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5 Business Success Factors (So You’re Ready for Anything!)

We are sweltering in the Northern Hemisphere with record temperatures, so here’s a “cool” idea on how businesses can get ready for anything by applying these success factors.

Every winter, the media is full of stories of record snowfalls somewhere in the world, whether in the US, Europe or in the Far East. Despite all the sophisticated technologies at our disposition, we just never seem to be prepared. So what are the success factors of readiness?

Remember winter storm Juno in the USA in 2015? It dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Eastern coastline of North America. According to the Weather Channel its snowfall broke records in Worcester, MA, although in most other places it fell far below that of other storms from 2013 all the way back to 1978.

In the same year, in the North of the UK, the region was battered with a rare blast of thundersnow – an unnerving combination of thunderstorms and downpours of snow. As if that wasn’t enough, they were soon preparing to do battle with the elements with yet another storm shortly afterwards.

Now what do all these storms have to do with business you might wonder? Well for me they are a great illustration of the problems that many companies can face from time to time. Governments and city maintenance teams prepare for winter by organising vast stocks of grit and salt, as well as heavy snow-clearing machinery. But despite all this preparation, they still seem to be caught off-guard when they need to use them.

The same goes for businesses. Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they’re not!

Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they're not! #trends #scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

The reason is that there are two serious problems with that way of thinking:

Firstly they are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar trend reports.

And secondly, they think that knowing the trends will somehow protect them from future risks and catastrophes. However, having the right material still doesn’t stop bad things happening, as we’ve seen this winter. 

So let’s take a look at what you can do to be better prepared and not get regularly “snowed-in” as many countries are this winter.

The Problem with Trend following alone

As I already mentioned, trend following suppliers are providing almost identical information to all their clients. This results in their clients then working on the same ideas & concepts and eventually launching very similar, non-competitive products and services. Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their advertising? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. 

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their ads? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

As an example, think about how many companies have used the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising in the past couple of years. These include:

  • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – sorry only in French & German but still easy to understand
  • BMW 320i YES, YOU, CAN
  • Orange telecom mobile exchange

Clearly the current trends of independence and freedom have been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above, and probably many others as well. Perhaps they are working with the same trend following company or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports? Whatever the reason, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising “Big Idea”.

Companies which develop concepts based upon theses types of external resources alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them. Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working for the consumers.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To TweetScenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs. Then, the new product and service Big Ideas, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions are unlikely to be the same as those developed by the competition.

 

How to turn Trends into Future Scenarios

Businesses working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below. In just ten simple steps you can turn your trend following into a powerful competitive advantage that will surprise competition and delight your customers.

  1. Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company.
  2. Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business.
  3. Identify the most important trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political).
  4. Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least.
  5. Collide the resultant developed trends to produce the most likely changes.
  6. Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes – this is what is important.
  7. Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
  8. Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
  9. Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
  10. Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.

 

This ten-step process can be followed over a minimum of a two or three-day workshop, or over a longer period of development lasting several months. For a more detailed 10-step process, you might like to also check out a previous post on the same topic: “The Great Trends Hoax: The don’t give business a competitive advantage”.

 

Success factors

Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.

However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional success factors that need to be met in order to guarantee the most actionable scenario planning exercises. These include:

  • A diverse internal team who are both enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area.
  • An excellent creative to lead the process, ideally from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone.
  • Executive management support of the exercise as well as of  its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios.
  • Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation.
  • Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis.

Following the process as summarised above and including all five success factors mentioned, will give you the best chance of building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise before, it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.

These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning. Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. 

Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. Gain the advantage of future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #Business Click To Tweet

 


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If you and your team are ready to turn your trend following into an actionable tool that delivers true competitive advantage, then we should talk. Book a complementary advisory session in my agenda

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This post is based upon one which first appeared on C³Centricity in October 2015 under the title “Turning Trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-Step Process you Need

How to Innovate More Creatively

I was recently on a trip to the US; a transatlantic flight on a Boeing 747, my favourite airplane – apart from the Seneca II that I used to own. Anyway, the reason I love long-distance flights is because they cut us off from everyday life, although unfortunately no longer the phone nor web these days.

They therefore provide us with a very rare commodity; some precious thinking time. How do we ever get that otherwise? Speaking personally, my brain seems to be constantly under pressure from the challenges of work, family, friends – in a word, living – so I love it when I need to get on a flight, the longer the better.

I watched Transcendence on this flight; it’s about the moment when the human brain and technology become one. I love science fiction (SciFi), because it frees the mind to dream and to be far more creative than the “normal” working environment ever allows.

After the film and lunch were over, my mind turned – of course – to business and how I could set my past, current and future clients free too; how to make them more creative as well as more customer centric. So this is what I came up with, far above the clouds and worries of my everyday world.

The future is in our h ands

We are all wise after the event, but how do we become wise before it? In my opinion, by setting free our thoughts about the future and our creativity. Many companies have an innovation group, but rarely do they set them free, to think big, to think out of the box.

In fact in many cases, they are literally put in their own boxes, separated from the business for which they are supposed to be innovating. Whilst the intention of this separation may be laudable – it is claimed that it provides increased freedom  – it generally doesn’t work, because the group’s creativity is not grounded.

Despite their incredible creativity, even science fiction writers are grounded; their stories are based on facts, a progression from current actualities to future possibilities. I am not suggesting that innovation be limited to the mere renovation of today’s products and services, but rather that they be based upon a realistic progression of today’s realities, rather than pure hypothesis. In particular, they should be developed out of current sociatal trends, behaviors and needs.

Trend following isn’t creative

Are you following trends? Are you happy with the information you are getting from your supplier? We all love to look at new inventions and products from around the world, but just think about what useful and actionable information you are really getting.

I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you are almost certainly getting exactly the same suggestions as the tens, if not hundreds of other clients your supplier has. Reports aren’t generally personalized, or only minimally, so whatever ideas their reports might spark, are likely to be sparking in every one of your competitors minds too!

So if trend following won’t help your innovation, what will? My answer would be many things; isn’t that good to know?

Develop your trends into future scenarios

Trends do not provide you with a competitive advantage, especially for innovation, so you need to first turn them into future scenarios. There are (at least) two ways to do this.

Firstly you can combine the trends and form what are often referred to as axes of uncertainty. When crossed, these form four (or more) new worlds for you to then define, describe and develop. Your possible actions in each of these scenarios can then be identified, so your business is prepared for all major possible risks and opportunities.

“We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond” Marcel Proust (>>Tweet this<<)

The second way is by identifying the major trends that may impact your business and then letting a Science Fiction writer describe the world that could develop. It is not so much a matter of being right as being provocative, the more the better. That’s why SciFi writers are amongst the best people to stretch our thinking. They have the creativity to go far beyond what most of us would think about, even when stretching our thinking. After all, the point of future scenarios is to prepare business for the future, not to predict it (>>Tweet this<<)

Visualise the future

Once you have developed your scenario – or two – you should visualise them to increases buy-in and sharing. This can be through a simple presentation, descriptive profiles or more exciting animations and videos.

Lowe’s has been one of the companies at the forefront of such visual development, using virtual reality to develop The Holoroom to show what SciFutures‘ science-fiction writers had developed. The room puts consumers into a new world where they can see their own new world, at least of their home after their planned renovation.

Other industries that are quickly developing new virtual worlds for customers include car and plane manufacturers showing future travel options. Car purchasers can also experience their new cars before actually buying them and can help in the development of cars that more perfectly meet their desires and needs.

Innovating outside the box

In too many cases innovation is built upon reality and a company’s current offers, in other words are renovations not innovations, just a step change from what we have today. New products developed using scenario planning tend to be faster, clearer, more efficient, longer-lasting and overall more attractive.

Technology makes what was even unthinkable just a few months or years ago, a reality today or in the very near future. Everything is moving faster and faster, so businesses must do the same. As this is rarely possible, they must already think the unthinkable today, so that they are prepared when it actually happens tomorrow. (>>Tweet this<<)

Are you ready for the brave new world  that is estimated to be just ten, twenty or at most just thirty years from now? That’s when the point of singularity is estimated to arrive.

If you would like help in improving your own innovation process, or in developing a future scenario for your organisation, please let us know; we would be excited to inspire you.

C3Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer underst anding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better underst anding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben  and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another br and which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?

Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognise good ideas when they see them (>>Tweet this<<)

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too (>>Tweet this<<)

Exp and your Thinking

Innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coca Cola takes br and innovation seriouslyLast year, Coke used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

This year they took this winning idea a step further and launched the bottle that could only be opened by another Coke bottle – another way of sharing.

Starting from a different innovation lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative NPD concepts (>>Tweet this<<)

Go Beyond Trend Following

Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities.

The innovative ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during that conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have inspired you too to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us today.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Ben &Jerry’s and Coke in this post.

This post has been adapted from one first published on C³Centricity in June 2013

Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay

Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.

Walmart gives serviceIn 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “ Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.

 

Target gives serviceTarget announced last October its plans to introduce the “ Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.

 

Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.

 

Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?

 

Tesco gives serviceTesco recently introduced their “ Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “ Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.

 

Sainsbury's gives serviceSainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “ Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s  horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco.

 

If pricing has become (still is?) the entry stakes for retailers today, what else can they do to differentiate themselves and propose a viable alternative that appeals to today’s shoppers? Here are a few I came up with, based upon some of the more interesting initiatives and current trends in societal sensitivities:

  • Individualism: I live alone, as do a large minority of people in the developed world ( 47% in Sweden according to Euromonitor) How about offering smaller packs and individual servings? I would happily pay more for the convenience and the guilt avoidance. (I throw out vast quantities of food that is past its sell-buy date)
  • Localism: the horsemeat and other food sc andals have made people wary of buying from countries where they are unsure of their controls, hygiene or ethics. Identified sourcing and traceability brings trust and reassurance.
  • Fair trade guarantees fairness  and serviceFairness: This helps eliminate the guilt attached to buying (too) cheap products. We now know that products from the East are in general cheaper than products from the West. However, we still want reassurance that workers are being treated fairly. Fair Trade associations and the end to child-labour are causes most shoppers would be will to pay (a little) more for.
  • Sustainability: Recent weather changes have finally convinced everyone of the need to look after and protect our planet from further degradation. Therefore sustainability has become something to fight for. Whether this is reducing the use of palm oil to protect Indonesian rainforests or finding alternatives to bottled water which both wastes resources and pollutes the l and, people are dem anding more of manufacturers.
  • Packaging: Packs are no longer just for protection and shelf-impact, they provide information on ingredients, sourcing and links to apps that provide more about the company who made it or give access to reviews from other buyers.
  • Lowe's offers virtual room designerServices: Some retailers are offering schools for cooking, home repairs, creative pursuits or decorating (see Loew’s virtual room designer as a great example of this). No longer is it sufficient to sell products, people are getting help with making the best use of them and thus getting more value from their purchase.

 

These are just a few of the ways that retailers are building their relationships with their shoppers. They may come for price, but that is an unsustainable competitive advantage in today’s world. Retailers that maintain the loyalty of their customers will be offering more in terms of support and services to keep them coming back.  

If you would like to update your own retail environment and services, why not contact us for an informal chat? We can provide shopper journey mapping, in-store eye-tracking, at shelf facial imaging and many more forward-thinking tools.

C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and named company websites.

8 Things CEOs might question about your Marketing Plan: And how to Answer them

All marketers create a marketing plan and work to achieve the growth mentioned in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop the plan, and even more to get it approved by management.

The annual parade of br and-plan presentations is a reality in most companies. Marketers all breathe a sigh of relief when it is over and they can get back to their beloved day jobs, that of supporting their br ands.

Worried marketer answering a marketing question

However, management doesn’t always allow a marketer to get off that easily. They can just as easily spring an “innocent” question when passing them in the corridor or socialising at a company event. If you can answer the CEOs question to their satisfaction, you will shine in their eyes. Provide an incomplete or worse still no answer, and they might wonder if it isn’t time to restructure the marketing group.


So, here are eight of the most likely questions a CEO may ask and how you should answer. NEVER say you don’t know, but also never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither response will win you brownie points. Make sure you have an answer like those proposed below and your name might just be on the next list of promotions.

1. Who are our br and customers?

There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona) of a typical user, in the same way as you would describe a friend. See “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers” for further details on what you should already know about your customer.

ANSWER: Our customers are middle-aged women, whose children are in their late teens or early twenties. She shops in local supermarkets and gets advice from  friends on Facebook, about the best br ands to buy and what’s on offer. She’s been buying our br and for over two years because it satisfies her children’s hunger when they get in from playing sports. That makes them happy and she then feels proud of being a good Mum.

2. How much are our customers worth to us?

Marketing plan question about valueBesides having an average lifetime value in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your br and.

ANSWER: On average each customer spends about XXX (Dollars, Euros, Renminbi, Rupee, Real) each year on our br and, which is about YYY over ten years (lifetime value is rarely calculated further out than this). Our current average price in-store is ZZZ, but 70% of our customers thinks we’re actually worth more.

3. What return on our marketing budget are we getting?

Whilst ROI is not the best measure of marketing’s impact (see this Forbes article for more on that), you still need to answer the question. The answer to this could get very complex if you go into too much detail, so keep it simple. Say what your total budget is, how much you spend on advertising and promotions and what impact that has had on sales, in total. I know it takes a lot more than these two actions to impact sales, but as I said, keep it simple.

ANSWER: Our total budget is AAA of which BBB goes on communications and promotions. With our current sales growth of SSS, that works out at approximately TTT.

4. How much will we sell; what market share are we expecting this year?

You could give just one number in answer to this, but why not use the attention you’ve got by adding something impressive to the story?

ANSWER: We’re expecting a RRR% growth this year to UUU unit sales. This is the highest in the category so our share will increase by PPP points to MMM percent market share.

5. What are our innovation plans for the br and?

You could answer this with a long list of all the new SKUs you will launch but again use your time wisely by adding some underst anding too.

ANSWER: We will be launching CCC new variants, which we expect to add MMM percentage points to our market share. We will also be eliminating FFF units that are not delivering on expectations.

6. What do we know about our carbon footprint?

Marketing question about br and carbon footprint

Questions around sustainability and sourcing tend to be raised in corporations which already have targets. If this is the case in your own company, then measurements are almost certainly already being taken. Therefore you just need to reply with the latest numbers.

But you can again use this exchange with top management to add how your customers feel about the question and all the efforts being made by the company – you do have that information too don’t you?

7. How’s the competition doing?

The answer to this question could cover a lot of topics: sales, market share, new launches, advertising, promotions or pricing. Respond with a simple summary of a few current metrics in comparison to two or three major competitors. The manager will then clarify if he was thinking of a specific topic and you can answer more precisely.

8. How’s our distribution doing these days?

A simple summary of outlets we have gained or lost is enough here, but why not add some detail about successful placement improvements too? That latest shelf redesign that has increased sales, or the fact that you have just been named category captain in a retail chain is definitely news worth sharing.

These are just eight of the most common questions top management asks of marketers. As you can see, the answers I’ve suggested are short. Especially when the question is posed outside the formal marketing plan presentation, the executive is probably looking not only for the information requested, but also to check that you have an excellent underst anding of your br and. He wants to be assured that his business is in good h ands. Prove it to him and also show your respect of his time, by giving a short, precise, answer whenever possible.

Do you frequently get asked other questions that I have forgotten? Do let me know. If you also have a better way of responding to any of the above questions, I’d love to hear those too.

If you’d like your team to be better prepared for “awkward” questions from management, why not ask for a 1-Day Catalyst session on marketing KPIs? No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft and Dreamstime in this post.

Time to Change your Outdated Work Habits

This week I’ve been helping a client create a new website. He had already mapped out what he wanted to include in it and he provided me with pages of ideas and possible content. Have you ever noticed how it is much harder to rewrite or adapt something, than it is to create from scratch? (>>Click to Tweet<<)How difficult it is to “unlearn” behaviours? Whether it is changing the content of a website, editing the script for a play or book, or adopting new habits, it always dem ands far more effort than the original creation itself. Why is this?

One reason is that we humans like comfortable solutions. We always look for the easiest and simplest way of doing things. That’s why you can find yourself in your car in front of your garage with no memory of the drive back home. You know the way so well, you’ve been on autopilot and your brain has been thinking about other things. 

A recent excellent short read in The Guardian entitled “Habits: why we have them and how to break them” by Dr Benjamin Gardner, Lecturer in Health Psychology at University College, London, provides some of the answers:

  1. Habits are automatic responses to situations
  2. Smoking, snacking and TV viewing are common habits
  3. We learn habits by repeating actions in a situation
  4. Around half of all everyday actions are habitual (>>Click to Tweet<<)
  5. Habits free up mental resources for use elsewhere
  6. They usually take more than two months to form
  7. Setting a realistic goal will help you persevere
  8. Habits may form more quickly for enjoyable tasks
  9. To break a habit, find and avoid the habit trigger
  10. Moving house disrupts many existing habits

So how does this apply to our work? Well firstly, if you are looking to measure behaviour, customers are likely to struggle when referring to the reasons for certain habits, since they have been adopted and now take little mental power (points 4 & 5 above). This is why retailers sometimes change the layout of their stores – although that can also have a negative impact too – to make their shoppers think about what they buy and perhaps also tempt them to try new products or categories.

Reading the above list, it may sound like it will be difficult to break a habit, but as the last point mentions, disruption makes it much easier to change. Think about the arrival of a new boss, the introduction of a new structure or some other event in business, it can result in many habitual tasks being re-evaluated and even replaced. Read on to find a few ideas on how you can make some perhaps necessary changes of your own.

Tracking Br and Equity

Br and equity measurement is a great habit

Last week I wrote about the importance of tracking the three areas of customer br and value: those of functional / rational, emotional / subjective and relational / cultural. Now before you congratulate yourself on measuring the complete spectrum of image attributes, ask yourself how long you have been working with exactly the same list. We all love consistency and comparability but that is often just an excuse to avoid the hard work of evaluating the current metrics and deciding what needs to be added, replaced and removed.

The marketplace for so many – dare I say all? – products and services is moving so fast today that your attributes need to be regularly reviewed and adapted to the new market environment.

Tracking Usage & Awareness

Are you still measuring usage through an omnibus paper or telephone interviews? Look into the possibility of online or mobile as both a quicker and cheaper method of data gathering. Or what about using automatic data gathering from mobile phones, online websites, or smart chips on your products? Of course you will need to conduct comparative runs before switching methodologies, but you may find you get more acceptance from the consumers contacted and easier and swifter returns of information into the organisation.

Trend Following

Future l andscape

Do you continue to buy a st andard service and reporting for following societal trends, just like your competitors do? How about extending trend following into scenario planning? It will make more use of your current service and will provide a significant competitive advantage. (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Replacing Reports by Stories

Replacing reports bz stories is a great habitThere is so much talk about the value of storytelling that I hope I don’t need to explain this point, but have you done anything to integrate it into your own work? One of C³Centricity’s partners (SciFutures) just produced a short and inspiring summary of the key themes and ideas generated at FT2013 (2013 Foresight & Trends Conference). However, they did it through telling a science fiction narrative, rather than by writing the usual report. I would highly recommend checking it out here  and then I dare you to tell me that you would have preferred to read a conference report instead!

So these are just a few habits that it might be worth considering to change in your work environment. Do you have others that your know you should break? If so I would love to know what they are and more importantly, what is stopping you from bringing those needed changes? Let me know because perhaps I just might be able to help.

Did you know C³Centricity runs training workshops and support sessions on revamping your Market Research Toolbox and Processes?  Contact us to learn more.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime, Microsoft  and  Kozzi

Turning Trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-Step Process you Need

Most major organisations follow societal trends today – and that’s a huge problem! Surprised?

They are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar reports. This results in them all working on the same ideas & concepts, and eventually launching very similar products and services that will struggle to compete effectively.

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans, or launching similar offers? Now you know why. Here’s how to avoid this and develop a powerful competitive advantage.

 

Market Evidence

Just one example of exactly this, is how many companies started using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising a few years ago. In Europe these included:

    • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – sorry only in French & German but still easy to understand
    • Orange telecom:
    • An international Insurance company:

These are just three I have noticed recently, but I’m sure there are others in the countries you yourself live in. (If so do drop me a line, or add a comment below, I’d love to hear about other examples)

Clearly the current trend of a desire for independence and freedom has been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above. Perhaps they are working with the same trend or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports. Either way, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising idea.

Companies which develop concepts based upon these types of external resources alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them. Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working for the consumers.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations don’t take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios. Scenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs. Then, the new product and service concepts, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions are unlikely to ever be the same as those of the competition and will have a greater chance of success.

 

How to turn Trends into Future Scenarios

 

Organisation working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below:

    1. Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company
    2. Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business
    3. Identify the most important trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political)
    4. Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least
    5. Collide the resultant developed trends to produce leading likely changes
    6. Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes
    7. Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
    8. Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
    9. Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
    10. Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.

This ten-step process can be followed over a minimum of a two or three-day workshop, or over a longer period of development lasting several months. For a more detailed 10-step process, you might like to also check out last year’s post on the topic: The Great Trends Hoax: The don’t give business a competitive advantage.

 

Success factors

 

Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.

However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional criteria that need to be met in order to guarantee the most successful scenario planning exercises. These include:

    • A diverse internal team who are enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area
    • An excellent creative to lead the process, usually from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone
    • Executive management support of the exercise as well as of  its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios
    • Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation
    • Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis

Following the process as summarised above and including all five of the success criteria mentioned, provides the greatest chance for success in building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.


If you are interested in joining our upcoming webinar on Future Scenario Building, please let us know  and we will send you a personal invitation.   


These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning.

Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. You have to turn them into proprietary future scenarios.  If you need help, let us help we’re ready to support you. Contact us HERE.

10 Ways to tell if you’re Customer Centric: And what to do about it if you’re not

Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book –the formatting not the content! – it was the perfect occasion for me to review what I wanted to achieve in the coming six months.

This got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going and what changes need to be made to ensure their completion over the remaining six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can still take to go further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Underst and your primary target

Boston MatrixKnowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Action: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their +4Ws” – Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer, whether by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shops and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage unless they are turned into future scenarios.

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges.

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Example of innovation leversMost organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services.

 

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

Business DashboardAs the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says “What gets measured gets managed”. Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

 

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers”

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to  know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C3C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

A Peek at the Future of Customer Underst anding

What are you expecting in 2013? This is a question we should all be asking of both ourselves and our businesses this week. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider what we need to do, to be better prepared for the opportunities and risks that will present themselves in the future.

For this reason, and to also announce an exciting addition to the C3Centricity partnership, I decided to ask this of one of THE most inspirational experts in the area of future scenario building, SciFutures‘s Ari Popper. Ari is the co-founder and President of the company that helps organisations to consider the future in a different and more rewarding way. You can learn more about them on the C3Centricity partner page HERE.

As we finalised our partnership, I took the chance to interview Ari on the changes that he saw for those of us working to underst and and better satisfy the customer of today and tomorrow.

Denyse: Ari, thanks for agreeing to this interview. As we start the New Year, I’d like to begin by getting your thoughts on what you see as the three biggest changes / trends that will likely take place in 2013?

 Ari: Thanks Denyse. My pleasure.

It may sound like hyperbole but this is one of the most exciting times to be alive. Humanity is experiencing a significant step change in ‘life as we know it’ driven by a number of powerful trends. In 2013, these trends will continue to gather momentum and embed even deeper in all aspects of everyday life. Different foresight professionals emphasize different trends but this step change is mostly driven by rapid advancements in emerging technology, the democratization of knowledge and our increasingly networked society.

We have huge social, economic and environmental challenges and they certainly won’t disappear in 2013 but we also have the most incredible tools at our disposal for dealing with these challenges. We are living in a time where our options for creating positive transformations are immense and these options are increasing rapidly. I think of it using an artist’s pallet metaphor with color availability representing potential creative expression. Perhaps as recently as 25 years ago we had only 20 colors to work with. Today, thanks to these big transformational trends, we have hundreds or perhaps thous ands of colors to work with.

For example, the average person in Africa has access to the same amount of information as president Clinton had 20 years ago thanks to that smart device in her pocket. You can participate in free online courses offered by universities like Harvard, Stamford and MIT. [One of these courses on Computer Science had over 100,000 people register from countries all over the world!] You can have your own genome sequenced in 24 hours for less than $600. The list goes on and on and on. What I am interested in and what we do at SciFutures is to help our clients underst and that the greatest tool we have is our imaginations. Truly now, more than ever, we are living in a time where what we can imagine, we can create.

Denyse: WOW Ari, that suggests that there are huge opportunities for anyone willing to take them. I am a great believer of Quantum physics and the power of thought. Can you give any examples of what we may see?

Ari: SciFutures recently sponsored the Extreme Futurist Festival in LA. It was two days of ‘mind blowing’ glimpses from the future. My overall impression was that we have the technical knowhow to solve significant problems, even those as pervasive as world hunger. For example, Douglas Mallette, a NASA scientist who worked on technical solutions to feed astronauts living in the first Mars colony, has applied this expertise to ending world hunger. Simply put, it is a sustainable, low cost solution to create a closed loop aquaponic fish farm that can feed the hungry indefinitely with very low expertise and maintenance.

Daniel Epstein who founded the Unreasonable Institute challenges us to be ‘unreasonable’ in order make significant progress. His ‘unreasonableness’ has facilitated a low cost and extremely viable way to cure blindness permanently using fairly simple technology applied in a sublimely creative way. It is clear to me that we are not lacking in the ‘how’, we are lacking in belief and imagination.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. Let’s come back down to the more mundane world of market research, insight and the information business. What do you see as the three biggest challenges for those working in the profession in the coming year?

Ari: The market research industry has taken a well deserved battering over the past few years. I think of it as the inevitable decline of old models and tools that were great in their time but lacking in relevance and applicability in today’s world (see above). You can see it in the fact that most of the big research companies struggled to grow organically and also in the plethora of disruptive and creative research boutiques tat have popped up.

Significant advances in neuroscience, behavioral economics and the impact of emerging technologies like mobile have disrupted the industry resulting in a few big losers and a few new winners. It is a classic case of creative destruction. I think the MR industry is on the verge of a Cambrian explosion of tools, techniques, insights and smart and nimble entrepreneurs or entrepreneurially minded companies like Google (Google Surveys) are going to do extremely well. 2013 will see a continuation of this trend. The end benefit will mean a massive improvement in the quality and actionability of insights for end clients and the death of old fashioned research tools, techniques and sadly, companies that cannot change.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. I have to say that (sadly) I agree with you. It is why I started C3Centricity and have chosen just a few, very unique partners such as SciFutures to work with. It’s time that the profession woke up before it gets killed in its sleep! Tell me what SciFutures, the company you founded in early 2012, offers that is different from others working in the futures arena and how you can specifically support businesses in meeting the challenges we already talked about.

Ari: SciFutures was founded to use the power of creativity and imagination to help companies disrupt routine and outmoded thinking to create genuinely disruptive ways of operating. We are unique in that we use science fiction narratives as a device to engage our clients and transform complex data into engaging and inspiring scenarios. We like to say ‘we make the geek speak’. We were going to be a creative strategic consulting company but what has really surprised me is the fact that our clients are asking for help in implementing these radical strategies. We now have formed strategic partnerships with technology experts and are in the process of envisioning and also building radical inventions. This could only happen in today’s world since, as Warren Ellis says, “we are living the science fiction condition”.

Denyse: You’re really touching on an important change needed there Ari. How we all have to become storytellers and to share our knowledge and underst anding through stories, in order to get our messages across within the organisation. Finally Ari, if you could give just one piece of advice to all those in marketing and customer underst anding for the coming twelve months, what would it be?

Ari: Well, you have to embrace the times. Don’t fight progress and don’t put your head in the s and – it isn’t going away. Ensure that some risky or unreasonable activity is a part of your plans for 2013 as it is better to disrupt than to be disrupted.

Denyse: Great point Ari. So in summary 2013 is going to be the year of disruption, and to paraphrase Darwin “It is not the strongest that will survive, but those most responsive to change.” Thanks a lot for your time Ari. I am sure I can speak for all my readers in saying that you have certainly opened our minds with your ideas  and thoughts about the future.

Thank you!

SciFutures is one of C3Centricity’s unique and carefully selected partners. If you would like to be better prepared for possible future opportunities and risks, why not contact us? You will be amazed by the inspiration and actionability of what we bring. Also check our website to review some of our solutions: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision

The Great Trends Hoax: They don’t give a Business a Competitive Advantage

Do you follow trends? I bet you do! Everyone likes talking about the future, imagining what it might hold and then taking pride in seeing that they were “right”, that what they had “predicted” has come true. If this is how you work with trends, then you must read this post – urgently!

There are many trend providers today, from futurologists, to trend agencies, to gurus, all claiming to have “the truth”. An ex-colleague of mine made an interesting comment to me last weekend, as we hiked up to the top of La Dole, one of the small hills in the Lac Leman area of Switzerl and where I live.

We were discussing trend following and she was comparing the providers with which her company had worked in the last five or ten years. Which of them “had got it right” and which ones hadn’t. I said that I wasn’t too keen on businesses working with trends alone, as there was no competitive advantage in doing so. She then made a wonderful comment: “You’re right of course. In fact when you go to these meetings to hear about the latest trends each year, you are sitting with a group of 20, 50, 100 or often even more people, all hearing the same presentations and “predictions”. If you all go back and start working on actions to respond to the future that was just presented, you’re all doing the same things and are in a way actually making the predictions come true”.

As I said, I have never really liked working with trends other than for developing plausible future scenarios, but she had put one of my concerns into words; you don’t gain competitive advantage from following trends. Whilst they may at best provide indications of some tactical actions you might take in the short-term, trends cannot help you develop your vision and strategy.

So if you want to achieve the real advantage of following trends and to get a head-start over your competition, then it’s time you started developing your own future scenarios. How? Well, here’s a 10-step approach that I have found has worked with many of my clients, which assumes that you are already following trends of some description:

10-Step Process

  1. Identify the most relevant trends for your category from all those that you are currently following. This evaluation is often best h andled by your market research and insight group, who have access to a lot of information, both internal and external, and not just on trends. If this is a new area for you all, you may decide to seek some external support to help you make these first difficult choices.
  2. Invite a group of about 10-15 people from various departments within the organisation and who have ideas about what will happen in their different areas of the business, to join your “Futures” team. I have found that when invited, few refuse and in fact more ask to join the group when they hear about it, than you really need, so you’ll get the wonderful privilege of choosing the best and most complementary members.
  3. As a team, discuss each of the selected trends in turn and how it is likely to develop in the future, say in the next 10-20 years. Really push everyone’s thinking out of the “probable” and into the “possible”. Depending upon the number of trends, this may take several meetings to pass them all under review.
  4. The market research and insight group, who will ideally be leading the whole process, should then summarise the future of each trend and the forces that will be acting upon it. Agree on the two or three main trend drivers, that are common to the developments, and which when crossed will result in four to eight future worlds.
  5. Review these worlds in another “Futures” team meeting and decide if they are all relevant for your business, or whether their impact will in fact be similar; you are looking to eventually reduce the number of worlds to a more manageable size.
  6. Describe each future world and build a story around them; a day in the life tends to work well.
  7. Identify the challenges and opportunities for the business in each of the created new worlds.
  8. Share the conclusions with the “Futures” team and refine your selection of actions for best business preparedness.
  9. Illustrate each of the worlds that you have selected as being of most relevance. To make them inspirational for everyone with whom you share them, why not try something different? We work with storytelling, visualisation and videos to get the findings across in the most exciting way.
  10. Present to top management and enjoy sharing with them your identified opportunities and challenges, which from my own experience they will never have imagined before.

You will notice that the last step of the process is the presentation to management. Of course in reality it is only the beginning, as you will then need to support each business in defining solutions to answer the challenges and opportunities identified.

Additional steps for Regional / Global players

Also, if you work in a regional or global role, you will need to follow up with regional and global presentations, to ensure that everyone appreciates the necessity of working together on the trends, their progress and their impact on business. They also need to underst and that it will be important to alert markets behind them on certain trends and what may happen to them, as well as to observe those ahead of them to prepare their own market for changes.

Scenario planning is a company project, not a departmental one, which is why trend following cannot be left to each market or business unit to do on its own. Have fun with your own scenario developments and enjoy the unique chance of inspiring the whole business with the opportunities and challenges you have identified. It is much more rewarding than presenting trends, which have merely grown or declined from one year to the next.

Have you had experience in developing scenarios yourself? If so, please share what worked or didn’t for you, and let me know if you would add any important steps from your own process, to the ones I have mentioned above.

For more information on scenario planning, vision and strategy development, please check out our website:  https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

If you would like our help in developing an inspiring story about what your business’s future worlds could be, and what challenges and opportunities may await you in 10, 15 or even 20 years from now, then why not contact us for an informal discussion? NO Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C3Centricity.com uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

6 Tips to Thinking Outside the Innovation Box

Does your business have an innovation process? No? Then perhaps you should count yourself lucky! Most businesses that do have one, sometimes get stuck in it, stopping them from thinking Bigger and Bolder, and therefore also stopping them from dreaming. If this is the case with your own organisation, then this post should offer some inspiration for change.

When companies are starting up, they often begin with just one or a few products or services to offer. However, as they grow, they get ideas about other products or services they could add, sometimes at the suggestion of their current customers. As business continues to grow, they might set up an innovation process or put someone in charge of searching for new ideas and unfortunately this tends to be when they start to lose contact with their customers and what they really desire.

Today we all underst and the importance of customer centricity, the power of putting the customer at the heart of the business and yet we still manage to forget them somehow when looking to innovate. For this reason, I thought it would be useful to share my six tips to help you to think outside the innovation box in your organisation, whether you are a big multinational, or just a small local firm.

#1. Start with your customers in mind

This makes so much sense and yet we all seem to forget it at times. Big companies have R&D departments so their innovations tend to be technology and skill driven. Smaller ones have maybe more limited resources, so ideation falls on the desk of the owner, marketing head or the person responsible for operations. All businesses have customers, so why not start with them? What do they dream about improving, what are their biggest issues with your category? Finding solutions to their frustrations will almost certainly guarantee the success of your next new product or service.

#2. Why do you want to innovate?

The answer to this simple question will give you some ideas of the solutions you need to create:

  • Is competition growing? If so, what do they know about your customers that you don’t? What can you do about it, both now as well as in the future to stop it happening again?
  • Is the market segment growing faster than you are, so even though your sales are growing you are losing market share? If so, why; what products and sub-categories are increasing, what benefits are attracting customers more than in the past? Can you follow or lead with a different benefit area?
  • Is your image getting old and in need of updating? Where are your comparative weaknesses and is competition filling all possible positionings in the category map?

#3. Do you need to innovate or renovate?

The difference between the two can make a huge difference in what you develop. If you need to innovate but actually produce a “small” innovation, closer to a renovation, you are less likely to succeed, at least in CPG, according to Steenkamp. Identify which end of the innovation scale you are aiming for and rework your ideas until you reach it.

#4. Can you innovate outside your box?

Most companies innovate in very predictable ways, so that even their current customers are less excited or inspired to try their new offers. This is unfortunately a trait of human behaviour; we all get bored in the end, even with the best product or service that excited us when it was launched. What was once seen as a breakthrough can quickly become taken for granted as customers become used to it. Therefore why not think outside the box, using different levers? For example food companies continuously bring out new flavours, when maybe a new sensation is what’s needed. Nestlé’s chocolate mousse is a great example of this.

#5. Reinventing innovation needs a new culture, not a new process

As mentioned above, new processes are usually not the best answer to more successful innovation. According to a recent Forbes article likeminded people develop likeminded products. To create breakthrough innovation, you need a culture shock, people who think differently. This can be as simple as taking people from different departments to work together, or hiring people from the outside, with very different mind-sets to stimulate new thinking.

#6. Innovate in answer to scenarios not trends

Most customer-facing organisations follow societal trends. The problem with this is that their competition is doing exactly the same thing, which means that they will be in a constant rush to launch faster than their competitors, and at best end up leading a new segment of two or more almost identical products.

A much better way to innovate is to respond to opportunities or challenges identified by developing future scenarios out of the trends. These have the advantage of being unlikely to be duplicated, at least in the beginning, and are further out time-wise so they will allow more time to create a new offering even before your customer knows they have the need. In some cases this might mean you will have to be patient until the customer is ready – it took Nespresso more than 20 years to become the phenomenal success it is today! – but at least you are less likely to be faced with a competitor offering a similar product.

If you follow these six tips, you can be sure your innovation will meet with greater success and your business will be well prepared to capture future opportunities better than the competition. If you are already doing all of these, I congratulate you. Still struggling to grow as fast as you would like? Well then here is my seventh, only for the bravest innovators:

EXTRA #7. What business are you in?

If you are constantly met with innovations from your major competitors just before or after your own launches, then it is time to get out of the fight be changing the territory. What do I mean by that? Ask yourself what business you are really in.

For example a cigarette manufacturer could see itself as a provider of personal pleasure; now that opens up innovation doesn’t it, far beyond just a different cigarette br and? And suppose a food company became a nutrition business offering supplements and meal replacements; a home cleaning corporation widens to become a home carer and beautifier; a pet food company shares its passion for animals be offering insurance and medical treatments. Asking what business you are really in and not the one you thought you were in, can sometimes be just the spark that is needed to truly successful innovation.

So which one of these are you going to use this month to start reinventing your innovation? Take action today, so that you get a positive ROI on your reading of this post.

Would you like to share your own ideas for improving innovation? Please add a comment below; we reply to all comments and might invite you to write a guest post on the topic for us.

If you want to know more about innovation, please check our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

Do you know someone who is struggling with their own innovation? Please share this post with them.

Does your organisation need more help in reinventing its own innovation? We can run a 1-Day Catalyst session to get you started FAST; contact us here for more information.

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Defining a Better Strategy from Improved Customer Centricity

Every company today has a vision and mission statement that it proudly shares both internally and externally, to explain who they are and what they want to achieve.

Surprisingly – or should I say sadly – few B2C (Business to Customer) companies include the customer in these and yet it would not exist without them. A famous, albeit anonymous, quotation says:

“There are customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers” Anon

If you are in a people-facing industry, it is vital to start your vision and mission with clear statements that indicate to all that your customer is at the heart of your business.

Past, present, future:

In many companies the vision and plans are based upon past performance, and forecasts for the future are then calculated based on current sales trends. In today’s fast changing world, the future is less and less like the past, so it is unwise to rely on backward looking measures alone. A better way to prepare your vision and plans, is to start by reviewing your mission statement, which states clearly what the company is aiming to be, and then to see how this fits with the target audiences. If changes are necessary, societal trends can help to identify what they are.

 

Foresight:

Foresight is an essential part of the planning process, as it will enable a company to assess its vision with the future rather than the past in mind. Society is constantly changing; it is said that a generation today is as little as 5 or 10 years, whereas in the near past it was considered to be 20 years or more. What this means for a company, is that its strategy and plans will need almost constant adaptation, since what worked just a few years ago is no longer relevant for today’s customers.

One of the biggest challenges for an organisation wanting to introduce trend following, and I see no reason for any company NOT to be doing this, is that there is too much choice. There are agencies that are specialised in trend following, such as Mintel, TrendWatching, Yankelovich (now part of the Futures Company), McKinsey’s Global Institute, TrendHunter, Global Trends, to name just a few. In addition, many communications agencies also propose their own trend following services, McCann Pulse being one of the better.

When you are ready to introduce trend following into your organisation, it is vital that everyone agrees on ONE trend following tool for the whole company and then selects the most relevant trends for each business or service. This will avoid duplication of efforts, facilitates exchanges within the business and ensures everyone both speaks the same language and underst ands the trends and their implications for the company in the same way.

Some of the most talked about trends for business to follow at the moment include:

  • Aging Baby Boomers
  • Authenticity
  • Heritage, nostalgia, tradition
  • Community, crowdsourcing, innovative co-creation
  • Making the world a better place
  • Urbanization
  • Health and Wellbeing

 

Scenario building:

Once you have an agreed list of trends you are following in the company, you might think your work is done, but that is not the end, it is just the beginning. Every company is – or should be – watching societal trends, so there is NO competitive advantage to doing so. However, you can get the edge over your competitors by developing them into plausible future scenarios and then identifying their drivers and trigger points. Scenario planning can often be done with the same organisations you are using to follow your trends, but is of course a proprietary exercise and thus will probably cost you the same, if not even more, than your trend following investments. As it is this second step that delivers true competitive advantage it is definitely worth the money.

Scenario planning, is a strategic planning method that enables you to make flexible long-term plans and also be better prepared for the most likely future events. Most scenario work is done by extending the trends into the future and then combining them, to see how they impact one another and also your business. Two to three axes are then identified on which the most extreme changes will occur and the corresponding “new worlds” are developed and described.

The last part of the exercise is to then position your categories and markets on the trends and to identify the drivers and  trigger points, which will enable you to be forewarned of possible market changes.

What changes are you following today and how are you working with scenarios to better prepare your organisation? Please share your most creative ideas.

For more on trends and scenario planning please visit our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

This post first appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on November 24th 2011

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