Frank Luntz, author of "What Americans Really Want…Really," which made the New York Times Best Seller list in its first week, told the Arthur W. Page Society annual conference that Americans are turned off by "bigness" per se and want accountability, integrity and principles from companies.
Such words as the “bottom line” and “profit” are out and in are words that put the customer first such as “commitment,” he said at the Page conference, Sept. 26-28. Company statements that capture this spirit and whose employees carry it out will do better in the marketplace, he added.
Luntz, a native of West Hartford who has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and George Washington Univ. and who analyzes politics for Fox News, said he admires the company statements of Wal-Mart and Microsoft because they focus on customers and innovation.
He had special praise for companies that highlight the role of the “chief ethics officer.”
Luntz, who has written and helped conduct more than 2,000 surveys of various types in more than two dozen countries, said candidates who pitched economic freedom rather than capitalism did best in the recent elections. Winners, he said, emphasized their independence and their desire to have Washington face reality.
“Smart ads” were a key factor in the successful campaigns of Bob McDonnell, who became governor of Virginia, Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, and Scott Brown, upset winner of a Senate seat in Massachusetts, he said. With ads, he said, the first sentence is supremely important if the advertiser expects any further reading.
Attending the conference at Palos Verdes outside of Los Angeles were 150 Page members.
Ehrlich Describes Facebook
Jonathan Ehrlich, director of marketing at Facebook, said services like Facebook are connecting people in ways that they never imagined before. He feels social media are not something that can be handled by a supplier but require plenty of time by people within an organization.
Companies have to monitor how their brands are being treated in social media where independent thought is the norm, he said.
Ehrlich said organizations have to keep up with the blinding speed of information dissemination in social media. He urged brevity and relevance in providing input, saying the new generation scans rather than reads materials and likes lots of graphics. Photos as well as unique content bring engagement, he said. Readers want something “special.” "How-to" advice is also popular, he added.
Employees First at Southwest Airlines
David Ridley, SVP of marketing and revenue management at Southwest Airlines, said employees come first at the company and that the best way to have happy employees is to hire people who are already happy.
His view is that employees are No. 1 and customers are No. 2. The employees take care of the customers and the customers take care of stockholders.
Southwest has Ginger Hardage as SVP, culture and communications but Ridley said such duties are spread throughout the entire leadership and particularly with the CEO.
The company culture tries to keep politics and confusion about what’s important to a minimum, he said.
George Aguel, SVP, Disney Institute, said Disney focuses on the “Millennial” generation which is sometimes referred to as the “Ninja” generation (no income and no jobs available).
He said members of the new generation like living close to home and are family-oriented. They think carefully before going with a company, he added.
Jack Bergen, former head of communications at Alcoa and now VP of global human resources, said he has developed a new appreciation for the importance of employee communications. A definite plus, he said, is if a company can make Fortune magazine’s list of the “Most Admired Companies.”
Communications and corporate reputation also play roles in labor relations and compensation, he added.