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Depth Over Reach

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

It’s pouring rain on the morning the free weekly lifestyle magazine is stuck through the railings of every home on every street in our neighbourhood. So the 20% of people who would normally flick through it over morning coffee won’t bother to open the magazine today. The soggy newsprint goes straight into the recycling bin. This is not the story the magazine’s ad sales team will tell prospective advertisers. Their data will talk up the power of building brand awareness and increasing reach as a reliable business growth strategy.

The recorded message outside the chiropractor’s office on Victoria Street interrupts every passer-by day or night. He can even reach those making their way home from a big night out at 2 am on Saturday at no additional cost. You just never know who might be walking past at any given moment. And there lies the problem—just like the lifestyle magazine, the chiropractor’s business growth strategy is focused on reach instead of depth. It prioritises the unknowns above the knowns. Both companies have decided that interrupting the most people is the safest marketing strategy. They are ignoring opportunities to deepen relationships with the people who are already interested or invested in their services because they mistakenly believe more is a shortcut to mattering.

How are you prioritising depth over reach in your business?

Image by Alfred Lui.

What Are You In A Hurry To Do?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

In our world of infinite information and seemingly endless opportunities there’s a temptation to fill every moment—to make every available second a productive one. So we multitask. We eat at our desks instead of taking a break. We always listen to podcasts on our commute, neglecting to pay attention to what’s going on around us. We defer to experts for opinions or advice before stopping to question our values first. We aim to optimize every second because we fear missing out, all the while forgetting what we were actually in such a hurry to do.

Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing. To give yourself a moment to think and remember why you started. Sometimes, probably more often than you realise, you are your own best guide. And occasionally standing still is the best optimization strategy.

Image by Geraint Rowland.

Don’t Be Afraid To Start Small

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

On a rainy Monday early in December 1955, 40,000 African-Americans boycotted the public bus services in the town of Montgomery to protest the arrest of 42-year-old Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. Their boycott lasted 381 days until the city repealed its law requiring segregation on public buses. Rosa Parks’ story is one of the most enduring examples we have of the power of one person to change everything.

We tend to forget that the ‘power of one’ rule also applies to revolutions in the commercial world. Philip Mills choreographed his first barbell workout in the remote city of Auckland, New Zealand in 1990. Today he is the CEO of Les Mills International—the hugely successful global fitness brand, with over 130,000 certified instructors delivering classes to more than 6 million people every week in more than 100 countries around the world. To put that into perspective, the population of New Zealand today stands at 4.5 million.

It’s natural to want to get your product into the hands of everyone who needs it. But thinking about how to influence the masses leads to missteps in understanding what’s driving the decisions of the few people you have the best chance of reaching and impacting right now. Like any revolution, success happens one user, one customer, one raving fan at a time. Never be afraid to start small.

Image by Jasperdo.

Why The Realistic Marketer Wins

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

Marketing shoulders heavy burden in any business regardless of size. We expect our marketing efforts to make more customers aware of our brand and to grab their attention. Not only that, we want our marketing to create trust, differentiate our products, communicate value and change people’s minds. Marketing must also convince strangers to choose us and part with their money. And we want it all to happen as quickly as possible with the minimal investment and effort.

This is a big ask, and it’s also the reason we fail when we prioritise tactics over a sustainable marketing strategy.

The realistic marketer doesn’t think this way. He doesn’t believe in quick wins and overnight successes. He obsesses about how to make positive changes in the lives of his customers before crafting clever copy. He learns to question how the people he cares about serving feel before expecting them to act. He puts values before virality and transparency before tactics. The realistic marketer intentionally sets out to make a difference one person at a time. He realises his urgent need does not motivate his potential customers. He understands that delight trumps data every day of the week, so he doubles down on making things people love, instead of trying to make people love the things he makes. The realistic marketer knows that trust scales and belonging is a competitive advantage, which is why he plans to play the long game.

The realistic marketing mindset is open to each one of us. We get to choose our attitudes and actions. It’s worth remembering what we prioritise today changes the impact we make tomorrow.

Image by Christopher Cook.

The Two Questions Behind Every Successful Product And Service

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation, Marketing

There’s a subtle difference between a product or service that stems from an idea and one that’s born from recognising an opportunity. Ideas are solutions in search of problems. Opportunities are problems begging for a solution. The magic of solving problems for a specific customer is that the marketing is baked into the product.

Like many disruptive companies, the team at Dollar Shave Club created a compelling product, innovative business model and viral marketing campaign simply by understanding their customer’s pain points.

We find opportunities when we look for problems to solve, by asking the following two questions:

1. What’s happening that shouldn’t be?
2. What’s not happening, that should be?

In the case of Dollar Shave Club, the answers were clear. The razor blade market was dominated by a few legacy brands who had no direct relationship with their customers. Men were paying a lot of money for shave tech they didn’t need. Buying expensive razor blades didn’t necessarily guarantee a better shaving experience. Shopping for razors and replacing blades wasn’t as convenient as it could be. The startup disrupted the market by addressing these unmet needs.

The utility, quality and success of our products and services improve when we pay attention to what’s missing in our customers’ lives.

What gaps can you fill for your customers?

[Learn more about turning your insights into successful products and services in my new book, Hunch].

Image by Thomas Hawk.

The Number One Way To Create Brand Awareness

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

There was something peculiar about the SoHo hotel where I stayed on my recent overseas trip. I didn’t see a single child for the length of my stay. Nowhere in their marketing does the management specify their property is unsuitable for children and yet because they are uncompromising about going all the way to the edges in everything they say and do—the potential customer knows.

The best way to create brand awareness is to make a product or service that’s designed to please a particular audience and to do it without compromising. That’s easy to say and hard to do. When you have two hundred rooms to fill and bills to pay, fear sets in and is closely followed by a compromise. That compromise not only dilutes the potency of your brand, it subconsciously creates a disconnect in the mind and heart of the right customer. You can’t imagine seeing a T-bone steak on the menu at a vegan restaurant. It would never happen under any circumstances. That’s the essence of great branding—to build something that feels like it’s just for a particular kind of person. Someone who wants their choices to reflect their values and to be made to feel like an insider.

Back to the SoHo Hotel. Everything from the size and layout of the guest rooms to beautifully lit communal lounges that doubled as coworking spaces and the items on the menu was intentional. The best way to create brand awareness is to understand who your product is for and to only speak to that person. Awareness isn’t about getting the most people to try your product. It’s about making something the right people fall in love with and can’t help talking about.

What are you doing to make your insiders feel like they belong?

Image by Yann Jouanique.

What Successful Marketers Do

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, News

The restauranteur wants people to feel at home when they dine at his cafe. He furnishes it with a communal table filled with jars of decadent preserves. Diners help themselves to as much as they want without having to ask the wait staff for more.

The technology company wants to make women feel more at ease when they’re buying big ticket electrical items. They understand smells affect consumer behaviour, so orange and vanilla scent is diffused throughout their stores.

The fitness brand knows people are more likely to exercise when it feels less like work. They create an immersive group experience that makes exercising more pleasurable and fun, so members return more often.

Successful marketers act with intention. They deliberately connect strategy and tactics to the outcomes they, and more importantly, their customers, want to achieve. They begin with the end in mind and work backwards.

We have to change how people feel before we can hope to change what they do. We often try to skip this step. It takes courage and time to deliberately connect your brand story to a well thought through strategy—but it’s worth the effort. What end do you have in mind?

Image by Enrique Céspedes

You Know More Than You Think

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

We could be forgiven for thinking that facts and figures communicate the whole truth and hold the keys to unlocking the value in every future opportunity. New digital tools and technologies not only give us more information about the world around us and the people in it but also help us to know more about ourselves. We can literally monitor every step we take and every calorie we consume. The great hope is that if we can gather enough data, we will have the power to change the things we want to change—and that we can do it without having to face the fear of uncertainty.

Data—that which we can easily measure—is supposed to make us smarter, and maybe it can, but I’d argue that it doesn’t always make us wiser. Many of our actions and reactions can be observed and quantified, but that data doesn’t always expose the truth about why we take or have them. If it did, we would have found a way to stop people smoking cigarettes, overeating, gambling and drinking to excess. All of the health data that scientists use to persuade us to change our behaviour doesn’t necessarily have any effect. Hard facts tell only part of the story.

The Power Of Intuition In A Data-Driven World

Things are no different when it comes to evaluating the potential of ideas. Where was the data that predicted the need for and subsequent success of Google, Facebook and the iPhone, or the decline of Kodak, BlackBerry and orange juice? Which analyst forecast the 250 per cent increase in almond milk sales in the US over the past five years? Who anticipated that yoga pants would unseat jeans in popular culture, to spawn an active-wear revolution that will help the sports-apparel market be worth a predicted $178 billion globally by 2019? And what about colouring books for adults, with an estimated 12 million sold in 2015 in the US alone – who saw that juggernaut coming? When it comes to making predictions about which ideas will fly, we tend to forget that we can only use the information we have at hand about the past or the present to make a judgement call or prediction about the future. We don’t (or can’t) know the significance of things we have no information about, or haven’t yet thought to measure, and can’t possibly know for sure.

And yet we crave certainty, so we keep amassing and putting our faith in data. That faith has been fractured and then shattered by recent political events. According to Steve Lohr and Natasha Singer of The New York Times, all the data (and there was a lot of it) put Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the 2016 US presidential election at between 70 and 99 per cent. As we know, these forecasts made by experts who had pored over every single possible data point turned out to be far from reliable. Lohr and Singer report ‘a far-reaching change across industries that have increasingly become obsessed with data, the value of it and the potential to mine it for cost-saving and profit-making insights’. However, they also remind us that, ‘data science is a technology advance with trade-offs. It can see things as never before, but also can be a blunt instrument, missing context and nuance.’ This proved to be true in the case of the 2016 presidential election. It was easy to measure how people said they would vote, but far harder to gauge what was in people’s hearts.

Not all of the useful information we can gather can be precisely measured and carefully graphed. What we observe in the everyday about what’s working and what’s not, why this is chosen, and that is rejected, and how the world still turns when people say one thing and do another, can lead to the seemingly insignificant insights that change everything. When we are creating ideas that will exist in the world, we must take that world into account—all of it, not just a logical, thin-sliced or convenient view of it.

We instinctively understand more than we give ourselves credit for and we didn’t learn it all from Britannica, Wikipedia or Google. Every day, we have access to vast amounts of information that we unconsciously collect. While this other kind of data is subjective, it’s still useful, and it can be put to work. If we train ourselves to become more observant, if we pay attention—to our surroundings, to other people, to what’s happening that shouldn’t be, or what’s not happening, that should be—our most mundane experiences can fuel our boldest and most brilliant ideas.

Excerpted from my new book Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into The Next Big Thing which goes on sale in the US today.

Image by Hernán Piñera.

Bridging The Scarcity Gap

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

The man riding in the lift with me hit the button for the highest, and arguably the best floor in the hotel. I remarked that he must have great views from there. He shrugged his shoulders, then started to complain about his inability to open the windows to let the fresh air in.

The scarcity worldview abounds. You’ll hear it articulated in conversations all around you. Understanding how to bridge the scarcity gap creates opportunities for you and your business day in and day out. The data is in the stories.

How do your customers believe their lives could be better and what can you do about it?

My new book Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into The Next Big Thing is available now in the UK & Australia.

Image by Garry Knight.

Where Will Your Next Big Idea Come From?

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

A few weeks before Hillary Clinton was defeated in the US presidental election I met a guy selling hats emblazoned with both candidates’ names outside the Rockerfeller Center in New York.
‘There will be a big upset in this election. Trump hats are selling like hotcakes,’ he said. It was hard to believe. Just the day before at a behavioural economics conference in Manhattan the academics and experts who had crunched every data point predicted exactly the opposite. The data showed Hillary was on track. But the sales in Trump hats didn’t lie. The data worth paying attention to was closer to home. It was in the stories of the people on the streets of towns where those who wrote the algorithms didn’t live and work.

In our digitally, data-stamped world, facts are king and intuition gets a bad rap. Author Michael Lewis describes the ‘powerful trend to mistrust human intuition and defer to algorithms’ that came about as a result of the work of scientists in the field of behavioural economics. The irony, of course, is that scientists too start out with nothing more than a hunch about what’s worth investigating further. Even those whose job it is to demonstrate proof start out not knowing for sure.

Things are no different when it comes to innovating in the commercial world. Where was the data that predicted the need for and subsequent success of Google, Facebook and the iPhone, or the decline of Kodak, BlackBerry and orange juice? Which analyst forecast the 250 per cent increase in almond milk sales in the US over the past five years? Who anticipated that yoga pants would unseat jeans in popular culture, to spawn an active-wear revolution that will help the sports-apparel market be worth a predicted $178 billion globally by 2019? And what about colouring books for adults, with an estimated 12 million sold in 2015 in the US alone – who saw that juggernaut coming? When it comes to making predictions about which ideas will fly, we tend to forget that we can only use the information we have at hand about the past or the present to make a judgement call or prediction about the future. We don’t (or can’t) know the significance of things we have no information about, or haven’t yet thought to measure, and can’t possibly know for sure. Data may be able to tell us what people do and how they do it, but critically, not why they do it.

Intuition, on the other hand, enables us to tap into our shared human experience to reveal a fundamental truth about what it is people want and need. Often there is no reliable data to go on—which is why the disposable nappy was invented by a frustrated mother, and Warby Parker was the brainchild of a guy who’d gone without glasses for a college semester because he couldn’t afford to replace the ones he’d lost. These stories of curious, empathetic and imaginative people who built successful businesses by seeing problems that were begging for a solution are retold over and over again. Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for proof that their idea will work. They learn to trust their gut and go.

My new book Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into The Next Big Thing goes on sale in the UK and Australia today. If you’re in the US, you’ve got just a few more days to wait. Hunch will help you to harness the power of your intuition so you can recognise opportunities others miss and create the breakthrough idea the world is waiting for. Filled with success stories, reflection exercises and writing prompts, I hope it will be your guide to embracing your unique potential and discovering winning ideas.