Mark Miller, Lucas Conley: “Legacy In The Making: Building a Long-Term […]” | Talks at Google


[MUSIC PLAYING] LUCAS CONLEY: Mark and I
started researching Legacy back in 2012. And part of the reason
we did is that we saw a lot of brands
and headlines, like you do see today, that
were going out of business. Brands that had been
around for a long time. Just this past few
months, we’ve seen Toys “R” Us, Gibson guitars. Today, Orchard Supply Hardware. Blockbuster actually had a
couple of stores in Alaska still open that nobody knew
about that just closed. And the question arose, what is
it about the current context, the current market that
these longstanding brands that we thought would always
be around are no longer here? And we looked closer
at culture and saw that we live in a very
short-term world right now. People are looking for
instant gratification. They’re looking for
overnight success. We celebrate it in the media. And when we looked at the
brands that were actually building modern legacies,
we saw different behaviors. So that was actually the
inspiration for this book. We’ll be going back and
forth tonight or today talking a bit about the
stories in the book. And we’ll leave some time
at the end for questions about the material as well. But I’ll turn it
over to Mark just to share some of the
original inspiration for the Legacy Lab, which
is where this all started. MARK MILLER: Hi, I’m Mark. I’m very Canadian. My parents sent me here
from Toronto and said, you’re a failed musician. You seem to be failing
in advertising. Maybe you could write a book and
make the family proud of you. So the inspiration
for this is my parents kicked my ass to write a book. In addition, I happened to
be working on some business problems for two very
iconic brands, the Lexus and the Ritz-Carlton. And one was coming up
on being 25 years old, and one was coming up
on being 30 years old. And they had a fundamentally
different point of view on how they looked at
their age, their success, where they’d been, where they
were, where they were going. In the case of the
automotive company, they felt that 25 years
was too young to celebrate all their success. They felt that if they
said, look how far we’ve come in only 25 years, the
brands like BMW and Mercedes would say when you
get to be 80, 90, or 100 years old,
that’s the moment when you should celebrate. But if you really want
to remark upon 25 years, we’ll just pat you on
the back and say, look how far you still have to go. And the iconic hotel
company saw things in exactly the
opposite way, which was at the age of 30 they felt
that a 30-year-old Ritz-Carlton was too old to celebrate. That it was far better
to be The Cosmopolitan, which was brand new, than
the 30-year-old Ritz-Carlton. And I found that
fascinating because so many startup companies
and entrepreneurs would come into our organization
and say, how do you succeed like Lexus
and Ritz-Carlton in 25 and 30 years,
and yet these brands did not know how to make
sense of their own success? Concurrently, I work at
an agency called Team One. We work on Lexis
and Ritz-Carlton. And we were going through our
own sort of identity crisis, which is we started in
1987, and effectively still a modern agency, but the world
was transforming all around us. As you know, social
media companies were behaving like ad agencies. And entertainment companies
were behaving like ad agencies. And ad agencies were behaving
like media companies. And what we used to take
for granted as being certain was changing dramatically. And then probably
most importantly, I was about to become a
dad for the first time in my life, which was incredibly
scary because I could barely take care of myself. So now I’d be having to
take care of another life, and I was concerned that
the example I wanted to set for my daughter wasn’t
just that I worked very hard, but to no end in
specific, but that I worked very hard
toward an end that was meaningful and important to me. And for that reason,
I started looking at leaders of organizations
that were building careers and building brands that had
stories that I had admired, many of which we
cover in the book, but they weren’t the ones
who were simply doing things to make the greatest
amount of money, but the ones doing things
to make the greatest amount of contribution. So those were the
ingredients that really inspired me to start
researching this topic. And then I reached out
to friends and colleagues and peers, including
Lucas, who had a wonderful career as a
writer and a researcher with Fast Company,
and I was hoping he’d share a little bit about– other than I bothered
him to do it– why he bothered to help. LUCAS CONLEY: Yeah. So Mark I’ve been collaborating
for over a decade. And I started my career back in
2002 at the “Atlantic Monthly,” and that’s a magazine that
really invests in long stories. While I was there, they actually
published the longest story that they’ve ever
published, which was three cover issues in a row. They won a national
magazine award that year on the unbuilding of the World
Trade Center, back in 2001. So I came out of that space in
journalism of really investing in stories, really telling what
was behind what the mainstream media or the standard
media would tell in a journalistic
approach to a story, to going on to Fast Company–
where Fast Company was a publication that
was all about telling personal stories in a business
world– really getting into the leaders
behind the brands. Whereas “Fortune”
or “Forbes” might talk about the numbers
or the products more, Fast Company was really
interested in the culture and the people that
built those brands. So when Mark started describing
a project about Legacy, my ears perked up. I knew that was something that
really resonated with readers. And when I actually got
on the ground working with some of the interviews,
I was hearing things that I rarely ever
heard in journalism. People would describe for
us a variety of stories throughout their life, and
at the end of the interview say, hey, can I get
a transcript of this? I’ve never talked about
a lot of this stuff. And these were CEOs who’d been
interviewed countless times throughout their career. So I knew that we were
asking about something that was very important. Whether you ask somebody
young or old about Legacy, they have some very personal,
meaningful things to share about the way they
see their life, the way they see meaning
and significance. So it was a very rich topic
to invest our time in. And well, what is
interesting from there is that it wasn’t just
our personal interest. I mean, we started
to see that there were leaders who also
wanted to share that, the story of their legacy. MARK MILLER: So what we
thought we would do over the course of the next
15, 20-ish minutes is walk through some of the
key principles that we’ve learned from the leaders
that we spoke to. We’ll top line the five
key chapters, the five key principles, and tell you
some iconic stories that we love to share. Certainly at the end,
if you have questions, we’d be happy to take them. If they’re easy questions,
we’d be even happier. If they’re hard, we’ll
probably say, oh, that’s a really good question
and we’ll get back to you, and we may or may not. So the first chapter in the
book is about taking leadership personally. And as a bit of an anecdote,
I went to business school. And the reason that matters
is because I remember talking to my parents distinctly
at one point and said, I’m thinking that
for higher education I may go to film school, or I
may go to a business school. And they said, well, you
should do whatever you want, as long as you go to
a business school. So I did that, and one
of the first lessons they taught at
business school is what is the responsibility
of a business today? To which the answer was,
maximize shareholder revenue. They never talked about
taking leadership personally. In fact, they said
leadership is organizational, it’s not personal. And the other
responsibility you have is to maximize shareholder
return revenue. And yet, the leaders
that we spoke to speak beautifully and
prolifically about the things that drive them. And seldom, if ever, did they
begin conversations with, I had an idea that I wanted
to make a billion dollars and sell my company. They always began with
a problem that they were trying to solve or
a quality or an attribute that they wanted to
put into the world. And the Tribeca Film
Festival was a story that I happened to
fall in love with. As I said, I grew up in Toronto,
and the Toronto Film Festival was a major event. And I was always curious to know
in a cluttered, cloudy field of Sundance, and
Cannes, and Toronto, how does a modern festival like
Tribeca pop up and succeed? To which the answer from
the founders of Tribeca, De Niro, and Rosenthal,
and Hatkoff was the world didn’t actually need
another film festival. And so if all we were
creating was a film festival, this would have failed. And whereas the world didn’t
need another film festival, the world didn’t need the
Tribeca Film Festival. And I’ll share with you the
story they shared with me. The three of them grew up
in and around New York. They happened to love film. They were people
of means and people with tremendous influence,
who at one point toyed with the idea
of introducing a film festival into New
York because that was their lifelong
passion, but they never really saw a hole in the
conventional landscape. It just didn’t make sense. And then 9/11 happened. And here you have some people
that weren’t just filmmakers, but had a deep care
and consideration for the city that was home. And they observed
from where they sat, as people with
means and influence, that if people weren’t
going out and patronizing the businesses that were still
around, that not only would New York feel devoid of
life and vitality, but as commerce would dwindle,
the city would get worse, not better, over time. And so they went
out to restaurants. And they thought,
what if we can get more of our friends, who also
have influence and means, to come with us? And they created a program
called Dinner Downtown. This existed before the Tribeca
Film Festival was ever born. And all they did was they
said, you, my friend, you should come to dinner. And you should invite
10 of your friends, and let’s keep doing
the same thing. And so they grew
an event which they ran on more than one occasion,
where hundreds of people, very influential
people, including Bill Clinton and Queen Noor,
would come and patronize the restaurants. And what they
observed was if this is what we can do with
small application, could we somehow
scale that to impact more of the City of New York? They actually– their
language was they thought about contribution
before they ever thought about extraction. And the contribution
they wanted to make was more people in New York,
coming out, patronizing, consuming, adding
vitality and culture. And they simply
used film, the thing they knew really well, as a
galvanizing mechanism to do it. They made a lofty promise. It was close to
the end of the year and they basically said
four months into 2002, the Tribeca Film
Festival would be born. They lead with their hearts. They lead with their passion. They lead with their ambition. But they weren’t
fully mature thinkers. They didn’t actually think
it all the way through, in terms of how do we
get money for this thing? How do we communicate
this thing? How do we make sure that not
only our hundreds of friends know, but thousands of people
and more from around the world? And it wasn’t until
very late in the game they were about to
call a media conference and cancel their idea or
suspend it for a while, that they got an unanticipated
phone call from American Express that said, we heard
what you guys were doing and let us tell you that
as citizens of New York and people who were
impacted tragically by the disaster of
9/11, we have a passion and commitment to
revitalizing the city too that transcends
conventional commerce. We want to help you
make this festival real. And one of the first questions
that American Express asked the founders of
Tribeca is, but we need to know your three
and five-year plan. To which their answer was, we
don’t have a three-to-five-year plan. We don’t even know
how we’re going to raise a million dollars
to market this thing. And so they collaborated. American Express have been their
partner for a number of years. They built the program
from the ground up. Today it’s far more
a film festival. They’re storytellers. They’re storytellers in film. They’re storytellers
in literature. They use high technology to
advance storytelling as well. They’re toying with the
idea of taking film out of the name of the festival. And they see Tribeca as being
much more of a cultural event. And even though the city
to the casual onlooker looks healed, in a sense, they
don’t ever imagine a scenario where New York will not need
the assistance and support of a program, like
Tribeca, to bring more attention and community
and interest in the city. They make a reasonable
amount of money. They have very healthy iconic
partners, automotive partners and so on that put a good amount
of capital into the program, but each year they
begin with, what positive impact do we want to
have on the city of New York? And as a consequence,
everything falls out of that. And I loved how we summed it up
in the book, which is to say, there are people who take
leadership personally, and there are people who
take work personally. They don’t talk about
maximizing shareholder revenue. They’re looking
at a higher order of return, which is personal
satisfaction, gratification, cultural rejuvenation, and more. LUCAS CONLEY: So from
Long-term Personal Ambition, which is the first chapter,
to Behaving Your Beliefs, which is the second chapter,
you have kind of the arc of– you can have one person with
a long-term personal ambition or a dream, but rarely do you
see modern legacy builders who do it alone. We see groups and
teams that build around values and beliefs. So the second chapter focuses
on beliefs and values. And traditionally, what you
see in the business world today with brand managers or
business managers is they’re accustomed to saying one
thing and doing another. Fortunately, we live in a more
and more transparent world. Consumers are demanding that
the brands that they purchase, the brands they follow actually
have the same values that they do. And those are what we would
call modern legacy brands. And one of those is
The Bluebird Cafe. The Bluebird Cafe
is in Nashville. It’s one of the most
famous country music venues in the world. Like Tribeca, it
didn’t start out with its modern realization. It started out it as
just a restaurant. It had a lunch service
and there was no music. And it was 1982, and
the founder Amy Kurland had inherited this small amount
of money from her grandmother and decided to open this cafe. And as the years
went by, she said, I want to educate myself
about how to run a business. And she went to
community college and took a variety of courses. And the one that
really stuck for her was a marketing course
where they instructed her to do one thing really well. And what she realized
about her cafe is that she had let her
boyfriend play at the cafe once. He was in a band. They’d set up a small stage. And she realized the
people were really gravitating towards the music. So over time, the
lunch services dropped. They’d doubled the
evening performances so that they’d have a
performance for new musicians as well as musicians
who are established. And it really took off. And she had to stick to that as
the brand grew because she only had a hundred seats
in this place. She could have taken it
somewhere else, into a bigger location, and
really, essentially, sold out and made a lot
more money with this, but it would have destroyed
this vision of this brand that she had where she
had created a listening space for artists who
walked in off the street. Garth Brooks got off a bus and
actually got his first album signed at The Bluebird Cafe. Taylor Swift
launched her career. Those are the kind of
artists that come back, even with their fame, and have these
tiny performances in front of a hundred people
at this place. So she, over the years,
was able to maintain the sanctity, basically,
of this listening space. And it’s telling, the
motto of The Bluebird Cafe is, shh, like they
basically create this space where they don’t want people to
speak while the performers are performing. So they’ll have–
bachelor or bachelorette parties will call and say,
can we book a bunch of seats? And they’ll say, yeah,
but you can’t talk. You’re allowed to
come, but you’re not allowed to make any noise. So they hold very
true to this value. And to the degree that
when Amy Kurland looked to retire in the past few years,
she decided rather than sell the brand for the most
possible amount of money, she would donate it to
the Nashville Songwriters Association. So she called up
a former employee of The Bluebird, who
worked there, and said, hey, listen, I know
that whoever takes this over won’t be able to
protect it like you guys could. What if I just donate it
to you and you continue in the tradition that I set up? And they said, we’ll pay
you a fair price for it, and took it over. And in fact, have even
carried its fame forward, while maintaining the
culture that she built. There was a show
called “Nashville,” that you may have
heard of, The Bluebird is essentially a
character in that show. Whenever they’re looking
to bring the drama down, they have a performance
in The Bluebird. And The Bluebird now has
performances in London on a pretty regular basis. They have performances
in Sundance every year. So the brand has
grown organically, but it has stayed true
to that core value– that belief in protecting
this space where musicians can perform and be heard,
not only famous musicians, but people who are trying
to start their careers. So that is kind of
the second circle of second chapter
of the book that builds out from the
long-term personal ambition. Do you want to talk
about the third? MARK MILLER: Yeah. So we begin with taking
leadership personally, and we move into this notion
of behaving your beliefs. The next section of the
book gets in this idea of letting outsiders in. And the iconic story
we like to share is a brand and a
platform you may have heard of called,
It Gets Better, which was developed
by Dan Savage. And what’s amazing about it
is by conventional standards it should never have
worked because they never designed a program which was,
here’s the inner workings. These are our consumers. And here’s what we control. And here’s what they
take because we’ve packaged it that way. From the get-go, their
intention was to create an idea and unleash it upon the world. And their language was to
become very uncomfortable with the idea, or rather
to become very comfortable with the idea of
being uncomfortable. They didn’t care that people
were going to take their idea and mess with it. In fact, that was their design. So the famous story
goes like this– in and around 2010,
a young man named Billy Lucas was bullied at
school for being different. That the other kids
perceived him to be queer. And they bullied him to the
point that he killed himself. And not only was that a sort
of horrific outcome and story, but the same kids that bullied
him went onto his Facebook page after he died and continued
to effectively bully him and insult him in
front of his family. And that enraged a
journalist by the name of Dan Savage, that had
a popular column called “Savage Love.” And he wrote in a
rage post, which is it’s horrible that
these young kids would make another boy or any
young person feel so badly for being
different that they would want to kill themselves. And a reader of the story
wrote back and said, I wish I knew, Billy Lucas,
because I would have told you that it gets better. That effectively,
as life moves on and you have the
benefit of perspective, and as you get an older,
sort of wiser point of view, you’ll realize that
these are silly, foolish kids that shouldn’t have
had this kind of impact on you. And that language
stuck with Dan. And him and his partner,
Terry Miller, created a video. And so they did something that
was very modern at the time. They used social tools that
other programs and platforms were ignoring to say we
don’t need to be censored. We can just put out in the world
what we think and their ideas. They would record
a video suggesting what life would look like
from the point of view of an adult with wisdom. And they were hoping
that maybe they’d get 10 other videos
or 100 other videos. And what, of course, transpired
is 1,000 video responses in a week, more than 60,000
video responses, currently. More than 60 million views
of those videos, currently. And some pretty
influential people have taken control, from Obama
to Lady Gaga to popular culture and programming, like “The
Office” did a piece on It Gets Better as well. And Dan had talked about how
even other advocate groups had a real problem with the
fact that these guys were using social media to tell their
story and reach young kids. And his point was, I embrace
the ideals and the values of creating change, but if
modern technology and tools have evolved to allow
me to reach more, why would I not use them? Those are rules, but they’re
bad rules, so let’s change them. He also talks passionately
about what he calls making a doable difference. And his belief is in
the world of advocacy too many brands ask
consumers to do things that sound like the impossible. If only we could raise
a billion dollars. If only we could collect
this amount of blood. If only we could take
this amount of guns away. And people feel powerless
in that conversation. And his point was to
unleash ideas and tools that made people feel that
they could participate and that they could have a hand. His language was give
people the opportunity to make a doable difference. And as a consequence, It Gets
Better continues to grow. We talked to him about the
notion of, do you ever imagine in a world where we won’t need
an It Gets Better, and he said, no. The form may change,
but the notion of hate seems like it’ll persist. So we’re always going to need
tools and the benefit of wisdom from adults who can say, this
is how you deal and cope. And his point of view on calling
It Gets Better a brand is he’s against it. He doesn’t think the
old confines and rules of branding an organization
are what helps us succeed. He thinks you need to
set it free in the world. So if chapter 1 was about
taking leadership personally, and chapter 2 is around
behaving your beliefs, the third chapter is
really about unleashing ideas in the world and rolling
consumers as owners of ideas. And effectively, I think,
the language we use is letting outsiders in. LUCAS CONLEY: Mm-hmm. So from that we branch
into chapter four, which talks about
unconventionality, staying different. The story that we wanted to
share with you guys today is about the Belmont Stakes. This is a brand
that’s 150 years old. Kind of like the original
must-see event in America. It’s the third race
in the Triple Crown, so it gets a lot of
attention, especially when there’s a Triple Crown
race up for grabs. And one of the issues that
the Belmont Stakes and all of horse racing is facing is
that horse racing has kind of lost a generation of fans. It’s not nearly as popular
as the NBA or the NFL. There are a lot of sports
that have drawn people away for a variety of
different reasons. So Chris Kay, the refounder
of the Belmont Stakes– which is a term we use for
people who’ve come to take over brands after they’ve
been around for a while– had his hands full when
he came on board in 2014, looking at what can
we do to get people either to stick with the sport
or to come back into the sport? So we start the story
in the book, in 2014, with the racing of
the 2014 Triple Crown. California Chrome was
up for the Triple Crown. Didn’t actually win. And so the disappointment
was magnified by the fact that 110,000 people
were at this event and couldn’t basically get out. The train stations were not
set up for that kind of crowd. The roads were
completely packed. And Chris was in his first
year running this event said something has to change. So the following day, he
did what a traditional brand manager would not do. I think a traditional brand
manager would look for ways to cut money out of the
system and sell tickets, sell as many
tickets as possible. So maybe we can invest
in more seating. He decided, we’re going to
sell fewer tickets next year, and we’re going to invest in
making this a better experience for the people who come,
both who see it on television as well as who
come to the event. So of course, things like HD
cameras and HD televisions were deployed all around the
stadium where the event’s held, bringing the sport
kind of up to the level that you see in the
NFL and the NBA. The experience was improved by– I think they cut maybe 20,000? Something along that,
around 20,000 tickets out of the sales. So far fewer people came. It made it a more enjoyable
experience for everybody that was able to come to the race. And really what he
was looking to do was looking outside
his category. So rather than stick to the
conventions of horse racing and just copying what
the Kentucky Derby does, for example, he looked to
what other major sports do. What Vegas does. Looked to entertainment. One of his best
ideas that I love is he brought in a
concert, an A-list band. I think, the Goo Goo Dolls
performed the very first time right after the next
year’s Triple Crown race. That way people stuck
around even after the race. Some didn’t actually get in
their cars or hop on the trains and create as much congestion. So it’s just these
little touches that really made the
event that much better. But, also notably, he expanded
it from a one-day event to a three-day event so they
could move the races out and have a better distribution. So as you look at the
Belmont Stakes today, it’s far more modern,
far more appealing to modern sports
consumers than it was even just five years ago. And so that really is about– the whole chapter
talks about how you maintain that unconventional
core that keeps people interested in your brand. MARK MILLER: So
as we wander away into the fifth and final
chapter of the book, the fifth and final
principle of the book, we started really with it’s
all about a personal style and approach to leadership. We move our way to
organizations enroll themselves in those beliefs, where
brand leaders have to behave their
beliefs, and then organizations
bring outsiders in, and then behaving not
with the orthodoxy, but against the orthodoxy. The fifth and final
chapter is pivotal because it really talks
about not just doing things episodically, but doing
things perpetually. Lucas began today’s
conversation with reference to Gibson guitars, and
Radio Shack, and Brookstone, and Necco candy– brands
that at one point in time had done something
fascinating, but got stuck doing the same thing
repetitiously over time and didn’t evolve. So instead of saying
the values persist, but the manifestations change,
they said, the values persist and the manifestations
persist as well, and ultimately they
become less relevant. So the iconic story we like to
tell here is Taylor Guitars. And as I shared
at the outset, I’m a musician, a failed
musician, but nonetheless I grew up having a reverence
for Taylor Guitars because it was a modern
company that came out of nowhere that unseated a
brand like Martin guitars, which had been around for
a very long time. And the reason they’ve
succeeded, in their own words, is because they always ask
themselves, in 10 years, in 10 years from
now, will we be happy that we make the choices
that we made today? And if the answer
is that in 10 years they will be happier, more
successful, more fulfilled, they make choices and
decisions in service of a 10-year outcome. So if they have to change
the way they distribute, they do it. They didn’t buy into the
distribution system in Europe. They knocked it down. They built their own
distribution system. They learned about HR’s
policies in Europe, and they invested
the time and money to do it because they felt that
owning their own distribution channel would make a difference. If they didn’t like the
way materials were being manufactured in their guitars,
they invested in factories in Cameroon, and they
got involved in fair work practices and fair wages. And so they weren’t
just making guitars, they were impacting the
way the guitars were being made from the outset. And they have a
lovely point of view that the way you carry ideas
forward for generations is you enroll the people who work with
you as family and co owners as well. So I’ll give you some examples
that they shared with us. When the economy went to
bad, rather than laying off a substantial portion
of their workforce, they cut everyone
back to four days. And they got the group
together and instead of saying, some of you keep your jobs and
some of you lose their jobs, they said, we want everyone to
continue to be a part of it. So we’re all going to
work four days, not five. And what they did not
tell their workforce is in the background they were
keeping track of lost wages. When the economy
went back to good, all those people who stayed with
them through the four days, got paid for that fifth
day and each one that they lost the
wages for before. The other thing that
they’ve subsequently done, which for us was fascinating,
and we got a lot of questions from the press about
it, is in real time they’re picking the successor
of their brand today, who’s cross-training with the
founder of the organization. So what they had observed is
a lot of guitar companies– and Gibson’s a perfect example– look to build in volume and
take cost out of the system. So if Gibson once started as
the consequence or passion of someone who wanted to
build beautiful guitars, it became the output of
a marketing organization that would distribute widely
and distribute cheaply. And their point of
view is eventually that system is going to run
out of steam because what made brands like Fender
and Gibson so special wasn’t wide distribution
and cheap cost. It’s that those brands
actually had a story to tell, and values that they held dear. And so their point of
view is they’re not going to sell to the highest bidder. They’re going to turn employees
into co-owners of the brand. And they’re going to build
their successor today. So a guy named Andy
Powers was found– after a long search. He works with Bob Taylor. They’re designing
guitars together today. And it’s in his
contract, effectively, that when Bob Taylor
moves on, Andy can’t just reissue the old
guitars that are made today. He has to design and
build new guitars in the spirit of what
Taylor is always about. He has to bring
the brand forward. Contractually, it’s
also his responsibility to find the next successor. So Andy, contractually, can’t
just come in one day and say, I hate this place, or
I’m done with this place, and I’ll see you later. In real time, just as
Bob Taylor has done, he has to find his successor
and train him or her and pass the values
and culture forward. And when you think about the
brands that maybe you work with– and I think about the
brands that maybe we work with– I can’t tell you that that’s
a very common attitude in the slightest. The vast majority of brands
are concerned with today. The vast majority of
brands are concerned with quarterly reporting,
maximizing shareholder revenue. It’s the few, not
the many, that think about growing cultures and
values first and finding ways to perpetuate it forward. We often get a lot of heads
nodding and people saying, it sounds ideal and
it sounds beautiful. Why is it that more brands
are not behaving this way? To which the answer
is because it’s hard. Because when the
economy goes to bad, you’re inclined to save money. Make more money, save money. Sell more product. Let go of staff
to save on wages. And these are companies that
are doubling down on culture. Lucas reminded me the
Ritz-Carlton actually had a lovely solution. When the economy
went to bad, they ran a campaign that
said to wealthy people– the ones who retained
their wealth-ish– if you can’t take the vacation
that you want this year, you shouldn’t go on vacation. Don’t just spend money because
you think you need to spend it. Don’t go on fewer vacations
to save and only to save. They effectively said get
your priorities right in life. Think about the things
that matter most. Where things matter most, spend
more time and money there. And where things matter
least, save your money, invest your time elsewhere. And those are brave
things for brands to take a leadership
point of view. The most surprising
fact of that story is of all the brands in
the Marriott portfolio, the Ritz-Carlton was the
number one leading brand in the down years
after a recession. The brand that charged the
most– where really, a person could say, I could get a room
anywhere, a bedroom anywhere, a conference room anywhere. I could sleep in any hotel,
I don’t need to go there– they got more revenue
per available room night from customers
because they held tight to their values. And they came out
recession on top. So I’ll turn it over to Lucas
just to sum up the stories. We have another little
piece at the end that we’ll talk about quickly. And very happy to
answer questions. It’s a topic we’re
very passionate about. And it’s amazing
that in the time we’ve written the
book, as Lucas said, Necco bankruptcy,
RadioShack bankruptcy– LUCAS CONLEY: Second
bankruptcy in three years. MARK MILLER: –Blockbuster
down to basically– finally, near done. It’s not a proud
moment to say we’re at the cusp of what’s
happening the world around us because what’s happening around
us isn’t a wonderful thing. Brands that we thought
would be around forever are disappearing. But it’s a special
thing to have knowledge from the ones who
found ways to thrive. So I’ll turn it over
to Lucas to sum it up. LUCAS CONLEY: Yeah. So the beginning
of the book process was really sitting down
with all these lessons, all these stories, and
starting to say, where are the common themes? Where are the chapter breaks? What are the takeaways for this? And what we started
to see was something we’ve come to call the
modern legacy mindset. And that’s the five
core chapter ideas. Traditional brand
leaders will follow organizational principles,
institutional rules. What we found modern
legacy builders doing is following long-term
personal ambitions. That’s the first chapter. Traditional brand leaders will
lean into saying one thing, doing another. A lot of attitude,
a lot of posturing. Modern legacy
builders really behave their beliefs and their values. The third chapter about
letting outsiders in– traditional brand leaders follow
a command and control model. Still– this is a very difficult
thing for modern brands to do. But modern legacy brands
step outside of that and let outsiders in
and really let consumers take a role in the brand. And they build a lot
of influence that way. The fourth chapter, I talked
about the Belmont Stakes. That’s all about
being unconventional. Traditional brand leaders
will stick to their category and follow the orthodox of
the business that they’re in. Modern legacy brands are really
willing to break the category, be a category of one and
define their own category. And the fifth chapter
that Mark just spoke about with Taylor Guitars
is about being perpetual. A lot of brand leaders
will evolve episodically when they need to. Repeating what they do well
until it’s absolutely necessary to completely change. And what we see is that brands,
like Gibson guitar, Toys “R” Us, Blockbuster,
they wait too long. And it’s a short-term
mindset and you wind up seeing them go bankrupt
or out of business. Brand leaders, they’re building. Modern legacies are
evolving all the time. It’s a constant process. MARK MILLER: So now one
of the questions we often get asked is, it
all sounds so ideal, but do these companies
make money as well, the ones that you studied? The balance, if not entirely
all the brands in the book, are brands that are succeeding,
in not just cultural terms, but financial terms. I’ll share a story and a half. One is from a leader
in the first chapter, named Toni Ko, who launched
a brand called NYX Cosmetics. And she had a very
strong point of view that as a leader, of course,
you want to lead with culture and values, but you
need to make money as well because money allows
you to hire people, grow, pay health care. Who wants to work for
a leader that tells you they don’t want to make money? So our thinking
philosophy is not do good and don’t make money. Our philosophy, I think
very much, is do good, and as a consequence, other
good things will happen, including making money. The other piece that
I wanted to share is the forward for the book
is definitely worth reading. We’ll tell you how to get a
copy of the book next week, but if you haven’t read
the book and you just want to see a tease,
we can send you a link. The forward from the
book is now online. It was written by
Yvon Chouinard. He is the founder of Patagonia. And Yvon, in the past year,
became famous once again, a famous guy, for posting
on his for-sale website, his commercial
website, the Patagonia brand, that the president
just stole your land. And so you could agree
with his politics or not. We’re not taking
a stand on that, but what we will
take a stand on is he’s a guy that put
his values out front. He said my brand believes
in nature and park lands and the ability
to enjoy them today and for generations to come. And I perceive the
government is threatening what my brand holds dear. And so right up on
his home page he said, the president stole your land. As it turns out,
in that same year, it was the most profitable year
that Patagonia has ever had. So for the ones who question
the value of good ethics and high ideals and
long-term ambition, he is proof positive
that you can do it at a very high level while
being very successful as well. The last thing
that I’ll leave you with before we
sort of open it up, if there happen to be questions,
is we often get asked by folks how can they get involved
in some of the work that we’re doing. We never started out
with the ambition of a for-profit
business, but we’ve been approached about
helping people with branding. So we do that gladly. We didn’t begin with
the idea that we were going to write a book. We began researching in earnest. As I said, I was
about to become a dad and I wanted to learn from
people that I admired. And yet, it became such
an interesting topic, that every time we
spoke to a leader, they’d refer us to a friend. They’d ask for a transcript
because they never told the story before. And so here are ways that
you can get involved. If you have a story
that you think is worth covering,
please share it with us. The book has brands that are
a hundred years and older, and has brands that are
10 years and younger. It has brands that
are 40 years old. Our philosophy is
legacy is something you write every day because
you’re either writing it every day, or you become
a part of ancient history. People read what you once did. So if you know someone,
please share it with us. If you happen to
have a story that’s your personal story, your
work here, or a side hustle, share it with us. We’re interested in that. The other thing that we’ve done
is we’ve created a foundation. So our commitment
was, yet again, because we weren’t doing
this strictly to make money, or initially, ever
to make money, was that anytime
something good happened, we’d reinvest it in people
who live and work this way. So two years ago, we ran a
program called Legacy Honors. David Remnick from
“The New Yorker” was a recipient, as a
Refounder of the Year. And before he
collaborated on our book, Yvon was a Founder of the Year. And they got bursaries that they
passed forward to businesses that they felt should
persist for a long time. So Yvon gave $10,000 to
Doctors Without Borders because he felt that health
care is a basic human right. And if you’re an adventurer,
you may need health care at some point. And David gave his to the
Committee to Protect Journalism because he felt in the
environment that we operate in, journalists were not
getting their fair do and they were putting
their lives on the line. And he passed $10,000
forward to them. Next week, on the
28th of the month– almost right around the corner
at our agency called Team One– with “Inc.” magazine,
were announcing the first-ever young,
effectively, young legacy makers. The ones who don’t have
fully formed and established businesses, but who
are making active change to the way culture and
society work and behave today. There are five recipients. There are two young activists
who are 11 years old, who have been in the news
a fair amount recently. There are two slightly
older, but still young activists who got notoriety
on a “Forbes” list. And there’s a young
interesting filmmaker, who’s gotten notoriety at
the Sundance Film Festival. We’re passing forward
grants to them as well. So if you’re curious
to come hear more– either more about
the book, and we’re giving away free
copies of the book if you’d like that evening– or to hear the stories about
the young legacy makers, we’d love to have you or
your colleagues and peers come and join us. And with that, on
behalf of Lucas and me, I just want to say thank you
for giving us some of your time today and joining us. LUCAS CONLEY: Thanks, guys. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER: So we have
some time for questions. If you have a question, I will
toss this in your direction and pass on a microphone. Want to catch it? Do you want the microphone? AUDIENCE: No, this is good. This is a microphone. SPEAKER: Oh, it is? AUDIENCE: Yes. I have like three questions,
but I’ll ease into them and give other people a chance. It was a really
interesting talk. I’m wondering how much the
advancement of technology and the internet, and how
much that has made things move much more quickly,
has impacted maybe the newer brands that
are trying to establish in terms of their
ethics and their morals. Because if they’re not ethical– and people discover
that– then it becomes like a wildfire
on the internet to say like this is the
unscrupulous way in which this brand is doing business. And that can cause them
to fail a lot faster. Can you talk about
that a little bit? LUCAS CONLEY: Yeah. Actually, Mark can
speak a little bit more on the client
side, but I can say that, right out of the gate,
we had an assumption when we published this book and
started doing the work that we were doing that the types of
brands that would approach us would be the longstanding
brands, the brands that were in trouble of going
out of business and wanted to
preserve their legacy. What we found is,
actually, the majority of the brands that approach
us are the younger brands, the newer brands. And sometimes brands that
are very popular, they’ve got some great product, but
haven’t spent the time to say, what are we about? Like what do what do we do? You can actually share, if you
want to share that tech story. That’s probably
relevant to this. MARK MILLER: At the front
of the first chapter? Is that what you’re thinking of? LUCAS CONLEY: I’m thinking
about the consulting prior to the book. MARK MILLER: So there’s a
company that may or may not be in this neck of the woods
that likely works in the tech space that came with an
interesting proposition, which was they could tell us what
they were building that night, but they had a hard time
thinking about what they were building in the future. And it became particularly
relevant for them because as they were looking to
mature as an organization, had investors who were asking
hard questions of them, which is in a sea of companies
that are popping up overnight with interesting things,
was yours worth backing? And their honest
assessment of it was they did not know how
to answer that question. And that became
incredibly important. And that’s fairly
common, which is we see plenty of people who
walk in the agency who say, my goal is they’re going
to start a company, sell it for a billion
dollars as fast as I can, and then I’m done. And our endeavor
is actually to say, our thinking is not
for those people. Our thinking is
not for everyone. Technology is changing. Things are moving
at a fast pace. But it’s not
permission to not have a long-term ambition or a goal. So the ones who define their
businesses only by the hardware are the ones who are most
likely to be copied and imitated quickly at a lower price. And the ones who say,
the hardware is simply a manifestation of a
larger idea are the ones who have an opportunity to last
for a longer period of time. The other story that
I’ll add very quickly is at the start of
our first chapter– the start of all our chapters,
we rip stories out of culture. So the vast majority of
stories that we covered are based on primary
research, but at the front of every chapter you
find what was supposed to be an iconic leader
that everyone in the world would agree is making the
kind of positive change that it eases you
into a chapter. So right at the
start of chapter 1 is Mark Zuckerberg
from Facebook. And we wrote about
him before, of course, the questions came out
about transparency and data. And so we’ve subsequently
been asked questions about the degree to which
we stand behind the story. And we have the same
answer and we feel strongly about it, which is we
didn’t write the history book on brands that forevermore
are doing exceptional things. We covered a moment in time
where leaders and brands were doing exemplary work. And if they want to
be in the next book, they would continue to hold
fast to the values that got them there. And if they abandon
them, they likely wouldn’t be in the next book. So we actually found it not– it was a fascinating
thing, which is it forced us and the readers
of the book and the press as well to confront the
reality that we weren’t talking about people who should be
famous for what they once did. We’re talking about
people who live by their words every
single day and helped to write history every day. AUDIENCE: Thank you. LUCAS CONLEY: Yeah, absolutely. AUDIENCE: In a similar
vein, you talked about Blockbuster
and RadioShack, who their business
model kind of went away. But there’s a lot of
theories about how they could have pivoted
or recontextualized to still exist. So are they examples of
companies that kind of maintained their
legacy and values, while having to change what
they did pretty fundamentally? LUCAS CONLEY: It’s
interesting you say that. The story that we also put in
the book at the very beginning is Kodak too. We kind of bunched those three
together as cautionary tales. And I love the Kodak
version as a cautionary tale because they actually
invented the digital camera back in like 1974. And somebody brought
it to an executive and the executive said this
would ruin our photo business. We have printing
booths everywhere. That’s all our revenue. This is not something that
we want to put out there. So they buried the
invention, and ultimately it was their demise. So it’s a fascinating
little case study. As far as brands that
have transitioned, what I do think
is interesting is some of the brands in the
book will come to us and say– The Honest Company
is a good example. They’re right here,
right around the corner. They’ll tell you we
build these products or we sell these
products, but tomorrow we could be selling something
entirely different because it’s the values and
our mission aren’t necessarily about the products. The Honest Company,
for example, is about a cleaner, greener world. They could be making
clothing next year. They would still stay
true to that principle. They would just be doing
that in a different industry. I’ve been surprised by how
many times we’ve heard that. But can you think
of examples or– MARK MILLER: Ritz-Carlton’s
another reasonable one, which is in response
to the question, in a hundred years from now,
what do you hope persists? One of the founding
members was very reflective and he said, if the
hotels look the same and if people dress
the same, and if people act in exactly the
same way, then people fundamentally misunderstand
what this brand is all about. We’re about ladies and
gentlemen treating people as ladies and gentlemen. We’re about
graciousness and manners in a world that is
often without them. And to a degree,
we’re about creating memories that last a lifetime. So it’s not just about a
two or three night stay, it’s about us a seven
memory stay, for example. And his point was we teach
culture and value every day, and that’s why today
we have hotels, and tomorrow we’re
going to have yachts, and beyond that the Ritz-Carlton
might manifest as something fundamentally different than
a conventional hotel company. They got an
interesting phone call from a documentarian, a group
that was making a documentary. And they said, we’re
going to cover Airbnb and we’re going to cover
the Ritz-Carlton as examples of iconic, successful
hospitality spaces today. And their question
was, which hotels do you want us to document? And Ritz-Carlton said,
effectively, we don’t care. And they said, what do you mean? Which of the hotels
you want to show off? And they said, any of
them and none of them because what defines
us are not the walls. We’ll tell you the
people that we’d like you to document
because we think the people and the style of service
is the thing that lives on. And it took the media
company a while to digest it, but when they
understood, they said, yeah, I guess that’s
what makes you and Airbnb
fundamentally different. One’s about the
spaces you occupy, and one’s about the
interactions you have, no matter where you go. And they said,
yes, that’s what we hope lives for 100 years,
those human interactions. So over time, we’ll look
to plus those stories. But I think Honest
is one in the making. I think Ritz is a brand
that’s more than 30 years old. It’s probably not a bad one. And it’d be curious to see
what happens with brands like Bluebird over time. They’re a fascinating story. They refuse to
knock down the walls and make it a venue for
thousands of people. They say that if the performers
can’t see the audience, the experience dies. And yet, they’re
looking for ways to transport that experience
all over the world that doesn’t violate their
culture and values. So it’ll be a curious one. AUDIENCE: Question about
legacy when it comes to– industry is making
significant shifts. So like you guys
are from Team One. Automotive industry
is working to be like more mobility-focused
instead of selling cars. And like that’s a
hard right, right? That’s not like, oh,
let’s think about this. They’re trying to do
it really quickly. What’s your guys’
take on legacy when there’s companies that are
trying to take on things that might be outside of their zone? MARK MILLER: I can speak to
automotive directly, which is that world is changing so
dramatically that I believe if you sat down
with Akio Toyoda, he would tell you mobility
isn’t a made up idea. That he would say mobility
was always a part of the DNA. Maybe it was not at
the top of the pyramid. Maybe it wasn’t always
discussed and revealed. But he would tell you
the way they move people through the world, including
how they move people through a dealership,
how they move people through an online experience,
how they move people from home to work and beyond,
he would tell you it’s a part of the
truth of the company. One of the supporters of our
book that we’re quite proud of is Simon Sinek. And when Simon got involved
he was skeptical at first. He said, I’m sure you’re
talking to a lot of people who are telling you fairy tales
and fantasies about what they wish they would become,
but don’t represent the truth of what they are. And once we started
dissecting the stories and going through them, he
became a fan, particularly of the Fast Company’s story. And I think he particularly
liked the Taylor story. But he really challenged
us, as you’re appropriately doing, which is to
say, are you guys just showing the shiniest pieces
that companies want you to see? Or are these real
elements of the brand? So for automotive,
specifically, I think Toyota has some truth
in the notion of mobility. And what they look
like tomorrow better be fundamentally different
than today because otherwise they’ll be dead and gone. AUDIENCE: Yeah, totally. I look at Mark Fields and what
they were doing with Ford, and it’s like the Ford
past totally tanked, right? It’s like how are you going
to do this the right way? And it’s a big change. So you’re right about
the DNA of Toyota always being about mobility,
but it’s like how do you do it the right way and how do
you buy yourself enough time? Which is another
key piece of it. When you were talking
about switching from going from selling
cars or whatever it may be to whatever shift
you’re doing as a company, how much of a period of
time do you need to change– even if it is part
of your legacy– change the dynamics
of your business? I’ll shut up now. MARK MILLER: We write a piece
in the book– right at the end– that talks about the
old measurement system was a simple evaluation
of assets and liabilities. So in a quarter, in a year, what
are the things that hold value? What are the things
that are losing value? And we worked with a semiotician
in London and built a model, which is concurrently
looking at latent value– those things that
still have value, but if you don’t evolve
it, it becomes useless– and concurrently,
looking at the things that you change in real time. Because if you’re not looking
ahead and creating things that don’t exist, you’re
going to find out that your Lexus is
unseated by Tesla, and Blockbuster’s unseated
by Netflix because they never bother to pay attention,
and Ritz-Carlton could be unseated by
Airbnb because they were late to the timeshare game. So we do think it’s
a fundamental shift. On the one hand, the idea
that repeat the past. If I just do that, I can’t fail. Many understand that. Even if it fails,
who could say that I was wrong for doing
what once worked? Equally, we see the ones
who say, screw the past. The past was in the past. I’m here for my three year
tenure as a CMO or CEO. It’s a whole new future. I’m going to make my mark,
build my resume, and move on. The hardest thing is to
actually reconcile the two. What are the pieces of the
past worth hanging on to? And what are those
elements of modernity that we better add or
we’re going to fail? So I think we have good examples
of brands in the making. And I think this is going to
be a constant work in progress. LUCAS CONLEY: Yeah. MARK MILLER: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Appreciate your time. [APPLAUSE]

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