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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

A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation (and 3 Secrets Shared)

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Whether you believe that 60% of new product launches fail, or the number is 80% or 95%+, the truth is that successful innovation is rare. Why is this? Read on for my own ideas of the reasons and propositions for some simple solutions.

Last year I wrote a highly popular post on “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.” In it, I spoke about the importance of starting the innovation process with customers. I also mentioned that it should be a virtuous circle rather than the funnel that most organisations still use today. 

This time, I want to examine the role of the customer in successful innovation. And why they should actually have a prominent position throughout the process.

 

Start with the Category rather than (just) the Customer

Every customer-centric organisation should start their processes with a review of the customers they are looking to please. But to do this, the first step to both insight development and successful innovation is to identify the category in which you are, or want to compete. Especially when looking to innovate, it is vital to identify what business you are in.

Now you probably can immediately answer that question but would you be right?

A recent client of mine was looking to launch a juice flavoured soft drink. They naturally (?) thought they would be in competition to juices. When we dug deeper, using our “Home or Away™” decision tool, we found they were actually competing with energy drinks for athletes!

Another practice I use is to zoom in or out when looking at a category, in order to identify new opportunities. Today’s technological world is forcing many organisations to take another look at their complete business models – whether they like it or not!

  • Telecoms have become geolocalization data providers to other industries.
  • Pharmaceuticals are being forced (?) to move from treating illness to maintaining wellness.
  • Food companies are moving into nutraceuticals, concentrating the health benefits of certain foods. (have they really only recently understood that our health comes primarily from the food we eat?!)
  • Tobacco companies are reinventing personal pleasure systems with e-cigarettes and other tobacco replacement products. In fact, André Calantzopoulos, Philip Morris International’s CEO recently predicted a “phase-out period” for cigarettes.
  • Alcohol providers are turning more and more to lower and non-alcoholic drinks trying to keep up with the interest in wellness. They have understood that whereas drinking is a social behaviour, most people no longer include getting drunk with that sociability.

From these examples, it is clear that most companies could benefit from a re-evaluation of their assumed category, to see whether it has or will change in the near or longer-term future.

Once the category is defined, it becomes much easier to identify the correct customer segment to target. Of course, you still need to get to know them through customer connection sessions. And then complete both a customer persona and journey map for them. (You do have these don’t you?)

 

Your business is or will change - fast - so don't depend on your skills alone

One of the problems I see when I first start working with a new client is that they start their innovation process from their strengths, their technical and product skills. While this may deliver quicker introductions, it is more likely to produce renovations and certainly not ground-breaking innovations.

This is such a standard "no-brainer" way of innovating that many companies find themselves out of business as a result.

  • Kodak thought it was in the photo business and not in the memory and souvenir business. They consequently lost out to digital, despite having the technology
  • Borders thought they were in the print book business rather than the storytelling business. As a result, they lost out to Kindle, despite a late reaction with the launch of Kobo. For now, Barnes & Nobles have managed to join the race with their Nook, but for how long? It will be interesting to see whether Amazon's quiet expansion of its physical bookstores will support or sound the death knell for other outlets.
  • Blockbuster video rental lost their dominance of the home entertainment industry to streaming options like RedBox and Netflix.

These are a few examples of businesses that have changed, leaving the category leaders high and dry with no-one to blame but themselves for their lack of scenario planning. (This won't happen to you, will it?)

Music trends on and offlineAnd what about AI and VR and their impact on TV,  gaming, music today?

Speaking of which, look at the graph on the right which shows the incredibly fast change from offline to online music. In less than ten years online passed offline and all but annihilated it!

This is how fast and well prepared all businesses need to be today.

Many industries have been cloned into totally new businesses as a result of technology and new customer priorities.

As already mentioned, Telecom companies now make more money selling geolocalization data than they do selling phones and lines.

So what about some other industries that are being impacted by changes in customer behaviour and preferences?

As just one example of this, Food companies must now adapt to delivering family time, not just ready-made meals. There has therefore been an explosion in meal kits because families want to eat better and even prepare together.

 

The future of the future

But enough about the past and present, how can you prepare for the future and have successful innovations? What new areas are some of the larger online companies buying into today and why?

Google has gone from Internet-related products and services to hardware such as Pixel smartphones and Google Home, an Amazon Echo-like device. It has also expanded into a multitude of other industries, through partnerships and investments. These include energy, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and eye-tracking. It's clear that they intend to stay up-to-date if not ahead of fast-moving trends and be ready to take advantage of them. Read more on Wikipedia.

Perhaps in preparation, in the last year or so Google has reorganised its various interests into a conglomerate called Alphabet. Google remains the umbrella company for Alphabet's Internet interests, but this restructuring no doubt announces more to come.

Virgin has gone from airlines, media and entertainment, to travel, health and aerospace. You can read about all their industries and investments on Wikipedia.

Amazon has gone from an online bookstore to the general retail of a vast selection of products. Today it is testing bricks and mortar stores for both books and general groceries. You can again read more about this on Wikipedia.

Facebook started as a social media and networking service. One year ago, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed his ten-year vision, centred around artificial intelligence, global connectivity, VR and AR. Read more on Wikipedia.

Tesla started in the automotive industry but has since moved into energy storage and residential solar panels. Today it is advancing into underground high-speed transport and space travel.

All these examples show the importance of being ready to adapt to fast changes impacting many industries at lightning speed. We no longer have the luxury of time to wait, watch and learn as we once did. Future scenario planning is the only way to be ready for all eventualities and to be able to quickly jump into any new opportunities before our competitors do.

 

Your next steps to future-proofing your innovation

Some of my clients understand that they are not as well-prepared as they need to be for successful innovation. In my training course I propose many different ideas; here are just a few of them:

#1. Working with new innovation levers

As already mentioned, most organisations start innovating from their past successes and current skills. While this is certainly quick, it is unlikely to lead to successful innovations. Why not challenge yourself to look at your business from a new perspective? 

Challenge yourself to look at your business from a new perspective. #innovation #Business Click To Tweetsuccessful innovations come from using multiple levers

The diagram on the right is a simplified example of the innovation wheel that I use in brainstorming sessions with clients who are tired of thinking within their boxes.

A personally adapted and developed wheel is a powerful tool to get people to think differently about their brand, category or offer. The brand expansion it encourages has seen brands like:

  • Gerber and Purina move into insurance.
  • Nespresso move into china and chocolate.
  • Mars move into ice cream.
  • Vicks (P&G) move from various cold remedies into a sleep-aid.

What all these examples have in common is a deep understanding of both their customers and their own brand image.

 

When one or both of these are missing, you get epic failures like the examples below:

Coca-Cola Clothing: while it may work for sponsorships and promotions, clothing didn't work for them - this time around?

Coca-Cola clothing nor successful innovation
Image source: eBay

Zippo perfume for women: Zippos got it spectacularly wrong with this offer on many fronts. Smoking and especially Zippo lighters have very masculine images. Replacing the wonderfully exotic and luxury glass bottles of perfume by this was never going to work!

Zippos perfume not successful innovation
Image source: Fragrantica

 

Colgate frozen food: The only thing that frozen entrees and toothpaste have in common is that after the first you need the second! From that to expecting consumers to make the jump from minty mouths to chicken was just too much!

Colage entrees not successful innovation
Image source: Marketing Directo, Madrid

 

 

#2. Zooming out for brands and categories

When you are successful in one category, it can be tempting to extend into others. However, this needs to be done after careful thought. Go too far from the parent brand, as the above examples did and you'll be doomed to failure. Stay too close and you'll not benefit from anything more than a mere renovation.

Will BabyNew be a successful innovation?
Image source: BabyNes

Companies which expand successfully are those that build on their strengths, whether image, position or technical know-how. One example I like to share of a successful innovation using this idea comes from Nespresso's owner Nestle.

They expanded from capsules for coffee (Nespresso) into capsules for both hot and cold drinks (Dolce Gusto).

Nestle then expanded their systems into BabyNes, a capsule system for bottle feeding.

I can imagine they will be looking to extend their system even further in the future. Perhaps they will consider adding minerals, vitamins and supplements to food and drinks, or targeting specific groups of consumers such as seniors or athletes. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

 

#3. Zooming into a category niche

It is possible to innovate by zooming in rather than out of the category in which you are in. There are again many examples of this since, in theory at least, it is simpler to do. You already know the category customers and can segment to appeal more strongly to certain groups of them.

Food manufacturers use this strategy a lot. They often extend into low calorie or low fat, and more recently into gluten-free, OMG-free or lactose-free offerings.

Online marketers depend a lot upon finding the right niche for their product or service offer. They have the advantage over bricks-and-mortar stores of collecting a wealth of personalised information. Together with machine learning, they can quickly develop algorithms to precisely target each person with relevant offers. Offline retail will never catch up, however long they collect data - unless they have an online sales strategy too, of course.

 

Conclusion

So there you have some ideas on how you can improve the frequency of launching successful innovations. Whether working with scenarios, innovation levers, zooming in or out, the one element every strategy has in common is customer understanding. You wouldn't expect anything less from me, would you? Going forward just remember:

  • It's important to know and understand your customers intimately today but also how they are likely to change tomorrow.
  • It's important to understand the category you really are competing in and what customers think about it.
  • It's important to understand your brand's image and ensure it's aligned with any future innovations you consider.

 

What new ways are you looking to successfully innovate in this fast-paced, constantly changing and challenging world? Please share your ideas and thoughts about the above ideas or add new ones below. Thanks.

New Thinking, New Ideas, New Successes!

Things have been pretty hectic for me these past few weeks. As you read this, I am in New York presenting at the CASRO Technology and Innovation Event, 6th to 7th June. If you’re attending the event, please stop me and say “HI”; it would be awesome to meet some of my American readers!

I then head down to Miami where I am guest lecturer of an Executive MBA course at Miami University. The following week I fly back up to Atlanta to speak and chair a session at IIeX-NA from 13th to 15th June.

If you’ve never been to an IIeX Insight Innovation Exchange event, then you’ve missed a really exciting conference. It’s run like a multi-channel TED event, where most of the presentations are just 15 minutes long. You are never bored and can learn and experience things you can’t find elsewhere. And if you want to learn even more, there are also longer workshop-style talks on a multitude of topics.

There’s still time to attend and using my special speaker discount code (SPEAKER20) you’ll get a very generous 20% off the full price! If you do attend, don’t forget to stop me and say “HI”.    

I’m Taking a Marketing Course!

As if the preparation for all these events wasn’t enough, I also started a marketing course a couple of months ago. You might wonder why I decided to do that when I spend my life advising others on their marketing. The reason is that we are never experts in every area and as we say in Switzerl and

“The cobbler’s children don’t wear shoes”.

In other words, we never seem to have the time to do what we help others to do. So true don’t you think?

The decision to invest in myself has been one of the best I’ve made in recent years, as it will simplify my day-to-day work. After all, they do say

“You have to spend time to save time”!

The best part of the program is that I now have someone telling me what to do and prioritising the steps in relaunching my website. There will also be some exciting new offers for you, my dear reader, like the webinar series I mentioned a while back.

During the weekly videos of each module of the course, I’m  getting exposed to many alternative platforms, systems and tools from the ones I already know. So it’s also making me a better digital marketer from which my clients will then benefit. A true win-win investment.

I now have someone telling me what to do and prioritising next steps. I’m also getting exposed to many alternative platforms, systems and tools from the ones I already know, so it’s also making me a better digital marketer for my clients. A true win-win investment.

Time for You to Learn Something New?

This has been a rather long introduction to say that I believe we should all invest in ourselves, every year. Attending workshops and conferences, hiring a coach, or asking someone to give us training on a topic are all excellent ways to invest wisely in ourselves. However, we can so easily get caught up in our day-to-day work, that we forget to do so, especially as we progress in our careers. I have always said that for me:

“A day without learning is a day without living”

But with so many years’ experience, I tended to limit myself to workshops and conferences. As a result, I never really challenged myself by opening my processes and tools to an external perspective. My marketing course is certainly making me feel very uncomfortable, but I am growing as a result.

Many organisations rely on internal training alone, so they find themselves in exactly the same situation as I was until recently. They never challenge their current thoughts and processes. This can be even worse in large corporations where the vast majority of employees “grew up” in the company, remaining tens of years in exactly the same environment – think P&G or Nestle. While this may indicate a great company, which I’m sure both are, it can result in a self-perpetuating belief that they are the best, in everything.

 

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Therefore, this week I am challenging you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. (>>Tweet this<<) I want you to expose your ideas and thinking to others, both inside and outside your company. Share your thoughts with people you don’t normally talk to. Ask their opinion about a question that you are finding difficult to answer.

You don’t have to take their advice, but just getting a different perspective can be extremely helpful in making your own mind clearer about what you should do. In the same way as “sleeping on it” often brings a solution in the morning, asking for differing views can help us to be sure about our own perspective.

I have just updated the C³Centricity training offers based upon my recent work with clients all over the world. These are the courses I now offer, all available as one and two-day sessions:

  • I2A – Insight to Action: Tired of not turning information and knowledge into underst anding and insight? This one-day or two-day course will take you from what is an insight, to how do you uncover them and then how to action them to grow your business.
  • I2I – Insight with Impact: Often market research and insight specialists are not very good at sharing everything they learn about the market and its customers. This course takes them on a journey to increased impact and visibility, to ensure the business optimally benefits from its information investments.
  • N³ – Next Generation Insights: Are you concerned that your definition and development process of insights may need updating? This course will take your team through an analysis of your current process. Together, we will then optimise and update those parts that are not state-of-the-art and work on a real case from one of your current challenges.
  • M³ – More Meaningful Market Research: When was the last time you reviewed your MR toolbox? There are many exciting new technologies and processes which can bring increased learnings about your customers. This course will also help you to identify the best KPIs to follow your business, as well as support you in renegotiating your ongoing contracts with suppliers.
  • C³ – Consistent, Creative Communications: Advertising campaigns are often developed in the same way and tested with outdated processes and metrics. With more communications moving to digital, a new approach is necessary. This course helps you to identify and prioritise the most relevant channels for your messages, as well as to measure the changes in your br and’s image, rationally, emotionally and culturally.
  • I³ – Immediately Improved Innovation: Exp and your innovations beyond your current technical skills. Incorporate new levers  and prioritise changes in your NPD processes and tools for more successful innovations.
  • S³ – Strategy and Sensitivity with Scenarios: Open your business to new ways of developing vision and strategy. Become proactive through effective scenario planning and get prepared for all possible future opportunities and risks.
  • B³ – Boosting Bolder Business: Identify the blockages in making needed changes within your organisation. Develop and successfully implement appropriate strategies and plans to catalyse your transformation.

Don’t these courses sound great? I am so excited to be able to offer them to companies around the world, no matter what the industry in which you may work. Being customer centric means the ideas and tools are relevant no matter what your challenges are and my vast global experience ensures a knowledgeable adaptation to your specific and cultural needs.

And don’t forget, if you would like to get a new perspective on something, I’m always ready to jump on a call to discuss with you. C³Centricity offers short, sharp catalyst sessions of a few hours to a full day or more. Perhaps this is exactly what you or your team need to move forward?

Challenge yourself to be comfortable with getting uncomfortable – it won’t last long before you are once again at ease, but in a bigger, brighter and better environment!

 

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

Try a New Perspective on Business Intelligence: How to get More Impact & Answers

Last week I presented at the first Swiss Business Intelligence Day. It was an inspiring conference to attend, with world-class keynote speakers opening the day. They included Professor Stephane Garelli from IMD, Philippe Nieuwbourg from Decideo  and Hans Hultgren from Genesee Academy.

After such an illustrious start, you can imagine that I was more than a little nervous to present my very non-IT perspective of business intelligence. However, the presentation did seem to go down well, so I want to share with you some of the ideas I talked about. Not surprisingly, with my passion for customer centricity and always with the end-user in mind, I took quite a different perspective from that of the majority of IT experts who were present.

BI should Collaborate More

With the explosion of data sources and the continuous flow of information into a company, managing data will become a priority for everyone.

statistic id forecast big data marketThe Big Data market, which more than doubled last two years, is forecast to triple in the next four, according to Statista. BI will have to exp and its perspective, work with more varied sources of information and exp and its client base.

In the past BI was inward looking. It ran data-mining exercises, reviewed corporate performance, developed reports and occasionally dashboards. It was, and still is in many organisations, mostly concerned with operational efficiencies, cost-cutting and benchmarking.

How business intelligence fits into the data world of businessThe above plot is my own, simplified view of how BI fits into data management within most organisations today. The other three quadrants are:

  • Competitive intelligence (CI) uses external competitor knowledge to support internal decision-making. Although BI is sometimes considered to be synonymous with CI because they both support decision-making, there are differences. BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data. CI gathers, analyzes and disseminates information with a topical focus on company competitors.
  • Investor Relations (IR) uses internal data to get external people, such as shareholders, the media or the government, to support and protect the company and its views.
  • Market Research (MR) on the other h and is mostly outward looking. It studies customers’ behaviours & attitudes, measures images & satisfaction, and tries to underst and feelings & opinions. That information is then used, primarily by marketing, to develop actions and communications for these same customers.

The four quadrants, even today, usually work in isolation, but that will have to change with this new data-rich environment in which we are working.

BI is Ripe for Change

 

According to a recent (Jan 2014) Forbes article, BI is at a tipping point. It will need to work in new ways because:

  • it will be using both structured and unstructured data
  • there will be a consolidation of suppliers
  • the internet of things will send more and more information between both products and companies.
  • thanks to technology, data scientists will spend more time on information management & less time on data preparation. At present it is estimated that they spend 80% of their time on data cleaning, integration and transformation, and only 20% on its analysis!

Google glass provides access to business intelligence

In February GigaOM echoed these thoughts, claiming that we are not in BI 2.0 but rather 4.0. They said the volume of data and the number of people now exposed to it, makes data availability to everyone essential. No longer does BI involve only the CEO and IT specialists, it concerns everybody.

Google glass provides access to business intelligence
Google glass, as tested by Virgin
, is a good example of this. It delivers real-time, on time and relevant information to Virgin’s hosts and hostesses, to meet, greet and advise its passengers. Their customer support team can accompany their VIP guests and warn them of delays and gate changes as they happen. Google Glass enables them to get out from behind their desks and interact more with the guests they are trying to please.

BI must Deliver More Synthesised Knowledge

According to a recent Business Intelligence report on management’s opinion of their data, they are currently frustrated. They say that it comes from many disparate sources and is rarely if ever available in real-time. They can’t easily access it without the help of IT and it takes too long to customise it to what they need. What is particularly interesting in the findings, is that management were not saying that they don’t need information; in fact it actually looks as if they want to have access to more data. BUT more of it in a way that makes it easy to find what they want, when they want it.

Another finding from the survey shows executives’ thoughts about data delivery. Currently they are getting their information primarily through emails and spreadsheets. I find this shocking that today we still expect management to take the time to wade through all the data in order to draw their own conclusions. Less than one in eight of the C-suite is getting dashboards, which is their preferred medium (>>Tweet this<<). They also want mobile delivery so that they can access information on the go.

This study provides us with a simple plan to satisfy their needs and to help us meet our own challenges of data abundance. This is what we should prioritize, since we can no longer continue to do what we’ve always done in the same way we’ve always done it. The BI priorities are as simple as ABC; accessibility, business impact and consistency (>>Tweet this<<).

BI needs to Provide Simplified Access

Information should be provided where and when it is needed and in such a way as to have most impact on the business. This means making it easy to review, and quick and simple to draw conclusions. This is why the number one dem and from business is dashboards.

Dashboards have the advantage of imposing consistency (>>Tweet this<<) so no time is lost in underst anding what the information is showing. With the availability of more information, comes the challenge to make it available to more people. And more people will also mean more and different needs.

Business Intelligence data warehouses are like a tree of knowledgeTo underst and the accessibility challenge I find the tree is a great metaphor for what we struggle to achieve. The roots can be compared to all the different sources of information we have at our disposal. The trunk is like all the integrated information that is reported in dashboards and the branches, twigs and leaves are the different data warehouses we create.

Whilst a one-page overview is sufficient for management, others will need greater granularity. Therefore we need to make information available at different levels of detail. My experience suggests three types of information sharing.

  • The leaves are like data warehouses where the raw or nearly raw data sits
  • The twigs are the information repositories where analysed data and information resides
  • And the branches are the knowledge libraries where the integrated actionable insights sit

What I have learned from setting up numerous data warehouses, information repositories and knowledge libraries, is that it is not easy. Not because of any technical complexity, but because of winning the needed  internal support for the project and getting the essential acceptance for global access to the information. It takes more than technology, it takes a culture change in many cases too, and this is the real challenge. Stopping the “information is power” mentality means finding ways to counter the opposition who claim  confidentiality of their own data whilst also requesting access to everyone else’s. In addition, even if people need information, they will generally not make the effort to go looking for it, if there is an easier way, such as by asking someone else! All these issues need to be resolved for an integrated database project to succeed.

Business Impact

One way to encourage the culture change mentioned earlier, is to demonstrate the business impact of what you are providing. The desired impact won’t come by delivering spreadsheets, it will come from dashboards (>>Tweet this<<).

So how do you summarise a company in a one-page dashboard, especially those which are present in multiple categories, globally? Well, often the simplest way is not to try to cover the total business, but rather the top categories and markets that would cover 70% – 80% of total sales. In most cases this would be sufficient to underst and the main priorities for management.

Of course at category level each business unit should be able to get access to more detailed information, as should the regional presidents, if you are working in such a complex business environment.

The real power of dashboard information will come from data integration, where both internal and external information are synthesised, for a holistic view of the business. I have worked on several projects that combined internal information with consumer data for a complete business report. The consumer information came from promotions, call centres and CRM activities, and was combined with market research on product and communications performance, to provide a solid base of consumer underst anding. This can then be presented alongside the more usual financial information that executives are already receiving. Having a complete overview of the business has far more impact than individual, silo’d summaries and enables management to make decisions more quickly and easily.

Increase Consistency

Another challenge when setting up and integrating databases, is in the harmonisation of their master data. When you are working with consumer data, this challenge can be multiplied by ten if not one hundred. For example, consumers will talk about a pizza, without specifying the br and, sub-br and, variant, flavour, packaging and size that would be used by the business to define it. So you have to find a way to translate what the consumer is saying, into the products as recorded internally.

The consistency of the master data will even increase in importance and complexity, with the expansion in available data sources. In addition, the fact that more people will get involved, will confound things even more, since their needs will differ.

Asking Better Questions of the Data

Accessibility, business impact and consistency are vital to the success of the new BI’s data management and usage, but I feel the urge to add one more thing. That of asking the right questions of the data. Although BI is used to asking questions, I think Market Research (MR) are the real experts in questioning. Therefore they should be involved in ensuring integrated databases are combined in such a way as to permit easy extraction of whatever level of information is required, or whatever perspective might be taken.

For example, BI is used to running forecasts. Those usually start from a review of past data and current reality to develop forecasts based on complex algorithms. They will do this within their teams with perhaps input from finance. MR on the other h and, is more likely to work from societal trends and develop plausible future scenarios, brainstorming across the organisation to gather a wide array of perspectives. Both perspectives are complementary and combined, they make a powerfully readied organisation.

Making more data more accessible to more people will certainly help this question development, as I think getting the right answers depends upon asking the right question, don’t you?

These were just a few of the ideas I shared at the Swiss BI Day in Geneva. How do you see business intelligence adapting and changing as a result of the increased information availability happening today?

C³Centricity used images and graphs from Statista, Microsoft and Virgin 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.

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

8 Marketing Essentials for 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the US catching up with a few C³Centricity partners about marketing priorities for 2014. The meetings were as inspirational as the new products being presented at the Las Vegas CES (Global Consumer Electronics & Consumer Technology Tradeshow)!

We discussed some of the most important challenges marketing will be facing in 2014 and brainstormed some possible solutions. If you are having any of these difficulties then I’m sure you will find the following ideas useful:

Social Media Metrics

Email is a popular customer service connection pointAs many companies transfer budget from traditional to online advertising, it is essential to also shift some of your funds to measuring its impact, even if some people do question the validity of such metrics. However, the most important thing to do is to link the metrics to what is happening in your business. Your CEO isn’t interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, but he is interested in knowing that you gained x% in awareness. Some st andard numbers often followed are mentioned in “ 10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” but remember that engagement and listening for better customer underst anding are also (more?) important, as mentioned in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours?

Storytelling

There is so much (too much?) information flowing into organisations today, but it is not being sufficiently accessed because most of it is not being integrated and analysed. Even when it is, sharing the insights is often a challenge because of the complexity of the process. Turning knowledge and underst anding into stories and then visualising or videoing them is a better way for both sharing and getting participation in actioning them. Why not review both your insight development and your knowledge sharing processes this year? If you’re comfortable with where you are, perhaps now is a good time to start storing your information and insights in easily-accessible libraries?

Showrooming & Virtual Reality

Virtual realityIt has been suggested that showrooming will be the end of retail outlets, but I believe there will be an integrated, rather than an either / or future. Virtual reality enables shoppers to see how products could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also allows both retailers and manufacturers to improve their offer by identifying any pain points, and enables them to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. How about going online with 3D catalogues or providing in-store areas to offer your customers product trial and experience?

 

New Communication Opportunities

According to Jay Walker-Smith of Yankelovich

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

Whether that second number should be 5,000 or 20,000 as I’ve also heard mentioned, it suggests that little can or is being retained our customers. Since this is unlikely to change in the future, as attention spans shorten even more, finding new messaging opportunities that resonate with our customers is vital. Why not use social media to track your target audience’s expressed wants and needs, and then compare them to what your key competitors are communicating. This will help you to uncover hidden communications’ gaps which you can then use to connect with your customers.

Adapting Communications to Personas

Don't alienate your business from its customersAre you dissatisfied with your current segmentation efforts? Creating personas can already add interest and thus actionability, by visualising their similarities and differences. Have you thought of taking the same approach to your communications too? By crafting personas built from your existing data on media habits and going beyond traditional segmentation, you can focus your attention on how to actually communicate with these different groups.

Channel Management

Mapping your br and’s story as told by the br and across channels can provide a “mosaic” of its communications and quickly highlight areas which need attention.Successful campaigns work across multiple channels but it is important to examine the contribution of each to avoid overlaps and gaps. Why not make 2014 your year of br and building through improved channel management?

Better Communications for Organisational Strategy

Following on from the above point, people’s attention spans are diminishing and we are all skimming rather than reading today. This means that companies need shorter, more impactful copy, for advertising and websites, but also for internal newsletters and communications. Analysing the content of communications can be very informative in underst anding the messages our customers, employees or consumers are receiving. We can no longer be satisfied with knowing just what we are sending out. Make this year the one in which all your communications resonate and provide the right messages to your targets.

Disruptive Innovation

Trends around the worldCustomers are becoming more and more dem anding – no news there! They don’t stay satisfied or surprised for long. What was novel yesterday is normal today and boring tomorrow. I suppose that’s why shows such as CES get so much air-time on local, national and even international media. We all love to dream and imagine a better life just around the corner. The same goes for our customers, who are always open to new and better propositions.   What are you doing to meet these increasing dem ands? Is your innovation linear, exponential or disruptive? If it’s not the second and hopefully the third, you are probably missing out. Why not make 2014 the year you disrupt your innovation process?

These were eight of the tens of ideas that I discussed with my partners to help companies identify their marketing priorities. Have a look at your plans and see whether you are still playing it safe by just repeating what you did last year? The same number of campaigns, the same promotions, even the same type of innovations. There’s still time to make 2014 the year of exponential growth and change for your company. 

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.

A New Guide to Insight Development

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Marketing & Communication Loft event in Geneva. The topic was building great br ands so how could I not talk about insight development, the foundation of all great br ands?

Ever since the marketing world started buzzing with the opportunities that BigData presents, insight development seems to have been forgotten. And yet data, whether big or small, cannot be used until it is turned into knowledge and underst anding and then insight.

I therefore thought it was time to take a fresh look at insight development and how BigData increases rather than decreases the need for true insight.

 

Marketing’s ROI is Lacking

A report by the Fournaise Marketing Group showed that 70% of CEOs have lost trust in marketers’ ability to deliver growth and 69% of them have stopped enforcing key business objectives & indicators on marketers because they have “continuously failed” to prove marketing strategies and campaigns deliver business growth.

The report further suggested that the reason for this was because marketing failed to deliver ROI, which is a surprise in today’s world of data and information. In fact a recent IBM report actually mentioned that the data explosion was the main worry of CMOs today, not the lack of information.

 

Insights and Customer Centricity

I believe the problem goes far beyond just data and is linked to marketers’ inability to make their organisations customer centric. In fact there was a suggestion in this same IBM report that marketers should not lead customer centricity initiatives. I think theyre right, as marketing is the defender of br ands rather than of the customer; it is difficult for one person to prioritise both!

Thinking customer first means doing everything we can to satisfy and hopefully, also delight them. So if we all know that, why are so many of us struggling to walk the talk of customer centricity? I believe it is linked to insight development. I don’t think we know and underst and our customers as well as we should.

We’ve been speaking about insight development for even longer than customer centricity, and yet we are still not always developing insight. Even today, we are more likely to be working with information, knowledge and sometimes underst anding, but rarely true insight. I think that many of us still haven’t grasped the importance of the fact that insight doesn’t come from information, nor knowledge, nor even underst anding, but from the integration of everything we know.

 

A Fresh Approach to Insights

Insights are built from hindsight, eyesight  and foresightInsight development requires the integration of three types of information, knowledge and underst anding:

  • Hindsight
  • Hearsight
  • Foresight

 

Hindsight is what all companies rely on most of the time. It’s about looking back at what has happened and trying to underst and why. The market shares we achieved, the recall of communications we aired, the volumes we manufactured. The problem is that Hindsight is yesterday’s news.

BigData helps to partly address this problem of recency, since most algorithms are developed to adapt to the latest information through machine learning. Although they will work with a combination of different data sources, some older than others, we are getting closer to real-time decision making. But data alone is still insufficient in most cases to develop true insight; we need to add Hearsight.

Hearsight is my name for what we can observe about what our customers are doing and what we can listen to when they are speaking. In some ways it’s better than hindsight, because we are listening to our customers and watching what they are doing today, rather than looking back to what they said or did yesterday. However, we must keep in mind that it is not market research, so we should use our findings to stimulate new thoughts and ideas about our br ands and categories, and not as the whole truth.

One problem with listening to and observing our customers, is that they are changing fast. What works today won’t work tomorrow. What is surprising today, will be taken for granted tomorrow. Although it’s not already out of date when we get it, as is the case with hindsight, it soon will be, so we can’t rely on this information alone either. That’s why we need to add foresight.

Foresight is about looking beyond today to what our customers will want or need tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or even in years to come.When we speak of foresight, we often think of trend following services first, to provide it. The problem with them is that they are a service – and findings are shared with all the agencies’ clients. This means we’re following exactly the same information as our competitors. There is no competitive advantage in that! And when it comes to preparing for the future and innovation, this becomes a critical flaw of trend following tools.

So what’s the solution? Future scenarios are the solution. By extending trends into the future and combining and clashing them, we can come out with creative but plausible new worlds. These worlds will have similarities and differences which we can then use to develop new product concepts. Most scenarios are built using contrasting possible outcomes in two major areas of influence, sometimes referred to as the axes of uncertainty.

Most people find working with future scenarios exciting but we must remember a few things. Firstly scenarios are not forecasts. They are not predictions of what will happen but rather indications of what may happen in the market and with the customers’ choices and preferences in the future. However, scenarios do help prepare business for possible opportunities and risks. They are a useful way to consider possible future worlds and markets that can form the basis of brainstorming for the business.

 

Scenario Planning using SciFi Writers

Future l andscape
Has the Future already been written?
SOURCE: Kozzi.com

Many scenario companies offer sketch and video portrayals of the future worlds developed and then use storytelling to its utmost. One of my favourite suppliers in this area (whom I should also mention are C3Centricity partners) has a very unique way of developing and sharing their scenarios with their clients. SciFutures use science fiction!

This may surprise you but science fiction writers have a long history of imagining things that get developed 20, 50, 100 or more years later. Here are just few examples to illustrate.

  • H.G. Wells book “The World Set Free” spoke of the atom bomb – 30 years before its invention.
  • Mark Twain talked about what became the Internet in 1904.
  • Jules Verne’s story “From the Earth to the Moon”, predicted moon l andings and weightlessness – in 1865
  • Star Trek’s “Tricorder” – inspired the smart phone.
  • The Minority Report – inspired big data mining, Predictive Policing, virtual reality and touch screens.

Dan Ariely, Professor of psychology & behavioral economics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina claims that:

“Humans grossly overestimate what is going to happen in the short term and completely underestimate what is going to happen in the long term”

Therefore in trying to design plausible future worlds, we need to stretch our minds way beyond what we would otherwise feel comfortable doing, and this is where SciFutures and their science fiction writers come into play. They are definitely bringing their clients an impressive competitive advantage with this radically new way of thinking!

Coming back to earth, I hope I have explained why I think it’s time to take a fresh look at Insight development. Insights come from integrating information and knowledge from multiple sources. We need Hindsight to know what has happened in the past, Hearsight to watch and listen to our customers to underst and their current behaviours, and we need Foresight to prepare for future opportunities and risks and to ensure that our innovations have been developed with maximum competitive advantage. Combining the three we get to insight.

Customer centricity is built upon our insights of our customers. A deep, intimate underst anding of our customers, what they desired yesterday, desire today and may desire tomorrow. It comes from integrating data and information from both internal and external sources; from market research, observation & listening and trend following & scenarios. All three types of information are needed to develop insights efficiently and effectively. Each adds different perspectives to the equation. If we all use more information for deeper insights, then we will finally be “in sight of our goal” to be truly customer centric.

Let me know what you think of this new approach to insight development in the comments below. In appreciation I leave you with an Irish Blessing:

Insights are a blessing

I believe we can never go too far in underst anding and satisfying our customers? Do you agree?

If you would like to  know more about insight development, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

And if you could do with some support in underst anding your customers better, to develop deeper insights, let us help you catalyze your customer centricity. Contact us here TODAY!

Featured image source: Kozzi.com

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Can you (Re) Gain Trust?

Over the last few months we have heard many sc andals based upon the disappointing discovery of unfounded consumer loyalty and trust. Rigged football matches, numerous athletes taking illegal drugs and more recently the horse meat sc andal. Have you ever been faced with a loss of your customers’ trust in business? If so, or you believe that it could happen in the future, then this post is for you.

The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer report, published last month, concluded that there are clear signs of a leadership crisis in both business and government. In fact in many recent sc andals, leaders have not helped the situation when speaking out.

For instance, in the current horsemeat sc andal, several food manufacturers confirmed that their beef products did not contain horse-meat, only to withdraw their statements a few days later. What did they think they were doing? Trust is one of the most important elements of purchase and loyalty; it is difficult to win but so much easier to lose, as many companies have recently realised. In the end it comes down to being truly customer centric. Wouldn’t a customer prefer to hear a “We don’t know but we’re checking” rather than a categorical “No” that is replaced by an equally categorical but rather feeble “Yes” a few days, or even hours later.

As Donald Porter, V.P. at British Airways once said:

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong”

So why do so many companies have such problems with telling the truth? If you make a mistake, then own up and correct it: your customers will forgive you and forget it. And more importantly, your owning up to the event will confirm their belief that they can trust you in the future. They will continue to buy your products and services with confidence, trusting that they will live up to your promises.

If you pretend that things are OK when they are really not, you are more than likely to get found out eventually. An employee will talk, a government or industry association will run tests and you will be discovered lacking.

With all these sc andals of what one might call dishonesty, touching so many different industries, this seems to be a good time to talk about building, keeping and regaining your customers’ trust. Here is my starter list of five areas to review, but please add your own to the comments below:

#1. Prepare

Have you already identified the worst possible scenarios that could happen to your industry, your business, your br and? Do you know precisely how you would react in each and every case? When an incident happens it is already too late and the damage has started. By identifying upfront what may happen in each possible event, you have sufficient time to identify potential risks before issues reach dangerous levels.

#2. Measure

Another factor of preparedness is to identify and to follow metrics that will provide you with an early warning system. When levels of certain critical elements get close to precise limits, you again have time to react before damage is done. Think about customer complaints, quality rejects, machine down-time, industry legal cases, whether yours or your competitors.

#3. Assign

For each critical incident identified, assign jobs to people in all relevant departments. Who will communicate, both internally and externally? Who will adapt and replace sub-optimal products and services? Who will develop and launch new ones?

#4. Practice

As with fire drills, exercises of disaster recovery can identify missing elements, whether time, money, or people. These can then be addressed well before they may be needed. No point in wishing you’d bought that extinguisher when the fire breaks out!

#5. Engage

As with measurement, engaging your customers, partners, employees and even competitors in building industry trust will ensure that it will survive any crisis. However, at a company and br and level, customer and employee engagement becomes particularly important, since competition is often secretly hoping you will badly manage a negative situation, from which they might then benefit. By keeping communication open 24/7 you are much more likely to be able to respond without delay and in many cases even prevent issues from escalating into a full blown crisis.

If football and cycle team managers had kept to their jobs of management, and trying to be the best they could be without resorting to bribes, drugs or other illegal practices, then the sports would not be where they are today. If food manufacturers had chosen to make food that they would happily give to their families instead of cutting costs to a maximum, then they too would not be facing the current sc andal. Unfortunately, these events damage not only those concerned, but the wider industries at large.

Sports sponsorship will be under much tighter scrutiny and perhaps some br ands will decide to move to other sports or forms of promotions in the future. Sales of prepared dishes containing beef are significantly down in Europe already and this will result 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 the recent incident, so in fact the whole food industry has been impacted.

Luckily, not every industry or company has been doing their business without regard for honesty and living up to their customers’ trust in them. Some companies underst and the importance of winning and then keeping this trust. Ford recently issued a booklet about the Top 2013 Trends of importance to them and their number one trend was trust, or as they quoted it “Trust is the new Black”. In their description of it, they mention that “Correlation of trust to br and equity increased by 35% in three years since the (economic) crisis”. If that isn’t a reason to build trust, I don’t know what is!

For more information about building trust and increasing br and equity, check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

Or why not give us a call to see how we can support your own initiatives in (re) gaining your customers’ trust. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

 

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