Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lessons for Associations From a Peeved Advertising Genius

Nonprofit trade and professional associations have a lot to learn from different sources “outside" of our normal circles.  For example, I recently ran across a fascinating blog post by Alex Bogusky formerly of ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.  In the post Bogusky reprints an article that was written about him, and adds in personal commentary designed to "set the record straight." Set it straight he does.

What is so compelling about Bogusky’s post, (aside from the fact that I am just nerdy enough to consider a marketing guy a rockstar), are the universal lessons that can be drawn from it and applied to nonprofit associations of all sizes and types.

Finding Your Soul.  Apparently the writer decided to kick the article up a notch by using the title, "Alex Bogusky Tells All: He Left the World's Hottest Agency to Find His Soul."  Alex disses the dramatic nature of the title, claiming his "soul" is in the pocket of his favorite jeans and what he is actually doing is "working to get his genuine voice back."  Frankly, I find "getting genuine voice back" far more compelling than "finding your soul."  How many times do we use dramatic headlines in our association publications instead of using language which allows our members to recognize themselves?

Vision is Everything.  The article recounts a story where Alex stood up in the "sleepy Coconut Grove" ad agency and said, "We're going to be the most written-about, talked about agency in the world."  Alex confirms this story as true but instead of pointing to himself as the sole architect of the vision, he stated the following, "The Miami ad scene was small and the statement was beyond audacious.  It turned out to be the most important, single thing we ever did.  Because suddenly the whole agency knew the mission."  Is your association’s vision bold, simple and relatable and can it infuse the organization with passionate commitment at all levels?

Making Things Cool.  Remember the Fast Company article "Can Alex Bogusky Help Microsoft Beat Apple?”  Bogusky claims he didn’t care for that article.  I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because the entire slant was “making Microsoft cool” and marketing genius or not, with all bravado aside, I think Alex is smart enough to know - Microsoft will NEVER be cool.  Crispin cleverly shot across Apple's bow with the "I'm a PC" campaign which was a really, solid and effective strategy, but I don't think they were going for cool with that one.  (If they did, they didn't corner the market on "cool" as evidenced by a side-by-side comparison of Apple's return shots.)  In my opinion, there is no message that can permanently paint over monopolistic, predatory behavior and buggy products with a layer of awesomesauce.  Is your association trying too hard to tap into "coolness" and coming across as posers instead?

Doing Good Things.  Alex relates a story about attending a conference last year where an audience member asked him about the connection between promoting Coke Zero and childhood obesity (artificial sweeteners being products he would personally prefer his children avoid.)  Here is a similar clip where he is being asked about Burger King and healthy food for kids.  You can see that even he isn't sure he believes what he is saying (although I find veggie burgers quite sexy myself). The crisis of conscience that followed sparked some important choices about who and what he represents.  In our zeal to represent our members’ interests and their interests alone are we contributing to a gridlocked system in which we have misplaced the most important concept...."is this really the right thing to do both for our members and for society at large?"

Get it Right. The last lesson for today - if you talk to someone and subsequently "misrepresent" what they say, they have the ability to get online and set the record straight...publicly.  (I'm just hoping to God I haven't misrepresented anything in Bogusky's blog post here in this post - oh the irony.)  Assuming we believe credibility is everything, how can we ensure that as association professionals we listen carefully, represent accurately and check for our own understanding repeatedly?

I hope you read the post itself. I think it is an interesting look at an individual. Is Alex Bogusky a saint? A genius? A narcissist? An idealist? A sociopath? Who knows? Who cares? Really, is any one person all of anything?  Of course not.  But Mr. Bogusky is obviously an interesting human being who has something to say.

At the end of the day, isn't that what we and our associations are here for?

This video clip isn't the best showcase, but the punchline cracked me up....if you can't see it, you can click this link to find it and then get your board bikes with really small wheels.


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