Archives for posts with tag: Strategy

A few weeks ago, I started working with a new client, a mid-size business. They started using Social Media a few years back and, over time, developed presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, a blog, Facebook Places, Tumblr and just started on Pinterest. Their previous Social Media consultant operated on the premise: Businesses need to be on as many social media channels as they can.

Why? In this rapidly changing world, businesses never know where their customer is going to be, so a business needs to be everywhere.


Mr. Consultant, stand in the corner and write “I will never recommend something that insane again.” 10,000 times.

There are two reasons why consultants, experts or agencies would give obnoxious advice:

– They try to fleece customers.

– They don’t know what they are doing.

I won’t even bother with people that try to fleece brands. Ultimately, brands will see through it and end the scam prematurely.

I’m much more concerned with people that believe in the philosophy that brands should be everywhere. Should Axe advertise on each TV Channel, even the Hallmark Channel? Should PETA run an ad in the Hunter’s Journal? Should Obama advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show?

Social Media shows its immaturity when “being everywhere” is still an advice I hear every day. Just like traditional and digital media, social media needs to rely on research – for example a social media audit. Understanding demographics, psychographics, spend decisions, social network use, day/time parting – all the good stuff and more that helps you understand where you need to be, when you need to be there, and what you should be doing/saying while you’re around. This helps brands and their community not to waste anyone’s time, helps to achieve goals and measure results.

Don’t be everywhere. Just be where your research tells you to be.


It’s a mindset, not just a strategy you deploy.

When people have back pains, you can pitch them to lose weight, start working out, do Yoga or Pilates (after all, this will prevent of having back pains on the future), but the majority are just interested to stop the immediate pain.

We need band-aids. It just seems we have too many band-aid people in our organizations. If we focus too much on band-aids and let our organization be defined how we react to emergencies, is it any wonder we don’t have enough time and effort left to focus on a strategy that would eliminate the need for having a constant deployment of band-aids in the first place?

We need to diminish the importance of the band-aid culture before we deploy a rehab strategy that leads to constant change.


I’ve been living more than 15 years in Los Angeles now and many things changed during that time: technologies, mindsets, economies, businesses – you name it. One dramatic change for me has been the dramatic division within the country.

Why? Politics. 24-hour news channels.

Who benefits? Both. Not the people, just some politicians and news organizations.

When I look back 15 years from now, will there be another dramatic change? Yes, pretty much the same. More division.

The “Us versus Them” strategy builds brand loyalty.

You see it in politics. Sports. Marketing: Apple vs. PCs. Ford vs. Toyota. Giving people rocks to throw at enemies is a good persuasion tactics. Just ask cults, they perfected this tactic.

Hippies thought “the system” was to blame. As a teenager, we blamed our parents. When you grow up, your boss might become the enemy, or the spouse, the kids, the government – EVERYBODY.

Enemies don’t have to be real. They can be just ideas. When you start your own business, the enemy is working for somebody else. A point of view can become an idea. An opinion. Your weight. Your connectedness.

Regardless of what it is, this tactic is everywhere now. Everybody is deploying it now. It works.

But what happens when you win?

What happens when the old boss is no more? When your weight disappears? When your commute suddenly takes 50 minutes less? You guessed right – you need a new enemy. Real successful people only compete with one person: themselves.

In his prime, Tiger Wood beat everybody. But his real struggle was to fight his own laziness, to constantly improve his game.

Michael Jordan.

Steve Jobs.

The “Us vs Them” tactic only goes so far. Once you’ve overcome the real or imagined enemy, you have to come up with new ones. External motivation is not a bad thing, it just limits your potential.

Instead, brands need to continuously challenge themselves to do more, to do better. That means setting goals, and upon reaching them set newer ones that are further away.

Intrinsic motivation will always beat external motivation. It’s sustainable. It’s effective. And so much more rewarding.


Let’s talk about soccer, shall we? (Worst introductory sentence ever. I’m sure 99% of my readers just ran away screaming.)

Germany always had a good soccer team. The Brazilian team in 1974 was so wonderful to watch but Germany won the cup. England played more exciting soccer in 1990 but Germany won the cup. South Korea played inspired in 2002, Germany beat them and went to the final. You can’t argue with 3 World Cup titles, 4 second places and 4 third places in 17 appearances.

Germany didn’t play the most exciting soccer. It wasn’t artful. They had a strategy and they stuck to it. No matter what. That’s why they won 3 titles and are one of the most admired national soccer teams in the world. You might not like them. You might even hate them. But you have to respect them.

What brands can learn from the German soccer team

It never ceases to amaze me how often brands express a viewpoint that goes against their carefully constructed brand strategy. They spend time and precious resources on a brand strategy, just to throw it in the trash bin when there’s a chance for short-term profits or an implication they don’t like.

Nobody says brands should stick to their strategy, no matter what. When you’re 4 goals behind, you better change your strategy or go home. The reason why brands invest in strategy is to achieve their goals in the most efficient and effective way possible. It’s a guide to make the right decision, to be reminded of your strengths and weaknesses. Strategy is the independent voice that hits the buzzer when you’re about to make idiotic, short-term decisions. If you don’t have a strategy, you can justify any tactic, any investment.

Too many brands play to the cheap seats. I’d rather play for the cup.


How many times did we hear outcry about tenure of CMOs? It’s somewhere between 12 and 24 months. In short: pathetically short. There are groups on various social networks where CMOs talk with each other and share information. I joined a few of them and was saddened by the content: a lot of echo chamber jargon, opinions and little substance. Anyone existing outside the marketing community wouldn’t understand a word.

There’s a lot of junk and cheap talk, nothing relating brand status to financial consequences. Anybody involved in the marketing and advertising world is responsible to nail down some factual benchmarks that smart business people understand. Many of the reports marketers produce are just fluff and hot air (Unaided brand awareness, anyone? Facebook likes. Do I have to continue? Thanks.) At my first agency job, we commissioned a client satisfaction survey each quarter. It gave us information agency staff couldn’t get internally. We used it as a way of giving the agency goals and every six months executives presented the results. It removed all opinion by giving us measures we needed to address. We tried to manage the agency brand through the eyes of our clients. The outcomes were fabulous when it came to retention, organic growth and new business.

The curse of marketing is jargon combined with unquantified opinion

That’s the real cause so many people in marketing and advertising believe to be visionaries and almost nobody is. When they lead the way, they might lead us to nowhere. Or Second Life. Let’s face it: most of us are challenged in the vision department. However, we all talk like Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. They communicated substance, most of us hot air.

Now, there are some real visionaries in this business. People that know the past, understand the present and learned from both to look at the future. The problem for agencies and clients is to work out who is the person with the jargon and glossary, and who is the one that is thinking and talking intelligently.

Any new client needs to agree on a form of measurement to track performance. Most brands still  don’t want to invest in the most elementary tracking. They rather focus on listening and defensive tactics, rather than understanding the real perception of their business and brand. Some brands spend millions of dollars on media but they don’t bother to spend 0.5% of their marketing budget on tracking important KPIs. “Let’s do that next year.”

CEOs should be brand managers

CEOs should ask for this data on a monthly basis. In terms of brand management at the top of any organization, the CEO cannot rely upon the input internally as it has a vested interest in all things  being pink unicorns. CEOs need some form of external intelligence communicating honestly how his brand is doing in the real world. Good intelligence gives the CEO the time to adjust the business. When he has to fire the CMO to correct strategy, it’s too late. The horse has already left the barn.


A few weeks I wrote about “The Shanty Towns of Social Marketing”:

“It’s a world filled with anarchy, impenetrable walls that make it hard for people from the outside to see what’s going inside and it’s an unethical world. In this world, you can buy Facebook fans by the thousands. You can ask them to “like” your brand in exchange for goods. They give you options to download your pricey apps in exchange for credits. Need 10,000 more LinkedIn fans? That creepy guy with the fedora and mink coat can help you. Have to pump up your follower number on Twitter by 100,000? Enter the greasy door next to the red neon sign, flashing “Open”. It’s a shanty town comprised of people who work for improvised, unsustainable companies that might go out of business any day.

An island filled with bottom-feeders, preying on the innocent. And supporting the cynical and unethical marketers.”

Either Mr. Gingrich didn’t read my post (likely) or he read the post and got a “good” idea (unlikely): No matter what, it seems Mr. Gingrich and his team (allegedly) were buying fake  Twitter followers. PeekYou dug a little bit deeper and they concluded that just 8% of Newt Gingrich’s followers are real people.


I briefly glanced at Mr. Gingrich’s followers and, well, it doesn’t look good.

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The egg screen of death.

What about Obama?

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Some eggs but not as eggtastic as Newt. But that’s just silly me, having a glance.

PeekYou went even further and analyzed the GOP 2012 contenders for comparison: Still, 8% of Gingrich’s followers are real, 20% real followers for Sarah Palin and Pawlenty tops the chart with 32% real followers. (Allegedly.)

I’m glad this happened.

Not many people have written about the rotten eggs of Social Marketing. It finally sheds a bright light on this unethical practice. (Especially when you boast about the number of followers.)

Clearly, Mr. Gingrich uses the follower count to stroke his own ego and get attention/respect from the clueless press. That’s about it.

A high number of fans is meaningless if no one ever shares your stuff or does anything to advance your cause.

Who knows, this might be the beginning of the end for these silly services. It’s a definite wake-up call for agencies and their clients to have a second look at their Social Marketing strategy. Especially when all you see is the egg screen of death.

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The World Cup is upon us and as a lifelong soccer fan and player, I reflected on a few insights that the soccer game taught me that can be applied to small and large businesses.

1. Embrace and live your culture

I started playing soccer when I was 5. We practiced twice a week and played each Saturday. Raised in Germany, our practice consisted of 90 minutes running and 30 minute playing time. Fairly insane when you think about it: forcing 5-year-olds to run for 90 minutes through the forest or doing laps after laps. But that’s the German culture for you. We were no masters on the ball but my team could outrun anyone. We won 90% of our games in the last 10 minutes because we never tired. (I hope there’s more balance in today’s practices in Germany, though)

Each country has a specific soccer culture: the playfulness of Brazil, the physical intimidation of England, the defensive discipline of Italy, the exuberance of African teams. While you need to embrace and live your culture to be successful, you shouldn’t fall in love with it and be always open to change. Brazil wasn’t a dominant force in the 70’s and 80’s because they focused too much on playfulness and not enough on execution. Once they added execution into the mix, matches and World Cup’s were won again.

2.) Hire entrepreneurs

Most soccer coaches last only for a few years. It’s a tough job to gather all your players from clubs all over the world, fight internal bureaucracies and deal with the press. Coaches, just like players, are superstars. They have to take huge risks in order to succeed and most of them fail. Just to rise on some other bench to try it again.

Soccer is a team sport but individual decisions make or break a team. The collective approach to soccer will always fail. Both coach and player are entrepreneurs, and the more creativity they display, the more leeway they are given. Coach and players have two different tools of influence to impact the outcome of the game.

The coach can create a cohesive, yet competitive culture that rewards creativity and innovation, build team spirit and nurture team culture. He has strategic tools at his hand (formations, substitutions, etc.) but his input won’t lead to innovation or moving the game to a new level.

This is done by 22 feet of 11 individual players. Players innovate on a daily basis to get a small but significant competitive advantage. They need to surprise other players with new ways of dribbling, moving, passing and reacting. The coach is there to create the right environment for players to innovate. Daily. With every move.

3.) Dramatic innovation is rare. Daily innovation a must.

As a soccer aficionado, it’s very interesting to watch games from the past and compare them to today’s sport. The game was much slower, formations not as fluid as they are today and positions have been redefined over the years. But, what’s even more intriguing is that these changes take years to really come to life. Franz Beckenbauer perfected the position of “Libero”, the “sweeper” before the goal-keeper, freeing him from marking a direct opponent. (Rather revolutionary, if you think about it: Instead of marking a person, you’re defending a zone.) He played his first World Cup in 1966, not really filling the position of Libero yet. In 1970, he showed massive improvements on this new style of play but it took him until 1974, when he crowned his career with a World Cup win and a performance that showcased his evolution from support player to innovator.

Innovation didn’t happen in one game. It happened over more than a decade. And influenced generations to come.

4.) Don’t blame technology. Don’t worship technology. Just use it.

Each time the World Cup comes around, there’s a lot of talk about the new ball. Some people fear it, some embrace it. Most players don’t care. The ball is just a tool they use to accomplish a task. Because it’s new, players will have to find the challenges/dead spots when handling or shooting it. Introducing a new ball right ahead of the biggest sporting event seems wrong. But it is a great way to determine the best playing team and the team that answered this challenge with a strong creative approach. There’s nothing to fear. And a lot to explore.

5.) Play. Hard.

I could write about the beauty of soccer, get all poetic and philosophical. But the real beauty of this sport is that’s it’s still a game. When players have a creative thought, they can implement this idea immediately. And fail. Or succeed. At the heart of American Football is strategy. Creativity is not rewarded. At the heart of soccer is creativity. (Based on a foundation of technical excellence, supreme conditioning and mental toughness.)

Tomorrow the World Cup begins. A clean slate. For all we know, North Korea might win it this time. Or South Africa. History exists only in the books and in our heads. On the grass, there’s no history. Just opportunity. Possibilities. The best playing team will win the tournament.

And, that’s the most important lesson soccer can teach business: Business is a game that reinvents itself each and every day. The basic rules remain the same, your team defines how to play with these rules creatively. As an executive, it’s your responsibility to assemble the best players, to lay down the rules and develop plans. At the end of the day, the players have to play to move your business. Let them play. And enjoy each moment of it.