The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Everyone has a story now. Or at least most brands claim to have one. But having a story in many ways is like having a product. Really it means nothing if it is not competitive as a narrative and personally relevant to each recipient. So your story must be distinctive from the other stories that are in play in a market and it must continue to be so. That’s challenging in fast moving sectors where there is always something new to look at, another brand tale to try.
That’s why you can’t set and forget a story. Anymore than you can set and forget your business strategy. As your business adapts and responds to changes in the market and the initiatives of your rivals, your story must change too if it is to remain competitive. What that means in effect is that your story is subject to eight ongoing forces, all of which influence what you tell in different ways:
1. Your story must be long (in terms of scope) – you need a story that is capable of being told over an extended period of time, meaning it must have enough aspects (threads) for you to push your storytelling forward, developing, introducing and twisting as the story goes to keep people involved and wanting to know more.
2. Your story must be deep – you need a story that allows you to delve into the detail of different aspects to intrigue, to prove expertise, to demonstrate detail, to highlight a facet, to deliver a backstory
3. Your story must be competitive – there is no point in telling a story that is similar to that of your biggest rival, or in telling the same story as the rest of the industry. You need an angle – a perspective that is refreshing and different, that sets what you have to say apart from what others are talking about. It must be more relevant to the people to whom it is addressed than the story your competitors want to share with them.
4. Your story must be social – it must be more shareable across a full range of social media. So it must invite contribution and input. It must share ownership with the community that forms around it. And it must take its cues, through data analysis and analytics as you collect information on customer shopping habits, customer interests and customer concerns in terms of areas of accent, aspects to explore further, ideas that need to be brought forward. As you gather insights, you need to find ways to inject those ideas into the conversation in order to immerse people further in the storyline.Read More
I was at a speakers’ function once when the conversation turned to those who make the big dollars on the podium. Referring to one particular keynoter who charges around $100K for an address, one of the people in the group observed, “That’s $1700 every minute they’re onstage.”
Are they worth it?
It would be an interesting exercise wouldn’t it to pause a video of such a presentation every 60 seconds and ask ‘was that worth $1700?’ because I suspect that not every minute is worth the same amount. I suspect there’s some variation of a flight of stairs of value, with relatively little ‘value’ at the beginning while everyone settles in and the speaker introduces themselves, a building and paced period of value-delivery in the middle as they extrapolate a story, and then a sustained and high value end-game where they leave the audience inspired before exiting.
Skilled speakers are experts at pacing their presentations to deliver that shape of experience. With so much at stake over such a condensed period of time, they have to. It’s a lesson more brands could learn from – pacing the delivery of their experience to offer critical value at critical moments.
So many brands don’t of course. They flat-line. Or they climb and dive. Or they fish-line (quick spike up, followed by long slow decline over an extended period. Draw it, you’ll see what I mean.) And the reason is that they don’t put conscious thought into their brand experiences. They don’t design them to deliver emotive out-takes. If they design them at all, they do so logistically to deliver a product or service which they hope will produce an emotive out-take.
Try this simple exercise:Read More
The response by airlines to customers’ demands for lower and lower fares has been to do exactly that, lower seat costs, but at the same time to strip more and more of what is included in the fare out of the price.
This process – referred to by Time as “the unbundled skies” – points to a business model that I see becoming more prevalent, and not just in the heavens, as price-sensitive brands lower entry points in order to get customers to commit, and then use “upgrades” to restore margin and, according to the article, add another 50% or so to the real price. Pay less, get less. Want more? Pay more. Ryanair have even suggested, somewhat controversially, that “more” could include access to the toilet. In fact, according to one consultant quoted, there are up to 35 add-ons available when you fly, ranging from baggage and food fees to flight-delay insurance and keeping the middle seat empty. You literally get what you pay for.
This seems like an expedient answer to customers’ demands for cheaper goods. Lure them in – then trick them into paying more. It’s not exactly customer-friendly but at least, some would argue, it’s a way to compete.
True, but changing the competitive model this way is not without its consequences. One is that as the product itself becomes less valuable and valued, service now comes not just at, but with, a price. That in turn shifts the emphasis from what customers get to what do they not get, and what shortfalls they are prepared to do without.
For the moment what’s happening in the aviation sector amounts potentially to a complete economic rebalance of the product at that end of the market. As the article points out, “In the unbundled world, airfare is merely the price of admission to get on a jet. If you crave comfort, convenience, less stress, decent food — what was once called good service — expect to pay up.”Read More
I have a major problem with the free model. To me, it’s misleading – and the reason why is that it’s based on a false premise: that if you offer goods for free, people will in time upgrade to the paid model.
I see why people are tempted to go down this track. It’s easy to see free as a simple way to open the jaws of the funnel. Free gets you awareness and therefore volume, the thinking goes. And there is an implication given by some that you can then trust the conversion process to secure enough sales off that added volume to make the give-away worth it.
Easy too to believe, as you look around the social media environment, that with so many people giving away so much, you have little choice but to do the same.
The problem with this reasoning as I see it is that free is not a generator. On the contrary, it is a competitor. And the reason is that giving so much away sets up an expectation that more should be free. Free becomes a right, an entitlement. It actively competes with the willingness to pay.
Don’t get me wrong. I think there are things you can and should share without cost. You should share some thinking, for example, because there is a pay-off, if you do it well. Hubspot gives away lots of great content to entice you to trust them to at least trial their inbound marketing software. And as Seth Godin points out in this thought-provoking piece McKinsey’s consulting philosophy is free, it’s the bespoke work that costs money.Read More
We get it so wrong don’t we? We develop ideas and look to see if they’ll work by intricately studying people’s actions and reactions. We poll them. We survey them. We sample them. We question them exhaustively. Whereas, what we should be doing, according to Dr. Art Markman, is studying our customers’ habits and developing products and services that fit with how people want to behave.
That way, they’re already pre-disposed to take an action. After all, habits drive actions, not the other way around. All a brand has to do is encourage a new habit and tie the accompanying actions to their brand specifically.
Habits form, says Markman, whenever and wherever there is a consistent relationship between the world and an action. That means that “unless you are in a business where you interact with each customer only once, your customers have habits related to their interactions with you.”
Strong brands capitalize on those routine behaviors. But to do so, says Markman, brands may need to change some habits of their own:
Stop asking and start observing – What people tell you they do, and what they actually do can be very different things, Markman says. If you really want to know how people behave, you need to watch what they do rather than listen to what they say they do. In other words, most brands need to get out more – into the marketplace, watching how people go about their lives, and figuring out how, where and when they can fit in.Read More