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I had the opportunity to interview Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, at the ASAE Annual Meeting in Atlanta earlier this month. I had first become aware of Kat through the CBS show Undercover Boss with the episode featuring her last fall. I was excited to learn a few months ago that Kat would be at this conference and reached out to her through Twitter to arrange this interview.
In the interview Kat touches on a number of topics, but the one I find most fascinating is her deft handling of partnerships. She has worked with major brands like Kellogg, Burger King, and Taco Bell to expand the reach of Cinnabon without taking away from the core business of the franchises. Kat also touched on some of this in her presentation. Her perspective certainly challenges association and nonprofit leaders to consider more thoroughly who they might partner with to create win-win situations.
I walked with Kat from our interview to the auditorium where she would present later that afternoon. As we passed a Starbucks, Kat asked if she could buy me a coffee. What do you say when the head of a major food brand asks if they can buy you an iconic product from another major food brand? You say yes. When you’re also a blogger, you also think, Hey, this could make a really great title for a future blog post! It should be further noted that Kat was impressed with my selection of a tall Java Chip Frappuccino® Blended Beverage… coffee with rich mocha-flavored sauce blended with milk, chocolaty chips and ice. Topped with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate-flavored drizzle. Ah, but I digress. We walked on. I told Kat that I like how playful she can be with the brand on Twitter when people talk about how they can’t resist Cinnabon or how they’ll have to work out more after indulging. Her response: “We’re not building missiles.”
Some of the takeaways from Kat’s session at ASAE Annual:
- Protect the core. Reinvest in what makes you great.
- Leverage something you’re the best at. @Cinnabon did it w/ @Kelloggs_US w/ their cinnamon.
- Be honest about what you can’t do well. Decide if you’re okay with that.
- Culture eats strategy for lunch every day.
- Be humbly bold.
- What is small enough to change, big enough to matter?
- The deal you don’t do is never the one that’s going to kill you.
- What’s the opportunity cost with the limited resources you have?
- What is the one thing we could do today that everything after it will be more effective?
- Be there for your community when it really counts. Are you there for your constituents?
- Be one IN a million … Not one OF a million!
- Guess what? @Cinnabon is not healthy.
- The biggest mistakes are people mistakes.
Believe me, there are some thought-provoking gems here, and Kat’s presentation was well-received. I couldn’t do it justice in even a short blog post. Make no mistake- I found Kat to be approachable and personable in the interview, off camera, and in her presentation, but she is also a focused and determined businesswoman who has not lost touch with her values or who she is. Kat purposely cares for and connects with people, and this comes across genuinely. She furthers her authenticity by being thankful for opportunities, giving credit to others, and admitting mistakes. Many leaders could learn from her approach and her example.
With over 54 million views in two months, Dove has a winner in this Real Beauty Sketches video series.
I’m not here to argue the merits of the campaign with regard to beauty. In my opinion, however, they’ve struck a chord with the general public. The result is a winning content marketing strategy. They’ve challenged people with how they look at themselves and managed to attach their brand to the process.
I think what they’ve also been able to do is intrigue and the engage the audience. From the moment Gil Zamora announces that he is a forensic artist and that he worked for the San Jose Police Department, the viewer is hooked. From the music selection to the loft gallery feel, there’s a calming and inviting sense about the setting. As participants enter, there’s a mystery surrounding the process and what exactly this has to to do with Dove. As they describe their experience further, one can’t help but think what it would be like to be in their position.
We each have difficulty in seeing ourselves for who we are. We may be too critical with small areas. This exercise allowed some to see themselves in a brief but tangible way through the eyes of a stranger. We each come away wanting to know what that moment of realization must be like.
What are the lessons you see from Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches series? What are the ways your organization can use content to better engage your employees, members, and customers? What are the topics or trends in your industry that your brand could be more effectively associated with?