Monthly Archives: February 2011

Transformative Times are Now

Technology is driving the pace of change at speeds the human brain can hardly keep up with. Change is happening with the subtlety of a hurricane. No longer are we able to make mere modifications to try to keep up. At this pace we have to be making transformations.

Transformations are not quiet or gradual. They rip and tear. They remove comfort zones in a whoosh of activity. They leave those who prefer the “old ways” screaming and hollering for what used to be.

What we are seeing happening in Madison Wisconsin is just the beginning of numerous transformations we are going to see for years to come until dramatic transformations are the norm.

The Great Recession wasn’t just a corrective action; it was a signal of the beginning of transformative times. A goliath organization like GM filed for bankruptcy, the American economy teetered on the brink of disaster requiring banking policies to be rewritten, and the foundation of the American dream, increasing home value and stable jobs, was turned to ruble and has to be rebuilt. We thought these things would take years to happen, not weeks. This isn’t a shift; this is what transformation looks like.

The protesters and fleeing elected officials of Wisconsin are feebly trying to stop a category 5 hurricane with protest signs and loud words. Instead, they need to be spending time on working how to thrive once this transformation removes unions as they know them. Other state governments will soon be following the same path as Wisconsin. Are those unions preparing for the transformation or preparing to battle to stop the transformation? You can’t stop progress.

What used to take decades to change is now happening in a matter of months. It’s not just products such as the iPad being made obsolete within weeks of its debut (by the iPad 2) it is all aspects of our lives. We are now seeing the pace of change in this century. How we work, how we spend money, and how we interact is in the process of transforming. It’s going to be quite a ride.

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Groupon Gives It Up — Finally

After a week of suffering the wrath of those offended by the ad campaign kicked off by their Super Bowl ad, Groupon’s CEO, Andrew Mason, is giving up on the campaign. Tuesday he tried to damage control by explaining the intent of the ads as a self-parody.

When that didn’t stop the tidal wave of negativity toward Groupon’s reputation, and in some cases inflamed people to get even more upset, his blog post today said they were cancelling the campaign immediately. Here is his post:

Five days have passed since the Super Bowl, and one thing is clear – our ads offended a lot of people. Tuesday I posted an explanation, but as many of you have pointed out, if an ad requires an explanation, that means it didn’t work.

We hate that we offended people, and we’re very sorry that we did – it’s the last thing we wanted. We’ve listened to your feedback, and since we don’t see the point in continuing to anger people, we’re pulling the ads (a few may run again tomorrow – pulling ads immediately is sometimes impossible). We will run something less polarizing instead. We thought we were poking fun at ourselves, but clearly the execution was off and the joke didn’t come through. I personally take responsibility; although we worked with a professional ad agency, in the end, it was my decision to run the ads.

To the charities (for which we expect to net over $500,000) and others that have spoken out on our behalf, we appreciate your support.

To those who were offended, I feel terrible that we made you feel bad. While we’ve always been a little quirky, we certainly aren’t trying to be the kind of company that builds its brand on creating controversy – we think the quality of our product is a much stronger message.


Thanks for taking the time to read,



The speed of change in business has never been greater and that means your business reputation can change just as quickly. Instead of defending and explaining his ads on Tuesday, chances are some damage would’ve been mitigated with full blown apology and yanking of the ads immediately following the fall out.

Reaction times have to be swift, sincere and significant with the speed of information exchange. Ultimately they reached the right conclusion, but at what cost?

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Reputation Roulette

During this year’s most watched ever Super Bowl the ads, the halftime show, and even the singing of the National Anthem came under instant and excessive real-time commentary in social media. What lessons can be learned here?

Opinion and instant feedback are the new norm

With the proliferation of social media, we no longer need a commentator to tell us what we just witnessed; we’d rather tell everyone else our impressions of what we just witnessed! We are a society which has been given a platform and we are eager to use it.

For the business owner:

How well are you monitoring the opinion wave of your organization? The speed, distance and momentum with which impressions and opinions can travel have never been greater. Reputation management has to be real-time, swift and with a plan in place. Viral messages travel in nanoseconds and that applies not only to your messages but to those messages that occur in response to your message.

Which brings us to Groupon…

Groupon’s ad about the plight of Tibetans was in very poor taste. The posts on social media went not only negative — they were angry. According to the CEO of Groupon, this was intended to be a self-parody campaign using a celebrity-PSA type format. Even with all of the negative feedback, as of today they intend on releasing the rest of the campaign ads supposedly all directed by Christopher Guest of Spinal Tap and Best in Show fame. (Wow, it surprised me that he would have his name attached to this.)

Whatever the intent, the concept was not properly executed. With social media, we live in a flock mentality, and once that flock turns away from your company it’s heck trying to get it to come back. Groupon has a damage control situation on its hands. I suggest they take the other ads of this campaign and burn them.

Anyone remember the disastrous movie by Tim Burton, When Mars Attacks? Oh, that was a bad parody.

For the business owner:

If we learn anything, it’s stay away from putting your reputation on the line with parody unless you know what you are doing. I think Capt. Owen Honors, who was relieved of duty from the Navy for his parody videos would agree with me on that one!

The Music(?) of the Super Bowl

Christine Aguilera put her reputation on center stage on the biggest stage and took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The lesson here is sometimes it’s more about what the customer wants than about yourself. In this case customers wanted a proper and respectful rendition (with all the words in the right place) of our National Anthem.

Reputation alert:

Carl Lewis and Rosanne Barr will forever be remembered for how they got booed for slaughtering the National Anthem. Notice how those clips came back after Aguilera’s mistakes? Her reputation will forever have this mark on it and be linked with the other clips for future reference.

The Black Eyed Peas also appeared not prepared for the reputation gamble inherent with being the halftime performers. Speakers know if your normal speech is one hour and you are only given 10 minutes, you need to start over and craft something different because you can’t capture the same feeling in that time frame. If you attempt a mashup of all your best lines without the proper story build-up you have a disaster on your hands. Isn’t that what we witnessed? Poor sound, poor special effects, and trying to cram everything they do in a concert into a 20-minute set.

Business owner alert:

Never try to be something you are not. Groupon put their reputation with social media customers in the hands of people who didn’t understand their market. Christine Aguilera put her reputation on the line and tried to make the National Anthem more about herself than about those she was singing for. The Black Eyed Peas put their reputation on the line when they tried to recreate a two-hour event in 20 minutes.

Every one of them forgot what they do best and tried to be something other than who they are. Look at your business: Where are you trying to be something you aren’t and losing your reputation in the process? Do what you do best and listen to your customers for how they want you to evolve while keeping your reputation intact.

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