Convention Challengers

“If you don’t like change, wait until you see how much you enjoy irrelevance”

General Shinseki

Brands are faced with the fast-pace change of the marketplace.  

Suddenly cereal consumption is on the decline and Paleo diet is rising fast. Carbonated soft drinks are in a bit of a free fall. Consumers were moving away from the iPhone because Samsung was satisfying the need for bigger screens and functionality that Apple refused to do. Until now. Biodynamic, natural, organic and sustainable products are starting to blur together. 

Your friends on Facebook aren’t seeing your post because Facebook wants to enhance your experience so all that work you put into building 100,000 likes proves less valuable than just 12 months ago. Instagram is the new place to be until it isn't tomorrow. Life on social media is like a SnapChat - there one minute and disappear the next. 

Things are always changing but who would argue that the rate or velocity appears to be set on turbo charge. How can brands keep up?

I have always embraced challenging convention

It is part of who I am and was a big part of my liberal education. Fortunately, I got to study with people who would keep asking me difficult questions like ‘why do I believe what I just said", causing me to pause and examine my foundational views. 

My favorite quote from my college days was Professor Ray Birdwhistell who used to say that 

"once a culture starts believing in an idea,

 that is when you know it probably isn't true. "

Branding and marketing requires that kind of challenging mind and action. Here are nine questions every brand manager must be asking today to prepare for tomorrow by challenging the conventions right in front of their eyes. 

Ray Birdwhistell and Charlie Wright circa 1976
Where is the herd going in your industry and how can you find a different road to travel? Be like Gretsky - go where the puck is going not where all the hockey players are huddled together. 

What could we lose from our brand that may be making things complicated and difficult for our consumers and not adding value? Can we grow through doing less because of the power of simplicity? 

Why do we do _____________________ activity every year and never challenge that part of our marketing mix? (Fill in your own blank – it could be the industry trade show, print advertising or printing brochures).

Where are threats in the next 5 years going to come from and how do we prepare for them today? Brands sometimes focus on today’s competitors not realizing that the real challenges may not be from their category. Taxi drivers in NYC never saw Uber coming. Hilton had no idea AirBnB could be grabbing share from their business.

Do we really understand how our product fits in with our consumer’s problems? And are we seen as solving different problems for different audiences? What can we do about this in the next twelve months?

Is your business model no longer bringing you the return you need because it’s based on antiquated view of the world? Can you test a new model to see if there isn’t a new road to glory? Maybe investigate subscription, licensing, setting up cooperatives or franchises or other approaches. This book might help called Business Model Generation. 

Do you have the right type of people trying to solve your business and marketing issues today? Is your staff solving 1990’s problems in a 2014 world? Kodak struggled and ultimately bankrupt not because it didn't have digital technology, but because it couldn't change its cultural to adjust to a digital mindset. 

How can you deliver value framed in a new and unexpected way to customers? Perhaps you have too wide (or too narrow) a view of what true value you are delivering to your customers. Maybe there is a universe of opportunity that you are missing because you are seeing the world with an outdated reference frame. Do your team agree what business you are in? 

Did you ever play the game, let’s attack ourselves? Get several teams together from within the company to plan a strategy to challenge your business and brands. Give them the freedom to imagine, without constraint, how they could upend your business. Turn those scenarios into a component of your strategic thinking in the coming year.

Being a brand leader is a thrilling job if you embrace your role as agent of change. 

What are you going to bring to your marketing, communications and messaging activities so that you are getting ahead of complacency? The greatest risk to most brands isn't your competition

The big threat is inaction and staying stuck in today without challenging convention every moment of each day. 

How will you forge a new direction in your business this morning to attack the status quo? 

Cartoon Credit: Check out the great marketing cartoons from Tom Fishburne here. He is one of a kind! 

Jeffrey Slater

Have a challenging marketing issue you are wrestling with? Perhaps you could use a marketing coach. Connect with me through Clarity to schedule time to talk. 

This is a photograph of me with Ron Doggett, former CEO at GoodMark Foods and Randy "Macho Man" Savage in 1995. 

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