11 Ways to Think Better

It seems to me that over the past few years, many of us have veered far away from sound thinking.  Not just strategic thinking – simple common sense thinking too – and just about all other kinds of thinking in between.

I’ve always been one to strive for better ways to use my noodle and to put it to good use. Certainly, I’ve had my share of blunders, but when I carefully analyze them, I realize that I didn’t take time to think to make a sound decision, gather enough intelligence, come up with enough good ideas etc., and ACT!

I owe a great deal of my street smarts to my brothers and parents – especially my father. And, I owe a lot of my business savvy to several generous mentors over the years. Plus, I’ve gained a great deal of inspiration and insight into better thinking by reading a mini library of books.

I’ve spent my entire professional life in Marketing, and a few authors and books that have helped me in the marketing thinking field include David Ogilvy’s, Confessions of an Advertising Man; and, A Whack on the Side of the Head, by Roger Von Oech.

However, these books don’t even come close to scratching the surface for me. I read a new marketing related book just about every two weeks and several magazines, e-zines etc.,  Plus, I continuously drink the cool-aid and read and re-read the works of great thinkers like Edison, Godin, Jobs, Kawasaki, Peters, Reis and Trout and more.

A great tool I use is a gift (I paid for the tool, but it’s so valuable to me that I consider it a gift) I received from the innovation masters at IDEO (absolutely love these people).  IDEO’s Method Cards have helped me to discover better design ideas.

Today, with so much information at your fingertips and the pace of new information coming at you fast and furious from so many sources, it is increasingly difficult to process it all and make sound decisions and act upon them.

So what can you do?

For me, I’ve found that John Maxwell’s book, Thinking For A Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work to be very beneficial.

I enjoyed and got some use out of Malcolm Gladwell’s, Blink, whose POV is based more on the merits of intuitive, quick thinking rather than Maxwell’s critical thinking hypothesis – which I prefer – and when I take time to do it magical things happen.

Thinking For A Change’s case is based upon the hypothesis that successful people think differently than unsuccessful people and says that if you change your thinking, you will change your life. Yeah, I’d bet on that.

Here are the 11 thinking skills the book teaches:

1. Big-picture thinking – does your thinking extend beyond you and your world
2. Focused thinking – concentrate to find clarity on your actual problems
3. Creative thinking – think outside the box and find break through thinking
4. Realistic thinking – does your thinking have a solid foundation based in reality
5. Strategic thinking – is your thinking leading to ways for you to reach your potential
6. Possibility thinking – helps you find solutions to difficult problems
7. Reflective thinking – revisit history to gain understanding and learn from it
8. Popular thinking – question popular thinking and see if you’re simply rejecting the limitations of common thinking
9. Shared thinking – connect with others to expand and sharpen your thinking
10. Unselfish thinking – consider others and their needs
11. Bottom-line thinking – be focused on results

Maxwell also provides a lot of good examples of these thinking styles at work and I’m sure the book will help you become a better thinker. This is a great book for breaking down the critical thinking process and encouraging people to start thinking again. Especially during these fast times we live in where we all get a ton of new messages every day and information overload is overwhelming.

Maxwell’s book about critical thinking, whereas Gladwell’s Blink is a book about intuitive thinking. To think better you need to practice both methods.

P.S.: Check out some of Thomas Edison’s thoughts on creativity and hard work too.  Lots of good books on old Tom. I loved At Work with Thomas Edison, by Blaine McCormick. Also, consider adding Edison’s Idea Quota into your daily routine!


Irish Asked to Boycott Denny’s

File this Blog post in your, “What were they thinking” folder!

From very reliable and ticked off sources, I understand that Denny’s restaurants have been airing a disrespectful television commercial degrading the Irish by offering unlimited pancakes or fries in celebration of the ending of the Irish Famine.

Mama Mia!

If this is a joke, it’s not even close to being funny. The Irish Potato famine (An Gorta Mor) which caused the suffering and death of 1.5 million Irish due to forced starvation and related diseases is nothing to celebrate.

It’s a blatant insult to the Irish and they’re mobilizing.

For you Brands involved in Social Media Marketing watch how this unfolds.

I’m sure Denny’s will pull the Ad, and some talking head (whose head and whose mini-me heads should roll) will say, “I take full responsibility…yadda…yadda.”

But, is a simple apology enough? I don’t think so.

Watch the Irish mobilize and give Denny’s their own version of a Grand Slam – the marketing bozos at Denny’s deserve it!

Here’s a protest letter (AOH Denny’s Letter) from the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

First, they offend African Americans (who knows how many other people since) and are made to pay $54 million in Race Bias Suits, and now this asinine insulting ad?

As a marketer (and a restaurant and hospitaly marketer too), I’ve been amazed by the amount of positive coverage (Super Bowl Ad) in the mainstream marketing media about Denny’s Free One Day Breakfast campaigns.

As for me, I prefer a Denny’s tagline in Time Magazine, “Denny’s: Where the Food Is Free and Drunks Can Pee!” because I believe in truth in advertising!

Full disclosure – I’m 50% Irish and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. And, I haven’t been a big fan of Denny’s since the African American incident. I go out of my way to get my eggs over medium at a local independent Mom and Pop joints and will continue to do so.  I suggest you join me.

FYI – I called the following Denny’s Customer Service number (1.800.733.6697) to demand that they pull this ad off the air, and they said, “I apologize and we’re aware of people’s concerns and we’re working to pull the ad.”

Some answer.

Note: The old days of a customer telling 9-12 people of her negative experience is way over.  With Social Media, it could be thousands. Brands need to raise their game, because if/when you pull a stupid act like Denny’s, you’re going to get blasted!


Banned for Bad Tipping

When I caught this headline, “Banned for Bad Tipping” on CNN.com today, I just had to check it out since we do so much work for restaurants and the hospitality industry.

View the story here:

I’m not sure who is right here, but my gut says the customer.

Even if the owner is correct when he says that his customer is not a good tipper, she still paid her bill for the basic food and service she received.

Now, I consider myself a pretty good tipper, but more and more I’ve been working to get back to tipping based on the quality of service I receive. There are far too many people and businesses in my life (and I’m sure yours too) where they feel entitled to a reward for doing basic or even sub par work.

It’s got to stop.

I’m not sure where or when this entitlement gig got started, but my guess is that it started sometime about 35 years ago in kids sports – especially baseball – where “Tee-ballers” started to hit baseballs off of tees (instead of having the ball pitched to them) and everyone started to get trophies regardless of where their team finished.

Oh yeah, I’m blaming it all on Tee-ball!

In the hospitality business, you’re supposed to be “hospitable” it’s the basic greens fee part of the gig. Tipping is supposed to be based on what someone does over and above the call of duty.

I mean my hot food should be hot and my cold food should be cold. Servers are supposed to deliver my food to me in a reasonable time with no foreign objects in, on or around it right? I’m supposed to tip you for that? C’mon people.

I checked out Magellan’s Worldwide Tipping Guide to see where we American’s rank and right there, I  confirmed my suspicion that we American’s are one crazy bunch of people. We tip more than just about every country in the world, and I’ll bet you agree that for the most part your customer satisfaction level with the majority of business and people is average to below average!

The interesting thing about my argument is that the majority of customer satisfaction scores in industries have statistically improved (see American Customer Satisfaction Index here).

Yeah, but my gut and head says that what people say and what people actually do and feel aren’t always coordinated. I believe most people have internalized their customer satisfaction expectations (read – lowered their bar) because for the most part, they’ve been let down so many times that they simply learn to accept and deal with sub par performance.

Here are a few of “Marketing Tips” for you today to help your Brand excel.

  1. Get away from assumptions and entitlements – cast them aside
  2. List your Brand’s basic greens fees of performance
  3. From that list, work up a few cool ideas to “surprise, delight and impress (read – WOW)” your customers> Make sure these ideas are ones that your core customer base considers valuable and are not offered by your competitors.
  4. Implement these new cool ideas.

Now – watch your tip jar explode!

P.S.: Years ago in a performance review session, one of my team members thought she should get a bonus (read tip) because, “I always come to work on time.” She was wrong to assume, but I was more wrong because I wasn’t clear in my expectations of performance training.  I never made that mistake again.  Big lesson.


Pittsburgh’s New Innovative Giant Eagle

Twenty years or so ago, I had several conversations with marketing colleagues about how supermarket chains lacked creativity. The general experience was underwhelming and one that most people dreaded.

During those years, I would take Cadillac, Oldsmobile and McDonald’s clients into Wegman’s supermarkets throughout western, New York to show them how great they were and to learn merchandising, customer service and overall retailing lessons they could take back to their car dealerships and restaurants.

They were amazed that you entered the store through the produce department instead of the typical trip past the cash registers as was the general industry practice way back then. Their merchandising strategies had no peer.

Wegman’s then and now, is one of the most innovative and well-run supermarket chains in America. It’s no surprise to me that they’re ranked #3 on FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For.” They are consistently ranked as one of the top supermarket chains in the country and have received a ton of well deserved awards.

Stew Leonard’s – the world’s largest dairy store – was a hot case study of discussion too.

And way back then, I could not understand why the innovation I saw across the country was not occurring in my own backyard.

About 10 years ago, I got some some luncheon meat from the deli at my hometown Giant Eagle supermarket and was ecstatic to receive it in a plastic bag instead of paper! I mentioned my discovery to a colleague of mine whose spouse worked for the company and told me that the store received the bags as part of some deal and they were simply testing to get some use out of them. Amazing – it was a huge boost to my satisfaction.  This little simple new touch was so well received that it quickly spread throughout their stores and became a permanent part of their system.

Well, something must be a bit different in the water these days in Pittsburgh’s three rivers (especially the Allegheny River) because Giant Eagle has been on a tear of remarkably innovative new product launches such as its:

And now, Giant Eagle is testing in four concept stores it’s latest innovation for HBW (health/beauty/wellness) which could become a huge profit center by linking its supermarket pharmacies with its HBW departments. What a stroke of innovative genius.

I’m happy the new Giant Eagle has finally landed in “innovation land.” Their story should demonstrate to older established brands that it’s never too late to innovate.

To profitably increase your market share you need to establish an innovation plan and follow it. Don’t wait for competitors to come into your neighborhood to force you to do it. Self inflicted innovation is the preferred route to take.

P.S.: Not all innovations have to be big and expensive – think deli meat plastic bags.


Social Media Mistakes by Tiger and Toyota

Typically, in times of crisis, most brands fail in their communications before the crisis explodes not during or after it happens. Then, long after the explosive facts are out, whatever a brand does to quell the unfortunate act never seems to be quite enough.

And today, in this ever changing and rapidly growing Social Media Marketing environment we all live in you can get yourself into a whole bunch of trouble.

Two cases in point…Tiger Woods and Toyota.

On Tiger Woods’ Web site, you’d think nothing’s wrong with his brand.

You can read all about Brand Tiger’s accomplishments and of course buy a ton of stuff. On Facebook, you can also buy Tiger’s Stuff, but 1.3 million fans can’t communicate via Facebook anymore. Well they can (sort of) to posts back in November, but Tiger has not responded. Plus all I can see are positive notes of support.  Is Brand Tiger jsut keeping the good and editing out the bad?

Tiger’s been “off the Facebook air” since November 6, 2009. In fact, when you click through to Facebook at times there are no comments since. Tiger is supposedly hiding out in a sex rehab bunker..I mean clinic…so why no more news? An apology? A simple update?

Now Toyota is underway with its largest recall ever and has looked foolish and disorganized in its scrambled up mess of communications. Sure they’ve been “backpeddling” (no pun inteneded) off and online and its certainly not easy while battling legal, economic and staff issues, but tough, they’re a big boy company.

But, you’d think Toyota like Tiger would know better.

Toyota only has about 77,000 Facebook fans and you’d think they’d have a ton more than Ford (79,000), Chevrolet (65,000) and Subaru (31,000 – would have thought they’d have a lot more) and other but they don’t. Heck, Harley-Davidson Motor Company has an amazing 467,000 Facebook fans.

Both Brand Tiger and Brand Toyota Web sites all talk about how great their brands are with no or little regard to their misgivings and what they’re doing to fix things.

Why was it so hard for both brands to fess up early and often – not to mention…don’t do bad things in the first place!

So much about crisis management is learned by all of us at a young age – well, hopefully its taught to us by good, caring parents – such as:

  • Be good
  • Don’t lie
  • If you do something bad (we all do), own up to it immediately in person, apologize and say you’re sorry and promise to make things (and do them) better and promise to not repeat your behavior

When you were a kid, wasn’t your punishment greater and more harsh when you put off owing up to it?

In these ever changing times of social media marketing, it’s more important than ever to have a crisis management plan, because something bad will happen to your Brand – it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.

Here are a few crisis management rules to follow:

  1. You never make friends in crisis, so build your friendship databases and trust bank deposits NOW
  2. Create and continue to work on extensive, ongoing social media outreach efforts
  3. If/when something happens bad to Brand You (Company), come clean, be visible and approachable and meet things head-on.
  4. Tough times never last, but tough people do. To that point, when times get tough you need to reach out to you loyal fans, customers, employees, vendors etc., but you need to create that fan base and it doesn’t happen overnight
  5. The best PR campaign and highest paid strategists can’t prevent all of the mudslinging and brand damage – preventive maintenance is key

Take a lesson from David Letterman’s confession here. Brilliant!

As a wise man once said to me, “That fish wouldn’t be on the wall, if it didn’t open it’s mouth!”


Loving Pepsi’s Refresh Project

Looking forward to great game and loving Pepsi’s decision to pass on Super Bowl ads (waste) and lead with its “Refresh Everything” online marketing project.

Two things I’m sure of about the Super Bowl.

One – someone named Peyton/Payton – will win!

Two – Pepsi’s campaign will be successful for them and similar types of brand initiatives that focus their marketing with a meaning (great book here – Marketing with Meaning) will create more long term brand success than over-priced, short-lived and joke-filled ads.

Pepsi’s “Refresh Everything” offers them a lot of extra ‘arms and legs’ such as adding folks to their database, promoting goodwill inside and outside of their company, community connections, generating great PR, making the US a better place etc.,

Check out the success of PR machine already!

Any brand – big and small – can learn a great deal from Pepsi’s Refresh!


BrandMill Clients Win Big at Restaurant Gala

‘m proud to announce that two BrandMill clients, John Graf of the Priory Hospitality Group and Kevin Joyce of The Carlton Restaurant both won two of the three most distinguished awards from the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association.

John won the Wilmer S. Lapp Keystone Award and Kevin won Restaurateur of the Year!

Our Winter White Wedding Campaign for the Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory lifted sales an amazing 433% and our new Web site, Blog and email marketing campaigns for The Carlton have driven Web site views nearly 1000% – yes, not a typo – that’s driving one thousand percent Web site page views!

All of us at BrandMill are proud to be partners with these two super brands and gentlemen.

Photo: L-R – Kevin Joyce, Stephen Wayhart, John Graf