The tragedy of the day is Sears. They are nose-diving with no end in sight. After comparable store sales falling off between 16-17% in 2017, no one can see a way to reverse this trend. Wall Street ‘s collective view is that they will be lucky to survive 2018. They should have focused on reinvention all along.
What makes this so sad is they were not able to build upon the venerable brand equity established over generations. For much of the last century, Sears was the source of quality and durability for many things. It was literally where America went to shop. Most appliances that our grandparents counted on came from Sears. Their catalog was where Americans bought what they needed. Quality was assured. So powerful was the brand that it could carry the product offering of the “mail order bride”, then used by homesteaders who could look at a Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalog and order a wife delivered to his home just as easily as an appliance. (The Zoosk, Match.com and eharmony of the time). That’s how embedded the brand was in our culture.
But things changed, and successive leadership never focused on reinvention to keep the brand relevant.
To prevent the erosion of a strong brand, leaders need to constantly evaluate where they are and where markets are headed. Of the powerful brands of the mid-to-late 1900’s, what happened to Kodak, Howard Johnson’s, Polaroid, Borders, and Blockbuster? Imagine the extraordinary brand equity each had built. At In the end, each brand did not manage their business into a changing future. Kodak didn’t believe in the digital revolution. Howard Johnson’s yielded being America’s rest stop to fast food chains, etc.
The big message here is having the forethought and will to acknowledge change can help a company navigate the future. It is about embracing disruption. Great leaders must continually make this a primary responsibility. Particularly with the ever-increasing acceleration of change, the mandate is here, right now.
One significant consulting firm that specializes helping companies focus on the future in a rigorous and strategic manner is Innosight. They have developed formalized processes to look at the future and manage to it. We have seen it in action and it is impressive.
Net… don’t put your head in the sand. Embrace that change will happen, identify what the future will look like and have a strategy to navigate there. If you do this well, you won’t become a Sears.
January 12, 2018 Comments Off on Reinvention is the Key to Sustaining a Brand
Inertia is an amazingly powerful force, and “reason” often proves inadequate to overcome it. Think about how hard it is to get people to move their bank accounts even when it is clearly in their financial interests. Or why nearly three-quarters of all corporate change initiatives fail, no matter how well argued, or how compelling the business case.
Human behavior is hard to change, and this is one of the biggest obstacles facing businesses selling sustainable products and services. We believe that brands are uniquely well placed to help, because they can speak two languages – reason and story. And they can leverage the unusually powerful relationships they have with consumers.
November 12, 2013 Comments Off on How Brands Can Put Us on Our Best Behavior
This blog was originally featured on the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s website on October 10th, 2013.
One of the great challenges of a shared services division is to attract the best talent and keep them motivated. This is understandable. Because the concept of “shared services” has built into it a negative stereotype from the start, creating and managing a strong internal “brand” can accomplish a number of important things:
- It can signal the true value the shared services team provides and define value in a new way
- It can be a beacon to attract the best talent
- It can keep the team not only motivated, but also excited to continually elevate the value of what the team can deliver.
October 29, 2013 Comments Off on Using a Strong Shared Services Brand to Attract and Motivate the Best Talent
Riddle me this: how do you boost sales by almost one third while telling your customers to buy less from you?
Sustainability and authenticity are the twin brand values that can power this exemplary business growth, and Patagonia is the current exemplar.
For some time now, Patagonia has been urging customers to repair and keep their $700 Patagonia parkas rather than buy new ones. The result? Sales increased almost one-third to $543 million last year, which included about nine months of the “Buy Less” marketing campaign.
October 4, 2013 Comments Off on Sustainability and Authenticity Present Huge Opportunities for Brands
Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands
Brands are symbols of trust – we use them as navigation beacons in a landscape of uncertain options. But the next generation of consumers is re-defining what it takes to be trusted. At the core of this re-definition are two attributes: sustainability and authenticity. Brands that lack those qualities will struggle increasingly to attract either consumers or recruits.
According to research by The Intelligence Group, this next generation of consumers, described as Generation Y or ‘Millenials’, want to make the world a better place, and they’re demonstrating this intent in the brands and products they choose, ‘… products that follow ethical practices and are aligned with social causes’. (adweek: responsible youth)
For these digital natives, sharing is a normal part of life. Everyday they share photos, ideas, technology and information about themselves. Defined by The Cloud, a key facilitator of this ‘open source‘ lifestyle is mutual trust and the brands that can demonstrate the qualities that drive trust, like honesty and authenticity, will benefit from Generation Y’s loyalty.
August 2, 2013 Comments Off on Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands
This blog was originally featured on the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s website on July 22nd, 2013.
Shared Services often miss the opportunity to communicate the value they provide, and consequently live under a pervasive and somewhat negative perception. This doesn’t have to be the case. Focusing on the Shared Services “brand” is one way to change these perceptions.
Because the origin of Shared Services is rooted in cost cutting, there is a naturally built-in stereotype that what costs less must not be as good. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Strengthening the Shared Services brand, especially to internal audiences, is a very powerful way to communicate the positive value of a Shared Services model. Aside from the corporate arguments that Shared Services are really about reducing costs, you should be promoting the realization that there is an enormous amount of condensed wisdom in a Shared Services organization. It is, de facto, the central node of knowledge and insight. Imagine if internal customers understood this value and could tap into it. So use the brand to focus their attention. [Read more →]
July 26, 2013 Comments Off on Using the Shared Services Brand to Overcome Negative Perceptions
What can the difference between a straight line and a circle teach us about building a sustainable economic system that fuels growth without destroying our planet? And what do brands have to do with it?
The answers are “lots” and “lots”, respectively.
This is the first in a series of posts in which we will explore the relationship between brands and sustainability. So we thought we should start by questioning whether consumerism itself is sustainable. Is it reaching the end of its useful life? And if it is, what can replace it as an engine for economic growth?
The law of unintended consequences has meant that the existing model of consumption makes many of us sick, unhappy, stressed, and time-starved; it fails to produce affordable food that sustains healthy life; it fails to offer work that gives us a healthy sense of meaning and purpose; it gradually renders the planet itself unviable; and it makes only 1% of us wealthier.
For most of us, this is not a good deal. For our children, it’s disastrous.
In his book ‘Cradle to Cradle’, William McDonough recognized that in nature’s cyclical design, resources are infinite. Yet human industry is driven by a traditional linear economic model: Take (resources) – Make (stuff) – Dispose (dump when the new version comes out).
So which is the better (more sustainable) option? That’s where the circle comes in.
July 15, 2013 Comments Off on Is Consumerism Sustainable: What Do Brands Have to Say?
Significant changes in the outsourcing industry in the past few years mean that outsourcing companies must re-evaluate their branding if they want to succeed in the new environment. These changes are the result of many converging dynamics. Understanding the nature of what is changing can help companies reposition themselves for growth and greater profitability.
The good news is that the continuing growth of the global BPO and IT services market makes it look attractive to new entrants. Current industry projections suggest a global market size of over US$900 billion. Unfortunately, this creates a wide and more confusing playing field.
Despite a languishing global economy, several reports and studies from different BPO sectors project a continuing growth rate of 4-6 per cent, possibly increasing further as the economy stabilises. But growth creates a new set of challenges.
Convergence of factors has caused the problem
The irony is that category growth puts new burdens on providers to stay competitive in a dynamic marketplace. Several issues form a foundation for new brand thinking.
• Price shopping. One of the unfortunate fallouts of the global recession is an emphasis on low cost, which has in turn resulted in an increase in price shopping, with buyers driving to the absolute lowest prices from providers. This isn’t unexpected, but with new competitors entering the market, low price bidding becomes an even tougher hurdle. The implication of this trend is for brands to communicate their unique value in new and compelling ways.
• Providing greater value. Further, while price is a more important decision driver, buyers are, at the same time, looking for more than tactical support and are leaning on providers to bring new services and solutions to the table while keeping process costs low. Naturally all providers are looking to find a competitive edge so it is more critical than ever for providers to position themselves with clarity to differentiate, ensure understanding and secure engagement.
• Shifting labour costs. The past decade has seen a continuous shifting of global labour costs, so that some regions and countries that were once attractive sources of labour are less so today. Among other things, advances in technology have enabled new regions to be competitive. This has led to new perspectives about onshoring and rural shoring as viable alternatives, and keeps buyers up at night hoping that their outsourcing partner can satisfactorily meet their business needs. This is where the brand can act as an assurance of quality and service.
• Increased scepticism and need for transparency. One of the negative fall-outs of the global meltdown, lead by the financial services industry, is an increase in scepticism in what providers promise. This manifests itself in many different ways, one being the need for increased transparency and openness. Buyers approach relationships very differently post-recession, and this places a burden on providers to develop and sustain these relationships in new ways. Brand can be the beacon to show how open and transparent your company is in the new environment.
A consequence of these intersecting dynamics is that outsourcing companies must develop very strong brands to differentiate, attract new business and garner higher prices than competitors. This is easy to say, but requires some rigorous work to get there. What follows are the key elements necessary to define and strengthen an outsourcing company brand in the new environment we face today.
Keys to creating and shaping a unique and compelling brand
1. Create a unique and compelling brand idea that is different from your competitors. Stand apart. Spend the time and energy to really uncover why your company is different and better, and then make it part of how you communicate, what you communicate, and how you shape customer relationships.
2. Build the brand outwards from the DNA and culture of the company. This should be the foundational starting point. Unlike decades ago when a company could shout something and customers would line up, today strong brands have to be built upon the foundation of a company’s culture and DNA to have any resonance at all. Every organisation has an internal ethos that guides decision-making, service philosophy, and general behaviour. The most important starting point in building a brand is to uncover this unique character, and build it into the final brand idea.
3. Express the brand idea in unique language that telegraphs, in a nutshell, what your company is, what it believes and the value it provides. In most engagements we begin, our clients are often using generic words as tag lines or primary marketing messages that could be used by anyone. Here are some expressions being used in the outsourcing industry today:
“Innovative Solutions. Exceptional Service.”
“Shifting the Sourcing Equation”
“Extending Your Enterprise”
“Ready for Real Business”
“Helping Business… Process.”
“Leading the Process”
“New Ideas. More Value.”
“Love the Way You Work”
“Passion for Building Stronger Businesses”
“Premier Technology Services Partner”
These types of generic messages create a real opportunity for an outsourcing company to really focus on what makes it special, and then find a compelling expression embodied in a short number of words that can be used as a primary marketing message. Strong marketers find different ways to express the underlying idea so it telegraphs a lot about the organisation and does much of the heavy lifting to create understanding and engagement.
4. Be open and transparent in your communications. The events of the past five years have driven customers and consumers to be very sceptical of messaging. Thus, smart business leaders now understand that they need to become more transparent in all communications. By being more open and candid, companies are able to establish stronger bonds with their customers. In branding terms, a company needs a “brand voice” that is honest and true to how it behaves and conducts business
5. Use brand architecture to make your products and services very easy to understand. One of the front lines in creating customer engagement is to make your business clear and easy to understand. That means developing a brand architecture that is built from the “outside-in”. In many cases, this mean reorganising how you communicate what products and services you provide from the customer’s perspective. In that manner, new customers will understand you better, and be willing to engage further in building a relationship. This may sound surprising, but all too often, outsourcing companies presume that customers understand them. Not only can this be false, but in a highly competitive marketplace, clarity is an essential tool to secure new and expand existing relationships.
Developing and building a strong brand does not happen overnight. Identifying the need for it is the first step…one that can no longer be ignored in the evolving complexity of the outsourcing marketplace.
This article appeared in Outsource Magazine http://outsourcemagazine.co.uk/
April 24, 2013 Comments Off on Branding Tactics for Outsourcing Companies to Accelerate Growth
And if it does survive, will it ever be as strong as it was again? It’s difficult to know for sure but one thing is clear: the marketing leadership at Hostess Brands had failed to nurture a brand that is undeniably an American icon with a value far greater than it’s $68 million year-to-date revenue. After all, how many brands can invoke nostalgia like Twinkies has in recent days? How many brands have such an impact on society that they end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or a feature on every major news program? Not many when you consider the thousands of brands out there, and yet, the marketing leadership at Hostess Brands has done little over the past few decades to understand, let alone capitalize on the equity.
Twinkies was introduced in 1933 by The Continental Baking Company in Inianapolis to utilize the strawberry shortcake machines that stood idle when strawberries were not in season. They were originally filled with a banana flavored cream but switched to vanilla cream during WWII when bananas were rationed. It was so popular that they never switched back.
November 20, 2012 Comments Off on Twinkies is in the Emergency Room…will it live or die?
The Wall Street Journal feature about the Mac landing on more corporate desks is more than just an opportunity… it is a tectonic shift that will open up the business market for Apple in amazing new ways. It is truly a tipping point of amazing proportions.
If I were you, I’d buy Apple stock today… believe it or not, it’s just a leap to another plateau.
The Tipping Point, best known from Malcom Gladwell’s 2000 book of that name, is defined as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” The very public acknowledgement by GE that it is making Apple products available to GE employees is, in our opinion, a “tipping point”. [Read more →]
January 19, 2012 Comments Off on The Apple Brand Hits another “Tipping Point”