Revolutionary Measures

Journeying to the uncomfortable zone

The world of business used to be a simpler place. Companies worked in a linear fashion, creating products and services and then marketing and selling them to consumers. Most organisations had a single business model and customers were very much at the end of the chain.no-straight-lines-home

The rise of the internet, greater communication and social media has changed all of this. Rather than being driven by brands, consumers have now taken back power and are in the driving seat. Don’t like the service you’ve received? Social media provides a megaphone to broadcast your concerns. Dislike the attitude or activities of a major brand? Use the power of the internet to force them to change. The #FBrape campaign succeeded in forcing Facebook to change how it dealt with gender-based hate speech on the network, both by demonstrating the scale of anger (60,000 tweets and 5,000 emails in less than a week) and by lobbying advertisers to remove their adverts from the network.

And the new world order goes much further than this. Companies need to tap into this complexity to co-create with their customers rather than continue in the top down, industrial mindset that we’ve known for so long. That’s the view of visionary thinker and Cambridge-based author Alan Moore, who talked through his book No Straight Lines at last week’s CamCreative.

Alan sees five key areas for companies that are being disrupted to focus on as they move into the uncomfortable zone of today’s business reality. They are:

1              Ambiguity
The non-linear world is complex and unclear. Rather than fearing the unknown companies need to unleash their curiosity to see how they can change.

2              Adaptiveness
As Wittgenstein said “the limits of our language are the limits of our world”, so everyone (companies and individuals) needs the knowledge, skills and tools to formulate what they want and how they can request it.

3              Open
We’re not in a monoculture anymore. Companies in all industries need to open up to work with their customers and other partners to design and deliver the products and services they want. Crowdfunding is the perfect example of how this delivers results, as is Lego’s Cuusoo site where builders post designs of new models. If it gets enough support from the community the design is turned into a fully-fledged product, with the inventor receiving a royalty.

4              Participatory cultures and tools
Humans are not machines and we want to make meaning in our lives, participating in the world around us and providing input into things close to our heart. The rise of fan fiction demonstrates this, with people actively extending the stories that they love. Rather than reaching for the lawyers, creative companies need to work with enthusiasts to benefit everyone.

5              Craftsmanship
The old model of build it and it will sell is broken. Companies need to continually update and adapt their products, listening to feedback without fear of failure.

6              Epic
The new world order can have a transformational impact on your business and the lives of us all. Companies need to embrace this and deliver an epic response to meet the needs of the world around them.

Whatever your business, marketers and creatives need to understand and react to the changing world, making it more relevant to everyone. There’s a lot more in No Straight Lines, which can be accessed online for the price of a tweet or bought in paperback or Kindle editions – it is well worth a read.

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Cambridge, Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bye bye angels, hello Kickstarter?

There’s been a lot in the press recently about crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Electronic paper watch Pebble raised over $3.4m for its smartphone linked timepiece while the first Kickstarter scam – trying to get backing for a non-existent video game has just been uncovered.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

At a time when money is tight Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites look like the perfect way for startups to raise cash. Essentially you pitch your idea to a receptive audience of people that want to be able to buy your product – and they fund your development in return for a small stake. Your product gets validated by the market, future sales are generated and you get backing – what could be simpler? It also provides another opportunity for public relations agencies to extend their reach by using press and social media campaigns to build a buzz and drive people to their client’s Kickstarter page. 


However while Kickstarter is great for certain types of products, it can’t replace more traditional types of 
funding. First off, the Kickstarter audience is comprised of early adopters – the type of people that are going to spend $150 on a watch that links to their smartphone and are happy to pledge money to get it built. It won’t work for mainstream products that need to appeal to a more conservative, mass market demographic.

Secondly, startups need a lot more than money to succeed – they need help, connections and business advice from people that know what they are talking about. This is something that angel investors and VCs both provide over and above cold hard cash. Otherwise the risk is that companies raise the cash on Kickstarter but then can’t make best use of it as they run into technical, marketing or sales issues that outside advice could have helped with.

So while Kickstarter is a good (and cheap) way of validating your idea for startups building physical products it can only be part of the story – if you want lasting success you still need to knock on doors, make the contacts and do the hard work. 

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May 2, 2012 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media, Startup | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Supertankers and social business

There are still a fair number of businesses out there that see social media as a fad – like Deely Boppers or Cabbage Patch dolls. All this talk about two way dialogues and customer control of the conversation will fade – people will get bored and things will go back to business as usual.

Part of this is down to inability to change quickly – a multi-billion pound business makes a supertanker look agile, so even a minor course correction can take years to be felt. But what they are missing out on is the opportunity to really transform themselves. Rather than the traditional top down model of producing what you think people want and then marketing the hell out of it, social media gives the ability to make real connections with your customers.

Speaking at CamCreative last night, Eric Swain outlined why companies need to move from social CRM to social business. Using the actionable insights that social media conversations provide increases trust, creates lasting connections and, for the bean counters, pushes sales up. Eric quoted Umair Haque, the author of The New Capitalist Manifesto, on the potential to create social businesses based on a much more democratic, balanced relationship. Less value propositions, more value conversations.

I’m dubious that big business can do this – a lot of current social media marketing simply uses it as another channel to shout about how great they/their products are. But given social media’s ever-growing global power, big businesses need to act now to ensure they are still relevant in ten years’ time. Or risk joining Cabbage Patch Dolls on the scrapheap of history.

 

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February 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments