leadership dot #2302: solid

On a recent architectural tour of one of the historical buildings in our city, we saw blueprints and pictures from its 1922 construction. At the time, steel was a revolutionary product and steel construction was met with much skepticism. How could those flimsy frames hold up a whole building? Wouldn’t it fall down in a storm? This particular building was a bank, so the perception of stability and strength was even more important.

To mitigate any negative impacts on its business because of the choice to use the more economical, efficient steel, the architect took several steps to give the appearance of being solid and secure. The bottom portion of the structure was covered with a veneer of solid pillow-top stones that made the building seem as if it was constructed out of large rocks. The upper floors had an outer coating of brick, even though the frame did not rely on that material for its support. Windows were made smaller, as was required in brick structures, even though the steel would have allowed for much greater glass expanses. It worked to assure customers in 1922 and remains a functioning bank today.

Your space is conveying subtle and unconscious signals about your organization. What is it saying? Do you need to take steps to realign your physical presence with your values and intangibles? Do your building and brand align? Or maybe you have moved too far in the direction of efficiency and away from what matters to your clients?

Just because you use steel doesn’t mean your building has to look like it. It may be worth the extra effort and expense to project a solid image for your organization.

leadership dot #2291: beetle

In The Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle recounts the story of when Senator Bob Kerrey ate at one of the Union Park restaurants owned by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer. Inexplicably, the salad of Kerry’s guest had a bug nestled in the lettuce.

The next day, Kerrey was at another of Meyer’s restaurants and his salad came out with a small piece of paper that said: “Ringo”. The waiter told Kerrey: “Danny wanted to make sure you knew that Gramercy Tavern wasn’t the only one of his restaurants that’s willing to garnish your salad with a Beatle.”

And now, all these many years later, the story lives on – not as an example of how horrible the restaurant was to have bugs, but rather how well the incident was handled.

Things will go wrong. The question is whether your clients will be talking about your beetle or your Beatle in response.

Source: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, 2018, p. 202.

leadership dot #2290: falling

When I went to bed Thursday night it was 80 degrees. Just 24 hours later it was 49 degrees when I turned off the lights. Over the course of a day, it went from an extended summer to unquestionably fall.

It was hard for me to comprehend the dramatic change in seasons but it really shouldn’t be. As my sister has said: “If the country has taught us anything this year, it is that everything can change and change quickly.”

I think about the tenuous nature of people’s reputations and all those who have gone from hero to disgrace with the revelation of new facts. I think about single incidents that have defined people or companies and their brand equity has fallen overnight like the temperature.

Building is a slow process but falling happens fast.

leadership dot #2283: prize

In its literal form, “crackerjack” means exceptionally good, but most people think of the snack product when they hear that term. I wanted some Cracker Jack for a baseball-themed meeting and had to resort to ordering it online since I could not find it in a store. Cracker Jack – a staple of every Christmas stocking, camping trip and of course baseball game of my childhood, has become very difficult to find.

It may not be prevalent in stores, but it’s still available, as it has been since 1896. Some consider it to be the original junk food! What has kept Cracker Jack around this long, in my opinion, is the famous line in the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” song that first came out in 1908. For over a decade, this immortal tune has kept Cracker Jack in the public consciousness.

When I was a frequent consumer, Cracker Jack consisted of “candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize” (sung to a catchy jingle), but today it is caramel-coated popcorn and a download to a free game. Since 2016, there has been no prize inside. Maybe it isn’t nostalgia or its links to baseball that have created its longevity, rather a willingness to evolve with the times.

A plastic ring used to be coveted, but now would be tossed aside as trivial. Better to engage consumers with a link to a digital experience and foster ongoing engagement with the brand. So today, after finishing your snack, you can “blipp a surprise” and play any of several augmented reality games that appear in the app after you scan the Cracker Jack icon.

How can you take a lesson from Cracker Jack and keep your eye on the real prize? Their aim is 120 more years of making popcorn snacks, not of distributing plastic tokens. You can let go of anything, even something as integral to your product as the “prize inside.” Don’t let the past prevent you from having a future.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracker_Jack

leadership dot #2281: high

I recently read a fascinating article that highlighted the evolving marketing of the marijuana industry. Now that it is at least partially legal in 30 states, the businesses behind cannabis are attempting to mainstream their product and remove some of the “stoner” stigma that surrounds it.

MedMen, one of the leading distributors, has launched a $2 million dollar advertising campaign featuring unlikely users of the drug: a nurse, teacher, athlete, executive and even a grandmother. Cannabis is being promoted in edible form and being touted as a natural and socially acceptable way to relieve some stress.

Other owners such as Judd Weiss, the founder of Lit.Club is going even further and positioning marijuana as “the herbal equivalent of a fine bourbon or scotch.”

I am fascinated by minds that can see the unusual suspects as their advertising spokespeople or take a once illegal product used by Cheech and Chong and think of crafting a role for it in the upper echelons of society.

Without resorting to the use of mind-altering drugs, how can you expand your thinking about who your product serves? Think of the most unlikely person to use it and force yourself to create a message for them. Turn your market upside down and craft a new campaign aimed at the opposite audience that you attract now. Even if you don’t go forward in implementing them, the exercise might create a new high for your organization.

Source: “Pot industry: ‘Stoner’ stereotype should go up in smoke” by John Rogers and Krysta Fauria for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, September 2, 2018, p. 11A + 13A.



leadership dot #2270: baffled

When our local grocery store added a health clinic, I thought it was a bad idea. Their latest foray into branded space-sharing has me even more baffled. The first thing you see when you walk into the grocer isn’t an aisle of food, rather it is a mini-Claire’s boutique shop. (Claire’s is a teen-focused jewelry and accessory store.)

Why do racks of earrings belong in the grocery? I am guessing it is because they represent potential profit, either through rent or sales, but otherwise I see no coherent tie to their mission or brand.

If the grocery store wanted to bring in an outside vendor, wouldn’t it make more sense to partner with a cooking store like Williams-Sonoma to sell items people might use to prepare the food the grocer sells? Or display a corner of beautiful linens and tablecloths to set the table for a bountiful feast? Or work with a bookstore to provide a cookbook nook where recipes could be highlighted and the necessary items to prepare them could be pre-packaged to make purchases easy?

I am all for partnerships, but I like them much more when they are aligned, not just exploited.

leadership dot #2252: parkway

The Gateway Arch (now the Gateway Arch National Park and not just a National Monument!) recently received a $380 million renovation to the interior, infrastructure and grounds. I was quite impressed with the outcome of the whole project, but my favorite part was that they hid the nearby interstate.

I-44 runs through St. Louis and crosses very close to the Arch grounds. Previously, the pedestrian crossing was treacherous, and the magnificent Arch was disconnected from the heart of the city. You can’t really realize the grandeur of the Arch unless you are right next to its imposing size, and thousands of visitors to the Cardinals stadium, convention center, etc. never made it that close. Now, the Arch grounds seamlessly flow into a park that connects with the Old Courthouse (another monument and the site of the Dred Scott trial) and not just allows but invites, people to walk closer. Hooray!

The park renovation could have focused solely on the building and inside elements, but someone wisely dedicated resources to the exterior as well. Take a look around your building. Do you have the equivalent of a functional yet unwieldy crossing? Are you sending mixed signals to your clients that simultaneously indicate welcoming and aloofness? Should you create your own version of a parkway to create cohesion of your overall story? The physical environment around your organization sets the tone and is a legitimate part of your brand story. Don’t focus just on the forest and forget about the trees.

Interstate 44 is directly behind these trees — but you can’t see it or even hear it now