Buzz + Ideas

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Ross Rant: Think populism is slowing down? Check out how Ontario voted

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Populism establishes a beachhead in Canada's most prosperous and most important province of Ontario.

To understand what will happen with American politics and upcoming elections, I find exploring elections in other Western democracies to be an essential tool.

Last Thursday night, Doug Ford was elected as the next Premier of Ontario. A new expansion of populism now confronts Canada. Think Trump lands in Ontario.

CBC's Chris Hall wrote, "Doug Ford — the bombastic, blustering and populist former Toronto city councilor — is going to be the next premier of Canada's most populous province. His victory, convincing as it was, came with an exclamation mark. He put an end to 15 straight years of Liberal rule."

Toronto Star columnist Edward Keenan echoed the same scripting "Ford era promises a rocky road ahead for all of us."

He went onto say "the next four years under Premier Doug Ford: constant reasons to wonder about the malice vs. incompetence debate, with a loud portion of Ford’s supporters hoping and cheering for the former option. And many of the rest of us hoping instead for the latter, because perhaps if a problem is caused by incompetence, there is some hope it will be fixed, as those who caused it realize their mistake or grow more competent and capable."

@Richard_Florida tweeted: Ontario went from being a pro-urban province/ state like California or New York to joining the ranks of anti-urban Red states ... 

I don't see the expansion of populism around Great Lakes stopping any time. Until CEOs of multinational corporations, Governors, and Mayors show leadership and engage voters in the Midwest on the value of globalization, this will be the result at the ballot box.

Endless outrage by the coastal elites will do little to change election outcomes.

Cross the Hudson and be in Cleveland.

Cross the Potomac and be in Detroit.

This is the three-part question facing US voters in 2018 and 2020: Do we protect the jobs of the past or invest in the jobs of the future? Do we subsidize the grey hairs or invest in today's 8th graders? Do we want to be part of a global world or not?

Voters today want protection, subsidies, and unilateralism.

Plan accordingly.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

10 Trends Shaping Commerce + Culture

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1. Can we meet? Americans schedule approximately 25 million meetings per day. Apps and AI that reduce the friction of finding times and places to meet will be a winner.

2. Opioids: More than 200,000 people in the US have died from overdoses involving prescription opioids over the past two decades. Drugs that can't be crushed and snorted plus reduce pain will be a winner.

3. Drinking: People in their 20s and 30s are drinking less alcohol. One in 5 millennials doesn’t drink, and 66% say that alcohol isn’t important to their social lives, according to a survey by Demos. Companies that provide beverages that also have health benefits will be a winner.

4. No phone vaca: According to a survey of 2,000 US travelers from Asurion, a mobile device insurance company, and OnePoll, a UK-based marketing research company. More than 20 percent of respondents said they checked their smartphones once per hour during their most recent vacations while about 14 percent said they checked it twice per hour. Activities and holidays that require full attention and participation will be a winner.

5. Sensible shoes: Women's sneakers sales increased by 37 percent last year, while high heels fell 11 percent. Clothes that are flexible, less rigid, and provide performance benefits will be a winner.

6. Voice is the new thumbprint: Interpol is considering using software that identifies criminals using audio. Apps and AI that provide access to information as simple as a voice command will be a winner.

7. Better, stronger, faster: Adding a bionic vest to a work uniform will augment human abilities. Performace clothing that takes the strain off the arms and backs of people working on tasks that require specialized attention and repetitive actions will be a winner.

8. The plastic straw is losing status: California, New York City, and the EU are all looking to outlaw plastic straws. Restaurants and cafes replacing straws with paper, metal or providing no straw at all will be a winner.

9. Having your smartphone nearby takes a toll on your thinking: Recent research investigated whether merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. The results were striking: individuals who completed these tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In the last place were those whose phones were on their desks. Activities and business meetings that are smartphone free will be a winner.

10. The AI arms race: Algorithms trained on mountains of Chinese data may soon be making decisions that profoundly affect the lives of people in the US. The world's wealthiest companies are powerhouse data collectors and data users. Companies that capture the full value of their data will be a winner.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Does a Coach or CEO matter?

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When it comes to management, the answer is an unequivocal no.

Soccernomics, the beautiful book written by Financial Times Columnist Simon Kuper and University of Michigan Professor Stefan Szymanski, makes the convincing case that "it turns out that coaches and managers simply don't make that much difference."

When studying years of soccer matches, the authors conclude that "the vast bulk of managers appear to have almost no impact on their teams' performance and do not last very long in the job. They seem to add so little value that is tempting to think they could be replaced by their secretaries, or the chairman, or by stuffed teddy bears, without the club's league position changing. The importance of managers is vastly overestimated."

How can this be?

As a culture, we laud coaches and CEOs for their superior management skills. Give them deity-worth reverence. Put them on the covers of magazines, see them interviewed on television repeatedly, and even some nations elect them to the top government job. 

The Great Man Theory of History happening in real-time.

What really matters are the players and the employees. The market makes this clear.

Johan Cruyff, the famous Dutch international soccer player who went on coach FC Barcelona to four straight La Liga titles and a Champions League title, said simply, "If your players are better than your opponent, 90 percent of the time you will win."

Those that can perform a specific task repeatedly, with few flaws and consistent enthusiasm are treasured and well compensated by the market. Often there is a shortage of the best talent, and there is massive competition to secure their services. 

You see, soccer teams have perfect market information on thousands of players. It is clear who on the pitch can play and who can't. Either you can play soccer, or you can't play soccer. Either you can perform the task at hand, or you can't.

Soccer players more or less get the job they deserve.

However, when it comes to coaching this is not the case. The market for managers does not work well. Many of the best managers rarely get proper attention while numerous managers who add no real positive value continue to get promoted to better-paying jobs.

You see this off the pitch as well.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from MyLogIQ LLC and Institutional Shareholder Services, among S&P 500 CEOs who got raises last year, the 10% who received the most significant pay increases scored—as a group—in the middle of the pack in terms of total shareholder return.

Similarly, the 10% of companies posting the best total returns to shareholders scored in the middle of the pack in terms of CEO pay, the data show.

Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Herman Aguinis, a professor of management at George Washington University School of Business, reinforces this point, “Stars are often underpaid, while average performers are often overpaid.” 

The disparity between CEO compensation and performance appears to persist over more extended periods as well. Professor Aguinis analyzed the earnings of more than 4,000 CEOs over the course of their tenures against several performance metrics and found virtually no overlap between the top 1% of CEOs in terms of performance and the top 1% of highest earners. Among the top 10% of performers, only a fifth were in the top 10% in terms of pay.

On and off the field more coaches and CEOs are more sun god and head of public relations, less visionary executive. 

The forte of best-paid coaches and CEOs is often not winning matches or generating more revenue, something frankly they have little control over, but keeping all the various constituencies united behind them. Hence why as a culture we frequently prize charisma over competence.

Chris Tomlinson, a business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, penned recently, "There is also no shortage of CEO candidates and little competition for them. Few companies need CEOs with unique skills, and boards tend to buy charisma rather than skills anyway. The general economy and market forces within an industrial sector are far more accurate predictors of a company’s performance, regardless of how much the CEO earns."

All of that being said, I do think thought leadership and vision matter immensely, regardless of how it pays.

Leadership is different from management, but that's for a separate post.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

What CEOs need to learn from Michael Cohen and AT&T

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One of my all-time favorite political campaign books is The Selling of the President.

Written by Joe McGinnis, the book covers the story of how Richard Nixon was repackaged and reshaped for the American public as a candidate for president in 1968. Eight years after Nixon’s losing presidential campaign and his lackluster television performance at the Nixon-Kennedy debate, he faced all the old image problems.

Nixon hired then 28-year old Roger Ailes to remake his image. An image that would win at the ballot box, and more importantly, on television. Ailes created television moments that made Nixon, not smart, not knowledgeable, but well-liked. Ailes created television moments that engaged numerous constituents on their terms.

1968 was no time for policy, it was a time for charismatic personality and shared values.

McGinnis’ book makes clear, presidential candidates can be rebranded and remarketed. Television does not expose and demystify the powerful. Instead, it makes personality stronger. Television ensures style is substance.

David Miller, of the legendary political consultancy Sawyer Miller, saw how television and mass communications would change not only candidates but commerce. He wrote in an article for the Yale School of Organization and Management that just like candidates, if done correctly, corporations could use the tools of television and campaign management to ensure market size and good paying consumers.

Miller wrote: “Corporations must recognize that it is now in their long-term self-interest to develop much more democratic relationships with all of their shareholders, community members, and the public at large.”

Miller foresaw how the corporate world was quickly resembling a politician’s world and how a politician relates to constituents. 

As information channels increase, multiply, focus on niches and distinct tastes and thoughts, corporations need to forge an emotional bond with their various constituents - just like a politician.

The only sensible and meaningful way to do is - establish a relationship and commercial transaction based on shared values.

Today’s masters of the universe CEO is poor decision away from disrupting a relationship based on shared values. Corporations can no longer control the flow of information and can lose control of the narrative within hours.

Corporations are under assault from government regulators, reporters, shareholders, and employees all demanding style that supersedes substance. 

CEOs today need to woo their customers, engage regulators, listen to shareholders, reinforce employees, and make their case daily. CEOs need to communicate more often, on more platforms, and more broadly. Sawyer believed CEOs needed to define themselves before someone else set them - just like a candidate who works like they are up for reelection daily.

As all significant institutions continue to lose sway and influence, the pressure on corporations and CEOs to fill this void increases daily.

For AT&T it wasn’t the paying for access, advice, and public affairs expertise which was a bad idea, it was that they paid an individual (Michael Cohen) who was out of step and not in line with the shared values of AT&T’s numerous constituents.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said as much in a memo distributed to employees last week.

“Our reputation has been damaged,” Stephenson wrote. “There is no other way to say it—AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”

Companies need to sell worthwhile goods and services - this for sure will continue to matter. But the transaction now has an emotional connection as well.

As pointed out in Edelman's 2018 Trust Barometer: "A good reputation may get me to try a product—but unless I come to trust the company behind the product, I will soon stop buying it, regardless of its reputation.

63% of those surveyed agreed with this statement.

The Edelman Trust Barometer provided a clear directive for today’s CEOs - building trust is job one.

Winning commerce of the future will happen when a company is trusted, provides high-quality services and products, and where business decisions reflect shared values.

AT&T hiring Michael Cohen is losing commerce.

It is not essential to much to be smart and knowledgeable, but it is necessary to be well-liked.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Brand marketing in a direct marketing world

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Pop quiz: What was the top Super Bowl 2018 ad according to USA Today’s Ad Meter?

Heck, if you can name one of the top ten, I will give you bonus points.

The reason you can’t remember the best ad or any ads from the big game, it’s not the best tool.

It’s not the best tool because it doesn’t connect, make an impact, or leave a mark. 

You see brand marketing doesn't work in the direct marketing world.

Brand marketing is from a different age. A different business environment. A different communication era.

Brand marketing was created when John Wanamaker’s statement “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half” worked because it could work. 

It could work because advertisers created a mass broadcast communications environment to serve its needs.

Radio was created to sell ads.

Television was created to sell ads.

Brian Millar, co-founder of the Emotional Intelligence Agency, writes "traditional advertising went after ‘share of mind’–the idea was to get you to associate a brand with a single idea, a single emotion. Volvo: safety. Jaguar: speed. Coke: happiness. The Economist: success. Bang, bang, bang, went the ads, hammering the same idea into your mind every time you saw one.

"Advertising briefs evolved to focus the creatives on a single unique selling position and a single message. Tell them we’re the Ultimate Driving Machine. Tell them in a thrilling way. It worked when you saw ads infrequently on television, in a Sunday magazine, or on a billboard on your morning commute."

This type of advertising worked because it was a communications environment of one to many with only a handful of vehicles to reach an audience.

But that is not today.

Today we are living in a direct marketing world powered by the WWW.

Now we have micro-media and personalized broadcast communications environment which serves the needs of the end user.

The internet was not created for ads.

The internet is not mass media.

To better understand this new communications environment the Emotional Intelligence Agency conducted a study to understand what kind of content works. The firm found communications which used funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring content delivers the best results. Not surprising the most successful brands do all four.

Also not surprising these are the adjectives used by any top storyteller. She knows they are best words when executing micro and personalized communications.

Yet most of us communicate using only one type of emotionally compelling content - if at all - employing brand marketing techniques that are closer to the days of Mad Men them to the present day of Laundry Service.

We still communicate like once a day, or worse just a few times a month. Instead of using tools that follow and engage our most active supporters in their media diet.

When it comes to the WWW and the direct marketing communications environment, being multidimensional beats being single-minded. 

Surprise beats consistency. 

Emotion beats fact.

Funny beats dour.

Useful beats sales. 

Beautiful beats boring. 

Inspirational beats directional.

The best communicators have always understood this instinctively.

By the way, USA Today’s Ad Meter ranked Amazon's "Alexa Loses Her Voice" as the best 2018 ad.

I don't remember the ad either. But I do remember my friends telling me a story or two about Alexa that used funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring words to describe their experiences.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Make the choice

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Desiree Linden is an American marathoner and could be the most inspiring runner I have ever known.

In 2017 it appeared she might have peaked.

Instead, in 2018 she became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years, finishing the race in 2 hours 39 minutes 54 seconds.

Linden, a two-time Olympian, placed fourth at the 2017 Boston Marathon and was burned out on the sport. And tired. After three marathons in the previous 14 months: the Olympic Trials (second place), the Olympics (seventh place), and then that fourth at Boston. She didn’t feel like running again until the end of September. Five months off, during which, she said, “I hated everything about running.”

But she wanted to win the Boston Marathon, and she made no secret of that goal.

Her desire to run the course in Boston was the reason she started running marathons in the first place. She has a golden retriever named Boston and had another named Miles who died last year.

So last Monday, she was back on the course in Boston attempting to complete her goal.

But before the race more hurdles, as Linden thought about dropping out as she wasn’t drinking enough fluids and was afraid of getting cramps in her legs. Add a weather report of strong winds and the coldest temperatures in 30 years, this year's Boston Marathon would be even more challenging than usual for her and the rest of the field.

Linden now lives and trains in Northern Michigan and resides closer to the North Pole than the Equator. So the NorEaster that bore down on the course in Boston with its horizontal rain and freezing temperatures is ordinary training weather for many months in the Great Lakes state, but many runners found this climate to be the worst running weather in decades.

Linden's ability to persevere and succeed in exceptionally miserable physical circumstances is remarkable. 

Linden's ability to persevere and succeed in exceptionally challenging mental circumstances is remarkable. 

To succeed in 2018, Linden had to find a deeper gear to compete.

Her pinned Tweet displays where she finds this deeper gear:

"Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.

My advice: keep showing up.

#MondayMotivaton #TogetherForward"


I don't think any advice can be more profound.

Make a choice to show up and keep showing up.

You might just achieve your goal.

-Marc A. Ross

The 5G Race: China And South Korea Are Winning

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The 5G race is being won by China and South Korea, according to a report conducted by research firm Analysys Mason and released today by CTIA, America's premier wireless industry association.

According to the research, China is in the lead, followed by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. Germany, the U.K. and France are in the second tier of countries in terms of readiness.

America lags in “5G readiness” due to reliance on private providers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- to build antenna infrastructure. China’s wireless providers, on the other hand, are streamlined by government mandate. 

Why this matters - 5G systems support 1k more devices per meter than 4G, using higher frequencies and secondary antennae to relay signals. It also eliminates the transmission inconsistencies and slowdowns caused by buildings, mountains, and crowds.

The global competition is propelling 5G development much faster than was originally expected, with carriers and some cities moving quickly to install infrastructure, said CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker, a former FCC commissioner.

The Trump administration see this situation as a threat, especially from China.

Last month the administration blocked Broadcom's proposed buyout of Qualcomm on national security grounds. The administration also fears that Broadcom's business practices would weaken Qualcomm's and the U.S.'s 5G position — allowing Huawei a bigger advantage.

Key findings by Analysys Mason include:

All major Chinese providers have committed to specific launch dates and the government has committed to at least 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 2,000 MHz of high-band spectrum for each wireless provider.

Countries around the world are moving quickly to make spectrum available for 5G. This year alone, the U.K., Spain, and Italy are all holding 5G spectrum auctions.

At the end of 2018, the U.S. will rank sixth out of the 10 countries in mid-band (3–24GHz) spectrum availability, a critical band for 5G. The U.S. joins Russia and Canada as the only countries currently without announced plans to allocate mid-band spectrum on an exclusive basis to mobile by the end of 2020.

Countries like the U.K. and regions like the European Union are taking significant steps to modernize infrastructure rules to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks.

Read can read the report here: http://bit.ly/2HFbTqA

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Go back to school

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One of the best thought leader, low hanging fruit techniques is to get reconnected to your school - be it high school, college, or graduate. 

You need your schools.

Over the last few days, I have been down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina attending alumni weekend festivities for the Kenan-Flagler Business School. I was fortunate to be asked to speak with two marketing classes of current students on the intersection of the retail sector and public policy as well as lead a lecture on retail disruption for the alumni back on campus. You can see the decks here: retail politics and retail disruption.

Talking with students as they are about to embark on their careers is a fantastic opportunity. To answer their questions and share your experience I find to be a most wonderful exchange for all involved. Also, you need to be on your game as your audience has immediate access to the WWW to challenge your ideas in real-time, or worse, you are white noise as they tune you out, so they update their Pinterest pages.

Speaking with the alumni, be it 2017 MBA graduates not even 365 days out of college, or older students who departed the school in the 80s, 70s, and even 60s can't be beaten as a venue to present your ideas. This type of cross-generation audience fosters an exchange of experience and knowledge that is a challenge to replicate on a daily workday.

As you think about upping your thought leadership game as a means to improve your experience and knowledge, think about going back to school. Reach out to that alumni director, speak with a former teacher, or find conference taking place on campus.

The ability to share ideas, speak with students, engage alumni from decades past in a safe and friendly environment is a powerful tool that will help you expand your thought leader capabilities. 

Are you listening to Richard Sorge?

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He is out there. He is speaking to you. He is sending you the signal.

But you fail to recognize him. You can't hear what he is saying. You think it is all noise.

Richard Sorge was Soviet agent operating out of Tokyo in 1941. Sorge repeatedly warned the Kremlin that Nazi Germany would soon invade the USSR. 

On May 15 he predicted that the invasion would come on June 20-22. 

But Sorge’s information displeased the big boss - he didn't want to hear it.

At the time, Stalin was then still in alliance with Nazi Germany. Even though Hitler had advocated the conquest of the USSR as early as 1924 in his book, Mein Kampf, Stalin famously believed Hitler to be the only person he could fully trust.

Stalin dismissed Sorge as “a little shit who has set himself up with some small factories and brothels in Japan.” 

How could someone operating in such an environment know what Nazi Germany was planning? 

Stalin knew best. He was the big boss in Moscow after all. He wasn't running in the underbelly of Tokyo. It didn't matter what was written in 1924.

Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi German codename for the invasion of the USSR, commenced on June 22, 1941. 

Launched by someone Stalin trusted entirely and against the terms of the existing non-aggression treaty, Hitler was doing what he always believed and was doing what some lesser person said he would do.

Are you listening to Richard Sorge?

Is someone telling you something that you don't want to believe? 

Is someone telling you something that goes against your station?

Are you overwhelmed by the noise and failing to hear the signal?

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

How to think about communications + content + commerce and why thought leadership is important

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Today the customer is in control.

Full stop.

Just this week, Snapchat, United Airlines, and Toys R Us were discounted, disrupted or defeated because customers took control.

No longer is the seller in control of the sales process, and hard sales are losing effectiveness daily. 

Gone is the day when the seller could show up, make a presentation, offer some price reducing inducements, close the deal, and move on.

Next time you are in a retail store see how people are using their smartphones. Some are taking notes to generate ideas, some are snapping photos to develop a wish, and some are even purchasing the same product from an online competitor.

For those selling services or subject matter expertise, before buyers even buy your offering, they go to your website, view your Instagram account, check out your LinkedIn page, read your blog posts, and of course do research to see what others in the same space charge.

So what is a seller to do? 

A seller must think thought leadership.

With so many goods and services available from providers around the planet, this abundance of choice can be a thought leader's differentiator.

Buyers want to be led. 

They want to be informed, guided, and managed in a respected manner that makes them feel like they are part of a special cause bigger than themselves.

Enlightened organizations that embrace thought leadership from the start can develop lasting relationships with customers. Such a relationship which is shaped by forwarding thinking leadership will move a buyer to new thinking, a unique viewpoint, and a new paradigm.

Thought leadership is a choice and is not off is some inaccessible Ivory Tower. 

We all have the power to be thought leaders.

Thought leadership demands merely that we are committed to working with customers and clients in a respectable manner by creating value in every step of the buyer's journey and thinking long-term.

But many of organizations continue to struggle with how to do that and connect in a meaningful manner.

As a first step, organizations must abandon aggressive sales behaviors that buyers are resisting and employing behaviors shaped by thought leadership management.

Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, I have seen first-hand leaders who do create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce are thriving and making a difference.

To harness the power of thought leadership to foster sales in this new environment, employ strategic thinking and thought leader tactics.

Use a strategy that thinks education, experience, entertainment, and easy.

Use tactics that reinforce, reward, recognize, refresh, and supported by research.

Let me know how you are getting on or have examples of organizations and individuals using thought leadership to generate revenue and make a difference.

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.