The Brand Flip – Marty Neumeie
The Brand Flip, by Marty Neumeier, is a whiteboard overview of how customers now run companies. It shows how the customer-driven world has changed the way brands are built, marketed, and managed.
Neumeier combines concepts from his three bestselling books – The Brand Gap, Zag, and The Designful Company – to provide readers with the tools needed to create powerful, customer-focused brands.
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Neumeier identifies ten new realities that shape the way the customer and company interact around products and services, and offers advice on how to use this knowledge to create an effective brand strategy.
He also explains how to use customer feedback to drive customer-focused innovation and how to use customer data to create meaningful connections with customers.
The book provides readers with an in-depth understanding of customer-centric brand-building, and offers a comprehensive guide to making customer-centric decisions.
What is a Brand?
A brand is much more than a product or service.
A promise. A brand certainly implies a promise to customers, a guarantee of minimum performance, or a certain level of satisfaction. Every company should know what its brand is promising to its customers. And the company should never over-promise just to make a sale. However, a promise is only a component of a brand, not the brand itself.
A reputation. This definition seems almost perfect. Once you conceive of a brand as a reputation, you can think more clearly about how to build it, shape it, and protect it. It’s a lot like a personal reputation. Except that a personal reputation is something you can affect personally, whereas a commercial reputation requires the coordinated effort of many people with differing views and skills.
A customer’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It puts the customer in the center of the picture. It focuses everyone in the company on customer perceptions—those fleeting experiences and fickle emotions that determine meaning. And it offers a simple way to measure progress. If we listen to what customers say, and watch what they do, we can find out where we stand with them.
The Brand Commitment Matrix
A sale is easy – just one transaction and you’re done. But building a brand? That takes thousands, even millions, of transactions and relationships. It’s a complex machinery that requires mastery, although no one can truly fully master it. With all the cables, levers, meters, dials, and switches, it’s easy to get confused.
What you need is a basic contract between you and your customer. Then build it out element by element, and constantly refer back to the contract to make sure you stay on track. And at the heart of it all is the Brand Commitment Matrix – a simple tool that can revolutionize your brand-building efforts.
- Two columns, one for customers and one for the company. Each column has three key statements that should align horizontally. For customers, it’s their identity, aims, and tribe’s mores (IAM).
- For the company, it’s its purpose, onlyness, and values (POV). When the statements align, you have the basis for a rich and productive relationship. But when they don’t, you have a broken brand.
Authority through Authenticity
The democratization of technology and rise of consumerism have led people to seek authenticity from the companies they do business with, rather than blindly accepting their authority.
To achieve authenticity, a company must start with a clear purpose beyond making money. When a company’s purpose aligns with their customer’s identity, it creates a sense of fit that lets customers know they’ve found the real deal.
One example of this is shoe company Zappos, which prioritizes customer service over marketing and encourages employee use of social media to help scale the brand community.
Competing through differentiating
Differentiation is the process of staking out a market position that you can own and defend. When your offering is unique and compelling enough, you don’t need to compete on price. In fact, you don’t need to compete much at all, except for attention. In most customers’ minds there’s only one Amazon, one Twitter, one Tesla, one Rosetta Stone, one Mayo Clinic.
These companies and their products stand alone because of their design, their approach, their beliefs, their vision, or some other special quality. One way or another, they’ve achieved a state of onlyness.
When you’re the “only” in your category, you can name the tune that fast-following competitors must dance to.
Volvo has famously differentiated on safety, allowing it to later take the credit for airbags and pedestrian detection. As long as Volvo stays focused on its onlyness, direct competitors will have to play second fiddle.
Processes through values
In today’s age of customer control, company processes are still important. But they’re subject to increasing flux. They need to be invented and reinvented on the fly, according to the desires and dictates of customers.
They can’t be developed at the top of the organization and handed down for workers to implement. They must be designed by the workers themselves, often in the moment.
To accomplish this, a company must develop a culture of creative autonomy, guided by a shared understanding of “how we work together” or “how we behave.” Company culture is the complement to customer mores, the rules that determine how customers belong to tribes.
The best way to shape company culture is to encourage adherence to a set of values. For example, the world-class experience that Ritz-Carlton provides its guests comes directly from its master value of “service.” This value is broken down into 12 sub-values that employees must agree to uphold.
Planning through experimenting
There’s an old adage in business: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Yet plans fail all the time. You research the market, crunch the numbers, build a budget, outline the steps, and place them on a timeline. Nice and tidy. And then your plan meets reality in a head-on collision.
The market ignores your product, sales don’t hit targets, costs run over, and everything takes longer than it should. Your business dies a quick death and investors lose their shirts.
Why does this happen? Because plans—specifically those involving innovation—are necessarily based on faulty assumptions. There’s no way to predict whether or not the market will embrace a new product, service, feature, or business model. There are too many unknowns. To succeed in a dynamic market, you have to flip your approach from planning to experimenting.
From choices to simplicity
For flipped companies, the deluge of over-choice is an opportunity. The same technology that created customer choice can be used to simplify it. This is what Larry Page and Sergey Brin saw in 1998 when they launched Google.
Their refreshingly simple home page was a life raft in an ocean of data, promising users a simple benefit—the ability to find something fast. Other smart companies are now following suit. They’re using design to remove clutter and give people back their lives.
Why do companies create clutter in the first place? Why not start simple, like Google did, and just keep it simple? Because simplicity has many enemies. It takes great clarity, courage, and discipline to vanquish them.