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.
xPotomac was billed as an event “where the digital media future meets businesses. This groundbreaking conference features seven media technologies most likely to impact businesses and marketers in the immediate future.” xPotomac was held at The Source Theatre in Washington, DC on February 25, 2013. This post is taken from my notes and tweets:
Dino Dogan, “The New Groundswell”
- Gutenberg democratized access to information.
- 1% of blogs get 99% of attention. And they don’t deserve it.
- Traffic + ads is an antiquated attention model.
- The next big opportunity is in attention plus influence.
- If you could get attention without traffic, would you want it?
- Google, Twitter, Facebook had a chance to do something different; they chose to show us ads.
- Always cognitive dissonance when you try to match message w/ influencers who don’t mesh w/ your brand.
- Empires crumble, whether you’re talking about Persian empire, Ottoman empire, or Facebook.
- There’s a flaw in our logic about how to drive traffic. What if Google is not best way to drive traffic?
Ken Yarmosh, “Multiscreens: Anytime, Anywhere”
- Too far-fetched to have screens on coffee tables for magazines or to download games?
- What if calls could be seamlessly moved from screen to screen as you walk through your house?
- Every device we have should have the same information without configuration.
Geoff Livingston and Patrick Ashamalla, “Looking through Google Glass”
- A great user design doesn’t demand attention; it focuses it. -Patrick
- Wearable computing technology will make smartphones obsolete in 5-6 years. -Geoff
Shonali Burke, “Social Scoring: Are You Worthy?”
- Don’t look at numbers, look for context in influence.
- Technology is not for technology per se.
- Great champions beget more champions.
I was able to win a signed copy of Geoff Livingston’s book Welcome to the Fifth Estate at the beginning of this session when Shonali asked who knew their Klout score. I qualified it by stating that I don’t believe in Klout scores and said that mine was 57. I looked it up moments later to find that it had risen to 58, most likely due to xPotomac activities. As of the writing of this, my Klout is at 59. I’ve compared it to an SAT score. It’s a snapshot, but a number doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about a person. I’ve also compared it to college football rankings. I believe it reflects a certain American obsession with ranking and scoring everything- and on an ongoing, all-too-frequent basis.
Greg Verdino, “Digital Ubiquity”
- Futurists do not predict the future. Who does? Crackpots.
- 500 million devices connected to the internet 10 years ago. In 2008/2009, the number of devices exceeded human population.
- Average home in the US has 20 connected devices.
- Smart paint that tells you when your ceiling is going to crack exists today. It’s probably not in your house.
- If you have a product, you better be prepared to be in the services business.
- A refrigerator should be able to talk to a telephone, or we have a problem moving forward.
- Big data should be looked at as a core asset for your business.
- If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.
- As our population ages, more & more systems fail. We never see the Boomers coming.
Jen Consalvo, “Visual Revolution
- Not a lot of brand activity yet on Vine’s 6-second videos platform.
- 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook every day.
- People connect with pictures. Images gain more engagement.
Andrew Keen, “Big Data Threatens Privacy”
- No surprise photos are central to social media age. We’re in love with ourselves.
- No coincidence that social networks came along as we need to sell ourselves with self-employment, etc. We are brands.
I wasn’t as personally offended at Andrew’s comments as some of my xPotomac associates were. I thought he provided some interesting counterpoints to what we had been hearing all day. Andrew Keen definitely came across as condescending, insulting, and egotistical. Was it a thought-provoking presentation? Yes. Would I want to listen to him again? Not really. Rather than end with his naysaying and the negative feelings that ensued, perhaps it would have been better instead to have started the day with Andrew Keen to merely temper the digital enthusiasm we all felt.
Other noteworthy quotes and insights:
- You have two wallets: money & time. -Kathy Korman Frey, quoting Ted Leonsis
- Social scoring is often more about popularity than it is about influence. -Tinu
- Blogs- purposeful audience builders. These are what social scoring should be taking into account. -Dino Dogan
Also worth reading and reviewing:
Geoff Livingston’s Context Always Mattered, Now It’s Crucial
Sohini Baliga’s Augmented Reality: “Yo, Heads Up!
Jamie Notter’s The Dark Side of the Revolution
Mike Shaffer’s Andrew Keen and the Negative 180s
Geoff Livingston’s Flickr photos of xPotomac reveal the smile of Shonali, the halo effect of Ken Yarmosh, and everything in between.
Eventifier’s compilation of xPotomac photos, videos, tweets, and contributors.
I’d also like to thank other xPotomac attendees who aided my understanding with their insights, comments, questions, and/or tweets: Melanie Spring, Sohini Baliga, Mike Schaffer, Shashi Bellamkonda, Sarah Oyungu, Debbie Friez, Tammy Portnoy, Kiki L’Italien, Colin Storm, Maddie Grant, Jamie Notter, Jim Long, Kathy Korman Frey, Isabel Saldarriaga, RaShonda Rosier, and others.
What stood out to you from xPotomac? What were the memorable moments, quotable quotes, and retweetable tweets? What were the lessons learned? What will you do differently in your business?
Why I write
I write because I am a teacher, not as a profession- at least not any longer- but in my heart it’s who I still am. I want to share what I’ve learned, who I’ve met, the resources I’ve discovered. I was “sharing” and “liking” long before the internet, long before Facebook and Twitter and Google+. I was the type who would tear articles out of magazines or cut columns out of newspapers to give to friends with a passing comment of “I read this and thought of you” or with an “I thought this was relevant to our discussion the other day” note attached with a paper clip. Perhaps you’re nodding as you read this because you are this person or you have a friend just like me.
Social media has only magnified this behavior. It’s easier now to simply retweet or comment on blogs, articles, news, announcements, etc. that I think my friends, associates, and colleagues would be interested in or benefit or learn from.
If being a teacher is at the very heart of who I am, writing is woven into the very fabric of my being. I could certainly regale you with tales of how writing has been integral to key moments of my life from memorable classes to scholarship applications to time overseas to business ventures through poetry, creative writing, journals, blogs, publication, etc. I choose to write and am compelled to blog because it gives me that voice to lend a perspective to what I’ve learned, who I’ve met, the resources I’ve discovered.
I like to talk to people, to interview them, and to learn of their stories. I am naturally curious. I enjoy doing research about a topic I am unfamiliar with. Like a reporter I want to ask thought-provoking questions that bring about well-thought-out answers that take the dialogue to a new level or on another trajectory. I want to put the angle on a story that no one envisioned. I stay sharp by reading the thoughts and perspectives of others. These tendencies lead me to formulate new ideas and responses, to bring together more than one concept into a new light.
Why they read
People love a good story. If you know me, you know that I love a good story. Everyone has a good story. It’s really a matter of asking questions to get at that story.
The problem is when organizations begin to think that their purpose in writing is merely to sell publications or increase conference attendance or give the latest statistics pertinent to their industry. When this happens, they’ve lost their way, they’ve lost their soul. Even corporations, associations, and businesses need to tell stories.
We’re in the business of storytelling. In fact I have this concept for a future blog post on “The Art of Storytelling”. When you tell stories, people respond. Your employees, members, and customers begin to see themselves in these stories. Stories should be about successful transitions– the little guy who makes it big, the one who was down and out who overcame odds or obstacles, the one who has a unique take on an all-too familiar problem.
When you tell stories like this… guess what? Your employees, members, and customers will start repeating them for you. They’ll start sharing your stories– not because they’ve been asked or to win a prize in a contest. They’ll be compelled- and it won’t be just online.
With it being Presidents’ Day weekend, I found myself thinking about famous Presidential quotes. In reviewing many of these quotes, I was struck by their brevity and power. Sometimes insightful, at other times irreverent or self-deprecating, we call them quotes. For the era of radio and television, they have been used as sound bites. Today, they might simply appear as tweets. Below you will find a selection of some of my favorite Presidential quotes followed by the number of characters these “tweets” would represent. Another thing struck me… many of their messages- from the Founding Fathers to the more recent Presidents- still resonate today.
“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” (78 characters)- George Washington
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (120 characters)- John Adams
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” (87 characters)- Thomas Jefferson
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” (53 characters)- James Madison
“One man with courage makes a majority.” (38 characters)- Andrew Jackson
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” (98 characters)- Abraham Lincoln
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” (52 characters)- Theodore Roosevelt
“America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.” (139 characters)- Woodrow Wilson
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (46 characters)- Franklin D. Roosevelt
“And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” (107 characters)- John F. Kennedy
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (35 characters)- Ronald Reagan
I limited myself to one-fourth of the U.S. Presidents and at that only one quote per President. The one that was too long to use was the first sentence of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (175 characters). It should be noted that Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan get my Brevity Award (38 and 35 characters respectively for their quotes) while Woodrow Wilson just made it in with his powerful 139-character quote on the concept of America. And on this Presidents’ Day weekend, it is President Wilson’s message that is louder than ever as it reverberates around the world (without even having to be retweeted).
What are your favorite Presidential quotes? How would they fare with a 140-character limit?