Monday Mornings with Madison

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Brand Management

Case Study: Giving Monday Mornings with Madison a Blog Makeover

There are many reasons why a company might want to update a key element of its brand. Marketing elements get stale. From websites to corporate newsletters to blogs, there is a need from time to time to update and refresh an element without needing to overhaul the entire brand. There are also times when a company wants to reposition itself within an existing market. As a business evolves, it might identify an approach that has more potential to connect with clients. To make the shift in order to capture new opportunities, there can be a need to rebrand one or several key marketing elements. At other times, a company might rebrand some element of its marketing as part of an effort to enter a new market or geographic area. KFC did that when it changed the look of Colonel Sanders to look more oriental when the company expanded into China. It could be a matter of differentiating from the competition or acknowledging cultural differences.
Whatever the reason, most companies eventually give one or more marketing elements a makeover. It’s a process that should not be taken lightly. This month, Madison undertook to give one of the long-established elements of its own brand a big redesign. Madison changed the design of Monday Mornings with Madison (MMWM), the company’s weekly column-blog. The masthead of the MMWM email notification — used for a decade — was retired and replaced with a new, fresh design, as was the blog itself. The goal was to update the look to reflect today’s aesthetics and align it with Madison’s expanding position as a growing leader in the real estate marketplace. Read on for a real case study of a blog makeover. Continue reading

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The Battle between Speed and Quality

In the business world, there is a constant tug-of-war between doing something ‘right’ and doing it fast. The pressure of profitability is forever pushing companies to get things done fast, and then faster still. Managers submit requests and the due date is “yesterday.” The more quickly a job is performed or a task is completed, the more it is praised by management and investors. Employees are urged to pick up the pace. An entire engineering discipline – ergonomics – was developed to focus on improving efficiency by saving time through small adjustments in motion. Sayings abound about not wasting time. Time waits for no man. Wasted time is a wasted life. Don’t waste time or time will waste you.
On the other hand, the more quickly a job is performed, the higher the chance of an error or mistake. Software updates are released too soon, full of bugs and glitches. New phones are rushed to market, often with serious defects such as combustive batteries. Haste is often the enemy of quality. That is why there are also sayings about the problem of rushing. Haste makes waste. And haste does not produce breakthrough ideas. Tham Khai Mend, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy, one of the world’s leading advertising agencies, once said “Miners shift five tons of rocks to extract one ounce of gold. Just like you have to shift a ton of rubbish to get a good idea.” Detailed or creative work requires a great deal of thought, research, concentration, reflection and mulling over to produce the truly valuable nuggets. It is a process that cannot be rushed. And, work that requires precision and accuracy — such as surgery, architectural design, accounting, proofreading, and dispensing medicine – also cannot be rushed. In such work, quality is arguably more important than speed. So how does an employer balance the need for speed and efficiency against the often painstakingly slow nature of achieving quality? The answer is not to balance them. Improve quality and speed is sure to follow. Continue reading

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Making Content Contagious

In the medical world, a virus is an infective agent that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and replicate. Most viruses are harmful. In the digital world, a virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect. But in the marketing world, when a piece of content such as a video, image or ad goes ‘viral’ – circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – that is cause for celebration. It is the most desired, but also most elusive, outcome for any marketing effort.
While many have tried creating content that goes viral, it is like baking the perfect soufflé, writing a hit song or painting a masterpiece. Many try but most fall far short of the mark. Yes, there are many videos that have gone viral, but that number is actually quite low in comparison to the amount of content that is created and posted daily. There is a continually growing stream of digital activity flowing through cables and airwaves across the world. Every minute, giant amounts of content are being generated from phones, websites and applications across the Internet. And the unspoken competition for content to “go viral” is fierce. What causes some pieces of content to go viral while so much other content is barely noticed? While many speculate and guess, there is current marketing research that examines what makes online content go viral. Just remember that what is true today may not necessarily be true next month and will likely not be true next year. Continue reading

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Preparing a Business for Emergencies

While it might seem impossible to prepare for the “unexpected”, business owners must think about and prepare for crisis situations. Some of those might be man-made, such as a cyber attack by hackers. More commonly, though, those unexpected events are those of nature, such as the massive flooding of the last few weeks experienced in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey and the rampant forest fires that are sweeping through California right now. Blizzards. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. There is no limit to the kinds of crises that businesses can experience, and they can happen anywhere, any time. Whether natural or man-made, these events are a cautionary admonition that the unexpected can and does happen.

It is up to business leaders to prepare for all types of emergencies in order to offset the impact of those situations on the bottom line. So how does a business owner prepare for the unexpected? Regardless of the location or type of business, every company should have an Emergency Preparedness Plan to deal with crisis situations. It is just good sense for every company to have and share its plan of action with staff. And some measures should be thought through and taken long before an emergency occurs. If no plan exists, it’s time to create one. Here are some things to consider in developing a corporate Emergency Preparedness Plan.
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Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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How Good is Your Company’s Storytelling?

Today’s sales and marketing efforts require good storytelling. But storytelling is nothing new. Even before people could write, they were telling each other engaging stories to share information. That’s because no one is – or has ever been — interested in absorbing dry information. Even with today’s technology, dry information is still unpalatable whether it is delivered in a print ad, a radio commercial or video. Information is simply more likely to be accepted if it comes gift-wrapped in a story. Storytelling has the power to transform drab business details into something interesting.

Why do people find stories more compelling than other information? It’s physiological. When we listen to a standard presentation presenting dry information or hear a boring lecture, the Broca’s area of the brain is stimulated. This is in the side of the brain that deals with language and logic. However, when we are told a story that is rich with meaning and visual cues, there is a dramatically different response in the brain. Both the right and left lobes of the brain are activated. In addition to engaging the left part of the brain that handles logic and language, a good story also engages and stimulates the right side of the brain– what is deemed as the creative part. Stories grip us and help us experience emotions.  It is those emotions that help us connect with a brand, service or product. Storytelling helps shape the narrative surrounding a product or service. The goal, then, should be for a business to wrap every effort within a compelling story. Here’s how to start.
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Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

It’s been said (many times) that companies should strive to under-promise and over-deliver. Under-promising and over-delivering is seen as a good philosophy to control customer expectations and ensure that every customer becomes a raving fan when they get more than they expected. On the other hand, there are those who would argue that this is a great way to drive a business into the ground. Some see this as a formula for failure because it lowers the bar internally so that what is considered “above and beyond” is really nothing more than what the competition does on a regular basis without breaking a sweat. It therefore encourages mediocrity. Which is true?
Should a company seek to under-promise what it is offering clients? And should a company try to over-deliver, going above and beyond what is standard? Or should they set the bar high and strive to go above and beyond that? This is the conundrum with which leaders have wrestled since companies first began competing for business. There is no easy answer. The truth is that it depends. In certain situations, it is helpful to under-promise and over-deliver, but there are also times when under-promising and over-delivering actually hurts business. Understanding when it is good to do this and when it isn’t is the key.
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The Effect of Abundance and Scarcity on what Customers Value

Rabbi Avigdor Miller once marveled at the notion that “two gases [hydrogen and oxygen] — neither of which can quench thirst – can be united into a clear and sparkling liquid which pours down one’s throat in a life-giving stream.” He added that “No liquid in the world can take the place of water for relief of thirst. This fluid is the most potent of all elixirs, although its availability and its inexpensiveness cause it to be overlooked. It is the universal solvent and the vehicle of digestion and of blood circulation. If water could be obtained only from the pharmacist, it would be the most costly of liquors, both for its vital properties and for its enjoyment.” And yet, most likely very few in the U.S. open a faucet and marvel as water pours out… precisely because it is so abundant and available.
Yet, in places like Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and even places in the U.S. such as Flint, Michigan and drought-affected parts of California, water is very scarce and the cost (and value) of water has skyrocketed. In such places, people have a genuine and profound appreciation for clean drinking water. That’s because the value of everything is deeply affected by abundance or scarcity, whether the item is essential for life or not. In the U.S., the abundance of water has caused the value of “this most potent of all elixirs” to be mostly taken for granted. On the other hand, other commodities that are not essential to life – such as diamonds, gold, rhodium, platinum, plutonium, taaffeite, tritium, painite, californium – are highly valued because of their scarcity, even if they have no life-giving properties. This value is subjective. This is known as commodity theory, and it is something that every entrepreneur, business leader, and sales professional should understand thoroughly. This is where the laws of economics and the actions of sales and marketing professionals meet. Continue reading

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Using Chess Strategy in Business, Part 2

There are many benefits that come from playing chess. Psychologists often cite chess as an effective activity to help improve memory function. That is probably why chess is recommended in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Playing chess can also help the mind solve complex problems and work through ideas. It is also thought to increase one’s intelligence, although that’s not been scientifically proven. And the effects of chess on children – which has been correlated to children getting better grades in school — has led to chess being introduced in schools in a multitude of countries. That said, many are still intimidated by chess because it is perceived as a game for geniuses. But while chess is a thinking-man’s game — one that requires a great deal of strategic thought and tactical reflection — it is not just for geniuses and savants. Anyone can learn to play chess and improve through study and practice.
Indeed, many past and present political and military leaders – including U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Sigmund Freud, Queen Elizabeth I and II, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew, British Prime Minister Clement Atllee, Alfonso King of Spain, and Vladimir Lenin – all played chess. Many titans of industry also play chess, including Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft, Billionaire Investor George Soros, Carl Icahn, Chairman of Federal-Mogul, Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of Paypal, Jared Heck, co-founder of GroupMe and Fundera, Seth Bannon, Founder and CEO of Amicus, and Victoria Lipschitz, CEO of Grid Dynamics. In fact, Boaz Weinstein, chess player and head of Saba Capital, once said that “Chess helps me in trading, teaching me to focus on the important decisions and to accept risk.” Last week, we looked at a few useful strategies. Let’s look at some more chess strategies that can be applied to business. Continue reading

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Using Chess Strategy in Business, Part 1

Chess is one of the fairest games there is. In chess, opponents start with an identical force. The entire playing field of a chess game is out in the open. A player can see every move an opponent makes as soon as he makes it. And, in chess, no dice are used so it is never a game of “chance” and there is no luck of the draw. Moreover, there is no referee involved in chess that might “throw” a game or be partial to one side over the other.
The business world is perhaps not as fair, balanced and chivalrous as a game of chess. In business, competitors seldom start with identical workforces, and a company can easily hire a better force. In business, a lot of deal-making is done behind-the-scenes and a company might not learn about a competitor’s initiatives until much later. And, in business, a company can innovate a product or service – or how it delivers that product or service — in ways that totally change the playing field for competitors. In fact, a company can innovate to the point of actually changing the game. Think of how Uber has revolutionized short-distance transportation and how Airbnb is changing the hospitality industry.
So, in many ways, business and chess are different. That said, chess is all about strategy and tactics. The best chess players are those who have the ability to stay ahead of their opponents and strategize goals that can be achieved as quickly as possible. In that regard, running a company is a lot like a game of chess. To stay ahead of the competition, companies must think strategically and be quick to implement. That’s where chess strategy can give business leaders guidance. While many games use methods that can be incorporated into how business decisions are made, chess requires strategic decision-making, connections, timing, tactics and evaluation. Continue reading

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