Enlightened Conflict

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

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“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

—–

Kuhn

 

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“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

=

John Dewey

 

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“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

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Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

—————-

.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

==========

 

“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

===============

 

I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

—————–

 

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

 

Baum

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testing norms and what is legal

May 15th, 2017

never too good at following rules

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“I am free, no matter what rules surround me.

If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

 

Robert A. Heinlein

 

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“Rules are for children.

This is war, and in war the only crime is to lose.”

 

Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

 

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Ok.

 

hoist the black flag rulesWe have a shitload of regulations, laws and rules to abide by every day.

 

We set out explicit rules and guidelines and sometimes these appear as laws. They are meant to showcase a red line for behavior.

 

That said, boy oh boy … we sure do bitch about how many laws we have and how many regulations are in place and how many rules we face that curb our success. The government is most likely the main villain in this story.

Most of us act like government sits around coming up with rules and laws and regulations simply to stifle freedom in our lives – personal and business.

 

It may behoove us to think a little more about why those rules, regulations and laws came about and how we still have some room to navigate which is a playing field called “norms.”

 

It may behoove us to think a little more about the fact we suck at self-regulation. In fact, when left to regulate ourselves, within a capitalist environment, the arc of behavior bends toward some fairly heinous behavior.

 

What happens is that some start pushing out beyond what most people would integrity has no need of rulestend to believe is ‘integrity driven behavior’ and with each push what is acceptable becomes broader and broader.

 

So what we have done in the past is to step in, slap the wrist of those who have bent the arc toward what is not really the best for all and then set up some regulations to insure our self-regulation has some fences to corral us.

 

That said.

 

We do have some norms.

Some ‘accepted beliefs’ for some specific roles and responsibilities.

 

It’s like we assume if you become a CEO of a business that you will not instigate any illegal behavior and you will tell the truth with regard to what you are selling & offering.

Yes there are laws and regulations but, in general, a business sets its own behavioral compass – within which there will be things unwritten but accepted.

 

 

It’s like we assume if you decided to accept the responsibility of a public servant you will share your tax returns to show how you have earned your money in the past, you assume that you will cut ties with your business to insure no conflicts of interest and you assume you don’t fire people because you don’t like them.

 

All of those things may be legal to actually do but norms suggest they are not the right things to do.

 

Norms, in my pea like brain, reside outside a buffer zone just prior to reaching one of these red lines. They are usually unstated and they are usually simply expected for those who uphold some integrity and they are usually just done by the people who truly matter.

 

Ah.

breaking rules HagyBut let’s remember … most times norms reside within what is a larger legally acceptable behavior.

Why does that happen?

Because most people who set up rules and regulations and laws desire to give people some freedom to act and make their own decisions.

 

That said … to be clear … you can do a shitload of legal things in life, business & government which when viewed honestly can look and smell really bad.

 

I have worked several times with people who have constantly suggested “but it is legal.” And 90% of the time I have felt uneasy about what we were about to do. Not that it was illegal but rather it <a> tested what I would consider a norm and <b> it was clearly in that buffer zone that got too close to the red line.

 

There will always be people who will dance on the icy brink of the red line and these same people will dance while singing “it is legal.”

 

It is a hollow song to sing and it always sounds slightly out of tune.

 

Anyway.

 

Let’s just say there are two basic types of people:

 

  • Those who see norms, and normative behavior, and see it as guidelines for right or wrong <an subsequently check laws, rules and regulations to be sure all is good & legal>. In other words behavior doesn’t have to be dictated by some rule or law but more often than not “what seem like the right thig to do.”

 

 

  • Those who see “anything that could be deemed legal”, or, conversely, “if it is not expressly forbidden than it is permissible. These people don’t ever ponder “what seems like the right thing to do” because, to them, if it is legal it is right.

 

 

People have a lot of leeway to do non-criminal bad actions.

rules do not why not

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“Look, that’s why there’s rules, understand? So that you think before you break ’em.”

 

Terry Pratchett

 

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And I tend to believe most times rules & laws are not rewritten is because people break them <because they have done their job>, It is when people start ignoring norms where rules & laws get rewritten.

As soon as enough people, or prominent people, start doing things that the norm had suggested up to that point was ‘not the right thing to do’ people sit back, shake their heads a little sadly … and say “well, I guess we need to set up some rules.”

 

I admit.

I am both a norms guy and a law/rules guy.

 

If you give me the rules & the laws I believe I can win within them. And win even without bending their interpretation.

 

If norms are established and the norms reflect ‘good’ and not ‘bad behavior’ I tend to place them right beside all the rules/laws you gave me and say exactly the same thing … I believe I can win within them.

 

following the rulesBut not everyone thinks that way.

 

Some people don’t care about ‘good behavior’ all they care about is ‘legal behavior’ <what is technically legal>. It is these people who actually create the need for rules, regulations and laws.

 

So maybe when we start bitching about all the rules, regulations and laws we have that seem to restrict some things we tend think are kind of okay to do … we shouldn’t blame the institutions which created them … we should be blaming the people who forced their creation.

They are the ones who absolutely suck at self-regulation … actually worse than most of the rest of us … and we pay the price for their behavior.

on how we are behaving

April 11th, 2017

 behave toward each other discourse mean

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“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”

 

—–

Will Cuppy

 

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“The grace of the gesture is as important as the victories.”

 

—–

Rene Lacoste

 

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Well.

 

Europeans, in general, have always been nicer acting, better behaving and more scared what you see‘refined’ <by degree> than Americans.

<please> Everyone just accept that as a Life truth.

 

So having a European look on in horror at how an American acts is an ongoing event … since almost the dawn of … well … dawn <of every day>.

 

But now it is not just Europeans looking on in horror … we, as in you & I, are also looking around dumbfounded by some of the behavior we are seeing in America.

 

Study after study after study <I just saw another one today> is showing that men are acting more like assholes, white supremacists are acting more like white supremacists, anti-Semites are acting more like anti-Semites, politicians are acting more like caricature politicians, everyone named Homer is acting more like Homer Simpson and, in general, any aspect of our internal asshole in anyone is coming out.

good manners etiquette

I am certainly not suggesting we should all be studying Emily Posts’s Book of Etiquette but behaving well should be about behaving a little better than absolutely essential and not behaving a little worse than absolutely essential.

 

Now.

 

Whether you believe there is a direct relationship or an indirect relationship with Trump … or any relationship I imagine … it is happening at the same time Trump is happening.

 

Coincidence or correlation? … pick your poison.

 

There are a couple of things that seem to be happening.

 

 

Political correctness backlash.

 

Political correctness, for all its good intentions, clashed with the natural political correctness holbrook thinkinability that maybe 90% of people have … an inability to artfully articulate their thoughts.

So let’s say that 90% of that 90% say stupid shit with no bad intentions … this translates into a semi-made up-factoid that almost 80% of all people are getting slammed by political correctness and the majority of them mean nothing bad … they just suck at articulating their thoughts.

 

Sure. Many of those people will attempt to get better at articulating what they feel & think … but, in general, this means a shitload of well-meaning people harbor some bad feelings toward not being able to just talk the way they talk.

 

And then … well … along comes Donald J. Trump … a 70 year old man who sometimes talks like a junior high school bully and sometimes talks like the well-meaning guy at the bar <although he is certainly not well meaning> who has ‘one too many’.   A significant portion of us think “whew, finally, an excuse to say all the things I just want to say without having to weigh every word I say.”

 

There is nothing inherently bad about saying what you are thinking.

 

But.

 

Inherent is what I just shared is … well … you start behaving a little more like an asshole <behaving badly>.

 

Think of this as the puppy set off the leash. The leash gave them some freedom but, once off, they go wild with no boundaries … in general being a boisterous puppy and being the unbounded happy assholeish puppy … at least for a while.

 

At some point they recognize maybe not that the leash was good but that the leash kept them closer to their owner and some of their assholeish puppiness isn’t received as well as they were sure it would be received – and they start going back toward the leash holder and maybe curbing their puppiness a little bit.trump is an asshole mayor

 

My point is the asshole factor has increased but I imagine at some point it will revert back a little closer to what political correctness suggested was a good thing <at least one could hope>.

 

The fly in this ointment is Trump. He has no leash, has never been on a leash and … in fact … seems to believe leashes are inherently bad.

 

He is not exactly a great role model for puppies <or people>.

 

 

I am pissed because it seems everyone else gets a break and I do not.

 

 

Trump only views the world as winners & losers, i.e., if you don’t win you are a loser. Well. What this does is encourage all of us to think of the world as a simplistic fight over limited resources where the other guy/gal is competing for your share. In other words you lose if they win.

 

Now.

 

If you believe this … or this thought even bleeds into your consciousness on occasion … well … you start behaving a little more like an asshole <behaving badly>.

 

I am certainly not blaming Trump for all our increased bad behavior but he is certainly an enabler with the whole win or be a loser mindset.

 

He embodies a toxic resentment toward everyone who has something he believes is his – and this attitude bleeds into how he views America. Germany, NATO, China, Mexico, whomever … all has shit that should be ours. Money, trade, power, etc. him his rightful place in the world.

 

File photo dated 08/04/17 of Saffiyah Khan (left) staring down English Defence League (EDL) protester Ian Crossland during a demonstration in Birmingham, as she has said she was "not scared in the slightest" during the tense confrontation.

Symbolically <to those who claim he has a racist muscle> … this is quite like the resentment of an old white man who believes everything is infringing upon his ability to access the pride, power & pay that rightfully belongs to him.

 

Just like my puppy on a leash example … this is like a puppy who grows up alone but realizes that going to the puppy playground is a shitload more fun … and even more fun if you behave well.

 

The fly in this ointment is Trump. he doesn’t want to play with other puppies, he hates the puppy playground and says … well … puppies are losers … I want to be a lion or the leader of the wolf pack <and fuck whatever female wolf I want whenever I want>.

 

Trump treats everyone outside his immediate family members as people who are out to deny him not only from what he wants but also what he believes belongs to him <this attitude bleeds into how he views America and other counties>. This is not exactly a great role model for anyone who is not part of a rich powerful family <and I could argue it isn’t a good role model even for them>.

 

He is not a particularly good role model if we want to encourage the belief the country is a team which needs to work together, make some sacrifices for the other team members so that the team benefits <and will never go 365-0 in a season>.

 

Ok.

 

Look.

 

We all have flaws and the system, society and institutions are flawed. But just because it is flawed doesn’t mean an asshole president should suddenly set a new bar for behavior that is so low it makes a guy’s junior high school locker room actually appear slightly dignified.

 

But I imagine my point is that the bar for acceptable good behavior has dropped significantly. Studies show it. Shit. Just watch the people around you or watch some tv and you will actually see it.

 

Anyway.

 

I think we all know that Life isn’t just solely about winning and losing. I think we all know that some basic good behavior isn’t something that needs to be dictated but rather it is simply something good for common humanity within a population with a desire to have better things and do better things than we are doing today.

behave well being of society care trust fairness

I think we all know that behaving, at least relatively so the majority of the time, well has a reward that may not always show up in pride, power & pay but rather in dignity, honor & … well … certainty.

 

Yeah.

Certainty.

 

Good behavior by the bulk of a population tends to lead people to a certainty that society will treat them more fairly, institutions will treat them more fairly and the world, in general, will treat them more fairly … because we can become more certain we will be less screwed more often because people will behave less badly more often <plus … we are happier this way>.

 

In the end.

 

I do believe we are behaving more badly.

 

And while I have the studies and I have the research I don’t really need them. I can just turn on the TV and watch a president who behaves more badly than the majority of the typical high school student. With this kind of role model why wouldn’t a significant portion of the citizenry believe they could behave more badly than they had been behaving the day before?

Suffice it to say that if everyone took one step backwards in their behavior, given the wide spectrum of current behavior from good to heinous, it just doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

 

We are acting more like assholes every day.

Even the people who are trying to stand up against the assholes.

 

If I didn’t want to be that harsh I could have said “it appears our level of courteous behavior toward each other is declining” but I didn’t … because research is clearly showing our inner asshole is becoming our outer asshole behavior.

 

bad behavior be courteous all the time represent yourselfI believe we are better than this <and I also believe the average American is better, behaviorwise, than our so-called President>.

We will get through this and I tend to believe in the end we will end up in a better place.

 

But, boy oh boy, the level of our general discourse and behavior has surely declined significantly lately and I cannot wait for it to begin improving.

 

As I stated upfront … I am certainly not suggesting we should all be studying Emily Posts’s Book of Etiquette … but behaving well should be about behaving a little better than absolutely essential and not a little worse than absolutely essential.

 

 

how do ads like Pepsi get approved?

April 10th, 2017

 

pepsi kendall jenner commercial

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“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.”

 

—-

David Ogilvy

 

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“You cannot use someone else’s fire; you can only use your own.

And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe you have it.”

 

 

==

 

Audre Lorde

 

————

 

“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

 

==

 

H. L. Mencken

 

———–

 

frankenstein pepsiOk.

 

This is about the Pepsi fake revolution, fake protest , fake celebrity, misguided brand image advertisement  <which I will inevitably call “the Frankenstein social issue” ad>.

 

While I had been shaking my head over the ad when I saw it I wasn’t going to write anything until there was a really nice article in The Atlantic, “how does an ad like this get approved?”   which does a fairly nice job of walking everyone through some of the backroom pretzel logic steps an advertisement like this goes through to actually end up on air.

 

But.

After reading the article I felt I needed to paint on a coat of some advertising development wacky reality because it neglected to share some of the more obscure things which most likely happened.

 

To be clear.

I could write a 10,000 word diatribe on how this Pepsi ad was a misguided use of a celebrity, a misguided  hijacking of a social event, a misguided use of casting and a misguided tone overall for trying to tie image advertising for a brand with a social revolution <tied to a political issue> … but I will not. Suffice it to say that the ad itself is certainly a mashup of bad ideas … a Frankenstein … but making an ad pepsi mash up commercialseven Frankensteins need to be built <they are not just born> and … believe it or not … there will be some specific things that will happen along the development path which can appear as ‘good business protocol’ but in reality is simply bad laboratory technique.

 

Now.

 

Before I skewer Pepsi and their in-house creative group let me suggest a shitload more of the larger companies are going to be faced with this possibility <of developing a misguided socially issue driven ad> sooner rather than later.

 

I have always believed a company, if it has a strong mission centered on some societal moral compass construct, should be sharing it in some form or fashion <it doesn’t have to be in-your-face> in its external marketing & advertising.

 

I now believe, in the age of Trumpism, it is almost a societal imperative for companies & brands to take a stand publicly. And I say that not suggesting they i will be defined stand up speak outstop selling shit but rather they sell shit through a societal view lens. I do believe more than ever companies who stand for something should publicly stand up for that something.

 

And I don’t really care whether it is a liberal or conservative lens … a business should just elegantly articulate their view in the construct of what you sell and who you are. Society is almost demanding the debate & discussion and no one is better to have it publicly, in a civil discourse versus the coarseness found within Trumpology, than businesses.

 

Saying that … I give Pepsi points for at least making the attempt. I take points away because … well … a brand & company as large as Pepsi with access to so much creative & strategic talent should have made a better attempt.

 

But you know what?

 

Even in their bad they did some good … we talked about standing up for shit and how you should, or should not, stand up for shit.

Rather than beat the shit out of Pepsi for this attempt I will hold my fire until we see the next attempt and see if they learned something.

I would suggest everyone try and do that.

 

Now.

 

As for how and why ads like this get approved.

 

The article suggested this:

 

“How do these ads get approved?

By brand managers who are not doing their cultural homework—relying upon surface-level understandings of the cultural phenomenon they are featuring in their marketing communications and not understanding the deep well of emotions, identity politics, and ideologies that their ads will trigger.”

 

Jill Avery, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School

 

Oh.

 

If it were only this black & white, I could solve this.

It is much more absurdly complicated in order to actually approve and produce something this so brutally off target.

 

Suffice it to say that the issue will encompass a spectrum of things … there will be a spectrum of misguided ‘execution strategy’ combined with some thoughts people stand up i will be definedabsurd “brand imperatives” all wrapped up in a nice snug outfit made up of stubborn edgy creative people, old white executives out of touch with their target audience, brand managers adverse to risk but an unhealthy desire to be cooler than they are and company visionaries who view cultural trends through what is cool rather than what is truly trendworthy.

 

This is a Frankenstein social issue “brand” ad created by a brand built on … well … no real social issues … but rather it is representative of a vapid brand which has convinced itself <at least some time in the past> it was more like a ‘fashion brand.’

 

Of course I should take a minute and discuss the research which “must have been done” to create this ad.

 

First.

 

If there really was any research done we need to remind ourselves this is a ‘fashion brand’ <or someone has convinced them they should think of themselves as  fashion brand … which is stupid> created on some vapid imagey type attributes therefore their research is mostly based on some vapid feel-good “cool” cultural benchmarks.

Sure.

I could have set them up with some research company who could have measured what needed to be measured but <a> they don’t want that kind of truth and <b> someone smarter than I was yelling “how could we measure new information … we need to see results which can be compared to what we have so we can also see some ‘post’ numbers.”

 

Well. That yeller was yelling some well-intended truth but misguided in this case.

 

good and bad research pepsiIn larger companies it is always <always> gobs of “pre” information which you pour over and then setting up a ‘post analysis’ against the pre-stuff. This assumes the “pre” is meaningful and on target and that the ‘post’ is really what matters.

 

Uh oh.

 

Assume makes an ass out of you and me.

 

Status quo is a sonuvabitch.

 

That is mostly research they would have used to inform the development.

 

To be clear.

I don’t think they did any ‘pre’ research. I think they “saw” a cultural movement within their supposed target audience and decided “I want to connect with them <so someone go do an ad to do that>.”

 

If any of this past ‘pre’ research was used it was simply to highlight the aspects that supported the idea they wanted to do <I feel comfortable saying that because I have done just that … cherry picking the “pre” information to highlight the reason why an idea is something worth pursuing and even highlighting some of the first components you may want to start building your Frankenstein with … uhm … any advertising person with half a brain has done this>.

 

Second.

 

Ok.

 

Let’s assume they did some research on the ad itself <which is different than research informing the development of the ad>.

 

Someone probably set up some high falutin’ research methodology tracking trying and researching knowledgewatcher response second by second and checked scores against industry norms <or their own imagey crappy stuff they have done in the past> and the final power point was 30 pages long <with maybe 12 pages of backup graphs> and the printed binder they handed out to a select few to bludgeon themselves with at a later date was probably 80 pages <with nice colored tabs>.

 

Here is the net of all that stuff.

 

The celebrity drove up ‘breakthrough’, recall and ‘brand interest’ <albeit they hid the numbers that said the celebrity did not build credibility or authenticity>.

 

And, yeah, I would also bet someone probably dug up a nice score on “unique from competition.”

 

And I also bet they figured out a way to get a score worth showing <you never show bad numbers unless you can convince everyone that the bad number is actually a good number … yeah … we do that> to suggest the overall message was topical and that their audience related to the importance of “standing up and speaking out.”

 

And I would also bet that they didn’t have a particularly good, nor bad, likeability score … just something that didn’t deter them from this path.

 

And, lastly, I would bet they rummaged through any research they had to seal the deal on what I believe is possibly the worst part of the ad <having the celebrity leave being a celebrity and join the ‘common folk’>. They found a number that suggested “this shows that this issue is SO important that everyone, celebrities and fantastic looking poor folk included, shed their exterior Life and gather together to stand up an speak out.”

I added this last thought and call it out because … well … this is about the only thing that could have been said in the final presentation to the old white men, out of touch with their everyday customer, to gain final approval.

 

And let me say about the test scores I just highlighted … this is where testing fails people. It’s just numbers. And it’s just not real world.

 

The numbers don’t match the eye/sniff test.

 

And in a real world <on tv> environment the ad is annoying to anyone who actually wanted to participate in the movement or did participate … and the ad is generally unmemorable <and doesn’t even come close to capturing any aspect of ‘soul’ of Pepsi … assuming they have one>.

In testing it may seem fun and hip and upbeat but on tv it is annoying and bland and soulless.

 

By the way … I tossed in the word “soul” in that discussion.

 

I bring it up to make a point to any and all vapid brands out there thinking about actually taking on a social issue & message.

 

“Cool” doesn’t hack it if you want to be a fabric of society <which is different than a fabric of culture>. Weaving your way into the fabric of society demands you share a little bit of your soul … your heart … so that people can connect.

 

Yeah.

I know.

That’s not vapid. That’s some solid unforgiving truth telling about yourself.

 

Sorry.

That’s the price <and Pepsi was not willing to pay it>.

 

advertising talk to people hughNext.

 

How does this get approved?

 

Well. Let me spend a minute on image advertising and creative people.

 

Vapid fashion brands far too often forget they are selling shit to people. Most times they will just say “that’s the job of promotions” or “that is point of sale efforts and we are supposed to drive people to the point of sale” or “our job is to be cool so that people want us so badly they will drive through … well … neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Uhm. On rare occasions, maybe a new i-phone, you can inspire that kind of ‘urgent desire to buy’ but in most cases it is just a 6-pack of Pepsi.

 

Creative people are stubborn people in their everyday work life. The non-hacks … the good talented smart creative people, mostly in good ways, stubbornly & aggressively hold on to creative edges <not just to be edgy but rather to insure there is some edge to what is done>. This gets dialed up in image advertising campaigns because for some reason as soon as a creative person hears “image” <or “brand”> they immediately think “vapid” <I don’t have to sell anything, communicate anything specific and the objective is to create an overall sense that what I am saying is good and the brand is some good shit>.

 

Triple the intensity with regard to everything I just said for creative hacks <or almost all non-agency advertising people> and add in they confuse ‘creative edges’ with ‘edgy’.

 

If you are attempting to do an image advertisement you are only partially challenged <fucked> with good creative people and absolutely screwed <fucked> with bad creative people.

 

Lastly.

 

How does something like this get approved?

The “someone.”

 

Ok.

 

With an ad like this, which I assume was polarizing in its final stages, there is always “someone.”

 

someone pepsi speak out convinceSomeone who stands up and says ‘here is why.” Someone to stand up and speak out that bullshit line I just shared with you … “this ad shows that this issue is SO important that everyone, celebrities and fantastic looking poor folk included, shed their exterior Life and gather together to stand up an speak out.”

There is always ‘someone’ in that frickin’ final approval room, usually someone who shouldn’t have that kind of power, who the old white advertising-clueless men will look to in their moment of doubt on whether it is the right thing to do.

In the advertising business you cultivate this ‘someone’ so that they can bring you home <even if you have a bad misguided idea>. Suffice it to say on an ad like this there will be someone at Pepsi right now who is squirming and most likely getting ready to point a finger at some research person for either <a> not giving the right piece of information or <b> not asking the right kind of question.

 

Anyway.

 

I feel sorry for companies who truly do want to start doing image advertising and stay within their brand character and navigate the internal politics and … well … it is nothing they have done before.

 

There are rarely, very rarely, neat & plausible solutions to what a business faces in the here & now on this topic <and if someone tells you there is … they are lying>.

If you are shown a ‘formula for success’ and it looks neat and it seem plausible … it is most likely wrong.

 

That isn’t to say someone like me, or someone with smarts, experience and more talented than I, couldn’t guide a company down a viable path to success … just that there is no formula.

 

What I am now going to say is going to sound painfully inefficient.

 

A business has to create its own way of doing things. It can certainly contain some aspects of things that have been done in the past but those are simply ingredients from which you will build your own formula.

And, to be clear, if you start bolting together different formulas to create a successful business advertising idea … you are simply creating a Frankenstein which the village people are going to end up killing with simple pitchforks & torches <see Pepsi as an example>.

 

Your business formula for success will have to be yours.

 

In the end I would say this.

 

My guess is that Pepsi tried using a formula for something that is most likely really different than things they have tried in the past.

 

And while the difference between brutal and brilliant is a relatively thin line even for the people who do this for a living … you can teeter even more when attempting to enter into the fabric of a societal issue.

 

This ad was horrible.pepsi commercial stupid

Absolutely horrible.

 

But please don’t forget … Pepsi tried. They made the attempt.

 

In a Trumpenstein world in which being silent will only let the monster tear the village apart they spoke out. They stood up.

Misguided? Sure.

The villagers tore them apart.

But maybe, just maybe, the villagers should pick them up, dust them off, and say go try again … because the Trumpenstein is coming … and we can use any voice we can.

 

 

======================

 

“You cannot paint the Mona Lisa by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters.”

William Buckley

 

where Obama administration never got enough credit (a business perspective)

March 29th, 2017

 

balance strategy results business

==================

 

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

 

Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets

 

======

 

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

 

Tanzanian proverb

 

============

 

Ok.

 

product of my decisions circumstancesBusiness is always about choices.

Mostly hard and difficult choices.

 

Of course … a business leader can make some easy choices and avoid the more difficult ones.

Simplistically, the novice business leaders see a prize and set about attempting to attain that prize.

Let’s call that ‘tunnel vision objectives’.

 

Frankly, if that represented the best of the best in terms of leadership … running a business would be fairly easy and almost anyone could run & manage a business.

 

But. That’s not reality. That’s not really the way it works. Rarely are things as simple as they appear and even more rarely is something a simple cause & affect, do this and get that, without any unintended consequences.

 

I thought about this as I watch the Trump administration take some fairly extreme steps to <as Ted Cruz seems to have patented> “take the boot off the necks of businesses.”

The Trump administration is bringing a sledgehammer to business regulations.

 

I have actually have little doubt that the measures the moral-less Trumplestiltskins will actually make the American economy grow more easily sledge-hammer-maze-business-get-shit-doneand possibly even create some higher growth than we have been enjoying.

 

But, that is easy.

 

That is something a beginner would do because it is obvious and, if your only goal was to show “wins & results” that is what you would do.

 

The more difficult thing is to create a menu of objectives, balance them all out as important, and set about a plan of action to attain them in which you remained positive on almost all fronts and accept the fact you will sacrifice some ‘higher highs’ on some items on the menu for positives on all fronts.

This business management choice is more difficult because anyone with half a brain could pull out one thing on the menu and point out how it could be done better and be doing better.

 

Shit.

I did that crap when I was in my 20’s. It is a cheap way of scoring points and showing you can drive some specific results.

 

And it is on this greater point where I believe the Obama administration doesn’t get enough business credit.

I will not argue they didn’t overreach on some regulations and some initiatives … because I believe they did. And, yet, even with the overreach, which obviously constricted business & economic growth, they still left the reins loose enough for the business & economy to grow at a quasi-healthy rate.

 

Could someone suggest it was an “anemic healthy” rate? Sure. That is if you viewed it by ignoring any restrictions and any other objectives and any other priorities they outlined. And if you did that I would argue you were either lazy or self-serving.

 

The Obama administration demanded business growth and yet demanded a gartner long termlonger term action plan to accommodate the environment, climate, immoral business practices and, in general, a variety of activities which girded the economy and the country for the long term.

 

The economy did grow. Unemployment did decrease. Wages did slowly increase.

And at exactly the same time regulations were put in place to steer desired long term behavior.

 

Basically … from a business perspective … the Obama administration managed to figure out how to meet short and long term objectives at exactly the same time.

Were they perfect? Of course not.

Could they have managed the balance differently? Sure.

Did they balance it well enough? Yeah. the results prove it out.

 

In business we always need to strike a balance between doing what is best for our business and doing what customers want and doing what our customers need … and all within short term needs and long term demands.

 

And, yes, customers are more empowered today than ever before but as a business leader you view what the customer wants through a lens of “what is best for the business itself.”

 

The Obama administration appeared to balance what the customer wanted, and needed, with what the country <the business> needed & wanted.

 

Not to get into business management weeds but this shows an ability to assess the greater opportunity cost for all things considered in attaining all objectives. What this does, when you do it well, is to insure you view the ‘easy’ choice you are sure to assess how fast the ‘costs’ accrue against all objectives <not just on the choice itself>.

A good business person always assesses the overall impact on your business with every choice.

 

Ultimately, it is a balancing act to insure everything you do should produce value for your business and for customers.  This is not easy and it doesn’t beget a shitload of easy decisions. But it does make for balanced strategies and balanced tactical executions.

 

I do not see any of this with the Trump administration.

A good business person wouldn’t bring a sledgehammer to existing rules, regulations and initiatives but rather a scalpel – and surgically assess and slice out specific items which would increase the overall flow of the lifeblood of the economy <without killing the body>.

 

But, apparently there are no good business people in this new administration <despite what Trump says about himself>.

 

Look.

 

You can argue with the objectives the Obama administration prioritized and spock live longyou can argue over any specific priority <or depriotization> but given the objectives & priorities they selected … they attained what almost any business leader would kill for – a win on almost everything.

 

In a world in which we almost demand singular focus the administration said “no” <philosophically I agree with that mentality> and developed multiple objectives and managed them all relatively equally.

 

All I really know is that the Obama administration most likely did not get enough credit business & economy-wise.

 

How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

================

I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio

 

===================

 

Well.

 

Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.

 

Polarization can bring out the worst in people.

 

Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.

And.

 

Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.

 

 

Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.

 

Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.

 

But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.

 

The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”

 

Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.

 

The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.

 

And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.

 

Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.

 

In fact.

 

We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.

 

And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.

 

=================

 

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

———-

Rick Warren

==========

 

I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.

 

The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.

 

We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:

 

Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.

 

Oh.

 

And enlightened and conflict of course.

 

We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.

 

In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.

 

We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.

 

void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.

 

Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.

 

We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.

 

I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.

 

Lastly.

 

We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.

 

In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.

 

Look.

 

enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.

 

It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.

 

It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.

 

But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

 

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.

 

We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.

 

Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.

 

 

Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.

=============

“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

======================

 

 

Enlightened Conflict