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Extraordinary Is…

filed in Brand Strategy

In a digital world, extraordinary is

Human.
Presence.
Care taken.
Handcrafted.
Eye contact.
Face-to-face.
Heart-to-heart.
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

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

Easy Isn’t Always Best In The Long Run

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

The billboard outside the old cemetery read like a real estate advertisement.

‘Last remaining graves for sale.’ It seemed to scream inappropriately at the traffic roaring past.

In the past, these local burial plots would have been acquired by neighbouring families who were getting their affairs in order. Now even essential products and services have competition.

There’s no doubt that a billboard is a great way to capture everyone’s attention. But it may not be the best way to engage with the people you want to matter to.

It’s important to prioritise best above easy whatever you’re selling—especially if your customers will be around to do business with you again tomorrow.

Image by Natash Ramasamay

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

More What?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

All marketing is an attempt to amplify.

The story we tell and the marketing we do depends on our priorities. Do you want to be more visible, more trusted, more respected, more desirable, more loved or something else?

Begin with that end in mind and craft your message accordingly.

Image by Jason Ogden

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