About minterdial

Minter Dial is an international professional speaker & consultant on Branding and Digital Strategy. After a long and successful international career at L’Oreal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots to create first The Myndset Company and then Digitalproof Consultancy Ltd. Working in partnership with a select group of associates, Minter has spent ten years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. Minter has worked with world-class organizations to help activate their brand strategies, and to integrate new technologies and digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyze a change in mindset and dialling up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He is author of Futureproof (Pearson Sep 2017) and The Last Ring Home (Myndset Nov 2016), a book and award-winning documentary film.

Should Your Brand Be Political? Here Is How To Navigate Through Brand Politics

The question of whether your brand should be political is a hot topic these days. There was a great presentation I attended at SXSW 2018 by Latia Curry (from Rally) on the merits of politics in branding and how to get there. The idea of mixing politics and business, though, is hardly new. In the US, one must note that the business of politics + business is enormous, thanks in large part to the powerful lobbies. A tour of OpenSociety’s data on the lobbying business is eye-opening, if not scary. According to this 2014 article in The Nation, American University professor James Thurber estimates the annual size of the industry at around $9 billion, while OpenSociety puts the amount of lobby spend at $3.4B in 2017. Beyond lobbies, it is important to recognize that while some issues seem to be more political or politicized, the subject of politics covers a wide array of areas ranging from ethics and societal issues (down to the local community) up to constitutional questions.

To express political views as a corporation?

The Washington Post published two weeks ago an article entitled, Boycott #NRA: Hertz and Avis are the latest companies to cut ties with gun lobby as movement gains steam, written by Fred Barbash and Lindsey Bever. The article lays out how some companies are choosing to end co-branding relationships with the NRA on the heels of the student-led movement after the Florida school shooting. As much as I am for serious gun control and totally support the students, I think the topic of how businesses and brands should deal with this is a worthy and important topic. On Facebook, Jeremiah Owyang put the topic out there and provoked a good debate about whether brands should or should not be announcing their political colours. As an opening gambit, I believe that brands almost have to have a political viewpoint to the extent many brands need to tend to/observe and/or fight regulations that are legislated. And, in today’s evermore transparent world, the fact is that not having an opinion is also a choice. “If you don’t get in front of [the issues], people will do it for you,” said Curry. “The culture of staying silent needs to be broken,” Curry advocated. As Sandra Steingraber said: “Silence is the sound of money talking.” But being silent does not exactly mean staying invisible.

The political customer

If customer centricity is all the rage (“the customer is king”), it stands to reason that one would always want to “listen” to what your customer says. But should a brand also tend to its customers’ political opinions and/or politically-charged requests? The First National Bank of Omaha announced that “Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA.” However, should one be catering to customer feedback about political topics? As David Armano at Edelman wrote about the Activist Economy, “On the cultural front—consumers are not only empowered to behave as activists thanks to social media—they are now polarized and motivated to do so and no brand is immune.” Yet, the fact that consumers (i.e. clients and potential clients) are politically charged and able to communicate does not immediately mean that brands should follow suit.

Aligning with stakeholders

Being overtly political as a corporation is a slippery road to take. Listening to customer feedback is only a portion of the input. There are many other key stakeholders, including, importantly, your employee base and the shareholder…. It is my conviction that one ought to take care of and listen to first and foremost your internal employees. Just as with espousing a higher purpose or mission needs first to be believed and lived by the staff, being political has a far deeper relevance and impact on the employee than for a customer.

Activism by shareholders is generally limited to the extraction of financially quantifiable value. Political activism by shareholders or investing with political motivation has generally been reserved to organizations such as university trusts, NGOs, associations and lobbies. However, if/once the stock market starts to believe that companies with an ethical backbone and a political inclination will bear higher returns, then one will surely see far more companies following on. And it’s not out of the world of possibilities since we’ve seen that the world’s largest asset manager, Black Rock, has waded into the fray in its leadership role. (See Reuters article). Moreover, Blackstone Group, one of the investing behemoths wrote an urgent email asking its external fund managers to identify holdings in companies that make or sell guns. (See WSJ article). Not that such a move indicates that Blackstone has suddenly become missionary, but it is part of an evident shift in corporate governance requirements. In the case of the mass shootings in the US and the tendentious issue of gun controls, if a fund has an investment in a gun-related business, this is tantamount to holding a political position. Moreover, being more purpose-led may also be good for the wallet. An HBR article, published in 2013, indicated that brands with purpose (so called “firms of endearment”) provided significantly higher returns than the general stock market. Eighteen of the 28 conscious companies studied were publicly traded, enabling them to compare returns. From 1996-2011, these 18 companies provided 10.5x higher returns versus the S&P500 over the same period. As indicated above, companies will have increasing difficulty hiding from the issue. Even if it is not being vocalized, therein lies a pregnant question: if you don’t directly say you’re against some vile act, you might be considered as silently endorsing it.

Brands going political

brand politics

So, how does a company go about “being” political, especially when it has not had a history of doing so in the past? There are innumerable challenges, including which issues to choose, which side of which issues, what scope and scale? Part of the risk is doing so just because it “sounds good” to do. If your company is essentially local, it is a distinctly different question than a national or internationally distributed brand. In Curry’s presentation, whereas most of the press tends to focus on big companies, she referred to one case of a small company being political. As a local company, it would make sense to weigh in essentially to locally relevant issues. But, whatever path taken, it must be trod with great care and thoughtful preparation for the long-term, all the more so because it will inevitably require being fast to express an opinion whenever the issue boils up. At some level, when fully incarnated, you want the expression to almost be a natural reflex. Political statements that are not backed by substantive actions are more than likely to be negatively perceived as something tantamount to “cause washing.”

The five steps to take

In terms of establishing your political line (e.g. if you have not had one before), I have five steps that I believe need to be taken:

  1. Assuming the brand vision and values are well defined, evaluate which issues – ethical and political – align with your company’s position. It is my strong recommendation not to link with a specific political party as political parties have agendas that cannot and will not faithfully marry with your company’s long-term objectives.
  2. Make sure that the senior team and the wider employee base are on board and craft some policy statements and guidelines that are systematically shared throughout the organization. In general, I believe that the CEO (or failing that, a member of the C-suite) ought to be prepared to communicate personally and widely on these issues.
  3. Start by testing the waters. For example, this can take the form of expressing an opinion in an internal company meeting. This can also be with the next layer of important stakeholders on the front line (e.g. distributors, sales team…).
  4. Pick one or two issues where you are prepared to invest not just time and money, but where you are looking to create impact and, hopefully, encourage, if not instill, change.
  5. At all times, make sure to be extremely attentive to the ongoing climate and how your activities are being appreciated. As Curry stressed, it’s important to develop a voice and avoid being tone deaf to the wider audience’s cares and opinions.

When a company is led by its founder, who also owns a large stake in the company, it tends to be much easier to be political. The founders of Ben & Jerry (the legendary Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield) began their existence on a political platform and started the movement of conscious capitalism. CEO Howard Schultz has been at the helm at Starbucks since the very early days of the founding of the company and has been an outspoken leader. Bezos (Amazon) and Zuckerberg (Facebook) have it in their DNA. A transplanted CEO, even if he/she came up through the ranks, inevitably faces the enormous task of bringing the rest of the organization on board and in justifying his/her position to a nervous shareholder. It is literally change management. And yet, Without finding some grounds to “fight” for, the employee base will forever have a niggling feeling that their company could even be part of the problem. #silenceisnolongeranoption Tweet This

When not to be political?

Certainly, I do not believe all companies and brands must be political. This is because many companies have other areas to fix first. For example, they may (a) be too wrapped in themselves and their authenticity/integrity would be too quickly called into question; (b) have many skeletons in the closet that need to be dealt with first; (c) not have a senior team that is prepared to walk the talk; (d) have other basic issues to fix (e.g. product failures, delivery challenges, etc.); or (e) have yet to work out who they are (i.e. brand mission and values).

In short, I don’t believe that a company must be political or that it is wise to run headfirst into espousing a political agenda. But when your brand is strong and has a de facto set of values, it is not only easier to do so, but it is likely the better course of action. When done with good intention and conviction, it will broaden your company’s purpose beyond shareholder value and help foster greater engagement among the workforce. When well managed, especially with an audience that is currently under 40 years old (e.g. “millennials” and younger), the brand will likely help gain greater advocacy among external stakeholders and customers. But, whatever you do, brand politics must be a long-term play and the playbook will constantly need revisiting.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome!

The Exciting Potential of Artificial Intelligence by Jeremy Waite, IBM Evangelist and Leader of CMO Programme (MDE268)

Minter Dialogue with Jeremy Waite

jeremy waite ten wordsJeremy Waite is author of Ten Words, evangelist for IBM Watson Customer Engagement and Global Leader of CMO Programmes at IBM. In this podcast, we zoom in on artificial intelligence. We look at the state of the business of AI, the key emerging trends in AI, how companies can best use AI to fit their strategy, the use of AI in storytelling and much more.

Below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to go over to iTunes to rate the podcast.

To connect with Jeremy Waite:

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The remarkable story of Starling Bank, a new generation of bank founded by Anne Boden (MDE267)

Minter Dialogue with Anne Boden

anne boden starling bankAnne Boden is the founder and CEO of Starling Bank, a brand new online bank in the UK, that she started in 2014 and got licensed in 2016. Anne who comes with a heavyweight executive experience in the banking world (ex-COO of Allied Irish Banks and Head of EMEA, Global Transaction Banking for RBS and ABN AMRO) is an entrepreneur and pioneer on a mission. This podcast comes hot on the heels of Starling having just won “Best British Bank” and “Best Current Account” at the @BritBankAwards. In this podcast, we discuss Anne’s journey, the challenges of being a challenger, her biggest surprises, her blueprint for success, open banking, fintech and much more.

Below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to go over to iTunes to rate the podcast.

To connect with Anne Boden:

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How Does One Effectively Create An Enduring And Successful Team Spirit?

When a team punches above its weight

This has to be one of the most enduring challenges for any business whether small or large. I was struck by the Bill Pennington article in the NYT, “The Ski Team That Sleeps Together Wins a Lot of Gold Medals” outlining the secret to the success of the men’s Norwegian Alpine Olympic team. For a country with 2.5 million men, Norway’s performance in PyeongChang was nothing short of sublime.

team spirit norway

Norway’s medals by gender (from Wikipedia)

One could put it on par with the All Blacks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, except that there are MANY more countries competing legitimately in skiing than there are in international rugby. With a compact team of around a dozen olympians, the Norwegian male Alpine team racked up 24 medals (10 gold) and 3 in mixed teams. With the Norwegian women winning 11 medals, the total haul for Norway was a magnificent and record slew of medals. 39, including 14 gold.

Team Spirit - Norway Alpine Olympic medal haul 2018

Team Spirit – Norway Alpine Olympic medal haul 2018 sets record

The explicit team spirit

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Want To Make A Good Customer Experience? How The Customer Journey Goes Wrong!

If you are an online travel agency (OTA) and an airline you work with changes an upcoming flight, you are of course bound to alert your customers of the change. One would have to imagine that’s a regular occurrence at an online travel agency? As such, it would be one of the typical customer journey mappings that any large, self-respecting OTA would do. Imagine my surprise when Expedia, the world’s largest OTA, managed to completely screw up such a scenario.

Change is for sure…

In my case, the upcoming flight in question is several months out. Using Expedia, I bought a premium economy ticket round trip across the Atlantic on Air Canada (AC). Unfortunately, AC saw fit to cancel my return leg. So, Expedia sent me a mail that was quite dense with a rather unattractive typeface, giving me three options. There were two alternative flight options (#1 was for the same flight but a day earlier; #2 was the same day, but involved an additional 3 hour layover). The third option was: Continue reading

How to transform the police and how to futureproof your career with Justin Insalaco (MDE266)

Minter Dialogue with Justin Insalaco

Justin InsalacoBefore founding Innovation 4.0 with Will Donovan, Justin Insalaco spent nearly ten years as a police officer. With Justin’s verve and need to provide IMPACT, he created a mobile app, Guidant Systems, as a side project, to help officers do their job better on their beat. Just like in business, there are many challenges in transforming the way things are done in the police force. Justin takes us through that journey and the parallels with business; and then he talks about his exciting initiatives at Innovation 4.0 where he is helping people to futureproof their careers.

Below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to go over to iTunes to rate the podcast.

To connect with Justin Insalaco:

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How To Develop The Futureproof Mindset

Whenever I get an inside view of a company culture, it seems so easy to find the faults. But what of the recipes for success? The bigger question becomes: How to develop a futureproof mindset?

It starts at the top

My first port of call is to see how switched on the C-suite (and especially the CEO) is and how much and how well they embody the “new” and desired culture. The second port of call is to find out about the way communications happen: how much email is unread? how often are the BCC & CC fields used? how timely are communications sent and responded to? what other channels are used? how frank is the discourse? The third port of call regards the level of, what I put under the term of, secrecy. How open and transparent is the company? How much is happening “between the lines” or behind closed doors? How wide are the gulfs between what is communicated inside and outside the company?

The futureproof mindset

I find three traits that spell out how to develop a futureproof mindset. Continue reading

Storytelling, content marketing and brand building with Carla Johnson (MDE265)

Minter Dialogue Episode #265

Carla Johnson_Small FileCarla Johnson is an author, speaker and expert in storytelling, content marketing strategies and brand building, working with such blue chip companies as American Express, Dell, Motorola, VMWare, as well as the US Army Corps of Engineers. She runs the Type A Communications consultancy and is Chair of the Board of Advisors for Business-to-Business for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). In this conversation, we discuss the challenges of making content marketing and brand come alive within organisations, the gap between promise makers and promise keepers, as well as some keen insights on how to improve brand storytelling and bring empathy into the workplace.

Below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to go over to iTunes to rate the podcast.

To connect with Carla Johnson:

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Announcement – Futureproof Is Business Book Award Finalist – Embracing Change

Futureproof BBA 2018We are delighted to announce that Futureproof has been voted a finalist in the inaugural Business Book Award 2018 in the category, Embracing Change.

The awards ceremony event will be held on March 16, 2018 at the The Grange City Hotel London. Caleb Storkey (co-author) will be on hand at the event.

Check out the trailer video:

The four other finalists are: Continue reading

(Too) Busy Is A Choice

Late for Work Busy is a choice

How busy would you say you are? Would you not agree that many of your friends and colleagues are all saying roughly the same thing, along the lines: “Yeah, I’m super busy. Lots of stuff going on….” Some would consider it a badge of honour to be so busy. Others might feel that they are the victim of a 24-hour clock. Many (most) rue the lack of free time. As a result, things are necessarily falling through the cracks, shoddy work is getting done, critical communications are not getting through, people are showing up late all the time and, worse of all, people are burning out. Being too busy, I am convinced, is one of the biggest issues in business, especially in these frenetic times, where strategic thought is as important as mental & physical wellbeing. Tweet This

The choices you make

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