Skip to content

Are you gonna believe me or your lying eyes?

February 12, 2010

It’s not about talking, it’s about communicating.  In Japan, I quickly learned the difference between “hi!”, “I hear” and the concept of listening: same in Washington, DC. Let’s take a small aspect of healthcare as an example because if this is ever resurrected (and it should be in some form – we’re #37 in the world in healthcare results and #1 in spending). Remember when the President said electronic medical records would be a huge cost savings and everyone barely said “Hi!”?  Ho Hum, too abstract to us regular folk.

The mistake was saying the reason and not branding it and then selling it like a product.  One of our recent market research panels mentioned, in passing, that to every one of them, all the glitz and privacy concerns of electronic medical records were eclipsed by a basic question, “why is this good for me and my family?”  Really, really smart people talk about concepts and ideas, while marketers and everyday smart people hear personal benefits. Until we reframe the debate at a very personal hearing level, Washington will continue to do its thing and the population will continue to reward them with 22% approval ratings.  Same for a jobs bill.  Talk about the national jobs agenda is nice, but how someone will pay their mortgage this month is far more gripping and more prone to, as marketers say, “a call to action”.  With a “call to action”, we can get things through Washington’s gridlock. One last aspect – the call to action has to reinforce your brand. So in healthcare reform terms, the call to action can be “keep your healthcare at a price you can afford”, in the private sector it can be “visit your dealer now for a great deal on this really fast fun car”. Not “reform healthcare to reduce it’s percentage in the economy from 17% to 12%”, or “visit your dealer when you get a chance and get a look at those cup holders”.

For those of us in the non-talk fueled economy, we have to think of every aspect of our companies as the sum of a million smaller brands, each needing a call for action.  Here’s a quick test.  Take any function in your company, such as Finance or IT or Supply Chain and ask the following question, “if this department was a single person, how would you describe them”.  If the answer is a nebulous “smart, dedicated, accurate and cost effective”, that department has no brand and therefore, it will be near impossible to develop a resounding “call to action” on the part of that department’s employees and external stakeholders.  This is not easy – CPG firms are brilliant at creating brands linked to calls for action to drive sales and it took them a bunch of brain cycles and money.  Luckily, internal branding has no cost attached to it, other than meeting time cost allocations.

One of the great disparities in perception between executives and their customers is the misalignment on their brand.  Executives see the logo, packaging and advertising as all parts of a macro brand.  Customers see each and every touch point to that company as a mini-brand.  You can talk all you want about how good your product is, package it right and advertize it brilliantly, but if customer support is provided by someone who puts you on hold and then transfers you to someone else where you have to repeat your entire story customer number and all, your brand is tarnished.  It’s called a ‘moment of truth’.  If we create internal mini-brands tied to our macro brand, everything will align and our employees and customers will be living in our branding.  Apple is great at this.  We don’t buy devices, since my Sansa MP3 player was fine for its time and still works.  I’ve been an iPod and iPhone user since 2004 because the entire Apple ecosystem from devices, to iTunes, to Apps, to the Apple store reinforced my having been surrounded and comforted by their brand.  What’s the benefit to us? Last weekend I went to my local mall for a ‘quick’ errand (ha!) and the only retailer with any decent traffic was the Apple store.

In this tough non-recovery recovery, we have to use every dollar effectively and creating mini-brands and calls to action at the departmental level is a lot more personally gripping and results oriented than another “Hi!” evoking  mission statement.

Rich Eichen is a Managing Principal of Return on Efficiency, LLC, who’s website is and is one of their senior turnaround leaders/CROs, Program and Interim Executives with over 25 years experience reshaping companies, Operations and key initiatives. He can be reached at

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: