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Last week I wrote about the brander’s paradise that is South Beach. This week, I spent some time in Manhattan, which most would think of as a brander’s paradise.

But right now I only feel fatigue. And I’m not just talking about Times Square.

Manhattan, everywhere, overloads the senses. Every possible square inch of space has a message, from the glitzy store fronts on 5th Avenue, to the small restaurants with only a few tables, to the apartment buildings offering “superb” rentals. You can’t walk even a block without being overwhelmed by logos for coffee shops!

How do you choose?

Clearly, a budding Manhattan brander must go WELL beyond the awareness – consideration – preference mantra that has been drilled into our heads since our first marketing classes. Yes, you must get the customer’s attention. But that is only the start. The product benefits must, of course, engender loyalty.

But survival requires commitment. And for that, the experience matters.

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South Beach, where I live, is a brander’s paradise.Miami Beach

No, I’m not just talking about the ubiquitous retailers, including Sunglass Hut which opens its largest store in the nation tomorrow or the always-packed Apple store.

In an instant, even the untrained eye spots the sunburned tourists, the convention goers, the college students, the wealthy Brazilians, the homeless, the religious (the Miami Beach Community Church built in 1921 on Lincoln Road is a local institution) – yes, everything and everyone is branding themselves.

All vy for attention, using all the senses – the ever changing group of young women hired by restaurants to entice passersby to eat at their establishment, the wafts of perfume, the clothes, the feel of the just-ripe fruits, the DJs in the trendy stores, and, above all, the powerful logos.

But once they’ve got your attention, then what? Who hasn’t had a bad meal, even in a highly-rated restaurant? Or a terrible date? Or bought overripe fruit? Or walked out of a store because there is nothing in our size or the quality of the material is substandard? As my good friend, Chris Gammill and I constanty discuss, the experience matters.

What experience are you delivering?

Been to Home Depot lately? If not, go and see how a good HR strategy equals a good marketing strategy!  And no, they’re not paying me for this.

In the midst of this record heat wave, I got up early to replace a hose so my lawn doesn’t burn out, and some weed killer, and Home Depot is conveniently close by. Several years ago, I would drive elsewhere because, IF I could find a clerk, they might have known where these were, IF I could get their attention.

Today, I was greeted as if I were the only thing that mattered and, after describing my needs, I was introduced to a herbicide expert who helped me find exactly what I needed. Then he escorted me to the hoses, ensuring that I had the necessary help (none required, really…).

What changed? A couple of years ago HR chief Tim Crow renovated training programs, expanded cash bonuses and increased employee/customer face time. And they’re having an impact: after a 2-year slide in sales and profit, both were up last year.

If the goal of marketing is to attract and retain customers well, it’s working at Home Depot, with a huge assist from HR.

And my wife no longer minds going there.

Regardless of which side you are on, the US is clearly in one of the most fundamental debates on the role of government in a long, long time. Passions are high. Rhetoric is flying. Fears abound. Yet neither side wants to budge – ‘tough’ rules the day.

Which may be the only salvation.

There are no simple solutions left. And the realization is starting to sink in. Lou Gerstner once said, “No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.” Andy Grove said it differently: “only the paranoid survive.”

Survival ruled the day at IBM. It did in Greece. And it will in the US.

The question is, does survival rule the day at your organization?

If not, get tough.

On my way home from a peer group session of CMOs (with a shout out to the Forbes CMO Network and gyro who sponsored the evening), I reflected on the commonalities between good networking and good marketing.

If you’ve ever been to a party (and most of us have), you’ve noticed there are those who “work the room” and seem to have met everyone there by the end of the evening. What do they do that makes them successful?

First, they engage. They don’t passively await someone to connect with them.

Second they question, and listen. They “always think in terms of what the other person wants,” to quote Korean war general James van Fleet.

And, third, the truly exceptional ones “arouse in the other person an eager want,” quoting Dale Carnegie.

A pretty good set of rules for marketers.

That’s what my bank – Peoples United Bank – is telling me.

Yesterday (Feb. 16, 2011), when I went to the portal (the link above) to log in to my account, I noticed an offer for free Kindle (if you click on the link to see this, you may have to do so a couple of times since the offer rotates with other offers for low mortgage rates and low home equity lines of credit). Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s another one: ‘work smarter, not harder!’

I hope you’ve never used this one in a misguided attempt to motivate a subordinate. If you have, you’ve just told the employee they’re dumb. Not very motivational, eh?

Personally, I don’t think employees are dumb (and if you have one, how did they get hired in the first place? And in the second place, why are they still with you?). Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to my Hay Group colleague Scott Spreier, who has done a lot of work with CEOs, for this guest post. NOTE – since the original posting, I’ve received a number of partisan comments, which was far from our intent; we were really looking at how leaders communicate and so, to be fair, we are going to code one of Reagan’s early term speeches for comparison. Stay tuned…
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Memo to senior executives in the finance and auto industry:

Regardless of your political persuasion, before you leave the office today have your assistant print out a copy of President Obama’s Cairo speech. When you get home, pour yourself a Scotch, pull it out of your briefcase, and read it – slowly and carefully. It may be the most productive time you’ve spent all day. There’s a lot you can learn from the President on how to talk to the public and regain your credibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Being in a good mood, research finds, helps people take in information effectively and respond nimbly and creatively. In other words, laughter is serious business.

Excerpts from Social intelligence and the biology of leadership, by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatsis:

“In the past five years, research in the emerging field of social neuroscience – the study of what happens in the brain while people interact – is beginning to reveal subtle new truths about what makes a good leader. [click here for video:] Read the rest of this entry »

Many organizations in China report that they are under performing in terms of revenue, growth and profit expectations. A key reason for this is the challenge that Chinese organizations are facing in the area of talent retention. The skills shortage in China means that salary bills are soaring as key employees hop from job to job, attracted by ever higher wages.

It is now clear that on its own, pay is not an effective tool for employee retention. Hay Group argues that in order to retain key staff, organizations must resist the temptation to use ever higher salaries as the primary employee retention tool. Instead they should focus their attention on two key areas. First, they must look at how they can increase employee engagement. Then they need to provide better support for success of their employees.

Read more (registration required). 

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