Best-Selling Author & Retailer Team Up (Want a signed copy of Lift?)

Monday, 8 March 2010 10:21 by kpotvin

While we didn’t make it to the Oscars this weekend, my friend Robin and I did hear author Kelly Corrigan read from her new book, Lift.  A benefit for the American Cancer Society, it was an intimate group and Kelly had us laughing and crying as she told personal stories and read excerpts from her original best-seller, The Middle Place,  and her likely soon-to-be hit, Lift.

You may have read my blog post back in December 2008 -- I had just seen a very moving video on YouTube, a reading by Kelly from The Middle Place and had a feeling this video would take off.  I tracked the “hit” progress.  In less than 24 hours, the video climbed from 4,000 views to 16,000.  Today, more than 4.5 million people have watched it and The Middle Place is a New York Times best-seller.  From the connection Kelly had with her audience – and what I’ve read so far (the book is in the form of a letter to her young daughters) -- it looks like Lift will also soar.

One marketing strategy I find extremely interesting is her partnership with retailer Talbots.  Kelly was featured along with nine other women in a spread in the recent catalogue showcasing how ordinary women integrate one great piece (from Talbots) into their wardrobe for a signature look.  Additionally, on her book tour, Kelly is giving a number of readings in Talbots stores.  It seems like a win-win for both:  driving traffic to the stores and selling books.  They pegged the demo -- I know for a fact there were at least a few Talbots shoppers at the reading we attended.  And, a little fun fact:  Kelly revealed she has a small but “tasteful” tattoo on her ankle which, by intent, you will not see in the Talbot’s catalogue. 

What cross-marketing initiatives are working for you?

P.S.  I have a signed copy of Lift I’d love to share.  Interested?  Post a comment here with your favorite method for firing up your creative side (some of mine:  scanning a paper/magazine, talking to a stranger, taking a walk).  Tomorrow morning, we’ll randomly pick a winner from those who posted comments here or on the Splash Facebook Fan page (we welcome you to join if you haven’t).  Good luck!

Here's a shot of Kelly and Kyle at the reading.

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No Guts, No Story

Monday, 1 March 2010 06:45 by kpotvin

Don’t mind the photo – it has nothing to do with this post except to place you in Hawaii which we serendipitously left less than 24 hours before the tsunami warning sirens started.

While there, on the island of Maui, we had our fill of delicious fresh fish: Ono, Ahi, Opakapaka, Mahimahi.  We ate so much fish in fact, that on our last day, we decided to have a burger.  The kids were thrilled. 

So, while Cool Cat Café got high marks from the locals, we knew we had to return to Cheeseburger in Paradise.  Maybe it was the restaurant’s beachside location in Lahaina that drew us there or the siren call of Jack Johnson and Dire Straits coming from the guitar player upstairs (or the fact that we first ate there on our honeymoon).

Or, since we are a family of entrepreneurs, perhaps it was the story.  The menu reminds us, “No Guts, No Story,” and this is a story we love.  In a nutshell:  Two restless Southern California girls explore paradise, eat expensive fish every day and one declares, “I sure would like a great big gooey, five napkin Cheeseburger.”  The first Cheeseburger restaurant opened in 1989 and today there are 8 locations.  The Lahaina restaurant serves 1,200 guests per day and 18,000 “cheeseburgers with an attitude” a month.

What’s your dream? 

 

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News Splash Interview: Essential Business Lessons From the Movies

Monday, 11 January 2010 14:20 by kpotvin

As a regular reader of the retail website/blog www.MorningNewsBeat.com, I’ve long been charmed by Kevin Coupe’s writing, analysis and as he puts it, “attitude” (not to mention his wine recommendations).  When I learned Kevin and columnist Michael Sansolo had written a book, I knew I had to read it.  “The Big Picture:  Essential Business Lessons from the Movies” will forever change the way you look at both leadership and the movies.  Sometimes the best way to find inspiration is to walk away from your desk – talk to a stranger, take a trip, see a movie.  Or, read a book.  This one is guaranteed to provide valuable insights for your daily business interactions – whether giving a speech or mentoring a colleague.  Here Kevin talks with us about the importance of a good narrative, what “Babe” and “When Harry Met Sally” teach us about business, and why he recommends corporate movie nights.

News Splash (NS):  Tell us about “The Big Picture.”

Kevin Coupe (KC):  “The Big Picture” essentially is a serious business book that was written with what we hope is a light touch - and one that we think is extremely timely.  One of our central premises for the book is that every business can be a better one if the people running it know how to create a narrative that appeals to customers, employees and suppliers.  If you know how to tell a story, it becomes easier to get everybody on the same page, and if everybody is on the same page, it is easier to work together toward the same goal.  But if your employees thinks that your business is about one set of priorities, and your suppliers believe it is about another, and customers don’t have a basic understanding of what your business is about philosophically, it is hard to have a strategic approach to business progress and innovation.

Now, that may sound pretty dry...but when you use well known stories to illustrate your company’s core narratives, then it becomes easier to communicate with people.  Movies, it seems to Michael and me, are part of our cultural mythology - they provide common touch points that everybody can relate to.

Interestingly, since the book has come out, one of the common responses we’ve gotten is that “these aren’t business lessons - these are life lessons.”  And that’s true.  I think you can apply many of the lessons in the book to almost every situation - personal relationships, politics, government, education, etc...   (It seems like Tom Friedman of the New York Times writes once a month about how Barack Obama has lost the narrative of his presidency...we should send both of them a book!)  But for the purpose of “The Big Picture,” it seemed to make sense to give them a business context.  It provided focus, both for us and the readers.

NS: How/why did you decide to write it?

KC:  A lot of the inspiration for the book came just out of daily phone calls that Michael and I would have in which we would reflect on this movie or that television show, and draw parallels with some of the business issues we were addressing either in our writing for MorningNewsBeat.com, or in speeches that we give around the country to various companies, associations and business groups.  We’d see a movie like”50 First Dates,” for example, which is an Adam Sandler movie about a guy who falls in love with a woman who has no long-term memory - every morning when she wakes up, she cannot remember what has happened in her recent past.  And so Michael would say something like, “Isn’t that what great customer service is all about?  Romancing the customer every day, never taking him or her for granted, and having to make the case each and every day that you are the preferred place to do business.”  And I’d agree with him, and then I’d tell him about a movie I saw - like “American Gangster,” say, in which the drug dealer protagonist seems to understand the notion of branding better than the guys running Krispy Kreme.

Okay, I admit this sounds a little strange.  But suddenly we realized, after we’d done this enough, that was a great concept for a book.  We were encouraged in our efforts when Michael’s sister, who is a teachers’ union rep, used a reference to “The Godfather” when she was talking about how to enter into negotiations.   So we knew we were onto something.

And so we started writing.

Here’s the funny thing.  When we started, we were amazed to find out that nobody had really done what we were doing.  (We held our breath a little bit, hoping that Tom Peters suddenly wouldn’t come out with such a book a month before us.)    And since we’ve been out, a lot of people have been amazed that such a basic concept hadn’t been done before.  Go figure.  For once in our lives, we actually were ahead of the curve.

NS:  You have a very full schedule.  How did you ever find time to write a book?

 

KC:  To be honest, it helps to have three things.  A publisher.  A co-author.  And a deadline.  That said, I have to admit that I blew the deadlines all to hell, and I was lucky to have a patient co-author and a forgiving publisher.

My website, MorningNewsBeat.com, is a daily “content curator” that requires me to generate anywhere between three thousand and five thousand words a day, five days a week, 49 weeks a year.  Some people hear that and think that this must make it easy to generate a couple of thousand more words each day, but I found that precisely the opposite was true.  I get up at 5 am, am finished with that day’s MNB by 9 am, and at that point I wanted to go for a run, read the paper, or get other business done - anything but sit back down at the computer.  And about a third of the year, I’m on the road.  So it took more discipline that I had, and I was probably six months behind Michael on getting my chapters done.  (It helped that we’ve been friends for a long time, and Michael understood the MNB demands because he contributes one column a week to the site.  And had his own issues - one of Michael’s businesses is developing educational conferences for associations and business groups, and last year was an extremely busy time for him.)

But I’ll tell you something.  Once I got into the rhythm of the whole thing - watching the movies, taking notes, and really thinking about the business lessons of the movies I’d chosen, it actually came pretty easily.  It just took longer than I would have liked.

NS:  Which movies provide your favorite leadership lessons?

KC:  Like any parent, I love all my children.  But I have to admit to some favorite chapters in our book, which translates into favorite movie lessons. My three favorite chapters of Michael’s are about “Babe,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”

“Babe” is a great business lesson because it is about a pig that refuses to be hemmed in by how other people define it...and the farmer/boss that is smart enough to recognize potential in unlikely places.

“When Harry Met Sally” is a fabulous chapter because it addresses the movie’s signature scene - when Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in a NY deli - to talk about customer service.  (It isn’t actually the orgasm that teaches the lesson...it is about the famous line that comes right after it.)

And “”Kwai” is about the difference between thinking tactically and strategically, and the importance of understanding the long-term implications of short-term decisions...something that I wish more people in the financial community had been doing before they helped plunge us into recession.

As for my chapters in the book....well, I love “American Gangster,” for the reasons I explained earlier.  I also think that the chapters on “Rocky” and “Casino Royale” are favorites because they use the development of those two movies to illustrate critical business lessons about the importance of taking risks and being innovative.  And I love “Jaws” as a metaphor for dealing with reality in any business scenario - you never want to find yourself in any sort of competitive situation and realize that you’re going to need a bigger boat.

And, of course, there’s “The Godfather” - which is like a master class in business and career management.

NS:  How can business folks creatively use examples from movies to communicate and motivate?

KC:  Let’s just take a couple of the movies mentioned above.

If you are in a situation where you are preparing for a presentation, or pulling together a strategy to deal with a competitive threat, you might at some point feel like your plans and personnel are inadequate to the task, or not performing to their potential.  That’s when you can cite “Jaws” as an example...it is a movie that most people have seen, and if you use the shark as a metaphor, it creates a narrative that may be more compelling and actionable.

 

And, as I said before, “The Bridge On The River Kwai” is the kind of movie that bankers and stockbrokers should have been watching in the years before the near collapse of the economy...maybe it would have made them think about the consequences of their actions.

I think it is a great idea for companies to have the occasional movie night...to get people thinking about narrative and metaphor, and help them to frame their actions within a broader context.  I’m giving a speech next week to a company in the baking business, and I’m recommending that they should all watch “Julie & Julia,” in which one character says, “Everything tastes better with butter!”  A little inspiration is good for the soul.  And even the bottom line.

NS:  What inspires you?

KC:  My wife.  She teaches third grade, which is a real job, unlike what I do.  She also deals with me, which is sometimes like coping with a third grader on a sugar rush.

My kids.  I have three of them, ages 23-15, and they keep me young.

A great movie or a great book.  I walk out of a movie like “Up In The Air,” or finish reading a Michael Connelly novel, and I’m inspired.  It makes me want to be better creatively.

I got inspired the first time I saw “The Big Picture” on Amazon.com, and in the window of my local bookstore.  How could I not be?

One of things that Michael and I share is that we also get inspired every time we get on an airplane and go someplace we haven’t been before.  I know that traveling isn’t the joy it used to be, but I still love it.  I get to meet interesting people, check out the local businesses, drink the local beer and wine, taste the local food, watch the local baseball team...and then I get to write about it, pretty much every day.  One week it will be the Pacific Northwest (which is my idea of heaven), another week it will be Ohio (which has some of the nation’s best food retailers, as it happens), and this summer it’ll be Australia, where I’ve never been before and where I’m going in June to give a speech.  I’ve been to China and South Africa, Japan and Ireland, Norway and Patagonia, and dozens of other places around the world.

It’s a great gig.

 

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Snark-Free in 2010

Sunday, 10 January 2010 15:07 by kpotvin

 

As someone fatigued by Tiger, gatecrashers, snark and snipes, I was heartened to see Jeffrey Zaslow’s recent article in The Wall Street Journal called, “Before You Gossip, Ask  Yourself This…”  The article suggests asking three simple questions before saying something to or about someone else: "Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?" 

I’ve been called naïve before (and will be again!) but what’s wrong with a little kindness?  Less face-to-face interaction seems to remove the barriers to civilized conversation (wow, I really sound Victorian, don’t I?).  Julia Hood, publishing director of PRWeek, says it better in a recent opinion piece for the magazine:  People can be mean on the Web.”  Julia quotes a recent Euro RSCG Worldwide PR study that found 43% of consumers “feel less inhibited through social media,” while 20% use social media to “lash out about companies or brands.” 

Legitimate feedback is a gift.  When the game, however, becomes about who can deliver the snarkiest jab, the usefulness of the response is questionable.  And this philosophy extends to daily interactions with colleagues, business partners, friends and family.

So this year, I will be asking myself those three questions before I speak (remind me if I don’t!).  Who’s with me?

 

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Custom M&M’s: Innovation Makes Waves

Tuesday, 5 January 2010 09:02 by kpotvin

  

For years, we’ve been known to share Splash M&Ms, aqua and blue candies that say “Make Waves” and “Splash!”   We even created some pink ones this year as a little treat to thank our Making Strides Against Breast Cancer/Splash for the Cure Team.   What’s not to love?  Delicious, affordable, fun!

The My M&M’s® line is now so popular, it has expanded to offer corporate and sports team logos, photos and more.  But as ubiquitous as these personalized candies are, at one time, just having little M's on candy was interesting.  So how did this innovation come to be?  Writer Jessie Scanlon explores this in a recent Businessweek article and provides lessons learned.  One of them is to forget focus groups.  Scanlon writes: “When it comes to new-to-the-world products or services, don't rely on what customers say they think or want.  As Henry Ford is quoted as saying, if he'd asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

It’s a new year and a new decade.  Share your pie-in-the-sky ideas.  Anything is possible.

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50 Ways to Put Innovation on the To-Do List

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 13:39 by kpotvin

Via today’s SmartBrief on Leadership, I saw an inspiring blog post, 50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation,” by Mitch Ditkoff of Idea Champions.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

#4. Always question authority, especially the authority of your own longstanding beliefs.

#8. Help people broaden their perspective by creating diverse teams and rotating employees into new projects -- especially ones they are fascinated by.

#12. Instead of seeing creativity training as a way to pour knowledge into people's heads, see it as a way to grind new glasses for people so they can see the world in a different way.

#30. Stimulate interaction between segments of the company that traditionally don't connect or collaborate with each other.

#41. Don't make innovation the responsibility of a few. Make innovation the responsibility of each and every employee with performance goals for each and every functional area.

But don’t stop here.  Read all 50 tips and be inspired to move innovation to the top of your to-do list in the New Year.

 

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News Splash Interview: Giving Back…While Juggling a Day Job

Wednesday, 2 December 2009 13:26 by kpotvin

 

At a recent Jersey Mike's Subs meeting, I talked with franchisee and area director Dan Burrell about a creative project he was working on that, as both a parent and a writer, just blew me away.  I asked him if he’d share details with us about this project “Teens Talk…Will You Listen?,” an original play produced in Ojai Valley (California) designed to get teens and parents talking.  Here Dan discusses how the project, created with the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, came to be…while juggling his day job. 

News Splash (NS):  Tell us about the Teen Forum Night project. 

Dan:  The Teen Forum Night started with a challenge:  how do we get parents more involved and educated about what the Youth Foundation does for teens in Ojai?  My thought was that we would have to get the real truth out so the parents can really understand what issues face teens, and what is important to them. That would mean putting teens on stage, with material anonymously submitted from other kids, so the truth can be told but no teen would be responsible.  I also thought the parents should have a chance to ask questions they would have a hard time asking their own teens about, again anonymously.  Beginning this process, and moving through it, we never strayed far from my first vision, and in the end, we had an amazing, real, truthful presentation of actual teen concerns, without any teen having to take responsibility. The night accomplished so much, and I know from reactions that some relationships started changing right away.  

NS:  What were some of the questions asked by parents? 

Dan:  Why do you hate me?  Should I read your texts?  How can I support you in appreciating the arts?  Why do you have to smoke pot?  Why don't you confide in me like you do your friends?

NS:  How did you transform so much data into a cohesive and moving story?

Dan: We asked English teachers in the eight local high schools to give their kids an assignment:   “Dear Mom and Dad” letters.  We asked the kids to be honest, and tell their parents about who they are and what problems they are having themselves, with friends, or with their parents.  We collected over 400 responses, some one or two words, some fully written double sided letters, some poems, some free writes. These were molded into responses.  Remember two or three teens can think differently and answer questions differently, so there could sometimes be 4 to 5 different answers to the same question.

NS: What did you learn from this project?

Dan: I learned how amazing teens really are, that they can go as deep as adults. I learned that we, as adults, have a lot to learn from teens. I learned that teens understand us better than we understand them. I learned that every adult has been a teen, yet every teen has yet to be an adult, so why do we expect so much from them? I learned that teens want to be treated as individuals, and yelling and screaming and always trying to be right does nothing for your relationship with your teens.  I also learned that teens will come and contribute, and that bringing Jersey Mike's Subs to every meeting is perfect for attracting teens to be on time.  

NS:  How did you fit this creative project into your daily routine? 

Dan:  This project became my daily routine. Actually, because this was a 6 week project from start to finish, it made it easier that it came about so quickly.  It was worth the long days, and nights, and I received 20x more than I gave out. 

NS:  What inspires you?

Dan:  What inspires me?  Any opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life.  I love to see people laugh.  I love to see people treat each other with respect.  I love happy endings. That inspires me.

[Full Disclosure:  Jersey Mike’s is a client.]

 

 

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Giving Thanks…For All of You

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 08:24 by kpotvin

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post since this summer when Splash Communications celebrated its fifth year in business.  It is with great gratitude that I say, “Thank You.”  We couldn’t have done it without you and I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much we appreciate your support as we made a splash in the marketing world.

·         To our wonderful clients, thank you for trusting us with your brands and making us seamless extensions of your teams.

·         To our Splash specialists, especially Christine, Holly, Kirsten and Esther (our first Splash intern!), thank you for sharing my passion for creativity, flawless execution and results.

·         To all our partners over the year who have brought their expertise to us through video, photography, web design, nutrition knowledge and so much more -- we love how you help us deliver an extraordinary experience.

·         To all of you who have been cheerleaders since the very beginning and who have generously completed our random surveys, provided informal consumer feedback, referred talented business partners and, most of all, kept us laughing -- thank you!

·         And a special thank you to my husband, Glen, and our two sons, along with our extended family, for, well, everything!

Wishing you and your families a rejuvenating and fun-filled Thanksgiving holiday. 

-- Kyle

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Changing Behavior with A Little Fun

Monday, 2 November 2009 14:23 by kpotvin

 

Can adding an element of fun, change behavior?  For commuters in Stockholm, it did.  To encourage more people to take the stairs than the escalator, Volkswagen Sweden anonymously transformed subway stairs there into a giant piano keyboard.  As commuters climbed up and down, they were delighted by the sounds of actual musical notes (watch the video).   Stair traffic rose 66%.  Later, Volkswagen revealed they were behind the experiment and a campaign called the Fun Theory.  According to BusinessWeek (11/2/09), the “campaign will next feature Web ads that ‘link the projects to our environmentally friendly cars,’ says Marcus Thomasfolk, VW Sweden’s head of communications.”  How can you inject fun to engage consumers with your brand?

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Happy Employees - Part II

Friday, 9 October 2009 14:10 by kpotvin

 

This is an addendum to an earlier blog post I wrote about Texas Roadhouse and the correlation between happy employees and the bottom line.  I wasn’t the only one noticing the restaurant chain’s employee satisfaction efforts.  Last week, I was in New York City and had a lovely visit with Elissa Elan, east coast editor, Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN).  We talked about NRN’s front page story by Lisa Jennings, which provides terrific background on how Texas Roadhouse is refusing “to cut back on their programs to keep employees engaged and motivated.”  Examples?  An annual employee competition awards $20,000 to the best meat cutter and $500 per month is given to managing partners as “fun money” to host monthly barbecues or take teams to ballgames.  And, at a time when many companies are cutting back on incentive meetings afraid they may be seen as excessive, Texas Roadhouse still goes all out.  The company even inflated a 25-foot armadillo on the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco at their annual meeting.  “We wanted to tell everyone that we’re rewarding our folks and we’re proud of it,” said Travis Doster, a company spokesman.  Check out the article for other examples and best practices. 

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