Tag Archives: change management

Unlocking the mysteries of motivation

Many of us are counting down the hours to winter break, and I’m sure many of us will use the downtime to think about our goals for the new year and the vision for our life in 2016. I’m excited to share with you a guest post I wrote for UT’s Human Dimensions of Organizations blog In the Loop. In “Unlocking the mysteries of motivation,” I talk about how the latest UT HDO seminar helped me get unstuck in my creative life.

I hope you enjoy reading it and that you have a wonderful holiday season. Thank you for reading my blog!

How to create a manifesto for your solution

Do you remember the 1996 film in which Tom Cruise’s character Jerry Maguire has an epiphany about his job and industry and decides to express a new, contrarian view in a mission statement? Blogs didn’t exist yet, so he proceeds to Kinko’s to have the mission statement printed and bound with a “Catcher in the Rye”-like cover.  The Kinko’s employee hands him the completed piece, titled “The Things We Do Not Say: The Future of our Business,” and tells him, “That’s how you become great, man.” Jerry delivers the manuscript to every employee in the firm and eventually gets fired for the views he expresses. He is forced to put his manifesto to the test and triumphs in the end.

Jerry’s manifesto was both a personal and an organizational one. Personal and corporate manifestos are groovy, and there are a lot of blogs dedicated to how to write these. In today’s post, I want to focus on why a marketer should create a manifesto for their solution. I recently completed such a document to rally my executives and colleagues around improvements to our current solutions story and to inspire the creative team to build compelling copy and deliverables.

A manifesto in this context is a concise yet passionate document that states what you believe about your solution. It is the POV or value proposition expressed creatively to promote internal alignment and commitment around a message. I have found a manifesto to be helpful when selling a new or evolving message, when trying to push the organization to reject current safe, “vanilla” messages that are getting lost in competitive noise, and when briefing a creative team or ad agency.

Because manifestos are emotional documents and are not a common component of the marketing bill of materials, there can be some resistance to creating and sharing them for fear they are too “touchy-feely”.  But a great story, creatively told, can move people and markets in ways traditional methods can’t. Here are the four steps that have worked for me:

  1. Complete the foundation marketing work before you create the marketing manifesto. You need a POV (point of view) or positioning statement, and your messaging framework and story line should be solid and accepted. This foundation work is important because a manifesto shouldn’t blindside colleagues and executives. Its purpose is exactly the opposite: It should declare the message in a way that inspires and fosters further alignment. Jerry Maguire failed to inspire his organization because his mission statement was the first time he had expressed his views. Change doesn’t happen from sudden knee-jerk movements; it happens through thoughtful management, inspiration, and leadership.
  2. Create the manifesto in PowerPoint. In our current 140-character-limit world, flooded inboxes, and short attention spans, I recommend that the manifesto be a short PowerPoint document with striking visuals and carefully chosen headlines or sentences for each slide. The end deliverable looks somewhat like a storyboard when viewed in slide sorter mode. Colleagues have referred to mine as a “teaser” and a “look book“.
  3. Build your manifesto by boldly expressing the key thoughts from your story line and tying those succinct messages to powerful imagery.
    • Start with customer pains and wishes. Always start with the customer’s point of view and express their struggles, wishes, and what if’s in their language and imagery, not yours.
    • Lay down your principles. Express your solution’s motives and intentions in bold, active voice language. This should not be a list of features and functions or speeds and feeds; instead, it should boldly express WHY your solution was created.
    • Explain why the customer should choose you. Using descriptive and powerful language, describe the tangible and emotional reasons your customer should choose you. This is probably the hardest part, so spend the most time here to ensure your differentiation is defensible and rings true.
    • Describe the customer experience and outcome. Describe what the experience of working with your company and solution feels like and what success looks like for the customer.
  4. Pitch it. Gather your team and most friendly stakeholders first and present your look book with the confidence of Don Draper from Mad Men. (Clarification: Don Draper of the Carousel pitch, not of the Hershey’s pitch. OK, maybe that makes you uncomfortable, but you know what I mean.) This should be a pitch that inspires everyone to connect with the customer’s pain and believe your solution is the only one that can best solve that pain. Take feedback, but avoid making changes that take you back to the safe zone. This document is meant to strengthen the overall message and inspire better downstream deliverables for your solution, so be careful where you compromise.

A solutions manifesto will likely never be seen outside the organization. It is a document that is used to inspire and gain further internal alignment on the overall story and tone, and, most importantly, on the “why” of your solution. Be brave. If you only do what has always been done, you and your solution won’t stand out. Believe in the power of emotions as much as you believe in rational arguments and you’ll end up with a manifesto that inspires the marketers and creatives around you.

Have you ever published a marketing manifesto for your solution or brand? How was it received?

Creativity as competitive advantage – Part 2

Your Comfort Zone

This post is Part 2 of an exploration on creativity in the workplace, inspired after reading Josh Linkner’s terrific book Disciplined Dreaming. I encourage my readers to pick up or download this book. As I did in the previous post on this topic, for now I am skipping the first four steps in Linkner’s process for inciting creativity at work to focus on the last step – bringing your ideas to life – as I am fully living that stage of the process right now. I will backtrack at some point and share some thoughts on the ideation phases, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far because great ideas are worthless if you can’t get others to believe in them and enlist their full support to put them into action.

Linkner offers some great strategies to select ideas and prototype and demo them, but he doesn’t touch on the internal selling and adoption of the idea once you’ve done those things. In my last post, I discussed the strategic role an agency can play in bringing the idea to life, whether through a demo, a video, a simulated conversation with a customer, or a manifesto. But how do you then take that, evangelize it, sell it, and ultimately get it adopted by others – willingly – within the organization? How does your idea become reality in a way that continues to nurture an environment of creative thinking? To drive results that create the competitive advantage? To continually question and challenge the status quo?

I’ve been through this process so many times that a good friend and mentor of mine, Donna Fox, and I decided to map it out one day over coffee a year ago:

Conduct demonstration projects. Some people call these pilots. I prefer the term ‘demonstration’ because pilots have a go/no-go feel to them depending on their success and require a lot of resources. Demonstration projects are meant to show that change is not only possible, but it is good, in very small pockets with minimal resources and disruption. Armed with your creative idea brought to life, choose 2-3 projects where you could put the idea into action. In other words, build a coalition of the willing and get an executive sponsor for the idea. For example, if you are responsible for sales enablement and have come up with a creative tool that all of sales should have immediately, pick a small subset of the sales team to demonstrate the new tool and ensure that not only your management, but also their sales director, is on board. If you are re-positioning a product or solution and you have brought the idea to life in a customer presentation, lock arms with a few trusted salespeople to test out the deck in real life with real customers. Caution!  Don’t choose demonstration projects that are expensive or so visible that a failure would have stark consequences.  Choose the projects carefully!

Demonstration projects enable you to build momentum and excitement by enrolling others firsthand in the idea. You start to see where the resistance is and you can build action plans to address it and even convert derailers into supporters. You demonstrate that change can happen without it being a burden on the enrollee. You learn to understand others’ motivations, fears, and agendas. And you solicit opinions and feedback that make your idea even better. Measuring and reporting the results of demonstration projects is critical, and I recommend having a third-party conduct the measurement so that you do not have to personally create credibility for the results.

Scale The Wall. It is common during or after a demonstration project to come up against what I call “The Wall.” The Wall is a sudden slow-down in progress or a build-up of resistance that prevents the idea from moving forward. Failing to scale The Wall is dangerous. I believe it is one of the main reasons creativity in the workplace suffers and ideas come to a full stop. The Wall must be scaled because (a) so many people are bought in and believers of the idea at this stage through their participation in the demonstration projects that a slow-down or “all-stop” can compromise the idea altogether, (b) the person leading the idea can become demoralized or lose personal credibility. To scale The Wall, it is necessary for the leaders of the idea and their management chain to be in agreement on timelines, communication paths, and access to people, information, and resources (time, money, attention). Scenario planning is a must – take the time to think through potential areas of compromise and continue to evangelize your idea. Don’t give up!  Instead,

  • Schedule regular meetings with enrollees and support them through the demonstration projects.
  • Do not de-commit demonstration project resources and support.
  • Openly discuss the emotions surrounding the idea to understand others’ motivations and agendas.
  • Build an internal support team that can help you re-frame reversals or setbacks and gain perspective to move forward.

Consolidate wins. As you scale The Wall, you’ll begin to consolidate the wins from the demonstration projects. Again, it is important to have assistance in measuring the results so that your credibility isn’t questioned. You should also incorporate the appropriate learnings from the demonstration projects. Your idea can get watered down or altered from all the feedback during consolidation, so it is important to be very clear on what you will and will not compromise on during this stage. At this point, a detailed execution plan should be built that includes budget, timelines, dependencies, risks, resources, etc. Move forward with creativity, passion, thoughtfulness, and boldness.

Scale and integrate. Don’t declare victory too early. Keep building on the idea and continue to set goals that drive the momentum with others. Ensure continued executive sponsorship of the idea and talk about success and progress every chance you get. Publicly recognize all the people you enrolled who helped you get your idea implemented, and foster an environment where everyone believes that their idea, no matter how big or small, makes a difference.

I agree with Linkner that harnessing creativity is key to competitive advantage. I hope this post helps motivate you to harness yours in the workplace and drive your ideas so that your creativity can make a difference.  What do you think?

American Airlines’ New Logo

First, full disclosure:  I am 8,143 miles away from achieving Platinum for life (FOR LIFE) frequent flyer status on American Airlines.  That means I’ve flown almost 2 million miles with the airline since 1995.  I’ve been a loyal customer despite luggage loss, two emergency landings, countless non-weather-related delays, and rude flight attendants.  American has delighted me more often than it has disappointed me.  So, when I was making my way through all my unread email this week and came across one the airline had sent last week with the subject line “See How We’re Evolving, Inside and Out,” I opened it.

I reacted to the contents of the email not as a customer, but as a marketer with years of brand management experience.  

American Airlines has retired its 40 year-old logo for a new one because: “Our changes on the outside reflect how we’re evolving on the inside. Our new logo and the refreshed exterior of our planes represent more than a change of symbol, but a symbol of change in our path to modernize and innovate.”

I love it when something like this happens, because I get to put myself in the shoes of the marketers who had to go through the trials and tribulations of such an endeavor.

I’m not going to get into FutureBrand‘s design of the logo and livery in this post. I could dissect the pros and cons of the design for hours.  But, boy, would I love to see all the iterations that the marketers at American went through with their agency on this!

During the last few years, American Airlines has not been living up to its brand promise of “We know why you fly.”  If they knew why we fly (and cared), the airline would not be ranked last in customer service, and it would not have fallen from the #1 airline in the US to #4 according to the USDOT in the last 4 years.  One of the reasons for this decline is the airline’s aging fleet, which experiences mechanical breakdowns more frequently, leading to increased cancellations.

The email I received proclaimed that the airline is “bringing you hundreds of new planes, cutting-edge technology, and more ways to stay comfortable and connected throughout your travels.”  I clicked through to a video of the CEO talking about modernization of air travel, the new carbon fiber 777 aircraft (very nice!) that enter into operation this week, and the unveiling of the identity and livery to an inspirational symphonic crescendo, complete with American flag and Statue of Liberty fly-by.      

It was a risk to radically change the logo, and I can imagine and relate with great empathy to the arguments on both sides.  On the one hand, the recognizable 40 year-old logo presumably has great equity and history.  Customers are comfortable with it and relate to it; therefore, there is no reason to change it.  On the other hand, if any industry needs a brand refresh, it’s the airline industry, so American got ahead of competitors to shatter the status quo. The arrival of the new fleet made timing a “now-or-it’s-more-expensive-to-repaint-all-those-planes-later” a pragmatic decision criteria.

Another dilemma is that American is a company in financial distress.  It is in bankruptcy and in talks to merge with a competitor.  Employees have taken pay cuts. They are running out of “extras” to charge customers.  A brand change of this magnitude is expensive, in the millions of dollars.  Is a re-branding effort the right thing to do when a company is struggling?  I know a few of us who have been through exactly that.  It’s a very hard decision.

One belief I’ve held as a marketer is that sometimes marketing has to drive and create great change in order to alter the culture of a company for the better (or even for survival).  I think that may have been at play here.  Making such a radical change to the visual identity and livery – thereby signaling big change to the market and customers – will now force American Airlines to change, to deliver on the promise the new logo symbolizes.  Should American have waited to have more of the new aircraft in service, to have improved on-time stats, to have decreased cancellations, to have completed the merger, to have a firmer financial footing before launching the new logo?  I don’t think so.  I think the need to reinvigorate the company was far too great and that marketing had to step up to a very difficult role in leading a risky and probably unpopular initiative in an overall effort to steer the airline in the right direction.

What do you think?  Would you have fought for the iconic, respected logo or would you have fought for a change?  Share your thoughts by leaving a reply.