Archive for May, 2010

VCU Brandcenter Graduation Speech

On May 22, I had the honor of addressing the VCU Brandcenter Class of 2010 in Richmond, Virginia. Following are my remarks.

Professor Boyko, distinguished members of the faculty, parents, guests, friends, and graduates of the VCU Brandcenter Class of 2010. Good afternoon. I am honored to be with you today at your commencement.

The first thought I want to share with you is congratulations to each one of you; you have been through one of the most innovative programs in higher education. It’s amazing — a program only about fifteen years old, and it has already had a significant impact on our communications industry, and on higher education. In preparing my remarks to share with you, I enjoyed looking through your work, and from what I see, you are ready to go out into our industry and make a big difference.

What I love most about your school is its mission: To Radically Transform The Business Of Advertising And Branding By Training The Next Generation Of Leaders To Make Business Smarter, Less Conventional, And More Responsible. Smarter, less conventional, responsible — this is the right mission for you and frankly for all of business. I cannot remember who my commencement speaker was when I graduated from Franklin & Marshall and Penn State. That’s sad! I would like you to remember my remarks to you — one year from now, ten years from now. So, I’m going to make it easy. I’m going to give you three numbers to keep in your mind when you think of this speech: one trillion, one, and ninety-three.

One trillion. Do you know what that represents? One trillion dollars. This is the estimate of the size of the market you are entering. One trillion dollars a year are spent on marketing and advertising. Imagine that. And now imagine the incredible power of this, if it is directed and spent the right way. Imagine if all of that money was spent on brands who believed in and acted on your school’s mission.

I’m going to the Cannes International Advertising Festival this year to urge the industry to spend this money in a different way. I will be hosting a dialogue on June 25 called “The Burning Question.” You can follow it on line, and the buzz has already begun. I am trying to bring your school’s mission to life.

As you now leave VCU, and you enter jobs, or look for that perfect job, or begin your own venture, I’d like you to help spend that one trillion dollars a different way — a way that is aligned with your school’s mission.

The number one. One is for each one of you individuals. You came into the school two years ago with a unique story. The story continued to develop and unfold over the past two years. You learned about advertising. You learned about collaboration. You learned more about social media. You learned about leadership. You learned about impact. You might have fallen in love; I did in my graduate program.

Well, I’d like to ask each one of you, on this your graduation day, to synthesize all this learning and to think about how you will help change brands and our industry for the better. Make a commitment to yourself today to not forget your school’s mission and to stay committed to it. Movements and revolutions begin with one person, and each one of you can be a very positive force in shaping our industry for the better.

This is very important — that each one of you acts on this. Our industry is not in good shape. The Pew Research Center has data that shows that people think business leaders are at the very low end of the scale in adding value to society. We are behind lawyers. And, I have nothing against lawyers; my father was a lawyer, and I have a brother who is a lawyer — and one who is a federal judge. Think about what has happened in the business climate since you entered the Brandcenter: AIG, Lehman Brothers, Toyota, Goldman Sachs, BP.

This leads me to my final number: ninety-three. This is perhaps an obvious one, as there are ninety-three of you in this room graduating. Now, I have already talked about the impact of each one of you making a commitment to change the industry in some way for the better. Now imagine the power in this room if all ninety-three of you did that. Imagine if here in this room, there are ninety-three Lee Clows. Or ninety-three Oprah Winfreys. Ninety-three Rick Boykos. Ninety-three Bob Greenbergs. Ninety-three Carol Williamses. Ninety-three Mike Hugheses. Ninety-three Shelly Lazaruses. You get the idea. The power is in the movement and the power is in the numbers.

So, my message to you is to keep these numbers in your head. Resolve to put those one trillion dollars to better use. Resolve to make this industry better because you as an individual make a commitment that you act upon. And, stay connected with your ninety-three classmates about your journey, and inspire them to make a difference. With ninety-three of you, you certainly have the critical mass to do that.

To your great faculty in this room, they will continue to support you. They’ve already helped you make a difference. You owe them a big thanks, and I guarantee they will support you as you move out of here to make a larger difference to fulfill your school’s mission.

To your loved ones in the room, your friends and family, be proud of your graduates. They are entering a field of great possibilities for good. I have seen it over and over  in my career. I spent 25 years at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, and I saw what could happen if a team got electrified behind a mission, through a brand, to make a positive difference. It results in great business, great impact, and an organization you can be proud to be a part of.

Thank you again for this opportunity. Enjoy this day. And, remember — one trillion, one, ninety-three.

Thanks again.

Categories: Business, Life Philosophy, Marketing, Speaking Events

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The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Chief Marketing Officers (Habit #9)

I am returning to my blog series on The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Chief Marketing Officers.  I have already covered the first eight habits, over the past few months.  Read Habit #8 here. On to Habit #9: Think and Act Like a Winner — Your Customers Notice.

Several years ago, when I was serving as P&G’s Global Marketing Officer, I took note of an obscure small study on a brand in a European country.  The study essentially revealed that the consumers of that brand sensed that the people behind the brand were not inspired, not happy, not engaged.  And the brand was sick, boring, and declining in market share.

Wow.  I had never explicitly thought of looking at the root cause of a brand’s malaise as the engagement of the team behind the brand.  I would instead look at the product data — are we superior or not on the benefits that matter?  Is our distribution a competitive advantage?  Are we in stock at key times with key retailers?  Is our brand equity stronger than our competitors? Is our awareness at target levels?  Are our trial levels above competitors?

These are all fine and important questions.  But they are merely getting at symptoms of a potentially larger issue, the motivation and inspiration of the team behind the brand, or business.  Because when a team is not engaged, consumers sense this, and they do not want to part with their precious money to buy something that the “creators” of the brand do not believe in.

I had always believed that happy, motivated people drive better results.  And there is a boatload of research on that.  What I had not connected before this obscure study was that consumers can sense this through the packaging, advertising, in-store presence, partnerships, and distribution.  And consumers want to buy into a winner, they want to part of a team that is trying to make a difference through their brand.

As I like to say — and those who know me have heard me say this a million times — a brand or business is nothing more than the collected intent and behavior of the people behind the brand.  So be sure your team is thinking and acting like a winner — and put attention there first.

Read Next: Habit #10

Categories: Business, CMO Habits, Marketing, Speaking Events

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A Cosmic Birthday

I am 55 today.  I was born on 5/5/55.

Must be something significant here astrologically.  If anyone has any deep insights I am all ears!

While I did not do any astrological research, I did look for clues from my birth year on why I am wired the way I am.  I found a few:

Brands and Businesses That Serve a Higher Ideal:  Disneyland opened in 1955.  Disney at its best is very ideals driven.  This was their first big move into entertainment services.  Steve Jobs was born in 1955, as was Bill Gates.  Their impact through business and other ventures/passions has been, and continues to be, an inspiration for me.  The first McDonald’s opened … while you can debate its impact on American diets, the brand has always tried very hard to be a positive force.  Witness the Ronald McDonald initiative.  Witness the healthier menu choices they offer.

Inspirational Leaders:   I have always tried to learn about people and leaders, who make a positive impact in their field, or simply through how they live their life.  1955 was the year Norman Vincent Peale wrote “The Power of Positive Thinking.”  It was the year Rosa Parks was arrested.  Albert Einstein died that year, as did James Dean.  Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the worldwide web, was born about a month after me.

Love for Family:  It was the year Ed Sullivan debuted.  My brothers and sisters and I spent many Sunday nights together huddled around the TV watching the Beatles and other iconic people parade into our lives.  It was also the year that the stage version of Peter Pan (love that story) starring Mary Martin, first aired on NBC.

Love for Sports:  Tennis is my favorite, and Tony Trabert from Cincinnati, where I have spent a large part of my life, won three of four Grand Slam events in tennis in 1955.

This was also the year the first company ever broke a billion dollars in profit … and it was General Motors.  Maybe this was an early lesson that profits are evanescent if not driven by a life-improving brand ideal, which GM has struggled with for decades.

I wish all of you a wonderful day from Mr. 5/5/55!

Categories: Business, Life Philosophy

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