert for opportunities to leverage something new. Timing is everything in both cases.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #3845: minted

If you love the taste of Thin Mints but don’t want to wait for a Girl Scout to sell you cookies there is now another way for you to get your fix. Girl Scouts have expanded the use of their signature flavor to coat pretzels and almonds — and you can buy them in a store year-round (and for less than a box of cookies).

I was disappointed to see the Girl Scouts stray from what I thought was the purpose of the cookie drive. Their website states: “When you buy the delicious cookies you crave directly from a Girl Scout, you’ll enjoy them more knowing you’re helping her gain the business smarts and confidence to take on the world, one cookie at a time.” I guess the almonds-in-the-store profit or the new online-only raspberry cookie sales help to run Girl Scout programs, but to me, it’s not the same.

It must be so tempting to expand distribution to gain additional revenue. Businesses create franchises, franchises grow to greater geographical areas, and Girl Scouts expand beyond cookies. But there is a caché and inherent demand when something is limited. If cookies were on supermarket shelves all the time, my guess is that fewer people would pay $5 per box for them vs. when a girl in uniform makes the same request for one month each year.

I wonder if the availability of other Thin Mint products will impact cookie sales. More isn’t always more in the end.

leadership dot #3844: heart

I received a coupon for a free breakfast biscuit so of course I went to redeem it. It was a surprise that it was not only free but it came in the shape of a heart. I know that some pizzas and pancakes are also being made in that shape this month.

I love it when companies give a nod to holidays or current events. It’s a simple adjustment but an easy way to wow your customers without additional cost. Branded products certainly capitalize on the holiday themes, but it is a missed opportunity for in-person services.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are many holidays throughout the year. Experiment with adding some serendipity to your offerings to surprise and delight your customers. They will <heart> it!

leadership dot #3838: on brand

I am a huge Ted Lasso fan and the fictional character feels like an old friend. It’s been more than a year since we connected via the Apple TV series and I miss “him.” But, I was recently reminded why I love him via a series of notes that “Ted Lasso” wrote for each of the players on the U.S. Men’s National Team. They were posted on billboards in the players’ hometowns, promoting the World Cup in a most unique way.

An example: “Luca, There must be something in San Diego water to make it one of the U.S.’s happiest cities. Or maybe it has to do with the sunshine. Or all the surfing. Or the surfshine. Or maybe it’s the iconic folks born here that’s bringing ’em joy. They got a legendary skateboarder. A legendary children’s poet. A legendary anchorman. And, of course, a legendary soccer player, Luca de la Torrific. I’m not a scientist or San Diego-ist, but my studies show this city’s about to crank up the happy once you stroll onto soccer’s biggest stage. You’re gonna give them something to smile about from the top of the podium. Best of Luca, Ted Lasso.”

The idea of the billboards and the way they are written are so very Ted. And a great way to promote soccer as well as remind fans that Ted Lasso Season 3 allegedly is still in production and not to forget about him.

The Ted Lasso character has cultivated a certain voice and vocabulary that creates his unique brand. Learn from him how to authentically communicate who you are.

leadership dot #3824: tag

What item rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list in December? It wasn’t something that Santa brought to the kids, rather it was Apple Air Tags. These small little tracking devices were initially designed to help people find their keys but after the Southwest Airlines debacle, people raced to buy them to put inside their luggage. There have been stories of people tracking their bags to residential addresses when the airline reported them to be at the airport, and others hunting down bags on their own thanks to the tag’s location-finder. It’s not a bad idea even in the best of times.

Whenever there is a problem, there is always someone else who benefits from it. Apple benefits from Southwest’s meltdown. Home improvement stores benefit after a natural disaster. Towing and repair companies see increased business after a major accident.

Take a broad view of what problem your organization is solving and be prepared to mobilize when that problem occurs. All downsides have an upside for someone.

leadership dot #3817: smokehouse

When I was in Chicagoland over the holidays, of course, I ate at Portillo’s. For the uninitiated, Portillo’s serves genuine Chicago hot dogs — a sesame seed bun, neon green relish, mustard, sport peppers, celery salt, onion, a pickle — and always with a pure Vienna Beef dog.

While I was waiting for my order, I noticed a plaque on the wall that recognized Portillo’s for its long partnership with Vienna Beef, naming them a “cherished part of the Vienna Beef Family” — no doubt because of the 250,000,000 hot dogs sold (and this was in 2014 before franchising!). The plaque went on to say that because of their long relationship, Vienna Beef was naming Smokehouse #1 the Portillo’s Smokehouse and it would remain that way as long as the company existed.

I’m sure in the Vienna Beef world, this is the highest honor they can bestow. The presence of the plaque in the restaurant nearly a decade later indicates to me that Dick Portillo recognized the significance of what they did to thank him.

Vienna Beef did not have to buy something fancy to show their appreciation to their best customer. They made a gesture and acknowledged the relationship in a way that was meaningful but not elaborate.

Take a moment to think about who is a major customer or collaborator for you — and then think of ways you can acknowledge the importance of your partnership. I suspect you don’t have a smokehouse to name, but surely you can find an appropriate way to let them know how much they mean to you and your organization.

leadership dot #3816: toying around

Most people know of the Fisher-Price brand and associate it with colorful toys for young children. The website says they are “the only kid brand dedicated to all the years between 0 and 5,” and they feature a tagline: “helping families enrich the first five years of childhood.”

Apparently, Fisher-Price has expanded its definition of kids to include the four-legged variety. PetSmart now offers a line of Fisher-Price dog toys — modeled after the iconic playthings many pet owners grew up with. The appeal of nostalgia, especially to pet parents who treat their dogs as children, might be strong enough to make the brand extension successful, but, once again, we see a company going way outside its core business. Fisher-Price is owned by Mattel, which creates “innovative products and experiences that inspire, entertain, and develop children through play.” Doesn’t sound like stuffed dog toys fit the global company mission either.

There is strength in a narrow niche, but if you broaden your product offerings, simultaneously expand your mission to include the new markets in your scope. Don’t say you’re one thing and then toy around with other offerings outside of your core.