About these Authors
Johnnie Moore is a marketing consultant and facilitator based in London. As well as 20 years of marketing experience he's trained in psychotherapy, NLP and Improv. Find out more at his blog.
Andrew Lark's more than 18 years experience of all facets of marketing, branding, sales and communications spans technology, Internet, telecommunications and consumer sectors. There he has led award-winning programs and teams for brands such as Dell, Sony, SBC, IDSoftware, Nortel, Microsoft and Sun. He is a thought leader and innovator on the convergence of brands, communications and social networking technologies. Find out more at his blog.
Jennifer Rice is a strategist and evangelist for relationship-centric brands. She brings 15 years experience in brand strategy, customer insight and marketing communications, and has worked with companies such as Microsoft, Verizon, Alcatel and Corning. Her current passion is exploring how brands are being impacted by blogs and other social technologies. Her company blog is What's Your Brand Mantra?
John Winsor is the author of Beyond the Brand: Why Listening to the Right Customers is Essential to Winning in Business and the Founder/CEO of Radar Communications, a consumer-centric consultancy. You can find out more about him at Beyond the Brand.
About this Insider
BrandShift explores key trends in branding such as customer
experiences, market conversations and social technologies. Our goal is to
help executives and brand managers evolve their brands to thrive in the new
September 30, 2005
C/Net has long been one of my first reads. There is a new C/Net on the way. Take a look at this very cool beta site.
What is really cool is the center section in which stories are ranked in terms of the conversation - based on comments. This is a fantastic idea. Those that are participating in the news, get to set the editorial flow.
Also love the scroll through treatment of the mast area. Idea. Also like how they have moved away from the traditional industry segmentation navigation. And a new, Media 2.0 news section. That's smart.
This is a vastly improved version of an important news site. Anyway, I'll keep looking and sharing views.
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September 24, 2005
Both the blogosphere and traditional media are buzzing about “customer focus.” You can’t go a day without reading about word of mouth, the power of blogs, the shifting balance of power to customers, importance of customer service, and so on.
Trendwatching identified "Customer Made" as the next big thing. Andy Sernovitz, President of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), rightly declared, “The weight of consumer opinion is greater than our advertising power.” And yet it doesn’t seem like anything’s really changing. The most
lively discussion board about Comcast is the comments section of my “I hate
Comcast” post. Last week Jake posted a complaint letter that he'd sent to American Airlines.
Do we think
if we talk about “customer focus” enough, something miraculous will happen? Are
we trying to convince the laggards? I don’t believe they’ll be convinced until
they start going out of business. One would think that every smart business
executive would be working furiously to improve customer service and product
quality. There are enough examples, case studies, books and articles making a
pretty compelling case that this stuff works.
So why aren’t all businesses noticeably moving towards customer-centricity? They’re either holding on because the old way of business is the only thing they know… or the current organizational structure doesn’t support the new way of doing business… or there’s something else that needs to happen first.
Here’s what I think is going on: contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a product company, a telecom company, a consulting company or a retail company. All companies are people companies. People make products for people. People serve people. People work with people and for people. I’d venture a guess that the root cause of business problems is not financial, not product-related, and not structure-related. Businesses live and die by its executives' and employees’ talents, levels of empathy and ability to
play well with others… and by their willingness to listen and acknowledge that customers just may have some valuable input. If a business is rife with internal politics, fiefdoms and one-upmanship, I doubt that it will be successful in this new customer-relationship era. If a company’s employees aren’t successful in their personal relationships at home, it can’t become a successful people company.
The current sea-change is problematic because the necessary solution is not a new business practice; it’s a new people practice. We don’t need a new ad campaign or a new org chart. There are no quick fixes. The skill sets needed in today’s times are not management consultants or word-of-mouth marketing specialists. If we’re all really honest with ourselves, what we really need are psychologists and coaches and relationship experts. We’re talking about real customer connections, not a personalized direct mail piece. And this is why blogging and other social
technologies have exploded onto the scene.
Evelyn Rodriguez writes,
"With everything you might have heard you’d think the blogosphere is anti-business. And it’s scary for businesses.
That’s not exactly true. But, yes, it is a response to the depersonalization - the dehumanization - of commerce."
Over the past few decades, we’ve lost the humanity in business. With the advent of mass-produced cars and org charts and relocation and nuclear families, we’ve forgotten our ability to relate and connect. How do we expect a company to build relationships with customers when most Americans have difficulty making genuine connections with anyone? In Bowling Alone: The Collapse & Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam notes that social and family ties are loosening and we're increasingly withdrawing into ourselves:
- In the
past 3 decades, participation in government, local clubs and organizations dropped by up to 50%.
- Job instability, churn and the increasing numbers of independent contractors have resulted in a measurable decline of social connectedness in the workplace.
- Americans are entertaining friends at home 45% less frequently now than in the mid-70s; the number of picnics declined by 60% in the same time period.
- The fraction of married Americans who say that their family 'usually dines together' has dropped from 50% to 34%
- The number of families who vacation together dropped from 53% to 38%; watch TV together from 54% to 41%; sitting and talking, from 53% to 43%
- Reported charitable giving dropped by almost 20% from 1980 to 1995.
- The percentage of those who feel that "people in general today lead as good lives -- honest and moral -- as they used to" dropped from 50% in 1952 to 27% in 1998.
So we can keep talking about the importance of customer focus, authenticity and co-creation. But we’ll never get there until we recognize that it’s not that easy to overturn decades of societal depersonalization. We may have to make some difficult choices: letting go of talented employees who are more focused on being right than being empathetic; moving to a new job at a company that fosters a relationship culture; taking a risk and going out on your own. I’m sure that part of the free-agent trend stems from a rebellion against the dehumanization of business.
Evelyn continues in her post:
"Blogs harken back to an era before…
Megaphones. Before Super Bowl ads. Before celebrity-studded concert-format megachurches. Before Ryze, Friendster and LinkedIn.
To a time of community marketplaces, bazaars, neighborhood shops and pubs where everyone knew your name, and town squares. And going back further still to trading posts and tribal campfires.
We know this stuff. Perhaps conversing is nearly a lost art. But
it’s fundamentally human too. Basic building blocks of humanity."
So yes, let’s keep talking about customer focus. But let’s also focus on what we can do in our own sphere of influence. Let’s start where we are.
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September 21, 2005
I've been AWOL for a couple months; my apologies! I'm coming out of a severe blog burnout phase, but I'm back. I've missed everyone. To help me get ramped back up... do you, dear reader, have any specific areas of interest in this rather broad "branding" category? I think it would be great fun to discuss specific issues or questions that you have, rather than trying to come up with stunningly insightful, but not terribly relevant, ideas.
I was wondering: who's reading this blog, anyway? Are you agency or client-side marketers? CPG or technology? Terribly experienced or newbies? I suppose that's the problem with blogs; traditional measured media conducts reader surveys and knows exactly who's reading and who's buying. With a blog, you just throw out thoughts and hope they're relevant. Commenters may have blogs, but often they're just an anonymous voice with an email address.
What's important to you? Analysis of current marketing campaigns? How blogs & social technologies are impacting brands? Customer research applied to brand development? Written from agency angle or client angle? Let us know; we'd love to hear from you.
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Hylton tipped me off to Bob Cauthorn's post: Newspapers, meet precipice: It's the product, stupid. Here's the nub for Brandshift readers:
Business thinking tends to run in generational cycles. For the last 15 years or so, the fashion in business thinking has focused on the ascendency of The Brand. Instead of being product oriented, modern companies tend to be brand driven. There are precious few companies left that fuse the two orientations -- think Apple, which defines itself entirely by its products and thus gets a brilliant brand in the process.
Brand logic is the bulwark of defending the status quo. Product logic is where the revolution comes.
When it comes to a war between products and brands, products almost always win in the end.
In sprit, I am with Bob. Sadly, just as there will always be successful conmen, there will always be some brands that succeed with rubbish and noble products that fall through want of smart marketing. And, of course, there will always be arguments about what category any brand belongs to. BUT I do think the net is making it harder for the fanciful image making and narcisstic marketing to work.
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September 15, 2005
Great read from GAIN with Ivy Ross over at Matell on brands and innovation. Tackles the issue of how you take a large, existing organization and encourage innovation:
GAIN: And the normal company structure didnt allow for this type of exploration?
ROSS: I have 450 people who work for me. Everyone is busy all the time - practically 24/7 - just growing our existing brands. No one has time to become truly immersed in the possibilities. Through this project we are trying to create a way of working together that is more of a living system. Take a cow, for example. If you want to get milk out of a cow, you have to give it time to graze. These days, no one has time to graze. No one has time to explore. It's not just about giving people the best equipment and software to work with, it's about feeding their soul, their mind and creating an environment that each of them can grow in.
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EuroRSG just released their 11th Annual Survey of the Media with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism:
- 51% of journalists use blogs regularly with 28% of them relying on them for dayto-day reporting, despite only 1% believing they are credible.
- 49% of journalists have lost trust in corporations over the last year, while 45% are less trusting of the professional behavior of their own colleagues up from 34% in 2003.
- 76% of journalists agree that corporate candidness in times of crisis is poor, and 66% say the same about corporate transparency during a company crisis.
- 93% note that they are less trusting of colleagues, and 79% believe that recent revelations about journalists taking payment from third parties has had quite a strong effect on media credibility.
posted by Andy Lark |
September 10, 2005
Thank to Suw Charman for spotting an excellent article by Simon Caulkin in the Guardian: The language of management is devoid of meaning Here's sample, referring to Gate Gourmet, the airline catering firm with a less than wonderful reputation in industrial relations.
Gourmet, as in Gate, is a good example. I mean, I've had airline food that didn't actually taste awful. I've even had airline food that was OK. But gourmet? Come on
Trivial, perhaps. But it matters because the name is an affront to common sense and makes you query the company's good faith, grasp of reality, or both. The uncertainty deepens as you read the company's website's references to 'passion', 'world class' and (full house!) 'our most valuable resources - employees'. When you get to 'We communicate in an open way and promote inspiring teamwork; we treat our colleagues, customers and suppliers with respect and dignity; we pay market competitive salaries and offer adequate social security,' you know you're no longer in the universe inhabited by most people: you are deep in Tlön.
(Tlön being a parallel world in the literature of Jorge Luis Borges).
If you have time, please read the whole thing, it's wonderful.
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