Marketing in the Age of Consent

I have joined Mark Blessington and Karl Hellman as partner in a new type of marketing firm, one that’s centered around customer consent. The name of this enterprise, appropriately enough, is Consentric Marketing.

We believe customer-centric thinking takes a great leap forward when consent is placed at the center of the marketer’s thinking:

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Here are three papers that we offer without requiring registration:

Between us, we have eight key areas of expertise:

  • Marketing Transformation
  • Ecosystem Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Product Management Training and Coaching
  • Brand Activism
  • Customer Data
  • Buyer’s Journey
  • Personas
In addition, here’s a sample of our blog postings:

Learn more about us, and what we can do to help your business grow.

Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action

Professor Philip Kotler – the “father of modern marketing” – and I have co-authored a book: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action

Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It’s what a good citizen does.  

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available in the following countries

US UK DE FR ES IT NL JP BR CA MX AU IN

The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator – for customers, for employees, and for society at large.  We also examine the role of the CEO.  

Here’s a look at the table of contents:

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 5.54.07 PM.pngThe book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.  

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The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:

  • Scott Galloway
  • John Elkington
  • Raj Sisodia
  • John Ehrenreich
  • Christopher Davis
  • Stephen M. R. Covey
  • Hennie Botes
  • Stuart L. Hart
  • David “Dread” Hinds
  • Clark Fox

and 

Philip Kotler

Finally, we’ve launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more – www.activistbrands.com.  We hope you find it useful.

The Search for the Sources of Innovation

How does innovation happen? Most company’s struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today’s tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:

  • new ways of thinking,
  • new business models,
  • new processes,
  • new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
  • and new products (offerings including services)

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In his classic book – Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the late Peter Drucker found seven sources of innovation. The first four sources were internal, inside the enterprise, whereas the last three are external, outside of the company.
1. The Unexpected
2. Incongruities
3. Process Needs
4. Shifts In Industry And Market Structure
5. Demographic Changes
6. Changes In Perception
7. New Knowledge
A good description of the seven sources is here. Unfortunately, not everyone stumbles into innovation like the legendary 3M Post-It notes, or the unexpected discovery of Aspartame, but innovation can, and should be pursued in a systematic way.
Larry Keeley‘s Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs gives us a glimpse into how that might be:
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Here is an added insight from Keeley and friends: the things we love in the world–the services and systems we value and use–are the ones that make it easy to do hard things.
What does all of this have to do with business results?
Clearly there is plenty of room for innovation when it comes to designing superior, differentiated experiences for customers.  Every interaction with your customer can be differentiated, integrated with the purpose of the customer.  Make it easy to do business with you, said Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert, many years ago.
What about the power of ecosystems?  At the individual level, ecosystem thinking can help you create better ideas. it’s all about disorganization.
Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:
  • Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
  • Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
  • Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
  • Wandering minds are more creative.
  • Studying a field “too much” doesn’t limit creativity — it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
  • The “accept everything” mantra of brainstorming doesn’t work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
  • ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you’re drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
  • Even with teams, it’s better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
And at the organizational level, there’s ecosystem strategy.  That’s a post unto itself…
Ask:
– How do you make it easy for the customer to do business with you?
– What outcomes do you want to see?
– What is required to achieve those outcomes?
– What must be done? What needs to change?
– How do we make innovation a embedded process?

Brand Resuscitation: Can TESCO be Saved?

There’s plenty of advice out there for UK-based TESCO’ s new CEO Dave Lewis as pledges to return to the core of Tesco’s business, “in price, availability and service.”  

For me, there’s a critical question: what one change will deliver an 80% difference in results?

I think I know.  I spent 6 months visiting TESCO at least twice a week when I was in Hertford, and all I can say is “wow.” If you just view TESCO with the eyes of a typical US customer, it’s obvious what that 80% difference is. 

There really aren’t as many difficult calls as it seems.  

So, what’s the one thing TESCO has to focus on?  Restocking shelves to meet demand during and after peak traffic.  

Every evening, right after after-work traffic died down, here’s what the TESCO produce section would look like:

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Seriously.

And that’s not all, their soft drinks are not replenished either. So if you go buy a Dr. Pepper in the morning, and then come in the next day – guess what?  No availability.  

This was a problem all over England.

Dave Lewis, just fix it.  Whatever it is they do here in the US to keep stocks replenished, copy it.

That’s it. The one thing that will save TESCO.

Houston METRO: What Will It Take to Become World Class?

One of the reasons why Houston will never get a shot at hosting the Olympics (not that we want it, at this point) is because we don’t have a world-class transportation system. So while Houston is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US, we’re not even close when it comes to public transportation (can you believe we’re behind Dallas?). According to the 2010 U.S. Census, we have a population of over 2.1 million people and a land area of 599.6 square miles (and that’s not counting the suburbs). 

Houston is second only to New York when it comes to resident Fortune 500 companies.

So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t Houston have a world class transit system at this point in its history? And what can be done?

The traditional finger-pointing is political. Suburban taxpayers who supported referendums in 2003 and 2012 have demonstrated a desire for development, only to have officials shortchange them.  The latest in line is John Culberson, but to be fair, past opposition has come from both sides of the political aisle.

And who is behind these politicians?  You don’t have to look very far to see that Houston is an energy town – in fact it’s the “energy capital” of the world.  Our energy companies are not interested in a world class transit system;  for them, seems like widening the freeways is the only solution. This lack of civic leadership reflects poorly on our city and is going to be a burden going forward. Those Fortune 500 companies that call Houston home will find a better place to live.

To be clear: between the lack of leadership from business and the misleadership of our elected officials, Houston has a third rate transit system, used by less than 3% of the population.

There is no long-term plan in place. That, in itself, speaks to the magnitude of the problem.  Furthermore, any plan we do get is probably going to be a constrained plan that does nothing to address the real challenge.

What can be done? 

How can we bring our politicians and business leaders together? Or is Houston doomed to remain a third-class city when it comes to mass transit?

The reason I wrote this blog post was to highlight a third way. Let’s look at an example from a country and place where things are a lot harder than Houston. Delhi – the capital of India – is a city with 9.9 million, with horrible infrastructure problems.   Over the years, like Houston, no real attempt was made to build an infrastructure equal to the needs of the citizens.

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Then, in October 1998, ground was broken on a comprehensive metro system that had been talked about for over three decades. Today, the Delhi Metro is the world’s thirteenth largest metro system
in terms of length. The network consists of six lines with a total length of 189.63 kilometres
(117.83 mi) with 142 stations, of which 35 are underground, five are at-grade,
and the rest are elevated. All stations have escalators, elevators, and tactile
tiles to guide the visually impaired from station entrances to trains. It has a
combination of elevated, at-grade, and underground lines, and uses both broad
gauge and standard gauge rolling stock.

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What can Houston learn from Delhi?  At least three things:

1) build a METRO system worth having: don’t build a system that just clogs up already busy lanes to shuttle folks from one business hub to another.  Focus on the real issue: mass transit, specially the mass part.  We should aim for getting around 20-30% of our citizens on the METRO during rush hour, and that will only happen if we focus on real solutions.

2) use the right-of-way on existing freeways: the genius of the Delhi rail line is that it is elevated and runs along the main highways already in place. In Houston, this would mean our HOV lanes would be turned into METRO lines – elevated, above the traffic. Even the stations are elevated; which sounds weird, but actually it works very well. The image below is a METROstop along the line – well above the freeway:

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3) mass transit is too important to be left to METRO alone: in Delhi, and you have to appreciate the extent of corruption in public office to understand this, a special purpose organization was formed called the DMRC.  This cross-agency team was vested with great autonomy and powers to execute the gigantic project. In Calcutta where they did not have such a cross-agency team, the Kolkata
Metro was badly delayed and 12 times over budget due to “political
meddling, technical problems and bureaucratic delays.” 
The first
phase of the Delhi Metro project was completed in 2006, on budget and almost three years
ahead of schedule, an achievement described by
Business Week as “nothing
short of a miracle”.

So can miracles happen in Houston?  They can, if only our politicians and METRO folks would actually share some values – like putting aside their petty interests for the good of the city. I’m not holding my breath.  Hey, maybe we can build some more public funded sports arenas; those projects seem to have no problem getting funded!

INFOGRAPHIC: Are you a Wavemaker? (With Tips on Collaborative Innovation)

Here’s an interesting classification or segmentation of change makers (from Deloitte) along with some advice on how to make a difference via collaboration >>

Steady Supplier: Combine your contextual knowledge with the Public Value Innovators to create new value

Multirational Multinational: Engage with Citizen Changemakers to gain local insights and ideas

Investors: Connect Wavemakers to amplify impact

Public Value Innovator: Leverage the reach of the Multinationals to reach more communities

Citizen Changemaker: provide feedback to all in order to get to root issues

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Why Making Money is Not Enough

MIT Sloan

This is going to be a central theme in business going forward: what is our purpose?

Here’s William Cohen talking about Peter Drucker‘s perspective:





“…until Drucker came along most everyone believed the basic
“fact” that the purpose of a business was to make money. That is, to make a
profit. This belief leads to a corollary, another myth, believed by all–that
is, that the goal of any business is profit maximization. Another words,
whatever your business, your goal should be to make as much profit as possible.
If you accept making a profit as a business’s purpose, the second part just
follows naturally. This might even seem worthy to many. To quote Michael
Douglas’s famous (or infamous) statement in his role as Gordon Gekko in the
1987 movieWall Street: “Greed is good.” Even today many “know” greed, or profit
maximization to be the correct prescription for business success, even if it is
amoral or shouldn’t be “good” from a moral perspective. Not so fast, Gordon. As
Drucker so often said, whatever everyone knows is usually wrong, Hollywood
films not excepted. Drucker told us first that profit is not the purpose of
business and that the concept of profit maximization is not only meaningless,
but dangerous.”

Now Ratan Tata and gang (myself included) have a similar message

The problem with industrial capitalism today is not the profit motive; the problem is how the profit motive is usually framed. There is a persistent myth in the contemporary business world that the ultimate purpose of a business is to maximize profit for the company’s investors. However, the maximization of profit is not a purpose; instead, it is an outcome. We argue that the best way to maximize profits over the long term is to not make them the primary goal.

So what is to be done?  

What is your company doing to create purpose beyond profits? The future of our planet depends on your answer.

Read: Why Making Money is Not Enough

Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

I know what some of you are thinking – “Well, did America have a soul to begin with?” I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is “We, the people…”

Furthermore, I’m quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)

But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan’s Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

inclusivity bookbuy now

BUY now >>

So what’s all the fuss about? The book is about asking questions:

  • How can companies take better care of their employees–and thrive?
  • Why don’t they see the opportunities in creating social value?
  • Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
  • What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
  • How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
  • How can public education prepare all students for the future?
  • How can better health care be made available without doctors?
  • How can communities do something about global warming?
  • How can you make a difference?
  • Why should you care?

Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people–starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.

The very idea of the “United” States is based on the principles of inclusivity–all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.

What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other – finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.

The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.

This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won’t have one without the other.

The book includes the following sections:

  • What Is INCLUSIVITY?
  • Inclusive World
  • Inclusive Entrepreneur
  • Inclusive Economy
  • Inclusive Cities
  • Inclusive Education
  • Inclusive Health
  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Inclusive Future

Let us know what you think!

P.S. – We don’t want this, do we?

Design Your Life, Change the World

Michael Gordon‘s book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers – the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world. 

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The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:

1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?

2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?

The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…

Are you a changemaker?  Go find out >> 

P.S. – you can download the PDF version here >>

The $300 House: Go, Go, Go!

The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.

Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?

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Keeping fingers crossed.  Thanks to Ingersoll-Rand for the sponsorship and to all the judges and advisers at 300House.com!  Thanks jovoto and COMMON. Thanks Shaun.

Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course – VG, my partner in crime.

Quit Twitter & Improve your Marketing ROI

For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields – software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement – and here’s what I came up with at the end of the study. I’m interested in one metric – conversion to sales.

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Conversion to Sales

Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
Seminars: 5%

The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.

See you later, FB and Twitter… 

A Third Career Path for the Corporate Social Strategist

Report: Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist: Be Proactive or Become Social Media Help Desk

View more documents from Jeremiah Owyang.

I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang
when a  “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly
what happened with corporate community managers – back in the heady days
of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain). 

Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own. 

That’s what I did with Double Loop Marketing. And it’s still the best professional decision I ever made.





The $300 House: Seth Godin on the Marketing Challenge

Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He’s talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.

Read all about it >>

The $300 House: Bob Freling on the Energy Challenge

The Solar Electric Light Fund‘s Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.

Here’s Bob waxing eloquent:

Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care,
educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House
completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and
their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and
sustainable future.

Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>

Minding the Gap: A Failure in Intuitive Intelligence?

The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.

But Umair Haque asks the right questions:

  • Do designers have a seat in the boardroom — or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
  • Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
  • Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to “real” business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
  • Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow’s big ideas?
  • How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?

Seriously.

We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn’t going to work anymore.

The $300 House-for-the-Poor

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

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The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered – without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe – from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!