Month: June 2011

Take a moment

Take a moment

Coming home from Sydney, Paul and I were talking about ‘moments of truth’. One of the great ironies, and frustrations, for many brands is that reputation must be built over years, but can be lost in a tiny fraction of that time – seconds. All because of an action or a word, a misunderstanding or an expectation that may or may not even have been reasonable in the first place.

Funnel vision

It’s always fascinating to compare how you see your place in the market with how others see you. Warren made this astute observation the other day. If you’re in a very small market like New Zealand and you look out, you see the whole world before you. There seem to be endless opportunities. But step around to the other side of the world and look back, and you see a market like New Zealand from a completely different perspective. It seems small and hard to find. The issue of course is not specific to place brands. It’s applicable to all brands that are small in comparison to the scaled markets they would like to reach. The brands themselves see a panorama. The world looking at all the choices available to them from so many sources discerns barely a speck. This is quite literally ‘funnel vision’. Your perspective depends entirely on what end of the funnel you are looking from – the scaled end or the narrow end. The only way that situation can change is …

Can brands fly?

Do you remember when you were a child the first time someone made you a paper plane? If your recollection is anything like mine, you couldn’t believe how it left your hand and made its way across the room. Before long though, it lost height and velocity, and fell to the floor. One of my more cynical friends has this joke about how much media budget is needed to keep a brand going successfully: “Give me all the money you can burn and it will go like a rocket!” It’s easy to see a brand as an expense that relies on getting attention to make its presence felt and to make the expenditure worth it. Detractors see it that way too. They’re very quick to opine that unless they’re constantly fed money to keep them in front of consumers, brands simply fizzle and fall to earth. I don’t share that view. Particularly now, with all the different ways that we access and talk about brands, I see them less as rockets kept airborne by media …

How should we rethink the advertising industry?

I enjoy seeing people poke business models, but it’s important that when you look to disrupt a business that you do so without assumptions. The call by Marc Ruxin of Universal McCann to rethink the creative department of ad agencies is a great idea but my sense is that his suggestions still assume the battle is for attention, and that winning that attention and holding it via great content, well presented, is critical to achieving consumer preference. The noise preventing that, he says, is formidable. Brands are trying to get their messages heard and acted upon in an environment of 150 million tweets a day, 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook, 300 million global players of Zynga games, 200 million Daily Deal subscribers … I’m far from convinced though that attention and preference are a linear progression. And I think we need to insert at least three further filters into that zig-zag of decision making: notice, consider and purchase. You may gain a consumer’s attention momentarily, but until they choose to escalate that attention …

Headgames

I love this observation by Jay Deragon about the Social Learning Curve: “All things social are creating a herd of copycats following practices, methods and behavio[u]r created by the frenzy of learning something new …” To what end? is the inevitable question. Once learned, something is no longer new. In fact, it retains distinctive value only whilst the numbers of people who have access to that knowledge remains small. And yet, thanks to all things social, the chances of that happening are becoming less and less. And the pressures to democratise what one knows are also increasing. So everyone feels a pressure to learn, and many brands feel a pressure to share, but once accessed by many people, learning retains diminishing competitive advantage. It quite literally devolves to common knowledge. It becomes how ‘everyone’ does things, what ‘everyone’ agrees on, the way ‘everyone’ sees the world. Soon, what was new is basis. The tipping point for example. Once breakthrough. Now mainstream. Knowledge commoditises. I happen to really like Collins’ book ‘Good to Great’, but if …

When was the last time you actually changed your mind?

The hardest thing a brand can do is convince – to go against what people already believe and to ask them to believe something different. Actually, that’s not just true for brands, it’s applicable to anything or anyone. In the scheme of natural human interactions, conversion is relatively rare. To succeed at convincing, you need to overcome all the natural resistance that comes with encountering something new. Essentially, you need to break down all the inclination that has already amassed for an idea or a storyline. You need to destroy the loyalty that already exists for what people have and replace its equity. That’s amazingly difficult. As Seth Godin once observed, “If the story of your marketing requires the prospect to abandon a previously believed story, you have a lot of work to do.” Redirection is simpler. You change soaps. You change airlines. You change shirt brands. Particularly if soap, airlines and shirt brands don’t mean that much to you. Changing from a brand that says and does one thing to another brand that seems …

An option or a choice?

Just getting a presence in most markets can be hard work. One of my friends is finding that in the beverages game – a longer runway than he and his partners expected, and a lot more patience required as well. Long days, he says, having to justify every metre of shelf space you’re allocated. Same with being a speaker or a consultant. But doing all the work to get on the map just elevates you to the status of another option. That’s not the same as being a choice. Options form part of the line-up for how customers decide. Choices are a conscious decision in themselves. Option means you’re available, you’re on the list, in the books. You’re a speculation. Choice makes you an active decision, one part of yes/no, either/or. You’re known, you’re quantified, you’re considered. Now if you’re in the business of selling variety – like supermarkets, book stores, speakers’ bureaux, search engines – options fill out the stock book. They reflect well on you because they prove that you can tap the …