Posts Tagged ‘ brand identity ’

Kellogg EMBA … more than a marketing program

What an energetic Kellogg EMBA reception at the Radius. It was nice to meet with prospects interested in the program. What amazes me is the energy you get when you get even a small group of Kellogg alums, students and prospects together in a room. Suzanne Whaller did a great job introducing the program and my colleagues from the alumni and current cohort added rich grist for the mill.

Someone asked a great question. “Kellogg is known for marketing, what are your strengths in other areas?”.

I think it is an ironic / intriguing / interesting question that Kellogg itself has been ‘branded’ the marketing school. As a student, I find the program to be focused on strategy with a clear C-Suite focus, with marketing being one of the functions that informs our body of study. While the school’s rich heritage and history might well be steeped in marketing, the coverage across other disciplines such as strategy, organizations and finance is truly excellent. The one area though that Kellogg does not focus on very strongly is technology and information systems, at least at the Executive MBA level.

I believe that the program prepares you to be a well-rounded ‘general manager’. Now dont get that to mean ‘a plain old generalist with no specialization’. Reality is that todays business needs and challenges dont come in neatly defined boxes. In order to lead in the complex ever-changing world we live in, one needs br0ad-based well developed intuition supported by strong skills across functions / disciplines. Kellogg provides just that.

Also, given that it has diversity in program-delivery, you are able to go beyond the case method to truly experience and imbibe the body of knowledge / practice through a wide variety of ways. Isn’t that how the real world works?

So, coming back to the question of the evening … yes, Kellogg has strong roots in marketing. But what do you say when I end up with 28 core courses and 4 electives?

Here’s my mix from Kellogg:

Core: Analytical Approach to Uncertainty, Operating Strategies for the General Manager, Teambuilding, Financial Reporting Systems, Leadership & Organizations, Marketing Management, Managerial Economics, Statistical Decision Analysis, Managerial Finance I, Managerial Finance II, Foundations of Strategy, Marketing Strategies, Accounting for Management Planning & Control, Consumer Insight & Marketing Strategy, Strategic Financial Management, Operations Management, Negotiation Strategies, Strategic Crisis Management, Macroeconomics, Economics of Competition, Creating and Managing Strategic Alliances, Management of Organizational Change, Law and the Corporate Manager, Corporate Governance, Ethics and Leadership.

Electives: Entrepreneurial Finance, Analytical Decision Modeling, Business Strategies in Asia Pacific (in Hong Kong!), Understanding Consumers (in Hong Kong).

Audits: Game Theory, Securities Analysis, Innovation Strategy & Management, Wall Street Hedge Funds & Private Equity.

How’s that mix? Oh, by the way, the program leads to a Masters in Business Administration, not an ‘Executive Masters’. Why not, with such a rich mix of coursework and an unbelievable cohort with rich experience/expertise. More on the cohort another day?




whole foods + whole lot of social-media mess

what a week it must have been for whole foods ceo john mackay and his crisis-pr team!    just a week after a major scientific report that there is really no material health difference between organic and non-organic produce. 

1.  john mckay writes a wall street journal oped on the united states healthcare debate

2. his customers, he picks the ‘wrong side’ of the debate … with a conservative-piece despite serving a largely liberal-customer base

3.  blogosphere and twittersphere explodes in rage .. with some stating that they will not shop at whole foods because of the ‘social darwinism and elitism’ reflected in john mackay’s piece

4.  traditional media picks up the story

5. is formed

6.  welcome to traditional media meeting social media in the age of the empowered customer with a keyboard @ hand …

3 obvious ideas:

a. personal ceo opinion”, really?: ironically there is no such thing as a ‘personal opinion’ for public cxo’s in an age where social media promises to enable personal expression! et tu, social media?

b. understand your customer before you communicate … because social media is the voice of many, not just marketing: you dont need to have a ph.d. in anthropology to know your customer-base, its major likes and dislikes.  if you are in a fishbowl (as they say about ceo’s), communication is hard to begin with.  your every move is being followed, interpreted and amplified.  social media just made it harder.  most companies and ‘social media experts’ belabor about why it is important for companies to market themselves through social media… conveniently forgetting that the power of social media is tilted towards the voice of many … i.e., the customers and quick-to-convert ‘former customers’!

c. b2c brands can become fragile faster than you can say “oh tweet!”:  b2c brands are built on perception.  brands take time and money to build.  like humpty-dumpty that sat on a wall and took a great fall, brands can fall quickly with the nudge of social-media ire.  and despite all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, it might not be possible to put humpty-dumpty together again.  just ask any 2 year old.  

sai at obviousideas dot com

an american auto revolution … the need to put customers 1st

what a year it has been for american auto majors.  pundits have written about it six ways to sunday … and yet, i find something obviously absent in the dialog.  the customer.

we hear about restructuring plans, debt refinancing, labor negotiation, de-merger dynamics, green technology and other paths to promising breakthroughs.  but pray, where is the focus on the customer?!

3 obviousideas

i. wish vs. want: focus on building a brand that “people wish they could have”, not one that you hope “people will want” or “need”.  so, a chevy ’64 impala is not the same as an ’09 impala.  same for the chevy camaro.  classic examples of cars that ‘people wished they could have’ becoming ‘cars that the company wished people would want’.

ii. brand identity: focus on a product mix where all products are strongly aligned with the brand identity and help reinforce it.  so, a chevy corvette and a chevy aveo should never again have the same badge.   how about being careful about brand extensions and not trying to be ‘everything to everyone’?

iii. points-of-experience:  focus on the entire customer experience around the brand, from prospecting to post-sales service and support.  so, never again should a customer walk away from a dealership ‘feeling ripped off’.  how about more clarity and courtesy at the points-of-experience?  i think the new volkswagen cc ad promising carefree maintenance a-la bmw is a step in the right direction.

what do you think?

a flu by any other name … and lessons in communication

what a week it has been.  ‘swine flu’ got officially renamed as A/’H1N1′ after reports that the pork industry was being unfairly affected by mistaken association. 

here is what i dont get.  every year when hurricane season comes around the US, anyone with a common angl0-saxon first name is at risk of being associated with a potentially destructive hurricane.  which industry group is out there to protect the atlantic coast arthurs, berthas, dollys from 2002, the noels, olgas, pablos and wendys from 2007?  or, the pacific facing johns, pauls and rosas from 2006?  and there is the (in)famous katrina.

last that i checked katrina did not have anything to do with the death and destruction wrought by nature.  however, the cdc itself has noted that the swine flu is ‘a respiratory disease of pigs’ … check this out

no one seems to know what has caused a pocrine disease to jump to homo sapiens, but wont it be prudent to educate the world’s population on the linkage with pigs … and somehow minimize contact?  ‘swine flu’ is a lot easier than “A/H1N1” … to convey to billions the linkage between pigs and the flu.  millions could be less literate + more vulnerable to communicable diseases due to poorer living conditions.  what better way to minimize and mitigate the risk than saying it as it is?!

none less than the cdc says “Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry).” (source:

3 obviousideas

1. communication intent: let us keep in mind the primary intent behind any communication and ensure that we are aligned with that interest.  for instance, if there is a chance that reducing direct contact with pigs can reduce the risk of contracting and spreading this disease, they say it as it is! 

2. clarity and conveyability: these are critical elements to ensure that the message reaches the audience and elicits the kind of response sought.  A/H1N1 surely fails the test of clarity and conveyability.  add ‘influenza’ as a prefix and your audience becomes even smaller. 

3. collateral damage: any communication carries the risk of collateral damage of unintended consequences.  question is, would you rather suffer collateral damage or core damage?  let us recognize collateral damage and minimize it, but not over-react to the point of changing the message itself and losing communication intent, clarity and conveyability.  if the katrinas of the world can live with a sad and deadly association, i am sure the world community of pigs will be ok.

brand a city … and get burdened? the saga of las vegas

a few hours ago, forbes reported that las vegas is america’s ’emptiest’ city.  what a sad state of affairs for a few blocks of glitz and glamour that calls itself las vegas.  a success story of branding an entire city.  “thank you” everyone said, the rebranding helped attract tourists and business visitors in the early part of the 21st century {seems so long ago now!}

fast forward to 2009.  a now bailed-out bank’s decision to proceed with their pre-bailout plans to host an event in sin city attracted much ire, and counter ire.  a far cry from the days what happens in vegas, stays herewas celebrated , which spawned off the more popular tag line ‘what happens in vegas, stays in vegas‘ …

looks like the brand has come back to bite the city.  maybe a lesser tag line might not have created such an aversion to bailed out banks sending their employees off to the middle of the desert.

maybe, just maybe, its safer to enjoy a timeless brand like san franscisco, paris or new york.  cities without provocative tag lines that seem oh so well out of place today.  i guess, that is what happens when you gamble with a tag line.  sometimes, the house too loses.  too bad in this case it is all of them!

what do you think?  what can charlotte (an up and coming city) and others learn from this?

(just watching a re-rerun of frasier (episode: ‘frasier-lite’ 2004) where frasier is enticed to over-eat just prior to an obesity-awareness weight loss competition so that he and his team can win a trip to vegas.  why, the tag line is even misquoted as ‘what happens in vegas, stays in vegas’ … because the original line coined by r&r partners is ‘what happens here, stays here’)

strategic role of packaging … in consumer goods (and minds)

  • a triangular toblerone inspired by … a swiss mountain (bye bye flat chocolate) = supporting product differentiation
  • a narrow tubular can of red bull … with 3x margins compared to the ale-in-red (someone say coke?) = reinforcing concept differentiation
  • an iconic symbol of a coke (ok,  so they are doing something right :)) … = creating brand differentiation

so, is packaging strategic?  what do you think?

andrea martini, gm (president), british american tobacco (mexico) held up spell bound in a captivating hour … playing executive, educator and entertainer … convincing us that packaging plays a strategic role in establishing brand identity and is not something to be delegated to the “assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the brand manager”. 

through a passionate and powerful exposition of first principles combined with *real world product samples*, we came away with a much deeper appreciation and respect for the strategic role of product packaging.

sai at obviousideas dot com