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.
Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and a visiting professor at the MIT Center for Civic Media, has written a provocative post on the HBR Blog titled, “The Hidden Biases in Big Data.” She quotes former Wired Editor-In-Chief, Chris Anderson, as saying, “with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.” Crawford then asks, can numbers actually speak for themselves?
Crawford’s answer is a simple no. She states:
Data and data sets are not objective; they are creations of human design. We give numbers their voice, draw inferences from them and define their meaning through our interpretations. Hidden biases in both the collection and analysis stages present considerable risks, and are as important to the big-data equation as the numbers themselves.
I agree. Data – big or small – can no more speak for itself than a goldfish. Big data just makes a long standing problem… bigger. Data must be cleaned and ordered before it can be used, and what numbers mean depends on how we interpret them. I also agree that what we really need is not big data but, to use Crawford’s term, data with depth. This is what I was trying to get at in my post about big data needing a little help.
Chatting to my colleague Bill Pink, Senior Partner, Creative Analytics at Millward Brown North America, he suggests that making use of big data, or any data for that matter, comes back to first principles:
What question are we trying to answer? Do we understand the people, psychology, human relationships, the category or phenomena under study? The upside of the big data is we now have previously untapped assets to help us answer these questions – mobile collection of texts, social media, set top data on TV viewing… that’s the amazing thing.
And those new data assets can be used to provide a better explanation than if we did not have those data sets to include in the story. But that assumes a framework, analytic approach and tools to evaluate and integrate the data and reach these conclusions. It’s not the presence of the data that matters, it’s the question to be answered and the ability of the new data to take us to further than we were before.Read More
You should never start a business unless you are deliberately planning for others in the industry to be dismayed, surprised, outraged or alarmed by what you are doing.
“Start-up” has become a synonym for starting-out. It implies not just being at the beginning, but needing to catch up to someone more established in order to prove oneself.
Launching an upstart on the other hand is all about putting a business in play that really challenges what everyone else has accepted as the rules.
That’s because a start-up focuses on getting a product or an idea to market, whereas an upstart focuses on an “enemy” (be it an attitude or a standardized approach) and looks to a product or service to change that.
Without a business model trained on defying and disrupting the status quo, you are destined to be another player trying to get a footing in another overplayed market. A feature, no matter how beneficial, is not a disruption. If all that stands between you and your competitors is a product improvement, a customer service change, a change in your distribution plan or a new pricing model, you can bank on it being copied, commoditized or counter-attacked at the first sign of sustained success. Then what?
The equation is stark. Rock the boat, and keep rocking the boat – or risk ending up in the same boat as everyone else.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Mark Di Somma, Brand Consultant
Sponsored by: The Brand Strategy Workshop For StartupsRead More
Behavioral economists refer to the decision making process brands use to set a price in the minds of consumers, especially when those buyers are dealing with something that is unfamiliar to them, as “anchoring”. Anchoring provides a reference point from which to perceive and negotiate “worth”. Brands looking to set a high value on what they offer anchor highly; brands looking to position themselves as accessible and everyday do the opposite.
De Beers anchored the value of their rings around “two months’ salary”. The message to purchasers – in this case, men in a jewelry store (perhaps the ultimate social fish out of water) – was that it will hurt but it’s worth it. At the other end of the value scale, when Coca Cola originally positioned their “delicious, refreshing” drink at 5c a glass, they were sending a clear signal to drinkers that Coke was the affordable beverage everyone could enjoy every day. Both messages were on brand, even though they presented vastly different value propositions.
De Beers’ “price” of course takes no reference from the actual cost – how can it, given that two people could have very different salaries? But then, neither for that matter, does Coke’s.
One thing is certain. In this age of ‘fair pricing’, what companies charge is certainly a topic that incites a lot of debate, as the reactions to this article about the cost of making a designer T-shirt prove.
I’ve found brands often look to reference their pricing on what they think a product should be worth (in their eyes) rather than how valuable it might be to a consumer and more particularly, how its anchor price compares with the other anchors that consumers see around them, and draw reference from, every day.
The price you anchor from should benchmark the value you propose to deliver. If you propose to deliver high value, do as De Beers does, and anchor highly. Set an anchor that articulates a clear expectation for what consumers can look forward to. Brands tend to focus on the tangible costs when they look to set such a value, but in today’s much more experiential economy, intangibles are a critical element of the value equation. With that in mind, here are my nine value influencers.Read More
We now have greater access to ideas than ever before, but the ideas themselves, it seems to me, have a much shorter half-life. New thinking, new people, new everything are presented to us at a dizzying pace – in editorial, feeds, slide decks, talks, videos, articles, almost everywhere one cares to look. In an age of instant celebrity and content marketing, thoughts and variations of thoughts are being championed from every social soapbox.
Ideas have become fashion – because they are marketed to us as fashions. And like fashion, most will barely outlive the press release that trumpeted them. A proliferation of lists across the media adds to the sense of volatility.
The “fadar” is how I describe the promulgation of ideas fighting for our collective and individual attention across every aspect of the cultural landscape. Some will shine. Many won’t get the chance. Others will bedazzle on first view only to burn out well before they hit paydirt … (Ironically, as an idea in its own right, the fadar is of course subject to the very forces that it describes.)
Brands are caught up in this. They’re increasingly positioned, and thus perceived, through media, as hot, dead, on the comeback or fighting off the receivers in a world that appears faster, more volatile and less forgiving by the year. Similarly, answers to current business “dilemmas” are marketed to us in the same way – as quick-fix ways to deal with issues in an accelerating world. In a recent post here on Branding Strategy Insider, Walker Smith warns though that perceptions such as increasing speed are “an illusion that brand marketers should scrutinize carefully”. Specifically, he says, marketers need to be wary of the discrepancy between the cultural footprint of new media against their actual shoe size. “Twitter is a prime example. Its cultural importance is indisputable. But … the reactions and opinions expressed on Twitter rarely mirror those of the population at large. It is provocative but not representative.” Little is as big, as serious, as important or as trivial as it may appear in the feeds.
So, if you’re a brand, how do you stay true to your brand in a world where nothing seems to hold that much attention for very long? Inspired by a suite of ideas that continue to ring true for me, I’ve looked to apply the Heath Bros’ six principles of stickability to a strategy for successful branding:Read More
Eventually every product or service will become a me-too commodity that competes on price alone. The pace of product and service innovation is now so accelerated that one can hardly determine who is first to market with a valuable new idea before a competitor knocks it off, adds a feature and lowers the price.
Whether the innovation is radical and disruptive, or lesser incremental improvements to features and functions, everything will, in time, be commoditized to the lowest common denominator. However the time it takes for this to happen is shrinking exponentially.
Continuous improvement is no longer enough.
A little over a decade ago the mantra of “continuous improvement” was what everybody in product development believed was fashionable thinking. That’s no longer so. The rapid pace of innovation happens too fast. Regardless of the product category, very soon everyone else will be offering those same features. Everything becomes at parity with everything else. In an effort to exploit full market potential, marketers are charged with broadening the appeal to the largest customer segment possible. Eventually every innovation becomes watered down to a commoditized version of itself.
This established trend has critical implications for marketers struggling with brand relevance and differentiation–especially in low emotional involvement categories like soft drinks, breakfast cereals, underwear and car insurance.
Recently at The Un-Conference in San Diego, my colleague Brad VanAuken challenged participants to a “branding commodities “ exercise to brand bottled water. Nothing could be more ubiquitous and similar in form and feature – it’s water!
The results of the participant’s creativity and ingenuity in that exercise sparked my deeper thinking on the idea that if any innovation can be commoditized, it can be equally un-commoditized!
Innovate greater meanings not more functions.
It’s my belief it will be essential for marketers to realize that new products, no matter how innovative at their introduction, will become the accepted norm in the category at vastly discounted prices. Seemingly more and more innovation just speeds up the race to the middle if not to the bottom.
The question now is how do marketers turn this me-too trend around and differentiate product brands on something more transcendent then function or performance?Read More