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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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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

Why Implementing Global Creative is Risky

We are pleased to share with you another guest post from C3Centricity partner PhaseOne, our communication experts. This week Terry Villines, their SVP speaks about the challenges of taking campaigns global.

Why implementing global creative is risky:  5 market factors must align. If just one of them is off, the entire initiative will likely fail!

Most major, global organizations have tried it – attempted to use the same creative around the world, across markets.   Coca-Cola has tried it, so has Procter & Gamble, Unilever and even luxury br ands like Rolex and Patek Phillipe.

The argument for implementing a creative campaign on a global scale is strong.  When it works, it saves money (a lot of money); it provides br and stewards with a high level of control; it also ensures consistent implementation of a br and strategy with no wavering.  And, when it works, it can work BIG – take for instance Unilever’s Dove br and and their Real Beauty campaign from a few years ago.  This global work beat the odds and changed the way people think of beauty and changed the way we as advertisers communicate about beauty.

But what about all those cases where it doesn’t work?  Why does a campaign with a strong launch in Italy not work in the UK?  What about those powerful US ads that when taken to Europe, Asia or South America fall flat?  In examining case after case it becomes clear that there has to be almost precise alignment across 5 different market factors for a campaign to be successful across markets – if even one of them is off, the campaign and its investment are lost.

#1. Your Br and’s Equity

Does your target audience think about your br and the same way across all markets — do they have the same associations?  Do the br and’s values and its personality resonate at the same levels across all markets?  If so, then you are one step closer to having confidence global creative will work.  But, if awareness is high and attitudes are strong in one market and they suffer in another, then there is a high level of certainty that the same advertising will not work in both markets.

 

 #2. Your Br and Market Share / Market Position

Do you have consistent market share in each and every market in which you compete?  If you do, you are one of a very rare breed; however, it is much more likely that your market position varies.  Whether you’re a strong leader with few challengers working to grow the category and hold market share, or a challenger against stronger br ands trying to steal market share, it is almost impossible for the same kind of creative and messaging to work across all of these situations.

 

 #3. Competitive Actions

In examining the competitive environment, a number of variables must be considered.  How many competitors are there? – very crowded categories require different actions than less crowded categories.  What is the level of spend by competitors? – some competitors are more dedicated to certain markets, investing greatly in them.  Are they buying market share?  Are you prepared to compete?  What are your competitors claiming? – we often see that the claims competitors make vary by market.  Just because your message is perceived to be different in one market doesn’t mean it will be perceived as distinctive on a global scale.

 

#4. Category Penetration / Maturity

One of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make today is to assume that advertising they create for well established br ands within very mature markets will work in the markets where the category as a whole is just emerging – those markets from which future growth will come.  What they are forgetting is that the audience’s familiarity with the category dictates how much you have to explain, versus what you can assume they will readily know.

 

 #5. Target Audience / Cultural

We as human beings are complex.  Yes, there are some core things that tie us together – we all have needs that we strive to satisfy.  But even then, what our needs are and how they are expressed vary – much of that driven by culture.  More times than not, global campaigns fail by not taking into consideration the cultural differences between the markets.  This is particularly true when humor is involved.  What one culture views as funny could be offensive to another. Culture can also impact how our target audiences approach the category, for example for cleaning products – what “clean” means varies across cultures.  We see great variance for games and toys – are they for independent enjoyment or do they bring people together?  There are very few categories in which we have worked where the target audience’s approach to the category (why they turn to that category) is universal.

If you hope to behave the same across all markets, but there is not alignment across all 5 of these factors, then there is a very high probability of failure.  BUT, it doesn’t mean that you have to avoid a global campaign at all cost.  Making up for market difference through other behaviors (Sampling, Public Relations, Below-the-Line efforts) can overcome an imbalance.

What top-of-mind global campaigns can you think of?  Were they truly global (same creative around the world) or where they driven by a global strategy with local implementation?  With the complex differences we have around the world, do you think a global creative campaign is possible?

If you would like help in taking locally successful campaigns global, then please contact us for an informal chat. For more information about how to better connect with your customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Creative Messaging for Competitive Advantage

Most companies have issues with their products at times. Often they don’t immediately correct them unless they are considered to be significant and could have a direct impact on sales.

You could argue that this will always be the case eventually, so better resolve them as soon as they are identified. Some companies however are creative enough to turn what others might see as an issue into a competitive advantage. Let me give you a couple of examples.

 

Pringles Freshness Seal

Most consumers associate bulging lids and packs with a product that has deteriorated in some way. This is not at all the case of Pringles, for which a bulging seal under the plastic cap is a sign of freshness apparently, or at least is a normal phenomenon.

What I love about the br and is that whereas in the past the seal’s surface was used for communicating promotions and competitions, it is now used to send a positive message to their consumers about this situation.

On a pack I recently bought the seal was printed with the words “Bursting with flavour”. How is that for making a positive out of what might have been perceived as a negative? I love it! It adds to the br and’s image and also to the taste and pleasure expectations for the consumer who is about to open the pack. I can imagine that this came directly out of consumer insights, to answer a query about why the seal was always bulging, which as I already mentioned would usually be associated with a product that had “gone off”.

 

Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Another br and which has recently started using the “Bursting with Flavour” tag on their pack is Heinz. However I am not sure whether it has the same impact as it does on Pringles. Heinz started inverting their ketchup bottles in 2003, because their product was so thick it took time to slide down the bottle and onto the plate. This resulted in impatient consumers banging the bottom of the bottle, leading to the product being shaken out in a burst of splashes, not only on the plate but the consumer and tablecloth too! Perhaps this is where they got the original idea for the slogan.

Whilst I admire Heinz for putting different, and usually very relevant, messages on their ketchup bottles, the lastest one I saw didn’t live up to the others in my opinion. Why? Because the product is now much thinner and slides easily when the bottleis upturned. In fact it is so thin it doesn’t even need to be turned upside down anymore. As for bursting with flavour; it might have been appropriate in the past, but not any longer for this thin sauce. Pity.

 

The strange taste of Marmite

In contrast to Heinz, another well-documented example of a product that converted an issue to its advantage, is that of Unilever’s Marmite. Marmite claims to be a nutritious savoury spread, although non-Brits would describe it more as a very strange tasting concoction. Even UK consumers are divided in their opinion of it; they either love it or hate and there is apparently no half-way sentiment here.

Marmite created a very successful campaign around this love / hate relationship with the product which has now become a social phenomenon, and this divide has even been emphasised in their advertising and on the web. In the UK they even sell Marmite flavoured food – chocolate and cashew nuts – as well as br anded T Shirts, Kitchenware, Books, Cooking, Merch andise and more. How would you like your consumers to pay their hard earned money not only for your products, but for br anded promotional goods too?

In 2011, Unilever took the love / hate relationship into the kitchen, by developing and sharing simple recipes using Marmite for people who hate to cook. Each commercial of the campaign, called “Haute Cuisine, Love Marmite Recipes” ends with the “u” in Haute being blocked by a jar of Marmite, making “Hate Cuisine” and continuing the love / hate theme with which Marmite has become associated. If you would like to see some of the ads from the campaign, you can find them  here  and their website is  www.marmite.co.uk .

These are just three examples of creative messaging but there are many more br ands that have turned a negative into a positive and made it an appealing competitive advantage. Does your br and have an issue and if so could you turn it into a strength? Do you have any other examples you can think of? I would love to hear about your ideas.

This post has been adapted from one first published on March 29th 2012

For more ideas on br anding check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

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