Thinking

This Week in Business and Brands: Comfy Couch Comebacks, Compelling Communication, and More

Leadership Lessons: The Real X Factors

Want to know what it really takes to predict great leadership? According to a 10-year study of more than 2,500 executives and C-suite leaders, it all boils down to four key abilities. First, they can distill the complex to the simple: by both learning and teaching fast, they can bring their teams up to speed and inspire others to operationalize their forward-thinking plans. On that note, they also drive ambition for all, stepping outside the silos to encourage enterprise-wide collaboration. That means they must also be a stellar team player, even (and especially) on teams they don’t lead, leaning more into strategic contributions than getting in the weeds of tactical maneuvers. Finally, the very best leaders are the ones who take the time to build more leaders: they see employees not as mere assets for their own career, but as powerful human capital with great potential for development. So aspiring leaders take note: be sure to fully forge these four formidable factors.

Retail Review: Death to the Deficient

Laggard retailers, ask not for whom the bell tolls: looks like it’s time to smarten up or simply shutter the doors. In an age when once-esoteric tools and strategies like AI and personalization are increasingly becoming table stakes, there’s just no more room for those retailers reluctant to revamp. When Amazon is estimated to take a whopping 40 percent (about $38.8 billion) of holiday sales this year, any retailer who hopes to compete must adapt to the new normal of complete customer obsession. That means mining data to deliver tailored services, upping shipping times to breakneck speeds, and making even more moves into the mobile experience. Machine learning is becoming par for the course in retail: take Etsy, who uses the technology to match 35 million customers with its 2 million sellers. Let these facts be a lesson to the luddites: better evolve or else go extinct extinct.

Talking Tactics, Tête-à-Tête: Articulate Like Aristotle

Looking for the keys to compelling communication? Take a page out of Harvard instructor and brand advisor Carmine Gallo’s book, which shows the ancient Greek art of persuasion is alive and well for the top business minds:

      On the weight of words today: “In this age of artificial intelligence, globalization, automation — the one skill that can separate you not only from the technology that we create but from your peers is mastering the ancient art of persuasion. Combining words and ideas to ignite people’s imagination.”

      On story selling software: “What [tech companies] are finding is that they cannot compete by giving you engineering terms and talking to you about business software that is so complex that it’s hard for the average person to understand. They use the vehicle of story, of narrative to better sell those products.”

      On the success of solid speakers: “The difference almost always comes down to the fact that they are better leaders. But what does that mean? They are more persuasive. They’re better communicators. They can connect with people on a much deeper, powerful level.”

(Re)Building the Brand: Restoration Sensation

Speaking of retailers avoiding death’s door, there’s a story of successful revival to be found in the comeback of Restoration Hardware, the once-ailing home goods chain that’s now booming with business. How did the company go from clunky (17-pound!) catalogs to a new 90,000-square-foot RH Gallery in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district? It might have less to do with comfy Cloud couches placed front-and-center, and more to do with the back-end operations behind the scenes: by introducing a membership model like Amazon Prime, the brand now has 405,000 subscribers paying $100 a year for 25% off all sales – and they’re driving 95 percent of the revenue as a result. Then there’s the successful strategy of diversification, as the brand offers more than mere merchandise: from restaurants and an “art compound” to its forthcoming RH Guesthouse hotel in NYC, there seems to be no aspect of hospitality that’s off-limits for the reinvigorated brand. Even though “retail has a shelf life,” it looks like Restoration Hardware is only just getting started in its respectable resurgence.

Fan Favorites: Gen-Z’s Popularity Poll

That’s all for this week! We’ll leave you with this look at the Top 100 brands ranked by marketers’ newest demographic: those born after 1997…