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The Sure Thing

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Before we create a product, design a service or build a business we want to be certain the idea will fly. We want to know for sure that if we build it, people will come.

If we only did the things we were certain would work, we’d never create anything original.

Originality is a leap of faith and success is unpredictable.
Certainty comes with the benefit of hindsight.
Bestsellers are always a surprise.

The best we can do is have the courage to begin before we’re certain.
Taking a risk is less risky than doing nothing at all.

Image by Roberto Trombetta

The Downside Of The Comparative Advantage

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

A new cafe opens in Melbourne every other week. Our city is full to bursting with every kind of cafe you could wish for—from holes-in-the-wall doling out espresso to morning commuters, to leisurely brunch places in the suburbs where friends linger and city lunch spots where business deals are done. So how does a new cafe establish itself and get a foothold in the market?

The owners of the little cafe that’s just opened opposite a busy tram stop have decided to come out from behind the counter. They’re spending time during their opening week getting to know the locals and engaging with people waiting for the tram every morning. They’re paying attention to the prospective customer’s story so they can understand how they might fit into that story.

For years conventional marketing wisdom taught us to find customers for our product—to build it and then make them come. Many marketers still start there, by trying to differentiate with features and benefits. They work on having and sustaining a comparative advantage, by aiming to be closer or faster, cheaper or rarer. The thing is the businesses that thrive don’t set out to make a comparable product or service. They aim to be in a category of one—to be the product or service that fits into the customer’s life.

A thriving cafe doesn’t sell coffee by the cup—it sells the ritual for a lifetime.

Image by Margaretes

All Figured Out

filed in Brand Strategy

It’s doubtful that when Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, now the world’s wealthiest man, launched the company over twenty years ago he had every tactical move figured out. The Bezos of 1999 couldn’t have predicted how his company would come to dominate and diversify. While he may not have understood the exact next step on the journey, Bezos did have a mission and a set of guiding principles upon which he would build and lead his company.

In his 2018 annual letter to shareholders Bezos reiterated the importance of Amazon’s approach.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of our first shareholder letter, and our core values and approach remain unchanged. We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and we recognize this to be no small or easy challenge. We know there is much we can do better, and we find tremendous energy in the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Even if you don’t aspire to build the next Amazon, there’s a lot to be learned from their philosophy. A compass is more useful than a map when you’re navigating new terrain. You need to know why you want to go someplace before you can work out exactly how to get there.

Image by Freshwater

Profit And…

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

My mother started working over sixty years ago. As the tenth child of a widow, with nothing more than a basic education she had very few choices. She could be a seamstress or a replaceable cog on the assembly line at one of any number of factories. Sadly the factory jobs won because those jobs were easier to get and didn’t involve apprenticing at a reduced wage. At the age of fourteen, she spent eight hours a day dipping toffees into icing at a sweet factory. She later graduated to standing guard over huge fryers of potato crisps. She and her friends lived for Friday’s brown paper envelope—the contents of which bought a little joy at the weekend.

A career needs to sustain us, and a business needs to make a profit to be sustainable. It could be argued that in recent times we’ve built our economies on the premise that profiting is the only function of business. But the businesses that are thriving have found a way to be about more than just a means to that end. Companies like Airbnb, Patagonia or Small Giants that put contribution and community at the centre of their business model and philosophy. Yes, your business needs to turn a profit, but that doesn’t have to be the only thing your company is committed to making.

My mother didn’t have a choice about how she could contribute. She didn’t have the privilege of thinking beyond earnings. We do. We have never had more power to take ownership of the present or to shape the future than we do today. We can start by figuring out what we intend to make besides money.

Image by Paul Townsend

The First Rule Of Customer Creation

filed in Brand Strategy

Humans learn to develop empathy in the first year of life. We not only learn to recognise emotional reactions in others but also to understand what’s causing those reactions. One toddler will try to comfort another who is crying—not just with any toy, but with that child’s favourite toy.

We know how to stand in the shoes of others. We’re hardwired to do it. We’re good at it.
And yet, when it comes to the business of sharing or selling ideas, we forget to practice it.

Our first step to becoming the one customers choose is to be the one who chooses to see the customer.

Image by Donnie Ray Jones

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