Running to stand still? Break the inertia, creatively.

Running to stand still? Break the inertia, creatively.


Do you feel like the hamster in the wheel? Running like crazy to stay where you are? Expending massive energy without moving onwards? Pressure is on to deliver more from less. Stress levels are rising as leadership expect new things faster while, at the same time, demanding nothing slips. The day to day processes are busier than ever, yet new growth needs something different to ignite change. Do you suspect external change is a great opportunity but the internal change needed to stimulate it is impossible to budge?

It’s never been as important for companies to develop new ideas, or as difficult to successfully launch them. After years of efficiency-driven cuts and bottom line focus, companies need new growth and meet new customer needs. Most of the skills required to address these needs have been eroded or outsourced by organisations. Marketing departments have been cut along with their budgets, yet leadership is demanding more from less in double quick time.

Companies see there are opportunities out there but are often stuck focused on the day to day processes needed to survive, or so concerned by gloomy predictions, that they become stuck in fear-fuelled inertia. Breaking out of inertia is vital as new ideas and innovations need to be tested quickly. Often, change needs to happen inside organisations in order to successfully create change & growth externally.

Innovation is no longer simply the focus for developing new, disruptive technologies and products.

Increasingly, companies are attempting to reshape their culture and physical work environments to encourage creative thinking across their enterprise.

But too many of the creative skills needed for change are being outsourced, yet new ideas that are owned and driven by internal people have more chance of being implemented.

One problem in attempting to instigate a new culture for encouraging creativity is that it can take time to set up. Failure should be treated as a positive learning experience and encouraged. At first, ideas are often generated in isolation of those they are intended to influence and this adds further time before the new ideas can be implemented. More time can lead to further pressure from leadership for the change, often adding to the inertia.

Perhaps the best idea is to consider smaller scale projects to create a short term actions in order to escape the inertia. To start to add some business creativity inside the organisation via a new initiative with a team that spans different silos – and include some “Doubting Thomases”. Give these teams’ space and time (a week or so) to try something new. Mentor these teams in benefits of collaboration and let them create some internal actions for change. Don’t put more stress on them – free them up to have fun in creating new things.

But make sure the context is clear. Interrogate the customers. Bring the competition to life. Use newcomers to the company in their first few days to represent customers or competition as part of their inductions. Create a map of opportunity that could your offer be outside & evaluate what is stopping you on the inside getting some new actions to address them.  Challenge the teams to create a momentum that gets noticed but via new initiatives that create a bit of a stir. Encourage them. Forgive them. Celebrate a failure & get them going again. Ensure they establish the barriers that stop a company experiment more freely. Maybe make the exercise all about breaking down such barriers!

By making the projects have an outside-in context in order to shape the initiatives and innovation, the possibility of change attaining growth increases. As changing the inside in order to deliver on the outside may allow the hamster wheel to move off its fixed axis and allow all that energy to burst forward and start a new momentum.

Is Brand 3.0 better suited to B2B marketers?

Is Brand 3.0 better suited to B2B marketers?

Business to Business (B2B) and Service Brands have long needed brand thinking that is different to the Mad Men inspired thinking that broadcast messages to consumers and relentlessly defended the positioning against competition. Customers and Users have moved on. Services and products cannot be based on a transactional basis alone because customers demand more understanding of their own “unique” needs.

Customers are complex and demanding of experiences that are rewarding – not just for themselves and their own company and customers, but for the communities they exist in. The bigger companies exist in communities that can be better named as society and the Multinational’s community impacts on the environment, mankind and future generations – think of Paul Polman’s Unilever Sustainable Living program or Bono’s Product (Red) or the Microsoft’s legacy work of the Gates Foundation. Sustainability is now a core tenet of 21st Century growth and companies on both sides of the B2B equation know this. Soon Procurement will look not simply for lowest cost tenders but how future offsetting on sustainability policies are incorporated. Carbon trading is becoming regulated by the governments and will soon be a mandatory prerequisite in many big tenders.

Great B2B marketers know the value of Partnerships and that by innovating new products and services via partnership can mean that Enterprises can shape and test new business models – but also that they will see new revenue streams to lift their old models.

Understanding the wider benefits for the customers’ communities and using new partners & business models to grow will add value to the company’s offer by adding an enhanced benefit to the customers (& their own customers & staff). Another tenet for the 21st Century is speed. Expectation for improvements, for new, for understanding or for better…all to be delivered at faster speed. For some more traditional companies this is harder to achieve than for some newer tech enabled successes. Companies that may suffer from “Silo Slowness” will need help in change & marketers can help bring this need for speed to fruition by bringing more business creativity initiatives into the organisation’s processes.

Marketing in a B2B environment has never really been a pure communications role – the organisation has traditionally been geared up for service – so an understanding of the customer journey (or their customer’s customer journeys) is already part of successful B2B companies. Marketing must be relentless in understanding customer’s needs – not what they were but what they are & importantly will be – not just insight but foresight.

As marketers, their roles are complex and can be a mix of investigator, integrator, innovator and instigator. B2B marketers have to help bring a company’s focus to customers future needs – and today that can mean being useful & optimistic.

In order to connect to their customers they must be useful – consumer marketing is many ways are still learning this. Engaging customers is not simply a good story well told. Mad Men thinking is fast being left behind. Indeed B2B never needed Brand to mean advertising campaigns or corporate logo – they needed brand to rally the staff and the service around a customer’s needs. Cisco and Oracle are fundamentally benefit driven. Brand as communication was termed tactics not strategic – strategic brand thinking centred on R&D for their customers. Today’s economic woes mean the inertia many companies are struggling with needs marketers to look positively into the near future and identify some quick opportunities and highlight possible actions that can lead to grab them.

Where B2B marketers can struggle is when the organisation is geared in delivering products or services that are complex – in the building of the product, in the testing, in describing or in their delivery/installation. Such companies can consider they’re a specialist and will be run by engineers or technical experts who have grown up with the company or the category. These leaders will understand the complexities of the offer/service and develop it incrementally year after year. Innovation may well be inherent inside the culture (as they are always seeking improvements) but this innovation will be familiar rather than surprising. Incremental sales and efficiency are valued and expected. In such companies, Sales and Marketing often work as a service to the engineers and developers. Country & category operations run the same way. Customer service will be ensuring products/services work as promised and lessons learned are shared back to organisations sporadically. These leaders believe marketing as a support function should deliver 20th Century branding.

Marketing can still be useful – but needs to be heard. This can mean being challenging and even disruptive – but from a need for change perspective, engaging cross discipline teams on new initiatives, on creating a few, small actions that are future facing, the results of marketing’s voice may rise.

Without an effective voice from marketers, B2B companies can over focus on their product features and then attack with pricing tactics vs. competition, and not the benefit experiences their products and services deliver to their customers. Benefit driven pricing can be higher if they are clearly valued. Cost optimisation comes to the fore, everything is shaved & discounting can become a primary sales strategy, and they have to price their products like a commodity.

B2B marketers can succeed & own the new brand thinking by

  • Great insights and foresight on the customer’s needs
  • Innovating partnerships for new business models (& new revenue)
  • Drive value via the benefits for customers vs. simply delivering best competitive pricing
  • Seeding the internal story around the brand so building the value to customers communities

The need for speed

The need for speed

Get creativity into your organisation: change for the quicker – change for customer.

Turning round your business is tougher than for years – customers are more demanding, more cautious, more reactive.

Businesses are under increasing internal pressure from budget cuts, higher expectations (more for less) and increasing uncertainty.

Clients themselves have reduced their own teams and are trying to achieve the same tasks. Time & focus are their most precious resources.

And everything must be delivered more quickly.

Expectations for quality improvements & for better value can increase the pressure for being faster. Businesses rely on quarterly reporting periods to satisfy shareholders & use leadership models that rely on management by objectives to ensure conformity and consistency rather than change. Short cuts and new innovation are stifled by bureaucracy.

In the risk-driven inertia that many businesses are in, decisions take longer and tend to be safe – often familiar and repeated from past. Falling budgets can result in shaving a bit off everything rather than a refocus on doing just one or two things really well. Silos have built up internally, with a sense of protectionism leading to poor internal communications and mistrust.  This can be replicated externally with too many agencies focused on their own specific disciplines – with each agency duplicating similar processes in dealing with the client – so adding to further delays.  These pressures also sour culture which in turn causes delays and further inertia.

However, quicker is the norm for many businesses and organisations especially those influenced by new technology – where the use of creativity is ingrained in their business models. Fantastic crowd sourced content is uploaded every minute and quickly spread to people who look for their recommendations on social media. Millions of apps and upgrades are beta tested and rolled out every week on technology we already cannot live without. News is delivered 24/7.

If customers are demanding better experiences and best quality on one side of the value equation, price differentials are getting narrower on the other. Price comparison sites and supermarket price wars mean the price isn’t a differentiator but a similarity. Premium prices are harder to justify.

So how can creativity in business be applied to help speed things up, to unleash new initiatives for customers without compromising quality so building trust rather than losing it?

Creativity in its purest sense is forming a new solution from existing elements. Therefore it is always good to start by interrogating exactly what is happening inside the business, breaking it down into small discernable elements and reconfiguring them again into a simplified, customer focused approach. Ask the organisation direct questions (some are illustrated below) to get the answers that bring these elements to light.

The solution will come from being bold in questioning what’s working and why as well as what’s not. Collate the answers into groupings that can be reassembled. Prioritise the answers to ensure they are  relevant to each part of business and importantly to each business leader.

  • Is everyone in the business clear about what we do & why? Is there clarity and conviction about the purpose of the company?
  • Is our own story inside the business as clear as it is when we communicate outside?
  • Are we all about the customer or all about ourselves? Do we think inside out or outside in?
  • Do we have a dialogue with lots of our customers – daily not annually, sentences not tick-boxes?
  • How can we simplify everything…and after ask again, can we simplify further?
  • Do we share & train each other in what works?
  • Do we regularly work together outside of our own internal teams – on behalf of the customer?
  • When we undergo performance reviews for our leadership and staff, are there consistent KPI’s about collaboration & the customer?

By understanding the answers to these types of questions, you can creatively develop new initiatives, new processes & new teams. Restructures don’t necessarily have to mean redundancies – they can mean new responsibilities.  By simplifying these processes and ensuring each is strictly evaluated on a customer focused basis, things will get faster. Today, it is cost effective to use real time customer feedback in developing and spreading these initiatives – online dialogue is flexible and rewards the customer who expects their voice to be heard.

Once they do the results on culture will be positive. As a few directions become clear, it will be wise to quickly try out a few small tests – start with manageable, realistic goals, ensure leaders support these teams overtly and that failure is supported as much as success – to ensure a do/learn/do approach to learning is invoked – and when these tests work, roll them out & start a few new initiatives. Taking action quickly via business creativity creates actions that break inertia, break silos and start a road to growth.

So while many companies use creativity to communicate to their customers, they can start to seed creativity into their business structure, planning and processes too – with valuable outcomes such as improving speed to market, rewarding customer experiences and an improved internal culture.

Creative thinking can lead organisations out of inertia

Creative thinking can lead organisations out of inertia

As CEO’s write up their wish lists for the New Year, many are asking for more creativity in their businesses. For much of the past couple of decades, the prime focus of many big companies has been increasing shareholder value. The driving force to deliver more of this – every 3 months, year after year – has been driven by cost optimisation. The career ladder to the C-suite has been fuelled by financial prowess. Creativity became something negative – creative accounting was frowned at. As organisations have become more efficient, the skills to cut, to manage and to control have risen above those to think differently, to innovate and to take risk. The bigger organisations have become safer & move at glacial speed when it comes to change. Silos have reared up and are often measured and advised in isolation.

Creativity is not an easy KPI to develop and spread evenly amongst these separate silos.  What’s needed is creativity – to develop new business models, new products, new offers, new customer understanding & new channels to deliver new experiences. But there is one place that creativity still exists – in company brands.

One thing that has always elevated brand thinking is creativity. The best brands seamlessly combine right & left brained thinking to meld the logical and strategic inputs into creativity-inspired solutions. Brand thinking however doesn’t always reach the boardroom – it is still thought of as something that is most effective outside of the company – in the form of advertising campaigns and corporate identity. This means brand creativity is often left to execute strategy rather than help create and shape the strategy. Breaking this paradigm and bringing in unexpected advisors to a boardroom can result in surprisingly positive initiatives. Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Brand thinking and the spirit of creativity can unleash many new internal projects. Using brand led advisors can help in realigning the internal organisation. They can help to rearticulate CEO visions and plans.  They can help transform a culture of an organisation to refocus positively to meet those visions. Creativity can lead to test new initiatives without committing to a(nother) fundamental change program. Brand led creativity can help engage all the company stakeholders and develop real value inside the organisation. They can help form small cross disciplined teams to collaborate, to quickly develop, test and seed different ideas. A few of these can break the inertia that a company faces when trying to accommodate the new using the old structure and processes.

While pure play creative people sit outside a company in agencies, studios, many are using their skills to help CEOs, CFOs & COOs to think differently. Creative thinkers naturally like to collaborate. They enjoy looking at solving old problems with a new approach.

Once these small initiatives are undertaken, and those that succeed are shared among more staff and managers, so engaging more people in doing new things inside a company, the brand can shape the external relationship with customers and suppliers. This can kick start a different experience to allow the brand to empower further creativity that can drive much needed growth.

So brand thinking can bring creativity early to the Boardroom and into the internal organisation. Business creativity will help unleash talent throughout the Organisation and add a positivity to a company culture that has  been dampened by years of cuts and fear of yet more as the economy slows further. A brand mentor can be as powerful creative tool for a CEO and can be used to start new internal initiatives to start the New Year off positively.


6 tenets of 21st Century branding for brands to survive the downturn.

6 tenets of 21st Century branding for brands to survive the downturn.

With the global economy’s continual reduction of growth estimates and increasing predictions for a double dip recession, more companies and consumers are not surprisingly becoming distinctly risk averse. Media pundits and headline writers continue exacerbate this.

This results in a further reduction of confidence and an increased inertia by many companies to save their cash, reduce costs and continue to delay hires that were identified and approved before the summer. Worse, more people are being laid off and a generation of youth face an incredibly tough start in their adult life.

The US is deflecting its economic issues with the Presidential hoopla and even from the UK, we saw how it really hyped up the post Thanksgiving sales day of “Black Friday” – early reports suggest a success but mainly for the bigger safer stores (like Costco & Wal-Mart) rather than those already weaker chains where bigger discounts may not have been offset by enough sales. It leaves us all wondering what their longer term plan to ignite growth is.

The UK still watches the Eurozone nervously and George Osborne, the UK Government’s Finance Chief announces his Autumn report with an expectation to say Plan A remains (A = Austerity) & no Plan B exists. He’ll announce that macroeconomic growth with be stimulated by the twin forces of “Credit Easing” for small business loans and “Infrastructure Investment” programme (paid for by allowing UK pension funds to invest as well as further cuts in benefits), which are geared to encourage new jobs as a prime outcome.

If jobs are created, great, but this will be a slow injection of positivity. Those consumers with jobs (still the majority remember) will need to drive the economy by continuing to spend, invest and survive. This is what will get us all through this downturn. It always has.

Brands are as important as any factor in helping this growth – however slow.

The stakeholders of 21st Century branding need to recognise this. Brands remain about having a meaningful relationship with their customers. Meaningful as determined as much by the customers than the companies. Meaningful as determined by value for different customers and their communities rather a set of values (= cold words to put on a website or on the walls of Head Office).

There are 6 interconnected tenets for brands to consider – even in these difficult times

  • Choice
  • Preference
  • Useful
  • Sharing
  • Dialogue
  • Open

Choice: Consumers and customers have and need choice – whether to spend more or less, now or later, this brand or that brand, that service or a new service. Keep the choice relevant and not static. But they will choose, even if it is between paying for a utility rather than a new sofa. Share of wallet not share of voice or share of category.

Preference – A choice is influenced by factors of loyalty, price, current & past experiences, relevance to the person, whether the customer feels they are understood rather than taken for granted.

Usefulness – The 21st Century Brands that will succeed will be those that are most useful – that understand their role in customer’s lives and constantly demonstrate it. They are flexible, relevant, fresh, consistent, upbeat, honest – however the customer describes useful – and there will be many different descriptions for the same brand.

Sharing – brands that give back will succeed. Give back to all their stakeholders rather than simply their shareholders. Indeed, those brands that represent firms that continue to chase profit at all costs will fail. Giving back, in various degrees, to their staff, their consumers, their customers and suppliers, their communities and the world. While the short term economic conditions will affect the scrutiny of this balance, ignoring it will have dire impact on the brand’s ability to survive a return to growth. Conscious commerce is a business model that works and will be a prime economic driver for the years and generations to come.

Dialogue – the only way to understand these dynamics is to have a constant dialogue with customers. That means listening rather than talking at or broadcasting to them. Today’s brand research revolves not around a launch or a crisis but through regular (weekly), expansive, free form dialogue with hundreds and thousands of customers – not a few small irregular focus groups or tick box awareness studies. This is more possible via the online communities and social research skills today than ever before.

Open – Throughout the 5 tenets described here, there is a need to be open with your staff, your customers and your communities. Open means honest, regular and relevant. Act on and admit errors and address complaints quickly. Celebrate positive news. Trust is so much easier to lose than to gain (and significantly more so than to regain!)

I wrote earlier on the dangers of Inertia for brands. Actions can be small and meaningful if brands intend to learn from them. As we look to 2012, there will be brands that succeed. These brands will fuel the growth we need to keep ahead of the downturn as well as driving us out of it.

This is not an exhaustive list. What would you add? Leave a comment or forward to others to do so, please?

Too big. Too slow. Too much noise. Choose to collaborate & create rather than efficiently manage

Too big. Too slow. Too much noise.

Choose to collaborate & create rather than efficiently manage

I had a good discussion over the weekend about the future alignment of big agencies and big brands. The debate focused on three core issues

  • How we need to test more things out to meet the changing needs of customers
  • How much quicker everything has to be
  • If the big agencies are geared up for such fast turnaround & innovations

Really the debate was around the final question – I know they are trying to change but not always succeeding. Time is running out. I believe that this current downturn will cause fundamental changes to the relationship between clients, brands, agencies and consumers. The pressures that will force this tipping point are both from clients and from within the agencies and, specifically, their top talent.

The proliferation of specialist agencies that started 20+ years ago with media separating from creative, relationship marketing execution separating from advertising, identity studios involving into brand consultancies, the rise of digital specialist beyond web developers and online advertising and the formation of a few places that are more generalist idea not execution offerings has left clients dealing with too many agency contacts, all great at some things but not everything. During the same period, the Management Consultants have proliferated exponentially inside many of the same clients. It’s no wonder senior clients feel time starved, over advised and generally frustrated.

Even though many of the Holding Companies have been successful in pitching a “one-stop-answer” for Billion Dollar businesses, these pitches are so in the sights of procurement that the decision is only over lowest price and how many people (sorry, FTE’s – full time equivalent people) are involved in the deal. Therefore the focus is driven by a combination of efficiency (to make the deal profitable) and management (to ensure consistency of service) as much less on delivering better creative ideas. Consumers and customers (and indeed staff) need to be understood, connected too, delighted and heard, which are driven by creativity, insights, cut through and smarts = better creative ideas.

Sure, the Holding Company has a number of specialist agencies who are geared up to deliver their specialism brilliantly – and they do. A lot of clients form their own rosters of specialist agencies who are world class at their specialism. There is great talent in these agencies – but too much overlap and duplication stops the talent performing at their best for the brands.

The overlap takes the form of big teams with too many different disciplines working apart and only occasionally meeting. A big brand may have between 5-7 agency teams working on it. These teams usually work in different agencies or on different floors within big agency groups. All teams have roles that are specific to the agency and not for the client. They are assigned by a basic billing model that allocates a percentage of time per task.

Too many agencies still have first-point-of-contact people who represent the agency to client rather than create things or provide insight. Many of these traditional roles are replicated across each of the client’s agencies – whether from the same holding company or not. Too many account managers or project managers or junior this and still-in-training-for-that. Important internal roles, less important external roles, but all the roles are accounted for, paid for and in each process from each discipline & in each agency. Clients also have proliferated roles to look after executional disciplines and follow the process to execute things with too many levels and with a niche focus aimed inside a company rather than in gaining real insight with their consumers outside,  in order to provide meaningful, rewarding experiences that is demanded of 21st Century Branding.

We hear a lot about noise from a consumer’s perspective with millions of messages in too many channels – ironically there is an internal noise in these agencies that can be distracting for both clients & negates the very reason they may have hired agencies in the first place – namely to create and improve brands and their relationships with consumers, customers and staff -  but also the noise affects the top talent inside agencies. The ‘noise’ takes to form of

  • Running an agency – reporting, communicating, managing, meetings, meetings
  • Reporting to the holding company
  • Internal processes (often to update people for not at client meetings)
  • Being allocated to other clients (it’s not uncommon to add the FTE percentages so that people are allocated 3 months for every one month of time)
  • New business gathering
  • Training younger people – or use them as blockers.
  • Meetings, meetings, meetings, politics, politics, politics

This noise not only distracts the top talent away from building brands, it frustrates them. Everything slows down the processes of creativity. The talent spends less & less time with the client and at the client and/or in the world learning – it has a big knock on frustration at the client too. The frustration has always been there, but today, the holding companies are so pervasive, a lot of options for clients and agency talent can seem to be out of the frying pan & into the fire.

Their clients need talent to succeed in getting new ideas our more quickly but are getting increasingly frustrated when the good ideas are slowed by over burdensome process & models and or in forms that are difficult to test – these days testing has to be done in real markets not in real market conditions or focus groups and be small enough to fit on a model of “do, learn, do again, do different.” This includes having dialogue with consumers on a weekly basis not in annually or for a big launch.

The change has begun. Some of the clients are early adaptors. Much agency talent are leaving to collaborate with other talent to create new models, to choose to work on projects they want too, or with other talent they respect. The freelance model of choice. Smaller creative boutiques are happy to recognise they don’t know everything but know enough talent outside to mean the client can get access to the best talent. Clients are picking specific teams from their agencies to work directly with together rather than via each individual agency. Virtual networks, collaborative villages used to be the prerogative and vernacular of tech start ups.

Hence the rise of “open source collaboration” – whether within smaller, more fleet of foot, agencies set up to keep that way or choose to work as an individual or dynamic team to focus on creating & making things. Clients want to work with the best creative and strategic talent. They are rarely all in the same agency. And they are always the most sought after in the agency. Holding Companies don’t always give top talent the freedom of choice or the full freedom to create. Clients themselves  have too many balls to juggle to stand still.

Creative collaboration direct with clients and consumers is one way of ensuring that breakthrough ideas are tested quickly in order to build growth back into a clients business. At the same time, it breathes passion back into creative people – right and left brained brand builders who want to make a difference  – who are not turned on by efficiency and management process that they are increasingly frustrated with.

Smaller, faster, focused creativity is like adrenaline to the best agency talent – not managing efficiently. It’s choosing to give your all to a project or a brand. The same at the client. The same for consumers. The effect is positively infectious. Of course there are times when it still happens at big agencies and big brands. At pitches and launches – in times of crisis management. The trick is to make these acute one off periods more regular, more often. Otherwise what will happen is that creative brand projects will be worked on by a creative collective – to deliver a powerful impact to a consumer’s experience or a meaningful role for a company’s staff on the customer journey.

These collectives will not be retained to work beyond the agreed project. Another project could follow but not immediately with the same brand. The teams will mix and match themselves over time to complement each other to drive each solution and then move on to choose another. As this process developed, creative talent & innovators will merge with other advisors in the management consulting field. Choosing to collaborate, whatever the fee or reward is for the collective or the client will be based on short term shared goals and outcomes. This form of collaboration provides the opportunity  for each person, client or creative, to keep being curious,  right or left brained, to make an impact, to be a part of a wider community, to solve difficult or interesting problems quickly and feel increased self worth, beyond the measure of a salaried job with the accompanying processes and management responsibilities.

So yes, it was an interesting debate on Saturday night. An optimistic one too, because these are times of change, where action will trump inertia, and fear fuelled doom mongers do not have to be right. The debate happened at a charity ball for Mencap’s Grove Cottage. The power to do good by many for a few was apparent, in our little community.




Double Dip Marketing … 3 (of 3)

Double Dip Marketing … 3 (of 3)

Yesterday we looked at the seismic shifts in brand thinking since the last Double Dip recession – firstly, brand is legitimate currency in the boardroom and in the sharp gaze of the CFO and financial analysts and secondly, the digital impact in 21st Century has meant that branding skills are lagging behind the needs of today’s brand.  21st Century brands belong to the customer not the company and the result of the Double Dip contagion of fear has caused inertia.

Here are 3 types of action that can help break that inertia quickly.

Change how you do what you do

  • organise around customer needs not your organisation’s needs
  • Celebrate the highs on your customer journeys – create small customer focussed teams from across the silos to reward customer experience
  • If you have too many agencies, all overlapping yet individual, pick a top team from across them to work with you directly & then let them manage the rest of their teams  – and pick only top talent (it’s unlikely they all work in same agency).
  • Have a “non exec member” on both teams – as your brand or customer’s eyes & ears.
  • Focus  – agree on 3 things you can do now and prioritise your effort there – don’t shave a little off all budgets so rendering them all ineffectual or spend too little of your time and try to do everything – be brutal in just 3, the 3 things that can ignite your loyal customer experience.

Recreate your brand story

  • Understand the customer’s view of your strengths – be concise to avoid misunderstanding & miscommunication – write it in a line, a paragraph & a page. That’s it. No more.
  • Not as an advertising idea or a website landing page…it needs to be a song of praise to your staff and customers – sung by your exuberant CEO
  • If fear is contagious, optimism is infectious – find the positive. Make a little movie for your intranet. Live up to the story.
  • Say it out loud a lot inside your company– spread the word to get it sharp – feed it into the top team from those agencies you’ve formed and let it seep out in your communications
  • Over-focus on the customers you have and not on your competitors. Communicate your strengths not their weaknesses. Don’t be defensive – that’s so last century. .
  • Stop debating and start that dialogue with your core customers and be crystal clear and open – publish the conversation and invite more to join in and engage.

Innovate at warp speed

  • Only use small learning environments and teams. Pick a small project to keep the learning close. Don’t put all your efforts into making one big bang.
  • Test out swiftly – digital allows you to innovate & tweak & measure & test & learn & move on again.
  • Use your new team(s) to spread the word internally and at the agencies about new ideas and trials so they feed in as well as spread the word – be optimistic as that can spread even more quickly than fear!
  • Crowd source ideas with your customers on a project. Open up a channel which shows them it’s their brand not yours.
  • Share regular updates  to your staff and your customers  – start your own public lab of ideas on a new website

There are many more actions you can take to break out of the inertia brought on by fear. Taking a few small, smart actions around your brand will unleash positive, creative energy inside your company and importantly with your customers.  Fast and frequent should guide you.

As Dale Carnegie says, go out and get busy.

Double Dip Marketing

Double Dip Marketing

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
Dale Carnegie

Sir Martin Sorrell has downgraded WPP’s growth forecast this morning in the face of another possible slump.  What do marketers do in the face of this Double Dip Recession? There are best practice theories about what to do going into a recession (CFO led cost optimisation culls), what to do in a recession (a focus on stealing share of voice & mind) and how to best catapult yourself successfully from a recession (innovate, innovate, innovate). But Double Dip theories are not so clear…mainly because they are rare.

The world’s economy seems to be treading water while commentators and politicians debate whether we go back into a Slump. What is clear is that the main driver is fear – fear of another debt-fuelled collapse of major financial institutions & some national economies.  Fear causes inertia.

This recession is characterised by a lack of trust – banks don’t trust each other and no one trusts a banker; Governments don’t trust its advisors and voters (still) don’t trust those they’ve voted in; Credit agencies don’t trust countries anymore and Newspapers are closing down as their own actions (or inaction when caught out) mean loyal readers lose that trust built up over generations.

Yet the biggest companies are healthy and be they Fortune 500 or Shanghai Composite Index, they are hording cash and show good balance sheets. Inflation and uncertainty are hitting consumers across the Western World and Asian exports are slowing. Job security is wishful thinking. The Eurozone leaders finished at 3am yesterday morning but they sound as if they are waiting for the G20 to sort their survival plan. Blame is stirring peaceful anti capitalist greed and the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral has resigned in support of the protesters.

There is a real role for brand to help restore trust, to bring optimism and to ignite growth. But marketing budgets are under threat again. Trust is seeping away. Fear is rising and causing inertia. Inertia increases the stress. Decisions are put off.

Do you stick, twist or double down?

Part 2 (of 3) will follow tomorrow…