Month: June 2012

Does my brand look big in this?

As marketers, we’re often encouraged to puff up our brands to look as big as possible so that they appear significant and credible in a global marketplace. There’s a sense that if you’re big, you must be successful and if you’re successful, then there’s a higher than likely chance that you’ll continue to grow. Size matters. But not always in the senses that we have been led to believe. My own view is that the size of your business is actually less critical than the scale and/or extent of your thinking. A big brand on the hoof is a thing of beauty, to be sure. Strong, assured, competitive, resourced and focused on bringing its vision of the future to life. Big brands command presence and respect. But the biggest companies aren’t always the smartest, they’re not always the pace setters and they’re certainly not infallible even though they might like to think they are. I have only to direct attention to the GFC to remind all of us that neither history nor size counts as …

Handpicked – the wider opportunity of curation

The first time I really thought about the role of an astute retailer was while watching Mary Portas. Her point: any retailer can stock. Smart and profitable retailers, by contrast, handpick items that their shoppers will crave – and that is where they add value. In a great shop, she was saying, you don’t just come to buy, you come to discover things you wouldn’t normally find housed together. Fine point, well made. These days, curation is all the rage. As Trendwatching so rightly observed in an article aptly titled “Everyone’s a curator now”, what used to pass for selecting, choosing or finding (Didn’t we once call that editing?) has been transformed into the more scholarly-sounding art of curating. That’s hardly surprising, Trendwatching observes, given the massive levels of choice that consumers now face, nor it is actually that new. In fact, the idea morphed out of the art galleries more than a decade ago, and really picked up pace with the arrival of Facebook, iPod playlists and Flickr. To Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation …

Not a problem: success pivots on what you solve, not just what you know

If you’re not a fan yet of the Scattershot blog, then I’d like to suggest you should be. In a post published earlier this week, Rajant discusses the concept of “ground truth”. Ground truth, as its name suggests, is the view on the ground that verifies and informs the satellite view. It’s a great way to separate a problem from a truth. What’s interesting about this is that the perspective that brands have of situations gained from afar can be very different from the reality closer to home. In fact, those on the ground may not see that they have an issue at all. That’s a significant hurdle when your cue for action is something your audience doesn’t recognise. Rajant gives the telling example of P&G’s launch of Febreze, which initially failed. The reason? You only need an air freshener if you understand that you are surrounded by bad smells. The problem with that: “even the strongest odours fade with continual exposure … And Febreze’s reward (an odourless home) was meaningless to someone who couldn’t …

Retail brands: price always has a context

Marianne Bickle takes JC Penney’s to task over their pricing strategy in this pithy and thought-provoking post in Forbes. In it, she argues that the retailing icon misread the market in key ways and compromised its value proposition when it replaced its famous coupon and discounts pricing strategy with a policy that stressed continuity, consistency and predictability. People buy emotionally, argues Bickle, and that emotion extends beyond the shop doors. It reaches all the way to the macro-environment that influences their wallets. It’s critical therefore that brands understand how their consumers feel about the economy. If things feel uncertain – and nearly two-thirds of JC Penney customers were saying they didn’t feel the economy was strong – don’t change what they know. It not only makes a new pricing strategy undesirable, it’s also destabilising. And people are much less prone to buy when things don’t feel as they have. It’s also vital, Bickle points out, that brands understand how people buy, not just what they buy. In the case of JC Penney, over 60% of …

Is the digital economy actually an economy (yet)?

Some years ago, I wrote a post that took Chris Anderson’s “freemium” model to task. In it I argued that once you had provided services and information freely, the conversion to payment was going to be a lot tougher. Free, I suggested, would become an implicit entitlement. Last week, in a withering attack in the New York Times, Ross Douthat lashed out at what he called “The Facebook Illusion”. Comparing Web 2.0 to the home ownership bubble, he took particular aim at the world’s biggest social networking site. The relative disappointment of its IPO should be read, he maintains, not as an indication that Facebook doesn’t make money, but rather that “it doesn’t make that much money, and doesn’t have an obvious way to make that much more of it, because … it hasn’t figured out how to effectively monetize its million upon millions of users … This “huge reach, limited profitability” problem is characteristic of the digital economy as a whole.” It’s probably a little early to call Facebook. Whether the IPO misfired or …

The portfolio approach to strategy

The portfolio approach to strategy

How do you drive home a strategy to fulfil your future, when everything around you is changing?  The secret, according to McKinsey & Co senior advisor, Eric D. Beinhocker, is to radically review what we mean by strategy. In his 2006 book, The Origin of Wealth, Beinhocker argues that rather than thinking of strategy as a single plan built on predictions of the future, we should think of it as a portfolio of experiments, a population of competing business plans that exist within the decision making process but evolve over time.