Changing Minds, Changing Mindsets

The release of the 10.2% unemployment figure last week vividly illustrates the wobbly recovery we’re navigating, and challenges marketing leaders to adapt their minds and mindsets, to navigating the new normal of this recovering economy. I suspect anyone in the trenches of business or marketing is experiencing just that, first-hand. It’s certainly been my experience.

On Friday I had the pleasure of moderating a roundtable at the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul. The title of the event was: How to Use Social Media to Build Your Brand. For the session, I focused on the barriers to starting or extending social media to build brand. I chose this direction because I think old mindsets are the biggest challenge to using social media to build brands. To use social media effectively demands an enormous change in mindset, especially for those who have practiced marketing for many years. It’s tough to change old paradigms such as controlling brands, communicating top-down to customers, and running an insular marketing organization separate from the rest of the business. The entrepreneurial group at DePaul was up for the challenge. They were adroit, focusing on such issues as fostering customer dialogue, community, finding and activating existing social spaces, and joining conversations and involving the entire organization not just the CEO or the marketing department. What a refreshing change. They came with questions: they could see the importance and also ways to move forward in this emerging area.

In the last 30 days, my agency has been hired by two companies that chose us over other firms with years more industry experience. Our new clients have shown that they are willing to experiment with their agency partner, to find new ways to go to market, and to think and see things differently. Of the two companies that engaged Torque, one is a financial organization, the other a real estate developer. In the past, business managers in these industries in particular have been very credentials-driven (i.e., demand extensive category experience) when selecting suppliers. This is not a new discussion. AdAge Magazine recently ran the article: Stop Hiring Based Only on Category Experience. It addresses talent hiring practices of agencies, and the ideas apply equally well to companies hiring an advertising or marketing agency. It seems obvious. After all, the purpose of branding and marketing is to differentiate brands, not replicate them.

Also last week, Mori Seiki earned kudos for reinventing mindsets, as well. I attended their open house, celebrating their new facility, headquarters for the Americas, in Schaumburg’s Huntington Woods Corporate Center.  A central feature of the new facility is the Mori Seiki University, a rich curriculum of training and knowledge sharing. Their online training has been developed in part by Oxygen Education. I spoke with Ed Cross of Oxygen at length about the value of  “tribal knowledge,” the wisdom held by experts in the machine tooling field.  Ed helped me see where brand talent --- the knowledge and skill of workers --- intersects with an organization’s competitive advantage and distinct value proposition, and how this is achieved through ongoing training. In short, Mori Seiki has a system and a method for changing mindsets.

It’s important to distinguish between the two meanings of mindset I’m talking about: one is a state of mind, and the other is a collective set of shared cultural/tribal beliefs. Both are very difficult to change. And this is the opportunity for marketers (and marketing-minded business managers’), whose greatest strength is their ability to change the way they think, the way they organize their perception of the world. I believe we all need to embrace this mindset.  For a closing thought, read what Rob Slee, the investment banker who wrote the book on private capital markets, has to say on the matter. (Yes, he’s a “money man.”)