Month: June 2013

Getting the brand promise right

A brand promise is the commitment to deliver made between that brand and its audience. It’s made, of course, in order to encourage that audience to buy. Ultimately of course a promise lives or dies on whether it is believed and delivered on – no surprises there – but the promise is shaped by a range of factors: the nature of the offering; the capabilities and capacity of the brand; the rival promises of competitors. What’s often overlooked is that the character of the promise itself changes depending on the sector. Let me give an extreme example: a retail-style promise made by a professional services firm would fail. Imagine if a patent attorney promised her customers that they would “love how our intellectual property advice makes you feel”. Sure, it’s hardly a distinctive promise anyway, but clients would be laughing all the way to the door. (Equally, a professional services firm’s approach applied to selling domestic vacuum cleaners would be awkward to say the least.) That’s because the style and nature of the promise and …

Could the future of brand rivalry lie in being asymmetrical?

Three seemingly unrelated articles got me thinking today about the future of brand competitiveness in a world where the competitors are increasingly globally scaled. Conventional knowledge suggests that brands square off in the arena of public awareness. Each party assembles its awareness and loyalty generators and then launches a charm offensive to consumers offering them multiple reasons and multiple channels to choose them over others. In the fight between big and big, that’s a relatively straightforward competition. But how do you take on the biggest brands in the world if you are a much smaller marketing force or if you’re looking for an alternative strategy? Perhaps you do so by not taking them on directly. And perhaps you don’t take them on alone. The thought for this came from an article by Stan McChrystal (thanks Alex) on the lessons he learnt in Iraq: that a massive and powerful adversary can be seriously affected by a much, much smaller force that leverages its network and moves quickly to find points of vulnerability. The relevance of McChrystal’s …

What makes a great brand story?

Storytelling is of course very much an idea whose time has come. And brands are increasingly using story formats to express themselves and to explain their place in the market and the world. But, if I may reference Sheryl Sandberg, what gives a story “lean-in” value? In this 2012 TED talk, filmmaker Andrew Stanton explains that we humans love stories because of their affirmative value. We need that affirmation, says Stanton, and stories provide that connection. Stories, he says, work across time and allow us to find similarities with others. In his presentation, Stanton draws our attention to six great guidelines: • Make me care • Make me a promise right from the start • Give people enough to put the rest of the story together • Stories should be inevitable but not predictable • Stories must mix anticipation with uncertainty • As a storyteller, your main responsibility is to invoke wonder They’re great rules. But what do they mean in terms of how we craft the story of a brand? What are the guidelines …

Agitation: Step 1 in building a purposeful culture

You can’t and shouldn’t change a culture just for the sake of it. Obvious, right? And yet managers often announce change programmes without referencing and quantifying specific motivations. There’s little doubt that people act more positively and decisively when they are presented with a context for actions. A real context. A pain point they can feel. An opportunity that stares them in the eye and says “Come get me”. So often, the reasons given for changing a culture are far too broad. They’re couched around concepts or theory – productivity gains or the need to downsize or an economic change of fortune. The thing is, none of those reasons sound like reasons. They sound like excuses or, worse, prompts. They’re mantras not motives. In this wonderful article courtesy of Bain & Co, authors Patrick Litre and Kevin Murphy trace the ups and downs of the traditional change programme: Specifically, the Agitation stage of a culture change programme needs to address the three change resistors that cause that significant dip at the start: •  Anchoring locks …

Fighting the "fadar" …

We now have greater access to ideas than ever before, but the ideas themselves, it seems to me, have a much shorter half-life. New thinking, new people, new everything are presented to us at a dizzying pace – in editorial, feeds, slide decks, talks, videos, articles, almost everywhere one cares to look. In an age of instant celebrity and content marketing, thoughts and variations of thoughts are being championed from every social soapbox. Ideas have become fashion – because they are marketed to us as fashions. And like fashion, most will barely outlive the press release that trumpeted them. A proliferation of lists across the media adds to the sense of volatility. The “fadar” is how I describe the promulgation of ideas fighting for our collective and individual attention across every aspect of the cultural landscape. Some will shine. Many won’t get the chance. Others will bedazzle on first view only to burn out well before they hit paydirt … (Ironically, as an idea in its own right, the fadar is of course subject to …