The keenly observant amongst you may well have noticed something different with i2i. After almost 15 years as a yellow brick it was time to say goodbye to the old logo and introduce a fresh, more dynamic look.
Working with long-time friend and associate Alan Hayward we bounced around several ideas, colour schemes and shapes until finally settling on the new look.
We’re delighted with the look of the new brand identity and feedback has been very positive. Now I’m wishing I’d taken the plunge a few years ago but at the very least we took the important step and engaged a professional designer to sharpen up the image.
Interestingly Google also thought the time was right to re-brand with their change of font. This has delivered the usual array of positive and negative comments but from my perspective it’s spot on and timely.
If you have a brand identity are you happy with it? If so is it because, like a pair of old slippers, it’s comfortable and not hurting anyone and the thought of changing it gives you a headache? Or it might be fresh out of the box and still shiny so not ready for any tweaks.
When engaging with clients on this topic I find it can quickly become an emotional rather than rational discussion. Business owners feel protective of the brand, probably because its creation felt a little bit like the birth of their first child or most successful effort at DIY. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a regular retort to suggestions of brand updating. I’m not unsympathetic to such views but if there is an engrained and stubborn refusal to accept an obvious flaw in a design or brand projection the business may well be losing custom simply through a perception based on looks rather than experience.
The Yellow Brick has come to the end of the road and now we’re hoping to A-peel with Orange (I can hear the groans from here you know). Essentially those involved in the business are behind the new brand and first impressions and feedback by clients has been better than we could’ve expected. As is typical in the culture of our business we don’t want to just talk about an area of marketing we want to get under the skin of it and understand it fully. By taking ourselves through this process I can assure you we understand both the pain and pleasure it can bring and for us in the short term so far the rewards.
The Values what are you looking to convey – expertise, good value, professional, quality, friendly, exclusive
Making an impression – will a new design create the impact you require, look at other brands and how you have responded, what do you want you brand to say to customers.
Staff – don’t overlook those working for you. Engage with them in the process but try and avoid committee led decision making. That typically ends up with consensus but little creativity.
Strapline – This is an interesting one. Some love the idea of a tag line to a brand others avoid at all costs. It can work very well or it can undermine the overall business strategy. For i2i we kept it very simple – moving to Marketing Management two words that for us sum up what we do but still contain a full range of services. Alternatively there is the ethos of the business and examples such as Adidas “impossible is nothing”, Subway “Eat Fresh” and then there’s the bold statement such as Carlsberg “probably the best lager in the world” great examples of enduring messages that underscore and enhance the brand.
Creativity – we all have an element of creativity in us and to lesser or greater extent an ego that wants to see our ideas in lights. In truth you don’t always need an expensive brand consultancy but we would recommend investing in an experienced graphic designer who can turn the ideas into a professionally finished identity.
Colour – If trading globally be aware of international conventions with colour and their cultural references. Also be aware of the way certain colours may appear in print or online. Checking out an HTML colour wheel against a printed pantone guide can deliver two very different results.
Feedback – take comments on board but retain your focus. This is very much a subjective area and will offer up a wide variety of opinions.
Old design – don’t lose customers by moving away too dramatically or quickly from a long standing brand. If you need to modernise consider a 2 or 3 phase approach taking as many years.
Context – consider all areas where the brand will appear – online, TV, video, radio, news print, glossy print, letterhead, e-mail, business cards etc…
All in all have fun with the process if you think it’s time to bring your business forward with a refreshed redesign of your brand make like Nike and just do it.
Back in the early 1980’s a US sit com hit our screens and almost immediately became a hit. Centred on a small bar in Boston the show introduced us to a series of characters who were the regulars and staff of “Cheers”. The theme song was catchy and used the phrase “Where everyone knows your name”. One character personified this tagline more than any other. A large chap with ill-fitting suits, tie almost always askew and mop of curly hair, his name was Norm Peterson an *accountant played by the wonderful actor George Wendt. *In later episodes Norm becomes a house painter.
Each time Wendt’s burly frame stepped down the stairs and came into view he was met with a chorus of welcoming voices “Norm!”
That friendly welcome became one of the most popular aspects of this hugely successful show which ran continuously from 1982 to 1993 and produced a number of spin offs including Kelsey Grammer’s “Frasier”.
But rather than offer up a history of popular US sit coms I’m highlighting this specific element as an example of how we should be looking after customers.
Business owners and managers in the hospitality sector appreciate all too well the importance of knowing the customer and making a personal connection. Restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs they all rely very heavily on the power of personal recommendation and with the advent and growth of TripAdvisor they know they cannot afford to let standards slip.
Just for a moment put yourself in the role of a customer looking to use your business to buy or enquire about a product or service. If you’re a first time customer it’s highly unlikely that the communication is going to be as warm and familiar as that enjoyed by Norm but the objective should be to get to that level. Who wouldn’t want to feel that they’re recognised, remembered and ultimately valued by the establishments they frequent?
At a time when business is becoming ever more competitive and the winning of new customers more complex and costly, it’s logical to invest time to understand their experience, their needs and without being too intrusive more about them as individuals.
Starbucks are a great example of a business that invests in exactly that element of their marketing. You can buy a decent coffee in any one of a number of nationally branded and local establishments in most towns and cities. Why would you choose one shop over another? Some may genuinely prefer the taste of Costa coffee but the vast majority of us weigh up the overall experience.
The simple task of taking your name for the cup makes you feel as though the staff are taking a personal interest in you, yes it has a functional purpose but I suspect it was introduced for more reasons than you may think. Trying to remember hundreds of regular daily customers by face for the average person is quite a task but if you take their names you are adding a neat memory aiding process to the task and chances are they’ll not need to ask after one or two visits. Then how good do you feel when your name is remembered? Would you want to return to such a store? Of course you would.
Keeping with Starbucks their attention to customer’s behaviours extends to the queues waiting to place their orders. Ever noticed what most of us do when we’re waiting to be served? We reach for our smartphones, check our social media accounts, e-mail and then when we’re ready to place that order we scrabble for a wallet or purse. Noting this behaviour Starbucks developed a function of their smartphone App which enables customers to not only earn rewards and get free food and drinks but essentially pay using those phones they already have in their hand. Just look around at your average Starbucks and count the Apple Macs and smartphone usage, they understand their market and how best to engage with them. What I like about the Starbucks example is that they took the time to consider the customer experience and find a way to improve it. I also like the fact that it’s a great combination of offline and online but at the heart is the desire to make that trip to buy your coffee and snack that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt Starbucks to have an app that requires your personal details to register and use it but by now you’ve built a level of trust having been a “regular” and happy to share a little personal data.
For those of you now complaining that you don’t have “Star-bucks” to throw at such projects (see what I did there) don’t worry it doesn’t need to be expensive.
The best marketing and customer service solutions are often simple, common sense and can be implemented without breaking the bank. The essential part of this process is to initiate direct action and start taking a greater interest in that over used phrase the “customer experience”.
Here are 10 suggested steps to get things underway
1. Take time to stand back and become a customer of your own company, be honest and objective.
2. Look at what you’re delivering, break down the elements into stages.
3. How are customers responding?
4. Become more familiar with competitor approaches but avoid following their lead.
5. Build on the positives of the current offering.
6. Address the negatives.
7. Adapt to take advantage of the intelligence gained from the exercise.
8. Train staff to become more aware and develop empathy with the customer.
9. Introduce communication channels to keep feedback flowing.
10. Review and refresh regularly.
If this is an area that interests you or you would like more information please feel free to drop me a line.
Last week proved to be an example of what life can deliver if you just say “yes” rather than look at the diary and excuse yourself. Like many I have a busy schedule but as you know “busy” doesn’t always translate to productive or necessarily interesting. So why do we stick with the mundane routine? It’s safe, familiar and something we’re comfortable with but are we denying ourselves experiences that may not only help us but also the business to grow?
This image is my son who bravely donned a pair of high heels in a school fashion show, literally stepping out of his comfort zone. Thanks Bob for letting me use this perfect example.
What happens when the boss asks you to prepare a presentation for a forthcoming meeting or you’re sent on a residential training course by HR? Or if you are the boss and you get an opportunity to attend an engagement that requires a little extra preparation, above and beyond your usual workload?
You might be aware of the often quoted, bizarre but apparently true statistic. We actually fear public speaking over our own deaths? Yes, I know hard to believe but for many the thought of giving a presentation can genuinely put them under so much stress that no other single meaningful act can be achieved until the event passes. It demonstrates how much we can worry about such things and for that read most “new” experiences either within your job or socially.
The question we should be asking ourselves is this. What is the worst that can happen if I do this? What are the likely benefits and potential pitfalls? Noting those worrisome factors work on eliminating them through gaining a better understanding of what you’re going to be doing, those who will be there and if presenting rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. A polished performance comes from practice and the confidence in your own ability as a result of putting in sufficient preparation time. Even if it’s simply being somewhere to attend a meeting, dinner or networking event try and gather as much intelligence as you can beforehand.
Of course sometimes an opportunity presents itself that doesn’t afford the luxury of hours of preparation. In those circumstances it’s important that your decision factors in the likely outcomes and a polite “no” may well prove to be the right response, after all you may be asked as an after-thought, late replacement (something that has happened to me). However, being a 2nd or 3rd choice shouldn’t be a dent to the ego but a potential challenge to prove that you should’ve been their natural first on the list. [NB] It’s still important to retain a clear objective and thoughts on its likely achievement given the short notice period.
Just by taking simple steps and allowing yourself to be in unfamiliar territory you become an explorer and collector of experiences that broaden your horizons.
Last week I presented at a national forum for law firm leaders. Despite having presented more times than I can care to remember I still experience the adrenalin and anxiety of making that public appearance. That critical moment all eyes fall on you and they expect to be entertained and learn something at the same time can be quite nerve wracking even for the most experienced presenters. That very same week I also made a successful application to be in the audience of BBC Question Time, again taking myself out of the usual comfort of watching the show on the sofa and instead taking part in the programme.
What did I do to make the experience more rewarding?
At the leadership forum I primarily went to learn and connect with others who are leaders in a sector I have a great interest in. I made copious notes and really gained a better insight into factors that impact my business. For my presentation I requested, in advance, a list of the attendees from the organisers and spent an hour googling various names to see who would be in the room with me. This creates familiarity. One of the great benefits of our “connected” World is that it can be relatively easy to find useful facts and information on senior business figures, some perhaps share a little too much but that’s for another blog.
With BBC Question Time I made an even greater effort to track the week’s political news and also researched the panel – sending a tweet of introduction a couple of days before the show. I was prepared with my question, rehearsed it several times but as luck would have it we ran out of time for me to pose my query.
These are 2 examples of events both of which required a decision, personal commitment a step outside of a comfort zone and break from the routine. They also required an investment in time to gain a tangible benefit. OK the BBC show was more pleasure for me than a business opportunity but having met so many very interesting people at the venue I wouldn’t hesitate in going again if the opportunity arose.
I appreciate many readers will have examples of their own no doubt far more entertaining and interesting but the point I’m hoping to make is that the simple step to participate is one we should take more often. Escape the routine and find a challenge that will stretch or stimulate.
Our lives can become too full of tasks, others problems and “stuff” that makes us weary and unable to commit to extra curricula activities. In my experience the simple act of participating in “out of the norm” activities provides the spark and stimulation to re-invigorate our lives back at the coalface.
Meeting new people in new surroundings and entering into these situations with an open and challenging mind is a way to bring real value back to what you do during a “normal” day. Perhaps we just shouldn’t have standard days, ideally we should engineer something unique. If not each day certainly once a week challenge yourself to be somewhere new and make connections.
So the next time you receive an invitation or have a fleeting thought of attending a show or event that interests you don’t let it escape, step outside the comfort zone and say yes, you never know where it might lead.
Sunday is traditionally known as the day of rest, the day we stay away from thoughts of work and revert our attention to more leisurely pursuits. The need for rest and relaxation and diversion away from stresses and strains of our busy working lives make Sunday a perfect day but….
That’s not quite how my Sunday worked out for me.
This Sunday I spent the best part of the day harvesting dead wood from my office, organising myself and planning. It had been a little while since I’d last re-organised but I’m now determined to stay on top of all things real (paper) and virtual (e-mails and digital files).
It is quite amazing how much “stuff” we accumulate and what we regard as important one week but happily consign to the bin the next.
Staying organised takes discipline and the ability to make effective decisions. My biggest problem is fighting the inner hoarder in me – time to be more ruthless.
Of course the process and determination of what “truly organised” is will vary from person to person. They key is to feel on top of things and confident that matters won’t get overlooked and opportunities or deadlines missed.
There is a level of science and tangible evidence of the psychological benefits of having a tidy up in the office. So if you’re in need of a little more order in your life here’s a few tips to get things started:
Once you’ve finished remember you actually haven’t…being organised is an ongoing process. Keep on top of matters to avoid falling back into the bad habits of old.
The greatest advantage, once the job is done is the feeling of control and confidence you get from knowing exactly where things are. You can save a great deal of time and avoid the frustration of duplicating effort by clearing out the clutter and in so doing retain the knowledge of what you have.
For me a cluttered office results in cluttered thinking and working practices. A clean and ordered environment certainly improves my outlook and ability to cope with the ever increasing demands of the modern multi-tasking world in which we live. My weekend might feel a little shorter but the week ahead will prove far more productive as a result.
David Laud – Click Here to follow me on Twitter
A few years ago a client turned to me after a meeting and said he would hate to have my job. At the time and as you might expect this took me by surprise not least because the individual making the statement was himself a very successful lawyer and partner in a successful firm and actually the meeting had been very positive.
When asked to qualify why my role might present as a poisoned chalice to him he referred to the constant pressure to deliver results. One winning strategy or campaign would never be enough and that there was a constant demand for positive outcomes borne out of successfully winning work from the competition.
That might sound a bit odd certainly now we’re in such a competitive climate and expectations for delivery are not only directed at the marketers but each and every facet of the business.
What’s interesting is that this conversation stuck with me over the years. The reason is that it made me, for the first time, seriously question my own career path and if indeed the suggestion of unrelenting demand for results would make for a happy working life in the long term.
The reality of course is that there are stresses in everyone’s job from CEO, entrepreneur, director manager, homemaker, carer, doctor, parent, journalist you name it there’s pressure to be found. We can all question ourselves as to our performance, relationships, success and failures and when times have been tough with the economy many of us have been hard on ourselves or had others make unrealistic demands leading to unnecessary stress.
When I have a bad day and let’s face it we all have them, I revisit that conversation and remind myself why I do what I do and why over the years it’s proven to be a good career choice. That technique helps keep me focussed on the positives and avoids dwelling on negative thoughts that can seriously damage your working life MOJO. We all need a healthy dose of self-belief and confidence but it can be a greater challenge when events really turn against us and at those times a little external help might be required.
Questioning our own abilities can be caused by our mood and often the actions of others which can frequently be outside of our control. That doesn’t stop us worrying and spiralling into a feeding frenzy of stress as we think back to the minutiae of our working days or projects in a negative post match analysis that either finds you coming up short or blaming everyone else for their failures.
How do you overcome these thoughts and loss of confidence?
Wherever you are in your career, just starting out, at a mid-point crossroads or towards the end you deserve to be making the very most of that time you spend on it. Re-discovering your MOJO, the element which drives you, makes you stand out from the crowd and defines who you are can provide the all-important spark to re-ignite your work life. It can also help you realise your ambitions and life goals by providing a fresh focus to the time you’re spending at work and your priorities and more effectively counteract those negative forces.
In recent weeks I’ve talked to many business owners, partners, directors and mangers to try and gauge their confidence within their company and chosen sectors.
This has been a fascinating exercise which highlighted a number of interesting issues and quite a few common trends.
Following these discussions I’ve realised there is one area that I must highlight as a priority. There is a natural tendency for organisations to focus on costs, processes and efficiencies in times of recession and economic uncertainty at the risk of overlooking or mismanaging the search for innovation.
I too have evaluated in my business where cost savings can be made and how working smarter may deliver a better return on profits. The danger is that we become locked into a mindset that focuses on the internal mechanisms, processes and practices and don’t allow for the spark of innovation.
There are numerous examples of highly efficient CEO’s parachuted into struggling corporations to trim, tighten and improve the bottom line. When a business leader faces a change in the market, increased competition and potential threat to the customer base it can be comforting to fall back on tried and tested measures.
One such mechanism often used to great effect within process driven businesses is 6 Sigma. Originally developed by Motorola in the mid 80’s this set of clearly defined steps provides quantified financial targets for cost reduction and profit maximisation. I wish to stress that I am not anti Sigma as it has a demonstrable track record of success within many industries. The “Champions” of 6 Sigma or “Black Belts” become highly proficient in their roles constantly looking for the margin of improvement.
My concern, however, is that too many of the businesses I talked to have a 6 Sigma or equivalent focus on their business and bottom line. The long tail of our economic depression has resulted in looking inward for answers to survival rather than the “heads up” free innovative thinking that created the company.
Innovation should be a key part of every business but shouldn’t be confined to the measures and methods of 6 Sigma….some have tried this and it failed. You can measure innovation but as a process it should be allowed its opportunity to operate outside of conventional practices.
Creative thinking should also be within everyone’s job specification, not just the marketing and management staff. As humans we are naturally inquisitive and creative but often forget how to apply those aspects to our working days focussing instead on the tasks that need to be actioned but not allowing time for free thinking and putting forward ideas.
Encouraging innovation within a business is critical to its overall success and long term future, Apple, Starbucks, Red Bull and Dyson all place huge emphasis on the innovative core of their organisations and as a result reap the benefits.
But how do you encourage innovation? The obvious and rather blunt instrument is financial reward. That can work but often can prove divisive if an idea is, as is often the case, borne out of collaboration. Quite often the biggest motivator is recognition by senior management and perhaps a benefit or gift to reflect the effort.
• Set clear vision and goals
• Communicate to all staff – provide examples of innovative solutions
• Encourage participation – inject enthusiasm and make staff accountable
• Consider appropriate motivational hook
• Introduce a sense of urgency, positive stress
• Continue to communicate
• Measure the financial impact of ideas taken forward
• Celebrate and reward success and the effort even for the failures
• Maintain momentum – avoid complacency
• Enjoy the process
Senior managers should actively encourage discussion among employees around innovation and be open to the wild and whacky. Not every idea will grow legs and become the next “big thing” but the process and input of fresh thinking from all corners of the organisation will stimulate a level of creativity and engagement with the firm.
Those discussions should also focus on an overall sense of urgency or as I would prefer to term it the delivery of a level of positive stress. Without the positive stress complacency can set in and momentum quickly lost.
The hardest part of delivering an innovative organisation is in maintaining that sense of urgency and motivation beyond the first and second story of success. The business should constantly be looking for the “what’s next” and have an eye firmly set on the horizon.
What staff need to know from management is the simple outline of the direction of travel, ethos and core goals of the company. They need to know what they can expect for creating a “good” idea. They can then be set free to join the dots, brainstorm, scribble down ideas as innovative ninjas thinking and moving fast solo or in groups to invent the future of your business.
The great bonus of creating a focus on innovation is the fun you can have in developing ideas. Shot selection and picking winners is critical but the process can be and should be an enjoyable one for all staff.
David Laud – Consultant, CEO, Mentor