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Malcom Gladwell, in his new book Talking to Strangers, discusses the misunderstandings that arise when what you say isn’t what you mean.

For an aspirational business leader, this can easily be resolved with some clarity of purpose (remember ‘purpose’? It’s that elusive thing brands must maintain to ensure they resonate with customers). Only last month, we were trying to decide what Emotional Quotient meant to us; now there’s a new kid on the block asking for definition.

With specific attention to innovation and product planning, your policy may say something like “Our purpose is to make a difference by giving people innovative solutions for ….” But how?

What strategic steps will you take and what strategic position will you arrive at?

Some definitions:

Policy (noun) – a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or individual.

Strategy (noun) – a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

See the difference? Policy is a general statement that no-one can really follow because it doesn’t tell them what to do – just what to believe. A bit like blind faith.

Strategy, on the other hand, is descriptive. It tells you that there is a target, an intent and a plan.

Lots of companies have a policy document or a mission statement.

Fewer have a product strategy that knows what its customers want to see it do – now and next. Why? Because a strategy must be specific and measurable, and it can be hard to know what to be, when everything around us is changing all the time. So, instead of making a decision and acting with intent, business leaders hedge their bets and do nothing, waiting for the next big idea to strike.

Anyway, back to Malcolm.

Don’t fall into the trap of being vague. Say what you want your teams to do. Company staff need to be told what is expected of them and the overarching purpose: why are we being asked to do something, where will it take us, and how can I make a difference?

Put this in place and all manner of intangible efficiencies start to open up: elephants vanish from rooms and black swans appear all over the place.

Telling your staff and customers what you plan to be in the future, and how they can help you achieve it, is a strategic action. It supports the policy and it means you have thought long and hard about it, removing the need for any lingering blind faith.

You can get really hung up on ‘purpose’, but in the interests of business survival it’s always better to have one than not. Working on an innovation or product strategy is a great way to start.

If we can be helpful to you, let’s talk. Here’s my diary.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

Brand value

Car sales guys are pretty good at customer service. In my experience, service desks aren’t always. Problem: the last impression your customer has of your brand is the thing they take to market when they buy again.

Where have you come across this kind of customer service?

Social lens

Brands today clamour to be in the spotlight of social media and pay billions for click-throughs. But, as consumers become more attuned to issues they want to act on, brand behaviour will come under scrutiny. It’s no good telling the world what your brand plans to do about its environmental impact while consumers are kicking your plastic bottle/crisp packet/detergent tub/fertiliser sack/bread bag along the beach. They can see what your attitude has been so far.

Social media and connectivity have been the preserve of brands to exploit, but we are at a point in brand market evolution where this power is pivoting and is the lens through which emotional quotient (EQ) will be measured.

Calculable doesn’t always mean measurable

EQ is a hard metric to get right, but acknowledgement of it as a monitor of consumer sentiment is filtering through to market segments – some more than others. High end clothing? Yes, in some places. Plastic packaging? Not obviously. Not yet.

Of course, environmental considerations, as they relate to buying decisions, represent a decision for the privileged. There are many places where it’s simply not possible for people to be as ‘green’ as they want to be. Budget, choice, even basic availability of products isn’t guaranteed in large parts of the world. So, how consumers behave, where their choice is available, makes that behaviour even more powerful.

Design Thinking

Understanding how consumer EQ needs to be considered by brands is unlikely to  feature in your sales team’s remit, or your marketing team’s plan.

If you don’t know how EQ and Design Thinking are related, it’s time to talk. Personal purchases and the ways that consumers respond to brands are going to be more and more critically measured.

CSuite responsibility

This is a matter for CSuite. If your CSuite isn’t actively and urgently discussing these complex issues, get in touch. We can help.

Let’s talk. Click here to choose a time to suit you.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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