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Why Didn’t It Work?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success


We’ve been learning by trial and error since we were six months old when we first noticed the effect of our actions on objects. As children we developed skills by learning from our mistakes, paying attention to what didn’t work as well as to what did.

As adults, we are not so keen to see our failures as an opportunity to learn. We might lament about the product launch that didn’t go to plan. The meeting that didn’t pay off. The idea that flopped. But often instead of asking why, we throw the baby out with the bathwater. And in that moment we overlook the opportunity to learn from our failures.

We didn’t learn to build a sandcastle or ride a bike by giving up and moving onto something new right away. We worked out what we needed to adjust, and we adjusted.

The path to success is progressive and iterative. We get there by being brave enough to ask the hard questions along the way.

Jim Purbrick

Necessary Work

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing


Last week I reached out to two different digital companies for technical support via email.

The first company promised to respond within 24 hours. Their eventual reply was a copied and pasted generic email, that likely went out to every person with a similar issue. It was obvious the busy person dealing with my support ticket hadn’t read my original email in full.

The second company got back to me within an hour. Amy at Mailchimp not only replied to my email, but responded to me with empathy and rectified the problem. In a single email, Amy introduced herself and said she would be happy to help. She’d already investigated the issue and fixed the problem. She walked me through this step-by-step in her email response. Then she signed off by saying if I continued to have problems I could reach out again, then wished me well for the weekend. In the reactive world we live in, this kind of thoughtful response feels rare.
It is. It shouldn’t be.

The reason a company exists is to help. If our systems and processes, our products and services or our work and ideas are not helping, then why are they necessary? Necessary work is not only good for customers and businesses—it’s essential for our individual and collective wellbeing. We are hardwired to help. We can’t thrive when we are limited to doing unnecessary work.

If this email landed in your inbox today, it’s because Amy cared to make it happen. Amy is empowered and equipped to do necessary work because the leaders at Mailchimp built their company with this intention. Every one of us has a similar choice to make.

Image by Marc Thiele

What Does Success Look Like?

filed in Brand Strategy


Back in the ’90s, when I was pregnant for the second time, our local health authority announced new measures to cut waiting times at hospital outpatient clinics. This was great news for me and other pregnant women who were often juggling appointments with work or childcare arrangements.

Late on in my pregnancy, I arrived for an appointment and handed in my appointment card. The receptionist noted my attendance and invited me to take a seat in the waiting room, among the dozens of other women flicking through worn out magazines or wrestling tired toddlers. I had barely sat down when a nurse called my name. Unbelievably, the clinic wasn’t just running to time—it was running ahead of time! On every other occasion that I’d attended waiting times had been over an hour, often two. The long wait was accepted as a fact of life. Doctors just run late. And yet, that day I was being seen immediately.

The nurse took me into a side room, weighed me, took my blood pressure, tested my urine and documented the time I’d ‘been seen’ in her paperwork. Then she brought me back into the waiting room where I sat for another two hours before the obstetrician finally called me in.

On paper, it looked like the clinic was doing a great job of keeping to scheduled appointment times. On paper, it looked like patients were in and out of the clinic in no time. On paper the health authority was hitting its targets. But in reality nothing much had changed for the patient.

It’s easy to design the system that looks efficient on paper.
It’s easy to show up to a meeting without being present while you’re there.
It’s easy to reply to an email with a generic reply without ever responding to the problem.
It’s easier to treat the symptoms than it is to get to the heart of the problem.

Getting to the heart of the problem and caring enough to fix is way harder. But ticking boxes or papering over the cracks doesn’t meet our customer’s desire to feel seen and heard. And it doesn’t fulfil our need to do meaningful work either. That’s why the energy we devote to getting better at the hard part is worth it.

How we define and measure success changes how we shape the world.
Every one of us has the power to do that.

Image by Orbis

Who Loves Your Work?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Who loves what you do?
Who tells their friends?
Who waits in line?
Who buys the lot?

Who can you help?
Who makes you care?
Who has the problem you can solve?
Who is your muse, your right customer, your reason?

When you know, you’ll be one step closer to doing your best work.

Image by Garry Knight

The Convenience Trap

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing


The homeless man sitting at the Brunswick Street junction doesn’t look up as people walk past. He doesn’t try to catch the eyes he knows are trying to avoid his. He lets the cardboard sign at his feet do the talking. The headline in red crayon tells us that he’s genuinely homeless. There isn’t enough time for a passer-by to take in the detail of most of the rest of what’s written on the sign in smaller print. But the unusual call to action at the bottom stands out.

‘If you’d like to consider regularly donating $5 a month please let me know.’

The homeless man request knows that he doesn’t just need more donors, he understands that he needs more of the right donors—who keep coming back.

In recent years we’ve seen the rise of businesses that make it easy for us to become returning customers. These businesses have worked out that convenience is sticky. And so we’ve seen the rise of subscription services for everything from razors to flowers and apps that will have a meal or ride to our door in minutes. But convenience alone isn’t what drives thriving, sustainable businesses. Companies that merely offer a convenient solution risk disruption. They must live in fear of the next new thing that’s closer or cheaper, faster or fancier.

If we want to earn loyal donors or customers, we must offer them more than convenience. Loyalty is a byproduct of resonance and convenience. Successful causes and companies don’t only make life easier for their donors or customers—they strike a chord with them too.

Image by Kevin McShane

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