leadership dot #2130: patch

Firefighters, police and military units identify themselves through the use of patches on their uniforms. I was recently at a Firefighters Museum and was able to see a display of hundreds of different patches – all in one place. Even though they all represented firefighting teams in Minnesota, they all displayed their own personality and uniqueness.

If your profession wore a patch on a uniform, what elements would you want it to convey? How could such a common identity serve to foster team pride? You don’t have to wear a literal patch to create one or to convey the intent behind it. Maybe it could be your next team builder to create one!

leadership dot #2123: extended

Most people know the origin of the Post-it Note: a failed attempt at making a super-strong adhesive led inventor Art Fry to repurpose the substance to make bookmarks for his choir hymnal. The ability to reposition tabs without tearing the paper was appealing to him – and eventually to millions of others. 3M’s accidental product is now available in 27 sizes, 57 colors and 20 fragrances (!) and generates $1 billion in annual revenue.*

The newest incarnation of the sticky note is the Extreme version – designed to transverse from the office environment to the construction realm. Extreme notes are made to stick on irregular surfaces such as brick or wood and to be compatible in the outdoors. They are water-resistant and function in hot and cold weather. If they really work and catch on, the revenue figures could see a substantial boost.

Post-its are a classic office product. It seems natural to extend this line into shapes, colors, sizes and other variations for office or educational use, but it took some imagination (and engineering) to make a product that extends the same product into an entirely new field. The creative legacy of the brand’s formation must still be alive!

Think of the products or services that you offer. Is there a way to extend their use into a completely new arena? Is there a modification you could make that would enhance its appeal to a different audience or market? Try to run your new business development like Post-its and don’t permanently stick to one spot.

*Source: worldwatch.org

leadership dot #2122: merchandising

Disney on Ice came to our town, and even though I am childless and grandchild-less, I went to experience the Disney Magic and spectacle. I was not disappointed.

You notice the Disney difference from the second you step into the theatre. The lobby is lined with special merchandising booths and everything from sno-cones to cotton candy bags comes in a character-shaped container – and a premium price. The salespeople have their faces painted (which you can get too for a mere $16) and they wear crowns ($16) and wave laser wands (also $16 – it must be a magical price point).

But what stood out among the merchandising mania was one particular salesperson; he was masterful. He called out to everyone who went by. He ran two credit card machines simultaneously. He demonstrated his laser wands – the princess one when a little girl walked by and the Buzz Lightyear saber for the boys. For every single purchase, he asked the customer if they’d like to add a coloring book for $5. I am sure he had more sales than the other dozen clerks combined.

For Disney, merchandising isn’t an afterthought. In addition to the revenue it produces, the colorful themed booths set the tone and heighten the anticipation long before the show itself begins. The prolific clerk capitalized on this frenzy and leveraged it for increased sales.

Think of what the equivalent of merchandising is in your organization. You may not have sno-cones or princess necklaces to sell, but how are you creating an environment from the moment your customers enter and sending them home with a reminder of you?

leadership dot #2102: assurance

With the number of recent trades and team-swapping in the NBA, some fans are understandably nervous about investing in a jersey of their favorite player for fear that it may be obsolete in the short term.

The NBA Store and American Express have teamed up to offer a “Jersey Assurance” program that allows fans to switch jerseys if the player switches teams. With the number of restrictions on the program, it is unlikely that there will be a huge financial loss, but there could be a substantial gain.

The Jersey Assurance program is a way to encourage purchases but makes everyone feel better if a trade happens.

Think of how you can adopt a component of this program and do something to mitigate perceived risk. Maybe your providers aren’t traded, but providing some assurance to your customers is a slam dunk.

leadership dot #2095: happy ending

Intellectually we know that if we recycle items that they are repurposed into other goods, but the process by which this happens is elusive. Several stores have added displays to make a more direct connection between recycling and its end game.

Madewell clothing promotes recycling of jeans – which are then turned into housing insulation. Their “donate your jeans program” has prominent displays in the front windows and throughout the store, making a connection between products that most people would not normally associate together.

The Eataly supermarket shows how their carts come from recycled bottles hopefully helping customers see that recycling actually does have its benefits (in addition to giving the franchise recognition for its environmental consciousness!)

Many organizations are doing good things in the area of sustainability. Follow the lead of these two businesses and connect the dots between efforts on the front end and their implications. We all like to see a happy ending to the story.

leadership dot #2092: brandwagon

Happy International Women’s Day!

This holiday has been designated for many years, but it seems to be receiving much more attention this year in the midst of #MeToo, women’s marches, Time’s Up, and a general mobilization of female activism.

To celebrate this year, McDonald’s has flipped its arches for the first time in history and will be featuring upside-down arches (to form a W instead of an M) on all of its digital platforms. While it is sure to garner media attention, it seems a bit off-brand to me. McDonald’s isn’t a particularly female-oriented business and it seems a stretch to make such a statement about one segment of the population.

Mattel, on the other hand, tied into International Women’s Day to launch a new line of diverse Barbie dolls representing 11 countries. This is far more aligned with the holiday and their customer base and, in my opinion, was a fitting release date.

Other businesses are just trying to capitalize on the momentum around the day and the women’s movement by offering an array of “women-themed” products. This, too, seems to be commercially motivated rather than genuinely relevant to the event.

There are literally holidays for every day of the year and a plethora of causes that could link to your marketing efforts. Think carefully before you jump on the “brand-wagon” and alter your products or messaging because of them. Authenticity drives revenue in the long term.

leadership dot #2078: risky

Many people who eat out at restaurants frequent the same place and order the same menu items. While this can be a comforting thing for the consumer, it likely means fewer return visits due to the monotony.

California Pizza Kitchen has adopted a novel way to inspire customers to try something different by offering a Menu Adventure Guarantee. “We encourage the spirit of adventure, especially when it comes to tasting new flavors,” their menu reads. “So try something new – if it doesn’t thrill you, we’ll replace it with your regular favorite.”

My dining companion was comforted enough by their offer to try the Citrus Adobo pizza for the first time. The waitress even came back to check whether he wished to exchange it (he did not).

The Menu Adventure Guarantee is a low-risk way to encourage others to take a risk that could pay off for you in the end. Think of how you can model this formula for your organization: offering a refund on a new service, allowing for a trial period, enclosing a sample of something new in a routine order, or making it easy for customers to have a do-over for the experience.

The biggest risk you are taking may the one that you aren’t acting upon.