Listen and Lead.

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In Charlene Li’s new book Open Leadership (which I have not yet read, but will), one of the premises is that leaders who really listen to customers are the most informed and prepared to deal with business issues. Because of social media’s prevalence and importance, this notion suggests that leaders who use the new listening channel (the web) are better leaders.  Good advice, for sure.  Those who know the name Andy Grove may remember that the first thing he did every morning upon hitting the office was to listen in on random customer service calls to his 800 number.   It was old school technology, but it was listening.  That’s why Intel succeeded.

General Motors (GM) brand managers and its ad agency strategists at Goodby Silverstein and Partners have decided to stop using the word Chevy in favor of the full, formal name Chevrolet.  This is a strong brand management move. I yike it, as my daughter used to say. I don’t know the Chevrolet strategy, but can imagine this nomenclature move is intended to imbue the brand with a little more up-market sensibility. As GM nameplates are jettisoned, Chevrolet will be attempting to win over consumers who once bought pricier Oldsmobiles, Hummers, Pontiacs and such. Consumers will still say Chevy, but the people managing the brand will polish it with a finer cloth. They are exercising control. They are leading.

Pop marketing pundits are telling us consumers own the brand.  Even the youthfully exuberant at P&G and others wielding great budget power are saying so. But if we cede control of marketing, strategy and leadership to the masses, we are being lazy. Listen yes…but lead. Peace!