Who are you?

Customer centric. Customer focus. I’ve heard it so many times, I’ve seen it written on dozens of business missions or as part of a brand’s values. Yet, I don’t believe it. Because quite frankly if you think about the business decision process within companies, which topics do you reckon come first on the list? Those about what the customer wants… or rather those about margin, reducing costs, maximizing revenue etc? And then you think maybe companies realize that as well, since we’re all buzzin’ about the consumer decision journey and stuff like that.

And let’s assume that companies really are customer centric. I wonder how they make it work, because simply put a lot of companies have no idea who their customers are. To illustrate this point I always show this little movie again: “The Break Up” (aka “Bring the love back”).

And I show it not so much for the reason it was created in 2007 but for this little bit where the advertiser replies to the consumer about not really knowing her:

“Know you? Sweetheart I know everything there is to know about you. You’re 28 … to 34, you’re online interests include music, movies and … laser hair removal. You have a modest but dependable disposable income. Am I the only one not getting the problem?”

That sounds about accurate. That sounds like how companies ‘know’ their customers indeed. So the point is, if you don’t really know who your customers are, how can you be customer centric? You can’t.

And that’s a huge issue of course. So it you really care about the full customer experience, you automatically care about who those customers really are. Thanks to research or just talking to them. Who are those people? What is keeping them up at night? What are their dreams? Etc. Companies do a lot of research to see how people feel about their brand, whereas they should research how people feel about themselves… and how they can affect that (dixit Lou Carbone).

The future belongs to the geeks…

Nobody else wants it.

This is without a doubt one (of many) personal favorites out of all the cartoons Hugh MacLeod has created in the past x years.

I think there’s a lot of simple truth in this one. Every day/week/month I see innovation that impacts the business I am in and which found its origin in technology, software development or something like it. And then I’m not only talking about pure technology innovation but also about innovation of business processes, creative thinking, etc.

An obvious one is about how technology is driving change in the media landscape. And then especially when you think about how long existing ‘traditional’ media are transforming, not just the new media that gets added. Particularly the interactive tv experience is something that fascinates me a lot recently. In this domain several big players are active – television manufacturers, service providers, content networks, … – and yet somehow I believe the main innovation will come from outside, from a few geeks in the corner that will really create a richer tv experience using a tablet device or whatever. They can think without bounderies of current business processes, revenue management, … no old business models to try to protect. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there already.

Another recent example of technology driving change, and this time in business thinking is Agile Strategic Planning, really interesting stuff if you ask me. This whole idea is an answer to changing consumer/brand needs but is based on a concept that has been used (by some) in software development for almost 10 years now. Neil Perkin used the following quote in a recent post while trying to explain the need for this agile thinking:

“Our structures need to be more speedy. Speed used to kill now lack of speed kills. Lets have organizations that can iterate quickly and empower its folks to make decisions. Percolating decisions up and down an organization makes little sense”

Agile strategic development, adaptive marketing, lean planning, … all terms that highlight more or less the same thing. We have to start thinking in ways that allow for much more iterations and changes while the process is ongoing. A new kind of strategic planning that is heavily influenced by concepts developed in software development.

Just 2 examples in my area of interest that came to mind when I saw this cartoon again. But yeah, the future belongs to the geeks, I’m sure of that.

The death of pretty much everything

In September ‘06 I wrote a post called ‘It’s violent out there’ in which I wondered why so many articles online are about companies and web services instantly declared dead when some competition appears. The recent ‘The Web is dead’ post of Wired inspired Harry McCracken of the Technologizer to highlight the same point as I did a few years ago, but much more visually. Enjoy.

“For years, once-vibrant technologies, products, and companies have been dropping like teenagers in a Freddy Krueger movie. Thank heavens that tech journalists have done such a good job of documenting the carnage as it happened. Without their diligent reporting, we might not be aware that the industry is pretty much an unrelenting bloodbath.”

dead

The egg and the eggplant

Found this via Helge Tenno’s blog – quote on media vs social media from my friend Kevin Slavin (Area/Code):

“One way to think about it. It’s like the relationship between media and social media is like the relationship between egg and eggplant. They share just a couple of letters but they’re not in the same taxonomy. That it’s a fundamentally different experience. And that it used to be when you where storytelling, that what you were competing for attention against where other stories. It’s sort of a story competition. And the attention we are competing for now is the attention to each other.”

I didn’t get the chance to meet Helge in person yet, but I find both him and Kevin very inspiring so check them out.

Design fail

Just a bit of Thursday morning fun, found this via someone on Facebook (forgot who – sorry for that). Did we ever notice how poorly designed the Star Wars universe really was? ;)

“Blasters. A tactical nightmare: They’re incredibly loud, especially for firing what are essentially light beams. The fire ordnance is so slow it can be dodged, and it comes out as a streak of light that reveals your position to your enemies. Let’s not even go near the idea of light beams being slow enough to dodge; that’s just something you have let go of, or risk insanity.”

More of the same on SciFi Scanner.

Consumers don’t care about strategy

I don’t think there’s another product in tech that is ridiculed as much as Microsoft Bob. Never heard of it? That’s probably for a reason. Kudos to Monica Harrington for ‘confessing’ that she used to work on Bob and for writing a blogpost about it on Todd Bishop’s Microsoft blog. The product might have been a failure, the lessons learned are absolutely worth for everyone to read. Here’s one that stood out for me:

Consumers don’t care about strategy. Corporate customers do because if they’re investing big dollars over many years in a product, they want to know that it will continue to evolve in ways that are beneficial to the organization. In the corporate market, selling a vision is huge. By contrast, selling a vision to consumers is pointless. The key question they want answered is, "Does it make my life better today?"

It reminded me of how we always try to translate what lives in the ‘Meeting Room’ to something that can work in the ‘Living Room’ for all our clients. Make sure you read Monica’s full post, it’s worth it.

Where’s agency 2.0? (Cont’d)

Right about a year ago I wrote this thought:

“With more and more agencies adopting new ways to get the connection between their clients the advertisers and the consumer, I think it’s time they rethink themselves as well and look at how they can serve their clients, their customers a bit better. Just a thought.”

It was at a time that I was working simultaneously with several different agencies across Europe and it struck me how all of them were telling me to focus more on the customer etc while in the meantime operating on a very self-centric approach themselves.

I was reminded of this post (and discussion) this week as Alain Thys and Stefan Kolle from FutureLab released a new report around exactly that topic:

“This is the free version of the Futurelab report on the growing disconnect between what advertising agencies offer, and what their clients are looking for. If you wish to purchase the full report with 60 pages of strategic insights and recommendations, go to: www.futurelab.net/agencyreport.”

Enjoy.

2nd Edition: Age of Conversation

Some 18 months ago I was part of a project called the “Age of Conversation” and today I’m happy to announce that the second edition of the “Age of Conversation” is a fact. Instead of 100 authors there are over 200 contributors this time (not me anymore) and it’s themed around “Why don’t they get it”. Other than that, all proceeds still go to charity so to encourage you to by the hardcopy this time, John Moore lined up the ‘Money Quotes’ in one little presentation.

Personality matters

PersonalityNotIncluded Last April in NY during the Blogger Social, we all received a bunch of goodies, most of it small promotional items, but also some marketing related books. One of those books was ‘Personality not included’ from Rohit Bhargava, also present at the event. We had a little chat about the book, which was pretty interesting for many reasons but one thing Rohit said made me more curious about reading it than anything else and that was part of a chapter talking about Microsoft and The Blue Monster. So I started reading on the plane back already, it just took me a while to write down my thoughts.

In the introduction Rohit already makes it very clear what this is about:

“Personality matters. Being faceless doesn’t work anymore. The theory of PNI is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers.”

Rohit defines personality then as:

“The unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about”

Chapter 2, that talks about The Blue Monster, interested me for two reasons. One, it’s The Blue Monster (see earlier posts) and two because it talks about ‘The Accidental Spokesperson’. The reason why that interested me more has to do with the revealing of corporations who get social media, lists you can find all over the place these days. Microsoft who used to be mentioned a lot in the beginning as a company who ‘gets it’ is hardly ever in those lists. Why? Because they look at corporate blogs, corporate twitter accounts etc. And we don’t have that – at least not like a CEO blog or something. But there are some hundreds of Softies on Twitter, a few thousands that blog and those are not to be ignored – the chapter shows it well.

Last point I wanted to highlight is something about transparency. Rohit says ’transparency is overrated’ and talks a bit about transparency and authenticity. I pretty much agree with his point and it reminded me of something David Weinberger said during the Euroblog event in Brussels, about how transparency and authenticity are too often used in the wrong meaning, or even terminologies that are sometimes mistaken for one and other. Now David was a lot more articulate about this than I am here now, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Rohit is a smart guy, he writes one of the better marketing blogs you can find and is a great person to discuss with about the changes in consumer engagement. And that reflects on his book, you can see the personality. The one thing I didn’t like (much like Jennifer) is the ‘Guides and Tools’ section of the book, which is too much repetition for me re the first part. That said, good book, go check it out.

Innovation

“Don’t take a designer and tell them to build a bridge. Bring them to the canyon and see what they come up with. (Claudia Kotcha)”

Taken from the “We need change” presentation on Slideshare: “A loosely structured collection of quotes and references regarding the (mediocre) but promising state of market research”.