Each Monday morning I look forward to reading my friend and mastermind partner Alan Weiss’ blog posts. This week Alan wrote: “We live in an age of micro-aggressions and polarization… If you voted for the ‘other’ party, you don’t merely have a differing opinion, you’re stupid.”
That same afternoon I was a guest on Richard Quest’s news program on CNN International. Richard and I discussed Proctor & Gamble’s Tide brand and the problem they’re having with their TidePods. Specifically, teenagers are daring each other to bite into the brightly colored pods and swallow the liquid inside. Then they go on YouTube and post videos of themselves foaming at the mouth and vomiting. It’s kind of like today’s digital version of your mom accusing the teenage you of jumping off the roof just because all your friends did it too.
Except in this case kids don’t get banged up or maybe even break a leg. They poison themselves. ABC News says, “The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported eight deaths related to laundry detergent pod ingestion since these products hit the market in 2012, through mid-2017.”
Richard wanted to know what the proper PR plan would be for effective crises management. My recommendation was not what you might expect to hear from a brand specialist – I suggested that P&G immediately take the product off the shelf. I reasoned that the profits P&G was making from the pods would be dwarfed by the cost of the negative effects of this unfortunate fad. And because of the ubiquitous power of social media, the outcry and backlash could reach far beyond anything Tide could manage.
One of the great things about being on TV these days is you get instant feedback on how you’re doing. All it takes is a quick log on to Twitter to see what people are saying or if they even bother saying anything at all. So when I got off the show I pulled out my phone and checked my Twitter feed. Some viewers agreed with my thoughts. Some did not. And to Alan’s point, a few shared their micro-aggressions.
@ItoKish tweeted: “@BruceTurkel Your idea about TidePods is f<#%ing stupid!”
@TiffanyTillman posted this: “@BruceTurkel You’re an asshole for insinuating that @Tide should remove tidepod from shelves cause idiot teenagers are doing crap.”
It was immediate confirmation that Alan Weiss was right. Just because I presented an opinion @ItoKish and @TiffanyTillman don’t agree with, I am an asshole. Or as Alan wrote (rather more eloquently than those two, I might add): “This pathology is evident daily (online), that great societal mirror… if you disagree with the writer, you must somehow be ‘damaged’… because the writer can’t possibly be wrong or even entertain another point of view.”
Was I insulted by Ito’s opinion or Tiffany’s name calling? Ironically, they did me a favor. By calling me out and calling me an “asshole” they also called additional attention to my TV appearance and my opinion.
I have two main goals when I get on a national news program. I want to build my own brand awareness and I want to position myself as the go-to person when sophisticated clients have serious brand issues. Tiffany’s and Ito’s crude outbursts simply served to spread the word and help people recognize that I have a different way of looking at problems and solutions.
People who already know me have already made up their minds about who I am and what I know. I’m confident that whether or not they also think I’m “f<#%ing stupid” or “an assshole” has little to do with Twitter posts. And people who don’t know me either don’t care whether or not I’m an asshole or they might take an extra minute to click on the CNNi link to see for themselves.
Where could this lead? Again, let’s turn to Alan Weiss:
“You need to have a fascinating conversation with your clients and potential clients. When they realize you’re a thought leader with interesting ways of looking at things they want to keep you around and will find ways to utilize your skills.”
Without it being their intention, Tiffany and the other name callers used the power of profanity to spice up my CNN appearance. Their comments will bring a bit of conflict and controversy to my public persona. And while the metrics are hard to follow, it’s safe to say that more people will view the link now than would have seen it without the outbursts (when I published this blog post, 2,694 people had viewed the clip on LinkedIn alone).
Will these people be potential clients or influencers? Again, it’s hard to say but probably not. But who knows? The whole concept of online virality is based on the energy and actions of people distributing information to people who view it and pass it on and so on and so forth. And who knows where that activity will ultimately lead?
Time will tell. Because clearly, I’m too “f<#%ing stupid!” to know.Published on January 17th, 2018
I have a very good friend who has a very specific business problem. Each time I spend time with them they talk about this issue. Each time they complain, they complain about this issue. And each time they do, they point out the same cause for the issue. Of course, they don’t think they have anything to do with the reason they’re having the problem in the first place.
Here’s the rub: the cause they’re illustrating is not the reason they have the problem. That much is obvious to me, obvious to whomever else is listening, and probably obvious to the clients my friend is having problems with.
One day I decided to take matters into my own hands. I told my friend that I wanted to have lunch with them. When we got together, I told them that I was there for an intervention.
I explained that there was no upside for me to have this conversation. I told them that when I was done they’d probably be mad at me which was not my intent. Instead, I wanted them to see a simple solution to their problem that they simply didn’t see before.
From there, I thought I was going to explain the problem and what I thought was the solution. But very few words had passed my lips before my friend started explaining why I was wrong, why the problem was bigger than I understood, and why they were doing the right thing.
So much for being helpful.
Perhaps they were right, who knows? What I do know is that my friend wasn’t open to understanding or exploring the issue.
Some people want to evolve. Some don’t.
All this went through my mind this morning when I read a blog post from another friend of mine. This person wrote:
“I talked to a very bright guy I know recently whom I really respect. He’s creative and articulate and interesting. During our time together he mentioned something negative that someone else has said about me. I have always called this kind of reporting “schoolyard gossip.” I remember when our kids’ fourth grade teacher told us during a parent evening at school, “Here’s my deal: If you don’t believe everything your kids tell you about me, I won’t believe everything they tell me about you.”
I wrote back:
“Hmmmmmm. I resemble that remark. Thanks for the insight and giving me something to think about. I’m always looking to evolve.”
Of course, I could be wrong. But assuming that they were talking about me, I surely enjoyed being called “very bright,” “creative,” “articulate,” and “interesting.” But I didn’t enjoy how my actions were perceived. Because while I might have thought I was being helpful, clearly I was not.
Only after I read what had been written did I realize how petty and gossipy I had been. And whether or not that was my intent is irrelevant. I acted badly and got called on my actions.
Forget about my disappointment in myself. Instead, let’s try to look at this constructively. You see, I realize this is a great way to start a new year. I now have something to look at, something to work on, something to strive for.
I have written many columns about PR crises management — mostly taking the best and worst examples from big companies and explaining what happened. I do this to provide entrepreneurs and small business owners like you with proven, practical advice. But here is an example taken right out of real life.
Just as I would suggest to my clients, I need to follow my own 4As of Crises Management:
I know what I did. I wrote to my friend to acknowledge my error. I am sorry. I am committed to not do this again.
Is this how people evolve? I suppose that remains to be seen. With this article I’m telling you a little bit about how I’m going to try to evolve in 2018. Or, as my friend wrote back when I reached out: “If you evolve anymore, you’ll be flapping your arms and flying.”
I wish the same for you.Published on January 9th, 2018
Retail purchases used to be made in bricks and mortar stores. Today, more and more sales are made online.
Politicians and celebrities used to communicate with voters through press secretaries, publicists, and multi-level public relations. Today, more and more of them tweet directly to their audiences.
Big organizations used to control the conversation with their customers. Today, more and more customers have larger social media footprints than some Fortune 500 companies.
Currencies used to be valued based on the strength of their securitization, be it precious metals or the good faith of their issuing governments. Today, more and more crypto currencies are changing the way people buy, sell, and invest with no clear country of origin.
People used to go theaters to watch movies and arenas to watch sporting events. Today, more and more consumers have high-def digital screens and use cable, satellite, and Internet connections to bring worldwide entertainment right into their living rooms, their computers, and their handheld devices.
Children used to be seen and not heard. Today, more and more of them are still not heard, but only because they’re too busy texting on their cellphones to actually bother to talk to their elders.
Chances are you nodded yes to most or all of the recent phenomena I’ve just listed. Yet chances are also that you continue to manage your brand the way you did before any of these things were creating successes and failures around the world.
IBM’s brand used to stand for computer equipment. Hell, their name was an acronym for International Business Machines. Today they sell middleware, software, hosting, and consulting services. Machines? Not so much.
Apple used to stand for home computing. Today they offer watches, music, apps, cloud hosting and operate a breakthrough retail business — both online and off. Yet with all that, their phone business outsells everything else they do.
Amazon used to sell books. Today they sell almost anything you can name, including logistics and cloud services and well as providing retail opportunities to small brands and manufacturers everywhere.
UPS used to sell package delivery. Today they’ve taken what they learned and moved into the logistics consulting business, selling their know-how to large companies, organizations and governments.
As we rush headlong into 2018 and the brave new world of ubiquitous connectivity, democratized information, and IoT adoption (Internet of Things), let’s talk about your brand.
Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC to take “fried” out of their name.
Dunkin’ Donuts is considering rebranding themselves as Dunkin’. Why? To “reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader.” In other words, they want to take “Donuts” out of their name.
Does your brand still stand for the function you provide for your customers? Take a look at the companies above and you’ll see that perhaps that’s not the best strategy to follow into the future.
After all, a good brand makes people feel good. But a great brand makes people feel good about themselves.Published on January 2nd, 2018
A dancing bear is a wild bear captured when the animal was young or a bear born in captivity and used to entertain people in the streets for money. Dancing bears were commonplace throughout Europe and Asia from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, and could still be found in the 21st century in some countries. Shockingly, they were still present on the streets of Spain as recently as 2007.
Dancing bears were also commonplace on the Indian subcontinent. According to the BBC, the last of them were freed in 2009.
Besides the injustice of taking these animals from their natural habitats and forcing them to perform unnatural acts, their training regimes tended to be cruel as well. The bears would be chained and caged, muzzled, and beaten into submission. Even standing on their hind legs for long periods of time was an unnaturally painful posture that needed to be coerced.
To train bears to perform acts they wouldn’t normally do in the wild, their trainers hopscotched back and forth between pleasure and pain – frightening the animals with whips and rewarding them with sugar cubes. Obviously, this risk/reward strategy broke the animal’s spirit and further coerced it to do what the trainer demanded. Eventually these two extremes became the bear’s poles of existence; from pain to pleasure and back again.
But assuming the injustice of trained dancing bears was mostly eliminated nearly a decade ago, why is this a significant subject for my last blog post of 2017?
The beginning of a new year is the time that many of us think back on our last year and plan for what we’re going to do differently in the coming year. Rather than simply list the things you’re going to do (“This is the year I’m going to write my book”) and the things you’re not going to do (“I am not going to eat carbs anymore”), why not look at your motivations for doing these things?
Are you operating from fear or are you looking towards accomplishing the things that will make you feel good about yourself and your life? Are you yo-yoing back and forth pain and pleasure or are you moving positively into the future? And even more importantly, are you writing resolutions that allow you to further express your authentic truth or are you using resolutions to force yourself into unnatural behaviors?
As we head into the new year, maybe it’s time for you to reflect on whether or not you are using punishments and rewards much like the whips and sugar cubes that coerced dancing bears to get up on their hind legs and hop around when the music played.
Wasn’t much fun for the bear. Not much fun for you, either.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Since there’s nothing we can do about Twain’s first day, why not make it your New Year’s promise to work on point two? True, you’ll probably never actually figure out why you’re here (or even if there actually is a reason) but the exploration will help you decide what to do (and what not do) next. What’s more, figuring this out will pay off for your business and your brand.
Instead of just focusing on the things you do, concentrate on identifying who you are and why that persona resonates with your current and potential customers’ wants and desires. Because even though the product or service you sell may provide the actual result your clients need, the relationships you build with them — relationships based on an acceptance and understanding of your authentic truth — will entice them to do business with you.
People don’t choose what you do. They choose who you are. Of course, you want them to choose to do business with you, not just any dancing bear that comes along. But first you have to let them know who you are and why you matter to them. If you want to learn how to do that, click HERE.
One thing you can be sure of, it’s not the whips or the sugar cubes!Published on December 25th, 2017
Perhaps you’ve promised yourself one of these:
“I’m going to go to the gym every day.”
“I’m going to stop eating carbs, sugar, and everything else that’s bad for me.”
“I’m not going to procrastinate anymore.”
“I’m going to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night.”
It’s no wonder some of these resolutions might sound familiar. Each year we burden ourselves with lots of unrealistic promises that we simply know we’re not going to keep. Truth is, I think the less realistic we make the resolutions, the more easily we can ignore them. Perhaps we even subconsciously set ourselves up to fail.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Then it’s no wonder most of us look at New Year’s Resolutions as a fool’s errand.
But what if we could actually do something for the new year that mattered? What if we actually promised to do something that could really move us forward? Better yet, what if we actually prepared for the new year to give our resolutions a chance to actually work for us?
Here are a few suggestions that work for me:
My friend Karen Hirschfeld is a genius executive coach who works with Fortune 100 CEOs all around the world. From her perch in Geneva she helps the people running companies run their own businesses — and their lives — more effectively. Each year about this time Karen sends her clients a list of sentence completion exercises that helps them review what they accomplished in the year gone by and what they’re planning for the year to come. This way, their New Year’s resolutions are not random but rather are based on results from the past and thoughtful plans for the future.
I don’t know about you, but by the end of the year my various spaces are pretty untidy. My desk is covered with papers and business cards that I’ve been meaning to deal with. My computer desktop is scattered with files and emails that I’ve been planning to put away. My night table is stacked with books and magazines that I’ve been wanting to read. And my mind is cluttered with thoughts and projects I’ve been trying to get to. That’s why I declare the last two weeks in December “info amnesty.” I either put the stuff away or pitch it in the trash. Face it, if you haven’t dealt with the piles by now, you’re not going to next week or next year either. Instead, give yourself one last chance to do it or dump it and start the new year with a clean slate.
Pardon me for saying so, but your website sucks. So does your social media presence and your marketing materials. And so do mine.
It’s not because they were bad when we created them. It’s because the world has changed drastically since then. Things moved on while we were busy running our businesses and now our materials are so twenty minutes ago. So why not take the next few days to look at everything you’re using to promote yourself and figure out what you can do to upgrade them into 2018?
To help you with all these things, I’ve created a new online branding and marketing program called Brand Billions. It’s the new online environment where I’ll be able to share everything I know about brand building with all the people I communicate with. The goal of this new community is to get all of us ready to compete and prosper in the brave new world we all find ourselves in.
If you’re interested in learning more, simply go HERE. I know you’ll be inspired by what you find. If you take a look before the end of the year you’ll even find some very special new year’s gifts waiting for you. After all, if I want you to make resolutions that matter, the least I can do is make it worth your while to follow my lead.
In the meantime, I wish you a very happy and peaceful holiday season and a very prosperous new year.Published on December 20th, 2017
For months, we’ve been watching as high and mighty men in business, politics, and entertainment have been fired or forced to resign because of their reprehensible behavior with the women (and sometimes men) in their businesses and in their lives.
The list includes Fox’s Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly; NBC’s Matt Lauer; CBS’s Charlie Rose; Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor and John Hockenberry; politicians Trent Franks, John Conyers Jr., Al Franken, and Tony Cornish; Entertainment moguls Harvey Weinstein and Russel Simmons; businessman Mario Batali; and entertainers Kevin Spacey, Andy Dick, and Louis C.K, and many more.
And those are just some of the names you recognize (The New York Times keeps a regularly updated list HERE).
As you’ll see over the next few months, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Soon, more workaday businessmen will start reaping the ills of their bad behavior. When that becomes commonplace, businesses in your own hometown — hell, even the company you work for — might have to start dealing with the long overdue fallout of sexual harassment. As the old saying predicted: From Wall Street to Main Street.
Sorry to say, I have no good advice for how companies should deal with the psychological or human resources fallout of such shameful conduct. Counseling, reparations, and ongoing team building are all outside my area of expertise. But when it comes to dealing with the branding consequences and crises management that many companies will have to deal with to stay in business, my know-how runs deep.
Simply put, there are four things your company must do to manage the public perception nightmare that will come along with accusations of egregious misconduct. I call them the Four A’s of Crises Management.
The Four A’s of Crises Management
Back in 1982, bottles of Tylenol were tampered with and the poisoned product killed seven people. Yet by handling their crisis properly Tylenol not only overcame the nightmare scenario’s effect on their bottom line but returned stronger and more profitable than before. What’s more, they reclaimed their position as the leading pain reliever in the market. It wasn’t that Tylenol didn’t have serious problems that needed to be corrected, it was that they knew how to properly deal with their problems.
Tylenol acted immediately. That meant they not only removed and destroyed every single bottle of Tylenol on the shelves (not just the ones in the problem regions) but they installed tamper proof caps and redundant fail-safe foil wrappers on every bottle to assure consumers that their product was safe.
Of course none of this works if you don’t cut the head off the snake while you’re doing everything you can to cure the snakebite. Tylenol’s example shows companies dealing with sexual harassment claims that having the guilty executives quit, be fired, or step down is not enough. After you’ve eliminated the wrongdoer you must fix the problem AND show how you’re making sure it will never ever happen again. For the good of everyone else in the company, you must also appeal to your audience’s emotional side with an effective crises mitigation program.
Remember that people make decisions based on their emotions and justify those decisions with facts. Brands that forget this simple truism do so at their own peril.Published on December 11th, 2017
Sometime in the 1980s, President Baking’s Murrays released a new cracker product designed specifically to compete with Nabisco’s Ritz Cracker. Murray’s product looked the same, tasted the same, and was delivered in a red and yellow package that looked like the Ritz Cracker box. Even the name left no question about what their cracker was all about. Not only did it sound like Ritz but it almost rhymed with the original cracker. Murray’s named their new cracker “Hits.”
Take a look at the two boxes side-by-side and you’ll see what I mean:
But similarity alone was not enough to compel enough consumers to change their buying habits. According to Deborah St. Thomas, “Nabisco introduced Ritz crackers to the Philadelphia and Baltimore markets November 21, 1934. They were well received from the start with their unique light and buttery flavor and a reasonably low selling price of 19 cents a box. The name was also important because it conjured up images of wealth by alluding to the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York, which elicited the promise of better times to come. This had great appeal to Americans during the Great Depression years. By 1935, Nabisco was selling the cracked nationally and within three years it became the best-selling cracker in the world.
Instead, Murray’s marketing team had to do something to shake cracker consumers out of their habitual lethargy. And so, they created a package design that not only looked like the Ritz package but caused consumers to do a double take.
Take a look at what multiple boxes looked like on the grocery shelf:
Do you see something different, something that might cause you to pay more attention to two Hits’ boxes than you might have done if you only saw one? And if you did see the difference, would that compel you to buy two boxes so you could repeat the trick at home?
Needless to say, the word that showed up when two boxes were placed side-by-side looked coincidental enough that consumers could wonder whether or not the comic combination was intentional. In fact, when my friend Buzz Fleischman showed me the Hits package on his radio and Facebook Live show, he wasn’t convinced the new word the lined-up boxes created wasn’t simply a funny accident.
But you and I are too savvy to be fooled, aren’t we?
After all, when Burger King instructed us to Have It Your Way, we knew they weren’t talking about burgers, right?
And when Nike told us to Just Do It, we knew they weren’t only talking about athletics, didn’t we?
Disruption – defined as a “disturbance or problem that interrupts an event, activity, or process – was a viable marketing technique long before pop-up ads interrupted your web browsing or restaurant suggestions interrupted your directions on Waze.
For years savvy marketers have been looking for ways to interrupt your view, make you question your traditional activity or try something different. And whether you’re trying to sell crackers, direct clients to your investment company, or fill your cruise ships, disruption is still an effective way to reach your potential customers. Because unless you’re the market leader, lulling them to continue doing what they’ve always done is not the way to build your business. Getting their attention is.Published on December 5th, 2017
You Cannot Square a Circle.
“…so, they spend all this money, but they’re not doing it right,” my friend Mitch said. “I know there’s a big business there. All we have to do is square the circle.”
“Huh? I interrupted. “What does square the circle mean?” You can’t turn a circle into a square!”
David was waving his hand like that obnoxious kid in your sixth-grade class who always had the answer. “I know, I know,” David said, barely able to control himself.
“Okay, David, tell us… but please spare us the long mathematical explanation” I begged.
Even though David’s a math savant, he doesn’t get to show off his knowledge very often. He could barely control himself.
“That a circle cannot be squared was not known to the ancients because the Greeks didn’t grasp the concept of irrational numbers,” he started. “Indeed, one of the Pythagoreans was killed for attempting to explain that the square root of two is indeed an irrational number. But before considering irrational numbers like the square root of two or pi, let’s consider rational numbers. Rational numbers are the RATIO of two integers.”
I already regretted asking David to explain. But it was too late.
“Rational numbers come in two flavors, those that repeat and those that terminate. 3/4 is the ratio of the integers three and four. Its decimal equivalent is .75. 3/4 terminates. 2/3 is a rational number that repeats. 2/3 equals .66666… The sixes repeat forever. 2/3 does not terminate.
But irrational numbers neither terminate nor repeat. The square root of two is equal to precisely 1.414213562.”
“I’ll bet you didn’t have to look that up,” I smirked.
David nodded and continued: “Pi is also an irrational number. The infinite decimal expansion of pi neither terminates nor repeats. The first few digits of pi are 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288. I could go on.”
“Please don’t” we said in unison.
“But you get the point. Unlike 3/4 which terminates, unlike 2/3 which repeats, irrational numbers neither terminate nor repeat.”
We didn’t get the point but he was on a roll.
“Now that we have distinguished between rational and irrational numbers, we have to distinguish between two kinds of irrational numbers. The square root of two is an irrational number. Pi is an irrational number that is also transcendental. Irrational numbers, like the square root of two, can be the answer to quadratic equations. X squared -2 equals zero has an answer. The answer is the square root of two. But there are no quadratic equations that have pi as an answer. Pi is not only irrational but transcendental.
The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared. A circle with a radius five has an area of 25 pi.
The area of a square is the length of a side times itself. The area of a square with a side of eight is equal to eight squared or 64.
Squaring the circle means finding a circle whose area is exactly equal to the area of a square using only a finite number of steps. Since the area of the circle will always be a transcendental number and the area of a square has to be an integer, this can never happen in a finite number of steps. Therefore, you cannot square a circle. It’s a metaphor for that which cannot be done.”
“You mean it’s impossible,” said Mitch. “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”
David was knowledgeable. Mitch was erudite.
Which are you? Are you presenting your brand, your business, and yourself in simple terms that your customers can understand? Or are you wrapping yourself in acres of tiresome talk? Are you using big words when small ones will do? Are you using long rationalizations when simple examples offer more clarity? Are you writing an SAT essay when you should be tweeting a competitive advantage?
If you are, you are squaring the circle.Published on November 28th, 2017