At last! My book Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU? available on Kindle

trust kindle

I am delighted to say that at long last my book – Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU? is available as a Kindle edition.

Now you can read all about how trust works, what you can do to create, nurture and capture it on your favourite e-reader. For more information on Why Should Anyone Buy from YOU? including videos, praise and free chapter click here.

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

LEADERSHIP: MARKETING FOR SOCIAL GOOD

In last week’s Marketing Week there was an article that I contributed an interview to called Beyond the Boardroom Walls written by Lucy Handley. It is well worth reading.

The central premise is that marketing can change behaviour positively and negatively. Using the skills, creativity and ideas of marketing it has the potential to make an important contribution to solving some of the issues that we face in our society and world.

I explored some of these trends and ideas in my recent presentation at the 3rd CMO Conference and in a presentation I co-authored with Tom Farrand from Pipeline called the True Value of Brands. Both can be seen at my slideshare site.

If you have ideas or thoughts on these issues or the social role of marketing then please comment below.

If you want to stay in touch with the latest in marketing and brand re:thinking then please sign up to the RSS or email feed – it’s free and easy.

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website & the RE:Thinking Marketing & Brands blog:http://www.basini.com/
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HOT AIR OR REAL DELIVERY? THE NATWEST/RBS CUSTOMER CHARTER

This week Natwest and Royal Bank of Scotland rolled out their Customer Charter and lots of marketing in support. Full page ads in papers up and down the country. According to these adverts they are now making 14 commitments to help them become "Britain's most helpful bank". If you haven't seen the adverts (and before you click on the links in this blog) guess what these commitments are?

In the main it is the typical shopping list of customer friendly platitudes – we will be helpful, we will help you make the right choices, we are a responsible lender, we will resolve customer complaints fairly etc. Much of it is complete table-stakes – we will keep you safe online, we will provide a 24/7 telephone banking service, for example. Some of it is complete marketing spin such as "we intend" to have 600 branches open on Saturday by end of 2010 – for perspective Natwest/RBS have over 2,200 branches; and that 9 out 10 customers will rate our service as "helpful" (whatever that means).

Without being too cynical there are one or two interesting new ideas such as the community commitments which include staying open if they have "the last branch in town" (although this might create a perverse incentive for them to close down struggling branches sooner rather than later) and 25,000 financial education lessons (which again for perspective is only 0.0026 per child given there are 9.5m school children in the UK). More interesting is what has been left out.

Given that RBS/Natwest collapsed and was forcibly nationalised with taxpayers money by the UK Government in 2008 then wouldn't a commitment to financial stability and prudence have been appropriate? Given that the business failed because the money that was deposited by normal retail customers was used to build a balance sheet of around £1trn that funded risky investment banking wouldn't a commitment to managing risk more tightly been right?

And given the massive resources of this nationalised bank are the commitments to financial education really big enough? However, as I have argued on this blog before, the focus on banks at the moment should be on delivering a good, reliable service well rather than marketing and innovation (see Just How Special and Different are Financial Services Brands), in the end that is how trust will be re-established. Therefore many of the commitments are well made if they can be delivered.

So I decided to visit a few Natwest branches and talk to staff about the Charter and what it means to them. Of the three central London branches I visited none had any literature about the Charter even though all the adverts say that you can pick up a leaflet in branch. Chatting with staff I was greeted with the following comments:

"Yeah they told us about this last week, it's how they will improve the service"

"It's about serving people in 5 minutes"

and

"Dunno about that"

Searching the Twitter-verse this morning revealed an interesting series of #fail tweets from frustrated Natwest customers which might indicate that Natwest have a significant way to go on delivering their commitments.

This doesn't bode well and perhaps indicates that the timings of the marketing calendar trumped the roll out internally. This is a classic financial services marketing mistake.

Financial brands are built through experience and people. An employee that completely understands the experience they are supposed to deliver, and is supported by management and aligned incentives, is how these commitments will reach you and me. This is the really hard work of re-orienting and aligning people – this is where the focus should be rather than working with the ad agency. Without this the millions of pounds being spent on advertising this charter (and remember it is our money!) is mis-spent and will be more marketing spin that will make the lack of trust worse.

I wish Natwest/RBS luck with their commitments if they are one of the very few financial services brands and businesses that realise that the way they will win the loyalty, respect, trust and share of wallet of their customers is through creating employee advocates and excellence in actually delivering on their commitments rather than by advertising and marketing the hot air of what they intend to deliver in the future.

What do you think? Do you think this is a good initiative by Natwest and RBS? Do you trust them more given the 14 commitments? Are you a Natwest or RBS employee – what's your view of this campaign and the commitments? Any view – please leave a comment below.

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Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com

My website and blog: http://www.basini.com/

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PUNK YOUR BRAND

Malcolm McLaren, one of the major forces behind the Punk movement died last week.

He’d probably hate this blog I’m about to write but here goes anyway – it’s meant as a tribute to the many things we can learn from “unreasonable” people like McLaren.

Malcolm McLaren was the marketing genius that propelled the punk movement into the spotlight and amplified its effect on our society and consciousness. He did such a good job that even now we all still hold a visceral understanding of the feelings and motivations behind the punk movement.

So how do you Punk your brand?

1. Be unreasonable.

Malcolm McLaren said: ‘There are two rules I’ve always tried to live by: turn left, if you’re supposed to turn right; go through any door that you’re not supposed to enter.”

It’s said progress is only made through the actions of the unreasonable. That’s the same with businesses and brands although sometimes it’s a little harder to see than black eyeliner and a mohican haircut.

But at the time it wasn’t reasonable for Henry Ford to say “I will make a car for the great multitude” or for Sergy Brin, founder of Google, to say “We had a simple idea, that not all pages are created equal. Some are more important,” or my favorite from Steve Jobs who said  “I want to put a ding in the universe.”

All the greatest businesses and brands have been built from unreasonable people fighting against the system, seeing a better way and creating something extraordinary. Malcolm McLaren wanted to fight back against the mainstream which he saw as pallid and restricting. His ideas and vision connected with what young people were feeling and changed their lives, it gave others pause for thought about the direction of travel. Above all it got him noticed.

How unreasonable are you?

2. Connect with radical ideas and people

True game changing insight doesn’t come from sitting behind glass listening to Mr and Mrs Average tell you why they want a new car or like an advert. The really different thinkers are, almost by definition, at the edges, in the fringes of society.

Malcolm McLaren found ideas that sparked his imagination at the art colleges of the Sixties including Harrow, St Martin’s and even Croydon. He connected with talented, wild thinkers. He married one of his most powerful connections a young Vivienne Westwood. This undercurrent of youth and ideas demanded an outlet which created society changing content.

Great business and organisations look for true diversity and seek out ideas in different places. They collaborate in new and exciting ways.

Have you talked to your local university or art college recently about what they are thinking? Have you stopped to get together with people who have radically different points of view from you or look very different?

Where do you hunt for game changing ideas?

3. Develop content that fires the imagination.

McLaren was an ideas man and he had an intuition for developing content which through its medium and message had an impact. When McLaren and Westwood opened their shop in 1971 on the Kings Road they first called it “Let it Rock” then “Too fast to live, too young to die” then finally “Sex”. The constant re-development as the shop changed allowed it to continue to be a magnet for punk and background to the formation of the Sex Pistols. McLaren knew that linking sex and subversion was both incredibly attractive to the younger generations and incredibly challenging to the establishment.

“God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb”

God Save the Queen, The Sex Pistols


McLaren understood the media as well as the message. The message of God Save the Queen was amplified onto a national stage when McLaren hired a boat and got the Sex Pistols to play it opposite the Houses of Parliament and then got the boat raided by the police. This was what ensured that it was a hit in the same week as the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

McLaren created and moulded content which truly captured the imagination and took over the consciousness. It was so daring in its conception that it demanded attention.

How about putting this as an example to emulate in your next campaign?

4. Social aims give you greater permission.

If you do put into action the recommendation above of emulating McLaren’s approach to creating and moulding content that demands attention – you are most likely to fail.

Why? Because if you’re a marketer or brand owner reading this you’re probably trying to sell stuff. What that means is that people will give you little latitude or room to maneuver. Punk, for all its aggression and bile against the state, and claims to anarchy, had the energy, naivety and pureness of a youthful desire for a different, and hopefully better way. A way that was more accepting, less controlling and more liberal.

This social aim lent Punk permission to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.

The landscape of brand and business is rapidly becoming one where businesses that develop their social impact as well as delivering against their commercial aims will be the leaders. Adopting social imperatives starts a different conversation, it widens the scope of engagement, and creates space for new ideas and change to happen.

5. Success is a consequence of your strike rate.

Malcolm McLaren produced ideas most of which didn’t work but he had endurance and a belief in himself and what he was doing. Even the Sex Pistols, perhaps his most successful idea, crumbled because he didn’t realise the talent and opportunity that he had created.

But he got up and gave it another go. As the state re-established control in the 1980s and, as a consequence of the result of the social breakdown of the 1970s, the free market mantra of Reagan and Thatcher emerged, he continued to be disruptive and flamboyant. He worked with new bands and artists including Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow. He was responsible for the infamous “See Jungle” album cover where an underage Annabella Lwin posed nude in a recreation Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe. In 2006 he even co-produced the film Fast Food Nation.

McLaren was comfortable with failure and just kept on developing ideas. Punk was about keeping the energy and momentum of change alive.

It’s only those businesses that embrace failure and keep swinging that succeed over the long term. The creative process is not easy, it’s not smooth. We’ve all read the books and analysis – most products and new launches don’t work – accept it, move on and keep creating. Until you do, you won’t get to your success.

May Malcolm McLaren rest in anarchy…

What do you think? Got a view on Malcolm McLaren and punk – leave a comment below – its easy and I reply to all of them!

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Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: http://www.blog.basini.com/
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ENGAGING WITH THE WEB 2.0 CONSUMER

Yesterday I took part in the Institute of Economic Affairs Future of Consumer Finance Conference.

I gave a presentation in the afternoon about engaging with the Web 2.0 Consumer.

Here is the presentation.

If you have any views or thoughts please comment below and share the presentation if you think its useful.

Thanks

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: http://www.blog.basini.com/
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JUST HOW SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT ARE FINANCIAL SERVICES BRANDS?

This morning I took part in a lively debate organised by the Financial Services Forum and their newly formed Brand Strategy group chaired by the inestimable Lucian Camp.

I shared the floor with Tim Pile who is CEO of Cogent Elliott and has a long and distinguished career in marketing including being CEO of Sainsburys Bank and the insightful Mike Hoban who is now running marketing for DirectGov and has had successful stints at Scottish Widows and Barclaycard.

We were each asked by Lucian to describe the essence of brand building in either Packaged goods (Tim took this on), Services (excluding financial services – Mike took this one) and Financial Services (this was mine).

My key point was that I believe many of the principles of brand building are common irrespective of category because essentially we are dealing with human psychology but that the context of these principles within financial services does make it "special and different".

Three context differences in financial services:

1. Financial services companies are hard wired around product and P&L analysis rather than brand and customer.

This means that the power within financial services companies almost always resides within commercial product owners rather than marketing. These leaders are trained in P&L, balance sheet risk, regulatory compliance, operational effectiveness not marketing, brand, experience and customer.

The very logic of brand building, positioning for strategic competitive advantage, customer segmentation, product development based on consumer need are all more difficult concepts in a financial services organisation. The result is an industry that in general creates me-too products which are overly complex, often game the consumer, provide a poor overall experience and are communicated in complex jargon.

2. Financial services are delivered through people. And people are much harder to manage than a shampoo formulation.

Certainly in most product categories especially the FMCG companies, brands are entities created to effectively penetrate the customer mind and form associations with product performance rather than being a set of associations about a group of people doing something. In most cases in FMCG companies the brand you are marketing is not the brand you work for. Given most financial services organisations have one or only a few brand the internal service and brand alignment challenge in these brands is core and material to their success. From the Indian call centre agent to the CEO in a financial organisation each needs to understand the brand and how it applies to their job.

3. Financial services products tend to be more risky and complex than many other types of products or services. They require much more effort from the consumer and the provider.

An irony of financial services businesses is that the organisation often believes they are the most commoditised of products. I used to be told all the time at Capital One – credit cards are a “low involvement” business. Consumers take a product and then want us to disappear into the background.

But having spent lots of time obsessing about how to make white gloop in a bottle exciting to consumers, I don’t think that financial services products are or should be low involvement – they have a massive impact on people’s lives and well being.

If they low involvement its probably because they are difficult and complex to communicate and understand. This combines with the terrible mess we are in from a regulatory perspective, defaulting to complete, unedited exposure of all information, to make it extremely difficult for the consumer to make an informed and empowered decision.

And finally (as Lucian called it the "Basini bombshell") I ended up questioning one of the core purposes of brand building:

4. Financial services brands – it's not about being different but about making a difference

The strategic goal of marketing in many businesses is to create a differentiated position in the market that gives you competitive advantage through cheaper cost of sales or price premium for example. Of the many principles that we could consider this is perhaps one of the most fundamental.

Actually I’m not sure this has been proven effective for the main stream brands in financial services. If we look at our banks for example. A highly consolidated and inert market with very little to split apart the businesses products, performance or promise.  Certainly not enough to encourage mass switching to occur except maybe in those more liquid and more easily gamed products like credit cards.

In highly competitive and easily switched categories there is definite advantage to creating new ideas that better match and deliver against the consumer’s myriad needs. But the difference in financial services given their complex, impactful and long term nature is that aim shouldn’t be to create the new, new thing to gain share at the expense of customer loyalty but to focus on superior product reliability and partnership as a route to extracting competitive advantage and value. This is how our organisations and products can make a difference.

As marketers, we may not be in the right job to get to the CEO spot, we might be wired a little differently from the mainstream in our organisations but given our products are difficult and risky, and are built through human relationships and service, we have myriad opportunities to build great brands which have lasting value for our organisations and customers.

Lucian's blog on the session can be read here. 
 

Here is my presentation as a slidecast:

 

Thanks for reading. As always please share and comment if you've got a view.

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website & Blog: http://www.basini.com/
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Brands: if you want trust give trust


Brands and businesses always want to be trusted. But rarely do they trust their customers to understand how business works. This is why most organisations mission or values statements don’t include simple direct statements of what businesses are there, in part, to do which is make money. Businesses and corporations assume that we distrust them and therefore act defensively. In some cases, often the high profile ones, covered by the media, this default position of distrust is right but the vast majority of businesses, those that many of us work for, and employ our friends and family members, are full of good people trying to deliver well for their customers and make a fair profit in return, and money for themselves.

But most businesses, especially the big ones, are pathologically scared of saying anything that isn’t on message. And those messages are devoid of reality because they just don’t trust normal people to understand that running businesses is not easy, a balancing act and they have to make a return on their efforts. The cancer in these organisations are the public relations and corporate affairs departments that are obsessed with controlling the message, saying as little as possible, and where success is staying hidden.

In my experience most people are fair and reasonable. We understand that businesses need to make money, but we want them to give us good services and not exploit us for super-profitability. But most corporations treat us like we are cynical, conspiracy theorists or anti-business. And this has created a culture, especially in Britain, France and Germany, where making a profit is seen as inherently exploitative and almost immoral.

Witness John Petter from BT this morning (12th Feb 2010) on BBC Breakfast. Since BBC doesn’t replay Breakfast (can someone upload the interview to YouTube? YES ITS HERE) I’ll give a sense of the Tweets that were going round that summarise his performance:

jhemusinsignia: BT spokesman on BBC Breakfast was v.poor: why are people lacking the necessary skills put forward? Train them or use someone else
charlie74: BBC Breakfast presenter grilling the BT rep on TV… loved it
Tommy_Hill: Anyone else think the BT guy was seriously floundering on BBCBreakfast? “I don’t know if we’ll make money on it”.. Bulls**t
zenemu: #BT chap who was just on the BBC was a bit of a worm. BT are changing free evening calls from 6pm to 7. Odious little man from awful company
RAIPR: Wtchng John Petter, BT directr justify 7pm off-peak move on BBC. Nervy, defensive, dncng feet, looking away from cam, stuttering #fail
imogenfarr: Anyone see the BBC Breakfast interview with the squirming BTspokesperson? Blimey, he’d never have coped if he was interrogated by Paxman.



There is no doubt that his performance this morning was very poor but I suspect rather than being a consequence of not enough media training, it was caused by too much media training. Having been through several versions of this torture myself these sessions are focused on Corporate Affairs/Public Relations/Media people drilling you. “Don’t say this, say that”, “don’t answer questions directly” and most importantly don’t tell the truth. Don’t lie, don’t tell the truth, better to not say anything at all.

This goes right to the heart of the way that businesses present themselves currently. There is no longer a recognition, a trust, that we understand how businesses work. Read the mission and values of BT (taken from their website this morning):


Our vision

Our vision is to be dedicated to helping customers thrive in a changing world. The world we live in and the way we communicate are changing, and we believe in progress, growth and possibility. We want to help all our customers make their lives and businesses better with products and services that are tailored to their needs and easy to use.
This means getting ever closer to customers, understanding their lifestyles and their businesses, and establishing long-term relationships with them.
We’re passionate about customers and are working to meet the needs they have today and innovating to meet the needs they will have tomorrow.

Our values

Our corporate identity defines the kind of company we are now and the one we need to be in the future.
Central to that identity is a commitment to create ways to help customers thrive in a changing world. To do this we must live our brand values:
  • Trustworthy – we do what we say we will
  • Helpful – we work as one team
  • Inspiring – we create new possibilities
  • Straightforward – we make things clear
  • Heart – we believe in what we do
We are committed to contributing positively to society and to a sustainable future. This is part of the heart of BT.”

I can guarantee that John Petter and his boss Gavin Patterson spend most of their time obsessing about how they can organise their business to make money, grow and be cost efficient, whilst giving a good service. That’s what they get rewarded for. And yet making a fair return, making money for themselves and their employees, is no where to be seen in the mission and values of BT. These vision, mission and values statements have become divorced from reality, and its not just BT that suffer this problem.

Every business person that goes through a media training torture session comes out scared to death of saying anything, and is certainly left with the impression that having an open conversation about working hard to deliver value whilst making money is completely “off message”.

That’s what you could hear this morning from Mr Petter. His message was “buy unlimited packages” and he automaton-like repeated this time and time again. Charlie Stayt asked for a commitment from him that the prices would always be better value now and in the future, something which was impossible to answer on the couch in a studio. But instead of calmly responding, as Mr Petter might in a normal conversation with you or me, that BT always wanted to be good value, but that these decisions needed to be properly planned his only reply was “buy unlimited packages”. He thereby demonstrated that he didn’t trust those listening to his interview to conclude that he was a reasonable man with a reasonable approach and, yep, these things generally needed to be thought about.

Even when Susannah Reid asked him directly why he didn’t just explain that giving customers free calls meant that they didn’t make enough money, he wasn’t brave or trusting enough, to agree and admit that giving a good service and making a fair profit was what they were trying to do. All he could say was “buy unlimited packages”.

I felt sorry for John Petter this morning, a classic victim of media training where the goal is to say nothing, and a corporate and cultural context where trusting people to understand that businesses are there to try and give good services that we all need, and make a fair profit in return, is unacceptable.

Unfortunately until brands and businesses start to wake up to the fact that trust is a two way relationship, they will never win our trust.

Did you see the interview this morning. What do you think?
Do you work for BT? How did you feel?
Have you been media trained? What is your experience?

Please comment below and share with others using the social media icons.

Thanks – have a lovely, non-business, non-brand, non-marketing weekend and Valentine’s day.

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: http://www.blog.basini.com/
Follow me: www.twitter.com/justinbasini

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Trendhunter Pro – cutting edge trend hunting from around the globe


Last year I recommended the best selling book – Exploiting Chaos – by a friend of mine Jeremy Gutsche.

Jeremy’s website Trend Hunter continues to go from strength to strength. His model is fascinating. He has thousands of “trend hunters” posting interesting content about stuff happening all over the world. But what I really love is the way that they are exploiting and developing insight from this content.

The guys have launched a new service called TrendHunter Pro Trend Reports. These are great syntheses of what is hot from all the content posted on Trend Hunter. If you are in consumer insight or want to know about the real cutting edge trends happening now then they are worth looking at. Trend Hunter is great example of how powerful the democratisation of the creation of content is to delivering insight and value.

Click here to visit Trend Hunter.

[Disclosure: If you buy through the above link then I receive a commission on this sale. This does not affect my recommendation of what I think is a good product. If you prefer not to recognise my recommendation through a commission then you can use this link: www.trendhunter.com]

Have fun exploiting what’s hot and what’s not!

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: http://www.blog.basini.com/
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THE PIZZA OF INNOVATION

I'm a huge fan of Pizza Express (for those non UK readers Pizza Express was the first sit down pizza restaurant chain in the UK established in the 60s). Both my sons were born soon after Pizza Express visits!

And despite now having a growing family we still love Pizza Express because over the past few years they have stepped up their innovation and much of it is based on really good insight into their customers.

After a recent visit a few lessons struck me on what pizzas reveal about customer led innovation:

1. Understand the desired experience not just the product attributes. My wife and I still like to spend an hour or so in a restaurant having a simple dinner. That hasn't changed now we have three kids. We've learnt, as many parents before us have, that the art to keeping that hour pain-free is keeping the kids occupied. Increasingly kid-friendly restaurants dole out the crayons and paper but Pizza Express have taken it to another level. They have tailored their kids menu to be multiple small courses over the space of an hour. So you quickly get garlic bread or dough balls for the kids to munch, then comes a small pizza, then an ice cream, then a really cute idea – the Bambicino – which is a frothy cappucino style milk. This means whilst we eat a starter and pizza the kids meal is paced to keep them occupied. Pizza Express have understood what I want and, more importantly, what my kids want so that we all get a good experience.

2. A well tried foundation is the best starting place for new ideas. Why is the pizza such an enduring food? Because it is a solid foundation from which to add and adapt. This is true for much innovation (and indeed solid incrementalism) – start with a good process or product, understand what is great with it, and then improve. A strong foundation also allows you to engage the customer through customisation…

3. Customisation was, is, and always will be a powerful way to engage. From its earliest origins the pizza has been a customisation engine. One of the reasons almost everyone can enjoy a pizza is that the solid foundation allows personal expression and the adaptation to personal taste and creativity. This is what I love about Apple products, a great base product facilitating creativity, for example, through the music you put on them or what you create on them. Dell were the masters of mass customisation but on attributes that were intrinsic rather than 'tasty'. Only now are they realising that allowing customisation on the surface is as important.

4. Innovation isn't always about adding things – it can also be about taking things away. Most companies that I've worked with start from a foundation of their current product or process and then think about features or benefits that can be added in order to innovate. This isn't a bad path to innovation but it can be illuminating to think about what to take away from the product. Pizza Express have a new product called the Leggera. This is a pizza with the middle taken out with salad replacing it. This fills a need for those who want a lower calorie option. I admired Vodafone when they launched their Simple proposition. A simple phone and tariff for those that wanted just a phone that worked like a traditional phone not a computer. Dyson took away the vacuum cleaner bag for a better experience. You don't always have to add.

5. Different occasions are sources of new volume, canibalisation can be a red-herring. In the last few years Pizza Express have launched a line of retail pizzas. I bet this gave them some sleepless nights. I can hear the discussions now: surely this would canibalise their take out business or, even worse, their core restaurant business (especially in these more difficult times as people trade down)? Perhaps it would damage the brand because they couldn't gaurantee product quality? Overall I think it works well and from what my friends in the supermarket industry tell me it has been a hit. It has provided a new occasion for loyal users to use the brand and allowed those who don't visit the restaurants to buy into the franchise in a different way. I bet frequency of consuming a Pizza Express product is way up since their introduction. Starbucks are now launching into instant coffee with their VIA product. I suspect they had lots of similar debates. If the product is good I bet it will slowly creep into the Starbucks loyalists' non-Starbucks coffee consumption and potentially open the brand up to non-users.

What do you think? How do you innovate? Got any lessons to share? Please comment below. Feel free to share this post with other innovators (or pizza lovers!)

Justin

Email me: justin@basini.com
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