"Business thinkers complain their creative types are too slow by business standards, inflexible, and way too cynical about the moneymaking goals of the company. And that’s usually not too far from the truth.
"Creative types lament that their bosses see everything they do as “just a billable deliverable”. Worse yet, clients agree with the boss! No one appreciates great design or beautiful code (yes, programmers are artists too).
"Artists fantasize about clients and bosses that “get it”. Business leaders want someone who will just “get it done”.
"Brand ownership is a balance. Creative, technical and even artistic results must be balanced with the relevance of day-to-day business demands."
Author, educator and art director/brand strategist, Robin Landa, spoke with some of the industry's top creative directors and compiled their best advise in a downloadable document available from Amazon.com for $0.49.
Here's a small slice:
Robin Landa: “What’s your philosophy about advertising?”
John Butler: “It has to be likeable. It has to inform and inspire. It has to have some emotional hook to it that makes consumers interact with it. It can’t talk down to the consumer. There’s a great quote—although I can’t remember who said it—but it’s hanging on my door: “He who writes the stories defines the culture.” I think that pretty much sums it up. We are given a voice, and we have to be responsible in how we use that voice.”
Butler, a partner in Sausalito's best agency, nails it in his succinct dissertation.
I have a customer who had the same problem. His patent ran out and the orient copied his product exactly (as a matter of fact the tooling was even a little better). And of course they were now much cheaper.
So we put all our efforts into building a relationship with the customer. We put a fresh new logo in position and embossed it into every product, so that the customer would recognize the difference. He put a lot of energy into making the product in a superior range of colours and configurations. Packaging was more engaging. He still keeps up this innovation and has build the brand on being the latest, setting the bar if you will. The brand is used by more professionals in it's market than the competition.
After about 4 years of struggle we are recognized by our target audience and they identify the product by it's brand name (not the old name). His market share is up each year over the last even thought the product costs "more" than the orient's version. Defeating the commodity has worked again by addressing the brand and finding a means to differentiate your products.
It is an on-going battle but we can win if we are true to the brand from every touch point and differentiate strategically.
"To create innovate products, we have to secure insights not only into the products and but also into their business opportunities by having an observant and empathetic view of the world... Only T-shaped people, who have well rounded personalities and broad interests, can obtain such viewpoints. Sophisticated engineers who do not understand the market and customers will never devise items, which have a shot at becoming a grand slam...
"In Korea, just engineers are responsible for creating products. They can make good products, which sell pretty well. But that is not enough at all. We need trend-defining merchandise that makes our competitors invalid, just as iPod or RAZR did. Towards these ends, we need more T-shaped people than narrow-sighted engineers. Local firms have to change their recruitment policy." -- Tom Kelley -
"Any U.S. technology company hoping to remain competitive with global rivals and exploit new market opportunities -- whether it is Internet search or China (or both!) -- must make a commitment to hiring, developing and rewarding top-level R&D talent. The lesson is clear: technology companies must first win the battle for R&D talent before they can win the battle for market share. The cliché that "the company's most valuable assets walk out the door each night" has never been truer. Time and time again, companies with the best R&D talent win the battle for market dominance." -- Dominic Basulto -
Australian business magazine BRW has released its list of the Fast 100 - top Australian companies that are innovating their way to success. After pointing out that "problem-solving and constant curiosity are at the heart of innovation for fast-growing companies," BRW goes behind the scenes at 100 up-and-coming Australian companies that have made innovation a key component of their future growth plans. At the end of the article, BRW provides a handy innovation scorecard:
75% Of BRW Fast 100 companies say they have developed a unique product or service
20% Say revenue growth this year will come from new products and services
78% Personally champion innovation
75% Search the world for new ideas
93% Encourage employees to be creative and innovative
72% Are satisfied with the financial return on their investment in innovation
Fact: "Most executives underestimate their company’s resistance to change. That’s a big reason why half of all new initiatives fail… managers don’t start with a plan to get enough buy-in." -- Laurence Haughton -
On January 30 at 12:00pm ET, bestselling author Laurence Haughton will be leading a free online workshop called "More Buy-In for New Ideas and Innovations." During the presentation, Laurence will help business leaders arrive at a strategy to overcome resistance to change and improve follow-through rates within the organization. Registration is free (and relatively painless) by clicking here.
"Family resemblances are a good thing. For families. But for agencies, it can get you into trouble. When the stuff you create for your boat manufacturer client starts to look or sound or feel just like the stuff you're making for that software startup, oh, and the athletic-shoe retailer, and maybe the fast-food restaurant, too; you have to ask: Are you doing what speaks best to the audience? What's best for the client? Or are you doing what you personally think is cool? Worse yet, are you doing what the competition is doing, too?"
"Ad agencies have been backed into a corner and mostly do rattling. It's theYesterday's purple cows are today's brown cows.
high-cost, high-profile, high-risk part of marketing, and the kind that
rarely works. What a shame that some of the smartest people in our field
aren't allowed (by their clients and by their industry's structure) to get
behind the scenes and change the product, the strategy and the approach
instead of just annoying more people with ever louder junk."
6. PlayThis "manifesto" should be mandatory reading in business and design schools the world over. Come to think of it, adding co-creation to most college-level marketing programs wouldn't hurt.
“If it seems easy and fun, I’ll ask someone else to play.”
Having fun, sharing laughter, is a mark of a team of people that are sharing an experience. Fun is one of the strongest forms of social glue and if you’re not having fun, it’s going to be hard to consistently create fun experiences for others.
Adidas has shown a great sense of fun with its Adicolour range, a pair of white trainers that came complete with a paint palette, so that people could decorate them and create something special. The whole project was socialised online in the shape of a competition to find the best custom-job according to 60,000 public votes. Adidas took the winning entry and made 50 pairs—half of which were presented to the winner and half of which went on sale in NYC. The spirit of the product continued into the campaign featuring outdoor poster sites upon which people were invited to add their own graffiti.
"People like to congregate around objects, play with them and create their own meaning."
8. Work At It
“ If I’m going to be involved—you need to be involved.”
It’s important for brands to realise that participation is hard work, maybe harder work than traditional marketing. Brands that think they can just set up the forum and let their customers do all the work are going to be disappointed. Co-creation is not about someone else doing the job for you, it’s about working in a different way to get better, more fulfilling results.
"The hard core of customers will be way more enthusiastic than you are."
ExxonMobil spent approximately $16 million between 1998 and 2005 on 43 organizations that have cast doubt on the reality of human-caused global warming.
Funding ranged from $30,000 for the group Africa Fighting Malaria to $1.6 million to the American Enterprise Institute, a pro-business think tank in Washington.
Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent for Reuters, sees a parallel between the energy company's aim to discredit the science of global warming and the tobacco industry's decades long "cancer causing" cover up.
DUNCAN, Board ChairmanJonathan Berr, over at WMT offers this little footnote:
Did we fire his sorry you-know-what yet?
MALCOLM, Lead Director
The lawyers say he has us by the you-know-whats.
But he’s an idiot!
He almost destroyed our franchise
With that stupid Six Sigma crap…
(Pouring a scotch although it is only 10 a.m.)
I’d like to Six Sigma his sorry you-know-what…
Sir, there’s no time for that.
We need a decision.
What is it this time?
He wants the corporate jets.
He wants to use the jets???
Son of a…
(Downing the scotch and exhaling slowly.)
What for—he can’t fly home to Nantucket on Delta?
I think he actually lives on St. John’s Island, sir.
(Pouring another scotch.)
You want one?
No thank you, sir.
We need a decision, sir.
(Stirs ice with fingers reflecting on something.)
He looked so good on paper.
Number two at GE!
What the hell went wrong?
Sir, our lawyers need an answer.
About the jets.
(Tasting the scotch.)
Well, we have three freaking jets, right?
Six? Jesus. Well, see if one of 'em is free.
Tell the pilot to take that S.O.B.'s sorry Six Sigma you-know-what wherever it has to go.
And good riddance.
Sir, you don’t understand.
He wants the jets.
He wants the freaking jets????
Yes Sir. All six of them.
Tell him to go pound sand!
Tell him to go pound Six Sigma sand!
Tell him I’m sure a Six Sigma guy like him
Can pound sand better than anybody else ever pounded sand!
Tell him I said that!!!!
Sir, it’s in the contract.
The one you signed when we hired him.
If he gets fired for cause, he gets the corporate jets.
(Pouring another scotch.)
I hate this job.
End of Act I
Home Depot is in a pickle with regards to Nardelli's pay. It's also found away to turn off consumers as well. I haven't set foot in my local Home Depot in years because the experience of shopping in Lowe's Companies Inc. (NYSE:LOW) is so much more pleasant. The Lowe's is about 20 miles further from my house than the Home Depot.$210 million. Bravo.
"A clear brand will increase your profits."
"If the market doesn’t know what’s good about you, you’re having to work too hard for too little return. You won’t change that overnight, but if you start now, in five years you’ll be far better off."
"Brand building is a six-step process that is part art and part science. (Company X) assists clients with building a successful brand foundation and works with them over time to help ensure that the branding “sticks.” As a brand partner, we can help a business transform itself into a branding success."
Six steps to building your brand.
Consider these steps the foundation of your company’s future.
1. Measure the customer experience.
2. Compare your company to your market and your competition.
3. Develop and expand your strengths.
4. Prepare your brand message.
5. Develop your budget and investment justification.
6. Roll out and implement your brand statement
"Maybe a donkey is a mix between a pig and a bunny."See? Genius is everywhere.
When you want to buy a new BBQ, whom do you ask? If you want to know which smartphone to buy, what blog do you read? And if you're looking for a school in which to enroll your child, whose advice do you seek?
Those people you're calling, emailing, or reading—they're special... the alpha crowd: They are influencers. Not just one person or type, influencers are many people who form a unique profile. Parts of that profile are common across the entire group of influencers, and many are specific to the category we're talking about. So, the school advice might come from the BBQ expert, but probably not.
In this Web 2.0 era of ready access to information everywhere, anytime, we've got a new class of people to whom business and marketing people can and should pay attention.
Those of you old enough to remember, there was a time when you couldn't Google up information to find out what the opinion makers and advocates were thinking. Amazon didn't exist, so we couldn't see what others worldwide thought of a book and learn of its sales ranking. Instead, we had to go to places like churches or synagogues, grocery stores and book clubs, and ultimately hang around with neighbors to find out what "the news" was.
That's because influencers were active, engaged members of local communities. They've always existed—opinion makers and opinion leaders. What's different now? Today they have a much bigger bullhorn available to them—it's called the Web. Where they once talked to 100 people in a month, they can now reach thousands or tens of thousands with a single click, comment, or ranking process.
(...) These alpha influencers are the key to other customers' awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase. They advocate, rank, sort, evaluate, and ultimately create marketplace adoption. They come in the form of users, developers, channel partners, and press people. Many PR people have thought of influencers as "their audience" or writers, but influencers are way more than analysts and writers. They are ultimately the tip of the market.
(...)Influencers are key conduits of information. (...) Influencers know many people and are in contact with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people in the course of a week. They have a powerful multiplier effect, spreading the word quickly across a broad network when they find something they want others to know about. (...) Four in ten have a connection to a professional association. This is a sign of their restless intellectual interests. Influencers continuously take input from what they see, hear, read, and keep turning it over in their mind for new insights and ideas. They are sometimes entrepreneurs.
Influencers and alpha consumers are people who place importance on values: enduring love, knowledge, authenticity, stable personal relationships, learning, and freedom. When you can get them to pay attention to your offer/product/solution, you have the opportunity to shape the market.
You don't build anything worthwhile by copying other people. Yeah, sure, it may seem like the safe thing to do, but it isn't.
Welcome to the fabulous world of the "also in".
Welcome to the wonderful world of the "why bother".
Okay, sure, not every product needs to be extraordinary. Not every product needs to be unique. I guess you could set out to publish a magazine that's a lot like Newsweek or Men's Health or Fast Company... only more "average". You could set out to produce a movie that's a lot like Titanic or Sling Blade or Gladiator, but... you know... more "average". You could set out to copy Subway or Jersey Mike's or Quizno's and make a subway sandwich, but... just a little bit more bland. A little bit less special. A little bit cheaper too, while you're at it. I guess that would be swell.
To make up for the blandness, you could always pay an ad agency to try and pick up the slack for you and miraculously come up with a brilliant viral campaign that may or may not have people flocking to your stores.
Yep, you could do that.
I guess you could wake up one morning and decide that your work, the fruit of your labors, could be just... um... average. No more, no less. As long as your business makes money, who cares, right?
Forget the great American novel. Forget the Chrystler Building. Forget the iPod. Forget the Canon EOS 1D. Release your movies straight to video and your books directly to the bargain house. Tell your kids to shoot for a C+. It's okay. Average is good enough.
Instead of designing your own products, find cheaper ones already being manufactured by someone else and pass them off as your own. Hope that no one will notice. As long as the profits are good, why not? Yep, I guess you could convince yourself that it's okay to go that route.
It isn't like you need to actually think about where your company is going. It isn't like you need to give any thought to the relationship you have with your customers. What role you play in their world. Instead, you can just watch what your competitors are doing, and copy their every move. You can keep cutting corners. You can keep telling yourself that's the safe thing to do. The smart thing to do.
You can keep telling yourself that if you make your products cheaper, you will sell more of them. After all, that's how your competitors are stealing your customers, isn't it?
Or is it better design?
Or is it because their stores have red walls?
Why be relevant, after all? Why be relevant when you can just play it safe and follow the leaders?
Is that what we learned to do in business school? Is that what we learned about in History class? In English comp.? Is that the lesson we've learned from watching millions of hours of sports on TV? Succeed by waiting to see what someone else will do to see if it's safe to try it too?
Is that what a a CEO or a CMO is paid to do?
You don't have to answer that.
Not if you don't want to.
Instead, think fast and tell me how many skyscrapers there are in New York City.
(For the sake of expediency, let's just say that there are LOTS.)
How many of those skyscrapers can you actually name?
Only a handfull?
Why is that?
Of the thousands of companies you'll encounter in your lifetime, how many will you actually remember as being worthy of mention? Of having been a pleasure to deal with? A few dozen at most?
Why is that?
Of the tens of thousands of people you will meet in your lifetime, how many will you end up being truly impressed by? How many will you come to count as friends?
Again, why is that?
What does that tell you about average?
What does that tell you about the value of average?
Consider a few names: Starbucks. Target. BMW. Apple. Pixar. Ben & Jerry. Kenneth Cole. Nike.
What is it about these brands that makes them so special?
Is it their ability to crunch numbers? Nope.
is it their ability to copy the guys who came before them? (Um... who would that be?)
Are their products the best in the world? Again, no.
Reality check: Most of your local coffee bars make much better coffee than Starbucks. Target's clothes are no better than old Navy's. BMW arguably isn't Porsche. Apple is nowhere near Microsoft's sales. Pixar doesn't always hit the mark. Haagen-Dazs makes the best Rum Raisin ice cream and Mayfield is pretty awesome too. DKNY, Express Men and Banana Republic give Kenneth Cole a run for his money. Most serious runners wear Mizuno, Asics or new Balance on their feet, not Nike.
So what is it?
Is it their ability to stand out? Sure, but that's only a symptom of their success.
What's key is their ability to a) create something special that their customers won't be able to find anywhere else, and b) do it over and over again.
That's the promise of these brands.
When you buy me, I promise that...
You will look hip.
You will sleep better.
You will save time.
You will smell fantastic.
Your cold symptoms will vanish.
You won't have to worry about quality.
Without a promise, a brand isn't a brand. It's just a mark.
There is no such thing as an "also in" brand.
Okay, now that you've read it, say it.
Really. Say it outloud:
"There is no such thing as an also in brand."
When you're an "also in," what is your promise? What is your purpose?
"We're kind of like Subway."
"We're kind of like Power Bar."
"We're kind of like CNN."
Think about it.
I don't care if you're a mechanic or a graphic designer, a chain of dry-cleaners or a rental car service. If you aren't there for a reason (other than just making money), you're doomed. It may not be today or tomorrow or next week, but someone with a purpose will come along to eat you up. A real brand. A real business.
It's just a matter of time.
If you're going to be a mechanic, be the best damn mechanic in your zip code. Or the most honest. Or the friendliest.
If you're going to design logos and layouts for clients, be the edgiest in your field. Or the fastest. Or the most pleasant to work with.
If you're going to open up a dry-cleaning business, either offer the best quality pressing or the fastest turnaround. Make drop-offs and pickups velvet-smooth. Make your customers want to come back and recommend you to their friends.
I could talk to you about the role that pride plays in building a brand, but I'll save that for another day.
The point is that being an "also in" company doesn't cut it. Not if you want to grow. Not if you want your company to go anywhere.
Not if you want to survive.
Copying other companies isn't a strategy, it's a death sentence.
Word to the wise: Don't be a follower. There's no safety in being second.
Thin-slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. The goal of this meme is to get all of us to slow down this process to actually see some of the patterns we recognize long before we consciously know we see them. Caution: Remember the Warren Harding Error – some of what we think we see isn’t really there!Here are examples of 5 thin-slicing observations from Mike - the first time he visits your business:
1. Does anyone care about this place? The moment I walk into an office, a retail store or a manufacturing plant I’m looking for evidence that people there “give a damn”. For me that means the place is clean, in good repair, and is presentable. “Presentable” probably comes from my formative years when I was often asked just before leaving the house, “Do you think you look presentable?”Bingo. Most stores don't exhibit these five traits. Some do... and that's where I don't only like to shop, but hang out... and send my friends. I've found a couple in my zipcode, and I have spent a whole lot of time in the last year cracking their code. (It wasn't that hard.) ;)
2. Are there thinkers here? I value thinkers, readers and articulate people. Are there books and magazines around? Do they looked used or are they just for show? I seldom see any books in client offices so I’ve come to grips with the fact that reading is not considered work. However, I still look for some tiny evidence that people read and think.
3. Is this a place where creative ideas are welcome? There’s just “something” about a place that tells me new ideas and creative thinkers are welcome. Sometimes it’s suggested by the décor of the business. But even with plenty of “fun” in the decoration, at times, I still “feel” they are just a bunch of “stiffs”. I’m always thin-slicing for a left-brain dominated work space.
4. Are these people paying attention to me? This one doesn’t take a lot of slowing down for me to recognize - I am acutely tuned into it. Reception areas, phone calls, greetings, and eye contact all get factored in a nanosecond.
5. Are these “owners”? I always look for an ownership attitude. Do they act like owners or simply hired hands? Owners want me to take the tour of their plant, see their new offices, admire their latest project. I can smell ownership a mile a way.
1) Do you really need a marketing "plan"?And then you have this, from Stephen Denny's Note To CMO blog:
Very often people just need to get out and engage with customers, prospects, influencers and connectors. There is no need for a marketing plan to do that. Often times marketing plans are just produced by marketing luddites as a CYA document. Granted, for some very large projects that involve large teams of people a plan can be useful - but more as a check-list than as a marketing roadmap.
2) Does the marketing plan show the addressable market being in the billions of dollars?
Any VC will scoff at these numbers - yet they won't invest if it is not true. Don't talk about the total addressable market, tell me how you will get your next 10 or 100 customers. Who are they, what do they do, where do they live, how will you reach them? Give me real life scenarios of potential customers and how you will help them solve their problem. Don't give aggregate figures that have zero meaning.
3) Are you pretending or intending on being a leader in a category that nobody ever heard of?
Most companies I have worked with consider themselves the category leader in a category with one player - themselves. A category is recognized by others as a category and has other players in it. You can "create" a category, but you need help to create a new one - including help from competitors. Show me how you will create a new category, and who you will enlist to help with the creation? Show me how you will change the rules of the game in that category, how you will change the players or change their respective value as you enter the category - now that's interesting!
4) Does your competitive review result in your company or product being in the upper right hand corner of some diagram?
Do I need to elaborate? You and everybody else lives there...it must be pretty tough to compete there. Show me where you are on the BS curve compared to others - that would be much more interesting...
5) What part of the plan deals with how you will deal with change?
The biggest danger with plans is that they become "bibles" - and once they are approved nobody can deviate from the chosen path. Yet most successful marketing programs are emergent in nature, they are like a jamming sessions...and so back to point 1) do you really need a marketing plan?
Thin slicing hot (and not very hot) brands? There are a lot of thin slices you can take on a brand – how you react to a brand presentation at a boardroom level, how you react as a consumer, etc. So here's a very thin slice – your potential customer’s first second of recognition when exposed to your new brand, hot or not:
Hot brands evoke one of two visceral reactions. First is The Eyebrow Arch, accompanied by the ‘ooh’. This is the “that’s very cool” reaction you want with anything you just launched at the show in Vegas. The second is The Buddha Nod and the “aah”. This is the “I’m so glad you came along and fixed this mess” reaction you want with the service you just launched.
The “not very hot” brands also prompt visceral reactions. Just different ones. You remember Nipper, the RCA dog who cocks his head to one side, hearing his master’s voice – or, perhaps he’s saying, “You do – what – exactly? And why do I want this?” The other is The Hanging “And”, so identified by the listener’s continuing rapt attention to a statement that has long since finished, whose unfulfilled expectation is that an “and” would come along to make it all finally makes sense. This is the proverbial “6 Minute Abs” video.
People can’t help being interested when they are and can’t fake it very well when they’re not.
* * *
You know, my comment above may sound a bit flip, but it's not meant to be. I try to bring a bit of levity to the subjects I cover because that's how I communicate serious stuff. But the underlying truth here is that the observational, behavioral side of customer insight is more powerful than a handfull of questionnaires filled out by bored shoppers. You have to get this feedback when people are willing to be engaged in the experience you're selling, which is why intrusive advertising (let alone research) is so appallingly bad. But watch people and they'll tell you what you need to know. That's my point.