blog

Welcome to the belivernomics blog

 

I will try my best to update this webpage with  thought provoking and interesting content, as often as I can.  Please feel free to leave comments as  there is much that can be learnt from the sharing of ideas.

By pa360, Nov 4 2018 12:35PM

In this second of a three part series on branding, we look at the seven most common types of brand.


Brands are defined by what they do, but more importantly they are defined by how customers perceive, receive and respond to them. Brands are not homogenous constructs. On the contrary, they are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, with unique characteristics and behaviour patterns that define and drive them.


Brands fall under a number of typologies, with each functioning as its own unique economy. There are brands that are time-defined and those that derive from extreme loyalty as well as others that communicate lifestyle choice, personal vanity and social concerns. For entrepreneurs, the better they understand the classifications and characteristics that define each brand economy, the more effectively they can cultivate customers, compete successfully and increase their market presence. Nothing drives success more than the power of a brand. So here are the seven most common types of brand.


1. the bubble brand

As the name suggests, a bubble brand is one with high impact, concentrated energy and a short life. The motion picture industry is a good example of where this sort of brand is most prevalent. It is well understood that the average life-cycle of a movie, from wide release to final showing, is about 10 weeks. During this 'bubble period' the biggest single point impact will be the film's opening weekend. Thereafter, the grosses will diminish, week-on-week, until newer offerings eventually displace it at the box office. A bubble brand is therefore intended to generate as much impact and as great a value, in as short a time, as possible.


2. the loyalty brand

A loyalty brand is one where consumer allegiance derives from reasons other than the quality or performance of a product or service. Some of the best examples of loyalty brands are in the sporting world, where allegiance to a team or franchise isn't transferable or negotiable. As case in point, in 2018, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, finished 15th and last in Eastern Conference. Despite this, during the season, the team still managed to pull an average attendance of 14,400 at their home games. The point to note here is that a loyalty brand is resolute, even in the face of the most negative consumer experience.


3. the endorsement brand

As the name suggests, endorsement is as much a branding technique as a brand in its own right. The purpose of an endorsement is to get the consumer to do something that they probably would not have done, but for the efforts of those who endorse it. A good example of this is when celebrities promote products or services in an effort to imbue them with their own credibility and glamour. However, the most effective and powerful form of endorsement does not come from well-known personalities, but rather from the word of mouth of ordinary consumers who use a product or service, have positive experience and recommend it to others.


4. the lifestyle brand

These brands are most closely identified with the needs, wants and particular preferences of an individual's everyday life. A lifestyle brand is something that speaks to you personally or something that you can customise to reflect your choice and tastes. Examples of this type of brand are tech products such as mobile phones, upon which people rely so heavily to perform every day functions. However, lifestyle brands are also reflected in the places that people regularly go and the things that they routinely do that underpin the rhythm of their daily lives. A good example of this are the restaurants, hairdressing salons and barber shops that people visit.


5. the status brand

A status or vanity brand speaks to the socio-economic statement that a consumer wants to make about themselves, whether or not that statement is accurate. Expensive cars, high-value jewellery, designer clothes and even some tech products are all examples of brands, which are assumed to convey a certain status on those who possess or utilise them.


6. the transferable brand

A transferable brand is one with such a high trust value, that it can be used across a diverse product and service range. One of the best known examples of this is Richard Branson's Virgin brand. Over the years, the Virgin name has been lent to everything from mobile phones and financial services, to multi-media and mass transit. Not dissimilar from an endorsement, a transferable brand, once attached to a product or service, confers value and standing and therefore communicates 'permission' to trust that product or service.


7. the conscience brand

A conscience brand is a form of status branding, where the consumer seeks to make a personal and social statement about the products and services that they procure. However, distinct from a status brand, which can often be a statement of ostentation or vanity, a conscience brand is communitarian and concerned with social welfare. Some examples of this kind of brand include products and services marketed as fair-trade, responsibly sourced or recycled.


In conclusion, a brand is an economy, reflecting the personal, social and commercial preferences of consumers. Whilst some brands intersect, making it possible for businesses to market products and services across boundaries, others are completely unique and require a more sophisticated approach. In the brand economy, the key to success isn't just the quality of your product, it is the ability to understand the psychology of your customer.




By pa360, Oct 19 2018 09:36AM

In this first of a three part series on branding, we look at the seven questions that will ultimately define your brand.


By itself, a strong brand is not a guarantee of success, but it is essential if you want to be successful. Businesses obsess over their brands, spending millions to cultivate, promote and, when necessary, re-brand their products. Brands matter because they are measures of trust, tests of authenticity and definers of relationships. A business with a strong brand can take risks, afford to fail and set trends. Brands can imbue status and standing to those who associate with them. A strong brand can also drive change by lending credibility, focusing interest and galvanising support for a cause.


Brands are personal and social, they are cross-cultural and geo-spatial. To ignore the importance of branding, is to ignore a simple reality that, even more than money, brands are the most tradable commercial and social currency in any economy, anywhere in the world. That said, it is important to remember that your brand is not the same thing as an image. In simple terms, you image is what you project, but your brand is what they experience. Therefore, if you want to create a great brand then create a memorable experience.


So what are the fundamentals of any brand and what are the factors that define it? Set out below are the seven questions that will define your brand.


1. what do you care about?

The things you care about and how you give expression to them, are powerful brand measures. They are encapsulated in the aims, objectives and purpose that you pursue as well as the relationships that you cultivate and how you manage them. However, the things that you care about can also be imputed. Take those who serve in the military as a case in point. By virtue of their service, the risk to which they willingly expose themselves and their example of self-sacrifice; service men and women are rightly seen as people of courage and character. The point to note here is that everyone cares about something and, more often than not, the best evidence of the things you care about, are the things that you do


2. can you be trusted?

Trust is a measure of consistency and stability. It speaks to your reliability and the extent of your influence. In business, trust doesn't just keep customers, it helps you to win new ones as well. A business that can be trusted, maintains standards. It is also in a good position to innovate and try new things, because customers will always believe, that whatever is done, is for the right reasons and with their best interests in mind. In a broader social context, trust speaks to your ability to provide assurance during times of uncertainty. As social commodities go, trust is probably the most valued of all. As such, any individual, business or interest that cannot answer in the affirmative to the question, of trust, has little of anything else to offer.


3. can you solve problems?

Few questions are as defining of a brand as whether it solves problems. Those who find problems are useful, but those who solve them are indispensible. In the branding context, problem solvers increase convenience, facilitate personalisation and save time. A brand that can be associated with problem solving will not just be the first invited into the room, it will ultimately be the last to leave as well. To build a brand that people want to associate with, or to graduate from a good brand to a better one, you must be able to solve problems.


4. is what you have to offer, worth what I am willing to give?

It is easy to forget that a brand is not just a product, it is also a currency. If you don't know what your currency is worth, you will not get value in exchange. Therefore, being self-aware enough to know the true worth of your brand is absolutely critical. If you do not know the value of your brand, how do you expect anyone else to? In a commercial environment, consumers do not want to pay any more for an under-valued brand than they do for an over-valued one. The onus therefore is on the supplier to do the due diligence and ensure that what they have to offer, is worth what others are willing to give.


5. when you speak who listens?

Does your brand have genuine authority? There are two key points to raise here; first, authority is not just about whether anyone listens, because even weak brands are able to attract an audience. Rather, the question is: when you exercise your authority, does anyone even care? Once you have spoken does your brand drive behaviour? Does it affect sentiment? Is it taken seriously? The second point, is not just about whether you attract an audience, it is about whether you attract the right audience? A brand with authority operates with influence and delivers the right message to the right audience at the right time.


6. are you adaptable?

Adaptability is the ultimate evidence of relevance. It speaks to the idea of openness, change and a capacity for innovation and re-invention. In a branding context, if you are relevant then you are relatable and if you are relatable then you have appeal. The point about adaptability is significant, because it is the ability to adapt that enables a brand to appeal to different demographics and be influential across a wider span of interest. This in turn creates opportunities for a brand to be more impactful and effective.


7. what do others say about you?

The ultimate strength of a brand is the number and range of people who are willing to endorse or recommend it. No matter what you say about yourself, or the image that you project, your true brand is what people experience and say about you. Therefore, if people have good experience, then they will not only talk about them, they will come back and bring others. There are few true measures that say more about the impact and effectiveness of a brand than the chatter it is able to generate by word of mouth.


In conclusion, irrespective of whether you are an individual or a business, the questions in this blog, are an evaluative framework for the critical assessment of your brand. In addressing these questions, it is worth remembering that whilst brands are dynamic, they are also uncomplicated and predictable. As such, the better you understand how they are defined, the better able you will be to determine both the efficacy and viability of your brand.



By pa360, Sep 23 2018 02:20PM

I am convinced that one day my 16 year-old nephew will become a multi-millionaire. For someone so young, he is incredibly lucid and innovative. Just last month he came to see me, about a new online business venture that he was planning to launch this year. However, as he presented both his idea and business strategy, I became convinced that, whilst the idea was a good one, he had thought his strategy through.


Over the next 30 minutes I began to ask him various questions and the very productive discussion that ensued, brought some perspective and realism to the challenges that lay ahead of him.


Reflecting back on that conversation, I realise that it represents something of a microcosm of the many reasons why small start-ups never get off the ground or never survive long enough to realise their potential. On the presumption that learning is transferable; set out below, are the ten questions from my 16 year-old nephew's start-up journey.


1. Who told you, it was a good idea?

Sometimes when people reflect on their ideas, it can often be like a person sitting in an echo chamber. One of the most dangerous things in business is the propensity to take one's own counsel or that of like-minded others. Let's be clear, that is not to say that you should ask people over 60, what sort of products would appeal to those under 20 or vice-versa. Rather, it is to say that any product assessment, should be based on a robust and considered appraisal of upsides and downsides, by those with some understanding of what they are talking about.


2. What do you know that they don't know?

Consider this scenario: you are in a room interviewing 100 excellent candidates for one vacancy; what would make you appoint one candidate over the other 99? Progress in the world of business, will present you with exactly the same conundrum. The only exception is that the complexity of the conundrum will be multiplied a thousand times over. By themselves, good ideas are not what makes you competitive. Neither, on their own, do good ideas produce the best businesses. The thing that makes the difference, is when a good idea can be translated into a viable commercial proposition.


3. What's the hurry?

What is the imperative that is driving you to act now? Is it changing consumer attitudes, or prevailing economic conditions or just your own impatience for action? Time spent testing and proving new ideas, is better than time spent re-launching products that fail for lack of proper planning. Never confuse decisiveness with desperation. Learning is an inevitable and essential component of any commercial success, but learning can also be costly. In business, you can recoup your losses, win back disaffected customers and rebuild a damaged reputation, but the one thing you cannot regain is lost time. Plan it thoughtfully, use it wisely and realise it productively.


4. How long are you prepared to wait?

The point here, is that; once you get started, how long are you willing to wait for success? In any business, you will have some idea of what success looks like and the sorts of margins you expect to achieve in the short, medium and longer-term, This is completely normal and any business will be able to re-adjust its financial forecast in the face of changing realities on the ground. The business of business is largely formulaic, but within that formulae, there are a wide variation of possibilities. Therefore, from the get go, you need to be clear about a reasonable return on your investment.


5. What do you know that you don't know?

In business, it is critical that you are aware of your space, but whilst vision is both forward and peripheral, no-one has eyes at the back of their head. Ultimately, however, the key to success isn't what you know and what you can see and plan for, it is what you don't know. Whilst it is true that, to achieve success you must be able to make the most of what you have and the opportunity that is put in front of you, to make success sustainable, you must be able to prepare and plan for the things that you don't know.


6. What if?

Anyone looking to start a business, needs to ask the fundamental 'what if' question. For example, what if your primary investor backs out? What if your suppliers let you down? What if things take off faster than you had planned? The greater the number of processes in your business and the more complex your supply chain, the greater the number of 'what if' questions you need to consider. If you haven't thought about the practical questions that could face your business and developed viable contingencies to moderate them, then you are not prepared.


7. What are the big challenges and small things?

It is natural and right to give the bigger issues your most urgent attention. By their very nature, the bigger issues are also the most important things and the pivots upon which the success or failure of your business is likely to rest. However, where small start-ups get it wrong, is in taking their eyes off the many seemingly less significant (but inter-connected) issues that often go under the radar. In business, the difference between success and failure isn't always the big things that you plan for, it is the cumulative effect of the little things that you ignore.


8. What are you not good at?

Knowing your short-comings is not an admission of failure. On the contrary, the ability to honestly appraise what you are and are not good at, should compel you to think about who else you might need to bring on board to help you. Muddling through and hoping for the best or believing that you will work it out when you get there, is silly and costly. The possibility of working alongside suitably qualified or experienced people, at the right time, is something that you should think about now not later.


9. Does anyone know you are there?

There is a reason why businesses invest in marketing campaigns and allocate resources to marketing budgets. It is because there is no point having a unique selling point, if no-one even knows what you are selling. Effective marketing is not just about making a loud noise it is about making a loud noise in the right places and at the right times. The same principles that apply to multi-billion dollar conglomerates, also apply to a small start-up, with a tiny operating budget and small profit margins.


10. What do you want them to remember?

When planning for your future customers, don't just think about what you want them to know, think about you want them to remember? There are so many points of interaction that any business will have with its customer base, from product development and marketing, through to service delivery and customer care. Each point of contact, represents a unique opportunity to communicate a powerful message, establish a meaningful relationship and demonstrate the value of your brand. In visual terms, knowing what you want people to remember, is the difference between writing your message on paper and setting it in stone.


In conclusion, the path to success doesn't start with the insight to capture a bright idea, it starts with the ability to ask the right questions. To that end, the most viable product of any start-up, is a penchant for perpetual curiosity.


By pa360, Sep 9 2018 03:43PM

Considered in a historical context, the curious case of Colin Kaepernick is not really that curious at all. For those of a certain generation, history is simply repeating itself. The script goes something like this: a sports personality takes a stand on a social or political issue and is reviled and ostracised from their chosen sport as a result. Years later, the same sports personality is recognised as courageous and heroic. The names are different, aspects of the situation are different, but fundamentally we have been here before haven't we?


Ultimately, the political climate in the US will change, the wanton orgy of divisiveness will end and everyone will come to their senses. It is funny how history has a way of repeating itself, but sometimes it takes the re-learning of past lessons to remind us that, much as we might go to the brink, few are willing to go over the edge. Or to paraphrase the words of Martin Luther King: even if we struggle to live together as brothers, we are not prepared to perish together as fools.


As such, the curious case of Colin Kaepernick will end predictably, with Kaepernick remembered as a pioneer of his time and with history repeating itself, once socio-political conditions permit.


With that in mind, the purpose of this blog is not to prognosticate or pick apart the evolution of the social issues that have driven the Kaepernick protest. Rather, it is to highlight ten leadership lessons that can be learnt from them.


1. Conditions will always create leaders - in many ways, the actions of Colin Kaepernick restore one's confidence in the idea that the concept of leadership is alive and well. The sheer diversity of life experience and life outcomes within and between communities guarantees that leaders will always emerge to further one cause or another. There are few social institutions that evidence the health of a society more than a thriving economy of leadership. Whether or not you agree with the interpretation given to issues, or with the leaders who choose to champion them, just don't be surprised when leaders emerge. Perhaps more fundamentally, if you do not like the leaders that you have, then change the conditions that produce them.


2. Prepare to speak your truth in the face of overwhelming power - in the grand scheme of things, Kaepernick and his fellow 'kneelers' are mere specs in the face of the overwhelming power and might arraigned against them. Whether this is the individual might of the team owners, the governing might of the National Football League of the political might of figures in the highest office in Washington. A 'sensible' person might reasonably weigh and balance these competing elements and decide that discretion is the better part of valour. However, in leadership, there is no better time to speak truth to power than when you are, by comparison, powerless. Consent and dissent are the hardest things to do when you disrupt the status quo.


3. Leadership is not a measure of perfection - in preparing this blog, I have read various articles and watched many commentators critique the credentials and character of Colin Kaepernick. Personally, I have never met the man and therefore do not know whether any of the positive or negative things said about him, are true. One thing I do know however, is that neither perfection nor piety are pre-requisites of leadership. The fact, for example, that Kaepernick is a multi-millionaire, no more disqualifies him from protesting, than it qualifies him to do so. Leadership is not about your standing, it's about where you stand and what you stand for.


4. Be prepared to be despised, but never accept to be intimidated - one of the more predictable aspects of Kaepernick's case is the level of animus being directed towards him. This is a man who has taken no hostages, detonated no bombs and led no terrorist insurrections. Yet he is still seen as a hate figure by some, not just for what he has done, but for what he is perceived to have done. In leadership, being despised is often par for the course. If you are more concerned with your reputation, ratings or public approval, then you are unfit to lead.


5. Be prepared to go it alone - in leadership, the hardest place to start is at the beginning. The passion, energy and sense of purpose that propels you when you first decide to step forward, can quickly dissipate when your motives and being questioned and your message is perceived in a negative light. Even more so, it can be energy sapping, when momentum fails to materialise, behind your cause, as you expected. So here's the rub, if you are not prepared to lead with the understanding that you might have to go it alone and with the recognition that you might ultimately get nowhere, then stay where you are. In leadership, the truth is that just because others agree with you, doesn't guarantee that they will follow you.


6. Do not compromise - in leadership if it mattered in the beginning, then surely it should also matter in the end. Leadership is not something that you can opt in and out of or a construct through which your message can be watered down. Kaepernick may well have been imperfect in the way in which he initially sought to make his protest (sitting rather than kneeling) but he has none-the-less been unwavering in the commitment to his cause. Nothing shores up leadership credibility more than the authenticity of your issue and few things undermine your credibility more than the inconsistency of your message.


7. Sometimes people who look at the same situations can see different things - do not assume simply because you have a cause that you care about, that others will see the same issue in the same way. In leadership, you can only control what you say, but you have zero control over what others hear or indeed what they want to hear. In leadership, you cannot beat yourself up over the fact that 'people don't seem to get it'. They do get it, but they just don't agree with you.


8. Engage with the disgruntled, don't play politics with them - one of the more interesting aspects of the Kaepernick protest is how quickly senior politicians at the highest levels of the US government have used it to play politics. It is fascinating how one persons protest, has been appropriated by another as 'cladding' for their personal profile. In truth, it is not just fascinating, it is fundamentally wrong. Even if, for the sake of argument, one believes that Kaepernick's attempt at leadership is ill-judged; surely the 'higher leadership' response to that has been much worse? The ineffectiveness of political leadership, in responding to the method of the Kaepernick protest, has only served to multiply the number of protesters, not change the method of protest.


9. Never 'commercialise' a cause - for Colin Kaepernick's sake, I hope he and Nike have carefully thought through the public relations implications of their new 10-year partnership deal. I say that because the image of brother Kaepernick getting paid, whilst others are getting shot, isn't a good look. Such a perception would undermine his message, raise questions about his commitment and create a reason for people to doubt him. More likely however, Kaepernick and Nike have probably spent months stressing over how this deal can be turned into something strategically successful. I am never one to encourage others to make public displays of their good works, but I will make an exception in this case. My advice for Kaepernick would be to make a public commitment to give a sizeable portion of personal earnings, from this deal, to social charities.


10. ...but be prepared to broaden your constituency - the willingness to broaden one's constituency and utilise a wide of channels to vocalise one's cause, is a perfectly legitimate thing for any leader to do. So too is the willingness to make common cause with those who are prepared to make common cause with you. The fact that a person has a different life experience, is from a different social demographic or represents a different political flag, should never be a disqualifier. In leadership, even if you espouse a cause that makes people feel uncomfortable, you should never adopt a position that makes them feel unwelcome.


By pa360, Dec 30 2016 08:56PM

People often talk about leading from the front. In fact it is probably the best known and certainly the most visible form of leadership. In my mind, the classic image of leading from the front is the First World War, where soldiers would leap up out of their trenches and charge across battlefields to engage the enemy in acts of extraordinary courage and astonishing bravery.


But what about leading from the back ie: leading through others? Are there ever times when it is helpful for a leader to be less visible or even invisible? Yes, very much so. Indeed, leading from the back is the only viable way to facilitate the empowerment of people. It simply cannot be achieved any other way.


So how and when does leading from the back work and what are the conditions under which such an arrangement might achieve a successful outcome. Set out below are the eight ways to lead effectively from the back.


1. give people permission to act - the importance of permission to act is that it creates a controlled environment and sets the boundary and context within which activity can be planned, conducted and sanctioned. The alternative to boundaries is unstructured activity, rules made up on the hoof and lack of accountability. When leading from the back, boundaries are especially important because those whom you empower must clearly understand the authority with which they have to act and the point at which authority for further action must be sought.


2. give people permission to fail - one of the hardest things to do in leadership is to accept your own failure, how much more to be accountable for the failure of others. Yet, you simply cannot lead effectively from the back unless you accept that you must empower others with permission to fail. Let’s be real here, if you give people the permission to act on your behalf, you must also give them permission to fail on your behalf. As long as those whom you empower operate within the delegated permission to act, you must be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions.


3. deploy visible invisibility - the essence of leading from the back is that you are leading through others and therefore whilst you are not physically in the room, you are none-the-less present through those who represent and are accountable to you. The measure of a truly great leader is that their presence is felt even when they are not physically there. To lead from the back, you cannot be physically present otherwise once people catch sight of you, they will defer to you, which is undermining of those whose leadership capabilities you are trying to develop.


4. give people the freedom to think - few things are as disempowering as repressing peoples freedom to think and express their views. Clearly there are limitations to this and I am not referring to those who use their freedoms to act outside established norms of behaviour and practice. Rather, I am referring to the value placed on involving people in the decision-making process that empowers them to think for themselves and solve their own problems. To lead from the back, you must accept that you do not know all the answers. By doing so you will cultivate collective accountability and enable to find solutions whether or not you are in the room.


5. trust yourself to trust others - like any arrangement involving people, successfully leading from the back must be based on trust. Without trust, permission to act or fail cannot be granted, boundaries cannot be established and people cannot be enabled to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. In my experience trust is a push and pull, in that it must be earned as well as extended. Asking people to take on roles for which they are unsuited is an abuse of trust. However, a good leader who knows the capabilities of their people, ought to be able to create the right environment for potential leaders to step forward.


6. motivate effectively - there will undoubtedly be times when those who represent you are not performing well or complacency sets in or any one of a number of other issues occur that require urgent attention. At such times, you need to have a range of motivational tools to deploy. I have often found that to generate energy and enthusiasm you must find out what motivates people (and each person may be different). For some it may be your ability to spot the positives in a sea of negatives and for others it may be the reassurance that you will step forward and take responsibility if things go wrong. However, if all else fails you must be ready to deploy tough love and strong words.


7. do not be threatened by the success of others - this is a very serious point. I have known leaders who choose not to empower others into leadership for fear that they may be recognised and rewards for their efforts. Here’s the rub, petty jealousy kills leadership development. Furthermore, anyone in such a position, who holds those kinds of views should seriously question whether they have chosen the right vocation. It bears reminding that the role and purpose of leadership is not lordship, it is service – specifically the empowerment of others.


8. maintain standards - in every endeavour where there is a stated objective, there must also be some way of describing or defining what success looks like. In other words what sort of behaviours do you want to see demonstrated, how long do you want to be hand-holding before those who you are seeking to empower, take off on their own? As I often say, if you do not know what success looks like you will not know it when you see it, nor will you be able to use knowledge gained from it to develop capabilities and maintain standards.


If your goal is to empower your organisation, achieve culture change and deliver sustainable results, then leading from the back is the way to do it. In simple terms, you achieve sustainability not through your own efforts but rather through the efforts of others. Therefore any organisational design and development strategy that doesn’t have the empowerment of people at its heart, is probably destined for the dusty top shelf, just like its predecessors.

RSS Feed

Web feed

Twitter circle black large Facebook circle black large Google + circle black large Youtube-logo-black