John.Bell

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Bio: 

John Bell is the retired CEO of coffee/confectioner Jacobs Suchard, now part of Kraft Foods. As a strategy consultant, he has counseled some of the world's most respected blue-chip organizations. A prolific writer, John's musings on strategy, leadership, and branding have appeared in various marketing journals and publications such as Fortune and Forbes. His latest book, Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World was released in December, 2014. John can be reached at In the CEO Afterlife and on Twitter @JohnRichardBell. 

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John Bell

History

Member for
8 years 2 months

Articles by John Bell

 

Not too long ago, a business professor friend invited me to address a luncheon of university students enrolled in his class on entrepreneurship. I was honored to have been asked, but not sure I was the right person for the task.

“Your students would be better served by a high-tech entrepreneur half my age,” I told him.

March 7, 2017

When I was in brand management, social media did not exist. But I can tell you this: I would have had a field day with this exciting medium because I valued the power of ‘big ideas’ to infuse growth into the brands under my wing. Frankly, I had no choice, because I’d worked for small to medium-sized companies competing against giants the likes of Nestle, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble. By any comparison, my brands were under-financed.

May 18, 2016

          
 

To most of us, the phrase Work that Matters infers job satisfaction. The outcome is lower stress, lower turnover, and higher productivity – in business, a ‘win-win’ for employees, customers and shareholders. The logic is infallible. So, I ask you, why is there such a gap between the theory and the practice? Why are so many organizations and so many workers struggling to find workplace nirvana?

April 8, 2016

How often have you heard people say, “Our strategy is to become the biggest and the best?” This is not strategy. Strategy is not the what. Strategy is the how – how will you become the biggest and the best? Of course, within the realm of the definition, there are good strategies and bad ones. Good strategies help to define a company or a brand’s point of difference.

February 23, 2016

 

Branding has flourished big time—we have product brands, service brands, country brands, political brands, cause-related brands, even cultural brands. In this post, I want to help those of you who are keen to create your personal brand. To do that, you’ll need a brand strategy. The strategy and the positioning for a personal brand isn’t that different from a product or service brand; your intent is to position yourself in the best way possible to achieve the desired objective. To most of you the objective is to advance your career.

February 3, 2015

 

Complexity is in the eye of the beholder. To me, astrophysics is a complex discipline; to Stephen Hawking it is not. People engaged in complex situations fall into two categories: those who accept complexity as a fact of life and work with it, and those who fight it every inch of the way. I’m in that later camp.

January 12, 2015

When it comes to workplace morale, there is no shortage of articles suggesting the ways and means to build and/or enhance cultures that motivate employees to deliver the goods. Beyond their intent to boost morale, the commentaries have one thing in common – the counsel is generic. In other words, the pundits inherently assume that their morale-lifting tactics and strategies apply to any organization, no matter the product or service in which they are engaged. They are correct in this regard. But, there is a catch. One cannot assume a constant success rate because there is more at play.

July 3, 2014

Negotiating for a lower price or something extra is the modus operandi of every antique retailer, real estate broker, flea market merchant and automobile dealer. Everyone is looking for a good deal, a real bargain. I’m not taking issue with that. Bargaining is a terrific way to create and stimulate economies.

June 5, 2014

Every company wants TALENT. But not every company is bestowed with the LEADERSHIP that unleashes talent’s power. Talent without leadership is as good as spitting into a gale-force wind.  

May 9, 2014
 
A couple of years ago I read a book about RAF fighter pilots in World War II. One particular passage stood out. It was this: There are old fighter pilots and bold fighter pilots, but there are no old, bold fighter pilots. The author was making the point that the very best dogfight pilots were young, because of superb eyesight and lightening reflexes. What do fighter pilots have to do with the world of business? Not much, although their courage could surely come in handy in several C-suites.
 
March 19, 2014

Great marketing begins with great strategy. Great strategy doesn’t happen without sacrifice. Sacrifice leads to differentiation. Brands cannot promise a smorgasbord of benefits; trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for disaster. There’s more: a marketer’s product or service must deliver the promise. If it doesn’t, great marketing cannot exist.

What does this have to do with HR? Everything. For the sake of brevity, I’ll list just five similarities between HR and marketing.

December 16, 2013

When I left corporate life, the glass in the ceiling suppressing the advancement of women to the C-suite was beginning to show cracks. That was two decades ago. Today, there’s a venerable list of female executives who have shattered that glass and gone on to illustrious careers as successful CEOs. One might think the likes of Melissa Mayer (Yahoo!), Laura Sen (BJ’s Wholesale Club), Ellen Kullman (DuPont), and Indra K. Nooyi (Pepsi) would inspire more and more women to seek greater responsibility in the corporate world.

October 10, 2013

Most of you have heard the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” or something to that effect. Basically, the idiom advises us not to discard something valuable in our eagerness to get rid of some useless thing associated with it. If you are not careful, this can happen to businesses going through a rough patch.
 

September 26, 2013
Never in the history of marketing has there been so much talk about branding. The conversation in the world of branding is well beyond product and service brand discussion by marketers and ad agencies. Branding has proliferated big time – we now have personal brands, country brands, political brands, cause-related brands, even cultural brands. The ramification is clutter, the arch enemy of brand identity.  So, wouldn’t you expect a heck of a lot more corporate attention to commercial brands?
August 27, 2013
Strategy has to be one of the most misused words in business. The word is tossed around boardrooms and customer meetings with reckless abandon. You’ve likely heard this: “Our strategy is to become the biggest and the best.” Deciding to become a global corporation, to diversify, or to increase sales by x dollars per annum is not strategy. Such aspirations are goals or objectives. Articulating how to become the biggest and the best is the strategy. That strategy can be good or bad.
July 1, 2013

In a recent New York Times article “Tough Guys Rule for a Reason,” Alan Goldman argues that “Aggressive, bold, top-down leadership directly associated with the male animal may be under attack but it is still quite effective,” and that “despite current attempts at demonizing old school male behavior, it continues to rule.”

June 6, 2013

Every day we see or read about superb acts of leadership. The ones that occupy an indelible place in our minds are often characterized by unexpected high-pressure, traumatic conditions and courageous acts taken within a very limited amount of time – a cabbie delivering a baby, a mayor calming a city after one of the worst terrorist attack in the history of mankind, a pilot making the call to land a powerless 65 ton piece of steel on a river in the middle of a major metropolis, a primary school teacher protecting her class from a gun-wielding madman.

May 30, 2013

Without leadership, a business enterprise will eventually fail. Survival is possible without a strategy but seldom over the long haul. Great strategy with lousy execution isn’t worth the piece of paper it is written on. The consequence of these proclamations is obvious. Get it right, bring it all together and you have commercial magic. The glue that binds leadership, strategy, and execution is people – quality individuals at the board level, in the C-suite, in the office, on the factory floor, and in the field.     
 

January 10, 2013

Without leadership, a business enterprise will eventually fail. Survival is possible without a strategy, but seldom over the long haul. Great strategy with lousy execution isn’t worth the piece of paper it is written on. The consequence of these proclamations is rather obvious; get it right, bring it all together and you have the commercial magic every enterprise seeks.

December 19, 2012