Kevin Cosner Rio Mare

Posted: February 23, 2015
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When celebrity endorsement is bad for all concerned.

I have the feeling that I’ve missed something. All of a sudden I’m seeing hollywood stars appearing in the most dreadful, badly-produced, insanely silly TV commercials. It started with Antonio Banderas pretending to be a baker in a commercial for Italian biscuits. There’s no acknowledgement that it’s Banderas, no endorsement. He doesn’t even say anything (I mean, if you are going to have a movie star representing your product, why on earth would you have him acting out an anonymous part in a crap cameo?) so what’s the point?

Next Kevin Costner appeared in a commercial for Rio Mare tinned tuna! As with Banderras, I’m struggling to make a connection here. He only utters two words, which, so far, I have seen dubbed into three languages by anonymous v/o artists. I’m sure even Kev could have managed to come up with two words in any number of languages to have made these production even vaguely cohesive, but that’s hardly the point. What is going on here?

The most recent of these performances to have caught my eye is possibly the worst. The Dutch bank ING are changing their name to NN. I’m not even going to get into the choice of name here, but their decision to hire Ewan McGregor to do a “to camera” piece explaining in the most dreadful, boring, badly written script that he is celebrating the event by changing the spelling of his name to Ewann is just plain stupid?  However, the whole thing becomes even more questionable when, having delivered the story in English, in the version I saw, he switches to Czech for the last section of the script!

I’ve written about the use of celebrity endorsement before. It’s difficult for the vast majority of brands to justify what is always a significant cost, but if you are going to invest these sums you need to at least make a stab at getting some value from the deal. The starting point would seem to be choosing a celebrity who has some connection to your brand or its values. Once you have the right person it would seem just basic common sense to make something of this golden opportunity by at least involving them in an engaging scenario with a decent script. It seems that whoever is responsible for these three fiascos was of the view that a celebrity removed the need for any kind of idea, but it begs the question, what on earth were the celebrities thinking about when they agreed to appear in these fiascos? Surely, they have script approval? After all, their reputation is on the line and it’s hardly appropriate for them to rely on some amateur, brainless and talentless writer to jeopardise that, yet they appear not to care. Beyond a very few of the many cosmetic and perfume commercials that feature celebrities I can’t think of a commercial that I’d consider to make good use of an opportunity like this, but examples like those I’ve mentioned can only be bad for everyone. Maybe its just a case of taking the money and running, but celebrities have business advisors and I wouldn’t have thought they’d recommend they associated with such dreadful projects.


Posted: February 17, 2015
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How technology is shaping the new business paradigm and where marketers fit in – Part Two

In the first part of this editorial series I highlighted the way that our technical capability is driving, not only new businesses, but the way in which businesses operate. Now I’m going to explore what this means for marketers and marketing

A few years ago a major international financial services groups hired me to answer the question “If we were building our business from scratch today, what would it look like?”. I assembled a team of specialists in disciplines from across the business sphere and a few months later delivered a blue-print for a tech-based financial services business that looked nothing like the business they had. They couldn’t put it into play of course, that wasn’t the intention, but just as Formula One cars drive the innovations that go into production cars, this organisation launched a number of products based on ideas included in the business model that the task force produced.

This was clearly a very enlightened thing for any business to do and something that I can recommend to any business. However, I can’t help thinking that had I given the product ideas to start-ups, we would probably, by now be seeing new financial services powerhouses that had grown out of these ideas.

Unless you’ve been living under a stone for the past five years, you’ll recognise our new technical capability is driving the birth of radically different kinds of businesses. In fact, whole new sectors are being created simply because there are things that we can do today that we couldn’t imagine doing only a few years ago.

For decades businesses have been keeping up, as best they could, by adding patches and adaptations to existing business models to enable them to gain some benefit from a few of these innovations, but as a result they’ve become inefficient and ungainly. Start-ups, on the other hand, unhindered by the structures and processes of an established business, can be put together in a way perfectly suited to their purpose. With no operational compromises new model businesses are simply more efficient and as we all know, the single biggest differentiator of successful and unsuccessful businesses is efficiency. This has introduced a new phenomenon, a surge of small new tech businesses acquiring larger, established competitors at bargain-basement prices, simply because the small businesses hold the key to the survival of the larger competitor and has all the bargaining power.

From the start the current paradigm shift played out amid a big game of musical chairs where there was more sales capacity than customers. The only realistic source of new customers for most businesses these days is (and has been for some time) your competitors’ customer base. This has caused the focus in many businesses to switch from the challenge of finding customers to that of holding onto them. Repeat sales or customer loyalty are more critical than ever to the success of any business.

This is where brands and branding come into play. A strong brand may well increase your operational efficiency by among other things ensuring that you are offering the products and services that consumers most want at the price they are prepared to pay for it, but it offers another equally important, more emotional and less tangible benefit. It’s the feeling of belonging that a strong brand gives customers. It is this, as much as anything else that will guarantee customer retention.

The combination of all these factors influences the shape of many businesses in many ways, but one of the most fundamental differences between the old and new business models is the that marketing is now central to any business.

Because marketing is about identifying and leveraging an organisation’s resources in order to deliver answers to consumer needs it falls to marketers to guide the actions of everyone in every department. This in turn places a burden on marketers that most are not equipped to handle. To even get to first base today’s marketer has to be sufficiently familiar with all the disciplines that make up a modern business to be able to influence them. The more they know and the more sensitive they are to the functions and limitations of each department the better they will be at their job. However, marketers also need the authority within the organisation and a platform from which to operate. I’m still surprised when I encounter quite sizeable organisations that still don’t even have a marketing seat in their boardroom. Apart from anything else, this demonstrates failure to understand how businesses now work. A failure, which, by all accounts, will probably prove fatal. Nevertheless, I can understand that a real marketing director’s role is tough to fill and we need to start developing marketers with a wider range of skills and broader perspective. Have no doubt about it, marketing is very much in the driving seat of most of today’s successful organisations. The question is who will sit in it?

Taylor Swift

Posted: February 2, 2015
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What price copyright?

In the same week it emerged the pop singer Taylor Swift is attempting to copyright everyday phrases she just happened to have incorporated into the lyrics of some of her songs, the media shared the news that Nokia has issued a cease and desist notice against a London start-up over their use of the word “here”.

I don’t think any of us have a problem with the principle of copyright protection (Although, I was talking to an inventor this week who said that it was pointless taking patents out on products these days because they were all just combinations of technologies or concepts that are already known, so copyright enforcement was often impossible.) but does it make any sense for Miss Swift to literally claim ownership of the English language?

I’ll admit to some sympathy with the notion that she might inadvertently or otherwise, create a catch-phrase that may prove useful in promoting product, but should the product manufacturer pay her for so doing? It’s a question that I believe we are going to increasingly encounter.

Without a doubt pop songs throw up catch phrases that advertisers have adopted and profited from for as long as I can remember, but surely that’s just the way things go – Gangnam Style! We should also acknowledge that the advent of the Internet has thrown many entertainers onto hard times. Some of them don’t know where the next million is coming from, so you can understand that they are keen to monetise anything they can. There’s also just plain greed. Everyone is looking to make a fast buck and it usually makes no matter to them if it’s at someone else’s expense. The fact that we live in litigious times only makes this easier. If you can make a fast buck without actually doing anything that’s even better! The main reason for all of this though is that innovation is rarely unique. It’s just a race and it’s hotting up. Last month two people in separate conversations on two distant continents brought me start-ups that were working completely independently and unknown to each other on the same idea. Meanwhile the Brazilian team that developed the brain/machine interface and built it into the exoskeleton that enabled a paraplegic to kick-off the World Cup this year have been trumped by a European team who have taken the same technology to a new level by mind-merging two people on different continents.

Although our sensationalist press seemed to be trying to manufacture a David and Goliath story from the incident, I have more sympathy with Nokia’s objection to the decision by London start-up Lowdownapp to call their their location-based service “Here” than I do Taylor Swift’s claim. Nokia feels Lowdown were hitting below the belt by using the £8million Nokia had invested in promoting their mapping service with the same name as a springboard to fame. They may be right, but I can’t see that having the same name as another product in an adjacent technology is a good idea anyway. Isn’t it part of the growing-up process that all start-ups must go through, to learn to live with mistakes like the one Lowdownapp seem to have made here?

computer code

Posted: January 27, 2015
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How technology is shaping the new business paradigm and where marketers fit in – Part One

As I write this the world’s fastest computer, The Chinese Tianhe-2A super-computer, can make around thirty-four thousand trillion calculations per second (or for the initiated – operates at 33.8 PetaFlops) – Incredible, isn’t it? However the critical part of this statement is the term “as I write this…” because, what is more incredible still is that by the time you read it, this number will undoubtedly have risen. Such is the pace of technological progress.

I can remember being hired by the first company I had worked for that had a computer. It occupied a room, comprised towers of reel-to-reel tapes and all it did was the accounting for a modest independent advertising agency. Prior to that, accounting tasks like this were undertaken by rooms full, not of electronics, but men and women with thick books and sharp pencils. Today anybody can do the same thing on a smartphone.

DunnHumby, the company that manages the data for the international supermarket chain Tesco, record millions of transactions a day, comprising tens of millions of individual items that DunnHumby can cross-reference to define the profile of individual customers and accurately predict their grocery shopping needs. This in turn enables them, theoretically, to make a unique, tailored offer to each of their customers every week with a reasonable expectation that the customer will buy it.  Thirty years ago, no retailer on earth had as many customers as the big players have today and there was certainly no expectation of ever knowing what they were buying with any degree of certainty, let alone predicting what they would buy next week.

Right now it’s possible to order the product of your dreams. From cars to clothing we can dictate colour, size and other features without even having a conversation with a human being. The tennis racket manufacturer Head already offer, not just a choice of colour and shape of our racket, but the stiffness at different points in its construction, so you are directly involved and influence the manufacturing process. Yes, we’ve come a long way in a short time, but hang on to your seats, it’s going to get a whole lot faster

We haven’t even begun to exploit the capability that technology currently affords us and already someone, somewhere is working on a way to increase that potential.

Just to get a better appreciation of how far we have come, here are five things that we now consider “everyday” that we couldn’t even do ten years ago:

  1. Order your weekly grocery shop for home delivery at a specified time
  2. Play just about any music track you wish on subscription without actually buying it.
  3. Pin-point any address in the world on a map and have the quickest route from your present location to that point plotted and dictated to you as you travel by foot, public transport or automobile.
  4. Back-up all your computer files, operate applications that you don’t have installed on your machine and share files via a cloud.
  5. Make a list of thousands of people just like your best customer and send them all a personalised e-mail about your product.

So, what does this mean for your business and how are you adapting to keep pace with this change?

In Part Two of this editorial, I’ll look at what this means for the shape of organisations and in particular marketing and marketing services businesses around the world.

Leonardo's helicopter

Posted: January 5, 2015
Comments: 2

Corporate aggregation and the da Vinci effect

As the role of marketing changes and expands at a rate never known before the profiles of the people doing it have to change too. There are new things to do, new disciplines to master and skills to perfect. Today’s markers have to understand areas like finance, HR and supply chain enough to influence the way they operate within the organisation, because we have come to realise that they are all contributing to marketing. There are also entirely new disciplines, like technological integration, data analysis and strategic development that haven’t featured in a marketer’s job spec before. Today, marketers have to be like Leonardo Da Vinci – creative and technical, equally left and right-brained and how many people like that do you know? Great marketers are very rare animals!

The truth is that organisations that wait for candidates with the breadth of skills marketers need these days, to apply for roles, will be waiting a long time. So long in fact that they’ll probably not survive. Being the complete marketing package is something that, as individuals, we either have within us or we don’t. No amount of training is going to produce Frankenstein’s marketer. There is, however, an alternative and that is what I call corporate aggregation.

If you can’t find a single person with the range of skills you need you must hire a number of people whose individual skills combine to create the whole. It looks expensive of course, but it’s not as costly as submitting to your competition and if you are working with the kind of truly integrated strategy that teams like this are capable of and that businesses worldwide are now turning to, you’ll find more than enough savings and efficiency to cover the investment.

Of course, I am simplifying a little here, because if you just put a random bunch of specialists together you’ll rarely generate any output. You need a process, a way of working and a set of tools to keep it all on track.

I’ve been aware of this growing need for a while now and in response some years ago I created Full Effect Marketing, which I’ve since shared with organisations around the world. You can create your own process, of course, but it’s complicated and plugging into a ready-made template suits most businesses best. It’s quicker and you are more likely to get it right first time.

The Full Effect Company is a group of people with diverse skills, but a common understanding of how businesses work these days. They’ve all signed up to my Full Effect Marketing philosophy and have adopted the tried and tested processes that we have created together that enable us to turn the strategies I create into reality. We come together in tailored implementation teams that can either supplement or replace entirely any organisation’s marketers.

Over the years we have learned to adapt to pretty well any situation. We’ve confined ourselves to creating the fully-integrated end-to-end business strategies that incorporate all that was previously part of an organisation’s separate business and marketing strategies. In other cases we’ve built, trained and managed their existing marketing team, mentoring at every level. In some instances we’ve even replaced in-house marketing departments altogether, at least for a while.

I’m convinced that this is the way forward for the vast majority of businesses. In fact, aggregation is the only alternative to waiting for Leonardo to turn up and other than doing it yourself, with all the delays and pitfalls associated with the unavoidable process of learning on the job, out-sourcing has to be the quickest and most efficient means of transforming a business and making it fit to compete in today’s marketplace.

Classic sales pattern

Posted: December 15, 2014
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How your brand influences the shape of your sales curve

Back in April Phil Morettini posted a really sensible piece on his PJM Consulting blog about managing the growth curve. I have spoken on this subject myself at conferences and seminars in the past, but, in recent times I’ve focussed on other subjects. Phil’s post made the rounds again this month and prompted me to revisit the subject.

While I like his approach, my take on the subject hinges on an additional observation. Critically, the shape of the growth curve has changed over time. As the introduction of new technology has accelerated, so too has the rate of change adding vastly to the potential agility of businesses. This all helps leaders get innovation to market quicker, which serves to steepen initial growth. However, it also enables followers to catch up even faster.

Think about what this means to you. With competitors breathing down your neck, the cost of all that research and new product development has to be recouped sooner than ever before. When competitive products arrive on the shelves things start to get tough, so the threat to your growth arrives sooner and you want to have your initial investment largely covered by then. When competition arrives sales will usually flatten and soon start to decline proportionate to the quality and number of the competitors.

What this highlights more than anything else is the need to maximise the efficiency of your organisation. An efficient organisation will have more great new ideas and get them to market quicker. It will also sell more in a shorter period of time and the key to efficiency is having a strong brand.

One of the most significant benefits of a strong brand is focus. A business with strong brands will have employees that fully understand the brand promise and the role they can play in its delivery. This means that innovations will be more appropriate with ideas that don’t accurately represent the brand being thrown out earlier. This in turn means time, human resource and investment are available to back the winners, quickening the pace of development of ideas and adding to the robustness of product concepts that go all the way. The last play in the product launch scenario though is getting it into the homes of consumers and anybody will recognise the role that a strong brand plays here.

One of the greatest assets of a strong brand is familiarity. People know its name and they understand the promise it makes. It won’t hold any bad surprises and consumers trust its consistency. It offers the reassurance that makes any new product that carries its logo more readily acceptable to existing customers, hence, fewer obstacles to the purchase.

The “knowing and trusting” aspect also manifests itself in the readiness of customers to recommend it. So all your existing customers banging your drum every aspect of your advertising at every stage of the path to purchase will be far more effective and bring a far greater return.

As a recent European survey revealed, the majority of shoppers around the world are not motivated primarily by price. This has come as a bit of a surprise to some people and a great many retailers in particular that I encounter fall into the trap of responding to competitive pressure by reducing prices. They get an immediate business up-lift of course, but it’s a fool’s paradise that ultimately introduces uncertainly into the relationship with customers and in the long term reduces both revenue and profit.

You should never forget that the keys to success are a) the consistency that fuels the feelings of knowing and trusting that drives both sales and recommendations. This also drives b) the efficiency that will enable you to get the right innovations to market quicker, at less cost, sell more in a shorter period of time whilst reducing reliance on expensive, traditional advertising. That’s how your brand influences the shape of your sales curve.

abercrombie ceo. Mike Jeffries

Posted: December 11, 2014
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Abercrombie & Fitch – the re-birth?

My post back in March this year where I explored the demise of Abercrombie and Fitch has proven to be one of my most popular ever. So, I guess it’s fitting that I should acknowledge the news today that the beleaguered retailer has finally managed to dispose of its founder and CEO Michael Jeffries. Does this mean they’ll now be able to fix their business?

Frankly, and not because the I owe them for the traffic that my previous piece generated on my blog, I hope it does. Having largely avoided American chain stores in the past I’ve been keeping an eye on this retailer as well as a few others and even bought stuff there. Maybe A&F have been making a few small changes along the way, or maybe the gym membership is paying off, but at least the stuff on their shelves seems to fit me these days!

I noted before that the business’s biggest investor had been trying to oust Jeffries for years. It certainly seems that he was a major obstacle to progress, so maybe, now that looks like a done deal, they can start to rebuild. However, I’ve seen this before – a young and vibrant management team forces out the founder of a business and then proceeds to send it bankrupt within six months, so onlookers have to be wary of the possibility that it was the conflict within that was causing the problems, while the founder’s reticence to change was actually serving to reduce the negative effects of the other managers’ efforts.

If that’s so, the clue would have been in the quote by Jeffries cited in the Retail Gazette article: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

While this is presented here as a mistake, Jeffries was absolutely bang on the button. In fact he has been with some of the other so called “howlers” he’s been responsible for over the years. Maybe it’s just that people don’t like the bloke so they disagree on principle with everything he says, but the strongest brands are exclusionary, I’ve been saying this for years, so he wasn’t wrong there. Its also true that brands that try to be all things to all people fail. Again, as he suggests, being a panacea is just not something you can build a strong brand on. It may well be that A&F are aiming at the wrong group or not understanding their “brandships” well enough, but if this statement had been made by Steve Jobs, who I would argue was also exclusionary in his own way, we’d be hailing it as wisdom and printing it on bumper-stickers, so don’t let’s be too hasty in damning Jeffries for this.

Nobody could doubt that the next three years will be very exciting at Abercrombie and Fitch and I’d love to be involved with them as they lay the foundations of their future (Just in case anybody at A&F is reading this!) but you can be sure I’ll be watching the new initiatives roll out. Don’t waste this chance folks and definitely don’t become “vanilla”. Get it right and you could be featuring in editorial for all the right reasons for a change!


Posted: December 9, 2014
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So, who is wearing the content marketing hat in your organistion?

There was an interesting piece in B&T this week by Lauren Quaintance, who explores the battle that’s emerging between hacks and content marketers for ownership of the designation “journalist”.

These days it seems you can set up shop and call yourself anything. You only have to glance at the conversations on LinkedIn groups to realise that most of the people who call themselves marketers don’t have a clue. But while, practices like this can give a profession a bad name, frankly, there’s no point in getting het up about it, you just have to accept that there are rubbish “marketers” and there are bad “journalists” just like everything else.

There’s no doubt about it, content marketing is here to stay and I would argue that its not the shiny new toy that the industry makes it out to be.  In fact, it’s little more than what many have called PR for years. The skills are the same they are just combined and applied in different ways. The main difference is that marketers, for better or worse, now have direct access to the media that matters and don’t have to go through PR people, who have always largely failed to understand their true role in the marketing process anyway and are now trying to defend their crumbing ivory tower.

This doesn’t mean that marketers are the best people to produce content, but then again neither necessarily are journalists. The thing is, as Lauren and others have said and I’ve written numerous times, the only trick to producing great content is that it is of interest to your target audience and is well written and produced. Now, you might say that most of the content out there fails on both levels and I would tend to agree, but that’s where the opportunity lies for brand owners and content marketers who “get it” to step up to the plate.

Right now the choice is between highly polished content that any business would be pleased to call their own, but which only the few can afford and stuff that frankly looks more like a high school project that isn’t going to do anything but harm to any business that puts its name to it. Neither delivers what’s needed, which is easily accessible and affordable content that represents any business that associates with it in the most favourable light. Content doesn’t have to deliver direct sales. That’s not its job and anyway I think we’ve pretty well proved that this is a route that will turn off more of the audience than it appeals to. As with marketing generally these days and for good reason, the emphasis with content has to be on building relationships. Sure, your content does have to be relevant and don’t let people tell you that there can’t even be a hint of salesmanship in some of it (but definitely not all) so it can feature your business and your product, but the most important thing is that it represents your values and beliefs and your brand promise. That’s why you can’t really even start to put together a content marketing programme without first having established a brand model such as those that I create with my Brand Discovery programme.

Right now, I am working with a group of journalists, fiction writers and film makers on a project that picks up on the foundations of my brand models to produce content that will make organisations look their very best, but that any business can afford. I’ll let you know how that goes. Meanwhile if you are thinking that content marketing can play a useful role in your marketing strategy you’ll need to have a brand model, a clear brief with clear objectives and create a project team that collectively has the skills you need to produce a polished result. Oh, and you’ll definitely have to have a methodology to ensure that your office doesn’t turn into the battlefield that Lauren Quaintance mentions!


Posted: November 29, 2014
Comments: 0

Where smart marketers add to the value of a business.

Every now and then I come across a marketing services firm that has got it right. Cognition, a provincial UK agency with an international perspective are one of those that have made the transition I am always talking about, from a traditional advertising agency approach and proven beyond any doubt that a strategy-led consultancy that is able to provide the support today’s businesses need, is the road to success these days.

This week Cognition’s CEO Tim Witcherley in his rightly entitled Resources blog covers a subject that I encounter on a regular basis, and provides a useful guide to the basics of writing a business plan.

I mentioned in a post earlier this year that Ernst & Young had published a really useful guide to the IPO process in which they quoted research that showed that more than 40% of the factors that influence investors are non-financial. In fact, it transpires that after issues of compliance and finance the most important factors that influence investor decisions are marketing strategy and management team. No business should let the fact escape them that these days all organisations are marketing organisations and this means that marketing and business strategy are synonymous. Today’s business plan IS a marketing plan.

The problem with this is that there are still too many objections from executives on both sides of the operational/marketing divide. The nature of key executive positions is changing dramatically as the disciplines within an organisation converge and there are still a great many senior executives with incomplete or the inappropriate skill sets. Marketing people remain too creative and insufficiently business orientated and the finance usually think that marketing is all far too arty-farty. The solution to this lies in your processes. You need to create an environment and a way of working that enables you to bring together the skills you need without the culture of competition getting in the way. This is how successful organisations run and good business/marketing plan should reflect this.

Having just worked with an organisation to create a business plan for an IPO and being an advisor to a few start-ups, I’m acutely aware of what investors are looking for and my Brand Discovery programme and Full Effect Marketing approach have been designed to provide appropriate channels for the information that has to go into such a document. However, the perspective you need to take is logical. A business plan sets the scene, explains your objectives and how you identified them, then explains how you are going to achieve them and introduces the people who will be contributing. A real brand model is a critical part of this because we know without any doubt now that investors buy brands. A recent post on Investor Junkie gave six reasons why investors choose businesses with strong brands. They …

  1. have an established customer base
  2. enjoy a reputation
  3. have demonstrable staying power
  4. have positive cash-flow
  5. show strength beyond finances (It’s that 40% again!)
  6. prove they are marketing savvy.

So consider your integrated business plan from the point of view of the people who will read it and change your thinking and whatever else you need to, to enable you to deliver a plan that leaves investors in no doubt that you are a sound prospect. I’m sure you’ll find that as a by-product of this change your organisation will benefit anyway, so even if you aren’t looking to raise investment, it’s a good process to go through. Try it.


Posted: November 28, 2014
Comments: 0

Build a winning business on candor

Last week B&T published an article that asked “How can agencies create a culture for innovation“, a subject that those of you who have read my stuff before will know, is dear to my heart. The author of this post, Cassie Sacks, suggested that the key to creating an innovating environment is to remove the fear of ridicule that dissuades people from putting forward their ideas. I’ve said before “ideas” are more important than “the right ideas” and the sooner an organistion gets this the quicker they’ll achieve success, but there’s a deeper and more fundamental character trait involved here that influences far more than an organisation’s ability to innovate.

Back in 2005 Jack Welch dedicated a chapter in his book “Winning” to “candor”. An old fashioned concept perhaps and you may think an out-dated one. So out-dated, in fact that Microsoft’s spell-checker doesn’t recognise the word (or maybe that just says something about Microsoft?) However you’d be wrong because candor is as critical today to the efficiency that defines successful companies a it ever has been.

Jack’s point about candor was quite narrow. He was concerned with the honest expression of views and opinions, that determines the future of ideas and innovations. In this context, candor will reduce the waste of time and resources that accompany the pursuit of inappropriate ideas and enable businesses to focus time and attention on those that bring success. Obviously a business that is chasing product and process development that doesn’t lend anything to their brand model is wasting resources that could be more productively applied elsewhere.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg of inefficiency that hampers the success of most organisations.  The key for any business is to eliminate this waste by identifying those projects and initiatives that don’t contribute to the delivery of the organisation’s brand promise as early as possible and bring them to a halt. Few businesses are good at this. I use my Brand Discovery programme to help businesses, not only define their brand, but introduce the structures, tools and processes they need to maintain its authenticity, and strengthen its appeal. The process starts with some soul-searching and a degree of self-honesty that few businesses achieve without help.

If candor is genuinely a component of your business culture its influence will and should spread way beyond your office walls. Candor and honesty go hand-in-hand. Businesses that are transparent and honest are generally those that enjoy long-term success. Don’t get me wrong, there are, unfortunately, many businesses out there that make short-term money on false promises and downright lies. However, you can be sure they are eventually found out. If you are planning on taking that route yourself you should also know that it’s also usually unrepeatable. Once you’ve screwed a bunch of people the reputation tends to stick and hamper any plans you may have to try a similar scam again. It’s harder to be a serial scammer than it is to build a sustainable business, so you may as well just take the honest route. Gain a reputation for being straight and even if you fail, you’ll more than likely get a second chance.

I know of many entrepreneurs who have failed a few times, but eventually achieved success by following this mantra and their success has been possible only because they enjoyed support from people who mattered. Just like your customers, suppliers, financiers, distributors and partners will all gravitate towards businesses they feel they know and can trust. They’ll also favour you with better deals, go the extra mile to keep you happy and stick with you when times are tough.

So, give some thought to what candor could do for your organisation and start making changes today. Get used to the idea that business isn’t about screwing people, but working with them. Organisations that understand this are always the eventual winners.