Reflections on Business, Leadership, and Branding: Shelly Lazarus ’70

February 22, 2016

Much has changed in the world of advertising from the picture painted by Mad Men. Shelly Lazarus ’70, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather, was one of the women helping pioneer these changes. Making the journey from ‘the only woman in the room’ to CEO and Chairman of Ogilvy gives Lazarus a lot to reflect on in the world of business, branding, and leadership.

“Being the only woman in the room in an industry where most of what was being sold at the time was to women was remarkably powerful,” Lazarus notes. This was a dual power, driving value both in the workplace and for the client by providing more accurate perceptions about a target audience at a time when decision-makers didn’t have the breadth of data in front of them that exists today.

At the time that Lazarus entered the advertising world, typing was in many ways the only skill that was expected of women. Having been inspired by the women’s movement of the time, this expectation was disheartening to her. “I must have looked so crestfallen at some interview, when some recruiter was telling me this, that she said, ‘You know, I bet if you got an MBA, they couldn’t make you type.’ Frankly, I didn’t even know what an MBA was. But I found out.” After enrolling at Columbia Business School in 1968, as one of the very few women in the School at the time, she took great pleasure in her marketing classes, and that kicked off her future career.

A lack of women in the business side of the ad world also impacted Lazarus’s leadership style, as she recalls, “I really didn’t have any [women] role models… that turned into something wonderful for me, actually, because I just was myself from the beginning.” She says this focus on authenticity has always been crucial to being a strong leader, and it will be increasingly important as the Internet and social media further drive people to expect and demand transparency from their leaders and corporations.

Authenticity, Lazarus remarks, is also key to becoming a leading brand. “If people ask me what’s important when you think about branding,” Lazarus told AdAge, “it’s understand your essence, figure out who you are, and then consistency — maniacal consistency — is really what makes for strong brands.” Sadly, despite growing attention to exactly this point, companies still don’t always fully value the strength of a brand and its associations. “[I’m] flummoxed when a company buys another company because they believe in the brands, and then, within the space of six months, they fire all the people who have been there forever.”

Oglivy & Mather is renowned for building long-term relationships with both its clients and its employees. Lazarus believes developing these types of relationships can help agencies play the role of brand steward at times when changes within a company may drive it to lose focus on the perceptions of its brands.

As for where the future of brand building is heading, during her recent Marketing Hall of Fame speech, Lazarus highlighted a huge contrast from her early years in the ad world, “[Back then] you could run two campaigns per year, and the only choice was which magazines would get to run the campaigns—Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens,or Cosmopolitan … I used to start presentations with, ‘Imagine if you could engage a customer as an individual.’ And now you actually can.” The marketing world is abuzz with the concept of personalization, but most would admit that there is still a long way to go before consumers experience such a relationship with a majority of their favorite brands.

We are delighted to be hosting Shelly Lazarus ’70, at a special panel at the BRITE ’16 Conference honoring Columbia Business School’s Centennial. She will be joined by Lew Frankfort ’69, Chairman Emeritus of Coach; Russell Dubner ’00, CEO of Edelman US; and Nt Etuk ’02, Founder of YourGuru to examine “Is Past Prologue? The History and Future of Brand Building.”

Register now for BRITE and join us on March 7–8, 2016, at Columbia University.

BY MATTHEW QUINT


Can a Company be pro-regulation and pro-commerce? Gregg Renfrew from Beautycounter thinks so

February 19, 2016

It’s the middle of an election year and, according to the Pew Research Center, the country hasn’t been this polarized since the Civil War. In such a climate, it would seem to be an oxymoron for a company to push for both financial growth and tighter regulations. Gregg Renfrew, CEO & Founder of Beautycounter, wouldn’t agree, however, and she is on a quest to “put safe cosmetics into the hands of everyone.”3dfa42f7c2b2ffd9468fd94bec859b22

In 2012, a federal analysis showed that 400 popular lipsticks contained trace amounts of lead. As reported in The Washington Post, “in 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 red lipsticks and found that two-thirds of them contained lead — and that one-third exceeded the FDA’s limit for lead in candy.” Since 1938, when the FDA was given authority to oversee the safety of cosmetics, the agency has enacted almost no regulations on the use of ingredients in cosmetics. In fact, cosmetic labels list known toxins linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption without warning their customers. (The Environmental Working Group has built an extensive database to compare ingredients listed on cosmetic labels with databases on chemical toxicity.)

Before launching Beautycounter, Renfrew had already established herself as a retail leader. Regarded as a serial entrepreneur, she is known for turning concepts into thriving businesses. Prior to founding Beautycounter, she sold her successful bridal registry company, The Wedding List, to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Renfrew also served as CEO for the legendary children’s retail group Best & Co., which she reinvigorated through design, traditional retail, and hundreds of national trunk shows. Renfrew has led new-concept, brand, marketing, merchandising, and operational consulting engagements with Bergdorf Goodman, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, Intermix, Sugar Paper, Lela Rose, and Jessica Alba, among other high-profile corporate and entertainment clients.

beauty-counter1In an interview with the Huffington Post, Renfrew explained the reason behind her company: “I started Beautycounter because I wanted to create a safer and healthier place for my children, family, and ultimately everyone in the world. My decision to start a company was initially rooted in emotion, but being the serial entrepreneur that I am, it translated into an incredible vision for a business that is filling an existing void in the marketplace.”

Because Renfrew knew that Beautycounter had a story to tell, she decided against creating beauty counter displays in department stores. Instead she committed to an ecommerce platform and selling via independent consultants, thus allowing the company’s mission to be shared online and friend to friend. In addition, Beautycounter strategically partnered with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.com and J Crew.

In the fall of 2015, Renfrew joined a group of industry experts on a trip to Capitol Hill. “At Beautycounter, we are leading a movement for better beauty. We are a company who is pro-commerce and pro-regulation. While we have shipped close to two million products, we know it’s only the beginning – there is a lot of work to be done. We are radically transforming the beauty industry by introducing safer, high-performance products into the marketplace,” said Renfrew.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Gregg Renfrew talk about how Beautycounter is aiming to transform the beauty industry. REGISTER NOW.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO


The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age

February 17, 2016

Every business begun before the Internet now faces the same challenge: How to transform to compete in a digital economy?

This is the leadership challenge examined by BRITE founder and Columbia Business School faculty member David Rogers in his newest book, The Digital Transformation Playbook (April 5, 2016; Columbia Business School Publishing). In the book, Rogers argues that “digital transformation” is not about updating your technology but about upgrading your strategic thinking. To grow in the digital age, businesses need to rethink their underlying assumptions in five domains of strategy—customers, competition, data, innovation, and value.

5 Domains of Digital Transformation diagram

Rogers applies his model of customer networks (introduced in his last book, The Network Is Your Customer), to show how brands need to shift from mass markets and broadcast messaging to a dynamic two-way interaction with customers. That means rethinking the marketing funnel, treating customers as the key influencer on your brand, and creating omni-channel experiences to match customers’ lives today.

Competition must also be reimagined, according to Rogers. Traditionally, businesses have thought of competition as a zero-sum game, defined by industry, where competitors look just like them. In the digital age, we are often faced with “frenemies”–a company’s biggest competitor that is also a critical partner (think of Apple and Google). Rogers explains the rise of platform business models, and how they enable companies like Airbnb and Uber to compete with traditional firms in radically different ways.

The third domain of digital transformation, per Rogers, is data. Where businesses traditionally used data to optimize processes, today data is becoming a key strategic asset, much like your brand. Rather than residing in functional silos (sales, marketing, operations), data today needs to be integrated to provide a complete picture of customers and unlock new sources of value for any business—through insights, targeting, personalization, and context.

Digital Transformation Playbook diagram

The process of innovation is also changing. Thanks to digital technologies that allow businesses to learn in real time, innovation is moving towards a process of constant and rapid experimentation. Rogers distinguishes between “convergent” and “divergent” experiments—explaining how AB testing and minimum viable prototypes each play a crucial role in innovation. Innovation requires a shift in leadership as well, from top-down decisions and high-cost bets, to leaders who know how to pose the right questions and drive a learning organization.

The last domain of digital transformation is a business’s value proposition for customers. To succeed in the rapidly-changing digital era, every business must be ready to adapt early, and to continually re-think how it creates value for its customers. With case studies ranging from Facebook to The New York Times, Rogers argues that continuously evolving your value proposition is essential to every business today. Rather than seeking to defend yesterday’s business with barriers to entry, firms must look to understand why customers will still need them tomorrow, and adapt to meet their changing needs.

The book concludes by examining the threat of business disruption—updating the classic theory of disruption to account for the new dynamics of the digital age, and dispelling the notion that disruption is inevitable and irresistible. Despite the fall of companies like Kodak or Blockbuster, the lesson of Rogers’ work is clear: no business is doomed to distinction. With the right strategies and leadership, any company can adapt to grow for the digital future.

The Digital Transformation Playbook+head

REGISTER NOW for BRITE 16 to hear David Rogers talk about The Digital Transformation Playbook. Attendees of BRITE will also get an early pre-release chance to buy the book, thanks to Columbia Business School Publishing. Join us for BRITE, and take home the Playbook 4 weeks before it goes on sale anywhere else!

BY MATTHEW QUINT and GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO


The Day We All Watch for the Commercials

February 10, 2016

For several decades, people have watched Super Bowl commercials almost as eagerly as they have watched the game itself. With the money now involved, $5 million for a 30-second spot, brands are even more committed to raise their creative efforts and capture the attention of both consumers and all the journalists covering this phenomenon.

It’s certainly a lot easier in the age of the Internet to spend time watching and dissecting the 60 or so ads that aired during the game. If you want to take a look at one ‘score’ of the ads to compare against your own impressions, check out the USA Today Ad Meter results that rank viewer submissions on each and every ad.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on how the 2016 crop of commercials reflects lessons on how to utilize advertising to create a real brand impact.

To Really Resonate, Combine Emotion and Function

Advertisers have become more and more focused on hitting emotional triggers with their campaigns, and rightly so. There is a danger, however, in creating an emotional message without connecting that impact to the brand.

It’s discouraging when people say, “Oh that ad was great, but, uh, I can’t remember what it was for.” Not surprisingly, ads that scored well in the Ad Meter – which lacks scientific rigor, of course – did a great job utilizing an emotional appeal, usually humor, along with a tie-in to some functional element of the brand.

In pre-watching the ads, the trio of Hyundai ads struck me as hitting this sweet spot perfectly. All three ended up in the top six on the Ad Meter. Granted, some of the stars in the ads prodded their social followers to go to USA Today and vote, but such a push is reflective of the pride these celebrities had in the quality of the ad.

Celebrities Need Quality

Speaking of celebrities, it’s no surprise that lots of them popped up in Super Bowl 50 ads – a famous face reflexively drives mental attention to the screen. But, using such talent can easily be wasted if the messaging and quality of the ad isn’t stellar as well.

Most of the ads did well in delivering on this mix, but one of the worst rated ads was Squarespace’s effort with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. While these gents are often hilarious, the characters in the ad weren’t that humorous, likeable, or understandable, so the effort fell flat. In the case of LG’s “The Man From the Future,” the content was just too vague to make much of an impact, and the product, a 4K TV, isn’t ready for prime time as almost no 4K content exists.

Another fascinating celebrity choice was Budweiser’s use of Helen Mirren. There is not a natural brand fit between the two, but for a public service announcement this disconnect was a smart move, helping strengthen attention to its “don’t drink and drive” message. Measuring the true impact of such an effort is difficult, but people seem to have paid attention as a Google Trends search indicates a 500% increase over any peak search for the word pillock over the past decade. (H/t to Frank and Ridley for driving me to research this.)

Beyond Machismo Targeting

In general, Super Bowl commercials are more expansive in their targeting than those running during regular season games. But two ads in particular broke the mold more than others this year.

Hyundai’s “Ryanville” ad was one of the most interesting ads of the batch (to me, anyway) because it specifically targeted women. Even with that target, however, the humor and sense of desire in the ad still maintained a broad appeal, with a relatively similar supportive rating from both men and women in the Ad Meter.

Despite estimates over the past couple of decades that roughly 40-45% of NFL fans are women, it wasn’t until a few years ago that the NFL, and its sponsors and supporters, recognized that they need to expand their messaging beyond just a male target.  Still, ads during NFL games have tended to just downplay gender differences, rather than recognizing that an ad can be more appealing to one gender without simultaneously being annoying to the other.

Going even wider in its demographic appeal, Mini Cooper pushed people to defy all labels. Such messages inevitably bring up these labels while also critiquing the use of them, making Mini the brand that would provide a nod to gay culture by featuring Abby Wambach stating, “This is a gay car.”

On a side note, I found it even more interesting that the celebrities in this ad – from Serena Williams to T-Pain to Tony Hawk – are all actual Mini owners who have behind the scenes videos where they talk about their relationship with the brand.

Hits and Misses

Some final fun notes:

  • The Heinz Weiner Stampede is currently second in the Ad Meter, but I thought this ad was horrible. Something about image of a “hotdog” liking a face did not sit well with me. What do I know?
  • Will pharmaceutical companies ever find a way to make appealing ads?
  • I think the Pokemon ad was almost a little ahead of its time. It didn’t score well, and was confusing unless you know about Pokemon, but I loved how it tried to tie traditional sports intensity into the massively growing competitive e-sports category.
  • There is always an ad that isn’t well liked, but gets so much attention it has to be called it a success. That title clearly goes to Puppymonkeybaby.
  • Don’t try to get across too much or be too obtuse in an ad. Paypal, Quicken Loans, and SoFi,all had confusing messages and lost any appeal.

On a final note, I had fun discovering The Late Late Show’s “update” of Cindy Crawford’s famous 1992 Pepsi commercial that helped stoke the fire behind the desire to write articles like this one.

BY MATTHEW QUINT


Microsoft’s HoloLens Brings the Digital World Off the Screen

February 9, 2016

In June of 2015, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft presented a demo (below) of what it is like to play Minecraft using HoloLens. The audience was amazed as the digitized world came off the screen and became an overlay on the real world.

Unlike the completely immersive experience of virtual reality, a la Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HoloLens allows users to combine the physical world with an immersive virtual experience. Google Glass and other augmented reality efforts provide small “windows” on the real world while Microsoft is using holograms to create complete 3D virtual images. The HoloLens also runs all other Windows applications, allowing users not to have to rely on a screen.

Use cases for HoloLens go beyond gaming, as the technology finds a seamless space for the virtual and real worlds to meet, interact, and collaborate. As our BRITE ’16 speaker Scott Erickson, Senior Director of HoloLens, explains in an interview with The Verge, HoloLens provides users with “the ability to walk around, to overlay holographic information and make it contextual to physical objects that are in the [same] space.”

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A very interesting aspect of the experience is precisely the capability to interact with others around you, both those who are using a holographic computer and those who aren’t. Cliff Kuang from Fast Company, explains that “Microsoft has already conducted hundreds of hours of user testing to figure out just how we might interact in this new hybrid reality. They’ve already come up with some very clever interactions, like making your gaze function as a mouse pointer.”

The only reported downside to HoloLens is that the field of vision for where holograms can appear is still limited.

microsoft-hololens

In early 2016, Microsoft opened up applications for the HoloLens Development Edition, which will ship by the end of the first quarter of the year. With a price tag of $3000 for the kit, it is still unknown what the price of the consumer model will be.

In the meantime, Microsoft is using its Flagship store in NYC to allow developers and a few lucky curious to test the HoloLens.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Microsoft’s Scott Erickson talk about HoloLens and the possibilities of a mixed reality world. Plus, when you register, you will have a chance to sign-up and visit the flagship store to experience the HoloLens yourself.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

 


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