The future is plural, unpredictable and rarely a linear path from the present!

Vision: the ability to “think about or plan for the future, using intelligence and imagination”, an “idea or hope of how something should be done, or how it will be in the future” and simply the “ability to see”- MacMillan Dictionary.

The pandemic has taught that foreseeing can be more useful than forecasting. Hindsight is literally 2020 and as for 2021… Well, you have a choice to make: be a hapless passenger relinquishing responsibility for your emotions, feelings and outcomes to other people or choose to be a leader every single day, making a positive impact on those around you and taking accountability in every moment for your own beliefs and actions.

Easier said than done. Confusion and decision paralysis permeate most marketing departments, agencies and publishers – all carefully threading reality, with a little help from the past. But, as we now know, using the past to project the future is a fallacy. The psychological biases binding us to the present and blinding us from the future.

Bounded rationality: challenges the notion of human rationality as implied by the concept of homo economicus. Rationality is bounded because there are limits to our thinking capacity, available information and time.

Hyperbolic discounting: refers to the tendency for people to increasingly choose a smaller-sooner reward over a larger-later reward as the delay occurs sooner rather than later in time.

Availability bias: the human tendency to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case, hampering critical thinking and, as a result, the validity of our decisions.

The present-forward fallacy: the seductive notion that an existing business can be extended out in time indefinitely by continuously making improvements to it. Read more in my post on this at https://www.sureshdinakaran.com/blog/?s=future+back

Tyranny of the urgent: an analysis of the calendars of 27 CEOs over a full quarter showed that, on average, they had 37 meetings per week, which took up to 72 percent of their time. Is it any wonder they have so little time to imagine a better future? 

The bridge linking ‘what is’ with ‘what could be’ is intention. Therefore, rather than strategizing on ‘how to better play today’s game’, the big question for brands and organizations becomes ‘what is the game we intend to play to prosper tomorrow?’ 

Ultimately, it is about having the courage to pave a way that others have not dared to take before. Into the future, and through the predicted challenges of the next few years, great leadership will be our only salvation. The good news is that we all have the ability to be great leaders if we allow true character to overtake the fear and insecurity that form the veneer of our professional personas.

‘What are you on the planet to do and what legacy will you leave?’ This direction comes from a firm belief that our industry influences the minds of every citizen of the planet, with the means to influence other people’s choices, decisions, beliefs and behaviours. It has the power to influence political outcomes, corporate success or failure, and galvanise people behind causes of any kind. Therefore, the talent within marketing, media and advertising are in the ‘leadership’ business with an unsurpassed privilege that is not to be underestimated. This kind of power has the potential to be harmful unless wielded with the ‘right’ moral intent, finely tuned capability, deep wisdom, and ethical awareness.

I firmly hold the belief that every person is born a potential leader, hardwired to rely both psychologically and physiologically on other human beings. Born sociable, no baby is a loner. We are not born haters – or racist, homophobic or misogynistic. No, we’re all born leaders – with the ability to influence those around us. Who doesn’t automatically smile at a smiling baby? Or laugh when you hear them giggle? That’s influence, right there.

Listen More, Listen Better.

The sheer volume of data and insight at marketers’ fingertips is a formidable thing. Marketers can hold a customer’s heartbeat in the palm of their hand and have the ability to foresee when their blood pressure is going up or down. But only if we listen. And who was ever taught how to listen ? Since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press our ears have been replaced by our eyes, an oral culture of shared stories has been taken over by a visual culture of representative images.

We’re all really good at paying ‘ear service’ (the art of being seen to listen, while simultaneously reading an email, sending a text and thinking about next door’s cat) and then choosing to hear only the things that fit our own narrative (which we are extremely skilled at listening to). If you don’t seek to truly hear what is being said right now, then you’ll fill the gaps based on your own past experiences and patterns from which you’ll create future expectations predicated on your almost subconscious assumptions. This is the opposite of good leadership. 

Don’t focus on what you can get; Focus only on what you can give.

Well, here is the real truth. We can’t control what we get. We only have control over what we give. Great leaders are exhausted every day, not because of how hard they’ve worked but because of how much they’ve given.”

It sounds easy, and it is, but only if you consciously let go of the notion that you are in any way in control of what you get from others.

How many of us want to get more business from our clients, the next promotion, more discounts from our suppliers, more output from our teams, more love from our partners and more joy in our lives? We are apt to think about what we want to get and, if we don’t, we feel frustrated, disempowered, resentful… and then put the blame for those feelings directly on others.

Change the way you think to: what can I give my team to enable them to deliver their goals? How can I support my boss in a way that may make their job a little easier? What can I give to my clients to ensure that they can succeed? What can I do for my suppliers to make it easier for them to manage our relationship? What actions can I take to ensure those I love feel that love every single day? What can I give to the people around me to bring a little joy into their lives today? Because you have 100 percent control over what you give.

The key, therefore, is to learn to rejoice in being and leading uncomfortably. That’s when great leadership becomes the mechanism to transform countries, businesses and people.

Future back is a competence that can be developed by first crafting a vision and then threading it back to the present. 

Visioning, in a business context, is about having a clear worldview on the markets of the future and the role that your organisation can play in that new and different world. Having a really powerful vision can unleash the potential to transform whole industries. When we call a business leader a visionary, we mean they have a vivid understanding of their organisation’s best possible future – one that can potentially transform whole industries. Vision is the ‘what’ not the ‘how’. Vision is made actionable through strategy, which is the means to achieve it.

ENDS

 

 

 

The future is an asset, not a guess!

A crystal ball gazing into what marketers and marketing should/could be doing in the coming times!
 
The future is an asset, not a guess. As such, using it rather than predicting it, is the only way to create the conditions for a tomorrow that is better than today.
 
Few industries will have more predictions or “future of” reports than marketing. After all, it’s in our best interest to be a step ahead of the consumer. However, rather than prediction, intention is what has enabled the creation of strong global brands, remarkable campaigns, game changing products and services and thriving economies.
 
Marketing can no longer be taught, investigated, and practiced as confined to transactions between buyers and sellers, but needs to be reconsidered as deeply embedded within society and our living world.
 
Critically, though, this is perhaps the perfect stage and time – an open invitation for marketers to stop viewing themselves and their trade as economists do. As preached by ad legend Rory Sutherland, “My definition of marketing is simply the science of knowing what economists are wrong about. The human mind does not run on logic any more than a horse runs on petrol.” Perhaps, rather than chasing more universal laws of marketing, and what Sutherland calls ‘measurebation’, why not chase the exceptions that bring exponential success? And why not use that to help shift a business culture focused on short-term advantage, obsessed with money and uninterested on much else?
 
Particularly when, as explained by Sutherland in an exclusive master class for The Marketing Academy,“ “Marketing could be viewed as the most determining factor for social progress – not just in terms of changing our buying habits, but also in transforming our values system.”
 
Well… so what? A typical career lasts for 80,000 hours; so if you can make your career just one percent better, then in theory it would be worth spending up to 800 hours working out how to do just that. The past holds the patterns, the present is blurred, but the future is from where such exceptions can be seeded and harvested. Dr Toby Ord, a Philosophy Fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, frames the point in a rather compelling way: “Of all the people whose wellbeing we should care about, only a small fraction are alive today. The rest are members of future generations who are yet to exist. Whether they’ll be born into a world that is flourishing or disintegrating – and indeed, whether they will ever be born at all – is in large part up to us.”
 
This conclusion holds true regardless of whether your moral framework is based on common sense, consequences, rules of ethical conduct, cooperating with others, virtuousness, keeping options open or just a sense of wonder about the universe in which we find ourselves. Regardless of your personal stance, this is an opportunity for a sound investment of your time. Now and then.
 
“We know how marketing works, but do we know what we want it to work for? Profit is the default worldview. Prosperity is the renegade counterpart. Why not both?”
 
Why not embrace ambiguity, apply genuine foresight and rigorously imagine possible scenarios where marketing’s effectiveness can be considered in novel and holistic ways?
 
THE POST-COVID POSSIBLE SCENARIOS 
 
By all accounts, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak was not an unpredictable ‘Black Swan’, since many working in the emerging infectious diseases field provided several indications of its possibility. What is hard to predict, yet possible to project, is what may happen after this. The challenge of a global response is that there are multiple world views operating, all with different interests. Thus, predicting what the future may hold is pointless. But projecting alternative scenarios, preparing for potential risks and setting a course of action that helps actualize a desired future is a valuable lesson that futures studies can provide.
 
We need to stop talking in terms of the ‘new normal’. Please!!! What we are currently facing is a set of circumstances that have changed our environment. To what extent and for how long is unknown. This will again depend on your industry, your target audience and your ability to pave the road forward as opposed to waiting a return. How? Marketing’s ‘4Ps’ can be a good indicator. Move on from planned obsolescence to products that last longer or, even better, regenerate. From a burnout workforce to one that better integrates life and work. From the cumbersome commute and costly square metres to ubiquitous mobility and commerce convenience. From low prices funded by cheap labour to competitive prices enabled by smarter supply chains and business models.
 
What we have seen more than anything else is incredible adaptability, agility and versatility, none more so than within our small business community. If you weren’t digital before, you certainly are now. Again, every marketer needs to arm themselves with skills and pivoting abilities, rather than grand strategies and we could all learn something from SMBs. In this (as in any time of change) we need to focus on what we need to learn, NOT on what we already know. How do we use data to learn more, improve outcomes and make sure we are resonating with our consumers?
 
This time has also given us the opportunity to press the reset button. Change is not new to marketing. COVID-induced change across industries and economies has forced simultaneous change for all marketers and tested their adaptability. It’s on a bigger scale but not totally new. We have been forced to forensically look at ourselves, our budgets, the environment in which we are operating and, ultimately, our consumer. This has forced optimisation through digital, collaboration, through necessity and working in a much more agile manner. We may now expect some positive outcomes, like grit to NOT return to a normal that only partially served us.
 
The strength of a society is based on how we treat the weakest, not how we glorify the strongest. Young people are no longer the future, but the present. 
 
This is the disruption that truly creates the fourth industrial revolution. Along with external innovation, there is inner innovation – a social revolution. Evidence-based science and technology inform public policy, not the whims of particular leaders. The insights from fighting COVID-19 are applied to climate change. There is a dramatic shift to plant-based diets. It is business transformed, social mutation, not back to usual. There are, however, concerns about privacy. COVID has accelerated tech adoption. Any brand that is still wrestling with ‘digital transformation’ will likely be struggling to keep up. It is wrong to think digital doesn’t incorporate creativity, just as it is wrong to think creativity has nothing to do with data. It’s both and, the sweet fruit of this marriage could mean the rise of sentient marketing. In this new reality, brands proactively take action to avoid errors, sensing adversity and remaining alert to micro-trends and opportunities in its environment. The sentient enterprise is frictionless and truly unified by its brand’s strategy – for real, not just as a model on the paper. Like many actions that the brain executes, the sentient enterprise listens to data and makes autonomous, real-time decisions without requiring a human’s conscious intervention.
 
Predictive marketing should absolutely be embraced but, as with all technology, success will be driven by more than just profit. Empathy, connection and responsibility, combined with value delivery, may become the new metrics assessed by brand trackers. Without delivering this, brands will quickly lose meaning and the ability to command price premiums and, ultimately, will commoditise.
 
For now, consumers are searching for brands that help them make good choices that support the well-being for all – planet, people and the economy. Brands able to demonstrably track progress across the triple bottom line will move away from niche indexes reporting on ‘green brands’ and become the new gold standard for the more mainstream ‘best brands’ reports.
 
Another (not so optimistic) scenario is that of a great despair looming large-  Not an apocalypse, not a depression, no magic- just a slow and marked decline of health and wealth. Walls appear everywhere. The World Health Organisation and others try to contain it, but the virus repeatedly slips in and infects the bodies, minds and hearts of all. We are back to the Middle Ages. The efforts to address fail. The least connected to globalisation fare the best. The vulnerable are forgotten. Intergenerational memory of past pandemics informs reality. 
 
As marketers, do we have enough influence to impact this scenario? This often depends so deeply on political and economic inputs that are beyond our control. However, as an industry we are overwhelmingly one of optimism, action and awareness. Adopting a Future Back strategy(something that we practice at ISD Global( https://bit.ly/3oCwAZD) is a manifestation of marketers’ ability to foresee this and disrupt inertia or apathy. There are many steps between here and there. Marketing doesn’t only have to be to ‘sell’ products and services. It can equally persuade and inform decisions about health choices, protecting the vulnerable, combating mental health deterioration and lessening the height of any ‘walls’. As a part of society, marketers would be part of the effort to resist the described decline. A few of us have already started.
 
A systemic view of what marketing effectiveness is, and can be, needs to be supported by data, insights, technology, media ecosystems and the power of brand. Proficiency is part of the solution and posturing part of the problem.
 
Above all, we have the unique opportunity to address the claim from the most important marketing theorist of the 20th century, Wroe Wilson, who said that, “What is needed is not an interpretation of the utility created by marketing, but a marketing interpretation of the whole process of creating utility.”
For the 21st century, all marketers can make an honest attempt at doing just that. If we succeed, we can expect to ignite a journey to a desired future.
If we fail…
 

Bagging Riots!

When Heavy Weight Brands Are Made to Do A Heavy Wait!

On a recent trip, had some (customary) waiting to do upon landing at the airport, so decided ( after the usual polite skirmish with sweat, suede and swear words) to be an inno scent bystander next to the baggage carousel as it aimlessly (and somewhat harmlessly) went around in circles. So here’s the 360 Degree on it, motivated, well, by bags of time!

The absolute nonchalance with each and every piece of baggage gets treated once it finds place on the carousel has convinced me that the carousel is the only place in the world that is completely agnostic to brands and their status in the pecking order. All of them are treated like true ‘ pile ons ‘. Tumi, Louis Vitton, Delsey, Samsonite, American Tourister, VIP, BOSS, Echolac, China Mall…all came (and went) alike. The message going was loud and clear. Rest in Piece…till such time your owner gets a handle on you!

Nowhere will you see a better study in contrast. The bags taking its own sweet time to get to where it ought to, unabashedly relaxed, clinically unrepentant, approaching arrogance ( I am the BOSS here, you better give me the VIP treatment), do not intrude on my hammock style existence…..On the other side, the owners: anxious, impatient, irritated, hopeful, worried, chaos personified.

The bags I tell you love drama (and some gymnastics as well). Every now and then they bring you to the edge as they salsa, spin and swirl but manage to stay on top of the carousel. That in the process they knock off a few socks from ankles and uncles is a different story. Really edge of the feat stuff!

As you take your monster off the carousel(with a little help from 8 people close to you , 4 of whom were standing on your toes unrepentantly), you just want the trolley to glide through the sea of humanity only to realize that this piece of convenience(supposedly) is a bit like me- it has no sense of direction. As you push North, it heads East. So much for where there’s a wheel, there’s a way! No wayAnd in any case, SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) are meant to function only in Governments!

The area surrounding the carousel is actually a medical practitioner’s delight. The ideal place to easily diagnose the following including but not restricted to: Colour blindness, Slip disc, Parkinsons, Blood Pressure, Extreme Body Odour…is it blue or green? And the real owner sees red in the bargain. If you don’t mind, could you please help me offload my bag?(I travelled light this time)-it’s just 87 kgs( any more and she would have had to hire a cargo plane).

Do you think the carousel is an ideal candidate for acute nausea? Imagine going around in circles, hour after hour, day after day- 360 Degrees and the emergence of the Circular Economy is all very fine but doing it 365 days a year?? Where does it begin? And where does it end? Methinks it’s happy to be a spin doctor! Or should we call it an innocent victim of circum stance?

So the next time you travel, carry XS baggage(Armani, A R Mani, Mr Moneybags etc pl note). Xtra Small. Don’t break the carousel.Give the carousel a break…unless of course you want to see some Delsey, all at sea! Boss, it makes no sense Tumi!

ENDS

https:www.groupisd.com/story

https://www.brandknewmag.com

Has the AIDA Model in the Customer Journey become outdated?

125 years is a long amount of time. The AIDA model was developed by the American businessman, E. St. Elmo Lewis, in 1898. The original purpose was to optimise sales calls, specifically the interaction between seller and buyer concerning the product.

Just to expand on the acronym(and the obvious):

  • A = attract
  • I = interest
  • D = desire
  • A = action
Of course the AIDA model is helpful as it provides focus on each area of the customer journey. That being said, allow me a bit of purposeful provocation.
Let’s look at a few reasons why the AIDA model is up for scrutiny:
– Post the ‘ action ‘ stage, the brand is not engaging or conversing with the customer. There is nothing happening after the purchase. In the context of how important customer retention and loyalty is for marketers, this is a pain point.
– In fact, the majority of actions taken by users on social media when it comes to reaching out to a brand involve experience (aka they’ve already interacted with your brand) and for customer service issues (aka they’re already a customer).
Pl refer to the below infographic from Sprout Social on ‘ why consumers message a brand on social media ‘:
The prognosis is that on social media, nearly 96 percent of people contact a brand beyond AIDA, assuming they’re already a customer.
– The AIDA model was constructed during a phase wherein we were in a  ‘ Caveat Emptor ‘ or Buyer Beware situation. We are now in a ‘ Caveat Venditor ‘ phase or Seller Beware mode. All the more reason for brands to be in continuous engagement and conversation post action/purchase.
 
– In an increasingly commoditised world, Customer Experience is your best product.
– Incredible, always on accessibility has driven consumers to crave experiences that are both instant and convenient.
 
– Experiences are no longer between the company and the customer. Any customer experience can become public news overnight.
– Because it’s easy enough to find a great product for a decent price these days. What’s harder to find is a seamless, customer-centric brand experience.
– Brand Loyalty is on the decline. We are in a ”Switching economy”. 86% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience(Kolsky).
– The biggest thing missing when brands manage the customer journey? Conversations.
So, how do we look at a model that can replace AIDA? You must have heard of ‘ Conversational Marketing ‘ – this is more on the lines of ACCA:
A: attract
 
C: convert
 
C: close
 
D: delight
The below infographic devised by B Squared Media is self explanatory.
Think of conversational marketing as having real-time conversations with your would-be or actual customers.
Additionally, you might want to check out this feature in BrandKnew on Conversational Marketing at https://www.brandknewmag.com/does-your-2020-marketing-strategy-include-conversational-marketing/
The model is still pretty simple. Each part of the customer journey allows for conversations between you and your would-be (or actual) customers. And if we think about customer experience, that’s what sets the superior brands apart.
Everyone knows when they are dealing with a customer centric brand. It shows. You can feel it. Sure you can go deep and crazy with customer experience but, you can also focus on conversations.
Conversations are the ignored, low hanging fruit of almost every business.
Just to let you in on a little secret: all of the marketing buzzwords(influencers! loyalty ! revenue !) live inside of customer care efforts and for some inexplicable reason, most brands are completely overlooking this part of the journey.
The script to write for brands and marketers in organisations is to move from ROI (in the conventional sense) to ROE( Return on Experience). And any kind of transformative customer experience begins with an engaging employee experience. 
In a culture of immediacy, people are becoming ever-more impatient when it comes to their transactions and brand engagement.
Some Food For Thought

– More than half of consumers (55 percent) have intended to conduct a business transaction or make a purchase, but decided not to because of a poor service experience- American Express

-89 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service- RightNow Customer Experience Satisfaction Report

-50 percent of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them. – RightNow Customer Experience Satisfaction Report

– A 10% increase in customer retention levels increases the value of a company by 30%- Bain & Company
– You need to get to the future, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them when they arrive”- March Benioff, CEO, Salesforce.com
Before I sign off, some customer experience benchmarks that are worthy of emulation would include:
Walt Disney: Stooping To Excellence
ACE Hardware: Helpful Hardware People
Ritz Carlton: Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen
Amazon:Building the earth’s most customer centric organisation

 

A contrarian view as I hang up:

The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time: David Bowie

ENDS

https:www.groupisd.com/story

https:www.brandknewmag.com

https:www.brandknew.groupisd.com

https:www.weeklileaks.com

 

 

Present Forward or Future Back: Strategy or Vision?

The future happens slowly..and then all of a sudden. In his fabulous 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway famously wrote that bankruptcy happens in two ways:  “gradually and then suddenly”.

Some years back Andy Grove( ex-CEO, Intel) had introduced the concept of strategic inflection points in his seminal book Only the Paranoid Survive where he explained that a strategic inflection point is ” a time in the life of a business when it’s fundamentals are about to change “.

A change in the business environment that dramatically shifts some elements of your activities, throwing certain taken-for-granted assumptions into question is an inflection point. Someone, somewhere, sees the implications, but all too often they are not heard. That someone might be you!

Whether you are a powerful CEO or someone far lower down in the pecking order, not seeing the unfolding inflection points(or blind spots ) are dangerous.

What is the case we are making here? Too many managers develop strategy while focusing on problems in the present and that is especially true in the times of a crisis(like the Covid 19 pandemic that we are presently pulverised by). Lets call it ‘ missing the wood for the trees ‘. What I am trying to argue here is that leaders instead should imagine the future and work backward so that they build their organisations and brands for the new(emerging) reality.

Even during a crisis, developing a ” future-back ” mindset can spur innovation and growth.

So, in order to build strategy, start with the future.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of brands and organisations that have used the ” future-back ” approach to stunning effect.

Back in the late 90’s and the turn of the millennium, Intel was ruling the roost. With a market share well over 70%, the brand was well and truly in the driver’s seat(apart from being inside millions of computers) with the Pentium Processor going from strength to strength. At the height of that market dominance, Andy Grove took a visionary punt and launched a brand to compete against its very own Pentium– that was the Celeron range of Processors. What he did was to see the future being dominated by cheaper, faster processors( Moore’s Law ) and he did not want Intel to lose out on the potential opportunity that lay ahead of them. That saying Andy Grove was visionary would be an understatement and how prescient the observation in his book ” When spring comes, snow melts first at the periphery, because that is where it is most exposed “, bears testimony.  Intel Inside. Meets Intelligence and Insight!

Take another example of the ” future-back ” approach that Reed Hastings, Founder/CEO of Netflix adopted to reach where it is today. At the height of their DVD rental business success, they ventured into streaming(encouraging both cannibalisation and migration of their existing subscriber base) anticipating that the medium to long term future of in home entertainment will hinge on that. Not just that, look at their understanding of the competitive landscape- it went well beyond the typical television broadcast networks and cable TV of the day. They distilled the big picture into getting their prospect’s time and attention. Broadened the eco system significantly. Rather made it a category by itself. So, in effect, the competition included time their viewer/s spent going to movie houses, eating out, entertaining friends and family, travel and holidays etc etc. By wearing a different lens and examining a hitherto unseen/untried approach, helped them immensely in becoming the brand they are today.

No conversation about a ” future-back ” model and a vision preceding strategy would be complete without talking about Steve Jobs and Apple. Back in the day, the way they disrupted music consumption and music distribution through iTunes and iPod is now part of folklore. They did not wait for either the market or the customer to tell them what is needed. They took moonshots( it’s in the culture), created highly desirable products that the customer never knew they wanted or would need and generated unprecedented gravitas, and the rest they say is history. Apple as a brand and Steve Jobs as a leader was always seeing around corners, anticipating trends and operated at the intersection of a new future and non articulated consumer need and desire.

Let me add here. ‘ Customer knows best ‘ is a whole load of balderdash. If organisations were to depend on customers to know what is needed, there would not have been any Post It Notes(3M), Fax Machines(Xerox) and many of today’s incredibly successful brands like Amazon, Tesla, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, Zomato etc. The onus and responsibility of drawing the future and working backward from there is fully on you, your brand, your organisation. So, don’t run away from it. Take it head on.

While we debate the vision vis a vis strategy and the “ future-back ” model to a ” present-forward ” one, do be aware that a vision is like an ‘ impressionist painting ‘ and NOT a ‘ photograph ‘. A photograph captures what there is already, there is NO speculation, hedging, punting and imagining the non existent. A vision on the other hand is similar to an impressionist painting in the sense that it is visualising what could/should be, what will/can be or what may/may not be. It is taking a shot at the future and setting the road to travel back from there.

To be blunt, getting through this tricky process of envisioning the future begins with confusion, experimentation and a touch of chaos followed by a single minded determination to make progress against an overarching goal. And an approach that futurist Paul Saffo recommends as creating as many forecasts as possible, fail as quickly as possible and vitally ” to hold strong opinions weakly “.

Another valuable perspective on this chaotic period of thinking is offered by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. Anything that has more upside than downside from random events(or certain shocks) is anti fragile.

Rita McGrath, Columbia Business School professor and business consultant recommends a ‘ discovery driven approach ‘ to anticipating the future and you can dive deeper into her thinking and recommendations in BrandKnew on these links https://www.brandknewmag.com/thinking-innovation-driving-growth/ and https://www.brandknewmag.com/discovery-driven-digital-transformation/ .

It was the 4th of February, 2014. Satya Nadella was announced as the new CEO of Microsoft, the third chief executive in the company’s history, following Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Recognising that most of Microsoft’s woes at the time were a function of an approach that was ” present forward “, the first thing he did was to tell everyone in the organisation ” We are going to be moving away from a know it all organisation to a learn it all one “. Looking back on how well Microsoft is doing now compared to 2014, bears testimony to the potential for organisations in adopting a ” future-back ” model.

Brands that didn’t heed the  ” future-back ” model and met their fate inspite of being market leaders once upon a time include the likes of Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia, Toys ‘R’ Us.

There are other industries very ripe for the picking to drive home further the point of vision preceding strategy. The pharmaceutical sector for instance. Based on empirical evidence, learnings from past epidemics like SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu, emerging lifestyle patterns and the accompanying chronic diseases that it helps manifest(diabetes for one), a pharma company can seize opportunities and address customer pain points that will occur in the future. An example that is worth looking at is the pharma giant Roche. Which saw huge potential in the ” future-back ” approach. That helped revive it’s struggling diabetes unit. The company ingeniously paired the mySugr app (which it had acquired in 2017) with Roche’s Accu-Chek Guide glucose meter, thereby allowing diabetics to have a different, gamified experience to managing their condition. By logging in their blood glucose levels, completing tasks and challenges, users can “tame their diabetes monster”. It’s a totally different approach(at least for the pharma sector) which forecasts that “the way forward will mean selling a total experience, not just a product.

Rather than look at Fall of 2020 or Spring of 2021, Universities/Colleges will be best served to go further down the road and see how do we cope, prepare and anticipate learning and training needs in the near distant future and move backward from there. With the current Covid-19 crisis having caught a lot of educational institutions severely under prepared and like a deer in the headlights with no werewithal (and mindset) for virtual/online delivery, the time is now, to graduate, to look into the future.

So, ‘ where do you go from here ‘? Or, rather, I should be asking ‘ where are you coming back from ‘ ?

PS: For leaders and organisations wanting to undertake ‘A back to the future voyage ‘, the video on this link https://www.groupisd.com/phewturecast/ can be a starting point.

ENDS

https:www.groupisd.com/story

https:www.brandknewmag.com

https:www.weeklileaks.com

https:www.brandknew.groupisd.com

 

 

Is SAD the new HAPPY in Advertising?

Let’s begin with the obvious. It’s an always on world. While being perennially and technologically connected, geography being history and all of that, at no time have humans been so socially disconnected in the real sense.The need (and significantly unmet) desire for human bonding has never been greater. Nuclear existence has stoked the potential that is kinetic in humans. There is a clamour to reach out and brands are bending over backwards to suit the new found relish for the pathos.
It’s a given that sad news travels fast. But, advertising that stokes emotions( or SADvertising as it is being called these days) that strikes a strong emotional piano chord and opens up the tear ducts, travels fast, wide and deep. Empathy meets exponential sharing, opens up a floodgate of brand conversations,triggers otherwise hard to come by response, sustains brand dialogue and keeps all stakeholders be it brand owners, ad agencies or end users, happy (ironic as it may sound!).
Why the sadness?
It is said that sad emotional content has the capacity to make people feel more emotionally connected to one another, especially powerful in our detached digital world. This sad connectedness makes people more likely to take an action such as sharing content, donating money, or buying a product.
Communicating sadness can create behavioral change
Scientifically speaking, when we hear interesting stories, specifically stories that make us feel distress or empathy, our brain produces two chemicals: cortisol, which links with our sense of distress and helps us focus our attention on something, and oxytocin, which is associated with our sense of empathy. When these two chemicals are triggered, studies show that people are more likely to give money to a cause related to the story they’ve heard.
In short, the study reveals that it is possible for a story to change a person’s behaviour by changing their brain chemistry. What does this mean for brands? Sad stories have the potential to move people to make a purchase. This is why we’ll likely see more of these sad ads in the future.
We have moved on from an era of media scarcity to an era of attention
scarcity. Getting people’s attention is what we’re trying to do, and I
think that meaning, something that people can relate to on a very
visceral level, is what drives a lot of the decisions we make when we’re
talking about things. Hyper competition has forced brands to not only
assure customers a good product or service but make it very relatable
and more meaningful than any other good product.
Over time brands have realised that the consumer culture has evolved
and people are more reflective and mindful of their lives. There is a
constant search for deeper layers of meaning once you have all the
things you need and most of the things you don’t need but desire. The
ad industry of the last decade was mean, cynical and celebrated
bitterness. Those were the days when brands wanted to be Sexy,
Swaggering or Sweeping. That showed up in most of the work that was
put up. Don’t blame them as it seemed to work for all concerned. But,
then after a while, people got sick of it and when a voice and tone which
conveyed exactly the opposite stuck in, the positive reaction was
overwhelming.
Lets list a few of the work from yesteryears where brands have stirred up a flood of emotions all over the world and that includes P&G and its commercial released around the Olympics(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUg6s-uIp1w), Honda’s Project Drive In(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kRU9Au-fhk), Coca Cola Life in Argentina(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPb1t3jU3sI), Nestle Good Life commercial in India(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syZju6ui394), Google’s Dear Sophie(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcHV_Dv9tlo), Dove’s Beauty Patch(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk), John Lewis(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9D-uvKih_k), Budweiser’s Puppy Love(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p_3lITiK_Q), the charming tale of a canine equine romance or Expedia’s commercial(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CzSeFHrSfM) about same sex marriage where the father fights his prejudice etc.
The flip side of this (which is worrying) is that it has become a trend. The
word ‘ emotional ‘ is now become the most over used word in client
agency briefs. If you are used to agencies creating a trend which should
ideally be the case(rather than following one), its time to take stock. We
just might be at a tipping point on this one. But, till such time, it sinks in,
it’s cry, cry, cry till you succeed for brands and agencies.
Go, grab your tissues!
ENDS
https://www.groupisd.com/story
https://www.brandknewmag.com
https://www.brandknew.groupisd.com
https://www.weeklileaks.com

Numerology and the Marketing Math!

Numerology and the Marketing Math: The 25 to 70% off enigma!

Numerology: Definition: The branch of knowledge that deals with the occult significance of numbers.

We are all swayed by possibility. As we are swayed by short cuts. Human beings are hardwired to be lazy. So, unless and until there is a by design effort to put in the emotional labour​, routine is the ardently followed also ran. Mundane replaces the potential jugular. It remains that way, because it’s always been done that way. So why upset the applecart? But what happens when the cart is being toppled?

​I am not a numbers person. Far from it. It somehow just doesn’t add up for me. So, I have almost subtracted it from my life. But, being in the space that I am, and observing the brand marketing communications around me, I am tempted to do a deeper dive and know more.

25 to 70%off: Most of you would have seen these numbers ​scream out at us day in and day out from newspapers, billboards, radio ads, digital ads etc. In fact, some of us were mistaking the 25 to 70% off to be a tourist destination(considering how many of them sprout all over the city)- One cannot miss it because leading brands across industry verticals with the support and ‘ advise ‘ of big ticket advertising agencies make sure such campaigns are run 13 months in a year. So, that makes it 24X7X395. A different numerology this!

The ever lasting love affair of brand and marketing experts with 25 to 70% off remains a mystery. Or by now, it should not be. Considering the amount of time ‘ the practice ‘ has come to root(or should it be rot?). And the practice has been perfected beyond question. And ably aided by ‘ brand guardians ‘ who toe the line willingly as this ‘ ad vise ‘ is coming from senior czars at the big ticket ad agencies– how can they get their ‘ numbers ‘ wrong? . They have everything going for them- They use ‘ fancy  calculators ‘, wear Armani suits, have Turkish coffee 8 times a day, the hair is slickly gelled. Sorry, forgot to add the clincher-they also wear crocodile skin pointed leather shoes!!!

I have heard somewhere that ‘ the more things change, the more they remain the same ‘. Recently, a very senior brand and business head of a market leading lifestyle brand called us at ISD Global saying that they are in troubled times. They were losing market share and from being a clear category leader with over 65% retail market share, it was time for store closures, downsizing(or rightsizing to make it sound sweeter) and market share dipping to below 40% – all that in a matter of about 18 months. Inspite of increased marketing spends as advised by the ‘ experts ‘. My question to him was to understand what were they doing different to what was being done and not surprisingly the answer remained ‘ we have aggressively started doing deep discounting and instead of doing it 4 times a year, we remain committed to doing it through the year ‘…so there you go, enough said – ‘ the more things change, the more they remain the same ‘.

​So, do these brand owners and guardians take their coveted ad agencies to task? I’m afraid not. If that were to happen, how can they make ‘ interesting, cerebral conversation ‘ saying that our brand works with XXXX agency – they are in the Top 5…and walk around with a chip on their shoulder​. And be ranked among ‘ Top 50 ‘ Marketing Professionals in XXXX. Recognised as the ‘ best 40 under 40 ‘ or the ‘ leading 50 over 50 ‘- to be flagged on their Linked In profile. And ‘buy awards ‘ and (p)ride of place in Superbrands next hard bound edition.

Customers buy only on price and the more you deep discount, more loyalty they bring to the equation is still the belief(believe it or not!). We can keep bribing them and they will keep flocking like bees to honey. But, what happened? The numbers are not adding up. ​​The 25 to 70% off numerology chapter needs to turn the page. The strategy is now clearly a ‘ has BEEn ‘! And still being tried Bees Saal Baad( Twenty Years Hence for those not familiar with the Hindi language).

So, where are they headed? To me the writing is on the wall- or is it on the palm?

​Palmistry, anyone?​ Could be easier. Palm off your responsibility to someone or something else! Enough suckers around.

As for me, I am calling up my Mom(God Bless Her) to know more about the occult practice..you guessed it: Numerology!

Disclaimer: She is a retired Math teacher. And she has no interest in ‘hyperbole discounting‘.

And if you permit me a bit of Marketing 01(not even 101): ‘ Differentiation is not an intrinsic characteristic of a brand; differentiation is in the eye of the consumer ‘.

For all those swayed by the ‘ herd mentality ‘, this may never get heard. But, that being said, marketing is a serious responsibility. And there is no running away from that!

Comfortably numb inside the Golden Cage?

The Golden Cage? Probably yes.

Intrusion capitalism paves the way for what has been called the ‘ convenience economy ‘. And like billions around the world, we are almost comatosed into not only acceptance but to dig deep and stay there. The numbness of convenience, shall we say? And apart from the occasional murmur or a sporadic protest, life goes on.

We don’t have to go very far but look at a few examples. Let’s begin with one of the usual suspects-brands like Amazon, Amazon Prime and their accompanying eco system that touches the lives of millions of customers around the world every day. For about US$ 10 a month( if you are in the US), you get a vast pool of content, priority door step delivery at the most economical value for zillions of products. And with Alexa(another Amazon wonder) taking root as a serious tool for search and e commerce, the cesspool of dependence has only gone deeper and broader. Since there is no better reason( or a better alternative by far), we as customers are happy to be remain comfortably domiciled.

With 2.2 billion users every day around the world, Facebook is a monster drug(combining its repertoire of Whats App, Instagram users) and there is no saturation in sight as the time spent on these platforms seem to be only increasing. Data theft, brand safety, privacy intrusions etc have not stopped the eccentric growth of this juggernaut. Sometime back, the powers that be at Facebook actually mentioned that they are addressing the privacy and data theft concerns and they are prepared for a 95% success. Very recently, under pressure from several quarters, the commitment went up to 99%!!! It’s akin to an airline saying that we are 99% sure of our landings. 1% can be seriously debilitating and you don’t have to look further than the New Zealand shooting which went live to understand what I am trying to say. But, just like the case of Amazon, there is no mass exodus. On the contrary, the clamour to get in is only increasing. The absence of a viable, palatable alternative definitely helps the cause. People are staying put!


As Steven Van Belleghem espouses in his book Automation, AI and the Customer Experience , just as there is a mandatory audit of all corporations’ financial statements both internally & externally, there has to be a regulation in place calling for ‘ algorithm transparency ‘. Because, presently only the outcomes are understandable while there is no clarity on the inputs- especially the bias and the prejudice that gets fed into the codes to manipulate outcomes. I think this is a clarion call for a basic ‘ code of conduct ‘ and the earlier it gets put into place, surveillance capitalism will have some guard rails.

Till then, the (algo)rithm is going to get you! And it’s quite possible that you go blue in the Face(book).

ENDS

https://www.groupisd.com/story

https://www.brandknewmag.com

https://www.weeklileaks.com

Mediocrity is never an accident,it’s by design,so,watch out!

“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”

-Tim Ferriss

Ironical isn’t it that we are knowingly ultra competitive when we are striving for mediocrity. And, ironically, the fiercest competition is for the second-class prizes. And we still don’t get it!

It’s a long never ending tirade. Justifications that are shallow, hollow and mere escapism. I am referring to the reasons why we endorse and end up doing mediocre work. Let’s look at the usual suspects..

The brief was lousy..

I hardly had any time..

The customer does not value quality..

We never get the right price..

It’s a one way street, we are always the one being short changed..

Does it really matter? As nobody ever notices..

You are always critical..

This market never appreciates high quality..

The management will never understand..

I have always done it this way..

My boss is a jerk..

I don’t want to fail..I rather play safe..

Half hearted, half baked, short cuts, excuses. Period. Nothing else. They are all sad facades, masking the real issue. The outcome where sub optimal emotional labour is committed will always reflect a huge gap between what could have been and what is.

If you’re not willing to fail, you guarantee you’ll stay average-at-best.

If you want to grow into an extraordinary version of yourself, you must be willing to fail — a lot.

“Stay in your lane.” Focus on you. Learn all you can. Experiment, fail, discover what works.

When you see the 25 to 70% off ad screaming from every second billboard in town for every second brand, that is when you come to realise the often heard ‘ herd mentality ‘. Find safety in numbers. Conform, adhere, comply, fit in, exist, survive, get along, pass by. By design, the quest for supreme mediocrity(read comfort food) is perennial and offers perpetual succour. Or so it seems considering the seriousness with which it is latched onto. And there is no letting go.  And that, amongst a community of really bright minds who came into the profession with a clarion call to make their own little dents in the universe. And what are they managing to do- drive people away from the profession.

You have to decide to opt either for the wood or for the trees. Do you want to care enough to create something better? Introspect and the answer will be very close at hand.

Most people will stay in mediocrity.They’ll continue fighting with the majority for average, subpar prizes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The road that leads to an incredibly exciting, fulfilling life is waiting for you. It’s free and open, and there are no crowds. And pay no heed to the ‘ wisdom of the crowds ‘ narrative- it’s just a more sophisticated coinage for finding solace in the average, the sub par, the mediocre.

You can either take a ‘ leap of faith ‘ or retire to a ‘ sleep of fate ‘. What got you here is not going to get you there. As Todd Henry so beautifully captured in his book ” Die Empty ‘- Unleash your best work every day. Practice the art of non-conformity! That’s what we preach and practice at ISD Global. And we get to do that every day. Gratitude!!

ENDS

groupisd.com/story

brandknewmag.com

weeklileaks.com

brandknew.groupisd.com

 

 

 

The ‘ Expertise Burden ‘

The X Factor might make you an ‘ ex not to be factored ‘.

Contradicting yes. Certainly so. How can expertise ever be a burden? It is what gets normally equated with leadership abilities and high performance. But when we look around, you will find instances where expertise comes across as unwanted baggage, thereby halting progress, impeding momentum.

Look around and you will scores of cases where expertise has been a trap for many an organisation and individuals alike. Kodak was at the frontier of imaging technology and photography and remained glued to the thought that things would remain the same.

” You press the button. We do the rest “, quoted George Eastman. Steve Sasson was the engineer at Kodak who invented the digital camera in 1975. US$ 10 billion in sales way back in 1981. However, Kodak failed to recognise the rise of digital photography, decline in analog camera sales and the rise in digital camera sales. Eventually, the brand filed for bankruptcy in 1992. The ‘ expertise trap ‘ played its part. The hunter became the hunted.

Let’s move onto Microsoft for a bit. When Apple introduced the iPhone(without the conventional Qwerty keypad), then CEO Steve Ballmer(steeped deep in PC and connected computing business), never gave it a chance. The legacy of expertise has played its part and things didn’t look too ‘ smart’ for Microsoft as iPhone made history. Windows had shut the door on a big opportunity as the Explorer stopped exploring.

And so goes the case with stalwart retail brands who stuck to the coat tails of merchandise, brick and mortar, store design and alterations to the marketing mix- erstwhile pillars of retail success till such time Amazon came in and broke the mould completely.

While expertise has several ticks in the box, it can also lead to individual thinking that is narrow( Why upset the applecart, we have always done it that way), resting on past laurels, ignoring the dynamics of the market place, the emergence of new thinking and technology( AI, the power of algorithms that replace rote tasks very easily) and behaviours that leave a gaping distance between colleagues and business partners, causing loss of confidence and trust. Over time the very expertise that led to our success can leave us feeling unhappy, unsatisfied, and stuck.

Some examples that might trigger counter intuitive thinking is when ‘ experts ‘ realise the need of the hour and wake up to smell the coffee. Who would have thought that automobile technology, ones exemplified by brands like Mercedes, BMW and their ilk would ever get upended. And how. Till such time Tesla disrupted the space with a vengeance and driverless, autonomous technology hit the road and put them in a MUSK DO situation. Real soon, the established brands were investing their billions into the new self driving technology to keep up, send out a signal and get ready for their future. They didn’t hang on to the ‘ expert ‘ in the field narrative. They let the new rubber hit the road. Good for them.

Some warning signs that you may have fallen prey to the expertise trap:

Have you fallen into a creative rut?

Do you feel “old” and out of touch in your job?

Do others seem uncomfortable challenging your assumptions and ideas?

Are market developments beginning to take you by surprise?

These are just a few of the warning signs.

All hope is not lost. Rediscover the path to new thinking, new learning and growth. Embark on a new journey and as the Buddhists call it ‘ embrace a beginner’s mind ‘.

That’s why we are happy with our ethos at ISD Global where I work. Be hungry, be foolish. The more you know, the more you realise how much more there is to know. Changing for the better and bettering the change go hand in hand. And all the ‘ trappings ‘ be blown!

ENDS

groupisd.com/story

brandknewmag.com

brandknew.groupisd.com

weeklileaks.com