• Snails and Big Companies

    by  • April 8, 2012

    I’ve always held the opinion that big organizations move at a snail’s pace. Every day, we see or read about bureaucracy – government is the biggest offender. But anyone who has worked with large NGOs (non-government, not for profit organizations), or giant corporations has tasted it. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. The most valuable business on the planet has set a wonderful example for getting things done. But unlike Apple, most big companies don’t have the will or the way to cut through the quagmire of red tape to “just do it”. Even Procter & Gamble, a perennial success and a company I greatly admire, struggles to find nimbleness. Check out the complete list of similarities between big companies and snails.

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    Marketing a Bull to Withstand a Monster

    by  • April 1, 2012

    RedBullFlyIn my blog of last week, entitled A Monster of an Idea, I gave kudos to the Monster Beverage Corporation for becoming a ridiculously-profitable, high-growth $2 billion dollar enterprise despite ignoring the Holy Grail of marketing commandments. Monster entered the market after Red Bull, discounted their product, proliferated the hell out of the brand, and committed a boatload of sins that would give marketing pundits Al Reis and Jack Trout migraine headaches. Yet, despite Monster’s disregard for the immutable laws of marketing, the brand’s “cult” status insulated it from any punitive market damage. Today, Monster Beverage keeps chugging along at a phenomenal 30% annual growth rate. I hadn’t realized it, but that blog of last week left people with an unanswered question – how in the world did Red Bull withstand the onslaught?

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    A Monster of an Idea

    by  • March 26, 2012

    MonsterMy original premise for this blog was to share a variety of leadership and branding principles with the current generation of business leaders. With forty years in the saddle, hundreds of dusty trails and a few fistfights along the way, I have an oasis of management insight in which to draw. More than 60 blogs later, I remain of the view that the vast majority of the strategic tenets that guided me as a CMO and CEO remain valid today. Yet every so often, I come across a very successful exception to the rule.

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    The World of the 21st Century CEO

    by  • March 19, 2012

    globeLast week I identified the successful 21st century CEO as someone who is constantly thinking about the future.  History has shown us that the best performers were those who made the right strategic moves to create a future in which their company would enjoy significant competitive advantage. Their strong sense of vision and belief in proactivity helped them get to the future first. Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page are excellent examples.

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    Who is the 21st Century CEO?

    by  • March 15, 2012

    He or she is the leader who is constantly thinking about tomorrow – not the next week, the next month, the next quarter or even the next year. The future these leaders envision is the one they choose to create; their tomorrow will be a business ‘lotus land’ that is poles apart from an unwelcomed future determined by their competition, a future that inevitably forces defensive reactivity. Proactivity is the secret to long-term success. Those who get to the future first, are the ones who win.

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    Corporate Coherence Works

    by  • March 11, 2012

    Ever since I started blogging about leadership and strategy, I’ve been harping about the notion of “doing less, better” as a business modus operandi.  Wall Street is against the idea. They think companies have to “do more and more” to get bigger and bigger. Recently, they’ve been pushing Starbucks to expand beyond coffee into a variety of foods. It will be interesting to see whether Howard Schultz will give in to them. My former employer, Kraft Foods “does more and more” quite well, albeit through acquisitions – a bit of a cheat in my view. Jacobs Suchard, the coffee/chocolatier that I headed in North America was just one of a long list of Kraft acquisitions that started with General Foods  in the eighties. Suffice to say deep pockets, rather than business brilliance snatches the prize.

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    10 Leaders who are the Brand

    by  • March 4, 2012

    Corporate leaders that are identified with brands are usually the ones who share the brand’s nomenclature, such as Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, and Michael Dell. Seems logical, no? But, there is also a small club of founders, CEOs and/or Board Chairs who are equally synonymous with some well-known trademarks that do not bear their names. These leaders earned their branding reputations by establishing themselves as the driving force behind creating, building and guiding the success of their companies and brands. Within their particular markets (and in some cases on a much more pervasive basis), these leaders are the brand.

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    10 Ways to Slay Goliath

    by  • February 26, 2012

    My business career is characterized with a bunch of David versus Goliath encounters. As a 23 year-old Macleans Toothpaste Brand Manager in 1970, my colleagues and I competed against powerhouses P&G, Colgate and Unilever. When I joined Jacobs Suchard (then Nabob Foods) in 1977, I found myself up against the muscle of Kraft and Nestle. Wherever I went, the major competitor was 20 times larger. That is clout. And yet, our little band of rebels was able to outmaneuver that might with two potent weapons that cost absolutely nothing.

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    Are Great CEOs Always Great Leaders?

    by  • February 19, 2012

    ISteve-Jobs-BW1n my mind, the best CEOs are usually the ones who are in a race to the future – they’re obsessed with defining the future because they can’t stomach the thought of reacting to a future created by their competitors. During his era, Steve Jobs was miles ahead of every other forward thinking CEO in that race. Somehow he was able to see the unseen, and marshal Apple’s resources to deliver the innovative products that fulfilled his view of what lied ahead. In the process, Apple became the most valuable corporation on the face of the earth.  That established Steve Jobs as the greatest CEO of our time. But was he the greatest leader of our time? Apple shareholders would surely say yes. Former subordinates, who suffered under his autocratic and abrasive style, might differ.

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    Ditching the Corner Office for Good

    by  • February 17, 2012

    93181872A year ago, Fortune Magazine published my reflections on my rise to the corner office, my life as a CEO and how I coped with the years that followed my exit from the corporate throne. In the sub-head to In the CEO Afterlifethe publisher described my tale this way: Former CEO John Bell gives his take on life after ditching the corner office for good and the search for fulfillment beyond business success. For those who may be interested, my days in the CEO afterlife are more fullfiling than ever. I can attribute some of that to joining the social network and sharing my experiences on leadership and marketing with anyone who cared to listen. Frankly, I am amazed at how my fading memory has unearthed so many vignettes that I thought were buried forever.

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