The Story of a man that knows how to turn adversity onto opportunity.
sábado, 5 de enero de 2008
domingo, 25 de noviembre de 2007
Astonished, the captain turned around from the figurehead to where he had climbed to lead the best conquering strategy ever conceived. By his side, the boatswain and the master gunner stretched their arms towards the infinite, anxious to reach the objective they had for so long yearned.
-STAND BY FOR BOARDING!!- Repeated the Captain.
A couple men raised their heads, trying to figure out what was going on and what were the captain’s intentions, but that was all. The rest of the crew was still immersed in their everyday’s tasks, performing them so diligently and well as usually: some were mopping the deck, the cook was preparing the day’s meal, the apprentices ascended the masts to set the sails, but no one followed the captain and his officials in their heated conquering efforts.
Does this sound familiar to you?
How often have we, as leaders of a company met, being aware of the fact that, even though things are going well, we cannot live on the high seas forever? Someday, we will have to step on new lands, meet new ports, board new boats from which we may extract goods and wealth to refill our increasingly meager supplies and stores.
Thus, we carefully examine our competitors, their strategy and messages; the marketplace, its trends, shares and potential; the consumer, its path, its tastes, insights, purchase power…; the economy, inflation, growth, predictions… and finally…”Eureka! We have found it!”
As a hidden treasure in the midst of thousand islets, there it is, shinning, the way. That unique positioning, that new business line, that tiny millionaire niche, that service that textually responds to what consumers demand and that miraculously enough no one of our competitors has yet perceived, and that is handed to us on a plate to be owned and carried as our flag, proudly hoisted at the highest mast of our fleet.
And so, we decide to refresh our look, the occasion deserves it. We hire the best consultants and rejuvenate our logo, making it more attractive, more brilliant, more revealing than ever. And, finally, we go out in the street. No, wait! We´ve forgotten something: “The Staff: we must tell them”, and so we organize a two-hour meeting, we prepare buns and coffee -this juncture does not happen every day-and we bunch up the whole company to inform them on the good news.
Quite frequently, when in a non-English-speaking country the first barrier is the name and the claim. It is perfect, no doubt about it, but it has to be global, so it might be a bit difficult to pronounce in some countries. There it goes: “From now on, we are called Fernández & LRD WASX and our claim (which meaning we will explain right away to the non-English-speaking people, you´ll see how good it is) will be: “Acknowledging Leveraged Performance”. Something that for Spanish people sounds like what for you would be: “Rendimiento Mejorado Reconocido”(Any idea of what it means?).
We begin then to see the first faces of those who pretend to hide that they not only do not have the slightest idea of what it means, but that they have no intention to even try to understand it. They begin to check their watches, impatient to go back to their desks and finish what they promised their clients they would send them this same morning, and to get away from so much nonsense and waste of time. Next thing is the launch of a new corporate image & positioning that only exists in international meetings and in those ads we place in the industry’s press pretending that someone will accept as true.
(Sometimes I wonder what will happen if predictions are fulfilled and we all end up being bought by Chinese companies. What will our company’s name be? Fernández & Chan Yong Hou and our claim with be something like Fan Quie Huang Gua- which actually means “tomatoes and pickles” but no worries, since, like English in Spain and many other countries, 4/5 of the population will never understand what it means, anyway).
Quite recurrently, in small companies people work with the highest enthusiasm, everyone is aware of everything, and stick together before adversity. In these companies usually everyone rows in the same direction, regardless of the captain eventually shouting “This way!!”, while pulling the helm towards the right or the left. And why is this? Because them being smaller, information flows, ideas exchange and so does knowledge.
In big companies (and commonly also in medium-sized ones), people are converted into numbers. Numbers that are asked to add and subtract, divide and multiply, but rather not think, but obey what is decided on the top.
Then, the new ways are forced into their daily life. But since they have not been informed of the imperative needs to take this new paths of business, nor do they know why this is the one chosen, and what is worse, they have not participated in the process of finding one, it simply sounds too distant and banal to be applied.
The knowledge of each and every one of us (and here I deliberately avoid the word “opinion”) is important at any stage of the business, even more at the time of fixing a new direction. The most junior person in the company can contribute with a halo of light on a certain part of the business and become key.
Now, this is easy to say but, how can it be applied when we are talking about hundreds or thousands of people?
New technologies play an essential role here. Nowadays there are internal communication techniques able to perform this with the highest standards. It is important to make an effort to know and apply them.
Basically, there are three fundamental aspects to take into consideration: information, participation and compensation.
People in a company should be informed from the beginning of the reasons of its strategic movement, and, above all, in what does it affect them directly- any information must be relevant for the receiver. Next, they need to become part of the process by participating from phase I with their ideas, opinions, experience and why not, their vision of the business. You never know in what oyster you may find the largest pearl.
There are many ways of achieving this. From the simplest formulas, like organizing a poll for people to participate (whose results must be published and taken into consideration), to contests arranged by teams awarding the best idea, or teams structured in pyramids, from which conclusions are extracted bottom up until covering the whole company. One thing is vital: it must be made very clear that the information gathered will be taken into account, and that those who have come up with the most relevant contribution, will be compensated. Not only in a material and/or professional way, but also in the personal aspect, by making a public recognition of their effort and results.
People are people and expect to be treated as such. Furthermore, only when they perceive so, it is possible to extract the best out of them. A vessel’s crew needs to be informed of where they are going, when they are to board another ship or conquer new lands, how this is going to be made and what is their role and collaboration in the venture.
Conquerors had to have a very high motivation in order to cross oceans and risk of dying out of scurvy, hunger or run through by a spear. Normally, they were given part of the apprehended loot and lands in exchange for their undertaking. But they also guessed that, should they achieve something extraordinary, great stories were going to be told about them. Quite often this was their biggest motivation and the reason why they wrote long diaries relating their exploits in all detail. This is called personal achievement and it is frequently considered by people above financial or professional achievement.
Today, what do we give to our teams? What do we offer them in exchange for lifting their heads from their keyboards, going further from their everyday tasks and becoming an active part of our conquering desires? A slap in the back? It is incredible but, sometimes, not even that.
Only when our people will feel that they are a significant part of the strategy and may dream of being recognised for their exceptional efforts, will they jump on the land like propelled by a spring at the voice of “Stand by for boarding!”, ready to give their utmost for the success of an enterprise that, at last, is also theirs.
domingo, 18 de noviembre de 2007
This claim could be the envy of anyone in the advertising industry: a short, simple, clear, surprising and relevant message. The perfect formulation in order to generate an undeniable awareness.
And so it was: only a few minutes after it was pronounced, this regal and magnificent exhortation made by the king of Spain Juan Carlos I to Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chávez was already winging across the mundane firmament that extends over the heads of the common people: from TV to radio, from radio to word-of-mouth to digital editions, to YouTube. And from there on becoming a fresh and revolutionary, popular and spontaneous viral marketing (the envy of creatives and the terror of dircoms), that invaded the hardly ever peaceful existence of our digital devices with dozens of ppt’s, jpg’s, politones , sms and e-mails that covered the event in multiple versions, interpretations and assessments for everybody’s liking.
Not even the protecting walls of Zapatero’s residence managed to prevent this invasion to reach inside. The Spanish President admitted that the first words his daughters told him as he got home from the summit were: “Why don´t you shut up?!”, while laughing and teasing him.
The King-Chavez incident also became the main theme in gatherings, shops and offices. Something similar to an old ad from a Spanish soda who invited people to choose between belonging to the “orange team” or the “lemon team”. But this time people were divided into the “Good-on-the-king side” or the “good-manners-above-all side”.
Incredible. Not even the most awarded “Amo a Laura” Spanish MT viral campaign managed to attain such an overall coverage.
But let’s stop here and think about it carefully….This sensational awareness success… Did it attain any of the objectives set by Spain for this summit?
None of us, at least here in Spain, could help feeling a burst of satisfaction as we heard the king, OUR KING, finally shutting up this annoying man who travels the word insulting other dignitaries with total impunity. A man who, with all the respect for his voters, probably has a lot of good inside, but God, does he hide it well!
But facts are that, after so much pride and rejoicing, diplomatic relationships between Spain and Venezuela have burst in fire; Spanish companies have been forced to decide whether to hold the Spanish flag high up and fiercely defend Spanish pride or to submissively bend before Chávez on the sly, in a desperate attempt to lose the less business possible. Or, what is worse, those unconscious Spaniards who dared to criticize the formerly sheep-skinned wolf in his own country, have now been personally threatened by him.
Likewise, we in the advertising industry sometimes mix up awareness and brand building, creativity and efficacy and art with commercial success, ignoring the catastrophic consequences it may bring.
We only have to have a look at any of our forums to find ourselves heartily defending awesome creativities, exorbitant budgets and surprising ideas, which the advertiser “does not dare” to consent”, “does not understand” or simply ignores in its “absolute lack of knowledge” on how this business should be done. Or energetically praising highly awarded and repeatedly forwarded piece of work, when we have no idea of whether it has generated any business or not.
This reaches its climax at the creative festivals where art, surprise, innovation and “creativity” are exalted, regardless of the commercial results they may have achieved, something that, honestly, I have never quite understood.
Festivals that increasingly become a gathering the advertising industry dedicates to have a close look at their belly bottoms, unconsciously forgetting about that one who pays and gives sense to our work: the advertiser. A strange being who, incredibly enough, not only looks forward to boosting their egos obtaining a prestigious award (we all have our little heart inside), but also to generate sales volume that may justify their position and income; and, if possible, to reinforce their brand (this latter, unfortunately in an increasingly quieter way, due to the stock market, the procurement and the ever more numerous financial CEO´s pressure who have them constantly intimidated)
Mr. Angel Riesgo, president of Spanish main consultant Company of the advertising industry, Consultores, company that organizes the Efficacy Awards in Spain, recently stated that “what is creative is effective”. By the same terms, I would like to state that what is not effective is not creative (after all, what on earth does it create?). Hence, any quality other than this term in a festival at the time of granting an award should only be a “plus” and not a decisive factor.
Sometimes we wonder why media agencies are taking over creative agencies in the trust of the advertisers. Maybe it has to do with them not being afraid of dealing with terms marketers and companies cannot escape from, such as profitability, savings, and return of investment, efficient planning or exhaustive research.
This is not a call in favor of media agencies. Having worked in both my opinion is that they still have many stones to unturn before they can successfully develop a 360º campaign that is consistent in all its expressions. But one thing is sure, we will all have to prove the efficiency and profitability of our work if we don´t want to listen from our client a “why don´t you shut up??” just as notorious, understandable and catastrophic as the recently proclaimed by our- however beloved- king.
viernes, 9 de noviembre de 2007
This formulation may have worked in the past, but nowadays it implies an enormous jeopardy. The business world moves at a vertiginous speed, like it has never done before. Consumers’ settings and contact points constantly proliferate at an unusual speed. Products increasingly fragment at an unexpected pace, aimed at ever more-reduced niches.
Talent is like flowing water. I invite you to visualize it as a huge waterfall wrapped up by the paradisiacal surroundings of the potential exuberant vegetation of the market. In this scenario, the executive’s role is to conceal and retain this precious liquid in a relatively small environment in order to make a profitable use of it.
Problems arise when this environment remains hermetically sealed for too long. Past and actual successes, like fish in a not-big enough pond, end up becoming the cause of its deterioration. Water stagnates and loses its freshness, oxygen extinguishes and it all turns up to be something you need to get rid of.
Talent needs an escape route towards which it may grow and create, even exceeding the traditional limits of the pond. A watercourse through which it may flow and descend, in search of new pools, even huge seas. This phenomenon allows for idea renovation, business environment re-oxygenation and, quite often, the discovery of new business lines never even imagined before.
Satisfying this need is now more important than ever, not only because it is the sole way to be constantly updated, but actually in order to become an active player in the creation of new ways of making business, new means to contact the consumer, new market niches.
To put an example, I could point out that not that many companies would willingly accept their marketing director’s proposal of opening a virtual island in Second Life. First, in Spain, like in many other countries, because they most likely do not quite understand what it is, even though they may have heard about it. Second because, in the best of cases, if they do, they have probably read the hundreds of articles that question the profitability of business established in this virtual world. But, most important, because it is a life fact that most seniors do not have the same capacity of vision as juniors do. Somehow it is something that, like muscles, tends to lose its flexibility.
As we grow older, it becomes more and more difficult for us to see the world through the eyes of our youngsters. The eyes of those who already infer that Matrix is not such a far-off concept from our current time, and that the parallel worlds of metaverses are already a reality. And so it is (four us?) to understand that regardless of their present commercial return, having a presence in these worlds implies starting a dialog with our clients of the future.
Henry Ford used to say that he did neither need to be extremely intelligent nor an expert in order to success in business. He said he had enough with having a vision and surrounding himself by people who were rich in the talents he lacked.
Successful executives are those who allow the water of other minds ' ideas flow (ok, not in a chaotic way) off the limits of their traditional way of doing business. Only this way they may benefit from people’s talent and vision: by listening to their proposals no matter how absurd they may seem and, to sum up, to let the water of their ideas flow full of freshness and life.