The Post American World

BBC World News has a posted Fareed Zakaria Post American World. First

"the rise of the rest places certain limits on American power"

"The rise of the rest" is actually a pretty darn positive statement. From a study-of-power perspective it is no surprise that the vacuum formed, the monopoly formed by the USA being the sole-super-power, has a post-world that is hopefully more balanced.  Make no mistake, I am incredibly pro-America because, well, I am an American. I can’t tell you how much I love this country.

Yet conversely I don’t like our role as World Police. I don’t recall applying for that job, and the fact we have been forced into it, leads us to an awareness of a lack of gratitude. This leads to email snippets like the one below.

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5 Basic Rules of Negotiation

Reading   Harvard Negotiation Project: 5 Lasting Rules For Negotiating Anything on GigaOm made me send the list of five rules of negotiation to a client. First the rules:

  1. Don’t Bargain Over Positions
  2. Separate the People From the Problem
  3. Focus on Interests
  4. Invent Options for Mutual Gain
  5. Insist on Using Objective Criteria

One side effect of the recession I have seen is clients getting into complicated situations, even some self destructive, almost as a diversion from the real issues. I don’t have a solution. But I do wish folks would learn a little more about creative negotiation to get us all to a happy place. Just keep paying it forward I tell myself.

Ries: The Law of the Proper Brand Name

the real thing
Originally uploaded by eschipul

On the subject of rules for brand names.

For readers of this blog it comes as no surprise that I am a big fan of Ries and Trout’s book Positioning. And since then a continued fan with The Fall of Advertising and The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. They articulate thoughts that just make sense; logically, psychologically and sociologically.

Working in the tech sector and also being a fan of Moore’s Crossing the Chasm I view brand names very much as a sociological pattern. The mavens,
even if your biggest fans, must be able to COMMUNICATE that knowledge
to the early majority. It is YOUR job to give them a strong brand name
to communicate!

Recently rereading the 22 Immutable Laws, I found the chapter I was looking for when I wrote this post on brand naming. Here is a summary:

The Law of the Proper Name (pg 148)

  1. The name should be short
  2. The name should be simple
  3. The name should suggest the category (flickr?)
  4. The name should be unique
  5. The name should be alliterative
  6. The name should be speakable
  7. The name should be shocking
  8. The name should be personalized

So it
hurts me when I see friends use bad brand names. Not my job to prevent
the world from using irrelevant 10 syllable Russian sounding
cryptographs on the basis of "Hey, IBM uses an acronym!", but if you
must, you must. If however you have a choice, I am going to strongly
suggest you follow Ries’ Law of the Proper Name.

We did, which is why I love our brand name for Tendenci which one of our artists at the time, Randy Sarinas, came up with. Now if only we had a better positioning statement for Tendenci, but that is another blog post.

Work Stressors and How to Respond

the blight
Originally uploaded by eschipul

Stress. Sucks.

Much has been written about stress invoking the limbic brain, which while effective in dealing with saber toothed tigers, isn’t so great at dealing with the complexity of the modern world. Add on top of that the recession, inflation and our mind’s dubious relationship with money and you have a mess. A mess of stress.

So to break this down I did some reading and The Stress Experience at work comes, according to researchers, comes from:

  1. a person’s perception of the situation;
  2. the person’s past experience;
  3. the presence or absence of social support; and
  4. individual differences with regard to stress reactions.

(source: Organizational Behavior, Hellriegel, Slocum, Woodman, pg 199)

Attacking these one by one can and will reduce stress. Perception. For example the people a person hangs out with and the content they put into their brain frames their perception of the world. Cliff changed the way I think about the post office. A character? Yes. But a real change in perception based on fiction.

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Renaissance Generation Panel Tomorrow after Patricia Martin

Looking forward to being on the panel with the Houston Arts Alliance tomorrow following Patricia Martin’s presentation on RENGEN; the Renaissance Generation.

So what is the RENGEN and what is this about?

Patricia Martin , the author of RenGen, and a panel of Houston business leaders, new marketers, artists and arts institutions will define the rise of Houston’s renaissance generation – the RenGen – an emerging demographic of enlightened individuals and communities that are dramatically changing the society in wish we work and live.

Registration is here but may be closed soon.

Update: Read Patricia’s recap of the presentation on her blog here.

Variable Pay and the Tournament Theory of Economics

Differentiation is something we talk about a lot. Yet there are subtleties that as a leader are very hard for me to wrap my brain around. On Differentiation Welch says:

“I just don’t like quotas in the boardroom or in the office.   Winning
companies are meritocracies.   They practice differentiation, making a
clear distinction between top, middle and bottom performers.   This
system is candid and fair, and it’s the most effective way for an
organization to field the best team.“ ““ Jack Welch, Winning, Pg 346

I tend to agree with that statement. Yet the word “meritocracies” even with the given Rand overtones leads us to believe people are paid fairly for the work they do. That just sounds right, doesn’t it? Pay people fairly for the work they do. ?

But economics suggests otherwise. Specifically the tournament theory of economics. In the Forbes article Why Your Boss is Overpaid Tim Harford explains:

The ugly truth is that your boss is probably overpaid–and it’s for
your benefit, not his. Why? It might be because he isn’t being paid for
the work he does but, rather, to inspire you. In other words, we work
our socks off in underpaying jobs in the hope that one day we’ll win
the rat race and become overpaid fat cats ourselves. Economists call
this “tournament theory.”

Or to have it explained by an economist, because that always clears things up, we have:

This explanation of wage differences in terms of relative performance is often called tournament theory. One place where this explanation should work is in contests with winners and losers. For example, consider two almost equally able gladiators fighting in the arena of ancient Rome. Small differences in ability (or luck) could result in a huge difference in reward–one could die and the other live.

Though gladiators are no longer part of our world, there are still cases in which winners matters a lot, and as a result, small differences in ability (or luck) can cause large differences in reward. The sports world has many examples.

Having started the company on 7k, for years I made sure I demonstrated the “boot strap” nature of business. I lived in a small house. Drove a civic. I am not of the personality to discuss my latest golf vacation to big sur (I don’t golf and I am not sure where big sur is, or if they have a golf course.) This works against me as a leader.

The theory goes that if you have a motivated employee. They believe in the company. They like what they are doing. And they look at the managers and the CEO and see them living below their means, driving sensible cars, that in fact this hurts the company. Good people will leave because they do not see the just rewards of the tournament.

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The Time It Takes to Build a Brand

Newer brands are more newsworthy. This is great for PR.

But conflictingly it takes “10 years to build a brand“. This comes from two sources. And of course there is a creative tension between these objectives.

  1. News is by definition bringing you NEW information. Hence news. So it is more likely the paper will write a story about the somewhat controversial Dr. Sketchy’s than it is the Art and Social establishment that hosts it and has been around for 10 years! New is just cooler in America. Young is better than old. Etc.
    1. “While a new brand name is a liability in an advertising program, it’s an asset in a PR program. A new brand name tells the media that the product or service is new and different. Exactly what the media wants to write and talk about.“- pg 257 Ries and Rise in The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR
  2. Brands on the other hand take “10 years“ to form in the mind of the consumer (Positioning, but these quotes are from “Rise of PR“)
    1. “The real barrier is the human mind. It normally takes decades to build a brand because it takes decades to penetrate the gray matter in between your ears.“ – Pg 224
    2. “Successful brands get into the mind slowly. A blurb in a magazine. A mention in a newspaper. A comment from a friend. A display in a retail store. After a slow publicity buildup, people become convinced that they have known about the brand forever. ““ pg 228

The way I phrase it is an amalgamation of sources and comes out as

"it takes 10 years to form a brand in the mind of the consumer."

This is a depressing statistics for a marketer. But for every Google, there is a Wal-Mart that took decades to get off the ground, or Nike that took decades to get off the ground. Or the slow moving Red Bull that took forever to enter the US market but everyone thinks just appeared.

Wal-Mart,  Nike and Red Bull are the tortoises. It is helpful to remember that when building your brand strategy.

Friedman’s NYT Op-Ed – worth a read

A must-read. From Friedman’s Who Will Tell the People:

Our president’s latest energy initiative was to go to Saudi Arabia and
beg King Abdullah to give us a little relief on gasoline prices. I
guess there was some justice in that. When you, the president, after
9/11, tell the country to go shopping instead of buckling down to break
our addiction to oil, it ends with you, the president, shopping the
world for discount gasoline.

and continues

We need a president who is tough enough to tell the truth to the
American people. Any one of the candidates can answer the Red Phone at
3 a.m. in the White House bedroom. I’m voting for the one who can talk
straight to the American people on national TV “” at 8 p.m. “” from the
White House East Room.

Who will tell the people? We are not who
we think we are. We are living on borrowed time and borrowed dimes. We
still have all the potential for greatness, but only if we get back to
work on our country.

Completely worth your time to read it. Regardless of you politics, we can, likely, agree that the current situation is unacceptable.