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
– 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 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
It’s a little past 6 am on the clock and a sense of anxiety has already made it’s unwanted presence felt(liquidity crisis in the form of acid reflux anyone?). Being an early bird and having realised(of late and it’s just a random realisation before you audaciously attribute that to any wisdom or maturity on my part) that my most productive hours are from the wee hours( if others thought similarly, we could call it the ‘ we hours ‘) of the morning till about noon, and every minute that I delay in getting out of the house to earn my daily dread gives me FOMO attacks(my version only and nothing to do with status anxiety). But, then, those were the days. Sorry if it sounds pre-historic.
Some days, I admit, the last thing you want to do is go to work—but since it doesn’t look like those bills will start paying themselves anytime soon, you put on your best #adulting face and head out for your daily hustle.
Over the past few weeks, just like the teeming millions around the world, being locked in(and logged in) is the (cruel) but absolute necessity. There is no mother, there is no invention. Just stay home, period. Having finished counting the tiles in the house( 2924 at last count unless some of them have been broken courtesy my better half’s multiple in house walkathons) and other highly cerebral flings that WFH has brought upon us, I was recently enlightened to realise the number of absolutely useless channels that our TV subscription(traditional) package gave us. Numbers do give us a false sense of bravado and now I know why. At least it gives the remote something handy to do. Like going up and down, aimlessly! What if we could do that with squats, seriously? Our ham would begin to string a new tune. Ok, will exercise caution now.
Work @ work was fun(and I was perfectly @ home with it or so I think)- collaborating with my colleagues(@ISD Global) and clients on changing the world, being not just the game changer but the game, we are next level normal, we will make heaven wait, how dare… and what have you while studiously ignoring their condescending disapprovals. I don’t blame them. After all even relentless monotony can’t go beyond a limit and with the keep safe distance norms in place and borders being sealed, I have to wait for things to get back to ‘ old normal ‘ for some ideas to pass(with or without Octroi). I only hope it happens ASAP unless the new definition(in the new normal) of ASAP is As Slow As Possible.
In the interim, I realise that my cell phone is acting up because when I keep pressing the Home button and look up, I realise I am still at work. Surely, some cells have been damaged. From hereon must check the sell by date. That probably calls for a visit to Shihab Mobiles(my Best Buy consultant). Alas, the contagion(no not Corona) is spreading. As now the keyboard has got into the act as well- I keep punching the Escape key only to note that I am still at work. I have seen the Great Escape but I saw something even bigger- the writing on the wall: Why is Monday so far from Friday and Friday so close to Monday? I see it better now !!
Those were the days. You always had something to look forward to. Driving back. Just like so many of us. Of coming home. And I bet, there’s nothing half so pleasant, as coming home again.
Sorry , go to go. In search of a new quest. A video on ” How to fold a perfectly folded T Shirt ” yet again! Sorry, if I wore my heart on my sleeve. But remember, we are all looking at the world with a new lens.
CAVEAT: Number of tiles indicated above will be more than 2924. I did not reckon with the other bathroom. Sorry, it slipped.. my mind. Updated stats in next piece. We can call it ‘ Stat(u)s Update ‘.
Suresh Dinakaran is Chief Storyteller at ISD Global, Dubai and Managing Editor, BrandKnew.
Numerology and the Marketing Math: The 25 to 70% off enigma!
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!
We have often heard about terms like ’ Be Limitless ‘ and ‘ Endless Possibilities ‘. These are bandied about in self help books, motivational speeches and even some business negotiations..” Considering the synergies that exist between our two organisations, there are endless possibilities that we can collaborate on “, is not very uncommon CEO speak. Well, (enough) said!
The reality on the ground is very different though. There is not much weightage accorded to the magic and energy of ‘ possibility ‘. And even less so in the case of what empowers possibility ie ‘ enrollment ‘. Often times we all are barking up the wrong tree. Consider that we look at this situation like if it were to be a quadrant with four concourses.
Concourse 1: High Possibility; High Enrollment: This is where most of our tribe is headed. Showing up, enrolling and putting in the hard yards, the emotional labour in the hope that at the end of it, they would realise what was envisaged as possible when they began. It’s indeed a very overcrowded space, fuelled in large doses by what we call the ‘ herd mentality ‘ and the supposed ‘ wisdom of the crowds ‘. Needless to say, the competition in this concourse is the highest.
Concourse 2: Low Possibility; High Enrollment: How to get into the Brazilian national football team ? Or any of the top NBA teams. Or getting admission into the IVY League Universities like Harvard, MIT etc. The odds are heavily stacked against the participants but the level of intensity and desire to get on board is at its highest which reflects in the insane number of enrollments for that special pie in the sky. In such cases, the existing eco system also keeps triggering and stimulating the hope and promise and thereby the corresponding spike in enrollment to get on board.
Concourse 3: Low Possibility; Low Enrollment: Yes there are such tribes..wanting to be lava surfers and ride the lava spitting out from the Mauna Loa (one of the world’s biggest volcanos) but there is neither a structure nor system in place to bring this to fruition. Little wonder such things see the lowest in terms of both possibility and enrollment.
Concourse 4: High Possibility; Low Enrollment: Strangely, this is the most under tapped area of the quadrant inspite of this being the area with the highest potential. It could be areas like being a social worker or a nurse or a music therapist. There is always a Minimum Viable Audience(MVA) and our enrollment can see that audience being connected to, engaged with, influenced and impacted.
What can we distill from this? Which is the Blue Ocean that is calling out to us? How much enrollment are we planning to put in to swim to where we want to be? Are we prepared to guts it out? Yes, the possibilities are out there. Enrollments are open. Apply now!
“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.”
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!!
The 19th century French physiologist Claude Bernard said that “It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning” . So true, isn’t it. Being comfortable in our existing biases and prejudices.
It’s the swanky decked to the hilt conference room of a major healthcare brand. Huddled are some really bright minds including the hospital CEO, medical experts, Architects, Project Consultants etc. The matter on the table is the design of the ICCU(Intensive Cardiac Care Unit) at their upcoming new hospital. Inevitably, the design blueprint presented did not depart too much from what has already been executed in multiple ICCUs across thousands of hospitals worldwide. Been there, done that. Enter the intrepid Customer Experience Manager, newly appointed at the hospital and what she suggested immediately managed to raise many eyebrows. ” How about borrowing some design thinking from the Formula 1 Pit stop ‘ as we look at building the new ICCU ? she suggested. One could hear a pin drop. In that room, was more than 200 years of insights and experience and all that was being the cold shoulder. The young lady went onto elaborate what her thoughts were. The Formula 1 Pit Stop is where critical decisions involving millions are taken in micro milli seconds that will affect many stakeholders, almost a life and death scenario. All she was suggesting was to borrow thinking from a completely heterogeneous industry that had nothing to do with healthcare. And to her credit, she won the day. The legacy thinking was punctured to arrive at a smarter solution that was equally if not more relevant to the cause at hand.
Similarly an airline check in counter can actually gain inspiration from observing a hotel front desk check in process. Or a bike supplies store seeking inspiration from beauty retail brand like Sephora to get more customers comfortable with buying and using bikes.
We define such thinking as ‘ analogous inspiration ‘ wherein you remain and in fact seek thinking and ideas from an industry completely unrelated to your own. Only to realise the unlocked value hidden therein.
Till about some years back, we connected ‘ subscriptions ‘ as something that the media industry especially newspapers and magazines used to ensure they have a loyal customer base. In the current context, we have vast tranche of products and services including cars(yes Volvo already implemented it in Sweden), Fashion, Airline tickets, OTT(Netflix, HBO, Amazon), Fintech, Furniture etc using that route to grow and more importantly retain customers.
It’s not that such ‘ break the mold ‘ thinking be restricted to organisations and brands alone. Shalane Flanagan is an American long-distance runner. She holds the American record times in the 3000 meters (indoor), 5000 m (indoor) and 15K road race. She won the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in the 10,000 m (since upgraded to silver). She also won the 2017 New York City Marathon. What is interesting to understand in her case is that by design she would train with her rivals– yes you read it right- her rivals. To her it was an opportunity to go beyond her own arc of biases and understanding and soaking in new approaches that otherwise she would not have been privy to.
The whole thought is to replace the context you are in and seek newer, untapped contexts as sources of inspiration. This is something that we try to practice regularly within ISD Global where I work. There are better stories outside the book you are reading. So, go ahead, turn the page!
It’s episode one of the cult classic Mad Men series and ad-man Don Draper in the climax reveals the campaign idea for Lucky Strike cigarettes ” It’s toasted “. A scene that captured attention and sparked the show’s runaway success. It’s toasted was also a real tagline for Lucky Strike cigarettes, adopted by the brand way back in 1917.
Those were the heady days of advertising– an eclectic mix of craziness, Machiavellian egos, cult personalities, big ideas, mind numbing creative campaigns, wild parties, rock and roll, high profit margins(15% commission days)….it goes on. Little wonder it was the industry that a lot of talent aspired to get into. Made for good conversation piece.
The times they have a changed. Advertising as an industry is no longer the flavour of the season when it comes to attracting top talent. This inspite of being a 560Billion US$ industry worldwide in 2019 and growing over 4% compared to the previous year with N America and Asia Pacific reflecting the maximum growth.
What could have happened especially over the last decade and a half? Let’s examine a few factors:
- the risk appetite for taking up and executing ‘ big ideas ‘ within the agency set up seems to be on the wane. The increasing role of the CFO in marketing and advertising decisions and thereby ROI first always could be a strong influencing factor..
- the big shift has happened from ‘ gut instinct ‘ to ‘ data precinct ‘ when it comes to execution of campaigns. Freewheeling thinking seem to have taken a backseat
- young talent do not get a ‘ sense of self ‘- seniority still upends merit when it comes to prized, exciting projects- if you don’t want us, we don’t want you seems to be the thinking
- with profit margins in the advertising industry shrinking, remuneration and salaries have taken a beating. Talent is seeking alternate, better paying professions
- the average tenure of the CMO & Brand Manager has come down drastically. Why stick your neck out when going through the motions will do nicely. The Domino effect is reflected in the freedom(or the lack of it) given to the agency- legacy thinking dominates, not exactly a motivation for talent craving to find their own expression
- start ups with sizeable venture capital funding have mushroomed all over. They are dabbling in hitherto unexplored territories and using cutting edge technology to harness market potential and become game changers. The natural tendency for talent is to move to areas that are changing, future ready and dynamic
- alternate,fast growing and better paying professions like entertainment, stand up, v logging, blogging, music etc seems to have taken the sheen away from advertising for the wannabes
- Digital proliferation and the quest for entrepreneurship are driving many to find their feet and make their own dents in the universe
- The Big 5 of Consulting are not thinking like the Big 6 of Advertising while clearly trespassing into the domain. New entrants are bringing in new thinking, new possibilities- talent will have to realign
Clearly the advertising industry of the future(if it remains to be called that) and the talent that moves there will certainly not be a thing of the past. When change is the only constant, an industry remaining constant without change is not an attraction. As an US$560billion industry, it has enough muscle to bounce back(as long it does not rely on muscle memory). All the die harders(Bruce included) are willing and waiting!
We have seen, heard and experienced this before. A top down driven organisation. Where feedback and candour is discouraged, probably a non starter . Suggestions and inputs alien. Empowerment and trust non existent. In short, my way or …my way!
Which brings us to the concept and significance of psychological safety in the workplace. Let’s define what that is.
Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career “. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected.
Throwback to 2016 and Wells Fargo( then the world’s largest bank by market cap and the 3rd largest in the US). CEO John Stumpf’s mantra to employees was often “eight is great” ; meaning get eight Wells Fargo products into the hands of each customer. But this directive proved burdensome for bank employees as they struggled to meet demanding quotas and satisfy even more demanding managers. They began to cut corners and opened deposit accounts and credit cards for Wells customers – without their knowledge or permission.
After a LA Times investigation that uncovered the sham accounts and a lawsuit filed by the city of Los Angeles, Wells Fargo had to pay US$ 185 Million in fines to city regulators. Not to mention the serious drop in goodwill and reputation, a pre requisite for a financial services brand. Caused by: you guessed it, the absence of psychological safety in the work eco sphere.
Move onto another organisation. Pixar. What is common knowledge is that when it comes to films and movie production, there are far more misses than there are hits. Almost a 10: 1 ratio of misses to hits. In such an industry, for Pixar to have delivered 17 super blockbusters in a row, called for something extraordinary. At the fulcrum of it all was the culture. A culture that sought openness, persistent feedback, constructive criticism, a voice and relevance for all and a perennial hunger to excel. An environment where people felt trusted, safe, confident, believed. Ed Catmull(recently retired), CEO was a driving force in ensuring the right questions were asked all the time, facilitating an open conversational culture. (As an aside, I will urge you to read this HBR article on how departing leaders can pass along more than wisdom https://hbr.org/2019/04/how-departing-leaders-can-pass-along-their-wisdom-to-employees ).
It’s not as if that creating a ‘ psychological safety ‘ environment was the pre requisite for leading and growing successful organisations. As a counter to that, if one were to look at brands like Apple or Uber, none of what we mentioned in the case of Pixar above counted for much in these organisations. Their becoming uber successful was clearly a function of brilliant strategy and unabashed opportunism. But the jury is still out on whether these organisations can more of what we are propagating, making them even bigger, better, revered organisations.
It might be worthwhile talking briefly about Project Aristotle(a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts“) at Google which was initiated to understand the dynamics of effective teams, what topped the charts of the prognosis was ‘ psychological safety ‘ where team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other, apart from factors like dependability, structure & clarity and meaning.
So, what can we do to discover the ‘ power within ‘? Simple. Take some of the examples from the likes of Pixar and Google shared above and look at implementing them. At ISD Global, where I work, this has been happening for quite a while and it is only going to get better. Over to you!