Saturday, July 12, 2008

An amazing study in subjective thinking

Marketing activity should always be driven by objectives. Otherwise, your marketing program will be based in personal whim. Here's an actual email exchange that occurred the other day in my organization. It has to do with a proposed redesign of a particular page on our Web site. All names have been changed to protect the hopelessly subjective:

-----Original Message-----
From: Amy Smith, IT Department
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2008 4:25 PM
To: Bill Stevens, IT Department
Subject: Email login page

What do you think of this login page?
https://mail.hawaii.edu/uwc/auth
-Amy

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Stevens, IT Department
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2008 4:55 PM
To: Amy Smith, IT Department
Subject: Re: Email login page

That's cute! It makes me want to go on vacation though :-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Amy Smith, IT Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 8:07 AM
To: Bill Stevens, IT Department
Subject: Re: Email login page

So, could we redesign our email login page to look something like that?

Amy

-----Original Message-----

From: Bill Stevens, IT Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 8:15 AM
To: Amy Smith, IT Department
Subject: Re: Email login page

Yes, it could be done. I believe Allen Michaels in our Web Marketing Department made it look the way it does now. He’s in charge of the design and content of the web site.

-Bill


-----Original Message-----
From: Amy Smith, IT Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 8:15 AM
To: Allen Michaels, Marketing Department
Subject: FW: Email login page

Allen,

Would it be possible to dress up our student email login page to look something like this?:

https://mail.hawaii.edu/uwc/auth

-----Original Message-----
From: Allen Michaels, Marketing Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 9:33 AM
To: Amy Smith, IT Department
Subject: RE: Email login page

Yes, our software would allow us to change the design of that page.

Thanks,
Allen


-----Original Message-----
From: Amy Smith, IT Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 1:10 PM
To: Allen Michaels, Marketing Department
Subject: RE: Email login page

Does that mean we can get someone to redesign the page?

-Amy

-----Original Message-----
From: Allen Michaels, Marketing Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 2:44 PM
To: Amy Smith, IT Department
Subject: RE: Email login page

Amy,

Let's get together and make sure there are reasons for remaking that page:
Is there something about the current page that isn't working? Are the objectives changed for that page? Is there a problem we're trying to solve, or did this design just catch someone's eye?

If there's a good, objective reason for changing that page from the standard university Web design format, let's talk about it and come up with a strong solution.

Thanks,
Allen

-----Original Message-----
From: Amy Smith, IT Department
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 2:52 PM
To: Allen Michaels, Marketing Department
Subject: RE: Email login page

The other page just looks really cool. There's no particular reason why the page needs to be updated, I just think the Hawaii example is eye-catching.

Just something to think about.

-Amy

Lesson: Never cave in to allowing marketing work to be driven by someone's particular notion of what is "cute" or "cool"!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Silo thinking

I've worked with lots of organizations that are built around a set of distinctive "silos" -- those little, quasi-autonomous kingdoms that exist within organizations.

Silo rhetoric was really popular in the '90s, not so much so now in 2008. Why? I think it's largely because we all got tired of the chatter and the fact that we couldn't seem to do much about silos. In one organization I worked for, management actually told me I couldn't use the "s" word anymore. (Interestingly, they've lived through this period of denial and have now taken huge steps to bust up the silos. Unfortunately, I didn't stay long enough to witness it.)

From what I've experienced over the years, silos tend to be the bane of clear, comprehensive brand identities. For example, here in my own institution, silos are built around the six colleges that make up the university. Frequently I hear college leaders say, "We need to be distinctive from everybody else in the university." That usually represents a strike against the university's brand.

But I've softened on my attitude toward silos. Silos are important in most organizations because they tend to focus specific expertise on products or services that require such specialization. Silos only become dangerous when they set their sites beyond operations and start focusing on the market. They almost always miss the big picture.

Years ago I started explaining it this way: When you spend all your time in the bottom of a silo, you see just a little circle of blue sky. Mostly what you see is silo. The task of branding an organization is to help everybody -- from staff and management to customers and prospects -- see the sky from horizon to horizon. That requires an ability to see beyond your particular silo, to understand the view of the whole farm.

Brand building is essentially the practice of making the whole sky more visible for everybody, both inside and out of an organization.