Archive | January, 2011

Executive Elements Blog

14 Jan

Dear People of the Blog,

I am now cross-blogging. Note that this is not the same as cross-dressing.

Check out a series I’m doing for Executive Elements, a new blog that focuses on building successful female leaders. Executive Elements Partner and Executive Coach Chasity Kuttrus is a force. I encourage you to subscribe to this blog, not just because of me but because of its quality and substance.

My series of posts is on “mentorly love” — focused on how female and male mentors complement our professional growth. In the series, I’m defining a couple of mentors on my personal “board of directors.” These folks have given me the support and push that I’ve needed along the way, like professional moms and dads.

Here’s the first post.

Enjoy!

Kim

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Brands and Creating Emotional Appeal

6 Jan

Brands that elicit emotion attract devotion—and loyal followers.

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Image from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophisticated measurements—even MRI’s as described by Martin Lindstrom in Buyology—can track individual emotional reactions and the brain’s response to the appeals of marketing. Neuromarketing is all the rage now thanks to self-described brand futurist Lindstrom, and the revelations from his $7 million study are fascinating on the surface. It sounds as if many of our decisions that were thought to be driven by, well, thought, for such a long time, are in fact driven by instinct, deeply embedded and hard-wired into our nervous systems. I am looking forward to reading more about it and learning how I can shut off that part of my brain that likes Boden so much. Something resident in my reptilian brain no doubt.

Ethnographic studies follow or record consumer interaction with brands. I remember one study that monitored women’s processes of getting ready (“faire sa toilette” in French…sounds more glamorous) in the morning. They discovered that many women actually climb on top of their sinks so they can best see their faces for tweezing activity and makeup application. Imagine how this changed expectations around makeup packaging and accessories.

But describing and quantifying emotional connection to brands is different than feeling the connection. What’s the sensory experience of holding the sleek, rounded casing of the iPhone and flicking between album covers to choose a new playlist? The “ahhhhh” relaxation of sinking one’s head into a Tempurpedic pillow (or mattress, for the lucky few) at the end of the day? The feeling of unwrapping a Lindor dark chocolate truffle and eating it whole before it melts. Or hearing the crushed paper in metal wastebasket, slam-dunk sound of an old document being moved from the desktop to the trashcan on your Mac? (SFX: Resolute crrrrrrunch.)

Lovemarks, coined by Saatchi and Saatchi, describe the beyond-brand nirvana of sensory connection to products. Lovemarks are in the upper-right corner of the quadrants formed by the love and respect continuums, squarely defined by high love/high respect. I like the concept of lovemarks because it incorporates appreciation for the sensory experience of brands—and the feelings brought about by brand interaction.

One brand that’s leveraging the lovemark and Alsop’s seventh law is Ohio: The State of Perfect Balance. This is Ohio’s brand, now on driver’s licenses and being implemented across all areas of state government. From the economic development perspective the concept behind this brand is that business leaders can build their business AND love their life—something that’s clearly not possible on the coasts and in areas that require large commitments of time for commute. Place branding has the power to draw more people to Ohio through emotional connections.

Take a minute to think about the brands that evoke reactions for you that don’t involve thoughtful analysis. Comfort. Inspiration. Hope. Love. Protection. Relaxation.

What gut-level reactions do you associate with different brands? When you consider how persuasive emotion can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if you came up with a unique list.

Managing Crises with Finesse

4 Jan
A crisis may feel like this, but remember that everything has a beginning, a middle and an ending.

A crisis may feel like this, but remember that everything has a beginning, a middle and an ending.

The words “crisis” and “finesse” do not belong together, but reputation-master Ronald Alsop combines them anyway. A crisis can be a defining moment for a company: Successful crisis management can separate a company from the pack—in a good or a not so good way.

You cannot prevent crisis, but you can keep it from spinning out of control. No plan is bullet-proof, but get as close as you can. Here are some important components that Alsop and others identify for bullet-resistant crisis management:

  1. Create a crisis team comprised of a balanced set of expertise. It should include representation from PR, legal and IT, in addition to line function representation. Everyone on the team should be quick-thinking and accurate to a fault. The leader should be the President or CEO, and the spokesperson should be a cool-headed and seasoned (not too much seasoning) member of the PR team.
  2. Define possible crisis scenarios. These can be grouped into various categories, such as natural disasters, human error (e.g., employee misconduct, corporate ethics issues) and product or service flaws. In order to best define these, work with your line managers. Ask them what they worry the most about—what keeps them up at night. Also make sure to list any crises that have been faced by your competitors, because it is likely that you could face the same issues at some point in time.
  3. Prioritize crisis management based upon probability of occurrence and level of risk to the company’s reputation  if the crisis should come to pass. You can set up a grid and work through each scenario based upon the combination of these two factors.
  4. Map out a plan of response for each scenario. High probability/high reputation damage risk  scenarios should be explored first because a crisis management approach is most crucial in these cases.
  5. Set up a crisis command center. The command center should be a “war room” where the team can convene and extend its tentacles as needed to take action.
  6. Create a crisis reference book. This should include all relevant contact information, protocols given various scenarios, templated releases for categories of crisis (natural disaster, human error such as corporate misconduct and product issues), and flow charts stepping through key steps in the reaction process.
  7. Put your staff through their paces with crisis simulations. The crisis team, and other staff, should routinely be exposed to mock crisis scenarios to test response time and accuracy. These can be announced or unannounced by management. Fire drills are a good test of your company’s crisis smarts.

When the GPS is Wrong…O, Canada

4 Jan

Over the holidays, my husband and I had an interesting bonding experience and marital trial re: the GPS. We were heading home from Maine, with my husband in charge of driving and navigation (never again on this one) since he brilliantly decided to leave at 12:30 am.

“What else am I gonna do? I’m awake, so I’ll drive. All you have to do is sleep!”

Right. Sleep. I vaguely remember that we left the resort by turning left (internal compass: “Why are we heading north?”) and then convincing myself that we’d eventually hang a hard left and end up going southwest.

My sleep lasted all of 40 minutes. When I was rudely awakened by bright lights and a red and white striped gate that read: ARRETEZ!

Capital letters and French, 2 am. Where’s my cafe au lait? Where the hell am I? In Canada?!?

Yes, it turns out we’d stumbled into Canada. Briefly. Just long enough to remind myself of my French and swiftly apologize to the border patrol. My husband, meanwhile, sat beside me stunned and pondering. “Huh. How’d we do that?”

There was no “We” in this faux pas. It was most assuredly not this map-lover’s fault. Mais non!

After about 10 minutes of proving our identities — which required waking up both children so that they could personally verify their birth dates and locations — we passed back safely onto American soil.

Lesson: The GPS was right. The fastest route from northern Maine to Columbus, Ohio is through Canada. But it didn’t factor in passing through a border that now requires passports, which we do not have.

We should never have relied on the GPS, with its myopic point A to point B incremental algorithms. There’s so much more to consider. Like much of life, it’s good to step back and take the big picture view with a large map in hand.

I’ve taken this lesson to heart as a good New Year’s reorientation. You can’t just putter along between points on the map and let the GPS do the driving. You’ve got to get situated, know where you are, where you’re headed and what’s the best route for any given moment in time. Rules change, and it’s good to be in the know.

Life has a way of lulling us into a false sense of security that we’ve found the quickest way, when in fact we’re always better off if we stay awake and aware of our surroundings, watching for signs to point us home.

New Year’s (or not) Pork with Apples and Onions Recipe

2 Jan

My husband received an anonymously provided subscription to Martha Stewart Living a couple of months ago, and I’ll admit that I’ve been inspired by some of the recipes. Here’s one that I made yesterday for my family as we celebrated New Year’s.

I also made the traditional sauerkraut and pork, but this one was truly delicious — and I got a lot of compliments from my family, even from traditionalists like my dad. For the liquid, I used a combination of white white with apple cider vinegar. I also had 10 chops and increased the amounts accordingly — worked just fine. I had two pans going — one Teflon and one not. I’d recommend a good steel or cast iron pan for this because those do better with browning.

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 6 bone-in pork chops (loin or shoulder), cut 3/4 inch thick
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 2 to 3 apples, cored and sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup beer, white wine, cider, or chicken broth

Directions

  1. Trim the chops of excess fat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a 14-inch cast-iron skillet (if you have a smaller one, you’ll need to work in batches) over high heat, and then swirl in the olive oil. Lay in the pork chops and don’t move them for a few minutes, to assure a good golden sear forms. Turn and brown well on the second side for a total of about 10 minutes. Transfer the chops to a warm plate.
  2. Swirl the butter into the pan. Add the onion and apples. Saute until the onion slices are lightly caramelized and the apples have begun to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the beer or other liquid. Return chops to the pan.
  3. Cook until the pork is tender, about 15 more minutes (depending on the size of the chops), turning halfway through and covering the chops with the apple mixture. If the apple mixture needs a little thickening, transfer the chops to the warm plate again and simmer the mixture on high for a few minutes to reduce. Serve the chops over rice or mashed potatoes with a large spoonful of the apple-onion mixture over the top.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Pork Chops with Apples and Onions – Martha Stewart Recipes