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Change Making

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

The story changes the value.
The value changes the perception.
The perception changes the experience.
The experience changes the outcome.
The outcome changes the customer.
The customer changes the story.

Image by Matthias Ripp.

The Power Of Perspective

filed in Brand Story, Success

The brilliant science graduate had a decade of first class education behind her. But the industry she thought she’d been equipping herself to excel in was experiencing a sudden downturn and her hope of finding the work she had trained to do. Her excellent academic record and transferable skills were worthless in the face of the story she told herself about the future.

Hope impacts our internal narrative, acting like the aperture of a camera’s lens controlling the amount of light reaching the film. It makes us more resourceful, fuels our resilience and strengthens our resolve. We might not have the ability to alter the scene but we can change our perspective.

We have more power to shape our stories than we realise.

Image by Elizabeth Haslam.

Getting There

filed in Success

In my mother’s day, ‘getting there’ meant finding a partner, having a roof over your head and family you could afford to feed. That’s still the reality for many but probably not for most people reading this today.

Now ‘there’ is now the elusive place where accomplishments are built ever higher, boxes are ticked and accolades rain down. A transient state of worthiness we achieve when we finally have proof that we’ve done enough, achieved enough, been enough. ‘There’ is a metric that quickly loses it’s shiny allure once it’s met. A journey we are encouraged to feel we should be on and a destination where many of us will never feel we’ve quite arrived.

The truth is we are ‘there’ in every moment we live without comparison, or spend our time wisely. When we give of ourselves generously and create intentionally. It’s not some distant or better horizon, but a grounded state we can give ourselves permission to inhabit.
You’re already there if you choose to be.

Image by Stephanie Onderchanin

How Our Actions And Results Align

filed in Entrepreneurship, Success

If we want attention, we must deliver value.
If we want to be innovative, we must practice empathy.
If we want loyalty, we must give respect.
If we want to be believed, we must earn trust.
If we want rewards, we must embrace risks.
If we want to matter, we must create meaning.

We not only reap what we sow but also how and why we sow.

Image by carnagenyc

The Potential Downside Of Maximizing

filed in Brand Strategy

There’s a great cafe in East Melbourne where you can order half a sandwich. This addition to the menu seems trivial, but it tells us a lot about the values of the cafe owner. He knows that a peckish diner will order the whole sandwich and leave what she doesn’t want. Of course, this would generate more revenue for his business, but also waste food and sometimes induce guilt in his customer. This generous posture that gives rise to the half portion gesture doesn’t go unnoticed. The cafe hums with regular customers and benefits from repeat business, goodwill and word of mouth.

It’s tempting to squeeze out every dollar, fill every moment and exploit every advantage, but there’s usually an opportunity cost to doing so—a compromise that needs to be made as a result. In our drive to maximise efficiency, profits and productivity we often miss the chance to do what’s right, to notice significant details or to amplify the thing we do well.

Maximizing can lead us to focus on short-term gains instead of a vision for the future or to sacrifice what’s important for the sake of growth. More and better are not always an indication of having achieved the right outcome. The strategy of ‘enough’ can allow us to focus and flourish. In the end, it’s not possible to go in every direction. We have to choose the path worth taking and then decide how to show up on it.

Image by Postcards Inside.

Making Your Mark

filed in Brand Story, Entrepreneurship

Making a mark is not something we talk openly about that much, but it’s something we think about a hell of a lot. From the grandmother who hands down her legendary Christmas pudding recipe, to my Uber driver who, despite having held a managerial position with a big retailer for sixteen years, ‘wants to build something of his own’. From the street artist who feels like he has no voice, to the financial planner who wants to teach the next generation of children how their small actions today can impact their future.

The fear that we might run out of time to make our mark is one of the reasons we strive to get better at telling our stories. But if the truth is what’s at the heart of all great stories, we can’t begin to make a mark until we acknowledge and articulate what we’re really here to do. Once you’re honest with yourself about the real work you care about and why, you can begin to unapologetically make the mark you hoped to make.

Image by Steffi Lange.

How To Learn From The Customer Journey

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Many of the businesses you will frequent today have no idea how you became a customer. What’s worse than not knowing what brought you there is either making an incorrect assumption or not having an interest in your journey at all. It’s easier than ever in an online world to understand where customers come from, but if we want to create and grow sustainable businesses, we also need to pay attention to what they do and why they come.

Whether your business operates online or offline it’s possible to get better at learning from the customer’s journey. Every day I see people walk into delis, boutiques and bookstores to browse, sometimes they leave without buying anything, but they always leave clues as to the purpose of their visit, their mindset or worldview. For example, consider the shopper who whips out his smartphone to snap a photo at the local bricks and mortar store to keep a record of the things he’d like to research or order online later.

Questions To Consider About The Customer Journey

1. What prompted the customer to visit today?
2. Where did they hear about you?
3. What did they look at, browse, pick up or buy?
4. Why did they buy?
5. What did they browse, pick up and not buy?
6. Why didn’t they buy?
7. Why were they researching or shopping?
8. How could you fulfil their needs and wants in the future?
9. What might make them return?
10.How can you create opportunities that enable you to get to know them better?

What we learn from our customers’ actions and reactions teaches us where best to focus our energy and why. Curiosity is an underrated business resource.

Image by Toshihiro Gamo.

Understanding The Value Gap

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

You may have noticed how commonplace complimentary gift wrapping has become this festive season. In years gone by this service was offered by bigger department stores or as a fundraiser for charities in local shopping centres. This year though it seems that every retailer from the bookstore to the pharmacy has decided that complimentary gift wrapping might just be a way to differentiate. If the bricks and mortar retailer can’t be more convenient or cheaper, then it stands to reason that they need to add another service layer to their offering to address the perceived value gap. But just as the scripted, ‘have a great Christmas’ greeting you’ve heard the checkout operator repeat ten times before you reach him rings hollow—when everyone uses the same low-risk value adding strategy no experience feels authentic or unique.

It would be easy for retailers to panic in the wake of Amazon’s plans to reimagine the bricks and mortar shopping experience with Amazon Go. But it’s important to understand that there are as many reasons why people shop as there are to add value. Convenience, price and even service add-ons are only part of the value story. If we’re to truly differentiate our offerings we have to dig deeper and consider the value gap we’re hoping to fill for exactly what kind of customer. The good news is that not everyone wants to grab and go. There are people who want to shop locally or sustainably, and those who care about human connection more than the lowest price. You don’t have to market to everyone, but you do need to know the someone you’re filling the value gap for and what matters to them.

Image by Bill.

The Characteristics Of Successful Ideas

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

In an era when we have self-driving cars and delivery drones it’s still possible to encounter:

Underwear with five uncomfortable care labels sewn into the seams.
A beautiful teapot that becomes too heavy to lift when it’s full.
Inconspicuous assembly instructions that confuse rather than clarify.
Sports shoes that give the wearer blisters until they’re ‘broken in’.
And breakfast cereals that are one-third sugar.

While we’re busy trying to create brilliant, breakthrough ideas that win, we often overlook the opportunity to make something that’s simply thoughtful instead. Thoughtful innovation requires us to do more than to meet spec. It demands that we empathise and anticipate. That we measure difference as well as data, intentionally marry functionality with delight and strive to go beyond the good enough.

Image by Bousure.

The Path To Business Growth

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Sal was already sweating as she blustered into the gym on Monday morning. She sat down heavily on the bench in the changing room. The things she had hastily stuffed into her gym bag tumbled out as soon as she unzipped it. Sal stopped for a second, realising she hadn’t replaced the three-day-old sweat towel that had been there all weekend. She gingerly sniffed it and sighed, then returned to spraying deodorant on her feet.

Sal’s story is about a million miles from the perfect fictional narratives used to sell the fitness ideal in markets from sports apparel to workout equipment. Protein shakes to gym memberships. She will likely never become the woman represented by their avatar. And yet here she is, large as life with unmet wants and needs, hopes and dreams.

We find opportunities for business growth when we meet our customers where they are in the real world, instead of where we think they should be in our ideal version of it.

Image by Crossland Designs.