All posts filed under: Leadership

What’s the plural of sale?

How successful is a sale when everyone else is in sale too? I wondered about this as I walked through a mall yesterday. Everyone was looking to shift what they could, however they could. Which struck me as an extraordinary contradiction. Because surely the whole point of being in sale is to be in a position where you are offering goods at a price that is unmatched by those around you – so that you can either make way for more goods and/or move on what you have and recoup something. When everyone goes into sale however, the dynamics change one of two ways. Either, everyone goes into a feeding frenzy, grabs everything they can and it’s all over in no time. Or the opposite occurs. It’s much harder to move goods because even your lowered price is not an active incentive. And you’re not going to recoup because in order to be seen to be in sale in a market where everyone’s in sale, you’ll probably have to keep dipping, below cost even – …

Replacement is not a strategy

I’m always amazed by how one business closes and another one of an almost identical nature springs up in its place. Recently, another of the cafes near home closed. Strange thing is that the café that was there before them, on the same site, also closed. And the one before that. Clearly this is not a good site. It’s right on a corner. There’s no parking. And most of the competition is about a block away, so there’s no clustering effect. The closure itself is sad. The effects for those who had to close were probably huge. But what never fails to amaze me is how business owners believe they have what it takes to beat the odds without tilting the odds at all. There’s this extraordinary belief that, somehow, doing the same thing as the guy that just failed, is the recipe for success. Of course there are a thousand reasons why a business can fail, especially in a sector as unforgiving as hospitality, but if it were me, very big flags of misgiving …

When brands attack: 12 reasons to confront a competitor

As in most things in life, there’s a time to hold your ground when you’re a brand, a time to step back and reassess, and there are times when you should look to front-foot your position. Those calls should be based on pragmatism not impulse, because the resources required to up your game can be considerable and the consequences of failure can be significant. So when should a brand take on a competitor, directly or indirectly, and how should they behave when they do so? Let’s start with the circumstances in which an attack makes sense. 1. It’s the only way to expand your market share – if you have carefully thought through growth plans but are competing in a market with little or no organic growth, the only way to expand your presence is to take it off someone else. Be aware though that in many static markets, fluctuations in market share are small – so a concerted effort to grasp a bigger piece of the pie is likely to be costly, drawn out …

The ironies of quantifying market demand

Anyone proposing something new in an organisation is likely to be hit by four questions that represent two contradictory lines of enquiry. They serve perhaps to highlight the ironies of trying to quantify demand. On the one hand: The search for precedent Question 1: Who else has done this? Wrong answer: If the real answer is that many others are doing it, you have signalled what should be a non-starter. That’s because if others are doing what you are suggesting, it is not an innovation. It is, at best, catch-up. If you present it as a competitive opportunity, then you are, as Michael Porter has pointed out, relying on the incompetence of your rivals and that is not the basis for a sustainable competitive position. Right answer: The idea is new for the sector, and a similar concept, using a parallel model, has worked well in other sectors with a similar competitive profile. Question 2: Is there a demand for it? Wrong answer: You think so, or there should be, or it’s a great idea …

Should you save your brand or let it die?

Recently Patrick Hanlon wrote an interesting piece on branding a DOA brand. In it, he laid out a well thought-through plan to resurrect a dying marque: rediscover your reason for being; define your zealot consumers; define your brand assets; discover your relevancy all over again. His conclusion: “Even brands that seem out of date, irrelevant, and barely resonant with consumers can be re-imagined, reconceived, and reconstructed using this simple, regimented path.” Hanlon’s approach for bringing a brand back from near-death seems logical. My question: Should you do it? Birthing brands doesn’t seem to be an issue. In fact, marketers have no problem introducing new brands to market at a dizzying rate. As Professor Jerry Hausman explains, “The number of new products introduced in any year is astounding. New varieties of consumer goods such as cereal brands are evident, as any shopping trip to a local supermarket or Wal-Mart demonstrates. Potentially even more important are the new products based on technology: more than 55 million cellular telephones are in use in the United States.” In an …

Brand equity and its relationship to a good brand story

Like most people I’ve probably tended to silo the financial value that brands generate from the story they tell. Purpose, values and story defined a brand in my view; margin and financial worth were the outcomes of a brand well executed. More recently, I’ve been wondering whether in fact these items are not so disparate after all, and whether in fact they should be directly linked: whether the margin that a brand is able to sustainably generate, and thus the value that it achieves, is attributable and proportional to the strength, relevance and longevity of its story. David Aaker has defined brand equity as the value added to a functional product or service by associating it with the brand name. It is in effect, he says, a set of assets, including brand awareness, loyalty, perceived quality and brand associations, that are attached to a brand name or symbol. Increasingly, I believe, those assets are generated, or at the very least increased, by the stories brands tell and the experiences they deliver. This article about brand …

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 …

Nailing your opinions: creating a powerful brand manifesto

On All Saint’s Day 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church, sparking, in the eyes of many, what would become the Protestant Reformation. Whether or not he actually did post the Theses (of course there is historical debate) and what that generated are off-topic, but the action of pinning your colours to a statement of beliefs for all the world to see lies at the core of building and articulating an opinionated brand. Brands build trust through behaviours. And behaviours should be based on clear principles. Those principles should bring your purpose to life by laying out the clear psychological guidelines within which your brand operates. They are, when done well, an inspiring précis of your organisation’s worldview. Martin Lindstrom made the brand case for opinion for me in this post several years ago when he wrote: “The fact is that consumers are tiring of perfectly polished brands. Inoffensive brands. … Brands without well-defined opinions will find it increasingly difficult to gain traction in the market place. The challenge …

When projects don’t stack: the fine art of understanding mistakes

By Mark Di Somma When a project doesn’t meet expectations, I’m fascinated by what gets asked, who does the asking and what, if anything, emerges as the key learning. My view is that we should treat projects that don’t go to plan not so much as wreckages but rather as breakages: they occur when the picture we have in our minds of what will occur shatters, splits or simply falls a different way than we had led ourselves to expect. That can mean something as elemental as having the wrong picture in the first place – or it can come down to developments that pulled things out of alignment. Faced with picking up the pieces, here are 22 questions I use to try and get to the truth, and to move on: 1. What exactly went wrong? (What did not happen?) 2. How “wrong” was it – in the sense that how much did it differ from what we had told ourselves would happen? 3. How realistic was our prediction in the first place? (How …

Don’t just provide reasons to buy. Change the reason for buying.

It’s tempting when your product all but parallels that of your competitors to be drawn into a meaningless war: a fight for market share that revolves around devaluing (looking to price the other guy out), trivial pursuit (nit-picking on features in a bid to show technical advantage) or overshadowing (spending up large in mainstream media in a bid to raise “awareness”). The problem with chasing competitive preference is that brands spend far too much time focusing on the competitive aspects and far too little insight on identifying where the preferences could lie. All three approaches above are looking to provide consumers with reasons to buy, but while they may change perceptions, they actually do little to change affinity. It’s a distinction that’s easily overlooked. Changing what consumers think of you for now does not automatically translate into a shift in how consumers feel about you – especially in the longer term. They may, as a result of the above actions, see you as offering them more value, they may like the fact that your product …