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The Loyalty Department

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

My mum, (who is in her late seventies) wanted to negotiate the renewal of her internet and phone contract. She dialled the customer support number listed on her bill and was placed on hold for 30 minutes. When she finally got through to a human being, she was transferred to the ‘loyalty department’. She waited on hold for a further 40 minutes before being connected to someone who could help her. The duration of the call was 1 hour 37 minutes and 26 seconds.

This company and other internet service providers are competing on price. Customers see new, cheaper service bundles advertised and are tempted to switch because the pain of switching is outweighed by the savings they will make. Customers no longer see the benefit of sticking with the company they’ve previously been loyal to unless that company price matches its competitors—which is inevitably what happens when existing customers pick up the phone. Customers who persist with the unacceptable call wait times get a better deal. If the loyalty department speaks to too many customers who want to renegotiate their contract, that affects the company’s bottom line.

We spend more resources to woo new customers than we do to earn the continued loyalty of the customers we already have. When the quality of what we sell or serve is barely distinguishable from that of our competitors, we must find other ways to differentiate. One of those ways is by being true to our customers and having a ‘loyalty department’ that lives up to its name. Loyalty shouldn’t only benefit the company—it should work both ways.

Image by Mabel Amber


The Seduction Of New Ideas

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We, humans, are novelty seeking organisms. That’s why we find new ideas seductive. We are hardwired to respond to the novel and the new. Our motivation increases when we have a new project to work on. And yet we also have a strong bent towards mastery. We’re happiest when we feel like we’re making progress and making a difference, that’s why it’s important to keep honouring the ideas we’ve been working on with focus and momentum.

Yes, it’s tempting to seek out new opportunities. But we’re rewarded in more ways than one when we intentionally stick with the old thing.

Image by Hernán Piñera

The Three Pillars Of Brand Resonance

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The most common reason people give for contacting me to work with them is to raise brand awareness. Conventional wisdom dictates that if only more people knew about our products and services, or our ideas and our work, then we would be more successful. There’s only one problem with this worldview. More people knowing your product or service exists does not necessarily translate to more customers. More awareness doesn’t always make for a more viable business. And crucially, having the biggest audience doesn’t guarantee that you’ll attract the right customers or do your best work.

You don’t need more brand awareness to build a viable business—one that sustains you beyond simply adding the essential zeros to your bank balance. You need more resonance. When you prioritise resonance, you can serve the right people in the right way—a way that’s true to you. To do that you’ve got to be clear about who you’re for and who you’re not for. You must understand what your right customer wants and needs, and be able to explain why your product or service is their best option.

Our messages resonate when we worry less about being discovered and relentlessly pursue the trifecta of self-awareness, customer-awareness and market-awareness instead.

Image by Fiasco Gelato

Change Is A Human Act

filed in Brand Strategy

We mistakenly believe that changemaking and persuasion are only about getting someone’s attention by creating awareness of an issue or option, and then presenting people with rational arguments that will convince them to make choices we find desirable. But both the science and what we witness in the world around us prove otherwise. Research in the fields of psychology and behavioural sciences demonstrates that people make irrational decisions all the time. We are not driven only by reason and logic. Emotions also play a big part in how we react, what we decide, and whether we choose to change.

Persuasion is the ability to change a belief or behaviour. We persuade by appealing to reason or understanding. But the process of persuasion is more complex than just presenting the information and expecting people to make an objective judgement or rational choice. One of the mistakes we make when we’re attempting to persuade is to only appeal to the thinking person and his rational mind. Messages that resonate deeply connect with people’s feelings. Successful ideas appeal to people’s hearts, not just their heads.

We don’t just persuade people to act. We move them to act.

*Adapted from The Right Story.*

Image by Garry Knight


filed in Brand Strategy, Success

These words spoken by Director of The London School of Economics, Minouche Shafik, in an interview last year ring true: ‘In the past jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in future they’ll be about the heart.’

The truth is our best work always has been about the heart.

And the good news is that we all start with the same advantage.

Image by Creative Arts Workshop

The Distinction Between Needs And Wants

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

When we visit the doctor with a health problem, we are keen to have our immediate needs met. Perhaps we need pain relief or a blood test. Maybe we need a diagnosis and treatment. But alongside the desire for a physiological solution is the yearning for our intangible wants to be fulfilled. We need treatment, and we want empathy. A good doctor treats us—a great doctor makes us feel better. We value the great doctor’s ability to do both.

Things are no different when it comes to other experiences in our lives. Our hunger is satisfied when we eat the meal we ordered, but we enjoy the food more when the service exceeds our expectations.

There may be little room to differentiate your product or service based on customer needs, but the ability to differentiate on their wants is exponential. It’s possible to meet needs and wants in every interaction. How are you doing that?

Image by NYC Health

Bridging The Change Gap

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

We know that attention is the first essential step on the path to influencing others. We also know it’s not possible to inspire people to act or to create change with attention alone. There’s always a gap between gaining awareness, enabling action and gaining traction. You can buy attention, but you can’t buy trust. Trust is earned. Trust takes time. Trust is the enabler of connection and persuasion. The time between attention and action is what I call the Change Gap. To close this gap, we must first build trust and then reinforce the opinions and beliefs of the audience we’re trying to reach.

We bridge this gap with connection and persuasion. This is why for example, a hotel’s reviews on websites like TripAdvisor can make or break the business. When every hotel has a comfortable bed and free Wi-Fi, prospective guests are looking for another way to differentiate offerings, and reviews enable them to do that.

The act of persuasion gives people the opportunity to confirm whether what they believe is true. Things like providing more and accurate information, product features, measurements, photographs, pricing, demonstrations, reviews or recommendations help people to decide if your product or service is for them.

There are many real-world examples of companies who have successfully bridged the Change Gap, and industries that have been spawned by doing so. Think about the products and services we didn’t know we wanted but now consume or use regularly. Bottled water, ride-sharing services, reusable coffee cups, coworking spaces, bean-to-bar chocolate, yoga pants, nail bars, coconut oil and meal kits are just a few. The people and companies who convinced so many of us to try these products and services bridged the Change Gap by being purposeful storytellers. The same opportunity is open to you.

*Excerpted from The Right Story.

Image by Garry Knight

The Thinking, Feeling Customer

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

One of my friends brushes his teeth while he’s showering in the morning to save time. How much time, if any, is he saving? Probably not much. But that’s the wrong question to ask. It doesn’t matter how much time he’s saving. What matters is he feels like he’s saving time, so his morning routine persists.

As people with ideas and products and services to sell, we spend a lot of time trying to change people’s minds by appealing to logic. The people we’re trying to reach are not rational actors, and neither are we. We often choose to do what feels good above what makes sense. The ideas that spread, the products that sell and the services that get used, appeal to the thinking, feeling customer. And so should you.

Image by Carlo Villarica

Get To The Heart Of The Matter

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

My granny had a chronic dry skin problem all her life. She tried every moisturiser on the planet. She stopped using soap and bathed in lotions the doctor prescribed for her. Nothing worked. No matter what the doctor prescribed or what granny applied to her skin it still cracked and flaked.

It’s obvious now looking back, that neither my granny nor her doctor got to the heart of the problem. He didn’t know what was causing or contributing to the condition. He didn’t know that my granny never drank water—only tea. Twenty cups a day. He didn’t know that she had a poor diet, devoid of fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy fats. He tried to fix the problem by treating the symptoms, instead of the cause.

We all do this at some point in our lives. We don’t get to the heart of the matter and end up with an ineffective solution. We waste precious resources, time and energy on tactics that don’t help us to create forward motion or get to where we want to go. We reason that there’s no harm in trying something that might not work while forgetting to account for the opportunity cost, that isn’t just wasted time or money—it’s wasted momentum.

Getting to the heart of the matter, whether that’s with your health goals or your business challenges, is harder than finding a quick-fix solution to treat the symptoms. But it’s worth the effort.

Alex Harvey

Introducing The Story Compass

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

My new book, The Right Story publishes today. I can’t wait to hear how you’re using the new tools in the book to help you craft your messaging and engage more deeply with your customers. The Story Compass is one of those tools in the book. It’s designed to facilitate powerful, purposeful storytelling. It will help you to clarify what’s driving your story at any given time, and to consider how best to deliver your message as a result.

Using The Story Compass, together with the accompanying questions in the book will give you a better understanding of the change you’re trying to create, for whom, and help you tell the right story to achieve it. It enables you to define your story strategy and design your tactics. Before you begin to craft your message, you need to decide if the purpose of that message is to get attention or to deepen trust and connection. Is it to empower people to be open to persuasion or to act?

Once you know why you’re telling the story you can begin to work on how to best tell it. The tactics you use to get your message across are the how of your story—the means by which you carry out your strategy. What you say and do, when and where, has an impact on where you end up. A message that resonates relies on the communicator discerning the most e ective way to deliver it.

The clarity with which you show up, as only you can, changes how the story is told and with whom it resonates. How you go about your work can have just as much impact on your results as the work itself.

The Right Story is my invitation to you to think about the impact of the work you’re here to do and the skin you want to get under, the hearts you want to touch and the lives you want to make better.
Thanks for giving me a reason to write it.

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