Just Words or Something More?

“I think values are really, really important, but I also think that too many values are just words.” — Lou Gerstner, former CEO for IBM

Gerstner’s thoughts in McKinsey Quarterly stuck a nerve when I stumbled onto them the other day. We all operate from our values, but articulating them – getting them out on paper to share and really think about them – seems like a helpful exercise… a good lens to focus behavior.

But it’s hard to discount what Lou says next.

“I think values are really, really important, but I also think that too many values are just words. When I teach at the IBM School, I use the annual reports of about ten major companies that invariably announce, on the back page or inside back page, “These are our values.” What’s striking to me is that almost all the values are the same. “We focus on our customers; we value teamwork; we respect the dignity of our workforce.”

But when you go inside those companies, you often see that the words don’t translate into practices. When I arrived at IBM, one of my first questions was, “Do we have teamwork?,” because the new strategy crucially depended on our ability to provide an integrated approach to our customers. “Oh, yes, Lou, we have teamwork,” I was told. “Look at those banners up there. Mr. Watson put them up in 1938; they’re still there. Teamwork!” “Oh, good,” I responded. “How do we pay people?” “Oh, we pay on individual performance.” The rewards system is a powerful driver of behavior and therefore culture. Teamwork is hard to cultivate in a world where employees are paid solely on their individual performance.


The Simplest Thing for the Real Thing

“To see your name on a big brand, it makes it personal” — Ricardo El Torro, 22 year old Coke fan

Can it really be this simple to lift sales?  When you see your name in lights – or on the bottle, as it were – you buy.  Yes, I think it is.

The Wall Street Journal has a story up in their CMO Today section last week crediting a recent marketing campaign with a 2% hike in sales.  The Share a Coke campaign slaps the names of individuals on every bottle.  “Share a Coke with James” or Sarah or David, I suppose.

Sounds like the campaign broke in the U.S. in June.  But I didn’t see anything about it until my wife and I were traveling in the United Kingdom this summer.  I gotta say – we both noticed Coke for the first time in awhile.

We all like to see a story about ourselves in the hometown newspaper.  Or today’s equivalent – Facebook.  But it’s not everyday we see the impact of the phenomenon quantified.


Social Media Influence Waning Among Shoppers, Says Capgemini

“There is definitely a question mark over where and how social media fits into, or adds real value in, the shopper journey,” — Brian Girouard, a Capgemini vice president

Ruh roh — think social media is losing its shine?

Take a gander at the short post over at the Wall Street Journal for more.

If so, wonder what the next shiny new object is going to be?


Houston, We Have a Problem

Only one-third gave marketing a “passing grade” on lead quality, with even fewer (27.8%) giving that grade for lead quantity.

The quintessential sales/marketing divide – you see stories and research about this all the time. Seems rife in all industries.

The quote above comes from a post back in February of this year citing the CSO Insights’ 2014 Sales Performance Optimization Study. This take, of course, is being lobbed into the marketers bunker from their friends across the hall in Sales. I’m sure you can Google around to find similar studies and findings, from both points of view. Or, walk down to the water cooler in your office.

The MarkingProfs post opens with the suggestion that Marketing and Sales just might find it helpful to strike a formal agreement declaring what, exactly, a qualified lead really is. It’s so drop-dead obvious a step – mere common sense.

Why is common sense so uncommon in this particular thicket?


When to Take My Name Off the Door

“When you lose that restless feeling that nothing you do is ever quite good enough” — Leo Burnett

Guess I shouldn’t feel bad anymore, when this nagging feeling crops up from time to time. It’s actually good news! At least according to famed ad maker Leo Burnett.

In a farewell speech to his company, delivered in 1967, Burnett listed a series of practices and behaviors that, should they take root in the company after he was gone, would be clear signals it was time to take his name off the door. Even threatened to come back from the grave and scrape his name from the place himself.

Things like:

  • When you lose your passion for thoroughness…your hatred of loose ends
  • When you disprove of something, and start tearing the hell out of the man who did it rather than the work itself
  • When you forget the sheer fun of ad making and the lift you get out of it

The whole speech can be found on a post from David Aaker, contemplating personal values and their alignment with corporate values. It’s worth the click to see the whole speech.

As Aaker notes: “What are your business and brand values? Which are the signature values that represent the core of the organization and brand?”

And what are yours?