Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Scenic Route

I’ve been doing a bit of driving in places with which I’m unfamiliar lately.

Map of Gray's Inn Road

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Way back in the dark ages of the 1980’s, doing that sort of thing required one of two actions. Either one bought a map from someplace such as a gas station or the AAA or one called ahead for directions. I vividly recall a moment of panic on a business trip years ago when I thought I left a folder full of routing instructions to get me through a day’s worth of appointments in a hotel room.  The thought of finding a pay phone (remember them?) and having to write down turn by turn directions when I was already on a tight schedule gave me agita before the day was very old.

Today, of course, getting from point A to point B is as simple as pushing a button and announcing the destination. Every “smart” mobile device (which means about 60% of the mobile phones out there) has some sort of mapping/driving directions program.  The device speaks, we listen, and somehow we arrive despite having no clue as to where we are or how we got there.  Occasionally the devices are even smarter than we are.  While we might know a shorter route than the one we’re being told to take we don’t know about traffic, construction, or other delays en route.

There is no doubt that Waze, Google Maps, and other software are great for when we’re driving.  I am fond, however, of “getting lost” a little bit when it come to taking about business.  Have you ever just got in the car and driven around?  Maybe you see a sign for a town you’d heard of but never seen.  Along the way there might be a diner or fruit stand.   It might not be the most direct route and if you get lost for real you can announce to the GPS system you want to go home, safe in the knowledge that you’ll get there.  But discovery often comes when we get off the fastest route and maybe try the scenic route.

The pace of business is demanding but turning off our business GPS and “wandering” can often pay off handsomely if we can be disciplined enough to get off the beaten path.  Oxymoron?  No – imagining new things and being creative is hard and takes discipline.  Losing our directions without getting lost is tricky.  Can you do it?

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The Godmother

Foodie Friday is a bit somber this week since our topic today is the passing of Marcella Hazan.

Marcella: will she peel my beans too?

(Photo credit: kattebelletje)

You might not be familiar with the name but I can assure you that you are familiar with the influence she has had in the food world.  Her obituary in The Times was entitled “Changed The Way Americans Cook Italian Food” and that may be an understatement.  Let me explain and point out a few things we can take away from her that might just apply to your business.

The comparison is often made between Marcella and Julia Child.  What Julia did for French food in this country, Marcella did for Italian.  I think that’s where the similarities end.  Julia was formally trained, Marcella was trained as a biologist, not a cook.  Julia was an American who went to Paris while Marcella was an Italian immigrant to this country.  Much of the food Julia prepares is complex; Marcella’s food is very simple but, as she wrote,

Simple doesn’t mean easy. I can describe simple cooking thus: Cooking that is stripped all the way down to those procedures and those ingredients indispensable in enunciating the sincere flavor intentions of a dish.

Of the hundred or more cookbooks I own, Marcella’s are the ones that are dog-eared and stained from much use.  If you want to learn to cook, begin with “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” which is her first two books in one volume.  In its introduction, she wrote the following about Italian food:

It is not the created, not to speak of “creative,” cooking of restaurant chefs.  It is the cooking that spans remembered history…There is no such thing as Italian haute cuisine because there are no high or low roads in Italian cooking.  All roads lead to the home, to la cucina di casa – the only one that deserves to be called Italian cooking.

What business lessons does Marcella teach us?  First, you can hear how she is confident in her positions and speaks with authority.  Second, she prefers the simple solution rather than the overly complex.  Third, she always seems to cook on a stove rather than in an oven – it’s so the cook can pay better attention to the food.  Fourth, she emphasizes great ingredients and bringing out the best from them.  Interpret that as a management goal with your team as the ingredients!

Finally,  as you read in the last quote, she always emphasized authenticity.  She disdained the use of microwave ovens to speed up cooking not because she was a Luddite but because the texture and flavor of the product was altered.   How many businesses suffer because they cut a corner or speed up a process only to denigrate their product?

Marcella was the Godmother of Italian cooking.  She changed how we eat and her lessons can change how we conduct business.  Does that make sense?

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Sharing Is Caring

As you might have guessed from many of the posts here on the screed, how brands should behave in today’s marketing climate is a big focus of mine.  That focus is due to the questions I get asked by my clients on a regular basis both with respect to media and technology.  Which is why I found a recently released study by the folks at Edelman so interesting.

Called brandshare (they used the lower case, it’s not a typo!), the study sampled 11,000 consumers in the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil, India and China, and evaluated approximately 212 local and multi-national brands.   You can see a slide deck on the study here.  It found that an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of people across eight countries want marketers to more effectively share their brands. Yet on average, only 10 percent of people think any given brand does it well.  As you know, I believe any time we see gaps between expressed consumer desire and actual brand performance, there’s an opportunity.

So what exactly did they mean by “sharing?”  The study measured six dimensions of sharing – shared dialog, shared experience, shared goals, shared values, shared product and shared history – and found a link between effective brand sharing and business value; the greatest business value coming from shared product and shared values.  Obviously it’s not just companies asking for retweets and Facebook shares!

A large majority (91 percent) of respondents said they want to have a hand in the design and development process, with that desire being equal among those in developed and emerging markets. People also want complete openness about product performance with nine out of 10 wanting to know how they are made and how they should perform against competitors.  We’ve talked about transparency before but this demonstrates the extent to which consumers have come to expect it.

Of the six sharing dimensions, shared values has the highest unmet demand among people. More than nine in 10 (92 percent) respondents want to do business with brands that share their beliefs. In addition, nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) want brands to be more transparent about how products are sourced and manufactured, just over four in 10 (43 percent) want brands to do more to give back to their communities.

I think this quote sums it up nicely:

Marketers must evolve from a traditional linear model of focus groups that ends with the consumer to one that involves people at every stage. Brands must also synchronize their brand marketing and corporate communications narrative into one cohesive message, while redesigning current engagement channels to incorporate higher-value sharing.”

So now that you know it, what are you going to do about it?

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