Saturday, December 31, 2022

What Are the Most Famous Brands on December 31st and January 1st?

When you think of New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, what brands stand out? While there are many that come to mind, here are my three favorite brands for this celebratory evening and morning.

Every year on the final day of the year, everyone's attention is on the city known as "The Big Apple." New York City has hosted a memorable New Year's Eve party every year since 1907, with the exception of 1942 and 1943. Hundreds of thousands flock to Times Square to watch a truly brilliant event: the crystal ball drop as the final seconds of the year tick away toward midnight, ushering in a new year. 

According to the Times Square website: "Thanks to satellite technology, a worldwide audience estimated at over one billion people watch the ceremony each year. The lowering of the Ball has become the world's symbolic welcome to the New Year."

The famous ball drop at New York City's Times Square is comprised of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles that vary in size. 

According to the Times Square website: "For Times Square 2022, 192 Waterford Crystal triangles introduce the new Gift of Wisdom design represented by a central wheel with wedge cut petals of knowledge growing ever forward. 192 are the Gift of Happiness design of a sunburst of bright cuts radiating outward like a beautiful sunny day brings warm smiles and happiness. 192 are the Gift of Goodwill design represented by three pineapples signifying the traditional symbol of hospitality and goodwill. 192 are the Gift of Harmony design of small rosette cuts flowing into each other in beautiful harmony. 192 are the Gift of Serenity design of butterflies flying peacefully above a crystal meadow capturing the spirit of serenity. 192 are the Gift of Kindness design of a circle of rosettes symbolizing unity with the fronds reaching out in an expression of kindness. 192 are the Gift of Wonder design of a faceted starburst inspiring our sense of wonder. 192 are the Gift of Fortitude design of diamond cuts on either side of a crystal pillar to represent the inner attributes of resolve, courage, and spirit necessary to triumph over adversity. The remaining 1,152 triangles are the Gift of Imagination design of a series of intricate wedge cuts that are mirrored reflections of each other, inspiring our imagination."

For fun facts about the history of the Times Square Ball, check out this link:

Early in the morning on New Year's Day, the attention of the world shifts from the east coast to the west coast to a suburb north of Downtown Los Angeles due to a parade, but not just any parade. The annual Rose Parade is hosted by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. 

According to Wikipedia, "First held on January 1, 1890, hundreds of thousands of spectators watch the Rose Parade in person, and millions more watch it on television - both in the United States and in more than 100 international territories and countries worldwide. The Rose Bowl college football game was added in 1902 to help fund the cost of staging the parade."

Whichever brands stand out to you as you get ready to begin 2023, I wish you a happy and health New Year!

Image Credits: City of New York and the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

Monday, December 26, 2022

What's Your Favorite Brand the Day After Christmas?

Today is December 26th. The packages have been opened. The wrapping and bows are all over the living room carpet. The holiday meal is cooking in the kitchen. So, what is your favorite brand today?

I'd like to send a shout-out of gratitude to the team at NORAD for the Santa tracker, found online, via mobile apps, and via telephone. More than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DOD civilians volunteer their time on December 24th to answer thousands of phone calls and emails that arrive from around the world.

You may be wondering, what exactly is NORAD? Here are important details from the official NORAD Santa Tracker website:

"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a United States and Canada bi-national organization which defends the homeland through aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for North America. Aerospace warning includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space, and the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, through mutual support arrangements with other commands…Headquartered in Colorado, NORAD's mission has evolved over the years to meet changing threats. Through outstanding bi-national cooperation, NORAD has proven itself effective in its roles of watching, warning, and responding. The men and women of NORAD are constantly watching the skies and waterways of the United States and Canada."

You may be wondering, how did the NORAD Santa Tracker start?

“The modern tradition of tracking Santa began in 1955 when a young child accidentally dialed the unlisted phone number of the CONAD Operations Center (the predecessor of NORAD) upon seeing a newspaper ad telling kids to call Santa. The Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, answered the phone and instructed his staff to check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole.

Thus, a tradition was born, and every year since, NORAD has reported Santa’s location on December 24 to millions of children and families across the globe. Every Christmas Eve, thousands of volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and emails from children around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by email to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 12,000 emails and more than 70,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe. In 2022, children and the young-at-heart tracked Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and NORAD Tracks Santa has become a magical and global phenomenon, delighting generations of families everywhere.”

The NORAD Tracks Santa program is funded through generous contributions that cover everything from computer servers, web site design, video imaging, Santa's tracking map, and telephone services.

What is the technology behind the NORAD Santa Tracker?

"It all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada's North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America."

Satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that's a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph's nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph's bright red nose with no problem.

The other system used is the NORAD jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then at numerous locations in Canada, other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s, or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for the Jets to escort him), all of these systems together provide NORAD with a very good continuous picture of his whereabouts."

Website, Phone Number, and More:
For more information about NORAD Tracks Santa, visit – so you’ll be ready to track Santa’s journey next year. The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center is fully operational beginning at 4 AM MST on December 24th. You can call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member to relay Santa's exact location. Operators are available until midnight.

See you next year, Santa!

Image Credit: NORAD.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Five Personal Branding Lessons from Santa

Santa Claus is, without a doubt, the most well-known personal brand when it comes to holidays. He is the embodiment of the Christmas holiday with his merry demeanor and important task of delivering gifts while flying through the sky with his reindeer and climbing down chimneys.

To quote LoveToKnow: “When you hear a ho, ho, ho, it takes you back to the enchanting memories of Santa Claus during your childhood. Santa is more than magic, he's a tradition.”

Here are five personal branding lessons Santa teaches us:

For generations, the message of Santa Claus has been love, family, and goodness. How about you? What is your personal brand’s message? Is it easy to explain? Is it easy to understand?

For generations, Santa has embodied the same message. How about you? Has your personal brand been consistent over time? Has it been shared in the same way with the same word choice in the current social media age? Do employers and colleagues know at a quick glance what your personal brand story is?

Santa is immediately recognizable by his red suit. His color choice embodies love, life, strength, power, and attention. What about you? Do you have a color that you wear often? Is there a color that best represents you or your accomplishments?

Santa’s tradition is that he delivers gifts to good little children during his Christmas eve travels around the world. This encourages children to behave during the year, or at the very least, during the days leading up to the December holiday. However, Santa is also the embodiment of good, which can be seen by this inspiring story from 2013.

“With a touch of Christmas magic, Mr. Claus and his gang of Santa’s saw their red suits drained to a brilliant white after they rolled up their sleeves to give blood at a central London clinic. December is a bad time for blood stocks with potential donors being too busy partying and Christmas shopping…Some young patients need Santa to bring them something far more important than the latest gadget or toy for Christmas, they need the gift of blood to stay alive,” explained Jon Latham of NHS Blood and Transport.

What about you? Are you involved in philanthropy? Do you volunteer for a nonprofit? Do you serve on a nonprofit board or committee? Does your personal brand show your community service?

Over the years, Santa has appeared in ads for a variety of products including Coca-Cola, Mercedes, Kodak pocket camera, Quaker sugar cookies, and M&M’s. These products and countless more have capitalized on the positive attributes of Santa’s personal brand. What about you? Have you partnered with product or service brands to enhance your personal brand storytelling? If yes, how has the combined story impacted your personal brand?

Perhaps, Santa’s most well-known technology partnership is with NORAD. According to Wikipedia, “NORAD Tracks Santa is an annual Christmas-themed program in which North American Aerospace Defense Command simulates the tracking of Santa Claus, who is said to leave the North Pole to travel around the world on his mission to deliver presents to children every year on Christmas Eve. The program starts on December 1, but the actual Santa-tracking simulation starts at midnight annually on December 23. It is a community outreach function and has been held annually since 1955. Here’s the link:”

Happy personal branding – and Merry Christmas!

Image Credit: NHS Blood and Transport (@GiveBloodNHS on Twitter with hashtags #GiveBlood and #KeepDonating)

Friday, December 23, 2022

Marketing News of the Week: Redesigned Logos, Word of the Year, and Co-Branding


This week saw some interesting marketing news including some logo redesigns and unveilings, an announcement of one entity's word of the year for 2022, and an international co-branding display. However, we cannot ignore the ongoing news from Twitter, ranging from a new release of the verified check mark for a fee of $11 a month, square profile images for brands, and the announcement by Elon Musk that he will resign as CEO when he finds someone "foolish enough to take the job."

NBC announced that it would start the new year with a brand refresh. While the logo was unveiled in the fall, the new card/curtain raiser, aka, the brandmark, animation, and chimes that kick-off NBC programming will debut during Miley Cyrus' New Year's Eve special on December 31st. The new logo balances the space between the feathers on NBC's peacock, and a white outline was removed. Also, the peacock's beak was extended for legibility.

The company unveiled its first new look in ten years. The new logo features a split screen with vibrant colors to spread the message that Cartoon Network is a fun brand, according to Jacob Escobedo, Senior VP of the network, "a new look designed to feel vibrant, fun, and exciting."

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited the White House, met with President Joe Biden, and gave a speech to members of Congress on December 21. According to CNN, "Zelensky delivered his address in English...even his attire - the now-familiar Army green shirt, cargo pants and boots - seemed designed to remind his audience that they were in the presence of a wartime leader." The financial support promised by the Biden Administration to Ukraine to fight Russia represents the core of co-branding because both parties want the same result.

WORD OF THE YEAR selected "woman" as its word of the year for 2022. Searches for the word on the site doubled during 2022 when compared to previous years. During the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, she was asked, "Can you provide a definition for the word 'woman'?" She responded that she could not. As Jim Joseph reminded us in his commentary, during 2022, Roe vs. Wade was overturned and women began mass protests in Iran. As this marketing news shows, words do matter.

While Argentina beat France to win the World Cup this week, and many people around the world were glued to their TV's, radios, and other devices to watch the action, many of us have yet to become international soccer fans. It would seem, therefore, that there is an incredible marketing opportunity.

What marketing news stood out to you this week?

What will next week's marketing news be? Tune in to read all about it.

Image Credits: NBC, Cartoon Network, The White House,, and Twitter.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Five Things I'll Miss About Twitter

With Elon Musk and Twitter in the news every day since Musk took over Twitter, those of us who used Twitter for good are saddened as to the direction of this social media platform.

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed."

I met people on Twitter from all over the world, sometimes just from a single Tweet. I even met a CEO based on a single Tweet.

So what happens now? Many tweeps (people on Twitter) have left the platform. Some have migrated to Mastodon, and some have taken a hiatus.

Unfortunately, we are starting to see a dramatic increase in hate speech resulting from Musk's termination of staff to monitor content and a lack of content monitoring leading to the spread of misinformation regarding the covid pandemic - not to mention the return of specific individuals who will misuse the platform.

As a result, here are some things I will miss now that Twitter has changed:

[1] Will there, or can there, ever be another famous Oreo Tweet, like in 2013? If live events are not discussed in real time on Twitter, and brands no longer participate, this type of fun content may never happen again.

[2] During the Super Bowl, fellow marketing pros discuss the ads in real time. This was always a fun exchange using a myriad of hashtags including #BrandBowl, #SuperBowlAds, #Advertising, #KelloggBowl, #SuperBowlExp, #BigGameColorCommentary, and more. This type of convo will have to move to another platform, but will it be as stimulating?

[3] I have always enjoyed leading TweetChats and participating in TweetChats. These are different than webinars and Zoom meetings, and I've met people from all around the world during these unique get-togethers to discuss interesting marketing and leadership topics.

[4] When breaking news happens, the first place I turned was to Twitter. Whether it was a police chase, a fire, an earthquake, or election results, Twitter was the place for an update.

[5] People always showed their creativity in their bios. Carefully crafted in only 140 characters, bios often told people's stories. Whether a title was "Chief Happiness Officer," or "Brand Architect," or "Jungle Cruise Skipper," the uniqueness of a person's bio was an invitation to Tweet hello or follow and connect.

What about you? What will you miss about Twitter? Have you migrated elsewhere?

If you're on Mastodon, let's connect. Here's my link:

Image Credit: Twitter.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Marketing News of the Week: Barbie and Twitter


This week saw some interesting marketing news. Although last week's announcements were newsworthy due to their annual end-of-the-year timing: the Pantone color company announced its "Color of the Year for 2023" and TIME Magazine announced its "Person of the Year for 2022," this week's brands were newsworthy for different reasons.

Warner Brothers Pictures unveiled a short trailer for its movie, #BARBIETHEMOVIE, which will arrive in movie theaters on July 21, 2023. The music and theme of the trailer referenced the classic movie "2001: A Space Odyssey." According to Fandom, "Life in plastic, it's fantastic."

Mattel’s Barbie has become one of the world’s most popular dolls. Introduced in 1959, the Barbie doll owes its success to adapting to the ever-changing markets of various cultures and countries by launching Barbie dolls of shapes, colors, and sizes, and customizations to the inhabitants of certain regions. Because Barbie has often been criticized for representing an unattainable beauty ideal for girls and women, the doll has evolved both in style and shape over the years. The Barbie brand also honors pioneering women from throughout history.

Watch the movie's trailer here:

Twitter, translation owner Elon Musk, suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists from The New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, and more. According to the journalists, no explanations were provided by Twitter. Journalist Tony Webster, who was permanently suspended said, "Twitter had become the heartbeat of news and society. Banning journalists for doing their jobs is not the free speech Elon Musk promised."

On a related note, Mastodon's account was also suspended. Mastodon is the social media platform where many Twitter users have moved as a result of Musk's purchase of Twitter.

What marketing news stood out to you this week?

What will next week's marketing news be? Tune in to read all about it.

Image Credits: Barbie the Movie and Twitter.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Intersection of Employer Branding, Workplace Culture, and Leadership


As a member of the Twitterverse for more than 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." Recently, I connected with Michael Kerr from Canada, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about employer branding, workplace culture, and leadership. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Michael Kerr is a Canadian Hall of Fame speaker who speaks on inspiring workplace cultures and businesses that leverage their humor resources to create outrageous results. He is the author of 8 books, including, “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank,” “Hire, Inspire, and Fuel Their Fire,” and “The Jerk-Free Workplace: How You Can Take the Lead to Create a Happier, More Inspiring Workplace.”

QUESTION: The employee onboarding process starts the moment an open position is advertised and reflects the employer brand. How can C-Suite and other top leadership teams understand the importance of employer branding?

MICHAEL KERR: 90% of the job of getting your culture right is making sure you invest in your recruitment, hiring, and onboarding. Leadership teams need to embrace the idea that if you are truly looking for the best possible candidates for any position, then in theory, if they really are the best, they can work anywhere they choose!  

So, you need to champion your distinct cultural advantage and brand and sell the benefits of why employees should work with you. And by bringing your cultural norms to life on your website and everywhere you recruit candidates from, you can start the process of teaching your cultural values and norms before employees have even begun working for you.

Finally, leaders need to embrace the chicken and egg relationship when it comes to having a strong culture brand – you need to hire top talent to help you strengthen your brand, but having a strong brand also helps you become the hunted – in tight labor markets you do not need to sweat as much to find employees because employees will be tripping over themselves to come and work for you!
QUESTION: There are many new titles for the head of personnel, aka Human Resources, including: Chief Happiness Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Talent Officer, Chief Encouragement Officer, to name a few.

One of our leadership/employee engagement/workforce culture colleagues, Marli Rusen from British Columbia, Canada, has said, “The title of Human Resources covers the myriad of responsibilities performed by the HR department. The other titles you mention are too limited in scope and fail to recognize the many roles and responsibilities assigned to those who work in this field. For me, what’s more important than the title is that employees and leaders clearly understand the mandate of the HR department in their organization.”

What are your thoughts to change the title to improve the position’s value to all employees?

MICHAEL KERR: I also know of a Human Resources Manager whose alternative job title is “The Queen of Fun and Laughter,” so yes, there are an increasing number of alternative job titles popping up.

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “human resources.” I actually find it somewhat dehumanizing and impersonal, so jazzing up the titles to make them more fun or to help redefine what the actual role is, or can be, is a good thing. Words matter. Labels matter. So, how we define roles at work is important. The crux of this, though, is making sure that this isn’t merely gimmicky window dressing. Actions speak louder than words and talk is cheap, so if you change job titles but nothing else changes, or those new names don’t reflect the reality of what the label conveys, then you are going to do nothing more than raise the level of cynicism amongst your employees!

TWEET THIS: Words matter. Labels matter. So, how we define roles at work is important. ~@HumorAtWork #WorkplaceCulture #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: During this challenging time of “quiet quitting” and the “great resignation,” what are some ways that leaders can provide feedback to their employees who work from home in a constructive and non-combative manner?

MICHAEL KERR: I think offering feedback is essentially the same whether employees are working at home or in the office. With remote employees, however, leaders need to be far more intentional about how often and how they communicate and connect with their employees. Leaders need to understand as well, that there’s a difference between checking UP ON remote employees versus checking IN with remote employees (anyone with teenagers at home understands this important distinction).  

When it comes to giving constructive feedback, leaders need to be more aware than ever before about how different forms of communication might not work as effectively. One study found, for example, that 50% of email messages have a “tonal issue.” Half the time respondents aren’t sure how to interpret the tone of the sender. So, leaders need to be extra careful about how they phrase feedback via email or even over the phone, where the employee doesn’t have the benefit of reading body language clues. Ideally, reserve any feedback conversations with remote employees for video meetings, or, even better, for longer conversations, make it a priority to meet face-to-face whenever possible.  

QUESTION: Which three leaders, from history or business, inspire you, and why?

MICHAEL KERR: That’s a tough question, there are so many options to choose from, and most of the ones that come to mind are leaders I’ve interviewed over the years from around the world for my work. Here are three that aren’t going to be household names!

One that comes to mind is Bill Strickland, author of Make the Impossible Possible. I met him and heard him speak over 10 years ago, and his talk was one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard, where he described how he, as the principal, turned around a poor, inner city school in Pittsburgh. It’s such an inspiring story of how leaders with a powerful vision can inspire massive change.

Another leader that inspires me is Mike Easton, the President and CEO of Argus Industries. Easton embodies so much of what I speak about regarding workplace culture: treating employees with respect and dignity, valuing the family members of employees, and embracing a workplace culture that values fun. In fact, one of his mantras that I love is, “Work is hard enough as it is without making it any harder, so let’s have fun while we’re working hard to achieve our goals!”

And finally, I’d name Kim Axelson, CEO of AFA JCDecaux, who I had the pleasure of interviewing in Copenhagen, Denmark. Axelson was a leader who, well into his 60’s, rather than retiring, decided to revitalize his company with a re-imagined workplace culture that launched their business into a new level of success, again, by embracing fun and humanity in the workplace. He had a child-like enthusiasm when he spoke about his employees and clearly was having the time of his life leading a re-invigorated company.   

QUESTION: According to Chelsea Castle on Twitter, “The number one way you can be a great boss? It has nothing to do with being in charge. It’s being a great teammate.” What are your thoughts about this concept?

MICHAEL KERR: I agree…but with a caveat. We’ve heard the phrase “servant leader,” and I think most people understand the importance of adopting a service mindset as a leader – that the job of a leader is to serve their employees and create more leaders, not more followers.

The danger, I suppose, in distilling it down to being a “great teammate” is that leaders still have a responsibility to well, lead, to make tough decisions, and to hold employees accountable for their work. Those duties can become challenging if everyone considers you one of the gang.

The notion of a boss as being a great teammate makes me think of one of the world’s worst fictional bosses, Michael Scott from The Office, who so desperately wanted to be liked by his employees that it constantly got in the way of his ability to lead them.

Now, I do agree with the notion that being a great leader has nothing to do with being in charge. There is a difference between being “the boss” and being a true leader. Your position as a boss or manager comes with your job title – it’s your business card label. But true leadership has nothing to do with your job title or what’s on your business card – true leadership is earned. It’s about your character and who you are as a person, not what’s written on your business card.

TWEET THIS: True leadership has nothing to do with your job title or what’s on your business card – true leadership is earned. ~@HumorAtWork #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Michael for sharing his workplace and leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Eugene Golovesov via Unsplash.

Connect with Michael at these links:
Inspiring Workplaces YouTube Channel:  
Twitter: @HumorAtWork
Facebook: /HumorAtWork

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Do You Use Your Voice to Lift Up Women Leaders?


Do you know today’s significance? On this date in 1869, the legislature of the territory of Wyoming passed America’s first woman suffrage law, granting women the right to vote and hold office. In 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state admitted to the Union and became the first state to allow women the right to vote.

To celebrate today’s significance, I’ve invited Susan Colantuono to return to my Blog for a conversation about women leaders, supportive men in the workplace, leadership, and RBG.

But first, a brief introduction…Susan Colantuono is an expert on women's advancement, author, and speaker. She is best known for her TED Talk on the Career Advice You Probably Didn't Get (which has over 4 million views) and her books, “No Ceiling, No Walls” and “Make the Most of Mentoring.” She is the founder and former CEO of Leading Women, a global consulting firm focused on women's advancement. Now, as a co-host of A Career that Soars!, she continues to provide leadership and career development to women around the globe.

QUESTION: You appeared on my blog in a Q&A in August 2021. During our inspiring convo, you said, “Surrounding oneself with smart and capable colleagues is one hallmark of great leaders.” How can new leaders overcome their big egos and embrace this important leadership tip?

SUSAN COLANTUONO: People who are new to leadership positions (not all of whom would fulfill my definition of leadership!) navigate three major transitions.

First from individual contributor to first-line manager. This is the first hurdle when it comes to tapping smart and capable colleagues, because, in most cases, they make this leap because of their excellent professional performance. It’s easy here to not know how to delegate and rely on others because there’s been no experience. And if they don’t learn, they will fail.

By the time a person transitions into the “muddle in the middle,” which can be all positions from manager to senior manager, and involve managing individuals or teams or teams of teams, they have a basic understanding that they will not succeed without engaging the greatness in others.

And at the executive level, when one manages functions and business units, it is impossible to be the only one in the room who knows everything. So, to me, the answer to your question is success on the way up requires the learning of this lesson…and if someone hasn’t learned it due to a huge ego, they will ultimately fail.

TWEET THIS: Surrounding oneself with smart and capable colleagues is one hallmark of great leaders. ~@SusanColantuono #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: At the executive level…it is impossible to be the only one in the room who knows everything. ~@SusanColantuono #Leadership #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In a recent post on the website entitled, “Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff leans in to being a voice for gender equality,” he said, “I found where I can really make a difference is just trying to use my voice to lift women in leadership up.” What are the qualities women should look for in men who can be good mentors and help them to earn promotions and C-Suite roles?

(Read the post here:

SUSAN COLANTUONO: I was so happy to read the profile on Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. The media has pretty much ignored him (as they have the consequential portfolio that VP Kamala Harris is handling). I'd say the two most important things to look for in good mentors (and perhaps sponsors) are:

  1. A skill set that matches the woman's development needs especially as it relates to providing mentoring on business, strategic, and financial acumen.
  2. A willingness to advance women (past evidence or current interest).

QUESTION: You wrote a memorable book in 2010 entitled, “No Ceiling, No Walls: What women haven't been told about leadership from career-start to the corporate boardroom.” What are five key take-aways you hope readers will have?

SUSAN COLANTUONO: Debbie, thank you for describing No Ceiling, No Walls as memorable. I am constantly touched by women who’ve told me it transformed their careers. The top five takeaways I hope readers have are:

  1. Leadership manifests at every level from career-start to the C-Suite.
  2. Career advancement rests on the foundation of proven and perceived leadership, which means “using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others.”
  3. There is a missing 33% of the career success equation for women. This translates to the fact that most of us have to get better at developing and/or demonstrating our business, strategic, and financial acumen.
  4. The key to demonstrating business, strategic, and financial acumen is learning to use The Language of Power.
  5. Using the metaphor of a diamond ring, many women don’t need to polish the diamond, we often need to strengthen its setting. In other words, because women are perceived as great at interpersonal and team skills, it’s a better use of our time to strengthen our business, strategic, and financial acumen rather than polish our interpersonal and team skills.

QUESTION: There is a new role in some C-Suites: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations?

(Read the post here:

SUSAN COLANTUONO: Fast Company has a pretty good article about the trend to hire Chief Happiness Officers. Here’s what I think, and I mirror some of the points in the article. Employee engagement rests on four key factors: meaningful work, a good manager, respectful colleagues, and equitable pay and benefits.

If the responsibility of the Chief Happiness Officer includes action in these four areas, I think the position has merit. If the company envisions the responsibility as including event planning, foosball tables, and corporate swag, it’s a waste of money.

QUESTION: Lastly, what’s your favorite RBG (former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) quote, and why?

SUSAN COLANTUONO: I so admire Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and one of my favorite t-shirts reads: "VOTE, we’re Ruthless (pun intended). "There are SO many great quotes from her that I’m going to choose two:

“When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that.”

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”

My profound thanks to Susan for returning to my blog and sharing her inspiring thoughts.

Image Credit: (Women's Democratic Club of Utah).

Connect with Susan at these links:
Susan's website:
Twitter:  @SusanColantuono

Read my first Q&A featuring Susan at this link:

To read more about today’s historical significance, check out this link:

Friday, December 9, 2022

Marketing News of the Week: Color of the Year and Person of the Year

This was a big week for marketing news. The week began with the official announcement by the Pantone color company of the color of the year for 2023. Later in the week, TIME Magazine announced its Person of the Year for 2022. With all the chaos in the world including the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the holiday season, this news was welcomed by those of us in the marketing field.

According to Pantone:
“Viva Magenta is an unconventional shade for an unconventional time. Vibrating with vim and vigor, a shade rooted in nature descending from the red family demonstrating a new signal of strength. Viva Magenta writes a new narrative…Brave and fearless, a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes optimism and joy. Powerful and empowering, it is an animated red that encourages experimentation and self-expression without restraint."

Pantone’s color institute executive director Leatrice Eiseman explained, “Viva Magenta is a harmonious hue that descends from red, with hints of pink and purple. It is empowering, a new animated red that revels in pure joy, encouraging experimentation and self-expression without restraint. It is a color that is audacious, full of wit and inclusive of all. In this age of technology, we look to draw inspiration from nature and what is real.”

According to E-News:

“The electrifying hue, a sort of big sister to the popular Barbie pink trend, is all about embracing one's boldness in the New Year. Magenta was also chosen for its hybrid-like qualities since it blends the old with the new. After all, it not only has historical value but is a window into the future.”

According to The New York Times:
“President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was named TIME Magazine’s person of the year on Wednesday in recognition of his leadership during his country’s war against Russia. The magazine also recognized “the spirit of Ukraine,” pointing to the country’s resilience in a rebuke to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The closely watched honor marks the latest step in a remarkable ascent that has seen Mr. Zelensky catapulted from a career as a television comedian, first to the presidency in 2019 and then, this year, to the status of a leader with global stature. The Ukrainian leader, who has come to personify the nation’s resistance since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February, has characterized the war as a struggle by a peace-loving people seeking freedom from tyranny.”

According to NPR:
“Much of the world has spent the last year watching the war in Ukraine as the country defends itself from Russian attacks and asserts its identity on the global stage. So, it may not come as a surprise to many that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the spirit of Ukraine are officially Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2022. The magazine, which has bestowed the honor annually since 1927, released the announcement on Wednesday alongside a lengthy profile of the wartime leader. It credits his stewardship of Ukraine's defense — which has halted Russia's advance and regained key territories — as well as its public image.”

"Whether one looks at this story of Ukraine with a sense of hope or a sense of fear, and the story is, of course, not fully written yet, Zelenskyy has really galvanized the world in a way we haven't seen in decades,” said TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal.

Do you agree with these choices? Should Pantone have picked a different color? Does this year’s version of red energize you?

And what about Mr. Zelensky? Was he your choice for Person of the Year? Or, would you have picked the Supreme Court as a result of their overturning the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision? Or how about the Iranian protestors? Or what about Elon Musk due to his takeover as owner and chief decision-maker of Twitter? Or what about Queen Elizabeth, whose death was mourned by people around the world after her astonishing 70 years on the throne?

And then, there were some other folks that made news during 2022: Serena Williams retired from professional tennis; Prince Harry announced the publication of his biography entitled Spare – but then postponed release of the book to January 2023 due the death of Queen Elizabeth II; Kanye West, aka, YE, made news for a variety of reasons throughout the year; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped down as Democratic party leader after two decades at the top; Karen Bass was elected as the first African-American woman to serve as Mayor of Los Angeles; and Bob Iger returned as CEO of The Walt Disney Company after retiring in 2020.

What do you think the color of the year will be for 2024? And who do you think the Person of the Year for 2023 will be? Watch the next year very carefully for clues.

Image Credits: Pantone and TIME Magazine.

Official Pantone link:

Official TIME Magazine link:

Monday, December 5, 2022

What are your favorite holiday ads?


With December here, the holiday season is front and center in many brands' advertising.

To quote advertising guru David Ogilvy, "A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself."

What are your fave brands during the holidays? What messaging is most compelling during the holidays? And which ads do you remember year after year?

Here are my fave holiday ads:

J & B
The print ad by J&B is timeless with its "Ingle Ells, Ingle Ells. The holidays aren't the same with J&B."

LESSON: Try different spellings of your brand name for effective and compelling storytelling.

The television ad featuring Hershey's kisses as ringing bells is as enjoyable and fun each year as it was when it was first unveiled in 1989.

LESSON: Humor always wins.

Watch the ad here:

With an image of Santa's sleigh fallen over in the snow and packages on the ground, the tagline speaks loudly: "Don't drink and drive."

LESSON: Despite the goodwill of the holiday season, there are important messages that need to be shared.

Santa's group of reindeer are a fleet of Mercedes-Benz cars and SUV's.

LESSON: Showcase your brand by integrating elements of the holiday season.

Each year, this British retailer creates a unique TV ad that surprises and wows - and tells a heartwarming story.

LESSON: Surprise and wow your customers and fans with your holiday storytelling.

If your brand learn from these lessons, your holiday advertising will, without a doubt, stand out and be memorable.

Happy holiday advertising, and happy holidays!

Image Credits: Heineken, Hershey's, and J&B.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Reading Opens Doors and More


Today is an important day if you like to read - it's Take a Child to a Bookstore Day. To quote Jenny Milchman, "Bookstores hold a place in the hearts and times of our community. They are places to discover an author, a story, a life. Nothing affords the conversation and interaction among books and book lovers that a bookstore does. In the future, whether you download your story or pluck a volume off a shelf, a bookstore will be able to accommodate. But in order for bookstores to flourish and thrive, we must expose future generations to the unique pleasures they offer. On December 3rd, 2022, take a child in your life to a bookstore. Watch his/her/their face light up as you give free access, not just to a new book, but to tomorrow."

As a member of the Twitterverse for more than 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." Recently, I connected with Kt McBratney from Atlanta, Georgia, and issued an invitation to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about entrepreneurship, marketing, reading, and business inspiration. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Kt McBratney (they/she) is the co-founder & chief community officer at OwnTrail, the new social network for people to achieve their next (fill in the blank). They’re also an artist, strategist, recovering marketer, and aspiring Jungle Cruise skipper.

QUESTION: You are a Co-Founder of your own company. How did that happen?
Kt McBratney: I knew my next career move would be entrepreneurial, but I didn’t know what form that would take. I was working with a wonderful team in my role as chief marketing officer at Seed&Spark when I met my now co-founder, Rebekah Bastian. She introduced herself with such unapologetic authenticity as a tech executive, writer, parent, and aerial acrobat that I had a strong feeling we’d hit it off. I asked her out on a friend date to get to know her more. It was over this coffee that she shared the idea she’d had for her upcoming book launch, which had the possibility of becoming something much bigger. That was the seed of OwnTrail as we now know it — the platform where people can be their most authentic selves, make meaningful connections, and taking action toward a more fulfilling life.

The impact OwnTrail could have struck me right away. As we brainstormed, Rebekah mentioned that she knew she’d want a co-founder. She invited me to work with her first as an advisor to see how we worked together, and a few months later, I knew I had to make the leap to cofounder. We transitioned out of our respective leadership roles at Zillow and Seed&Spark to go full-time on OwnTrail right as the pandemic unfolded in the first months of 2020. It was a wild time for any career move, especially launching a company, but I don’t regret it one bit.

QUESTION: Janet Yellen, the current and first female Secretary of the Treasury, has been described as, "A proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
Kt McBratney: Consensus-building is a muscle I’m always working to strengthen, and I don’t think anyone is perfect at it, let alone me! But we need it in all areas of our lives, especially in a culture that can easily confuse winning with success.

To develop consensus-building chops, it takes:
(1) Clarity - so you can convey the idea effectively.
(2) Empathy - so you can create space for people to process it in a way that works for them.
(3) Confidence - so you can help move people from idea to action.

TWEET THIS: We need consensus-building in all areas of our lives, especially in a culture that can easily confuse winning with success. ~@k_to_the_t #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What is your favorite RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) quote, and why?
Kt McBratney: "Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true."

Reading was my first love. I was the kid who would skip recess on a beautiful day to read The Hobbit unbothered in the library. The ideas, places, people, and possibilities that reading has opened up for me are literally countless. While it’s easy (and valid) to quote RBG on gender and women’s rights, this quote reminds me how READING is one of the keys to making that reality and so much else.

TWEET THIS:  The ideas, places, people, and possibilities that READING has opened up for me are literally countless. ~@k_to_the_t #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In your pinned Tweet, you state that "Business leaders should read at least as much fiction and creative nonfiction as they do business books." So what are you currently reading in the fiction and nonfiction genres?

Kt McBratney: I’m currently reading The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow, which is a light 800-pager on human history and social evolution. It’s fascinating to look at how we tell the stories of civilization through their perspective as an anthropologist and archaeologist, especially as we think about possible futures.

On the fiction side, I just finished Outlawed by Anna North. It’s a Western novel in an alternate past where women unable to bear children were often hanged as witches, and the hero Ada joins a gang of outlaws who just might create a new frontier along the way.

Both deal with the past as a way of looking toward better futures, which is so related to my work with OwnTrail!

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any three people from history or the current era, who would you choose, and why?
Kt McBratney: I’m not one for small talk, so I’m stacking my fantasy dinner party with people unafraid to get into the deep, abstract, or strange! I have to include my longtime role model LeVar Burton. His work as a storyteller and advocate absolutely shaped the trajectory of my life, from encouraging me from a TV screen that loving books was actually a great thing, to helping me realize that a creative and nonlinear career can (and arguably should) center on your values. Imagine the stories he could tell!

We definitely need to invite Dolly Parton, who can hold her own and then some in storytelling, but is an inspiration for humility, generosity, and letting your sequins shine as bright as the sun.

And, in that last spot? The final spot is a toss-up between bell hooks and Jim Henson. Both are incredible teachers of important life lessons on love, identity, community, and care. Complete geniuses in very different ways. I would be honored to pour them a glass of water, let alone share a dinner table.

(For those who may not know, bell hooks was an American author and social activist best known for her writings on race, feminism, and class.)

QUESTION: In your Twitter bio, you describe yourself as many things including "an aspiring Jungle Cruise skipper." As a Disneyophile who worked in the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, I know what you mean, but please explain for others.
Kt McBratney: I now have a thousand questions for you about that experience! My aspiration to be a Jungle Skipper is just that — my retirement dream job is to be a skipper on the Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride, slinging puns, making people laugh, and putting joy into the world via the simple magic of human connection and wordplay. I promise I wouldn’t take the job for granite!

(Clarification for non Disney fans and those who don't ride the Jungle Cruise every time they visit a Disney theme park, Kt's last sentence alludes to a memorable joke from the Jungle Cruise ride: “The rocks you see here are sandstone. But some people just take them for granite. It’s one of my boulder attractions.”

My thanks to Kt for sharing their marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Kimberly Farmer via Unsplash.

Connect with Kt at these links:
Twitter: @k_to_the_t
Instagram: @k_to_the_t

Monday, November 28, 2022

Digital Engagement Tips to Attract Customers and Fans

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently re-connected with Susan Friesen from British Columbia, Canada, and invited her to appear a second time here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about digital marketing and engagement. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Susan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media. In her capacity in that role, she recognizes that many business owners waste too much valuable time, money, and energy either hiring the wrong people to do their website and online marketing or trying to do it all themselves...and getting nowhere as a result. When working with clients, she has a proven, personalized, multi-pronged strategy that covers all of the critical aspects that must be done correctly to avoid these costly lessons. Susan can be found online at; on Instagram at; on Facebook at; and on Twitter @eVisionMedia.

QUESTION: What is your favorite marketing buzzword, and why?

SUSAN FRIESEN: Right now it's brand positioning. Positioning a business brand in the marketplace is increasingly becoming an absolute necessity. The competition is fierce and the best way to be "The" choice is to work hard at creating a positive and memorable brand.

QUESTION: What marketing buzzword do you find most annoying, and why?

SUSAN FRIESEN: I'd have to say guerilla marketing. It's just so 2000. The old model of push marketing is long dead, but a lot of "Gurus" still preach it. Yes, there could be some immediate results, but it's not a sustainable business model and leaves an overall negative impression, especially when done badly.

QUESTION: One way to continue engagement with customers and fans is email marketing. How do you do this successfully, and what are some e-newsletter tips?

SUSAN FRIESEN: For the past several years, we have consistently sent out a value-based newsletter every Thursday. Without exception! And it's paid off in spades. Our newsletters include a new blog article written specifically for our target audience (Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners) that they find relevant and informative on their business-building journey. As a result, we have a very low unsubscribe rate.

But not only that, we stay top of mind with our existing clients who often are reminded of an update or promotion they need to do and reach out to have us take care of it. We also get new clients who may have been on our list for years and are ready to have us help them. My biggest tips are to be consistent with weekly send outs and make content about your reader and provide value. Don't make it a sales pitch!

TWEET THIS: Make content about your reader and provide value. ~@eVisionMedia #MarketingTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are some websites you admire, and why?

SUSAN FRIESEN: Ours of course! ( Aside from that, I enjoy and the mission they are on to make the world a better place, one human at a time.

In my line of work, I come across hundreds of sites, and sadly, way too many are not designed or built in a way that positions them favourably with their ideal target audience.

QUESTION: What are some brands whose social pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) you admire, and why — in other words, why are they effective with customers and/or fans?

SUSAN FRIESEN: I tend to follow more small businesses rather than big corporations. Melody Beattie has a very inspirational and motivational social presence. Dr. Berg offers a plethora of informative videos on health. Mari Smith, a Facebook expert, is always charming, informative, and entertaining. Same with Social Media Examiner - very informative and very clear on their brand positioning.

Here are the links mentioned above:

My thanks to Susan for sharing her marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Georgie Cobbs via Unsplash.

Check out Susan's previous appearance here on my blog from November 2021:
"The Importance of Brand Identity"

Thursday, November 24, 2022

What Brand Stands Out on Thanksgiving?


What brand represents Thanksgiving? I challenge you to pick a single brand.

For me, it's a toss-up between these three.

Whether you live in New York City or anywhere else, there is a particular parade that, since 1924, has become a family ritual to watch in person or on television. The three-hour parade is held from 9am to 12noon Eastern time on Thanksgiving Day, and it has been televised nationally on NBC since 1952. A unique aspect of working at Macy’s is that Macy’s employees have the option of marching in the parade. Would you march?
Have you ever tried to cook a 15-pound or 25-pound turkey and run into trouble? Have no fear, if the turkey is a Butterball. This brand has a help center called the "Turkey Talk Line." This help center began in 1981 when six home economists worked the phones that holiday season to answer 11,000 turkey-cooking questions. Since then, the Turkey Talk Line has grown in both the number of calls answered and the number of experts who respond. The Turkey Talk Line is open November and December each year and is staffed with 50 experts who answer more than 100,000 questions, for thousands of households in the United States and Canada. And in today’s social era, cooks can connect with the Turkey Talk Line via social media, live chat, texting, and even Amazon Alexa.

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, and after the Macy's parade and the turkey meal, the final tradition is to sit on the comfortable couch in the den or living room with family and watch a football game. According to Wikipedia, "Since its inception in 1920, the National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving Day, patterned upon the historic playing of college football games on and around the Thanksgiving holiday."

Here are the games for this Thanksgiving:

***The Buffalo Bills play at the Detroit Lions.
***The New York Giants play at the Dallas Cowboys.
***The New England Patriots play at the Minnesota Vikings.

According to the NFL's website, "The NFL on Thanksgiving is a longstanding tradition led by the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys having annual games. This will be the Lions' 83rd Thanksgiving game and the Cowboys' 55th."

So, whatever tradition you and your family enjoy, and whatever brands stand out to you, here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Credits: Saturday Evening Post, Butterball Turkey, the NFL, and Inspira Health Network.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Brands Must ALWAYS Listen to Customers!


As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." Recently, I connected with Jeremy Watkin from San Diego, California, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about customer service and customer experience marketing. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Jeremy Watkin is Director of Customer Experience and Support at NumberBarn and cofounder of the CustomerServiceLife blog. He has more than 20 years of experience as a customer service and contact center professional leading high-performing teams. He has been recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service), product marketing, social media, and more. When not working, he can be found spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.

QUESTION: You wrote a very interesting post on your blog entitled, “Striking the Right Balance as a Customer Service Leader.” Can you provide brief highlights?

(Read the post here:

JEREMY WATKIN: This was a fun article to write. In it, I compare and contrast the leadership styles of General George Armstrong Custer and General Ulysses S. Grant. Custer was loved by his troops because he was there with them, fighting on the front lines.

By contrast, Grant was removed from the front lines, constantly focused on strategy and looking at the bigger picture. Personally, I tend to be more of a Custer than a Grant when it comes to work in the contact center. And we know that for all of his successes, Custer is most remembered for his Last Stand — a failure that led to his death.

I can remember a conversation with a boss many years ago. I was frustrated because I constantly helped on the front lines in our contact center, but we never seemed to get ahead. I felt like it was my responsibility as the manager to be there for my team.

My boss helped me understand that I was doing my team a disservice by not thinking about the big picture and making a plan for our team to more efficiently serve customers. Since that time, I’ve worked to strike a healthy balance between Custer and Grant leadership styles in my work. Have I achieved perfection? NO! But, I improve a little more each day.

QUESTION: There are so many terms and abbreviations in the customer service and customer experience arena. Which do you like, and why? And which annoy you, and why?
JEREMY WATKIN: There sure are a lot of terms, abbreviations, and acronyms in the customer experience arena — and it gets even worse when you work in the telecom space. From a customer service standpoint, I hate any insider term or acronym that isn’t well defined, requiring my customers to decode messages.

As far as specific terms go, “customer experience” ranks pretty high on my list of favorite and least favorite terms. I love customer experience, or CX, as a means of uniting a company around a customer-centric mission. I get annoyed, however when customer experience is used as a buzz word but doesn’t make any material difference in the way we treat our customers. And the annoyance continues when we start rebranding our customer service teams as “customer experience teams.” Customer service is but one small piece of a customer’s entire experience with your company.

We must be intentional about how we speak of customer experience, otherwise it’s just lip service.

TWEET THIS: We must be intentional about how we speak of customer experience, otherwise it’s just lip service. ~@jtwatkin #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Dennis Snow (@DennisSnow on Twitter) wrote, "A customer-focused culture is one in which everything is designed with the “lens of the customer” in mind." What does this quote mean to you?
JEREMY WATKIN: What a fantastic quote! As someone who routinely interacts with customers, there’s no better way to see through the lens of the customer than to hear their voice. How do we listen to customers? Some ways include reading and listening to their interactions with customer support, speaking with them directly, and paying close attention to their responses on customer satisfaction surveys. Once you become attuned to what customers are saying, thinking, and feeling, you will make great strides toward a more customer-focused culture.

And by the way, this is an ongoing process and must stay that way. The moment you think you’re customer-focused and you no longer need to listen to customers, you’re headed for trouble.

TWEET THIS: The moment you think you’re customer-focused and you no longer need to listen to customers, you’re headed for trouble. ~@jtwatkin #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?

(Read the post here:

JEREMY WATKIN: Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever left a chair empty during a meeting to represent the customer and their viewpoint. But I definitely think it’s a wonderful sentiment and reminder to always consider how our actions impact our customers.

Lately I’ve been spending time improving our self-service options and have even dabbled in chatbots. Self-service is a wonderful opportunity to help customers find accurate solutions to their issues without having to wait for a human response — and this is a terrific area of focus. But, the moment we introduce self-service options with the chief goal of making it more difficult for customers to contact support and driving down support costs, we’ve at least partly missed the point. If the customer was in the room, they would tell us the same thing.

QUESTION: What three brands stand out as experts in customer experience marketing, and why?
JEREMY WATKIN: I definitely follow a lot of different brands, but there are three that immediately come to mind:
(1) SafeSplash Swim School ( offers swimming lessons across the United States using the swimming pools at health clubs. We originally found SafeSplash during the pandemic when there was absolutely no other option for swimming lessons for our children. On their website, they state, “We are committed to making every lesson the start of a lifetime love of the water.” As I witness the pure joy from the instructors as my kids reach new milestones in swimming, I am convinced that SafeSplash believes wholeheartedly in their mission.

(2) In full disclosure, I’ve never stayed at a Ritz Carlton but I have read Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze (, former President of the Ritz Carlton Company. In the book, Schulze shares his 24 service standards which are regularly discussed and lived out by every member of the organization. This standard of excellence has been instrumental in building the Ritz Carlton into the customer experience legend that they are today.

(3) Being a lover of camping, hiking, and fly fishing, I absolutely love Patagonia. I have several of their products, with my puffy jacket, backpack, and fishing hat being among my favorites. I’d own more if not for the higher cost of their products. The cost is, however, justified, because their products are made to last and created with sustainability in mind. I tested this philosophy last year when a buckle broke on my backpack, and their friendly support team sent me the perfect replacement part. I’ve used that backpack for 8 years and fully intend to use it for many more. Patagonia is proof that many customers are willing to pay more for excellent service and exemplary quality.  

QUESTION: What is your favorite customer service story?
JEREMY WATKIN: I want to give a huge shout out to my local True Value Hardware store. On one particular occasion, I was headed out of town on a trip to the Grand Canyon and needed to get some hardware to build a DIY bike rack for my tent trailer.

Immediately, when I walked into the store, a helpful employee asked, “Is there anything I can help you find today?” Having a pretty good idea of what I needed, I said “No thanks” and headed back to the hardware section — you know, the area of the store with all of the nuts and bolts.

After lingering in that section for a bit, the employee checked in with me to see how it was going. It was at that point that I explained my vision for this bike rack. He proceeded to find the perfect combination of eye bolts, nuts, and lock washers and even explained why certain washers would be better than others for my particular application.

Why do I mention a trip to the local hardware store? Unlike those big box home improvement warehouses, I know that every time I go to True Value, the employees are consistently available and exceedingly helpful. Though I might pay a bit more for their products, the expert help almost always ensures that I walk out of that store with exactly what I need.

Shep Hyken (@hyken on Twitter) defines Amazing Customer Service as being consistently above average every time. Since hearing that quote, I’ve learned to value those companies that achieve this level of consistency, and True Value is a shining example.

My thanks to Jeremy for sharing his customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Patrick Fore via Unsplash.

Connect with Jeremy at these links:

Monday, November 14, 2022

Lead by Removing Obstacles


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Jay Hidalgo from Michigan, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Jay Hidalgo serves as a business and leadership coach, helping executives at businesses, non-profit organizations, and ministries grow their organizations, improve operational efficiency, and reach their target markets. His approach is straightforward: Define the current state; identify goals and objectives; then create and implement the right strategic process and framework to get there.

QUESTION: You do something different when it comes to coaching, something called Life Planning. Can you please explain?
JAY HIDALGO: Years ago, I was introduced to a strategic planning process for companies to help them determine where they were, where they wanted to go, and how to get there. Life Planning is the same approach, but for one’s own life. Through a series of conversations, I lead participants through the process of self-assessment, determination of passion and purpose, plans for achieving a more fulfilling life, and accountabilities to make sure the plan keeps moving forward.

QUESTION: You wrote a thought-provoking post on your blog entitled "The Power of Pause." Can you please elaborate?

(Read the full post here:

JAY HIDALGO: The post was motivated by a client of mine, one who saw the value in stopping once a quarter to review, reflect, and reset. In his case, we do this company wide. We take the leadership team off-site, I lead them through a series of conversations to assess where the company has been, where it is, and where it’s going next. This practice of reflection has transformed the entire organization. But it’s not just for companies. I have encouraged all my clients to schedule the same kind of reflection time for their lives, to take the time to assess where they are, to identify what needs to change moving forward. Those that have taken me up on this have found tremendous clarity, insight, and effectiveness, both personally and professionally.

QUESTION: On your website, you feature a very interesting diagram to identify team member strengths. How does this work?

(The diagram can be found here:

JAY HIDALGO: I believe you are referring to the strengths wheel. This diagram illustrates how a person receives, processes, and acts on information. The orange bar represents a person’s natural strengths, how they’re hardwired. The red represents their "strengths movement," how they think they need to adapt to survive in their current environment.

Often, we find people working against themselves, trying to be something they're not. When we can identify that, then we can work on ways to get them working more in line with how they are naturally gifted. Doing so brings increased efficiency and job satisfaction.

QUESTION: You state that you've "been leading companies through #StratOp (The Paterson Process) for the last 5 years. The average company has experienced 23% growth per year with this process." Can you please explain the process?
JAY HIDALGO: Sure. StratOp stands for STRATEGIC and OPERATIONS. It’s a system for working ON your business that governs how you work IN your business. It’s made up of 6 components:
(1) Perspective: Getting detailed understanding of where the organization currently stands.
(2) Planning: Creating a detailed roadmap for where the organization is currently headed.
(3) Action: Determining the steps that need to be taken in the next 90 days.
(4) Structure: Determining the people, processes, and systems needed to effectively execute the plan.
(5) Management: Quarterly coming together to assess performance in implementing the plan.
(6) Renewal: Annually coming together to see what parts of the plan need to change.

This is all tied together by looking at the strategic (the future of the business), the operational (managing today’s business), and the financial (funding both the strategic and the operational).

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
JAY HIDALGO: I have a similar quote that I share with leaders: A leader's job is to do two things: give your team everything you can to help them succeed, and remove every obstacle that keeps them from succeeding.

TWEET THIS: A leader's job is to do 2 things: give your team everything to help them succeed & remove every obstacle that keeps them from succeeding. ~@jayhidalgo #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Jay for sharing his leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credits: Michael Dziedzic via Unsplash and Jay Hidalgo.

Connect with Jay using these links:
Twitter: @jayhidalgo

Monday, November 7, 2022

An X-Ray of Healthcare Marketing


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Michael Krivich from Illinois, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about marketing. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, LFACHE, is a retired healthcare business and marketing executive with over 40 years of leadership experience in healthcare providers and vendors and is a Life Fellow American College of Healthcare Executives. He continues to write two blogs that are read daily in 52 countries, with a combined viewership exceeding 22,000 views monthly.

QUESTION: You’re currently retired, but if you knew years ago what you know now about life and the covid pandemic, what would you have chosen for a career path if you could have a do-over?
MICHAEL KRIVICH: I would stay in healthcare but choose to be a hospital CEO based on what I have learned over the years and the pandemic. If you think about it, because of the pandemic, you learned that you only need a hospital for three things: acute complex medical care, emergency room, and ICU. If you have a family, you may need a provider with a NICU or PICU.

Other than that, consumers can get all the care they need in an ambulatory care setting that is far more convenient, higher quality, and cost-effective than in a hospital. Patient engagement and experience is critically important to differentiate and survive in a retail, medical environment.
With all the primary market research I have done over the years, changes in hospital market share are more related to physician admitting behavior. Doctors move patients around to hospitals that have less of a hassle factor in their ability to practice medicine. Nothing is done in a hospital unless you have a physician’s order. A hospital is a building full of stuff that can’t be used unless the doctor says so. We can’t walk into a hospital and say give me an MRI because my shoulder hurts.
The engagement of the physician and their experience in practicing medicine at the hospital keep the hospital open. Physicians admit patients, not hospitals. Hospitals don’t close because of reimbursement levels; hospitals close because physicians lose confidence in the hospital and admit their patients elsewhere. The hospital can’t bill insurance or the government if there are no “heads in the beds” or outpatient service use: no patient bill, no money.

The last item is an unrelenting patient care focus. It’s not just saying we are patient-focused; it’s creating the culture, care, and operational processes by providing the necessary resources to BE patient-focused. It’s not a saying or a brand tagline. It’s the DNA of the hospital and a recognition that we serve patients, not the patient who serves us.

These three items are not separate activities as they create synergy and guide everything that a hospital does: how it plans, operates, and engages the patient, employee, and physician. If the hospital wants cost-effective care and margin to grow, it’s about delivering on the Triple Aim: the right care, at the right cost, in the right setting.

QUESTION: You wrote a post on your blog entitled, “What is the Patient Hospital and Brand Experience Like When You’re a Patient?” Can you please share highlights?

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: What triggered this post was being a patient at two different hospitals in the same hospital system. I had the opportunity to compare the patient experience at various times, and experiences were very different and at opposite ends of the experience continuum from great to terrible.
It led to my three questions for the basis of the post.

(1) Based on your marketing messages internally and externally, was the patient experience based on your messaging (we care, convenient, focused on you, etc.) delivered consistently throughout your experience?
(2) Was your brand promise fulfilled?
(3) Was the patient experience at every step of the care process delivered consistently and on message?

How the hospital or system delivers the brand promise in the patient experience is not an either-or proposition. In a hospital system where patients can receive care at multiple locations, the patient experience must be delivered consistently across all the system sites of care.

There is a vast chasm between what marketers say the experience is to the reality of what the patient experiences. Until a hospital marketer experiences care as a patient and sees firsthand the disconnects, I don’t think they fully understand what’s going on. That creates brand dissonance in the patient’s mind and is essentially marketing to senior management. Personal experience is the best teacher for marketers in healthcare.

TWEET THIS: Personal experience is the best teacher for marketers in healthcare. ~@mkrivich #MarketingTip #HealthcareMarketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote another awesome post on your blog entitled, “Lessons from the Field – What is Your Hospital’s Story?” Can you please share highlights?

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: Across other industries, patients see and are familiar with brand content that tells a story. Those brands write compelling content that weaves a story giving the reader the answers to the “why us” reasons.

As an industry, hospitals must develop compelling content that engages and frames the patient’s experience. And that means storytelling assumes greater importance. After all, when one looks at the hospital and health system advertising, it’s still the shiny new building, panoramic views from the rooftop terrace of the lounge, smiling doctors, award logos, trophies, and modern equipment. But does that meet the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient looking for information?
Consider these important facts:
(1) Forty-one percent of the time, people look for information on the healthcare provider online. Looking for information is the key here.
(2) Hospitals have little differentiation regarding buildings, technology, medical services, etc. Hospitals all do essentially the same thing.
(3) Telling the hospital’s story can answer the patient's why choose us questions and is far more effective than being a “me too” who showcases all the hard things that all hospitals do.

Most medical care in a hospital can be provided in a more convenient, higher quality, and cost-effective setting. Since this is the case, the story becomes the reason why you should choose us.

QUESTION: This post from your blog was in response to the covid pandemic. It was entitled, “Why the Hospital or Health System Needs a Chief Engagement Officer.” While many industries may think this role is essential, please explain why the healthcare industry may be overlooked but should not be.

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: What is the hospital's or health system's plan to maintain patient and community engagement during the pandemic? As soon as the pandemic lessened, hospitals could not wait to get back to doing things the way they always did, especially around meaningful community and patient engagement, which was predominantly an afterthought before the pandemic.

Healthcare is not a one-off episode that hospital leadership likes to believe it is. Hospitals also “navel gaze” too much, focusing on what they need and want to do as opposed to what the patient needs or wants. There is a limited universe of new patients to fill beds, but all the marketing efforts focus on capturing “new patients.” Until hospital leadership understands what meaningful patient engagement is, it will be a never-ending chase for the new patient while their existing patient base finds other providers. Think of it this way, how are you engaged by the hospital or other healthcare providers you use regularly? Chances are you’re not. That is where the position of Chief Engagement Officer comes into being in order to create and unify the organization with a single focus on engaging in a meaningful way to keep the patient 24/7.

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?
MICHAEL KRIVICH: Here are my three:
(1) BMW: Yes, I own a BMW, and I tell you what, the brand tagline should not be just "The ultimate driving experience." It should be "the ultimate driving and customer experience." I have owned a lot of different autos over the years, but I have never experienced customer service as I do with BMW. As a marketer, I am consistently amazed at the high level of service, the use of technology in that service delivery, a personal acknowledgment in the process, and it’s delivered exceptionally every single time. Besides, the car is a lot of fun to drive too. And they have Starbucks available while I wait for my vehicle during service visits.

(2) Proctor & Gamble: How they have created a recognizable corporate brand while doing it as a house of brands speaks volumes to their understanding of the consumer and market. I use several P&G brands, which consistently deliver on the brand promise and perform as advertised.

(3) Starbucks: This brand understands that it's all about the experience because, in reality, you can get a cup of coffee anywhere. It is about the experience, atmosphere when I go inside, service, and options. It’s the way that the coffee is delivered by a friendly staff that attracts me. It helps a lot with their convenient, accessible location and menu offerings too. Again, it’s another brand that no matter what location I go to, the experience will be the same. I wish those who work in healthcare would take a few pages from the Starbucks playbook about experience and engagement.

My thanks to Michael for sharing his marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Kristine Wook via Unsplash.

Connect with Michael using these links: