Authenticity: Keeping Your Brand Real

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(Santa Fe, NM) - “Be authentic.” Easier said than done! How do we go about defining authenticity not only for ourselves, but for our businesses? “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” is a quote attached to motivational speaker Jim Rohn. Author David Burkus expands on this thesis in a 2018 Mission.org piece: “Your friends really are your future. And the implication is that you don’t just need to be more deliberate about who you’re spending the most time with. You (should be) examining your entire network and its influence on your life; you need to know where you sit ***inside*** the larger network of your social community.”

Attaching the “your network is your net worth” nugget (thank you, Porter Gale), it’s obvious that it’s entirely up to us, the individual (including those behind brands), to “be deliberate” in our effort to build authentic relationships with trusted partners, aligned with our own personal and/or professional values.

Consistently checking in on these relationships allows us to see if “we’re friends for a time” or if respective parties are truly interested in mutual success - no one has time for lip service, whether that’s by DM, email or face to face. Taking responsibility, our honest assessment and acceptance of where we “sit” in our network of social, virtual and real-life connections creates a healthier environment for decision making, which helps us all progress to being better - and more authentic - people, founders, C-Suite leaders, and brands.

BSPOKE’s Breakout Brand Identity Training, a 3-Hour Work Session, delivers the following:

  • Exploration of established mission, vision and brand values to establish or re-energize unique brand proposition and a tailored path to breakout brand strategy

  • Determination of your brand’s most compelling stories

  • Differentiation within your business sector and beyond.

Review and purchase BSPOKE’s Breakout Brand Identity Training here, with mini-case studies featuring The Santa Fe Opera and The British American Business Council of Northern California. JM

Design credit: Margaret R. Thompson

Opera's 21st Century Game Changers

San Francisco Opera | Photo: BSPOKE

San Francisco Opera | Photo: BSPOKE

(Paris, France) - Opera America’s 2019 conference is ongoing in San Francisco this week. This year’s event did sell out, congratulations to both Opera America and host company San Francisco Opera. Based on Janos Gerber’s San Francisco Classical Voice reporting, the program for this gathering of American opera’s movers and shakers is robust, meaningful and clearly focused on the very survival and success of opera going forward.  

“A persistent issue for Opera America is the ongoing difficulty of opera in America — building budgets, increasing audiences, finding ways to produce new works. ‘At a time when opera is faced with a combination of challenges and exciting opportunities,’ says Opera America President and CEO Marc A. Scorca, ‘field leaders have to draw on innovative ideas from within and outside the performing arts to thrive.’”

Who are opera’s global game changers for the 21st century?

When I happened to catch Metropolitan Opera Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Fast Company, I jumped out of my seat. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, this piece covered all sectors and every kind of professional imaginable. Hugely significant, a major breakthrough and key, breakout recognition. Maestro’s Opera America-esque quote: “We have to undo decades of thinking that this is an art form only for the initiated.” It appears he is doing just that, opening up rehearsals for high school students, working to create more one-to-one mentoring, as well as more accessible satellite venues across New York’s boroughs. Given The Met’s Mecca-like stature in American opera, this is huge.  But the fact that Fast Company recognized an opera conductor in a business piece speaks volumes and poses some critical questions.

LA Opera’s Christopher Koelsch, in a 2014 Barron’s piece on “The Business of Opera,”stated that "running an opera has a lot in common with running a fixed income portfolio." Writer Harold F. Pitcairn II also described the risk management and diversified portfolio-like aspects of building a successful opera company, in both financial and critical terms.  This would appear to be the current approach of San Francisco Opera’s Matthew Shilvock, managing change, some painful, to mitigate the company’s budgetary challenges. However, the company’s establishment of the Department of Diversity, Equity and Community on Monday marks a company and perhaps national opera industry first; I am aware of similar efforts by other companies, but this coupled with an ‘Opera is Alive’ brand campaign across all channels deserve recognition for creating uptake and interest beyond the opera-going public.  

If we look for opera innovation abroad, a few examples come to mind. 

In 2017, French business journal Challenges detailed the announcement of a 10-year co-branding partnership between music tech startup Devialet and Opéra Nationale de Paris, including the arrival of a Devialet retail boutique and "sound experience" inside the company's opulent Garnier house.In BloombergJean-Philippe Thiellay, General Director Designate, indicated that it was an ideal and novel way for Opéra de Paris to "to reinvent itself and open up to a changing world," and that the company is "convinced (that) behind each opera aficionado there is a geek...we’re seeking more tech partnerships.” To that, Devialet CEO Quentin Sannié took a risk and may ultimately win big. From Fortune Magazine: "The idea of setting up shop in the Opéra, a very traditional, nearly 350-year-old institution, wasn’t even conceivable. But we’re driven by the impossible, so we pitched them the idea. Charles Garnier was a maverick, a relatively unknown architect who created one of the most extravagant and innovative monuments of the 19th century—we could relate to his ambition.”  Clearly, the audacity and innovation of this French-grown startup appears to be meeting the needs of a distinguished legacy brand. But most importantly, Opéra de Paris is introducing, elevating, and, in effect, distributing new technology, storytelling and real-world, site-specific brand experience to a targeted, discerning audience (units are built to broadcast live Opéra de Paris performances). Opera is a real-time experience and ephemeral. Via Devialet’s technology, Opéra de Paris becomes a tangible, luxury product. 

It’s an acknowledgement that what worked in the 19th century doesn’t work in the 21st century.

Opera Australia’s Lyndon Terracini spearheaded the introduction of twelve,7-foot tall LED screens “which fly in and out, spin around, and move about the stage in unexpected ways. They hold custom-made animations and larger-than-life film content.” Per Terracini, they are integral to a “plan to ensure the company and art form’s survival into the future. It’s not an easy task, when opera companies all around the world are seeing audiences dwindling as costs rise.” Increasing the company’s sales income from $36 million in 2010 to $67 million in 2018, Terracini has accomplished this through staging more popular works, employing some high profile international singers, performing more musical theatre, and launching the hugely successful Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour program. Per Time Out Sydney, “the company’s ‘digital productions’ are the next stage in evolving the company but it’s something that Terracini has had in mind for a decade.” Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this piece as follows: “But it’s more than a purely financial move. It’s an acknowledgement that ‘what worked in the 19th century doesn’t work in the 21st century,’ Terracini says. Opera used to be a genuinely popular and democratic art form and attracted massive audiences with innovative and spectacular staging. But Terracini says that innovation stagnated, and that for many contemporary audiences seeing an old-fashioned opera set became quaint and a little like ‘visiting an antiques store’. He says the art form became ‘arrogant’, and couldn’t keep up with the advancements in film in the 20th century. Now opera is looking to film for a little bit of help, although the way it’s using that technology is entirely different.”  San Francisco Opera’s upcoming staging of 2018's Grammy-winning “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” - a San Francisco, Santa Fe and Seattle Opera companies co-production – almost certainly supports Mr. Terracini’s thesis, using digital screens throughout to stunning effect. 

The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed recently explored the phenomena of American opera innovators going to Europe to fulfill artistic mission and vision due to industry limitations and financial risk deemed too risky for most US-based companies, citing The Industry’s Yuval Sharon and his work abroad. Swed does an excellent job of taking the pulse of European opera while also examining our own domestic, financial considerations, as well as opportunities taken, lost and almost won. His perfect call to action: "It’s an old story that you have to make it first somewhere else before you can be taken seriously at home. But at the moment, we have a plethora of prodigal sons and daughters we foolishly ignore, thinking we either can’t afford them or aren’t ready for them, when it is just the opposite." So, why can’t we afford them and why aren’t we “ready”?  Lack of US government or other funding aside, opera innovation is already everyday business for small, startup-like companies like San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle, but the opportunity to significantly disrupt, reorient and reset the greater art form is waiting for bold teams with international reach - and muscular scale - to create and sustain tangible change for sustained business wins. 

In my opinion, that team is already in place at The Santa Fe Opera, the company perfectly positioned as Global Game Changer and Opera Innovation Leader. Led by General Director Robert K. Meya, with Artistic Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Harry Bicket, I remain convinced that this C-suite executive team will continue to enlarge the brand's global reputation, bold artistic footprint and business success. The 2018 season alone speaks volumes – Google these hash tags #sfoAlcina #sfoCandide #sfoRSJ #sfoAtomic; all clearly support my assertion, while Mark Swed's 2018 Los Angeles Times review of 'Doctor Atomic' absolutely reinforces. The Santa Fe Opera is our necessary and long-established operatic laboratory-as-factory, working at the vanguard of artistic excellence with bottom line, box office success. The company also acts as its own opera incubator, through its one-of-a-kind Opera For All Voices consortium developing new works. Add the company’s Key Change podcast, as well, which has quietly made the company a global opera thought leader. Returning to Mr. Meya, he is already Santa Fe’s somewhat unsung hero, spearheading SFO’s wildly successful $45 million capital building campaign. Like the Fast Company recognition mentioned in this story, I see an array of powerful, breakout avenues for Mr. Meya, ensuring that The Santa Fe Opera becomes increasingly top-of-mind recognized by business leaders and the general public under his leadership.  

Much continued success to all #OperaConf participants!

JM

Originally published via LinkedIn on June 14, 2019.

#bspokeofficehours with Jason Chatfield, New Yorker and MAD Magazine Cartoonist

Cartoonist Jason Chatfield on #bspokeofficehours via Instagram Live | June 5, 2019

Cartoonist Jason Chatfield on #bspokeofficehours via Instagram Live | June 5, 2019

(San Francisco, CA) -My first introduction to cartoonist Jason Chatfield happened on Instagram, but I can’t exactly recall how it played out. My best guess was that I caught one of his The New Yorker cartoons, which humorously spoke to the AvGeek and Twitter lover I am. As #bspokeofficehours has progressed over the last year, Jason’s been been on my wish list for a while. Fortunately, he was game when I finally got around to pitching him the idea. Our Wednesday, June 5th chat was awesome, but you’re never going to see any of that video. Sadly, IGLive didn’t save to my phone and I forgot to tape my screen. So, while in the process of getting over it, I decided a blog would be the best solution, hopefully capturing some of the fun and flavor of Jason’s brand story. 

Originally from Perth, Australia, Jason thought he’d become a local editorial cartoonist. Soon realizing that upward movement wasn’t going to happen ("no one was leaving"), Jason progressed through a series of important meetings and connections with mentors who recognized his talent. In 2007, he was chosen by famed but ailing Australian cartoonist James Kemsley to take over the Ginger Meggs strip, which Jason still care takes and grows with a team dedicated to keeping this iconic Australian character in print. 

At #bspokeofficehours, we use bulletpoints to guide ours live chats. For Jason, I’d asked the following: 

“Describe brand Jason. What is most important to you as a cartoonist? As a comedian? What’s your elevator pitch? How do you differentiate in the local, regional, national and global marketplace?”

In short, Jason’s career path has been just a wee bit spectacular. Overall, he seems to have been an incredibly persistent creative, continually honing his craft while never, seemingly, giving up. Maintaining his Ginger Meggs work while continually pitching both The New Yorker and MAD Magazine over the course of more than a few years eventually paid off; Jason says it took 3-4 years of consistently pitching to The New Yorker before he broke through. On the MAD Magazine side, he consistently pitched the publication while it was based in New York City, and eventually got on board after the publication had re-established itself in California. It was of course “a different era,” than the magazine he’d grown up reading, but still considers it an “epic honor” to contribute there. Fun fact: long before he’d started submitting things to MAD, staff cartoonists had suggested he do just that. However, Jason didn’t think they were up to snuff. Jason does “regret it a bit,” but nothing like hindsight to rethink past actions (hello, everyone).

Sidebar: Jason's reflection reminded me that I'm often my own, worse critic. Of late, my new mantra has been of the ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ variety - 'be bold, be strong, be brave.'

It’s been five years since Jason relocated to New York with his wife Millie, an artist herself. And so began his always busy NYC cartoonist by day, NYC standup comedian-by-night professional life. Be sure to add his recent election as President of The National Cartoonist Society to the mix, too.  Regarding standup, Jason explored being on the road, but decided he “just wasn’t built for it” given his daytime cartoonist pursuits. As a result, he focuses on NYC gigs, but does go on the road from time to time, as he did recently in Southern California for NCS Fest, where cartoonists and comedians came together, sketching each other in real time on electronic sketch pads for the audience while others performed and vice versa i.e. “the biggest comic arts festival in the USA.” 

Jason makes this brand guy laugh primarily through his Insta Stories, i.e. his laughing at the world perspective as running Jason Brand Story. Also, pasting his contorted, laughing face to New York City and London landmarks works wonders on anyone's bad mood.  Case in point: that time his Australian comedian buddy Scott Dooley convinced Jason to dine at Outback Steakhouse. Full disclosure: my parents sometimes take me there, they live in a small non-coastal American town, so not that unusual. But as Jason and I know, Outback is anything but Australian. This American, who lived in Oz for a few years and considers it his spiritual home, is of course offended. However, Jason is far, far beyond that level of “no.” The section of our IGLIVE video that I loved most was this one, listening to Jason describe the experience. It’s incredibly sad that I’m not able share it with all of you (laughing as I type this). Exceptionally funny moments. And no, people. Bloomin’. Onions. Are. Not. Australian.

Back to Jason’s buddy Scott Dooley. A former Sydney radio announcer, he’s now a New York City-based comedian, too. However, the guys didn’t meet until they were both in New York City at the same time, even though they did have many of the same colleagues. Scott and Jason brainstorm regularly, trying out new material on each other for standup, as well as ideas for Jason’s new cartoons. If Scott’s ideas pop, they'll do things like go to Outback (which he apparently loves?!), but if Jason’s idea gets traction, he’s inoculated against Outback (for that moment anyway). Why am I telling you this? Because these ideation sessions became the basis for the duo’s podcast - Is There Something In This?'. Dooley first suggested the podcast, which consists of storytelling, bouncing ideas off one another, testing things, improving them, destroying them and ultimately lots of laughs. Definitely NSFW so perhaps wear headphones. Try "Can Mice Swim?" for your first listen, you’ll thank me later, especially if you live in New York City. 

Back in Australia, there was apparently only one agency to be with and if not with them, career prospects were practically nil. Today, Jason works with a manager and an agent to book his comedy gigs, as well as send him out for voice and acting auditions. As Jason put it, “they know what they know,” so he’s very happy to work with both.

A cool discovery made during my research on all things Jason was his website, I recommend a visit.  In its own Jason Chatfield way – is that branding? -  it’s perfect. Here you’ll find various rabbit holes of funny, work product, his pod, his store and overall Jason Brand Experience. One section jumps into Jason’s considerable portfolio of advertising work, covering a wealth of brands (and respective visual identity) from both commercial and pharmaceutical clients i.e. brand geek heaven.

It was great to hear that Jason is the manager of his website and all things digital. He works on it “constantly,” keeping the vertical scroll fresh, responsive and awesome on mobile. Right now, his focus is on building out the aforementioned store (where I purchased the illustration mentioned at the beginning of this blog, so have a look). 

I’d asked Jason to share a call to action for our close, but cannot for the life of me recall what was said other than thanks it was fun and so forth – oops. So, please do me a favor and find out where Jason is performing, follow him on Instagram, explore his website, listen to his pod and shop his store - it takes a village of IRL action and original content to build a cartoonist, writer and comedy brand, give Jason a look and your support. JM  

Originally published via LinkedIn on June 11, 2019.

Mylène Farmer: Beloved Luxury Brand

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(San Francisco, CA) – Unlike other pop royalty with single-name recognition, Mylène never needs to worry about overexposure. When she re-emerges from her space-time portal - as she does in Paris tonight, six years after her last blockbuster European tour and four years since her last album - it’s an international happening, major cultural moment and another gorgeously designed chapter in the enduring brand story of France’s most celebrated pop star.

Désobéissance, her eleventh studio album, was released in September 2018 and certified Platinum two times over by December. According to Idolator and Le Point, it’s one of her best-reviewed albums to date. Her sold-out, 9-date residency at Paris’ La Defense Stadium, where she will perform in front of 235K+ people, is almost upon us. But when it’s all over, Mylène will once again disappear into the ether. There will not be an Instagram update on future plans, selfies, fashion looks or chats about where she’s jetting (Farmer has no social media presence). Full transparency has never been Mylene’s thing, and her global fan base loves her for it. 

Brand Identity + Brand Storytelling

Mylène Farmer has been a star for 35 years, yet she very clearly chooses to remain an enigma to both her fans and the world. Laurent Boutonnat, the famed French composer and Farmer’s songwriting partner, has been her primary collaborator for most of this time. Their adoption of almost total radio silence between albums, tours and collaborative periods is foundational to Brand Mylène - the suggestion that she materializes through a portal and then disappears into the ether isn’t far fetched either, simply watch the opening and closingof Timeless 2013. In short, Farmer chooses to exist and emotionally connect with fans almost exclusively from the concert stage. Fan fiction and websites lauding and/or analyzing every detail of her work and life abound because relatively few details of her life are in the public sphere.   

Like Greta Garbo, Farmer’s regular retreats from public life make her periodic re-emergence a cultural event for the French-speaking public, media and a die-hard fan base. If so little is known about her life, how does Mylène Inc. thrive and grow? Through her and Boutonnot’s music and lyrics, which often feel like art-song-poems-as-secret language only a fan (thinks he or she) understands, Farmer lends her one of a kind voice, which someone once described to me as a “beautiful and breathy flute,” although her lower register often surprises and delights, as well. Farmer’s various eras, as well as the iconic concepts and stories attached to her albums and videos are the foundation upon which everything is built. But it’s more than having a unique sound, vocal style or an iconic video

Emotional connection is the glue that bonds Farmer to her audiences. It’s not unusual for her to break down in tears while performing one of her many hit ballads, allowing audiences to sing lyrics back to her, thanking them for their care and love. Having experienced these quasi operatic moments first-hand, they feel powerfully intimate, even in a stadium full of thousands (who are of course crying with you). It’s safe to say that it’s here, in these hallmark interludes, where fans reaffirm and recommit emotional investment and connection with their chosen diva, perhaps inspiring them to tell and retell their own versions of the Mylène Farmer brand story.  In her 1991 hit Désenchantée, Farmer sings:

“Je cherche une âme qui pourra m’aider, je suis d’une generation désenchantée (I’m looking for a soul who could help me, I’m from a disenchanted generation).”

 The call to action couldn’t be any clearer.

 Brand Loyalty + Brand Experience

After decades of building a positive, almost cult-like emotional core with her fans, especially in the LGBTQ community, it’s not surprising that a fiercely loyal, long-term fan base thrives. There are certainly other performers of Farmer’s stature and beyond who have similar relationships with fans, but this regular concertgoer and pop music love has never been more constant lump in throat moved to tears than during a Mylène Farmer performance, whether on video or while watching her live. In an overcrowded 2019 pop music landscape that seems youth-focused, competitive and homogenous in the extreme, my 28 years of fandom for a woman in her 50s who wears her heart on her sleeve while singing moody, sad and joyful songs in French could be called niche, hence my next point.  

Given the momentous feeling surrounding each new tour, including tonight’s opening in Paris, I posit that the Mylène Farmer experience is a luxury brand experience. It’s certainly expensive, not unusual for today’s large-scale, mega concerts, but the value of that experience is so highly prized, unique and forever cherished among fans that it’s akin to a bespoke luxury good as unique, one-to-one personal connection. Add FOMO to that, which is always present since we never really know when (or if) Farmer will return to the stage. A 2018 Forbes piece defines luxury experience as “a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something” in the luxury sector. Also, that “part of the luxury calculation is exclusivity or scarcity.” Given costs, value, supply and demand, there are only 235,000 opportunities for what feels like a personalized luxury experience, and then it’s gone forever. Case in point: the majority of Farmer’s Désobéissance shows sold out within 72 hours. Demand reconfirmed. And tonight, our Libertine sings again. Bravissima. 

#MylèneFarmer2019 

In concert at Paris La Défense Arena 07JUN, 08JUN, 11JUN, 12JUN, 14JUN, 15JUN, 18JUN, 19JUN & 22JUN. Visit Ticketmaster France and StubHub for remaining tickets. 

Originally published via LinkedIn on June 7, 2019


European Pitch Night Shines Bright in San Francisco

Opening remarks for SACCSFSV & EuroCham's European Pitch Night at DocuSign San Francisco | April 10, 2019 | Photo: JBM

Opening remarks for SACCSFSV & EuroCham's European Pitch Night at DocuSign San Francisco | April 10, 2019 | Photo: JBM

(San Francisco, CA) - BSPOKE attended this week's, second-ever European Pitch Night, again hosted by DocuSign San Francisco, spearheaded by The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce San Francisco and Silicon Valley for EuroCham, the Bay Area's consortium of European chambers. 

First up was Nom Nom Now's Chief Revenue Officer Benoit VialleThe French American Chamber of Commerce San Francisco's nominated startup, Benoit said his company name once but no discernible branding or logo on his pitchdeck. However, "responsible food for pet parents" i.e. pet food tailored for a given pet's micro biome, recalled BSPOKE's prior work with UCSF, a common thread across several projects. Pleasure to meet Benoit, hope to create connection for him, Nom Nom Now and UCSF contacts. 

The next startup represented the California Spain ChamberPropCrowd succinctly presented their global real estate investment platform. From their website: “PropCrowd is the collective real estate investment platform that allows you to invest in a simple, safe and diversified way from only €100." The company has 106 investors since being founded six months ago, and has sold 2 properties with a 15% return. Centered on Spain and the USA, PropCrowd was originally founded in Dubai. As expected, a question regarding a possible global recession resulted in a great response from CEO/co-founder Miguel Manzanas: the company is currently developing a secondary market operation for their tech so as to provide investor exit if requested or required.

Tooso, our evening's third presenter, represented for BAIA The Business Association Italy America. From their website: "Tooso provides AI to transform eCommerce search into a personalized and interactive experience." CEO Ciro Greco went through many examples and deep explainer pieces, but it was difficult to catch a sound byte and slides went by quickly; the time limit worked against Greco, good stuff that required more than 5 minutes, or perhaps a truncated preso. Audience questions resulted in Greco's clear-throated assertion that their AI would automatically improve questioner's UX. Currently, Tooso has six live customers. Responding to a go to market question, the company has thus far been successful through referrals within their given verticals. Also, after real-time app voting, they were the evening's winner! BRAVI.

The evening's "deep AI" was presented by Rulai. Lyft is one of their chatbot clients. Sponsored by BelCham USA, Rulai founder Marc Vanlerberghe was an excellent presenter, but his preso was too busy, so it was easier (and more entertaining) just to watch him. Marc was cowbell'ed for going over his five minutes, but most of us seemed very willing to listen. One audience member asked what would happen if a human started arguing with a customer service chatbot. Apparently, said bots disclose that they are bots and voice analysis abilities allow them to escalate to human beings, or as requested. One interesting factoid: when bots announce what they are, humans often utilize simpler language and adjust expectations in order to meet their goals through bots. Rulai's current verticals: life sciences, financial services and hospitality.

Kudos to DocuSign and The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, an excellent and worthwhile event. JM

Originally published via Instagram on April 11, 2019.



Airline Customer Service is Airline Brand Experience

Lufthansa's A380 arrives at SFO | Via FlySFO.com | https://www.flysfo.com/newsletter/sfo-community-newsletter-summer-2011

Lufthansa's A380 arrives at SFO | Via FlySFO.com | https://www.flysfo.com/newsletter/sfo-community-newsletter-summer-2011

(San Francisco, CA) - My first experience with airline social media was with British Airways in 2009. This airline had successfully built responsive, conversational Twitter presence that also dealt, to the best of its 2009 ability, with real-time, on the ground customer queries, questions and complaints. Given that I was working for the company, I was glad to see the social marketing arm of the business striving to help our passengers around the world in "the British Airways way" - customer service with a focus on positive British Airways brand values and ethos, its historic, legacy carrier status, and the airline's unique, one of a kind service on the ground and in the air.

My airline days are behind me, but that experience's most valuable take away is the power of teamwork. That "it's not my job" isn't an acceptable response to the greater, immediate and real-time needs of a team. At British Airways, our job was to receive two (2) 747s of our passengers and their baggage in an efficient manner, with a high level of service, as well as receive new passengers and their baggage for two (2) on-time departures from San Francisco to London, while concurrently doing everything required to make these events happen on a daily basis across every cabin of service.

I recently found out about a less than ideal flight arrival experience via friend and colleague David Landis, CEO of San Francisco's Landis Communications, Inc. Having just arrived from Munich, Germany on Lufthansa, David and his fellow passengers waited in baggage claim for over an hour before their bags arrived - somewhat ridiculous after an 11 hour flight. David flew business class, but even if that's not the case, no one should ever wait that long for their bags without an explanation.

David took to Twitter, inquiring with SFO directly. Why did this happen? This tweet resulted in a San Francisco International Airport Guest Services' phone referral to a Lufthansa employee. David left a message for this Lufthansa employee, but he never heard back from her. Via direct message exchange, David stated the following to me: "I find it incomprehensible that an airline of the stature of Lufthansa wouldn't care about improving their luggage delivery times. It honestly makes me not want to fly them ever again and you can quote me. I don't really want anything out of this other than an acknowledgement and an apology. But I would like them to guarantee that they're going to look into it and try to improve the customer service moving forward. Otherwise, why should we fly with them?"

As "JamesJetsOften" on Twitter and a confirmed #avgeek, I thought I might be able to connect David since Lufthansa USA and I have followed each other for years. Off to direct messaging I went:

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I was hopeful that this would be a direct route to success - pun intended; that Lufthansa's social media arm would alert its San Francisco International Airport team and/or the cited Director of Operations and Airport Services. Unfortunately, none of that happened.

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Sam's response was appreciated, but it took my breath away. Why "as social media" do Lufthansa's Sam and his colleagues not "have the possibility to influence" David's situation? Why isn't Sam empowered to send an email to Lufthansa's San Francisco station? Why can't my social media engagement with Sam be followed by real-world engagement between his airline and David, with possible, positive results for all? Undeterred, I immediately jumped on LinkedIn, messaging Lufthansa's SFO Director. To date, I haven't received a response from him or anyone at Lufthansa, but most critically, neither has David.

Clearly, the ball is in Lufthansa's court i.e. the opportunity to engage David in an authentic and meaningful way. However, has the 'use by' date on this situation already come and gone? How many of David's international travel dollars were lost and will be lost if the clock's run out or if Lufthansa service recovery never happens? How many of those dollars could've been / may still be saved if Lufthansa reaches out to David? Now that this blog and an associated #bspokeofficehours video are live, I'm hopeful that Lufthansa will take action, implement service recovery, restore its reputation and perhaps win back David's business.

JM

Originally published via LinkedIn on January 15, 2019.




European Startups Shine at DocuSign San Francisco

Swedish American Chamber of Commerce SF/SV CEO Catrin Anckarman's opening remarks | Photo: BSPOKE Brand Consultancy

Swedish American Chamber of Commerce SF/SV CEO Catrin Anckarman's opening remarks | Photo: BSPOKE Brand Consultancy

(San Francisco, CA) - Hosted by presenting sponsor DocuSign, BSPOKE attended the annual "European Pitch Night" at DocuSign's San Francisco offices on September 20th. Co-sponsored by BABCSF, the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce SF/SV, the French American Chamber of Commerce SFBelCham, the German American Business Association of Northern California, the German American Chamber of Commerce, the California Spain Chamber of Commerce and Danish American Chamber of Commerce, attendees were promised "five of Europe's most interesting startups," each showcasing its take on "European innovation" with a five-minute pitch, followed by three minutes of Q&A / audience feedback. All told, a fast-moving and worthwhile evening in SOMA.

The evening's pitches in order of appearance:

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Story Chief (Belgium): "Content Marketing Software for Startups, SEO Marketers and Editorial teams who want to increase their reach."

Pitch: Introduced by co-founder Valeri Potchekailov. Content marketing creation and publishing tool, facilitating publishing across multiple channels with one click, including content hubs, social media and more. Additional selling points include analytics, CRM connection, the ability to directly launch a blog. Available for free and from 25 Euros/month per team.

Feedback: Had a quick chat with Valeri, who was keen to make connections in San Francisco and Silicon Valley with principles in the content space. When asked if this was like Hootsuite for content, he nodded in agreement and expanded on that, reintroducing the various time-saving benefits of Story Chief. A virtual assistant engages website users, so if you're looking to up your content game, definitely have a look. Also, BelCham noted some great, new funding news for Story Chief. Congrats!

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Ubimax (Germany): "Ubimax..is the global market leader for Enterprise Wearable Computing and Augmented Reality Solutions."

Pitch: Introduced by Americas President Percy Stocker. Mr. Stocker utilized video to demo his case for Ubimax AR in factory, warehouse and logistics-related business settings. Simplicity, cost-savings and time efficiency were repeatedly cited.

Feedback: Ubimax's tagline of "we help frontline workers focus on what they are really good at: real-world physical tasks, not complex and time-consuming computer prompts" positively reinforced with an especially effective video showcasing Ubimax AR in a warehouse operation. Although I couldn't locate that video on the company website, this one is excellent. Ubimax is already working with over 200 global brands.

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Atlas Go (France): "A Global Community of Sweaty Changemakers. We've developed a community where engaged runners, non-profits and corporations join forces to create positive awareness around social & environmental issues and to accelerate impactful change.”

Pitch: Chief Partnership Officer and Co-Founder Magali Mathieu detailed how Atlas Go augments existing enterprise CSR through employees who, literally, sweat their donations to a given cause. The first "feel good" preso of the evening, Atlas Go offers users a meaningful gamification of org-driven fitness challenges. A certified B-Corp, learn more about Altas Go's impact model and pledge here.

Feedback: Ms. Mathieu's presentation effectively drew dotted as well as solid lines between existing organizational CSR and Atlas Go's unique brand proposition. Via the website, Atlas Go allows "anyone to walk, run or bike for a non-profit partner in the name of your company," thereby appealing to businesses of all sizes while simultaneously "creating brand ambassadors making a tangible social impact." This aspect of Atlas Go's brand proposition is attractive. Perhaps consider sharing Atlas Go with your respective chain of command.

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ReGen Villages (The Netherlands): "Tech-Integrated and Regenerative Residential Real Estate Development."

Pitch: ReGen Villages founder James Ehrlich successfully delivered the exciting potential and real-world urgency of his tech-plus-architecture startup. Mr. Ehrlich also detailed the launch of ReGen Village's first project in The Netherlands, funded by a public/private investment by global brands and sovereign wealth. The current development in Almere, Netherlands is set to break ground in Q4 2018, with homes set to be constructed in Q2 2019. A brief exploration of AI + IoT connectivity of future European ReGen Village developments was shared.

Feedback: Hyper-compelling preso with real-world relevance and a palpable sense of urgency, all set against the background of global warming, water / food scarcity, and major increases in global population. As mentioned during his presentation, Mr. Ehrlich is a Senior Technologist at Stanford University, a Senior Fellow at Opus Novum consortium at NASA Ames and an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab; the ReGen Villages brand proposition is powerful.

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Allure Systems (France): "Allure Systems combines proprietary hardware, advanced virtualization and computer vision technologies to create stunning on-figure garment images for clothing retailers. Any of your models can wear any of your clothes – but no longer need to be present at photo shoots."

Pitch: Gabrielle Chou deftly explained Allure Systems' patented technology, which uses AR to overlay retail fashion onto virtualized models of all sizes, shapes, ages. Customers literally have the ability to “see themselves” versus seeing clothing on high fashion models. Chou indicated that Allure Systems has the ability to trim retailer model costs by up to 70% - key. Current US customers include Walmart & mid-tier door Dillard’s. Ms. Chou described the Allure Systems shopping, brand experience and UX, also detailing where its patented and proprietary tech is moving for individual consumers and Allure Systems customers.

Feedback: All five presenters did an excellent job, but in terms of the actual preso, use of video, size of graphics and text, compelling imagery, use of white space, timing and integration with the speaker, Ms. Chou's delivery of the Allure Systems preso was utterly re-watchable, enjoyable and educational. Having personally worked in the fashion industry, this preso spoke to the choir as well as the uninitiated. Bravo.

Once all pitches were made, a Crowdpurr audience poll consisting of five questions was taken to determine the evening's winner. Due to its highly credible founder and mission for human and global good, ReGen Villages took the evening's virtual top prize, but all of the evening's pitches, products, brands, and ideas were worthwhile and worth our respective and shared time together. Bravi Tutti, see you at European Pitch Night 2019.

JM

Originally published via LinkedIn on September 27, 2018.