Posts Tagged 'co-creation'

Corporate Narrative Arcs – or – What’s Past is Prologue to the Future*

Every company has a powerful tool to build a strong internal culture.

It is the narrative arc of the company.

The narrative arc is a collection of individual story lines that weave together the larger story of the company.  It starts with the inspiration driving the founder(s)  to form the company, driving them to the early successes, and from the inevitable failures (generously called teachable moments) to the successes which reaffirm the company employees’ sense of common purpose.  It answers either implicitly or explicitly the questions of employees and customers alike:

  • Why was this company founded?
  • What is the common purpose that we all share?
  • What are the famous past accomplishments in which we take pride?
  • What are the dark moments in the corporate history, the turning points which demonstrate the resilience and resourcefulness of the company’s people?

All of these questions are answered through telling the corporate story.  In essence, the narrative arc conveys a sense of destiny, inevitability, a unified purpose and direction behind the company’s trajectory.  Done right it points to the direction the company will take in the future.

*Or, to slightly paraphrase the lines from the Tempest by Shakespeare (our favorite creative director) what is past is prologue for the future of the company.

You can visualize it like this (thanks to Mike Prentice who is now at the U of Mich):

Corporate_NarrativeArc

All too often companies overlook the power of their past to shape perceptions of the future.  Sometimes they deliberately leave out portions of the story that make them feel uncomfortable.  Other times the stories have been forgotten from disuse, hidden away in archives and the fading memories of former employees, leaving behind a form of corporate amnesia.  Or the stories have gotten stale from they way there are told.

When you understand the cumulative power of these individual story lines, you will understand why some companies continue to mine the stories of their past and retell them today.  It isn’t limited to small companies like Patagonia.  They are big companies like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, IBM, GE and Lockheed Martin.

Example on Effective Use of Corporate Narrative Arc:  Lockheed Martin

100Years

This year (2012-2013) Lockheed Martin is celebrating a major milestone, its Centennial.  To double down, this company is actually celebrating two centennials-in-one: it is the centennial of both companies that eventually combined to form Lockheed Martin.    [Full disclosure, my team at Verse Group worked together with Lockheed Martin on this program.]

From the 100th Anniversary website:

To mark our 100th anniversary, we’re looking back at the innovations and achievements that helped our customers rise to some of the world’s most vital challenges. And we’ll look forward to emerging global challenges and the technology that will change our world for the next 100 years. [From  website].

100 years ago the Glenn L. Martin Company was founded by…Glenn L. Martin.  That very same year the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company  was founded by the brothers Allan and Malcolm Lockheed.

All of three of these men were pioneers with the vision, determination and smarts to make breakthroughs upon breakthroughs which transformed aeroplanes from novelty rides into a robust form of commercial and military travel.

There is real drama in their stories, and the stories of the men and women who worked with them, those who flew their machines and those who benefited from the advances and achievements they inspired.  From their bold visions and humble beginnings in a barn and church came the great innovations which helped land Neil Armstrong on the moon and are now giving us sight into the past through the Hubble telescope — to name just a few of achievements that their successors made possible.

LockheedMartin

Through-out this centennial year the company is sharing 100 story lines that weave together into the larger corporate narrative arc.  100 Stories.  100 Years of Accelerating Tomorrow.

Just as important are the stories shared by individuals with their own very personal experiences of Lockheed Martin.  There is real power in the reminiscences, imaginings and memories of these people.  The company is tapping into this power by inviting the public to share their own personal stories online.  These individual and the company storylines weave together, co-creating the larger narrative arc.

ShareYourStory

Sharing stories is what brings a brand closer to its audience.

Add them all up and these shared stories form the larger narrative arc of the company.

And that is a powerful tool for building a strong internal culture based on a common understanding of their shared sense of purpose from where they came and where they want to go next.

Put some creativity into your marketing – or – Improving by Improv

Marketing managers of the world, exercise your creativity!

Here’s a perfect opportunity to add some creativity to your marketing thinking.  The improv group, Chicago City Limits, will be hosting a creativity in marketing event for the NYAMA on May 19th.  [Learn more here]

No, you don’t have to go to Chicago.  Chicago City Limits is actually located in New York’s theater district.  It promises to be good fun and a good way to rethink marketing.  The event is going to be held in their theater.  We’ll be going through mind stretching exercises led by members of Chicago City Limits.

Why Chicago City Limits?  In addition to being a training ground for some very talented actors, writers, CCL runs creativity training sessions for many major corporations.  They know their business…and ours, too.

Here’s what some of their corporate clients have said:

Praise for Chicago City Limits corporate programs

Creativity is all about perspective.  Creativity gives you a way to look at the world in a different way.  Because when you look at the world in a different way, you can come up with new ideas and new answers to old problems.

Perfect example:  for decades people had been twisting apart their oreos, throwing way the part with only cookie and then putting together the two cookie/creme sides.  How did Nabisco respond?  They introduced the Double Stuf Oreo.

So now, I twist apart my double stufs, put two together and…hey…Nabisco, how about a Quad Stuf Oreo?

Double The Stuf, Double The Funn

Welcome to the Decade of Narrative Marketing

Marketing is undergoing a transformation.

Marketing is being re-invented.

The so-called “22 immutable laws of marketing” have mutated.  They’ve been broken.  Now they are being repealed.

Bold moves by companies such as Samsung, Apple, Google, Hyundai, Adidas, JetBlue and McDonald’s — to name some of the most visible ones — are re-writing the marketing playbook.

The innovation is coming from the corporate side and from bold thinkers .  To name just a few — Douglas Holt, Marc Gobé, Gerald Zaltman, Larry Light, Joan Kiddon, Joseph Plummer, Jae Hang Park.  There are many others.   We can all learn from the example of Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing, who is continually seeking a better framework for marketing as the world evolves (Marketing 3.0 is his newest explanation of this third wave in reinventing marketing).

The future of marketing is built on a better understanding of how the human mind works.  The future of marketing is based on new learning into the sheer power of metaphors and story telling to shape the very way we understand the world.  It is based on the breakthroughs being made by neurologists who are able to study our brains in ways unimaginable 15 years ago.  fMRI and other technology are opening new windows into our brain, giving us a better view of what happens inside.   This is not a tale from a Avatar or some other 3-D science fiction film.  It is well-known from the work of Steven Pinker, Oliver Sacks and others.

The future of marketing is based on the simple principle of co-creation.  That means the consumer is central to the process. It recognizes the essential role consumers have in co-creating meaning and value.

The future of marketing includes that essential 4th dimension — time.   It will no longer look at the world in a 2 x 2 grid.  It is flexible, dynamic.   New marketing will replace old marketing the way that steel replaced iron; the way that LCD flat screen TVs replaced vacuum tube TVs

The future of marketing embraces technology as a strategy, not just an execution.  The new new thing –QR codes, social media, hyperlocal marketing — the technologies of the moment will continuously change.  Marketing will break down the internal silos that agencies & corporations erect around the digital world of online and mobile to separate them from the analog world of TV and Radio.  The future of marketing looks at the ways a story jumps from one medium to another, the way a book becomes a movie becomes a Broadway musical becomes a video game becomes a theme park attraction becomes an app, becomes an iPad iBook, becomes….

The past of marketing is static (position), focused on the competitor (different) and not the consumer, reductive, minimalist, simplistic to the point of trying to summarize everything into a single word.

The future of marketing is narrative.  It will:

A) Tap the power of metaphor and story telling

B) Co-create

C) Be alive, living in time

E) Embrace new technology to tell stories in new ways

1/1/11 is the start of the Decade of Narrative Marketing.  The future is an open book.  Go ahead, write the next chapter.

The Art of Market Research

Why is so much market research wrong?

My love of market research does not blind me to its flaws.  Perhaps it makes those flaws more visible to me.  Even so, poll numbers are just irresistable, particularly in this election season.

The area where typical market research is typically weakest is the realm of inspiring great new ideas.  Traditional market research is deductive.  It surveys the world as it exists, quantifies the attributes and allows us to find the “gaps” between what people have and what they want.  Almost always the gaps are obvious.  The findings of the research is expected.  The ideas traditional market research uncovers are by definition derivations of pre-existing ideas.  After all, the ideas didn’t already exist, then how could someone think them up and put them into a survey?

So I will continue with my posting about how 2 artists, Komar and Melamid, used quantitative research in the 1990s to guide their creation of The People’s Choice — the most wanted and the most unwanted paintings of countries around the world.

It is a picture perfect example of how the literal use of market research can produce some very un-perfect outcomes.

Some background. Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid are two Russian emigres who moved to the US in the 1970s, with a short stop-over in Israel along the way.  They quickly became well-known within the insular art world with a series of increasingly provocative shows and projects.  By the 1990s they became “famous” with The People’s Choice project.  Interviews in The New Yorker, The Daily News, etc.   Famous?  Well, they have not yet really crossed over into the mainstream to become household brands the way Warhol or others have.

Using other people’s money Komar and Melamid enlisted highly respected researchers to conduct qualitative focus groups and quantitative market research studies in the US and a dozen other countries.  Market research in so many countries is a geographic scale far larger than many “global” studies done by multinational corporations.

Here are examples of some questions and answers:

Do you prefer seeing bold, stark designs or more playful, whimsical designs?”
“bold, stark”: 39%
“playful, whimsical”: 49%

What is your favorite color?
Blue: 44%
Green: 12%
Red: 11%
Black: 4%
Purple/Violet: 4%
Brown: 3%
Pink/rose: 3%
Beige/Tan: 2%
White: 2%
Grey: 2%
Yellow: 2%
Mauve: 2%
Fushia: 2%
Maroon: 2%

How important is the appearance or design of the following products in your decision to purchase the product?
new car:
very-59%, somewhat-28%, not very-8%, not at all-5%
underwear: very-19%, somewhat-28%, not very-32%, not at all-21%
tv set: very-33%, somewhat-40%, not very-19%, not at all-8%
winter coat: very-51%, somewhat-38%, not very-6%, not at all-4%

It is comforting to know that design is more important in the decision process for a car than it is for underwear.

From the results of the surveys and focus groups, the two artists then created the “most wanted” and the “least wanted” painting for each country.  You can see the handiwork at Dia’s online gallery Diaart.org

In ArtForum Andrew Ross wrote:

Diagnosing the poll’s disappointing results for the Daily News, Komar & Melamid pointed out, “Maybe everyone is wrong in this country. We are not wrong because we are the artist. But we are wrong like the whole country is wrong. Products, politics, art created from polls is wrong. If using polls for art is wrong, then everyone is wrong…”

Vitaly Komar and Alexa Melamid used a deductive approach to market research, which leads to a derivative work of “art”.  The lack of creativity and inspiration in the outcomes is directly related to the use of a quantitative poll.  In the words of the artists themselves:

[Nation Magazine interviewer] N: But there were some surprising results from this poll, yes?

AM [Melamid]: Actually, what shocked me was that it was not surprising. I thought there would be much more interesting–I mean, much different results. Because my small experience talking about art with the people of Bayonne gave me quite a different impression of what the people want. They couldn’t exactly say what they want, but seeing artists working gave them ideas of what was possible. The problem is they don’t have examples. Maybe they can’t be asked, maybe language doesn’t work. I was expecting great discoveries, a real vox populi, a high opening. But I think it was the fault of the poll, not the people. It’s the fault of all polls. Maybe people have to be shown. Maybe we have to buy a van and go around the country working on art among people–van art. From Vanguard to Van Art.

So they point us in the right direction after all.  Using inductive methods of market research are perhaps the most effective ways to really use research for creative new products, new brands, new campaigns.

Consider this.  Turn the typical branding process on its head.

Have your agency develop the creative concepts first.  Then take the richest ideas out to consumers. And watch and listen to the way people respond.  Does the concept resonate deeply?  What are the stories that people co-create with the concept?  How do they tell the story of the new ideas?  Explore and expand on those ideas.  Work with the consumer to turn those stories into mini-movie scripts right there on the spot.

Then go to work on deepening, revising and polishing the richest, most robust creative concept.

Be inductive.

Otherwise you might end up with a brand that looks like America’s Least Wanted Painting:

"America's Least Wanted Picture" by Komar and Melamid

Branding tools people use vs. branding tools that are useful

I thought this was rather fascinating.  We did a simple cross-tab of marketers who use a variety of branding tools on one axis and how useful they thought the tool was on the other.

Rather revealing.

Seems that many marketers are using tools that they don’t find to be particularly useful.  At least that is the read from Frank and from my team members.  It aligns with all of the other signals that we are getting from marketers — they want breakthrough branding methods that are designed for today’s world.

I just keep going back to the book Chaotics by Kotler and Caslione — where they make a very clear point that we can’t go back to marketing-as-usual because that world doesn’t exist anymore.  I’d actually quote the book but I’m in Frankfurt at the moment with a very limited library of  Wallace Shawn essays.  He’s a marvelous playwright and a very funny actor.  His more serious work is the play “Aunt Dan and Lemon” and his acting has included everything from Woody Allen movies to being Jon Stewart’s therapist on The Daily show.

But I digress.  Back to the business of branding.

The chart below is from our study of 130 CMOs and marketing decision makers that was fielded in January.  You can get a more detailed copy of the study in earlier posts.  And we are putting this together with the 2009 data for a more in-depth look at the state of marketing as we move into this brave new decade.

So how do you think branding should be reinvented?

CMOs on branding tools: Use vs. Useful

C.K. Prahalad

It was sad to read that C.K. Prahalad passed away a little over a week ago.

C. K. Prahalad, Proponent of Poor as Consumers, Dies at 68 – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com

Many will remember C.K. Prahalad for his writings on people at the bottom of the pyramid.

What drew me to his work was the developments around the theory of “co-creation.”  He coined the term, which has been gaining influence in the marketing world.  And he made it a central part of his work over the years.  It may yet turn out to be his most lasting contribution to marketing.

His thinking on co-creation has certainly informed our approach and how we developed Narrative Branding.  And I know it has influenced many others, both individuals and organizations.

We have all lost a very talented and inventive thinker.

Kotler & Kartajaya on Marketing 3.0

I’ll make a broad generalization.  There are two types of academics: Paradigm Shifters and Eternal Seekers.

The Paradigm Shifters are people who create a ground breaking theory and then spend the rest of their career teaching and promoting that theory — regardless of how the world changes around them.  Think of Braque, one of the originators of cubism in painting.

Eternal Seekers are the people who create a ground breaking theory and then develop an even stronger ground breaking theory.  They remain open, curious and continuously looking for a better theory as they get new data and see weaknesses in their original theory. Think of Picasso, who worked side by side with Braque and then moved into different “periods” and continued to reinvent his vision of art.

I’d put Philip Kotler into that second category, Eternal Seeker.  His is not satisfied to rest with his original models of marketing.  He has continued to innovate, rethink and evolve his theories and our understanding of how marketing actually works.

The role of Corporate Social Responsibility has been very much on Phil’s mind for several years.  (Full disclosure — I had the good fortune to work with him on a client project about the rise of socially-engaged consumers.)  It has very much influenced his thinking and rethinking of marketing.

His newest reinvention of marketing is “Marketing 3.0”, co-developed with Hermawan Kartajaya.   In the fall of 2009 Phil presented the model of Marketing 3.0 at a Kellogg school conference.  Below is the key slide summarizing Marketing 3.0 from that conference.  I’ve lifted a  this from the blog of Guy Kawasaki http://holykaw.alltop.com/phil-kotler-explains-marketing-30-in-one-slid So full credit for this photo goes to Guy Kawasaki.

Slide on Marketing 3.0 photo by G Kawasaki

The new book Marketing 3.0 is being published  in the US this spring.  But you don’t have to wait that long to better understand the fundamental principles of Marketing 3.0. Kotler and Kartajaya.  They’ve recently published a whitepaper on the topic which you can download here: marketing_3.0 Values-Driven Marketing

Covenant House rebranding part 4: A new symbol of hope

With the new “opening doors” metaphor for Covenant House, we begin to assess the visual side of their branding.

The audits show that the logo and the color blue are the two elements really holding the existing system together.  So we begin with the heart of the visual branding, the logo itself.

The existing logo has some tremendous strengths.  The dove is a powerful symbol, with many layers of meaning.  On the surface level it represents freedom, taking flight, soaring above.  It is also a fragile creature, needing protection.  The white dove is a symbol of peace.  And deep within the dove is a symbol of God’s covenant with mankind.  In the biblical story of Noah and the great flood, the dove is the harbinger of the waters receding, of man being restored to the earth, of God’s renewal of his covenant.

A strong symbolism at the core

Surrounding the core symbology are other elements that actually detract from the brand.  In co-creation research with teens, we heard:

“It should feel more like home, more homey, not an outpatient place or a hospital.”

“It looks sad.”

“Won’t make me want to come to Covenant House because it’s the same as all the other shelters”

Weakness of the logo

The journey to a new Covenant House logo begins with renewing the dove symbol.  The dove is now in flight, it is taking wing, it is open and free. It has a warmth, a fresh spirit and liveliness.  The color is a brighter, more vibrant blue.

Refreshing the Dove

The hand is now friendlier, more approachable.  The dove is no longer a bird in the hand but it either taking off from the hand or making a gentle landing for nurturing and comfort.  The house is gone, replaced by a window in 4 parts.  Some people read this as a stained glass window with a cross.  A new symbol of hope is added to the identity, the sun on the right.  And another color is added to convey the diversity and warmth of Covenant House.

The tagline, “Opening Doors for Homeless Youth” adds another layer of meaning to the visual identity. It is clearly speaking to the main audience, kids on the streets.  And it is signaling to potential donors the mission of the organization.  Since recognition of Covenant House is low among potential donors, drawing a clear connection to homeless youth is essential.

The renewed Covenant House

The renewed Covenant House brand identity evokes a richness of positive associations and memories.  It tells about the next chapter of the organization, not lingering in the past.  In research the whole of the new branding — verbal, visual, metaphorical — is stronger in engaging potential donors.

Most important of all, it draws in the homeless kids, the street kids without any alternatives.  In their own words from co-creation research:

“An open door, a path to a new beginning.”

“Makes you feel welcome – a place to go where you won’t be in danger.”

“Someone who is going to listen – someone who is going to open their heart to me.”

Covenant House New Jersey

The rebranding program would never have happened without the vision, energy and enthusiasm of everyone at Covenant House, including Kathleen Fineout, Judith Nichols, Tom Manning, Jim White, Sister Patricia Cruise, Tom Kennedy and the rest of the wonderful people at Covenant House.

Consider sending a donation to Covenant House this holiday season at https://www.covenanthouse.org/donate/online

Consilience in branding

I had never heard of the word “consilience” until a couple of years ago.  It was introduced to me by a friend who saw tremendous opportunities for using the theory of consilience in marketing communications.

Consilience means taking ideas from one area of study and applying them to another.  For instance, if a person made a theory about an apple falling from a tree (Newton) and then applied it to the planets and stars (Galileo) they would be using “consilience”.

Another way of thinking about this is to consider universities.  Within a university are many departments and within each department are specialists and sub-specialists and sub-sub-specialists.  The discoveries made by these specialists tends to be incremental.  The big discoveries are made by people who look across specialities or who take ideas from one specialty (psychology) and apply it to another (economics).  The combination of psychology and economics has led to a growth in “behavioral economists” and the book “Freakonomics”.  It is a way of creating new ideas through cross-fertilization of disciplines. Interdisciplinary is a clunky word for this elegant idea.

The word  consilience was dusted off and put to good use by the Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson in a book titled “Consilience”.

It has also been used to describe the Narrative Branding approach.  For instance, neuropsychology has been unlocking more secrets into how we think, how we understand and how we communicate.  We have drawn on these insights into the human mind to come up with a breakthrough approach that will be more effective.  If we understand the mind better and use that understanding to come up with a better approach for branding, then the likelihood of success will be much higher.

As the Advertising Research Foundation has reported in the 2007 study “On the Road to More Effective Advertising”:

“Even though the new insights into the human mind are available, there are few techniques widely used today to take advantage of the knowledge to the benefit of advertisers.”

Attached is an article we wrote on this topic a year and a half ago for the Korean marketing journal, “Brand Forum”.  VerseGroup_brandforum_consilience bilingual

Shameless book plug

Bellevue is a mythic place in the collective memory of New York City.  The narratives about Bellevue have seeped into our culture.  It was the inspiration for the film, “The Lost Weekend.” It is mentioned in Alan Ginsburg’s poem “Howl”. At various times people such as Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsburg and Charles Mingus were committed there.  It is a brand, unique in America.  And as a brand owned and operated by NYU Medical School, NYU has been working hard to upgrade Bellevue’s reputation.

It is our version of Bedlam, London’s infamous hospital for the insane. (By the way, the location of the original Bedlam is now a hotel.  I stayed there one night a few years ago.  All night long I was haunted by strange dreams).

Now the head of the psychiatric Emergency Room has written a book about her experiences at Bellevue. I highly recommend it for anyone who lives or has ever lived in New York.

From a branding perspective, Bellevue is a perfect example of how the reputation is influenced by other people and not by the hospital itself.  Movies, stories, newspaper articles, tv reports have all shaped the reputation of Bellevue.  There is only a limited amount that the hospital itself, or NYU, can do.  That doesn’t mean that they should do nothing.  It is a conversation, a dialog, and NYU needs to actively participate in it — including social media — to help people co-create a more positive image.

Weekends at Bellevue

Weekends at Bellevue

One last fun fact, Bellevue has it’s own literary magazine!  It is fitting with so many famous writers having spent time there.  It brings to mind the title of a poem “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” by Delmore Schwartz, a former psychiatric patient.

So this my plug for the book.  You can also get it on a Kindle.  But the downside is that you can’t ask the author to autograph the Kindle.  Full disclose, I received no promotional considerations, nor payments, for this blog post.


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