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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, Jul 31 2015 09:18AM

The latest published results for the third quarter of 2015 (Q3 of 2015) reveal that Apple achieved gross revenue of $49.6bn. Apparently this is up some $12.2bn on quarter 3 of 2014. Put in some sort of context, Apple’s gross revenue for Q3 of 2015 alone is (according to the World Bank) the same as the Gross Domestic Product of Tunisia for the whole of 2014.


So what is the secret of Apple’s extraordinary success? Well for this blog I have compiled seven of the least publicised secrets, which in my view give Apple a unique edge over its competitors.


1. Turning product into cultural experience – back in 1998 I doubt whether the higher ups at Apple imagined how far their brand would develop over the next 15 years. However, whether as part of a concerted strategy or through slick marketing and customer engagement, Apple is now much less a consumer brand and much more a cultural phenomenon. When a brand goes cultural and transcends the market place, you are no longer buying a product, you are buying into an experience.


2. Anticipating consumer need – probably the most unique thing about Apple’s product development strategy is that it appears to provide what the customer needs before the customer even realises it. In such a situation, the supplier only needs to correctly anticipate customer need once, before a dependent relationship is established. As the dependency increases, the supplier is able to heighten anticipation so much so, that the consumer doesn’t just want the product, they clamour for it.


3. Connecting smart products to other smart products – did you ever hear that quote about the American gold rush? It goes something like this: “the ones who got rich during the American gold rush were not the people who found the gold, it was the guy who sold them the shovels”. In the same way, Apple have cleverly situated their products as a kind of market-place doorway, enabling direct or indirect access to a wider range of products, services and opportunities.


4. Spawning the growth of new markets – it is amazing how Apple’s success has not only re-awakened an industry, it has also created an industry in its wake. Not only have other providers had to catch up, new supply chains of start-ups have emerged with data miners and app developers devising magnificent new tools to increase customer personalisation and convenience.


5. Moving from lifestyle accessory to life necessity – I can think of many products that are lifestyle accessories. Such products offer a high degree of personalisation, convenience, customisation and choice. But other than food, water, heat, light and shelter I cannot think of too many products or services that I would describe as necessities. Part of the success of Apple, is the triumph of market psychology whereby the consumer believes that they do not need the product to make their life comfortable, they need it to make their life possible.


6. Taking up a unique strategic vantage point – if you stand where others stand you will invariably see exactly what they see. The challenge is to secure a slightly different vantage point which will enable you to see what they cannot. From Apple’s perspective they have been able to take up multiple unique vantage points from the perspective of the supplier, the supply chain and the customer. This market triangulation approach is entirely unique.


7. Adding to the popular vocabulary – iPhone; iPad; iTunes and iMac are now part of the modern pop-culture lexicon. There is a lesson to learn here for product makers which is that if you are going to create a good product, make sure that it’s a good product worth remembering and one that is easy to remember.


Cutting-edge product design and high quality development are undoubtedly the core of Apple’s phenomenal success. But around that core, the tech giants have deployed sophisticated and innovative techniques in customer relationship management and market psychology to make their offer not just attractive, but compelling.


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