The one with the wild rabbit

On occasion I loath the power of advertising. Not the pernicious, influential, sub-conscious messaging and influencing – that’s just the game. The bit I loath is the fact that on occasion something just lodges in my brain and lays dormant just waiting to pop out. Today I will inflict such an instance on you. It concerns Hennessy brandy and it’s Wild Rabbit campaign…

It was a Saturday afternoon in May 2012 (yes it’s been lodged that long) and I was lucky enough to be sat in the back of a taxi in New York heading towards Greenwich Village and I noticed a billboard that looked something like this (but without the palm tree – it was New York!!)…

 hennessey wild rabbit billboard

And it intrigued me enough to find the website and follow the thread of the campaign. The central tenant of which is this:

“In Cognac, France, where Hennessy is made, rabbits run wild. But the intriguing animals are rarely seen. Over time, people invented tales about them; Tales about a creature that lives in people’s minds.

This elusive Wild Rabbit, is thought to drive people from one success to another. For nearly 250 years Hennessy’s Wild Rabbit has been to build on our expertise and push our world class cognac ever closer to perfection. Constantly chasing. Never stopping. Never settling.

WHAT’S YOUR WILD RABBIT?”

I had forgotten all about the advertising campaign (and apologies to Hennessy I’ve still not bought any brandy) but fast forward to February 2013 and I was reading a report on some research carried out by the talent consultancy Korn Ferry. It was based on the survey results of speaking to 109 business executives and getting them to rank which of Korn Ferry’s competencies they believed were their prorities in the post-financial crisis world (I must have missed the memo that it’s over). They were comparing it with data collected in 2007 and the pre-crisis post-crisis comparison looks like this.

Rank Pre-crisis Post-crisis
1 Customer Focus Dealing with Ambiguity
2 Drive for results Customer Focus
3 Motivating Others Manage Vision and Purpose
4 Priority Setting Strategic Agility
5 Problem Solving Managerial Courage
6 Timely Decision Making Perspective
7 Strategic Agility Priority Setting
8 Organising Motivating Others
9 Command Skills Drive for Results
10 Business Acumen Listening

 

On initial reading I was interested to see the absence of command skills post-crisis and to see that courage had appeared in the list. It was no surprise that dealing with ambiguity went straight in at number 1 and I suppose I was a little encouraged with the climb that strategic agility had made and the importance placed on managing vision and purpose.

However, the more I thought about it the more I thought the list was lacking anything truly inspirational – I mean, a lot of what these 109 executives are rating are to a certain extent the key skills of managers but what of leadership? I am not intending to have the leadership vs. management debate here but for me both lists were missing any kind of magic – where were the game changers?

This list and the blog post it was going to provoke have been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks and somewhere in the bouncing I came back to being sat in that taxi on that Saturday afternoon and being intrigued by the concept of the wild rabbit.

Maybe it’s just my divine discontent gene twitching again but I can’t help thinking that an organisation lead by those list of 10 will hardly be blowing the doors off anything. Where’s innovation? Where’s inspiring people? Where’s the global edge?

One could argue that courage+customer focus+strategic agility may blow the doors of something but I struggle with the notion that an organisation recruiting to that shopping list will have find themselves with a group of very competent senior managers but no magic.

In sitting and thinking about it you could play with the idea of the wild rabbit and think of IBM transforming itself from a business machines company to the knowledge and service offering they have now, probably most people would quote Apple’s disruption of the music market and the e-commerce examples are numerous (altogether after 3 – Jeff Bezos). But think about stuff that’s happening now – Random House and Penguin merging to ‘suit up’ in the battle of content vs. distribution… Think of the Co-op changing from an also ran to the ethical food retailer. There are probably loads of great examples but the example that both lists make me come back to is Kodak

Chapter 11 or Wild Rabbit?

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1 Comment

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One response to “The one with the wild rabbit

  1. Loved this particularly as it flew me straight back to cognac for a lazy afternoon tasting armagnac.

    What a dull list. Here’s my alternative based on those leaders I have loved and who have inspired me and the only ones who can save us now.

    Integrity, first and always.
    Energy
    Grafter
    Social conscience
    Curious about people and how things work
    Optimistic
    Future focussed, interested in the present
    Self aware; accepting of self and others.
    Decisive
    Direct

    Another observation, despite leaders often saying annoyingly “I don’t do detail” – which can be crushing for people who do “do detail” they do do it, and they’re good at it.

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