Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How Will Your Brand Commemorate September 11?

Waves of Flags, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
If you were alive on September 11, 2001, your life was forever changed by the events in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in rural Pennsylvania. Terrorism arrived in the United States - and the country would never be the same.

This September marks the 18th anniversary of that tragedy, and while war and terrorism still exist, we will always remember the people who perished on that September morning. And we will always celebrate the first responders who rushed into harm's way.

In those first few days after September 11, 2001, most brands added an American flag to their homepages with messages of condolences for the lives lost. Since social media did not exist, there were no Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts that gained hundreds of thousands of comments, likes, or retweets. But today is different. Social media has provided opportunities for everyone's voices to be heard.

On September 11, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed the date as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. While US government buildings fly their American flags at half-staff, Americans are urged to perform a day of service and make a positive difference in their communities.

2019 will mark the twelfth year that Malibu's Pepperdine University will showcase the annual Waves of Flags, a display of 2,977 full-size flags. There are 2,887 American flags for each American life lost and 90  international flags representing the home countries of those from abroad who died.

No one can forget Budweiser's ad featuring the iconic Clydesdales that aired only once (during the 2002 Super Bowl - here's the link: "The horses pay tribute to the memory of the fallen of September 11th with an unforgettable, breath-taking bow. Many have never forgotten the commercial that never aired again...[Budweiser] had to get approval from members of Congress, the ad community, and from New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani," reported Shirley Washington.

There are some inspiring ways for your brand to commemorate September 11, but you may also wish to remain silent. There are traditional marketing avenues, such as, email marketing, website messages, and advertising. And then there is social media. Your brand can combine efforts with competitors or aligned brands as well.

While some in the marketing arena think it best for brands to remain silent on September 11, the reality is that consumers look to brands to make an emotional connection. When a connection is made, often long-term loyalty happens. On this very important day in American history, people remember the brands that spoke out. So, how will your brand commemorate September 11?

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey Photography and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Social Media: Brand Builder or Mission Distraction?

I read a blog post recently with an unusual perspective whose theme has remained with me. 

The title of the post was "Farewell, Twitter," and the writer was Bart Egnal, President and CEO of The Humphrey Group, a leadership and communications consulting company with offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Mexico City. 

Here's the link for the post:

According to Egnal:

On December 31, 2016, after 3 years on Twitter, The Humphrey Group sent its last tweet. And though we will keep our LinkedIn profile, we intend to invest little time or energy into our social media presence in the coming years.

This wasn’t a snap decision; we had spent 36 months increasing our commitment to, “have a conversation” with our clients, staff and industry voices. We had sent over 1700 tweets. Our Founder, Judith Humphrey, and I both wrote about leadership communication online for publications like Fast Company, the Globe & Mail, and Canadian Business, and shared that content through our social media channels. When my book, Leading Through Language, was published a year ago, I did extensive interviews and used social media to connect with listeners around the world.

But despite all these efforts, we decided that to really do right by Twitter would require us to invest substantial time and energy - and doing so would take our team away from the actual work we do with clients. The result was our decision to shutter the account and continue to focus on building client relationships the old fashioned way: one conversation, one course, one coaching session at a time.

I can’t say whether social media is for you or your company - but I am happy to take a moment to share the lessons we learned through our 3-year foray into social media. One caveat: the lessons we learned may not apply to you or your business. They reflect the fact that our company focuses on business-to-business relationships, does its work in person, and has grown almost exclusively through word-of-mouth. We don’t expect this Twitter shut down to have much impact. Clients can still reach us through email, or even that archaic device, the phone. Whatever method we do initially connect, it’s likely that we’ll end up talking in person. If the last three years on social media have reinforced anything to us, it’s that the ability to actually speak to people never gets old.

(1) Lesson One: If you launch it, they won’t come.

(2) Lesson Two: To be heard on Twitter you must create content - which may require you and your team to spend less time actually doing what you love.

(3) Lesson Three: You can’t outsource Twitter and expect it to be meaningful.

(4) Lesson Four: Meaningful connections are still best forged in person.

There are many reasons why businesses, translation, brands, develop a social media presence. Some do so because the President/CEO thinks it may be necessary. For the more forward-thinking brands, they develop a digital footprint because there is a strategic social media plan, an alignment with the overall marketing plan, that features content that consistently reflects the brand's voice, positioning, and mission. Brands must also have personnel to create quality content on a consistent basis. Without these elements, a Facebook page, a Twitter page, an Instagram page, a LinkedIn page, etc., are simply not possible.

However, to quote Erik Qualman (@equalman on Twitter): "We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it."

What do you think? Have you stopped using one or more social platforms? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Twitter.

My thanks to Bart Egnal for the inspiration for this post. Bart can be found on Twitter at @THG_Bart, on LinkedIn at, his Amazon author page at, and on his company's page at

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Want to Fly Free with Frontier Airlines? There's a Catch!

Frontier Airlines aims to become America’s Greenest Airline. Its fleet is 39% more fuel-efficient than its competitors, and it has been named the industry's most fuel-efficient airline by The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). While Frontier may be known as the green airline, the company's mission goes beyond the green logo and the menagerie of animals on its airplane tails.

Frontier's mission is evident in August 2019, with the launch of a memorable promotion. Frontier encourages everyone to live greener lives and invites everyone with the last name “Green” to fly for free on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.

According to Frontier's website ( here's how to get a free flight on August 13, 2019:
(1) Confirm that your last name is Green or Greene
(2) Book a flight that departs on August 13, 2019
(3) Frontier will refund your trip!

There was small print, and it read as follows:

Individuals with the last name Green or Greene will be eligible to receive refunds for one way or round trip nonstop domestic travel on August 13, 2019. Flights must be booked on Individuals who are eligible for this promotion will be refunded for round trip flights if both segments of travel are purchased on one PNR, the first segment departs between 12:00AM and 11:59PM on August 13, 2019, and the return segment arrives by 11:59PM on August 20, 2019. Eligible participants will receive a full refund, up to $400. Refunds will be rewarded to to the original booking contact person by September 15, 2019. (In the airline and travel industries, a passenger name record (PNR) is a record in the database of a computer reservation system that consists of the personal information for a passenger and his/her itinerary.)
Eligible participants in this promotion must have documentation that Green or Greene is legally their last name. Promotion is applicable only to individuals with the last name Green or Greene. Their immediate families (spouses, parents, children, siblings, and their respective spouses) are not eligible for this promotion if their last name is not Green or Greene.

Barry Biffle, President and CEO of Frontier Airlines, explained, “Our fleet’s fuel efficiency is unmatched by other U.S. airlines and allows Frontier to deliver not only the lowest fares but the most sustainable approach to flying. We are proud to serve communities across the U.S. and understand the importance of being good stewards of the environment. We’re focused on lessening Frontier’s impact on the environment and continually search for innovative solutions and technology to achieve that.”

Now the catch...upon hearing about this promotion last week, I sent a Tweet to Frontier Airlines and also tagged the brand on an Instagram post asking if my great-grandfather's name of "Green" would allow me to get a free ticket. Seven days after the Tweet and Instagram post, I still have not received any response from Frontier. The promotional campaign was well-executed and certainly memorable. But, what if I had not visited Frontier's website and read the small print? As those of us who understand social media and promote its benefits when it comes to customer service and customer experiences, this silence speaks volumes. At the very least, someone who monitors Frontier's digital footprint should have responded. Would your brand have responded to me?

Image Credit: Frontier Airlines and Instagram.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Leadership Is a Marathon, Not a 100-Yard Dash

Doug Dickerson, a leadership expert, trainer, and author first appeared on my Blog back in 2010, after I read his inspiring book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Doug has more than 30 years of experience in various leadership positions, and he strives to inspire others to become better equipped as leaders. You can find Doug on Twitter, on his Blog, and on his author page on Amazon. He appeared again on my Blog in 2018 when we discussed leadership priorities and leaders' legacies. With leadership always a hot topic, it's always a good time for another Q&A with Doug, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: According to your bio on Amazon, one of your claims to fame is "to challenge one's traditional ways of thinking about leadership." Can you please elaborate with a few examples?
DOUG DICKERSON: Over the years, I've always tried to look at things from a different perspective rather than just traditional ways. For example, not long ago I wrote an article entitled "Sacred Cows and Breaking Rules." I wrote this article to challenge the traditional ways of looking at leadership. In the article, I make the case that we cannot hold onto our sacred cows in leadership if they are no longer relevant or when it hinders progress. There's no reason to hold onto sacred cows and traditions at the expense of progress just because our traditions mandate it. It's not about being contrary just for the sake of stirring things up, but rather in all things leadership, we need to constantly evaluate what we do, why we do it, and is it the best course of action for today. I like to challenge my own points of view, and I try to do the same for my readers.

QUESTION: What are three ways that modern-day leaders do not understand their employees?
DOUG DICKERSON: Possible reasons include:
(1) They are out of touch with their people. The point here is that relationships are essential to the connection between leaders and employees. If a leader is out of touch with his or her people, is not invested in the lives of his or her people, they will never fully understand him or her.
(2) They don't communicate. The modern-day leader needs to create and welcome an environment in which open, honest, and regular communication takes place.
(3) They don't understand that their employees want to feel that they are contributing and making a difference. They want to be recognized and appreciated for their contributions.

QUESTION: What three ways can modern-day leaders improve the overall employee experience?
DOUG DICKERSON: Here are my three ways:
(1) Regularly communicate values and vision and the importance of their role in fulfilling them.
(2) Be loyal and have their backs.
(3) Be approachable and stay humble.

QUESTION: What's your favorite leadership quote, and why?
DOUG DICKERSON: Actually it comes from a verse of Scripture found in James 1:19. The Message translation reads this way: "Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear." I like it because of how it speaks to the temperament of a leader in the following three ways: Listen more than you talk. Choose your words carefully. Be even-tempered. That's just good leadership advice.

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any leader from history, who would it be and why?
DOUG DICKERSON: Winston Churchill. He was a remarkable leader during one of the most consequential times in history. He rallied the people to believe they could win (never, never, never give up!). He was inspiring. He was determined. He had his flaws. But it was his leadership and grit that changed the course of history and life as we know it today.

TWEET THIS: Leadership is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. ~@DougDickersonSC

QUESTION: You wrote a recent blog post entitled, "Thriving Leadership in a Calloused World," and my favorite quote was "Leadership is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash." Can you please elaborate?
DOUG DICKERSON: Leadership growth and development is a lifelong journey. It's not one to be rushed. I also recently wrote that in leadership, especially among younger leaders, there’s a tendency or temptation to want to rush the process. They want to be at a place in leadership in two or three years that has taken 30 years for others. And while the motivation and desire are commendable, there are no shortcuts on the road to maturity.

As leaders, we are always growing (or should be) and always learning. If there ever comes a time when we think we know it all or have learned it all, then we have embraced that "100-yard dash" mentality. And in leadership, that's a dangerous place to be. With a "marathon" mentality, we understand that it truly is a journey. A journey of learning, growing, maturing, successes, failures, bumps, and bruises. The 100-yard dash is over quick. The marathon takes a while - and in leadership, we need to remember, it's a marathon.

My gratitude and appreciation to Doug for appearing again on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring leadership insights.

Articles referenced in this post:
A Review of “Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders” by Debbie Laskey

Tips to Develop Your Leadership Legacy by Debbie Laskey

Sacred Cows and Breaking Rules by Doug Dickerson

Thriving Leadership in a Calloused World by Doug Dickerson

Image Credit: Doug Dickerson.

Monday, July 22, 2019

How Closely Aligned Are Branding, Customer Experience, and Employee Experience?

Twitter serves as an amazing water cooler in today’s social media era, and thanks to Twitter, I met Don Shapiro because we share a passion for marketing and also see the value of introducing a Chief Employee Experience role into the C-Suite. We recently discussed a variety of branding, leadership, and employee experience topics, and highlights follow below Don's bio.

Meet Don Shapiro. Don is the President of First Concepts Consultants, Inc., advisors on leadership, strategy, marketing, sales, culture, and alignment. He is a co-author of The Character-Based Leader and is currently writing a book on customer value entitled, Stealth Value. Don’s high energy, fun, and interactive way of speaking has thrilled thousands of audiences about his discoveries. Learn more about him on Linkedin (, on Twitter (, and his First Concepts website (

QUESTION: Please explain the following statement: Your culture is your brand.
DON SHAPIRO: What makes a brand memorable and helps drive growth? That takes branding. But, branding and brand awareness are two different things. Branding is where the customer experience is married to the brand. Only your people can make that happen. It is through the culture of your organization that you deliver the customer experience, which shapes what the brand means to the customer.

QUESTION: You recently Tweeted, "Managers hire the past. Leaders hire potential." Can you please elaborate the experience or experiences that resulted in that excellent commentary?
DON SHAPIRO: I had the good fortune to start my career with Lawry’s Restaurants, a brand that’s still going strong after 96 years. Lawry’s has historically achieved the highest employee retention rate in the restaurant industry due to their way of hiring, training, and leading their people. After leaving Lawry's, I discovered that managers and executives in other businesses didn’t do things like they did. That comparison over many decades led to this Tweet.

TWEET THIS: Managers hire the past. Leaders hire potential. -@DonShapiro1 #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #BrandExperience

QUESTION: You have expertise in a variety of areas, so what three pieces of advice can you share for sales and marketing departments to work in tandem rather than at odds?
DON SHAPIRO: And you don’t want me to write a book?! Here’s how you build a bridge of understanding.
1. Get involved with the other departments on a regular basis. Walk in their shoes. When your marketing efforts grow out of a deep understanding of what other functions do, they will appreciate and respect you and your team.
2.  See all the other departments in your organization as your customer. Focus on how you can serve them better. Yes, even the finance department!
3. Invite individuals from other departments to spend time with your sales and marketing team. Make them feel a part of your team.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
DON SHAPIRO: Walk the talk with enthusiasm. The CEO has to become an organization’s best salesperson and PR person. CEO's have to learn how to sell the brand and message everywhere they go. And internally, they have to do the same to show their people how much they believe in the brand and believe in the employees who make the brand what it is. That inspires employees to follow the CEO’s model.

QUESTION: There is much buzz today about organizations adding a new C-Suite position, the Chief Customer Officer. This demonstrates that organizations want all employees to create an excellent customer experience. However, there should be another C-Suite position called the Employee Experience Officer. Based on your expertise in these areas, what are your thoughts?
DON SHAPIRO: I’ve been a huge fan of the Chief Customer Officer position for decades. With my deep experience on the people side and C-Suite, I believe that the employee experience is the role of the Chief People Officer. Most organizations don’t have one yet because they haven’t made the leap from human resources to people as a strategy. The key to this is that the CPO must report directly to the CEO. That would make the employee experience a top priority.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
DON SHAPIRO: Everything! Leaders help their people to win at work, at home, and in the community. Leaders serve their people with humility. Our role as a leader is to serve the people we lead so that they can realize their full potential and do their best. We walk beside and behind them. When we’re out front, we’re driving a bulldozer to clear a path for them. When we do this, our people produce great results.

TWEET THIS: When (leaders) are out front, we're driving a bulldozer to clear a path (for our employees). When we do this, our people produce great results. -@DonShapiro1 #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience

My gratitude and appreciation to Don for sharing his inspiring insights on my Blog.

Image Credit: Don Shapiro and Hubspot.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Don't Ignore Unhappy Customers - Part 2

Following completion of my blog post shared on July 12, 2019, (link provided at the end of this post if you missed it or want a refresher), that detailed three incredibly negative experiences entitled, "Ignore Unhappy Customers at Your Own Peril," I shared the link in several Tweets on Twitter to Lowe's Customer Care (@LowesCares).

Days went by as I wondered if the brand monitors its social media accounts with costly tools or free Google Alerts.

Two weeks passed, and I still had not received any response. When a manager of the local store called me, he left a voicemail. I returned the call five minutes later and was transferred three times because the manager could not be found, and I was finally placed on hold. After waiting about five minutes, I hung up.

The manager called me again the next day, and after trying to convince me that the delivery company THAT LOWE'S HIRED AND PAID to deliver my gazebo was at fault rather than Lowe's, I told him that I did not want to file a claim against the delivery company since I was Lowe's customer - not the delivery company's customer. He hung up on me.

Another week passed. I couldn't believe that senior leadership at Lowe's would teach this kind of customer service and endorse this type of customer experience. I was unable to locate an email address for Lowe's Chief Marketing Officer - you would think that someone in that role would want to maintain a pulse on customer comments. Heck, the CMO for IBM has an active Twitter account (@michelleapeluso), as does the CMO of General Electric (@LindaBoff), and the CMO of Cadillac (@DeborahWahl), to name just a few.

But I did learn that the CEO of Lowe's has a Twitter account, so I sent him a link to my blog post that detailed my three #servicefails. In less than 24 hours, I received two responses on Twitter, and later that day, I received a phone call from a different manager at the local store. This different manager again tried to place blame on the delivery company hired by Lowe's, but I quickly put an end to that discussion.

I explained, "Thank you for calling. Since I don't want to waste your time or mine, and I am tired of hearing that everything is the fault of the delivery company, and I do not want to file a claim against the delivery company, you need to make this right some other way. I suggest that you offer me a gift card for a future purchase."

After a few seconds of silence, the manager offered to deduct $250 from the price of my nearly $1,600 gazebo that started this chain of events. While the offer was not a free BBQ, at least, this way, I did not have to visit the store. But, will I be a repeat Lowe's customer again? Time will tell.

According to Stefan Thomke, the William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, "When it comes to providing the type of experience we gush about to friends, many companies are falling down on the job. A survey found that 65 percent of customers are likely to speak negatively about their experience, and 48 percent who had negative experiences shared them with 10 or more other people, according to a study in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article. Only 25 percent were likely to say positive things, and only 23 percent with positive experiences told 10 or more others."

“When a negative experience gets management’s attention, they immediately get nervous and move in and want to shut everything down by tightening controls, focusing on process, and taking autonomy away from their people,” Thomke said. “Because they’re worried about the negative experience, they make sure customers get what they expect. But when you get exactly what you expect at a restaurant, you won’t remember a week later that you were at that restaurant.”

Thomke further explained, "In contrast, exceptionally great experiences stand out, create memories for years, increase loyalty, and lead to a massive multiplier effect when one customer shares the details with others in today’s super-connected consumer world. We forget that the things that really stick, the things people talk about years later, are not the average experiences, but the outliers on the other end of the spectrum."

What if I had not Tweeted my blog post to Lowe's CEO? Would there have been any answer to my outreach? What can your brand learn from this series of experiences?

Image Credit: Twitter.

Articles referenced in this post:

Ignore Unhappy Customers at Your Own Peril

Lessons from the Classroom: How to Design a Better Customer Experience

Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers

The World’s Most Influential CMOs 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

Ignore Unhappy Customers at Your Own Peril

I read a Gartner Research article* recently that began, "Many marketing leaders today are responsible for customer experience and customer retention in addition to traditional marketing activities oriented to awareness, consideration, and acquisition. As a result, they're not only asking what makes customers buy products in the first place, but also why customers leave."

This quote has stuck with me since I recently had the third and final customer experience at a major home improvement retail chain (you would recognize the name instantly), and as a result, I have left this particular retailer for good. The sad thing is, no one at that retail chain - not senior leadership, not the marketing team, and not the customer service department - cares that it lost a repeat long-term customer. Here's what happened.

Last December, I purchased a new refrigerator/freezer, washing machine, and dryer. When these three items were delivered to my home, the freezer was missing two shelves, which, if the only problem, would have been a minor matter. I returned to the local store and requested two replacement shelves. A salesperson took two shelves from the floor model and gave them to me. Strike One.

The next day, I smelled something odd in my laundry room. Apparently, there was a gas leak as a result of the incorrect installation of the dryer, so I had to call Southern California Gas. The installer had not put a seal between the valve and the hose, so the So Cal Gas repairman had to visit my home and install one immediately. Strike Two.

This summer, I returned to the home improvement store to purchase a gazebo for my backyard. When the 750-pound box was delivered, the deliveryman used a forklift to attempt to put the large box in my garage, but he scraped my driveway with the forklift. Had he said there could have been damage to the driveway from the forklift, I would have instructed him to place the large box in front of my house, but I did not get the chance. Now, because I want to repair the driveway as soon as possible, I have to hire a contractor to visit my home and repair the driveway. Strike Three.

I looked up the email address for Customer Service on the retailer's website and sent a detailed email. Within a day, I received a response that said, "(Store name) will be happy to help you." The email continued by saying that I needed to speak to the store manager where I purchased the items. I was told that I could not speak to anyone in the corporate customer service department. Strike Four.

A week after my email, I spoke with the local store manager on the phone. He again stated that he wanted to make things right, but when I explained that I resolved both the missing shelves issue and the gas leak issue back in December, and the only remaining issue was the damaged driveway, he said that he would have to file a claim with the delivery company. He explained that the store hired a company to deliver items, so the store was not responsible for any issues resulting from the delivery company. Strike Five.

I said that I did not want to wait for a claim to be filed, an investigator to visit my house to personally assess the damage, and then wait for a decision if a repair would be approved. Guess what happened? The manager hung up the phone on me. Strike Six. If you're a baseball fan, you know that there are too many strikes in this story.

On their own, these instances were disappointing. But taken together, they represent a lack of understanding of customer service and even worse, a total disregard for customers. At any point during my interactions - email, phone, in-person visits - anyone who represented this retail store could have taken ownership for my series of bad experiences and attempted to make things right.

They could have offered:
*A $250 gift certificate
*A free BBQ since it's summertime
*A $250 gift certificate to be used in the garden center

I am reminded of Bill Gates' timeless quote about the value of unhappy customers, and even if nothing had been offered to me, I would have remained a customer if someone from the store had simply acknowledged my concerns and agreed that changes had to be made so that these actions were not repeated for other customers.

Since no one did anything, I have no choice. I'm no longer a customer of this home improvement store - but will now only go to the competitor (whose name you'd also immediately recognize). What would you have done if you had been in my shoes?

*Here's the article that inspired this post:
"Why Customers Leave - and What to Do" by Frances Russell of Gartner Research

Image Credit: Quote from Bill Gates.