According to Mediaweek, viewers aged 18-49 for network syndicated spots, viewership has gone DOWN by an average of 12% and some as much as 21% over last year. That equates to about 3 million viewers on average. But Media Agencies are still trying to use scare tactics on advertisers, boasting the fact that ad spots that are not locked in already will cost 30-40% more over last year.
Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but I’m hoping sustainability isn’t just a trend. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a paradigm shift toward more sustainable business practices in general. Not just with respect to the use of renewable vs. non-renewable resources for manufacturing. But also with respect to the kinds of consumer goods we innovate, and how we communicate about products and services to people. I long to see sustainability as a price of entry for doing business, and yes marketing. Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually kept, for example, 80% of the mail you get instead of throwing it straight in the trash?
We spend billions of dollars on communications that are short-lived and sadly waste paper, vinyl, and other things. We know that mass advertising isn’t having the impact it used to, and that we need to look to other venues like word of mouth. But even then we’re still thinking short term; creating buzz, not lasting energy and enduring excitement.
You’ll think I’m crazy. But I’m hoping that oil prices stay high. That the “crisis” mainstream advertisers are in doesn’t subside. That consumers continue to grow their demand for pesticide-free, natural, organic. Even that food prices rise. It’s instabilities like these that drive REAL change. Why? Because they create the motivation for finding a better way to do things. They force us to innovate and not relax back into the status quo.
Marketing, like manufacturing, stands at the doorstep of a great opportunity. An opportunity to revolutionize how we think about growth, measure return, and exist in relation to the communities that support us. Will we invest in developing better, smarter, more efficient ways to excite people about our products? Or will we continue to play the numbers game and bask in a false sense of security we feel when we’re promised a reach of thousands and millions of people, even when our strategic objectives have moved beyond raising awareness.
It will take courage to look beyond conventional ROI. It will take dedication and creativity to see new ways to measure return. It will also take companies demanding sustainability from their marketing departments and partners. And the recognition that it emerges from passion and excitement, not impressions.
If you think that the gas prices comment is harsh, well... yeah. It is. But when we're too set in our ways to make necessary changes on our own, the universe has a funny way of using the foot-in-ass technique to get us to move. It may not be pleasant, but that's just how it is. Deal with it.
The same is true about business. Way too many companies are still in denial mode: "We've been doing it this way for 50 years and it's worked fine!" (Yet their business is going down the drain and they can't figure out why.) Wake up and smell what's cooking. Numbers don't lie. Customers don't lie. Your bottom-line and market share don't lie. Winners win and losers lose: What is true of athletes, nations, products and even species is also true of marketing campaigns and businesses.
Reality is often too harsh to bear. True leaders accept reality and deal with it. Far too many business executives, however, are not leaders. For them, competition, price pressures and innovation are the cosmic kicks to the rump that force them to cast their "business as usual" mentalities aside and get back in the game, sometimes much too late, when at all
Leaders and the companies they head will survive. Posers will not. I say let natural selection, market forces and user/customer communities sort them out.
Great post, Justine.
You can tell a lot about leadership by studying how leaders live their lives outside their work. Whether President of the United States or Starbucks or L&G Business Solutions, we can take the measure of a boss not only by evaluating their principles and how they lead at work, but perhaps more so by how they behave when they are away from the office.Let's take a look at one such leader: Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO, Starbucks.
Schultz reinvented Starbucks after he purchased the company from its original owners in 1987. Initially, he joined Starbucks in 1982, which was then a small Seattle retailer with five stores. He bought Starbucks in 1987, bringing a new vision that was to be built upon a solid foundation of Guiding Principles, which became the following.
The following six guiding principles will help us measure the appropriateness of our decisions:
1. Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.2. Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.3. Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.4. Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.5. Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.6. Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.
Ultimately, these Principles alongside passionate leaders and employees grew the business beyond anyone's imagination. By 1997, Starbucks boasted 1,300 stores, 25,000 employees, and an international brand that rivaled all others. This month, Starbucks Market Capitalization stands at a lofty $14.5 billion.However, Starbucks faces several serious challenges, as its brand image seems in decline. For all practical intents and purposes, Schultz left the day-to-day operations at Starbucks to others nearly a decade ago.Schultz recently, as Michael Dell did last year, returned and jammed both his thumbs into the dikes to stem the obvious leaks that have occurred, leading to a decline in the Third Place Experience and a perceived reduction in product quality. One wonders if this is the same Howard Schultz, however, that as a young entrepreneur surprised everyone by his success.
The young Schultz refused to take a salary for several years after buying the company. He insisted on ethical behavior from all. He surrounded himself with smart people. He motivated and inspired everyone he touched. His passion was contagious. And he could be trusted and relied upon in every conceivable way.
The opportunity for brands to begin building trust and engaging with their consumers through social media and blogs etc is compelling. Not only can social media begin building a network of trust between the brand and its consumers, but the continued (micro) exposure will bring closer identification between the two. It is also important to remember that your employees are also consumers -- and they have expectations of your brand and are well known to be the best source of brand ambassadors/evangelists.
With all this in mind, is there a need for a "chief blogger"?
On-time arrivals dropped for the fifth straight year, with more than one-quarter
of all flights late, according to the survey. The rates of passengers bumped
from overbooked flights and bags lost, stolen or damaged also jumped in
Six airlines — Frontier, Northwest, SkyWest, Southwest, United and US
Airways — showed declines in every area in the survey, although Southwest still
had the best on-time arrival mark at 80.1 percent. The Dallas-based carrier also
had the lowest rate of consumer complaints, 0.26 per 100,000 passengers.
Still, the airline has not been immune from problems. It is fighting a
record $10.2 million fine from the Federal Aviation Administration for
continuing to fly dozens of Boeing 737s that hadn't been inspected for cracks in
American, Delta and United airlines recently canceled flights to
perform unscheduled inspections of certain aircraft, and US Airways found
problems on some Boeing 757s after a wing part on one of its planes fell off
during a flight.
The Airline Quality Rating study, compiled annually since 1991, is based on
Transportation Department statistics for airlines that carry at least 1 percent
of the passengers who flew domestically last year. The research is sponsored by
the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and by Wichita
State University. The other airlines in the survey were AirTran, Alaska,
American Eagle, Atlantic Southeast, Continental, Jet Blue and Mesa.
Among the study's conclusions:
- More than one-third of Atlantic Southeast Airlines flights were late, the worst on-time performance in 2007.
- The airlines also bumped passengers more often, at a rate of 4.5 per 10,000 passengers. JetBlue and AirTran were far ahead of their competitors in avoiding bumping passengers from flights, at 0.02 and 0.15 per 10,000 passengers, respectively.
- AirTran had the best baggage handling rate, at 4.06 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. American Eagle ranked last in baggage handling with 13.55 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.
Growing up in France in the 70's and 80's, I learned at a pretty early age to discern which European (and non-European) countries had the highest standards of living by experiencing their travel infrastructure - including airlines.
If we are to be a shining beacon to the world, we really can't afford to allow the quality of our air travel to sink this low. We already don't have much of a rail system, so it isn't like we can fall back on Plan B. There are no bullet trains that can get us from Houston to Chicago, from DC to Miami, or from Atlanta to San Francisco.
Some airlines are managing to thrive in this dreadful state of disrepair, as they should. Shame on the airlines that can't adjust to rising costs and aging aircraft. Yeah, sure, prices may need to go up a bit, but you can offset a 5-10% uplift in ticket prices by giving passengers something in return (and no, I don't mean sky miles). It's like everything else. When the conversation drifts to price, then you haven't done a good job of selling value.
If you want to change the conversation and talk about something other than price, then you'd better have something great to talk about. How about this:
1. First, make sure you have the most impressive safety record in the industry, and TALK ABOUT IT. (If US Air's wings lose parts during flight, you want to be on the total opposite end of that spectrum.)
2. Hire professional looking/acting staff. You're in the airline industry, for crying outloud. Bring a little bit of glamour back to your brand experience and make your company's name synonymous with that hint of luxury. I want to be greeted with smiles at the check-in, at the gate, and onboard the plane. I want to be treated like a valued guest, and not like another ass-in-seat hassle. I don't want to be berrated by a power-tripping ogre struggling to deal with another 2-3 lousy years left until retirement. Give me smiles and professional looking people. You know, with uniforms that a) fit properly and b) get pressed every once in a while. Give me enthusiasm and manners. If hotels and most companies in the US can do it, surely airlines can as well.
3. In-flight service: Look it up. Hint: Charging $7-$10 for a POS vending machine sandwich is just dumb and beyond gauche. #1: You're ripping off your own customers, and they will remember it. #2: Food of such insipid quality doesn't belong on your flights. (Not unless you stow wooden crates and live poultry in the same hold as your passengers.) Treat your passengers well.
4. Scratch overbooking from your MO.
5. Invest in some toiletry kits. That way, when the baggage handlers at one of your twenty+ airports steal a passenger's Vuitton suitcases, you'll at least give your angry passenger a) Fresh breath, and b) the notion that while the airport may not care about them, you sure as hell do.
6. Buy aircraft with comfortable seats. (Before buying the damn things, get your senior execs to fly from coast to coast in one of them.)
7. Drop routes that don't make sense. Better to be small and great than big and crappy.
8. Be insanely nice to your passengers when they exit the plane.
9. Toys or coloring books for kids. Yes, even in the era of Gameboys, iPods and PSPs, the ubiquitos free branded toy goes a long way.
10. I hate to sound like Papa Seth, but make te experience memorable (in a positive way). Just like The Standard Hotel makes a point to make every detail of the guest experience cool and story-worthy, an airline can (and should) as well. Redesign your uniforms. Redesign your aircraft interior. Redesign the entire experience of booking, checking-in, waiting at the gate, boarding the aircraft, flying, landing and exiting the terminal memorable. (It doesn't need to eat into your profits either. A little bit of forethought doesn't hurt.) In other words, get your heads out of the numbers for a bit and take a more holistic approach to managing your business/airline.
In other words, build some value.
Stop whining, stop complaining about the price of fuel and the pilots' unions and overcrowding at most of our country's airports, and do whatever you have to do to become the best damn airline in the US (and then the world).
If the issue is Wall Street, fire your board, appoint people to it who can put together a rejuvenation plan, and send them to speak to your investors with a kickass proposal they will rally behind. Make them understand that business-as-usual and damage-control won't cut it in the long-term, and that you have a real plan to get back on track. Not just financially, but from a true market leadership standpoint.
Easier said than done? Sure. Of course. But that's no reason not to try.
Just for sport, let's have a show of hands: How many airlines are doing this right now?
1? 2? 3, maybe? Yeah. That's what I thought.