WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!

The posts here represent the opinions of CMB employees and guests—not necessarily the company as a whole. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

5 Questions with GSP's Kelli Robertson on Positioning Cisco's "Internet of Everything"

Posted by Tara Lasker

Wed, Dec 03, 2014

800px Cisco logo.svgGS&P.logo.with.name.1Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Kelli Robertson talked with CMB’s Research Director, Tara Lasker, about a recent messaging study they partnered on for Cisco. This study aimed to determine the best way to communicate Cisco’s role in the “Internet of Everything.” 

TARA: There’s been a lot of buzz lately about using data to support strategic thinking. Can you talk a little bit about how you strike that balance between the two in your role?

kelli robertson, GSP, Cisco, CMB

KELLI: Well, I don’t think data just supports thinking—I think it also generates it. There’s nothing more exciting than a table full of data and going through that data to find ideas and the story. I think that’s one of the things we did with this study. I think you always have to start with hypotheses and use the data gathered to prove or disprove them, which is what we did. You also have to be open to the data giving you new ideas. For us, data isn’t just about validating—it’s about learning.

It’s also important to realize that data helps bring consensus. Marketing is hard today because everything is so uncertain, and I think it’s easy for clients to dismiss things you learn from eight or even thirty qualitative interviews. It’s a lot harder to dismiss data. So if you can combine the data with the new ideas, you’re more likely to create consensus and generate buy-in from the people you’re working with.

TARA:  That’s definitely true, and we see that throughout many of our client engagements. Moving on to our study, can you talk about how GSP and CMB partnered to help solve some of the challenges that Cisco faced?

KELLI: The first thing that CMB did really well was to quickly grasp the topic. This includes how technology influences business, the somewhat complicated concept of the “Internet of Everything,” and all of the product and technology solutions that create the “Internet of Everything.” There wasn’t a lot of explaining that I had to do because CMB just jumped in. I think that’s a testament to all of your experience with clients in the technology industry. You also recognized that the “Internet of Everything” might be a complicated concept for respondents to grasp, so you helped us craft a few different ways to talk about it in the survey, which allowed us to better measure true awareness and understanding.

Here’s another example. This was a global study, and CMB had a lot of recommendations including using max diff scaling to prioritize messages and alleviate any global scale bias. These recommendations allowed us to overcome a challenge that I wouldn’t have even known about if it hadn’t been for you. You also recommended that we test a few diagnostics within the top scoring messages. That helped us gain a better understanding of why messages were compelling instead of just showing us which ones were at the top of the list. Those diagnostics helped us feel confident in the messages that stood out.

TARA: We did a lot of secondary research on our end and asked colleagues at CMB with the most tech experience about the “Internet of Everything.” We tried to think from a respondent’s perspective when answering the questions to make sure that we were getting the most useful data we could possibly get and to ensure the respondents were reacting the way we wanted without misunderstanding.

KELLI: I think that background research you’re referring to was what allowed you to help us so much. I live in the “Internet of Everything” world. I have for the past two years. You allowed us to go deep into the “Internet of Everything,” but kept in mind the fact that people won’t view it with the same amount of understanding that we do. That helped us ask questions in a more broad sense and allowed us to have good juxtapositions regarding innovation, business, and technology.

TARA: Exactly. We also looked at the different roles within an organization and how they saw it. For example, the C-suite and technical decision makers understood and liked the more detailed messaging while business managers liked the broader, softer messaging. Speaking of, can you talk about what impact this research has had on Cisco’s brand messaging strategy? What’s happened since we’ve presented the results?

KELLI: Well, as you know, Cisco keeps coming back to get more data, and the study is really being adopted. It helped us form the messaging strategy for Cisco moving forward. For example, it helped us craft the right language to explain how Cisco is making the “Internet of Everything” possible. There’s been this question in the marketplace: what does Cisco do to make the “Internet of Everything” happen? The study helped us answer that question and address the skepticism our audience has had in the most compelling way.

The study also helped us define a sweet spot within our target audience. Prior to this, we talked broadly about C-suite executives, business decision-makers, and technical decision-makers. We summarize our audience as C-suite executives, but the study uncovered a very clear mindset that matched Cisco’s aspirations. Now we’re able to use that data to talk about our audience psychographically. We’ve found an attitudinal sweet spot because of the confidence in the data. Without the study, we could guess that C-suite executives and business decision-makers felt a certain way, but the data is invaluable in changing the way we think about who we reach out to, how we influence them, and the attitude Cisco needs to have. That’s been really invaluable, and it influences a lot of our decisions in tone and placement media.

The study also helped validate some of the Cisco product solutions that we should prioritize in our messaging. In the past, Cisco was primarily a networking company. Now, Cisco is offering a suite of product solutions way beyond networking. This study helped us uncover which of those product solutions triggered the most thoughts of innovation in our audience’s mind, which helped us prioritize where we should focus our product efforts.

TARA: Let’s talk a little more about the buy-in. This is the second time we’ve worked together on a project like this, and we’ve always had a great partnership. You understand your client and the questions they need answered, and we work through the research design and analysis. Ultimately, the goal is to get buy-in and adoption. So, can you talk about the adoption throughout Cisco?

KELLI: We’ve presented this countless times at Cisco, and we’re still getting requests to present it. We also just presented all of the work to the global regions in Cisco to help inform their work. They use a lot of the work we do, but they also do a lot of work on their own, so I’m sharing it with them so that they can use it to help inform what they do. Certain people within the organization are even using the data in their day-to-day work, which is amazing.

One of the things I’ve been most excited about is that we’re working with the thought leadership team at Cisco, who help set the agenda and public relations initiatives around key themes and topics. They’ve spent a lot of time pouring through the results, and they ended up coming back with a huge list of questions that are going to drive their thinking for the next year. So it’s helping set thought leadership, which is great.

One of the biggest things we tested is Cisco’s mission statement—“Changing the way we work, live, play, learn.” That is a statement that has always been on paper, and it has always been referred to as Cisco’s mission statement. The data we got back showed how compelling this statement was to our audience. It came back as one of the top messages if not the top message. I think that’s been giving Cisco a lot of confidence that they need to do more with their mission statement and that it needs to become not just words on paper, but something that drives all action within Cisco. I think this study is going to breathe new life into this big, bold mission statement and give them the courage to use it more overtly to make bolder decisions. There’s a difference between having a mission statement and being on a mission, and I feel like this data gave them the confidence to be a company on a mission—on a mission to change the way we work, live, play, learn.

TARA: Over the years, you’ve been one of my favorite clients for several reasons—one of them being that you really approach the relationship like a true partnership. We really work together. We get to a place where you know the client, challenges, political environment, and research questions that need to be answered. CMB brings research expertise, which allows us to design the study in a way that is going to answer your questions, so you don’t have to worry about the technicalities. I feel like both times we’ve partnered, we’ve ended up in a good, clear place at the end because of the way we work together throughout the process.

KELLI: I agree, and I will say that who we chose wasn’t necessarily my decision. I worked with the head of our research group. When we were going through RFPs, it became clear that few research companies are so thorough. There’s just this reality that not a lot of other research companies are as strategic, bring the breadth of experience, dive in, and ask questions of other experts in the organization the way you do….and these were things we noticed from the first RFP. There’s just something special you have bottled over there.

TARA: Thanks, Kelli! Hopefully we’ll get the chance to work together again in the future.

Tara Lasker is a Research Director at CMB and Kelli is a Group Brand Strategy Director at GSP. They both enjoy good beer, good music, commiserating over the trials and tribulations of motherhood, and telling a great story with primary research data.  

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, big data, B2B marketing, internet of things, B2B research, Researchers in Residence, brand health and positioning

Focusing in a World Full of Distractions

Posted by Judy Melanson

Fri, Nov 21, 2014

cmb, focus, communicationOur company’s Internet was down for a few hours earlier this week. While the IT team scrambled to identify and fix the problem, the project staff’s reaction to the news caused many of them (us!) to look like a deer caught in headlights: stunned. But because we, by nature, are problem solvers, the staff quickly sprang into action. The “work-arounds” were identified and shared, and people dispersed. Some, in the quest for free Wi-Fi, temporarily moved into Starbucks or the train station for a few hours. Others took the time to engage with colleagues in-person (!) to brainstorm, strategize, or simply catch up. It wasn’t long before the IT team got the company back online, but the service interruption has caused me to reflect on our work and purpose.Years ago, in my M.B.A. capstone strategy course at Babson College, I competed in a strategy game with other teams in the class. The teams had to use the information available to make decisions and set the strategy for our pretend companies. We had to answer questions like: what markets should we conquer? What should the features and pricing structures be for our products? What investments should we make in research, advertising, and operations?

My team chose a simple strategy: world domination. We decided we could outmaneuver our competitors with a first-to-market strategy. We flew out of the gate, introduced our first generation product in multiple markets, and, over the course of several weeks. . . we failed in a dramatic fashion. The lesson I learned from the course is one I carry with me to this day: focus. The teams that performed best studied the market and adapted their products and pricing structures to reflect market needs. Only then did they proceed with a plan and a goal to execute their plan as well as they could. 

I’m celebrating my 22nd anniversary at Chadwick Martin Bailey this week, and one of the things that I love about what we do is helping our clients make decisions—particularly decisions that are complex and have some level of risk associated with them. The information we provide enables clients to focus on high potential opportunities across a range of areas: market segments, operational improvements, new products, digital marketing, high-value customers, and more. We help our clients determine which alternatives have potential (for growth, for profit, for brand extension) and provide insight into how they can tackle those high potential alternatives. Resources—like time and money—are limited everywhere. Deciding what to do and what to ignore is essential for business success, team focus, execution, and sanity.

The Internet interruption this week forced me to focus on what I had to do without distractions. It also, strangely enough, empowered me to choose how to spend my day instead of feeling like my job is to constantly respond to communications. At this very moment, I can be reached instantly via four phones, three social networks, two email addresses, and one online chat system. . . that’s ten communication channels. At this stage in my career, communication with clients, prospects, and team members is essential to my success, which is why I monitor and quickly respond to all ten communication channels.  But this week’s Internet interruption has caused me to challenge my use of these channels and to consider how I can be more effective and focused in a world of constant interruption. 

Anyone want to guess what my 2015 New Year’s Resolution will be? 

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel and Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with her clients. She's the mom of two college students and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC.

WEBINAR: The New Hotel Path to Purchase: The Mobile, Social, and Online Journey – Listen to Judy in action as she talks about this study we did as part of CMB’s Consumer Pulse program. We asked 2,000 leisure travelers to share their journey from awareness to booking. This webinar will give you insight into the role of mobile, apps, customer reviews, and social media. 

Watch Now!

 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, strategy consulting, business decisions, consumer insights, market strategy and segmentation

NFL Popularity Rises as Fans Leave Stadiums

Posted by Lindsay Maroney

Thu, Sep 04, 2014

nfl, user experience, customer experience,

With the National Football League (NFL) projected to make over $9 billion this year, it is the most profitable and popular professional sports league in the US. Despite this, the NFL is struggling to fill its stadiums, with overall attendance experiencing recent declines. While attendance numbers reached a high of 17.4 million for the 2007 season, it fell to 16.6 million in 2011. Although it has rebounded, totaling 17.3 million in 2013, attendance remains a concern.One likely reason is that the “experience” of watching a game from home has begun to rival or even surpass that of attending one live. Advances in TV technology give fans a better view, and programs, such as NFL RedZone and DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket, make it possible to watch live action from multiple games at once. In addition, the cost of attending an NFL game has continued to rise. In 2013, the average price per ticket was $82, up 3% from 2012 and more than 50% from 2003. Parking, meanwhile, averaged $31 and beer, $7. Taking into account only these purchases, which does not include money spent on food, memorabilia, or tailgating, a pair of fans will spend over $200 to attend a single game. Watching at home will cost only a fraction of this amount.

As a result, NFL teams are overhauling their customer experience efforts, making an attempt to keep fans coming to their stadiums. For the 2014 season, all teams must meet minimum standards for Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, and some teams have already taken this a step further. The New England Patriots, for example, have a Gameday Live app, which allows fans access to game replays, live field cameras, statistics, league scores, restroom wait times, weather, traffic and more. The Atlanta Falcons have a similar app, Falcons Mobile, but theirs also includes exclusive opportunities for season ticket holders to stand in the tunnel as the players run out, hold the flag on the field during pregame, or receive an in-game visit from a Falcons cheerleader. In addition to these apps, many teams are planning to improve the view by installing new mega video boards, and the San Francisco 49ers newly constructed stadium includes a “fantasy football lounge” so fans can follow their fantasy team.

The franchise that takes the grand prize in these efforts, however, is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Investing $63 million in renovations this past off-season, the Jaguars revamped their video boards and installed an interactive fan area. Highlighting these installments are the two largest outdoor displays in the US, which measure at 362 feet wide and 60 feet tall, and a two-story Party Deck. The Party Deck includes cabana-style seating areas, video screens, bars, and two large spa-type wading pools and other water features.

While the continued profitability and popularity of the NFL is not in doubt, the primary viewing venue of fans is. The battle to reach consumers will continue, as more NFL teams strive to bring added comforts to the stadium. 

South Street Strategy GroupLindsay is an Associate Consultant at  South Street Strategy Group. South Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies.  

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, mobile, television, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research

Innovation at American Family Insurance

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen

Fri, May 30, 2014

american family insurance

Insurance companies aren’t what most people think of when they think of innovation, but you’d be surprised. American Family Insurance (AMFAM) based in Madison, Wisconsin, is doing some interesting things and a lot of it has to do with their Chairman/CEO (Jack Salzwedel), Chief Business Development Officer (Peter Gunder), and Innovation Director (Dawn Mortimer).It may seem counter-intuitive that firms in regulated and risk-averse industries have great innovation potential, but at South Street, we believe these constraints are huge catalysts for growth and change.

AMFAM’s previous innovation endeavors were focused on products and specific business areas. Now, AMFAM pursues innovation at three different levels across the entire organization: operational, transformational, and disruptive, with the ultimate goal being disruption and new business creation. What’s changed is the aspiration and intention to be a leader and disrupter, not a fast follower.

One focus for disruptive innovation is launching new business models such as Assure Start, insurance for small businesses sold directly online. Another focus is venture capital investing in start-up companies and early stage ventures that have differentiation potential. Related to this, in the past two years since Jack Salzwedel has been CEO, AMFAM has acquired Permanent General (a direct auto carrier) and Homesite insurance (home insurance).

Since setting up AMFAM’s enterprise-wide internal innovation program in late 2011, Dawn Mortimer has engaged 60 VIPs (Vital Innovation Partners) from different levels and functions across the business to participate actively in the innovation process. They spend 5-10% of their time to move ideas through the innovation funnel and review hundreds of submissions from employees and AMFAM’s agents. Using BrightIdea’s innovation platform, general and focused challenges have been launched and innovations have been achieved from new mobile apps to claims process improvements. Rewards and recognition for participants at each stage gate — from cash, to public recognition “Roof Raiser” and “People’s Choice” awards, to cool parking spots in the winter — have helped keep employee engagement high. And using a consulting model, the team of 8 innovation engineers works closely with business areas to fund pilot programs and proof of concepts.

AMFAM’s latest innovation endeavor has been focused, led from the top, well-funded, and aligned with overall strategic goals. This success story is still being written, but so far, it’s great to see a company embrace the innovation agenda and make such great progress despite its constraints.

Jennifer is a Director at South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, insurance research, growth and innovation

Looking for Innovation? Consider "Brand-Storming"

Posted by Mark Carr

Thu, Feb 06, 2014

Originally posted in the SMEI blog

South Street Strategy and CMBAt some point all business leaders are challenged to “innovate” in order to grow their company’s bottom line.

Done right, innovation creates value for both the company and the customer through new-to –the-world solutions to needs. It’s logical that products and services are where companies start their innovation efforts because, after all, these are very tangible sources of value. However, brand and marketing can also be powerful drivers of value and differentiation and should not be overlooked as potential anchors for innovation.Many innovation initiatives begin with a brainstorming session in which a bunch of internal folks sit around and try to generate new ideas for products or services they think customers want. For a fresh take on this process, consider “brand-storming” as the starting point for inspiration.

What is a “brand-storming” session, exactly? Well, in marketing speak, it’s generating innovative ideas for brand extensions, leveraging brand equity (a very valuable asset) to push into adjacent or even totally new product areas.

Start a successful brand-storm with  a clear articulation of your brand strategy, brand attributes and positioning. Then do creativity exercises that apply key brand attributes to new markets or to new solutions to existing customers.

Need to get the juices flowing? Look for examples in the marketplace:

  • Consumer products are the easiest place to start. For example, consider Arm & Hammer Baking Soda’s extension to toothpaste (“clean” and “white”) or Duracell’s introduction of the PowerMat to recharge phones and other devices (e.g. “long lasting power”).

  • Virgin is probably the poster child for brand-centered innovation, using its well-defined and unique positioning to extend into everything from airlines to cell phones.

All of this is not to say that brand should be the only source of invention. But brand-storming brings a new part of the company to the innovation table and adds another angle for sparking new, powerful ideas for growth. 

In our upcoming webinar we will look at some of the common pitfalls of innovation initiatives and explore how to use “brand” and “brand attributes” as well as innovative go-to-market strategies to unlock growth opportunities in new, unexpected directions. Hope to see you there!

Posted by J. Mark Carr, Mark is co-founder and managing partner of South Street Strategy Group.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, product development, marketing strategy, webinar, brand health and positioning, growth and innovation

Targeting the Millennial Consumer

Posted by Lindsay Maroney

Tue, Jan 21, 2014

Millennials 620x384The Millennial Generation, which includes those born between 1980 and 1995, is taking the world by storm. Not only are they the future leaders, with many already making an impact (think Mark Zuckerberg), they are also rapidly becoming the focus of many marketing campaigns from companies hungry to have them as customers. This isn’t surprising: they are the largest generation on earth at 1.8 billion and soon to be the richest, with their earnings projected to outpace Baby Boomers by 2018.Companies attempting to gain share of Millennials’ fast growing wallets need to adjust their strategies. The Millennial generation may look like the others, but it is not. This generation has different likes, interests, and shopping habits, along with a deep-seated dependence on social media. As such, companies from a variety of industries are taking differentiated approaches to reaching this group, all of which utilize an aspect of social media. Some examples of these approaches appear below.

Making affluence affordable: In the spring of 2013, Mercedes released their 2014 CLA, with a markedly low price point of $30,000. This release was coupled with a marketing strategy heavily influenced by social media. Though its own microsite, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Mercedes drove its #CLAtakethewheel campaign. It encouraged consumers to create their own shareable content while further promoting it through an Instagram sweepstakes.

Gaining peer approval: Warby Parker, an eyewear manufacturer, not only sends customers 5 trial pairs of glasses, but provides them the opportunity to upload a video of themselves, trying on their frames, to Facebook. Once uploaded, they can get feedback from their friends, and Warby Parker’s team will even share a recommendation for which frames work best for that consumer’s face.

Supporting a cause: With 83% of Millennials saying that they will patronize a company with a charitable component over one without, companies like Target are taking advantage of this social consciousness by supporting a cause. Target, through its collaboration with FEED Projects, created a YouTube campaign, illustrating how purchasing a FEED-branded product will support the fight against hunger.

These campaign examples show that there is no single blueprint for how to successfully target Millennials. But there is one thing that they all have in common, in addition to using social media: they effectively identify and appeal to common characteristics of this age group. Whether it is making luxury cars more affordable, helping Millennials gain approval from their peers, or appealing to their desire to help the less fortunate, these companies hit the mark. After all, a diverse generation needs diversity in how they are reached.

Lindsay is an Associate Consultant at  South Street Strategy Group. South Street South Street Strategy GroupStrategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, millennials, marketing strategy

Tackling the Innovation Challenge in Large Organizations

Posted by Abe Vinjamuri

Tue, Jan 14, 2014

Innovation challengesYou might not know it from the constant attention lavished on startups, but some of the most established and largest companies in the world are amongst the most innovative—they routinely out-innovate their smaller peers. Where they falter is in failing to bring these game-changers to the marketplace without diluting, complicating, or killing them.If you have doubts about what I just said, here are two of my favorite examples that illustrate the issue really well.

Ever wonder why despite inventing the concept of cellular phones and having a virtual monopoly on telephones, AT&T had to acquire McCaw Cellular Communications in 1993-94 for $11.5 billion? OR better, despite coming up with filmless photography in 1976 which dominates the world today (think of cellphone cameras, selfies, instagrams, Snapchat, Google Maps) Kodak today is a bankrupt company (the hyperlink is a great read by the way).

It’s not the lack of ideas that hurts large organizations the most. It’s not even the lack of awareness of implementation hurdles. It’s the inability to forge consensus, a constant focus on responding to immediate pressures and meeting short-term goals (both organizational goals and employee goals) and lack of sufficient communication across autonomous business units that play spoilsport. You could describe it as a lack of push to the “Strategic Intent”; a phrase popularized by the late C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel in 1989 (strategic intent is an ambitious and compelling dream that energizes, providing the emotional and intellectual energy for the journey to the future. It has 3 components: Direction, Discovery and Destiny). I call it a lack of push and not a lack of intent because these organizations have these 3 D's, at least on paper.

Being a strategy groupie, I've spent a lot of my time specifically focused on innovation (both because the sheer volume of content that's been published on the topic recently, and the nature of my current assignments), I’ve decided to put down some of my thoughts on paper starting with a short list of questions (by no means exhaustive) that will help people think holistically about innovation and avoid some of the pitfalls:

  • Does your organization have innovation goals? What percentage of your organization’s revenue comes from breakthrough innovation, what percentage comes from incremental innovation and what percentage from existing products? How is success measured?

  • How do we define problems the market faces? (Note that I consciously use the word” market” and not customer)

  • How are target customers defined?

  • How is the innovation execution process handled?

Innovation is hard. It takes a lot of effort and patience and failure can be costly and even catastrophic, but the upside can be rewarding beyond expectations. In the coming weeks, I will attempt to expand on each of these questions with examples and my views on why it has or has not worked for specific large companies.

Abe is a Senior Project Manager, strategy junkie, and CrossFit enthusiast. He's recently taken up snowboarding so watch out if you're headed to the slopes.

Topics: strategy consulting, product development, growth and innovation

Chief Strategy Officer Summit: The BIG Questions for 2014 and Beyond

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Dec 10, 2013

strategy chessLast week’s Chief Strategy Officer Summit in NYC (#CSONY) was an electric example of brand strategy in action. If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year I highly recommend making the trip in 2014. In the meantime, I want to share some of the big questions we marketers and strategists need to ask ourselves and our organizations this coming year...and beyond:

  • Are you continuously focusing and refreshing your brand?  If your customer can’t rattle off what your brand is about, chances are your messaging isn’t streamlined enough. Jennifer Dorian, Chief Strategy Officer for Turner Entertainment Networks, passionately described the big decisions they make as they 1) keep their brand properties crystal clear and 2) continue to evolve their brands. Dorian argues that brands need an “essence;” some of Turner’s brand essences: TNT=Drama, TBS=Funny, TCM=Classic Movies. TNT, anchored by Law & Order, embodies drama with programming that focuses on the line between good and evil, passion, and the willingness to take a risk—they’re the stories that make life interesting. TNT is continuously developing original compelling programming that makes drama come alive for viewers (their new show Mob City is a great example). The outcome of their efforts, to focus and clarify their brands? 25 consecutive periods of growth. What are you doing to keep your brand focused and fresh?

  • Which target audiences will you “double down” on? OK, you’re a successful brand with a devout following and yet you know you need to make calculated big bets to claim your unique positioning. South Street Strategy’s Mark Carr was on hand to talk about thinking deeply about your target audience, and your brand’s playbook for actively engaging them. South Street Strategy and CMB, helped the Tauck travel company go from business decisions to successful new product launch with a focused innovation approach. Hypotheses abounded for how to grow and refresh the nine decade old company—intergenerational travel, kid focused, teen trips? CMB and South Street partnered with Tauck to explore people’s life goals for relaxation and for travel. The tram then used a quantitative approach to prioritize areas with greatest appeal. They unearthed the “engaged traveler”—those interested in cultural immersion, moderately active, and seeking adventure. Based on this, Tauck launched and optimized the Culturious brand, a highly successful set of tours geared to active Baby Boomers. You can learn more about our approach here.

  • Are you engaged deeply and passionately enough? Let’s be honest with ourselves, that 30 year old degree from a pedigreed school is looking pretty stale. Digital natives (yup, kids) are supplementing their education with experiences and experiments that are really immersive, both in and out of school. Tanya Van Court, Discovery Communications’ SVP of Partner Marketing, spoke about how the number one non-fiction media company in the world’s Discovery Education brand is re-purposing its content for the classroom.  Discovery is inspiring curiosity and critical thinking with exceptional content delivered in classroom length snippets. When I was a kid we took a bus to the next town to visit the library and scour microfiche for an article from the decade before. Now, these digital natives are actually interacting with materials from the bottom of the ocean to the furthest reaches of our galaxy, all before breakfast, and often just for fun. They interact with content differently, they expect access to current and relevant info and they crave personalized experiences. As Discovery Education disrupts the business of textbooks, watch out world, these digital natives are going to be out in the workforce soon and they combine a lot of passion and outrageous curiosity. Is it time to examine your company and your personal brand through their lens?

  • Is your brand under Caesar’s control or is it spawning fleets of scientists?  Intuit’s Bennett Blank shared his view that “designing for delight” is everyone’s job.  We all need to have deep customer empathy to uncover unsolved customer problems and to think flexibly so we can build durable competitive advantage for our companies. Intuit’s goal is to improve their customers’ financial lives so profoundly that customers can’t imagine going back to the old way they did things. Of course, the makers of TurboTax, Quicken and Mint.com know a lot about making exceptional products and continuously innovating.  Blank contrasts two types of leaders—the” Caesar” and the “Scientist.”  The Caesar’s goal is to win (and not to lose), and to be right. The scientist however, bases her ideas on evidence, has a “do it now” style, and a willingness to be enlightened through trial and error, experimentation, and data. Scientists get results that can be characterized as “discoveries,” while the Caesar sits around worrying that he might get stabbed.  Intuit is frequently and rapidly experimenting so it can deliver “more better ideas” into the earlier part of the innovation funnel that can actually delight the customer. Check out this great clip from Intuit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWAZIKD3xpQ

  • What’s “long-term” mean for your brand? Quite possibly the conference planners most intriguing decision (or lucky collision?) was pairing Rebecca Keiser, Strategy Administrator for NASA, with Gary Liu, Global Ad/Product Strategy for Spotify. Gary talked about how Spotify’s strategy needs to expand to address the “further future,” and when he talks about the further future for Spotify he’s talking about 6 months away.  NASA, on the other hand, is thinking about the year 2030. Spotify uses word like “throwing together” and NASA word choice like “forging.” It was a great reminder to think about what long-term means for your brand and the decisions you need to make.

So, what questions will you ask yourself, your team, and your organization, as you look to 2014 and beyond?

Julie is an Account Executive at CMB, she's definitely a "Scientist" not a "Caesar;" you can follow her on Twitter @Julie1research.

Topics: strategy consulting, conference recap

Interactive Storytelling to Make Strategy Work

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen

Mon, Nov 11, 2013

storytellingIt is human nature to love a good story, and it’s no wonder that for centuries storytelling has been a powerful force for human learning, change and advancement. As business strategists, we use stories in a variety of ways in both strategy development and implementation.In strategy development, we often learn from case studies—stories of relevant successes and failures as well as analogs from other industries—to help inform our thinking on problems we are helping our clients solve.

In strategy implementation, we use stories as a catalyst for organizational buy-in and change. The most effective business leaders we work with are expert at communicating a vision with clarity and passion and guiding organizations to implement strategies using stories, ongoing dialogues and narratives. They don’t simply make edicts or repeat the same message over and over. They use their influence and credibility to communicate intentions, future direction and strategies, and invite everyone to participate, interact, and become part of the continuing story. 

Good stories are memorable and engaging and completely believable. They connect us and help us understand and relate to others, whether those others are involved in telling the story or simply listening to it. When leaders want to rally teams and employees to implement new initiatives, they need to be authentic and communicate with conviction and energy in order to gain trust and commitment. By carefully crafting and honing messages and stories that they share and adapt over time, leaders become more effective at connecting and teaching,  guiding and motivating others through implementation successes, challenges and setbacks.

If you are interested in this topic and related research, below are some of my own favorites, from people I’ve worked with or learned from recently:

  • Guide Innovation Through Storytelling  Rob Salafia and David Sollars aptly call themselves story archeologists. Their process really is about digging underneath the outer layer of the what’s and why’s behind change, to help business leaders uncover their own narratives that will motivate and engage larger audiences. South Street recently worked with Rob and Dave in facilitating a large innovation workshop at a top 5 U.S. health care insurance client.

  • Strategy Made Simple - The 3 Core Strategy Questions  John Hagel insightfully points out in this blog post that “the ultimate form of differentiation is a compelling narrative—a unique and unfolding opportunity for the audience that invites their participation to help shape the outcome.” This and some of his other entries discuss modern strategy and the role of an ongoing narrative that’s focused on external audiences, not the executive suite.

  • Conversational Intelligence, by Judith E. Glaser. This book is a great place to explore the cultural transformations that companies must go through in order to embrace change. Big hint here: it all leads back to how company leadership approaches change and the narrative around it.

What role do stories play in your willingness to get on board with change? Can you identify one strategic issue where storytelling can support your goal?

Jennifer is a Director at  South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, storytelling

Innovation at Marvel Comics

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen

Thu, Oct 24, 2013

Originally posted on the South Street Strategy Group Blog

marvel avengers logoKristin Vincent, VP, Product at Marvel Entertainment, has been helping the 70-year old company re-define itself in the digital age. Not knowing much about comics when she joined the company in 2011, she quickly gained credibility and influence with her fresh perspective, insights and actions related to the company’s “Re-Evolution” digital strategy, which officially launched in March 2012.At a recent conference, she shared the principles Marvel has used to evolve its comics business so that fans continue to love their experience with comics, while traditional print and new digital formats and channels co-exist and thrive at the same time:

  1. Proclaim your intentions – Declare what you want to do and communicate this publicly. This not only creates anticipation and excitement, but it builds internal commitment and accountability.

  2. Develop new products with connections to existing products – This approach helps to minimize cannibalization, reassures existing customers and channel partners, and adds excitement to established products. Marvel gave everyone who bought a print comic a free digital version, and created an augmented reality application to be used with the print version to get additional behind-the-scenes information.

  3. Challenge the most basic assumptions you have about your products – For Marvel, this meant re-thinking what a comic is, beyond traditional attributes such as paper booklets, panels, and pages, to seeing it as serialized graphic storytelling with excellent graphics, opening up new “Infinite” comic possibilities that rethink what a comic page means

  4. Partner with users – Marvel used listening labs and usability testing to understand how fans experience comics. It brought fans in and used flip video cameras to record them in real world scenarios using comics and computers to understand pain points. Marvel also got fans to register to become Marvel Advisors to test products and provide input to their development pre-launch. Kristin says that as soon as the executive team watched a one-hour video highlighting all of the user issues and opportunities, it made a huge difference in helping to change the culture and continuing the effort to innovate

  5. Develop a roadmap that starts small and builds – Marvel started with one comic in a plastic polybag with a code inside for the digital download. Now users get a free digital download with all $3.99 comics in print

  6. Balance user requests with bold new ideas – Marvel re-launched Marvel Unlimited (a subscription program that gives users unlimited access to over 13,000 digital comics) but also sourced and introduced “Project Gamma,” an innovative new adaptive audio technology. It will be a cool new way to experience digital comics where the sound will change as you move through the story.

  7. Fail fast and pivot – Marvel had to take a promotion down on the first day when demand for free downloads was so great that the third-party servers it was using crashed and fans couldn’t buy digital versions for two days. They corrected course and used this failure as an opportunity to show customers they cared by being honest and transparent.

  8. Re-evolve –Marvel enhanced its print products with digital, and is using new formats.

In 2012, the innovations helped Marvel achieve triple digit growth in its digital business while keeping its core B2B brick-and-mortar store channel partners happy. The digital and print products complement each other, satisfying existing fans while opening up a whole new fan and user base.

Jennifer is a Director at  South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

South Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. Read South Street's Strategy Group's blog here.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, product development, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation