Whiplash Movie is Case Study for Terrible Leaders

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”

So says  tyrannical band leader Terence Fletcher, brilliantly portrayed in an Oscar-winning performance by actor J.K. Simmons in the movie Whiplash.

J.K. Simmons (r) and Miles Teller in Whiplash. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

The psychological thriller provides a springboard into a number of rich discussion areas, including leadership and coaching.  I can see this movie being used as content in business schools and corporate training sessions to help teach leaders what not to do. 

For example, toward the end of the movie, emerging drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) is conversing with Fletcher.  The topic is just how far a leader can go to get the best out of someone, and via what methods.  Andrew asks if there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.  It’s clear he’s referring to Fletcher’s button-pushing, take-no-prisoners approach to make people the best they can be (according to him).  The response: No.

My response: Absolutely yes.

Band leader Fletcher sprints across that line from the get-go.  His abusive toolkit also includes: Continue reading

Florida Beach Targets Freezing Millennials with Eye-Catching Street Marketing

You might not think a well-known Florida beach would need to do much marketing, especially during this cold winter of 2015.

But the professional tourism generators in St. Petersburg/Clearwater think otherwise.

For 2015, the team at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater (VSPC, part of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitor Bureau) has injected a healthy dose of creative street marketing.

They’ve launched a guerrilla marketing campaign to target young travelers in New York and Chicago.

Credit: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater 2015 marketing. Credit: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Beginning in late January and continuing into February, hired crews built real snowmen around landmark New York City locales.  The snowmen were outfitted with signs touting messages such as “Even I’ve had enough,” and “Get me outta here.”

 

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Surprise Performance: Kids Movie Characters Teach Adults How to Thrive at Work

What possible business insights can we glean from children’s movie characters Dusty Crophopper, Skipper, Classified and SpongeBob?

No, I haven’t lost my mind.

Being an uncle to young boys, I’ve seen The SpongeBob Movie, Penguins of Madagascar and Planes: Fire & Rescue in the last six months.

While these movies aim to entertain (and make a profit – SpongeBob was number one last weekend), they are also embedded with social lesson skills for young children, especially group dynamics.  And, if you think about it, those same dynamics translate to important business organization themes that can either fuel success or cause dysfunction.

In each of the three movies, the main characters have to navigate situations and challenges that teach the critical importance of the following:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Dealing with Change
  • Organization Alignment
  • Positioning Employees for Success
Dusty Crophopper - Planes: Fire & Rescue. Credit: http://movies.disney.com/planes-fire-and-rescue

Dusty Crophopper – Planes: Fire & Rescue. Credit: http://movies.disney.com/planes-fire-and-rescue

In Planes: Fire & Rescue, main character and flying ace Dusty Crophopper has to cope with the challenge of joining a new company and adapting to a different job. At first, he’s a cocky, hot-shot.  He has trouble performing due to a lack of focus and unwillingness to get aligned with the objectives and needs of the team/organization.

Dusty grows with the help of wise, mentoring colleagues, and actual trial by fire. He learns to understand his role, and how to contribute to and be part of a winning team.  He also understands that self-sacrifice is sometimes necessary for the team to win.

Skipper - Penguins of Madagascar. Credit: http://madagascar.dreamworks.com

Skipper – Penguins of Madagascar. Credit: http://madagascar.dreamworks.com

In Penguins of Madagascar, we get a variety of lessons about leader evolution, encouraging initiative at all levels,  and knowing when to ask for help.

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Decisive Super Bowl Play Demonstrates Power of Being “Always Ready”

My last post was about why the Coast Guard motto, Always Ready, is also a valuable mindset for business and marketing teams.

Because something unbelievable happened at the end of Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, “Always Ready” is a pertinent topic again.

Malcolm Butler wins Super Bowl XLIX for the New England Patriots. Credit: New England Patriots.

Malcolm Butler wins Super Bowl XLIX for the New England Patriots. Credit: New England Patriots.

Unless you’ve just come out of hibernation, you’re well aware of what happened Sunday night in Arizona. This is not the place to critique Seattle’s play selection.  You can find that everywhere.

Instead, let’s go behind the scenes and understand how one player made one of the all-time best plays in American sports history.

His name is Malcolm Butler.

In an interview on ESPN’s Mike & Mike radio program Monday morning, the rookie cornerback explained why he was ready.  Pay special attention to the end of the audio excerpt:

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Free Marketing Advice from the US Coast Guard

Credit: United States Coast Guard.

Credit: United States Coast Guard.

The motto for the United States Coast Guard is Always Ready (Semper Paratus).

It’s a good mindset for marketers, too.

The best are ready to adapt, change and adjust as needed, guided by a solid business strategy.  Of course, sometimes you also have to be ready to change the strategy.

Top performers are ready and able to:

  • Experiment
  • View and process things from a different lens (e.g., competitors, markets, colleagues)
  • Explore new ways to work better with their team
  • Understand that maybe the other guy is right (at least sometimes)
  • Embrace a new challenge or initiative

A now famous example of being ready led to the Oreo team’s real-time marketing success in the 2013 Super Bowl

Being ready usually means you’re in a position to be successful.  Consider one of my favorite quotes:  Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

So I posed the following question to members of MENG, the Marketing Executives Networking Group:

What would you say is the number one most important thing for marketers to be ready about/ready for in 2015?

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5 Branding Pointers Every Marketer Should Embrace

 “Power branding is not an intention, nor is it merely an action. It’s a commitment.”

There’s a guy in New Mexico who really understands brand marketing.

Steve McKee is founder and president of McKee Wallwork + Company.  He’s also the author of When Growth Stalls and Power Branding.

Credit: McKee Wallwork + Company.

Credit: McKee Wallwork + Company.

In Power Branding (2014), McKee provides concise, 2-3 page chapters that each deliver a key thought with examples.  It’s an easy read that will challenge your thinking and/or reinforce any brand marketing discipline that may have gotten a bit out-of-shape.

Here are 5 Power Branding Pointers to whet your appetite:

1. Branding is everything a company does, from the logo on its letterhead, to the way it handles customer complaints, to whether its uniformed personnel keep their shirts tucked in.

2. Branding is like baseball: You may throw a bad pitch, but it’s a long season.  If you execute steadily and consistently, the statistics will work in your favor. Continue reading

Tweets from Brooklyn: NBA Team Exec Wins with Direct Customer Engagement

It’s fascinating to observe how executives communicate, particularly on social media.

Irina Pavlova. President - Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc.  Credit: Brooklyn Nets.

Irina Pavlova. President – Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc. Credit: Brooklyn Nets.

A related dynamic is how senior leaders of professional sports teams are increasingly communicating directly to fans.

Last week, the top executive overseeing the operations of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets selected Twitter to directly engage the team’s fan base, which I’ll discuss.

I’ll also share 7 Tips to help leaders navigate in this new age of omni-platform communications.

But first, some background.


In early July, after just his first season as an NBA head coach, Jason Kidd left the Nets in a controversial, messy fashion. Despite his reported power-play motivations, the Nets, specifically General Manager Billy King, took the high road in public comments.

There was much speculation about how Kidd should be/would be treated in the run-up to his return to Brooklyn as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks on November 19th, as well as continuing media coverage from both team’s perspectives.

The speculation was fueled by the first public comments on the matter from the team’s principal owner, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Answering a reporter’s question before the Nets’ home opener on November 3rd, Prokhorov invoked a version of the famous American phrase “Don’t let the swinging door hit you in the *** on the way out.”  It was communicated with his typical wit, and a bit of humor, in a calm, non-emotional manner.

For non-NBA fans, note that Jason Kidd’s number is retired and hangs in the rafters of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Rightly so. Kidd was a terrific player for the New Jersey Nets, leading their transformation in the early 2000s that culminated in two consecutive appearances in the NBA finals.

Nevertheless, sports fans are typically dismissive of players and coaches who “don’t want to be here,” and it’s fair to say that Kidd wanted to be elsewhere. Prokhorov’s comments reflected that sentiment.


Irina Pavlova is President, ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., the business entity that oversees and operates the Brooklyn Nets on behalf of its principal owner.

Understanding the backdrop and context, take particular note of Pavlova’s personal account tweet a few hours prior to the game:

Well done!  This is a superb example of leadership in action and effective, “taking the high road” communication.  Importantly, Pavlova was able to change the conversation to where it should be – about the Brooklyn Nets and looking forward, not about the former coach.  Her tweet was noted and reported by the media, including ESPN NY.com, thus propelling her message to a wider fan audience. Continue reading