Two Intriguing Brands Embodied By People

I recently had a series of conversations about how the public perceives two brands that I  find intriguing: Bob’s Red Mill, a natural foods producer based in Oregon, and Hyperloop, a platform for rapid long distance transportation that is being implemented by a number of organizations all over the world. I took some notes—and created this post.

To me, the common thread between Bob’s Red Mill and Hyperloop is that they both let the people behind them represent them. It makes their value propositions credible in a way that clever writing and a huge creative budget can’t.

Bob and Elon.png
Bob (L) and Elon (R). (Photo credits: Bob’s Red Mill / NASA)

Here’s a look at the values, origin story, and iconography of each. Continue reading “Two Intriguing Brands Embodied By People”

Amazon’s gender-biased recruiting software is a wake-up call

The recent news that Amazon inadvertently created gender-biased software for screening job applicants is a significant wake-up call for all organizations using AI. The software, which used machine learning to rank incoming resumes by comparison to resumes from people Amazon had already hired, could have discouraged recruiters from hiring women solely on the basis of their gender. Amazon, of all entities, should have known better. It should have expected and avoided this. If this can happen to Amazon, the question we really need to ask is: how many others are making the same mistake?

the wall
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Bias in hiring is a burden for our society as a whole, for tech companies in particular, and for Amazon specifically. Biased recruiting software exposes Amazon to a number of risks, among them: Continue reading “Amazon’s gender-biased recruiting software is a wake-up call”

EU Guidelines on Using Machine Learning to Process Customer Data

Summary: Every organization that processes data about any person in the EU must comply with the GDPR. Newly published GDPR Guidelines clarify that whenever an organization makes a decision using machine learning and personal data that has any kind of impact, a human must be able to independently review, explain, and possibly replace that decision using their own independent judgment. Organizations relying on machine learning models in the EU should immediately start planning how they are going to deliver a level of machine model interpretability sufficient for GDPR compliance. They should also examine how to identify whether any groups of people could be unfairly impacted by their machine models, and consider how to proactively avoid such impacts.


In October 2017, new Guidelines were published to clarify the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) with respect to “automated individual decision making.” These Guidelines apply to many machine learning models making decisions affecting EU citizens and member states. (A version of these Guidelines can be downloaded here—for reference, I provide page numbers from that document in this post.)

The purpose of this post is to call attention to how the GDPR, and these Guidelines in particular, may change how organizations choose to develop and deploy machine learning solutions that impact their customers.

Continue reading “EU Guidelines on Using Machine Learning to Process Customer Data”

Scoping Questions for Starting or Expanding a Social Selling Program

apples
Photo by Raquel Martínez on Unsplash

 

“Social selling” is never a one-size-fits-all, turnkey proposition. Here’s a list of questions I put together for organizations who are thinking about creating or expanding a social selling program. By answering these questions—at least provisionally—an organization can create an action plan, line up people and tools, and start social selling at the scale that makes the most sense for them.

I. What’s Our Starting Point?

A. What results do we want to get?

1. Lead generation – new customers

2. Customer loyalty – current customer renewals, cross-selling

3. New/deeper relationships with Influencers – analysts, journalists, experts

4. Sales enablement – speeding up & amplifying sales rep effectiveness Continue reading “Scoping Questions for Starting or Expanding a Social Selling Program”

Brand Risk Management in Social Media

Over the years I’ve discussed social media strategy with quite a few executives from large organizations. It’s no wonder so many approach social media with caution. They’re well aware of worst case scenarios, and as a byproduct, the majority of executives today still hesitate to play a highly visible personal role in social media, despite the best efforts of evangelists such as myself to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

shardsNonetheless, every major brand now recognizes the opportunity and necessity of engaging in social media conversations. And none that I know of are still relying exclusively on interns or just-out-of-school new hires to manage their programs. Projecting a brand presence into social media is a serious undertaking that requires communication skills, a certain amount of finesse, and common sense. This is where training and coaching come in, which is a topic for a future blog post, along with crisis preparation, which is the topic of a post I wrote that was published today in the Trapit blog.

Social media flips the status of big brands from their privileged position Continue reading “Brand Risk Management in Social Media”

The Three Things You Need For a Successful Pinterest Strategy

As of the publication of this post, Pinterest has just caught up to Twitter in popularity. And as marketers find out about the amazing viral power of Pinterest and other image-centered social networks they are jumping on that train.

Pinterest can be regarded as an alternative to Facebook as a brand marketing vehicle. Many of the millions of people who use Pinterest may prefer it, and put more effort into it, than Facebook because it offers a vastly superior photo browsing and sharing experience than Facebook. And Pinterest boards require a fraction of the overhead needed to create and manage an in-house or Facebook photo gallery. Moreover, since Pinterest can display photos from their original locations around the web, it is the perfect place to collect “fan photos” and other visual content related to the brand in some way, even if it’s not owned by the brand. But instead of looking at Facebook and Pinterest as either/or, it’s better to acknowledge that far fewer people are using Pinterest, some people use both, influencers can be found on both, and each has brand marketing potential.

There have been days where several different people have asked me for help coming up with a Pinterest strategy. The businesses looking for help range from super-corporations I cross paths with professionally to entrepreneurs I meet in coffee shops. Most (not all) of these people admit they don’t really want to invest in yet another social media platform, they just feel they’re supposed to.

pinterest

So to answer their question, here’s how to develop a Pinterest Strategy: Continue reading “The Three Things You Need For a Successful Pinterest Strategy”

How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want

Due to a misunderstanding, at the last minute before takeoff an airline refused to allow a pair of special-needs passengers to fly. This upset the passengers deeply and stranded them at an unfamiliar airport.

No one should have been surprised that intense criticism of the airline spread rapidly via social media, portraying them as bad-guys even though the incident was (arguably) a one-time mistake by an isolated group of employees.

This wound up being a good thing, because:

The airline discovered this issue, apologized to the would-be passengers and their families, refunded their money, offered them additional free flights, and came up with a new process to keep the problem from recurring. All-in-all, the airline—our hometown favorite here in Seattle, Alaska Airlines—took a regrettable mistake, and did everything possible (considering it was after the fact) to make it right with those affected. In this way Alaska Airlines also earned positive PR by showing they’re the kind of company that owns up to their mistakes and jumps on an opportunity to do the right thing when they can.

> Read more about the “special needs passengers stranded by Alaska Airlines” incident

> Another great PR turnaround story:  FedEx responds after delivery guy caught on video throwing computer equipment over a fence

This post isn’t about Alaska Airlines—it’s about the other guys

I’m pleased to see more and more stories about companies turning customer complaints into positive publicity. But this post is for the other guys, anyone who isn’t sure they have the right attitude, either individually or organizationally, to handle all customer criticism in a positive way.

Poster child for the other guys: Continue reading “How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want”