In 2000, an article in Wireless called into question whether machines were quite the panacea we hoped they were. It was possible, said the author, that this dependence on machines was not going to a good place.
Personalisation is the quest of the moment for so many marketers, with 70% of executives interviewed by Forrester saying it is now of strategic importance to their business. (What may surprise you, as it did me, is how generalised so much marketing still is.)
Short answer – yes it is, but not in the way it was. I haven’t met a brand manager yet who didn’t tell me that they had a differentiated product. I’m not surprised. It’s part of the job description of any brand owner to be marketing something that is disruptive, market-changing, blue-ocean, category-killing … 15 years on from when I first suggested “parity is the real pariah”, every brand’s still talking up difference – but consumers are increasingly hard pressed to see any.
This is the year of wearables it seems. Morgan Stanley are predicting shipments will top 70 million this year and grow to 248 million by 2017. But the thought that wearables themselves will feature in consumer and business spending across areas ranging from fashion and fitness, healthcare and insurance also points to escalation of another trend. Products and services are now less about what consumers have or get and more about who they are and want to be.
Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, recently suggested that products are becoming increasingly addictive. Three macro-trends are driving that, he told me, and together they are lifting the addictive potential of all sorts of products and services: Companies are now able to collect more data about user behaviours; Interactive technology is more accessible; and The transfer of data is happening faster than ever before.
Nir Eyal spent years in the video gaming and advertising industries. I first became aware of his work through his articles (his work can be found in Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic and TechCrunch) and his blog. In the book “Hooked” he promulgates a process that he says successful brands can embed in their products and communication approaches to subtly encourage shifts in customer behaviour.
In the first article in this series on purpose, we looked at the nature of purpose and espoused the view that purpose has two facets: functional (where it describes what the company must get done); and intentional (where it articulates what the company would like to see change in the wider world.) In this article, we look at how purpose and its impacts might be quantified and the benefits that a measurement system might bring.
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 …
Blair sent me this great story about harnessing the power of habit from NPR. It includes an explanation by business reporter Charles Duhigg from his upcoming book “The Power Of Habit” of how companies have successfully altered people’s habits by tapping into what the author refers to as the “habit loop.” According to Duhigg, this loop has three parts: the cue, which triggers a behaviour; the routine, which is the behaviour itself of course; and the reward, which is the signal that goes to the brain to store this habit for future use or not. Duhigg also talks about when Paul O’Neill took over as CEO of a dysfunctional Alcoa. By focusing on worker safety and the dangers of inefficient manufacturing to workers, O’Neill found a way to get everyone on the same page. He went on to build a highly profitable and efficient company. The story serves as a reminder that a change in culture only takes place when you achieve a change in mindset; when you break what Duhigg calls a “keystone habit”. …
So often it seems to me brand owners hope to bring about change rather than planning to bring about change. They see persuasion as an awareness issue rather than as a behavioural issue – often because they regard their product as the obvious choice that somehow, miraculously will spark a “road to Damascus” moment as soon as consumers encounter it. To that end, they pad out their media schedules with as much presence as their budgets can muster and throw huge amounts of energy and disarming levels of resource into whatever’s trending on social media. So I was very interested in an article on willpower in the NZ Listener recently that refers to key elements that persuade us to behave differently. It includes some great thinking from David Thomason and the planners at Draft FCB who, like more and more of us in the marketing sector, are looking to the behavioural sciences for clues on ways to shape brands and the behaviours that make brands gel for people. The article quotes from psychologist Robert Cialdini …