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Mark_Harmon.JPGA couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to serve as the auctioneer for the Mark Harmon Celebrity Weekend Benefit. I’m happy to report that we raised over $100,000 at the auction event and that the money will go to benefit some great causes, including one of my favorites, the Ronald McDonald House.

I am fortunate to get to work with local and national celebrities from time to time, and people always seem to ask the same question: “So, what are they really like?”  What they’re really asking, in reality, is about the celebrity’s BRAND. A brand is really nothing more than the collection of stories the customers tell about the product, when you get right down to it. Or as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Well, here’s what I have to say about the brand called Mark Harmon. He’s simply a class act all the way. I only got to visit with him for a few minutes and found him to be very gracious and appreciative of my efforts as his auctioneer (maybe that’s why I’m so red in the face in the picture), but the lasting impression I have of him was how engaged he was with all the attendees. From the time he walked through the doors of the event he was set upon by legions of fans. They wanted their picture taken with him, they wanted his autograph, they wanted him to autograph the camera they used to take a picture of him, and on and on and on. And Mark did it all. And cheerfully! He seemed genuinely concerned that every single attendee he met went away with a good experience. So when people ask me about Mark Harmon, my assessment is that he’s simply a good sport and a class act all the way.

He even promised me I’d get a guest spot on NCIS! I’ll be playing some kind of fancy foreign diplomat, or something like that. A “cadaver,” I think he called it…

Fight The System?

By Dr. Burt Smith May 16th, 2010

watch_gears.jpgReally effective organizations recognize that marketing is not a department, but a philosophy that permeates every aspect of its operations. They don’t just decide to “do” some marketing, marketing impacts every decision that is made. Really great organizations are the by-product of great systems.

Marketing author Philip Kotler said, “The company that will win is the one with the best system.” To be competitive, we have to constantly look at every touch point, every interaction, and every component of the delivery of our brand into the mind and life of the customers we serve. We have to look at it as a system and work to hone the system so that it’s not only efficient, but is replicable across the organization, in multiple markets, etc.

Consider McDonald’s. We can probably think of a lot of restaurants where we can get a better burger, but because McDonald’s has dissected and continually improved every aspect of its system, it understands how to cost-effectively and consistently deliver a value “quick service” (which sounds better than “fast food”) experience anywhere in the world where we see the golden arches. The system involves how they buy, how they market, where they locate, and how they train their employees.

Wal-Mart is a similar example. They compete in the crowded retail sector in a number of categories, and though they sell the same merchandise as a lot of their competitors, they have the more efficient and more profitable system.

Note also how many small businesses fail because they’re overly dependent upon the owner. Because the owners don’t make deliberate efforts to replicate themselves, the business condemns itself to not being able to grow effectively and often creates its own undoing. As Michael Gerber describes in the E-Myth, small businesses can learn a lot from large ones. Great businesses are essentially the by-product of great systems.

Just as a brand is the sum total of the customer’s experiences with us, investing in a systemized approach to building those experiences will pay great dividends for us regardless of our industry!

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storm.jpgWith storm season upon us in our Great State of Oklahoma, we can count on the weather being at the center of a lot of newscasts. Ever notice how each station does their own variations of basically the  same kinds of teasers?

For example, if there’s a storm approaching, they’ll say, “There’s a storm on the way, and it could be severe. We’ll have the full story for you at 6” or “A powerful storm system is making its way into the state. How you’ll be affected and what you need to know to stay safe coming up…”  If there isn’t something scary, but the weather conditions are in fact changing, they try to make the story compelling. “Weather changes are on the way. What will that mean for your weekend plans?  We’ll have details at 6.” If there’s nothing but good news on the way, they’ll still try to grab us. They never say, “Nothing but beautiful weather in store for the next 10 days, so don’t bother watching the weather again until , oh, probably Wednesday or so of next week…” They’ll say, “It’s been a picture perfect day…but will it last? Tune in at 6 for the full story…” Leading us to believe that we’d be horribly irresponsible if we didn’t be sure to tune in.

I often wonder if this stuff might not come back to haunt them someday.  I am grateful that we have such competent, respected, decorated weather professionals looking out for us in Oklahoma, and I certainly haven’t forgotten that the weather can have serious consequences, but I kind of wish they’d save the drama for when there really was something to be worried about.  In fact, it seems like there is a station that says, “We inform you of the weather, not scare you with it” or something like that. It’ll be interesting to see if that strikes a chord with their audience.