All posts tagged: little data

Is brand differentiation still possible

Is brand differentiation still possible?

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.

Why consumer brands are increasingly personal

Why consumer brands are increasingly personal (and what that means for you)

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.

A Short Virtual Coffee with Nir Eyal

Hooked on Brands: A (Short) Virtual Coffee™ with Nir Eyal

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.

Measuring purpose - the next business imperative

Measuring purpose. The next key business imperative

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.

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 …

Breaking the habit of dissent

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”. …

Will they or won’t they?

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 …


Brands are all about habits. But as this article in Time reminds us, sometimes the best thing a brand can look to do is to change a habit – even if they helped create the habit in the first place. Of course, brands tell themselves they do this all the time – but for many brands, the focus of their problem solving is on increasing consumption. Their answer to a pattern they feel they know and understand is more of that pattern. But the insight here is that changing a habit for the better doesn’t necessarily mean just offering the consumer more of what they have, or more of what the brand perceives consumers want. In the context of the fast food industry for example, generosity is not a competitive advantage. When everyone’s offering bigger portions, the portions aren’t more generous. They quickly become the new normal. The pattern itself hasn’t changed, it’s just got bigger. One of the reasons why brands are so reluctant to change patterns is that they take so many of …

The power of occasions

Habits are powerful, but occasions may be even more so. I think they engage us so effectively because they combine time and focus. And because of that, they provide permission – it’s OK to behave this way or that. It’s OK to do something you wouldn’t do on any ordinary day. If you’re a smart brand, you’ll find a way to hook into that; to link what you’re about to what people are thinking about on specific occasions. You’ll give them a reason and a way to excel at the emotion of the moment. On Valentine’s Day it seems appropriate to look at a brand that used the occasion of declaring love to forge one of the most powerful marketing campaigns of all time. De Beers have turned a diamond into the embodiment of eternity with their sublime catch-phrase ‘A diamond is forever’. They’ve linked the optimism and romance of occasions like engagements and weddings with the promise to stay together ‘till death do us part’. They have encapsulated all that in a single symbol …