Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Innovation within the Enterprise:  GE

 

I heard Steve Liguori tell an amazing story about industrial innovation at GE the other day.  He was speaking at a Work-Bench event about disruptive innovation – something we’ve all heard a lot about.  And he had a new take on the subject in the context of rethinking how to run a big company.  How?  “Learn to beg,” advised Steve.  “Try disrupting your culture.”

The first step is a full-time person – a passionate advocate with consummate skills in marketing, persuasion – calling on key decision-makers, finding the ones with a big problem for GE customers and an open mind about how to solve it. That’s the begging part.

Steve at the time was Executive Director of Global Innovation and New Models at GE.  The problem he found was a seriously overweight jet engine part – the engine bracket – and as there are many of them, their weight has serious implications for fuel use.

Steve must have mastered the art of persuasion during the years when he headed marketing at blue-chip consumer goods companies.  I marvel at the heights to which he’s taken this to have done what he did.  He got GE management to agree to go outside the company to crowd source redesign of the jet engine bracket!

Collaborating with GrabCAD, a Cambridge startup, GE sent a challenge with heavy duty specs for blueprints to GrabCAD’s global community of more than a million engineers.  From this, GE received nearly 700 ideas, picked and tested the top ten thoroughly, and announced the winner – a design that cut the weight by 84 percent – from 4.48 lbs. to 0.72 lbs.  Who did it?    An engineering student in Jakarta with zero aerospace experience!

Imagine trusting GE’s brand for industrial innovation to engineers outside the company!  Imagine finding a solution beyond GE’s ability from a student in Indonesia.  It’s audacious!  It’s brave!  And I suspect crowd sourcing will be increasingly important in the future!

More About Brains Than Bucks!

Andy Sernovitz’s holiday newsletter speaks to customer service, something that may be the secret sauce to achieving and holding a competitive edge.. These three examples are about e-commerce, but they exemplify a mindset applicable to any business:

From Andy Sernovitz’s Damn I Wish I’d Thought of That – Unusually Useful Ideas for Smart marketers 12.26.13

1. Help them make room

IKEA knows that one of the biggest reasons people don’t buy new furniture is the hassle of getting rid of their old furniture. So the company offered to sell it for them. For their Second Hand campaign, IKEA featured their customers’ actual names, numbers, and old furniture in their ads. Then, they opened their Facebook page for other customers to sell their stuff online in a “virtual flea market” on Sundays.

The lesson: That’s doing much more than just making room for a new couch — it’s creating an amazing customer service story for everyone who sells something through IKEA.

2. Help them make a decision

It’s a pain to exchange a treadmill. So when you buy one, you want to make sure it’s exactly what you want. At Fitness in Motion in Austin, they don’t think the couple minutes you typically spend testing out a machine at other stores is enough to help you make a decision. So they tell potential customers to use their store like a gym: Come by whenever, do their normal workout, and find the machine that works for them before they buy it.

The lesson: This helps customers feel better about their purchase. But more importantly, it gives Fitness in Motion a chance to build relationships and trust with the customers coming in day after day.

3. Help give them peace of mind

If you’ve ever bought a prom dress (disclosure: I’ve bought zero), you know that showing up to prom with the same dress as someone else is a big fear. At some formal wear shops, they help girls avoid this high school nightmare by asking each customer which event they’re wearing the dress to and checking their database for repeats. That way, their customers can be much more confident about pulling the trigger and buying the dress.

The lesson: You already keep a lot of data about your customers for market research, product development, and ordering — why not use it to help them too?

More About Brains Than Bucks

By Eleanor Haas

Customer service may well be the secret sauce to a sustainable competitive edge, and Andy Sernovitz gives great examples in his 12.26.13 newsletter “I Wish I’d Thought of That.” My three favorites are about e-commerce but the strategy and mindset behind them can be applied to any business.

1. Help them make room

IKEA knows that one of the biggest reasons people don’t buy new furniture is the hassle of getting rid of their old furniture. So the company offered to sell it for them. For their Second Hand campaign, IKEA featured their customers’ actual names, numbers, and old furniture in their ads. Then, they opened their Facebook page for other customers to sell their stuff online in a “virtual flea market” on Sundays.

The lesson: That’s doing much more than just making room for a new couch — it’s creating an amazing customer service story for everyone who sells something through IKEA.

2. Help them make a decision

It’s a pain to exchange a treadmill. So when you buy one, you want to make sure it’s exactly what you want. At Fitness in Motion in Austin, they don’t think the couple minutes you typically spend testing out a machine at other stores is enough to help you make a decision. So they tell potential customers to use their store like a gym: Come by whenever, do their normal workout, and find the machine that works for them before they buy it.

The lesson: This helps customers feel better about their purchase. But more importantly, it gives Fitness in Motion a chance to build relationships and trust with the customers coming in day after day.

3. Help give them peace of mind

If you’ve ever bought a prom dress (disclosure: I’ve bought zero), you know that showing up to prom with the same dress as someone else is a big fear. At some formal wear shops, they help girls avoid this high school nightmare by asking each customer which event they’re wearing the dress to and checking their database for repeats. That way, their customers can be much more confident about pulling the trigger and buying the dress.

The lesson: You already keep a lot of data about your customers for market research, product development, and ordering — why not use it to help them too?

Whither Online Content?

Sponsored content may not be new, but its role as a replacement for traditional advertising certainly is. So is the new acceptance of the collapse of the long-standing wall that separated content and advertising. What makes this new situation acceptable is transparency about the sponsor and assurance that the editorial content was created independently of the sponsor.

These were among the takeaways of a lively discussion among content and advertising experts about Content and Commerce organized by Gotham Media Strategies and Frankfurt Kurnit at yesterdays digital breakfast. Rick Kurnit, of Frankfurt Kurnit, moderated; Glenn Hall, of TheBlazecom; Eason Jordan, of NowThisNews; Scott Kurnit, of KEEP Holdings; Rob Rasmussen, of Story Worldwide and Rebecca Sanhueza, of Time, inc. were panelists.

However “native ads,” i.e., branded content, is not acceptable when it tries to trick people into believing it’s not advertising. And everyone agrees that advertising sucks when it’s annoying and intrusive. But even overt paid content, i.e., ads, can be great. Three campaigns were cited that have won universal acclaim; Nike’s advertising, which delivers inspirational content that empowers consumers; Dove’s, which establishes a relationship with consumers about beauty and how you see yourself and is more like direct marketing, and AT&T’s It’s Not Complicated series, which uses kids’ imaginations to turn boring brand attributes into pure fun.

Interestingly, online e-commerce businesses like KEEP, are bypassing advertising altogether and simply delivering thousands of products for consumers to buy and share.

So then comes the question can any brand create content? The answer is a flat No. Not all brands have the legitimacy to create content. They need to have both a point of view that carries throughout all the brand’s actions and audience respect for that point of view.

The big question about unbranded content, i.e., pure news, or journalism, is the business model. Originally, this relied on the monopoly of news media, which enabled content scarcity and exclusivity. Gone! Today, we have content abundance and ubiquity. One requirement has never changed: relevance to viewer/user interests and needs. So traditional media, like Time Inc.’s magazines, aim to serve both consumers and advertisers by delivering targeted niche audiences to advertisers and targeted content to those audience segments.

What TheBlaze is attempting carries this one step further, developing special content products appropriate to specific advertiser messages and also relevant to TheBlaze audience.

What’s the future business model for journalism? No one knows. But probably a hybrid of subscription fees and advertising with quite probably some commerce as well!

Extreme Customer Development

Staying ahead of the curve. That’s the challenge in the Innovation Economy, where knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation are at the center of the model, driving growth. It’s also the only possible basis for sustainable differentiation in a time of accelerated change – and commoditization. Without it, you’re just another me-too company. With it, you have a chance – if you play the rest of the cards right – to win big.

For start-ups, the No. 1 secret for this, according to Promod Haque, Senior Managing Partner, Norwest Venture Partners, is bringing product marketing and product development together from Day 1. It’s not that difficult to build anything, he said in an interview at a recent TiE event. The right engineer can do it. But does anyone care? Is the market large enough?

Even beyond this, the company needs a top sales person who can give the new business access to, say, 50 customers in three months in an effort to validate the product from the customer perspective –or pivot if, in the end, that’s what you learn is needed from customers.

The No. 2 Haque secret is to network your way to people who understand your industry, get to know them, not just meet them, build relationships, seek real feedback and take it seriously. Many people learn from their own mistakes but the smart ones learn from mistakes others make as well!

So, how does a penniless start-up compensate a strategic marketing person – and that’s what we’re talking about here, not marketing communications? Haque’s suggestion is to find the right consultant, put them on an advisory board and compensate them with options that vest at intervals.

If you’re familiar with Steve Blank’s customer development process, endorsed by Eric Ries as part of his lean start-up approach, you’ll notice striking parallels. Steve’s “4 epiphanies” of customer discovery, customer validation, customer creation and company building fit right in. But here’s the thing. The Haque approach is extreme customer development because it combines marketing and product development at the outset. Not something many engineers will be comfortable with – and some will fail as a result – but probably essential in today’s environment if you want to stay ahead of the curve.

It Takes Two To Tango!

A classic mistake for start-ups is to ask one name to fly solo. It’s usually the product name. Since entrepreneurs have to be obsessed with their product to start a business, that’s probably to be expected. But then how can you be sure you’re talking about the company when it has the same name as the product? Which brand promise do you want to imply or express?

Apple Computer owes its name to a small apple farm where Steve Jobs spent time each year with friends in the mid-70s. And it was the name of both the product and the company until the Lisa, Mac and other new products came along. That’s the typical pattern for start-ups. It was also a long time ago in terms of today’s marketplace.

Today you need all the brand power you can get to claim and hold a place in customer minds, and you need this the minute you start marketing.

Products can be treated as brands – given proprietary names and a brand platform as the backbone of marketing communications efforts. Or they can be given descriptive names and associated with a brand. But they’re missing out if they are denied the halo effect of a corporate brand.

The corporate brand is the face of a business strategy – what the company wants to be known for. In time, it becomes the organizing principle that simplifies the complexity of multiple products and the umbrella that facilitates new product acceptance.

The cost need be no greater for two than for one if you do it right – and you’ll build a far stronger foundation for ongoing sales and profits with both.

Branding in the New Economy

By Eleanor Haas

It began as a stamped mark
of ownership on cattle.  It went on to
become a banner waved in advertising to help sell more products.  Now the brand is at the heart of the creation
of value, where the customer, business and product come together.

It remains a prized marketing
communications tool of marketing executives and their branding and ad agencies.  But for thoughtful business executives
attuned to the accelerated pace of change introduced by the widespread use of
IT and the Internet and intensified by what Chris Anderson has called “the diseconomies
of size,” only recently perceived as a result of the financial crisis of
2008-2009, the brand is gaining recognition as a specialty in its own right – a specialty that has implications for corporate business and operating strategies.

What is a brand?  The very essence of a business imprinted in
the minds of people through their personal experience – the perceived identity.
In other words, it’s no longer what a company says about itself.  Now it’s what people feel in their gut
regardless of what the company says.

What justifies the new
importance of this brand and its role as a specialty in its own right?  (1) The need to differentiate in a world where giant companies are downsizing and turning
loose hundreds of thousands of their employees, creating an immense wave of
both entrepreneurs and their new businesses and independent contractors and
their businesses as well. (2) The need to be
identifiable
in a world where technology makes it surprisingly quick, easy
and even comparatively inexpensive to create new products, some of them truly
innovative, many of them all too similar to each other.  Together all these businesses and products represent
an overwhelming flood of names competing for attention.  (3) The need to sustain relationships with investors, employees, suppliers and
customers beyond buying and selling transactions in this world of constant
innovation, commoditization and change.  (4)  The need to live the brand for it to be authentic and therefore effective.

Today’s new economy is
totally different from that of the 1990s. 
The latter was an illusion based on misunderstandings about the new
technology.  The former is grounded in
the realities enabled by that technology and the gradual dismantling of the old
economy.