It’s easy for the Brand Laggards to become the Leaders!

And even easier, vice-versa….

 

Brands find success. Ride the success, forget the customers, forget themselves and fade away over decades. There is a constant need for brands to reinvent themselves to stay relevant to times. An old, historic brand carries the baggage of archaic processes, outdated machineries, out-of-sync culture, and a humongous burden of human resources which results in inefficiencies and poor connect with the customer, thereby missing the bus on even essential industry innovations.


The petri dish for mediocrity!

When you see a medium-sized company implement an ERP (for first time) in 2012 or initiate digital marketing now under the guise of modernization, that’s precisely what we are talking about. This is akin to learning typewriting in the digital era. One is supposed to know it. Seldom do they also realize that they have only attained ‘at-par’ and these aren’t any way close to be called innovations. While, some Managers know it, they are hampered to proceed, or some cases choose to go-through-the-motion. It’s like “why should I fix something that ain’t broken?”, which is also partly a function of self-denial mode. You can sense that it’s a perfect petri dish to grow mediocrity and kill an innovative environment.



 

So how do we turnaround these brands or firms? How to catch the longest ladder to quickly reach leadership position avoiding the snake bite traps (like in a game of snake & ladder)?


Could there be a blueprint that can guide or a checklist that can help course correct constantly so that brands can stay relevant? Afterall, there are so many examples of brands that withstood test of time like Cyanobacteria (metaphorically).

 

Climbing the ladder

So, some don’t want to reach leadership position for whatever reasons best known for them. Some prefer to play second fiddle, some use it as hedging for their other businesses, and some prefer to remain small (attained their salvation). Fine. It’ their choice. There are lot of others who want to forge ahead. I could think off the following five ladders arranged probably in the order of their length, starting with the longest.


A. Technology adoption

Buy out new technology or develop/co-develop new tech with partnership

1. Leapfrog

Adoption of latest, yet to be mainstream technology. The innovators in the product lifecycle.

2. Parity in technology as peers (as minimum)


B. Industry Innovation

1. An innovative, differentiated new product.

2. A new efficient way of reaching to customer

3. Totally different Consumer experience

4. Innovative sales processes, demand generation and promotions

5. New pricing techniques and policies

6. Innovation in Servicing the customer and query handling

7. Employee and social welfare

C. Building Best practices

Best practices are minimum requirements on which innovation could be built. We can think like this - one can’t build the 12th floor before the 11th is completed. Building industry best practices across functions including Manufacturing, Technology, Quality, R&D, sales, Marketing, Service, Finance and HR is a time-consuming process but can set the platform for the innovative blitzkrieg or sometimes done in conjunction (green field projects).


D. Creating an innovative environment (A conducive petri dish)

This is quite an art piece and a soft subject. But as a science student, one can say what one needs to build an award/ reward system and structure the organization, that facilitates an open, progressive, learning culture with strong motivations/incentives for new thoughts and ideas. The pool of human resource and training become important, isn’t it?


E. Building Customer connect

1. Talking to customers.

Keep telling them and reminding them about the brand much like a mother telling her child every now and then about how much she loves him/her. What is expected and what is not expected?


2. Listening to customers.

We listen more periodically in terms of brand research studies, consumer opinion polls, surveys, feedbacks from customer care centers, and monitor service levels.


3. Understanding their unmet needs or their unknown needs.

So much talked about Steve Jobs ability and knack to see the undiscovered needs that customer don’t express or not know. No customer asked for a bubble-gum to bee developed. It’s a discovered need; no purpose until it exists. So, we have one foot always in this domain, the strong foot.



Avoiding the Snake bites!

Now that the brand is established, the focus shifts to that of preservation of position of strength. Much like a cricketer who is established in the arena, who cuts down his exotic shots and settles for “reliability” as years pass-by. This is also attributed to his exposed weaknesses and the opponent (competition) trying to harness those. But some wise men say, the greatest strength is one’s greatest weakness. But leaving aside that philosophy for now, I could think of following ways in which one could possibly, if not insulate oneself, at least check and course correct; like a diagnostic test.


1. Relevance test:

An objective periodic test of how relevant a brand is to customers. Are they still talking, listening and understanding customers? We don’t like to grandfather a brand to the target set. The brand remains young and only the customers grow older, avoiding the typical pitfall of marketer adjusting brand age to suit their own biological age.


2. Stress test:

a. A simulated test to check preferences among new crop TG audience.How well peers score?

b. Estimation of the breaking point/ bandwidth of brand, real-time

c. Testing out waters in new markets.


3. TIB Score (Technology, Innovation, Best practices score):

We could build an objective score or index of sorts to weigh the brand with peers on above parameters.


I am sure if you have reached this far, it means you have atleast at one point of time (or all the time), accepted the surreal nature of these ideas. Nevertheless, some of these are what successful companies have done which I have tried to encapsulate.


Signing off,

Anba

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