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Time to Brand Refresh

Posted by Lindsay Maroney

Thu, May 07, 2015

Brand buildingAfter a brutal winter, many of us in the Northeast are glad to finally begin our annual spring-cleaning, but we’ve noticed we aren’t the only ones looking for a fresh start. With confidence in the economy growing, there has been an uptick in established brands taking a fresh look at their brand strategy, an area they may have neglected during the recent tough economic times.For most, a brand refresh means creating a stronger platform for growth. To see evidence of this, one need look no further than recent TV commercials. Domino’s eliminated “Pizza” from their name, allowing for new items beyond their foundational menu offering. Meanwhile Buick promotes their redesigned cars through commercials with actors stating in disbelief, “That’s not a Buick.” Even Southwest has jumped on the bandwagon, highlighting that customers not only receive low fares and free checked bags, but some TLC when flying on one of their planes: “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.”

Some common triggers that appear to spur brands down a new path:

  1. The product and service offerings have fundamentally changed. That is not to say the brand has transformed at its most basic level, but needs to be updated to better reflect what the company is currently offering.
  1. The target audience has shifted. The brand may no longer be reaching its intended audience due to that audience aging, narrowing, broadening, or otherwise changing. Legacy brands may need to create a fresh image to become more relevant to younger audiences.
  1. The company is outgrowing its old brand. Recent company growth from geographic expansion, mergers and acquisitions, or internal structural changes may necessitate a shift in the brand or a split into sub-brands in order for it to stay true.

So with spring in the air and a little more life in the economy, now might be a good time to re-examine your core brands. A thorough market-based review may confirm your brand positioning remains strong and remind you of the core tenets that keep the brand motivating, distinctive, and believable. Or it could reveal opportunities for renewal and reinvention.

south street transp1

 

Lindsay Maroney is a consultant at South Street Strategy Group where they combine strategy and marketing science to uncover insights that help clients grow their business and strengthen their brands. 

 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, brand health and positioning

3D Diversity: High-Octane Fuel for Your Innovation Engine

Posted by Andy Cole

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

3D diversity, south street strategy, CMBDiversity in the workplace has proven massive benefits for organizations that rely on innovative thinking. Contrary to what most people believe, however, diversity in business is not just about surrounding yourself with people who look different. It’s also about equipping your team with a wide array of approaches to a common challenge.You can imagine each of us having a diversity score – based on 3 dimensions – that fluctuates depending on the collective characteristics of the team. However, the score isn’t static: each of us can increase our individual and team diversity score at will. Let’s take a look at the three common dimensions of diversity to understand how we can do this:

  1. Inherent Diversity

Inherent diversity includes race, ethnic background, gender…hardwired traits that we are born with/into and cannot be controlled. For better or worse, these traits can influence the way we perceive the world around us, and vice versa.

A McKinsey study shows the difference inherent diversity can make, finding that executive boards in the US with inherently diverse members enjoy a 95% higher return on equity than those without. Impressive! On the flipside, what is an example of the drawback to sameness? Ask Bertelsmann, whose all-male team turned down Bethenny Frankel’s pitch to launch a low-cal alcoholic beverage for women. They simply could not relate to the target market, and the unseized opportunity gave rise to Skinnygirl, the fastest growing spirit brand in history.

  1. Acquired Diversity

This dimension involves the ingrained experiences we collect throughout our lives that train us how to think and behave, such as educational background, professional expertise, and even experience abroad.

An Art History class might allow you to understand the context surrounding important works and to fully appreciate the artist’s vision. Raising children helps you value an uninterrupted night’s sleep and wholeheartedly empathize with new parents in a way that others simply cannot. Though we cannot dictate all life events, we do have a great deal of control over the diversity we acquire over time.

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with leaders who exhibit 2-D diversity (that is, each leader possesses at least 3 inherent traits and 3 acquired traits) are 45% more likely to report growth.

While this is all wonderful, raising the level of inherent and acquired diversity at your organization (especially at the leadership level) is not something that is easily achieved. We believe a third dimension is needed; a dimension to help you raise your overall diversity score immediately with the human capital you already have: that third dimension is Inspired Diversity.

  1. Inspired Diversity

Through the development of our subject knowledge over time, mental models begin to take form and solidify in our minds. That’s natural, but these biases can also blind us to new opportunities and challenges. In order to increase our openness and mental agility, we must constantly identify opportunities to branch out from our immediate environment and learn how others might solve interesting challenges, focusing on how we might apply their insight to fit our purposes.

For example, touring a manufacturing facility can give fresh insight to the way we think about our internal processes and workflow. Interviewing an exceptional street performer could provide wisdom on courage and leadership. Perusing an exhibit at an art museum can help you reimagine your brand’s image through the artist’s lens.

When I run rapid innovation programs with clients, there is a clear trend among the super creative folks who consistently ideate at a higher level: They are renaissance people. They have many interests, are curious about many subjects, and partake in many activities that all contribute to having a wide array of perspectives. They have the unique ability to create using their past experience (acquired diversity) and also in-the-moment when they bring a specific business challenge to an outside activity (inspired diversity). They challenge themselves with new experiences and perspectives as often as possible.

When business requires innovation, pulling novel ideas out of thin air is simply not a realistic expectation; it’s about attacking a challenge from angles that have never been considered. And this level of thinking requires diverse individuals, with diverse minds, stimulated by diverse activities.

South Street Strategy Group
Andy Cole is a consultant for South Street Strategy Group where we use a multi-method approach to identify and test growth and innovation strategies for increased 
commercialization success. 

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

"Learn" to Innovate: Why Companies that Celebrate Failure Are Only Half-Right

Posted by Andy Cole

Mon, Feb 23, 2015

Scientist Looking at VialIn an effort to counter the fear-based culture that inhibits innovation at many companies, some leaders (GoogleAmazonRoche) have advocated actually celebrating failure. Interesting! Could this new mindset really be the key to building an internal culture of fearless innovators?Clearly, we want to create a safe environment for employees to admit faults, share lessons learned, and have the courage to attempt things that have never been done, all without the fear of reputational – or even career – consequences. But do we really want employees to idolize those who don’t accomplish what they set out to do? Although provocative, a broad policy like “celebrate failure” can be misleading and create unintended problems.

What companies should be celebrating is the learning derived from failure, not failure itself. To illustrate the difference, putting the focus on failure raises post-mortem questions like “Now that we’ve failed, what worked well?”, “what did we learn from this?”, “how might we do better?” This retroactive approach is better than nothing, but it’s in no way sufficient.

When the goal shifts to maximize learning, it invites key questions at the beginning of the process, like “what might we learn from this activity?”, “what key assumptions could we test?”, and “how might we modify the idea so that we learn even more?” As you can see, this proactive approach can guide and influence activities from early stages in a direction that prevents future failure (or at least the sheer quantity and size of failures before realizing success).

Used in combination with a project debrief, this tactic can be used as part of a powerful learning strategy, ensuring that you get the very most of your innovation activities, independent of failure or success. And that’s certainly worth celebrating.

How do these issues show up in your organization? Does your company embrace failure or learning? Do you conduct structured “after action” analyses of major initiatives to facilitate learning?  We’d be pleased if you would share your ideas, stories, rants, insights, and responses in the comments below.

south street transpAndy Cole is a consultant for South Street Strategy Group where we use a multi-method approach to identify and test growth and innovation strategies for increased commercialization success. 

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

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