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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent It

Mention the word fintech to veteran financial services executives and watch the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up.

Fintech is a broad term that applies to new digital financial technologies, from cryptocurrencies to mobile wallets, as well as the startups attempting to use those new technologies to blast centuries-old financial institutions out of the water.

Recognizing the existential threat, leaders of 233-year-old U.S. financial giant Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) became convinced that continuous IT-enabled innovation was essential. To do that right, the IT team reorganized around specific capabilities—190 so far. Each capability has an owner who serves as a kind of CEO of that service and who is free to make any changes deemed necessary for success.

Like any radical change, BNY Mellon’s effort has seen its share of growing pains. For example, some take to the ownership roles better than others. And employees have required significant coaching throughout.

Several years in, however, a fundamental shift has taken place at the bank established by U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton. “Change is no longer some big project,” says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research, who has studied BNY Mellon’s efforts. “Change is what you do every morning when you get out of bed.”

Just about every industry is facing its own version of fintech these days, forcing organizations to disrupt their established ways of doing business or face disruption by an upstart unburdened by legacy processes and technology. It’s the age of digital transformation, which business consultancy Capgemini calls “the ultimate challenge in change management because it affects not only industry structures and strategic positioning, but also all levels of an organization (every task, activity, process) as well as the extended supply chain.” Dramatic increases in connectivity and improvements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and advanced analytics let companies optimize their processes continuously, but usually not without making enormous changes first.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image2 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItTo make the most of frequent and successive waves of technology innovation, organizations must build adaptability into their structures, their functions, and their individual employees. That calls for new approaches designed to make transformation real and continuous. “The ability to develop a culture of change where people rely less on habits and more on imagining what’s possible every day is going to be part and parcel of being a great company,” says Ross.

Unfortunately, the traditional command-and-control architecture of most businesses was not built for continuous adaptation. “The speed with which we need to take a good idea and get it in place is so much faster than before, which is why we are having this moment of truth,” Ross says. “Traditional approaches that rely on a lot of hierarchy to make changes are too slow.”

For years, most change efforts have been top-down, episodic, all-encompassing “big bang” attempts to alter systems, processes, and cultures. Executives announced a restructuring or an acquisition or the implementation of new technology and brought in external change management consultants to try to get people to adapt to new ways of working. It rarely succeeded.

Despite significant investment in the change management discipline and a library of books on the subject, just a quarter of change management initiatives succeed long term, according to a 2013 survey by consultancy Willis Towers Watson.

Digital transformation isn’t going much better. Worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies will grow to US$ 1.2 trillion in 2017, up 17.8% over 2016, according to IDC. But fewer than 2 in 10 respondents to a recent survey by the SAP Center for Business Insight and Oxford Economics have seen substantial or transformational value from their technology investments so far. And just 12% say that digitalization has affected their organizational structure in a meaningful way.

Furthermore, even though 84% of the C-level executives surveyed ranked digital transformation as “critically important” to the survival of their businesses, just 3% have completed transformation efforts that span the entire organization.

For digital transformation to deliver value, an entire organization needs to buy into new ways not just of working, but also of thinking. “It’s not about bringing consultants in. It’s about really designing systems that enable an organization to adapt innately,” says Pravir Malik, founder of organizational change development firm Deep Order Technologies and author of Connecting Inner Power with Global Change: The Fractal Ladder and The Fractal Organization: Creating Enterprises of Tomorrow.

Companies are experimenting with new approaches that encourage and support the flexibility required to embrace continuous transformation. Some are rethinking how they operate. Others are investing in helping employees become more adaptable. Still others are clarifying their mission in a way that makes room for individuals to drive change themselves.

Ultimately, gaining the ability to change constantly will help both organizations and employees over the long term. Change becomes less episodic, less massive, and less jarring; there is no end state, no go-live. Instead, the organization is always moving, but at a step-by-step pace that makes it easier for employees to adapt.

However, evolving into this state of constant, fluid change isn’t easy. It only works if you have the right approach and methodologies.

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Changing Mindsets

Indeed, as companies tackle digital transformation, traditional highly structured change management programs can actually do more harm than good, says Tom Weeks, senior consultant with The Arbinger Institute, a consultancy that works with organizations to encourage change from within. “The change program becomes the change rather than the results you’re trying to achieve,” he says.

Such change efforts can create a short-term view. As a result, says Weeks, “they drive short-term change, but they don’t change people’s minds. You can force the issues and try to make change happen for change’s sake. But eventually the effort loses energy.”

“Everyone is surprised by that,” adds Weeks. “But it’s just nature at play. We’re hardwired to resist change. If you’re not shifting fundamental mindsets, it doesn’t matter how much money or how many resources you put behind it.”

In her behavioral research, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has focused on two types of mindsets that she sees in most organizations: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are static.

Those with a growth mindset think that talents and capabilities develop over time through effort—a way of thinking that Dweck says creates more individual resilience and adaptability. People in the latter group tend to be better at collaboration, problem solving, and, naturally, continuing change.

The good news, according to Dweck, is that the growth mindset can be a learned behavior. She points to Microsoft as a company attempting to do just that. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has publicly stated that the corporate mission “starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop; that potential is nurtured, not predetermined; and that anyone can change their mindset.”

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image4 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItMicrosoft’s leaders are emphasizing learning and creativity with programs like hackathons in which the best projects are funded and their originators rewarded. The company is more explicitly rewarding risk-taking and the pursuit of stretch goals. When Microsoft’s foray into artificial intelligence, the chatbot Tay, was hacked, the CEO sent the team an e-mail of encouragement rather than rebuke.

Rather than limiting leadership development programs to those easily identified as having innate management potential, Microsoft says it is moving a broader swath of employees up and across teams, augmenting their skills, and expanding their work experiences. The most valuable employees are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, as in the past, but those who are the most adaptable—and capable of bringing that out in others.

While Dweck’s mindset work focuses on peoples’ ability to learn and grow, at The Arbinger Institute, consultants focus on an individual’s ability to work productively and with others. Arbinger’s methodology differentiates between an inward mindset, which causes people to be self-centered—seeing other people as objects or tools to either help or hurt them—and an outward mindset, which engenders more connection with and understanding of others as human beings.

Those with an outward mindset can work more collaboratively and productively. That’s incredibly important in an environment of change, such as when Raytheon Missile Systems was trying to integrate a series of mergers that were rife with infighting.

The company overcame the battles by working with all 12,000 employees on shifting their mindsets. Employees worked to uncover their part in company problems and devised ways to work collaboratively with others to solve them and hold themselves accountable for results. When tasked by company leaders to cut $ 100 million in expenses in two months or face layoffs, employees worked together to uncover alternatives.

They began to look beyond their own individual roles and needs, and focused instead on the needs of their colleagues and of the organization as a whole, says Weeks. That resulted in some big, organization-wide changes that went far beyond cost savings and helped increase sales dramatically.

Typically, companies like Raytheon come to Arbinger for help changing mindsets after they’ve struggled with failed change for a while. But that’s beginning to change, says Weeks, and that’s the ideal.

One company is offering employees training on the outward mindset approach before the launch of its six-year transformation effort. “If employees don’t have the right mindset, you can push change as much as you want, but eventually there will be a snap back. What’s required is people who want to hold themselves accountable at a higher level.”

Flexibility by Design

Neuroscientists are not surprised by the shift toward employee-centric rather than top-down change. They have proven that a brain’s “plasticity”—its ability to restructure and learn new things—is enduring. An old dog can learn new tricks. But when change is forced upon people, they quickly become overwhelmed, which activates the fight-or-flight response in the primitive emotional center of the brain, the amygdala.

They bottle up that instinctive response and it reemerges as anxiety, depression, and poor health if not managed. And not only are those potentially toxic emotions harmful to the individual, they are contagious in the organization.

The secret is to create conditions in which people direct more of the change themselves. When individuals solve a problem on their own, for example, their brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters that can create good feelings associated with the change.

One way to create this kind of personal change ownership is by taking a design thinking approach. The iterative, human-centric design concept that was first developed in the early 1970s has become a popular approach to developing products and services for customers. But design thinking principles can also bring new systems and processes to an organization.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image5 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItThat was the case when furniture maker Herman Miller began exploring the potential of an office chair connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) three years ago. Instead of designing a new chair, Herman Miller came away with the foundation for an organizational transformation from hard goods maker to service provider. This is the latest fundamental shift in a company that has evolved from traditional Queen Anne-style furniture maker in the 1930s to office designer in the 1970s to ergonomics innovator in the 1980s and 1990s, says Chris Hoyt, design exploration leader at Herman Miller.

Taking a design thinking approach meant interviewing a wide cross section of stakeholders. The interviews revealed that simply putting a sensor into a desk chair did not make business sense, but putting one into the company’s sit-to-stand desk—and creating a series of IoT-enabled services around it—did. The exercise turned out to be an entry point into an entirely new business model.

“Design thinking wasn’t new to Herman Miller, but there was a lot of skepticism about whether integrating technology into its furniture made business sense,” explains Kurt Dykema, co-founder and director of technology at product innovation and business strategy consultancy Twisthink, which worked with Herman Miller. “This process guided them through a transformation where they have to think about selling a digital experience and monetizing that instead of just selling a capital good and then being done with it.”

For example, none of Herman Miller’s back office operations was built to support the IoT subscription models it planned to offer with the desk. But the design thinking approach created consensus around IoT business value and helped to clarify the organizational changes required to capitalize on the new opportunity.

“It forced them through the process of retooling the business to sell and maintain digital experiences,” Dykema says. Herman Miller launched its Live OS furniture line in June, with the smart desk as the first product, and plans for more to follow.

Getting Agile

Like many companies that incorporate a design thinking approach to organizational change, the performance car division of Daimler AG, Mercedes-AMG, married its process with agile development methods.

Agile turns conventional change management on its head. Rather than making big changes all at once, agile uses an incremental approach to creating software that gives users a chance to use and react to new functionality as it is developed and to validate its value (as opposed to the more traditional waterfall approach where users don’t experience a solution until it is finished).

With agile, there is no predetermined end state. Instead, change is constant, but never so rapid that it becomes overwhelming.

At Mercedes-AMG, clickable prototypes were produced and tested with users weekly and their feedback was funneled back into development streams, continuously improving the resulting system. Based on early success at Mercedes-AMG, Daimler’s enterprise IT organization launched a similar program to develop new digital services for the enterprise.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image6 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItAt BNY Mellon, the adoption of agile development methods has enabled the company to introduce an incredible amount of systems change—but two weeks at a time.

The product of years of mergers and acquisitions, BNY Mellon had operated in product silos, each with their own systems and processes. The company wanted to develop a digital platform from which it could orchestrate a more unified and innovative customer experience. The goal was to put one of America’s oldest financial institutions on equal footing with some of the newest and most nimble newcomers in fintech.

Agile was a new way of working for the IT organization, which was accustomed to introducing releases a couple of times a year rather than a couple of times a month. So IT leaders invested significant time and money helping employees adopt new skills and adapt to the changes.

Eventually, agile enabled the bank to introduce new systems to its 52,000 employees in phases for their ongoing input, fine-tuning the systems over time to best meet employees’ needs and better ensure their adoption. It’s led to the creation—and ongoing enhancement—of an open-source, cloud-based platform that serves as a portal for both internal employees and customers. This app store will provide access to all BNY Mellon’s products and services as well as capabilities from select fintech and established financial services partners.

Increasing Autonomy

Though making change constant relies heavily on individual employees, leaders still have an important role to play. They need to provide the alignment with organizational principles that, when combined with individual autonomy, can create the kind of fluid and adaptive organization required for digital transformation, according to Mark Bonchek, CEO of Shift Thinking, a consultancy that works with leaders and organizations to update their thinking for a digital age.

The U.S. military takes this kind of approach on the battlefield, putting in place a doctrine that authoritatively guides soldiers but gives them autonomy and requires judgment in action to respond to rapidly changing conditions.

In business, organizations are adapting this principle by giving employees guidance on how to take action without requiring them to first seek approval. For example, when Suresh Kumar took over as CIO of BNY Mellon, he reorganized IT around end-to-end IT and business services. IT leaders subdivided each service into smaller components, each with its own leader. These hundreds of services leaders maintain their own service strategy document that covers the current state as well as a one- to three-year improvement plan.

Each service leader is measured on user experience. And because the services are highly interdependent, leaders are also judged on the experience of other service leaders who depend on their service.

As a result, BNY Mellon’s top IT leadership no longer directs team members, but coaches them. Early on, only about a third of the service leaders were successful. The IT group ultimately developed a maturity model for the approach to foster leader development.

Leading a service is as much a mindset as it is a job, says Kumar. The goal of the new approaches—agile software development, physical reorganization, increased autonomy and responsibility—is to create a digital foundation of services linking the bank to its customers and external partners and fostering ongoing digital transformation. The shift began in the IT organization, but the plan is to expand it enterprise-wide and to bring partners and customers into the loop as well.

The Power of Language

In the digital transformation era, companies need a new strategic narrative to help drive a mindset of constant change. A strategic narrative describes the shared purpose that all stakeholders are working toward, says Bonchek. That creates a shared purpose that everyone can wrap their minds—and ultimately their behaviors—around.

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For example, BNY Mellon’s working narrative is that “we believe each of us has the power to improve lives through investing.” And that applies not only to the investment of capital, but investing in people, in ideas, and in the future. At a high level, the theme helps reorient employees’ thinking and behaviors as they consider new ways the bank might differentiate itself.

The Importance of Being Resilient

If an organization is going to adapt itself to constant change, employees need tools to manage the psychological stress that comes with it.

Luckily, personal adaptability is something that you can teach. That’s just what Wendy Quan, a former in-house change management professional, does. As the founder of The Calm Monkey, she’s working with organizations from Google to the government of Dubai, helping them implement self-sustaining mindfulness meditation programs.

Quan used mindfulness and meditation practices to increase her own resilience during cancer treatment. “It alters your experience of a change,” she explains, “even when things around you aren’t changing the way you want them to.”

In 2011, she began conducting mindfulness training for a handful of executives working on a seven-year business and technology transformation project at Pacific Blue Cross. The leaders found the training so valuable that they made it available to the entire workforce.

Quan used the sessions to help employees experience the change on their own terms rather than feeling victimized. She focused change-specific meditations on becoming aware of one’s own perceptions about change, recognizing emotions and their impact on behaviors, learning how to mindfully choose reactions, and cultivating calm and clarity.

Quan surveyed employees after the training. The percentage of employees who rated their personal resiliency as low at the beginning decreased from 40% to just 2% while those who characterized themselves as highly resilient increased by a factor of 600% to 72%. And 83% said that meditation has moderately to significantly helped them through a significant transition.

“Change management methodologies favor the corporate perspective,” says Quan. “But it’s really important to focus on helping people be more self-aware of how they’re journeying through the change.”

Deep Order Technologies’ Malik also focuses his approach to resiliency training on self-awareness. He built a mobile app that enables employees to register what they’re feeling throughout the day. Recording emotional states gives employees a better understanding of what drives their own behaviors and how to cope with their feelings.

Leaders can then look at the aggregated, anonymized readings to identify patterns across the organization. Those patterns give leaders a good idea of the overall orientation of employees going through a change at a given point in time and whether they are poised to go along with it or resist.

Change the Ways of Changing

There is no simple solution to making change easier. A combination of new approaches at the organizational and individual level will be required to adapt to the constant change demanded by the digital future.

These approaches are all in the early adoption phases in most companies. Ironically, they are, in and of themselves, significant changes that must be absorbed. But the speed of digital change is relentless. “It’s just getting faster and faster,” says Quan. “And what companies are seeing is that stress and the inability to adapt to change cause reduced performance and increased absenteeism and disability rates. Leaders who see these trends know they need to pay attention,” says Quan.

Those that don’t? “They’ll go away. They’ll be history,” says Ross. “I don’t think this is an issue they can ignore.” D!


About the Authors

Andreas Hauser is Senior Vice President, Strategic Design Services and AppHaus Network, at SAP.

Paul Kurchina is a community builder with the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) who focuses on digital transformation and change.

Stephanie Overby is a Boston-based business and technology journalist.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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With Gamification, CRM Is a Brand New Ball Game

Advances in technology — including speech analytics, metrics, a wider array of scrabble data, and perhaps even big data — are making gamification a must-have tool in customer relationship management, call centers, collections, sales and other business areas.

Technological advances have enabled the design of games that offer employees incentives to make customers happy.

For example, ConnectLeader in July unveiled its TopRung sales gamification and performance management tool, which works with Salesforce.

CRMGamified released Motivation Engine 3.0 in 2015, a version of its gamification platform tailored for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Microsoft itself purchased gamification platform FantasySalesTeam in 2015, and has a website dedicated to gamification help and training.

“Gamification capabilities have now been built into — or can be integrated easily into — most CRM applications,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“Effectively, gamification is applying technology to what sales and call center managers have been doing for decades — trying to incentivize certain behaviors,” she told CRM Buyer. “CRM, and call centers in particular, was an early area for leaderboards and gamification.”

Why Gamification?

Gamification appears to be a solution to one of the biggest hurdles in CRM implementation — persuading people to use the system.

Many sales professionals see administrative work as a time waster. One increasingly popular way to attract their interest is by making the updating and use of a CRM package more like a game. Good behaviors (entering data) are rewarded, and friendly competition between departments and individuals is encouraged.

“A gamification solution is the facilitator of increasing employee engagement,” observed Brett Brosseau, CEO of
FidoTrack, which has implemented high-yield gamification solutions for call centers in various industries with CallMiner.

Impact of Gamified CRMs

Microsoft published two case studies on the effect of gamification with its
acquisition of FantasySalesTeam.

One was a pilot project by Service Corporation International with 130 sales reps using FantasySalesTeam. The reps closed 88 percent more deals, on average, at 213 percent of the average contract value when compared to about 700 others.

The other was Wireless Zone, which saw a 176 percent increase in total sales, 35 percent more specific product sales, and a 9 percent increase in profits in the first month it ran FantasySalesTeam.

Organizations best suited for gamification “would be environments capturing key activity or data points across employees and teams,” FidoTrack’s Brosseau told CRM Buyer.

Another critical characteristic is to have those data points readily available to share among third-party vendors and the gamification platforms.

“Better data capture through automation and more real-time analytics and metrics — dashboards — have made it easier to operationalize data-based gamification,” Nucleus’ Wettemann noted.

The Art of Gamification

The three parts to gamifying a process, according to Brosseau, are on-boarding, implementation and ongoing management.

The process isn’t difficult, but “there can be a few challenges within each area of the gamifying experience,” he remarked.

Successful gamification requires the following:

  • a clear goal of what the company wants to achieve;
  • total organizational commitment;
  • focus; and
  • a gamification solution that can integrate with its key analytics vendor.

Training is key, Nucleus’ Wettemann said.

“Real advances are in areas where training and coaching are aligned with gamification and monitoring,” she explained, “so it’s not just pushing for desired behaviors but enabling them.”

It’s the Culture, Not the Technology

Among the major factors that hamper the gamification process, Brosseau said, are these:

  • unclear goals;
  • the inability to reliably and consistently share data with the gamification platform;
  • improper ROI evaluation; and
  • lack of focus.

The major reason these challenges crop up is that the implementation and utilization of a gamification platform requires a cultural shift, Brosseau pointed out.

“It’s critical for organizational decision makers and key influencers to both be committed,” he said. “In addition, it’s a management mentality shift. No longer are employees exclusively motivated by money like in the past.”

Prepare to Lather, Rinse and Repeat

“To gamify a process you must understand all possible outputs, not just the ones that are most desirable,” noted Denis Pombriant, principal at Beagle Research.

“It takes more than one iteration to get things right,” he told CRM Buyer.

Companies must ensure there are ways “for people to gracefully exit and re-enter later,” Pombriant noted. “Game creators have this down, and they’re worth listening to.”

Words of Caution

Technology isn’t everything, though.

“You make better customers by engaging them and by providing better end-to-end experiences, not by applying gizmos designed to speed up the process,” said Pombriant. “IT’s already moving at warp speed.”

There’s also concern over ways the gamification process
may be abused.

Ultimately, “when good managers put incentives and measures in place to drive performance, they get desired outcomes from good employees,” Nucleus’ Wettemann said. “When bad managers put gamification in place instead of real leadership, they get just what you’d expect.”
end enn With Gamification, CRM Is a Brand New Ball Game


Richard%20Adhikari With Gamification, CRM Is a Brand New Ball GameRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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Announcing the Campaign & Brand Management for Facebook Pages

Today, we are excited to announce a new Power BI solution template – the Campaign/Brand Management template for Facebook! This solution template adds to the growing library of social analytics solution templates including the Campaign/Brand Management for Twitter and Advanced Search for Bing News solution templates.

Powerful Yet Easy to Use

This latest solution template provides powerful yet easy to understand analytics on any Facebook page. After defining one or many Facebook Pages to follow, you can quickly navigate posts and comments, identify key trends, understand user sentiment, and uncover how well users are engaged.

The solution template combines Azure services and sophisticated Microsoft research technologies to provision powerful social analytics on Facebook in a matter of a few clicks. All you need is a Facebook account, an Azure subscription and one or more Facebook pages to follow. Behind the scenes, the template will set up and configure everything for you including going back in time to pull as many posts and comments you wish to analyze.

Follow your competitors

The solution template allows you to follow any number of Facebook pages – not just your own but any public Facebook page. This gives you the ability to compare and contrast yourselves against your competitors.

63fdedb4 4338 45a8 aee1 0cc318565e59 Announcing the Campaign & Brand Management for Facebook Pages

Analyze historical data

By default, the solution template brings in 90 days of posts and comments from Facebook and allows you to perform month over month trend analysis to measure how well your page is being received. As a brand manager, reacting to negative sentiment and responding to customer feedback is essential in ensuring a successful social brand. The template helps you achieve this by providing key measures and statistics to help you maximize the performance of your Facebook pages. These include user reactions, the response rates to negative user posts, and trending key phrases color coded by sentiment.

4c5597cf e89c 4ff6 a7da 5a4c74622a59 Announcing the Campaign & Brand Management for Facebook Pages

Try it out & let us know

Go ahead and check out the Facebook solution template, you can try out an interactive sample report, watch a demo video, or just go ahead and set things up! The team is always interested in any thoughts or feedback – you can reach us through our alias (pbisolntemplates@microsoft.com) or by leaving a comment on the Power BI Solution Template Community page.

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How to Develop a Brand Voice You Can Live With

How to Develop a Brand Voice You Can Live With 351x200 How to Develop a Brand Voice You Can Live With

If you read a piece of your company’s content out loud at a conference – with no introduction, and no attribution ‒ would the audience recognize it as yours?

That’s the ultimate test of a brand “voice.”

The conference challenge might be a bit unrealistic, but it’s still a worthy goal. Everything you publish should have a consistent voice.

Why? Because consistency supports trust.

Trust is everything in marketing. It’s particularly important in content marketing.

If you doubt that a consistent voice matters, consider this: If your best friend started talking like a corporate attorney, for no reason, randomly, and then at other times talked like a teenager, for no reason, randomly … would you not start wondering about them?

Would you still trust them? Enough to have them look after your house or your children? Enough to let them drive?

Brand voice versus your brand’s “look”

This idea of consistency doesn’t just exist in the editorial world. It has a parallel in design. Usually the question for designers is, “If someone had just one page of your eBook/company report/web page – and the page had no logo – could that person recognize it as your company’s simply by the design?”

Would the typeface, colors, and the layout be distinctive enough for them to recognize you?

Graphic designers often seem to have an easier time answering “yes” to that question than editorial people do answering “yes” to the conference reading question. Perhaps that’s because it’s easier to have a recognizable brand “look” than a recognizable brand “voice”?

It could be. More of us are visual learners than auditory learners. So we’re more attuned to how things look than how they sound. Or it might be that it’s just easier to recognize (and differentiate) a particular shade of blue than it is to recognize, say, a professional, upbeat tone with a sly sense of humor.

But maybe designers just have these things nailed down better. Maybe a lot of us editorial people are just coming into our brand voices randomly … kinda by trial and error. Almost by mistake.

This doesn’t have to be.

So, how do you get things to sound consistent? There are several levels to the solution:

  • Defining your company’s style and usage rules
  • Defining your company’s personality
  • Defining your company’s beliefs and worldview

Does that all sound a bit … squishy? A little too psychological?

Maybe it is, but don’t dismiss it just for that. Here’s how to dial in on your brand’s voice at each of those levels.

“Wherefore thy style primer?”… or, “Use a style book”

We editorial folk can borrow a key trick from our designer friends. It’s called a style book.

Sometimes also called “a branding guidelines book” or a “style manual,” this is a rulebook on how to use your company’s logo and all the other little design usage practices and preferences your company requires. A good guide, followed closely, lends a visual consistency to everything a brand publishes, whether the content is from the team in Los Angeles or Tokyo.

I became very familiar with a couple of these handy books back when I worked at ad agencies. They were usually printed binders, and included everything from gauzy brand descriptions to specific Pantone color codes. Some clients were more rigid about following them than others.

You, as an editorial person, can have your own version of a style book.

It could be as brief as a few pages, or heavy enough to use as a doorstop. If you want your teams to actually read it, I’d recommend making it no more than 20 pages.

Here are the sort of things a style book typically specifies and clarifies:

  • Which editorial rule of law do you follow? The Chicago Manual of Style, or The Associated Press Style Book?
  • Which industry terms are acceptable? How are they spelled? Hyphenated?
  • Can writers start a sentence with an “and”? Is it okay to have one-sentence paragraphs? Fragments?
  • Is it okay to use slang? Tell jokes? Trash people or ideas … or even disagree with them?

Don’t discount these issues as niggling details (though no editor would ever consider these things niggling). A good style book is the first step to a much more consistent voice.

Even if you can only find the time to put out a five-page style book, you’ll still be ahead of the game. And you’ll have a spiffy draft to work from as your content operation scales up.

Your company’s personality

If you’ve read about developing a brand voice before, you’ll be familiar with this exercise: Pick three words that describe your company’s brand voice.

It’s a good and necessary exercise, but it’s only a start. Here’s another good one: If your company was at a dinner party, what sort of personality would it be?

But both of these exercises can generate some blank stares around the conference table.

Know why?

Because it’s tough to define a brand (or any brand attribute) in a vacuum.

Want to make it easier? Then you need to understand positioning.

For those of you who slept through Marketing 101, positioning is, well, how you “position” your company in the marketplace. It’s how you compare and contrast yourself with other brands in your industry or niche.

The all-time best book ever about this is Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. The examples might seem “old” to some, but the ideas are 100% current. If you have a chance, read it. It’s short.

If you don’t have time to read a full-length book, here’s how to apply this positioning idea. Instead of just starting with the “which three words best describe our brand voice?” question, first do a warm-up exercise. Pick three words to describe the brand voice for each of the following:

  • Geico
  • Beyonce
  • Verizon

Those are three seriously well-developed brands that almost everybody knows, so they tend to be a good starting point. They’ll warm up your brand-voice-defining muscles.

Next, define the personalities of your competitors. Discuss at least the three major businesses, and possibly a few more.

Finally, define your own brand’s three words. This table from Erika Heald on how she would define three attributes (it expanded into four attributes) should help:

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5 Examples Of Brilliant Brand Communities That Are Shaping The Online World

When it comes to buying things—even big-ticket items—the way we make decisions makes no sense. One person makes an impulsive offer on a house because of the way the light comes in through the kitchen windows. Another gleefully drives a high-end sports car off the lot even though it will probably never approach the limits it was designed to push.

We can (and usually do) rationalize these decisions after the fact by talking about needing more closet space or wanting to out-accelerate an 18-wheeler as we merge onto the highway, but years of study have arrived at a clear conclusion:

When it comes to the customer experience, human beings are fundamentally irrational.

In the brick-and-mortar past, companies could leverage that irrationality in time-tested ways. They relied heavily on physical context, such as an inviting retail space, to make products and services as psychologically appealing as possible. They used well-trained salespeople and employees to maximize positive interactions and rescue negative ones. They carefully sequenced customer experiences, such as having a captain’s dinner on the final night of a cruise, to play on our hard-wired craving to end experiences on a high note.

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Today, though, customer interactions are increasingly moving online. Fortune reports that on 2016’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is so crucial to holiday retail results, 108.5 million Americans shopped online, while only 99.1 million visited brick-and-mortar stores. The 9.4% gap between the two was a dramatic change from just one year prior, when on- and offline Black Friday shopping were more or less equal.

When people browse in a store for a few minutes, an astute salesperson can read the telltale signs that they’re losing interest and heading for the exit. The salesperson can then intervene, answering questions and closing the sale.

Replicating that in a digital environment isn’t as easy, however. Despite all the investments companies have made to counteract e-shopping cart abandonment, they lack the data that would let them anticipate when a shopper is on the verge of opting out of a transaction, and the actions they take to lure someone back afterwards can easily come across as less helpful than intrusive.

In a digital environment, companies need to figure out how to use Big Data analysis and digital design to compensate for the absence of persuasive human communication and physical sights, sounds, and sensations. What’s more, a 2014 Gartner survey found that 89% of marketers expected customer experience to be their primary differentiator by 2016, and we’re already well into 2017.

As transactions continue to shift toward the digital and omnichannel, companies need to figure out new ways to gently push customers along the customer journey—and to do so without frustrating, offending, or otherwise alienating them.

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The quest to understand online customers better in order to influence them more effectively is built on a decades-old foundation: behavioral psychology, the study of the connections between what people believe and what they actually do. All of marketing and advertising is based on changing people’s thoughts in order to influence their actions. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that a now-famous article in the Harvard Business Review formally introduced the idea of applying behavioral psychology to customer service in particular.

The article’s authors, Richard B. Chase and Sriram Dasu, respectively a professor and assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, describe how companies could apply fundamental tenets of behavioral psychology research to “optimize those extraordinarily important moments when the company touches its customers—for better and for worse.” Their five main points were simple but have proven effective across multiple industries:

  1. Finish strong. People evaluate experiences after the fact based on their high points and their endings, so the way a transaction ends is more important than how it begins.
  2. Front-load the negatives. To ensure a strong positive finish, get bad experiences out of the way early.
  3. Spread out the positives. Break up the pleasurable experiences into segments so they seem to last longer.
  4. Provide choices. People don’t like to be shoved toward an outcome; they prefer to feel in control. Giving them options within the boundaries of your ability to deliver builds their commitment.
  5. Be consistent. People like routine and predictability.

For example, McKinsey cites a major health insurance company that experimented with this framework in 2009 as part of its health management program. A test group of patients received regular coaching phone calls from nurses to help them meet health goals.

The front-loaded negative was inherent: the patients knew they had health problems that needed ongoing intervention, such as weight control or consistent use of medication. Nurses called each patient on a frequent, regular schedule to check their progress (consistency and spread-out positives), suggested next steps to keep them on track (choices), and cheered on their improvements (a strong finish).

McKinsey reports the patients in the test group were more satisfied with the health management program by seven percentage points, more satisfied with the insurance company by eight percentage points, and more likely to say the program motivated them to change their behavior by five percentage points.

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The nurses who worked with the test group also reported increased job satisfaction. And these improvements all appeared in the first two weeks of the pilot program, without significantly affecting the company’s costs or tweaking key metrics, like the number and length of the calls.

Indeed, an ongoing body of research shows that positive reinforcements and indirect suggestions influence our decisions better and more subtly than blatant demands. This concept hit popular culture in 2008 with the bestselling book Nudge.

Written by University of Chicago economics professor Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge first explains this principle, then explores it as a way to help people make decisions in their best interests, such as encouraging people to eat healthier by displaying fruits and vegetables at eye level or combatting credit card debt by placing a prominent notice on every credit card statement informing cardholders how much more they’ll spend over a year if they make only the minimum payment.

Whether they’re altruistic or commercial, nudges work because our decision-making is irrational in a predictable way. The question is how to apply that awareness to the digital economy.

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In its early days, digital marketing assumed that online shopping would be purely rational, a tool that customers would use to help them zero in on the best product at the best price. The assumption was logical, but customer behavior remained irrational.

Our society is overloaded with information and short on time, says Brad Berens, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, Annenberg, so it’s no surprise that the speed of the digital economy exacerbates our desire to make a fast decision rather than a perfect one, as well as increasing our tendency to make choices based on impulse rather than logic.

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Buyers want what they want, but they don’t necessarily understand or care why they want it. They just want to get it and move on, with minimal friction, to the next thing. “Most of our decisions aren’t very important, and we only have so much time to interrogate and analyze them,” Berens points out.

But limited time and mental capacity for decision-making is only half the issue. The other half is that while our brains are both logical and emotional, the emotional side—also known as the limbic system or, more casually, the primitive lizard brain—is far older and more developed. It’s strong enough to override logic and drive our decisions, leaving rational thought to, well, rationalize our choices after the fact.

This is as true in the B2B realm as it is for consumers. The business purchasing process, governed as it is by requests for proposals, structured procurement processes, and permission gating, is designed to ensure that the people with spending authority make the most sensible deals possible. However, research shows that even in this supposedly rational process, the relationship with the seller is still more influential than product quality in driving customer commitment and loyalty.

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Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, studies how the emotional brain shapes decisions and experiences. In a popular TED Talk, he says that people in the process of making decisions fall into one of two mindsets: Type 1, which is stressed and wants to feel comforted and safe, and Type 2, which is bored or eager and wants to explore and take action.

People can move between these two mindsets, he says, but in both cases, the emotional brain is in control. Influencing it means first delivering a message that soothes or motivates, depending on the mindset the person happens to be in at the moment and only then presenting the logical argument to help rationalize the action.

In the digital economy, working with those tendencies means designing digital experiences with the full awareness that people will not evaluate them objectively, says Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management. Since any experience’s greatest subjective impact in retrospect depends on what happens at the beginning, the end, and the peaks in between, companies need to design digital experiences to optimize those moments—to rationally design experiences for limited rationality.

This often involves making multiple small changes in the way options are presented well before the final nudge into making a purchase. A paper that Dhar co-authored for McKinsey offers the example of a media company that puts most of its content behind a paywall but offers free access to a limited number of articles a month as an incentive to drive subscriptions.

Many nonsubscribers reached their limit of free articles in the morning, but they were least likely to respond to a subscription offer generated by the paywall at that hour, because they were reading just before rushing out the door for the day. When the company delayed offers until later in the day, when readers were less distracted, successful subscription conversions increased.

Pre-selecting default options for necessary choices is another way companies can design digital experiences to follow customers’ preference for the path of least resistance. “We know from a decade of research that…defaults are a de facto nudge,” Dhar says.

For example, many online retailers set a default shipping option because customers have to choose a way to receive their packages and are more likely to passively allow the default option than actively choose another one. Similarly, he says, customers are more likely to enroll in a program when the default choice is set to accept it rather than to opt out.

Another intriguing possibility lies in the way customers react differently to on-screen information based on how that information is presented. Even minor tweaks can have a disproportionate impact on the choices people make, as explained in depth by University of California, Los Angeles, behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi in his 2015 book, The Smarter Screen.

A few of the conclusions Benartzi reached: items at the center of a laptop screen draw more attention than those at the edges. Those on the upper left of a screen split into quadrants attract more attention than those on the lower left. And intriguingly, demographics are important variables.

Benartzi cites research showing that people over 40 prefer more visually complicated, text-heavy screens than younger people, who are drawn to saturated colors and large images. Women like screens that use a lot of different colors, including pastels, while men prefer primary colors on a grey or white background. People in Malaysia like lots of color; people in Germany don’t.

This suggests companies need to design their online experiences very differently for middle-aged women than they do for teenage boys. And, as Benartzi writes, “it’s easy to imagine a future in which each Internet user has his or her own ‘aesthetic algorithm,’ customizing the appearance of every site they see.”

Applying behavioral psychology to the digital experience in more sophisticated ways will require additional formal research into recommendation algorithms, predictions, and other applications of customer data science, says Jim Guszcza, PhD, chief U.S. data scientist for Deloitte Consulting.

In fact, given customers’ tendency to make the fastest decisions, Guszcza believes that in some cases, companies may want to consider making choice environments more difficult to navigate— a process he calls “disfluencing”—in high-stakes situations, like making an important medical decision or an irreversible big-ticket purchase. Choosing a harder-to-read font and a layout that requires more time to navigate forces customers to work harder to process the information, sending a subtle signal that it deserves their close attention.

That said, a company can’t apply behavioral psychology to deliver a digital experience if customers don’t engage with its site or mobile app in the first place. Addressing this often means making the process as convenient as possible, itself a behavioral nudge.

A digital solution that’s easy to use and search, offers a variety of choices pre-screened for relevance, and provides a friction-free transaction process is the equivalent of putting a product at eye level—and that applies far beyond retail. Consider the Global Entry program, which streamlines border crossings into the U.S. for pre-approved international travelers. Members can skip long passport control lines in favor of scanning their passports and answering a few questions at a touchscreen kiosk. To date, 1.8 million people have decided this convenience far outweighs the slow pace of approvals.

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The basics of influencing irrational customers are essentially the same whether they’re taking place in a store or on a screen. A business still needs to know who its customers are, understand their needs and motivations, and give them a reason to buy.

And despite the accelerating shift to digital commerce, we still live in a physical world. “There’s no divide between old-style analog retail and new-style digital retail,” Berens says. “Increasingly, the two are overlapping. One of the things we’ve seen for years is that people go into a store with their phones, shop for a better price, and buy online. Or vice versa: they shop online and then go to a store to negotiate for a better deal.”

Still, digital increases the number of touchpoints from which the business can gather, cluster, and filter more types of data to make great suggestions that delight and surprise customers. That’s why the hottest word in marketing today is omnichannel. Bringing behavioral psychology to bear on the right person in the right place in the right way at the right time requires companies to design customer experiences that bridge multiple channels, on- and offline.

Amazon, for example, is known for its friction-free online purchasing. The company’s pilot store in Seattle has no lines or checkout counters, extending the brand experience into the physical world in a way that aligns with what customers already expect of it, Dhar says.

Omnichannel helps counter some people’s tendency to believe their purchasing decision isn’t truly well informed unless they can see, touch, hear, and in some cases taste and smell a product. Until we have ubiquitous access to virtual reality systems with full haptic feedback, the best way to address these concerns is by providing personalized, timely, relevant information and feedback in the moment through whatever channel is appropriate. That could be an automated call center that answers frequently asked questions, a video that shows a product from every angle, or a demonstration wizard built into the product. Any of these channels could also suggest the customer visit the nearest store to receive help from a human.

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The omnichannel approach gives businesses plenty of opportunities to apply subtle nudges across physical and digital channels. For example, a supermarket chain could use store-club card data to push personalized offers to customers’ smartphones while they shop. “If the data tells them that your goal is to feed a family while balancing nutrition and cost, they could send you an e-coupon offering a discount on a brand of breakfast cereal that tastes like what you usually buy but contains half the sugar,” Guszcza says.

Similarly, a car insurance company could provide periodic feedback to policyholders through an app or even the digital screens in their cars, he suggests. “Getting a warning that you’re more aggressive than 90% of comparable drivers and three tips to avoid risk and lower your rates would not only incentivize the driver to be more careful for financial reasons but reduce claims and make the road safer for everyone.”

Digital channels can also show shoppers what similar people or organizations are buying, let them solicit feedback from colleagues or friends, and read reviews from other people who have made the same purchases. This leverages one of the most familiar forms of behavioral psychology—reinforcement from peers—and reassures buyers with Shiv’s Type 1 mindset that they’re making a choice that meets their needs or encourages those with the Type 2 mindset to move forward with the purchase. The rational mind only has to ask at the end of the process “Am I getting the best deal?” And as Guszcza points out, “If you can create solutions that use behavioral design and digital technology to turn my personal data into insight to reach my goals, you’ve increased the value of your engagement with me so much that I might even be willing to pay you more.”

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Many transactions take place through corporate procurement systems that allow a company to leverage not just its own purchasing patterns but all the data in a marketplace specifically designed to facilitate enterprise purchasing. Machine learning can leverage this vast database of information to provide the necessary nudge to optimize purchasing patterns, when to buy, how best to negotiate, and more. To some extent, this is an attempt to eliminate psychology and make choices more rational.

B2B spending is tied into financial systems and processes, logistics systems, transportation systems, and other operational requirements in a way no consumer spending can be. A B2B decision is less about making a purchase that satisfies a desire than it is about making a purchase that keeps the company functioning.

That said, the decision still isn’t entirely rational, Berens says. When organizations have to choose among vendors offering relatively similar products and services, they generally opt for the vendor whose salespeople they like the best.

This means B2B companies have to make sure they meet or exceed parity with competitors on product quality, pricing, and time to delivery to satisfy all the rational requirements of the decision process. Only then can they bring behavioral psychology to bear by delivering consistently superior customer service, starting as soon as the customer hits their app or website and spreading out positive interactions all the way through post-purchase support. Finishing strong with a satisfied customer reinforces the relationship with a business customer just as much as it does with a consumer.

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The best nudges make the customer relationship easy and enjoyable by providing experiences that are effortless and fun to choose, on- or offline, Dhar says. What sets the digital nudge apart in accommodating irrational customers is its ability to turn data about them and their journey into more effective, personalized persuasion even in the absence of the human touch.

Yet the subtle art of influencing customers isn’t just about making a sale, and it certainly shouldn’t be about persuading people to act against their own best interests, as Nudge co-author Thaler reminds audiences by exhorting them to “nudge for good.”

Guszcza, who talks about influencing people to make the choices they would make if only they had unlimited rationality, says companies that leverage behavioral psychology in their digital experiences should do so with an eye to creating positive impact for the customer, the company, and, where appropriate, the society.

In keeping with that ethos, any customer experience designed along behavioral lines has to include the option of letting the customer make a different choice, such as presenting a confirmation screen at the end of the purchase process with the cold, hard numbers and letting them opt out of the transaction altogether.

“A nudge is directing people in a certain direction,” Dhar says. “But for an ethical vendor, the only right direction to nudge is the right direction as judged by the customers themselves.” D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


About the Authors:

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer and Managing Director at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

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Max Pressure by Max Headcase … Trump decides on a North Korean brand strategy

 Max Pressure by Max Headcase ... Trump decides on a North Korean brand strategy

It has been revealed that popular 1980s computer generated TV show host Max Headroom is actually Donald Trump’s …

So Trump has finally decided on a brand strategy for his military escalation, meaning his threats are now as empty as his tweets.

The problem with Trumpian games of chicken is that they might be dangerous for the planet, because the premise in the case of narcissist personality disorders is a speculative assumption that ultimately “might makes right”.

The problem is also asymmetric in terms of resources when the owner of some 30 nuclear warheads does need the respect that its peers (Pakistan, India, Israel) share. 

More often than not, South Korea is hardly mentioned since Trump assumes that South Koreans (also) lack the “necessities” to have nuclear weapons, even as Trump has speculated that they could be given such weapons.

Then again, that could be another of his “truthful exaggerations” and it’s apparently pressure “or” engagement, not pressure and engagement. With nuclear weapons, it could be Strangelove for seven days in May, and only the living will envy the dead who applied the pressure.

 Max Pressure by Max Headcase ... Trump decides on a North Korean brand strategy
The name “chicken” has its origins in a game in which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a “chicken,” meaning a coward

(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration has settled on its North Korea strategy after a two-month review: “Maximum pressure and engagement.”

U.S. officials said Friday the president’s advisers weighed a range of ideas for how to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, including military options and trying to overthrow the isolated communist dictatorship’s leadership. At the other end of the spectrum, they looked at the notion of accepting North Korea as a nuclear state.

In the end, however, they settled on a policy that appears to represent continuity.

The administration’s emphasis, the officials said, will be on increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of China, North Korea’s dominant trade partner. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the results of the policy review and requested anonymity.

The new strategy will be deployed at a time of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. U.S., South Korean and other officials are closely monitoring the North amid indications it could conduct another missile test or nuclear explosion to coincide with an important national anniversary this weekend…

x

As for the Trump administration’s policy, the U.S. officials emphasized that no engagement of North Korea is currently taking place.

Although China advocates for diplomatic outreach, the focus for now is on pressure.

 Max Pressure by Max Headcase ... Trump decides on a North Korean brand strategy

The officials said the goal of engagement would have to be North Korea’s denuclearization.

It cannot lead to an arms control agreement or reduction of the North’s atomic arsenal that would imply American acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power.

And denial is a river in Egypt.

 Max Pressure by Max Headcase ... Trump decides on a North Korean brand strategy

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Under Armour Transforms Into World’s Largest Digital Fitness Brand

Under Armour Kurt Kendall NRF17 SAP 1024x512 Under Armour Transforms Into World’s Largest Digital Fitness Brand

Achieving quantum leaps through disruption and using data in new contexts, in ways designed for more than just Generation Y — indeed, the digital transformation affects us all. It’s time for a detailed look at its key aspects.

Data finding its way into new settings

Archiving all of a company’s internal information until the end of time is generally a good idea, as it gives the boss the security that nothing will be lost. Meanwhile, enabling him or her to create bar graphs and pie charts based on sales trends – preferably in real time, of course – is even better.

But the best scenario of all is when the boss can incorporate data from external sources. All of a sudden, information on factors as seemingly mundane as the weather start helping to improve interpretations of fluctuations in sales and to make precise modifications to the company’s offerings. When the gusts of autumn begin to blow, for example, energy providers scale back solar production and crank up their windmills. Here, external data provides a foundation for processes and decisions that were previously unattainable.

Quantum leaps possible through disruption

While these advancements involve changes in existing workflows, there are also much more radical approaches that eschew conventional structures entirely.

“The aggressive use of data is transforming business models, facilitating new products and services, creating new processes, generating greater utility, and ushering in a new culture of management,” states Professor Walter Brenner of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, regarding the effects of digitalization.

Harnessing these benefits requires the application of innovative information and communication technology, especially the kind termed “disruptive.” A complete departure from existing structures may not necessarily be the actual goal, but it can occur as a consequence of this process.

Having had to contend with “only” one new technology at a time in the past, be it PCs, SAP software, SQL databases, or the Internet itself, companies are now facing an array of concurrent topics, such as the Internet of Things, social media, third-generation e-business, and tablets and smartphones. Professor Brenner thus believes that every good — and perhaps disruptive — idea can result in a “quantum leap in terms of data.”

Products and services shaped by customers

It has already been nearly seven years since the release of an app that enables customers to order and pay for taxis. Initially introduced in Berlin, Germany, mytaxi makes it possible to avoid waiting on hold for the next phone representative and pay by credit card while giving drivers greater independence from taxi dispatch centers. In addition, analyses of user data can lead to the creation of new services, such as for people who consistently order taxis at around the same time of day.

“Successful models focus on providing utility to the customer,” Professor Brenner explains. “In the beginning, at least, everything else is secondary.”

In this regard, the private taxi agency Uber is a fair bit more radical. It bypasses the entire taxi industry and hires private individuals interested in making themselves and their vehicles available for rides on the Uber platform. Similarly, Airbnb runs a platform travelers can use to book private accommodations instead of hotel rooms.

Long-established companies are also undergoing profound changes. The German publishing house Axel Springer SE, for instance, has acquired a number of startups, launched an online dating platform, and released an app with which users can collect points at retail. Chairman and CEO Matthias Döpfner also has an interest in getting the company’s newspapers and other periodicals back into the black based on payment models, of course, but these endeavors are somewhat at odds with the traditional notion of publishing houses being involved solely in publishing.

The impact of digitalization transcends Generation Y

Digitalization is effecting changes in nearly every industry. Retailers will likely have no choice but to integrate their sales channels into an omnichannel approach. Seeking to make their data services as attractive as possible, BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have joined forces to purchase the digital map service HERE. Mechanical engineering companies are outfitting their equipment with sensors to reduce downtime and achieve further product improvements.

“The specific potential and risks at hand determine how and by what means each individual company approaches the subject of digitalization,” Professor Brenner reveals. The resulting services will ultimately benefit every customer – not just those belonging to Generation Y, who present a certain basic affinity for digital methods.

“Think of cars that notify the service center when their brakes or drive belts need to be replaced, offer parking assistance, or even handle parking for you,” Brenner offers. “This can be a big help to elderly people in particular.”

Chief digital officers: team members, not miracle workers

Making the transition to the digital future is something that involves not only a CEO or a head of marketing or IT, but the entire company. Though these individuals do play an important role as proponents of digital models, it also takes more than just a chief digital officer alone.

For Professor Brenner, appointing a single person to the board of a DAX company to oversee digitalization is basically absurd. “Unless you’re talking about Da Vinci or Leibnitz born again, nobody could handle such a task,” he states.

In Brenner’s view, this is a topic for each and every department, and responsibilities should be assigned much like on a soccer field: “You’ve got a coach and the players – and the fans, as well, who are more or less what it’s all about.”

Here, the CIO neither competes with the CDO nor assumes an elevated position in the process of digital transformation. Implementing new databases like SAP HANA or Hadoop, leveraging sensor data in both technical and commercially viable ways, these are the tasks CIOs will face going forward.

“There are some fantastic jobs out there,” Brenner affirms.

Want more insight on managing digital transformation? See Three Keys To Winning In A World Of Disruption.

Image via Shutterstock

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What is Brand Marketing?

What is Brand Marketing 351x200 What is Brand Marketing?

And marketing automation can help brand marketers in several ways: brand identity management, social publishing, press release attribution, corporate and internal communications, event management and influencer relations.

Brand Identity Management

You can use your marketing automation media library to be the repository for your brand’s logo, website headers, footers and other templates, and other branded assets. That’s where your Demand and Expand teams can go to grab resources when building a landing page or creating an email. And with Act-On Anywhere (a Chrome browser app), your marketing and sales teams can access brand elements even as they work in other applications.

Social Publishing

Act-On’s social and advanced social publishing tools integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so you can post, listen, and measure social engagement from a single interface.

Press Release Click Attribution

You can also use marketing automation to create trackable URLs for press releases that will help you measure press release engagement and see how they contribute to your sales.

Corporate/Internal Communications

Like as you would send a newsletter or other communication to a prospect list, you can do the same for your internal communications and track employee engagement on corporate/HR campaigns.

Event Management

Whether it’s a virtual event or a customer workshop, marketing automation allows you to manage the process and track engagement from email invitations to reminders to post-event follow ups. You can create an automated workflow (save the date, official invite, seats are limited, registration responder and reminders), then re-use and refine the workflow for the next event.

Influencer Relations

“As a PR person or a brand person, you have your list of stakeholders,” Musto said. “These are typically the influencers you want to get in front of. You want to nurture them just like you would a potential buyer.

“But the outcome would be a mention in a research report or a quote in a key publication, or a written article about your company. The end deliverable is different. It’s not a dollar revenue thing; it’s qualitative storytelling that you’re looking to get out of them.”

She said you can manage your press lists just like you would your lead lists and do segmentation off both the behavioral intelligence that your marketing automation collects, as well as the demographic data from the CRM.

“The system does a great job at being able to score, segment, and track all stakeholder types,” she said, “just like you do with your prospects and customers.”

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What Tom Hanks Taught Me About Customer Intimacy and Keeping our Brand Promise

What Tom Hanks Taught Me About Customer Intimacy and Keeping our Brand Promise 351x200 What Tom Hanks Taught Me About Customer Intimacy and Keeping our Brand Promise

Ask questions

Another great scene in the movie is when Hanks, who by now has been made a vice president at the toy company, is in a room with a bunch of other executives, listening to a presentation for a new product. In this case, the executive is recommending they build transformer robots that turn into buildings. 

“I don’t get it,” Hanks asks.

“What don’t you get, Josh?” asks MacMillan.

“The toy is a building that turns into a robot,” Hanks replies. “What’s fun about that?”

The executive responds by showing Hanks a sales chart and explaining that the company is the market leaders in active toys.

When I think about this, I’m reminded about the remote control lesson from the well-known marketing book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, in which they point out that if engineering had its way there’d be even more buttons on a remote control. But just because the technology allows you to add a feature doesn’t mean you should. It’s everyone’s job to push back and question decisions.

And if you’re getting out and getting to know your customers, you’ll have a better idea of whether they need, want, or desire a robot that turns into a building and vice versa.

And while we’re still on this scene from the movie, it’s also important to be able to take and appreciated the feedback you receive from a colleague or your boss on whatever you’re working on.

“What do you think of that?” MacMillan asks Hanks as they walk through the FAO Schwarz toy store.

“Championship hockey?” Hanks replies. “I love it. Only … 

“Only what?” 

“Only the pieces don’t move … Why did they change it?”

“I don’t know.” 

Remember your roots

Eventually, Hanks the adult starts to lose sight of Hank the kid. He begins to wear suits instead of shorts and t-shirts. He replaces playing with his buddy with discussing product manufacturing with his vendors. It begins to dawn on him that he misses being a kid.

It’s important to remember why the business we work at or founded was started. More than likely, the founder was trying to solve a problem he or she was experiencing and trying to remedy. That’s true at Act-On, and it’s probably true at your company.

Equally true is that, as our companies grow, processes, habits, and structures are put in place that help address (incredible) growth. But as that happens, too often those systems and processes can stifle innovation, lose authenticity, or worse yet, make it harder for our customers to be successful using our products.

In the movie, Hanks goes back to his hometown in New Jersey and walks by all the places that are important to that 13-year-old version of him – his school, his playground, his home. He then decides that, despite his success as a business executive, he wants to return to being a kid. Fortunately, he’s able to track down that Zoltar fortune-teller machine and make a wish to become 13 again.

For the rest of us without Zoltar genies, we need to be vigilant to stay true to our core values. This is done through open and constant communications with our employees, with our customers, and with ourselves. Do your customers say you’re meeting your brand promise? Are you solving their problems? Are you making this process simple or hard? Is everyone within your organization on the same page?

Good news. If you’ve read this far, you have the tools to find out. Remember:

  1. Know your business goals;
  2. Get out of the office;
  3. Ask questions; and
  4. Remember your brand promise.

And if you don’t believe me, go back and watch the movie again.

What are other movies that have a great marketing lesson or lessons in them?

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Act-On Blog

ALDO’s Digital Transformation Simplifies Brand Experience

Companies that begin life digitally operate differently from the incumbents they threaten and unseat. Employees at digital companies don’t waste time gathering and analyzing information; they use live data to make decisions. They don’t need to wade through organizational hierarchies to get permission to act; their leaders explain business goals and then empower them to use their best judgment.

To compete, incumbent companies have to transform not only decision-making processes and hierarchies that have hardened over decades but also the nature of leadership itself. The leadership strategies and behaviors that drove success in the knowledge economy aren’t sufficient to navigate a successful transition to the digital economy.

sap Q416 digital double feature3 images5 ALDO’s Digital Transformation Simplifies Brand ExperienceTwo-thirds of Global 2000 CEOs will center their business strategies on digital transformation by the end of 2017, according to IDC. But few business executives today have the leadership mindset or skills necessary for these strategies to succeed, according to the Leaders 2020 study conducted recently by SAP, Oxford Economics, and McChrystal Group. The study found that only 16% of executives are ready to lead their companies through this transformation.

Leaders must lead differently if their companies are to transition to the digital economy and reap its rewards. In 10 years, for example, 75% of the companies that were listed on the S&P 500 Index in 2012 will have been replaced, according to a study by Innosight. Meanwhile, global competition is heating up. Rising disposable income in emerging economies has sparked the advent of new rivals—and in a survey by consulting firm Accenture, 70% of marketers in those economies expressed confidence in their ability to execute a digital business transformation. In mature economies, the figure was just 38%.

But it’s not too late to learn the essentials of digital leadership.

Communicate the Digital Mission

Fostering an organization whose employees have the skills, tools, authority, and information they need to make decisions in the moment begins with leaders who can formulate and communicate the digital mission. Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, understands the forces driving digital transformation. Under his guidance, AT&T’s lines of business have expanded—both organically and through acquisitions—to include extensive digital operations, like DirecTV and potentially, as of press time, Time Warner, according to The New York Times. So even as AT&T continues to compete for market share against established and startup telecommunications providers, the company is going head-to-head against digitally based companies like Amazon and Google.

Every business must become digital and work in the cloud, but the change doesn’t merely mean making acquisitions, buying new technology, and rewriting org charts. A new digital workforce is needed as well to meet the transformation challenge. And like the companies they serve, the members of this new workforce will have to develop new abilities and prepare to take on new roles.

That reality is the impetus for Stephenson’s ambitious initiative to transform his company by transforming his team. Through a program launched nearly three years ago, AT&T is underwriting education and professional development opportunities for employees who are willing to pursue the studies on their own time. Those who take advantage of the offer can learn new computing skills that align with the company’s blueprint for digital transformation.

AT&T’s education plan shows the extent to which data is driving a profound change in employees’ daily tasks, functions, and core value to the company. Until recently, businesses sought knowledge workers who were capable of reviewing, assessing, analyzing, and disseminating data in support of decision making. But in the digital economy, companies must be able to respond in the moment to customer, market, and competitive changes. Reviewing masses of data and following traditional hierarchical decision-making processes defeats that goal. To succeed and, in truth, to survive, companies must have that data available when they need it and make a decision in the right moment.

sap Q416 digital double feature3 images6 ALDO’s Digital Transformation Simplifies Brand Experience

Invest in Understanding How Work Gets Done

With that in mind, digital leaders must invest in understanding how work gets done and then commit to adjusting processes, deploying the right technology to support those processes, and measuring what adds value for customers and, therefore, to the bottom line. Yet only half of the executives surveyed by Oxford Economics rated their companies’ senior leaders as highly proficient in using the technology necessary for transformation.

Digital Leadership in Hard Numbers

Executives who have already established themselves as digital leaders demonstrate the value of their initiatives in hard numbers, according to the Oxford Economics study Leaders 2020. For example, their companies are much more likely to sustain top financial performance in terms of both revenue and profitability. Where leadership has embraced digital, companies:

  • Are 38% more likely to report strong revenue and profit growth
  • Have more mature strategies and programs for hiring skilled talent
  • Report one and a half times more effective collaboration, which contributes to productivity
  • Achieve 87% employee satisfaction and significantly higher levels of employee loyalty
  • Are better equipped for succession planning
  • Listen to Millennial executives, whose advice may provide shortcuts to digital transformation

What’s more, becoming digitally savvy isn’t enough. Leaders’ aptitude for cultivating teams and work environments that can make good use of technology is also essential. Indeed, nearly 80% of the companies considered farthest along in digital maturity make data-driven decisions, according to the Oxford Economics study (see Digital Leadership in Hard Numbers). Meanwhile, 53% of respondents were found to be clinging to old-school decision-making styles and failing to map decisions to strategy. As a result, only 46% qualified as equipped to make decisions in real time.

Lead by Simplifying

Digital leaders make it a priority to continually simplify processes and decision-making procedures to reduce institutionalized complexity and bureaucracy. These impediments take a real toll. A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that organizational complexity costs businesses up to 10% of profits. Flattening organizational hierarchies and encouraging transparency and organization-wide inclusivity in the decision-making process can help erase such losses, according to the Oxford Economics study.

Achieving these goals doesn’t require a committee. Empowering people at lower levels to make business-critical decisions based on available data has a natural flattening effect on the hierarchy. And as individuals and the enterprise as a whole become accustomed to having access to real-time data that speeds responsiveness, decision making becomes distributed across the organization.

That doesn’t automatically mean that the organizational pyramid is dead. Rather, it empowers employees, the organization, and leadership by placing responsibility for individual responses and actions in the hands of the people best equipped to carry them out, take ownership of the results, and ensure their success. This key characteristic distinguishes digital workers from knowledge workers: they have access to the data necessary to drive the right decisions at the right time, regardless of where they appear on the organizational chart. This not only empowers people at lower levels but also eases the bureaucratic burden on upper management, which is then freer to focus its time and energy on leading the organization forward instead of directing its day-to-day and even minute-by-minute activities.

Lead by Getting Ahead of the Customer

Creating an organization that’s capable of capturing data and making decisions in the moment can transform customer relationships. Besides responding to immediate customer needs, digitally transformed organizations can also predict emerging requirements, even before the customer is fully conscious of them.

To achieve this, digital leaders must be able to view digital in terms of its ability to support innovation: to make it possible for the business to deliver an array of services and advantages that it wasn’t possible to deliver before.

“The challenge is to not ask the question, ‘How does this affect my business?’ That’s inherently a defensive, firm-centric question,” says David Rogers, author of The Digital Transformation Playbook and a member of the faculty at Columbia Business School. “Instead, firms need to look at every new technology and digital capability and ask, ‘How might this allow us to offer new forms of value to our customers that we could not have done in the past?’ And be continuously looking.”

Being plugged into digital’s power to transform customer relationships thus allows an executive to evolve into a digital leader with the vision and the tools necessary to conceive and implement continuous innovation.

Concentrate on Team Dynamics and Employee Engagement

Millennial leadership is well suited to understand the human side of digital transformation. Digital leaders of older generations must recognize the importance of inviting and acting on input from Millennials, which is essential to inspiring them to perform at their best—and to achieving the overall goals of digital transformation.

sap Q416 digital double feature3 images2 ALDO’s Digital Transformation Simplifies Brand ExperienceDigital leaders must also understand that encouraging diversity in their workforce isn’t simply a matter of fairness; it’s also a source of competitive advantage. Leaders who build diverse organizations have more engaged, productive employees, as well as higher levels of innovation, according to the Oxford Economics study. This in turn leads to better bottom-line results. Companies that reported higher revenue and profitability growth were more likely to cite the positive impact of diversity on their numbers.

Despite this, the study found that only 60% of companies have adequate programs to ensure that they are developing a digital workforce. The shortfall is hurting companies’ ability to hire and retain talent: only 53% say they are successful in attracting qualified applicants.

This problem will only get worse as Baby Boomers exit the workforce. Digital leaders will be increasingly pressured to maintain stability and continuity in their workforces. The challenge will be especially difficult for companies that lag in meeting the expectations of professionals who have entered the workforce in the era of the gig economy. They expect to make numerous career moves and don’t necessarily see length of tenure as a priority.

Thus, companies need processes for bringing new staff members up to speed as quickly as possible while optimizing their productivity, encouraging them to make constructive contributions to the business, and motivating them to deliver their best performance. They must also develop programs for continuous learning and job rotations to engage and retain workers who may not otherwise remain with the company as long as they would have in past generations.

Address the Generation Gap

Millennials and Generation Z have different expectations of what it means to be an employee and how to use technology than other generations do. They expect collaboration across the hierarchy, which is important to keeping them engaged with the organization and with their personal passions. Fostering a sense of meaning within the workplace, then, is another element of digital leadership; leaders must make the company a place where employees feel as engaged and rewarded as they can be and can do their best work.

In this respect and many others, most businesses are contending with a generation gap. The Oxford Economics study found that in comparison to older executives, Millennial executives have a much more pessimistic view of their organization’s ability to perform well in such key areas as using technology to achieve competitive advantage, collaborating internally, inspiring employees, and fostering an organizational culture that promotes feedback and reduces bureaucracy. In addition, the Millennials are more conscious of—and place a premium on—diversity and its benefits. Addressing that generational disconnect is key to digital leadership.

When today’s mid- and late-career executives entered the workforce, it was understood that younger workers invested the early years of their professional lives paying their dues. But that model no longer works in a market in which a company’s future depends on an approach to digital transformation that comes most naturally to younger executives. And those executives will not invest themselves and their expertise in companies that fail to recognize and respect Millennial workplace priorities.

sap Q416 digital double feature3 images7 ALDO’s Digital Transformation Simplifies Brand Experience

Help Employees Address Future Challenges

Digital transformation isn’t just altering employees’ expectations of their careers. It’s also remaking jobs and what work itself entails. In response to a survey by consulting firm Cap Gemini, 77% of companies reported that they saw digital skill gaps as the chief obstacle to their digital transformation.

Their concerns are well founded. Oxford University examined 702 job descriptions across all job types and found that 47% were likely to be replaced by technology within a decade. Another 19% were moderately likely to be replaced. With that in mind, part of the leadership challenge in digital transformation is anticipating how people will work in this world and how artificial intelligence, robots, and people will be integrated into a new and more efficient workforce. How will people interact with these digital forces in the workplace? What will it mean in human terms?

sap Q416 digital double feature3 images1 ALDO’s Digital Transformation Simplifies Brand ExperienceDigital leaders can’t expect employees to keep up with these changes on their own: things are simply moving too quickly. AT&T’s Stephenson recognizes this. The New York Times reported that the company’s digital transformation is projected to make 30% of current jobs obsolete by 2020. That’s why, to get ahead of that challenge, Stephenson ordered the creation of AT&T’s training program, which includes an extensive curriculum of online and classroom courses.

This approach illustrates a key characteristic of digital leaders: the ability to think conscientiously about where their companies are headed, what skills their people will need, and how they can help them develop the skills they’ll need as their roles evolve. Digital leaders are also able to articulately communicate to employees where the world is headed so that they are motivated to get there and be productive now and in the future.

Unleash a New Generation of Executives

Companies can no longer afford to delay recognizing the digital sea change that is transforming decision making and the capacity to respond in real time to challenges and opportunities. Led by Millennial executives, the new digital workforce is ready to spark unprecedented performance improvements in organizations that do not constrain their ability to communicate, collaborate, and contribute. Digital leaders are devising strategies for harnessing their energy, enthusiasm, and innate understanding of digital capacities to achieve higher levels of productivity and profitability. The remaining leaders face a choice: embrace this change or get left behind. D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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