It’s No Joke! Humor Positively Impacts Your Brain

By Tony Alessandra, Best Selling Author & Professional Keynote Speaker

True! It’s no joke. There absolutely is a connection between laughter and improved brain function. A great deal of study has been devoted to the negative things that can happen to the brain and why they happen. We know a lot about the effects of depression, fear, and anger. For some reason, the positive influences haven’t generated as much interest. But these influences are very interesting. Laughter, in fact, is not only interesting but is positively mysterious.

How does the brain know that something is funny?

Studies suggest that on this is a three-part process. A cognitive element helps you get the joke. A neuromuscular aspect helps move the muscles of the face to smile and laugh. And a third emotional element produces the enjoyable experience of laughter.

Why is laughter enjoyable?

It stimulates the production of a neurochemical called dopamine, which is also associated with many other pleasurable activities.

Jokes aside, there are Practical Benefits

All of this seems to have some very practical benefits. Tests have found evidence that humorous films and videos can diminish stress and promote relaxation. How this happens is not entirely clear. Something is definitely happening on the biological level — the production of dopamine.

But could laughter also simply distract the brain from whatever else was on its mind, so to speak? It doesn’t really matter. We’ve seen that stress weakens brain function, so whatever lowers stress will have the opposite effect. At this point, I’m tempted to tell some funny stories, but I’ll resist that temptation and say goodbye until my next blog post.


Your Own Experience Is the Hardest Teacher (But Others’ Experience Is the Easiest)

By Jason Forrest, CEO, Head Coach Forrest Performance Group

What could you accomplish if you had unlimited brainpower and several lifetimes’ worth of experience to bring to bear on solving a problem? The truth is—you do have access to such unlimited power. And it’s not some pill you’ve seen in a science fiction movie. It’s in the people you know.  An effective mastermind group of peers—high level executives from a variety of industries—can be invaluable to your business.


Merriam-Webster defines mastermind as “a person who supplies the directing or creative intelligence for a project.” Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the chance to interact with and learn from someone who could provide this kind of leadership and know-how in an area that’s not exactly your sweet spot? Multiply that level of amazing by two, three, even eight, and you’ll get a sense of what a truly incredible, game-changing resource a mastermind group can be.


A mastermind group—a concept I first learned about from Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill—is a place to share ideas, learn best practices, and benefit from others’ brains, experience, and belief systems. The book calls such a group “a coordination of knowledge and effort and a spirit of harmony between two or more people for the attainment of definite purpose.”


The benefits of such coordination have been invaluable to me personally. For a number of years, I’ve been part of a nine-person mastermind group of entrepreneurs. Each of the eight others in my group has contributed valuable insight that has helped me overcome challenges, specifically in the realms of HR, marketing, and financing.


Here’s how to start a mastermind group to reap similar benefits for your own business:


  1. Assess yourself. Consider all the tasks you’re responsible for and identify a few areas where you excel and a few where your skills could be sharper.
  2. Explore your network. See who you know or could get to know who likely has a strength you’d like to develop.
  3. Assemble the team. Pitch the idea when you meet with potential mastermind colleagues. Be up front—let them know what you’re looking for, and what you bring to the table.
  4. Share the wealth. Introduce connections to one another. Get the ball rolling by finding ways to support a new colleague using your unique strengths.


You now have the makings of a mutually-beneficial mastermind group. Here are a few experience-tested pointers to keep it going strong:


  • Don’t confuse your role within your company with your role in your mastermind group. In your own company, you’re a leader and likely seen as the mastermind. In contrast, your mastermind group should consist of peers—each with valuable expertise. No one is the leader, and your role is not to manage or be managed. It is simply to share experience.


  • Think outside the industry. You won’t get really varied skill sets or transparent best-practice sharing if your mastermind group consists of a bunch of people in your own industry. Look to other fields—banking, IT, medicine, nonprofit, government, etc.—for colleagues who can help you see things in a whole new way.

Assembling a mastermind group and staying in regular contact with its members will put each member in position to thrive—both professionally and personally. This kind of mutually-beneficial group is one of the best ways to take advantage of the “work smarter, not harder” mindset.





About the Author

Jason Forrest | CEO, Head Coach Forrest Performance Group As a sales professional, author, speaker, and sales coach, Jason’s job is to empower professionals and executives to unleash their human performance and master their leadership skills in sales, management, culture and service. Jason grew up under the influence of his father (a business owner and professional salesperson), his mother, (a persuasive speaking professor), and Zig Ziglar (his Sunday school teacher and world-famous salesperson/motivational speaker). Jason learned sales by selling rather than observing. These influences and experiences shaped him into who he is today-a salesperson first, a trainer on a mission, a national speaker, and a coach who pushes sales organizations to become the best version of themselves. Every year, Jason delivers approximately 92 keynotes/seminars and conducts 850 group coaching calls with sales teams, sales managers, and executives. See him in action at


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Executive Briefings: The Model of R.E.A.L. Leadership

By Thomas White for Huffington Post

In my work, I meet business leaders from all over the world who have advice, stories and personal tips to provide. I sit down with these leaders to give them the opportunity to provide current business advice and give a glimpse to their personal stories as a business leader.

This week I interviewed Joe Hart, President and CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, an organization whose founder pioneered the human performance movement over 100 years ago and has continued to succeed and grow worldwide, through constant research and innovation building on its founding principles. Dale Carnegie Training has more than 3,000 trainers and consultants, operating in 300 offices in over 90 countries impacting organizations, teams and individuals. Dale Carnegie Training’s client list includes more than 400 of the Fortune Global 500, tens of thousands of small to mid-sized organizations and over 8 million individuals across the globe.

Dale Carnegie does a lot of research in regard to leadership. What are the traits that make up a great leader?

Dale Carnegie Training initially conducted research on this subject in 2015 in the United States and Brazil. We were so intrigued with what we had found that we expanded the research to 13 additional countries. Some of the key questions we found included: what are the types of traits that really motivate someone to want to give their best and what are the things that demotivate people. From this research we have characterized these to ‘R.E.A.L.’ or reliable, empathetic, aspirational and learning.

What makes a leader Reliable?

It refers to someone who is internally reliable. Internal reliability is someone being authentic. As people, we have great intuition, and we can tell when somebody is being consistent with who they are. They are internally reliable. But with external reliability people want to sense a level of integrity. Does the leader do things that they say they are going to do or do they say one thing and then do another?

Of the four traits, this one is absolutely foundational for the other three. It doesn’t matter if you’re empathetic, aspirational, or you’re an active leader, if do not have reliability, you do not have the core trust that you are building with people. If you do not have this trust with the people you work with or who you interact with then the other traits just will not matter.

What does it mean to be Empathetic as a leader?

Being empathetic means to really want to reach out and to be others-focused. It means to demonstrate a desire to listen, to care, to recognize the importance that other people have and to really give them the respect of hearing what it is that they have to say. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” So, an empathetic person is trying to learn, trying to listen and trying to demonstrate caring for the people around them.

There’s been a transformation of how leadership has been viewed over the decades. In the past, one might expect a leader to have all the answers, to show strong leadership qualities. Today, especially when you look at the millennial generation, people want to contribute to find out the answers. They want to have meaning in their work. They want to know the work they’re doing is valuable and that they are valued as a person. Someone who comes in and simply says, “Here’s what we’re going to do and you’re going to do it,” that is an immediate dis-engager for high percentages of people.”

What does a leader need to do to be someone who is Aspirational for the people that they are working with?

Leaders tend to focus on the bottom line. The finances are important and critical to the success of any business. However, to focus on those exclusively without a broader picture is not necessarily enough to connect with a lot of people. If a leader understands that people really want to have meaning in what they do, then simply hitting financial targets may not be enough. A leader not only needs to be focused on the details but also on why we are doing this at all and why what we are doing is important.

The financial parts and having targets are all important, but at the same time, to have something broader and something we can connect to that makes us feel like, “Yes, I’m really a part of something bigger and important, and I can go home and feel really good about that.”

How critical is it for a leader to also be a Learner?
It is very critical. Being a learner connects with empathetic in the sense that the learner says “I don’t have all of the answers”. The learner recognizes that mistakes are going to happen and they learn from that. They don’t necessarily like it but, they will embrace it and they won’t hesitate if they’ve made a mistake, to admit it, to address it and to move on. It’s about taking action. It’s about making mistakes. It’s about experience and judgement.



The Top Three Economic Indicators to Watch: Global Growth, China, and Crude Oil

By: Christopher S. Rupkey, CFA, Managing Director and Chief Financial Economist, MUFG

With the increase in global financial market turmoil at the start of this year, there are questions about the direction and health of the U.S. economy. So what are the signs we can look at now to gauge the economy’s health?

The strength of the dollar both helps and hurts earnings overseas with approximately 50 percent of U.S. manufacturing companies exporting throughout the world. Behind the strength of the dollar and weakness in financial markets early this year are three basic factors: global economic outlook, China, and crude oil.


Global Economic Outlook

The U.S. economy is at full employment, so payroll job gains will be less this year. This means little for the economy or the well-being of consumers and companies, except fewer buyers with new paychecks will be able to purchase goods and services.

We do not see the same level of investment from U.S. companies as in previous recovery cycles. The question: can the economy go forward at a satisfactory pace without companies making those investments?

The U.S. economy is growing and yet many believe China’s slowing economy and currency uncertainty could have spillover effects here. This worry could be based less on economic factors and more on psychology. Sometimes consumers can get the wrong impression about the health of the economy, and such nervousness leads them to curtail their spending.  The economic outlook is not as rosy as it was 12 to 18 months ago, but there are still strong indicators out there showing the economy will move forward this year at a moderate pace.

The Fed is looking to raise rates two more times this year and for the economy to grow from 2 to 2.5%. Unemployment in the Euro zone is above 10%, but continues to decline. The International Monetary Fund looks for around 3% growth for each of the next couple of years. China’s outlook is still at 6.5% growth. Many of the world economies look good, even if global markets can sometimes panic and trend lower temporarily.


Commodities Driven by China’s Infrastructure Growth:
The Boom and Bust Cycle

During a commodity boom, prices go up; on the bust side, prices go down. These days, we are feeling the effects of the bust side of the cycle. This cycle is implicitly tied to China’s rapid growth in the middle of the last decade. China was able to manufacture goods inexpensively, so the U.S. and other world manufacturers moved factories overseas. They helped Chinese manufacturers build the infrastructure to produce goods for export. There was a tremendous desire for natural resources like steel, iron ore, copper, and crude oil in China to set up this infrastructure to produce exports.

Today, China is not the same manufacturing powerhouse it once was and there is no longer the same demand for these natural resources. Global commodity prices are falling. Companies in countries like Brazil, Chile, and Peru are not able to sustain the revenues from the boom period, so economies in these countries are hurting.

All commodity booms and busts end however. Prices fall to such a low level that commodity manufacturers stop producing. Currently, we are waiting for the bust to hit bottom; we see signs that we are getting close to that point.


The Road Ahead

We see the typical economic cycle driven by interest rates and housing. With exports slowing, the domino effect will be felt throughout the supply chain. Because of market turmoil, many have second thoughts about the strength of the economy and outlook. The U.S. presidential election impact remains to be seen.

At this point, business leaders are cautious, without being overly pessimistic. There is business risk involved with planning, knowing that unforeseen factors can play on forecasts, so they are wisely proceeding with some caution.


Christopher S. Rupkey, CFA

Managing Director, Chief Financial Economist

MUFG Union Bank, N.A.

A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with an A.B. in Economics, Mr. Rupkey then received his M.A. in Economics from Columbia University in New York. Mr. Rupkey spent his early career working for Larry Kudlow at UBS Paine Webber, moving on to become  Chief Economist at Cantor, Fitzgerald. At MUFG Union Bank, N.A., Mr. Rupkey is presently Managing Director and Chief Financial Economist in the Economic Research Group, focusing on financial markets, Federal Reserve policy and international economies including Japan. He has published the Financial Market Weekly for the bank for more than 20 years.

Mr. Rupkey is frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Reuters, Yahoo, and other investor publications. From 2001-2002, Mr. Rupkey was President of the Money Marketeers of New York University, a club in New York made up of Wall Street dealers and New York Fed staff, and was President of the New York Association for Business Economics in 2009-2010. In September 2013, Mr. Rupkey was awarded the 2012-2013 National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Outlook Award. The annual award is presented to the NABE Outlook panelist with the most accurate economic forecast for the previous four quarters.


About MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation

Headquartered in New York, MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation is a financial holding company and bank holding company with total assets of $120.9 billion at March 31, 2016. Its principal subsidiary, MUFG Union Bank, N.A., provides an array of financial services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. As of March 31, 2016, MUFG Union Bank, N.A. operated 370 branches, comprised primarily of retail banking branches in the West Coast states, along with commercial branches in Texas, Illinois, New York and Georgia, as well as two international offices. MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., one of the world’s leading financial groups.

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The views expressed in this report accurately reflect the personal views of Christopher S. Rupkey, the primary analyst responsible for this report, about the subject securities or issuers referred to herein, and no part of such analyst’s compensation was, is or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendations or views expressed herein.

The information herein is provided for information purposes only, and is not to be used or considered as an offer or the solicitation of an offer to sell or to buy or subscribe for securities or other financial instruments. Neither this nor any other communication prepared by MUFG Union Bank, N.A., (collectively with its various offices and affiliates “MUB”) or should be construed as investment advice, a recommendation to enter into a particular transaction or pursue a particular strategy, or any statement as to the likelihood that a particular transaction or strategy will be effective in light of your business objectives or operations. Before entering into any particular transaction, you are advised to obtain such independent financial, legal, accounting and other advice as may be appropriate under the circumstances. In any event, any decision to enter into a transaction will be yours alone, not based on information prepared or provided by MUB.  MUB hereby disclaims any responsibility to you concerning the characterization or identification of terms, conditions, and legal or accounting or other issues or risks that may arise in connection with any particular transaction or business strategy. While MUB believes that any relevant factual statements herein and any assumptions on which information herein are based, are in each case accurate, MUB makes no representation or warranty regarding such accuracy and shall not be responsible for any inaccuracy in such statements or assumptions. Note that MUB may have issued, and may in the future issue, other reports that are inconsistent with or that reach conclusions different from the information set forth herein. Such other reports, if any, reflect the different assumptions, views and/or analytical methods of the analysts who prepared them, and MUB is under no obligation to ensure that such other reports are brought to your attention.

The articles and opinions in this publication are for general information only, are subject to change, and are not intended to provide specific investment, legal, tax or other advice or recommendations. The information contained herein reflects the thoughts and opinions of the noted authors only, and such information does not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of MUB or its management team. We are not offering or soliciting any transaction based on this information. We suggest that you consult your attorney, accountant or tax or financial advisor with regard to your situation. Although information has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable, neither the authors nor MUB guarantee its accuracy, and such information may be incomplete or condensed. Neither the authors nor MUFG shall be liable for any typographical errors or incorrect data obtained from reliable sources or factual information.

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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

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, and TheCMOclub among others, pens the weekly CMO Spotlight column for AdAge and is the author of TheCut, a well-respected monthly newsletter.

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.

Executive Briefings: Intersection of Leadership and Social Media

By Thomas White for Huffington Post

In my work, I meet business leaders from all over the world who have advice, stories and personal tips to provide. I sit down with these leaders to give them the opportunity to provide current business advice and give a glimpse to their personal stories as a business leader.

I recently sat down with Rob Harles, Head of Social Business & Collaboration at Accenture Interactive. Rob joined Accenture from Bloomberg LP in New York where he was Global Head of Social Media responsible for developing and managing Bloomberg’s social media strategy and initiatives worldwide.

As a leader in social media for a long time, both at Bloomberg and now Accenture, what changes do you see in what expectations customers have of companies?

Customers have higher expectations than they’ve ever had. Social has acted as a catalyst for people to express their views, support, lack of support for brands, and what they expect brands to do, to live up to their promise. Only ten to fifteen years ago you wouldn’t have been able to do that. Brands were lucky enough to be able to tell you what they stood for and hope you believed it. Now you have to prove it, and social is acting as that catalyst.

We call it the ultra-transparency situation, and it affects how companies engage with customers. How would you describe this phenomena?

The phenomenon with social is really about people wanting to feel that they matter, and they want to be able to express that. It’s been around since the dawn of time, when we were just a nation of shopkeepers. As we grew and had to come to terms with the challenges of scaling businesses, we got more and more distant from our customers. The result was that we had to do standalone market research at a set point in time just to see where people’s needs or demands were going or how they felt about us. Now that’s changed. It’s 24/7. They’re telling you exactly what they need. They’re telling you exactly how they feel. Sometimes they’re telling you the extremes of that because there is less of a filter.

What do you see in the next five years? How is social media going to change as a medium, and how is it going to change the way we do business?

The advantage of real-time information is that we are addressing people’s issues faster. We are being more responsive. Organizations and brands are using the insights that come out of social to improve themselves, and that’s a good thing. But with that always comes challenges. This is where organizations go off the rails. At Accenture Digital, what we’re seeing is that companies are almost too ready to take data and do something with it and not really think about the implications. Also, it comes with the challenge of where do you draw the demarcation line in terms of privacy? How do you think about protecting the rights of your employees or the rights of your customers? There isn’t a day that goes by when there isn’t a headline about something like this. It’s creating great opportunities on the one hand, but it’s also creating a lot of challenges in terms of sensitivity and the law. Eventually we find our path. Eventually we figure out the right way to do something and sometimes we only do that by making mistakes. Sometimes the consequences of those mistakes are actually quite precious, but it still makes us better.

Let’s shift gears. As a leader, what are the traits that you most admire in other leaders?

Everybody is different. That’s the thing that I’ve recognized, and good leaders recognize that. We’re a little bit more open than we’ve ever been and don’t self-edit as much. Great leaders are ones who have a vision and are willing to be tenacious enough to drive that forward. An example would be if you say you want to have an innovative culture. It’s another thing to actually create an innovate culture. Great leaders are ones who are a little more flexible than they’ve ever been, but have great vision and can really motivate people to bring more than what they’re just asked to do. It’s like a puppy dog scenario. I love it when people come to me and they have an idea, it might not be a perfect idea, but it’s a start. They’re thinking. The worst situation is where you stifle that.

Along your way to becoming the leader that you are today, who has inspired you, and what about them inspired you?

I have to pay homage to some of the great thinkers and entrepreneurs that we’ve had in just the last few decades. Whether it’s Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or Steve Wozniak and many more. In so many ways they represent the unique American spirit of trying to do something that no one has done before. It’s high risk. I admire the people who are the unsung heroes who have tried something and it hasn’t worked. Most entrepreneurs, if they’re really honest, will tell you, “So much of our success is built not just on hard work or creativity.” But their little secret is luck and being able to see it and take advantage of it and run with it. Not everyone has that luck, but they have all the other things. Sometimes those unsung heroes drive us forward through the missed opportunities and the failures just as much as those who we venerate. I like to see people, generally, who try things and are okay with failing and picking themselves up, learning from it, and moving to the next thing.