Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grant McCracken & The Chief Culture Officer

What do you do when you find a gap in the way companies do business? Well if you're Grant McCracken, an exceptionally bright guy and publisher of the blog Cultureby, you do something about it. Much published Grant's written Chief Culture Officer due in December at Amazon. In Chief Culture Officer Grant argues for the position of CCO in the corporation and the role culture plays in how to create a living, breathing corporation shaping decisions that make companies more valuable. Or not. There are plenty of examples of how abscence of a chief culture officer, or the knowledge that outside, outsourced utility can bring, essentially signs death warrants for companies such as General Motors or Chrysler. I exclude Ford here for they did not need a bailout. Hence their collective culture officer must have made strikingly different decisions. That alone is enough to prove Grant's premise for billions of dollars are at stake to be won or lost by the US auto industry and the having, or not having, of a Chief Culture Officer. In my mind what is the greatest challenge for a newly installed Chief Culture Officer? Getting there and actually finding a mechanism in the company that will accept your input. How can you promote the concept of the Chief Culture Officer? Join Grant's Chief Culture Officer Community.

What's my personal spin on getting culture into and out of a corporation? Getting people to use it. I'd sold the use of our "Culturally Influential Consumer Groups®" for purposes in market research to corporations such as General Motors for years. My biggest supporters in GM's top tier strategic office promoting this work and their roles of Chief Culture Officers were on one assignment Paula Travenia who had communications research oversight of Buick and agency McCann-Erickson and Marina Shoemaker who had strategic communications oversight for all of GM's brands. They liked the work and hired me again and again...but alas, no one was going to save GM single handedly (and that caveate was provided time and again by Marina who kept building her arsenal of Cultural Influence Knowledge on her brands). Should their resume or CV cross your desk you will find yourself in contact with two of the sharpest Chief Culture Officers on the planet.

Another early adapter of getting cultures into and out of a corporation was Procter & Gamble's Paper Division President, Dick Nicolosi who hired us to get a better "cultural" handle on the Pampers brand.  Pampers thought the only reason people purchased disposable diapers were for reasons of ‘fit’ and ‘dryness.’ You had to ‘fit’ the baby better and keep the baby ‘drier.’ And as retailers began dropping Pampers from their shelves, P&G executives wondered what they could do to retain distribution and reverse the downward trend in the company's share of the disposable diaper market. Calle & Company’s proven Social Engineering® process enabled consumers to turn Pampers into the ‘developmental’ diaper brand. Pampers, re-launch as Pampers ‘Phases’ Developmental Diapers convinced moms that being a toddler was just another ‘step’ or ‘stage’ in the ‘development’ of their infants and newborns. By Socially Re-Engineering Pampers as “the developmental brand” Pampers arrested toddlers migrating to rival Kimberly-Clark’s Pull-Ups, sustaining distribution and gaining $11.2 billion ($1.2 billion per year) in diaper sales over the next ten years.

Now THAT'S being a Chief Culture Officer. And why do I single out THIS example? Because I always thought that a corporation's MOST effective CCO SHOULD be the CEO. How many times had I called a company asking for the person most interested in better understanding their product's customers; or asking for the person in charge of innovation driving the growth of their business in the "packaged goods" industry only to be shunted to some guy named Phil in packaging design? "Oh, I see. Phil in packaging design is the person in charge of innovation driving the growth of your business." Give me a break.

The concept for Chief Culture Officer has GREAT merit. My hat is OFF to Grant McCracken for so well hitting the nail on the head. Now, how do we drive it into the corporation? And more importantly, how do they put it to use for the only thing that matters? How to create more successful established brands rather than milking them with line extensions; and how to create more successful new products. I know Social Media's now all the rage, but it's not the communication channel that reaches consumers with the most import. It's the message that connects with the culture. Thanks Grant. You are a good think! I only hope the the homogenaity of the mob, the commoditization of social communities or the wisdom of crowds don't drown us out. Every crowd, mob or social community is still composed of hundreds of interactive "Socially Influential Consumer Groups®" (for a list of 500 SICGs® to consider for your business email me - use the link on the blog - if that fails, post a note here) who think their own thoughts regardless of overwhelming social pressure to conform. GM is good at ignoring cultures, making what they want then telling us it's what we need. That model no longer works. The working model is; find out what cultures want, and give it to them; and better, before they no they need it for if you only collect and gather data in real time, by the time you act you will only be reacting, a day late and pound short behind the consumer rather than the necessary procative step ahead.

1 comment:

Oxy said...

happy I will be able to ask questions/participate rather than ask the computer questions!