The Power of the Taylor Swift Brand

apple.swiftI have enjoyed following the Apple – Taylor Swift story. Apple Music is a streaming music service, scheduled to launch this month. As a promotion for its consumers, it is offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. Sounds great – one problem it was not planning on paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. Enter Taylor Swift!
Last year, Fortune ranked Apple as the most powerful brand in the world. According to Forbes, the Apple brand is worth $124.2 billion and almost twice as much as any other brand in their annual study of the world’s most valuable brands. It has tremendous credibility and leverage and they have continuously leveraged that in the marketplace.
Well how about the Taylor Swift brand? It is also meaningful and significant! We believe Apple made the right choice on this one –what do you think?

Read the New York times article below

Stephen Curry NBA Champion: how to challenge assumptions and think like a winner!


NBA’s Champion Stephen Curry busted every assumption people have been making about him. He knows his strengths and further develops them into a competitive advantage. Dan Wetzel provides us with a beautiful example of how to challenge assumptions and think like a winner.

Curry worked hard to build those strengths into a collective competitive advantage. Wetzel writes — he just kept developing what he could — an even better shooting touch, more floaters, ever-refined ball-handling skills, even smarter understanding of spacing and pacing and passing. Hard work, and focusing on what is most important can do to lead your team there. He knows what is unique about him and leverages that to win! Curry proves he is a leader and leaders win!


I wish I had learned this sooner

I wish I had learned this sooner — 3 lessons in leadership by non-profit leaders – how they think to win!

Rolling up your sleeves and working with the executive director and a board of a non-profit provides some of the best training for leaders I know. Invest the time and see how they …

  1. Make decisions that truly balance the financial health of the organization with the organization’s mission. Think about it — without money there is no mission – yet without mission there is no money.
  2. Manage “volunteers” who can come and go much easier than employees — they are experts at building relationships and using influencing skills.
  3. Use the collective thinking and expertise of key stakeholders to identify the best strategic options. A lack of resources requires them to reach out for help. The ego is on behalf of making a difference with their organization.

FIFA in Crisis – A Lack of Leadership

Here it happens again, the power of NOT doing the right thing. It is ultimately a failure in leadership isn’t it? A lack of ethical leadership is a road that leads to disaster.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904 and based in Zurich. It has 209 member associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football (Soccer to U.S.A. Fans).

While I was an executive at Gillette, one of the values we held dearly was of ethics. It had been one of the founding principles of the organization for over 100 years.  Additional emphasis was placed on ethics with the new CEO, Jim Kilts, in 2001.  He reinforced it by how he ran the company.  It became one of our 3 core values.

INTEGRITY – Mutual respect and ethical behavior are the basis for our relationships with colleagues, customers and the community. Fair practice is the hallmark of the Company.

When Gillette merged with Procter and Gamble in 2005, it was no different. Over 30,000 Gillette associates received additional training on P&G’s business ethics as well as the purpose, principles and practices of the combined company. This was accomplished within the first 30 days of the merger.

Warren Buffet said it best, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”  A person’s dishonesty will eventually catch up to them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but you can rest assured that at some point there will always be a reckoning.

By the way, Buffett was on the board of Gillette when Jim Kilts was hired to help turn the company around.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

       I recently interviewed a team of senior executives for an upcoming planning session. When I asked the question of what was going well the executive whom we will call Phil was to the point and able to articulate two to three points without hesitation. When a follow-up question came, “What is missing or could this executive team do better?” Phil’s answers were prefaced with, “I want to tell you something that I would not want repeated.”
When we work with teams, we always interview the executives before an engagement, and we are very clear on how the information will be used. We emphasize the interview feedback will be reviewed to identify patterns and themes in the data, and all information will be consolidated and reported by patterns and themes, and specific information will not be attributed to any individual.
We are almost always told that we can “share with anyone what I am saying” –but inadvertently, always during the interview, an executive will ask to go off the record, oftentimes with something that should be shared.

     My question that comes up is, what would you do if you were not afraid?

Our research shows that although respondents feel that their organization is open to new ways to explore and change the status quo, more than 70% believe that their organization does not encourage them to express their views. Three recommendations to reduce the fear:

        1. Get clear on the language of what it means to “encourage” people to express their views.   Realizing that most people really care and are committed to doing the right thing is important –make it easy for them to do the right thing!
        2.  Teach people how to better discriminate between what is fact and what is opinion (allows people to be more objective). People gain confidence when they are able to sit back and assess a situation that is grounded in facts. They are better able to articulate their concern, or the fear subsides and the concern can be placed into a larger context –not an individual compelling.
        3.   Encourage people to explore answers to questions together –this builds trust and mutual respect. The old adage ”Two heads are better than one” can help a lot here. Partner with a colleague.

The ability to create a culture where people are encouraged to express their views increases when people have the tools to truly conduct a fast-based assessment, take opinions out of the equations, and jointly co-discover what the issues are.

Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!

A Leadership Problem: More than 75% of people make decisions before they thoroughly understand the issue that needs to be addressed!

Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!

               George, the executive in charge of R&D for a leading consumer products company, was recently presenting an update to the senior leadership team on the progress in the development of a unique new product. He quickly became frustrated by the questions he was being asked. How so?

He was only on the first page of a 6-page presentation; and, he was already 45 minutes into his 1 hour time slot. What was happening here? People were asking the wrong questions first. The executives were jumping into content questions before they had asked clarifying questions. Content questions were framed as such: “Why? Have you reached out to …?” and “Did you consider?” Can you imagine how frustrated George was, or what opportunity could have been missed?

The solution?

We have an important tool we always employ when we are facilitating a strategy planning session. It seems so obvious, but I don’t see it used in practice very often. The simple request to ask for clarifying questions before content questions. It is not easy to do at first, but it is a behavior that can be learned by all. The trick is to be able to draw the distinction between the two. A clarifying question begins with — “What do you mean by this?,” “Can you clarify something for me?” etc…

We have found that clarifying questions asked early and throughout a presentation can often address content questions in a better way. One thing to keep in mind — people will only follow this rule if they know they will have a chance to weigh in at a point in time. That can be either at a natural break in the presentation or at the conclusion of a short one. Also, try using a Parking Lot Chart to collect content questions asked along the way. This will help ensure people know you are going to address the important content questions at an appropriate point in time.


Source: GlobalEdg Research 2014

Strategic Thinking: Do the Opposite! Asking the right questions is what really drives change in an organization.

In the 1990’s one of the highest rated program in the U.S. was Seinfeld. The premise of this program was Jerry Seinfeld and his friends going through everyday life, talking about situations that many of us can relate to.  The personalities of the offbeat characters who make up Jerry’s social circle contribute to the fun. In one classic episode entitled The Opposite, Jerry’s theory that every instinct his friend George has is wrong. George decides to try the opposite, and that proves successful – finds a girlfriend, gets a great job and a nice apartment to live in — all not probable if he had followed his original instinct.  Obvious the sitcom does not always portray real life, but it I entertaining to think about.

So many times we focus on the answers to our questions and we miss the importance of asking the right questions.  If you approach that completely OPPOSITE – flipping the old way of thinking upside down — finding the right questions will definitely lead you to the right solution. Strategic thinking helps drive change in an organization only when the right questions are addressed.  Over the years, we have worked to identify which questions are most relevant.  Whether it is working with a large fortune 500 company or a small non-profit, we have seen the power of asking the RIGHT questions. Think about any situation you have been in …. How many time have you and your teammates jumped to solutions?  Have you ever heard the old saying “we have a solution looking for a problem”? If you approach that completely opposite – flipping the old way of thinking upside down — finding the right questions will definitely lead you to the right solution. Our Strategic Thinking Framework just does that, my colleague Jack Mastrianni and I have worked years to perfect this.  We use an hourglass to graphically display the questions. Next—Why the Hourglass –stay Tuned!  see the hourglass at

Creating a common business language

A recent Rosetta Stone TV commercial “Create a Smaller World”, imagines what the world would be like if we all learned just one more language. The spot speaks to the incredible power of learning a language.  The stories we could share, the dinner conversations that would occur and the unlikely conversations that would become likely. Think about it….what would the world be like if we all could learn one more language? Imagine what the possibilities could be! And perhaps the most exciting possibility is that we might still have disagreements but we would all be rooted in a common understanding. The dimension of PROCESS employed by GlobalEdg refers to “a structured approach that employs a common language for identifying business issues.” In our research, we have been able to demonstrate that our training significantly improves the ability of workshop attendees to, “use one business language with terms that are clear and simple to grasp.”, based on a comparison of pre/post data. And speaking the same language has huge payoffs, as this leads to “a common approach that is utilized throughout the organization to drive change”, as demonstrated by our research which showed an increase in this dimension, which went from 20.3% pre to 32.3% post the workshop training

10 American Brands Likely to Disappear by 2015

Disappearing American Brands

Company mergers are at an all-time high, causing brands to disappear or become the entity of another. Every year 24/7 Wall St. puts out a list of 10 American brands that they predict will disappear. Companies entailing retail, broadband, photo-sharing, food packaging, social media, independent airlines, and candy makers are just a few named to no longer exist in the United States within the next year. 24/7 Wall St. continues to use a useful methodology in deciding which brands they see disappearing in the next year. They make their predictions based off of some major criteria including:

  1. Declining sales and losses.
  2. Disclosures by the parent of the brand that it might go out of business.
  3. Rising costs that are unlikely to be recouped through higher prices.
  4. Companies that are sold.
  5. Companies that go into bankruptcy.
  6. Companies that have lost the great majority of their customers.
  7. Operations with withering market share.

Based off of 24/7 Wall St.’s criteria I have come up with some questions to explore each disappearing brands possible reasoning for banishment:

  • Why are they going under?
  • What did they do right/wrong?
  • How could this be avoided?
  • What could have been done better?


       I. Lululemon

A significantly fast growing retail company specializing in women’s athletic apparel was one the first predicated to disappear by 2015. On March 18, 2013 the company recalled a large amount of yoga pants because they were too sheer, resulting the pants to be too revealing. This sparked the beginning of the end for Lululemon. Management changed, revenue dropped off, and there was a collapse of its share price.

CEO Christine Day lost her job in June 2013, and Founder and Chairman Chip Wilson announced him stepping down in December of last year. The company’s revenue went up only slightly from $346 million to $385 million, net income collapsed from $47 million to $19 million, and stock went down 50% from its peak set early June 2013.

Despite Lululemon’s troubles, Chip Wilson has become the potential leader of a buyout to take the company private; Wilson believes he can find a private equity backer. I believe Lululemon has a chance to re-invent themselves and assure customers that their products will be made of quality materials, regaining the trust of the consumer.


     II. DirecTV

A perfect example of a disappearing brand being sold and bought up by another giant. AT&T has already bought up DirecTV, thus extending its reach into American households. Although, AT&T’s U-verse product has only reached 5.7 million customers compared to DirectTV’s 38 million.

AT&T has viciously fought for the merger as the government blocked their buyout of T-mobile. Both companies are winning in the deal with a $49 billion dollar buyout. Customers are both worried and excited as some believe the prices will go up and the new power company will be able to have more control over popular programming. Others believe the merger will lower customer costs.

Only time will tell whether or not this merger will truly benefit customers or if AT&T management will have more control then deemed necessary.


    III. Hillshire Brands

Ball Park hot dogs, Jimmy Dean sausages…feeling nostalgic? Well, Hillshire Brands package these top-selling products. Hillshire Brands planned to buy Pinnacle Foods for 4.23 billion but the agreement sparked a bidding war between the largest food packagers in the U.S., Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods.

On July 2nd Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands announced their definitive agreement where Tyson Foods will acquire all outstanding shares of Hillshire Brands for $63/share.


   IV. Zynga

Addicted to Farmville, or annoyed by it? Either way, creator company Zynga turned out to be the single greatest social media failure to date. Facebook cut off the company in 2012, leaving Zynga unable to reach the 1 billion users and making it harder to match its first hit and promote new games.

The company moved into a mobile platform, unable to create its own hits, it acquired popular titles such as Digital, creator of Candy Crush.

Does Zynga have enough demand and users to stay afloat? In their first quarter of 2014 they were down almost 50% to 28 million, compared to the 52 million in the first quarter of 2013. Since early March of this year their stock went down 45% making it a target for buyouts.


     V. Alaska Air

Alaska Air Group Inc., an independent airline in the U.S.  is one of the few left that hasn’t been bought up by  larger airlines. There has been some speculation that Delta Airlines might buy Alaska Air for its West Coast routes. This rumor has caused an increase in Alaska Air’s shares.

Despite the rumors of Delta Airlines possible buyout, Alaska Air does well on the West Coast, being busiest in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. Alaska’s revenue has risen steadily over the past five years and often ranks highest in customer satisfaction among carriers. This has begun to challenge carriers on the East Coast to step up their services. Only time will tell how long Alaska Airlines has to remain a top-rate independent airline in the U.S.


   VI. Russell Stover

The third largest candy maker in America may be selling for as much as $1 billion. Once publically traded, the company is now private. Stover makes about $600 million in revenue with10% operating margins.

A rumored potential buyer is Hershey, with a market cap of $21.6 billion and revenue of $7.1 billion, Hershey would have no trouble swallowing up Russell Stover. Some other potential buyers include Kraft, Mars and Nestle.

Turns out Lindt & Sprüngli went and bought out Russell Stover July 14 of this year. Now Lindt is the number three chocolate maker in the U.S.


  VII. Shutterfly

Shutterfly continues to dominate the online photo printing industry, but falls short on mobile where Instagram, Facebook, and Dropbox are overshadowing Shutterfly. With revenue rising 22% year over year to more than $783 million, Shutterfly still remains a small business.

Shutterfly’s shares fell 18% over the last year, with its shares down it has become a target in the online sharing and storing business with limited exposure to paying customers. Amazon and Apple are possible tech companies suitable for buying up Shutterfly. If Shutterfly was able to reach its paying customers through printed photos, cards, and calendars maybe there would be a bigger chance for success.


   VIII. Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable had accepted a deal from Comcast for $45.2 billion at the beginning of this year. This deal would create the largest cable company in the U.S. with a total of 30 million subscribers. Many subscribers, wireless carriers, and online video providers such as Netflix, and advocacy groups such as look at this merger as a monopoly which will result in higher rates for customers.

The merger’s biggest hurdle has been dealing with the federal government. The Justice Dept. and Federal Trade Commission will be assessing the deal, while several members of Congress have expressed their concern of unfairness to the consumer.

Many experts predict Time Warner Cable to be gone by the end of this year, but there is always a possibility the government won’t let the mega-merger follow through.


   IX. BlackBerry

BlackBerry is running on its last leg, having terrible sales on the Z10 and Q10, BlackBerry outsourced its hardware to Foxconn to focus on its software. In 2008, the company was operating as Research In Motion, having 19.5% of the global smartphone market. Now, due to the boom of the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android, the number fell to less than 1% by the end of 2013.

BlackBerry is seen as unable to exist on its own, with revenue dropping to $966 million from $3.1 billion in the same quarter the year before. By the end of 2013, BlackBerry was sold to Fairfax Financial Holdings, a group that already held about a 10% stake in the company.


     X. Aeropostale

The retail company that has always competed with Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters is last on the chopping block. Seems like the whole casual clothing enterprise for teenagers is beginning to crumble as teens are choosing more inexpensive retailers that are more fashion-forward like Forever 21 and H&M.

Aeropostale is the retailer is the most trouble out of its counterparts, with revenue falling 12% to $396 million from the same period as last year. Aeropostale’s stock price dropped by more than 85% in the past five years. The company announced it had saved $150 million in financing from private equity firm Sycamore Partners, which should keep it afloat until the end of this year.





– Samantha Rijos, Social Media Marketing Coordinator

Harvard Business Review — Leadership & Innovation from Michelle Stacy: Keurig — a true success story!

The Possibility versus Profitability conversation…Opening your mind to new possibilities –  especially thinking from the outside in, really helps shape the innovation conversation. Focusing energy on the right things is so important. When thinking about possibilities – the workplace becomes somewhat magical. We have had the honor to work with Michelle over the last few years, she is one of the real thought leaders in the world of business.

>>> Enjoy Michelle’s HBR blog here <<<