leadership dot #2227: imposter

Disney is known as one of the leaders in brand management and their flagship store in Times Square puts their magic on full display. The escalator alone is masterful – full of color, 3-D accessories, music and, of course, images of their iconic characters.

If you know anything about Disney’s characters you know that they are strictly forbidden from being out of character. Once the costume is on, they become the character they are representing.

So, it must gall Disney that across the street from their store are numerous fake characters, trying to make a buck or two by posing with the tourists in pictures. In between camera moments, these counterfeits push their masks/heads up and allow their human face to be clearly visible – presumably to avoid unpaid photo ops – but they look like Minnie Mouse as a bank robber.

Most people would not think twice about the incongruence between the real Disney and these fakes, but it is a clear brand violation. It hurt me to see them!

Even if you are as powerful as Disney, there is only so much you can control when an imposter rears its ugly head. Be vigilant with the all details you can influence.

leadership dot #2211: storied history

One of my stops while in New York was a tour of Yankee Stadium, a place that is filled to the brim with history and legacy. Everywhere you go there is a reference to the 27 World Champions that the franchise has won – clearly impressive since second place is St. Louis which has only won 11.

I noticed that the last trophy that the Yankees brought home was in 2009, which made me wonder when their championship dynasty occurred. What I learned was that since 2000, 12 different teams have won the World Series, with the Yankees only winning twice in those 18 years. The Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants have won three each in that time. The Yankees’ tour conveniently glosses over when the winning took place and instead focuses on the fact that it did.

For the Yankees, the enormity of their total championships clearly outweighs the recent gap in winning one. They do a great job of associating “Yankees” with “winners” in the public’s mind, even if the recent history would say otherwise.

There are many versions of any story and your job is to determine which chapter of your story to read aloud. In the Bronx, there is no doubt which pages those are.

leadership dot #2188: return

At the risk of TMI, let’s leave it that my puppy is having some issues with her stool and the veterinarian recommended that I switch food. I have on hand a new 40# bag of food, auto-shipped from Chewy.com that I figured I was stuck with, but when I was on the website ordering new food, I noticed a “Returns” tab, so I gave them a call.

In less than two minutes (literally), I had received a $50 refund for my food and told to donate the unopened bag to the Humane Society on Chewy’s behalf. Before I hung up, I had an email with the credit and another canceling my auto-ship. No questions asked, no hassle, just “have a great day.” Wow.

Chewy’s refund policy says: “We want you to be delighted, enchanted, blown away, jubilant, thrilled, ecstatic, tickled pink, euphoric, overjoyed, pleasantly surprised, elated, flying high, excited, and definitely over the moon about your experience with us. Our policy is simple: If you’re not 100% totally, completely, and unconditionally satisfied for any reason whatsoever, return it! We’ll give you a complete refund. Oh ya, we’ll also pay for the return shipping.”

 Why does working with a company that delivers such stellar service have to be the exception rather than the norm? In the dog eat dog world of retail sales, Chewy has found a way to distinguish themselves as Best in Show. Take a lesson from them on how to truly treat your customers so that, like me, they’ll be wagging their tail with happiness over the ease of their transactions.

leadership dot #2186: value

How do you get someone to pay $9 for a cup of root beer? You turn it into an experience.

Wild Bill’s Soda has done just that with their Olde Fashioned Soda Pop stand. Stationed at the area’s first festival of the season, Wild Bill turned an ordinary utility trailer into a scene from the Wild West. They sold reusable cups for $9–$20 promising the opportunity to get refills at events throughout the season (if you remember to bring the cup back and if you want to drag it around with you…).  Wild Bill’s allowed customers to dispense their own and experiment. You could try one of their flavors (such as Sarsaparilla Six Shooter, Outlaw Orange, Vintage Vanilla Cream, Blazing Black Cherry, or Buck’n Birch Beer) or mix them in your own combination. There was a line at their booth all day.

Starbucks mastered the idea of turning a generic cup of coffee into a multimillion-dollar franchise by raising the price commensurately with the experience around the beverage. Maybe Wild Bill can do the same – and maybe you can take a lesson from both of them. Don’t think about what you offer in a literal sense when you assess its price; think about the value of the experience you provide. They both can rise in tandem.

leadership dot #2179: diverted

I recently was at a Target Superstore on a summer Sunday and they were totally out of regular Coke cans. This would seem to me to be a staple item that you could count on to be there whenever you shopped, but there were none. Not on the shelves, not on the end caps, not on the display in front of the store.

If you looked at the space allocated for Coca-Cola branded beverages, it was substantial, but the square footage was taken up with Coke Zero, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Cherry Coke Zero and other variations that did not sell. So many choices and flavors added to the complexity but detracted from the core.

Coke is the #1 selling pop and Diet Coke is #2* yet Target and Coca-Cola diverted their attention and lost (at least some) sales because they focused on niches at the exclusion of the main products.

Think about the offerings your organization provides. Are you making your version of Coke and Diet Coke as robust as they could be or are you pushing Cherry Coke Zero only to find it still sitting on the shelf? You may find that a narrow focus is more refreshing.

*Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/42255151/ns/business-us_business/t/sweet-americas-top-brands-soda/#.WxL2ai-ZOqA

leadership dot #2176: prominent

In my work with supervisors, I hear many laments about how hard it is to find people to fill jobs these days. They make it seem like it would be nearly impossible to find people to work the shifts at Milt and Edie’s drycleaners – a service business that is open 24/7/365. Not only do they need people to do the actual laundry, but they also offer alterations and tailoring during all those hours.

Yet Milt and Edie’s has found a way to keep people for extensive periods of time. They feature a large sign on their building that shares the name, the number of years worked and nationality of those who work there, and they tout the cumulative number of years’ experience they provide. Inside are flags of the countries of their employees. Next to the Alteration Center is a pegboard that features pictures of all the employees who are working that day.

Many organizations acknowledge longevity at a once-a-year ceremony or newsletter, but it was front and center at Milt and Edie’s. Think of how you can make your recognition efforts more personal and prominent. The future of your organization depends on your ability to have people operating it.

leadership dot #2172: do as I say

The Griffith Observatory was filled with a multitude of exhibits that really impressed on the viewers the grandeur of the universe and our small place in it. What the Observatory did not have, however, was recycling bins. Worse than that, their cafeteria served sandwiches in bulky plastic containers, sold water in bottles and offered no capability to recycle any of it.

I come from a long line of extreme recyclers and we were all dismayed at the incongruity of their brand. We were surrounded by messages about the importance of the Earth, yet their actions were contradicting that. I thought about all the money they spent to install elaborate displays in the Observatory but failed to invest a small sum more to put into practice what they are preaching. At the very least, they could have sold water in paper containers and made a point with the novelty of them.

Never doubt that people notice the small things and take to heart more of what you do than what you say.