Lessons on business from Lawrence Levy


LawrenceLevy

I attended an event that featured Lawrence Levy, the gentleman who helped Steve Jobs make Pixar a billion dollar household name. Mr. Levy was there to tell us how he ended up at Pixar (Steve Jobs called him), what he found when he got there (a weird money losing mess with lots of upside potential) and how he turned Pixar into an animation powerhouse (by focusing on their USP and their unfair disadvantage).  

Here are the key points that he made that evening. While I learned most of them years ago (and credited my mentors below each lesson), I’ve recapped them here because these lessons pay dividends throughout your business life – and maybe beyond that one as well.

Passion is not a substitute for knowledge.

  • Roger Gallerini, V.P. BBDO, Detroit.

 

Don’t hire people who are like you.

  • Judith Elder, V.P. Ogilvy + Mather, Toronto.

 

Step back and assess things before you act.

  • Howard Breen, CEO, MacLaren McCann (U.S.).       

            

It’s more import to get to the right answer than to be right.

  • Hugh Dow, V.P. Media Operations, MacLaren Canada.

 

Giving the create team control is scary.

  • Every single account director that I’ve met in my career. 

 

Be open-minded and nonjudgmental.

  • Julia Wehrmann, my mother.

 

Remain open to what comes your way.

  • Julia Wehrmann, my mother + Charlie Convey, my poodle-man + creative muse.

 

People need to want to change (their own stress levels). You can show them a new way but you can’t force the new way upon them. 

  • Psychology 101 at Ryerson and Dr. Richard Bandler, NLP Founder.

 

 

Cannabis – business as usual


1200px-Cannabis sativa Koehler drawing

Recently I completed an in depth review of over 30 organizations vying for a piece of the lucrative legal cannabis business in Canada (and the United States).

The good news for those of us in the marketing + advertising business is that there’s a whole new business category that needs our best thinking to stand out from the competition and distance themselves from the pack.

The bad news is that many cannabis organizations won’t look at you or your organization without some relevant “cannabis marketing experience”. So I bet almost every marketing organization will be offered multiple pro-bono opportunities just to get some of that lucrative price of entry experience.  

Here’s some more good news: my recent audit demonstrated that the cannabis business is VERY similar to all of the other business categories I’ve worked with.

For example, like in any other business sector, you’ll find:

  • Those who really know their product + audience and understand how to have a decent conversations with their audience in any (on or offline) medium.
  • Some want to tell you everything about their product in an effort to show you how smart they are.
  • Others focus on their production process(es) in an effort to demonstrate efficacy or legal conformation.
  • And just like any other segment, the cannabis segment has organizations that are trying to boast their way through the pack. They tell how much better they, how much better their product, process and people are, with no way of ever proving a single claim: it’s just wall to wall bullshit.

When you’re prospecting in this new category, my advice is the same as ii is for any other business category.

  • Don’t work with people or organizations that do not know their product + audience inside out.
  • Focus on creating good, ethical advertising that shines a light on the brand’s great products + operations. Avoid the boasting and the bullshit.
  • Don’t inflate the product’s attributes or mislead the audience because doing either, or both, will lead to one-time sales at best. The sales declines that this approach initiates cannot be recovered.  

 

Why Brand Continuity Still Matters


For years I’ve argued that brand continuity is important, and for years franchisees have told me it isn’t. Here are two recent examples that illustrate why brand continuity matters.

Example #1 :: Sobeys

I lived in Winnipeg for two years and shopped at Sobeys because 1. I could walk there, 2. it was a clean bright store,  3. my father-in-law recommended it, and 4. it also had a pharmacy. I came to look forward to my frequent small shopping trips. Better yet they had a number of products that I came to love. I’m not a foodie, but Sobeys did it’s best to make me one. So now I’m back in Toronto – missing my local Sobeys and some of those special treats. I drove to the nearest one, only to find it small, dingy, unfriendly and worst of all – the treats I loves to buy in Winnipeg were nowhere to be found in the Toronto store.  The result: i will not go back to Sobey’s in Toronto and I’ll share my brand disappointment with others.

Example #2 :: Days Inn

Charlie (my dog) and I used to drive to Winnipeg and back a few times a year. When my wife came along we made it a road-vacation. we set a leisurely pace and overnighted 4-5 times enroute. Over the years and miles we’ve found that some hotels and motels had no-dog policies, others charged as much as a 2nd (or 3rd) human occupant, and others put you up in their ‘smoking’ rooms. Then there was Days Inn. So far no matter what route we have taken from Toronto to Winnipeg and back, Days Inn was always happy to put up Michelle, Charlie and me for a $10-$20.00 premium in a non-smoking room. Given the rooms are large, comfortable and equipped with wireless internet and a desk, they’ll continue to get my business and my referrals.

As Holiday Inn used to say in their ads: “The best surprise is no surprise”.

 

 

Positioning, Reframing + Repositioning


I offer these advanced Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) communication services. They are part of the art of change developed and taught by Dr. Richard Bandler + John Grinder. These transformational grammar tools can be used to engage staff, improve productivity, heighten customer satisfaction, boost customer loyalty and ramp up repeat sales when they are employed correctly to lay a transformational foundation for long lasting, positive change.

  • Positioning supports your USP. 
  • Re-framing changes how you look at customers. 
  • Repositioning changes how they look at you.

This little piece by Microsoft is a nice personal example of Positioning (“What makes you unique”) and Repositioning ("makes you uniquely qualified") in action.

Reframing

 

 

Illustration versus Photography


At a time when online communications are becoming more and more visual, a good illustration is often much better than a great picture because you can really zoom in on what’s most important. Here are two illustrations that (no pun intended) help me make my point.

Adobe

simple

Quik-Therm

Picture

 

 

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