November 27, 2013

The 7 New Business Sandbox Rules – Part 2

Awesomeness-1It’s all about realising that the phrase ‘Business is no longer as usual’ is not a proverb. It is a fact. Believe it or not, the world is ‘growing up’ around us. Old answers, disguised in quirky action ads, the me-too jargon of websites and brochures, are simply not delivering ROI. And, despite all the knowledge and technology, the world is also moving from the rational to the emotional.

This article follows Part 1  in the series of New Business Sandbox Rules. The first two Rules: ‘Audience’ and ‘Insanely Different’ are the first, fundamental steps on the new way of conquering new markets and the customers’ hearts.

Re-think and embrace the seven New Sandbox Business Rules:

  1. Audience
  2. Insanely Different
  3. Authenticity
  4. Awesomeness
  5. Human Givens
  6. Influence
  7. Culture [InnoTainment]
[Visit previous article in the series. Here.]

3.  Authenticity

branding-1The customer universe has become more informed, more sophisticated (in some ways) and, as a result, more cynical. But, this has also elevated the value of Trust.

While customers, driven by the magic of ‘Insanely Different’ business brands, are prepared to wear the Brand virtually tattooed on their foreheads, they will as quickly abandon the brand if it fails to deliver the three elements of authenticity.

Authentic Brand Conviction: “With great power comes great responsibility”. How can customers trust the message of a brand when they see a different reality? Here is an easy example. Telstra’s latest slogan is “That’s how we connect.” And, yet, trying to resolve a basic problem indicates that even their departments in the vertical service process, are not connected. There is a Great Wall of China between technical and financial resources.

Authentic Leader: Business brands can no longer depend on the advertising message to carry the value of the promise. Leaders can no longer hide behind the labours of their marketing or PR department. They have to personally drive the real conviction of the brand. The world believed Steve Jobs when he launched new, exciting products. A very different story if you have ever seen the launch of a Blackberry when it was still fighting for survival: an executive in an expensive suite, looking like he had only just stepped out of his expensive office to make a stock-standard announcement. Nobody could believe that it was actually an innovative product. He was a messenger, not an Oracle.

Authentic Values: Many businesses and less-than-visionary marketing managers try to prop up the brand value with semantics. Words like “superior service”, “innovation” have been proliferating. Yet, the behaviours of employees fall short of delivery. And, it’s not their fault. Service is becoming increasingly important part of product and brand differentiation. But its meaning is not underpinned by the culturally understood and embraced business values.

Here is an example that should serve as a warning. Qantas: once an airline famous for its safety record. So, what do they do? Cut down on maintenance costs and outsource this core competency to a market that does not support trust in delivering this important value.

And, if this is not enough, here is another example. There is a lot of competition in deregulated markets of energy (as well as mobile phones, water, banking, accounting and it).


They spend millions of dollars on customer acquisition, only to disappoint. If it wasn’t for well documented customer inertia, they would be losing customers in droves.

4.  Awesomeness

Grilld-3We all love ‘awesome’ experiences that simply leave us breathless and in awe. That kind of experience leaves lasting imprint and creates desire for more, i.e. turns into loyalty. The good news is that Awesome doesn’t always require perfection.

According to a trends report by, “Consumers don’t expect brands to be flawless. In fact, consumers will embrace brands that are FLAWSOME*: brands that are still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome. Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity.”

Grilld-2Closer to home, next time you have a chance, look closer at some local Australian businesses that are showing awesomeness through ‘flawsome’: Crust (pizza), Grilled (hamburgers). They tell customers an engaging story about what they are passionate about, provide differentiated value proposition and add – carefully designed – quirkiness to brand expectations. Until they break trust in their core values (think Qantas), they have customer ‘love’. Awesome!

Awesome creates Business Voodoo Magic and can turn adversity into business value:

My local shopping strip, in a leafy Melbourne suburb, is a blink-and-miss event. But, it has four and a half restaurants, two hairdressers, and… five cafes. The owners of my regular café had a near stroke when the latest café opened four doors up. But, marketing innovation kicked in immediately: they started offering free home-made biscuit with every coffee, changing coffee brand and machine, even friendlier service, new uniforms, etc.

But, can you guess, what was the most important thing they did? They started openly sharing their concerns with their customers – throwing up hands and lamenting “Why another café?” They told all customers about all these new initiative – more than once. They didn’t leave it to chance that customers would notice. They kept asking for feedback about the coffee, whether I noticed that they have a new machine (hard to miss), about the changes and improvements they have made. They cast a spell on their existing customers.

So, it came as small surprise when I witnessed the effects of this Business Voodoo magic last Sunday. The café is usually closed on Sundays but walking past I noticed a familiar face and some activity around. Curious, I walked up to say hello and indeed, I found a couple of regular customers and the owners (a nice Cambodian couple) having a ‘working bee’ revamping garden beds around the cafe. Atmosphere of mutual ‘reward’ was augmented by a comforting backdrop of a table generously set up with coffee cups and selection quiche and cakes served by the owners.

How awesome is that!

Would your Customers go to bat for you? Would they take action to protect you from competition, beyond just buying your products and services but helping add value to your business – for Free? Or, would they just jump ship?

More next week…

For more insights and practical path to easier, cheaper and faster success, tune into the next InnoFuture Business RIOT on Blueprint for Productivity, Innovation and Growth.
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