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LISTEN TO THE ENGAGING BRAND PODCAST

…featuring a discussion about brands, business, trust and social capital between me and Anna Farmery who hosts the show. The podcast covers some of the thinking in my book Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU?

You can listen the podcast here. 

Thanks to Anna at The Engaging Brand website. You can follow Anna on Twitter at @engagingbrand.

UNDER COOK-ING APPLE

Today was a BIG day in the life of one of the world’s great companies and brands – Apple. “It’s a beautiful day in Cupertino” was the twitterers’ most frequent comment this afternoon as tension built for Apple‘s “Let’s talk iPhone” event scheduled for 1pm West Coast US time.

Would they? Wouldn’t they (announce the iPhone 5)? Hardware or software focus? How would the largely unknown Tim Cook’s first outing as CEO go down?

For months Apple has been dominating headlines: from Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO to their vying for the spot as the largest company in the world by market capitalization with Exxon to Android signing up 1m activations a day.

The pressure from customers, shareholders, employees and the media was and is immense.

So what was the impact of all this on the brand, reputation and trust that millions of customers, investors, and journalists have in this iconic brand? Well I’m going to go out on a limb, and I don’t get any joy out of this (even though I’m writing this on a PC), that based on today’s presentation there are definite blemishes appearing on the Apple shine. Whether these blemishes turn into rot for the business remains to be seen but they are worth delving into.

Firstly, the good-ish news. The presentation finished with a major flurry which was the announcement of Siri – “a humble personal assistant” – as she/he/it put it themselves. This is a voice activated assistant feature which has the potential to be a major breakthrough in human-machine interactions making life simpler for the many of us who battle with too large thumbs and “how do you do that again” forgetfulness. The demo was impressive and the functionality clearly class leading. The implementation of this technology for human benefit is where Apple is fantastic but the worrying element here was that this technology was gained through their acquisition of Siri in April 2010 for around $200m. It was a smart move to acquire but it’s not a home-grown innovation.

The major issue for Apple which will, I suspect, hammer their share price for the next few days was that they didn’t announce a new iPhone but an upgrade to the iPhone 4 called the iPhone 4s. They called it “a completely new inside” – based on the A5 chip but it looks identical to the iPhone 4. The lack of the iPhone 5 is bad given that they now haven’t launched a truly new model in over 16 months and that pent up demand is massive. Apple’s pace of innovation is slowing and I don’t believe that with the iPhone 4s they will give enough people enough of a reason to upgrade. This means that they are missing growth and market share protection opportunities.

In this first post -Jobs event they relied on software, namely Siri and iOS5 to carry them through. Whilst there are many good features included they are primarily just catching up to features already available on the latest Android handsets. The lack of true innovation here was underlined by the 5 minutes spent talking about a hardly earth shattering feature to send physical greetings cards through the post via Apple to anyone around the world.

These issues were compounded by the presentation being quite boring and more corporate than I’ve ever seen from Apple before (however I was only following it on Engadget and Twitter – maybe it was scintillating in the hall?). For the first 45 minutes from the reporting I read the loudest cheer seemed to be for an iPod nano clock face featuring Mickey Mouse! The now legendary presentation style was polluted – lines such as “integrated clip” as a major feature of the iPod nano made it through the editing process. Slides and slides of the A5 chip in the iPhone 4s dominated with stats such as “26% better this” and “7x better that”. After an hour Twitterers were clamouring for a headline announcement – the 140 character frustration was palpable. What was lacking were any real strides forward in terms of Apple’s core competence which is making technology beautiful and simply to use. I’ve no doubt the iPhone 4s is better than the iPhone 4 but I don’t want one enough to make me switch. That, for Apple, is a problem.

After all is said and done and the yards of coverage are analysed the deeper issue here is whether the Apple brand and organisation can continue in a post-Jobs world to deliver outstanding innovation and design that commands irrational loyalty, trust and price premium. What was delivered today was largely incremental improvement. Steve Jobs was said to have a “reality distortion field” that allowed the organisation space to create whole new paradigms with products such as the iMac, iPod and iPhone. They truly led the market by understanding consumer needs – not at a “focusgroup” level by responding to what is said – but by looking beyond the surface and harnessing this as a driver of wild organisational imagination.

I hope we haven’t seen the beginning of the end of the Apple of old and the beginning of a more “corporate” less outstanding company. Either way the pressure on Tim Cook and his team won’t be any less tomorrow than it was at 12.55pm today. I wish them luck.

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UPDATE: I’ve just been reading the first analyst reactions and they seem positive towards the iPhone 4S but not from an innovation perspective but rather because of increased distribution via the deal that Apple have struck with Sprint. Whilst this undoubtedly increases the addressable market my fear is whether this indicates that going forward Apple’s growth under new CEO Tim Cook will be less about game-changing innovation and more about business tactics. Is this always the way when a numbers led CFO takes over from a visionary founder?

Justin

justin@basini.com

THE “DAILY BALLET”

 

Just back from a trip to America and having spent far too long in airports over the past couple of weeks I was reminded of Jane Jacobs 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and her powerful description of the ‘daily ballet,’ happening on the streets. The mass movement and information exchange between strangers going about their daily business which can be observed and felt on busy streets and places like crowded airports.

Walking among strangers in an unfamiliar place has always had a certain piquancy to it…but these uneasy feelings are now more and more common even as we make our way around our own communities and countries. In airports the constant checks and universal CCTV and security presence makes one feel the oppression of the lack of trust in the travelling public and far from being reassuring it makes me feel on edge.

It is this environment of nervousness and suspicion that makes it harder for us to be comfortable around each other and benefit from the formal and informal interactions of walking with strangers.  Our response is to naturally spend more time alone or in close family groups, in our cars and homes and less out in our communities. We lose the sense of ourselves as citizens living together with others in society, and often replace this with other roles – like ourselves as consumers.

And thus, marketing and many other businesses benefit as we replace community with consumption. The impact of these changing modes of interaction and atomisation of society are far-reaching. We trust less, we assume more negative intent and we destroy our very ability to trust, denying ourselves the opportunity to learn and interact with others, and in the process, blunt for good our skills in trusting.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

MARKETING PAID FOR T.V.

According to Dr.Aric Sigman in Remotely Controlled (2005), more than half of all three-year-olds in America have a T.V. in their rooms, rising to two-thirds by age six, with the average hours watched daily as high as five. From ADHD to our changing values, television has had a significant effect on all our lives, and marketing has paid for it. What responsibility does that place on us as marketers?

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

STICK TO YOUR STORY

There is huge power in having control over your brand’s narrative and its evolution. To watch Steve Jobs delivering an Apple presentation about their latest product is to witness a brand completely in control of the development and evolution of their narrative.

Don’t fall into the short-sighted trap of focusing on one campaign at a time, especially when the pressure is to acquire new customers or drive volume. Any new communication must be seen within the context of past and future promises.

The best brands:

  • Understand and build on previous messages.
  • Commit to and reinforce key benefits.
  • Bring to life their mission, motivations and the culture through their actual achievements.

These are the characteristics that help brands move forward and develop consistent space in people’s minds.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

 

THE TRUST FACTOR

It could well be one of the most vital ingredients of our existence; a foundation of the economy, our businesses, and our brands, perhaps even society itself.  Trust is an easy thing to feel but a hard thing to decode.

In this fast moving era of the 24×7 news cycle, with the eruption of information availability and our changing social landscape – trust is one factor that has not only become more complex but has also failed entirely on several occasions with major consequences.

From Lehman brothers to BP to Toyota to British politicians’ expenses to global warming science and even the global financial meltdown, brands and their consumers have suffered from serious, catastrophic collapses in trust.

In spite of these transformed markets and a more cynical consumer all is not lost. Over the next few weeks and months we will be exploring the landscape of trust and how you can build and rebuild trust in your business, brand or organisation.

Through a series of blog posts and excerpts from my new book Why Should Anyone Buy from You? we will create insights around strategy, brands, marketing and communication that will help you create trust in brands and drive the growth of your businesses.

If you want to know about what we believe can be the twenty-first century mission for marketing – the re-humanization of business then keep reading.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

COLLAPSE OF THE MEDIA MADNESS

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What we have witnessed over the past few days with the closure of the News Of The World and the fast creep of the flames to other newspapers is proof that this aphorism is true.

And let’s be clear despite the best efforts of the Murdochs’ to stem the blood loss what we are witnessing is a fundamental reshaping of the balance of power in the British media. The deplorable behaviour that we now understand to have been commonplace will do the same for journalism as the expenses scandal did for politics.  And I, for one, welcome the cleansing fire.

Trust in the media, despite what journalists, especially from the BBC, would have us believe is far from rock solid. Journalists bump along at the bottom of the pack with politicians (just behind business leaders lest we become too high and mighty).

But this lack of trust is not a good thing for society. Who can we count on when those whose higher purpose is to call the powerful to account are themselves seen as frauds? We need a strong and vibrant media but one that is called to account itself and can be trusted.

The reality is that there has been a deep lack of morality at the heart of the media for decades as the consumerist, self-obsessed, media and advertising created matrix has been created. We have all lost our way. From all of us that placate our own insecurities with celebrity gossip, to those that have no boundaries in their manufacturing of this “product”, the politicians too gutless to lance the boil, and the brands and advertisers that pay for it all. There were many responsible for creating the ethical vacuum that allowed such shameless activities to be seen as acceptable.

The inevitable changes to self-regulation, ethical standards and practice, the sackings and arrests, the calls for greater transparency all have the potential to be good as we vaguely attempt to rebuild the lost social capital in our society. The battle for a respected, valuable, social capital creating media is an important one. We are living through The Gap – where information outstrips our ability to change – and it is painful. But the opportunity, if we can take it through hard work, perseverance and looking at ourselves and our culpability, could be a better, healthier and more open society.

I look forward to it. From fire comes new growth.

If you are interested in trust generally and in society, and in the roles the media, business and brands play in building it, then why not consider pre-ordering my book WHY SHOULD ANYONE BUY FROM YOU?

Please remember to leave a comment and get the debate going.

Justin

The Re:Thinking Marketing & Brands Blog

justin@basini.com

www.basini.com

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