Jun
29

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I was in Atlanta for a long weekend. A couple blocks away from my hotel was one of my favorite places to visit, a Whole Foods. I love the sights, colors, smells, products, stories and merchandising.

So I just stopped by their website, which I haven’t been to in a while. And front and center there’s a new iPhone recipes app. It lets you filter by:

• categories such as budget, cooking with kids and quick and easy
• target special diets, including gluten-free, lowfat and vegetarian/vegan
• find recipes that use ingredients you already have via a search feature

You can also use the store locator to find the Whole Foods Market locations near you, or search by ZIP code.

What’s cool about this is that Whole Foods lets you create your own
Personal Brand Application (PBA) that travels with you wherever you are. It’s a virtual assistant that delivers unique value to customers 24/7.

My takeaway about their PBA:

• Brand actions speak louder than words. And this application helps customers do things, and achieve things, that they couldn’t do on their own.
• The benefits that the PBA provides extends Whole Foods value beyond other “grocer brands” to that of a healthy lifestyle brand.
• Given this, Whole Foods now has “permission” to explore even more ways to deliver value to customers in the future.
• I’ve written a lot about trust, and how it’s one of the most enduring and important competitive advantages a brand will own into the future. The PBA is an inherent trust-builder, as Whole Foods now becomes integral to helping people live healthier lives.

So how can you create your own PBA to engage and empower customers? How can you think creatively about providing value to customers beyond others in ways that move both customers, and your brand, forward?

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Jun
24

I was talking to a prospective client the other day about brand conversations. And based on that discussion, I wanted to clarify one important point.

People don’t want to participate in “brand” conversations. Meaning they don’t want to talk to a faceless organization. Rather, people want to talk about and share their hopes, fears, dreams and realities. The stuff they care about. The stuff that’s really meaningful and relevant to their lives. With other people.

The truth is that most people don’t really care about our products. They care about how we make them feel, how we can help them achieve what they couldn’t on their own, in a way that others can’t. These are the things worth talking about.

Healthy conversations are not “brand” conversations. They’re conversations between people, about people. Filled with emotion. Love and hate. Sympathy and empathy. Real, genuine and free-flowing.

Hopefully, your brand can enable these conversations and thereby reflect its ability to add value to our lives. Remember the saying – Enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me? Not the hallmark of a healthy conversation.

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Jun
20

Message to all health and healthy lifestyle brand marketers…

Now is the time to rethink long-held strategic assumptions inside your company, to challenge decades of conventional wisdom in your industry, and to push yourself to learn, grow, and innovate. This is the advice of Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company in his article The 10 Questions Every Change Agent Must Answer.

He believes that it’s time to think – and do – something different given the backdrop of an economy where there are too many competitors chasing too few consumers with products and services that tend to be too much alike. That if you can summon the nerve, these hard times can be a great time to separate yourself from competitors.

He suggests these ten questions that leaders should ask of themselves and their organizations. And he adds that the leaders with the best answers win. I’ve added my own commentary in the form of organizations that I think have really good answers.

1. Do you see opportunities the competition doesn’t see? By placing the customer in the center of their universe (as opposed to competing with other providers), Hello Health is redefining the game within healthcare.

2. Do you have new ideas about where to look for new ideas? Afterheels in the UK challenged the shoe industry’s prevailing assumptions and found their inspiration on the dance floor.

3. Are you the most of anything? Walmart is (and owns the position of) the most affordable, while McDonalds is the most accessible.

4. If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why? Know this is an easy (and too often used) example, but Apple.

5. Have you figured out how your organization’s history can help to shape its future? Puma’s figured it out, reinterpreting its past to stake its place in the future.

6. Can your customers live without you? For most of us, a world without Google would be unimaginable. And though we don’t want to admit it, we’d probably say the same about our Blackberry’s.

7. Do you treat different customers differently? Amazon and Zappos could be two of the most customer-centric companies in the world.

8. Are you getting the best contributions from the most people? SAS is. It’s been on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 12 consecutive years; as it’s one of the best for healthcare, childcare and work-life balance.

9. Are you consistent in your commitment to change? To quote from Zara’s website – Zara interprets, adapts trends in record times and offers new items twice weekly.

10. Are you learning as fast as the world is changing? Mayo Clinic is the pace-setter within the healthcare space when it comes to employing social media practices to engage and connect its various audiences.

I welcome others to contribute the organizations they think had/have the best answers.

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Jun
17

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The main goal of Blue Ocean strategy is to create new uncontested market space, by expanding existing industry boundaries or expanding well beyond them. The only way to beat the competition, according to Blue Ocean Strategy authors Kim & Mauborgne, is to stop trying to beat the competition. Instead, focus on creating and capturing new customer demand (and providing greater customer value at a lower cost) to make your competition irrelevant.

Afterheels is a great example of a company that has created its own blue ocean. Their concept is brilliant, and simple. Women who spend the night dancing in their heels are in pain, and can’t wait to take their shoes off. Separate from carrying an extra pair of shoes in their bag, or walking barefoot through the streets, no other alternatives existed. Afterheels seized the opportunity and started selling their flats in vending machines at nightclubs.

Afterheels looked across the rules of play in their industry – across product, assortment, service, delivery, pricing, functional/emotional appeals, marketing – and created their own strategy canvas. They zigged, while others zagged. Created their own blue ocean instead of fighting in the same shark-infested red oceans with other shoe manufacturers and retailers.

Following the blue ocean strategy Four Action Framework, Afterheels has:

1. eliminated the need to visit the store to buy a pair of shoes
2. reduced price barriers and complexity, selling limited styles and colors
3. raised the level of convenience, flats right there when you need them
4. created and captured new demand, and a following of very happy women

Here are my key takeaways:

1. Observing and seeing the world through the experiences of your customers opens up opportunities to create greater (game-changing) value.
2. If you do number one, existing industry conventions will naturally fall by the wayside and new blue ocean opportunities will become apparent.
3. Don’t take things for granted. Look across key elements of product, service, and delivery, and challenge all the “supposed” rules of the game.
4. Breaking the value-cost tradeoff can reap big rewards for brand and customer.
5. The size of the ocean doesn’t matter as much as the re-energizing and differentiating value you provide to customers.

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Jun
14

Simply try things out. Good advice for coming out stronger on the other side of the recession.

Jim Carroll, futurist, trends and innovations expert,  speaking in Las Vegas, about investing in experiential capital. 

His take is that those companies who are innovating through the recession build up their experiential capital by simply trying things out. By taking calculated risks. They may not know exactly what to do, but they’re willing to experiment to better understand and navigate their changing world.

Three examples that readily come to mind are Hello Health, Humana’s Crumple It Up initiative and Mayo’s Center For Innovation.

Are there others you can contribute?

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Jun
11

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I just had a chance to read this article on Time.com:  How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live.

The first paragraph of the article asks the question that many still continue to voice aloud (along with the many who whisper it to themselves) – why does the world need this, exactly?

But as millions of followers (pardon the pun) have discovered, Twitter has unsuspected depth. And the most fascinating thing about Twitter, as author Steven Johnson points out, is not what it’s doing to us, but what we’re doing to it. 

Ultimately, his article is about innovation. Reminding us that end-user (lifestyle changing) innovation is as important as that of the first-creator.  As the author points out - Twitter serves as the best poster child for this new model of social creativity in part because these innovations have flowered at such breathtaking speed and in part because the platform is so simple. It’s as if Twitter’s creators dared us to do something interesting by giving us a platform with such draconian restrictions. 

As of this writing, there were 11,000 third-party Twitter applications. No doubt, that number will be higher tomorrow.


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Jun
08

 

Follow-up to a recent post about P&G creating a social community to significantly increase tampon sales by engaging their teen audience in conversations about their problems instead of the Brand, as presented by Josh Bernoff, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research at IAB’s Social Media Conference.

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Jun
05

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Case in point as to why it pays (literally) to develop two-way conversation with your customers.

I just found these stats about Dell’s Ideastorm community:

– people have contributed 11,790 ideas
– they’ve posted 84,546 comments
– and the site has been promoted 667,054 times

Most important, Dell has implemented 337 ideas based on customer input.

When people feel like they matter to the company, and when you engage them in ways they value and want, they’ll matter more about you.

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Jun
02

Question: Can a company still make money during bad times?

Answer: Your customers, suppliers, and distributors are all suffering. Think about how to help them. Think about developing a new business model, a new product or service, a lower cost distribution channel, a lower cost supply chain. Be more robust, resilient, and responsive to changing conditions.

These are the words of Philip Kotler, the well-known management guru at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. He’s responding to this “Ask the Coach” question (which was actually part of a longer question) within Marshall Goldsmith’s post Making Money in Chaotic Times.

Moral of the story  – change (always) presents opportunity amidst the vulnerability.

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May
29

Let’s face it. Most brands aren’t the kind that people love and can’t wait to talk about. 

But as a Forrester report – Social Technology Strategies for “Boring” Consumer Brands – points out, the key with these “boring” brands is to get people talking about their problems, since they won’t talk about your brand.

According to Josh Bernoff, study author, “the trick is borrowed relevance — creating an application that’s about your customers’ problems and then tapping into that application. Building around customers’ problems means you can accomplish goals including generating research insights, energizing fans, getting customers to support each other, or even crowdsourcing your marketing. But no matter the objective, the key is to recognize that you’re creating a long-term asset, not an advertising campaign.”

Examples of brands that tapped into this borrowed relevance concept, by making the experience all about their audiences and not about them, include P&G’s beinggirl.com (which I recently wrote about), Liberty Mutual’s The Responsibility Project and American Express Members’ Project.

What other boring brands have leveraged this concept and therefore did become more important and talkable?

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