Viral marketing

Think No Comments

This is the first bit of viral marketing we recall. The clip is now labelled as coming from Pixar, which is where this bit of self-promotion by Navone led him to.

And now this festive one with an ad agencey behind it selling a web product.

A couple of questions:

1) Do the negative comments added by viewers distract or damage the marketers?

2) Where will viral marketing go next?  Flash mobs have been around for a while (probably since Spike Jonze produced ‘Praise You’ for Fat Boy Slim).

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Which flavour of CSR – pure or impure?

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One way of thinking about corporate social responsibility is to ask:

– what a business must do?
– what a business could do?
– what a business should do?

What are the reasons for adhering to ‘ethical’ values? If managers make the link to business goals (ie to help make money by pleasing customers or improve the experience for staff) then the CSR interests are aligned with those of the shareholders. Alex Oliver at Cambridge University calls this ‘impure’ CSR. Milton Friedman describes impure CSR as “hypocritical window dressing”.

Friedman says the social responsibility of for-profit businesses (as opposed to businesses like Divine chocolate who are set up with more than shareholder return in mind) is “to increase profit”. That is their utilitarian role and how they bring most benefit to society. So if a business pursues profit and stays within all laws and regulations, have they fulfilled their CSR? It can also be argued that a focus purely on shareholder interests is the legal obligation of the executives – their fiduciary duty laid out in company law.

‘Pure CSR’ sees the managers go against the desires of the shareholders in spending their money for social good. Friedman says this is taxation (of the shareholders) without proper representation.

Or maybe it’s ok for CSR to be ambiguous? Machiavelli would say its about looking good in the eyes of different audiences – telling them what they need to hear. So the City gets told one message and customers and staff another.

Perhaps that is the difference between the nature of ethical decisions for a company (the ‘collective corporate mind’) in contrast to the ethical positions we are able to take as individuals?

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A new energiser

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Student loan protestIn our facilitation skills training course, we teach the importance of using energisers in meetings to shift the mood, energy and attention.  We get someone to have a go with an energiser of their choice. Recently this has involved someone trying Laughter Therapy with their colleagues and Pair Charades (acting out an important theme from the morning’s work).

However, this week we came across an entirely new form of energiser. During a session with a charity in central Westminster on Thursday 9th December, we had to schedule regular dashes to the window to observe the state of the Student Loan protests: cat and mouse chases with the police and, at times, a near-riot outside (see the photo from a movie of the action).

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Quality and value: chocolate reindeer anyone?

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Aldi adThis festive advert from the discount chain Aldi (who interestingly vies regularly for top spot in the Which? ‘retailer of the year’ against  John Lewis and is rated a top 5 place for new graduates by The Times) reminds us that the search for quality and value spans all sectors! 

Successful companies are passionate about these two themes.

The NHS Institute uses the same phrase . 

One of the principal methods for achieving these potentially competing goals is ‘Lean thinking’.

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Valuing corporate social responsibility

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Many companies are serious about their social responsibility…but find it hard to get to level 3 of this model:

1. Offering funding or staff time to worthy charitable projects

2. Entering into partnerships with social enteprises

3. Integrating ethical values (such as promoting biodiversity) into the heart of business decisions and reward structutures.

 Practising what is preached matters, it really does – see www.idenk.co.uk/values

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What’s your Plan B?

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When facing changes in our work or personal life it helps to have a ‘Plan B’ as well as a ‘Plan A’.  If we can be more imaginative in widening our ideas of what the future might look like, we can increase the repertoire of options available to us.

An example of this is personal scenario planning when facing possible job changes. ‘Plan A’ is often “I hope they keep me on, doing what I do now”. 

To move beyond this, it is useful to face our fears. “What is the worst case?” By articulating our anxieties, we can move from just feeling them to confronting them and then to mitigating them. Ask yourself “what am I really afraid of, how would I cope, how could I soften the impact of what might happen?” 

Now try to come up with an interesting ‘Plan B’. “What’s an alternative future career or line of work that I could envisage given the goals and resources available to me?” Try to spot the trends you see around you that offer new opportunities. Review the things you’ve done successfully which you can build on. Write down the contacts you know who can help.

It may be a time to start achieving those personal ambitions which you’ve often thought about but never really acted on.

Ask us for a for more on this or a summary of our favourite article on personal resilience.

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Making an impression

photos, Reflect No Comments

Stephen FrySee these pictures of Stephen Fry.

Same story.

Two papers.

Two photos.

Two impressions?


Quick, make your mind up

photos, Think No Comments

Waitrose charitiesWaitrose offers tokens which you can allocate to a charity or local organisation as you leave the store. They share £1000 according to the proportion of total tokens each organisation receives.

Which of these three would you allocate your token to?

For what reasons?

– I might need them or know someone who does
– they look popular already and I should support the one that most people think is important
– they seem under-supported and I want to help the underdog
– they already have enough support and mine won’t make much difference
– I won’t allocate at all as I can’t choose between them (or I’m late and need to rush!).

When people make quick decisions, it can be worth exploring the underlying reasoning.

PS – this accumulative and transparent way of expressing a preference (where you can see the relative support so far) is quite an efficient and possibly fairer way of allocating resources. It ensures that lower profile needs or those with weaker ‘brands’ or ‘voices’ don’t miss out completely. If you did this blind (ie the boxes were opaque), the most popular one could well get a much higher proportion of the votes as people are less informed and hence less inclined to make some of the alternative choices listed above.

PPS – the Hampsire search and rescue has consistently had the most support.

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The independent organisation

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Are you in an independent organisation? 

What does that mean?  Try this test:

1)    Do you own your own Brand – or can a boss (politician, Group CEO) take it away?

2)    Do you have a diversified Income Stream  – or are your ‘customers’ all in one sector or even mainly from one organisation?

3)    Do you have a choice about how you organise internally – or is that dictated by Governance?

Whilst many achieve 1 and 3, number 2 is the fundamental basis of organisational independence.

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Letting the hedges grow

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Hedges are a quintessential part of our countryside. They distinctively define many rural landscapes, from Arden’s high hollies to Exmoor’s beech banks. As well as delineating ownership, sub-dividing land into manageable units, sheltering livestock and controlling soil erosion, hedges also offer perfect and varied wildlife habitats. They are alive with insects, birds, mammals. At these ‘safe junctions’, so much essential business of life gets carried out.

The Enclosure Acts of the 18th Century led to 200,000 miles of new hedges. Open fields and common lands were divided into smaller spaces. But over half of this has disappeared since 1950; replaced by much larger, open and uniform spaces. The adverse effect on the well-being of a huge range of plants and animals is extensively documented.

Is there a parallel with the places we work in? The large ‘open plan’ office is now the most common approach to the modern working environment. They’re cheaper than lots of smaller rooms and you can change the layout more easily if circumstances dictate.

But where are the safe junctions? The passing places for unplanned social contact and easy conversation? The cosy spots to be apart? The little available research on the impact of open plan offices seems to point to a pretty hefty list of drawbacks for staff.

Getting the best working environment needs careful thought. Helpfully, there are plenty of ideas on how to balance the competing needs of cost, flexibility, productivity and well-being. Companies like Herman Miller point to design principles such as:

– creating information and resource-rich spaces that get people thinking and help them follow up on ideas and conversations

– making sure sufficient quiet and private places are available

– allowing people more control of their environment, to adapt it to the work they’re doing as that changes over time.

Maybe you should let the different sorts of hedges grow a bit more where you work?

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