Why You Should Have a Beer with Kurt

In our current world of chaos and meanness, we’re all searching for some quiet kindness and sanity. One of the places I know I can always find that is with my friend and business partner Kurt Steinbock. And that’s been a consistent in my life since the early 1990’s. Yes, that’s nearly 30 years of acceptance, trust, acute and astute listening from a truly kind human being.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the rarity that is finding someone who will really listen to what another person has to say – listening without judgement, without an ulterior motive, listening with respect for what someone is saying and why they’re saying it.

It’s an innate skill that Kurt has

and it translates from friendship to growing a business to interacting with clients. Kurt will listen carefully and quietly, allowing the speaker to explore and dig deep into their thoughts and feelings. Other than a visage of sympathy, empathy, understanding or seeking to understand, you won’t read an opinion on Kurt’s face. And that’s another rare gift - I imagine he’d be a hell of a poker player.

It’s only after you’ve finished fleshing out your thoughts that Kurt will begin to think about how to respond. And that will take time – with maybe a chuckle or sip of coffee (or beer) – time for Kurt to process what he’s heard and think very deeply about how to respond. And even then, he might respond with a request to think further about the topic or ask some clarifying questions before he shares his insights. But let me tell you,

they’re well worth waiting for.

I’ll share more about that another time. But for now, I want to let you know that if you’re looking for someone who will give his absolute attention and listen deeply without judgement, then Kurt’s your guy.

A Box Worth Opening?

We’re all pretty familiar with the concept of Pandora’s Box. In Greek mythology, Pandora made the mistake of opening a box that contained a lot of bad stuff. You don’t want to open that box!

Undertaking a brand review or brand study can feel a lot like copying Pandora’s mistake. CEOs see it as a distraction, CFOs see it as a waste of money, and your Head of Sales just rolls his eyes and wonders how this is going to bring in more business.

And often they’re all correct. The ad agency comes in with charts and graphs that show how the brand has gone astray and proposes a rebrand, which leads to a lot of distractions, unbudgeted costs and confusion in the marketplace. See Don't Buy The Myth  for more insights on why rebranding is almost always a waste of time and money.

Done the right way, a Brand Evaluation will expose the gaps and strengths in a company’s brand.

And with the right team, a strategy is developed to close those gaps and take better advantage of the strengths to put the brand back into alignment. Rather than distractions, the company has a renewed focus, costs are contained, and customers are reengaged with the brand they initially appreciated.

In fact, this second outcome aligns with the full story of Pandora’s Box - the part we don’t often hear about. In the original myth, Pandora hurries to close the box so nothing else bad escapes. In doing this, however, she traps the one good thing in the box: Hope.

Pandora could have released Hope, too. You and your company are holding a similar box. There might be some discomfort inside—but there’s also the very real hope that you can bring your brand back into alignment and reengage your customers, employees and leadership. Hiring the right team can make your box worth opening.

Doing the Right Thing, the Right Way, for the Right Reason

In a team meeting recently, I thanked everyone for their “hard thinking, heart thinking and heavy lifting.” The phrase came to me because it reflected the various efforts we put into our work together. In my opinion, they are the three components of success in any endeavor – personal or professional.

First you have to do the hard thinking – determining what you really want to accomplish. Think about how it’s going to move you closer to your end goal. And how are you going to get the work done?

Secondly (and this an important step that many businesses and leaders skip over) comes the soul searching – the “heart thinking” that asks if this idea is in the best interest of your efforts. How will this initiative impact the people around you? How will it reflect on your organization (and you as a leader)?

Lastly, there’s the heavy lifting – actually putting in the work to see the hard thinking and heart thinking come to fruition – accomplishing your goal – having the positive impact you want. And it’s heavy lifting because doing the smart and appropriate thing isn’t always easy. Put another way, are you doing

The Right Thing, The Right Way, for The Right Reason?

That’s a mantra that MBM lives by – and we always make sure our efforts meet all three criteria. Or else we don’t do it.

What Would You Learn If You Heard From Each & Every Employee?

I saw an ad for the upcoming season of Undercover Boss the other day and it made me think about the concept and how it impacts the business it spotlights.

You know the show – the one where the boss wears a disguise and goes “undercover” to learn about his employee’s personal lives and hear their ideas about how the company can be more efficient and cost effective. The boss is usually surprised at how hard his employees work, how frustrating the job can be, and how loyal his team is despite all that. And a few employees receive rewards and promotions for their insights.

There are hidden cameras, fake beards and sloppy wigs. That seems like a lot of work to stay in touch with the people who work for you. The employees on the show yell, cry, shake their heads and storm off in frustration. And sometimes the boss does the same thing. That seems like a lot of angst to uncover whether your company is running as efficiently and effectively as it can. And it certainly doesn’t do much to elevate employee morale.

It may not seem obvious as you get caught up in the story, but the boss only hears from a few employees. Imagine if she could hear from each and every employee. And imagine if she could make lasting, impactful changes for the entire organization rather than just a few individuals.

You can learn a lot if you hear from every employee in your organization, regardless its size. And when you do, you’ll learn about strengths and gaps that you may not be aware of. There are likely strengths within your team that will help you move your company forward – unheralded leaders, suggestions for process improvements, or insights into customer behaviors that can predict new products or services (and income). And there are probably gaps in your team’s ability to deliver on your brand which may be as simple as upgrading software or improving internal communications.

But you won’t know about these strengths and gaps unless you ask.

And fair warning, don’t think you can just have your Human Resources team send out a Satisfaction Survey annually to get the insights you need to improve your employee’s lives, your company’s efficiency and your customer loyalty. In order to uncover the true strengths and gaps in your brand, you’ll need an outside, objective and trustworthy organization to ask the questions, evaluate the responses and provide the insights and strategies. MBM can help.

If Your Employees Can't Deliver on Your Company's Brand, Who Will?

When a new employee goes through orientation, they may learn about how the company was founded and get a t-shirt and coffee mug with the company logo. And that’s it for brand education. They move on to technical training, benefits offered, and a mound of paperwork. Even though, no matter their role in the company, they are entrusted to deliver on the company’s brand promises to help keep the company profitable. 

It doesn’t matter if the new hire is an administrative assistant, delivery driver or senior manager – every one of your employees is responsible for delivering on your company’s brand promise. In fact, the closer the employee is to your customer, the more impact they’ll have on how your brand is perceived. All the advertising and social media posts extolling the benefits of your product or service mean nothing if the interaction with your front-facing employees doesn’t deliver.

Think about your interactions with the staff at your grocery store. They can make or break your decision to shop there next time. And how about when you contact customer service about a product issue, or visit your lawyer or accountant’s office? The person on the phone, on the live chat, and at the front desk has the ability to make that interaction meaningful, forgettable, or even disastrous.

And those interactions have direct implications on how your customer perceives the value of your brand.

How do you ensure that your employees know your brand, believe in the brand, and have the training and technology to deliver on the promises of that brand? 

Getting employees aligned with a company’s brand can be a challenge when onboarding requires so much technical training and benefits paperwork. And keeping employees aligned with the brand can get lost in the mix of office politics, measuring effectiveness and managing to efficiency.

A Brand Evaluation will help you uncover where your employees are in alignment with your brand, and where there are gaps. Those gaps can be bridged with focus and effort – but first you have to recognize them. MBM can help.

Your Brand Value and The Current Reality - Part Four: Trust or Control?

Whether you’re in the planning stage of returning your staff to working at the office, or reviewing how the “new normal” of 2020 means your team will continue to work remotely, your management team is conveying various messages around trust to your staff. And that leads to an important question you need to address that you may not be thinking about:

Are Your Employees Empowered to Deliver on Your Brand Promise?

Before March of this year, you may have been able to answer that confidently, pointing to training and resources and ongoing team engagement. But what about today? Have your managers and supervisors supported and inspired confidence in your team during the pandemic?

Does your team still trust that they can make independent decisions? Or have messages blocked their ability to ensure your brand promises are delivered as expected to your customers, supporters and stakeholders?

In a June 2020 opinion article on UPenn’s Wharton Knowledge webpage, David De Cremer, the provost’s chair and professor in management and organizations at the National University of Singapore Business School looks at the Importance of Trust at Work and how COVID-19 has magnified the differences between trusting and controlling employees.

De Cremer talks about how the transition to working from home and online meetings during the global pandemic have highlighted “the negative impact that managers have on employees’ life at home…with complaints about managers who care more about productivity than the health of their employees,” and how “online meetings have become means to monitor and assess work attitude...”

Are you trusting or controlling your employees? And which do they think you’re doing?

Your managers and supervisors may believe they have been supportive and encouraging, building on employee engagement and conversations online. However, the communications and engagement may have eroded your team’s ability to confidently deliver on your brand promises. Regardless of your leadership’s intentions, your employees’ perception is reality. 

So how do you know if your people believe they are trusted to do their jobs? You ask them. A simple set of questions that assesses your team’s alignment with your brand, and their confidence in their ability to deliver, will yield powerful insights into the future or your organization.

Beware, though, of implementing a survey on your own. A 2016 Medallia study indicates that employees are unlikely to be candid on a survey that comes from an internal division such as Human Resources or Employee Engagement. Your team will know the answers you’re looking for and will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

Your brand promise is only as strong as your employees’ confidence in their ability to deliver on it. Now is the time to make sure your team is 100% in alignment from the top down and bottom up.

Want to know more? Contact us today.

In Case You Missed Part Three: Disruption and Innovation


(c) 7/2020 MBM Marketing

Your Brand Value and The Current Reality - Part Three: Disruption and Innovation

You’re well on your way to success. You’ve assessed your brand and made the changes necessary to be relevant in the now. You’ve been strategic and thoughtful in how you’ve communicated those changes to ensure you can deliver 100% on what your brand promises.

Now what? 

Two big words in the pre-2020 business world were “disruption” and “innovation.” Companies around the globe were trying to be disrupters in their marketplace, looking for innovation in their industry and their processes. 

Well guess what? 2020 has been the ultimate disruptor, causing us all to innovate on the fly as we pivot our companies to the new normal which seems to be changing every day. 

Does your industry need additional disruption right now? Have your employees reached the apex of their ability to innovate? Now is the time to double down on your core business, making sure your strategies are sound and your key leaders have a chance to leverage their expertise.

Now is the time to optimize your brand promises and maximize your touchpoints with your customers:


The best use of your time is to document the lessons learned, review the efficiencies you’ve uncovered and determine how your organization will move forward smarter and wiser. 

Take this time to make sure your mission and purpose are sound. Make sure your organization is in alignment with itself and its values. 

Take a holistic and objective look at your company and have the courage to make the decisions needed to ensure your sustainability.


Think about how your new delivery methods are in alignment with how your customers are used to interacting with your brand.

Test and measure how your online experiences reflect the in-person experiences customers are used to.

Determine whether your customer service people will continue to work from home, and if they have the tools and support they need to deliver as expected. And if you’re outsourcing in-person deliveries to a team, make sure they understand and align with your brand.

How you do business will be different going forward. There won’t be a return to normal. You will shape the future or it will shape you. And your brand will be affected by the future you create. 

Taking these and other steps will determine how your company rises from this disruption and takes advantage of all that you’ve learned, positioning your organization for success in the future, regardless of what that brings.

Contact us to get started.

Next: Part Four: Trust or Control?

In Case You Missed Part Two: Communication


(c) 7/2020 MBM Marketing

Your Brand Value and The Current Reality - Part Two: Communication

You’ve completed an assessment of your brand promises. You’ve aligned your strengths and closed the gaps. And you’ve built a strategy to move forward in the now and you’re thinking about a stronger future. Well done, you!

But just because you have this work complete and your senior team is feeling confident doesn’t mean your employees, your vendors, and your customers are. They don’t know what you know. At least, not until you communicate with them. 

There are three keys to successfully communicate what you’ve discovered:

Communicate what’s the Same

Communicate what’s Different

Make your communications Stand Out

Start with your employees. Build their confidence in the future of your organization, and the important role they play. To do this, you must 

Communicate what’s the Same – tell them what they will continue to do that delivers on your company’s brand promise. Reminding them about the great things they’ve done (and will continue to do) to help grow the company will help them lean in to the changes you’re making. Make them feel a sense of ownership. Only then should you… 

Communicate what’s Different – tell them about any processes and procedures that will be changing as you move forward. Give them time and opportunity to understand these changes, ask questions, and make suggestions to make them more effective. There’s already been significant upheaval in how they’re performing their jobs, and it’s critical that you get this right. Then you can…

Make your communications Stand Out – share with your team how your company will continue to be different, and better, than your competition. This is team building at it’s very best as you bring your employees into your vision of the future, motivate them and encourage their loyalty.

Next, you should communicate with your vendors. Follow the very same steps as with your employees – first the Same, then the Different and finally Stand Out.

Only after your employees and vendors are on board should you communicate with your customers. You must be absolutely certain you can deliver 100% on what you’re promising in order to maintain the trust of customers. As you communicate with your customers…

Communicate what’s the Same – remind your customers of the brand promises they’ve counted on, and how you’ll continue to keep them. Change can be disorienting without the support of knowing that some things won’t change.

Communicate what’s Different – tell them what you’re doing differently now to continue to earn their trust. Tell them how these new products or initiatives will make their lives better, easier, more enjoyable. Show them how these differences are meaningful. And tell them how you’ve changed your processes and procedures to deliver 100% on what you’re promising.

Make your communications Stand Out – work with your internal creative team or external ad agency to make sure your messages Stand Out. None of the “in these uncertain times, we care” messaging that everyone else is using. How can your messaging Stand Out to your current customers as well as attract new ones?

Congratulations! You’re well on your way to success. You’ve assessed your brand and made the changes necessary to be relevant in the now. And you’ve been strategic and thoughtful in how you’ve communicated those changes – to your employees, your vendors and your customers to ensure you can deliver 100% on what your brand promises.

Ready to get started? Contact us today.

Next: Part Three: Disruption and Innovation

In Case You Missed Part One: Reflection

(c) 7/2020 MBM Marketing

Your Brand Value and The Current Reality - Part One: Reflection

Now is the time to ask yourself, as a leader in your organization, what is important to you? What is important to your team, your employees? What is important to your customers? It may be very different from the last time you asked. And it may be the same. It’s likely somewhere in the middle.

As you’re reading this, millions of people are determining what brands they want to bring into their homes and their lives. And they’re reassessing how they trust those brands.

Your brand is the expectations your customers, employees, vendors and other stakeholders have – based on the promises you’ve articulated and others they’ve come to expect.

Which promises can you still keep? And are there promises you can’t keep any longer? What are the promises your employees, your customers and your stakeholders are seeking right now?

People are scared and angry. People need hope. How can your brand provide a sense of security, comfort, consistency and hope?

What makes your company relevant today? It’s not a message about how “in these uncertain times we care.” Of course your company does – and so does every other company, including your competition. But what are the relevant brand promises only your company can make, and deliver on, that are going to keep people loyal to you?

What you do now will impact whether your customers will keep your brand in their lives, how they embrace your brand, and how your employees interact with your customers.

So what should you be doing now? Ask the questions that will help you

Assess your brand promise – where are the gaps? Do we have hidden strengths? Where is the most value in what we promise? Is it still relevant?

Align your ability to deliver on your brand promise – does my team have the soft skills to deliver? Do we have the technology (and training)? Are we rewarding the right behaviors? Are we celebrating our victories?

Strategize – are we ready to move forward? How has our competition changed?  Are we in the right position in the marketplace? Do our customers need additional education or training to access our products and services?

The insights uncovered by asking those questions will give your organization a better understanding of your individual brand strengths and weaknesses, positioning your company for solid footing now and accelerated success when the economy recovers.

You have a singular opportunity to ask important questions. What are you waiting for?

To get started, contact us today.

Next: Part Two: Communication


© 7/2020 MBM Marketing

Throws Like a Girl

In addition to being committed to marketing that has an impact, I've also been committed Read more