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A Question Of Pride

filed in Success

Like most of their friends and neighbours from big Irish-Catholic families, my grandparents didn’t have the luxury of an education. They were not bookish, in fact, they were barely literate. They couldn’t teach me much about history or science. But they taught me a lot about pride.

My grandparents may not have had status, but they did have a place in their community. They valued fairness and doing the right thing by their neighbours. Their door was always open—kettle always on. They shared the little they had. They worked through their problems, knowing they didn’t have the all the right answers. They were not afraid of failure or a hard day’s work. They proudly sent their children to school in clean clothes with full bellies. And while their aspirations might seem small by today’s standards, they were huge by theirs—at a time when people lived from hand-to-mouth. Week-to-week. Brown envelope to brown envelope. I think my grandparents, and yours too could teach us a lot about how to live and work today.

Our grandparents would probably tell us to stop deferring to others (and Google) to find the answer and to start reflecting on what was right by, and for us? They would ask us why we’d stopped making fewer decisions that spoke to our heart. They would question our belief that success could be plotted on a graph with a neverending upward trajectory. They would wonder when it became fashionable to think that pride was just a vice that would surely come before a fall.

Growing up, I was lucky to be surrounded by people whose metric of success was doing what they were proud to have done. I can’t think of a better way for us to measure what matters.

Image by Alastair Green

Progress And Potential

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

Nobody knows who invented the button five thousand years ago. At first, buttons were simply used to adorn clothing. It wasn’t until the invention of the buttonhole three thousand years later that buttons became functional. It took us two thousand years to reimagine what the button could do. And in that moment fashion and even the fabric of our society was changed forever.

The invention of the buttonhole meant we had a more reliable way of securing our clothes. Instead of having to drape ourselves in swathes of cloth, we could wear more fitted garments that used less fabric. Clothing could be designed not only to cover bodies but also to subtly reveal them. People were free to move more easily because their clothing stayed put. That newfound freedom likely had a knock-on effect on both creativity and productivity.

It took someone asking a better question about what a button was for, to see what a button could be for.

All progress is about taking a small step into the unknown, towards the uncharted territory of the never been done before.

Image by Sam Rodgers. HT to Isaac Mizrahi

The Power Of Identity In A Competitive World

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Nobody who read the pre-match reports or the post-match statistics would have predicted a one-all draw. Iceland, a country with a population of 334,000, was fielding a team of semi-professional players, in their World Cup debut against Argentina, one of the world’s best footballing nations. There was no way Iceland could compete with the experience and skill of the Argentinian team.

During the game, Argentina had 78% of the possession and took twenty-seven shots at goal. Iceland had only eight. On paper, the dominant team—which also happens to be captained by this year’s world-leading goal scorer, should have won by a mile. Iceland secured an unexpected draw, not by trying to beat their opponents at the Argentian game, but by playing their own game.

The Iceland manager, Heimir Hallgrimsson, summed up his team’s strategy like this:

“We know how we can win football matches. It is just a fact that Argentina have superior individuals with superior skills and if we go one-on-one with them you don’t need to ask who will win the game. We have to play in a special way and we have a clear identity.”

Iceland was never going to win by competing like Argentina.
They triumphed by playing like Iceland.

When we get caught up competing, we get caught out playing catch up.
It turns out you don’t need to compete when you know who you are.

Statistics from the BBC. Image by Thomas Leth-Olsen

What Successful Companies Do

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Just one thing.
Successful companies help people do things they want to do, so they can be who they want to be.
What do the people you serve want to do?
How can you help them to be who they want to be?

Image by Tim Dennell

How Change Happens

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The success of whatever we make, serve, sell or advocate for is dependent on creating and sustaining change. The same rules apply whether we’re trying to change perception or behaviour, get people to buy our software or stop using plastic straws.

7 Steps To Making Change Happen

1. Acknowledgement
The problem, unmet need or dilemma is recognised by the prospective audience.
Awareness of the solution is not enough
2. Acceptance
Recognition that change is desired and possible
3. Adoption
Agreement about the solution to the problem.
4. Agency
A deep conviction that we have the power to create the change
5. Action
A perception or behaviour change takes place.
This change doesn’t always lead to overnight success or an immediate resolution to the problem.
6. Adherence
Sustained behaviour change, habit creation, compliance at work or loyalty to a brand.
7. Advocacy
Evangelists spread the word because of a sense of belonging and affinity with the brand or cause.

As ethical marketers and passionate activists, we spend a lot of our time working on awareness—believing that once people see our solution, they will immediately adopt it. We couldn’t be further from the truth. Making change happen is hard (and worth it). We need more time and patience than we realise.

Image by us mission

Extraordinary Is…

filed in Brand Strategy

In a digital world, extraordinary is

Care taken.
Eye contact.
The intangibles.
Genuine interest.
A timely response.
That feeling of belonging.
Thanking someone in person.
Executing on the small details.
A handwritten note inside the package.
Choosing the best ingredients even if they cost more.
Treating people the way you would want to be treated.
Extraordinary is hardly ever the extravagant gesture—it’s the ordinary thing, remembered.

Image by Brandon Warren

Not Just Anyone

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Most often, the goal of our marketing is to be found. That goal dictates our marketing strategy.
If you’re trying to be found, you’ll seek out opportunities to interrupt everyone, anywhere.
But there is an alternative.

What would it take for you to be the brand people intentionally chose?
How could you become the one the right people seek out?

Being craved and coveted by that someone, right there, trumps being stumbled on by just anyone.

Image by Anastos Kol

The World Inside Your Customer’s Heart

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

There are few better lessons in the art of storytelling than those learned by watching a great real estate agent auction a good property, on a chilly Melbourne morning. Last Saturday, I looked on as an agent sold a million dollar home by reminding potential buyers how they would feel every weekend as they strolled to the cafe on the corner to have a delicious pastry with their flat white.

Having gone through the legal formalities, he didn’t waste much time talking about the quality of the construction or the fixtures and fittings. Instead, he painted a picture of what it would be like to live in that home, in that location. He reflected the story already in the buyers’ hearts back to them.

The young couple who bought the home (with the help of their parents, who stood by their side), had grown up in the area. They wanted their baby son to grow up there too.

Contrast this first agent’s approach with that of the one whose client’s property was passed in at auction later that day. The second agent led with the facts. He gave details about the land size, the distance from the city and statistics on property values in the area. Information that without meaning or context made little emotional connection with potential buyers and their worldview.

It’s believed that marketing is an unethical attempt to motivate people to buy through the back door of their emotions. Of course, storytelling in the wrong hands is a powerful tool that can encourage people to make decisions they later regret. Our job as ethical marketers is to help people to do things they want to do today and won’t regret tomorrow. We can only do that by understanding what’s in their hearts and by being able to say hand on our hearts that this is what we did.

Image by North Charleston

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

You Don’t Need Everyone

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Keeping a customer is more valuable to your business than courting one. Fred Reichheld, from Bain and Co, points out that return customers buy more products and refer more friends. Yet the majority of our marketing is devoted attracting more customers.

When startup Dollar Shave Club launched in 2011, the brand had some stiff competition in Gillette—the brand that had dominated the razor blade market for more than a century. The startup founders knew they’d never beat Gillette at the consumer awareness game, but they could shoot for customer affinity. That’s what they did by launching a subscription razor blade service at a competitive price.

Mass awareness isn’t working so well any more. Thankfully, we’re moving beyond thinking about how we can win the battle for every customer’s mind and recognising that the future of business is about understanding how to get closer to a particular customer’s heart.

You don’t need everyone to succeed. You need to matter to someone.

Image by Roberto Trombetta

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