- Jan 14, 2019 Archive Jan 14, 2019
- Jan 13, 2019 Know your emotional product Jan 13, 2019
- Jan 13, 2019 How to not fail — understand Brand Jan 13, 2019
- Jan 13, 2019 Your retail sucks — how-to fix it Jan 13, 2019
- Jan 13, 2019 Is your Emotional Product Score helping or hurting you? Jan 13, 2019
Hey businesses, do you know your “Product”?
Know your product. That’s what big talking sales managers and colourful retailers would say to trainees being indoctrinated into the traditional, material product oriented, supply chain and stuff on shelves retail. They’d tell you that the “product” was the stuff on the shelves and that the value to the “consumer” or end customer was in sales people being able to extol the difference between the various stuffs, and to get it off the shelf for them. So knowing every practical detail of that product was the key to selling it.
Then things got challenging.
Without getting into too much of the detail we all already know, a myriad of pressures on that traditional material product relationship eroded consumer’s confidence in this traditional system — it challenged our perspectives on value, relationship and trust. Without positive relationship and emotional value in the product purchasing equation, we became price conscious and subsequently drove that material product system into a race for the bottom where only big box material product retail could afford to exist.
But what if the material product wasn’t the actual product at all?
Perhaps the product, the reason for the purchase or the interaction between the customer and the retailer, was never the material product. What if a general laziness and lack of understanding of the emotional product among businesses removed the real emotional value out of the product exchange in the search for more margin.
And what they left was a skeleton of a product relationship — simply I’ll give you this in exchange for that money in your hand. No personal relationships, not conversation, no getting to know your name, no inspiration, no displays, no passion, no uniqueness, no image — no brand.
But what if the relationship was based on the emotional and not the practical? We believe it was, and still is. And we believe that successful businesses and retailers that have survived the pressures of the last few years get it. We believe that many new businesses and retailers that are starting up as flag bearers of the new economy get it. But unfortunately, so many still don’t.
So what is your real product?
I’ll tell you, it’s not the stuff on the shelves. Your product is the assembly of all your activities within your business but most critical is the emotional value elements of your proposition through to the experiences of engagement with you, all of which add up to be your brand. Essentially your product is your brand.
To break it down, your product is:
– your brand and identity embodied in action and the physical material product package
– the performance of or experience with your material product
– the culture cultivated within your audience
– your ability to inspire
– your physical presence, retail environment or experience area
– your social media presence and activities
– your design or curation of the products you make and stock
– your opinion or perspectives that influence the lifestyle of your company and offering
– your ability to create and support a culture around you
– the personal relationships you care to build with the people to whom you make or curate your goods or services for
– your reputation for discerning taste, quality and passion for service
– your demonstrated specialization and passion for the category of goods or services you offer
– your apparent care for doing things right; by quality, by designed spaces, by the wine served at functions to the cleanliness of the washrooms — if you care about this, it’s because you care about your customer and the culture you are a part of
This product is magnetic
When businesses get the product right. That is, to nail the list above, not as a mandatory checklist but in stride as part of the soul of the offering, they down right kill it and become magnetic.
But sadly, when businesses fail to see it, resist the list and continue to drag the traditional model across the new social society floor, they are rejected and replaced by the internet, or big box or swapped out for something completely different that will consume that slice of disposable income. It’s that easy.
Try it at home. Put on the lenses of this checklist and walk into a busy business or retailer and really look to see what’s happening. Is the place clean, well designed and comfortable? Does it inspire you? Are people hanging around, excited, voicing their enjoyment, laughing, engaging with staff and talking about their recent trip or family? Is this business successful? I’ll bet you answer yes.
Now go around the corner to that other shop. You know that quiet one with the poorly maintained backlit sign. Put on the lens and have a close look. What have they neglected on the list? What do they resist engaging in to their core. What do they resent about social media. Why don’t they host socials, events or workshops? What things do they not do better than big box retail, or restaurant chains, or other bakeries, or pubs or wineries? What do they stock that’s easily found on the internet? How are their prices because I know they have you checking? I’m sure they aren’t successful. They’re just hanging on.
New economy, new product
Quietly, but not without pain, the economy has been changing as has the business to consumer market place. Within the business to consumer relationship there has been a revolution to the point where you might even hear the term “Business or Retail 2.0″. It’s that big.
But inside this cliche is a reality that is overlooked, misunderstood or avoided as a hard uncomfortable truth. And that is that there is no longer a consumer. They are an audience. There are no longer products and retailers. Businesses are now performers. There is no longer a simple exchange. There is now a relationship. There is no longer a consumption, there is now engagement and lifestyle.
And what new 2.0 businesses innately offer is the lifestyle and not the material product. The material product is an excuse for the relationship. The material product or service is simply a category around which to build a culture. This new business engages in all that is the emotional product because they want to, not have to, and because it’s what interested them in the business in the first place. People are engaging in the florist that loves flowers and style, and lives and shares the lifestyle of flowers and entertaining, inviting you to join them. They don’t buy from the place that sells cheap flowers.
Know your real emotional product and offer all that surrounds it and the audience will take care of you.
It’s easy and painless, you just gotta know it!
When we start a new relationship with a client, the first few conversations are almost always a calibration of communication where if people are going to understand us, and put up with our crazy talk for years to follow, they have to understand brand.
It is easily the most critical step for any person or company looking to communicate or market themselves or a product or service. Or for that matter, arguably, the growth and success of any idea in the public realm these days.
So, here are the steps to not fail at your business or communication goals:
1. Understand what is a brand?
No, it’s not that iron in the fire about to sear its logo to the back of your corporate pony. As Ted Mathews says — Brand, it ain’t the logo.
Brand is you. A brand is the perception people have of you. It’s what they think you are about — your motivations, values, actions, opinions. Your personal or product expressions, actions and engagements or experiences you create are how they build that perception. To build a brand is to engage in building an understanding of who you are by interaction and communication. A relationship is formed. Through consistent engagement grows a deeper understanding and a comfort and expectation of your brand.
2. Get to know you and your audience
To build a brand is to boil yourself down to the key, most critical emotional and physical value to your audience. Oh, yah that means you need to know your audience. Decide who they are and join them or be prepared to create a new culture and define a new audience — that works too. Either way, you need to tailor you and your product, to their needs and desires so figure out what that is.
Your material product is useless unless it fits your audience and cares about what they want. It has to resonate, be remarkable and emotionally useful. Folks don’t care if it has all the practical features in the world. If it doesn’t feel like it is directed at them, they’ll ignore it.
3. Create the Emotional Product
Just like the logo isn’t a brand, your product isn’t a physical thing on a shelf. Your product is you in action. Your product is everything you do that I can access, engage in, purchase, experience, talk about, build a lifestyle and self identity around. Your product is emotional value to me and is what I am willing to shell out for. Your emotional value is unique to me, without competition and to a large degree without a rational relative price. The physical or material product is merely an excuse for or a way to identify with the culture that you are participating in.
So figure out what your product really is. Boil it down and realize what the real base level value is to the audience and you will see so much of the point of what you are doing that you’ll be amazed. You’ll discover motivations and passions for the product that you had never considered.
4. Find your voice
What you say and how you say it is a metaphor for the product and the brand. But in a practical sense it’s how you’ll deliver the product and speak about it — distribution and communication. You may have heard that the medium is the message. That means the medium and the message is also the product. So deciding on how and where you’ll speak is critical in fine tuning the product to suit the audience.
Identify where you will be seen. Target experiences that will allow you to express yourself and engage with the right people and make a great impression. Learn to fit your voice to the audience but be remarkable, memorable, adding value to the room.
5. Wade in and be valuable content
Get going. There’s a lot to be said about good planning. But there’s a lot more to be said about timing and hard work. Be in the right place at the right time, or better, be first and build the right place, and work dam hard at building value and content in people’s lives and you’ll get there.
Then change the wheels on the bus while it’s moving. That is to learn on the run, build a team and adjust your brand and product as you go if need be. Just make sure you know yourself, your audience and the product or you can get lost.
6. How’s the water so far?
Look in the mirror. What do you see? The mirror incidentally is the market place. What are people saying or not saying — is the audience supporting you and saying what you hoped to hear, or is what they don’t say is revealing? How about the media — do they support or ignore you — they feed on good valuabe content so are you there in words or video? How do you reflect back to you? Do you like yourself? Is it a fit? Are you delivering what you promised — what you wanted to deliver?
You can be better. You love it so it’s not work to improve and do more. You just have to listen and all the answers are there.
Measure. Adjust. Wade back in. Repeat.
7. Write it down
Got it working? Realize what doesn’t? Think you know what’s next? Now right it down. Yep. Really successful brands spill it out. Get it out of your head on paper. Call it rough notes or an organized brand and product guide like the one’s we create — either way you will need a team to understand this brand, product and direction in order to keep going in a determined direction. It’s only fair to all involved. Good clear direction allows good people to help you.
Then keep this document open and adjust over time. It’s only paper. Good brands are flexible and evolve with the needs and culture of their audience. Even critical brands that seem to define their market and audiences quietly flex to adjust to trends and cultural influences.
You’re now an expert
Got it? Now make sure that everyone you work with — everybody in your camp gets it too. It’s critical. It’s difficult enough to run a company and manage the brand and product while battling adversity and market climactic changes. The last thing you need is to be working uphill against people on your team that don’t know brand — your brand. You cannot be constantly starting at square one as this is tedious, wastes resources and causes audience confusion — brand erosion.
Brand erosion is what we call it. We’ve all seen it. It’s where a new brand; a restaurant, product, place, shop, magazine makes such an amazing start and collects a huge following fast. They grow, add staff and product width and then you see it. Erosion of service. Thinning of the idea. Drying of the richness or dulling of the shine. The quality or passion falls out. The prices go up but the service doesn’t.
Why? Because someone, or a bunch of people in the organization don’t get it. It’s sometimes just a job. But often they aren’t indoctrinated like the first ones in were. They can’t understand the brand because they haven’t been trained. There isn’t a system in place for training on brand and so it falls apart, opportunities are missed, trans are avoided and the culture comes apart. Don’t make this mistake.
Make people read the notes. Encourage them to live with the audience and become a part of them. Help them find your original passion and excite them to take what you started further than you could have ever imagined.
Why your retail is sucking and what you need to do – asap.
Uncomfortable truth time. Most retail sucks. Said it! Most retail today is stuck in the past with retailers living a lie, believing that “consumers” need stuff and if they stand there long enough with stuff on the shelves, someone will buy it. Oh, and same goes for restaurants.
Put the gun down, let’s break this apart.
Typical, traditional retail brick and mortar is a concept. We’ll call it retail 1.0. The idea, though around for a long time, is simply posed as a place where people (retailers) have previously purchased products with the goal to sell a part of the whole again to an end user they perceive to need those goods.
These retailers buy from any number of sources, sometimes directly from manufacturers, often a middle wholesaler and at times from a central buying group with the intent to sell a portion of the products to the end user.
No matter what, it’s all the same — someone else is determining what goods are accessible to the retailer and the retailer grabs what suits their clientele and pays up front to put it on the shelf — to stock it. The consumer is then told it’s here (the promotion), now come buy it (the call to action!).
Here is the first issue with retail 1.0. Retailers still believe that the product is the stuff on the shelves. They believe that’s what people actually want and so the activities of retail — all the actions that get the product in and out the door — are centric around finding product, stocking, tracking, placing on the shelf, beautifying the store and arrangements of products, promoting the stuff and assisting the consumer in getting it out the door. Job done. Retailer now exhausted.
But, whoa wait. What if people — consumers — don’t really need anything but sustenance; love, air food and water? What if the treadmill of getting off the sofa and heading across town to purchase that thing is the most tedious, grudge-worthy waste of time in anyone’s day? And, what if there were an alternative? Such as:
A. not buying that thing or
B. purchasing that thing from the internet and having it shipped
Well guess what? Both alternatives are real. And both alternatives are obliterating retail at such a rate that the retail landscape is in cardiac arrest.
Aging demographics are concluding that their fixed income future is uncertain so to remain practical they are just going without at the same time their millennial newcomers have concluded that there is only so much squeeze in their shrinking incomes, space in their tiny apartments and only so much they can carry on their bicycle anyway so they are saying no or turning their spending toward experiences.
When people actually need stuff, “consumers” are concluding that most retail is so practical and boring that the cost of shipping from online purchasing is worth it so that they can stay on the couch and hit continue on their PS3 — and by the way the cost of shipping is shrinking due to lower fuel costs.
But, but, but — it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ravine Vineyard — Outdoor Pizza Oven hangout
There are successes
In fact, there are entire categories of successes. You see them everyday. You likely participate in them, get excited about them or are even jealous of their magic. But wait, it’s not magic, they are just awesome. Really though, they see the light of retail 2.0.
The successful retailers today know what people want and they know what the product really is. Successful retailers are more conscious of providing what their audiences desire than sourcing deals on products they can get their hands on. They look out, rather than in. Are gracious, rather than selfish.
What retailer 2.0 knows is that the real product is not the goods. Don’t get me wrong, the goods have gotta be good, but it’s not what people get off the couch for. Audiences desire more emotional relationships and respond to offerings that fulfil challenges and needs in their life such as cutting through complexity, offers of a sense of well being or richer lifestyle, fulfilment of the desire to belong, be understood or understand one’s self. The feeling that they have done a good thing, helped someone or had a mutual respectful exchange of needs is fuel. Deep stuff huh? Yep.
In action though it’s really clear. Take your awesome little coffee shop around the corner. If you don’t go to one, start now and if you don’t want to than we can’t help you.
That little shop likely makes dam good hand massaged, locally roasted, fair trade organic earth loving black goodness. It has to. But that’s not why folks fall in love with the place and return multiple times a day. People go because the place remembers them. Oh, and the other customers remember them too. The place inspires and hosts conversations. The place introduces ideas such as new music, fresh style, emerging trends, learnings about coffee and techniques, likely hosts events, fun evenings, workshops, cool singers, artists and — hold on — rich culture.
How do you sell culture you ask? Where’s the return on that? Don’t worry — provide rich culture and people will reimburse you by purchasing practically anything you have in stock just to feel as though they have rewarded your effort so that we can all do this again. A fair exchange.
So let’s review. I create an enjoyable environment for people to engage in a rich culture, I hire nice staff to build relationships, remember names, start conversations, play great music, introduce new ideas, invite art and source and offer inspiring goods and this is what the product actually is? Yes.
Today’s successful retailers are selling a new emotional idea and have changed the model. They offer among many rich emotional ideas:
Curation and filtering – cutting through the complex world to offer keen eye and style of the owners and staff
Inspiration and education – beautiful idea displays and uses of the products, workshops and demonstrations
Lifestyle and entertainment – music, dinners, evening gatherings
Relationship and belonging – social recognition and sharing, mutual respect and reliance, association, club or group
Emotional fulfilment and Self identity – personal satisfaction and altruism, feeling like the place is part of who I am
And though the structure in which they do this feels to some degree the same as the old, it won’t be long until 2.1 brings a whole new infrastructure and re-arrangement of place.
For example, look at the subtle changes in retailing; displays, signage, POS systems and the placement of the cash area. Where cash registers/checkouts used to dominate the entrance/exit areas, payment areas are now shrinking and falling toward the centre or rear, allowing for more flexible event and social spaces, lounges, culture room and inspiration. POS itself is becoming streamlined and if you squint just right, are almost gone, soon to be replaced by transparent transaction systems.
The new emotional offering means a critical reduction or shift in the practical mindset toward the emotional side of the brain. Price cards are disappearing and are replaced by education and inspiration. References to prices, returns, warrantees, specials and sales are wiped away so as to not kill the emotional buzz of the lifestyle visitor — keeping them from shifting from emotional Me, to practical Mr. Wallet.
Keeping you from thinking about your wallet means you can dream, loose track of time and not connect your cheap ass practical side of your brain to the fun self indulging experiential brain you are listening to.
As successful retailers continue to see the gains from creating positive enriching experiences, building cultures around their brands and programming new ways to fulfil the deep emotional product, we’ll see a complete re-imagining of the retail space.
Can’t buy that online
So hopefully we can all now agree that the product people really want is emotional. We see it everyday and know how dam compelling it can be. The beauty of this emotional product is that for now you simply can’t buy it online. Sure, you can still get most of anything retail 2.0 offers in a practical material product sense. In fact, most 2.0 retailers offer their goods online and do a remarkable job of hosting their culture in that space too. But it’s not the same.
The audience wants the emotional — they want it from a physical place with real staff and like minded others with whom they can feel like a tribe. The key is that audiences only have so much disposable income to blow on stuff so the goods they acquire through the emotional purchase will supersede desire for any practical needs based acquisition.
Retail 2.0 is here, healthy and eating your lunch. The choice is yours as a retailer — understand the emotional product and cultivate it or fight your way to the bottom along with failing commodity price based retailers and online discounters.
What’s your emotional value?
Emotional Value = Price weighed against emotional product score
We’re of the belief that audiences are tough-ass judges. No matter who you are, what you do, how nice you are, you are being judged good or bad. For most of us, this is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as we don’t base our livelihood on promises and time can be very forgiving.
However, for businesses, especially those on the front lines of consumer offerings and dishing up product promises, time is of the essence so it’s critical to be judged on the high side of the sum of emotional checklist weighed against the price of the experience. We call this the emotional value score.
Audiences subconsciously carry this emotional checklist of various categories that they weigh you against. At first interaction, the cross check is coarse, blunt and general — where audiences simply rate you with a good or bad through the list. If you have it – you get a good or a 1. Don’t have it, then a bad or a 0. If you score above middle then you get a second chance but if you don’t, then they move on, possibly forever.
If you are lucky enough to get a second chance, then things adjust. Audiences get more sensitive, spending more time to really gauge the nuances of your offering to see if they will come again as well as move in emotionally for the long term. The audience begins to weigh the list as it relates to them but also to your basic promise or proposition. They make excuses for bad scores and can become more forgiving, as long as you can deliver above average or better yet, you are showing improvement.
Hey, this is no different then any personal relationship. It takes time. You work at it, you sometimes get second chances but you can never take the other for granted and you must always score higher than middle, and continue to score higher, on the emotional value score.
The Emotional Product List
All offerings break down into, among many things, these heavier emotional categories:
People — Treatment & relationships, culture & scene, personality and charisma, knowledgeable
Place & Spatial Environment — Beauty or awe of Land, aesthetic of a place, Interior inspiration, comfort, style, music
Experience — Enjoyment, entertainment, fun, learning, ease, time spent
Care — Thoughtfulness of design, Cleanliness and Pride, graciousness, attention to detail, passion
Quality (of “Product”) — Perceived quality of performance or Taste of Material Product or Food
Uniqueness — Perceived uniqueness of product and differentiation from the heap that allows people to remember — ask your self, “are you extraordinary?”
Fit & Relevance — Compatibility with audience’s lives in a emotional, practical use and technical perspective
Every time someone interacts with your product offering, they subconsciously re-score and decide if they need to do it again or take some time off — consciously-uncouple! This score is then often immediately communicated to friends or social extensions (social media) as storytelling or content by way of a summary of the highest weighted importance or argument to justify the conclusion they are summarizing.
“…just had the best coffee ever at Justa Bean again. Wow they know their stuff and now I don’t even need to tell them what I want…” “love the music they play there, I always come away with a new band to check out…” — Score: relationship, inspiration, learning, care, quality, relevance = 6 out of 7
In some cases, offerings fail miserably in a few categories, yet they still do well and audiences defend them.
“…had dinner at Snarky Dogs last night. Dam that place was dirty but how cool were the staff, and you have to try the burger — it’s killer and was just $25. BTW they have tons of local draft beer too.”
In this case the personal weight of pride and space scored low yet people, quality and uniqueness and fit added up to make a great experience that overcame the downside — so 4/7 = good emotional product and when weighted against the perceived low price point = good emotional value.
So strategically you might consider that though the list seems evenly weighted and attainable for a business offering to score a decent average across all points, perhaps being really awesome in a couple of key categories while not so good in a couple others is better than just ok at all of them.
Perhaps the ones you can be really good at are your Promise and the points you are going to suck at are a part of your texture and personality; the things people see as funny, risky, memorable or hope to see evolve.
Being ok at all things may be a little boring and certainly isn’t a standout. For some brands this is ok to be that safe fall back. There is honour there for sure. But it may be a fragile position because the world doesn’t stand still. Things move fast around here and it won’t be long before good isn’t good enough as others in your competitive hood have raised the bar, or trends simply change affecting audiences desires for uniqueness, possibly leaning them toward riskier, trendier, more exciting brands. Sorry old man.
Remembering that your real product is emotional, not physical, you have to decide what you are good at and what you can consistently, confidently, deliver. This should be your promise — your offering and proposition.
Picking what’s achievable, recognizing what’s not, and then building this into the product promise is a realistic way of ensuring you can fulfil your obligation to not under deliver. You simply must match the promise with the delivery or you will fail and spend a whack of dough in the process.
You can also set the weight, emphasis, confidence and tone of the delivery of the checklist — essentially establishing personality and expectation around the promise. Assert what’s most important and confidently dismiss what’s not — what you aren’t good at — and people will get it as long as you are consistent.
One of my favourite pizza restaurants has from day one stated it doesn’t cut your pizza or pit the olives. So don’t ask. This establishes the limit of their customer service position — saying simply, “we are confident that making great food in a cool environment with a good culture is enough — we’re not servants, we don’t cater to special interests — so cut your own dam pizza”.
Being confident with who you are and delivering consistently helps you build a culture of understanding and anticipation of your brand among your audience and staff. Once this is in place, they’ll do the work of carrying the brand.
Honesty is the best policy
Tough love time. Run through the list and ask yourself how you score. Aha, take off the rose coloured glasses. Then ask some of your audience, customers and friends how you score. Be honest, it won’t hurt, besides if your brand is weak and product popularity is waining, you are already in pain.
If you score 50/50 or less then you have to get better at a couple of things and begin to confidently assert that the other things just aren’t, your thing. You can do it!
If you score 70/30 you are in a great spot so now begin to hit the high notes, the things you really love, even higher. Get really good at them, talk about them, build the offering into your position statement and build your culture on it. Then protect your position by confidently admitting what you don’t do and eventually you might find that this becomes less important to audiences, and therefore less of a competitive edge for other brands that can deliver on this note.
Steam Whistle, a Toronto brewery that had aspirations to be a successful brewery beyond small production craft, is located in a small swatch of a property with big rent in the downtown entertainment district. What they did well was make a good all round pilsner beer in a steampunk cool facility.
What they couldn’t do well was make a variety pack of beers due to the associated challenges of managing the logistics of variety at their location. So confidently they sewed their lack of variety weakness into their brand and product offering — “Do one thing, really, really well.” — and with it created personality, differentiation and a clear deliverable promise.
Apple Computer, that small upstart from California made well designed desktop computers of exceptional detail, high aesthetic, longevity and stability. Due to financing and production constraints as well as high standards for internal component cross-compatibity and reliability, they couldn’t provide product variety or open source operating system access — attributes dominated by their main competition. What Apple could deliver on was done so with confidence and consistency — asserting their pros and being really good at them. Fast track 30 years and the general audience no longer cares about the practical attributes of product variety or open source software. But they certainly appreciate the emotional quality, reliability, good design and inspiration.
The key in any scenario of emotional value is to learn to be consistent because that means reliability. People always return to reliable even if you are reliably bad in a few categories. If you aren’t currently consistent, then you simply have to fix that today. Identify the reason you aren’t consistent — staffing, ingredients, materials, culture, cleaning — all just variables that you can identify and control. Starting now.