An address to the Fast Company Real Time Conference. Five addictions that inhibit business success: rabid rationality; metrics mania; control fetishism; viral pessimism; brand obsession – and ways to kick the habits. Love has got a lot to do with it – not the squishy type, but the powerful emotion that changes lives and sustains lasting relationships.
Alan Webber’s Fast Company Magazine reports from the front lines of the new economy. The magazine’s Real Time conferences bring hundreds of people together to hear about and talk about the latest business thinking. The theme of the spring Real Time was “How will you survive in the new climate?”
I’ve come from the edge of the planet to talk to you about love.
Marketing today is locked in an end-game of rationality. Brands can’t break it free. Lovemarks can. Alan Webber [founder and editor of Fast Company magazine] helped me invent Lovemarks, which is where I’m headed today. I’m not here with a smart theory or academic proposition. I’m here to open you up to a powerful natural force. To help you put your brain in your heart and think love.
When I say love I’m not talking a timid peck on the cheek. I’m talking all-consuming, passionate, overwhelming emotion. An addiction. An addiction to love.
In the eighties we pursued the perfect organization through endless restructuring and re-engineering. In the nineties we raced after technology convinced it would perfect us. It’s time to get back to fundamentals, to human nature, to human emotion and to love.
We can transform our businesses with emotion and love. It is not going to be easy. We have to acknowledge what we’ve got wrong. We need fresh ideas about how the world works. Only then do we have a chance of stepping beyond brands – and getting to Lovemarks.
First we need to burn off the addictions that are holding us back. Five corrosive addictions make most of today’s businesses suitable cases for treatment.
Addiction #1: Do you hide behind rationality?
Rabid rationality drives the culture of business today, especially in the US, straight into a dead-end. Who’s to blame? The business gurus? The time and motion of Taylorism? The B-Schools? Wall Street? You? Not me!!
Abandon the safety of structures. Forget tidy assumptions. Front up to the messy reality of the world. Revel in it. People do not act with rational, unemotional self-interest. Some revelation! The stock market over the last 18 months has given a sharp lesson on the limits of rationality. It turns out even the market’s completely wired into moods and emotions.
Addiction #2: Are you a metrics maniac?
Metrics are rationality’s boundary riders. British businessman John Banham got it right: “We are in danger of being exactly wrong, rather than approximately right.” There is no perfect customer data. Get over it.
Addiction #3: Do you always have to be in control?
Look into your heart. Do you dream of controlling your customers, your people, your partners? With the explosion of Customer Relationship Management solutions someone does. The guys selling the stuff reckon their revenues will hit $20 billion this year. All this built on the assumption that you can “manage” relationships. Try “managing” the ones you love! Control is for the technicians. The data jockeys. The guys who believe there really is a right answer. Control only causes heartache for lovers.
Addiction #4: Do you feel the glory days are gone?
Pessimism is a virus. In the US today it is hard not to be infected. When the going gets tough, you know what the tough do. Grab market share. That’s the philosophy our biggest clients live by. When no one else is spending, that is the time to concentrate on your biggest brands. The bubble may have burst but the real glory days are yet to come.
Addiction #5: Are you still addicted to brands?
I grew up working with brands. Mary Quant. Gillette. Procter & Gamble. Pepsi. I’ve obsessed over them and nurtured them. It’s been a great ride. But brands have run out of juice. It was weird to see so much brand-speak swallowed whole during the last few years. The people who were going to revolutionize the world and trash the old economy planned to do it with … brands? The world has changed. Brands alone don’t cut it. There has to be something beyond brands. For me, this is Lovemarks.
Five powerful addictions. Five reasons to hold you back. Kicking them won’t be easy. But until you do there is no chance of stepping up beyond brands to a Lovemark. To aspire to the heights, we need deep footholds. Here are five steps towards Lovemarks.
First, head for the Edge.
Edges matter. I travel constantly but Auckland, New Zealand is home. Why? People talk about keeping your edge, holding the edge, the cutting edge. All metaphors. I take edge literally. We have to do edge. Be edge. Move ourselves in space and time to shake off conventions and worn-out formulas, and shake out ideas. New ideas. The Edge is exciting and risky and extreme. I love it.
Kurt Vonnegut sums it up: “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
Our business is global. But we don’t play the usual global game. Manuals. Endless consultation. Nightmares. We follow that ancient dictum of economics. Events are driven by what happens at the margin, not at the core. The average price is not important. The marginal price is.
Biology follows the same rule. The margins are where the action is. Where species start to evolve. At the margins, on the edge the control of the center is weakest. Great ideas can come from anywhere, but many of them turn up on the edge.
Next, find new energy in what’s closest to you. Get local.
In 1982 Saatchi & Saatchi declared itself for global brands. Twenty years on we were partly right, mostly wrong. We got it right that the global economy was on its way.
On a scale unprecedented in human history we are looking today at trillion dollar opportunities. Estimates put the global entertainment and media market at something like $2 trillion. Add in the closely linked computer and telecommunications industries, and you get around $4 or 5 trillion. On that scale, who’s counting?
But global brand thinking got a lot wrong. It was founded on a false assumption: what was good for international corporates was good for customers. No one asked whether customers cared about “economies of scale”. No one wondered if the “world’s needs and desires” were in fact being homogenized. They should have.
Multinationals everywhere came up with global values and global missions. The result? Bland nothings. And a global superstructure that looked in at itself rather than out at the world. Huge global opportunities were starting to emerge. Trouble was, they looked different. They were messy, demanding and unpredictable. Kind of like people.
The Go Global Guys got people wrong. People live in the local. And they love it there. I have never met a global consumer. I never expect to. We define ourselves by our differences.
Once past the easy pickings of the global economy – minerals, refineries, shipping, timber – you’re hard up against …. people. There are always some fast wins from the teen tribes. Global image brands like Nike have made great plays here, in high-risk territory. Design the eyelets wrong and you’re dead. Have your 14 year-cold’s father sport the swoosh, and you’re dead.
Another plan? Embrace the local. “Think global, act local” is back-to-front. Great ideas come from somewhere – and they’re not all from America! They get and keep their juice by knowing what they stand for.
Anyone who wants to go global has to come to grips with the local. Your own local and the local of your customers. The local absolutely matters. It is the energy behind stunning hybrids that define this new millennium.
To seize global competitive advantage you define what is unique about what you do and then take it around the planet. Fast. Saatchi & Saatchi know how to do this with a Lovemarks tool we call Worldwide One Word Equities. It’s one of our responses to the bewildering complexity of global markets.
We distill the essence of a model or product into just one word, and use this as the core of the brand’s positioning everywhere. A Worldwide One Word Equity. It’s nailing that single, defining word that says it all. It focuses everyone in the communications mix. It means a company, a brand, a product can talk with one distinct emotional voice around the world, and yet have as many local interpretations as are possible.
My third step towards Lovemarks? Pump up emotion.
Emotion is back in style – but the business take on emotion is cynical. People talk about emotion and passion, even raise their voices and wave their arms, but fundamentally it’s business as usual.
What a waste. Emotion is a serious opportunity. A realistic profit driver for the 21st century. The entry point for successful mass marketing.
Neurology has proved that we are powered by emotion, not by reason. Our reason must have emotion to drive it.
Emotions can inspire and excite us. They can also frighten and threaten us. We feel far more negative emotions than positive ones. It’s survival. Our emotions tell us what’s important.
The emotion that fascinates and inspires me is Love. By inviting Love into business we can create a revolution. This is where Lovemarks belong. I’ve been talking Love and Lovemarks for almost a year. To my own people in Saatchi & Saatchi, clients and prospective clients. Opinion leaders and influencers. They gulp when I put Love and business together – and then they nod.
In everything we do we need the same fuel of inspiration, optimism, enthusiasm, ideas and, of course, Love.
My fourth step to Lovemarks? To lift ourselves higher we need to touch the senses.
We need to understand the symbiotic relationship of emotion and the senses. We experience the world through the radar of our five senses. Vision, touch, taste, scent and hearing. Our senses come from our primitive past. They are fast, direct and we trust them.
Vision dominates the senses. More of the brain is devoted to processing vision than all the other senses put together. But smell, too, turns out to be hugely complex. Humans have four genes for vision – but 1,000 for smell! The nose seems to lead more directly to the emotions than eyes or ears do.
The lesson for us? The senses are the only pathway to the mind. The more senses we can touch, the better.
Our lives are mediated more and more through screens. Hiroshi Ishii heads the tangible media group at MIT’s Media Lab. He gets it. “In the flood of pixels we are losing our sense of body and places. They impoverish the human senses.”
The senses work with the emotions. Senses seek, emotions evaluate. It is our emotions that decide how we should react to the wonders before us. We touch soft skin. We gaze into shining eyes. We hear three simple words. We fall in Love.
Power, not fear, drives the fifth step: women
Women are one big reason brands are faltering. Women are a huge part of why Lovemarks will succeed. We know that women influence around 80 percent of purchasing decisions. You may not know that the sale of power tools last Mother’s Day equaled those on Father’s Day!
This is a new era for women and every business has got to be up for it.
Women don’t want to be niched; hate being labeled a “segment”; don’t want cut-down versions or simplified instructions. No wonder the research findings about women are all over the place. Do they have special needs? Or don’t they? Do they want to be butt-kicking babes or liberated career chicks? Terms I would have been lynched for using a decade ago have been reclaimed by Third Wave feminists. Check out “Bust: The Magazine for Women with Something to Get Off Their Chests.” www.bust.com. This is the new grrl order. These grrls are funny, smart and no one stands in their way.
My belief? First, women are super-smart when it comes to love and to emotion. Second, our culture is becoming intuitive and networked. Everyday, everyone has to think faster and more flexibly. Juggle more stuff at the same time. Be expert at judging people fast and making personal connections. All this says “women” to me simply because women are best at it.
For mass marketers like me this shift in style and sensibility is a superb opportunity. We can reinvent what we do. Because despite the pundits, mass marketing is not going away.
We are experiencing a shift from transactions to relationships. From the rational to the emotional. From information to meaning and context. Women know how to connect the dots. How the strands of personality, emotion, interactivity over a lifetime can be woven together to create Lovemarks.
In the cold world of rationality, women’s subtle understanding of life was never valued. It is today’s killer app. What women go for will spearhead what everyone goes for.
So that’s the plan. Put local Edge with a hybrid version of the global, add emotion and the senses, shape it with a new female sensibility.
Against these forces, brands are table-stakes. They just let you pull up a chair. Of course there are great brands, with great market share and solid revenues. They are vulnerable. Nothing lasts like love. Brands can lose market share quickly, they can be hijacked by innovation and attitude.
Saatchi & Saatchi is developing Lovemarks as the future beyond branding.
Lovemarks are where billion-dollar brands need to be.
Lovemarks get you to Number One and keep you there.
Lovemarks are the future of successful mass marketing.
Lovemarks are the glue of lifetime relationships.
Lovemarks are a breakthrough idea because they don’t demand you switch the “on” or the “off” button. They are about heart and mind. Rationality and emotion. Mass marketing and personalization.
You can test where your brand sits on the Love/Respect Axis. This High Respect area is where most successful businesses fit along with their brands. Solid achievements focused on the “e-r” words. Newer, brighter, stronger, bolder.
But today everyone has to be in the High Respect quadrant just to stay in the game. The best relationships draw on both High Respect and High Love. High Reason and High Emotion. This is where enduring marriages and life-time love affairs belong. This is the place to be.
Lovemarks are created by the single-minded pursuit of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. The stuff that never comes up in Brand Management School.
Mystery for complexity, layers, revelations, intuition and excitement.
Sensuality for the experiences of our five senses: touch, taste, scent, hearing and vision.
Intimacy for reassurance, warmth, deep connections, belonging.
Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. To give them shape Saatchi & Saatchi created the Lovemarker. Fourteen elements grouped by Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.
You can put anything through the Lovemarker. And we have: Bill Clinton, dozens of Fortune 100 brands, competing apparel brands, great universities, religions, countries, magazines, the automobile. In every instance we found new insights for instant improvements, as well as ideas that went to the core of organizational spirit, attitude and values.
Tonight I am taking on a real challenge. For the first time Microsoft goes through the Lovemarker. Why Microsoft?
They are at the brand summit. Last year their brand name was valued by the metric maniacs at $70 billion, bumping Coca-Cola for the number one spot. Net sales of $23 billion, market cap of $300 billion, net profit margin of 41%. This is one of the most successful companies of all time. They offer proof, if any is needed, that you don’t have to be loved to be profitable. What could they learn from Lovemarks?
First, the Love/Respect Axis. Microsoft is moderate to high respect. It figures on “Most Admired” lists. Dented, maybe, but their kind of success deserves attention. But real low on love. Microsoft and Love in the same sentence feels like an oxymoron.
Pumping PC software into the mass market is one strategy. Transforming software into services, making it personalized, easy to use and interconnected, is something else.
Microsoft knows this. The evolution from applications to experiences demands a commitment to relationships as well as to technology. People plus machines.
Microsoft has to step up to Love. Can they do it?
First, Intimacy. A huge challenge. These guys pride themselves on being the most aggressive, the most relentless, the most demanding. In the price-driven commodity world this makes some sense. In the innovation and experience stakes it makes no sense at all because there you need emotion, empathy and inspiration.
Lovemark element #1. Emotion is green field territory for Microsoft. Whatever you think of them, a lot of customers can’t imagine life without their Microsoft, but they act like the plumbers running the drain system: effective and functional, but no emotional pull. And don’t tell me computer guys don’t do emotion. They’re human beings, right?
#2. Inspiration: This is the company where the Chairman claims “Patience is a key element of success.” How inspiring is that? Get out the turbo-charger. Microsoft has fantastic ambition, enormous confidence, and a brilliant and controversial history. They have a vision but it’s a techno-vision, not a vision about real people.
#3. Empathy: Not great up at Redmond. Without empathy you can’t do emotion, you can’t do intimacy. You can forget becoming a Lovemark. And you can forget sensational customer service. To me the spirit of empathy is humor. If you get a smile, something’s cooking. Next, Mystery. This is how you tell your stories. How you show what you stand for.
#4. Great stories: There are endless stories about Microsoft – many of them at Bill Gates’ expense. And Bill’s not laughing. They’re cheap shots in many instances, but cheap shots bruise and draw blood, too. Storytelling is the most dramatic and compelling vehicle to make a long lasting, deep impression.
Microsoft’s first years were fired by the tale of geeks changing the world. We turned around and they had become Big Brother! Their next 25 years need to tell a new story. How about the machine falls in Love? How about finding the emotional heart of computing? Follow the same path as the automobile did when it went from functional Model-T Ford to the heart-stopping Ferrari.
#5. Secret ingredients: are the life-blood of software – unless you’re Linus. Secret though does not mean secretive. Microsoft needs to entice customers closer with shared secrets. Small surprises. Make me grin at something shared by millions, but just for me. The true genius of mass marketing. The basis of personalization. The fuel of relationships.
Easter Eggs did it in the 1980s – geeks bearing gifts. How about a deep respect for our secrets in the new millennium Microsoft as our privacy advocate? Would you trust them? Most people would.
#6. Past, present and future together: Microsoft is a creature of the current quarter. Sure they look to the future but it seems to be all about dominance and scale. They seem embarrassed by our shared past. It could be a disease of the software industry fixed on the next release date. They need to connect past, present and future with something more than revenue and Bill’s biographies.
#7. Taps into dreams: Microsoft is a dream vacuum right now. It wasn’t always like this. Bill Gates wanted to put a PC on every desktop. What an ambition! That inspired me, I tell you. But it’s done. Now what? Dreams create action and action inspires dreams. Microsoft is trying to lose its old-style product dreams of conquest and control. But they can’t seem to kick those cool tool dreams. Bill Gates’ personal philanthropy, amazing in its scale as it is, can’t be the only dream catcher for the whole corporation.
#8. Mythic characters and icons: Apart from sluggers like Gates and Ballmer, Microsoft is personality-free. Geeks turned business dominators only takes you so far. They fired Clippy – and what the hell’s that flying window all about? Why not open that window wide to the world? Reinvent the log. Come up with something we’d love as a poster.
Finally there is sensuality. Microsoft knows this is a blank. Sensuality is a Lovemark area that can generate big workable ideas, especially in product design. It’s a Catholic process: Sensuality doesn’t work until you’ve got the Mystery and Intimacy sorted first.
#9. Touch: Microsoft virtually owns the keyboard. The computer business has got to be the ultimate hands-on industry. Touching hearts, touching minds. Microsoft could pull this together. Their dot NET strategy is based on connecting seamlessly from device to device. Microsoft must not stop at usability. Sensations are the goal. Get rid of the keyboard and go for connecting by voice, by drawing, by blinking, by breathing. Do something radical, and not beige please.
#10. Taste: An inspiring opportunity for metaphor. Apple did it for computers. Named them tangerine, strawberry and let us taste them in our minds with one word. YUM! The taste of Microsoft? Yum is a treat – and you can’t live on treats. Microsoft is a staple. Go with that. Bread. The taste of the perfect loaf. The staff of life. Give us this day our daily Microsoft.
#11. Vision: Microsoft owns some of the world’s most emotionally powerful images. They’ve got the rights to the Mona Lisa for God’s sake! They’ve got Corbis and the Bettman Archive! Microsoft could broaden their visual repertoire by using this richly sensuous imagery. How about offering seven stunning images as screen savers? How about as posters, coasters, wrapping paper, totes? We’d plaster the world with them.
#12. Smell: OK, smell and software aren’t a natural fit. But head to the side. How about a treat just for the guys who install the software. A burst of fragrance as you tear open the shrink-wrap. Orange for Works. Peppermint for Office…or maybe Microsoft’s smell should be that of freshly-baked bread; something you use everyday, that is also lusciously fresh.
#14. Sound: The world sang “Start me up” at the launch of Windows 95. Since then … silence. Using the Stones was inspired. But what do we dance to now? Post-Napster, do the deal with the music guys on our behalf and offer the songs we love as part of the OS.
So is Microsoft a Lovemark? Not even close. Do they care? They are beginning to. Redmond is starting to understand that control, rationality, metrics and all the rest get you a long way but leave you vulnerable and locked into repeating the same patterns.
A trillion dollar brand can always get bigger. And the way to do that is by becoming inspired.
We started out with addictions, explored emotions and Lovemarks and ended up here. At inspiration. The perfect place to be. Inspiration is the second leg of the equation for re-imagining Brand Management. If Lovemarks are to revolutionize branding, what then is the antidote to the tired practices of management – doing things right, and leadership – doing the right things?
I’m going to wrap up with a short take on what I know to be the future of management. We call it Peak Performance.
Here’s the insight. Just as brands are stuck in the rational, benefit-driven, ER paradigm – management is stuck in strategy, process, re-engineering, hierarchy, rules and incrementalism. The metaphors are usually military ones and many of the tools represent a horizontal view of gravity. For the most part successful companies can be described as HPO’s, High Performers, not Peak Performers, which is where you have to be for continuous flow states to occur.
Our book is Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Successful Sports Organizations. The research was more fun than hanging out in corporate offices writing the standard kind of business book. We’ve created an entirely new way of thinking that we’re using to transform the planning and operations of companies in everything from electricity generation to consumer goods and autos to media.
PPO Theory has four categories – Purpose, Practices, Potency and Performance – with several elements. Our Inspirational Dream replaces the Vision Statement. Our Greatest Imaginable Challenge supplants the Mission Statement. Focus is our way of concentrating energy. Culture, which is old-fashioned-anthropology – takes a step up to Family, which is about long-life relationships. And so on.
The most important element is Inspirational Players. The term doesn’t need much explanation; it simply sets people alight. Being a manager or leader in no longer the aspirational place. It’s the Inspirational Player. Our research shows the many different ways people can be inspirational. It’s both nature and nurture. It should happen at the top, in the middle and at the front of organizations. Inspiration is infectious and is the perfect companion to Love.
So to all the Inspirational Players of the Fast Company family, take these three questions away with you:
How can I inspire everyone I connect with?
How can I get love and inspiration into everything I do, and do I stay in touch with my family enough?