I don’t particularly enjoy business books. The format is predictable, most are 80% too long with no salient points beyond the first 2 chapters and too often, they are self righteous works from pundits with scant real world examples to back up their platitudes.
TOUGH LOVE, a new business ebook presented as an innovative Hollywood screenplay defies the issues above in both format and content and manages to entertain in the meantime. You may know the author, John Moore, as the WOM Enthusiast at WOMMA, the Chief Marketingologist at Brand Autopsy, or the author of 2006’s Tribal Knowledge. While Tribal Knowledge shared “Business Wisdom Brewed from the Grounds of Starbucks Corporate Culture”, TOUGH LOVE approaches the same company (thinly-veiled as Galaxy Coffee) at a very different time in its business – the present. Galaxy has hit a rough patch after wandering away from its core beliefs while chasing the “growth” dragon. While the story is woven as a screenplay, the lessons – John’s thoughts on the brand challenges from the perspective of a former insider – are shared through the interactive “Marketer’s Notes” throughout the .pdf. Here are my favorite 4 TOUGH LOVE takeaways:
1) Brand Guardrails: A growing brand must have a simple short list of guardrails – ultimate Do’s and Don’ts that everyone understands – in order to keep corporate marketers and field staff (who deliver the experience) marching in the same direction. In our world, we try to make sure our strategies provide guardrails to quickly inform if a tactical execution is in or out of bounds. If you have a “strategy” and it doesn’t help you create those Do/Don’t guardrails – chances are that its too weak and broad or not a strategy at all.
2) Earning Opinions: The first sign of trouble is when a brand “no longer earns opinions from customers”: In our attention-fragmented world, someone forming an opinion about you – good or bad – means you have crossed the first hurdle in generating Word of Mouth. You have given them something with thinking about. That has to happen before it becomes worth passing along. This is ultimately why middle of the road products require so much advertising – the experience they produce is so expected that there’s no reason to think of it one way or another.
3) People: Captured in a couple of different places in the screenplay is the primacy of “attracting, hiring and keeping great employees” and the fact that competitors can “never replicate great people”. In any sort of services business, people is the core of success as they create and deliver experiences. Business who lose sight of this in the effort to scale immediately suffer the same challenges Galaxy did.
“Innovation isn’t new ideas but, rather, a deeper exploration of current ideas. In other words Galaxy doesn’t need new ideas, it needs to explore its current ideas deeper.”
This statement gives me great pause. Both for our clients and in our own services business, we are constantly thinking about what’s next, what the market wants, etc. so we can move to be in place and catch the ball already in air. I love this notion that true, sustainable growth comes from looking inside at what is truly core to your business and going deeper. This for me was the biggest made-to-stick lesson from TOUGH LOVE that I will doubtlessly be thinking of as we enter 2011 planning season.
(Disclaimer: John Moore is a friend of mine and provided me with an early review copy of Tough Love. It is available for purchase from “Change This” here and reading it via iPad is a rocking experience – complete with the interactive links to the interspersed Marketer’s Notes.)