Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Bezos masterclass in management through shareholder letters 1999 #3/22

The current online shopping experience is the worst it will ever be. It’s good enough today to attract 17 million customers, but it will get so much better. Increased bandwidth will result in faster page views and richer content. Further improvements will lead to ‘always-on access’ (which I expect will be a strong boost to online shopping at home, as opposed to the office) and we’ll see significant growth in non-PC devices and wireless access. Moreover, it’s great to be participating in what is a multi-trillion dollar global market, in which we are so very, very tiny. We are doubly-blessed. We have a market-size unconstrained opportunity in an area where the underlying foundational technology we employ improves every day. That is not normal.”

Takeaway

  • The biggest opportunities in tech are platform-driven.
  • When you build on an infrastructure that’s beginning to quickly develop and modernize, you reap the benefits of not just your own growth but also the growth of the infrastructure you’re building on.

Challenge

  • Building on established platforms is the easiest and most expedient route, but one with the least upside.
  • Established platforms offer the most integration, often have low barriers to entry, and have plenty of accumulated wisdom around them.
  • At the same time, their growth potential is often limited due to the high pace of technological innovation across industries.

Solution

  • With the rise of internet connectivity in the late 1990s, an increasing divide began to appear between industries. E-commerce, gaming, online financial services were industries where a strong footing established early could set the stage for huge growth.
  • While Bezos was helped by growth in the e-commerce field specifically, and in access to high-bandwidth connections more generally, he didn’t find himself there unexpectedly. Before Amazon, Bezos was vice president at the hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co, where he saw the rise of the internet firsthand.
  • Bezos knew he wanted to build a technology company, and he consciously looked to hire the most talented infrastructure engineers he could find to build new solutions where none existed.
  • Building on a high-growth platform like Amazon did require a much higher degree of upfront investment in engineering and research, but on the long timeframe of technological improvement, it gives you a much higher chance of building a huge, long-term business.

Link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Stay terrified of your customers

Bezos masterclass in management through shareholder letters 1998 #2/22

2. be afraid of your customers

 

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter.

“I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation. And we consider them to be loyal to us — right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service.”

Takeaway

  • In business, the most important thing isn’t what your competition is doing. If you’re expending effort trying to follow your rivals’ every move, you’re losing the big picture.
  • Keeping pace with your customers is what will keep you informed, relevant, and competitive.

Challenge

  • Companies are usually wary of their competition.
  • Understanding where they stack up against rivals, particularly if they’re public and continually judged on relative value multiples like price to earnings (PE), is a key pillar of their business strategy. If they can come in top of class, it’s easier to attract investment.
  • But the issue with thinking like your rivals is that you start to make similar moves. In fast food, for example, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A all start to blend together. The only ways to differentiate is to narrow down to price and brand. As competition heats up in these crowded areas, it’s increasingly difficult to gain an advantage.

Solution

  • Flip the focus inward and hone in on your customers. Obsess over their preferences, their shopping behaviors, the quality of their reviews. This will allow you to optimize product features and overall product mixes. You’ll be able to double down on what works and eliminate what doesn’t. If you have a self-service platform like Kindle, find out everything users are creating and where they’re hitting roadblocks.
  • This granular focus on your true partners will allow you to invent in ways you (and your peers) didn’t anticipate. You’ll begin to develop away from your rivals and stand apart from the pack. This is a core tenet of Bezos’ philosophy.
  • If you don’t do everything in your power to align with customers’ shifting needs, and instead allow yourself to be distracted by competitors, you’ll quickly lose them.

Link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

5 ways great leader promote innovation

5 ways great leader promote innovation

retail leadersI have known many CEOs and CMOs over my career. The best ones created innovative transformational cultures. Many tried. Some failed to comprehend the definition of the word itself; others lacked the vital leadership traits to inspire creativity and implement great ideas. Those who were adept at driving innovation and sustaining it over the long haul had one thing in common: they were hard-headed.

Their tough-mindedness came from an unshakable belief that innovation is critical to corporate survival, and that without powerful and constant change, innovation would be elusive. These trailblazers were innovative leaders, but surprisingly some of them weren’t creative, themselves. That didn’t matter because they were good a recognizing great ideas and welcoming change. No change, no innovation.

So, how do unshakable leaders create change and how to they sustain the innovation outcome?

  1. They unsettle the organization. There’s a host of companies that get things done, control performance, spot problems and deliver their budgets. But the structures, the processes and the people that keep things ticking along can snuff good ideas and block movement through the system. Innovative leaders appreciate that there is a difference between what’s needed to run a business and what’s needed to foster creativity. This ethic prevents excessive layering from killing ideas before they reach the top.
  2. They’re hardheaded about strategy.  Leaders who embrace innovation have a pretty clear idea of the kind of competitive edge they’re seeking. They’ve thought hard about what’s practical and what’s not. So the approach is not wishy-washy, but focused and driven. When this methodology brings results, employees become disciples of the strategy and the culture that facilitates execution.
  3. They make innovation a priority in the “walk” as well as the “talk.” When executive teams demonstrate innovative thinking and practices, the rest of the organization is clear on direction. This facilitates coherent cross-functional teamwork and an innovative modus operandi that encourages diverse viewpoints.
  4. They take note of what’s already going on with a view to balancing creative thinking with the discipline of assessing solutions and their implementation. The best backdrop for spurring innovation is knowledge – knowing the business cold. Good ideas often flow from the process of looking at customers, competitors, and the business as a whole.
  5. They appreciate that not many ideas work the first time, so they’re prepared to praise failure, move on, or try again until the company gets it right. From there, innovative leaders marshal resources behind a few winners and then execute like the SKY Cycle team

Innovative leaders are a special breed. They aren’t as interested in “minding the store” as they are about “opening new stores.” Nor are they shy to admit to controlling strategic direction, influencing the culture, and monitoring the process and practice that unleashes business’s most elusive success factor.

Culture is all around us

110539CE-A5D8-44ED-8A9E-96BD2929582B

Culture is all around us. Our shared values and beliefs are palpable in the places we visit and the people we meet. We absorb those values from the media we consume and the ideas we expose ourselves to. One of the best ways I know to witness how we can shape our culture is to take a taxi ride in a new city.

i’ve just spent 4 days in Amsterdam  speaking at a conference and had some great time walking around the city getting to know its distinct culture.

Every vehicle has a distinct culture that’s created by the driver’s posture. It starts with how the driver dresses and the conversation he or she makes. It’s heavily influenced by the cleanliness of the car and the kind of music the driver plays. And of course, it’s dependent upon his or her attitude to other motorists and how each driver finds meaning in their work. The environment can soothe or agitate, demotivate or inspire.

In taxis on every continent around the world, you can encouter zen and mala beads, negative news channels on the radio accompanied by rude hand gestures out the window. You will meet people who find dealing with passengers a chore and many more who are grateful for work and the feeling of autonomy.

In our communities and businesses, we often lament over our lack of control. We get despondent about what can’t be done to change things—all the while overlooking the endless opportunities we have to change everything.

We are the community, the business and the culture.

We are the makers and the making of the entities and places that shape our world.

We are more powerful than we think.

5 tips for driving (digital) success

5 fingersHere are 5 simple tips will help drive success in your organization and make you a (digital) hero:

1. Identify and understand the problems
This is so trivial but yet incredible important and frequently ignored. Companies, governments and other organizations try to solve problems without understanding them. The first step of solving any challenge, with our without technology, is to identify and understand the problem(s). I use plural because we often jump on the first problem when there are several. There’s a myriad of great tools to identify problems including the 5 Whys, Customer Journey mapping, Customer Research, and more.

2. Be inspired and challenged by great people
The honest truth is that most people are comfortable with what they have and know. The unknown and change is frightening. But to survive in the current competitive, fast-moving world we need to challenge ourselves to consider other points of view, think differently, and to change fundamentals.

These are a few ways you can challenge yourself:

  • Follow people on Twitter and LinkedIn such as Tom Goodwin, Martin Lindstrom and Benedict Evans
  • Meet and hire partners that will challenge you (and don’t always agree)
  • Talk to the competition’s customers

3. Always involve unbiased customers
Another basic mistake too many organizations make is solving problems without involving the people that are intended to use it. For example launching a website without testing the concept, content and final design on the intended target audience or deploying an expense management tool without including employees in the evaluation and implementation process.

Lack of time or cost are common excuses, but how much time and money do you lose when a website or software doesn’t achieve its goals?

Always involve end users at every step of the way. Remember that colleagues or the boss are usually not representative of the end users.

4. Define clear success factors, measure and follow-up
How do we know if we’ve achieved success if we didn’t define it in the first place? Many organizations have too generic or end-goal-centric metrics. The most common measures of success are revenue growth and cost savings. The challenge with these is that it’s usually not possible to measure success until e.g. 3-6 months after the project has been completed.

A better alternative is to include success factors that can be measured throughout the project. For example user task completion rate, satisfaction and sticking to the MVP timeline.

5. Understand why Culture eats Strategy for breakfast
Want to change the business or organization? Think that a new app, knowledge sharing system or HR website will achieve radical change? It won’t unless people want change. Ensure that every initiative to change has a plan to get buy-in from the organization including the grass roots. No. 3 above will help, but is not enough.

Use these 5 tips in whatever you do and I can promise you a greater chance of success. Furthermore there’s a pretty good chance that the organization will consider YOU a digital hero.

5 ways hard-headed leaders promote innovation

retail leaders

I have known many CEOs and CMOs over my career. The best ones created innovative transformational cultures. Many tried. Some failed to comprehend the definition of the word itself; others lacked the vital leadership traits to inspire creativity and implement great ideas. Those who were adept at driving innovation and sustaining it over the long haul had one thing in common: they were hard-headed.

Their tough-mindedness came from an unshakable belief that innovation is critical to corporate survival, and that without powerful and constant change, innovation would be elusive. These trailblazers were innovative leaders, but surprisingly some of them weren’t creative, themselves. That didn’t matter because they were good a recognizing great ideas and welcoming change. No change, no innovation.

So, how do unshakable leaders create change and how to they sustain the innovation outcome?

  1. They unsettle the organization. There’s a host of companies that get things done, control performance, spot problems and deliver their budgets. But the structures, the processes and the people that keep things ticking along can snuff good ideas and block movement through the system. Innovative leaders appreciate that there is a difference between what’s needed to run a business and what’s needed to foster creativity. This ethic prevents excessive layering from killing ideas before they reach the top.
  2. They’re hardheaded about strategy.  Leaders who embrace innovation have a pretty clear idea of the kind of competitive edge they’re seeking. They’ve thought hard about what’s practical and what’s not. So the approach is not wishy-washy, but focused and driven. When this methodology brings results, employees become disciples of the strategy and the culture that facilitates execution.
  3. They make innovation a priority in the “walk” as well as the “talk.” When executive teams demonstrate innovative thinking and practices, the rest of the organization is clear on direction. This facilitates coherent cross-functional teamwork and an innovative modus operandi that encourages diverse viewpoints.
  4. They take note of what’s already going on with a view to balancing creative thinking with the discipline of assessing solutions and their implementation. The best backdrop for spurring innovation is knowledge – knowing the business cold. Good ideas often flow from the process of looking at customers, competitors, and the business as a whole.
  5. They appreciate that not many ideas work the first time, so they’re prepared to praise failure, move on, or try again until the company gets it right. From there, innovative leaders marshal resources behind a few winners and then execute like the SKY Cycle team

Innovative leaders are a special breed. They aren’t as interested in “minding the store” as they are about “opening new stores.” Nor are they shy to admit to controlling strategic direction, influencing the culture, and monitoring the process and practice that unleashes business’s most elusive success factor.

retail leaders 2

Data driven fitness community

data pulse #43

sweaty betty tamara

Now I’m not one into female fashion ( just ask my wife) , nor do I hang around the shops but I do love how Tamara Hill-Norton has used data to create a passionate community with Sweaty Betty since she set up the first boutique in Notting Hill in 1998 . Initially targeting “yummy Mummies” but now broadened out to connect fitness and fashion.

Sweaty Betty is a British retailer specialising in active wear for women, featuring in 50 from London to San Fancisco  and selling significantly digitally. Sweaty Betty aims to ‘inspire women to find empowerment through fitness’.

sweaty betty 2

Sweaty Betty has a real distinctive difference to its potential competitor Amazon : It distinctively  moves beyond traditional retail practices with added value services as well as great clothing and builds an active community. This is achieved through regular Sweaty Betty fitness classes that are actively promoted to its customers. These classes range from yoga, run clubs and boot camps right through to Pilates, and are held in Sweaty Betty stores around the world. For those who can’t attend in person, there are also online fitness classes.

Sweaty Betty Live was a event where 3000 Sweaty Bettys came to sweat learn shop eat & get pampered:

sweaty betty carnaby

sweaty betty 1

Sweaty Betty was very clear on their purpose and had a very clear story that was developed starting inside the organisation, and building out into their community. A data driven approach to brand building and creating community, loyalty and interaction meant people starting telling the Sweaty Betty story themselves.

checkout Tamara story:

http://www.sweatybetty.com/meet-tamara/

Sweaty Betty leverages a broad range of data-driven social tools – Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are all used. They also created ‘brand ambassadors’ and allowed customers to have a conversation, helping to underline the sense that Sweaty Betty is a ‘fitness community rather than just a sportswear retailer

 

Be a better you….

better you

Be a better you rather than worse them

As vulnerable humans, we’re brilliant at paying attention to threats in our midst. We are experts at mitigating against failure, which we trick ourselves into believing is the way to optimising for success. This tendency might explain our willingness to devote our resources to averting risk, solving problems and fixing mistakes. 

When we focus on getting a near perfect score we sometimes overlook the opportunity to do more of what we already do well. 

It’s possible that regularly amplifying delight can produce better results than trying to avoid the random missteps that inevitably happen.

It’s just as important to pay attention to what makes your customers happy as it is to get to the bottom of complaints. 

What do you customers thank you for? 

Make a list. Then do more of that.

  1. Rolling back Prices at Asda
  2. Good Food at Sainsbury’s
  3. Community stores at Coop

 

Amazon Go-Go

amazon go

In January in Seattle, queues formed around the block for the first glimpse inside Amazon’s latest retail offering – Amazon Go.

Luckily, I had a colleague in Seattle checkout what it looked like on launch day  to see what the future of retail (might) look like; overall impression was that it was remarkable at how unremarkable it was…

Inside, the atmosphere was  calm – erring on the “good side” of downright boring, in fact, given the ease of the experience.

Before entering, everyone is required to download the Amazon Go app, the digital counterpart to the physical shopping experience. Downloaded over a phone network on the walk to the store, the app provides a short animation on how to navigate Amazon Go, followed by a QR code to identify yourself at the entrance. For a digital-first company such as Amazon, it was curious to see the digital elements function largely as invisible enablers of the physical experience.

There is no interaction with the app required while you shop, and a fully itemised receipt appeared as a push notification upon departure several minutes after leaving.

There is a “Discover” section on the app, where you can browse products by category, but this is the extent of its intersection with the physical experience.

The store itself was small, reflective of the limited selection of products – largely a curated, premium selection of pre-prepared healthy fare, perfectly placed to meet the needs of time-poor Seattle office workers. Interesting to see how that can be scaled….

However, the limited space posed a problem for the few store employees tasked with re-stocking; the crates were unwieldy and large enough to block some of the shelves and were a noticeable inconvenience. This though may have been due to the anticipation of higher demand on the first day or the fact that amazon don’t ( YET) understand retail operations

Purchases are tracked by an impressive, dense array of cameras mounted on the ceiling that follow your journey around the store. While the cameras don’t use facial recognition, there were rumours that the original launch was delayed as the tech couldn’t distinguish between shoppers with similar body shapes  – suggesting there’s a certain level of personal, visual data that customers are handing over.

It seems likely they’ll be comfortable doing so, however, as it’s this “computer vision” which enables customers to ‘Just Walk Out’, without having to go through a traditional check-out.

It’s savvy too – despite various attempts by my colleague to fool the system, it was able to correctly identify who should pay for what.

This was the case when comparing products as well; while in the store, I tested it by continually picking up and replacing two different products and was pleasantly surprised to find my final choice was indeed the one on my receipt.

Known online for its relevant and contextual suggestions, Amazon’s Go has rudimentarily translated this digital capability into the offline world with signs in the wine section with suggestions based on your previous purchases (“If you bought X, you’ll like Y”).

It’s easy to see how they could quickly expand this using their wider digital infrastructure, perhaps with decisions or indecisions in Amazon Go showing up on Amazon next time you log into your account.

The “computer vision” element of the cameras is another indication of how Amazon could potentially layer this real-world data onto the digital profiles of customers. In the near future, we’ll see the computers in these cameras not just process information but also react to the world around them.

With facial recognition software in a retail context approaching, it’s not a stretch to imagine that soon these cameras could react to our disappointment at limited stock, for example, and serve us a prompt to purchase the missing item through Amazon Fresh.

It feels unquestionably odd to simply walk out with the items you’ve picked up – it truly felt like shoplifting.

Once outside though, this feeling swiftly fades into the realisation that this store has undoubtedly set a new bar for consumer expectations at retail.

As we now jump out of Lyfts and Ubers without paying, or giving it a second thought, it’s quite easy to see this retail model becoming the norm as well.

Amazon Go is certainly a glimpse into the future of retail, and the focus on eliminating queues does not do justice to the scope of change this store could usher in.

More than convenience, the store has fundamentally altered the emotional experience of shopping. For retail incumbents, it’s a look at a new way of doing things – and they’ll have to quickly decide whether their service should adapt, or remain differentiated to survive.

 

Check Out the Amazon Go YouTube Film :

 

 

Be a better you, rather than worse them

better youBe Be a better you

This week you answered a customer query and solved her problem. You responded to every email, tweaked your resume and made your case well in the last meeting. You ticked off the things on your to-do list, had a look at your numbers and made solid plans for the weeks ahead. And that’s exactly what your competitors did too.

We spend a lot of our time doing the busy work of trying to gain an advantage in an attempt to compete and win. It turns out that the most sustainable path to significance is to do the things that the competition would never dream of doing—the things that only you would do.

You don’t need to compete when you know who you are.

what applies for corporate brands, also applies for our personal brand

Be a better you rather than a worse them.

Blow Up Bedrooms….

lifestyleairbnb

Data Pulse #23

When a few programmers and bloggers bought some air-beds , built a website and offered an air-bed with a coffee on their floor during a particularly busy conference season in San Francisco, they didn’t think they’d be creating a dis intermediation business to rival Marriott or Intercontinental Hotels.

Airbnb is a lodging rental platform with headquarters in San Francisco, California.

airbnb has grown staggeringly quickly over the past half-dozen years. The mind-boggling numbers show its incredible popularity; 1.5million listings in 33,000 cities in 191 countries around the world have attracted 65million guests – and counting.

 

Last June the company was priced at $25.5billion (above hotel giant Marriott’s $20.90bn), and ranked the third most valuable start-up business in the world, behind transportation network company Uber ($51billion), and Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker ($46bn).

airbnb has used data to deliver against the brand purpose, tell the brand story and build the customer experience . “Experience the world like a local” 

 

airbnb describes itself as a ‘community marketplace where guests can book spaces from hosts, connecting people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay.’ A super brand that is community led.

The hosts are business partners, and airbnb is led by what the business partners say, continually getting their opinion and gauging reaction to business challenges and opportunities. It quickly builds a sense of openness, trust and meaningful interacton to form a strong community.

Every year, some 5,000 hosts from more than 100 countries are invited to the company’s airbnb Open (the 2015 edition was held in Paris) and encouraged to talk about the nature of their work. It is a great opportunity to both connect with the hosts and understand how airbnb can help serve them better. It is also a good way to feel part of that broader global community and the local area.

airbnb ran an innovative campaign to engage not only hosts but visitors in the airbnb community. The One Less Stranger campaign – where 100,000 hosts woke up on New Year’s Day, 2015, to an email from airbnb’s founder Brian Chesky saying he had paid $10 into their bank account – was an instance when “full editorial control” was taken away from Airbnb. Brian wrote that we would like the hosts to do something to help someone else, and to meet someone new with that money, It was a $1million marketing campaign where we gave full editorial control to the hosts. Some people just pocketed the money, but the idea here is that you can allow people who are your biggest advocates to be your spokespersons, and do your marketing for you, on social media and word of mouth.

It all builds up to the goal that your brand is driven by community rather than people in a marketing department.

 ‘It’s far better to have 100 people love you than 100,000 people sort of like you.’

airbnb also use data to make a ever growing core of people love them . The platform has disrupted the traditional hotels industry by eliminating the middle man and connecting travellers directly with people who have space to offer. airbnb collects detailed data relating to how customers are using the platform and attributes much of its success to an ability to analyse and understand how to improve the service.

airbnb employs extensive A/B testing to score multiple configurations or designs of its website and apps. Different users will also be exposed to different ranking and recommendation algorithms – the variation they experience is then linked to their next actions – viewing patterns, bookings and ultimately reviews of their stay.

airbnb uses natural language processing to decipher users’ true feelings about their stay, finding this to be more accurate than simple star rankings (which, they hypothesise, are overinflated due to the personal contact between guest and host).

Must admit i was a little nervous using airbnb for the first time ,. Found a little room in deepest Shoreditch, better than the local Premier Inn and cheaper… but now i’m a convert

Use Storytelling to explain your company’s purpose

 

The idea of “purpose” has swept the corporate world. Encouraged by evangelists like Simon Sinek, myriad firms like Coop, are devoting real time and attention to explaining why they do. But activating purpose is impossible without storytelling, at both the corporate and individual levels. Purpose is essential to a strong corporate culture, it is often activated and reinforced through narrative. Individuals must learn to connect their drives to the organization’s purpose and to articulate their story to others.

This is hard for most business leaders. Great leaders are often humble and reticent to speak about themselves. This impulse is admirable, but it falls short of what’s needed to inspire people to join in the purpose of an organization. And many businesspeople feel more comfortable with waterfall charts and P&Ls than with telling their own stories.

Only narrative can do that. Storytelling is a skill that leaders can — and should — hone.

Self, Us, Now

Ganz argues that for people to inspire others with the mission of their organization or cause, they must first link that mission to their own motivations, and then connect it through story to those of the people they are hoping to persuade. Ganz has developed a simple framework for those hoping to develop a narrative approach to their purpose-driven organizations: ” Self, Us Now”

Self

To create a public narrative for your own organization, start with “self.” This is perhaps the most difficult part for many businesspeople because it involves focusing on real events in one’s own life and explaining how these incidents established the values that will later link to the values of the organization.

steve jobs stanford

An excellent example of this is Steve Jobs’s address to the Stanford graduating class in 2005. The address was largely a deeply personal reflection on Jobs’s personal history — his working-class upbringing, his dropping out of college. Perhaps more importantly, however, he spoke about how his love of calligraphy instilled with him a love of design that would later guide his work at Apple, and how his cancer diagnosis reinforced in him a deep desire to live passionately and authentically — as if each day were his last. It’s beautiful storytelling, and it gives you a glimpse into who Jobs was, what he valued, and how that would later guide his work at Apple and elsewhere. What’s compelling about Jobs’s address is that it seems authentic and raw. A great story of self has to be a real story of self. Finding that story may require a leader to reflect deeply on her past and motivations, and communicate them honestly — even those parts that are embarrassing or imperfect.

Us

The next step, “us,” aims to connect these values with broader shared values of the audience — clients or employees, for example. In this step, you weave your own personal narrative into the narratives of others through shared values, experiences, hopes, and aspirations. In doing so you create a common narrative for the group or organization. In literature, a well-known example of this (one that Ganz often highlights in class) is the St. Crispin’s Day speech from William Shakespeare’s Henry V. In it, King Henry, attempting to motivate an English army demoralized by their lack of strength, calls on his troops to be a “band of brothers” fighting valiantly together for each other, their country, and the values they share.

anita roddick.jpg

While it’s miles away from the battlefield of Agincourt, The Body Shop is a Good example of how a business applied this technique. They focused telling the story of their mission : ‘To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.’ using our stores and our products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues. They feature the story of their founder Anita Roddick on the website. The story of Anita and her husband founding the Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. Anita wanted to found a health and beauty products skin care, hair care and make-up that are produced ethically and sustainably. It was the first beauty company to ban testing on animals use Fairtrade products and still sources Fairtrade products from around the world.  Anita was company spokesperson for years beyond her operational involvement. Just before Anita’s death in 2007 Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal , acting as a “Trojan Horse for environmental change within multinational organisations”.  A great “story of us” establishing a community, its values and how they came to be.

http://www.anitaroddick.com/aboutanita.php

Now

Finally, the close is what Ganz calls the “now” — an urgent call to action for those who wish to share the purpose of a group or an organization. Consider Great Ormond Street Hospital. one of the most trusted charities in UK.  The organization’s purpose is “Finding Cures. Saving Children,” and their site is filled with the stories of the kids they serve. Their call to action – often, simply to give financially — is simple, direct, and compelling in their videos and materials. meet patients like Dominic….. ( and Joe,Lara.Matthew,Sophia,Stanley, Zihora….)

http://www.gosh.org/meet-our-patients/dominic

Kickstarter

Kickstarter, similarly, has an impactful way of asking people to join its team. That narrative starts by having its founder tell the story of the company (the “self”). Their website includes pictures and short descriptions of each and every company employee (“the us”). Finally, the narrative culminates its “now” call to action with a careers page asking: “Love Kickstarter? You’ll fit right in.” These stories are most powerful when they are individually authentic, build to a collective narrative and values, and then seal the deal by asking the person reading, watching, or listening to join in.

Storytelling can be awkward and unfamiliar to many professionals, particularly if you’re sharing personal experiences. Yet the motivation for this storytelling is not self-aggrandizement, but to create a purpose and culture that others can share.

Purpose is what builds real passion, motivation, and buy-in for the stakeholders of any organization. And it can be articulated by leaders who’ve learned to tell their stories and the stories of the organizations, people, and causes they serve.

 

Defining your Brand Tone of Voice

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The language of a brand is really decided by two things: where you are looking to position your brand in the marketplace; and the personality that you choose to adopt.

  • Brand leaders speak with authority and surety. Their language focuses on stability, history and confidence.
  • Brand challengers speak with defiance. They seek to challenge the way things are so their language focuses on change, hope and (sometimes) revolution.
  • Cult brands focus on exclusivity – so their language is peppered with tribal terms.
  • Artisan brands focus on craft and attention to detail so their language tends to be quieter, more insular and focused on the work.
  • Budget brands often use language based on frugality (how much you save) or generosity (what you get).
  • Quality brands seek to be steady and trustworthy.

 

In all cases, the language you use as a brand is directly aligned with your value proposition because, of course, language is a very powerful way of capturing and expressing how you see yourselves as a brand and how you want others to think and talk about you.

Personality picks up on these points of view and defines them more specifically. This helps brands in busy and highly competitive markets to distinguish their brand where there may be several brands competing in or for a market position. Here are three of the most important ways to evoke personality through language:

 

  1. Formality – the type of language that a brand uses is a strong indicator of the type of relationship it is looking to form with customers, and of how the brand sees the exchange between them and their consumer.
  2. Dialect – every brand should seek to own language of its own; a way of talking about what it does and what it stands for that complements the visual identity and adds color and texture in terms of how the brand speaks. Don’t just speak the industry language.
  3. Rhythm – every brand needs a speech pattern. It needs to speak at a certain speed, in particular ways, so that consumers consciously or sub-consciously ‘hear’ the brand’s voice in every interaction.

Once you know where you want to position your brand and you have established a personality that speaks to the strategy and distinguishes the brand from competitors, a really sensible next port of call is the frontline.

Speaking with colleagues is a highly effective way of gauging what customers are looking for in exchanges with the brand, what they like about how they interact now, and where they would like to see clear changes in the tone of communications.  Start inside out . These insights should then be applied to content and structuring of information as well as to tone.

Too often brands fail to make all these changes. They develop a new tone of voice to sit alongside their visual identity but they only apply it to a slither of the interactions they have with consumers.

When a brand fails to carry its new voice through to all its touchpoints, it quickly muddies expectations and experiences. Customers expecting the brand to behave in a particular way find themselves being spoken with in a different, often conflicting, way elsewhere within the same brand.

Here’s my rule. A brand may speak in multiple languages – but it should look as much as possible to speak in one distinctive tone of voice everywhere.

Using storytelling to kickstart engagement

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Using storytelling and data to explain your organisations purpose is very effective with three levels “The Self”, “The us” and “the We”

Kickstarter is a crowd-funding organisation for the arts: the company’s stated mission is to “help bring creative projects to life” . 

Kickstarter is an enormous global community built around creativity and creative projects. Over 10 million people, from every continent on earth, have backed a Kickstarter project. Some of those projects come from influential artists like De La Soul or Marina Abramović. Most come from amazing creative people you probably haven’t heard of — from Grandma Pearl to indie filmmakers to the band down the street. Every artist, filmmaker, designer, developer, and creator on Kickstarter has complete creative control over their work — and the opportunity to share it with a vibrant community of backers.

Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 creative projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology and food-related projects.

Kickstarter uses storytelling to engage people .

It has an impactful way of asking people to join its team.

That narrative starts by having its founder tell the story of the company (the “self”).

Their website includes pictures and short descriptions of each and every company employee  (“the us”).

Finally, the narrative culminates its “now” call to action with a careers page asking: “Love Kickstarter? You’ll fit right in.”

These stories are most powerful when they are individually authentic, build to a collective narrative and values, and then seal the deal by asking the person reading, watching, or listening to join in.

Hitchhikers Guide to Disintermediation

Bla Bla1

# Data Pulse 42

When I was a student at Durham University  we’d walk up to the A.1 , stick out our thumbs and Hitch a ride south. Sometimes we waited for a long time, and sometimes we had a very odd ride, but we had time and little money.

I’ve just driven my daughter back to Bristol University and things have changed dramatically in the last 30 years.

Bla Bla Car is a digitally enabled ride-sharing network, connecting travellers who are making similar journeys so that they can save on travel costs and meet like-minded from trusted community of more than 20 million verified members. it’s a great example of understanding customers stories and then developing a brand story using data and digital that works for customers , fitting for them .

Drivers who want to offer a seat in their car submit the details of their journey online and set a price per passenger. Someone looking for a lift can then search the offered journeys and book a place. After meeting at an agreed point and completing the journey, the users then rate each other. The feedback system promotes trust within the community so that people can feel safe and secure when sharing a journey

Bla Bla 3

Bla Bla 2

A fast growing example of a community sharing organisation that brings together users with excess capacity for their capital investment (someones car) with a user who has a need for that excess capacity, at in improved value for money .