Do we ‘need’ an International Men’s Day?

Many sources indicate that the original concept behind International Men’s Day was to address the ‘unfair’ balance of equality women had over men as a result of 8th March, the day that celebrates International Women’s Day. Wow.

In this article I explore the issues faced globally by both men and women with the aim to arrive at a balanced personal view as to whether I feel International Men’s Day is a positive movement for our society, or if in fact, International Women’s Day actually goes far enough as to support both male and female specific global issues.

I begin writing this with no predetermined view and hope will support you in developing your own.


It’s International Men’s Day, Saturday 19th November 2016, and by pure coincidence, my husband is downstairs rearranging the kitchen work tops and sorting out our under-the-stairs-junk cupboard. All while multi-tasking as he makes me fresh coffee and eggs. As I write this, he can be heard casually groaning from the bottom of the stairs about how annoying it is that I last night left my bag and shoes strewn across the living room floor.

I giggle and apologise, he seems surprised that I take so much joy from this scenario and carries on as before.

My husband is a man who one day wants to reduce his working hours to join me in spending time with our children and who recently complained to an event organiser about the sexist and offensive slurs of the comedian commissioned for the evening. This is also the man who celebrates me, as a person, my passions, my successes and my down sides, to an extent – more than me.

On my lazy Saturday morning filled with laughter, the odd grumble at each other and long bouts of comfortable silence, it feels good that my relationship has apparently, somehow behind my back while I wasn’t even looking, without any careful planning or domestic lobbying, has achieved the epitome of gender equality.

I am free. I am a person without limits. When I am with him. When I am without him.

When I say I am free. I mean free, free. Proper free. Yes, on a very basic level I am free to vote, free to say no if I don’t want to have sex with somebody, free to learn how to drive a car and free to have a job. I am protected by the law if somebody harms me and I am generally safe within our legal system here in the UK.

But further than this, I am free to live my dreams, free to travel the world, free to help others who are not as free as me, free to voice my opinions even if they contradict those of the people around me. I am free to go as far as I wish in my career, irrelevant of my gender.

I, unfortunately, in this big wide and often ugly world, am also an ABSOLUTE minority.

Unsure of how I feel about International Men’s Day I took some time to look at the issues faced by both men and women globally in order to come to an understanding of the purpose of both international days of the sexes.

Female specific global issues

  • Women and girls are said to make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
  • In Afghanistan more than half of all brides are under 16 and domestic violence is so common that 87 per cent of women admit to experiencing it.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo rapes are so brutal and systematic that UN investigators have called them unprecedented. Many victims die; others are infected with HIV and left to look after children alone. Foraging for food and water exposes women to yet more violence. Without money, transport or connections, they have no way of escape.
  • In Iraq the literacy rate, once the highest in the Arab world, is now among the lowest as families fear risking kidnapping and rape by sending girls to school. Women who once went out to work stay home. Meanwhile, more than 1 million women have been displaced from their homes, and millions more are unable to earn enough to eat.
  • In Nepal Daughters who aren’t married off may be sold to traffickers before they reach their teens.
  • In Mali few women escape the torture of genital mutilation, many are forced into early marriages, and one in 10 dies in pregnancy or childbirth.
  • In Pakistan, honour killing is widespread and a renewed wave of religious extremism is targeting female politicians, human rights workers and lawyers.
  • Women in Saudi Arabia are treated as lifelong dependents, under the guardianship of a male relative. Deprived of the right to drive a car or mix with men publicly, they are confined to strictly segregated lives on pain of severe punishment.
  • In Somalia women are exposed daily to rape, dangerously poor health care for pregnancy, and attack by armed gangs.
  • One in four women in the UK experience domestic violence at some point in their life
  • 170,000 women and girls in the UK have been subjected to female genital mutilation.
  • Around one in 25 women aged 16-59 in the UK are a victim of stalking every year.
  • Estimates suggest that around 85,000 women a year are raped in the UK, while only 1,070 rapists are convicted (including the 12,000 estimated number of men raped each year).

What stands out to me is that all of the issues faced by women referenced above are largely as a result of the actions and behaviours of the male dominated society they live in.

In fact in most of the examples, it is the men in their environment who are committing these horrific actions.

Let’s be theoretical for a minute. If tomorrow, in all of the above countries overnight for some reason there were absolutely no men, these issues affecting women would likely almost immediately cease to exist.

Let’s assume that 99.99% of men in the world would never ever commit such awful actions, because the point of this article is not to man hate. We still can’t ignore the fact that in these instances the issue is that women are needing protection from the men around them.

This tells me that there absolutely is a need for an international day that recognises that women, specifically and singularly because of their gender, need to be supported and their issues recognised in isolation of any other factors. So, 8th March sees us become more and more aware of the harrowing issues faced by women across the world with the celebration of International Women’s Day.

Male specific global issues

There was significantly less material on the internet on issues faced by men globally, though that is not to downplay them. Here are just some of the issues;

  • The great pressure that comes with the Male gender roles and how the alpha male role men are being conditioned to adopt does not allow for emotional expression along with a whole host of other hugely damaging effects on men’s mental health.
  • The negative portrayal in the media of all men as misogynists, in the same way that women face objectification of their bodies, men are largely tarnished with one big fat paint brush as sexist, predatory bigots.
  • In the US one in 71 men have been raped but only 1 in 10 cases of rape are reported. There was not a huge amount of data for this, which could largely be associated with lack of reported incidents due to the stigma surrounding the subject.
  • In the UK boys have fallen behind by a worrying percentage in their performance at schools and colleges. While it isn’t clear whether this gender gap is the result of biological differences and rate of development, or social processes it is an issue that is of high importance to the education system moving forward.
  • In 2012, over 75% of the people who killed themselves in the UK were men.
  • Only 12% of primary school teachers are male.
  • Exactly 71% of the time, family courts award sole custody to the female parent.
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No more should men be made to feel, through their societal conditioning, that they can only cry alone or not at all.

Contrary to the issues faced by women, none of these issues have been directly caused by the actions of the opposite sex. They are, in fact, often as an indirect result of the oppression women have faced for centuries and the impact this gender imbalance has also had on men. These issues even further highlight the need for International Women’s Day to support the slow but important process of achieving gender equality for both men and women’s rights.

By solving female specific issues, and fighting for women’s rights, we are also fighting to solve men’s issues.

If we create a culture where we end the horrific violation of women’s basic human rights and slowly unpick the sexism and misogyny sewn into every facet of our society, the media will begin to stop portraying ALL men as misogynists.

If we achieve gender equality to a point where characteristics typically associated with women are no longer seen as weaknesses such as showing emotion and compassion, men will no longer be ridiculed for crying or talking when they need help. The dated view on what the male role in society should be, would be dissipated. Actually, by women gaining power, not with the aim of gaining control, but to bring balance and equality into the distribution of power in the world, male specific issues will massively benefit.

An article by Miranda Larbi in the Metro today said’

“So often it feels like we’re being put in the same ‘girls vs boys’ teams that we spent our childhood in, that we’re only allowed to care about the welfare of one gender. But that’s just not true.

The system that forces women to be sex objects until they become baby-makers is the exact same system that pushes men to be hyper-masculine providers who aren’t allowed to talk about their feelings and end up with mental health issues they feel unable to discuss.”

The article goes on to say;

“Women need a day because we’re still treated as less than equal. There are still women who are payed significantly less than men and are penalised for taking maternity leave. Men are and have always been in a position of dominance and power.”

A passage  from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s, one of my very favourite writers in the world, ‘What if we were all feminists’ reads;

“What if both boys and girls were raised not to link masculinity and money? What if their attitude was not “the boy has to pay,” but rather, “whoever has more should pay.” Of course, because of their historical advantage, it is mostly men who will have more today. But if we start raising children differently, then in fifty years, in a hundred years, boys will no longer have the pressure of proving their masculinity by material means.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie goes on to explain why feminism is the answer to true gender equality for both the sexes;

“Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.”

In a recent debate in the Commons as to whether MP’s should show support of International Men’s Day, Caroline Dinenage said:

“Women could be forgiven for thinking every day is International Men’s Day”.

There have been efforts to create an International Men’s Day since at least the 1960s, when many men were reported to “have been agitating privately to make 23 Feb International Men’s Day, the equivalent of 8 March, which is International Women’s Day”.

In 1968 American Journalist John P. Harris wrote an editorial in the Salina Journal highlighting a lack of balance in the Soviet system, which promoted an International Women’s Day for the female workers without promoting a corresponding day for male workers.

Harris stated that although he did not begrudge Soviet women their March day of glory, its resulting gender inequality clearly exhibited a serious flaw in the Communist system, which, “makes much of the equal rights it has given the sexes, but as it turns out, the women are much more equal than the men.”

This morning, James Moran raised the point that debating whether there should be an International Men’s Day is not about downplaying the important issues that need to be tackled faced by men.  It can safely be assumed that any other day than March 8th is and has always been International Men’s Day – that’s the whole point a women’s day was created in the first place!

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In summary

I don’t believe we need International Men’s Day. Mainly because it seems it was born out of a motivation to gain back control with a sort of warped belief that gender equality had swung too far in women’s favour. Ludicrous.

The gender specific issues faced by men would be better solved by direct support of such issues as male suicide and access to mental health support services, as one of many examples. Direct issue led awareness days would also be more effective, International Men’s Day is just too broad a topic to have any real impact on supporting such complex issues.

On the flip side, a grave and possibly pessimistic concern of mine is that this day could actually do harm to the movement of increasing women’s rights globally.

The people I know are using this day to support increased awareness in support of male issues with a positive motivation which I applaud. However, I fear that not everybody will see this day through the same well intention-ed lenses and at worst will use it to legitimise the status of control and power men have enjoyed for centuries, in turn reversing the positive progress made for women’s rights. At best, I cringe at the idiots who trolled International Women’s Day whining that they don’t get a ‘day’ of their own while completely missing, or not even noticing, the point of the importance of gender equality movement.

I’ll finish with this quote card that I think nicely sums up the core issue of gender inequality.

It’s taken from the film Cement Garden, that perfectly sums up how if a man is seen as adopting perceived female characteristics, it’s generally considered degrading.

Here lies our problem.
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You might like to watch Madonna’s music video for “What it Feels Like for a Girl” that begins with a reading of the famous quote.

The concept in the video is an external expression of the frustration of centuries of oppression women have experienced. The helplessness and anger of not only having no voice or power or say in what happens in your own life, but in knowing that it has been stolen from you. Frankly, putting myself into the shoes of a woman being subjected to genital mutilation, sex trafficking or daily rape and torture I think I would however revel in the more literal interpretation of this music video.

If you aren’t sure you like the video for it’s more literally perceived ‘man-hating’ themed content, this article is worth a read as it’s explains the concept behind the video, which was produced in 2001 with Guy Ritchie, Madonna’s then husband. The message is far deeper and is not anti-men but rather a statement of societal protest.

I welcome your views and hope this article helped you in forming your own balanced opinions.

Has Protein World’s ‘beach body’ campaign thrown us back to the 50’s?

If you haven’t  seen the viral social media uproar in response to Protein World’s latest campaign, check out #beachbodyready on Twitter. The campaign has seen adverts on the London underground promoting the fitness brand’s weight loss product range defaced and has even led to a petition to have them removed by the Advertising Standards Authority with over 50,000 signatures – and counting.

While the content of any advert is subjective and opinions of what is sexist and what isn’t will always differ, I couldn’t help but notice the glaring similarities between this advert and that of some of the most sexist advertising campaigns of the 1950’s.

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The only differences I can spot are;

  • The first ad promotes weight loss to gain sex appeal. The second ad promotes weight gain to get sex appeal.
  • The first ad includes the copy ‘are you beach body ready?’ The second ad includes the copy ‘no sex appeal to that beanpole’.
  • The first ad was put out this week. The second ad was put out in the 1950’s.

Advert one is admittedly more subtle and open for speculation but the undertones are the same; to play on female body insecurities to sell product.

Sophie Beresiner, ELLE Beauty Director said in an article yesterday: “It’s so outdated and just plain silly to assume that our ultimate summer goal is to morph into some unrealistic character created through the male gaze. Protein World has underestimated us. And that bothers me most. Most women I meet want to be fit, healthy and really f*cking strong. How have they missed this completely?”

Protein World boss Richard Staveley defended the campaign in an interview on Good Morning Britain, saying: ‘we are a fitness brand, our own aspirations are to make the nation healthier and ask each one of us to set our sights higher, to be fitter, to be healthier and actually have an inner and outer confidence within ourselves.’

But the proposition for the sale of the product itself is for those who want to ‘loose fat fast’ and look good in a bikini. Drinking shakes as meal replacements and popping pills to reduce cravings? This just doesn’t sit right with me.

3I also failed to see the conceptual difference between Protein World’s product image of it’s fat melter pills next to a woman measuring her waist versus a 1950’s advert promoting tiny waists from a protein cereal brand.

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Protein World fans defend the advert claiming that the question ‘Are you beach ready?’ is open to each individuals interpretation of what a beach body is for them.

But, as a marketer, it’s clear to me that the model in the ‘Are you beach body ready?’ advert has been selected to specifically target women with body insecurities with the intention to evoke thoughts like ‘I could look like that’ or ‘I should look like that’ or worryingly ‘I need to look like that’.

Sophie Beresiner, ELLE Beauty Director added: “Call it a feminist issue if you want to. I’m going to broaden the scope and call it a standards issue. These ads aren’t good enough. It would seem the public agrees. Between now and the point when I first began writing this story, the number of signatures on the Change.org petition to have the ads removed by the Advertising Standards Authority has jumped to 51,387.”

As a marketer, I can’t help but raise the question “has Protein World committed brand suicide?”

The answer is yes. But not strictly because of their advert.

Their social media strategy, from a brand perspective, is way off. When it comes to personality and tone of voice, brands need to ensure they interact positively with a wide range of stakeholders not only for reputation enhancement but also to reflect sound social responsibility.

When I read their comment to one Twitter user ‘why make your insecurities our problem?’ I had to wonder, if the Protein World brand were a person, what kind of person would it be?

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Protein World class tweeters like Juliette as an ‘irrational minority’ who have interpreted their advert in the wrong way. If this is the case, is their response supporting a change in perception of their advert or reaffirming their mission to promote a healthy lifestyle? Nope.

But this is marketing isn’t it? Identify a target audience, find a need and sell a product to meet that need. As long as you increase sales you’re an effective marketer, right?

Wrong.

Brands have to think beyond the sale of product, long term reputation is what attracts financial investment, employee engagement and wider stakeholder trust which ultimately drives business growth.

Maria Fowler from TOWIE spoke out in an article today in support of Protein World claiming people should be ‘fat shaming’ on posters for plus-sized clothing instead of attacking the images of fitness model Renee Somerfield used in the advert.

We have to ask ourselves, in the 65 years since the sexist adverts of the 50’s – is this really where we’ve ended up? Arguing over which body type should be shamed and defaced in tube station advertising?

It is important to look after ourselves and it’s a given that being overweight or underweight has its health risks but what happened to good old fashioned kindness?

I’ll end with my favourite Plato quote.

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Stuff that woke me up this morning…

It’s very easy to slip into autopilot. Driving around, doing our day to day tasks and not really noticing anything other than what is holding us up. We’re not awake, we’re shut off and we’re not open to take in the real stuff.

The worst part about this is that we find ourselves cursing that which we can’t control and ruining our own day;

First, it’s the car in front of us on the roundabout driving at 15 mph that’s making us late.

Second, it’s the supervisor at Halfords who got confused as to which windscreen wipers would fit our car that led to us being there for 8 minutes longer than we needed to be.

Third, it’s the guy handing out flyers at the traffic lights tapping on the window in the middle of an important phone call.

But these are all just by-products of living in sleep mode.

Some stuff I noticed this morning;

First, a young man driving what seemed like his dad’s car for the first time. He was nervous and there were drivers swerving past him and beeping with expressions that I can only describe as absolute hatred. His face was bright red and he was doing everything he could to keep focussed on the road without letting these people take away what little confidence he had left. He was only going 15 mph and seemed unsure of which exit he needed. I was right behind him on a roundabout and it took a little longer to get to my exit but that’s fine because in that moment I decided to shed the illusion of the rush we find ourselves in.

Second, Luis who works in Halfords. I went in for new windscreen wipers this morning and had no idea where to start and he politely came over to offer to help. His manager seemed pretty wound up looking over him as he found his way around the computer system confused about which wipers were the ones I needed.

But I was in no rush.

He got it wrong 3 times but we got there, he was taking his time to ensure he did it right. Filled with a very kind presence and genuine desire to do a great job, Luis ran outside to fit the wipers and make sure they worked for me before putting them through for payment. His colleague seemed a little frustrated that he was taking ‘too long’ without seeing that I was actually a happy customer.

Third, a man whose energy felt like his soul had been stripped of all happiness who tapped on my window. It was at a set of traffic lights and something stopped me from winding down, something that I’m now reflecting on and why I’m writing this post.

He was handing out what looked like some discount flyers for a garage across the road. I was the first car in the queue. He tapped. I looked like a rabbit in headlights and blankly shook my head. Before I could think twice he moved on. I looked in my side mirror and he did the same to every car behind me, zig-zagging across from car to car. Every single person either shook their head or shooed him away.

It was the longest 55 seconds ever.

He resumed his spot standing next to my car under the traffic lights waiting for the next batch of cars with the same number of flyers as before. His head was slanted down as if embarrassed in front of all the people that just rejected him. For some reason I noticed his footwear, the lines in his forehead, the way his hands clasped onto the flyers, the design on the cap he was wearing and I imagined him getting ready for his day wondering how many people would give him 5 seconds to speak versus how many would totally blank him and shut him out and I felt a real pang of guilt that I didn’t let him in. I honestly felt like crying and getting out of the car and handing out flyers with him.

I firmly believe that everyone is the same which is why it was wrong of me not to bring my window down and let him at least tell me what his flyers were and see if I would be interested before telling him no.

When did we get so impatient? When did we lose our understanding and compassion for others? When did we fall asleep?

These short incidents seem very insignificant but it’s amazing how much more we can take from a simple morning out and about if we’re awake to ourselves, our actions and the feelings of others. When we’re asleep we’re just rushing around ignoring everyone and everything and making ourselves the centre of all our small decisions and actions. I believe that happiness is found within ourselves and can only be gained through being kind to others, always.

My favourite quote to remind me of all of this is;

‘Be kind, or be quiet’.

This quote is about more than the words we chose to speak, but it’s also about our body language and the thoughts we chose to manifest that affect the energy we give off to others. Even a huff in a queue can be damaging to the energy and the people around us (including ourselves). I have come to find that it’s a much nicer experience to give someone a reassuring smile that we know they’re doing their best and just wait to be seen or wait in line, than to get ourselves totally wound up. Many people don’t agree with me but we literally make our own drama and ruin our own day through letting things get to us that needn’t.

If you want to wake up but are struggling with a sleep coma then you might find the following really useful, as I did.

This quote has been taken from Timber Hawkeye who writes for Buddhist Boot Camp and I think it sums up what I’m trying to get across really well.

“Serenity” means calm, peaceful, tranquil and untroubled. When our minds are serene (like the ocean water in Hawaii, where we can see straight to the bottom), we can see straight to the truth of everything without the judging or discriminating opinions that cloud our vision.

Once we can see reality that clearly, we can accept the things we cannot change, feel encouraged to change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference

Start by eliminating the very things that trouble you (here’s a clue: it’s your own thoughts and opinions), and then you too can be calm, peaceful and tranquil. You’ll float peacefully on top of even the largest waves that life is sure to bring, naturally accepting old age, sickness, and even death.

I really recommend you press like on Buddhist Boot Camp’s Facebook page, I always find Timbers’ posts really inspiring and interesting. https://www.facebook.com/buddhistbootcamp

Positively Perceived Critics

Jade Tambini 18th October 2014

A good friend and I were recently reminiscing about an evening class we took together when we were teenagers. Out of the blue, she told me that the others in the group found me to be irritating and over-bearing, even though I had enjoyed being their friend and classmate blissfully none the wiser.

At that time, aged 17 with a self-assured confidence that lent itself well to my new boiler-room style telesales job, I was in my element and totally unaware that I was upsetting people in the process. Hearing this back then would have dented me, I wasn’t robust enough to take criticism of even the mildest form. I was happy in my daydreams of unicorns, seahorses and the idealism that my green bubble could never be burst.

Here’s the thing.

They had a point – I was over-bearing back then! Consumed with overflowing optimism I compulsively reeled out ridiculously excitable commentary on life whether it was that cool bit 47seconds into the latest advert where the music drops and the concept becomes clear through to questioning how old the trees outside our lecture theatre with might be.

Here’s the other thing.

The things that these people were uncomfortable with are the parts of myself that I really love the most and actually are the underlying traits that have made me successful in my creative marketing career and importantly in my relationships with family and friends. Would I be a shell of my true self if I chose to change based  on my perception of what other people think of me? Probably yes.

But my bubble did get burst, a few times. And it hurt.

I came to understand that there is a difference between people’s irritance of my chosen behaviours to that of a dislike of my fundamental character. But this isn’t really the point. I know that my intentions are good and I am kind to others, so I have learnt to stay true to who I am. I chose to learn and grow from these bubble bursts without choosing to feel attacked or inadequate. In fact once I strip away my ego’s percieved negativity in opinions that don’t belong to me, I found the true essence of me.

Here’s the idea – take any criticism on the chin, process it for a day or two and then get yourself together and grow from it.

Lastly, remind yourself of what you love about yourself. Every day. There is no shame in celebrating your uniqueness and loving yourself.

What I have come to realise overall is that other people’s opinion of me is none of my business. Everybody has their own stuff going on and we’re all on a tough journey. I have now found a helpful label for these bubble bursters, ‘positively perceived critics’.

The Problem with People… 5 ways to activate your brand internally

Jade Tambini

The problem with people… 5 ways to activate your brand internally

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Writing a chapter for B2B Marketing’s The Evidence report “How to align and guide the brand internally” it occurred to me that the lines between HR and Marketing are blurring in a big way. In my chapter I explore and identify how you can get the best results between brand promise and delivery through internal brand activation, without getting lost in the problem with people.

The problem with people is they are the difference between what a brand promises, and what it actually delivers. What makes this a problem? Well, most of us marketers aren’t seeing our colleagues as a target audience.

I often hear Marketing Managers say things like ‘they just don’t get it’ and I can’t help but think this is a failing on our part. As marketers, we don’t blame the target market if an external campaign goes wrong; we improve how we’re responding to insight from the group of people we’re targeting. As soon as we start to view our colleagues as a target audience with rational and emotional needs we can begin to communicate with them in the way they will respond to.

5 ways to solve the problem with people

1. The problem with brand

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It’s likely that your colleagues think the brand is separate from them. Get over this by identifying key people who have a good route to your target colleagues. Talk to them about the brand, learn more about their function and discuss how promise and delivery can work together. Ask them if you can join their next department meeting for an interactive session on collaboratively meeting the brand promise.

2. The problem with jargon

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Marketing jargon is a huge blocker to internal brand engagement. The problem starts when our work gets the unfair ‘fluffy’ label; in turn we tend to get defensive and emotionally charged. We hit back with all our most impressive technical marketing language which is great for showing off, but totally alienates our colleagues. Stop being your own worst enemy by talking clearly, concisely and with purpose.

  1. The problem with change

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People don’t like it, unless the change is their decision. Involve a wide range of stakeholders right the way from forming your brand identity through to the tactical aspects of how you achieve your marketing objectives. Think about it, if your sales team contribute to the theme for a campaign you’ll later be asking them to promote, it’s a safe bet that they’ll engage when it’s launched.

4. The problem with you

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If you hear yourself saying things like ‘they just don’t get it’ then it’s time to change! As B2B marketers we have to be good at selling too. If you don’t sell the brand to your colleagues, they won’t buy into it. Start to see negative feedback on your campaigns as buying signals; your colleagues are seeking reassurance so that they can feel confident when representing the brand. They’re reacting, which is positive, so don’t shy away.

    1. The problem with HR

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There is a clear difference between our role as marketers and that of HR’s. Your efforts internally are to ensure your external customers and prospects actually get what the brand is promising. It’s very easy to end up clashing with existing employee engagement activity and not consulting with HR can lead to problems. Form a strong relationship with your HR manager and ensure all work is collaborative. Most importantly, remember that while the work you’re doing will contribute to improving overall employee engagement and morale, this isn’t your main focus. Keep clear by setting objectives for change within the business that directly tie with your brand strategy and planned marketing activity.

Tweet me @jadetambini

 

How do we align and guide our B2B brands internally?

I recently spoke at B2B Marketing’s The Evidence event which was devised in parallel with the launch of The 2014 Evidence report of which I wrote Chapter 5 “How do we align and guide the brand internally?”. The report aimed to draw out the best evidence of marketing success from across the 2013 B2B Awards’ finalists and presents it in a way that will help B2B marketers to engage stakeholders and build a sound business case for sustained marketing investment.

I wanted to share my slides as I believe that in B2B marketing we have a big problem. It’s the problem with people.People are the difference between what our brand promises and what it actually delivers.

A co-speaker at The Evidence who I took a huge amount of inspiration from, Graham Wylie , said  “The B2B decision process is 70% done when it goes to sales, but 54% of decision will be how the sales person closes”.

It is so important that our brand ambassadors are aligned to our message to market. But not just sales, a business with true marketing orientation will see the brand at the heart of all it’s activity from operations, to customer care and wider.

I’ve broken down what my slides cover into chunkable pieces below – if you are unsure of any areas please comment I will be happy to give further insight.

Slides 1-4 Background to the theme

Whether to achieve consistency across sales and marketing or to instil the brand values into the mindspace of a wider employee base, the common themes throughout the entries for the Best Internal Audience Campaign category stand out by a country mile – collaboration, inclusion and dialogue.

This is just marketing like we’ve always known… we just haven’t been very good at seeing our colleagues as a target market with needs, desires and interest that have to be satisfied in return for engagement. We don’t blame the target market if an external campaign goes wrong; we improve how we’re responding to insight from the group of people we’re targeting. As soon as we start to view our colleagues as a target audience with rational and emotional needs we can begin to communicate with them in the way they will respond to.

Slide 5 – The lines between HR and Marketing are blurring in a big way

When it comes to employee engagement the lines between HR and Marketing are blurring in a big way and more than ever B2B Marketers are being asked to ignite an emotional connection between the brand and its ambassadors.

There is a clear difference between our role as marketers and that of HR’s. Our efforts internally are to ensure our external customers and prospects actually get what the brand is promising. It’s very easy to end up clashing with existing employee engagement activity and not consulting with HR can lead to problems. Forming a strong relationship with our HR managers is crucial and we have to ensure all work is collaborative. Most importantly, while the work we’re doing will contribute to improving overall employee engagement and morale, this isn’t our main focus. We have to keep clear by setting objectives for change within the business that directly tie with our brand strategy and planned marketing activity.

Slides 6-11 The Problem with People

The problem with people is they are the difference between what a brand promises, and what it actually delivers. What makes this a problem? Well, most of us marketers aren’t seeing our colleagues as a target audience.

Slides 12 – 14 – How do we align and guide the brand internally?

There are four key stages to achieving internal brand activation that, when executed well, will take a B2B brand from misalignment and confusion amongst its employees to solidarity and consistency aiding successful delivery of the brand promise.

The internal activation process aims to define the behaviours that will enhance the brand, which is achieved through the creation of a clear, simple and motivational understanding of the brand strategy. This leads to effective mobilisation and deployment providing the architecture upon which with the external positioning, messaging and brand values can be delivered consistently across the business. While this process supports HR employee engagement it is not aiming to replace it and it will work very much in parallel to existing employee engagement activity. The role of employee internal activation is to ensure employees are representing and delivering on what the brand is promising.

Internal brand activation stage 1  – Determine desired behaviours

Our behavioural change targets need to be focussed on what will enhance the brand and we can only achieve this by setting clear objectives to motivate employees to deliver on the areas of the brand promise that apply to them. Engaging employees in the company vision and values to achieve the overall business strategy can see our efforts as marketers morphed into an HR force and our key focus diminished. The brand strategy is there to deliver the business strategy. HR’s role is to deliver towards the business strategy and ensure employees are delivering on the company values. Its marketing’s role to ensure behaviours across the internal audience reflect the brand, so we can see why these two areas are so easily mixed up.

That’s not to say that internal brand activation won’t deliver positive by-products including increased morale and motivation but if there is no link back to the brand strategy we can end up wasting our time and effort as a marketing resource.

Stage 1 – The Evidence

The winning entry ‘Step up communications programme’ for Unilever Food Solutions Global by Torch B2B was also born from a marketing focus:

“The challenge was to help UFS promote and launch a training programme that would focus on stepping up the impact of their channel and category marketing communications worldwide.” Torch B2B

By having a clear vision of what needed to be achieved, the campaign achieved 90% participation across their 54 marketing teams across the Globe, no easy task.

Internal brand activation stage 2 – Mobilisation

Setting the behavioural changes we want and actually getting them is where the fun really starts! We need to provide structure to ensure the consistent delivery of the desired brand impression to our internal audience. Treat your internal audience as you would your end user; as we know a purchase decision in the B2B space isn’t an immediate one. It takes time for your B2B buyer to come to a final purchase decision and act on it. In the same way your internal audience will take time to reach a state of brand championship.

B2B brands need big long ideas that have the ‘oomph’ to stay powerful and engaging right the way through the external buyer journey. From grabbing attention at awareness to getting more technical around the offering in the desire and action stages, our big long idea has to have the strength to remain compelling enough to nurture. The big long idea needs to encapsulate the differentiating factor that sets the brand apart; this then needs to be supported with a strong creative platform to bring the idea to life.

Internal brand activation is so important because it can prove dangerous to skip straight to execution of the big long idea externally without getting it in the mind-space of the organisation first. Your internal audience will go through a number of stages to reach full championship of the brand and an understanding of the behaviours they must instil and live by in order to deliver the brand values is where an employee journey map will support your process. Map out the key stages your internal audience will go through toward engagement as you would the external buyer journey. Once defined you can align the right messages, delivered in appropriate content formats and plan to deliver them at the right times as they move along this journey.

This is a big area where the lines between marketing and HR become fuzzy once again. Communicating and creatively engaging employees with the big long idea is different from forming a creative way to motivate employees to achieve in their respective roles toward the overall business strategy – this is HR’s role.

Stage 2 – The Evidence

Futitsu turned their mission “to use their experience and the power of ICT to shape the future of society” into an external big long idea ‘Reshaping ICT, Reshaping Business’ supported by the positioning “At Fujitsu, we continue to harness the power of ICT to enable our customers to meet new challenges and to build a more prosperous future for all”.

From this, their ‘Fill the pipe’ campaign was an internal activation of the brand featuring the big long idea – a perfect example of integrating the brand into the mind space of employees to deploy a big long idea in parallel with marketing activity. By launching the new offering to the sales and account management teams first, Futitsu could be confident that the big long idea would resonate with the target employees so that marketing activity would seamlessly integrate with the sales and customer service processes.

The programme saw healthy results that proved the effectiveness of the operation.

Internal brand activation stage 3 – Deploy and motivate

Create a clear, simple and motivational understanding of the brand strategy and communicate this across the business by mapping out activity, content and channels to support the different stages of the employee journey to engagement. From this, deploy ambient materials that clearly communicate at a glance the brand strategy and required behaviours.

It’s a good idea to embrace both structured and organic development, and get employees to collaboratively build the internal change through their own creativity, knowledge sharing and learning. A final note on successful deployment of internal brand activation is around leading by example and getting endorsement from the top of the organisation down. Unfortunately communications that come directly from the marketing department can get overlooked or even sent to the delete folder. Do some research into who best the communication should come from to get the attention of your internal audience.

Stage 3  – The Evidence

Berghind Joseph for the Tate & Lyle values campaign aimed to create a dialogue and level of interaction with the values of the business to maximise employee engagement. Using postcard drop boxes, interactive features on the intranet and by showcasing employees within the organisation who were living the values the campaign was made accessible and relevant.

A spokesperson for Tate & Lyle commented on the programme “This has really helped to cultivate a culture based around our values, and has subsequently improved performance.” This shows that working to motivate through inclusion will always give a more positive end result.

Internal brand activation stage 4 – Reinforce and set guidelines

Encouraging collaboration and inclusion doesn’t mean we’ll lose control of the brand. In fact it is important to shape on-going discussions on the big long idea and to support training on brand guidelines to keep your internal activation programme from derailing. Give your colleagues a guide to communicate the importance of working together to deliver your brand promise aligned to the business strategy and objectives. Encouraging senior managers to have a voice in the business is also a great way to achieve on-going reinforcement. Whatever you do, don’t stop communicating the brand promise and desired behaviours.

Plan for internal communications and activities throughout the year on an on-going basis that will promote the brand promise and keep your internal audience engaged. Just as you would create brand guidelines to guide your external communications and consistent communications aligned to your brand, you should endeavour to do the same for your internal audience.

Stage 4 – The Evidence

Xuber’s “There’s no place like home” campaign, delivered in partnership with Birddog B2B, had three senior staff members host a series of internal launch events to cover the vision of the business, insight into the new brand and an overview of marketing activity that would take place including online/offline advertising, PR, emails, guerrilla marketing and a unique City launch event. Senior staff members also engaged with employees through Twitter which led to a newly established social presence named the ‘Xuberians’ by staff themselves which enabled them to interact with their peers and leaders, giving staff a voice they didn’t have before. The execution of this approach is admirable as getting senior staff to dedicate their time to this sort of activity is no easy task but when it works, it delivers fantastic results.

Unilever’s Twitter avatar Frank Brand acted as a great advocate for reinforcing the brand strategy. By playing the role of a participating colleague who facilitated debate and knowledge sharing, the avatar got into the mind-set of the target audience on a level that enabled them to readily relate to the programme. Very clever. 45% of the respondents to an email sent out to measure the effectiveness of the programme had followed Frank Brand on Twitter, which proved that the character was a powerful component of the campaign.

Slide 26 – Closing statement

Chinest proverb;

“Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”

 

These Precious Illusions

Jade Tambini, 26.03.14

It seemed to make sense to use this first post to give some insight into the title of my blog. I believe that training our minds to think positively, treating others with kindness (always) and making the choice to lead a life of bliss (yes I am finding out that it is a choice) will allow us to become the best version of ourselves. And in the case of this blog, the most creative B2B Marketers.

I don’t believe that a creative mind can flourish to it’s full potential unless it’s also a peaceful mind.

The song “These Precious Illusions” by Alanis Morissette (my hero since the age of 8 when Jagged Little Pill was first released) is all about the conscious decision between living in survival mode, and choosing bliss.

“I’ve spent so long firmly looking outside me
I’ve spent so much time living in survival mode”

These lyrics tell us that we can only make peace with ourselves through the realisation that nothing outside of us in the material world is real, that we create our own reality and that problems only ever exist if we label them that way. My interpretation of survival mode is living in the illusion of the material world and being held back by the shackles of the thoughts we choose to believe about ourselves. It’s only when we challenge these thoughts, correct them with the truth and decide to ‘love what is’ that we can work to create our own bliss.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s book “There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem” says;

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.

Practice thinking peace. Remember, you become what you think about all day long. How often do you clutter your mind with thoughts of non peace? How many times a day do you say out loud how terrible the world is? How violent we have all become? How uncaring we seem to be? How racist we are? How little the government cares about us? All of these thoughts and their expression are indications that you have become trapped in a non peaceful mind and, therefore, a non peaceful world.”

I love that Wayne W. Dyer talks to us about how peace is only ever created within us and how achieving it is essentially a formula; training our minds to let go of how we believe life should be and becoming at ease with what is.

The lyrics of ‘These Precious Illusions’ continue;

“You’ll complete me right?
Then my life can finally begin
I’ll be worthy right?
Only when you realise the gem I am”

People spend their whole lives waiting for others to change for them, love them or enable them to become the person they always dreamed they would be.

And the chorus;

“These precious illusions in my head did not let me down
When I was defenceless
And parting with them is like parting with invisible best friends”

This is about letting go of the illusion and the daydreams that someone is going to turn up and miraculously rescue us. That somehow we’ll become the person we always dreamed we would be through someone else’s acceptance of us . It won’t happen and really, it can’t.

If we focus on gaining the acceptance and approval from others when what we actually need is to have it from ourselves only, how can we move forward? I’m not saying that it’s not important to have wonderful people around us who support us in becoming happy and are there in difficult times but they alone can’t make us happy. That sits with us.

It’s not easy to let these illusions go because the ‘some day’ mentality gives us a huge amount of comfort especially in times when we feel there’s no hope, but equally, can give us lots of disappointment. As Alanis points out it can literally feel like separating from ‘invisible best friends’.

Madonna (another hero of mine) once said;

“I don’t want easy. Easy doesn’t make you grow. Easy doesn’t make you think.”

Ultimately, we have to trust in what will be, accept that it won’t be easy and that there will be bad days. If we want to break free from a life in survival mode into one of bliss then we have to take the leap, challenge our own thoughts about ourselves and part with these precious illusions.

So what has this got to do with B2B marketing? Nothing really. It’s about getting our mindset to a peaceful place so we have room to flourish in our creativity and passions. If our passion happens to be B2B marketing, then it’s win win!

I’ll end on my all time favourite lyric from another Alanis Morissette track ‘You Live, You Learn’ which I think sums this post up really nicely;

“And what it all comes down to, is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine.”