Rocking the World

October 6, 2009

Presentation Summary

Addressing the crowds at Radio City Music Hall for the HSM World Business Forum, Kevin Roberts puts forward answers to two big questions: How do leaders win in this time of new frugality? And how do marketers create “Loyalty Beyond Recession”?

WOBI Kevin Roberts

It’s the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, and we kids were right all along. The power is with the people.

Instead of designing nuclear bombs, this generation’s best and brightest built the Internet, and along with it marketing has changed forever.

Command and control has given way to unleash and inspire.

The Consumer is Boss – and 50% of them are spending less than they were before the catastrophe.

So we have a double problem – power has shifted from manufacturers to retailers and now, finally, to the consumer; and the consumer has been hit by a debt bomb.

The big questions are:

  • How do we as leaders win in this time of “new frugality”?
  • As marketers, how do we create “Loyalty Beyond Recession”?

The answer: “Win Ugly.” It’s about stripping down to what makes a difference. And we were meant for moments like this!  Vince Lombardi: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

There are many components to Winning Ugly. Here are seven:

#1 Face the Truth

No matter how ugly, get the facts on the table and act fast and decisively.

Fact: America lived beyond its means, the people are hit, and less is the new more.

Use these facts to create “priceless value” – product value that improves lives; value that is, in the words of Procter & Gamble, “purpose inspired and benefit driven”.

#2 Reframe, Reframe, Reframe

With more choice, more connectivity, and less spend, consumer power is reframing the notion of value.

They’re saying “I’m not cutting back on luxuries, I’ve just redefined what luxuries are.”

People are evaluating more, trying more, comparing more, and contemplating switching more. … online themselves, and online through others. 71% of Americans shop online before buying a car.

Not just reframing around price but around product attribute.

Toyota reframed driving around breathing clean air, around recycling sunshine.

Novartis reframed the huge problem of lower back or neck pain around “the Joy of Movement”.

#3 Measure Only What Matters

Don’t get suckered by the research vampires and metrics monsters. In advertising, two questions matter:

  1. “Do I want to see it again?”
  2. “Do I want to share this?”

#4 Welcome To The Participation Economy

An empathetic business says “how can I put myself at the heart of the customer?”

U2’s current 360 tour has re-architected the concert experience by putting the stage in the center of the stadium.

Economically, it means they can sell 20% more tickets.

Emotionally, it puts the band in the heart of the audience.

Bono says “I built this spaceship so I can get closer to you.”

Participation is the new mass marketing. We have the capacity to mass customize for the markets of one – but I believe people want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Whether it’s riding in a flash mob with Lance Armstrong, school kids fundraising for charity water, or showing your pet off on, participation is the new black.

Here’s how I see the ground shifting:

Inform Inspire
One-to-many Many-to-many
Distraction Interaction
Return on Investment Return on Involvement
Market Movement
Brand Lovemark
Price Priceless Value
Attention Participation

Participation means inclusion, teamwork, energy and joy.

Participation is 15 million views on YouTube.

#5 Let Emotion Rip!

My #1 job as a CEO is to emotionally inspire people – staff, clients, consumers. Not to bring order or calm but to stir things up. And in these unpredictable times, our most powerful feelings are off the charts. More than ever, people are acting emotionally – and why wouldn’t they?

Human beings are 80% emotional, 20% rational.

Reason leads to conclusions. Emotion leads to action.

Brands are dead. They’ve been commodified. Welcome to the future…. Welcome to Lovemarks.

  • Brands are owned by management, marketers and stockholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them. New Coke is the definitive case story.
  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are created out of Respect and Love.
  • Brands build Loyalty for a Reason. Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason. Beyond Price. Beyond Attribute, Benefit. Loyalty Beyond Recession.
  • Great Brands were Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistible.
  • Brands build performance, reputation and trust. Lovemarks infuse Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy. Three critical business concepts not yet taught at the Harvard Business School.

#6 Use the Love / Respect Axis

The Love / Respect Axis is a fast, intuitive reality check:

Love Respect Axis Lovemarks


  • Low Respect. Low Love. Raw materials, raw experiences, raw pollution…. US Airlines.
  • High Love. Low Respect. The creative zone of “NEW”, “NOW” and “GONE”. Some fads like text messaging leap to Lovemarks: Most don’t.
  • High Respect. Low love.  “e-r” words: faster, bigger… cheaper. Here’s where most investment has gone over the past 50 years, where brands battle. It’s where sustainability has raised the respect bar, but not the roof.
  • High Love and High Respect. Lovemarks – authentic and bringing joy to people’s lives.

#7 Be True Blue

The forces of darkness are marching down the horizon. Climate, hunger, disease, war, crime and the crunch are brewing complex social crises… and I’m speaking here as a radical optimist.

Jack Welch says the role of business is to create shareholder wealth. Peter Drucker says it’s to create and maintain a customer. Both right. But incomplete. The role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. 

By moving from Green to Blue.

  • Green is about fear. Blue is about optimism. Martin Luther King did not say “I have a nightmare.”
  • Green is about obligations. Blue is about opportunity.
  • Green asks “What’s to be done?” Blue asks: “What can I do?”

The “big fix” starts with business. The motivation can be principled and it can be pragmatic.  

And the big guys get it:

  • Wal-Mart is setting standards for its supply chain by labeling the carbon impacts of its 100,000 suppliers.
  • P&G is requiring that every idea be “store back.” We call it “shelf back” – if your product had eyes what would it be seeing. We’re seeing a “Core Blue” consumer group growing.
  • At Saatchi & Saatchi we have a program DOT – Do One Thing. We are creating a personal movement of nano-practices – from eating and flying less to biking and swimming more. Then do one more thing. And another.

True Blue is our participation model for a better world. It’s about putting sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

So – in summary, get out there and Win Ugly, Make Love:

  1. Face the truth and act swiftly.
  2. Reframe all your beliefs about value.
  3. Measure only what matters.
  4. Embrace the Participation Economy.
  5. Let Emotion Rip!
  6. Go for High Respect and High Love.
  7. Act True Blue.

And do it now.

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