Duke’s President Offers Actionable Philosophy for Life and Work

Credit: Duke University.

Credit: Duke University.

It was a really pragmatic gift, but maybe tough to appreciate at age 18.

In his welcoming comments to the Class of 2019, Duke University President Richard Brodhead dispensed some wise philosophy.  He encouraged the new students to adopt a set of profound and powerful life and work ideas that are applicable to all of us.

Brodhead’s address, titled Building a Life at Duke, was themed off the massive construction and renovation underway on campus.  It provided an apt metaphor for his message.

I’ve culled and organized Four Key Takeaways.

1.  Expect Change & Embrace Where It Can Take You

If you want to make room for a new, improved version of yourself, you will have to tolerate some disruption— of your personal habits, of your preexisting networks, even of assumptions that once seemed certain. Disruption is not fun, but it is the opener of possibilities.

> I agree about the importance of disruption as a positive change enabler.  Focus on where it will take you.  It may be more fun than you think. Continue reading

Turn Customer Listening into Learning and Go-To-Market Action

Good things can happen when you listen to customers.

Consider Hostess Brands,  which “has nurtured retail sales of its products nearly back to their pre-liquidation level of more than $1.3 billion in 2012” as reported by Julie Jargon in The Wall Street Journal.

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

This summer, the company expanded the Hostess brand product range with white and wheat bread along with hamburger and hot dog buns.

Why is Hostess getting into bread?  They listened carefully to customers and realized there was a business opportunity. Continue reading

Marketing is Fun, Differentiation is Hard. A 3-Part Series.

Marketing is fun – and hard work.

It’s the latter part that’s not always so obvious.

I remember a former colleague who sought a cross-functional transfer from technical product management into global marketing.  I asked why.  Her response:  marketing is more fun.

Yes, marketing can be fun, but like the rest of business, it’s also a serious challenge.  Non-marketing observers may not realize all the hard work and preparation required to achieve success.

Which leads to the focus of this post – marketing differentiation.  It’s hard to do.

To stimulate your thinking, I have three new examples to share.  Note how the idea of “customer experience” is central to each marketing story.

And, I’m experimenting with something different myself to provide a better reader experience:  short, one-example posts on three consecutive days.


Part 1:

User Experience Innovation Creates New Kind of Wine Store

https://twitter.com/TasteWineCo/status/616788732751032320 Continue reading

How L.L. Bean Creates Employee Brand Ambassadors

Wouldn’t it be financially advantageous if employees throughout the organization could regularly think like their customers?

There are creative ways to encourage the development of passionate customer-focused champions/ambassadors for products and services.

L.L. Bean store in Freeport, ME. Credit: L.L. Bean.

L.L. Bean store in Freeport, ME. Credit: L.L. Bean.

Iconic brand L.L. Bean offers and implements a suite of programs to create raging fans inside the company, which ultimately help Bean outside the company.

Consider Bean’s “Team Days” and “Outdoor Experience Days:”

“From hikes to paddling trips, we provide opportunities for employees to develop their outdoor interests, enjoy L.L.Bean products and build stronger relationships with coworkers.”

These are paid days out-of-the-office.  Depending on seniority, salaried employees receive 3-5  per year for such activities.  That’s money well-spent. Continue reading

How To Take a Fresh Look, Get New Ideas & Tackle A Challenging New Job

Let’s say you’re a new business unit leader or CMO.

You want to get an unvarnished, 360-degree view of the situation and challenge at-hand.  You have to get prepared to give your boss an action plan.

What do you do and how do you do it?

To demonstrate, let’s use a high-profile, global example that just happened.  I’ll tell you who it is at the end of the post.

Blackboard with words Look Listen Learn

Image: iStock

Here are some of the steps taken by the new leader:

* Invited a range of outside industry experts to a private dinner.  They represented views both consistent with, and alternate to, the company’s strategic direction.

* The guests had to earn their meal by commenting on the most pressing problems facing the company.  Specifically, they were asked:  “Tell me something I don’t know;” and “Give me a new way of thinking about things.”

Continue reading