‘Top-Drawer’ Business Books 2013

It was a relatively lean year for outstanding business books even though Sheryl Sandberg grabbed attention and book sales with Lean In. Her well-intentioned but unremarkable plea for empowerment will go down in history as one of the most skillfully promoted books. In fact, a great book for 2014 would be one that examines the marketing lessons from the launch and support of Lean In itself, a work that was highly irrelevant to the vast majority of working women but was unavoidable in the media and on shelves.

This year in business books reinforced something long known. Being successful in business is incredibly hard. Whether you are leading a startup or managing a team within a famous blue-chip company or rising early to open your own dry cleaning business, there are no shortcuts or magic panaceas. Books promising four-hour work weeks are fables, how-to books are vacuous and dangerous, and the content of so-called inspirational works are trite, ineffectual and soon tossed out when met with the blunt adversities found in actual commerce.

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Jeff Talks Agency Strategy in Advertising Age

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What Digital Agency Clients, Staff and Lead

 

ers Say in Private
These Shops Market Themselves as Hip, but They’re Actually Pretty Old-School
By: Jeff Swystun

Digital agencies enjoy a reputation of being cool, cutting-edge and creative. They even have a bit of a bad-boy persona because they talk about challenging the status quo. Their offices are hip and their employees are hipsters. They are positioned as the future of marketing and advertising.

In the past year I have consulted to six digital agencies on branding and marketing. Between them they operate in over 12 countries, employing over 2,000. The results are revealing. First up is the dissatisfaction among employees. This cannot be attributed solely to the stereotypical millennial, because,many who shared these experiences were over 35. Comments included:

“We lecture clients about technology when our time and expense sheets are manual.”

“Fun perks promised are always sacrificed because of proposals or client work. I understand business is business, but don’t promise it if you only hand it out when convenient.” Read more

Lululemon Sheerly You’re Joking

Losing $67 million on a massive recall of one of your signature products is serious business. More sheer than normal products, dye leaking from some of the brightly colored pieces and other quality issues are undeniably serious.

So Lululemon Athletica Inc. has responded very seriously. Chief product officer Sheree Waterson has been let go. The company apologized to customers and investors. It changed its manufacturing and quality control processes.downwarddog-300

In short, it responded like it’s Tylenol or Toyota.

But it is not. Lululemon is a yoga lifestyle brand. Inherent in that is some degree of brevity and lightheartedness. I understand that its mission is tied to health and wellness and that it is a significant business, but let’s face it, it’s not a pharmaceutical company. Read more

Promoters of the Unnecessary

Have you ever wondered where you can find bandaids with witty Shakespearean insults printed on them or a tongue cover that will help you swallow your pills or thumbtacks in the shape of thumbs. I suspect that these items do not appear on Wall-Mounted-T-Rex-Head-Hunter's-Trophy-2_sqyour shopping list nor would you even expect they exist.

In this world of needs and wants, these items are in their own league. They are things that we could not even dream of requiring and practically we don’t. I cannot imagine thousands of people demanded that a company produce a large T-Rex replica dinosaur trophy head to hang on a wall.

Getting ahead of the consumer has always existed in business. When asked how much research played a role in the launch of the iPad, Steve Jobs cooly replied, “None. It isn’t the consumers job to know what they want.” Of course, there big is a difference between the iPad and a designer chair shaped like female genitalia (yes, it exists). Read more

Jeff Talks Blackberry

RIM, Reinvention & Canadian Pride

Jeff joined the national CBC Radio program The Current with host Anna Maria Tremonte and fellow guest Tamsin McMahon, an Associate Editor at Macleans Magazine to discuss the Blackberry Brand.

Hear the interview and checkout all the coverage here…CBC/Blackberry.

Jeff thanks the CBC, Anna Maria, Idella, Vanessa, Jessica, and Tamsin for the great experience. And best of luck to Blackberry in what will be one of the more fascinating business and brand stories of the year.

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‘Top-Drawer’ Business Books 2012

It is that time of year again when media is flooded with predictions for the coming year and retrospectives on the year ending. A related practice is to put together a ‘top ten’ or ‘best of category’ list.

Through the years, I have contributed “best” business and marketing book list for various websites and magazines. Those opportunities were flattering but I was never completely comfortable labelling any book “best”. So in recent years, I assemble my own annual list.

I call my book selections ‘Top-Drawer’. This tongue-in-cheek title is meant to describe books that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well written, practical, thought-provoking, and innovative. Many are ones you may not have connected directly with business and that is the ultimate benefit of this list.

Life is too short to drink cheap scotch – equally so there is precious little time to tolerate books that are not ‘Top-Drawer’. Last year 13 made the list while this year 12 did with one to look for that will be published on December 31. Enjoy and I look forward to feedback on the selections that follow in no particular order. Read more

Branding and Superstorm Sandy

Jeff comments on how brands respond to a disaster in USA Today

Businesses Step Up to Aid Victims of Superstorm Sandy

by Laura Petrecca

Many businesses are helping, but those that don’t come across as sincere in their aid efforts — and appear to be usatodaynewlogocapitalizing on a tragic situation — can raise consumer ire.

November 3. 2012 – Duracell’s “Power Forward” centers give Hurricane Sandy’s electricity-less victims the chance to charge phones, as well as to grab free batteries for flashlights.

Anheuser-Busch switched a line at its Cartersville, Ga., brewery from beer to potable water to produce more than a million cans of emergency drinking water for those in need.

Lakeside Fitness Club in Oakland, N.J., offered everyone in the community warm showers, hot coffee and the ability to get some stress relief with a workout. Read more

Country Branding Challenges

The following article comes from The Smithsonian. It mentions the slogan of Chile, Allways Surprising, work I was happy to lead while at Interbrand. I remain proud to have coined the slogan for a truly diverse and surprising country. It was a tremendous project originally meant only for Chilean exports but was soon purloined by other government departments.

I appreciate the tone and content of the article … any place branding is received with great scepticism and jadedness. You are lucky to please 20% of constituents with anything that is developed. It takes a commitment to reinforce the branding for years as there is never a home run in such efforts. Here is the article. Read more