leadership dot #2837: error

Those who work with web pages know that the dreaded 404 Error will occasionally pop up, alerting the user that a “page is not available.” Des Moines Area Community College prepared for this inevitability and opted to use it to its advantage – by advertising its IT classes on the error page.

“Interested in fighting the evil 404 error as a career? Gain this and other super skills with our powerful line-up of technology courses at DMACC. Join the Department of Incredible Things and Find Your Super IT Power,” their ad reads. I have no computer skills but it makes me want to sign up!

You can predict some of the things that will go wrong. Capitalize on this opportunity to reframe the message and give your client a smile, if you’re temporarily prevented from providing what they were originally seeking.

Thanks, Emily!


leadership dot #2816: misstep

The original Crocs plastic shoes are, in most people’s eyes, just plain ugly. Their incredible comfort has earned them a loyal clientele that overlooks the frumpiness, but even though the brand has come a long way in improving its style with other designs, few are wearing them for their looks. There are more memes making fun of Crocs than there are with almost any other footwear.

So, it seemed like a mismatch to me when I saw an ad with model Priyanka Chopra Jonas wearing one of their ugliest shoe styles in a fashion pose. Were they making fun of themselves – along the lines of the Milk Mustache campaign – or did someone actually think it was realistic to promote Crocs as a fashion statement? The other taglines on this ad – “Come as you are” and “Make it a Classic” seem to fit with their choose-comfort-over-looks vibe, but a fashion model?

There is not a product or service out there that appeals to everyone. Find your niche and embrace it, while letting the others go. Crocs + fashion are out of step.

leadership dot #2809: caution

The Dominican Republic is known for its gorgeous beaches, luxury resorts and abundant sunshine. My trip to Punta Cana from years ago was dreamy and I can see why it’s a destination for thousands of U.S. travelers, brides and tour groups.

But after a series of well-publicized deaths and mysterious ailments, the new Punta Cana ads focus on something besides the ocean: safety.

The Punta Cana Promise proclaims “Safe Dominican Republic Hotels” – saying that they strive to ensure safety and service standards are not only met but exceeded.

Safety is a precarious claim to make – I’m sure that the hotels where the illnesses occurred would have also said that they tried to ensure it. So much about safety is out of the hotel owners’ hands, such as weather calamities, terror, coronavirus, or theft. Hotels fall down, catch fire or become home base for active shooters – none of which were easily preventable.

The more you promise, the higher the expectations are that you will deliver. I think the Dominican would be safer sticking with its beautiful ocean message and your organization should use caution before promising things you cannot control.

leadership dot #2795: cheeky

If you have a product that was released in 1941, you can do two things to keep it refreshed: change the ingredients or modify the packaging. M&Ms has certainly extended their brand by adding peanuts, peanut butter, hazelnut, mint, almonds, etc. and now they have created a new campaign strictly around how the candy is packaged.

M&Ms released 36 different bags for their “share” size, offering both serious and tongue-in-cheek messages for a variety of occasions. The packages include saying such as: “You’re lucky to have a friend like me,” “I love being socially awkward with you,” “I miss your face,” and “Congratulations on that thing you did.” The packages are colorful and fun and had me wanting to take several bags home with me.

If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to boost the morale of your staff or a way to acknowledge a colleague or friendship, the M&Ms message bags may be just the way to do it. And even if you don’t purchase the candy, think about the lesson it can teach you about how to alter your packaging to boost your appeal. What product or service do you have that could benefit from a cheeky new look, even on a temporary basis?

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!