Synergy! “Inside the Disney Marketing Machine”

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WP_20150813_13_35_48_ProDisney Synergy.  Something that is very special to me, in many ways was the magic behind the magic.  Michael Eisner, the champion of Synergy often talked of 1 + 1 = 3.  Some call it cross-promotion, others integration, but Synergy went deeper.  I was fortunate be involved with it from the start and was part of the committee that pre-dated the Synergy Committee that worked on Mickey’s 60th birthday and then continued to be a member of the Synergy Committee until I left the company some twenty years later.  I was in The Disney University in those early days and was responsible for “informing and exciting” employees, and Cast Members, about new company initiatives.  Whether my role was employee focused, or with our heritage through the Disney Legends program, or tying company priorities with our philanthropy and employee volunteering, I was fortunate to have worked with the Synergy greats including Linda Warren, Jody Dreyer, Patrick Alo, Laura Simpson and Lorraine Santoli. 

Lorraine has written a book titled “Inside the Disney Marketing Machine, In the Era of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells.”  This book chronicles the initiatives that propelled Disney to new heights after a “sleepy” time in the company’s history.   The book is divided into two sections.  Marketing Outside of the Company and Marketing Inside of the Company.  Both are equally fascinating and revealing.  Stories include getting “Toy Story” integrated at Walt Disney World, “INSERT NAME, you just won the Super Bowl, what are you going to do next?  I’m going to Disneyland!” and seeing the bottom line results of “the Lion King” which is one of the most successfully Synergy initiatives in the company’s history.

While I was fortunate to be involved, in some way, with many of the initiatives in the book, Lorraine put a shout out in to me with mention of the Employee Forums, the internal version of the shareholders annual meeting, and the year where I had Disney President Frank Wells fly to the stage escorted by Tinker Bell.  My most Synergistic project was The Walt Disney Company’s 75th Anniversary.  As this was an “institutional” anniversary versus a “product” anniversary or birthday, a majority of the elements fell under my prevue.  All held on the Company’s birthday of October 16, 1998, we did a live media satellite tour with Roy E. Disney, Disney Legends Ceremony along with the dedication of Disney Legends Plaza, dedication of the Frank G. Wells Building and a historical lunchtime event on the Studio Lot.  That kicked off a weekend of giving called the Disney VoluntEARS Global Celebration of Children.  At all four Magic Kingdoms at that time (Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo) we held the Small World 5K Ride where employee “VoluntEARS” got pledges and raised money for children in need based on how many times in a row they rode “it’s a small world.”  At other sites, Disney Store locations, offices, television and radio stations employees were out in force with the achieved goal of helping 75,000 children.  Even Michael Eisner and his executive team helped to build a house for Habitat for Humanity that weekend.  All of this celebrating the Disney’s legacy and heart wrapped up in the 75th bow.  Lorraine was an important partner in this global project along with so many others mentioned in her book.

While for me this book is a walk down memory lane, or to use a famous Disney street “Main Street USA,” I think it would be both interesting and helpful to any marketing executive who is working to get various parts of a company, with multiple brands and products, to cohesively work together to fully exploit assets, or a “how to” make 1 + 1 = 3!


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Europe: External and Internal Forces Shaping a New Era for CSR and Corporate Philanthropy

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12191117_941273692588046_5061280076863688737_oThe Conference Board’s Global Social Investing Council, of which I am the program director, held its autumn meeting in London. The meeting’s theme was: “Europe: External and Internal Forces Shaping a New Era.” Our objective was to provide members of the Council the opportunity to benchmark with fellow global companies and learn firsthand some of the critical issues facing Europe and how corporate philanthropy and CSR is responding. Over the three-day meeting, the group heard from European leaders of business, NGOs and governments in an intimate setting with robust discussions.

As part of Europe 2020, The European Union has set five ambitious objectives on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy, to be reached by 2020. Each Member State has adopted its own national targets in each of these areas. Concrete actions at EU and national levels underpin the strategy. Through the Enterprise 2020 initiative, CSR Europe fosters collaboration and innovative practical action to shape the business contribution to the European Union’s Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Youth unemployment is a huge issue and in some countries it’s up to 50%. Skilling young people for jobs is critical. Their brains are wired differently and we need to be prepared. There are opportunities in Europe for companies for skilling. Barclay’s has developed a Life Skills tool: Skills-Aspiration-Awareness. The move away from electrical, plumbing, agricultural skills is a problem. A majority of the GDP flow is still physical products, yet the basic skills needed for manufacturing have gone away. The Syria conflict has triggered the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. The European Union is becoming more directive on issues such as non-financial reporting, transparency., environment, philanthropy and governance. There needs to be a move to ensure that reporting actually represents reality in a company. Volkswagen is a good example as they are excellent at reporting, yet they have the emissions scandal. There is also the continuing issue between the UK and the rest of Europe. Europe looks at things more structurally; the UK tends to look at things based on relationships.

The group toured of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from an environmental and suitability perspective. Olympic Park is at the heart of a new east London – one where diversity and cultural vibrancy meet economic growth and the city’s newest, cleanest and most sustainable communities. North East London, and the surrounding Hackney Wick neighborhood, was an industrial wasteland that has undergone gentrification. A promise was made that the biggest impact from hosting the Olympics in this part of London would be ‘the regeneration of an entire community for the direct benefit for everyone who lives there’. Westfield Stratford City employs over 10,000 people 2,000 of whom were long-term local unemployed who found work through Newham’s Work Place and Westfield’s permanent retail, hospitality and leisure training academy – The Skills Place. The center has signed up to the London Living Wage ensuring that all Westfield staff as well as contractors are paid the London Living Wage allowance.

Dinner was at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. At the restaurant we heard from a restaurant manager plus two of the apprentices. Their mission: “To create one of London’s finest restaurants and, on the other, to use the magic of cooking to give young people who’ve often faced enormous challenges in their lives, the opportunity to unlock their true talent, through great training and mentoring.”

Brixton is a historic neighborhood in the story of diversity and multicultural evolution in London. It was plagued by riots in the 80’s and 90’s. Brixton is in a renaissance, but many parts are still impoverished. Brixton Green is a community benefit society set up by Brixton residents so Brixton people can be at the forefront of the redevelopment of Somerleyton Road. Somerleyton Road sits in one of the most deprived wards in the UK. The aim of local people is for a development that helps connect their town, provides truly affordable homes, jobs, sustainable development and improves quality of life. We spent time meeting the founders and participants of Block Workout, we walked through Brixton Village where many in the group purchased t-shirts made to order from Hustlebucks, a social enterprise. The group enjoyed a wonderful African and Caribbean lunch at Prestige Café and Restaurant. The owner and her son spoke candidly about their struggles and how this business has helped not only their family but the neighborhood’s youth to get out of gangs and off of drugs. Our surprise lunch guest was Tim Kiddell, Private Secretary and Speechwriter to the Prime Minister David Cameron. He talked about the importance of corporate philanthropy and employee volunteering to help places such as Brixton get back on their feet. He also talked about David Cameron’s UK version of the Daily Point of Light Award, a program of Points of Light.


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Unconscious Bias and the Board Room

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The National Association of Corporate Director’s Global Board Leader Summit began with a Diversity Symposium. The afternoon convening brought together a variety of perspectives looking at diversity in the broadest sense from skill sets, experience, background and the more commonly discussed of race and gender.

While all if this is important, there were some startling, and not so startling, discussions around what is called unconscious bias. NACD explains it best: “Did you know that for every woman CEO of an S&P 1500 company there are four S&P 1500 CEOs men named John, Robert, William, or James? Or that under 15 percent of American men are over 6-feet tall, while almost 60 percent of CEOs are taller than 6 feet? No board thinks, “We need a tall man with a certain name at the top of our organization to be successful,” but statistics like these reflect the biases that pervade organizations whether we are aware of them or not. Unconscious biases influence how we make decisions, how we measure our own performance, and how we think and behave both inside and outside of the workplace. These biases can affect everything from product decisions to our interactions with coworkers and can lead to the loss of talented employees and decreased innovation.”

Studies show that most people view that those who have the same accent as them as more intelligent than those who have a different accent. The exception is that people tend to believe those they hear with a British accent as smarter. Bias is a tendency or inclination that results in judgment without question. The question is not if we have biases, the question is which ones do we have? A vast majority of people do not wake up in the morning thinking: How do we minimize the role of woman today? How do we marginalize people of color today? It is how people were unconsciously programed but luckily the problem can be both identified and corrected. Google conducts extensive training to reduce unconscious bias. Data is the central part of Google’s business. “Where might we have unconscious bias in our data? Training has helped to find and correct. The training wasn’t the end, we needed tools to remind us.” My favorite comment was “What do we call biases when we write them down?… qualifications.” How do we start to mitigate unconscious bias? Look at the unique qualities people bring beyond a preconceived list of criteria that tends to perpetuate the same.

Boards need to diversify their membership to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Looking at the “whole person” as a candidate, the forced multiplier of diversity of attributes such as skills, perspective, experience, background, education, upbringing, geography as well as gender, race, sexual orientation and age is critical.

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California’s Inland Empire: Great Needs. Limited Resources. Untapped Potential.

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According to the Funders Alliance, “The Inland Empire is the epicenter of new growth and demographic change in California. With high rates of poverty, and poor education and health outcomes, ensuring its success is critical to the future of the State.” The Inland Empire (IE) comprises two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino. It has 52 cities plus 56 school districts with 850,000 children. By population it is larger than 50% of all U.S. States. It is expected to grow by 1.3 million people by 2020, making it the fastest growing region in California and the fourth in the nation. Yet, with maybe the exception of Palm Springs, there is little recognition of this area outside of southern California. Unlike Detroit, the Inland Empire receives a below average amount of philanthropy, yet on the 2013-2014 Measure of America Index, that rates well-being in health, education and earnings, the IE ranked last amongst the nation’s 25 largest metro areas with ratings below that of Detroit.

In an effort to reverse this trend, Southern California Grantmakers and the Funder’s Alliance of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties held an “Inland Empire 101” session for Los Angeles based funders. The convening was underwritten by Wells Fargo. Gregory Bradbard, President & CEO of the Inland Empire United Way, and the immediate past chair of the Funders Alliance, presented an overview of the two counties and their challenges. Per capita income is $25,000 versus the $31,000 for the State. Unemployment is the highest among all U.S. major metropolitan areas, as is the poverty rate. One in four children live in poverty. Two-thirds of adults are overweight and half of children are overweight. Nonprofits are starved for resources to deal with these challenges. Public charities in the region have a per capita per poor person of $4,055 compared to the State average of $20,095.

While the statistics paint a gloomy picture, there is optimism, hope and plans to make the Inland Empire successful. The Funders Alliance is focusing on capacity building – working with the nonprofit community to strengthen their impact and be able to serve more people. Cities and the counties are bringing together businesses, nonprofits, governments, education, philanthropy and residents to create strategic visions for the future. While these efforts are critical and significant, outside resources will be needed for the Inland Empire to fully achieve its potential.

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Social Enterprises: Built to Succeed, Designed to Help

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The world is rapidly changing. The opportunities and needs are changing. Governments, Businesses and Nonprofits/NGOs have been functioning fairly independently of each other, doing what they have been tasked to do. As society becomes more complex, the challenges are more complex, resulting in the need of new ways of getting things done. Plus, both governments and nonprofits/NGOs are often facing larger caseloads with fewer resources. Businesses are moving towards corporate social responsibility and sustainability models, where value is shared between the financial bottom line, society and the environment. There are partnerships, cross sector collaborations and other forms of the three pillars working together. Many of these partnerships have become very effective in accomplishing the joint goals of the participants. Yet the long term funding viability continues to be a challenge. Social enterprises are not only a way to help generate revenue, but often a better service delivery system.

I was honored to be asked to present the opening keynote address at the 2015 Social Enterprise Conference held in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. The two day convening brought together representatives of social enterprises, impact investing, corporate foundations, incubator agencies, nonprofit/NGOs, students and governments with international speakers from Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Bangkok. The goal of the conference was to share insights on the various aspects and types of social enterprises, showcase examples of successful social enterprises that are growing and replicable, and when applicable, promote the transformation of NGOs into social enterprises.

Quoting Wikipedia, “a social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being – this may include maximizing social impact rather than profits for external shareholders. Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit.” It is the blending of for-profit and non-profit strategies that are proving to not only be an effective way for the organization to achieve its goals and meet its mission, but a sustainable model as well. It really is about breaking down the traditional boundaries between the nonprofit and private sectors and creating hybrid or dual purpose entities. Reflecting this new structure, in some countries, there is a “B Corp,” or Benefit Corporation, legal status. There are variations in models across the social enterprise spectrum, the space between the traditional non-profit and the tradition for-profit enterprises. The sweet spot is in the middle where the best of both are working in an integrated approach resulting in social and financial value creation.

As a fun way to demonstrate various types of social enterprises, I presented Eating with Purpose… around the world. Being a foodie, I have noted the rise of restaurants as social enterprises. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a for-profit restaurant that is one of the finest in London, England. It is located in an underserved community and provides jobs, but more importantly, skill development for neighborhood youth. After a year, the youth go off to work in other restaurants with one of the finest on their CV. Plus, Jamie gives the profits to his foundation. In Bangkok, Thailand, there is Cabbages & Condoms, a fun, yes, family restaurant that promotes understanding and acceptance of family planning while generating a revenue stream for the Population and Community Development Association. In Melbourne, Australia, many of Charcoal Lane’s past and current staff are Aboriginal and have experienced family conflict, mental health, drug and alcohol issues in addition to having lower levels of education. This too is a training ground for the restaurant and hospitality industries. I’ve dined at all three and can confirm that the food is delicious.

Social enterprise start-ups are being funded through impact investing and venture philanthropy. There are incubators and other programs that help social entrepreneurs get started or convert existing businesses or organizations. The methods of income generation range from fee-for-service, products, services, dues and unrelated business activities through restaurants, retail, manufacturing, banking, landscaping, ecotourism and just about anything that can be imagined. Many have become world renowned with recognizable names such as Grameen, Goodwill, Homeboy and Tom’s. The possibilities are endless and the need is great. Social enterprises are quickly becoming one of the most impactful models of social service delivery in the 21st century.

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