Monthly Archives: December 2009

Sherpa Rule To Live By: Deliver Solutions, Not Process For On-Target Strategy

When was the last time you presented the results of research or strategy work to an internal stakeholder team or to a client and they said, “Hey…nice process!”?

I think that in this business, especially on the supplier side, we spend a lot of energy trying to explain why our processes and methodologies are different and therefore better, or vice versa.  This is a great and beneficial internal exercise.  It keeps us motivated to innovate and to document a framework within which we have that freedom to build and grow.  However, when it comes time to talk to a client about the value of what we do, I think we sometimes tend to get too mired in how we do it and don’t focus enough on why and most importantly how the end result will be shaped in a way that adds the most value.

Especially in brand strategy practices like mine where the consumer and cultural insitghts practice is one rooted in social science, we recognize the importance of considering the end user and their needs for socializing information within their organization in order to facilitate buy-in and ROI.  We realize that at the end of the day, research that sits on a shelf or has trouble being digested by diverse audiences starts to produce diminishing returns the minute it’s delivered.  As  a big part of my job is working with client and consulting partners to address those challenges and develop solutions that are above all compelling and actionable.

It is important for suppliers who sell innovation with research as a part of that process to always begin with the end in mind…and that end is not the insights and implications themselves, but the context in which they are framed and will ultimately be used.  It is something we challenge ourselves with here every day and a direction that is imperative for all of those in strategic roles who want to continue to forward the interest of our industry.

It is a very exciting and interesting time in the world of brand strategy and consumer research.  More and more the motivations, stakeholders and processes are moving toward collaboration of efforts.  We work with many world class brands and organizations who strive to eliminate process and streamline activation as a necessary adaptation to a rapidly changing and accelerating world.

As we continue to learn and grow from our past and identify the patterns that will drive growth for the future, both in our business and our clients business, we always keep an open ear and an open mind.  That being said, I love to hear from anyone with a point of view, especially my clients and potential clients, on the types of challenges they face as a part of their research and strategy practices.


A Consumer Anthropology Perspective On How Global Brands Can Empower Consumer Confidence To Build Relevance

In a previous article, i spoke about how important it is for global brands that are growing in the context of emerging middle class markets to incorporate nuances of local cultural values into their strategies in order to gain relevance and share of wallet.

Another consideration that i feel spans the globe, especially in today’s more challenging economic circumstances, is the degree to which brands can empower consumer confidence.

Especially in emerging markets where consumers are striving for economic momentum through entrepreneurship, career and education lifestyle focus and pure intestinal fortitude, it becomes more important for brands to consider the implications both on product and brand communication strategy.

It is not enough to simply have your brand essence mirror local values, but it must “walk the talk”.   What does your product do to help consumers achieve their goals, whether it be the small day-to-day wins or their long term personal vision?  How does it help get the job done or instil confidence?

Additionally, with consumers demanding more and more information about the companies that get their share of wallet, what can you share with them about how the way your company operates benefits their local community?  The global community?  Where are jobs created?  What is the brand’s bottom line contribution to the consumer’s personal world, the world they share with others (in their region, country) and the world at large?

This can mean several things.  It can imply a re-assessment of how a product / brand’s functional benefits ladder into emotional benefits.  It also makes a case for incorporation of national heritage into brand equity communication.  It also means that factors about corporate practices like employment distribution and research and development (particularly market research and co-creation) are fair game for consumer-facing communication.

It’s worth assessment of what your competition is doing and how consumers perceive your brand’s performance.  Those factors that may be taken for granted during internal strategy processes might just be the hidden facts that consumers are looking for to empower them not only to purchase, but to advocacy.