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Was the theme exposed and discussed in a new style seminar (called Bad leader) that has been launched by the Marketing Society’ new CEO, Gemma Greaves.

50 or so society members sat in the round in a session moderated by leadership expert and coach Steve Radcliffe. Two people shared stories of being on the receiving of painfully bad leadership. Observations were invited from the floor. And former leaders felt compelled to ‘fess up having been bad leaders. Glasses of wine loosened tongues.

The stats are dispiriting.

In a large survey only 38% of people said that their organisation was well lead. That leaves 62% that are underperforming because they are not getting the best out of their people. The impact of leadership is well attested. Schools, for example, with the similar resources and socio-demographic profiles, can deliver good or bad education depending on the quality of the head teacher. Getting more from the same (or less resources) is the drum beat of our times and particularly of the education debate so there can surely be no more important investment than leadership training.

Behind the bald stats lies much human heartache.

Millions waking up in the morning with a sense of dread after a sleepless night. And worse- bullying, depression and sickness.

Once bright eyed and motivated workers start to think more about how they can leave their organisation than doing a great job. Bad leadership has huge economic and personal costs.

The tragedy of leadership is that we live our lives forwards and learn what we should have done by looking backwards later. Leaders (mostly) get the job first time round by having been great operators and managers, which does not prepare them for how leadership is different. An investment on training and mentorship at the point of promotion can deliver both better performance as well as human flourishing for both leaders and lead.

The seminar gave a taster for the experience of attending a full training session with Steve Radcliffe. There were useful insights on offer such as

-Leaders need to know who their support team is – their sounding board and support

-Leaders need to communicate their vision and (very important this) keep communicating it (even when v busy and under pressure)

-leaders need to create a safe space where the views of others in the company can be heard

-People want consistency – when leaders veer dramatically from one mood or point view to another it can cause confusion and anxiety.

-Leaders need to be able to stand back and evaluate their own behaviour – why are they behaving aggressively or steamrolling their team when they are in “get things done” mode.

Another side to the story was also revealed. Often working for a really bad leader can be the making of you. Observing one in action can make you determined not to repeat his or her errors when you get the top job. It can also force you to re-evaluate what you really want and go for it, get out and start something new. Bad leaders can trigger resilience and determination in their subordinates.

Bad leadership, then, is bad, but can have benign un-intended consequences.

 

 

 

We will be eating a lot of fruit and veg in the next 10 years 

The forces that will make even more of us “demi-veg” (or even vegetarian) are a powerful combination of the personal, environmental and economic.

Plus, anything that Jamie Oliver champions is likely to go mainstream.

“I’m going vegetarian 3 times a week” says Jamie in The Daily Mail. “The celebrity chef said the diet will save people ‘a load of money’ and revealed he personally tries to be vegetarian two or three times a week. He described the experience as ‘an absolute joy’ and encouraged others to enjoy ‘more plant-based delights’ because it is ‘beneficial for the environment and your wallet’- which neatly encapsulates three big force that will make vegetarianism mainstream and roast beef an occasional luxury.

Here is another sign of the times. Even Doc Martins- bulldog British and down to earth- is getting in on the act and going vegan:

 

Was how Charles Handy defined “wisdom” at a recent event- it has stayed with me

It is particularly needed at the moment – as many in marketing are transfixed by new technologies and have persuaded themselves of two things a) change is pervasive and b) change getting quicker.

This second statement has been taken axiomatic for at least 15 years now and has been used as the hook to sell out any number of conferences – and  it can’t be true. If it was our eyes would be popping out with the sheer velocity of tech fuelled change.

Also it makes planning very difficult – if change is so fast surely what we plan to do will be rendered obsolete in short order. What to do?

Two further bits of wisdom to navigate by

Jeff Bezos: ” Think about what’s not going to change over the next 10 years and put your resources into that”

Bill Bernbach: “Human nature hasn’t changed in a million years. It won’t change in the next million years. Only the superficial things have changed. It is fashionable to talk about the changing man. A communicator must be concerned with the unchanging man -what compulsions drive him, what instincts dominate his every action,even though his language too often camouflages what really motivates him” ( my ital)

When you look at the best innovations in tech over the past few years they are essentially new ways to answer old and innate human needs. For example- “Find useful information as quickly as possible” ( Google) “Show off” (Twitter)”Be nosey about what your friends are up to” (Facebook) “Flirt and get off with members of the opposite sex “( Tinder). “Buy stuff cheaply and with the least hassle” (Amazon)

Which leads me to what I think marketers should do about tech fuelled change

1) Uncover what their customers really really want.

2) Brief your tech experts to find better ways to deliver it.

3) If it is new as well, that’s great. But don’t commission anything just because it’s new.

In the next post i will try to answer Jeff’s question – “what’s not going to change in the next 10 years”

 

 

Everyone is hot for it – so what could possibly go wrong?

A few things: My prediction- by the end of the year the trade press will be talking about a backlash against programmatic? Here’s why:-

People intuit that they are just “target audiences” (and let’s not pretend otherwise)

PA something that is done to people that masquerades as being in the interest of the ” the user”. It is a tool for targeting in a way that is most cost effective for brand owners. Yet, In the selling of PA,  many warm, comforting words are used (that Orwell would have taken pleasure in exposing as doublespeak) to give the impression that PA for some sort of greater good- so it is billed as an opportunity to “connect” in a way that is “personalised”.

A fine example of this is a document that has just plonked on my desk (with a  black  and gold, people-free cover) from Epiphany. It offers a fine explanation of the techniques and technology behind  PA – but it is unable to disguise it lack of humanity. People do crop up-but only as types that are ripe to be targeted.

Take this paragraph:

“With the right third party tracking tools, it is possible to connect a user to different devices. This allows for improved sequential retargeting ( as they move done the funnel, for example) and stops the same user from being served the same ad  multiple times across device”

So in a nutshell I am going to be stalked by an advertiser who will try out different sales messages on me whether I like it or not. And lots of advertisers are going to be at this game because all the smart guys have been switched on to programmatic. So I am going to be stalked by lots of advertisers.

There are two elephants in the room

In this seductive story of  brand efficiency  and media value something is missing.

People.

Who can fight back.

Especially the Digital Natives who know a thing of two about protecting their privacy ( think Snapchat) and keeping out unwanted intruders ( think adblocking – and the rise of it among the young). Strangely this  response to PA does not make it into Ephiphany’s “all wil be best in the best of all possible worlds ” version of Programmatic

The other elephant is this: once all the smart guys are using programmatic the early mover advantages and the dramatic stories of improved value will be less evident.

Some historical perspective is needed to see where this might go

PA is being oversold (as database marketing was before)

PA is the latest development in data driven targeting that started with Amex in the 70s. It was oversold then. It is being oversold now. Many of the warm words used to sell PA are the same as those used to promote “CRM ” in conferences I attended in the 80s.

Out in the real world the bubble of hype bursts when you received a ” personalised” letter with your surname misspelt or you reach a milestone birthday only for an algorythm to decide that some life insurance is timely for you ( or even a funeral plan) and to track you across the internet in the manner of a slightly dumb but insistent salesman who just wont leave you alone.

PA does not inspire great creative

Programmatic buying doesn’t “connect” with creative department in agencies. Why? For fundamental reasons: PA sees people as data points to be traded in real time based on cost. If people are seen mainly as data points that send off signals as to their practical needs ( insurance, a new car, a holiday) – then the creative developed will mainly be “response type”.

Great creative (and especially great database marketing ) depends on empathy with people as living breathing human beings. The DoubleClick team (which sold programmatic during my time at Google) engaged account planners ( like me) to bridge this gap. I am not sure they got anywhere. There was a woeful lack of case histories proving that programmatic leads to the kind of creative work that lights up emotions and make people  feel positive about that brand that brought it to them. An occasional example of creative would be held up  – but it was the rare exception that proved the rule.

Programmatic Advertising is being sold today as a silver bullet (or at the very least as way for marketers to deliver a more results oriented story in the boardroom.)

In truth it is the latest development in a long story about the pursuit of marketing efficiency using data and technology

And I predict that its failure to embrace the feelings of people (buyers/users/consumers/human beings) and the ambitions of those who want to do great creative work will bring a cooling of the current ardour.

 

 

London is full of free art shows. The artist rooms at The Tate dedicated to Louise Bourgeois are a great way to spent a free hour. You can also see where the likes of Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin got their ideas from. Her work is visceral, and sensual – unmistakably the work of a troubled and highly creative woman. About being a mother and a daughter.  And she had many more ideas than Emin and Lucas in her long life

 

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