The marketing priorities for 2016

Five Marketing Priorities for 2016

We’re halfway through the information gathering of our survey on the topics that interest you most. If you haven’t yet completed the six questions, then please do so HERE before the end of February. There are FIVE free consultations up for grabs.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the results to date are showing, so here are the top five demands in terms of both articles and webinar requests:

  1. Storytelling

  2. Increasing my impact on the business

  3. Developing better business strategies and vision

  4. Developing more actionable insights

  5. Segmentation and consumer targeting

Any of these surprise you? Do you have different priorities? If so, then please add your request in the comments below, or complete the survey so that we can work on the most important topics for YOU! In the meantime, here are some thoughts on these five areas, on which we have already written some very popular posts:

#1 Storytelling

Storytelling in businessWe all know the importance of engaging our audiences, whether they are our customers, colleagues or bosses. Humans love stories and retain the information shown much more easily if shared through a story.

The post “Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story” remains one of the most popular on this topic and we will be expanding and turning it into a webinar in the near future. If you would like to be invited to this webinar, then please leave your name below in the comments below, mentioning the webinar(s) that is /are of most interest to you.

#2 Increasing my business impact

Market research & Insight's new role is customer centricity championWe all work to make a difference; for ourselves, our families and hopefully our customers and brands too. However, we all believe that we could do more and have more impact on the business if only we were given more freedom or more resources. (>>Tweet this<<)

The post “Try a new perspective on Business Intelligence; how to have more impact and answers” covered a few ideas about how to increase influence and hence impact within our organisations. Although it is on business intelligence, most of the ideas covered are relevant for marketing, market research and, in fact, most positions in large organisations. And don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a webinar on the topic.

#3 Developing better vision and strategy

Business vision and strategyThe popularity of this topic came as a surprise to me, as they are the very core of setting up a successful business. However, it is also exciting to see so many people looking for support in improving their own vision and strategies.

For me, the interest in this topic also suggests that many of you realize that your own are not as customer-centric as they could be. One of the most read posts on the topic was “Brand strategy, vision and planning; when did you last review yours?” published at the beginning of last year. Check it out for a clear plan of all the essential elements you need to consider when looking to update your own strategy and vision. As before, don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a webinar on the topic.

#4 Segmentation and customer targeting

SegmentationChoosing a group of customers to target is an essential basis for successfully meeting and even surpassing their needs. (>>Tweet this<<) Taking all category users and segmenting them into smaller groups which are more coherent will enable you to better meet the desires of one section of users more completely than if you tried to target everyone. As the infamous quote by John Lydgate says:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

I have often heard excuses for not running a segmentation because the product / service is new, or that the cost is too high. The first is not valid, since (pre) launch is the best time to identify exactly who you want to please. And the second isn’t any more valid since segmentation can be done for little or no cost until such time as funds are available.

If you want to know more about segmentation, then read “How to segment for actionability and success” which was published a couple of years ago, but still gets hundreds of reads, as it is one of the fundamentals of good customer-centric marketing. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to one of the forthcoming webinars on the topic.

#5 Developing more actionable insights

Good market research brief leads to good MRInsights are the holy grail of marketing (>>Tweet this<<); the prize we are all searching for which will make our brands grow and our customers delighted. The problem I have found in running workshops on the topic around the world is that many companies work with information and then jump straight to action before the insight has been developed.

Now I know that insights take time and energy to develop, but they are another of the fundamentals of good brand management. Every brand should have (at least) one insight on which it is based and around which its brand purpose and communications are built. Without this, the brand is likely to jump from one positioning to another with every change in marketer or advertising agency.

I have written many posts on different aspects of insight development, but the most popular by far is “How the best marketers are getting deeper insights” which was published at the end of last year. Please leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a future webinar on developing actionable insights.

The survey on the blog post and webinar topics is open until the end of this month, so you still have time to respond and add other topics – AND to win one of the FIVE FREE consultations that are up for grabs. If you would be interested in joining a webinar on any of these topics then please add a comment below. We will be sending invitations out shortly.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe featured image comes from Microsoft Office images. This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

15C-Customers in your vision

Best Marketing Quotes of 2015 & their Implications for Your Business

Happy New Year to all C³Centricity Readers!

First some exciting news for you. We are updating the Members area of our website, with a whole new look and feel. There will also be more content with a great new series of webinars to watch, and new templates, presentations, case studies and videos for you to review and download.

We are planning to launch the series of webinars in a couple of months time, so look out for further details and a personal invitation to get the chance to see it before everyone else.

You can help us to make it perfect by completing a short 6-question survey. This will ensure that we prioritise the subject areas of most interest to you. And you might just WIN one of the FIVE FREE consultations which we are offering in appreciation of your time. (we’re feeling really generous because it only takes 2-3 mins to complete!)

If you are not yet a C³Centricity member, then please drop me a line and request an invitation to join the private Facebook group, where members can exchange thoughts and ideas in the meantime. We are also linking all the previous material from the members’ area to this private group, so it’s worth joining!


And now to this week’s post…

As we get back into the swing of things and review our work objectives for the year, a little extra inspiration can be a welcome extra push. This is why we all love to read marketing quotes.

The quotes we have chosen here will make wonderful additions to your reports or presentations, inspiring everyone who hears or reads them. And the specified implications for each one, make timely reminders of what should be in your marketing plans for the year.

#1. “Marketing used to be about making a myth and telling it. Now it’s about telling a truth and sharing it” (>>Tweet this<<Marc Mathieu, Global SVP of Marketing at Unilever 

IMPLICATIONS: Everyone uses social media to connect with and share their experiences about brands. It therefore makes sense to provide them with the information they will want to exchange with others. For example, if customers have issues that they announce online – social media has become the immediate complaint centre for many people – then it is vital that brands both respond and resolve the issue rapidly. If they do, then this potentially negative comment can be replaced by more positive ones as the customer continues to share their experiences.

Have you recognised the need for increased personnel to manage social media as well as the call centres, and the importance of specific training to enable them to respond without scripts? Read “The New 7Ps of Best Practice Customer Service” for more information on customer service excellence.

#2. “Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart” (>>Tweet this<<) Joe Chernov 

IMPLICATIONS: Which are you preferring in your daily work? Customer centricity is no longer a choice, it’s an essential of every business today. (>>Tweet this<<) You can only make your customers look smart if you understand them deeply and know what is important to them. To check if you truly understand your customers , read “How well do you know your customers?” for more on this topic.

#3. “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is” (>>Tweet this<<) Scott Cook

IMPLICATIONS: Are you regularly following your brand image? Even if you are measuring it, a brand’s image can change fast these days, especially when it is active on social media. Therefore, it is even more important to track conversations online and engage your customers in this way to keep abreast of any modifications in their perceptions of your brand. If you’re not sure about your own brand measurement, see “What does your Brand Stand for. Ten Steps to Perfect Image Following” for more on brand image measurement

#4. “Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first” (>>Tweet this<<) Wendy Piersall

IMPLICATIONS: Where do your customers go looking for information about your brand? A majority of them probably use Google, Bing, Yahoo or one of the other search engines. (See “The Best Search Engines of 2016” for some great alternatives to the big three) Do you know how your customers find answers to their questions? If the information is not on your brand’s website, then you have little control over what they learn. If your customers are active online then you must be as well, providing them with what they need, where and when they go looking for it.

#5. “Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day”(>>Tweet this<<) Beth Comstock

IMPLICATIONS: I know as well as you do, that marketers work hard, but you can’t look after your current offering without also preparing for the future. Customers never stay satisfied for long, so innovation is the only way to keep them loyal. How are you innovating? If you are only making marginal changes to size, perfume, packaging or services, then these are

If you are only making marginal changes to size, perfume, packaging or services, then these are not innovations, they are merely renovations. While these may keep your customers happy in the short term, you cannot rely on them alone. Read “Never succeed at innovation” to learn how to avoid the mistakes so many companies make when they try to innovate.

#6. “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in” (>>Tweet this<<) Craig Davis 

IMPLICATION: Do you remember to be available to customers where and when they need you, and not just where and when it suits you? Quote #6 is a reminder that on social media as well as our brand websites, we need to publish information that our customers want to read, rather than the news we want to share with them. Ideally, these should be the same, especially if you are truly customer centric and know and understand your customers intimately. If you’re not sure how well you know them, see if you can answer these “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers”.

#7. “Commit to a niche; try to stop being everything to everyone” (>>Tweet this<<) Andrew Davis 

IMPLICATIONS: There is no try only do, as John Green wrote in “The fault in our stars”. In marketing, we need to be committed to our customers and do everything possible to surprise and delight them. In order to succeed in that, we need to have chosen the right group of customers who will be both interested in what we have to offer, and of interest to the business in terms of sales and profit. To learn more about the art and science of segmentation, read “Essentials of segmentation and some simple alternatives”. This post will help you start identifying your best customers, even with no budget!

#8. “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” (>>Tweet this<<) Dan Zarrella

IMPLICATIONS: Marketing has generally been considered more art than science but the arrival of Big Data has changed this. Marketers today must be as comfortable with data as with creativity, and have a global rather than local appreciation of their customers. After all, there are few geographical boundaries for customers these days, since we can all buy things from almost any country we like via the internet; country frontiers have been surpassed by linguistic ones.

Therefore brand managers need to be aware of what is going on with their brands throughout the world. How do you manage this information sharing in your own organisation?

#9. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” (>>Tweet this<<) Bill Gates

IMPLICATIONS: Hopefully by now, regular visitors to this blog have come to appreciate that complaints are a gift. They enable you to identify problems before they become too serious and also provide an opportunity to get to know your customers better and even surprise and delight them with your response.

People who complain are often expecting a “fight” but if your care centre personnel remain calm and do everything they can to quickly correct the issue, and their service even goes above and beyond what the customer expects, then it is highly likely that they will share their experience with friends and colleagues. Just as we share negative criticism, surprisingly positive outcomes to a complaint, merit even more sharing.

How are your own customer service personnel being trained to respond to complaints? Do you yourself listen in or even man your call centres to get close to your own customers? If not, you should, because there’s no better way to understanding their issues and it might just provide you with an idea or two for brand renovation or an innovative new product 0r service.

#10. “Marketing is a race without a finishing line” (>>Tweet this<<) Philip Kotler 

IMPLICATIONS: This is a great quote to end this list and a superb reminder that our work is never done. This doesn’t mean leaving the office late every evening. It means recognising that the hours you put in don’t count as much as the value you deliver; to your company, your brand, but above all your customer. (>>Tweet this<<) As long as you think customer first in everything you do, you will always make the right decision. See Winning Customer Centricity for 50 ways to put your customers truly at the heart of your business each and every day.

These are just ten of our most loved marketing quotes of the moment. If yours isn’t among them, please add it below. You can find loads more inspiring quotes in the library of the C³Centricity website on vision, understanding and engagement.

Is training on your objectives for your team this year? If so then we’d love to support the initiative with our 1-Day Catalyst sessions on insight development, innovation and brand building, to name just a few of the topics we cover. We can also develop proprietary sessions to your own specifications as we already have for numerous businesses around the world. 

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

The best marketers share insights

How the Best Marketers are getting Deeper Insights

Are you as busy as I’ve been, trying to deliver on all your final objectives before year-end? Stressful times indeed, but this post is a must-read if you want to start 2016 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone (>>Tweet this<<) and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in the company.

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for (>>Tweet this<<). Successful businesses depend upon deep customer insight. They understand the power of engagement built on insight to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

So if you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these tips which I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams this week. Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation.

  1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first. Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude and you are likely to meet with more success. This is because you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.
  2. Insight generation should start with customer connection (>>Tweet this<<). When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers. They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes.
  3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.
  4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight learn new things about the business every day, so why not as’ that they share them? Every project and every analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question at hand. However, ask that they make them a regular part of their newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking.
  5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail. These connections can quickly become addictive as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.
  6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage. According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in some research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will be better informed and feel less overwhelmed.
  7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.
  8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with them. Do they involve you in insight development or only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation?

For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let’s have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts or provide fun training days, as we already do to businesses in many various industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and the current discount codes. The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Describe your customer personas

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!

My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.

Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act

Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.

Business doesn’t get what it needs

One of the problems that has been highlighted by BusinessIntelligence.com is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.

Information must become smarter

The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better understand the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.

Information needs to become useful

While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the if roast ion available to us.

Market research and insight teams need new skills

In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and  insight professionals need to acquire new skills:

  • Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of understanding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on brands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support brand building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

Storytelling in business

Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story

Stories exist in all cultures. They have developed down through the ages as a means of transferring knowledge, long before books and now the web enabled their storage.

Today’s information-rich world has made storytelling a required talent for CEOs and CMOs alike to develop. And websites and Fan pages now make it a necessary skill for brands too.

Brand stories are perhaps one of the easiest ways to resonate with customers. Hopefully, this will then lead to those highly sought-after but ever-diminishing rewards of loyalty and advocacy. Of course, I say “easiest” with caution, since great storytelling is an art that is often learned but rarely truly mastered. (and I am conscious that I am (too) often in that group!)

One of the best places to find great stories is on TED. Amongst the most popular talks on the topic of storytelling, The Clue to a great story was given in February 2012 by Andrew Stanton. Stanton is the Pixar writer and director of both the hit movies Toy Story and WALL-E. I was reminded of his talk because it has since been turned into an infographic on the TED Blog. It inspired me to review the five “clues” Stanton talked about and then to apply them to brands. These five essential elements of remarkable brand stories are the result.

 

Make me Care

According to Stanton, a story needs to start by quickly drawing sympathy from the audience / reader. The hero is introduced as being rejected or badly treated by family, friends, circumstances, or the world in general.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

SOURCE: CopyPress

Well-known examples of heroes include Cinderella or the lovable WALL-E in the film of the same name. Their predicament immediately generates feelings of concern and empathy, especially when identified as unfair or outside the control of the hero.

This works well for people, but for brands I believe the emotions sought should be on the opposite side of these as demonstrated by Plutchiks’ Wheel of Emotions (see right).

Those of trust, admiration or anticipation are more relevant for brands than remorse, grief, and loathing. People spend money on brands because they believe that they will provide pleasure and / or solve one of their problems. Our job as marketers is not only to satisfy this need but to go even further by turning that expectation into surprise and delight (but more on that later).

 

Take me with you

In storytelling, there is often a journey, a mystery or a problem that needs solving. Something that entices the reader or audience to linger a while longer and to learn more about the situation. In a similar way, a brand wants its customers to remain and become loyal. It therefore makes promises, whether real or just perceived as such by the customer.

Storytelling in businessWhen I first started working at Philip Morris International, there was a rumour amongst consumers that Marlboro was financing the Ku Klux Klan in the US. This started because its packaging had three red rooftops or “K’s” on it (front, back and bottom of pack). Management obviously didn’t want this untruth to be believed by its smokers, so one of the K’s was removed by making the bottom of the pack solid red.

However, consumers’ desire for mystery and intrigue was so strong that another rumour quickly emerged. This time, smokers had found three printer’s colour dots inside the pack (black, yellow and red). The story went that these markings symbolized that Marlboro hated Blacks, Asians and Indians! Once again management looked for ways to dismiss this rumour, but as in the previous case, just denying it would have most likely led to further reinforcement of the rumour. Since the printer needed these colour matches, they remained for many years.

Customers love to tell stories about “their” brands. There are many myths about the greatest brands around, often starting from their packaging or communications. For example, Toblerone has the “Bear of Berne” and the Matterhorn, exemplifying its Swiss origin, on its pack. The brand name too has Berne spelled within it and the chocolate itself is shaped like a mountain.

Camel has the “Manneken Pis from Brussels” on the back leg of the camel. Whereas the Toblerone links were intentional, I don’t think JTI planned that association into their design! Consumers just looked at the pack and having discovered the resemblance, started to share their findings, and it became a “truth”.

Many other brands have developed stories through their communications, that are also shared and repeated until their customers believe they are true. Further examples include Columbia outdoor wear’s “Tough Mother” campaign, Harley Davidson’s enabling “middle aged” men to become bikers at the weekend, or Dove’s campaign for real women to name just a few. All these stories confirm and further support the connection their customers have with these brands, so they almost become a part of their extended families. Such a strong emotional connection will ensure brand loyalty and advocacy for as long as the stories are maintained.

Be Intentional

In a story, the hero has an inner motivation, which drives them toward their goal. They will encounter problems and challenges along the way, but their motivation remains strong to reach their desired destination.

For a brand, this motivation is what it stands for, its brand equity. What is the brand’s image, its personality; what benefits can the customer expect? Not only is it important to identify these, but perhaps even more importantly, is to consistently portray them in everything a brand does. From its product to its packaging, its communications to its sponsorships, the customers’ loyalty and appreciation are reinforced by every element that remains consistent and continuously reinforced.

Let me like you

A story depends on a hero with whom the audience can empathize; someone worthy of their respect, even love.

This is exactly the same for brands, which is why problems and crises need to be handled quickly, fairly and respectfully. In today’s world of global connection, everything a brand says or does, anywhere in the world, is shared and commented upon, around the globe in a matter of milliseconds. Whereas in the past, disappointed customers may have told ten others, today it is estimated to be closer to ten million, thanks to social media!

In a great article entitled “What an angry customer costs” by Fred Reichheld, it is said that the cost to companies of haters or detractors is enormous. “Successful companies take detractors seriously. They get to the root cause of customers’ anger by listening to complaints, taking them seriously and fixing problems that might be more pervasive” But it’s not merely a question of preventing the spread of negative word of mouth. As Reichheld, himself says “For many customers … (resolving complaints) …is where true loyalty begins”.

(Surprise and) Delight me

Stanton says that stories should charm and fascinate the audience. For brands, we should aim for surprise and delight as previously mentioned. The surprise of learning something new about the product or company that made it; delight at getting unexpected gifts or attention from the brand.

This is where limited editions and seasonal offers first started, but over the last few years, thanks to today’s connected world, brands are going much further:

  • In 2010, SpanAir delivered an Unexpected Luggage Surprise for its customers flying over Christmas Eve.
  • Also in 2010, another airline KLM, had staff members prepare gifts for a select few passengers who tweeted about their pending departure on a KLM flight at the airport.
  • Tropicana  brought “Artic Sun” to the remote Canadian town of Inuvik, where residents live in darkness for weeks each winter.
  • Amazon is known for their excellent customer service, but they often go the extra mile, upgrading customer shipping to expedited service for free.
  • Kleenex surprised sick people with their Feel Good campaign that targeted people Tweeting about going down with the ‘flu.
  • Google, who are known for their creative and timely illustrations on their homepage, started showing a birthday cake as the image above the search box on people’s birthday.

The last example actually happened to me for the first time a few years ago and I admit that I was so excited I actually Tweeted about it! Am I the only one who was touched by this gesture, because I haven’t heard anyone else mentioning it?

So those are Stanton’s five clues to a great story, adapted for brands. Do they work? What stories are told about your own brands? Or do you have other great examples to share? Please share them below.

For more on brands please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ or contact us here for an informal chat about how we could support your own brand building efforts or provide fun training days.

This post has been adapted and updated from one which first appeared on C3Centricity in 2013.

Connect with customers

How a Company Reacts to a Crisis Says a Lot About its Customer Centricity

In the UK, there was a recent, highly publicised significant and sustained cyber-attack on the Telecom company Talk Talk’s website.

According to the news as I write this, it seems that a fifteen (!!!) year old Irish lad and a 16-year-old Brit may be responsible. They might have been able to steal information such as names, addresses, passwords and other personal information including bank details. The phone and broadband provider, which has over four million customers in the UK, said that this information “could have been accessed, but credit and debit card numbers had not been stolen”. This was later corrected and Talk Talk admitted that such sensitive financial information had also been obtained.

When the news first broke, Talk Talk tried to play it down. When people requested to cancel their contract, they were told they would be hit with a hefty £200 cancellation fee! That’s really adding insult to injury isn’t it?

As a result of the ensuing outcry, they later amended their position, saying that they would only waive termination fees for customers wanting to end their contracts if money is stolen from them. The local Consumer group Which? called the offer the “bare minimum”.

“In the unlikely event that money is stolen from a customer’s bank account as a direct result of the cyber-attack [rather than as a result of any other information given out by a customer], then as a gesture of goodwill, on a case-by-case basis, we will waive termination fees,” the company said on its website.

Am I dreaming? Goodwill gesture?!! My brother is one of their soon to be ex-clients and I, therefore, followed the handling of the whole case with interest.

What Talk Talk did was ignore their customers’ feelings. As a result, they are provoking their customers to cancel their contracts as soon as they come up for renewal. That is certainly what my brother will do. If on the other hand, they had said that people had up to a month, or three or six months, to cancel their contract if they so desired, then I’m sure that many would have waited before taking such a rash decision.

That would have given them time to calm down, and they might even have forgotten or forgiven the incident by the time their contract came up for renewal. By forcing people to stay, they are also forcing people to leave just as soon as is legally possible. This is just another example of a short-term gain for a long-term pain / loss.

As if that isn’t enough, reporters facing imminent deadlines, will often go with what (little) information they have about the situation. They can’t wait hours or days for the company to craft an appropriate response that will assure that its image remains intact. As a result, damage is done incredibly quickly to a business as well as to its image when such incidents are handled badly. A good reason for organisations to be prepared for any and all eventualities, by using scenario planning. See “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything” for more on this topic.

 

What Talk Talk should have done

As all good crisis managers know, what Talk Talk should have done is to follow best practice procedures. When a crisis happens especially when it directly involves the customer:

  1. Admit the problem.
  2. Detail exactly what has happened.
  3. Say what you are doing to put it right.
  4. Empathise with customers and offer a solution.
  5. Explain what you will do so it doesn’t happen again.

These five simple steps are known by all PR professionals and yet when a crisis happens the reaction from so many companies appears panicked and chaotic. It is as if knowing what to do doesn’t ensure a company does what needs to be done. (>>Tweet this<<) In this case, it doesn’t even look like Talk Talk has thought through and prepared for such an eventuality – even though this isn’t the first time it has happened to them! Being prepared is half the battle. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

Learning from Mistakes

According to an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, this is Talk Talk’s third major security breach in the past year! When asked whether such sensitive financial information was encrypted, Talk Talk’s CEO, Dido Harding, said: “The awful truth is, I don’t know”. What is shocking is not only that it has happened before – several times – but that the head of the organisation has not taken steps to ensure such gaps in her organisation’s security were corrected.

Every business and every person makes mistakes occasionally. It’s what we do after making a mistake that makes the difference. As Bruce Lee is famously quoted as saying Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” (>>Tweet this<<) 

Excellent leaders and great businesses admit their mistakes quickly and with courage. They see them as a chance to learn and to grow, rather than as an excuse for ignorance and denial. As a recent article in Forbes mentions, “A company in crisis is an opportunity for change”. (>>Tweet this<<) A business should take both short-term and long-term actions as quickly as possible. Doing nothing is the worst reaction to a crisis, as it opens the way for even greater criticism and exaggeration. As already mentioned, journalists love a good story and if you don’t provide it, they will create it with what they’ve got.

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them” Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel

Being Customer Centric

I spoke about customer centricity in the title because I believe that companies who are thinking customer first, will react appropriately in a crisis. Taking the customers’ perspective will mean that they will do what’s best for their clients first and foremost. They will address the issue for their good, and only then address it internally. Therefore, all businesses which are in the habit of thinking customer first are more likely to do the right thing first.

There are many organisations that have reacted inappropriately in a crisis and their business has suffered, in some cases to the point of closure. Another recent crisis, that of Volkswagen, highlights just how far a company will go to win the approval of its clients. It shows that although they may have understood the importance of their customers, in this case at least, they exaggerated and lied to win their approval. Both such practices will almost always be discovered sooner or later because too many people are involved in keeping secrets. Customer centricity may not be easy, but it’s the right way to conduct business in today’s informed world.

When faced with a crisis, a customer-centric business follows the 5-step process mentioned above, to empathetically respond first to its clients, and then to the press and relevant authorities. It’s a clear sign that the organisation has the right priorities.

If you’d like a useful checklist about what to do in a crisis, I highly recommend the one which Forbes published a few months ago in their article “You have 15 minutes to respond to a crisis; A checklist of Dos and Don’ts.”

Have you prepared several future scenarios to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges your organisation may follow? If not, then let’s discuss possible solutions. Contact me today here.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. The Audiobook version, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, was published last week.

Use brand image metrics to warn of a declining brand

How to Stop Brand Decline

If the headline caught your eye, then you are probably challenged by a declining brand. Am I right?

Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to give you an easy five-step solution to turn around that faltering, or dying brand. And I will chastise you for letting it get that far! But I’ll also give you five ideas to help you understand why your brand is declining.

I was speaking with an ex-colleague of mine who is frustrated by her boss – aren’t we all at times? She is working on a brand that is globally doing OK, but the brand image results are beginning to show some worrying signs. The most important attributes identified for the product are all trending in the wrong direction.

Her boss continues to argue that since sales are good, why should they worry? He even went further and claimed that as the brand’s sales were doing well, there was no reason to continue to measure its image! This is just madness; wouldn’t you agree?

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brandif you are following the right attributes. (>>Tweet this<<) By right I mean metrics that are relevant for the brand and the category. I have heard marketers request to measure their advertising slogans in a brand image study. This is obviously wrong, but it still comes up regularly when I’m working with a relatively inexperienced marketer. The reason you don’t is because slogans change, but the essence of a brand shouldn’t.

The three essentials of brand valueSo if you don’t measure its advertising (directly), what should you measure? I think that the three most important areas to cover are:

  • the rational, functional benefits
  • the emotional, subjective benefits
  • the relational, cultural benefits

Let me give some examples, so you better understand:

  • Rational, Functional: removes stains, has a crunchy coating, offers 24-hour service.
  • Emotional, subjective: trustworthy brand, high quality, makes me more attractive.
  • Relational, cultural: a Swiss brand, trendy, traditional

In addition to these three image areas, I would suggest you also follow the brand’s personality and value perception. Both of these will impact its image and can provide clues to help understand changes in the image.

One further best practice is to also follow your main competitors so you have a good perspective of the category and its main selling points. Sometimes declines in image come from a competitor emphasizing an attribute for which you were previously known. As a result, although your brand hasn’t changed anything, its association with the attribute can decline due to the competitive actions.

Coming back to my friend and her manager, she asked me what she could do to persuade her boss to continue measuring brand image. This is what I told her to discuss with him.

  1. Review the attributes that have been measured, especially those showing the largest changes. Can you agree on why these have happened? Are you measuring the right metrics that cover the category or are you in need of updating them? Markets change and perhaps your attributes no longer reflect the latest sensitivities. This might be the reason for the image declines while sales continue to rise because the brand corresponds to these new customer needs and desires.
  2. Review customer care line discussions to see what customers are calling in about. See if there are any comments that tie in with the image attribute changes. These discussions will also highlight any areas that you are not currently following in your image tracker – see #1.
  3. Review your customer persona. Have you followed their changes or are you appealing to a new segment of users? If the latter, this might explain the sales increases. However, if you are measuring your brand image on a sub-group of category users that no longer reflect your current customers, this could explain the decreasing metrics. For more information on how to complete a detailed persona description, check out “
  4. Review market dynamics. If you are following sales and not share, you may be losing customers to other brands which are driving market growth. This might explain why sales are growing, but the image is declining.
  5. Review social media discussion. Today we have the luxury of finding out what people really think about a brand from discussions on social media. If your brand has a solid following or a respected customer base that shares their experience online, then this is a great way to know what is working and what is not. People tend to share negative experiences more than positive ones, so rather than taking offence we can obtain valuable information about a brand’s vulnerabilities.

These five areas will make for a lively discussion for my friend and her boss. They should also provide the necessary information for you to slow and hopefully reverse the negative sales trend of your brand. Of course, once you have the knowledge on what to do, you will need to take appropriate actions, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Have you tried other ways to manage a declining brand? Have I missed other actions to take to better understand what is happening? If so I’d love you to share your own experiences.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

Big Data & Data Integration

Market Research, Business Intelligence & Big Data: Have we Forgotten about Human Data?

The annual pilgrimage to the ESOMAR Conference took place last week in Dublin. I heard that there was much discussion, both on and off the stage, about Big Data and the future of market research. Hopefully, the whole profession will get behind one initiative, instead of each individually trying to “solve world peace” on their own!

This week sees the second Swiss BI-Day taking place in Geneva and there will no doubt be similar discussions about Big Data and the future of Business Intelligence.

It appears that Big Data is not just a buzzword or a commodity that has been likened to oil; it has become the centre of a power struggle between different industries. Many professionals seem to be vying for the right to call themselves “THE Big Data experts”.

This got me thinking about the future of data analysis in general and the business usage of Big Data more specifically. There seems to be no stopping the inflow of information into organisations these days, whether gathered through market research, which is proportionally becoming smaller by the day, or from the smartphones, wearables and RFID chips, that get added to every conceivable article, more generally referred to as the IoT (Internet of Things). Who will, and how are we to better manage it all? That is the question that needs answering – soon! (>>Tweet this<<)

Data Science Central published an interesting article earlier this year called “The Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used Today To Change Our World”. Already being a few months old probably makes it a little out-of-date, in this fast changing world we live in, but I think it still makes fascinating reading. It summarises ten ways that data is being used:

  1. Understanding and Targeting Customers
  2. Understanding and Optimizing Business Processes
  3. Personal Quantification and Performance Optimization
  4. Improving Healthcare and Public Health
  5. Improving Sports Performance
  6. Improving Science and Research
  7. Optimizing Machine and Device Performance
  8. Improving Security and Law Enforcement
  9. Improving and Optimizing Cities and Countries
  10. Financial Trading

Many of these are not new in terms of data usage nor business analysis. What is new, is that the data analysis is mostly becoming automated and in real-time. In addition, the first and second items, which were largely the domains of market research and business intelligence, are now moving more into the hands of IT and the data scientists. Is this a good or bad thing?

Another article posted on Data Informed a few months after the above one, talks about The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today and succinctly summarises some of the dynamic uses of data today. The author of both pieces, Bernard Marr, wrote that “This isn’t all the stuff of science fiction or futurism. Because the technology for big data is advancing so rapidly, rules, regulations, and best practices can’t keep up.” He gives five examples of where data analysis raises certain ethical questions:

  1. Predictive policing. In February 2014, the Chicago Police Department sent uniformed officers to make “custom notification visits to individuals whom they had identified, using a computer generated list, as likely to commit a crime in the future. Just one step towards the “Minority Report”?
  2. Hiring algorithms. Companies are using computerized learning systems to filter and hire job applicants. For example, some of these algorithms have found that, statistically, people with shorter commutes are more likely to stay in a job longer, so the application asks, “How long is your commute?” Statistically, these considerations may be accurate, but are they fair?
  3. Marketers target vulnerable individuals. Data brokers have begun selling reports that specifically highlight and target financially vulnerable individuals. For example, a data broker might provide a report on retirees with little or no savings to a company providing reverse mortgages, high-cost loans, or other financially risky products. Would we want our own families targeted in this way?
  4. Driving analysis devices may put you in the wrong insurance category. Since 2011, car insurance companies like Progressive and Axa, have offered a small device you can install in your car to analyze your driving habits and hopefully get you a better rate. But some of the criteria for these lower rates are inherently discriminatory. For example, insurance companies like drivers who stay off the roads late at night and don’t spend much time in their cars, but poorer people are more likely to work the late shift and to have longer commutes to work — both of which would be strikes against them when it comes to calculating their auto insurance rates.
  5. Walmart and Target determine your life insurance rates. OK, not directly, but Deloitte has developed an algorithm, based on “non-traditional third-party sources” that can predict your life expectancy from your buying habits. They claim that they can accurately predict if people have any one of 17 diseases, including diabetes, tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression, by analyzing their buying habits.

Marr starts this article by very briefly discussing privacy and inherent biases in data. I think these issues are far more urgent than deciding whether it is market research, business intelligence or data scientists that are in charge of the actual data analysis. Perhaps we all need to work together so that the “Human” side of data is not forgotten? After all, most data comes from people, is understood – if no longer strictly analysed – by people, for the benefit of people, to help change people’s behaviour. What do you think? Join the conversation and let your voice be heard. (I’ll be presenting this very topic at the Swiss BI-Day this coming Tuesday, so I do hope that you will pop by and listen)

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

Customers in your vision

Marketers, Do You Know Everything You Should? From the 5Ps to the 7Qs.

Marketing is a great profession. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for most of my career. From the outside, they are seen as the department that comes in late, parties every night and gets to talk about advertising at conferences in exotic places. For those in operations or finance, they don’t seem to be that serious; they just appear to be always having fun. I’m sure you’ve heard such comments yourself.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on some occasions. So is all that hard work paying off? If you work in marketing, you certainly know the 5Ps and hopefully you also check them regularly for your brand. However, the problem with them is that when you find an issue that needs your attention, you don’t always know immediately what to do. So I suggest you answer the following seven questions instead. They all explain what to check and why. And if you can’t respond completely to each one, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

Q1. Who are your customers?

I don’t mean just their demographics. I mean who they really are; what, where and how they use or consume your brand. And especially why. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble. See “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona. You can also download a free, blank template at C3Centricity.com/c3cmembers.

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did didn’t you? It’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change. Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends on your customers’ opinions and behaviours? Do you know how these trends will develop and impact the market in five, ten or even twenty years from now? 

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak LogoKodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Blockbuster LogoSony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for many years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumer demands for home delivery.

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (>>Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already planned for?

Q3. What does your brand stand for?

I don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers, or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does this image align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow changes in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact the image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (>>Tweet this<<)

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family oriented and fun, casual dining.”
  • BIC LogoBic disposable pens, lighters, razors offer “high quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”

Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices?

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (>>Tweet this<<)

Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does its value compare to its current price? If you are not pricing it correctly, then you are leaving money on the table.

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.

Either way you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (>>Tweet this<<)

Q6. Are you using the right channels for communicating?

Many marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.

Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary

Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not use the above 7Qs rather than just the 5Ps? It will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.

If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient just a little longer – but it’s coming soon!

New ways to innovate

The New Ways to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

When I get several requests in the same week on exactly the same topic, I know something is happening in the marketplace. This week was one such occasion.

A Pharma company wants a presentation on it; a CPG company asked me to give a half-day workshop about the topic; a conference requested a keynote speech about it; a major US business school wants a guest lecture covering the idea and a consumer goods company wants an article for their newsletter. What’s the topic? The new ways to innovate, that’s what.

With all this interest, and despite having written some popular posts in the past on best-practice innovation, such as “How to innovate more creatively”, “How to get R&D as excited about consumer innovation as you are” and “Never succeed at innovation: 10 mistakes even great companies make”, I thought I would summarise the latest trends around how to innovate more successfully today. So here are some ideas to get you thinking about the changes you might want to bring to your own innovation processes.

Customers react to new innovation1. Start with the customer in mind – always

So many organisations still have an innovation process that starts with R&D or operations. It’s time to reverse your innovation funnel and start with the customer. (>>Tweet this<<) What are their problems with current products and services; what do they dream of having? How are they compensating or compromising?

 

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” Steve Jobs

However, as Henry Ford and Steve Jobs remind us, customers don’t usually know what they want. They are usually very clear about what they don’t like, but they also often know the solution they are looking for – even if they don’t express it as such. It is our job to interpret what they are saying into what they need. Therefore, identify the result they want but not how they want to achieve it, otherwise you will be looking for that “faster horse”!

2. Stage-gate innovation is essential for a successful business

Today’s world is fast paced and customers never stay satisfied for long. What surprises and delights today, is ordinary and normal, if not tomorrow, at best in a couple of weeks or months. That’s why it’s vital to work on new product and service developments even before you launch your latest offering.

NEW INNOVATION STAGE-GATESMany companies today work with generation pipelines, with three, four or five stages of innovation preparation. This ensures that they are already working on the replacement of each product they launch, whether or not it’s a success.

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

SOURCE: McKinsey Quarterly

According to the McKinsey article “Reinventing Innovation in CPG“, real growth comes from ground-breaking innovations, not simplistic renovations. However, line extensions do provide the time for organisations to prepare their true innovations, while responding to today’s customers incessant desire for novelty.

They are also easier to develop and launch, which means they are less demanding on resources. Companies which are satisfied with only incremental innovations are unlikely to see significant growth in the long-term. For this reason successful brands need to do both. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Launch before you’re finished

Many tech companies use this approach, by involving customers as beta testers. In this way, they get their customers help – for free – to improve and mould the final offer. It also allows them to launch more quickly and gain the positive image associations of being first to market.

If you are concerned about confidentiality or competitive speed to respond, then work with customers through co-creation. (>>Tweet this<<) Involve them at every stage of the development process from ideation to launch preparation. If your management are  concerned about the risks of sharing innovative ideas outside the company, involve employees instead, perhaps from other divisions so they are less biassed.

5. Review the category in which you’re playing

Are you sure that your customers see your brand in the same light as you do? Many times I have heard a customer correct an interviewer in a research project, when asked about brands in a category. “That brand isn’t in that segment, category A” they say; “It’s not a competitor of X, but of Y and Z, the main brands in category B”. Some examples include dried soups which today compete with sauce mixes, carbonated soft drinks with fruit juices and body gels with shampoos.

Another advantage of understanding the category in which your customers place your brand is that this can provide you with new ideas for expansion.

Mars ice creamMany confectionary brands have moved into ice cream and desserts. They have understood that they are being seen as more of a “treat” than merely “just” a chocolate bar. When your customers choose between products from several different categories when deciding what to eat or buy, it is a clear indication that you are not (only) competing in the category you first thought you were. (>>Tweet this<<)

In conclusion, there are many reasons why innovations fail:

  • A short-term mindset where success is demanded in weeks or months rather than years.
  • Top management instils a fear of failure, so no-one will defend ideas that are unpopular.
  • The innovation process itself is biassed towards current knowledge and skills.
  • A lack of deep customer understanding.

These five ideas will help you to reinvent your innovation and also make it more customer-centric. After all isn’t that what all best practices should do today, involve the customer? If you have other – better? – ideas, then why not share them below?

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient just a little longer – but it’s coming soon!