A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog titled “Who you gonna call? An Expert!.” In this blog I wrote about how today we have a plethora of experts. Whether it is folks giving advice to Tiger Woods on how he can fix his game to others doing the same to Steve Easterbrook, the new CEO of McDonalds, about how he can fix his business.
I admit I am one of them. An expert sometimes free with my advice. The question? Should I be an armchair quarterback? Can I add any value? I know I can’t to Tiger. But, I think I can to Mr. Easterbrook. Why do I believe I can add value to Mr. Easterbrook? Or, to other business leaders?
First, I have spent over 30 years solving business and marketing problems across almost every category in almost every market around the world. I suspect most of my clients and a majority of my colleagues would vouch for me on this issue.
Second, I’ve been a student and teacher on the rules for building successful brands and businesses. My last book, Brand Rituals™: How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life became a marketing and sales bestseller on Amazon and provided the validated principles to build bonds with core customers of the brand.
But, I believe, the third and most important reason might be the most actionable. As we move into the Insight Economy™, I have identified a focused and effective way to define action brands can take to solve their challenges and find ways to grow.
Let me digress for a moment to bring this concept to life. If you’re a golfer, you’ll understand this. I hadn’t played golf for about a year due to back and neck issues. When I got cleared to play again (just a couple of weeks ago) I found that I had lost my swing consistency. My golf coach watched me for a few minutes and then changed two things… my grip and my ball position. He said this while watching me hit my straight shots again… I only fixed things that were “off-normal” in your swing. What a great insight!
Each brand has its normal. The fundamental reason why its core customers keep coming. A successful brand fulfills very specific needs for very specific customers. This intersection is what I call an anchor-normal. Mathematically articulated as [core customer*specific problem solved in a specific way = anchor-normal]. Also known in strategic marketing as the brand’s reason for being.
I go to McDonald’s every time I want a good meal, quickly… which almost always happens to be when I’m traveling. Not so for my wife. She won’t go there because she thinks their food is not very healthy. We’ve agreed to disagree. I like my Big Mac and I don’t believe it’s any more or less healthy than my other choices at hotels or rest stops. Starbucks on the other hand is one place my wife and I both love. I go there so I can get my coffee my way. As does she. These are two real life examples of anchor-normals. Core customers whose specific needs are fulfilled by each brand. Core customers who keep showing up day-in-and-day-out because the brand solves a real problem for them. This is the first and most important principle of the Insight Economy™.
This is also where the rubber doesn’t meet the road for most brands. Unfortunately, they don’t have a robust understanding of their core customers. They may have a lot of data. They may have developed different segmentations. They may even have personas. But, very few have an empathetic understanding of the real people behind the numbers and personifications. So ironic, these real people are the ones who make the cash register ring. And, it is these real people who generate sustainable growth… ask Howard Schultz about how he was able to get his highest-spending customers (me included) to spend more when he came back and returned the brand to normal in his second stint at Starbucks.
This is why I feel comfortable providing an opinion. In my thirty years in the business, I have studied and seen almost every possible way brands have played with their anchor-normal in their thirst to find new growth. And, I’ve seen cases where they’ve stayed true or come back for sustainable success. Nike has stayed true to their customers and their promise thereby delivering profitable growth and improved brand value. Chuck did the same when he was asked to come back to run his namesake firm, Charles Schwab.
I’ve seen the impact of core customers, both positive and not, on businesses large and small over the years developing strategic marketing, relationship, and loyalty programs. Today’s transparent digital and social environment provides customers transparency like never before. Brands that want to find the best and most sustainable growth, have no choice but to stay maniacally committed to their core customers (forget those prospects) and their anchor-normal.
If they don’t, they are likely to go the way of the dinosaurs.