Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Meeting people where they are ... The simple vision of creative leaders.

Zapping through the airplane media system on my last trip back from Asia, I stumbled across an episode of "Iconoclasts", an inspiring Sundance Channel/Grey Goose Entertainment production that filled in heart and mind the last few hours of my flight.

The show pairs people of different creative realms sharing a day in each other's lives, with minimal production in an intimate setting. The episode I watched featured Christy Turlington Burns and Tory Burch as the face-to-face "iconoclasts". In a straightforward conversation between two articulate, intelligent and beautiful women discussing the ideals that have driven their successful careers it became apparent to me that the simplest measure of a creative leader is the fact that they live extraordinary lives by instinct.

The title of this post paraphrases Christy Turlintgton (she says that Tory Burch's success derives from "meeting women where they are"). I found these words to define the essence of a true philosophy for life and work - I paused the video and listened again and again …

There are so many zingers thrown around these days to explain what companies need to do to attract clients and gain market share. From re-naming consumers "product guests" to the ubiquitous labeling of every product as an  "experience", consumer driven companies seem to be all too often more focused in achieving an intellectual differentiation from their competitors than in just addressing their market with the honesty that most people want.

My daily exposure to the hospitality & leisure world provides me with plenty of examples of brand gimmickry. It can be the over-use of adjectives like ultra-luxurious (FYI to all hoteliers: just plain, simple and real luxury is fine when delivered genuinely!), or brands so scientifically tailored to a particular sub-demographic that by the time they come to market that niche has morphed into another and the brand runs on empty, or even tag lines that can be exceptionally good examples of language flexing but fall short of expanding the expectations of those for whom they are suited - a particular favorite of mine is Las Vegas Cosmopolitan's great tag line "just the right amount of wrong".

A poster advertising the Las Vegas Cosmopolitan Hotel

And that is why the simplicity of "meeting people where they are" resonated so much with me. It is a worthy motto, and a philosophy of living that I feel inspired to pursue.

Opposite Ms. Turlington Burns’s more reflective view was Tory Burch's pragmatic but sensitive approach. I have always liked the style she has fashioned - it is elegant, it is current and it is genuine. I think she has harnessed the best qualities of creative fashion with the reality of modern women's lives. And I also like the design of her shops - they always seem to stand out in a row of storefronts. There is the lacquered orange for which I also share a passion and the tasteful mixture of furnishings that make them so inviting. So it didn't surprise me when she said that the design was based on the idea of creating "a shop where people would want to come to and spend time in". What better way to sell products than to make your clients feel like welcome guests and let them naturally belong in the place where they are shopping! However conscious, this effort is coherent with the brand and clearly a determining element of her success.

So: "meeting people where they are" and "making people feel like they want to spend time where your products are". Two pretenseless, powerful and appealing ideas that can definitely improve our life and our businesses.
They also prove that more than relying on ad campaigns, if you know what you are doing success will eventually follow.

(The "Iconoclasts" series is available on Amazon.com - you can find it on My Recommended Amazon products on the side banner of this blog).

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