A lot of companies treat their brands as "stories to be told". In this post we explain how this framing makes brands overly reliant on third parties, typically media companies, to keep them in the public eye. We also show why this approach is so damaging to long-term brand health, and propose a different way of understanding your brand that can lead to long-term growth and success.
The so-called Shirky Principle states that institutions only survive by NOT solving the problems that they set out to solve. In this post we explore what this means for brands. Specifically, we look at how failure to deliver fully on a brand promise might well be the best path to success for a business.
The inexorable march of the software industry across the global economy continues unabated. Incumbent and after incumbent goes from skepticism, to panic, to obsolescence. It's now apparent to everyone not living in a bunker that the level of disruption, great as it has been, will only increase. There will be no more "status quo", at least, not for the rest of my life, or yours. What's a business to do? The answer is simple to grasp at a superficial level, but complex to execute at a deep level. Companies must take the counter-intuitive step of volunteering to disrupt themselves to avoid being rendered obsolete. In other words, you must eat the bear, before the bear eats you.
A lot of ink has been spilled (and money spent) on trying to convince companies that the goal of having a brand is to get people to fall in love with your business. While nobody's going to argue that having customers who love you is a bad thing, too much focus on this from the outset could distract brands from more important work that creates more enduring sources of value for customers and the companies that serve them.
Having points of difference is the lifeblood of branding. Without it, you're a commodity. Finding those points is the easy part, the hard part is finding ones that others are unwilling or unable to imitate. Differentiation is exponentially harder in professional services, where the barriers to entry and imitation are almost non-existent. One of the ways we have achieved differentiation in this market is through a greater willingness to stick our necks out in an industry that's notoriously risk-averse. It has taken us places others are unwilling to go, and it compounds on itself by giving us unique learning experiences that others in our industry are not being exposed to.
...In almost every category of business, the current approach leads to managers seeking to squeeze a few more percentage points of revenue out of business practices that they have already optimized, over and over again, in many cases going back decades.
Managers end up ignoring bigger opportunities because they don't fit neatly into the established paradigms implied by existing measurement systems. Put simply, the needs of the measurement system start to outweigh the broader need of the business (to grow, to add value, to win).
(photo by Damian Paulus, Flickr)
Many brand managers are happy to talk about disruption. Talk, as the saying goes, is cheap; too often, actions fail to keep pace with good intentions. Until more brand managers embrace the transformational opportunities of mobile, social and the emerging Internet of things, the future will remain un-evenly distributed.
Why is this? In our view, it's not because managers are naive, it's because this particular shift is so unprecedented, and so all encompassing, that many people, and organizations, are under-estimating the size of the opportunity and urgency with which they need to act.
I caught up with IBM's Sandy Carter at this year's South by Southwest Interactive conference to talk about the ROI of social media, overcoming the social "fear factor" in the boardroom and what it takes for an enterprise to be ready for social.
This astounding chart shows what happened to referral traffic to the Buzzfeed network in the last two years. If this is not an isolated incident (and there's reason to believe that it is not) then we may be witnessing social's coming of age as the dominant paradigm for how content is organized and discovered on the web. The implications are profound...
The veneer of perfection that once separated the world of marketing from the everyday customer experience has cracked. Internet transparency is breaking down the artificial barrier
between collective aspiration and personal experience.
Digital media represents a huge challenge to the theory and practice of branding. Some have even questioned if brands are now "dying". We don't think so, but we do think that many tactics used for brand-building are being rapidly replaced by new approaches. The way forward is about more than just adopting the latest digital tools, it requires a new way of thinking about, and managing, brand value. The following articles explores this topic in depth.
The web is disrupting the historical dynamics of customer loyalty; merely adopting new social media tools is not enough to resolve this issue. In order for brands to adapt successfully, the use of social media tools must be accompanied by a stronger customer experience orientation. This slide show lays out the challenge and offers some suggestions for future focus.