Corporate Branding Digest, July 30, 2014

Letter to a CEO: The Surprising View in the Mirror
(Forbes, 21.07.14)

Dear CEO: Congratulations. You’ve worked hard, built a business and can now enjoy the fruits of an impressive level of personal wealth. In recent times, you’ve shifted your focus beyond the day to day grind of your core business. Now you want to engage in a deeper level of corporate philanthropy. Spread your wealth around, say thank you to the world for your good fortune, step back and figure out how you can really make a difference in the big picture of your local or global community.

4 Things You Thought Were True About Managing Millennials
(Harvard Business Review, 11.07.14)

There seems to be an endless fascination with Millennials at work. There are studies, books, articles, blog posts and white papers—all about what makes them so different from the generations that came before. And as they continue to enter and occupy the workforce, more and more is written about how they behave (or misbehave) at the office.

Does Using Fear to Motivate Actually Work?
(, 19.06.14)

Are your executives productive because they’re afraid of you? A new study by and Domo shows that CEOs may be off base when it comes to motivating and engaging their executive team. You may think that you are using praise, affirmation and positive reinforcement to motivate your executives, but they are getting a totally different message.

Synergize Marketing Efforts to Gain New Customers
(Entrepreneur, 29.05.14)

It’s no secret that the mobile app marketplace is highly competitive and saturated. Apple’s App Store sales topped $10 billion in 2013, and customers downloaded nearly 3 billion apps in December alone. It can be hard to stand out in this marketplace, but it is possible by understanding how simple marketing tactics can work together to make a big impact on your business. Whether it’s a great piece of coverage in Entrepreneur or a stellar blog post that is picked up by outside sources, the key is to understand that press coverage, social-media engagement and blog content are synergistic entities.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” —Mark Twain

Corporate Branding Digest, July 16, 2014

Why Gaining Influence Is Now About Building Community
(Forbes, 11.07.14)

If you’re a leader or entrepreneur or storyteller, it’s going to get harder than ever to find an audience—and still harder to keep it.

Good Managers Look Beyond Their ‘Usual Suspects’
(Harvard Business Review, 25.06.14)

In the movie Casablanca, there’s a famous scene where Captain Renault, the head of the French police, avoids investigating the murder of a Nazi officer by telling his people to “round up the usual suspects.” The implication, of course, is that everyone should look busy and professional, even if the routine doesn’t really accomplish anything.

When Should a CEO Get Involved in Day-to-Day Details?
(Entrepreneur, 16.06.14)

Facebook recently changed its News Feed algorithm to give added weight to the word “congratulations.” Why? Because CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly found a co-worker’s birthday at the top of his news feed—over the birth of his niece. After he spotted this, Zuckerberg asked that the algorithm be tweaked to give preference to the word “congratulations.”

How to Spot a Toxic Leader
(, 10.04.14)

Business executives are tasked with the huge responsibility of creating a workplace in which employees feel valued and productive. Stable leaders tend to build companies where the rules are intuitive and employees don’t need to worry about how the system runs. Leaders who have a more distorted psychological makeup, however, often create miserable, unstable work environments that reflect his or her pathologies.

“We reinvent ourselves to solve a client’s problem. It’s more than just tweaking. It’s rethinking what your audience wants and needs.” —Merrie Spaeth

Corporate Branding Digest, Dec. 17, 2013

Tackling the Tricky Balance of Marketing to Women
(Fast Company, 16.12.13)

Chip Wilson, the founder and chairman of yoga wear empire lululemon, stepped down in the aftermath of his offensive comments blaming women’s bodies for the company’s recent product issues. Wilson’s follow-up apology on YouTube left us scratching our heads as to how a brand with an overwhelmingly female customer (men’s athletic wear makes up less than 20 percent of its sales) base could be so tone deaf—especially since the brand had done such a stellar job of stoking the devotions of legions of yoga enthusiasts with its community-building efforts.

How Staying True to Your Company DNA Can Grow Your Brand
(Entrepreneur, 16.12.13)

Starting a company is hard. Starting a company in the middle of a recession seems impossible. But that is exactly what sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder did when they launched their jewelry line DANNIJO in 2007. I caught up with the sisters to see what lessons other businesses can learn from the pair about branding.

5 Steps that Enable Bold Decisions
(, 12.12.13)

If you want to be different—if you want to achieve “different”—the only opinion that truly matters is yours. Group decisions give you an out. Other people can be at least partly responsible. Other people can be wrong.

Leadership Secrets from Successful CEOs
(Inc., 12.07.13)

How you lead is a reflection of your own strengths and weaknesses. Four CEOs share their top leadership strategies.

“Work is the true elixir of life. The busiest man is the happiest man.” —Sir Theodore Martin

Corporate Branding Digest, Nov. 15, 2013

3 Questions to Ask During a PR Crisis
(, 15.11.13)

Elon Musk’s battle with a New York Times reporter offers an important lesson on how your community can save the day in a crisis.

5 Last-Minute Digital Marketing Tips for the Holidays
(, 15.11.13)

The shorter holiday season will cost retailers $1.5 billion in potential sales. What’s a marketer to do? Though planning optimally should have happened months ago, following are five tips you still have time to implement.

How Companies Can Harness the Promise of Millennials
(Wired, 13.11.13)

The next generation of ambitious, passionate—and technologically wired—workers, known as the Millennials, will soon transform business as we know it.

The Future Brands: What Is the Role of the Marketer?
(The Guardian, 13.11.13)

Long-term brand vision is not an easy thing for marketing teams to articulate, but it is crucial to creating a sustainable future.

“I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything.” —Jon Stewart

Corporate Branding Digest, Nov. 5, 2013

Workplace Equality Is Good for Business
(, 03.11.13)

Long before I started work as the CEO of Apple, I became aware of a fundamental truth: People are much more willing to give of themselves when they feel that their selves are being fully recognized and embraced.

The Big Data Boom: Is Your Company Ready?
(Forbes, 30.10.13)

Samsung uses it to power the content recommendation engine on its newest smart TVs. Progressive Insurance relies on it to capture driving behavior and determine customer risk profiles. LexisNexis Risk Solutions uses it to identify individuals and family relationships, thus helping financial institutions and other clients reduce fraud.

The Importance of Building a Community of Brand Advocates
(Social Media Today, 17.10.13)

It’s time once again for us to talk about the importance of building a strong community of brand advocates. Whether you are running a law firm, a financial services firm or a business, your brand is everything.

The Malcolm Gladwell Guide for Marketers
(Ragan, 08.10.13)

Do you want to read a Malcolm Gladwell book, but aren’t sure which one? Read these synopses of his books and their marketing takeaways to help you decide.

“The object of living is work, experience, happiness. There is joy in work.” —Henry Ford

If It Doesn’t Work, Shout Louder

Nearly one year ago, a teenage girl was shot by gunmen for defying a Taliban campaign to close schools in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Her name is Malala Yousafzai.

The gunshot wound did not stop her from traveling around the world and advocating for girls’ education, though. Her story inspired millions, and in the past year she spoke at the United Nations (on her 16th birthday), was a runner-up for Time’s Person of the Year and was honored by dozens of organizations for her tireless work on behalf of children’s education.

“I want to speak up for my rights,” she told the BBC on Monday. “And I also didn’t want my future to be just sitting in a room and be imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking and giving birth to children. I didn’t want to see my life in that way.” In her recently released autobiographyI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, she writes, “I was spared for a reason: to use my life for helping people.” She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to educating the girls of her country, a country threatened by insurgencies and an economic crisis.

But Malala’s vision to achieve peace through human development and dialogue is not hers alone; it’s a vision shared by thousands around the globe, particularly the youth. She represents the millennial generation, one filled with hope and optimism in spite of the many global crises that challenge us. As a millennial, I believe our generation is profoundly affecting politics, media, business and activism. We see ourselves as integrated in the world, in our own communities.

At last week’s opening ceremony of the One Young World summit in Johannesburg, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, and musician and philanthropist Sir Bob Geldof addressed fervent young leaders from 190 countries at FNB Stadium. “You are lucky to have been born in an age where what was impossible is becoming possible. Each one of you is capable of changing the world,” said Professor Yunus. About 1,250 of us attended the summit, the largest youth gathering of its kind, now in its fourth year.

As youth delegates, we discussed, debated and worked toward solutions on global issues such as gender equality and youth unemployment. A selection of global leaders from the worlds of business, finance, arts and society engaged with us, as our counselors. This year’s leaders—among them South African politician and former political prisoner Ahmed Kathrada and journalist and activist Fatima Bhutto—hosted speaking sessions and fielded questions on matters including human rights, sustainable development and global health.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring moments during the conference was a special session in which Kathrada and former South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, both counselors, and delegate Nobulalu Lali Dangazele shared personal insights about former South African President Nelson Mandela. Visibly emotional, Pienaar, who captained the South Africa Springboks to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, discussed Mandela’s humility and his deep compassion for people. “When he was released from Robben Island, he had forgiveness in his heart,” said Pienaar, with tears streaming down his face.

“When we came out of prison, everything was in white hands, everything,” recalled Kathrada, who was released a few months before Mandela. “The only way out was to work with our fellow past oppressors and work together to build one united nation.”

Lali Dangazele, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, beautifully described Mandela as “a beacon of hope and light” and added how visionary he is: “What his mind allowed him to do is trek forward and see 1994. He didn’t give up on that vision.”

Along with my fellow millennial One Young World Ambassadors, I left South Africa with goals and ideas on my mind and a strong desire to make a lasting impact in my community. I learned that to be an effective leader and agent of change, I need to be humble, visionary and compassionate. I returned to the United States realizing I am part of a movement started by the Mandelas, Kathradas and other brilliant thinkers and leaders of a previous generation, and continued by the Malalas of ours.

As Bob Geldof said at the summit: “If it doesn’t work, shout louder.”

[photo: Jennifer Zahid Chowdhury]

Corporate Branding Digest, Sept. 6, 2013

Why People Love Social Brands
(Business 2 Community, 01.09.13)

One of the fascinating things about social branding is that it doesn’t matter what size business you are or what your marketing budget is. What really matters is why people would want to purchase your brand. If you start with the why, the personality you will create for your business will help build lasting connections with your community.

17 Pinterest Metrics Every Brand Should Track
(Social Media Today, 12.08.13)

Pinterest has established itself as the dominant online source of visual inspiration. The social bookmarking site enables users collect and share photos of their favorite events, interests, and hobbies. Pinterest users spend more money, shop more frequently, and purchase items more often and in larger quantities than users on any other social network. It has become a huge traffic referral for businesses, but marketers often struggle with Pinterest content strategies. Enter Pinterest metrics.

5 Recruiting Habits of Successful Leaders
(Forbes, 01.09.13)

The simple fact is that recruiting is often a company’s first impression, and a reflection of its culture and workforce brand personality. It’s a spectacular—and too underexploited—opportunity to wow, woo, seduce and excite talent. Top talent doesn’t want to work in Dullsville. They want to work in a company that understands, challenges, excites, surprises and delights them. They want to work hard, play hard, and feel appreciated. Recruiting should be where the courtship starts. Your organization doesn’t have to be a Zappos or Google to start using savvy—and social media—to attract “the right fit” and talent skill set you need to soar.

Reviving Legacy Brands
(, 30.08.13)

Legacy brands have long-standing reputations that are born of their storied, rich histories and they are often associated with experience, performance, uniqueness and value that transcends cost. So when the need to revive legacy brands arises, the question you should ask is, “Which elements of my brand are dormant, and which elements still have value?”

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our Hopes for 2013

We’re thinking good thoughts for the new year and hoping for peace on earth. One way Havas PR North America is working toward that goal: We volunteered to build a Web presence for one of the young angels of Newtown, Emilie Parker. Emilie’s family created a fund to support Sandy Hook parents in taking time off from work to heal, pay for funeral expenses, or ease the financial burden of the shootings in whatever way is needed. We’re keeping all the families of the Sandy Hook victims and their community in our thoughts.

Are You a Hsieh or a Ferriss?


[Originally posted on]

With last week’s news that Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, and his Downtown Project have pledged $1 million to Venture for America to help revitalize downtown Las Vegas (full disclosure: My agency helped spread the word through pro bono media outreach), I got to thinking about the role of character in branding.

I recently heard from branding and strategic marketing consultant Noah Fleming, CEO of Fleming Consulting and co-author of a forthcoming book about customer retention and loyalty. In his view, the secret to success in terms of personal branding is character, and a compelling—and generally positive and respectable—personal narrative is the “key to massive success” in 2013, in his words.

He’s got a point. We want to do business with people we like. And even when we’re talking about a huge company, we still want a human element.

The example Fleming used in a blog post earlier this year for Fast Company was In it, he asked, “Why is Jeff Bezos always talking to me?” and posited some answers about why the monolithic retailer’s website often has a personal-seeming letter from the CEO.

Fleming’s formula as a consultant is the three C’s: content, community and character, by which he means positioning and determining what exactly it is people will remember about you, rather than letting them determine it for themselves. It’s a matter of taking a personality-driven brand, whether a company or an individual, and adding congruency and consistency to that brand’s communication.

As Fleming explains about the letters on Amazon, “Bezos is helping to build a set of expectations about Amazon by engaging me through character. He’s using a mechanism that allows him to communicate almost personally with millions of users, to constantly drill home the points that he wants them to always have at the top of their minds about Amazon. It’s one form of authentic communication, and it’s something that we can all learn a lot from.”

Another example is Hsieh, whose many fans praise Zappos’ generous return policy and exceedingly friendly customer service. Hsieh doesn’t have a presence on the home page, but anyone who has paid any attention to the business or popular press knows that a lot of Zappos’ shiny, happy image has to do with the corporate culture Hsieh installs.

In turn, he has spun that into his own personal brand with a big dose of modesty. First came his best-selling book Delivering Happiness, then a community at designed to “nudge the world to a happier place.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Timothy Ferriss, who has used his contrarian—some would say self-entitled—character to sell millions of books and draw scads of fans among young men who want to work less, earn more, outsource their lives and “join the new rich,” as he partly subtitled his first manifesto, The 4-Hour Workweek.

He’s still milking the bad-boy personal narrative for all it’s worth, whether suggesting you carry a starter pistol in your checked luggage to make sure baggage handlers don’t lose it, or thumbing his nose at traditional publishing models to promote his latest book on BitTorrent. Ferriss gets away with it because being a rebel is part of his persona, something that appeals to his unique set of fans.

But for the most part, the good guy is a safer role to play; in most instances of personal branding, character has more to do with open communication and old-fashioned values.

[photo: Prairie News]