Paragliding. I didn’t quite have the guts to skydive. As I was standing over the edge of a cliff strapped to an Argentinean, legs dangling in the air, a million things ran through my head.
“Is the parachute going to open?” “Will I feel sick in the air?” “Am I going to die strapped to this man?”
It helped to watch others braver than myself jump before me. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? Spoiler alert: I did it. As I flew over the vast Argentinean landscape, I fought the nausea and realised that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Trying something new is daunting. Trying something where there is potential for it to go really wrong is even more daunting. However, we are living in VUCA times (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Therefore, the only option is for businesses to evolve and adapt and that means trying new things.
But is there a way to remove the risk if a brand wants to try something new to engage consumers? And how much actual change is needed for brands to remain as relevant to their competitors in order to drive real commercial value?
Before a very nervous me consented to be flung off a cliff, we went through a safety briefing with 4 key points which also happen to be relevant in today’s marketing landscape.
Tip 1. Look at the landscape
People’s views of culture and social norms are changing, brands are having to respond to this cultural and social change to ensure their marketing keeps up with the shifting social values of consumers – for example the evolution of Lynx from ‘get the girl’ to ‘find your magic’. However, consumers no longer need to wait on brands to fulfil their needs. If they see a gap, there are ways to create what they want. For example, a UK father, Sam Farmer was fed up with rows of pink and submissive packaging for skincare aimed at his daughter and steel, grey macho stuff for his son. He went back to school and studied cosmetic science and created his own range of unisex personal care, which anyone can buy online or from Space NK.
As well as responding to the changing mentalities of consumers, brands must react to regulatory changes. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes an active law in May 2018 and will mean data can only be legally held and used if a person has actively opted in. However, currently only 4% of organisations fully understand the impact of the GDPR. This could seem overwhelming for companies, as it means they will have to cleanse any ‘zombie’ data by contacting the whole database and asking customers to opt back in, which will seemingly impact their database numbers.
In actual fact, the GDPR is an opportunity but businesses don’t seem to be embracing it – yet. This new law is giving brands a chance to re-connect and educate their customers on how they want to be contacted, and then gives them a better focus of how to retain this more engaged, more valuable database.
So, when it comes to change in response to an evolving landscape, the options are; jump in or perish. If you stay stationary, your competitors will leave you behind.
Tip 2. Jump from a realistic height
Before you jump, you need to assess the height that works best for you, so you don’t end up a pancake on the ground.
Defining the level of risk vs reward means you will find what is right for your business, this should minimise your chances of risk and also help measure success. One way to do this is by taking small steps in the right direction through testing and learning and then building up to the bigger idea.
Apply rigour by making the level of risk vs reward a structural decision. There is a standard way of creating a matrix, which is made up of two axis and four quadrants. By plotting potential ideas against Impact (x axis) and Ease (y axis) it becomes clear what idea is both impactful and possible. This type of structure will allow you to analyse and narrow down what type of risk you want to take and if it would be worth the reward you could potentially reap.
For example, a well-established auction house are developing a highly smart algorithm based on numerous data sources which uses customer behaviour (bidding interactions, past purchases etc.) to show only the most relevant items in a timely manner through their direct communications. The more the customer interacts with their website and CRM program, the smarter the algorithm becomes, but this will take time to develop. The trick is not to simply pick off the ‘quick wins’, but ensuring that you set out to achieve the high impact projects, even if it means a long term plan to get them out the door.
Tip 3. Use a parachute
Don’t feel held back. The point of test and learn is to ensure that brands feel confident enough to jump out with a new idea, using data as the parachute. However, the plan for capturing data needs to be clear and concise from the very outset, if you are going to get anything meaningful from it.
Once you create a strategy that outlines what data you will need to achieve the goals of your business, you can build data dashboards to pull in all the measurements and manage the information. Through data visualisation, you can view sales, downloads, reviews, rankings etc. Different types of dashboards also allow you to monitor customer feedback and you can spot changes and trends as they are happening.
By planning for capturing data, you will be able to avoid clutter, cater for greater personalisation for your customers and prioritise the right metrics that are most relevant to your business. Building a structure that relies on data means you will always have a true impression of how your audience is acting in real-time. This means that you will know as soon as things don’t look like they are going in the right direction and you can quickly assess the challenge.
Tip 4: Learn from the ride
If you try something and feel like the reward wasn't worth the risk, then you don’t need to try it again. I decide that paragliding, although I enjoyed it at the time, wasn’t going to be a weekly occurrence. Beautiful as the view was, I would be just as happy to experience it with my feet firmly on the ground rather than dangling in the air, screaming at the top of my lungs. Turns out that heights just aren't my thing.
To recap, here’s the 4 points to successfully removing aspects of risk and paragliding in to commercial success:
1. Look at the landscape – focus on staying in touch with your audience to stay relevant
2. Jump from a realistic height – you don’t need to re-think your whole brand in one go. Take steps in the right direction to see what works for you.
3. Use a parachute – understand what data you need to capture from the outset and use this as your safety net
4. Learn from the ride – if it doesn’t work, try something different. Every new result should be treated as learning for better or worse
So, whether you fail or succeed, using test and learn minimises the risk you take and enables your company to learn more about your customers and build on what they respond to best. In VUCA times, there is no longer an option not to be brave when it comes to change; its jump in or be left behind.
Wish me luck!