Cheap Signaling, Power Dynamics..

Cheap Signaling, Power Dynamics..
Courtesy: The dictionary meaning may seem a bit out of place in this context but here it is nonetheless: ” the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behaviour towards others “.
 
For all the education and training providers in the market, there is a great opportunity. Offering specialised courses in Professional Courtesy 101. Get ready to laugh your way to the bank. The market is dying for something so fundamental.
 
A bit of a back narrative if you permit me. 
 
Let me circle back to an era(read Pre Covid) where travel was a breeze. When geography was truly history. Early in the year, I had set up a meeting in another country with the Founder/CEO of a leading premium real estate experience entity. He had inherited the business from his self made father who had built a mega infrastructure building corporation over the years. The meeting was to showcase a strategic roadmap for his organisation and share creative communication templates that are in sync with the strategy. Our team put in the emotional labour, ran the hard yards and created something truly magnificent. After all, we were meeting the scion, a decision maker, a business leader and as is our wont, we were prepared to deliver the best. The meeting was fixed almost a month ahead and I had planned my booking and travel accordingly. On the appointed day, yours truly set out, full of belief, confidence and exuberance to meet the revered appointee. The drive was a good hour and twenty minutes away and factoring in traffic bottlenecks, the lead time to reach destination was a good two hours. I must confess that other than optimism, hope and high enrolment, I had no premonition of what was to come. Reaching well ahead of the appointed time, imagine my plight when I was told by his hapless secretary that he will not be in office today as some other meeting had come up and he would not have the time to meet me. I reconciled to the situation as quickly as I could(after all I had flown in from a different country to meet) and offered the secretary that I wouldn’t mind the meeting being rescheduled. That is when I realised she was helpless too. Prompting me to take things into my own hands. During the rest of the day, I tried reaching my ‘ appointee ‘ on 9 different occasions on his phone, sent messages separately  by Email and Whats App, but to no avail.
 
It’s been ten months since that date and I am still to hear from him. Forget an apology or regret, absolutely NOTHING. Now you know why I suggest the huge potential of Professional Courtesy 101.
 
The next messperience is closer home. Well within our geography. But this meeting made the very concept of courtesy, history. The client in question here is an uber premium automobile brand. So, not unreasonably, we had high expectations. Well before the appointed hour, me and two of my senior leadership team members of ISD Global arrived with our usual appendage: professionalism, confidence and complete preparedness. Projection screens were set, rest of the AV equipment along with our team members were raring to go as well. The buzz in the room was palpable. That was the end of it though. The three executives on the other side of the table were completely oblivious to the fact that there was a meeting by appointment, there was a presentation being made and there was an agenda that was mutually set prior to the meeting. They were all focused on their laptop and mobile screens with so much intensity that they couldn’t care less there were other people in the room seeking their attention and presenting something that they had asked us to. In such a situation, there was no way that the rubber could hit the road. That was my neutral observation.
 
They did not even know we left the room and the meeting. They ghost walked into the meeting and ghost walked out I guess. Now you know why I suggest the huge potential of Professional Courtesy 101.
Pardon me for going on and on, but here is another one, I promise, this is the last. This meeting is with the Director of a leading Furniture brand. Here again, history repeats itself. In the sense, that this gentleman has inherited the business empire from his father who had built it from scratch. The meeting also included a very professional and enthusiastic marketing head, a recent appointment at the brand. Her energy and commitment was total to give credit where it’s due. That set the hopes high. At the appointed hour, the meeting begins. It was scheduled to be a one hour meeting and the first thing we hear from the Director is that ‘ I have only 20 minutes ‘. Being agile and aware, our team was on the ball to recalibrate and pivot to the new time starved reality. We instantly realised there was a north south divide. Or a church and state relationship. If the projection screen where the presentation was happening was in the north, our 20 minute hand me downer was looking exactly the other way to the south buried deep into his mobile phone. Probably at last count, he had looked at his mobile about 40 times during the course of that ‘ 20 minutes ‘. I can promise you, at the end of it, he certainly was NOT the ‘ Apple of our eye ‘!
 
I am always wonder struck as to where all this stems from- is it a serious inferiority complex? Is it insecurity? Is it clanning? Is it power dynamics aided by cheap signaling? You bet the jury is out on this! But what I am certain about is the tremendous potential of Professional Courtesy 101.
Providers anyone? There is a big market out there waiting to be served!
 
 
ENDS
 
 
 

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

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Time to change your default settings!

A legacy approach might be stifling you, without you even realising it.Best practices may not be that best(or better) at all. In fact there is scope to abandon best practice as the ‘ practice ‘ as it used to exist has changed altogether.

Your current marketing and customer strategies may unknowingly be rooted in old patterns. It may be time for a change.

The purpose of business—creating a customer—and your customers—at a human level—aren’t changing. That, irrespective of all the tectonic shifts happening around them.

But for many businesses, it’s time to make a change toward having a deep understanding of their true purpose and their customers.

The terms consumer and customer are often used interchangeably but they signify very different relationships. Etymologically, consumer stems from a word that means “one who squanders or wastes,” whereas customer stems from a word meaning “a person with whom one has dealings,” with the implication that it is an ongoing relationship.

As Stanley Marcus, of Neiman Marcus, wrote, “Customers are people; consumers are statistics.”

Marketing isn’t about selling to the customer; that’s a byproduct. As the legendary Peter Drucker observed, “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy.

It’s the time to break old tendencies. Its the time to be aware, to rebel, to kill old habits and to seek change.

Not changing is a default tendency. Change the default settings!

Does the world need another ad agency?

“The world doesn’t need another ad agency.”
 
Dear Brand Owners & Marketers

It’s amazing how a single tap on the space bar can make such a difference.

Another” is one of those odd English words that have multiple and contradictory meanings. One definition is “being one more in addition to one or more of the same kind,” like having another car payment or eating another piece of pizza (two more things none of us likely need).

But “another” also means “different or distinct from the one first considered.” That puts an entirely different spin on things, and putting a space between the letters underscores the point.

The world rarely needs “another,” but it will always welcome “an other” — particularly in the most mature, crowded and commoditized industries, where sameness leads to staleness.

Time after time, another product or service gets superseded by an other product or service, making our lives more pleasant, more efficient, more productive, or better in a host of additional ways.

Seeking “an other” is a good strategy to keep pace with the inexorable march of creative destruction. In the marketplace, what is, will not always be, and what is to come, has not always been. The task of strategists is to be agents of creation rather than victims of destruction. Our challenge is to pursue the new and unproven even as we preserve the existing and profitable.

Unless you can ensure your company, brand or service is continually and legitimately “an other,” it’ll end up becoming just “another.”

We are tribal by nature. Human beings have evolved in that fashion. Therefore the ‘ herd mentality ‘. Yes, we have heard that before. And this as well. Birds of the same feather. Flocking together. Which leads to the SOS factor: Sea of Sameness. What makes you distinct? What makes you unique? There is comfort in fellowship. There is comfort in companionship. But, the real magic happens outside the comfort zone.

Are you up to the challenge/opportunity?  We at ISD Global(https://bit.ly/2riIk7l)  are and looking forward to it.

Ends

www.groupisd.com/story

www.brandknewmag.com

 

Needed: A Bias for Action!

Needed: A Bias for Action!
A small tweak, with due permission from Issac Newton ” every action has an equal and opposite action “.
We assume that enterprise excellence is something that we can define, analyse, plan for and them maintain in perpetuity. With every turn of the business wheel, we fancy that we now understand the One & True Lasting Thing that will distinguish a good idea from a bad one, a winning strategy from a dud.
Indeed, we labour still under the delusion that the key to winning is….the right strategy. But, what we have to learn is that ‘ excellence ‘ is not something that we can ‘ envision ‘ or  ‘ plan ‘ aheadWe create it as we go along. Then blow it up, and start anew.
Simply put, the search for excellence is…never-ending, ever-shifting. How do we ‘stick to our knitting‘ when one form of ‘knitting‘ after another unravels? You are sprinting, only to be standing in the same place.
The absence of a bias for action remains the biggest problem for large organisations. They simply Think too much. Plan too much. Meet too much. And accomplish too little.
It is an Age of Perpetual and Accelerating Transience. ” Permanence ” is a myth, it is dead. All the basic principles of business are up for grabs. We have got to play as it lays. We’ve got to make it up as we go along.
A little bit of re-emphasizing here: Of course we need Analytics(Desperately). Of course we need some Metrics(Desperately). We need to understand the power of Data(Desperately). But, like All Good Things, ..the ‘ analytics ‘ and ‘ abstractions ‘ have come to subsume the Real World of the living, breathing, emotional, complaining customer.
Companies would be extra keen to re invent their way of doing business. And there is an increasing need for a new breed of intellectual capital to make that happen.
At ISD Global we are getting ready to throw our hat in the ring. Are you biased for action?
ENDS
 
 
www.brandknewmag.com
 
www.groupisd.com/story

The CMO’s wish list for 2018: An evolving list…

A lot of us are now on the drawing board mapping out ways to get better in 2018. The fundamentals are not going to change- reach, connect,engage, influence, transact and all of that- but what could we do to better stimulate the landscape as we get set to welcome and take on the New Year. Here’s a partial(and ever evolving list):-

a) A new BHAG of tricks: Nothing brings together a team like a BHAG — a Big Hairy Aggressive Goal —without enough time to deliver it. Backs to the wall brings out the best in us!

b) Am not alluding to the fact of disrespecting the organisation chart but don’t obsess over it on paper.Instead, get the right people, the right goals and vitally, the right trust in place.

c) And for all the HeRoines and HeRoes in HR, recruit with an immersion, not just an interview. Align passion with goals.Basic, yes! Hire marketing leaders with general management skills to ensure results exceed individual contribution.

d) When things are working well, that is the best time to deconstruct your strategy and try new things.

e) If you are in a new category where your customers need a lot of education and support, your organisation needs to be built around education first and products second.

f) Extend your approach to marketing beyond “getting a message out there”; focus on building trust.

g) Don’t overcomplicate marketing. At the end of the day, it’s still marketing: Market Research, Content, Sales enablement, Awareness, Demand generation, Partnerships, Customer retention.Customer advocacy.

h) When you’re the underdog in your industry, hire people with the DNA to creatively leapfrog the competition, not follow the industry norms. You need to have your Purple Cow(fantastic book by Seth Godin).

i) Own marketing across the organisation. Don’t be afraid to integrate marketers into other parts of the organisation, but always have at least a dotted line back to marketing.

j) Don’t be afraid of data and machine learning. The time is now to put all that data to use to solve the problems humans simply can’t and further the industry. The key is to leverage them as part of your team, not external resources. Data is the (K)new oil as they say! The transition even amongst large enterprises hitherto involved ion B 2 B marketing is happening towards a B to I space(Business to Individual).

k) The best marketing combines data and storytelling. It gives you a way to appeal to the emotional side of people. The Unique Feelings Proposition is what brands need to go after!

l) The future of marketing is in the CeX(Customer Experience). Success comes from knowing your consumers’ passions, being innovative in the way you engage them and having a team that collaborates across all aspects of the customer experience delivery. For consumers, the thrill and purpose of experience has replaced the earlier compulsion for ownership. So ride the opportunity.

m) Marketers will know that The Future of Advertising will be a thing of the past. So, re invent, re engineer, re boot and re calibrate! There is a new customer segment: the Customer Segment of 1. Get ready to reach out to them. Address mindsets, not demographics!

n) As we are all agreeing these days, digital is just as much marketing as marketing is digital. So the two roles have combined, and how! It’s a tell, tell, tell, digitell world.

o) Brands and marketers will recognise the immense power of Transparency and how consumers warm up to brands who are not afraid to stand in their own truth. In a Post Truth world, The Future is Transparency!

Marketing has the power, and responsibility, to inspire the whole company, not just customers. Marketing also has the power to be so much more than the “make it pretty” department.It has the imperative to inspire everyone in the company, not just the people who touch the product.So, let us know our rockets from our launch pads.

For inspiring quotes and actionable intelligence from brand owners and marketing champions, please check this link http://groupisd.com/isd-brochure/

ENDS

www.groupisd.com

www.brandknewmag.com

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