When it comes to nutrition, Tell it like it is!


Information clarity is about to get real!

I heard about this news from the FDA last week. I like it. Being more real about "serving size" would be the biggest benefit for me. Who eats half a bag of M&M's anyway. Eliminate the math and tell it like it is. The big food brands worry that the truth will slow down consumption, purchase, and profit. But we get healthier! Seems fair to me! What do you think?

Here's a link to a post by MyFitnessPal that shares six reasons for the recommended changes.

CMO's and COO's - Friends In The C-Suite

Ins & MktgIn a space where customer interaction is increasingly digital and where customers increasingly use key technologies, CMOs and CIOs are working outside their existing comfort zones. It only makes sense for them to do it together.

In my monthly column for Insurance and Marketing, I shared my thoughts about the growing importance for these two members of the C-Suite team to "buddy up!"

You can read the by clicking here!

Thoughts of the ideal agency

advert love

There are five definitions of the word “ideal” in the online dictionary accessed by my browser. Near the top of the list was the definition that I expected: “A standard of perfection or excellence.”

This, I thought, was how agency principals most likely view their firms. But what comes to mind when clients think of the ideal agency? Definition number five was one that we’d probably be drawn to:: “Something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.” It took a few minutes for the grin to leave my face.

I’ve been a brand-based marketer for the last 33 years of my career. There’s seldom been a time, since 1980, when an agency partner wasn’t part of the equation—some more capable and better than others. Here are the standards I seek in the “ideal agency”—the one that may only exist in my imagination!

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The Price of Power - A False Edge

An Opinion

Some of you are aware that I write a bimonthly column for MARKETING - the Northwest publication for marketing and communication professionals. My most recent submission takes a look at the practice that a handful of powerful brands have adopted - leaning on their marketing partners for extended payment terms to gain a competitive edge and increase corporate profits. 

Now that I think about it again, I'll add that the practice being discussed is actually a false edge. The short term advantages it creates comes at an extreme price. These brands, regardless of their size and stature, appear to be blind to the cost of their powerful demands. Instead of gaining a sustainable advantage, overbearing brands often lose the trust and respect of their partners and, most importantly, their customers.

I'd like to invite you to read two perspectives on this behavior - mine, and my partner's in the publication - Digital Kitchen CEO, Bill Fritsch. Please click here to be taken to the full story.

As always, I welcome your insights and feedback very much

Movers and Shakers

It was the evening of our company's annual sales recognition dinner and the theme of the event was "Movers and Shakers." The top sales producers for the year, their spouses, company executives and special guests filled Seattle's Palace Ballroom to socialize, receive achievement awards, and hear from a handful of the leaders that were present. I was asked to share some thoughts about how the game is changing. This is an excerpt from my remarks. If you'd like to read the full text, please click here.

"Built To Change"

Change Ahead
"Few want to be sold to but everyone loves a great story. Movers and shakers know that we must converse before we convince. Consumers want inspiration and inclusion. We can no longer interrupt, but must instead interact. Brand advocates are listened to more than brand advertising. Asking exclusively about return on investment is the wrong question today. We need be asking about return on involvement, and return on relationship.

Successful brands will be defined and shaped by consumers more than companies. Winning businesses will be built to change in order to be built to last.

In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, winners will need to do more than spin the wheel or roll the dice. Winners will be those who disrupt the foundations of conventional thinking by the strength of their imagination and vision. Winners will be people with positive, energetic demeanors who initiate change and influence events.
The winners will be the movers and shakers."

Influencers & Advocates, Grow & Defend

There’s a three-phased, seven-step model that I refer to as The Advocacy Engine. When I first considered it, I thought of it as a linear process that enabled brands to move consumers from awareness to advocacy. Today, I think of it more as a cycle of increasing momentum for brands that approach each phase and step with purpose and clarity.

A to A WOMMA Version    a to a phases

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People are talking. Is anyone listening?


There's a powerful message for marketers embedded in the elections taking place this week. The voice of the customer is alive and well.

It's the time in our country when we are reminded that the voice of the public really matters. Our insights, opinions, the things we like, and the things that wear us out come to the surface of conversations and debates. Loyalists and advocates for candidates, causes, initiatives, and groups have raised their voices in family rooms, coffee shops, town hall meetings, and many other face-to-face venues. Social networks are abuzz with status updates, blog entries, and highly efficient tweets that are expressly intended to let our friends, family, and members of the voting public - that we've never even met - know what matters to us and who we're convinced are the best candidates to solve the issues that we consider important. The volume of our communication is at a level like never before. And what we say matters.

Of course, listening matters too.

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Mix Thinking with Feeling For Understanding

"More important than being right, or being important, is being truly aware." - Jessica Hagy

It was one of hundreds - maybe thousands - of tweets that fly through my twitter stream on a daily basis. The odds of me seeing, opening, and exploring the link attached to this one were low. But because it was posted by a friend that I haven't connected with recently, I made the time. I'm glad I did.

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No Place I'd Rather Be

Rather working

There are times when we know we're in the right place at the right time. For the most part those are uniquely personal occasions that can be tied to someone or something we care deeply about. There are also situations when the right time and place has little to do with us. Instead, in those cases, it's often an occasion that shines a bright light on the life and accomplishments of someone else. Those are the times when we can learn from the experiences of a person who has lived their life in an extraordinary way.

I was in the right place at the right time on Thursday. It was the day when a legendary broadcaster, Dan Rather, was honored with a tribute that - borrowing now from the theme of his evening address - "truly mattered."

Rather with us

At noon I had the opportunity to shake his hand and meet him with my stepdaughter Abby, who just as I was forty years ago, is an aspiring communications student at Washington State University. Later that evening, when Rather was presented with the 2012 Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement, I listened intently as he showed genuine sincerity along with moments of rare emotion while sharing his keynote address: The Power of the Murrow Legacy. During his 60-year career Rather followed frequently in the footsteps of the awards namesake, Edward R. Murrow. Whether in the field in London or at the CBS anchor desk, Rather acknowledged that he regularly asked himself, "What would Murrow do?

Earlier in the day, Rather visited classrooms where, as Murrow had done decades ago, students study to become the next generation of journalists and broadcasters in the digital age. Among the advice Rather shared were three noteworthy tips that, he said, would ensure the students would never have to worry about finding or retaining a job: 1) Learn to write, 2) Learn to write, and 3) Learn to write.

Simple and straight forward advice from a legend. I'd say that those students were definitely in the right place at the right time. And so was I.

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Don't forget the bells and whistles!

Ring out passion, enthusiasm, Eagerness, and Commitment

Bells and WhistlesA weathered bell and tarnished whistle are tied together on a faded and discolored ribbon, and sit on the credenza behind my desk as valuable reminders of what not to forget or take for granted. A client of an agency deserves their best – including the bells and whistles – not just when presentations are made to win the initial business, but throughout the relationship as well. The same is true for consumers who purchase the products and services that are sold in retail businesses and online websites as well. They deserve – and increasingly expect – more than a product in exchange for a price. They’re seeking added value – the surprise and delight – that comes with bells and whistles.

Please read the rest of the story by clicking on this link to my guest column published in the September 11th edition of All Things WOMM.

Call For Complaints

The next time you're in a cab take a look around. What do you see that surprises you?

Rod In CabI'm not a frequent cab user but over the years I've been in my share. For my most resent business trip - instead of paying the ridiculous parking rates at Sea-Tac International - I decided to leave my car at the office and take a cab. 

After sliding into the car and exchanging the necessary information with the driver, I fastened my seat belt and looked around the cab. 

There were the expected postings of rates for time and distance, a holder displaying the drivers city issued permit and mugshot, a few novelties on the dashboard, and the always present meter that clicked up the fare in what appeared to be ten cent increments.

Nowhere in the cab had my driver, or the company he worked for, done anything out of the ordinary to make the time I spent in his cab a little more pleasant. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

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Where's The Social Sales Professional?

Have you heard what they’re saying?

social funnelAnalysts watching emerging engagement trends have identified sales professionals as the least likely group to commit to the adoption and use of social media. Really? Marketing departments and communication teams get it. Public relations and brand managers are on board. And now we’re seeing a shift toward the use of social media by customer service teams and contact centers as well. What about social media for sales people? Why has it taken that group longer to catch on and catch up to their peers throughout the organizations that they work for?

Some argue that the lack of explicit buy-in is due in large part to the time-honored truism often expressed as WIIFM, or “what’s in it for me?” In short, the sales professional hasn’t been able to see the sale as an outcome of their engagement. Are you still wondering how time spent utilizing popular social media tools will favorably impact your revenue and income? Let’s look for some answers.

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Who wants a CMO for a BFF?

Insurance & TechnologyAre you and PEMCO's CIO BFF's at work?

That, or a very similar question, was what "Insurance and Technology" reporter Nathan Golia wanted to know when we concluded an unrelated conversation yesterday afternoon. Nathan caught me by a little by surprise, but I understood right away what he was getting at. He was interested in organizational silos and wanted to know whether or not I believed that CIO's and CMO's needed to collaborate more closely in order to win in the marketplace.

As I shared with Nathan, close knit collaboration and cross-functional leadership is more critical today than ever before. Previous eras were primarily fueled by a corporate focus on operational efficiency, financial performance, or product innovation. Today, in the conversation economy, the voice of the customer and the impact of social engagement has made the CMO an important best friend for members of the C-suite to embrace.  Here's the full story.

That's my opinion. What's yours?

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Valentine Passion

There's not a lot of Valentine Card sharing that goes between coworkers... Especially out in the open. Today I received one from two of the women that I rely on. Here's the card and the note that I sent back to them.

Valentine Analytic v Passion

Hi ladies,

I can’t get the card out of my mind. The two of you touched me this morning. Thanks.

Sometime in the last month, while in a meeting that I don’t remember now, the thought about analytics and passion appeared. I can’t even remember if I heard it or thought it. Either way, what I do remember is that it resonated with me and I shared it via Twitter and Facebook. I had several people respond to me that it resonated with as well.

To see that thought used in your card today made it all that much more powerful. I just want to tell you that. Thanks again.

Happy Valentine’s Day,


Customer Voice - Our Greatest Marketing Asset

CMR Logo Small

Last week I attended the second annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, Washington. During the course of the two day event I interacted with thought leaders, service providers, sole proprietors, non-profits, and representatives of regional business both large and small. Without exception I was impressed by the passion, interest and understanding about the importance that should be placed on the voice of the customer.

I had the opportunity to open the event with keynote remarks that focused on marketing fitness, content excellence, and making meaningful connections. 

Content Marketing - A CMO's View (w/o speakers notes due to PDF upload)

Please read on for a summary of thoughts that I shared during the retreat.

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The New Currency Of Successful Brands

CMR 2012

Analytics and measurement won’t get the job done. Passion makes a huge difference. Content excellence is the critical secret sauce for winning businesses!

Thursday, January 26th, I will have the privilege of providing the opening address to attendees of the second annual Content Marketing Retreat at the Center for New Media in Langley, Washington.

That’s more than a little ironic because I consider myself to be more of a student than a teacher on the topic. In fact, as critical as I know content excellence to be, I continue to assess and shift the thinking that will ultimately be embodied in the content direction and strategy that our company, PEMCO Insurance, embraces. 

Of the things that I am most certain there is one that stands out – one that I’m most passionate about. The voice of the customer will be at the heart of our success and content excellence, regardless of the source, must be embraced, encouraged, and enabled in order to consistently win in the marketplace.

Russell Sparkman, founder of Fusionspark Media and organizer of next weeks retreat, visited my office where we talked about a variety of topics expected to be addressed during the two day event. One that he asked me to give some thought to centers on executive leadership and support for newly emerging strategies. Here are some of the thoughts that I shared.

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Focus on fitness, communication, and connections.

focusFocus is a very good thing!

Earlier this month, as the new year began, I boldly posted an entry to this blog declaring that I would have "No New Resolutions" in 2012.  The reason, simply stated, is that my resolve to accomplish a few specific goals in 2011 needs my continued focus and commitment. To spread myself too thin only deverts my attention from the most important things.

As a PEMCO colleague likes to say "Keep the main thing the main thing."

Within days of my post, Russell Sparkman, the founder of FusionSpark and organizer of the second annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, Washington, contacted me with the following question.

"With focus being core to your success, what would you say is the most important area of focus for marketers in the coming year?"

This was my response...

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The Coachable Have An Edge

"Almost all of the top producers that I know are always seeking an edge. They’re always looking for a new idea, a new approach, or a new way to create value for their clients. They want some edge that will allow them to produce even greater results, and they are open to trying new things to get those results." 
                   - S. Anthony Iannarino

Are those with an Edge Coachable?

What kind of people would you expect to be continually looking beyond the obvious to see what others don't? Competitive people? Driven people? Self starters and people with ambition? I suspect many of those who strive to see the edge would be described like that. In addition, I think words like curious, inquisitive, bright, and accomplished are words that could be used.

And what do edge seekers do? Are they executives, sales people, athletes, artists, scientists? Might they be public servants, philanthropists, and volunteers. Or are they simply the cream of the crop. The people who make it to the top in every walk of life?

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Integration is key!

Word of Mouth Marketing: The Buzz about Online and Offline Buzz

talkers c

As social media becomes the focus of attention for marketers, it is essential that we not forget the power and influence of good old fashioned face to face conversations. 

Early in my term as Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Board President, I expressly commissioned an Offline Word of Mouth Task Force, headed by former board member Stuart Sheldon, to advance the awareness and importance of offline conversations in order to bring emphasis to this critical area for our membership. 

At last week’s WOMMA Summit, the task force convened a conversation to discuss the importance and relevance of offline word of mouth marketing. In addition to Sheldon, who is the Co-President of Escalate, members of the task force and panel included Brad Fay, COO of Keller Fay Group, Chris Laird, CEO of Tremor, and Idil Cakim, VP of NM Incite.

Among the topics discussed was: "What is offline WOM? How is it similar to or different from online WOM?" 

As a preamble to the conversation, Laird, in a November 15th Forbes article titled, “Why Digital Still Can’t Beat Word of Mouth In Sharing Brand Messages,” shared his perspective on that question. He cited survey results from Keller Fay’s recent work and spoke to the dramatic difference in online and offline influence. One excerpt from the story is as follows…

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Get Inspired

Inspire Med

Have you ever heard of a BHAG

It's an acronym for an organizations Big Hairy Audacious Goal - A concept first introduced by authors Jim Collins and Terry Porras in their 1996 article entitled Building Your Company's Vision

Today I had the opportunity to visit with "Get Inspired" podcast hosts, Terry Barber and Carol Chapman about the BHAG that PEMCO Insurance has set out to accomplish - "To never have to advertise for a lead again".

Our discussion touched on several topics including the importance of inspired story telling, standing in the customers shoes and and combining those factors in a way that compels consumers to become brand advocates. 

We discussed the importance that guidance, collaboration, and learning from experience of others can play in the life of a brand and in the lives of individuals.  Examples included the important role that WOMMA plays in guiding and enabling talkable brands; multiple perspectives on fatherhood; and the amazing influence of a mentor and a specific moment in time.  

I hope you enjoy the conversation.  To hear it, simply go here.

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Customer Service... The New Marketing

Woman listening - med

Are you listening?

Awareness of word of mouth marketing and the importance that consumer driven communication is playing in the business community continues to increase at an astonishing rate.

Increasingly, conversations are taking place about identifying talkers, loyalists, and advocates. The momentum and movement has found its way out of the experimental idea centers of marketing departments and is showing up in corporate board rooms, vision statements, and strategic planning discussions. 

Listening to the customer is in style again. And this time, the consumer has the power and the tools to make a very real difference.

For more on this topic please advance to The WOMMA Edge, right here.

Business Intelligence TV - June '11

Only win by losing!

BITVHow do you sell a product that people don't understand, don't want to buy and when they do buy, they don't want to use it? And how do would you engage your customers in a way that creates loyalty and advocacy? While this sounds like a very tough sell, the company where I am the C.M.O., PEMCO Insurance, has been recognized as one that does it very well.

I was recently invited to discusses the journey with Bruno Aziza on Microsoft's Business Intelligence TV. We talked about a few of the ways that companies like PEMCO employ social media tools for relationship management and customer engagement. 

To see the video and learn more, just follow the "read more" link below.

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Lets Get Ethical


The rules of the game have changed.

No longer is consumer behavior driven exclusively by traditional marketing and advertising, or by the influences of mass-media opinion-leaders.

Today those consumers are making decisions after hearing the opinions of peers, friends and even strangers. Most often, those new, powerful lay-influencers make their opinions known online, completely outside the influence of traditional public relations.

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Lowering the bar

Insurance Man - Med

Selling protection... And I don't mean condoms!

Just about the time you come to grips with the fact that there is a great chance that you're responsible for marketing one of the most unremarkable and uninteresting product categories on the face of the planet, something comes along to make you think twice.

Now don't get me wrong, insurance isn't the only product that people wish they didn't have to buy that I've promoted in my career. There were the do-it-yourself auto parts like carburetors, starters, and alternators. I still smile when I think about the fact that sales of those replacement parts went up when the price went down by putting them on sale. Who stocks up on starters and alternators anyway?

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What's Your Taproot?

taproot small

Regardless of the season, your career needs Nourishment

Have you ever thought about where your career nourishment comes from? That part of what you do that gives you an amazing feeling of success and accomplishment? The part of your responsibilities that make work feel like you are going to fun and leaves you feeling proud of what you are contributing?

I hope you have. Because by thinking about these questions, and answering them, you will enable yourself to better see and experience your edge.

I've come to describe it as something like the root system of a young tree that is maturing and growing over time. I'd like to tell you a story of a career, as if it were a tree.
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Talk - Talk - Talk

Sharing stories

PEMCO Insurance is the company where I am the Chief Marketing Officer.  I share that not just as a matter of pride, but to fully disclose the relationship I have with the company. Over the years, PEMCO has put together a story that is truly remarkable. A story of a challenger brand that has found ways to compete with companies many times their size.

The story can't be told without talking about the importance of relationships.  It's truly a special edge that has been carved out over 60-plus years. And what are relationships about? Simply put, it's the people. And recently, it's become a story of northwest people that gets told with a bit of a twist.

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Winning ethically


Using Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Win, Ethically

It's one thing to see the edge, but it's another to take advantage of an edge unethically. In this post, on behalf of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, I share my thoughts on ethical "WOM" with PRSA members.

Know Your Why

If you don't know your why, your what and your how don't matter.

Start with Why - small

Do you remember being a child? How about raising a child? I do. And I remember that in both situations a frequently asked question was "why"? Why this, why that, why now, why not? I also remember the lack of patience that my parents had with me when I asked "why" and that the most frequent answer to my questions was a simple “because… that’s why.” I’m sorry to say that I’m guilty of repeating the same behavior and lack of patience with my own children when “why” was on their minds. I'm convinced now that "why" is one of the essential, central questions in our lives. For each of us to know our own answer is very important.

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The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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