July 22nd, 2014
The next time you’re sitting in yet another staff meeting, listen carefully to the lingo. How much of it is devoted to customers and their needs? I’m betting the preponderance of it is about office politics, org charts, incompetent employees, vacations, beer blasts, products, and technologies. Congratulations: your company has HQ-mania.
The people who found a company bear little resemblance to those who join it years later. The founders are totally obsessed with finding paying customers to fund rent, light, payroll, and growth. They have no option but to know what customers think, feel, want, say, and do — no coincidence, the ingredients of a brand. Founders make personal sacrifices by working excessively long hours, and they often don’t pay themselves at first.
Over time, the company’s success allows it to occupy fancier digs and hire new employees, typically focused on benefits, balanced lives, free food, org charts, and office politics — not on survival. Gradually, the focus shifts from the outside world to the internal domain. Jargon replaces customer language. Phonecalls and emails go unreturned. Comfortable employees become snarky about their company’s products and success.
Moreover, as a company’s founders become busy managers, ego-soothers, and wealthy, conspicuous consumers, they, too, can become detached from what happens outside the headquarters (they admit this to me). The HQ-mania buck stops at the CEO’s desk.
Why should you, the CEO, care? HQ-mania kills brands. A weak brand causes your costs of sales, capital, and media to rise.
Mirror of Hubris
As time evolves in a company’s life, the mirror of hubris replaces the window of opportunity. Meetings replace actions. The “HQers” view only their own reflections and become detached and insulated from the external world. Chatter about products and technologies dominates their days. Result: they know little about what customers think, feel, want, say, and do — as evidenced by their blind zeal for impersonal, unsocial media. An unsustainable scenario.
The Reality of Social Media
Plenty of evidence has emerged of late discrediting so-called “social” media. But, as we would expect, HQ-maniacs will ignore this evidence and perpetuate the mirror of hubris:
Parting Advice for the CEO
Destroy your company’s mirror of hubris. Resurrect the window of opportunity. The only way to achieve this is to force your employees to have some form of direct, personal customer contact (Twitter is not direct, personal customer contact).
Reduce your dependence on social media. Commerce is about closing, not blathering.
Your company should be a lean, mean profit machine. Once it becomes a comfortable family, it will suffer from HQ-mania — unable to articulate what customers think, feel, want, say, and do. HQ-mania kills brands and will prevent you from creating or fixing yours.
Those who eat, sleep, and drink products, technologies, jargon, org charts, meetings, office politics — and who hide behind “unsocial” media to avoid direct, personal customer contact — have no place in branding.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Benefits of Facebook Ads Elude Small Businesses
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.