Monday, March 19, 2012

Making a Revolutionary company Look Evolutionary

This past weekend, I read Om Malik's wonderful guidance about which seven stories to read this weekend. As always, this weekly list was provocative. One article that particularly caught my eye was "Why are we so Afraid of Creativity?". In short, creativity leads to uncertainty and "As a general rule, we dislike uncertainty. It makes us uneasy. A certain world is a much friendlier place."

This is a topic about which I am passionate because we live in an age of evolutionary innovation, to a large degree and those who are willing to think orthogonally are often accused of being dreamers. But that orthogonal thinking is what makes real movement in the market.

So what's a company to do when it has an (often technical) innovation that looks like an evolutionary innovation, but really has the potential to lead to an orthogonal market shift? Since we at Roeder-Johnson often work with companies that fit this description, it's a topic about which I think often.

Going back to the story about why we are afraid of creativity, the answer is:

-Understand what you really have (the "high concept").
-Build a communication and market strategy that first makes your breakthrough look and feel evolutionary.
-Then, when you have credibility, build the new, orthogonal trajectory on the foundation of the first stage success.

In some ways, you are building in your own "innovators' dilemma." That is, you know eventually, you will have to obsolete the perceptions you may have started out building. So why not just start with the big idea? Because in many more traditional markets with established perceptions (enterprise technology, vertical markets, etc.), the revolutionary idea can scare people and you won't build your base business before you move into the new realm.

Yes. We are back to the fact that creativity scares people.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Social Media and Building Sustainable Ideas: A complex puzzle

In this morning's news, an article ran called "'Kony 2012' grabs media attention, but it could be fleeting". The article is about social media and revolutions, summed up in a quote from the article: "When you use social media to bring down a dictator, it's simplistic and easy," says Christopher Tunnard, who studies the effect of social media on politics at Tufts University. "When you're trying to build things back up, it's much more complicated. It's very difficult to put together a story about how social media are being used to build up institutions."

Since this blog is not about global politics but communications issues, this morning's article highlights what I believe is perhaps the biggest issue in communications today: social media is very good for intermittent hits on single ideas. But how do you sustain and build an entire "ideology" with social media?

The first answer to this question is to keep your ideas simple. We have talked a lot in this blog about a "high concept".

But the second answer, about which we have also talked, harkens back to our view of creating a "communications architecture." That is, even when you have a single "high concept", building an entire infrastructure around it is critical to build sustained ideologies.

I believe we are all just in the early stages of understanding how to implement this second strategy with social media. There will be a lot of experimentation in the next few years; though it is likely that the right approach will revolve around creating social media campaigns that systematically build and weave ideas.

There's a lot more to think about re how these campaigns are created. Watch this space.

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Hype Kills Redux: Is Apple's Lesson "Underpromise and Over deliver"?

Yesterday, Apple introduced the new iPad. There have been various reactions. But pretty much everyone was underwhelmed or, at the very least, a little disappointed.

So what's going on here? The new iPad is a good product; its screen excites a lot of people. But the reality is that this new product is just an evolutionary step for Apple.

That's ok. Companies need to have systematic product introduction plans that build on their existing customer base and momentum. The difference is that Apple, on a regular basis, challenges conventional wisdom and keeps itself in a leadership position.

So what should Apple have done? It should probably have managed down expectations. Instead of getting people hyped up for a new a dramatic product; it should have let us know, in advance, what we should expect.

We call that "underpromise and over deliver."

Let people be pleasantly surprised, rather than unpleasantly disappointed.

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