I look forward to and enjoy Rob Walker’s Consumed column in every Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine.  Recent topics have included Pirate’s Booty, Safeway‘s push into store-brand organics and the magic of the Flip video recorder. 

I have found the columns to be interesting, insightful and well-considered.buying-in-cover-stephanie-fierman.jpg

So I am bewildered by Mr. Walker’s new acclaimed book.  In Buying In, Walker pulls back the proverbial curtain to reveal that there is a “secret dialogue between what we buy and who we are” because, although consumers will almost always claim they make purchases based on rational factors such as price, convenience and quality (here comes the secret), it’s not true.

He refers to a Roper Study in which only one fifth of responders claim that branding is a factor in what they buy, and then he debunks it.  He says that there is a “knee-jerk bias against logos” and uses the word “concede” to describe the emotion we would all presumably feel if we had to admit that brands, images, logos and symbols matter.  The Washington Post’s review of the book says “Walker… makes a startling claim: Far from being immune to advertising, as many people think, American consumers are increasingly active participants in the marketing process.”

And in another Buying In review, Po Bronson offers that
Walker “obliterates our old paradigm of companies (the bad guys) corrupting our children (the innocents) via commercials. In this new world, media-literate young people freely and willingly co-opt the brands, with most companies being clueless bystanders desperate to keep up.”

Who said that consumers were immune to advertising, and what kind of huge revelation is it that brands and marketing matter?  Where is the explanation that you can make research say just about anything (take my word for it)?  Why the implication that consumers who pay attention to advertising are fools and suckers, and that advertisers are “desperate?”gucci-ad-stephanie-fierman.jpg

In my experience, consumers readily admit that brands can represent something that transcends the actual products their companies manufacture.  Nike (with the swoosh), Apple, American Apparel… Pick your favorite indulgence. Would Walker say that I had been duped into wanting $250 Gucci sunglasses because of how they make me feelWould he believe that the only way to buy sunglasses is to compare the polycarbonates and chemical coatings and that, if I’d only done so, I would have surely purchased $5 street sunglasses instead?  And on top of all this, I lose $250 pairs of sunglasses in taxis just like I lose $5 ones.  This last piece of irrationality would probably give Walker a fit, but OH! the Guccis are so much more fun.  So, non-news flash: I’m not an idiot.  People love brands.  We assign a meaning and importance to them with which most of us are comfortable, and certainly not ashamed as Mr. Walker envisions.

And with serious respect for Mr. Bronson, I suspect that companies/brands such as Sony, Mentos, Comcast (with a sleeping technician plastered all over the web, and Bob Garfield “seeking ideas for the consumer jihad”) and AOL (with the multiple videos riffing on Vinny Ferrari’s experience) would think it old news that consumers are dissecting, adopting and co-opting brands any way they like.

Much of the consumer world is based on desire – on pleasure.  There is no disgrace here (overspending aside):  many if not most consumer franchises are built on brand, not feature differentiation, and everyone I know knows it.  Walker seems to be a smart guy, so I fail to grasp his argument or the value that is created by 300+ pages of him holding his nose around “frivolous” marketing and “phony image making” (AKA marketing).  If he was going to invest what was probably years in researching and writing a book, it would have been great if his thesis added to the conversation about the relationship between brand and consumer, rather than detracting from it.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my daily blog Stephanie Fierman – Marketing Observations Grown Daily.

So I was sitting in a meeting just a few days ago, and someone I like and respect said something about “the long tail.”  A couple people sort of nodded, and I thought, “Oh my, are people still talking about that?”

You see, I am and always have been… a long tail doubter.  It’s true.  I’ve never said it out loud because the book was so very popular and the concept was picked up everywhere and it spread like wildfire, so I just kept my doubts to myself.  For two years.  Until now.

But first, a bit of history to catch us up to the present day.

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, made a huge splash with The Long Tail, which was first published by the magazine in 2004 and then as a book in 2006.  In a nutshell, the long tail theory says that the abundance and ease of choice on the Internet has shifted sales potential from a small number of mainstream “hits” (at the front of the demand curve) toward a near-endless number of lesser-known choices at the tail.  The term refers to the orange section of the demand curve shown here:


Furthermore, because retail economics restrict stores to carrying only the best-selling products, items that have already been created and have either lost their mojo or were never popular in the mainstream in the first place are pushed out – along with their sunk costs.  But lo the Internet, with its infinite “shelf space” makes every product discoverable and ready to be purchased.  The book has become something of a holy document in the Internet community where companies (“from Amazon to iTunes,” says Anderson on his website) want to find a way to sell old songs, movies, videos, ringtones, on-demand books and television shows from their infinite Web warehouses.  Case studies flew up everywhere. 

Personally, I thought it was bunk.  Or rather, I thought the concept vastly overdramatized the effect of a small minority of “committed seekers” dedicated enough to something (comic books, that lost Marvin Gaye song, Civil War spoons…) to search for and purchase a category’s flotsam and jetsam.

When I looked around, in fact, it seemed that the rest of us were doing quite the opposite.  The New York Times’ Most Blogged, Most Emailed and Most Searched lists.  Top TV Shows, Top Music, Top Movies on iTunes.   Amazon.com’s influential Sales Rank, and its Bestsellers list (updated hourly).  The Netflix Top 10.  To me, the Internet appeared to be herding users more aggressively toward blockbusters, not away from them.

Like I said:  I kept this then un-hip and un-scientific opinion to myself.

Now there’s a professor at Harvard Business School who has researched the long tail. Based on sales data for online video rentals and songs, Professor Anita Elberse verifies my gut: not only do hits continue to be just as important online as they are online, but the Web is actually magnifying attention on the winners.

Elberse also discusses what she and others view as an incorrect subjective assumption that Anderson made when building the long tail, which is the idea that people want to go their own way.  They don’t want to listen/watch/read what everyone else does, and would rather wander down an untrodden hallway of the Web and find an otherwise discarded gem.  Who is he kidding?  Elberse cites additional research showing how intensely social people really are: how we like sharing experiences with others and that the mere fact that others like something makes us like it even more. 

And confirmation has come from another interesting source, as well.  Neil Howe, widely considered to be the expert on Millenials, draws a broad distinction between Gen X and this new influential group – the generation driving the most development and change on the Web. Among other things, while Boomers and Gen X “individuated,” born-in-the-80s Millenials gravitate toward the social:  chat rooms, instant messaging, Facebook.  They enjoy being with each other, forming friendships and shared preferences.  Rather than acting independently, Millenials who spend time customizing content on the Web do so for the purpose of sharing it with others (hello, YouTube). 

                                         (Click on the graphic for a larger view)

Howe says it is and will be “the most connected generation in world history,” and that their preferences will only solidify the popularity of mainstream, popular brands and products.
Finally, Elberse and The Wall Street Journal‘s Lee Gomes also believe that the Internet/tech community unconsciously may have wanted to back the theory because it flattered its citizenry.  Long tail strength would fortify the value of new digital assets created outside the walls of institutional, cultural power (let’s build a pet robot in my garage, shoot a video for YouTube and get rich!).  And bloggers drank the Kool-Aid, they say, because the long tail promises an audience for just about any goofy comment out there.  This is all probably true, but it’s a little sketchy so I’m not going to dwell here.

But I am very, very happy that some respectable people with significant research refute the long tail theory.  Because – while I may not be a Millenial – I do like company.

If you enjoyed this post and wish there was so much more… Check out my daily blog at www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com. Thank you!

I sometimes refer to the difference between Marketing being at the “front of the [business] process” and marketing being at the “end of the process.”

Marketing (with a capital M) at the front of the process is about assuming the voice of the customer and leading/partnering in the process of uncovering an opportunity, identifying a target audience, testing product-price-promotion, crafting messaging, etc. Then rigorously testing post-mortem with the goal of constant improvement and deeper insight, etc.  In other words: building a product and experience to meet the needs of the customer.

marketing (small m) at the end of the process is when a creator follows his own voice, and then lets the marketing team suggest whether the poster should be blue or off-blue.

Then there’s… not even being in the same room as the “process.” The director of Pixar’s new movie, Wall-E – a mostly-silent movie about robot love – was quoted in last Sunday’s New York Times as saying, “I never think about the audience. If someone gives me a marketing report, I thow it away.”

Well, gosh! How wholly satisfying for Pixar’s marketing team!

Look, this guy may be perfectly great to work with, and could well be one of those people that truly has the golden touch. The kind of gut that marketing people try to bottle. He did, after all, win an Oscar for a fishy little movie called Finding Nemo. And Wall-E is getting wonderful reviews.

And if we all waited around for market research to uncover a customer need, we’d be literally sitting in the dark and Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs would be bummed. I get it.

But we know these names because these people are visionaries. There are many, many more, however, with the same attitude sans the honeyed hunch. People who believe that thinking about the consumer would require an unattractive conversation about commerce, with all of the un-artistic factors that go along with it. This attitude is one of the reasons why so many movies/books/ideas fail. Artistic “vision” – no customer.

welchs-lickable-stephanie-fierman.jpgMagazine inserts have long been a fact of life.  The “interactive” ones most familiar to women typically deliver a scent (marketing perfume) or a tiny sample of lipstick, blush, foundation or cleanser.  Boooring.

Now we’re in a whole new world!

For me, the insert became noticeable again with Welch’s grape juice LICKABLE insert.  Have you seen this thing?  It’s crazy!  And clever.  I sat on my own couch and licked a magazine.  And it wasn’t even a picture of George Clooney this time!  Oops, sorry… How’d such an ingenious ad happen? It was sparked by a new CMO, of course.  With sales down, the team looked hard at everything from Welch’s age-old positioning focused on moms to its CPG-typical media mix of heavy TV and Sunday coupons. 

kid-licking-welchs-ad-stephanie-fierman.jpgSidebar: When looking for innovation, sometimes the biggest obstacle can be your own history.  I’ve been the “change agent” in many situations, and it can be very hard to motivate and inspire tenured employees.  Many sometimes feel that you’re disregarding a brand’s history: that you don’t appreciate that that history is precisely what’s gotten you your new job, etc.  It can be tough going.  One of the things I’ve noticed in the Welch’s case is that its new CMO was in fact a VP promoted into the job.  Let’s assume that he’d been there for awhile and that his promotion indicates that he is well liked and respected for his work.  This doesn’t guarantee success, but being on the “inside” can make a significant difference when delivering a message of change.  Fellow employees know for themselves that you truly understand and respect the brand’s history, challenges and realities.  This helped pave the way for this guy, Chris Heye, to succeed with a “nothing is sacred” approach to an decades-old brand and (with a little help from Britney) win big.  Major kudos to him. 

To kick it all off, Chris challenged his team to create an ad that would stop people in their tracks.  JWT subsequently First Flavor, a company that created the first lickable ad using “Peel ‘n Taste” taste strips that dissolve in the mouth like a breath strip, and turned to print to reach Gen X.  People Magazine – with its huge circulation and experience handling odd materials – was the big choice.  The luck came with the Britney Spears cover that happened to grace the issue in which the ad first ran. 

Then viral success whipped the attention even higher with a flurry of news coverage from the Wall Street Journal, GMA, NPR and more.  Based on the brand’s own research, nearly 16 million consumers say they heard the Welch’s name in the month after the ad ran.  The company says those are big big numbers for them.

The most recent new innovation in inserts – also tipped into People – is the one for the upcoming movie, Mamma Mia!.  “Singing” greeting cards and inserts aren’t new, but this one let’s YOU record your voice, too (and suggests you try singing the Mamma Mia! song yourself.  Pass.).

This intriguing technology comes from Americhip, which claims to create “the most vibrant, spectacular, interactive Multisensory solutions experienced anywhere.”  Judging from my first experience with them, and their impressive website and client roster, they may just do that.  

So what do both these mini case studies have in common?  The answer is an ability to recognize and leverage the old – the true essence of the brand, what makes it special – but deliver it for new audiences in new ways.  Welch’s grape juice tastes great.  The calling card for Meryl Streep’s new movie is unquestionably the great ABBA song by the same name.  Neither team made the mistake of straying from these positives: they just refreshed the delivery.    Both are great examples of good judgment matched with a healthy restlessness to stay current and breakthrough in an exceedingly cluttered world.

Readers know that I’m partial to a couple cartoonists and I like to share their work now and then.  On www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com, it’s David JonesAdland and here, it’s Tom Fishburne’s Brand Camp

With every newspaper and marketing trade I read, I’ve been having the below thought… Tom’s gone ahead and put it into words (and pictures).  Enjoy!


Rising gas prices, baggage fees and the like are causing a lot of folks to plan summer vacations close to home… or at home.  UrbanDictionary defines staycation as “a vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer.”  That sounds fun and relaxing – right up until you all decide you’d like to wring each other’s necks.  “Mom, there’s nothing to dooooooo!”

Over and above the normal picnic/game/pool promotions, this is a great opportunity for lots of local and national consumer-focused entities to promote themselves in this new context.

Some retailers are already getting into the act.  Wal-Mart has launched an “American Summer” campaign, cutting prices on everything from hot dogs to mosquito netting.  Their tag:  a summer getaway is “as close as your own backyard.”

Toy stores should get together recommendation lists based on budget, location (weather), age of children and so on.  Create promotions around toys and products best used at home.  And any smart local business trying to drive traffic should consider throwing a kid-friendly party:  growing up in a small town in New Jersey, I remember the parties thrown by the local Midas Muffler shop and one of the new bank branches in the community.  Hot dogs, face painting, balloons – families came out in droves.  Local, inexpensive happenings like these can create loyalty opportunities. 

Local newspapers (print and online) could feature daily and weekly ideas for great things to do around town – even borrow the concept of “3 Days In…” (see here and here for examples) and print entire itineraries for families to consider.  The web is great for this kind of editorial because it would enable a visitor to sort on the variables most important to him or her, such as distance from home, number of kids, indoor/outdoor activities, etc.  Sell incremental advertising around these features.

Local TV stations and affiliates should look at their programming schedules in the coming months and see what might be “repackaged” as stay-at-home, family fare.  Ad time could be sold to local supermarkets and other shops offering “specials” for fun nights at home.

There are also plenty of ideas being pitched for a very adult type of staycation, which usually revolve around a 2 or 3-night hotel or resort package of some sort.  Here’s one from Fodors.

Some creativity could really help businesses and families make the most of a challenging situation this summer.

NOTE:  And while you’re at home, you’ll have time to check out my second blog at http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com.

dov-charney-stephanie-fierman1.jpgI’ve written at least one post on corporate blogging before, but I gave them a little more thought this week.

This was because I ran a break-out group at this week’s CMO Club summit on PR 2.0, which I would loosely define as the new practices, policies and opportunities available to individuals and companies based on the digital innovations we all fondly call Web 2.0.

So I created a hand-out, which included such items such as how to track blogs, monitor Twitter tweets, figure out when to social(ly) network and so on.

One of the more active conversations focused on the topic of corporate blogs – notably, when should a company consider creating one? My top rules are that a corporation might consider a corporate blog when:

1. Two-way, honest conversations between senior management and both employees as well as consumers are already part of the company culture (think Sun and Stonyfield Farm)

2. Roles and responsibilities for the blog are clear and there is genuine commitment to (a) constant maintenance and (b) responding immediately (or at least promptly) to a problem

3. The company is prepared – both short-term and long-term – for what Kathy Sierra calls “the physics of passion.”

[NOTE: The famous corporate blogger Robert Scoble delivers the corporate blog manifesto here]

I guess I neglected what should be Rule #4: Your CEO isn’t a looney tune or, at minimum, far to colorful for public consumption.

Case in point: Dov Charney, Founder and CEO of American Apparel. Today’s WSJ includes an article on how American Apparel’s CFO has resigned after Charney called him “a complete loser” while sitting for a WSJ interview in March. Now that’s a bad performance appraisal!

In the past, Charney has gotten into hot water for engaging in completely inappropriate behavior during magazine interviews, having inappropriate (there’s that word again) encounters with company employee, hiring models from local strip bars, having scantily-clad employees serve him meals (at home), running around the office in his underwear and referring to women in ways that even he says he wouldn’t use with his mother.  His claim to fame (that, in my opinion, unfortunately outshines his philanthropy and US manufacturing-centric ethos) is that he’s been sued for sexual harassment more times than Joe Francis.

The photo is from an American Apparel “Apres Ski” advertisement. That’s Dov on the left.

It remains to be seen how he does once several quarters as a public company sinks in. In the meantime: no corporate blogs, please!

There is an article in today’s WSJ highlighting the difficulty of maintaining charitable giving in a challenging economic environment. This particular piece highlights Arpad Busson’s ARK, or Absolute Return For Kids, and its upcoming annual dinner. Tables sell for as much as $200,000 apiece and sold out several weeks in advance. Still, Busson is concerned.

He should be. A recent US-based study of 30,000 families indicated that a reduction in annual income leads to an equivalent or higher reduction in giving.

I’ve always been curious as to why non-profits don’t get more creative when it comes to holding events that could demonstrate the true value of every dollar donated: my thesis being that the rich will give no matter what (or certainly would not give less), and the average person would be inclined to give more if she could really see and feel what her contribution means to recipients.

The example I’d offer is one that I personally experienced several years ago when volunteering for an arts organization. This organization has intensely loyal grant recipients and a devoted community, but its fundraising efforts were/are challenged (particularly after 2001). This non-profit holds events of the standard variety: dinners, galas, etc.

But this non-profit creates unique, palpable value in that its grants are literally perceived as sustenance by its recipients. Artist after artist told me (along with a pro-bono brand strategy team I organized) that the money meant he could pay his rent on his studio for x number of months – so he could create something and sell it – or that the cash let her buy food that she could not have otherwise afforded. Many artists, in fact, mentioned that they used the grant to eat: often at McDonald’s, in order to make their dollars go further. These were not hoity-toidy “let’s-hold-a-dinner-at-the-Waldorf stories: they were tales of real life – human life – and the difference this non-profit was making for artists.

As a result, we made a somewhat unorthodox recommendation to the non-profit’s board: hold your next “gala” at a McDonald’s. Approach McDonald’s as a partner. Close down the biggest, nicest McD’s in Manhattan for one night and host a fanciful black-tie party there. Serve McDonald’s food: food that represented the true value the non-profit was delivering. Have artists/grant recipients tell the crowd what the extra money meant to them – and how intimately familiar they’d become with the dollar and extra value menus…

And we proposed, by the way, that – done right – this would be the “it” event of the season in New York.   The local news coverage alone would have been hugely valuable to raise the organization’s profile in a unique and intriguing way.

In other words: show the enormous impact every dollar makes. The following year? Hold the party at a big paint/art supply store – because in addition to food, we heard a lot of stories about how the money was the only way the artist could buy supplies.

This recommendation was not approved by the board – a little too avant-garde (and, in hindsight, not adequately pre-sold prior to the presentation!). But the idea is still as real as ever – the worse the economy, the more a non-profit must go out of its way to demonstrate value in a way that touches people:  whether they give $5 or $5 million.

 Readers:  please check out my new blog at http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.blogspot.com.

The year is 1978. Disco, clubs, those long sparkly gold and silver scarves a bunch of us wore around our necks trying to look/be cool. Christie Brinkley was the model of the day and Billy Joel’s 52nd Street was the #1 album of the year – Big Shot was the anthem of the wild New York coked-up beauty queen. My contemporary, Brooke Shields, played a 12-year-old prostitute in Pretty Baby. Star Wars had come out the year before and the idea that Times Square would someday look like Disneyworld would have been preposterous.

I was young, but just old enough to realize boys existed and that there might something remotely interesting going on there. Rod Stewart’s cheesy disco song Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? moved me. I had absolutely no clue why, but it did. Big time. I suspect that you have a few embarrassing yet sacred songs like this one, even though you’d never admit it.

So last night I hear the song coming from my TV and look up from the newspaper to see a huge claymation Chips Ahoy cookie singing “If ya want my body, and ya think I’m sexy, come on sugar let me know/If you really need me just reach out and touch me…” to a blonde female claymation figure sitting on (the bachelor cookie’s) couch looking – uh – hungry. Here’s the ad:

I was – plundered. Horrified. I mean, I’d seen Bob Dylan shilling for Victoria’s Secret and heard the resulting cries of angst but it hadn’t affected me: wrong coming-of-age decade. But now, Nabisco had taken my delicate young girl memories and, and, turned them into a chocolate chip cookie! Have they no shame? Will marketing people stop at nothing??

And the commercial most certainly did not make me want a cookie!

My friends and I sometimes get a good laugh out of trying to picture the client/agency meeting that spawned an idea. Picture it: you are the cookie brand/category manager at Nabisco and someone suggests Da Ya Think I’m Sexy for Chips Ahoy. What. Goes. Through. Your. Mind?

Oh well. I’ll be ok. But if anyone uses Yvonne Elliman’s If I Can’t Have You to sell a candy bar, I’m a goner.

P.S. Oh. My. G-d. At this very moment, Meatleaf is singing a version of Paradise by the Dashboard Light (1977) in a TV ad for the AT&T GoPhone. Except this time, it’s Paradise By the GoPhone Light. I have to go lay down.

stephanie-fierman-mcdonalds-china.jpg    stephanie-fierman-mcdonalds-russia1.jpg    stephanie-fierman-mcdonalds-macao.jpg    stephanie-fierman-mcdonalds-on-the-moon.jpg

I love McDonald’s.  I do.  Or to be more specific, I love the fries… and the Extra Value Meal #2.
Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking “Eegads!  A woman of your refined upbringing and delicate palate, how could you?”  Yeah, well, back off haters.  I also ate at Jean Georges in NYC this past Monday (egg caviar and the lobster) and believe that a renaissance person such as myself can burn the fat candle at both ends.

And now I have a business-related reason to love them, as well.

This month’s Fortune is the Fortune 500 issue, and it rocks – especially the article about how McDonald’s has transformed itself from an arrogant “ugly American” company into a true corporate citizen of the world.  It’s exciting to read.
Complete with photos, the lengthy article details McDonald’s “glocal” strategy.  We all remember “think global, act local.”  Now, complete with its new-agey description, the company is doing precisely that.   How’d they do it?  They changed the culture from one that considered Oak Brook, Illinois to be ground zero, to one that is entirely focused on innovation, on the new idea:  wherever that idea may come from.  And cultural change is great, blah, blah, but talk is cheap.  The distinction here is that McDonald’s rebuilt its operations in order to follow through and to ensure future progress.While McDonald’s has never been a completely hierarchical organization, the company started with the US at the top of the food chain (pardon the pun).  But as the global economy became real, the company discovered that the old ways of doing things simply weren’t working.  Not atypically (think Coke and Pepsi in India), the wake-up call came in the form of a repeated public relations gaffes in European companies where US-style menu choices were not only failing, but reinforcing McDonald’s reputation among activists as the very symbol of American imperialism.  The fact that it changed is a credit to the company.McD’s changed its operating policies and adopted a business plan based on “freedom within a framework.”  This approach gives regional and national managers considerable leeway to make their own decisions in their own markets.  And it was non-egotistical in another way:  it took a hard look at the brand and decided what was truly holy and what was not.  This is tough stuff for a company with such a rich history (I can hear CMOs everywhere throwing their bodies over their marks right now…).  The corporate logo cannot be changed, but local markets run their own advertising campaigns.  Furnishings are also customized by market.  The company fosters constant communications not only between the US and global markets, but between the non-US markets themselves.  America is not the center of  the McDonald’s universe.  The concept of delivering good food fast is:  and “good” is something that differs greatly from one place to another.

It’s tempting to wonder how is it that we thought it could be any other way, when over one billion people in the world’s second most populated country (India) doesn’t eat beef??  You adapt or you die.  Is beef what makes McDonald’s McDonald’s?  No.  But as a long-time corporate executive, I can say with 100% certainty that, at some point, smart people in that company thought that the Big Mac was McDonald’s.

Today, Europe is McDonald’s largest money maker, producing $8.9 billion in revenue, or 39% of the company’s total top line.  The US produced 36%.  And while the US produced a 2007 increase in operating income of 7%, Europe grew by 32% and Asia-Pacific shot up by 69%. 

Things have not always been so great.  Mad cow, activist demonstrations, protests in France.  But the company is now on track, and has opened communications, innovation and product pipelines that travel around the world – and frequently start far outside Illinois.  Here are a few lessons I draw from McDonald’s experience:

* Create the formal and informal pathways by which far-flung operations can communicate what their markets need and want, without fear or hesitation. 

* Tie performance appraisals and compensation to the behavior you seek.  Calculate bonuses, in part, based on the identification and adaptation of good ideas from other markets.  A Board could formally make this a factor in the CEO’s compensation, as well.

* Become a citizen of your community.  This is not unlike the advice I give when speaking on the topic of online reputation management: become a respectful member of the marketplace you care about.  After a French militant group become disgusted at the prospect of American mystery meat and ransacked a new store in 1999, the company’s European president opened the entire operation for inspection.  Staff now shows the public around kitchens, fields all questions (not just the one’s the company likes) and freely discussed the food and its ingredients.

And, as a citizen of your community, be certain that those marketplaces are run by locals.  For many years, senior managers outside the US were American expats. No more.  Delegate authority to people in and of the market you want to grow.

* Be open with your detractors.  When Greenpeace targeted McDonald’s for its use of soybeans from illegally deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest, McDonald’s agreed and asked for the organization’s help in solving the problem.  That kind of behavior wins respect – even friends – fast.

I’d like to mention that the Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about Kraft that reflects many of the same lessons McDonald’s has learned and acted upon.  You can read that article here.  In the meantime, I’m going to surf the web to see if I can buy a box of Chinese Oreos: four wafer sticks filled with vanilla and chocolate cream, coated in chocolate.

When in Rome (or France or Spain or China)…

Friends:  have you seen my new daily blog yet?  Subscribers include all the living Presidents.  Not really – but they could use some advice.