We Can’t Protest Too Much

I was so angry last week.

The boos raining down on the Houston Texans and Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs from the fans at Arrowhead Stadium was a slap in the face of equality.

What sin had these players committed? The sin of protest, acting, advocacy.

They lined up at midfield. Linked arms. Players. Coaches. Teammates. Opponents. The stadium screen displayed a simple message of support for Black Lives Matter.

Oh my. What a sin.

That simple call for racial unity was met with outright disapproval.

It made me cry. More than once in fact. It made me angry. I still am. It made me realize how much work society has to go.

I think that Roger Goodell and every league partner, broadcaster, and investor need to condemn the acts of these fans. Their leadership has never been so vital. Their voices need to be heard.

Those fans are not being fans. They have forfeited their rights. They need to earn them back.

I can’t make this ask, without acting.

I need to keep making sure my voice is heard. I need to ensure that I keep protesting. I need to ensure that you keep protesting. We all do.

It’s going to get more difficult than just being booed. It’s going to get nastier. It’s going to get more risky. It’s going to get more damaging.

But we can’t stop. The Chiefs won’t stop. The Texans won’t stop.

I won’t stop, if you won’t.

Falling Back

I often write an early September blog about going Back to School.

It is an easy metaphor to make. It’s easy to speak inspirationally about lifelong learning. The COVID lockdown has reignited that in people around the world. For example, I started to play the piano with the help of apps and YouTube.

So what if I can now peck out a few keys from my favourite Adele, John Lennon, or Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper songs? Is that minor accomplishment going to change my life or impact the world’s direction? Nope. At best it will keep my brain a little sharper as I creep into old age. At worst it allows me to fantasize about possessing the musical skills, and personal discipline, that I envy in talented and focused people

However, there is a glaringly important lesson for us to learn during these days when our children are trickling back into some form of structured education. Glaring, but simple.

History repeats itself.

Let’s consider the following:
I. When the Spanish flu crippled the world between 1908 and 1920, those regions that took preventive measures such as wearing masks suffered the least amount of infections and casualties.

II. When any national ruler rises to power on the foundation of nationalism, protection of past ways of life, and masked racism, that ruler lulls the country to sleep and when they wake their democracy has become a dictatorship.

III. When a natural, medical, or militant disaster hits any country or region, those with the least suffer the most, and those with the most suffer the least.

History has proven these truths, year after year, generation after generation. But what does it mean for us?

It means that if we are smart we will take the lessons of the past and apply them to today. We will practice social distancing and wear masks. We will hold politicians accountable for their misdeeds. We will seek solutions that overcompensate for those who need it.

The next three months will be the most important in history since World War II.

If we don’t stop this pandemic, millions more will die and millions of dollars will be lost. If countries around the world don’t stop their dictators who poison and lie as easily as they breathe, civil liberties will be lost forever. If we don’t help those who need it, an entire generation of potential will be wasted.

This morning I passed by a school of dozens of eager, masked faces, safely lined up to get inside their classes. They were treated by welcoming, masked teachers and staff, and sent off by nervous parents. I paused. I watched. I smiled.

These kids are resilient. They are battling through. Us adults need to step up. We have the advantage of knowledge. We know what happened in the past.

We should know not to let it happen again.

Happy Birthday, Terry

If Terry Fox had survived, he would have been 62 years old yesterday, July 28th.

He barely made it to one-third of that.

Projecting what Terry Fox might have done if he survived does a disservice to what his legacy has accomplished. But today, we need the inspiration of Terry Fox more than ever. COVID has become our new marathon.

Terry’s brilliant letter to adidas, written at age 21, for support of his mission continues to motivate. I read it for the first time just three years ago. Then, and today, it ignites the same fiery flame in me that Fox did when I was a teenager.

If Terry Fox was alive today he would be a brilliant doctor, or community leader, or fundraiser. Also probably a great father, a trusted friend and a decorated Paralympian. We could use more of all the above with the character that Fox shared by attempting to run across our country.

Terry talks in his letter about believing in miracles. We need a miracle right now. We need a vaccine. We need compassion. We need equality. We need leaders.

It may have been Terry’s birthday yesterday, but consider this letter his gift to us. In return, I think the best gift we can give back to him is to not lose our faith, our belief, our strength. If you want to give Terry something for his birthday, read this letter. Not once. But many times.

Read it to yourself.

Read it out loud.

Read it to your family.

Read it before your next meeting.

Read it to a friend.

Read it to your colleagues.

Read it to Terry.

Money Talks

The Washington entry to the National Football League has finally decided to replace their racist name.

This after their owner, who I am not going to provide any additional free publicity to because he does not deserve it, regardless of how small my audience is; had stated he would never change the name. But there is no such thing as never. Never has an expiration date. Never has an end date. Never has a price. 

Faced with mounting pressure the owner, and the word never, and the team name have had a three-way divorce. The mounting pressure was not the political toll, the moral toll, or the social toll. No, this was purely financial. 

The Washington NFL Franchise was being lambasted by its stadium entitlement partner, its minority (share-wise, not ethnic) owners, and business partners. The threat to the bottom line was real and imminent. 

On one hand we can rejoice. A major injustice is being corrected. The former team name for Washington was racist. I know the discussion will now travel to other team names, but there are very few, if any, others that are out and out epitaphs. 

On the other hand, we cannot be glad. We have to be saddened that some people are unwilling to see injustice. We have to be saddened about the forthcoming, and it is coming, backlash from racists who want the team name maintained. All in honour of legacy. 

Slavery is a legacy. Should we keep that around as well?

One our third hand – yes three are required for this tale – we need to understand a basic tenant to life. Money is power. It is all-powerful. Disputes over money, wealth, resources, cause wars, family breakups, friends to become enemies, and spouses to become divorcées. 

Money begets power. A person who earns lots of money is granted outsized respect and adulation. A person who earns significant amounts of money is viewed through rose coloured glasses. A profitable corporation is more beloved than a charitable one. An unprofitable corporation with the potential to explode into a massively profitable one is provided ridiculous stock market valuations. 

Money does talk. 

It talks to me. It is a constant and significant aspect of my life. I want to provide for my family, for teammates, for myself. I like nice things. 

But money does not have to be the only voice we adhere to. Money cannot be pursued at all costs. Money needs to be just one component of any scorecard. 

At a time like this especially. The massive Social Movement of 2020 that is spreading around the world in the midst of an unprecedented health, financial, and societal crisis like we have never seen before, or since 1918 anyway. But at a time like this, I will give money its credit. Money solved one problem. 

Perhaps this save will lead to more change. Perhaps those changes will then beget new attitudes. Perhaps those attitudes will result in social change for more reasons than just financial. Change that comes because it is right. 

When that happens, and I believe it will, I will return with you to have a new discussion about the right side of money. Where justice is served. 

O Canada

I have never been so grateful to live in Canada.

I am sure all of my fellow Canadians would agree wholeheartedly with me. In the midst of this no end in sight global criss, we have so much to be grateful for. But before I espouse too much, I do need to pause and reflect. Let’s take a moment to think of those who have lost their lives, health, loved ones, economic or personal stability due to this pandemic.The toll has been immense.

It could have been worse. It could get worse.

But thankfully we live in a country where people respect and value their neighbours, their public servants, and their institutions. If we did not our toll would be much much worse. We need to not look very far south to witness the terrifying impact of a country of people who prioritize the individual over the whole.

It many ways it feels like the fiery inferno of hell has surfaced to Earth and is raging right next to us.

There is much more to do. We didn’t act quickly enough in the beginning, making it vital that our governments accelerate measures such as enforcing indoor masks wearing, clarifying standards across the country, and increase contract tracing. We still have too many young people who think they are immune to the virus, which even if it was true, which it is not, does not give them the right to infect someone less immortal. Our businesses need to find a way to accelerate reopening in an environment where consumer behaviour is permanently skewed by safety considerations.

Oh and our Prime Minister needs to find his way to the ethics store and buy himself a basket full, as he continues to believe the rules of conflict do not apply to him.

July 1st is more than our country’s birthday this year. It is the unofficial restart tp 2020. Let’s look forward to what we can make of 2020. It is time for a reboot. It’s time to reclaim our lives.

I have a few quick thoughts on how we treat July 1st as our Happy New Year.

Let’s start with each other. Say Hello to a Canadian next time you see one. Hello. Good Morning. Good Afternoon. Hi. Have a Great Day. Bonjour. A wave A smile. A nod. It will make the day of your fellow Canadian and add a shine to your 24 hours.

From being great patriot lets add some patronage. Get out and visit your local business, store, restaurant, coffee shop, barber, fruit stand, golf course. Spend what you can. Help that small business person succeed. Support your local charity, music venue, festival, sports team. Help them live to see another day of fueling passion in our lives.

The third thought from the Mh3 school of three’s is for YOU. Take today and give yourself a new start. Treat today like January 1. Make those resolutions. reset those goals. Have some champagne if you want. We have six months. Six months is a long time. Six months is a lifetime. Six months can be a year. A very good year. If you want it to be.

Happy Canada Day.

Redefine Your Brand Values for the CV-19 Pandemic

This pandemic is rewriting the rules of business and stewardship faster than any technological revolution ever did. “What is faster than 5G?” Unfortunately, I think we are finding out the hard way.

It’s frightening to imagine that just two weeks ago, all seemed normal-ish in North America. Then the sword fell on SXSW, the NBA, and so on and so on. Now, tragic deaths, many of which could have been avoided, financial hardship, and untold mental anxiety are the headlines of our every feed, post, and update. 

So, what should a brand be doing? Well, I have a feeling it is going to be changing daily, so my thoughts today may be stale by tomorrow. But here is what I am doing with my brand, advising our clients on what to do with their brands, and sharing with my followers for feedback and ideas.

Let’s plan a simple road map for todaytomorrow, and ‘till next time:

Your brand needs to focus on three messages:

  1. 911 – Be clear to the public that what we have is not a slow growing issue – it is an emergency, and people need to respond now. The sirens are blaring. Take notice, pull over, and change your behaviour. 
  2. Heart – Now is the time to relate to your consumer who is panic stricken, information overloaded, and feeling out of control. 
  3. Lead – A leader goes into battle at the front. Get your leader out on the front lines daily with real action. Cut the red tape. Forget about your old policies. Make it happen. 

There will come a day when we are finally out of this trauma. In my mind, that will be sometime this fall. And it could be due to the global effort of scientists, or because of warm weather as soon as this summer. Hopefully part of the celebration of CV-Day (yes, a play on V-Day from World War II) will be an ecumenic opportunity to reboot. A chance for those who suffered to eliminate debt and baggage. A chance for charities, festivals, culture and community to reengage. It is not too early to start planning for this now.

We need to rebuild our business models to withstand the shocking blows of a global shutdown. Build up reserves of cash, resources, and assets. Do not allow greedy shareholders to strip our cupboards bare. Governments must be held accountable to invest appropriately in our response mechanisms, health care infrastructure, and frontline workers. 

I am as worried as you about the future. But we can all make a choice to either hide in our caves or try new things every day. Who knows – maybe you will end up inventing fire!

Vegas to Vegas

CES is my favourite business event not named SponsorshipX

Now before you accuse me of being self-serving, let me clarify. If an industry colleague asks me where should they go to:

  1. Be inspired
  2. See what’s next
  3. Meet great people

Plus they get budget to only attend one conference a year – I would definitively recommend CES

If you have any social media tied to your profession, you probably have CES-envy. I don’t know how to describe it, but EVERYBODY is at CES. Business, government, religions, charities, media, musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs, and money managers. Plus, plus, plus. The event is as good as it looks on your social feeds, if not better. The event is as large as it seems, if not larger. The event is as important it looks, if not more.

My CES experience this year was a bit more harried as I squeezed in a half dozen planning meetings for our upcoming SponsorshipX Vegas, but I did want to share some key learnings.

I am not qualified to list the top tech elevations, or smart enough to highlight the most important consumer insights. But I will share with you five things I am going to start doing that were directly a result of my attending this year’s events. I won’t call them New Year’s Resolutions, but they are my CES Commitments. After all, no conference is worth attending if it doesn’t impact your future behaviour.

Here I go:

1. Feel free to eye-roll, but I am going to start playing esports. I can’t say I thought esports had slowed or peaked, but I have come to realize it has only just begun. So while learning the business side is one thing, I want to understand the passion side. 5G is going to democratize esports in a unique way, allowing generations to play and participate together like we have never seen. I want in. 

2. I am going to find a young entrepreneur or two and invest my time in them. I met with one young investor who had exited a blog platform business and was now mentoring/supporting even younger entrepreneurs. The word “new” is one of the most inspiring terms in our vocabulary, and I want to help someone get something new off the ground. 

3. I am going to embrace the rogue. I don’t know how to articulate this to you or pinpoint when it hit me. But last night I was reading my notes from my second day at CES (I like to summarize my days) and I scribed Embrace the Rogue to myself. Not once, but twice. Actually I do know where it came from and who said it, but in fear of paying them a royalty I am keeping them anonymous. But it hit home. The rogue is truly why CES is what it is. 

4. I am going to learn about data. I know nothing about data as it exists today, but I do know that Data Scientist and all its variants will be the hot profession of the 2020’s.

5. I am going back to CES in 2021. I am going to invite you to come with me, and we can form a contingent to learn, network, and explore. I am going to also ensure I get a speaking role at CES. Not because I think I am better than the speakers there (okay, I am better than many of them), but I want to share some stories from Canada because, candidly, I think we are way f’n under-represented on stage there and we have a lot to talk about.

ERA2020 is upon us. CES was a great way to kick off my decade. What’s next?

Official Air Mattress of the Olympics

I am not sure that the founders of Airbnb would have imagined that in the span of a decade they would have gone from renting out three air mattresses in their San Fransisco apartment to becoming a TOP Olympic sponsor. But here they are with a long-term deal with one of the largest sports properties in the world, kicking off with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

This partnership makes sense on so many levels. 

We stayed at an Airbnb in Notting Hill for the London 2012 Olympics and it was a critical part of our amazing experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a booklet from Airbnb which shared multiple recommendations and tips on how best to enjoy the neighbourhood. Restaurants, pubs, shopping, subway stops, attractions. All helpful, but what really caught my eye was the communication of pop-up events curated by Airbnb during the Games. These events were effectively socials for people staying at Airbnb rentals during the Olympics

It struck me as quite profound that Airbnb understood the power of creating community even though their business was effectively the opposite. Think about it. The entire concept is to disperse tourists across a city, whereas hotels are about collecting people. Yet, hotels rarely strive to create community. When was the last time when you checked-in to a hotel and you were invited to a happy hour to meet your temporary neighbours? 

A unique part of the new Airbnb IOC relationship is the opportunity for former Olympians to sell experiences during the Olympic Games. This an amazing extension to their Experiences Platform where hosts provide local attractions from dining to bingo lessons. I love it. Imagine booking an apartment for the Tokyo Olympics and it comes complete with a sailing lesson or a jog with a former Olympic Marathoner?  

Earlier this week I presented the Opening Keynote at XLIVE where I talked about Experiences Driven Business. I shared a list of outcomes that consumers undergo from experiences. 

For example, a great experience impacts you by:

  1. Forging Your Identity
  2. Elevating Your Status
  3. Solving Your Pain
  4. Granting You Equity
  5. Enhancing Your Mood

Let’s look at how these outcomes will be present with the new Airbnb and IOC deal:

  1. You will forever have the badge of having attended the Olympics. 
  2. Your inner-Olympian will be satisfied by whatever athlete experience you choose.
  3. As I can tell you in planning SponsorshipX Tokyo, accommodations are a major issue, and Airbnb serves as an excellent solution. 
  4. We talk a lot about access over ownership, but consumers don’t want just access. They want a little share, a little sense of ownership which can be felt with temporarily owning your Airbnb.
  5. Studies have shown that when consumers are taken out of their normal environments the opportunity to increase their happiness is greatly enhanced. There’s no question the Tokyo Olympics will do that. 

Most importantly about this deal is that you can now book your trip to the Tokyo Olympics without worrying about winding up sleeping on an air mattress. Unless you want to be!

Carlos. Smith. Kaepernick.

As the National Football League winds its way to the end of the first quarter of the season, it becomes more apparent to me game by game, injury by injury, that Colin Kaepernick may never again get the opportunity to quarterback a team.

In the annals of social justice, that is clearly a shame.

This season has seen a seemingly unprecedented rash of starting quarterback injuries across the league. Age, playing style, bad luck, and ineptitude has caught up with many a pivot. In week three, we saw week one actual and projected starters such as Brees, Foles, Fitzpatrick, Newton, Roethlisberger, Darnold, Manning, and Luck, all on the sidelines. Some for the season, one potentially forever.

In their place, we have seen some stunning success stories such as Minshew for the Jags, Jones for the Giants, Brissett for the Colts, and Bridgewater for the Saints. Yet we have also seen players we have never heard of flounder, and others we know fall flat.

I don’t want to pick on those guys. They are all better athletes than I could ever dream of being. But when you have a former Super Bowl quarterback in his prime being held captive on the sidelines, you can’t tell me that the decision to not sign Kaepernick is skill-based.

This situation is unjust. In twenty or thirty years, there will be a universal consensus that this is the case. But that will be too late for Kaepernick. Every day he gets older, his body less able, his muscle memory more forgetful.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you need a historical reminder, look no further than Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

Their infamous 1968 protest at the Mexico Olympics cost them their Olympian status, future earnings, and their dignity. Now, some fifty-one years later, the United States Olympic Committee has reversed its stance and is honouring the pair with entry to their Hall of Fame. The recognition is well deserved, but the record can not be altered. These two black athletes were benched in their prime.

Sound familiar? Can we really still be in the same place we were a half-century ago?

We are.

The situation leaves me feeling personally and professionally conflicted. I love football. I love the NFL. I had a chat this week with someone who has been boycotting the league since the Kaepernick situation started. And while I am not advocating everyone do this, I am advocating you ask. Your team. Your media outlet. Your leaders.

Doesn’t Kaepernick deserve justice in 2019? Or is he going to have to wait until 2070….

On Purpose

At some point in my business education I became a firm believer in the succinct definition of a corporation’s purpose coined by Peter Drucker. The purpose of a business is to create a customer.  

Variations on this theme have existed for decades, and have powerfully impacted the strategic thinking behind organizational strategy, business planning, and corporate behaviour. If you took the sum of all these various, intersecting, connected parts you would come to a simple conclusion: that corporations need customers in order to provide the highest returns to its shareholders. 

That, ladies and gentlemen, IS business. Sell shit, get rich. Sell more shit, get even richer. Sell as much shit as possible, to be filthy-ass rich. 

Well, not anymore. 

I have been on a bit of bandwagon for a good while now with the opinion that brands and businesses need to play a larger role in society than just make money.

This is not a message I created or can claim any ounce of ownership. The authors of Good is the New Cool, for example, are rightfully entitled to this mantle. But they are not alone. A chorus of business commentators have increasingly grown louder about the need for the corporate community to step up and lead. 

In my mind it works like this:

Everyday, in every corner of society, we are let down by our leaders. Even those of us blessed enough to live in free societies are subject to the bloated egos of the ethically void people who represent us as heads of state. It seems that every election provides the public with more dispiriting choices and unimaginable outcomes. Take a critical eye to the world and wallow in despair. This is who is in charge?

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. The world works in a simple manner. She who has the most assets can have the most impact. Meaning that corporations who generate by far the most economic impact in our society can actually become leaders of our society.

Can is the wrong term. Should is the correct one. 

If companies stand up and take a stand, the world will be a better place. The customers and employees and voters of the future – also known as Gen Z – are demanding it. Thankfully, companies are paying attention. 

Just this past month, the Business Roundtable, a collection of two hundred of the most important CEO’s in America, signed off on a new statement of purpose for a corporation. This is a watershed moment that should not be missed. It is the first time that these leaders have formally recognized, as a collective, that the world needs them. 

Boy do we ever. 

Now, there are of course loads of sideline commentary that a statement by the Business Roundtable isn’t enough. That they need to provide more actions than words. Blah, blah. I say hold on. The first step to solving any addiction is admittance that you have a problem. These leaders have done that. Other steps will follow. 

Let’s help these big companies keep moving. Let’s look inward at our own organizations, whether you own a business, work in a business, or an organization. You can and should become part of the solution. Your organization has reach, reputation, and resources. Your organization can help tackle so many of the world’s issues that our governments are ignoring because they are too busy grandstanding. 

The collective might of your organizations can be stronger than you can imagine. The Business Roundtable has given you an opening to enter a whole new arena. 

As the business leaders stated, the “dream” of our parents is at peril. Conscious Capitalism, or whatever you wish to call it, can help restore it. 

Your customers are now demanding it.