Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CEO's: Be Accountable or be Ousted

Leadership is a privilege. It is earned by the strategic decisions and actions you make every day and even by the ones you don't make. All the business school training in the world could not have prepared us for this economic environment with one exception; Accountability.

Have you ever met someone that promises to do something and does not follow through on his promise? Magnify this by 1,000x when leaders of an enterprise do not fulfill the promise of their plan to their people, their customers, and their stakeholders.

Accountability is "an obligation to account for one's actions". A person in a leadership role either accepts the highest level of accountability or does not. Barriers to leading an accountable culture range from; politics, blurred ethics, time, cost or…the fact that is really hard for some to hold themselves accountable.

This week's news reported General Motors CEO, Richard Wagoner was ousted by the Obama Administrations Auto Bailout Task Force. It is a signal Americans are serious about changing corporate cultures from their current lack of accountability to a corporate culture that thrives on accountability.

As a highly compensated leader, he is THE most accountable for the success of the GM enterprise. During his tenure, Wagoner made changes in cost reductions. He reduced the US workforce from 177,000 to about 92,000 today. He closed factories, stopped making the Oldsmobile brand, globalized engineering and made some progress with the rigid United Auto Workers on hourly wages. Making cost reductions for a multi-billion brand is easy.

Did Mr. Wagoner feel accountable to innovate at the core of GM's business-- to be a better company and compete in a sustainable way? Creating an accountable culture of innovation is the only way to compete in this category. GM needs a new brand story that inspires employees to design and manufacture cars that consumers want to buy.

Should he have been ousted? What three things would you do to turn GM Around?

Comment on our blog. Tell us your story about accountability.

Source: WSJ March30,2009, Websters Dictionary

Monday, March 23, 2009

CEO’s: When the market zigs, are you zagging?

Building brand trust can be easy if you listen to the market and your customers. Being responsive says you are listening. Acting upon listening is the gateway to building brand trust. Be relevant. Remain Authentic. Move Quickly.

Your 2009 business plan has probably changed several times this year. No one could have predicted this economic downturn. The difference between thriving and surviving in this market is how your firm responds to the market conditions. While cost reduction is one way to insure you meet your plan, you also need ideas that signal you understand your customer’s needs today....and you are willing to show it with meaningful value.

So who is doing a good job of listening and responding in this market with real value?

Hyundai’s Assurance Program
The idea behind the Hyundai
Assurance program is that if a customer can’t afford the car payments, financed by Hyundai and within the first year of financial servitude, just drop it off and walk away. No charge, no debt and no impact to the customer’s credit rating. Of course there are requirements to receive the offer, but the essence is Hyundai, a car for the value conscious customer, offers you a real “break”. Provided the customer has made at least two scheduled payments on your loan or lease, they pay for the amount above the Hyundai Assurance benefit and any car payments that were due prior to you filing for the benefit.” This outrageous offer broke through the car industry and world news clutter in a meaningful way.

JetBlue introduced the "JetBlue Promise Program," aimed at boosting customers' confidence to book travel by honoring a full refund to anyone who experiences involuntary full-time job loss prior to their trip. Customers who book flights between Feb. 1 and June 1, 2009 and loose their job on or after Feb. 17 may be eligible for The JetBlue Promise Program. Customers must notify JetBlue and request a full refund at least 14 days prior to the first date of travel.

Dominick’s Grocery: During the gasoline crisis, they offered customers $6 of free BP Gasoline for every $100 spent on groceries.

Remember the long term success of your firm is made up of a series of short term moments. If you are seeking to build a more loyal customer base, think about a short term move that builds the trust bank. A short term hit on your margin may bring more to your bottom line long term. Offer your customers something meaningful if you want to keep them in your brand franchise forever.

Who else is doing a good job of offering great value in these economic times? Share your thougths in our comment section.

Call Airlift to talk about how to build brand equity and trust. Shelley Rosen 312.492.7772 or send us a note at srosen@airliftideas.com

Source: Hyundai website. Jet Blue website.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What is brand equity and why are CEO’s in charge of it?

The value of a brand is established in the C-Suite of an enterprise. Every day, the decisions leadership makes either build or detract from a brand’s value. The only way to achieve brand dominance in the marketplace is to constantly drive the value of your brand by building Brand Equity.

There is some confusion in the market over the terminology:

· Brand Equity is “a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand; its name and symbol that add or subtract from the value proved by a product/service to a firm and their customers.” (1) This is the true value of your brand (business).

· Marketing is business activity involved in moving goods from the producer to the customer through advertising, sales, packaging and promotion.

· Branding is a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods or services of one seller to differentiate them from those of the competition. Think about it. A logo or symbol is like an empty vessel. The only way to make it meaningful is to fill it with value in a compelling way.

Until you clearly define the meaning behind your mark, you have not differentiated your organization. And once you do, spend time increasing the value of that brand name over time with every action you take. We call it brand value.

The secret to building Brand Equity is to admit the long term is made up of a series of short term moments and activities. Every decision you make builds towards improving the Brand Equity of your firm. The components of Brand Equity include; pricing strategy, naming, assets, awareness, loyalty drivers and associations in a relevant, sustaining way.

Building Brand Equity successfully is linked to a clear strategy for your enterprise:

1) Define the drivers of brand equity--attributes that matter most to the satisfaction of your customers

2) Agree upon the role marketing leadership plays to build Brand Equity

3) Understand and communicate your core competency and Brand Equity with a unified voice

4) Deploy metrics for evaluating growth and improvements in Brand Equity through market share

So who is doing a good job in today’s economy of building and maintaining Brand Equity and why?

Airlift can help you build a clear roadmap to long term Brand Equity. Define your long term competitive advantage in a highly charged economic time with the right brand story.

Call Airlift today at 312.492.7772 or write us at srosen@airliftideas.com

Source: (1) Managing Brand Equity by David Akers. Webster’s Dictionary

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

CEO’s should protect their brand’s authenticity during challenging times

The highest wisdom is to know yourself,” ~~ Erasmus~~

Given the challenges of today’s economy, you are under siege to protect your business by cutting back your operating costs. Or you want to cut back so you can afford an innovation effort. All this might be true. However, be prepared to defend and protect the core competency of your company by remaining true to who your company really is. Protect and defend the soul of your business so the attributes that differentiate you remain intact when the storm is over and your business sky rockets again.

Authenticity is a much talked about word in business. Some believe it means to be an environmentally friendly company. Others believe you have to sell organic products. Webster defines authentic as, “that which can be believed or accepted, trustworthy or reliable.”

David Boyle, a noted British author, defines authenticity in a compelling way. “It's a new attitude that's discernable behind all this demand for authenticity - a new way of approaching business or culture or politics that's rooted in one that is tolerant of human failings. There is an emergence of people who are seeking real food, real culture, real politics, real schools, real community, real medicine, real culture and real stories. Are you keeping it real?

The best way to remain authentic to who you are, is to define and protect your organization’s core competency.

Core Competency is a deep proficiency that enables a company to deliver unique value to customers in a sustainable manner. Put your company under the litmus test of a Core Competency; a set of skills and assets that are hard for competitors to copy or procure. Understanding Core Competencies allows companies to invest in the strengths that differentiate them and set strategies that unify their entire organization.

Core Competency is something that a firm can do well: Here are three conditions:

  • Provides customer benefit
  • Not Easy for competitors to imitate
  • Can be leveraged enterprise-wide

When sales decline, you face job losses, key accounts evaporate and your profit margins are under siege, take time to find out who your company really is and what you are best at. Remain authentic to your heritage. It will become your guiding compass to weather this economic storm.

Airlift can help you find your authentic self. Call 312.492.7772 today or contact us via srosen@airliftideas.com. Sign up to receive this weekly at http://airliftbrandstorytelling.blogspot.com/

Sources: David Boyle. Authenticity, Brands, Fakes Spin and the lust for real Life, Gary Hamel, Strategos on Core Competency