Creating Advocates: A Values-Oriented Approach to Developing Brand Loyalty

A maniacal dedication to authentic purpose is what separates the strong from the weak in the competitive brand landscape.

[powerpress: http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/summer2011/Crooke_Advocates.mp3]


Rock climbingCustomers become advocates of brands because they develop an emotional connection with their core purpose. Brands that elicit advocacy provide a value beyond just product quality and experience. This connection is something that deserves analysis, as it is the foundation of true loyalty. Customers see this association as something that makes their world a little bit better and, in so doing, creates satisfaction and motivates them to take action. It turns out that customers want to be part of something bigger than themselves, to help achieve something that they can’t necessarily achieve on their own. When this relationship is found, consumers move beyond being casual customers and become advocates. Advocates show a high propensity to repurchase, a reluctance to switch brands, and they demonstrate a high likelihood to recommend. In the end, advocates contribute to profitability at rates up to 10 times greater than casual customers. And, from a brand management perspective, they are the source of long-term financial success.

So, how does an aspiring entrepreneur or brand manager ignite the passion in their customer base that leads to this emotional connection? The key is a congruence of values. When a customer finds a brand that shares or aligns with their own values, the connection begins. In its mature state, it can be described as a deep and lasting bond between what the company stands for and what the customer believes in. Constructing such a brand environment is a matter of establishing a clear set of values and making them actionable at every touch point in the brand/customer experience. This article explores the way in which two models, SEER and the “Buyers Life Cycle,” conspire to provide brand managers the tools to assure brand advocacy among their target audience.

Forming a Values-Based Approach: Defining Authentic Purpose

The first of these models is called Social, Ethical & Environmental Responsibility, otherwise known as the SEER model.[1][2] The authors posit that SEER captures many of the contemporary values of the 21st century: Environmental stewardship, Corporate Citizenship, Product and Service Quality, and Financial Strength. These four “macro-values” encompass the most pressing issues facing organizations today. We refer to them as macro-values, because they are essentially broad categories that encircle numerous related values:

  • Environmental Stewardship refers to the need for organizations to recognize and mitigate their impact on the natural environment; the ultimate goal is to integrate environmental concerns into product (and service) design in order to develop closed-loop manufacturing processes that eliminate waste.
  • Corporate Citizenship represents the social realm and the organization’s relationships with stakeholders, ranging from employees to suppliers, neighbors in the local community to government entities.
  • Product and Service Quality is specific to making the best product or providing the best service within the competitive set.
  • Financial Strength refers to the need for organizations to be financially sound, without which, the other values become irrelevant.

The key to the SEER model is that none of the four principles can be ignored without degradation of the organization’s output.[3] The values do not operate in isolation; rather, they function as a system and feature many areas of overlap and interaction. Decision making is rarely, if ever, guided by one of the four individually. For example, product or service quality can be defined as striving to achieve the best possible product with the least possible social and environmental harm; and, financial strength is integrally related to the other three values, which cannot function without an economically viable organization. Furthermore, these macro values are mutually reinforcing; each of the elements is important individually, but when leveraged as a collective group the relationships are synchronous. The power of environmental stewardship is amplified when financial strength is realized. Financial strength is improved when buying behavior is increased because of positive consumer opinion due to the actions of corporate citizenship. It should also be pointed out that every strategic decision forces the organization to acknowledge the inherent conflict between the values. The process is what is important. In some cases financial requirements may come at the expense of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or environmental needs. In other cases, Financial Strength will suffer from an environmental need, or CSR may become the deciding factor. Often the firm will find the values in harmony, but that will not always be the case. Great organizations accept the challenge and use the SEER lens to filter strategic decisions.

Fig. 1: The SEER Model

SEER model

So how do we develop an organization with these integrated values? How do we create the infrastructure that respects and operates on these values, yet is robust enough to face disruptive change? We contend the values captured by the SEER model must be designed and built into every aspect of the brand business model because these are the beliefs that define the purpose of the organization. These values are, in essence, where the founding vision resides; what we refer to as “authentic purpose,” and, it is this value set that drives everything the customer ultimately experiences. But, the defining moments of every customer experience occur under a microscope because customers interact with brands in remarkably minute ways: interfacing with a single customer service agent over the phone, receiving a package in the mail, a Facebook ‘like,’ a Twitter ‘tweet,’ or walking by a storefront. Therefore, if the SEER values are not sincerely embedded into every level of the organization, there is no “authenticity of purpose” and customers will eventually discover the brand’s superficiality. To instill authentic purpose into the brand DNA, the most important step is to understand each of the SEER principles, then design every nuance of the brand experience with them in mind, assuring that customers connect emotionally with those values

Brand Value Exists in the Consumer’s Mind

A maniacal dedication to authentic purpose is what separates the strong from the weak in the competitive brand landscape. A great brand has depth. If one digs into the details of an exceptional organization, it is evident that the espoused values drive the sustainable competitive advantage.

The outdoor brand Patagonia is an example of an organization with a purpose that is tied directly to the minutia. Their mission statement, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,” is simple and extends to every single activity in their value chain.[4] The following is taken directly from their website, in a statement they call their “Reason for Being”:

“Our values reflect those of a business started by a band of climbers and surfers, and the minimalist style they promoted. The approach we take towards product design demonstrates a bias for simplicity and utility.

For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet. We donate our time, services and at least 1 percent of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide.

We know that our business activity—from lighting stores to dyeing shirts—creates pollution as a by-product. So we work steadily to reduce those harms. We use recycled polyester in many of our clothes and only organic, rather than pesticide-intensive, cotton.”[5]

However, simply having a strong mission statement doesn’t mean that its meaning is manifest in the consumer’s experience. As Godin notes in his book, All Marketers Are Liars, “Spending an inordinate amount of time and money on your sign or your jingle or your website is beside the point. It’s every point of contact that matters. If you’re not consistent and authentic, the timing of that first impression is too hard to predict to make it worth the journey. On the other hand, if you can cover all the possible impressions and allow the consumer to make them into a coherent story, you win.”[6]

It is this tenet, that whatever one does should be done thoroughly, that is the crux of connecting the values of the brand with the values of the consumer. The idea is that customer expectations arise in the minds of the individual as part of a woven story that is created over time via a process. A consumer’s experiences interacting with a brand at various times at various touch points lead to defining what it is the brand truly stands for in total.

In the case of Patagonia, their company seeks to communicate the values of the brand to customers both through their own experiences with the products and by observing the unique choices the company makes over time. For instance, when Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard learned of the environmental damage caused by growing conventional cotton, he chose to switch to organic cotton in 100 percent of the sportswear line of products in 1994. Fortune magazine writer Susan Casey writes, “Given that organic cotton, rare at the time, cost between 50 percent to 100 percent more, and that a fifth of Patagonia’s business came from cotton products, this was no small risk.”[7] The decision could have bankrupted the company, yet its environmental consciousness resonated powerfully with their consumers. “Patagonia’s cotton sales rose 25 percent,” Casey writes, “and, more important, established an organic-cotton industry so that other companies could cross over.”

The consumer experience of the quality of Patagonia’s products, for better or for worse, is best discovered in the outdoors under duress. One brand story that has emerged to communicate this value is one of a customer who was in near-comatose condition from severe hypothermia and would not allow helpers to remove his Patagonia Capilene underwear even though it was soaking wet and freezing cold. After recovering, the customer related to his rescuers that he knew if he’d allowed them to remove his Capilene underwear he would surely perish. In order to get everyday customers to understand Patagonia’s commitment to product quality without having a near-death experience, the company enacted their “Iron Clad” guarantee, which states: “If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, you may return it to us for a repair, replacement or refund.”[8]

Of course, in order for a product or service to succeed, it must win in the marketplace. Great products or services will be differentiated and have unique qualities that other similar products do not; however, it is the perceived value of the brand determined by the individual customer that propels growth and profitability. Patagonia’s “Reason for Being” statement also recognizes this point noting, “Staying true to our core values during 30-plus years in business has helped us create a company we’re proud to run and work for. And our focus on making the best products possible has brought us success in the marketplace.”[9] This is why a comprehensive SEER process must be developed beginning with a strategic plan and then evolving into annual SEER-focused initiatives that will drive the activities of the organization, maintaining the awareness of a balanced scorecard between the four macro values over time. With this value set manifested in this way, the brand will stay true to its mission. More importantly, if customers get a notion of these values at every possible point of interaction, there is a higher likelihood these distinctive values will begin to take root in their mind’s eye. Brand strength is a function of the emotional connection your customers have to it, and it is through this process that advocacy is formed.

Tracking Perception and Reality

It’s one thing to have a competitive advantage: superior product, quality, pricing, distribution, etc. It’s another thing to have a connection to values, beliefs, and causes. In other words, a company needs an authentic purpose. When looking at why your customer is loyal, ask yourself that very question: Is it because you’re outperforming the competition, or is it because you stand for something your customer also believes? If your customer’s loyalty is strictly a result of a short-term competitive advantage, then your business is at risk of a competitor swooping in with a better mousetrap. In the world of brand differentiation, clarity regarding this point is paramount. Real loyalty is a heart-felt occurrence that organically evolves over time. By utilizing the SEER lens as a process to make strategic decisions, the result will be a long-term, sustainable advantage relatively immune to competitive onslaught.

However, it is mission-critical that the internal set of values be made actionable on the front line with the consumer. This means that it is important to clearly identify the tangible, relevant, and helpful ways these values work on behalf of the consumer’s enjoyment of the product or service in play. If the message is too complicated or convoluted, the risk is the consumer may misconstrue the actual value set. If the communication is overly simplified, the risk is the brand will appear only superficially committed to the values.

To bring true depth to the consumer’s understanding, it is critical to understand the path that actual customers take to become advocates. This exposes the consumer’s points of confusion as well as the positive key milestones in their “brand discovery,” highlighting areas where the SEER values are connecting and/or not connecting. This path to advocacy is called “The Buyers Life Cycle,”[10] and delivers the critical messages and brand experiences that lead consumers to a full understanding of the value set, and thus, creates an emotional connection to the brand, which is the moment casual customers move to advocacy.

Fig. 2: The Buyers Life Cycle

Buyers Life Cycle

This process is what leads to an idealized state of brand/consumer relationship where the brand image arises fully in the mind of the consumer. With this understanding in hand, it is possible to pinpoint key brand messaging, channel presentation, product and service experiences, and measurement strategies, all with the intention of crafting customer experiences to dramatically increase customer loyalty by connecting the authentic purpose of the brand (the SEER values), with the values held by the consumer.

In Patagonia’s case, the progression of messaging begins with product quality, evolves to include environmental awareness, and culminates by engaging loyal consumers in environmental and social activism.[11] As stated earlier, this level of emotional connection creates a basis for financial success. Loyal buying behavior dovetails with deeper brand involvement, resulting in increased lifetime value by segment. In Fig. 3, “Advocates” are nearly nine times more profitable than first-time “Casual” customers. The values are aggregated from a selection of clients from Blux, a full-service creative agency focused on loyalty.[12]

Fig. 3: The Buyers Life Cycle Monetized

Buyers Life Cycle Monetized

As stated at the outset, it is the consumer’s alignment with a brand’s authentic purpose that drives advocacy. As a management tool, it is the Buyers Life Cycle that enables brand managers to identify, monitor, and measure their efficacy while communicating through the SEER “lens” and moving casual customers to become the brand’s most valuable customers, brand advocates.

By using a SEER lens to curate your brand’s unique value chain activities and charting progress through the Buyers Life Cycle, a brand manager can inform every aspect of the customer experience so the right message is in the right place at the right time. The more efficient brand managers get at moving customers around the cycle, the more financial stability is created, reinforcing long-term viability. Another reinforcing aspect is the ability to invest further in the espoused values of the firm. In the end, the congruence of these values and those of the brand advocates are the foundation on which a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage is forged.


[1] Crooke, Michael. A Mandala for Organizations in the 21st Century. Diss., Claremont Graduate University, 2008.

[2] “Social, Ethical & Environmental Responsibility Certificate, Full-time MBA Program.” Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management. 2011. http://bschool.pepperdine.edu/programs/full-time-mba/seer/.

[3] Crooke, loc. cit.

[4] “Patagonia Company Information: Our Reason for Being – Values, Mission Statement.” Patagonia.com. 2011. Accessed June 7, 2011. http://www.patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=2047&ln=140.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Godin, Seth. “Step 3: First Impressions Start the Story.” In All Marketers Are Liars, 69-76. New York: Penguin Publishers, 2005.

[7] Casey, Susan. “GOING GREEN: The Story of How Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard Took His Passion for the Outdoors and Turned It into an Amazing Business.” Fortune, April 2, 2007.

[8] “Patagonia Ironclad Guarantee.” Patagonia.com. 2011. Accessed August 23, 2011. http://www.patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=38565.

[9] “Patagonia Company Information,” loc. cit.

[10] Wilson, Craig. “The Tool to Build Brand Loyalty.” Blux, The Science of Loyalty. 2011. Accessed February 7, 2011. http://blux.co/approach/the-tool-to-build-brand-loyalty.

[11] Kazaks, Alex, and Ayr Muir-Harmony. Customer Life Cycle Study. Patagonia, 2004.

[12] Wilson, loc. cit.

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2010 Student Paper Winner: Using Social Media to Grow Your Business

Businesses can best benefit from social media by having a good overall strategy and knowing how to listen, participate, and measure results.

[powerpress: http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/fall2010/bagdasarian-socialmedia.mp3]

Click here to view a photo from the GBR 2010 Student Paper Competition Award Luncheon

Social Media NetworkSocial Media is one of the most pervasive technological trends of our day. The phenomena that are Facebook, YouTube, and blogging have fundamentally changed the way we express ourselves and connect with others. No longer is social media just for the creative expression of individuals and consumers; now businesses and organizations are getting involved. But how do businesses use social media to uniquely define themselves in the marketplace? This analysis will show that, contrary to popular belief, businesses of various industry, size, and target audience can all benefit from social media. Specific tactics are described that businesses can use to better engage with customers, which will boost brand equity and eventually lead to bottom-line growth.

What is social media? From the broadest perspective, social media is about Web tools that enable dynamic multi-user interaction.[1] If past forms of communication were about a one-way message to your audience, true social media is about a multi-way conversation where users share content with one another and become more deeply engaged. See social media types in Table 1.

Table 1: “Social Media Types”

Social Media Type

Function

Examples

Social Networking Sites

A medium for sharing information between friends within a network.

Facebook, LinkedIn

Multimedia Sharing Sites

Hosting of photos, video, and music for the purpose of sharing.

YouTube, Flickr

Web forums

A destination for conversation around a specific niche topic.

vwvortex, boston.com

Microblogs

Sharing concentrated bursts of information.

Twitter, FriendFeed

Blogs

A log of user-generated content, news, and advice.

Huffington Post, TechCrunch

Let’s look at this communication on Facebook. A consumer wants advice on Thai restaurants in their area. They post this request on their Facebook status update, which can be seen by other users in their network, or “friends,” who may then offer advice as comments, Web links to nearby Thai restaurants, Southeast Asian food blogs, or reviews of local Thai restaurants. Now consider the potential here for a Thai restaurant. What if the restaurant itself could respond to this prospective customer? In today’s social media environment, that is exactly what is happening. Places of business are increasingly responding to this request by creating their own Facebook pages and using them to raise awareness and offer the user incentives through weekly specials and coupons.

Social media clearly presents an important communication tool for businesses and organizations. The potential has not been lost on President Obama, who has a Facebook fan page with 11,405,803 members as of July 2010. A survey conducted by consultancy firm Marketing Sherpa found that the 2009 to 2010 social marketing budget for each of the seven industry sectors represented in the survey was projected to increase. In the e-commerce vertical alone, budgets were projected to increase by as much as 79 percent.[2] Sites like Facebook have become so ubiquitous that Ford Motor Company unveiled its brand new 2011 Explorer through a dedicated Facebook page this July (2010), forgoing a traditional car show—the first time a major carmaker has ever done so. Ford has already well surpassed their goal of 30,000 Facebook fans.[3] Social media is vital enough that, of the more than 5,000 marketing executives surveyed by Datran Media in December 2009, 72.3 percent had company Facebook pages, 72 percent had a company Twitter account, and 67.2 percent planned on leveraging online video in 2010.[4]

So, it’s clear that companies and organizations are using social media, but just how significant is it and will it grow your business? Not every company has the marketing muscle of Ford Motors or President Obama, but many businesses can implement some of the same techniques. To be successful with social media you must first decide what your specific goals are. Increased revenue is always important but that is an indirect result of deeper customer engagement and building your brand equity. To better engage and build brand equity, many companies focus on improving the following: brand awareness, Web site traffic, customer service, thought leadership (providing unique insights and value), search engine optimization (SEO), and lead generation. Social media can readily assist with each of these goals. Deciding which ones to emphasize is also a function of a company’s industry and target audience. For example, a B2B software company may focus its efforts on “thought leadership,” whereas a women’s apparel manufacturer could emphasize brand awareness. And, in a few cases, your business may not benefit at all from social media. Table 2, “Social Media Goals by Company Type,” can assist a company in determining how social media may best suit its marketing objectives.

Table 2: “Social Media Goals by Company Type”

B2B Company Social
Media Goals

B2C Company Social Media Goals

Companies with Least Benefit From Social Media

Thought leadership

Brand reputation

Defense contractors

Web site traffic

Customer service

B2B companies whose potential target market is highly limited.

Lead generation

Web site traffic

Any company unwilling to devote some time and resources to it

Once clearly defined goals are established, companies must be realistic about the resources they’ll need. Management buy-in and investments in personnel and other resources will all be necessary to create and maintain a social media presence. Buy-in can pose a challenge, as social media is still in its early stages and correlations between social media activity and revenue growth are slowly emerging and not yet fully formed. To make the most of your investment in social media, employ these three methods: listen to the audience, participate in the conversation, and measure success against predefined metrics, (i.e., increasing Web site traffic by 20 percent in the second quarter, reducing customer service wait times, etc.)

Social Media - sales are up!

Listening

Whether you already have a social media presence or not, the key to getting into the game is getting a better feel for what people are saying about you in the “interactive marketplace.”[5] Some of the top tools for monitoring and listening include: Twitter Search, Google Alerts, Radian6, and PR Newswire’s Social Media Metrics. By signing up for these services, you will be notified any time your company’s name comes up online. You can also set them up to receive notification of your competitor’s names or key words for your industry. From this information, companies can discover what social media channels to participate in (i.e., social networks vs. forums), and how best to engage with customers. The key is to be willing to hear the good and the bad that’s being said about you online, and where it’s being said. Then companies can best figure out how best to reach out to their target audience.

Location

Some of the more significant “locations” where your business should have a social media presence include Facebook and microblog Twitter. But there are other social networking sites out there where your audience may already reside including Hi5.com, Plurk.com, Bebo.com, Jaiku.com, Xanga.com, and Vox.com. Deciding where to get involved will depend on where your audience spends its time.

For example, if you are a manufacturer of performance after-market parts for Volkswagen vehicles, then chances are you have some passionate fans outside the mainstream social networks in a dedicated enthusiast forum like www.vwvortex.com. Updating customers about your products and services on that forum may be just as, if not more important as your Facebook and Twitter presence.

And once you’ve accurately found the locations where your audience spends most of its time, you can use aggregator software to create messaging and status updates from one source and broadcast it out to all your social media locations—software like Hootsuite and Ping.FM do this very well.

Participating

Participation is the crux of making social media work for your business. Participating is the act of contributing to different social media channels to effectively interact with your audience. The key to participation is knowing which exact locations to target and what tactics to use. See Tactics below.

Tactic #1: Blogging

With an understanding of where to participate, the next question is what tactics to use.

An excellent way to do this is through a company blog. Company blogs fulfill the goal of increased “thought leadership” and product/brand awareness. In 2010, already 65 percent of U.S. companies were using a corporate blog.[6] A good corporate blogging technique is to focus on relationship building and less on selling. Engage with your audience by building trust based on shared principles, instead of just talking about the features and functionality of your products. Jeff Swartz, president and CEO of Timberland, an outdoor clothing and shoe company, spends a lot of his social media efforts blogging about social causes he is passionate about instead of just talking about the company’s shoes and apparel. His biggest cause is Timberland’s environmental charity, Earthkeepers.[7] The idea behind this technique is that the more personal and human you can be in your social media interactions, the greater the connection you’ll make with your audience, which will translate into greater brand recognition and eventual revenue growth. It is also important to keep the blog active by updating a few times a week, but not so often that you’re simply writing just for the sake of saying something.

Tactic #2: Social Networks



Baby Gap screen shot

Click on thumbnail to view full-size image


Social networks like Facebook are clearly a great way to learn about your audience and interact with them in a dynamic way. These networks also allow you to have your customers do the marketing and advertising for you by simply getting them more engaged. For example, on Gap’s “Baby Gap” tab on their fan page, there is a simple yet colorful collage of pictures of babies wearing GAP denim. Users who become fans of the page have the opportunity to upload pictures of their own babies wearing any variety of Gap denim. Users show off their own well-dressed babies and send the link to the many friends they have in their network, Gap denim gets more exposure, and it is all done for a fraction of the price that a traditional marketing campaign would cost. This type of social network interaction can be used by businesses to boost Web site traffic to the corporate site and help increase brand recognition.

Tactic #3: Microblogging

Microblogs like Twitter, FriendFeed, and Tumblr are a great way to communicate in short concentrated bursts. In the case of Twitter, those bursts are limited to 140 characters or less. One industry that has made the most of Twitter is the food truck industry in Los Angeles. These mobile trucks announce or “tweet” their locations, and followers flock to them. The tweets have grown to include food specials, promotions, and contests several times a day. In fact, without Twitter, these trucks may not have had a future. According to an interview with proprietor Y.L. of Kabob N’Roll truck, “Ninety-nine percent of our business is through Twitter. But we weren’t the first. If it weren’t for Kogi [a Los Angeles-based Korean barbeque truck], we wouldn’t be here. In March of last year [2009], Kogi almost gave up. Their trucks barely had sales of $300 or $350 a night and were going to shut down. But when they started using Twitter, their sales started booming, especially when they started parking at clubs after they get out. It’s thanks to them that we’re here.”[8] Twitter can be used for fun contests to drive sales as well, according to our interview with Jamie Kadzik of the Crepe’n Around truck. Kadzik tells his Twitter followers that the first person to tweet, “Crepes are for Mondays” gets a free meal of their choice at his truck.[9] Contests like these are a free and easy technique that your business can use to generate excitement that will help you engage with your customers, increase your brand awareness, and boost your sales.

Tactic #4: Integrate Multiple Social Media Channels



Emerson Salon Web site

Click on thumbnail to view full-size image


A good example of a small business that integrates multiple social media techniques that complement one another well is the Emerson Hair Salon of Seattle, Washington. Knowing full well that one in five small business owners are integrating social media into their business processes[10], Emerson integrates Facebook, Twitter, and a daily blog into their Web site. This strategy is easy for any small business to emulate. Their Web site is very uncluttered and has a highly intuitive layout. There is a link to each of their stylist’s Facebook profiles right on their home page, and users can book their next hair appointment online. Taking it one step further, Emerson’s site gives customers a chance to share that appointment with other users on Twitter and Facebook. Emerson also encourages patrons to post pictures and talk about local rock concerts, street festivals, and block parties on their pages. Their efforts are paying off: over the last two years, 75 percent of their business now comes from their Facebook, Twitter, and blog.[11]

Measuring

Now that you’ve listened and participated, it’s time to measure your success. If your goal was to increase Web site traffic by 20 percent through your social media campaign, were you successful? Were you able to increase your SEO ranking on Google through social media so that every time people search your Web site, you now rank on the first page of a Google search instead of the seventh? In addition to those more traditional metrics, new social media metrics include how many Facebook followers you have, the number of conversations going on about you, and “sentiment”—what people really think about you. Software like Radian6, Sentiment Metrics, and Argyle Social can help you quantify success in those areas. Finally, how do you measure if your social media has boosted your revenue? While it may be difficult to quantify the connection between each Facebook fan and a certain dollar increase in revenue, by having a good strategy of knowing where your customers are and how to reach them—you will see quantifiable results. Specifically, the more engaged your company is on a whole with its customers, the more your revenue and gross margin can increase—top brands that ranked highest in their social media engagement (such as Starbucks and Dell), saw increases in their revenue of 18 percent vs. non-engaged brands that saw a 6 percent drop in their revenues in the 12-month period ending July 2009.[12] See Figure 1.



Fig. 1: Engagement Correlates to Financial Performance

Fig. 1: Engagement Correlates to Financial Performance


Conclusion

The world of social media for business is still in its early stages, but a variety of businesses have already seen quantifiable benefits. There is very little to lose and much to gain by getting involved. The case studies and examples provided are proof that by having a good overall strategy and knowing how to listen, participate, and measure, you can better engage and build your brand, as well as your long-term revenue goals. Regardless of what stage you’re at in your social media marketing approach, the sooner you become more engaged with your customers, the sooner you’ll develop a strong relationship with the people who are most important to your business.


[1] About.com: Webtrends, “What is Social Media?” http://webtrends.about.com/od/web20/a/social-media.htm.

[2] MarketingSherpa, “2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report,”
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/SocialMediaExcerpt.pdf.

[3] Van Grove, Jennifer, “Inside the 2011 Ford Explorer Facebook Reveal,” Mashable.com, July, 2010
http://mashable.com/2010/07/26/ford-explorer-facebook-reveal/.

[4] Datran, “Fourth Annual Marketing and Media Survey,” December 2009,
http://www.datranmediasurvey2010.com/start.php?showtype=page-1.

[5] Solis, Brian, “The 10 Stages of Social Media Business Integration,” Mashable.com, January 2010, http://mashable.com/2010/01/11/social-media-integration/.

[6] KingFishMedia, “Social Media Usage, Attitudes, and Measurability: What do Marketers Think?” 2010,
http://www.kingfishmedia.com/marketing-resources/research/social-media-usage-2010-ebook08112010.

[7] Charles, Ann, “Five Social Media Tips for Better Corporate Social Responsibility,” Mashable.com, February 2010, http://mashable.com/2009/09/22/social-media-business/.

[8] Y.L., owner of Kabob N’Roll, In-person interview, August 13, 2010, Los Angeles.

[9] Jamie Kadzik, owner of Crepe’n Around, In-person interview, August 11, 2010, Los Angeles.

[10] Swallow, Erica, “Five Small Business Social Media Success Stories,” Mashable.com, June 2010,
http://mashable.com/2010/06/02/small-business-social-media-success-stories/.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Wetpaint and Altimeter Group, “The World’s Most Valuable Brands. Who’s Most Engaged?” Engagementdb, http://www.engagementdb.com/downloads/ENGAGEMENTdb_Report_2009.pdf (link no longer accessible).

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How Coach, H-P, Zara, and Ford Profited from a Comprehensive Application of Market Orientation

An integration of management and marketing approaches to market orientation is necessary to gain its full benefits. The following success stories all have in common the involvement of focused senior managers who assured appropriate participation in a market orientation by all departments.

[powerpress http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/winter2010/market.mp3]






A Comprehensive Approach

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a well-known philosophy for coordinating all of a company’s production processes, which mandates cooperation by all affected departments. Its three basic principles are employee involvement, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction.

Customers often use the term “quality” to refer to their level of satisfaction with a company’s products.”[1] Companies that incorporate customer satisfaction considerations into production processes are usually referred to as having a market orientation. High-performance companies generally use a market orientation to guide development of products and services to satisfy customers better than competitors[2]—that is, they offer something important to customers that competitors do not offer.

Implementing this strategy requires a comprehensive application of market orientation within the firm, as indicated by the recent success of Coach, which is best known for its high-quality, fashionable handbags for women.

In the early 2000s, Coach’s rapid sales growth stemmed from a decision by its chief executive, Lew Frankfort, to make its leather handbags more fashionable. Frankfort sought to develop “mixed material bags, a more-fun image and a wider array of styles and products.”[3] To implement this strategy, Coach used extensive marketing research, including test marketing and consumer surveys, to ascertain which styles and functions women preferred in their handbags. This strategy has led Coach to outsource manufacturing to factories that can work in materials other than leather and that can react quickly to changing fashions.

Recognizing that the recession has affected consumers’ incomes and expectations, Coach is reducing its average handbag price to less than $300. Keeping its focus on customer needs, Coach seeks to maintain profitability by selling greater volumes at lower prices.[4] But, according to market research, consumers are still interested in buying inspired fashion, says Reed Krakoff, Coach’s executive creative director. Currently, Coach’s senior managers peruse sales numbers, customers, and even floor plans for merchandise displays to gather such data. This insight is reflected in Coach’s new, lower-priced “Poppy” collection, whose development involved market testing in 9 Coach stores and 23 department stores.

Coach’s approach to strategic management is comprehensive in nature; its strategy involves all of its operations, including the outsourcing of production to use attractive materials and to manufacture popular styles quickly. Such a comprehensive approach is inherent in TQM and recent research indicates its positive effects on company market orientation, as well as market performance.[5] This research, however, has also indicated that total quality management had no significant effects on marketing capability or on market-focused learning capability.

This lack of positive effects is unexpected because of TQM’s basic principle of customer satisfaction, which is a primary concern of marketing. An improved focus on customer satisfaction should be expected to improve a marketing department’s performance. Nevertheless, it may be explained by an underperforming marketing department or a marketing department whose expertise is challenged by other departments in the company.

The Marketing Concept

Marketers generally recommend adherence to the “marketing concept,” which involves studying customers’ needs and satisfying them better than competitors; as such, marketers can help companies develop products that are better tailored to customer needs. The marketing concept should automatically be included when anyone considers use of market orientation, and marketers should encourage implementation throughout the firm.[6] Coach, for example, exhibits a comprehensive application that uses research on consumers to guide product design and production processes.

Often, however, marketers do not have the authority to mandate activities in other departments—departments that may decide to reject customer information and to not use it as a guide for their operations.[7] Organizational acceptance of the marketing concept requires senior managers who have interdepartmental authority and subscribe to a comprehensive approach to management. However, even when this occurs, marketing insight and performance can still be remiss in certain aspects. Research indicates that marketers in many companies misunderstand the images that customers have of competing brands as well as their own.[8]

Hewlett Packard

In the mid 2000s, Hewlett-Packard (H-P) rose to sales leadership in personal computers, largely due to Todd Bradley who joined H-P as executive vice president in 2005 and was given authority over its PC business.[9] Bradley realized that marketers were not utilizing H-P’s strength in retail stores. A possible cause of this failure was that H-P’s printer division was marketing its computers, so Bradley shifted the company’s sales strategy to retail stores and developed his own marketers. To reduce manufacturing costs and to improve poor delivery performance with retailers, he closed seven plants and changed logistics.

As H-P’s strategy was changing, PC sales growth was moving from desktops to personal laptops, which many consumers see as reflecting their self-images.[10] H-P’s marketing research indicated that 58 percent of PC buyers were indifferent to whether they purchased online or in stores. But a laptop’s appearance is an important aspect of its design and many consumers like to view and evaluate laptops in stores before deciding on purchases.

As a result, advertising started to feature emotional appeals and celebrities; online advertising encouraged visits to stores. Computers were designed and manufactured with features such as touch screens that would be attractive in store displays. Unique versions were manufactured to give certain retail chains their own exclusive designs.

Bradley’s authority as a senior manager enabled him to deal with resistance from employees who felt that the focus on consumers could hurt H-P’s corporate business or brand image. If these critics had been heeded, H-P may not have succeeded in replacing Dell as the leader in PC market share.

Strategic Management

If senior executives seek interdepartmental acceptance of a market orientation, they can succeed against entrenched competitors. In the case of H-P, Bradley used customer needs and customer satisfaction to guide operational changes in many departments that led to their rise in market share over Dell.

Such a comprehensive market orientation should be considered in all company processes, including strategic planning. In fact, Hambrick and Fredrickson identify five key elements necessary for a company to have a viable strategy,[11] three of which directly relate to having a market orientation:

  1. Arenas where the firm will compete;
  2. Differentiators for uniqueness in market offerings; and
  3. Stagings that involve product quality, service, prices, and costs.

Zara

Spain’s Inditex SA, which is second only to the Gap in world clothing sales, provides another example of comprehensive application that involves every aspect of an organization. Its Zara stores feature an integrated manufacturing and logistic capability that embodies a market orientation.

Instead of outsourcing to Asian manufacturers, half of Zara’s clothes are manufactured in Spain or neighboring countries to facilitate rapid production—from sketch to store rack in as little as two weeks. Only a few dresses of each design are sold from each store’s small inventory and new designs quickly appear. Store managers relay information on customer purchases and preferences back to headquarters in Spain, thus guiding designers in creating more “fast fashion.” The short production runs and fast changes in design induce consumers into believing that Zara’s clothes embody the latest in fashion.

Inditex’s senior managers recognize the need for a comprehensive application of market orientation at Zara. According to analyst Luca Solca of Sanford C. Bernstein, “The Inditex way is an all-or-nothing proposition that has to be fully embraced to yield results.”[12]

Ford Motor Company

Brazil’s unit of Ford Motor Company provides another example of a comprehensive application by one unit in a large corporation. This unit was able to dominate Brazil’s sports utility vehicle (SUV) market and attain 12 percent of Brazil’s total automobile market in 2006.

Starting in 1998, Ford’s senior Brazilian engineer, Luc de Ferran, led the design team that worked on a car fully developed in Brazil. A cross section of Brazil’s consumers were interviewed at locations, such as trendy nightclubs and churches in low-income communities, and the market research collected resulted in the development of the Ecosport—smaller than American SUVs, able to handle poor roads, and priced below expensive imports. To keep prices competitive, a special “flexible” plant was built for low-cost production. Today, the Ecosport not only commands 80 percent of Brazil’s SUV market, it is also exported to other South American countries with similar driving needs.[13]

Conclusion

These success stories reflect a comprehensive application of market orientation that integrates a company’s functional aspects, including marketing, manufacturing, and distribution. A common thread through all four is the involvement of focused senior managers who have the authority to assure appropriate participation by all departments. To satisfy customers better than competitors over the long term, all departments should consider how to benefit from the advantages of understanding and satisfying customer needs.


[1] Lee J. Krajewski, Larry P. Ritzman, Manoj K. Malhotra, Operations Management: Process and Value Chains, 8th. ed., (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2007): 208.

[2] Michael Beer, High Commitment High Performance: How to Build a Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009): 57.

[3] Erin White, “How Stodgy Turned Stylish,” The Wall Street Journal, May, 3, 2002, at B1, B3.

[4] Susan Berfield, “Coach’s New Bag,” Business Week, June 29, 2009, 41–43.

[5]M.L. Santos-Vijande, L.I. Alvarez-Gonzalez, “TQM’s Contributions to Marketing Implementation and the Firm’s Competitiveness,” Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 20, no.2 (2009/2): 171–196.

[6] J. Paul Peter and James H. Donnelly, Jr., Marketing Management: Knowledge and Skills, 9th ed., (New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2009): 5.

[7] Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller, Marketing Management, 12th. ed., (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2006): 16.

[8] John A. Weber, “Illusions of Marketing Planners,” Psychology & Marketing, 18, no. 6 (2001): 527–563.

[9] Christopher Lawton, “How H-P Reclaimed Its PC Lead Over Dell,” The Wall Street Journal, June, 4, 2007, at A1, A10. (hyperlink no longer accessible).

[10] Ibid.

[11] D.C. Hambrick, J.W. Fredrickson, “Are You Sure That You Have a Strategy?” Academy of Management Executive, 15, no. 4 (2001): 48–59.

[12] Kerry Capell, “Zara Thrives by Breaking All the Rules,” Business Week, October 20, 2008, 66.

[13] Geraldo Samor, “In Brazil, Ford Has Discovered ‘Way Forward,’” The Wall Street Journal, July, 10, 2006, at B1, B2.

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Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers by Bridget Brennan

Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers

By Bridget Brennan
Crown Business, 2009

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3 stars: Valuable information and a good readOn seeing Why She Buys on the list of GBR books, I was quick to offer a review. Understanding purchasing motivation is absolutely imperative to ensuring a positive ROI on marketing expenditures and a topic that I enjoy.

The author contends that gender is the most powerful determinant in a person’s view of the world more than race, age, income, creed, or ethnicity. She informs us about women’s overwhelming influence on almost every purchasing decision of note in today’s economy; the word used by the author is “dominate.”

Female purchasing drivers must be studied with the same intensity as a new industry or foreign market, Brennan admonishes, an argument that I believe should be given serious consideration by both sales and marketing professionals. Even when the female is not the primary household decision maker, she almost certainly still has veto power something I am learning first hand as I prepare to purchase a new automobile.

Why She Buys offers the marketer a great deal of useful case discussions ranging from Proctor and Gamble’s Swiffer cleaning products line to Callaway Golf Clubs. Another area of valued content is the lifestyle analyses of modern women as young single working professionals, working mothers, divorces, and widows, followed by helpful suggestions for offering services to fill the needs of each.

One feature of the book that I did not find of great value was what Brennan termed the “mencyclopedia,” a dubious list of vernacular or catchphrases used by modern women. Although cute it may have been better placed in a witty blog than a marketing “how-to” book.

Why She Buys would appear to provide the most value to a male professional intent on selling to women as most of the demographic and psychographic profiles, I imagine, would be naturally understood by women (I tread lightly here). That said, if the book was in fact written for male marketers, the target audience may find that the author has a tone that can be somewhat shrill and off-putting. At the beginning of the book, when the case is being made for the undeniable importance of the feminine consumer, one senses an indignant tone from the author. Yes, many members of the male gender have incorrectly stereotyped female consumers, but surely, the reader does not want to be made to feel guilty for the past transgressions of his gender?

Nevertheless and in spite of this initial tone, I found Why She Buys to be a worthwhile and valuable read for marketers.

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Just Good Business by Kellie McElhaney

Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand

By Kellie McElhaney
Berrett-Koehler, 2008

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4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialWhile everyone from corporate board members to Sports Illustrated writers[1] is discussing global warming and going green, Kellie McElhaney’s timely book Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand discusses the ethical business strategy called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Although CSR is known by a dozen different labels, McElhaney defines CSR as “a business strategy that is integrated with core business objectives and core competencies of the firm and from the outset is designed to create business value and positive social change, and is embedded in day-to-day business culture and operations.” CSR is useful for attracting certain market segments, building market share, and if done right reducing bad press from watchdog groups and protesters.

Part I of Just Good Business introduces CSR while Part III explains what to do about it. Part II discusses the seven principles for connecting a corporation’s CSR strategy to its brand:

  1. Know thyself.
  2. Get a good fit.
  3. Be consistent.
  4. Simplify.
  5. Work from the inside out.
  6. Know your customer.
  7. Tell your story.

Each principle has its own chapter offering good corporate examples that flow nicely with the text. Because the author has kept these stories short, at less than a page, they make the point without distracting the reader. The book concludes with chapters on planning, smart metrics, and the future of CSR.

This is a medium-sized, 194-page, and very readable book. McElhaney brings more than just the CSR story to the reader; she provides an action plan tied to corporate branding and marketing. I recommend this book to those who want a role in the future of their corporation’s CSR strategy.


[1] Alexander Wolff, “Going, Going Green,” Sports Illustrated, 106, no. 11, March 12, 2007.

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Instant Appeal by Vicki Kunkel

Instant Appeal: The 8 Primal Factors that Create Blockbuster Success

By Vicki Kunkel
AMACOM, 2008

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3 stars: Valuable information and a good readAuthor Vicki Kunkel heads a branding agency that employs a suite of quasi-scientific tools to predict the success or failure of communications messages. Working with politicians and corporate spokespeople, she uses neuroscience to help them adapt their communication styles to specific targets. She has identified trigger words, images, and actions that routinely prompt negative or positive responses in virtually any culture or context.

For example, Kunkel tells us that pretty women have a selective advantage over their less attractive counterparts in getting nonmanagement jobs, but as responsibilities rise, so does the “conspicuous flaw” advantage the more beautiful, the more disadvantaged. Does the same principle hold true for men? Not exactly. Handsome men beat out the average Joe for most executive jobs, but plain-looking guys are preferred for positions of trust. That is why Kunkel recommends that politicians highlight an asymmetric feature, such as the oversized ears of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush. In fact, she posits that Al Gore and John Kerry lost to Bush because they were too well turned out and their diction too perfect.

Kunkel goes on to cite studies of “face shape relevancy.” Leaders with very masculine features tend to be elected during wartime, leaders with feminine or erudite faces during times of peace or economic stress. This can be a challenge for people whose physical appearance clashes with audience expectations of their role. However, all is not lost, apparently. If you look out of whack, change your hairstyle, she writes: “Hair trumps everything.”

From a marketing perspective, the most interesting and readily applicable chapters are three short ones in the middle of the book, where Kunkel gets to the meat of her message: Fine-tune your communications to the subconscious needs of your target’s reptilian brain. In order to do this, Kunkel tells readers to understand the principle of “least effort” and the power of “kinship relevancy.” You will have to read the book to fully grasp these concepts, but these little tidbits explain why resolutions fail and corporate goals are seldom met and for that alone, the book is worth buying.

Caveat: Some of what you read might be hard to digest. Many of the author’s assertions are debatable (conjectures based on unproven causality); nevertheless, the concepts are an excellent starting point for market testing. After all, if the communication techniques work, why argue with the pseudoscience behind them?

Kunkel accomplished what I imagine she set out to do tantalize readers to hire her firm to show them more communications strategies. My regret is that she did not narrow her scope and deepen her discussion of the most compelling ideas; then, her personal infomercial would have been a feast for the marketer.

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The Book Corner

The Book Corner offers reviews by Graziadio School faculty on a variety of books on business topics.

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In this issue:

Book corner Tucker driving growthDriving Growth Through Innovation: How Leading Firms Are Transforming Their Futures

By Robert Tucker
Berrett-Koehler, 2008

Reviewed by Edward Rockey, PhD, Professor of Applied Behavioral Science

3 stars: Valuable information and a good read

This is a rather comprehensive summary of key innovation concepts culled from a broad spectrum and clumped under the umbrella of “growth.

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Professor Michael Kinsman,CPA, PhD, Professor of Finance and Accounting, takes a close look at three new books on surviving and thriving in today’s real estate market:

Emerging Real Estate Markets: How to Find and Profit from Up-and-Coming Areas

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material

By David Lindahl
Wiley, 2008

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Fight Foreclosure!: How to Cope with a Mortgage You Can’t Pay, Negotiate with Your Bank, and Save Your Home

3 stars: Valuable information and a good read

By David Petrovich
Wiley, 2008

Read more…

 

The ForeclosureS.com Guide to Advanced Investing Techniques You Won’t Learn Anywhere Else

3 stars: Valuable information and a good read

By Alexis McGee
Wiley, 2008

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Managing Brand You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self

By Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal
AMACOM, 2008

Reviewed by Leo A. Mallette, EdD,
Adjunct  Professor of Decision Sciences and Marketing

2 stars: Read this book if and when you have the time

This book should be used by people who want to reinvent or rebrand themselves, but haven’t been exposed to personal branding in the last decade.

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Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

By Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis
Penguin Group, 2007

Reviewed by Sean D. Jasso, PhD,
Practitioner Faculty of Economics

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material

The book effectively accomplishes its stated goal: to explore and understand why some leaders have much greater success in exercising good judgment than others.

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Marketing to Hispanics: A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative

By Terry J. Soto
Kaplan Publishing, 2006


Reviewed by Dave McMahon, DBA,
Associate Professor of Marketing

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material

With U.S. Hispanic purchasing power projected to hit one trillion dollars by 2010, Marketing to Hispanics is a timely guide on how to approach this market opportunity.

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The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means

By George Soros
Public Affairs, 2008


Reviewed by Davide Accomazzo, MBA,
Adjunct Professor of Finance

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material

In light of the recent market turmoil, Soros revisits his theory of reflexivity to try to explain the historical forces behind such crises.

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Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

By Daniel Goleman
Bantam, 2007


Reviewed by Esther Bleuel, MA, MFT, MDR,
and William Bleuel, PhD, Professor of Decision Sciences

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material


The most important take-away of this book is the impact of our social interaction on our health.

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The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm

By Kenneth W. Gronbach
AMACOM, 2007


Reviewed by Jody Brightman, PhD,
Adjunct Faculty in Marketing

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material


The Age Curve has a single message that is so powerful, it bears telling and re-telling in myriad forms.

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The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage

By Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
Harvard Business School Press, 2008

Reviewed by John Oppenheim,
Adjunct Professor of MIS

4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating material

According to the authors, the “execution premium” is the value and benefits that come from the concepts put forth in their wildly popular first book, The Balanced Scorecard.

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The Nonverbal Advantage: The Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work

By Carol Kinsey Goman
Berrett-Koehlers, 2008

Reviewed by Paul Gift, PhD,
Assistant Professor of Economics

3 stars: Valuable information and a good read

The author emphasizes five C’s for deciphering the real meanings behind nonverbal signals: context, clusters, congruence, consistency, and culture.

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The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash

By Charles R. Morris
Public Affairs, 2008

Reviewed by John J. Scully, PhD, CPA, Practitioner Faculty of Accounting and Finance

3 stars: Valuable information and a good read

Author Charles Morris offers several interesting insights into the origins of the U.S. credit market meltdown.

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The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm by Kenneth W. Gronbach

The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm

By Kenneth W. Gronbach
AMACOM 2008

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4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialEarly in the Foreword of The Age Curve, there is a heads-up: this book is a Johnny-one-note. There is but a single message and it is so simple a child can understand it. But this message is also powerful, and it bears telling and re-telling in myriad forms.

The message is this: the 78 million baby boomers are past their purchasing prime. They are in their 50s and 60s and leaving the work force. Right behind them, at the peak of their demand cycle, is Gen-X, only 69 million strong, which represents an 11 percent drop in market volume that is reaching its steepest decline in a five-year trough. Gronach points to the turmoil in the U.S. economy and asks, “Do they not learn about supply and demand at business school?”

He cruises through more than a dozen product and service categories from Japanese motorcycles and SUVs to mansions and healthcare to demonstrate the impending crisis of demographic proportions. There simply are not enough entry-level workers, especially in the skilled trades, to fill jobs, and there are not enough employed workers to buy the “stuff” that keeps the U.S. economy moving.

Enter the immigrants. Some 15 to 25 million Latinos are pouring across our southern borders to fill the shortfall in workers for unskilled entry-level jobs. Yet there are even more chronic worker shortages in the skilled labor pool. Gronach suggests that we relieve the unemployment problems in Europe by importing their skilled workers to the United States on a temporary basis. The Bush administration liked this idea and proposed it a year ago, but the bill has languished in Congress.

The key point to consider is that all of these problems are temporary. Just wait awhile. The downward blip ended in 1985 when birthrates started to climb, then soar. Generation Y, or the Echo Boomers as they are called, number 100 million. If you happen to be a visionary marketer who can hang on, get this: Echo Boomers consume at a rate five times higher than that of their Boomer parents. There is a “gotcha” though. If the economy contracts during the Gen-X shortfall, where will Gen-Y find the jobs to buy all the stuff they are so conditioned to demand?

This supply-and-demand drama plays out in chapter after thought-provoking chapter. Some are better developed than others, but the story arc hinges on one question: How will a good, well-meaning corporate giant beat the demographic curve? Gronach’s advice? Stay ahead of the age curve. To do otherwise is to slide down the slippery slope of declining markets.

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Managing Brand You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self by Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal

Managing Brand You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self

By Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal
AMACOM, 2008

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2 stars: Read this book if and when you have the timeWhen I was offered the opportunity to review Managing Brand You, I jumped at it, thinking I might glean some new knowledge. I had been planning to change jobs in 2009 and one of the steps on my roadmap was to buy and read some books on personal branding.

The introduction and seven chapters, which correspond to the seven steps, outline the primary author’s (Wilson) “Brand You” concept, developed over several years as a senior vice president of Coca-Cola. The chapters have cutesy titles like, “Who am I and how did I get here?”; “I can get there from here;” and “I can build my own personal roadmap on my own terms.” Managing Brand You presents tools in the form of tables and in each chapter, a fictional character on the path to self-branding offers examples of how to fill out those tables. The book stands alone and does not drive the reader to websites or other media.

The authors state that, “The 7-step process presented in this book will help you get there effectively, efficiently, and enjoyably.” I agree; this book does indeed provide steps to “get there.” However, it provides very little information on what to do with your brand once you arrive. While the tables and examples in Managing Brand You are useful for self reflection, the seven steps are elementary and the text provides no references for deeper study. I was extremely disappointed that there was not at least a chapter devoted to one’s Internet fingerprint. The book was silent on the subject and I consider this a serious flaw.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is beginning to brand themselves and has no experience with personal branding (i.e., high school students and some undergraduates). It can also be used by people who want to reinvent or rebrand themselves, but haven’t been exposed to personal branding in the last decade. However, I would not use this book exclusively.

In contrast, I found both Brand You 50 (Tom Peters, 1999) and Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand (William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, 2007) very interesting and helpful in reinventing my brand in the years leading to my career change. Career Distinction covers three steps (extract, express, and exude) to becoming distinctive, while Peters’ small book, which is annoyingly formatted with inconsistent font sizes and bold text, is filled with 50 short chapters of discussion with a few interesting lists. I have seriously marked up and highlighted both books and used many of their ideas.

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2013 Volume 16 Issue 3

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2011 Volume 14 Issue 3

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2011 Volume 14 Issue 1

2010 Volume 13 Issue 4

2010 Volume 13 Issue 3

2010 Volume 13 Issue 2

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