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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, Apr 5 2021 10:13AM

We are all hard-wired to seek relevance. This is primarily because it provides validation, affirmation and assurance. The thing about relevance is that, whilst by itself it does not solve problems, it is an important gateway to better things. In the context of a brand, relevance can be the difference. between the possibility of something and the guarantee of nothing.


Relevance ensures that a brand is able to navigate its way through a changing market-place. At the very least, it keeps a brand visible and at best it can give a brand a significant competitive edge. By contrast, nothing chokes and kills a brand quicker than ignorance about how relevance works. With this in mind, set out below are ten things that you need to know to make your brand relevant.


1. Relevance is often contextual

To fully appreciate what is and is not relevant, you must first understand the context and space within which you operate. It is often the case that relevance is no more than a window of opportunity at a point in time, which narrows incrementally over time. Whenever I think of 'contextual relevance' I am reminded of boy bands. It is well known that boy bands are relevant to a particular demographic. It is also well known that they are relevant for as long as it takes for the target demographic to grow out of them or for as long as it takes for another boy band to usurp them in the affections of the target demographic. In other words, with 'contextual relevance', there is no expectation of longevity or survivability and even though you do everything you can to make yourself relevant, you do not expect your relevance to last very long.


2. Sometimes relevance will find you

There are times when relevance finds you, without you even having to search for it. A particularly pertinent example of this is the Covid-19 pandemic. During the lengthy periods of 'lockdown', many people have been forced to seek out online tools to stay in touch with friends, family and co-workers. Zoom in particular has emerged as a market-leader over the past 12 months, not because of carefully designed and targeted marketing and promotion, but rather due to the exigencies of social distancing restrictions, brought about by the pandemic. Suddenly a product has taken on a level of relevance and achieved a reach, that could not have been imagined or forecast, in the year prior. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances create the climate of relevance, that you cannot achieve all by yourself.


3. In the long run, relevance is meaningless without significance

The fact is this: there is no point trying to reach your intended destination if, when you get there, it makes no material difference. A politician becomes relevant when they are elected to high office. However, if whilst in office they fail to fulfil any of their campaign promises, it is likely that their tenure will be considered an irrelevance. Equally, if a product is launched with a fanfare and to popular acclaim, but fails to catch on and is quickly forgotten, then in the grand scheme of things, that product is also likely to be considered an irrelevance. Relevance without significance is like a light bulb that is never switched on. What is the point of everyone being able to see it, if no-one even knows why it is there?


4. Relevance is something that you work for, not something that you wait for

Often-times, we want what we want when we want it. We want access and opportunity on tap as though it were a microwavable option. There seems to be little desire or appetite to put in the hard miles in order to achieve the desired results. Yet the fact is that the road to relevance is often demanding and difficult; requiring dedication, relentlessness and conscientious effort. So, does that mean that on the road to relevance you will never have to exercise patience? Of course not; but the point being made here is that you earn the right to wait while you work. You don't assume the right to wait, while you do nothing.


5. Sometimes irrelevance is relevance

Several years ago, I was watching an absorbing soccer match and at the end of the game, one of the commentators mentioned that the referee had performed well because the game had flowed almost without interruption. For those who are fans of soccer, a good match is one that is remembered for the quality of football, not the frequency of refereeing interventions. Moreover, during the match when things do go wrong, the expectation is that the referee handles the matter deftly, quickly restarts play and reverts to their position of on-pitch obscurity. For referees therefore, the skill and art of the brand is to be known for anonymity and quiet efficiency, rather than visible presence. Sometimes irrelevance is relevance and if less in more, then it is only right that more is better.


6. Relevance is a journey not a destination

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to think that relevance is definitive. In their reasoning, they liken it to climbing a mountain or running a marathon. In actual fact, it is unlike either of those things. There is nothing at all that is definite about relevance. Depending on the particular area in which you are operating, relevance can be a never-ending process of reinvention, re-purposing and re-imagining. There is probably no better example of this than the tech industry, where whatever might have been thought of as cutting edge and ground-breaking just a few years ago, will be considered a museum piece today. In such a environment the ability to keep running, if only to stand still, is the only way that a business can truly remain relevant.


7. Relevance can limit opportunities just as much as it can open doors

It is important to know who you are relevant to, as well as what you are relevant for. There are products and services that are only relevant to certain demographics and communities. These days, typewriters are quaint collectors items, for people of a certain vintage. However, the truth of the matter is that they no longer have mass-market appeal because businesses and individuals now routinely use computers. Likewise, a trade in music cassette tapes, whilst holding nostalgia value for some, is unlikely to see much growth amongst the general population. This is because cassette tapes are no longer the media produced by manufactures or preferred by consumers. As such, relevance can be a value judgement that, whilst appealing to some, may be of little or no interest to others.


8. There are times when you don't even get to choose why you are relevant

It is extraordinary how people can become relevant for reasons that they had not expected or intended. The story of supermodel Kate Moss, is an example of this. Miss Moss, then aged just 14, was apparently recruited as a model in 1988 at at JFK Airport in New York. By all accounts, the young Miss Moss was neither canvassing for, not expecting the opportunity that came her way and subsequently changed her life. I have no idea what Kate Moss' career ambitions might have been at 14, but it is probably fair to say that they did not include being catapulted to fame a few years into her teens. As is so often the case with relevance, it is for others to make the discerning judgement, not for you to decide.


9. To be relevant you don't just need to know your purpose, you also need to find your place

Have you ever seen a green leaf insect camouflaged on a green leaf? The way they blend into their environment is quite incredible and an excellent example of the necessity for purpose to be complemented by place. A green leaf insect attempting to camouflage itself amongst dead and dry leaves on a forest floor, would likely see its life chances decrease significantly. In other words, as much as relevance helps to define your purpose, by itself, purpose is of limited or nil value unless it finds a natural blend with place. It is when those two dynamics come together, that the chance of survivability is increased.


10. Sometimes relevance is forged in the fire of disappointment

No-one would accept disappointment, if it is something that they could avoid. Yet the value of disappointment cannot and should never be understated. The reason for this because more often than not, disappointment is the sand-box of learning and development. There are times when it is only through the frustrating and painstaking process of discovering what is not relevant, that you can uncover what is relevant. Much as we hate the idea of not being able to get things right at the first time of asking, it is the commitment to bounce back and keep going that tests our resourcefulness, builds resilience and reveals character. Not only that, but the above-mentioned traits are also the very building blocks of what makes a brand relevant.


Ok, so in conclusion, relevance is a critical component of any brand. In fact no brand can expect to be successful without it. However, as this blog sets out, relevance is also a multi-faceted, complex and often organic construct. You may look for it and find it, you may search for it and miss it, you may encounter it without expecting it. With relevance there are a multiplicity of rules, some of which apply at different times and others which apply at the same time. In the context of a brand, the key learning point is that relevance is what matters to others, not what it means to you.



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 4 2015 09:56AM

Data is a language in itself. Those who can read, translate and interpret data have a competitive edge in terms of mapping trends, forecasting trajectories and planning for the future. A firm grasp of data will enable you to see the new product opportunity long before others even knew it was there. For start-ups, the ability to commercialise data is as good as cash in the bank.


The great news is that the market-place is being deluged with data. Much of it is available by default, some can be purchased and others can be requested under legislation. So what are these information sources and how might a start-up be able to exploit them? Well here are five ways to supercharge your start-up with data.


1. Consumer and market trend survey results – some market research companies gather cyclical business intelligence, which they publish free to download from their websites. These analytical products can offer powerful insights to better understand consumer behaviour and market trends. The key to making the most of these products is to use them as pieces of a puzzle. For example, market research data may only give you part of the picture, but supplemented by demographic and other data, might provide a more complete overview. For start-ups, access to pre-packaged free to download research, is invaluable.


2. Open data deposits – a number of Governments have an ‘open by default’ policy for public data. As part of this, literally millions of pieces of data are placed in the public domain, from contract values and consultancy costs to service spend. This kind of information can provide a veritable gold-mine for a start-up looking to find a way into new markets, exploit new opportunities and develop new products.


3. Population censuses, estimates and projections – one of the most powerful sources of data for any business are demographics. Good demographic data will disaggregate populations by a range of sub domains including age; gender; ethnicity and many others. The point is this, if you know how your target population is changing over time you will be better able to forecast product demand. Equally, demographic data will enable you to better tailor your product to new and emerging markets.


4. Economic digests – it is likely that your national statistics provider already publishes a treasure trove of information relating to local economics including business demography; VAT registrations; business starts & failures and labour market activity. By themselves these digests of are excellent raw material for smart products such as apps as well as invaluable intelligence for strategic planning.


4. Freedom of Information – one of the most effective and powerful ways to access data is through the use of freedom of information (FOI) legislation. Many countries have a Freedom of Information Act, which allows members of the public to access a wide range of information retained by Governments and their agencies. The key to getting the best from your FOI request is to be specific about the kind of information that you want – don’t leave it to the supplier to guess. A good FOI request can save you thousands of pounds in market research costs.


5. Subscriptions – for a relatively small fee, a number of companies offer subscriptions to pre-packaged market research that will enable you to access useful information on customer profiling, geo-spatial analysis and market research intelligence. These kinds of data could supplement your existing research or form the basis of new product development. If you need to speculate to accumulate, investment in a subscription is a very good way to achieve a high return at a nominal cost.


Data is a phenomenally powerful, but if you don't know what you are looking for you will not know when you find it.


By pa360, Sep 6 2015 02:50PM

Every entrepreneur wants a loyal customer base. The dream is to have patrons who choose to come back again & again and who, over time, develop a personal identification with the product or service that they use. However, if it were as simple as that, everyone would be doing it – but it is not. Building and sustaining customer loyalty is painstaking work. It requires a high-level of commitment and the rewards can quickly disappear if you take your eye off the ball.


That said, there are specific things that entrepreneurs can do to build and crucially sustain, customer loyalty. Set out below are eight key tips that can be applied by any business or enterprise.


1. Develop relationships not engagements - the reason why people return again and again to the same product or service is because, over time, they develop a close relationship with that product or service. Unlike casual engagements or interactions, relationships are established through credibility, confidence and trust. To build the relationship value of your product, you must first recognise the relationship value in your product.


2. Use what you learn to improve what you do – the fluid and fast-moving pace of today’s commercial market-place dictates that if you are not moving forward you are moving backwards. Entrepreneurs are always seeking for the competitive edge that will attract new customers and ultimately increase their market share. To stay relevant, you need to constantly surf the curve of innovation. Don’t just do it to be bigger, do it to be better.


3. Never compromise on quality – if you produce high quality products, customers will not only buy them, they will tell others who will buy them as well. The credibility that comes with word of mouth advertising is not only priceless to you, it is also absolutely free. Don’t be tempted to cut costs or corners; maintain a relentless focus on making a great product.


4. Make it personal and make it convenient - personalisation and convenience are the new ‘Klondike’ of product innovation. Customers want products that speak to them and can be tailored to their specific needs and lifestyle preference. The greater the convenience the more likely you are to create ‘life goods’ rather than consumer goods.


5. Fix it when it goes wrong - if you have parted with your cash to purchase a product or service it is reasonable to expect that product to meet your expectations. But what happens if it doesn’t? For customers, the next best thing is for the producer or supplier to rectify the problem quickly and effectively. As a supplier, you need to pay just as much attention to rectifying a product ‘fail’ as you do to securing a product ‘sale’.


6. See your customers as a community – your customers all have something in common: the fact that they use your product. You need to build on that commonality by cultivating your customer community. I am struck by how phenomenally successful Apple have been at turning their customer base into a thriving community of the like-minded. Think about what drives community: culture, shared values etc and start to mould these characteristics around your product.


7. Give your product an effective social media platform – a social media presence is the price of admission if you want to be taken seriously in the commercial market-place. But you need to have more than a presence, you need an effective presence. The social media market-place is absolutely saturated with vendors of every description and the noise can be deafening. To be heard above the din, you need to be saying something that no-one has heard before.


8. Don’t re-invent the wheel – observe the practices and behaviours of those who seem to have cracked it and look to replicate the best market standards in your area of operation. Better than that, look to improve on the best market standards. Don’t re-invent the wheel, but be prepared to raise the bar.


It bears remembering that the pivot for customer loyalty is the product. If you have a great product, half the battle is won. A great product means that customers will come; but if you cultivate great relationships, customers will stay.


By pa360, Jan 24 2015 11:06AM

On a particular afternoon, many years ago I was making chicken stew. Just as I had done many times before, I placed all the ingredients in a saucepan and left them to simmer on the cooker for 30 minutes. Given that I had successfully performed this task on previous occasions, I had absolute confidence in the outcome. However, this time I did something different - I fell asleep.


I don't remember how long I was asleep for, only that I was awoken from my slumber by the acrid smell of burning chicken. My stew had been reduced to a smouldering ruin, all because I had failed to pay attention to what I was doing. I think it is worth repeating that I didn't fail in my objective because I lacked the belief, skill or talent to complete the task. On the contrary, I failed in my objective because at a key moment I was distracted and lost focus. This is a sobering lesson because it reveals that by themselves our skills, talents, competencies and experience amount to nothing without the ability to stay focused. So here are the seven kinds of distraction that the most successful people avoid.


1. The distraction of success

Success can be a major distraction primarily because it can lead to complacency. The danger of complacency is that complacent people rest on their laurels and take for granted the things that made them successful in the first place. The eco-system of success can also be a distraction for other reasons, notably because those who achieve success often attract people around them who will feed their insecurities, nourish their vanity and massage their egos. When others tell us what we want to hear, they wittingly or unwittingly shield us from what we need to know. As a matter of course, the most successful people surround themselves with those who will provide challenge, balance and context to their thinking and reasoning.


2. The distraction of discouragement

At some point everyone will experience disappointment of some description. By itself, disappointment is not final or definitive. However, where it becomes problematic is when disappointment leads to discouragement and where discouragement then results in indecision and unreasonable self-doubt. This in turn can provide a justification for giving up. With successful people, disappointment is contextualised in a completely different way. Instead of giving undue weight to disappointments, when things have gone wrong, focus is given to active learning in order to better understand what went wrong and what can be done better next time. In this way. the discouragement that comes from disappointment can be re-purposed to build resilience and persistence.


3. The distraction of significance

Not everything has the same level of importance. One of the things that really successful people are able to do is prioritise the most important issues, without being distracted by those that are of lesser significance. Think of it this way, if you have 100 things that you need to do of which 60 are desirable, 30 are essential and five are critical, which ones should be given the greatest priority? The critical ones right? Not only that, but really successful people would then be able to make discerning judgements about the apportionment of their time eg: they might spend 70 per cent of their time on the most critical things, with the rest of the time apportioned to essential tasks. The key learning point here is that successful people avoid spreading themselves too thinly, mindful that doing so can divert attention away from those things that matter most.


4. The distraction of preference

Successful people know that preference is the opposite of necessity. The things that we prefer to do are the ones that give us the greatest satisfaction or stimulation and reflect our personal interests and choices. Unfortunately preference can also be a major distraction, diverting focus and attention away from those things that are absolutely necessary. A manager who prefers to avoid difficult conversations with poorly performing employees, because they do not want to offend them, will likely encourage other employees to underperform. By contrast, a manager who does what is necessary, rather than what is preferable is more likely to take the difficult decisions if that is what will produce the most appropriate and successful outcomes.


5. The distraction of the moment

Have you ever observed the behaviour of people waiting to cross the road at a major pedestrian crossing? They will check the traffic lights, wait until it is safe and then walk across the road before the lights change. For the most part, people intending to get from one side of the road to the other take active steps to de-risk their behaviour. You do not for example see them reading newspapers, applying make-up or stopping to tie shoelaces in front of stationary traffic. The reason is because such behaviours are distractions that will increase one's exposure to risk and potentially lead to undesirable outcomes. Successful people understand the moment and are quickly able to distinguish that which is appropriate in the moment from all the other things that might be happening or could happen during that point in time.


6. The distraction of ambient noise

Noise is a powerful distraction. Not least because we routinely ascribe some sort of value to sound. For example, the sound of whispering can make us suspicious, the sound of laughter can make us curious and the sound of shouting can make us anxious. However, it is how we behave and respond when we hear ambient noise that makes the difference. Again the point being made here is not how much you hear, but rather what you ascribe value to, because it is what you ascribe value to that will determine what requires your attention. Consequently, what requires your attention ultimately determines what you need to do next. Successful people are able to filter out that which amounts to actionable information from that which constitutes ambient noise. It is this distinction that enables them to enhance access to opportunity and mitigate risk.


7. The distraction of the unfamiliar

Almost anything that is new, different or unfamiliar can create a distraction. However, having one's concentration momentarily broken may not necessarily be the worst thing, particularly where this might offer new insights that could help to re-balance perspectives and positions. Rather, the problem is more likely to arise when concentration is continually broken in a way that points to shallow reasoning, a lack of commitment or transactional values. In simple terms, it is almost impossible to complete or finish any task if you lack the capacity and intensity to see it through to the end. By contrast the most successful people are determined, resolute and conscientious. As such, they are better able to avoid the risks associated with those who exhibit indecisive tendencies.


In conclusion, when you are distracted you lose focus. When you lose focus you are no longer paying attention. When you are no longer paying attention standards slip, behaviours become erratic, decisions become questionable and end goals are compromised. By themselves distractions are unavoidable (everyone has to face them) but it is ultimately how you deal with them that makes the difference. To that end, living with distraction puts you on the pathway to learning, but when you avoid being distracted, you are on the pathway to success.



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