As an interim communications/marketing manager, I have a mantra that I frequently use in the companies that hire me. When a member of the team advises, for example, a campaign that is expensive and from previous efforts we know it is not very effective, I react: "If this was your own company, would you pay for that campaign?" Usually, the answer is no.
I read somewhere that by 2020 video will account for a staggering 75% of mobile data traffic. Four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it. When you open a newspaper, chances are you come across an infographic. Websites of newspapers use more and more interactive maps to present data.
It’s Movember. Time to grow your mo. If you have no clue what this is about: November is the month to grow your mustache (mo is slang for mustache) to help raise awareness for prostate cancer.
Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see. That’s one of the many quotes Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) delivered to the world. And like this one, many can be considered as sound business practice as well: if you are blind to what happens around you, you can’t be successful.
Muhammad Ali could take out a man with just one punch (I have borrowed and adapted this line from Bob Dylan) and he had 37 knock-outs. To do this, Ali said, "you need to be aware of your surroundings and yourself." Isn’t it exactly what we mean when we say that businesses have to be agile? And yes, like in boxing, speed matters.
Although denying is the old school way of handling a crisis, still many companies, politicians and managers, fall back to this strategy. Check the examples in the mind map. Nestle India initially denying that there were safety issues with its popular Maggi Noodles. President Clinton denying that he had sex with intern Monica Lewinsky.
Companies are dying younger. This alarming fact can be found in the latest Harvard Business Review (January February 2016). HBR did research on the longevity of ± 30,000 public firms. The age of a company delisted in 1970 was almost 55 years. In 2010 the life span shrank to 31.6. The magazine concludes that "Public companies have a one in three chance of being delisted in the next five years". The main reason? It’s more and more difficult for companies to adapt to the growing complexity of their business environment that is often "harsher, less predictable and more malleable than classic environments".
Tell me, would you know the answer to the following question? How many people are freelancing in your country? In the Netherlands (my homeland), there are nearly one million freelancers. That’s roughly 14 % of the Dutch workforce. According to a survey conducted by the Freelancers Union in the US, almost 34% of the U.S. population is freelancing.
Do you want to get rich? Well, this is the way to do it. Create a metaphor (it better be a good one of course). Apply it to businesses, Write a book about it. If you have a good metaphor, it will sell hundreds of thousands. Give workshops. You’re settled.
Rubbish? I’ll give you an example. Take a spider and a starfish.
Many companies may think there is little to learn from political campaigns. However, there are quite a few things that politicians are really good at. Indeed, there are a lot of marketing lessons businesses (certainly smaller ones) can learn from campaigning and politicians.
Let’s talk about decision making. In my hometown, Delft (The Netherlands), a beautiful new railway station has just opened (station hall and municipal offices are located above a new underground train station). Designed by the renowned architects of Mecanoo, it may be arguably one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. It has, for example, a stunning ceiling of curved white horizontal strips enriched with a historic city map of Delft. So far so good?
What do these companies have in common: Amoco (oil), Bethlehem Steel (steel), Compaq (computers), Saab (cars), Lehman Brothers (investments), PanAm (air carrier), F.W. Woolworth (retailer), Polaroid (instant film)? Well they all vanished. Disappeared. You will know many examples yourself. All of these companies were once very big, global operating companies. Some were disrupted like Compaq (the same happened to IBM, but it reinvented itself), others were mismanaged (like Saab and Compaq. Compaq’s CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer is on Wall Street’s list of worst CEOs in American history) or failed to respond quickly to available data on customers and markets (like Polaroid).
31 million views already!
So you must have seen by now the famous TED talk by education guru Sir Ken Robinsons. If not, watch it.
In this talk, he has a shocking example of how school kills creativity. The story is about a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. The girl hardly ever paid attention, but now she did. The teacher was fascinated and went over to her and said:
"There’s something happening and you don’t know what it is", is a line from a Bob Dylan song. When speaking about innovation, we better rephrase it: "something’s happening and we do know what it is." It is disruption. In almost any market segment.
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