The only thing we have to fear is not fear itself. In fact, fear may be very useful for marketers who need to shake up their CEOs....
Best Buy's CEO Brad Anderson recognizes that fear is a strong motivator of management. Outside his office, you'll encounter a "retail hospital," incuding, "a row of truncated beds in which effigies of stricken retailers like Kmart and Woolworth, the old five-and-dime, lie with their corporate logos propped up on pillows and with their abysmal financial results displayed on bedside charts," according to Fortune.
Anderson reminds himself and all others who approach his office that this is how companies end up when their strategies get sick. You may say he is being paranoid or the imagery is unneccessary.
However, in Only the Paranoid, the management classic published in 1996, the then-CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove, asserts that every business comes to a point where it faces life-or-death, and advises you to study the history of how some great companies suddenly go down while others change and emerge stronger.
Jack Trout, the great marketing strategist and author of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (first published in 1981) and many other marketing classics, told me in a recent discussion that he often instructs marketers to use fear when counseling a CEO.
"When you're trying to sell a CEO on a course of action and you think he might be doing the wrong thing, you don't go in and tell the guy he's doing the wrong thing. You go in there and say, 'Let me tell you what happened to a company that was doing a similar thing, and they went into the toilet. Now, this might not happen to us, but this is the kind of stuff that can happen.' That's how you introduce the element of fear and doubt. And the guy said, 'Whoa, is that what happened?' I said, 'Oh yeah.' You need that fear analogy. That's the best way to get somebody not to do something that you feel, as a marketing guy, shouldn't be done."
Inducing fear may not fit with your management style, but all marketers should consider using it to motivate their CEOs, even if it's as a last resort. As my co-authors, Allen Weiss and Dave Stewart, and I write in our forthcoming book from John Wiley, Marketing Champions , your CEO depends upon you to have the vision and expertise to interepret the threats to the future financial performance of the enterprise.
To become a Marketing Champion inside your company, make sure you know how and when to use fear to motivate and lead.
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