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.
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?
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.
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.
As a child I walked to school when it was less than a half mile from my house. When I moved up to the school that was further away I walked to the end of the street and waited for a bus to get me. The bus was painted bright yellow and had blinking red lights on it.
This morning I witnessed a dad driving his junior high school aged child in the family golf cart three doors down to the corner to be picked up by a school bus. It is still painted yellow, but now is equipped with an emergency exit, blinking yellow and red lights, a retractable stop sign with blinking red lights, a swing arm that opens in front of the bus, strobes lights on roof of the bus, large rear view mirrors mounted on the front bumper, and once the kids are on the bus before it pulls off the driver gives five short toots of the horn.
We are teaching children that being responsible is someone else’s job. In my day, we wanted to be fiercely independent and would be embarrassed if our parents had driven or walked up to the bus stop. We wanted the government to impact us as little as possible. We wanted to the opportunity to make our own way.
Today young children are not allowed out of our sight, playtime is painfully structured and organized by adults and children spend more time in front of a screen than any generation in history. We expect the government to take care of our healthcare, our retirement, our security, bail us out when we over extend ourselves financially, send us money when natural disaster strikes and ensure all of our needs are being taken care of.
And we wonder why the American economy is struggling and we are losing our place as the greatest economic engine in the world?
I think it all started with the school bus.
I have said a hundred times — luck happens when opportunity meets preparation. I’ve heard others say luck is another word for hard work that pays off. I’ve also noticed those who say these things are the ones who have benefited from good luck.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he found that success was largely impacted by good fortune. When you were born, who your parents are, and those you had a chance encounter with. Not to mention shifts in the world that adjusted the road to success in your direction. What was previously thought of as grunt work, was now a valued process. The work didn’t change, the focus of the world simply shifted.
None of us want to believe our success came from simply good fortune. But how else can you explain the meteoric rise of the formerly homeless golden-voiced Ted Williams? He was pan-handling on a street corner like many others in this country. A newspaper person shot a video of him, sat on it for five weeks, and then posted it on youtube where it took a life of its own.
I embrace the story of Mr. Williams; I think it is wonderful for him. But it wasn’t an intersection of preparation meeting opportunity. It was good luck.
My largest contract in my career came as a result of luck. It was a chance encounter in an airport club room. I’ve struck up hundreds of conversations in airport club rooms. If skill was involved I would have many more contracts of that size and would spent a lot more time in airport club rooms! It was just good fortune that someone was speaking to the right person at the right time who was interested in what I was offering.
Unfortunately luck also has a down side.
Consider the story of the 9 year old girl who was born into a major league baseball family, had been profiled in a book about children who were born on September 11, 2001, and then was asked by a neighbor to attend a congresswoman’s meet and greet with constituents in Tucson on January 8, 2011, where sadly she was shot to death.
She did not ask to be born into a wealthy, high profile family, she was one of a select few born on that day profiled in the book, and there was no action on her part that caused her death other than to simply be there. It was pure bad luck.
In poker the top players calculate the odds in how to proceed in playing a hand. When long odds hit against you it is referred to as taking a “bad beat.” By the same token when long odds fall in your favor in the poker world it is called a “suck out.”
With a 52-card deck odds can be calculated. In life, odds are so variable as to be incalculable, but it doesn’t mean bad beats and suck outs don’t exist. Life is filled with luck.
Does that mean I am saying sit, wait and see what life brings to your doorstep? Not in the least! We have to put ourselves in play to allow positive impact to occur. But I am saying before we reject people because of their standing in life, we should consider luck had a large hand in the outcome. By the same token, before we get caught up in all of our own successes, we should be thankful at our good fortune. I am sure you can think of a hundred decision points in your life where you got the fortunate break and had that decision gone the other way; you would be a very different person for it.
Every year at this time people make personal resolutions. Business owners and leaders also set expectations and have high hopes for the new year. Studies show on the average people give up on their personal resolutions by the end of a month and businesses reach the end of the first quarter playing catch up.
Why not try something different this year that will have real meaningful impact on your business?
Instead of trying to set resolutions or hoping business will improve ask yourself the most important business question of the year:
If I were to start my business from scratch with the knowledge I have today, how would it look different?
Most of us who have successfully owned a business for a long time are constantly looking to improve, upgrade or grow the business we have. Sadly, that isn’t enough in today’s business environment – ask Blockbuster.
Blockbuster created an industry and dominated it, and then technology shifted. Blockbuster was the best distributor of VCR products. Every year they worked to improve their title offerings, make their locations more customer friendly, and their staff more knowledgeable. The problem was they were asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking what can we do to be better, they should have been asking: If we started today how would we be different?
Netflix showed them how a new start up thinking fresh can completely change the marketplace leaving the industry leader filing bankruptcy – because they failed to ask the right question.
Netflix learning from Blockbuster’s mistake are now asking this all important question again and forcing their organization and entice customers to join them on the video on demand trend with streaming video.
Look at your business. What are you upgrading you need to overhaul? In what ways are the new competitors kicking your butt? Can’t see it? Don’t believe it? Look harder! Try these 25 questions on for size.
Guarantee: If honestly answering all of these questions doesn’t dramatically improve your business write me at Russell@RussellWhite.com and tell me about it. I will make a donation to your favorite charity in your name for wasting your time!
What new technology makes your systems crap by comparison?
What hours should you be open for business to maximize revenue?
What leadership skills and energy level should be at the helm of your business?
What does your web presence look like?
What social media maximization are you working on?
Where is your mobile phone app?
How are you hiring people differently today?
Are you still wasting time on reading/reviewing resumes?
Why are YOU leading your business? (Remember the bulletproof feeling you had when you started your new business or new position? How does that feel now?)
Do you clearly know your customers?
If you didn’t own/run the business would you still want to be a customer of your place?
Why do you sell your products the way you do?
Does that approach even apply today?
Why are you selling the products and services you are currently offering?
What do you call marketing these days? Why are you using those methods of getting the word out?
How is your product packaged? Why?
Who are you employing? Why?
How often are you completely changing your customer approach?
What in your business is a “VHS tape” in a digital video world?
When was the last time you learned a brand new skill that impacted your business?
If you had an unlimited budget to make a commercial, what would it look like?
How can you make close to that with what you can afford right now?
How can you create such customer draw they will stand in line to get what you are offering?
What corners are you cutting because you are lazy/tired/it’s the economy/it’s good enough/I am just not as committed as I once was?
What process/employee/product/system has a lot in common with a full diaper but you just do not want to face the fact you need to do something about it?