Cut to the chase and avoid the spin
Stop being that brand that keeps spinning and gets nothing done. Within most brand portfolios, there are those problem brands that just seem to spiral downward out of control. They spin, and spin and spin. Nothing gets done. Decisions don’t get made. They try something. It doesn’t work immediately. So they change course. And spin some more. Everyone thinks they have the answer, but no-one shares the same answer. And more spin.
What’s missing is a leader who will stand up to everyone on the team say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE”
Cut to the Chase with the The 40/70 Rule
I love the Colin Powell rule that when you are facing a tough decision, you need at least 40% of the information, but oddly enough, you should make the decision with no more than 70%. Once you’re in that 40-70% zone, go with your gut and make the decision.
If you make a decision with less than 40% of the information, you are shooting from the hip and you will make too many mistakes. The 70% part of the decision-making rule is what surprises many Brand Leaders. They often think that they need more than seventy percent of the information before they can make a decision. A lot of Brand Leaders want as much data as they can. Many times they hope the data will make the decision for them. But if you want the data to make the decision, then why do we need you in the Brand Leader role? Why don’t we just put the Market Research person in your job? We could pay them less and just go with the data output from the research 100% of the time.
But, in a highly competitive market, if you wait to get more than seventy percent, then the opportunity has usually passed and someone else has beaten you to the punch. A key element that supports Powell’s rule is the notion that intuition is what separates the great leaders from the average ones. Intuition is what allows us to make tough decisions, but many of us ignore our gut. Relying on too much information can stiffen a leader, paralyzing the team to seek out more data. They become afraid to make decisions. Always keep in mind that marketing is half science and half art. Don’t forget about the art. People who want certainty in their decisions end up working for other people, not leading.
So, next time you feel your team has 40-70% of the information say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE” and see if you can push them to making the best decision they can make.
Cut to the chase with tough questions
One of the big spin factors is lack of alignment. Everyone at the table has their own view of what needs to be done. The team ends up paralyzed with indecision. A team moving together towards a common strategy, even if it is only a pretty good strategy, is much smarter than a team moving in three directions, with each thinking they have an amazing strategy.
Align first on the Key Issues of the Brand. In terms of analysis, there are so many ways to do it but my preference is to use a force-field analysis of Drivers and Inhibitors. Basically, drivers are what is pushing the brand and inhibitors is what’s holding it back. These are happening NOW. Then add in the a future looking analysis of Risks and Opportunities. These could happen in the future. The simplicity of this analysis helps the next stage of your brand plan, and set up the Key Issues which are focused on finding ways to continue/enhance the growth drivers, minimize or reverse the inhibitors, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.
Here’s an example of How to do a Key Issues Deck. This is something I do with clients all the time and after a 1 or 2 day session, they can feel they are aligned.
Ask the Tough Questions of the team. Tough questions make a team pause and start thinking instead of just doing. I always frame the Key Issues in question form, believing the answers to those questions become the strategy. But I believe that 90% of your effort should go into asking the big challenging questions that startle and yet motivate the team. The better the question you ask, the better the strategy. For instance, if I wanted to lose a few pounds, I could ask the question: “how can I lose weight?” which is not really a good enough question to generate rich insightful strategies. But if I were to ask a better question: “what exercise program would help me successfully lose 10 pounds and work with my busy life?” all of a sudden better strategies start coming to the surface.
Use these tough questions that force tough solutions by saying to your team: “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE”
Cut to the chase and find your difference
Part of the spin zone brands go through is they never find their own point of difference. They over-react to what competitors are doing, copying them hoping to neutralize what advantage they have. But by trying to be everything that the competitor is doing, they end being nothing really.
The most Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or else not around for very long. In a crowded market, it’s really hard to be genuinely be significantly better. And unless your entire company is set up to be more efficient than everyone else, it really leaves different. But as you push for being different, you want to be smart and different. Use this venn diagram to brainstorm points of difference.
Then challenge the team to find their Good and Different. Use the very simple map below to see where your ideas fall.
- Good But Not Different: These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.
- Good But Different: These don’t always test well. Consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life. But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”. It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.
- Not Good and Not Different: These are the safest of safe. Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good. The tallest of midgets. They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market. But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.
- Different but Not that Good: Sometimes we get focused on the product first: it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So we launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference. And it fails. The better mousetrap that no one cares about.
Look to the grid above and say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE” and push your team to find something that is Good and Different.
What is Your “Let’s Cut to the Chase” Moment?
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