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When Hospitality is Not Hospitable. 5 Learnings for Every Industry

I had lunch last week with one of my ex-colleagues. We decided to try a new restaurant close to where she works. It’s only been open a month, and it shows. This hospitality outlet certainly has a lot to learn about customer centricity!

I was able to share our “adventure” with the proprietor when his manager (naively?) asked us if we had enjoyed our lunch. I don’t think she expected all the comments we made. However, she quickly called the owner over, who was extremely interested in listening. He heard our detailed description of our time there with patience and encouragement, asking lots of questions as our tale unfolded.

I therefore, thought I’d share our experiences as they are useful lessons for anyone who wants to be more customer centric. Whether you are in hospitality or not, putting the customer first makes good business sense.

 

Restaurant arrival

Welcome your customersThe restaurant is situated in a new shopping precinct and therefore still has to increase its awareness and make a name for itself. This is important, as many of the issues we had should have been sorted out during the first month since they opened.

It was a warm, sunny day and the restaurant had two attractive terraces laid out for lunch. No-one was there to greet us, so we went inside and asked to be seated. I should mention that we were relatively early and only three other tables out of the more than 40 were occupied.

The Maitre d’ showed us to a small table for two, squashed between other larger tables. When I asked if we could have another table on the edge of the terrace, my request was met with disapproval. The restaurant was not full  and they obviously didn’t expect to be on this midweek lunchtime. Only about a half of the tables were laid out for lunch. I therefore, requested again that he accommodate our desire. He grudgingly accepted, adding that we’d have to move if someone else wanted the table! Of course we would!

 

Our order

As we sat down the maitre d’ asked if we would like an aperitive. We said no, but I ordered sparkling water and my friend still water. One of the waiters quickly came back but with a liter bottle of sparkling water. Being thirsty, my friend graciously accepted to drink the sparkling water. In fact, it was poured out before she could say anything.

I hadn’t seen my friend in many months, so we had a lot to discuss and catch up on. Therefore not surprisingly we took time to choose amongst the multitude of dishes, which were all new to us. Our final choice was not facilitated by the menu being on a tablet. It was already difficult to read outdoors. In addition reviewing and deciding amongst the many dishes involved multiple clicks. We had to skip back and forwards to make our choice amongst the many different and somewhat arbitrary subgroups.

Customer choiceIf only someone had thought about their clients’ needs, the menu would have been laid out far more logically. (>>Tweet this<<) For example, the subgroups included both main and starters displayed together and were based upon ingredients.

This meant going up and down each subgroup until one had an idea of what were the choices for starter or the main dish. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there were also daily specials listed on a separate tab!

One of the advantages of using a digital menu is that it can be changed with the click of a button. There is therefore, no reason for this complex system – unless it was designed to ensure every client saw every dish.

From our perspective, it just made for a frustrating waste of time. Lunches are generally pretty time sensitive and we only have a limited window to eat out and return to work on time.

Our meal presentation

Customer satisfaction is primeAfter the mishap over the water, we were not really surprised when the wrong main course dishes were presented to us. Or rather mine was correct but my friend’s was not what she ordered. Instead of removing the two dishes, mine was left in the sun – a salad! – while hers was sent back to the kitchen. Ten minutes later her dish arrived and again was not what she had ordered!

By this time we had finished our starters and my salad was getting warm. So my friend pointed out the mistake but again graciously accepted the dish. (I should mention that she is a lovely lady and far more forgiving than I would have been!)

 

Our bill and payment

As the meal had taken rather longer than we had planned, we were keen to leave as soon as we had finished. We asked for the bill, twice, only to be presented ten minutes later with what looked like a credit card, but no explanation. Five minutes of h and-waving finally got someone to explain what to do with it.

Customers queueing to payThey apparently have a shop associated with the restaurant and therefore encourage people to visit it before paying. Thus no bill for just the meal! The idea of offering for sale everything we had just eaten might be a good one, time will tell, but it did not facilitate our departure.

Luckily one of the more experienced waitresses offered to show us where to pay – in the shop! This was neither expected nor obvious as it is hidden from the view of those in the restaurant.

I can only imagine the joy of queueing up behind shoppers after a meal! I certainly don’t want to st and in a queue to pay; I want someone to come to my table for this.

 

Our discussion with the owner

Listen to your customersAs I previously mentioned, we were lucky enough to get the chance to share all our experiences with the owner. He was most apologetic and gave us a hefty discount.

However, what I appreciated even more, was the chance to share our experiences, to help this new restaurant to quickly improve. He is a true professional and asked many questions about what had happened, to better identify where improvements could be made.

 

Underst anding the problem

The hospitality industry is both simple and complex for customer centricity improvements. Simple because you get direct feedback from your clients through their choices and comments. Complex because it is like a show and different people have differing perspectives and preferences. That is why restaurants have menus. But they need to be laid out for ease of choice rather than for ease of cooking or stock taking.

Where every business is similar, is in the fact that the customer has expectations which must be met to satisfy, and surpassed to delight. (>> Tweet this<<) Which do you aim to do?

In the case of this restaurant, I believe the main issue came from the staff who had been hired. They were clearly inexperienced or had not had explained to them the importance of the customer. Perhaps their previous jobs were in a local bistro, which might explain their lack of attention to detail. The restaurant is perhaps in rural  surroundings but the owner is definitely highly experienced and professional. He has a long learning curve to make with his staff for them to be at his level. He’d better make it happen sooner rather than later. Customers rarely go back to a restaurant – or br and for that matter – when there is so much choice today.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group is famously quoted as saying:

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”

This is certainly true for the hospitality industry, but less so for many other businesses in my opinion. For many companies, I believe that the customer has to come first. What do you think?

 

Learnings for everyone

  1. Hospitality needs to be hospitable, but so does any customer facing business. Everyone feels self-conscious when entering into a new environment. Make it easy for them to feel at home. Welcome your customer as a good friend or even family. (>>Tweet this>>) Apple and Walmart are outst anding in this, and both Samsung and Staples announced new ways of welcoming more people into their stores.
  2. When your customers speak, listen (>>Tweet this<<). In our restaurant experience, none of the staff really listened, let alone tried to underst and our situation. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – literally – is a great way to better underst and them.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for your customer to choose you. (>>Tweet this<<) Are your different line extensions easy to recognise? Can your customer quickly choose between the different variants? Do you have too many br and names and sub-br and differentiators? I know of some br ands that have five to seven on one pack! Three should be the absolute maximum. Brogan & Partners wrote a great piece on sub-br anding you can read HERE.
  4. Make it as easy to pay. Once a customer has made the choice to buy what you have to offer, payment shouldn’t be a further pain point. According to a Business Intelligence report over 70% of online carts are ab andoned. While you can’t walk out of a store without paying, you can leave without buying! (>>Tweet this<<)
  5. Welcome criticism and comments as the gifts they are. (>>Tweet this<<) The only way to learn and correct your mistakes is by knowing about them! Don’t manipulate satisfaction levels to meet your objectives. Attain them by truly satisfying and delighting your customers.

These are all obvious steps to being customer centric but sometimes we get so caught up in our br and that we forget about the customer. Which of these five is your weakest point and what are you doing about it?

The Highly Effective Habits of Truly Innovative Companies

A couple of months ago I shared what I consider to be the Ten Mistakes even Great Companies Make when innovating. Whilst it is useful to have these “watch out” lists, I believe it is also beneficial to take a look at how other companies get it right.

This post was prompted by a new client who is one of those already doing innovation extremely well and yet is still looking to improve their thinking. That for me is the sign of a truly innovative company. So read on for some ideas on how you too can become great at innovating.

Set Stretch Launch Targets

Let me start by saying there is a huge difference between the quantity and quality of innovations in almost all companies. In fact I believe there is an inverse relationship between the two. Those that innovate a lot rarely do it well. I think this is because they have the pressure of meeting objectives of numbers of new launches, rather than numbers of successful launches.

What is a successful launch? For me it is meeting or beating carefully thought through and calculated objectives. Not those wishfully high numbers used to get management buy-in for the launch, nor those ridiculously low targets that everyone knows will be met even before the new product is launched. No, I mean objectives that are stretch targets but achievable with the right plan, actions and effort. In other words SMART.

Be Inspired by your Customers

There are a lot of very clever organisations, especially in the technology area, which develop incredibly innovative products. Apple is (was?) obviously one of these and until recently, was admired for its innovations. Now it has been claimed that Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research. This is untrue. He did believe in market research, but market research done right. He didn’t ask consumers what they wanted, because he said they didn’t know. Instead he asked them what their problems were, what they dreamt about. He then showed them his answers to these and got their reactions. Even when he got his answers, he didn’t immediately start adapting products to meet these stated needs, but rather worked to underst and what consumers meant by what they asked for. As the infamous Ford quote says

“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse!”

Jobs didn’t build a faster tape player, or a smaller one, or a lighter one. He made “music on the go” more convenient, more accessible and above all, more fun.

Use a Flexible Approach to Idea Generation

Many companies approach innovation as a strict process. They will use something similar to the below funnel, brainstorming for a multitude of ideas that eventually get whittled down to the one or two new launches that are finally chosen.

St andard funnel used by companies lacking innovative ideas

There are many companies today offering new processes and ways of innovating, but they all come down to a finite number of alternative levers:

  • Start from your strengths and / or weaknesses
  • Start from the strengths and / or weaknesses of your competitors
  • Extend into adjacent categories
  • Extend into new channels
  • Extend into new presentations (packs, prices, communications)

They also use one of three models to reduce their number of possible choices in their selection process:

  • Start large and reduce down (the st andard “funnel” approach shown above)
  • Start small and exp and before selecting (inverse funnel approach)
  • Repeated executions of the combination of the above expansion and contraction of ideas (sometimes referred to as the accordion approach)

Whichever you decide to use, you eventually get to a decision of the one, or few, launch choices, at least in most cases. Truly innovative companies are not limited to one process or tool, and are open to idea generation from however and wherever it might come.

Make Innovation Everyone’s Responsibility

Innovation is for the privileged few in (too) many organisations today. Teams are separated off to concentrate on being “more creative” or to “bond” with R&D. However truly innovative companies use open innovation where everyone can have and share ideas about the company’s process, products and customers. In a great article on this (“ Who blocks innovation?”) Jeffrey Phillips ends with a wonderful short story:

“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realizes that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody then Nobody did what Anybody could have done”

Great companies are often great because they are very innovative. And they are very good at innovating because of three highly effective habits:

  • They set appropriate stretch targets for every new launch; good is never good enough
  • They listen to their customers, but don’t do what they say, but rather what they mean
  • They open idea generation to be inspired by a multitude of different processes, tools and above all people

Would you add another habit? Have I forgotten an important trait? Please let me know what you would add or feel free to react with your comments below.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime in this post.

NEVER Succeed at Innovation: 10 Mistakes even Great Companies make

There have been many attempts to dethrone the blond supermodel doll Barbie over her fifty plus years of existence, mostly without much success. The latest endeavour (named Lammilly, after her creator) is different in that Nickolay Lamm is going after co-funding and has already achieved over $350,000 in just a few days according to the website.

This interesting addition to the “Anti-Barbies” story prompted a number of questions in my head:

  • Is it wise to go after a declining segment?
  • What was wrong with Barbie’s customer satisfaction?
  • Who is the target for this new doll? Child, adult, collector?
  • Why now, after so many previous unsuccessful attempts at dethroning Barbie?

Those questions and various discussions on FaceBook then got me thinking more generally about innovation and how companies have adapted their processes (or not) to today’s connected world. So here are my thoughts on how NOT to innovate:

1. Change the colour, perfume or taste of your current product and then charge more.

Pepsi innovation of Crystal PepsiThis is what Pepsi did when launching Pepsi Crystal: it lasted less than a year. Interestingly this is also what Apple just did with its iPhone 5C, except it charged less. Again it is already being discounted at Walmart because of disappointing sales, which might just be a good thing for Apple in the long run. Sales of the 5S remain buoyant and any damage to the corporate image caused by the cheaper 5C should hopefully be significantly reduced.

2. Organise an innovation team and provide them with a separate office, ideally far away from the current business.

If this is how you are set up internally, get the team back into talking distance with the rest of the business. Rather than stimulating creativity as it has been claimed to do, by being separated from everyday business concerns, it actually alienates everyone else to innovation and decreases overall creativity.

3. Make sure R&D heads up innovation so your new products can make use of your technical know-how and skills.

R&D needs to connect with customers for improved innovationWhilst this may result in technically improved products, they are all too often not in line with consumer current needs or future desires. Your research people need to connect with your potential customers regularly so they can be tuned into customers’ wants and current frustrations. Wouldn’t you rather have your R&D developing new products that practically sold themselves? As Peter Drucker said “… know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (>>Tweet this<<). If R&D are in constant contact with your customers, they will always have them in mind when planning their product development.

 

4. Don’t let people from outside the organisation work on innovation; prefer well-established thinkers from within the organisation, preferably with more than ten to twenty years in the company.

This often happens as the result of a naïve manager lacking the required confidence to accept criticism, to challenge the status quo and to get out of their comfort zone. No person, let alone an organisation, can be an expert in every area. Why not take full advantage of external expertise to catalyse innovation? It’s certainly faster than learning   and training the required new skills internally. Just think about how many major Fortune 500 companies have joint ventures: they know something about reaping the benefits of collaboration for a win-win to grow their businesses.

5. Only move an innovation concept forward when it is finalised and everyone in the company agrees with its potential.

Apple still excels at innovation

If you wait for complete agreement on a new concept, you will never launch any new product. Rather than looking for total buy-in from everyone, accept the proof of a well-documented justification; if it looks and feels right you can learn from in-market measurement once launched to make adjustments. This is the approach often used by many successful hi-tech companies including Apple. Become a beta tester but make sure you fail fast and learn fast (>>Tweet this<<).

 

6. Follow a well-tested established process for concept development. Take time to ensure everything is working perfectly before launching.

St andard innovation funnelRigid processes and creativity rarely go together (>>Tweet this<<). Rather than working step-by-step through a st andardised process every time, accept that your approach can and should be adapted to the concept as well as market needs.

Some argue that the more ideas you have the better the winning concept. I personally think that massive numbers of ideas merely dilute both thinking and action. I recommend working through a few potential “promising concepts” with some target customers, to refine and develop the winner. I have found this approach to lead more consistently to a winning concept that customers would buy, as well as far more quickly than any st andard funnel process of proliferation and elimination.

7.  Never use social media or test amongst consumers who are outside the control of the organisation, so competition doesn’t learn about what you are developing.

As with no. 4 above, this situation often arises from less experienced managers afraid of being found lacking in creativity. In reality, competition often knows far more about an organisation’s innovations than the majority of its employees do. Therefore test and learn, then test and learn some more, whilst of course making reasonable efforts to reduce any confidentiality risks involved.

8.  Never share ideas with anyone outside the innovation team to avoid leaks.

As mentioned in no. 2 above, everyone can be creative and have great, innovative ideas. It therefore makes no sense at all to limit accepted creativity to one team alone. Whilst it is important to have an innovation lead team, all employees should feel encouraged to bring their ideas to the attention of the business. After all, we are all consumers.

9. Only innovate products and services similar to those in which you are already an expert.

This is not innovation, this is renovation. As with no. 1 above, it is unlikely to provide significant growth for a business, but it can satisfy consumer dem ands for novelty until such time as your disruptive innovation is ready. Never accept renovations as a replacement for true innovation. (>>Tweet this<<)

10. Don’t think too far ahead; after all, the world is moving so fast that we don’t know what the future will look like.

Preparing future scenarios can speed innovation

Whilst it’s true that the world is moving forever faster, this actually makes forward thinking vital not impossible. My recommendation is to develop future scenarios to challenge the organisation to think through a number of “what if” scenarios so that the business is prepared for multiple opportunities and risks.

 

These are my ten mistakes that even the best companies make sometimes in innovation. Are you guilty of any of them? Hopefully these ideas will provide you with food for thought as well as possible solutions.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime, PepsiCo and Apple in this post.

Is Apple’s Latest News, Good or Bad? How to Exceed your Customers’ Expectations

Apple’s news this week made some people excited whilst others were disappointed. Whichever “side” you were on, Apple’s challenge these days seems to be to not only meet, but exceed the extremely high expectations of their customers. Thanks to continuous innovation and their previous exciting launches, people have come to expect great things from them. This is why so many were somewhat disappointed with the “small” innovations announced this week.

This got my thinking about how we condition our customers to expect certain things from us, by the very nature of our actions, promotions and new product launches. This is why it is vital to always surpass these expectations whenever we can. It keeps our br and fresh in our customers’ eyes and renews their confidence in their choice of us.

Are you confident that you are constantly doing everything you can to surprise and delight your customers, to ensure you keep your competitive advantage? If you hesitate, read on; I have some ideas for you.

Hospitality

Dove Creek LodgeLast year, on one of my regular trips to the US, I stayed one night in a small lodge on Key Largo in Florida. If I hadn’t prepared my trip by checking out possible places to stay on Tripadvisor before I left, I wouldn’t have known about it, as it is hidden by greenery, even though it is on the main US 1 highway. I would highly recommend this lodge (Dove Creek Lodge) if you are in the area; not only does it offer great value for money, but they are very customer centric. They couldn’t do enough for me, even though I was only there for one night.

What touched me in particular, was the way they appeared to search for ways to surprise and delight their clients in everything they did; far beyond what you would expect, even from a star-rated hotel. For example, instead of plates of fruit, meats and vegetables for breakfast as is usual, they presented the same foods, but as sweet and savoury kebabs. Rather than serving a large bowl of yoghurt for everyone to dip into, they presented delicate glass cups filled with Greek yoghurt, fruit and granola, or graham biscuits with key lime cream. The whole stay was perfect but there is every chance that I will remember it longer than other places in which I have stayed, because I was surprised and delighted by that original breakfast presentation.

Replacement Products

OK so you think that you have satisfied your customer when sending a replacement for a (perceived) faulty product? How about sending it express delivery, so they get it in record time? This will amplify your already good customer service and your customers will be delighted. Many companies add coupons as an extra, especially in the US, but those don’t delight or surprise any more.

You could offer samples of new products as well, but just make sure they are relvant to the customer- I recently received a “normal” version of a “hypo-allergenic” product I had returned due to an allergy! Clearly this was not personalized, so disappointed rather than delighted me.

Coffee Houses & Bakeries

Customer expectations satisfied with coffeeInstead of the usual fillings of bakery items, how about adding “surprise” additions. For example, how about jam donuts with jam and cream cheese for an added, surprising delight – I actually had this at the Bagel Isl and, Big Pine Key and would love to go back again to try some of their other surprising offers.

I have also bought chocolates with very creative flavours, both savoury and sweet, that were given as samples with my brew in a coffee house. I was delighted to have found something original to present to my guests and they were surprised and delighted to have also discovered soemthing new. The chocolates certainly got my guests talking and enjoying the chanllenge of guessing the ingredients when they tasted and shared the chocolates!

Car Rental

Alamo  and National, and maybe others I am not aware of, offer their customers the full choice of cars to rent  within their reserved price range, rather than the company deciding which car they will give to each renter. This way, you feel that you have far more choice and are in control of your rental agreement, much more so than you do with other companies.

Recognition can also be shown to regular customers through a last-minute free upgrade, especially at busy times of the year when certain models are unavailable. People rarely complain if they are given a better service than they expected, but almost always when their exected desires are not met.

I have also received a small attention on leaving the parking of some rental companies – a bottle of water in summer, a CD of seasonal music at Christmas, Halloween c andies in October. It is not so much the small gift as the surprise that delights.

Airlines

Many airlines are now offering premium economy service, where their clients are treated, at least on the ground, like a business traveler, rather than as an economy passenger. The first time this happens, it comes as a pleasant surprise and I can imagine will likely make their passengers more loyal to the service and perhaps also to the airline in the future, in the same way as complementary upgrades do / did.

Consumer Packaged Goods

Extra ingredients or novel packaging ideas that add sensorial experiences to the product, can bring memorable experiences even to commoditized products. For example, Nestlé brought out a cream desert that had a chocolate layer you cracked with your spoon; Herbal Essence shampoos had significant success with special perfumes; Pantene ProV with its unique pack colours and solid “clunking” lid closure; Bud Light Premium which sells in an unusual rich, blue bottle; scratch patches on air fresheners and laundry products. There are many ways to add additional surprising sensorial experiences to your offers, you just have to think like your target customer and know what would delight them.

Offering surprising and delighting extras is one way to make your customers remember your product or service, and almost guarantee repurchase and loyalty, since competitive products don’t have them. Surprising your customers makes an emotional bond that intensifies their experience, so they will remember not only your br and, but also the additional pleasure that is relived each time they think about it. Price also then becomes less of a factor of choice and enables you to weather the storm of a competitive environment and helps you getting involved in price-wars.

So what can you do differently, to surprise and delight your own customers? Think about what you or your category competitors normally do, but then do it in a slightly different way. Customers will be woken from their mindless, habitual behaviour, and will be made to sit up and take more notice of what you are offering. 

As you saw from the above examples, these extras don’t need to cost a lot to be unexpected, they just need to be in some way related to your product so the link remains in the customer’s mind next time they go shopping. 

What other ways have you found to surprise and delight your customers? Have you, yourself been delighted by a special touch you have found in a product or service? Please share your ideas below.

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This post has been adapted from one which first appeared on C³Centricity Dimensions on March 23rd 2012

What Martin Luther King & Apple have in Common: Inspiration & Excitement

The world’s press is full of references to Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech this week. This is because Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of one of the key moments in American civil rights history, even if these days the 28th August 1963 is better remembered for King’s speech than the March on Washington itself.

Some claim that the speech was in fact something of an afterthought and came about because one of his supporters supposedly whispered in his ear to “Tell them about your dream.” His speech inspired thous ands of people then and continues to do so even fifty years on. It also inspired me to write this post, although I need to paraphrase it slightly:

“I have a dream that one day this world will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all products are created equal”

Even altered they remain inspiring words indeed, but unfortunately, when it comes to innovation, successful new products are rarely created equal. Why then did I find my inspiration for this post in them? Because I believe that the main reason many new products don’t sell as expected, is because they are sold as such – as just new products!

Today’s consumer has so much choice that product benefits on their own rarely sell. Consumers dem and so much more. They ask that they are in fact sold a dream! An inspiration to believe in a better world for them and their families.

Apple logo brings inspiration
SOURCE: Apple.com

Does Apple sell just a computer, an MP3 player, a mobile phone? No, they sell creativity, excitement and individualism. I am not criticising their products, they are of course fantastic, but rather highlighting that even if their products are sometimes said to be better than their competitors, Apple is selling each one emotionally. They have found a way to build excitement, longing and love into each one of them. Who else has people camping out overnight to be amongst the first proud owners of their latest product? Apple has enabled each and every consumer to feel unique, special, privileged, an individual. And in this mass market world that we live in, this is certainly something that we all desire, dare I say crave?

So what can we learn from Martin Luther King and Apple in launching new products that will sell? Many things I am sure, but here are the first three that came to me:

  1. Inspire a dream – why will your customer’s life be better with your product or service, and I mean emotionally not just rationally? Describe and picture their future with your product or service in it, and make them crave it even before it is launched.
  2. Build emotion – make consumers excited by the launch; build anticipation, make the wait an integral  part of the sell, so that they will be lining up to buy it. Use tease campaigns, get press coverage, talk about it in interviews and on the TV weeks, even months before launch if you can. Forget fears of the competitionve; they know more than you think and often more than your own employees!
  3. Provide individualism – make consumers feel privileged to have bought it, whether this is through great after-sales service, automatic club membership, personalised offers or limited editions; even limiting distribution can work, although this needs to be done very cautiously, as it can have the opposite effect and disappoint rather than inflame the desired longing.

With so many new product failures today – I have heard anything from 80% to 95% – consumers have become blasé about them. They dem and more and better and rarely stay satisfied for long. This is why innovation has become a major part of business planning and success – or failure. Consumers know that if they are not immediately satisfied, there are many more opportunities out there in the market and new products to try. Building loyalty comes from connecting with your consumer on an emotional level, so that there is no comparison to competitive products and services, even if they are in reality very similar or cheaper at a rational level.

What other keys do you see to new product launch succcess today? What would you add to my starter for three? Do you have your own list? Please let me know if I have “inspired you emotionally as an individual” to comment here.

For more ideas on successful innovation, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision

Need help in reinventing your innovation to inspire, excite and delight your customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

This post has been adapted from one that was publised on C3Centricity Dimensions on March 15th 2012

Where’s Home? Using Br and Source as a Competitive Advantage

Thanks to sc andals in many countries in the last few years, the global Food and Beverage industry has been forced to recognise that consumers want to know where products are made and from where their ingredients come.

Most US retail food stores are now required to inform consumers about the country of origin of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. The final rule to implement country-of-origin labeling (COOL) took effect on March 16, 2009 there. Sales of prepared dishes containing beef dropped significantly in Europe earlier this year and this resulted in lower prices for wholesalers and eventually also for the farmers. According to Reuters, a recent poll run by Consumer Intelligence in the UK, showed that more than 65% of respondents said they trusted food labels less as a result of recent incidents, so in fact the whole food industry has been impacted.

This interest in sourcing is happening in other industries too, but rather than seeing these dem anding consumers as a challenge, you can answer their thirst for information and turn it into a competitive advantage.  To illustrate how you can do this for your br ands, here are a few br ands, including some of the global heavyweights,  that have done exactly this.

Beverages

Wine, alcohol and coffee have always been sold primarily on origin, because it has a significant impact on taste and consumers’ enjoyment of the products. However the br ands in these categories have usually been built upon their blending expertise or regional knowledge.

SOURCE: Nestle.com

Although tea has also used sourcing to differentiate itself, it is only recently, with the launch of Nestlé’s Special T that a br and has built itself based upon the country of origin of its ingredients. Special T offers teas from five regions of the world, Japan, China, India, Ceylon and South Africa and claims to propose to tea-lovers the same quality and ease of preparation as the very successfulNespresso system.

 

Electronics

Apple.com

This post was prompted in part by the latest, rather indulgent campaign of Apple. The company has been running a cross-media ad campaign with the sign-off “Our Signature“, to state and reinforce its core values. Whilst it cannot claim American sourcing, it has cleverly made an association with the US through their claim “Designed by Apple in California”.

Some, dare I say many, consumers will “hear” American and attribute a better image to the br and than they would with the reality of Asian sourcing (no criticism intended). The ad is also, at least in my opinion, a covert attack on Samsung’s iPhone-threatening Galaxy range whilst also responding to the growing dem and in many countries to repatriate labour from Asia.

Apple has responded to their customers’ need for information by turning a possible perceived negative (Asian sourcing) into a positive (Californian design). Very clever.

 

Cars

Renault logo

Certain industries have perceived best-in-class country associations; take French perfume, Egyptian cotton or Italian fashion. German cars have also been seen as the most robust and well made, at least in Europe, even if they are not always the most attractive in terms of design. The German br and Opel has used the German quality associations as their selling point for both their Corsa and Meriva cars for many years. Thecampaign is so popular that there have been many parodies made and posted on Youtube, including one by French manufacturer Renault. In the latter video, the seller presents his new Renault Mégane with a German accent and phrases, in the exact same style as in the Opel ad; quite amusing and extremely flattering for Opel.

 

How a br and can use COE

According to Wikipedia, the country-of-origin effect (COE) is a psychological effect which occurs when customers are unfamiliar with a product (quality) and the image of the product’s country of origin has a “halo effect” on the customers’ evaluation of the product itself. The country associated with the product may be the country of manufacture, place of assembly, or even just the country in which the company has its HQ. A positive country image may allow marketers to introduce new products while quickly gaining customer recognition and acceptance.

Where is your br and designed, made, or assembled; are your company headquarters in a country with a strong perception that could be used to improve the image of your br and? If so, then you can use it to great effect whilst also answering your customers’ need for more information. A real win-win.

Do you have any other great examples of br ands using the image perceptions of its br and’s country source? If so, please share them below, we’d all love to hear from you.

If you would like to know more about br anding, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

Need help in underst anding your br and image and equity or defining suitable metrics? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here.

How to Innovate better than Apple

Last week I gave a lecture to a group of Executive MBA students at Miami University. It was a fabulous new experience for me, having only done lecturing in European Business Schools until now. There were lots of great questions and many comments about why organisations do what they do when looking to innovate.

It’s always easier to identify the sub-optimal processes a company uses when you’re on the outside and even easier to suggest possible changes that are needed, but when you are in the heat of the action, it is not so obvious.

I therefore thought it would be useful to list some of the ideas we came up with, in the hope that it will help all those challenged to improve the status quo within their own organisations and to provide some new ways to look at innovating outside the box.

 

#1 What business are you in?

When you are looking to innovate, instead of starting with your own current technology and skills, or products and services, how about taking a step back and thinking about what business you are really in. Lego is a great example; they realised that they were not selling (just) toys; they understood that they were in the imagination business. Which business are you in? Do you have an opportunity to redefine it? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Food: Family Time, Neutraceuticals – offer family sized portions, children’s play areas, partner with another industry as Nestlé did with L’Oreal when creating Inneov
  • Cigarettes: Personal Pleasure – tobacco companies should be going far beyond their current simplified expansion into electronic cigarette offerings
  • Alcohol / Beverages: Fun / Relaxation: br and lounges, music, video or internet services
  • Pharmaceuticals: Wellness – instead of curing or treating, offer prevention

 

#2. Can you add something new to an existing product?

Professor Steenkamp Knox Massey Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Area Chair of Marketing at Kenan-Flagler, proved back in 2007 that at least for Fast Moving Consumer Goods, small innovations (which are often referred to as renovations) can be just as successful as large step-changing breakthrough innovations. His research came to the conclusion that it was the ones that fall in the middle of “newness” that don’t meet with significant customer success. So what small changes can you make to your current offer to make it more appealing?

How about adding sound to a food, as Kellogg’s did with their Rice Crispies or Nestlé did by adding a layer of chocolate to the top of their cream deserts in France? Or what about adding smell to your outlet, as bakers and coffee houses already do these days, or Singapore Airlines did many years ago? A small change can have a big impact, especially if tapping into a different sensory perception from those customers are used to having stimulated.

 

#3. Can you add a service to the product?

Some products are actually designed to work with services, which are quite often the more expensive part of the sales equation (e.g. razors and blades or espresso capsules which are not only br and specific but can also only be bought online). However, there are other products that have provided additional services to their customers, by building upon their relationship with them, and boosting loyalty, even significantly in many cases. Examples include:

  • Starbucks offer more than coffee; their outlets are a “home away from home”, offering comfy sofas, free internet, tables for working and meetings
  • Purina offers pet insurance
  • Gerber offers college fund investment packages

 

#4. Can you change the packaging to make it more convenient?

Observe how your customers are using your product in their normal daily lives, as well as the products of your major competitors. Identify issues they have whilst using it, or ways they compensate for a product that is less than ideal for them and then add this extra benefit not offered by your competitors. Some recent examples:

  • Adding a simple h andle to a larger pack makes it easier for your customers to carry; these can be found on Dog Food and Toilet Paper, but not on all Cat Food and Kitchen Towels
  • Repackaging your product into smaller or single portion packs, if this is how most of your customers are using it. Incidentally these single portion packs may find a further use in developing markets where the price point is important for attracting potential new customers.
  • Inverting the tube of thick or creamy substances – as Heinz did for the Ketchup, or many toothpaste manufacturers did for some of their br ands

 

#5. Can you combine some of your current offers or extend a br and into an adjacent category

P&G have many examples of doing this very successfully, following the reduction in the number of br ands they offered about ten years ago. For example, they combined the sheeting action of Cascade & the water-filtering technology from PUR to create a spotless car-wash product under the Mr. Clean br and. Both Nestlé and Unilever have extended their confectionery br ands into ice-cream bars.

 

#6. Can you deliver the product or service in a different way?

Many airlines, including British Airways and Air France, now offer a fourth class on board their aircraft, premium economy / coach. The extra services they offer include priority check-in and boarding together with business class, as well as more legroom and better services on board than economy / coach.

Zappos has been built on service and they even have it in their slogan “Powered by Service”. They regularly surprise and delight their customers by offering express delivery for free. As their CEO Tony Hsieh is quoted as saying:

“Customer Service shouldn’t be a department;

it should be the entire company”

How could you surprise and delight your own customers by exceptional or additional services?

These examples have hopefully stimulated your own thinking, to take it outside your current innovation box. If you have other ideas, then please share them below; we would love to hear about your own creative examples.

However, if you would like support in reinventing your own innovation, why not do like many of our clients and start your journey in the fast-lane, by asking for a 1-Day catalyst session? We would love to catalyse your business to even greater success.

For more information on innovating brilliantly, please also check out our website: www.C3Centricity.com

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

Successful Innovation comes from answering Desires not Needs

What is the difference between a need and a desire? Emotion, that’s what. A need is something for which someone has a necessity; a desire is something they want or crave, whether they know it or not.

There are the three main types of products or services that companies offer; it is important that you underst and the difference between them as well as what you are offering or planning to innovate, if you are to be successful.

Some organisations speak about articulated, unarticulated and unimagined needs, but they miss the power of emotions if they are considering all three as simply needs to be addressed. Unless there is an emotional connection between what you are selling and what your customer perceives he is buying, you are likely to remain at the level of a commodity, or at best are restricted in the price you can charge. Only emotional connection brings passion into the equation, when customers desire or crave your product or service and are willing to pay (almost) anything to have it.

Examples of Great Emotional Connection

Think about Apple as a great example of a company that brings passion into their products, so that potential customers pre-order or spend the night queuing in front of the shop in order to have the privilege to give Apple their money in exchange for the latest gadget.

Now I love Apple as much as most people, but are their products really worth more than their competitors? Was the iPod really that much better for listening to music on the go? Probably not, but it is their customers’ desire to be a part of the Apple “family” that makes them crave their products.

Another example is Marlboro cigarettes. Do they really taste better than other br ands? Maybe, but it is not the taste (alone) that makes smokers remain loyal to the br and; rather a feeling of community and adherence to a desired image.

And speaking of taste, what about colas? The now famous brain imaging study run by Baylor College of Medicine – you can read more about it here – showed that consumers thought Pepsi tasted better that Coke, but there was something very different happening in the brain when consumers thought they were drinking Coke or Pepsi. It was what the consumers were thinking that made the difference, a result of br anding.

So what can you do to make your customers think differently about your br and, so that they remain loyal to it, desire it and even crave your product or service? Bring in and stimulate their emotions; here are four ideas on how this can be done:

#1. Make them feel special, different, privileged

This can be achieved through:

  • higher prices – many premium and luxury products are priced more on image than on cost and their customers are happy to pay more for the associated image that has been created
  • membership to a br and club with special privileges – Nespresso is a great example of this; their clients get to order online and even get asked their opinion or to choose new flavours
  • personalised offers – unlike clubs, these are offered to a wider group of purchasers (on a mailing list for example) but the wording of communication and the offers proposed are personalised to each target group, so they are perceived as more personal

#2. Stimulate more of your customers’ senses

So that competitive products are disappointing in comparison. As Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown, mentioned in his blog post Sensory br anding and sensible questions, “The research conducted for BRANDSense confirms that memories of the sensory br and experience do have an important role to play in encouraging br and loyalty. The stronger, more positive and differentiating, people’s sensory memories are of a br and, the more likely they will be to consider it for repeat purchase”. For example:

  • add sound and texture to a food through a hard coating, as many ice-creams offer today
  • provide extra sensations in the mouth through additional ingredients; c andy and chewing-gum often offer these as new sensations
  • surprise through special perfumes for household products; remember the popularity of “green apple” a few years back?
  • astonish with unusual colours for personal care products; have you tried the range of Pantene colours, the shampoo I mean!
  • amaze through special textures of creams or clothing; luxury face products are often claimed to have a richer, creamier or more “melting” texture.

#3. Involve your customers in the innovation process

Even if your customers don’t always know or can’t express what they want, they are usually much clearer about what they don’t want. Listen to them describe their experiences with your product or service category and the pain-points they have. What do they like, dislike; what would they change? And more widely, what do they think about the category, their situation when needing or using your product or service, what feelings they have using ir?

By getting them involved from the start, you are much more likely to satisfy their rational needs and emotional desires, AND you will encourage discussion as they share their experiences with their friends, family and perhaps even wider on the web.

#4. Build excitement through communications

Many products and services are launched with a “teaser” campaign that sets and builds customers’ expectations for weeks, if not months before launch. This certainly can make your target audience excited with anticipation, but the new product must deliver on its promises.

Remember the launch of the completely redesigned BMW Series 5 in Europe about 10 years ago, which had to be quickly replaced with the older design when current owners rejected the modernisation? Or what about the more recent launch of the BMW 5 Series GT in the US, which had 5 Series Touring customers running to rival Mercedes-Benz and many current Series 7 owners downgrading to the cheaper car? As with any product or service, you must deliver what is promised and this becomes doubly important if you fire your future customers with excitement for the new launch.

These are just four ways in which you can bring more emotion into your innovations; I know there are many more, so why not share your own experiences here? We would love to hear how you have brought more emotion into your products and services.

For more on Innovation, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

If you are struggling to bring emotion into your products or communications, please contact us, we can certainly help support you through advice or a 1-Day Catalyst session. NO obligation, just a great OPPORTUNITY!

C3Centricity.com uses images from Dreamstime.com

Innovation: the First Step to Survival: 3 Steps to Harnessing Innovation for your Future

The first three months of 2012 have proven, once again, the existence of a br and life cycle— and that those who do not re-invent themselves to stay relevant ultimately face demise. 

Kodak—once the darling of Wall Street—files for bankruptcy, while Apple—whose stock was trading at $14.68 USD pre-split in 2001—is now trading at over $600 USD per share, and is considered the most valuable company in the world.

Many say that what led to Kodak’s failure was their lack of innovation.  That may be your perception, particularly in comparison to Apple, considered the gold st andard in developing categories no one knew they needed—MP3 players, smart phones, tablets, the list goes on.  (In reality, Apple was not the first in many of these categories.  But who among us recalls those early br ands??)

Yet, I would argue that what sets these two organizations apart was their DIFFUSION of Innovation – how they gained acceptance of their innovations!

E.M. Rogers, in Diffusion of Innovation defines “Diffusion” as the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system.

You can’t argue that Kodak wasn’t innovative.  They invented the digital camera.  Today, it is proposing to sell 1,100 of its digital imaging patents, just 10% of those it holds.  What they did not do, however, was take the lead in gaining customer acceptance of those innovations – others did!

Best practice Diffusion of Innovation

Apple on the other h and, followed Rogers’ model almost in text book form.  Take the introduction of the iPod as an example:

  • Rather than focus on the device’s memory in terms of bits and gigs, Apple’s communications highlighted the RELATIVE ADVANTAGE of the iPod to its customers – “1,000 songs in your pocket” was the headline when the iPod was introduced in 2001.
  • As the iPod became available for PCs, it was marketed for its COMPATIBILITY
  • Apple Stores encourage h ands-on TRIALABILITY
  • Celebrity endorsements demonstrate OBSERVABILITY
  • While marketing messages are always SIMPLE

Apple certainly aligned itself with these innovations, going so far as to change its name from Apple Computers to Apple in 2007, freeing itself from the ties that bound it to the computer industry.  One must ask if Kodak ever saw itself as more than a film company.

The 3 Lessons of Innovation

But, the lessons do appear to be clear:

  1. While short term profitability is required to satisfy shareholders, future forward thinking (5, 10, 20 years out) is required.  Where are you going?  Where do you want to be?
  2. Define who you are and what you do in a way that allows for innovations / evolutions as markets and your customers’ needs changes.  Apple redefined itself from a computer company to a broader technology company – literally changing its name.
  3. Certainly don’t believe that if you build it, they will come.  Gaining acceptance and adoption of a category shifting innovation is a science, as outlined above.  There are key steps to take.  Skip them at your own risk.

Time will tell if Apple can maintain this momentum.  Kodak’s fall didn’t happen overnight.  It was founded in 1880, spending decades enjoying its leadership position.  In comparison, Apple is only a baby.  Let’s check back in 100 years to see if Apple still is the darling it is today.

For more information about C³Centricity’s partner PhaseOne Communications, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/about/

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