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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, Dec 1 2018 11:23AM

This blog is the third in a three part series on branding. In the first blog we looked at the '7 questions that will define your brand', whilst the second focused on '7 most common brand types'. In this third blog we look at '10 uncommon characteristics of incredibly successful brands'.


So, why is it so important to focus on 'uncommon characteristics'? Well, the reason why brands become incredibly successful is not just because they think the things that others do, it is because they think the things that others haven't thought of yet. An uncommon characteristic therefore, is not what it takes to fit in, it is what is required to stand out. Incredible success, is attributable to the nuance and point of distinction that differentiates a steady pace from rapid acceleration and big steps from giant strides.


Uncommon characteristics are the root system of every incredibly successful brand. They help to sway markets, drive change and deliver exceptional results. However, with or without uncommon characteristics, it is important to note that brands are defined by the lived experience of the consumer, not the artful promotion of the producer. As such, when those with whom your product or service engages, form judgements about it, then those judgements are your brand.


Incredibly successful brands do not develop simply because you work hard, or because you learn lessons, they develop because you do uncommon things. So here are 10 uncommon characteristics of incredibly successful brands.


1. they are relatable

An incredibly successful brand is relatable. As such, even if you cannot possess what it promotes, you can still aspire to what it represents. Take a Ferrari motor car, as a case in point, it is an item of ostentation that most people will never be able afford in their lifetime, but that does not stop people from relating to the brand as something that they should aspire to possess. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands recognise that aspiration is customisable, translatable and transferable.


2. they stay relevant

Relevance differentiates those who succeed from those who remain successful and distinguishes those who were on the journey for the ride those who stayed the course for the reward. To remain relevant, incredibly successful brands are able to master the art of conformity and surf the curve of change. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands are in a constant state of readiness and always anticipate the inevitability of change,


3. they never confuse sphere of reach with extent of impact

In branding, success is not about reach, distribution or even concentration it is about impact. Neither is brand ubiquity, evidence of brand influence. Incredibly successful brands recognise that being everywhere without the influence to shape anything, proves nothing. The measure of a brand's influence is its effect not its visibility. The uncommon characteristic here is that it is better to have a big impact in a small place than to be in a big place with little impact.


4. they understand that an incredible brand sells itself

Ultimately, incredible successful brands sell themselves. That is because, the strength of a brand is the measure of what your customers and competitors say about you long after your marketing and publicity campaigns are over and your budgets have been spent. The uncommon characteristic here is that no matter how much you invest in promoting the power of your brand, the value of word of mouth is always worth much more.


5. they attract imitators and drive innovation

Imitation by itself is not uncommon; but what imitation conveys, is not always commonly appreciated. Few actions will imbue a brand with authenticity, value and status more than those who choose to imitate it. Imitation establishes your brand as the benchmark and validates it as the standard against which others should compare. Similarly, because imitation triggers competition, it will often drive innovation and innovation helps to raise standards even higher. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands don't just actively attract imitators, they often encourage them.


6. they don't just set trends, they send messages

An incredibly successful brand does much more than affect and influence the behaviour of others; it communicates permission, validates choice and affirms action. Incredibly successful brands make a conscious effort to set the agenda and see every engagement as an opportunity to send a message. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands don't just set trends to change behaviour, they set them to drive the narrative.


7. they don't just attribute value to generating sales

In business, strong sales will always be a key measure of the success of an incredibly strong brand. However, the true measure of success is the extent to which you attend to the things that make you successful. I am often reminded of a comment made by the late Steve Jobs, who highlighted that the key to success is to focus on making great product rather than making a profit. The uncommon characteristic here is that, if you invest value, when you make it, others will attribute value when you produce it.


8. they see competition as a test of strength

Incredibly successful brands do not fear competition or opposition. That is because they understand that survivability, in the face of competition, is the truest test of resilience. A brand that faces competition will do one of three things; it will either concede defeat, accept the challenge or raise the stakes. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands find the strength to more forward, even when you try to push them back.


9. they recognise that not all loyalty is transferrable

Do you remember the 'new Coke versus classic Coke' debacle more than thirty years ago? If not, Google it as it is a fascinating account of how an incredibly strong brand can fundamentally rethink its approach, in the face of overwhelming consumer power. The point to note here is that people can develop unwavering personal identification with the brands that they patronise (Apple is another case in point). The uncommon characteristic here is that when people are passionate about your product, their loyalty is not easily transferable.


10. they don't just search for excellence, they seek out mediocrity

The search for excellence is a defining characteristic of incredible successful brands, but it is not an uncommon characteristic. Just as important, but much less common, is the fact that incredibly successful brands actively seek out mediocrity. The reason why is because they recognise that the market-place of mediocrity, is the most fertile environment for growth, expansion and improvement. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands obsess as much about mediocrity, as they do about excellence.


Much as this blog summarises the uncommon characteristics of incredibly successful brands, it is important to underline the fact that a number of these characteristics are scalable. As such a small start-up or medium-sized enterprise, can adopt the same habits and behaviours that will, over time, produce the same results.



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, Jun 6 2015 01:33PM

At its best, innovation has the capacity to open up a world of opportunity, comfort and convenience. Innovation can offer greater choice, save time, raise productivity and increase accessibility. Whether it be in science, technology, transport and industry or any other area of human endeavour, the relentless pursuit of innovation has brought about transformational change and the advancement of nations.


Innovation is as much a state of mind as a creative process for getting from where you are to where you want to be. Personally, I do not believe that innovation can be taught, although I do believe that you can create the right conditions for it to flourish.


With this in mind, set out below are what I consider to be the seven I's of innovation.


1. Imperative - an imperative is what drives the innovator to act. It is the compelling reason for doing something as opposed to doing nothing. In project management speak, this scenario is described as the 'burning platform'.


2. Impatience - yes impatience! I have always believed that impatience is the oxygen of innovation. Truly great innovation is underpinned by an impatience with the status quo, with the constraints of bureaucracy and with the routine of going through the motions. It is this impatience that sparks the desire for change, builds the momentum for change and sustains the pace of change.


3. Idea - ideas are the seed of an innovation. An idea provides the basis for further discussion, exploration and development. Great ideas flourish in environments where people are given the right to try and the permission to fail.


4. Improvisation - improvisation is the art of survival. The most successful innovators are able to solve complex problems, at short notice with limited resources. If indeed the 'burning platform' is the compelling case to act, then the quick thinking innovator turns the 'burning platform' into a life raft.


5. Intuition - every great innovation is shaped by intuition or gut instinct for what works and what doesn't. This capacity for intuition also extends to understanding good timing and appreciating the risk environment. Powerful intuition will give you a feel for whether a great idea for today, may actually be a better idea for tomorrow.


6. Incubation - incubation is the period of time it takes for an idea to become an innovation. The process of incubation allows for testing, modification and re-testing. This attention to quality management and control, will help you to focus on, what the late Apple chief executive, Steve Jobs described as: 'making great product'.


7. Insight - great innovators are able to use insight to pattern spot, identify interdependencies and weigh up probabilities. Insight empowers the innovator to better understand what works and under what conditions. The most valuable insight is harvested from the widest range of relevant contributors and potential beneficiaries.


Clearly, innovation is a fluid and organic concept. As such, at different times there will be many other factors that contribute to successful innovation. However, the seven I's serve to underline the fact that innovation is not what you do, it is how you think.


By pa360, Apr 6 2015 02:18PM

Every great innovation is ignited by the spark of a great idea. In life, without the capacity to create ideas it is difficult to respond to challenges, explore options and take decisions. Likewise in business, ideas increase capacity to control risk, inform the development of strategy, shape the targeting of resources and lead to the creation of new products.


An ideas economy is one where the demands, created by the need to solve problems, trigger an automatic or 'cultural' problem-solving response. In an ideas economy, thinking creatively is not a random reaction to circumstances, it is hard-wired and part of your routine. Here are six tips for creating a dynamic ideas economy.


1. encourage experimentation - few will have the courage to step out of their comfort zone, without knowing that they are permitted to do so. A culture of experimentation must be created from the top, modelled by senior leadership and reflected in behaviours across your organisation.


2. permit failure - the right to experiment is worth little unless those who dare to try have the permission to fail. Permitting failure is no more to recognise that the process of development, growth and opportunity is about learning and in order learn, you sometime need to make mistakes.


3. encourage networking - ideas are best developed when people are encouraged to share thoughts and bounce ideas off each other. To make this happen you have to encourage people to network. Rather than developing formal structures for this, all that may be required is for you to utilise existing structures such as email and employee forums.


4. actively listen to what people have to say - don't ask people for an opinion if you are not genuinely interested in listening to what they have to say. Few things are as frustrating to those trying to be heard as the sense that you are just going through the motions with them. If you want people to feel valued, then don't humour them.


5. provide incentives and rewards - every economy requires stimulus or some form of incentive to kick start it or to sustain its momentum. This is even more likely to be the case if are trying to encourage behaviours that might not have been actively encouraged in the past. Incentives can be as simple as creating a culture of affirmation that recognises and acknowledges those who come up with the best ideas. In addition, you may be able to provide more tangible incentives as the resources of your organisation allow.


6. prototype ideas - there is no point encouraging ideas generation if you are unwilling to put viable ideas into practice. As well as providing potential solutions to your problems, acting on ideas also builds confidence, encourages others to get involved & lets people know that their efforts are valued and appreciated.


Creating and establising an ideas economy, ensures that you are better able to achieve maximum value from the skill and knowledge assets within your organisation.

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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