Where does normalcy in business originate? And how does the disruptive marketer avoid getting caught in its trap? Much of normalcy comes from what is known as the “shared vision meme.”
Most Companies assume that there is only one single and defined vision for the organization. This vision comes from its founder, the CEO, or upper management. It is expected that the rest of the organization will accept this vision and march to the same drummer.
We often read about the shared vision meme in the business sections of large news outlets. The New York Times wrote about Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, defining a cultural revolution at his company that was complete with laminated rules on how employees should behave. This was being done in the belief that rules push employees to lean in toward group-think and conformity, since it leaves no room for interpretation.
The disruptive world has an opposing view: having set principles makes an organization rigid and inflexible. And that’s the total opposite of the DIY ethos. In reality, the highest-performing organizations actively promote dissent and flexibility in all areas, including product development and marketing. Unfortunately, not many companies subscribe to this ideology. I can name only a handful: Red Bull, Virgin Group, T-Mobile, Tesla, American Express, Google, and IBM. (Note: I didn’t mention Microsoft, Facebook, or Apple because although they build and develop extraordinary products, they use conventional marketing strategies.
Companies such as Red Bull, Virgin Group, and T-Mobile don’t treat their employees as “resources,” “assets,” or “roles”; these characterizations dehumanize people and make robots of them. Robots don’t create thinking, feeling, emotionally driven stories, and they don’t build identifiable cultures that customers crave. In an uncertain, rapidly changing business world, making safe bets won’t provide much movement. Calculated risks don’t open up the eyes of customers looking for different products, innovative packaging, constant product updates, or left-of-center experiences.
While the theme of much of my thinking on Branding Strategy Insider is that thinking and acting differently is the differentiating factor in marketing, I acknowledge that you probably don’t want to take risks. After all, companies that don’t take risks benefit most by staying the course. Right? Maybe not . . .
Let’s take a quick look at the top five U.S. companies, as rated by their employees:
2. Bain & Company
3. Nestle Purina PetCare Company
4. F5 Networks
5. Boston Consulting Group
Now let’s list the top five companies based on market valuation:
2. Exxon Mobil
3. Berkshire Hathaway
And the top five most innovative companies based on customer event experiences:
1. Bud Light
3. American Express
5. iHeart Radio
Finally, here are the five most popular products based on consumption:
2. Lay’s Potato Chips
4. Toyota Corolla
5. Apple iPad
Next, let’s cross-match these lists and note which companies appear on two or more. There are only three: Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Those companies are among the highest valued, so it makes sense that their employees rank them high, their customers rank them high, and their products are bought in large quantities. Now, let’s look a little deeper and ask a “what if ” question. What if we looked at the top five valuated companies by market capitalization in 2015 again? Here’s the list:
2. Exxon Mobil
3. Berkshire Hathaway
Now, how about that same list in 2006?
1. Exxon Mobil
2. General Electric
Only 2 of the top 5 valued companies by market capitalization in 2006 are still top 5 today. The historical data shows that energy companies have a whole set of new circumstances they will need to solve in order to remain relevant. Meanwhile, technology companies that enable us with communications are beginning to dominate the list, with even more companies forming in the tech sector as I write this. What great leaps of risk will these new companies bring to the new normal? Will these leaps be from a shared vision of group-think or involve bets against the status quo?
Look back at the 2015 top five list. What if these companies don’t take risks moving forward the next ten years? Will they be on the list in 2026?
Risk To Learn
There is no real cause for failure in this new world of marketing. There are only things we can learn. There is more data available than ever before to pivot or pursue in real time with messaging, content, and experiences. Failure occurs for those who persevere on pride even when the customer user experience data informs them they should have concluded their experiment months ago. Some schools of thought welcome risk because trends are emerging and transforming at such a fast pace that there are more unknowns than knowns in the business world. We can learn from failure in marketing, but only if marketing involves everyone, not just the marketing department.
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