The New Golden Rules

By: Billee Howard

Today innovation is predicated on the notion of providing never before seen ideas and offerings based on the fundamentals of trust and sharing. In our world today, the idea is that if we come together, we can build a better world predicated on better equality in all things. In today’s WEconomy, by pooling our resources together to build not just new products, but new ideas based off of trust and reputation, we are able to create mass access to once unattainable standards of privilege or luxury.

The world now understands more than ever before that together we rise, and together we fall. As the Lehman collapse and cascading world destruction showed us, we may all be separate, but we are also all connected in ways never before imagined. As such, the old ways of doing things no longer work. We cannot build upon hidden mistakes and hope for a better tomorrow.

New world orders call for new rules of business. Here is the road map that I have developed to help you navigate our newly created and largely uncharted business landscape and retain the best of the old, while innovating the new.

Create a “wespoke” approach to innovation.

Businesses today that provide products and services that are defined more by emotion and experience than function or status are thriving. In the past, people were wooed by the shiny and new. Today they are gravitating toward the elite and engaging.

Brands that understand this fundamental paradigm shift and seek to innovate not just things but ideas are the brands that will emerge as the entrepreneurial giants of tomorrow.   Brands now not only need to focus on creating a product or service, but creating an experience for their customer that is immersive, engaging, and collaborative.

Be a Redemptive Leader

In order for an organization to harness the power of redemptive disruption, there must be a top down push of the characteristics required to be successfully disruptive. This means that companies need leaders who are driven to disrupt at every stage in the supply chain.  Not only what you make, but how it is made, where it is made, and how your customer’s are serviced are all open for reinvention today. 

Today’s most effective disruptive leadership stems as much from belief as it does from bravado. Faith is one of the most powerful tools in a CEO’s arsenal today. Possessing unshakable faith, inspiring that quality of belief in others. And transforming that passion into believable hope is among the most critical strategic imperatives of leadership today.

In the HouseOfWe people don’t just buy things because they are shiny and new. Today, people buy things from the people and companies they believe in. And leaders and companies that inspire this type of following are built from a foundation of trust and faith both inside and out.

Embrace Failure as the New Success

Historically, failure has been a no-no. something to deny. Something to run from, or hide at all costs. Wall Street never rewarded failure. In fact it punished it with battered earnings reports and falling stock prices. Today, in the post-apocalyptic 2008 world, measured and strategic failure is the bedrock of tomorrow’s success.

The majority of the causes of the 2008 financial contagion stemmed from denial and an inability to admit failure. Today, businesses must openly acknowledge what works and what doesn’t, and have the bravado to completely destroy the failing pieces in order to achieve forward prosperity.   Similarly, companies can no longer afford to rest on their laurels when they are feeling successful.  With the ever-accelerating pace of change, what defines success today may very well not define what it is tomorrow.

Good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment — from failures. The key question is how you respond, whether you learn from failure and rebound or not. And always remember that there is nothing more sexy and appealing than a good old comeback story.

Create an organizational culture that rewards the courage and ability to do things differently.

Be sure to reward mavericks in your company for shunning conformity.  Innovation is vital for the growth, success, and wealth of firms. Yet the source of innovation is not so much investment in R&D, but the retention of talented people, who may appear at times as difficult mavericks that old school brands would have weeded out and discarded.

Keep pace with the speed of change

Recognize that change is occurring at an unprecedented velocity, and that your competitors today, will most certainly, without question, not be your competitors tomorrow.

Today, disruption is often only thought of as taking place inside of start-ups and through lone wolf entrepreneurs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In the HouseOfWe, whether we are big or small, we all must embrace an appetite to do things differently.  Today size doesn’t matter. Heft is no longer a badge of honor. And legacy does not preclude us from need to disrupt and innovate our way through the rushing current of rapid change. 

In fact, agility is among the world’s most valued currencies today, next to creativity. And as a result, small today is often thought of as the new big. It is for this reason that successful companies are combining the best of the past with the best of the future to conceive a better tomorrow. They have the foresight to recognize that one’s competitors today will most certainly not be their competitors tomorrow, and are making the necessary changes required to envelop disruption and innovation into their legacy organizations in ways that poise them for growth both today and tomorrow.

Embrace change as a core business competency

In today’s marketplace, a company’s greatest asset, and only constant, is change. The ability to be able to force yourself into a place of discomfort no matter how comfortable you have become is the little known factor that is driving much success today. This counter intuitive idea is hard for many to embrace, but those who do manage to find not just short term but long-term success.

Tell consumers what they want before they know they want it.

One of the most critical idioms driving disruptive innovation today is the Steve Job’s mantra of telling consumers what they want before they even know they want it and then creating a scenario where they cannot live with out it.  It was that guiding platform that enabled Jobs to not only transform how we listen to music with the advent of the IPod, but how we as a society ultimately would be able to consume media as a whole. 

It was this one simple idea that allowed Job’s to build Apple into not just the world’s greatest technology company, but also the world’s most innovative consumer lifestyle brand ever built.

Reject limits.

One of the most critical components of success in today’s market is to approach disruption and innovation with an aspirational mindset that is so bold that it knows no limits. The winners in today’s environment are no longer just taking existing things and tinkering with them to make them better. We are no longer wowed by a new product upgrade. We want something new entirely.

Samsung, for example, introduced a 3D TV in 2011 only to be replaced a year later with the first ever Smart TV. 365 days after one invention debuted, seeing a picture in three dimensions was no longer as relevant as having a TV that could think and react as fast as one’s phone.

The reason that Samsung has rapidly become one of the world’s largest technology companies, surpassing giants like Microsoft and HP, is because the company’s innovation and imagination knows no bounds. In fact an entire town in Seoul Korea, named Samsung Town is basically dedicated to imagining the world’s next great technologies and bringing them to life.

In order to disrupt effectively there must be no limits on what you can kill or what you can create. You must be as willing to put yourself out of business, as you are to imagine a plethora of new ones.

Create a Culture of Courage.

Succeeding in the today’s transformed marketplace means finding the courage to not only create, but also to conquer- -to dig down deep to access the pioneering spirit required to truly disrupt. And it’s about being brave enough to imagine so boldly that you might sound silly or outlandish, even to yourself.

The ideas that will shape our new world will be those that challenge traditional conventions and fly in the face of everything we knew or thought we knew to be true. So don’t be afraid to have big ideas, crazy ideas that raise eyebrows, engender fear, or invite ridicule.

Leadership Pocket Mantras 2016

1. To survive in a post-apocalyptic world, technology can no longer be a panacea or the end solution to every challenge.

2.  Speed, size, and power fueled by technology won’t take the place of human interaction, or collective human endeavors.

3. The shiny and new will no longer beat the trusted and true. A return to the values of old and the pride we once took in artistry and craftsmanship will return, but married with the automation and speed of the present.

4. A fearless approach to failure is a must. Failure should not be avoided, or even just accepted, it should be sought out. The only way true innovation can happen is having the courage to do just one simple thing: try, try and try again.


Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!

Theory of Creativity

By: Yitzchok Saftlas

Safety first might be the best advice if you’re behind the wheel of a car, but if you want to test drive a creative marketing or advertising concept, you’ve got to take it for a spin.

Playing it safe is the absolute worst thing you can do, says Linda Kaplan Thaler, who was inducted last year into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Linda is the former chairman of Publicis, an advertising group whose blue-chip client roster includes: P&G, Nestle, Merck and Pfizer, and is the creative genius behind many world-famous advertising campaigns, such as the “I don’t Wanna Grow Up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid,” and “Kodak Moments.”

Perhaps one of her biggest success stories – one she shared with my listeners on a recent edition of Mind Your Business on 77WABC – was the campaign she devised for AFLAC, an acronym for American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.

Few Americans had ever heard of AFLAC before Linda won their account in 1999, even though AFLAC was a Fortune 500 company, providing financial protection to more than 50 million people worldwide.

AFLAC’s advertising had been a flop and company awareness was hovering at a barely perceptible 3%. The company was intent on staying the course with their emotional commercials to try to worry people into running out and buying insurance to cover the unexpected. Linda knew that to win AFLAC’s advertising account, and turn them into a household name, she was the one who had to do the unexpected.

With negotiations at an impasse, Linda asked AFLAC’s CEO Dan Amos for a private meeting, and asked him one simple question: What keeps you awake at night? Amos replied that he loses sleep over the fact that even his relatives don’t know the name of the company.

Linda went back to her office, and the drawing board. At a brainstorming session, her creative director, Eric David quipped that AFLAC rhymed with quack and conjured up visions of ducks. 

“I said: That’s it! That’s how we’re going to make America remember this name!”

Her copywriters composed a brilliant script, with two 40-year old men munching sandwiches on a park bench, where one asks the other to define supplemental insurance. A duck from the nearby pond waddles out of the water and quacks a one word answer: AFLAC. 

Initially, Dan wasn’t impressed, but Linda was so sure that she shelled $35,000 out of her company’s coffers to test the message. That was bundle for her young company at the time, but the ad soon broke the bank. In two years, consumer awareness rose from 3% to 96% and today, the duck even graces the AFLAC logo at company headquarters.

Linda is never deterred by initial resistance. “The best ideas are the bad ideas that you turned upside down,” she says. Linda has three tips to help overcome that natural and understandable resistance:

1. Go for a Soft Approach

“I call it the Yes sandwich,” Linda says. “It’s much easier to get what you want that way. So when the client says, ‘that’s ridiculous,’ I say, you’re right, it’s a little insane but let’s just push back for a minute and see why this particular insanity makes some rational sense. Then go back to pushing for it.”

2. Let the Client Take Credit

President Harry Truman once said you can accomplish anything in your lifetime as long as you’re willing to not take credit for any of it. “If I throw out an idea, and the client says, that’s outrageous, I’ll say, what do you think will make it better? When they give me their idea, I’ll say: great idea, why didn’t I think of that!”

3. Don’t be afraid to fail

James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, developed 5,126 prototypes over 15 years until he found one that worked, eventually amassing a net worth of $5 billion. He once said he got so much more innovation out of each failure along the way. “So we tell clients: If an ad doesn’t go viral, no one will see it, so you never have to worry that it will be seen as a failure.”

If you too hope to make the Advertising Hall of Fame one day, get the client thinking: “That’s nuts. That’s crazy. And then, yes, that could be brilliant!

Bottom Line Action Step: Share a great idea with a client and let them make it even better.

Yitzchok Saftlas is the founder and president of Bottom Line Marketing Group, a premier marketing agency helping hundreds of corporate, political and non-profit clients build their brands since 1992. Yitzchok’s new book: “So, What’s The Bottom Line” contains timeless advice for marketers, seasoned executives, and entrepreneurs. His weekly business radio show, “Mind Your Business” is aired on 77WABC radio every Sunday night. Yitzchok can be reached at ys@BottomLineMG.com

Today’s CMO: Part Artist, Part Scientist

By: Drew Neisser, Founder & CEO of Renegade

My new book, The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, features interviews with sixty-four masters of their craft, including some who lean heavily to the science side and others who employ an artist’s intuitive touch.  In this short post, I’ll introduce you to two “scientists” who have harnessed the power of data to drive sales and minimize the unpredictability of their efforts and two “artists” who rely on their intuition and place big marketing bets that the data doesn’t necessarily direct.

“The last three years of my career have seen an amazing transformation from what it means to be a marketer.” Tim McDermott

As the current CMO of the Philadelphia 76ers and the former CMO of the Philadelphia Eagles, Tim McDermott knows a thing or two about marketing sports teams, especially ones that haven’t always performed well on the court or field. Seeking to build multi-dimensional fan relationships, Tim has made data a major part of his marketing strategy.  As he puts it, “We’re heavily invested in infrastructure, software and human capital in order to re-engineer what we’re doing on the data science side.” While this is very much a work in progress, Tim acknowledges they can now take a far more sophisticated, data-driven approach.

“At Visa the ultimate measure of success for our marketing is ROI—our ability to drive the business.” Antonio Lucio

When I first interviewed Antonio Lucio, he was deep into his tenure as CMO at Visa, where he prescribed a three-tiered measurement approach. Lucio’s short-term metrics included reach and impact with recall being a proxy for reach and “usage lift” the gauge for impact. Lucio’s third tier was long-term impact, which he defined “as lift in our brand equity and our ability to influence consumer behavior longer-term.”  And while all of the above are critical effectiveness measures for just about any brand, Lucio never stropped looking for others, noting, “Our key performance metrics evolve to address changing dynamics in the industry.

“Creativity and innovation aren’t just about another page in a magazine or another billboard with clever imagery or copy.” – Lee Applbaum

When Lee Applbaum became CMO of the iconic beverage brand Patrón Spirits, he took an admittedly conservative “stewardship” approach to his new duties. Not wanting to screw up a good thing with the master brand, Lee directed his team toward new products and “reimagining the conversation in our category.”  The launch of line extension Roca Patrón presented just such an opportunity to disrupt via events, social, digital and mobile.  His “Roca on the Rails” campaign featured a fully-restored, opulent 1927 railcar offering bespoke dinners and tastings with celebrated chefs.  This unique experience started a wave of PR coverage and social buzz that helped to exceed sales goals by 50%.

“Creativity is driven by staying authentic to your brand and your mission.” – Loren Angelo

CMO Loren Angelo is not shy about sharing the success Audi of America has enjoyed on the sales front, pointing to 45 consecutive monthly sales records and elevating brand opinion and consideration by over 30 percent since 2006.  This growth is the result of bringing “smart, entertaining creative to market” like using Snapchat during the Super Bowl to launch the A3, which it continued via a partnership with “Pretty Little Liars.” Loren is not afraid to experiment with new channels, even if the ROI is not readily measurable, noting that, “Creativity comes in the message as well as the medium in which it’s delivered.” To drive the point home, Loren concludes, “Building the brand with time-starved, affluent Americans requires us to bring unique ideas to a variety of channels.”

“If only marketing were a science.” – Drew Neisser

Having interviewed over 150 senior marketers in the last 5 years, I have come to appreciate the fact that marketing is not a “one size fits all” profession.  Each CMO faces a unique set of challenges and must blend the right mix of elements to achieve the desired results. Some of these elements are quite scientific ranging from Befriending Data to Marketing Automation, CRM to Email Efficacy.  Others like Storytelling, Pure Creativity, Going Viral and Social Purpose require more of an artistic touch. All of these “elements” are covered in The CMO’s Periodic Table along with 56 more, not the least of which is Setting Expectations, the lead chapter featuring my interview with Jeffrey Hayzlett who requires no introduction on this site. And with that, here’s to hoping you pull together all the right elements for your marketing challenge in 2016!

Founder and CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based marketing agency that helps CMO’s find innovative ways to cut through, Drew is a recognized authority on cutting-edge marketing techniques, having won numerous awards for creativity and campaign effectiveness. Ranked among Brand Quarterly’s “50 Marketing Thought Leaders Over 50,” he is an “expert blogger” for Forbes, CMO.com and TheCMOclub among others, pens the weekly CMO Spotlight column for AdAge and is the author of TheCut, a well-respected monthly newsletter.

The Truth: Performance Review Transformation is Not Over

By: Wally Hauck

“Wisdom is found only in truth.” – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

It is difficult to find the truth especially in complex situations.  It can be elusive. It is often influenced by changes in our environment.  It can shift dramatically when we change how we think about the problems we are seeking to solve.  For example, some advertisements for cigarettes in the 1950 made claims that smoking was safe.  Some claimed even doctors enjoyed them without concern, they could keep you slim, and/or they could help relieve your asthma symptoms.  Today, those messages would be considered lies.

Are performance reviews effective or not?  According to some research (SHRM) 58% of managers say no and of course 42% say yes.  Jack Welch still defends the forced ranking of employees using the performance review (rank-and-yank). Steve Ballmer at Microsoft “yanked” that policy out of Microsoft because a large percentage of employees claimed it was one of the worse policies on the planet for engagement and innovation.   Who’s right? It depends!  How you think about people, problems, and the root cause of poor performance will influence your answer. 

There is a transformation occurring in the performance review process now.  Many large organizations are the early adopters of that transformation.  These include Adobe, GE, Deloitte, Google, and a few others.  Still nearly 85% of organizations continue to use the typical performance review model.    Yet many of those are now motivated more than ever to consider a change.  According to a recent survey by Bersin, 70% of the organizations surveyed reported either recently changing their performance management system or were seriously considering it.

What’s the motivation to change?  It’s the usual reasons and some additional new ones too.  For some it’s the need for speed.  The truth: annual reviews just don’t allow people to respond to the accelerated change in the marketplace.  Customers’ needs and desires change frequently and employees must be in a position to respond. The annual typical review stymies an organization’s ability to respond.

Still others are interested in improving employee engagement.  The typical review is notorious for damaging engagement.  Ratings are often seen as biased or manipulated. This is especially true of forced ranking systems.  Yahoo is currently facing a law suit brought on by their forced ranking system. 

Still others have come to realize their corporate values are being contradicted by their typical performance review process.  The truth: this contradiction with values has damaged productivity of disgruntled employees who are receiving the mixed messages.

On a more practical note, some of these early adopters of the transformation have finally come to realize the internal costs of conducting the typical review.    The time spent by managers to “do them right” far outweighs the benefits.  This is especially true when one calculates the loss of engagement, loss of productivity, and damage to the speed of response to changing conditions.

But, there is one more reason to transform the typical review.  In my opinion this reason is the most compelling of all because it gets to the very heart of the root cause of the failure of the typical review.  All the other reasons are symptoms.      When one finds a root cause it’s time to celebrate because you know you are close to a breakthrough in performance improvement.  As Dorothy Thompson once said, “There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.”  The truth: the typical review has the wrong focus.  Its focus is on individual improvement and not on the quality of interactions. The early adopters are still making this mistake.

There are two ways an employee can obtain feedback, interpersonal interactions and system interactions. Interpersonal interactions concern behavior which the employee has total control.  System interactions involve other factors outside the control of the individual.

In most organizations it is the employee’s manager who is formally responsible for giving feedback to the employee.  The truth: this is a manager dependent process that can contribute to a sluggish bureaucracy.  As mentioned earlier, one of the major complaints of the typical performance appraisal is that feedback occurs infrequently and that infrequent feedback damages employee engagement which damages performance.  Why can’t everyone be allowed and/or obligated to give feedback when appropriate?  Few of the transformations allow feedback from anyone including co-workers.

Employees need to understand how their behavior impacts the performance of others. Every employee needs to behave with respect and integrity at all times or performance suffers.  Interpersonal interactions enable people to communicate with each other effectively as long as it is with integrity and respect.  When people are disrespectful they need to realize it and they need to change and they need to know immediately.  When they break integrity they need to know it and they need to change and they need to know immediately. 

Managers can influence the quality of the interpersonal interactions.  They can make them easier or harder. They can make them functional or dysfunctional.  When an employee’s behavior is discussed the influence of managers must be discussed as well.  The truth:  the transformation continues to point mostly in one direction i.e. toward the employee.  Few of the transformations encourage feedback to the manager from the employee.

System interactions, the second type of feedback, provide information about how well employees are working with their processes.  Employees influence their processes but they don’t control all the inputs.  The quality of the inputs to their processes will influence their performance.  An organization must recognize this and enable employees to communicate immediately when the inputs are not optimal. The current transformations are not clarifying this.

Employees should be able to receive frequent feedback from their processes.  Their manager and co-workers may need to give them feedback on the quality of their interpersonal interactions but feedback from the processes should not be fully dependent upon the employee’s manager.  The employee, if they understand how to study a process, can arrange to collect their own data.  The transformations are not addressing this concern. 

The truth: the transformation continues to focus on individual performance instead of the quality of the interactions therefore the transformation is not yet over.  I am hopeful the transformation continues to evolve in this direction otherwise performance improvement will continue to suffer and frustrations will continue.

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

When It Comes To Your Brain, “Use It or Lose It”

By Dr. Tony Alessandra

Let’s explore some ideas for improving brain function by actually using your brain. This is very beneficial because the saying “use it or lose it” is definitely true where the brain is concerned.

Like it or not, the human brain starts slowing down at about the age of 30. At one time, it seemed like nothing could be done about this, but new research shows you can train your mind to work faster and better — and you can do this at any age. With the right tools, you can re-condition your brain to work as it did when you were younger. What’s needed is a clearly defined regimen of brain exercise. Just as you can plan to walk or run a certain number of miles every week, you can also commit to workouts for your brain in the same period of time. The key finding in modern brain research is that the brain at any age is highly adaptable. It’s “plastic,” as neurologists put it. If you ask your brain to learn, it will learn. Moreover, you can speed up the process.

Let me give you an example of something I’ve been doing along these lines. I had never been very interested in crossword puzzles. I’m not sure I had ever actually completed any kind of a difficult

crossword puzzle at any point in my life. Then I became aware of some research that seemed to show how doing puzzles could have benefits for brain function. So I tried it and some interesting things happened.

I found that it was definitely an enjoyable activity. I gave myself some freedom in how I did the puzzles, and I think this made it more fun. I tried not to approach it as if I were taking an exam, or as if I were trying to do some serious activity that was going to benefit my mind. I was just very open to it. I didn’t tell myself that I had to complete the crossword in any specific period of time. I would just get started on it and leave it out on the table, and then over the course of the day I’d add things. I was actually very surprised by how this worked. I would feel like I couldn’t possibly do any more on the puzzle, but then when I looked at it a few hours later I would see something that I had missed — and it would actually seem very obvious. Another thing that surprised me was the way a crossword puzzle could actually be a social activity. My wife and I could do them together, or she would add some words when the puzzle was left out and then I would add some different ones later.

The truth is, it hasn’t been established in any rigorous way that crossword puzzles benefit brain function. As I mentioned, there has been some study of that question, but a convincing answer hasn’t emerged yet. The same is true of the Japanese puzzles called Sudoku, which are basically crossword puzzles with numbers instead of words. What has been established, however, is that introducing new forms of mental activity can strengthen the brain and for me a crossword puzzle was a new form of activity. If people have been doing puzzles every morning for their whole lives, there probably is not much benefit. That’s especially true if doing puzzles has become a habitual behavior in which you’re mindless while you’re doing them. However, that wasn’t true for me. Instead, I was doing a mental activity in which my brain was asked to create new connections and to operate in new areas. I can’t document that this has had benefits, but my sense is that it has. So here’s what I urge you to do: whether it’s crossword puzzles or Sudoku or chess or bridge, challenge your mind to try something different.