Monday, May 20, 2013
Courtesy of Helping Psychology
Influence. That's a neat word.
According to Dictionary.com, influence is "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others". In other words, its how effective you are in transforming others and eliciting change.
In the past, influence was purely vested in large and powerful organisations. Those with multi-billion dollar advertising budgets wield huge impacts on the lives of their customers, suppliers, and distributors.
Historically, influence was also measured by rank and status. Corporate chieftains of MNCs exert tremendous control over their followers. Political leaders of dictatorial regimes could dictate how their citizens lives should be led, armed with policies and the might of the public sector.
Wealth was also a measure of influence. Those with the means could buy their way into the hearts and minds of others. Folks who could afford status symbols like condominiums, cars, credit cards, and carats were also more respected than others.
While the above factors still hold largely true, the winds of change are blowing. Through the pervasiveness of social media, influence is slowly shifting from organisations towards individuals. Its becoming social - and personal.
Consumers are making themselves heard on social networks, magnifying their pleasures - or more commonly, displeasures - a hundred or thousand fold. Niche businesses are punching above their weight class, leveraging on digital networks to cultivate customer relationships, increase visibility, and strengthen marketing efforts.
Influence is also skewed towards the young. Digital natives from "generation-whatever" are making themselves seen and heard a lot more than their parents. These restless purveyors of the "screentastic" lifestyle have always lived in a webbed world without boundaries. Fear isn't in their vocabulary.
Increasingly, influence is becoming personal. We're no longer just defined by our day jobs ("I'm an engineer/doctor/hawker/nurse") but by our night jobs ("I'm an amateur rock musician/artist/food connoiseur"). The "other eight hours" is increasingly defining who we are, and how we're perceived by the world.
In this brave new world, brand influence isn't just a great logo, flashy advertising, or even premium service. Rather, the influence of a brand is now embodied by how its values and beliefs are woven into a compelling and authentic story that resonates with stakeholders wherever they are.
More than ever before, influence is becoming a function of how much respect and clout you can garner in your professional and social networks. Increasingly, however, the lines between the two are becoming blurred.
Leading companies like Coke, Nike, Amazon, LEGO and P&G understand this seismic shift. They create platforms and facilitate customer communities. They involve their customers in shaping their products, interact with them as peers, and focus on their interests and concerns.
Have you thought about your influence lately? How has it changed for you over the years?
Friday, May 17, 2013
Perfume advertisements are guilty of over-exposing celebrities (courtesy of Charlotte Whiting)
Watching commercials on TV is a bit like watching the movie Groundhog Day (or more recently Source Code). The same scenes keep re-appearing, like a never ending case of déjà vu.
Ad after ad, common themes and tropes surface time and time again.
The slick urban professional dressed in a tuxedo by the pool of a luxury condominium.
The harassed housewife whose world is as big as the container holding her laundry detergent.
The roguish yet charming group of young men whose mind is preoccupied with women, football, beer and nothing else.
The beautiful teenage girl whose shiny cascading hair means fame, fortune and a magnet for men.
Naturally, this scourge of sameness applies equally to newspaper, magazine, radio and lately Internet ads.
Of course, nothing beats a diamond advertisement. After De Beers popularised the term "Diamonds are Forever", virtually every jewellery commercial latches onto the same consistent theme. True love has been morphed into a hard shiny rock.
Interestingly, there are reasons why those "eye-rolling" diamond advertisements are repeated over and over again. Apparently, they work.
According to Gretchen Gavett of HBR, the element of surprise and that "gasp" (ie "Oh my gawd, he bought me a diamond!") is so critical to the business of jewellery advertising that replacing it with something more adventurous resulted in plummeting sales.
Hmmm... I suppose we are creatures of habit after all.
Expanding on this idea, one can surmise that evergreen themes and memes do exist. We all want to be beautiful, wealthy, healthy, popular with chicks/hunks, and drive BMW sport cars while wearing tuxedos with every hair in place.
Green eggs and ham may work for Dr Seuss, but I prefer my eggs to be white and yellow, and my ham a healthy pink.
The challenge, however, is this:
Can we hope to stand out in a sea of clones? Are we able to differentiate our product when every video clip, poster, banner ad, or soundbite sounds uncannily similar?
One way to do this is to inject an element of interactivity. Involve your viewers, listeners and readers in the action. Get them to share their stories, or to participate in the grand narrative one way or another. Reward them for doing so. Make it a game that they can play.
Audience involvement helps to break the monotony of mundanity in marketing. It allows them to be a part of the action, and to have a stake in the outcome.
You can also consider ways to make your characters more believable. Give them names. Make them human. In this day and age, nobody (well almost) believes in a knight in shining armour anymore. Where appropriate, root for the underdog. Introduce the anti-hero.
Finally, having real customers (as opposed to reel ones) appear on screen or print may also transcend the fantasy/reality barrier. People trust people more than faceless organisations. Naturally, they need to be reasonably polished (well, depending on the product) and not cringe-worthy.
Evergreen themes in marketing resonate with people because they tap onto deep seated psychological and social roots. Like an old shoe, they are comfortable to be with.
To break through the clutter, however, one needs to find a way to balance inherent bias with audience interest and involvement. Injecting elements of interactivity, humanity and realism may help one to ride on universally comforting themes while connecting with one's audiences in a direct manner. Doing so could perhaps help to bring that love story to life.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Can you guess the name of this actor? (courtesy of Lawson Stone)
In the social era, everybody's becoming an activist.
Don't believe me? Just look at the feeds on your Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Empowered by the social web, everybody's posting, sharing, retweeting, commenting, or liking a political, social or environmental cause these days.
Causes are now mainstream chic. Everybody's got a pet movement (or five) on their belts, and they aren't afraid to let the whole world know about them.
I'm sure you've heard of friends or relatives who are tree huggers, vegans/vegetarians, anti-whalers, re-cyclists, fair trade unionists, anti-sweatshoppers, yadda yadda... (I've got quite a few pet causes myself)
Unfortunately, most companies fail to catch this new wave of conscientiousness. Just look at the number of firms lambasted for being unfair to their workers, exploitative of indigenous tribes, or destroyers of ecosystems.
Operating in the falsehoods of a bygone age of plenty, they do not grasp the benefits of a Triple Bottom Line (ie people, profit, planet). Leeching off their employees, the environment, and the communities in which they co-exist with, they destroy more than they give. Often the end result isn't sustainable from a people, resource and revenue standpoint.
How then should one operate? Perhaps we can consider these Ten Commandments for a start:
1) Thou shalt find ways to reduce thy resource consumption, through fishing from sustainable oceans, recycling of raw materials, mining from renewable sources, or investing in energy saving equipment.
2) Thou shalt reduce thy pollution by ensuring that noxious gases are not emitted to the environment, nor toxic wastes not dumped into rivers.
3) Thou shalt find ways to achieve zero carbon status by purchasing carbon credits, replanting trees, or investing in green technologies.
4) Thou shalt be generous and kind to thy employees, treating them as how thou wishes to be treated. Work-life balance is not a myth. Profits should be shareth widely through stock options, bonuses, incentives and commissions. Welfare is working fair.
5) Thou shalt be a fair employer and not give preferential treatment to staff based on colour, gender, age, beliefs, lifestyles or any other factors. Bigotry is not a sustainable business practice.
6) Thou shalt not exploit thy suppliers nor customers and squeezeth them till they go under. Everybody is in business to make a livelihood, so do be fair to them. Fair trade is a plus too.
7) Thou shalt encourage thy customers to embrace planet friendly options. Thy costs may be slightly higher initially, but thine long-term savings far outweigh the initial investments.
8) Thou shalt practice "eco-office" concepts and discourage/ban thy employees from printing reams and ream of paper. If going paperless isn't possible, seek first sustainably sourced/ recycled paper.
9) Thou shalt participate in thy communities, finding ways to contribute to local causes and concerns. Ye shalt listen to thy families, schools, and residents to determine how thine should act.
...and finally, the most important perhaps...
10) Thou shalt not fudge, deceive, or obscure one's business practices from public scrutiny. The truth shall prevail. In other words, thou shalt not lie (or at least when it impacts thy stakeholders).
Are there other ways we can make our businesses kindler, gentler and more sustainable?
Are you achieving the triple bottom line? (courtesy of One World Social Media)