Telling Them Where to Go: Brands, Movements and Having a Point of View

Stephen Denny, branding, marketing, Killing GiantsStephen Denny is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 27th. He is an author, speaker and competitive strategy + marketing consultant. He is the author of  Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath In Your Industry and a mini e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.

“There are two kinds of warfare: asymmetric and stupid.”

I had the good fortune to interview Dr. Conrad Crane of the US Army War College in Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry on the subject of finding and nurturing “defendable ground,” a concept as familiar to marketing strategists as it was to Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare, and it’s as good place to start any discussion on how to approach your market as any I can think of.

This is an important topic. Far too many companies get substandard financial results from their marketing efforts because they don’t follow Dr. Crane’s somewhat backhanded advice. They follow a somewhat Cartesian “I think therefore I am” branding philosophy that suggests that being available is good enough. It isn’t.

We need to lead with a point of view.

This simple idea should color your branding, your marketing communications, your go-to-market strategy, and virtually everything you do that is visible to others.

One of the first real “live fire” exercises that I personally took part in after the publication of Killing Giants was helping a mid-cap multinational brand in the technology space figure out its point of view – and one that was fighting an uphill fight against an incumbent nearly twice its size. By elevating the narrative in the market above the speeds and feeds – and even the specific product’s perceived benefits – we found a new higher ground that spoke to shared needs and a much bigger picture.

“We really found ourselves in a position where having that point of view gave us the opportunity to get in front of our targets, whether it was partners of customers, in a way that no one had ever done before,”  Jabra North America president Peter Fox said in a recent Brand Fast-Tracker interview we did together. The “Devices Make Experiences” program we developed repositioned Jabra’s headsets as more than just accessories – they became enablers, a critical part of a total product solution that completed the Unified Communications platforms its strategic alliance partners were selling. Together, we were far better for the customer – and far easier to sell. The program thus far has been credited with an eight-figure increase in the brand’s pipeline revenue and an ROI north of 20 to 1.

Have a point of view

I point this out for a big reason. When we talk about “having a point of view” or “seizing the narrative,” we’re not talking about fluffy soft concepts that are nice but have no role in a serious discussion in the board room. Having a point of view and implementing it rigorously drives top line growth. It makes money. And if your marketing isn’t making money – big money, not small incremental gains – you’re in trouble.

To get your point of view on paper, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • If we launched a movement today, what would it be about? (Grassroots movements that galvanize people and seize their imaginations have little to do with features).
  • What would our movement be called? (Giving it a label is important – you need to brand it and make it personal).
  • How is our movement a definition of our brand? (Remember “Eigen Values”? “This sentence has five words.” That’s an eigen value. It’s self-defining. Saying it defines it. Does your movement define your brand? Does your brand define your movement?)


We’ve gone well past notions of being simple for simple’s sake at this point. We’re adding a new layer of “interestingness,” nuance and good complexity.

“Brands are like people,” 42Below vodka brand founder Geoff Ross told me in Killing Giants. “You would far rather spend time with a person that is many things… clever, witty, is sound and dependable, a joker… this is in contrast to a lot of old brand thinking that states a brand should only be about one thing.”

So let’s not just be about one thing. Let’s start a movement. Let’s have a point of view that tells our market, “This is what we believe, this is where we’re going and we want you to come along with us.”

Are you with us?


  • What’s our ultimate business goal when we talk about “leading with a point of view”?
  • How hard is it to shift to a more “point of view” centric footing? Is this a big change – or a subtle one?
  • What branded POV’s have you seen that you think are powerful?
  • How do we take a strong POV-driven brand and drive results from it?
  • So many fervently believe branding needs to be about “one big thing” – is this at odds with the POV idea?
  • If we’re supposed to be all about “one big thing,” what is the role of complexity? Is it good? Bad?
  • What’s the difference between “experts” and “fans”?  Why is this important?

To learn more about the Jabra “Devices Make Experiences” story, download the mini-e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths in the Kindle storefront – you can also download the full transcript of the Pete Fox interview on my website at

About the author: Stephen Denny is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 27th. He is an author, speaker and competitive strategy + marketing consultant. He is the author of  Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath In Your Industry and a mini e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.


SEO Trends of 2013 and What Are We Learning?

SEO, Search engine optimizationLike many business owners, I am always learning how to attract new traffic while retaining my “regulars.” Writing for other sites has been a good teacher. At times it can seem as if search engine optimization (SEO) is very mysterious as the search engines change their algorithms to prevent people from gaming the system. On top of that, there is the behaviour of our blog readers and unique visitors to our site.

What are the SEO trends of 2013?

The Search Engine Journal provided an interesting list of 2013 trends

  1. Longer and more detailed content
  2. Diversified content
  3. Connecting all of your content from your own site and other sites where you are a contributor
  4. Link building is becoming more of a relationship-based process
  5. Varying link text is ongoing
  6. Design works as a credibility builder and engagement
  7. Guest posting could be looked at more closely by Google and other search engines
  8. Social media is key ingredient
  9. Having a mobile accessible site is becoming more important
  10. SEO is more about strategy

For anyone who learned to write shorter posts or to make sure that keywords were used in abundance, this list may give them pause.

What are we learning?

As Jayson Demers noted in a post on Huffington Post about SEO trends, some of what we understand about SEO has be to adjusted. It does seem that there is a certain level of unlearning as well. Video seems to be a trend that will stay. Oddly, longer posts seem to becoming more of a norm as well. There was a time when we all aspired to be like Seth Godin and write short, pithy blog posts. But even Seth Godin is write longer posts (although not 1,000 words). If we being told on one hand that attention spans are a few seconds, it seems completely contrary that an audience really wants more extensive content from a blogger.

It certainly seems that the days black hat tactics are waning. Google has made a strong effort to outsmart them with the Panda and Penguin algorithms. Content creators are being challenged to find out how to use videos, written content and infographics so they maintain and increase engagement.

While Google may be driving this (lest we also forget how Google Authorship can get us in front of more eyeballs), the other search engines like Bing, Safari and Yahoo are adding to the  new trends with their algorithms too. Technology, algorithms and user behaviour are creating a new landscape for our SEO.

Join us on Friday, September 20th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and add what do you think this will mean in 2014 and beyond.

How many of the trends listed do you see becoming common practice?

Given the current trends for SEO, how does this change our understanding of search engine optimization?

What types of content seem to attract more search engine attention?

How will the demands for varying link text, content formats and other trends change the  job of a social media consultant or web designers?

Is Google and its quest to outsmart gaming the system is driving these trends rather than our audiences? Why/Why not?





Creativity – Mysterious Ingredient of Innovation

innovation, creativity, businessWith so much emphasis on innovation in the business world, people are trying to determine what the ingredients are. There is pressure to be the most innovative with products and delivery. There is this thought that there must be some special way to create something so innovative, so groundbreaking now because anything else would be ordinary.

Even service providers are expected to be innovators. But is innovation ideas, process, sponsorship and support from higher-ups or is it the people doing the work?  But if you drill down even and look at any of these ingredients, it is clear that the ideas come from somewhere.

Most basic ingredient of innovation is creativity

Okay, so it’s an ingredient. That seems pretty obvious.The thing about innovation is that it is the practical application of an idea. Before that application, there had to be a moment when someone thought (or perhaps imagined is a better word). In a Fast Company post, the author described Albert Einstein’s method of problem solving as thinking for the majority of the time and then coming up with his answer. This seems consistent with recent research which has discovered that daydreaming is one way creativity is sparked.

Rediscovering creativity

We know creativity when we see it, right? It would seem so. We can feel it when we are in the moment. Artists have described it as being on fire. It is the experience of being “on” with everything working in concert. Within the last few years, researchers have been trying to discover how the “magic” happens so they have been looking at everything from freestyling rappers to lighting attempting to pinpoint how creativity functions. But this points to the chase more than anything else.

Ephemeral quality of creativity

Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk describes the experience of creativity so eloquently. Like many artists, authors and musicians, she notes how hard it is to create and the fear that she will not replicate the quality of her writing. For innovators in the business world, the pressure to find something marketable can amplify the same fear that Gilbert and other creators experience.

Couldn’t using the research findings make it more likely to create?

This may be the most interesting question. Could we confuse what is truly creativity by doing certain things or manipulating our environment? (For a quick overview of the latest research findings, read this post by Will Burns) The application of this research could very well derail creativity. It feeds the belief that if we get the right lighting, the right level of noise, daydream enough or what have you, we’ll be consistently creative. Dan Palotta writes, “The unspoken assumption is that our goal is to gain competitive advantage, to crush the competition, to win.” There is also an assumption that you can mechanize the process.

Does creativity need a purpose or is it a business tool?

But, what if, asDan Palotta also asks, that creativity is something deeper? For some creativity is simply a form of exploration. For others, it is an answer to a question or problem that occupies their thoughts. There may need to be other questions asked about creativity such as timing, purpose, social value and who gets to be creative.

There are even more questions about creativity so join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, September 13th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

What is the purpose of creativity?

How do we train ourselves to recognize creativity in nontraditional places?

When we talk about creativity, are we really talking about design?

How do we overcomplicate creativity?

Given what research has discovered about creativity, why does it seem elusive?

Is creativity simply an activity of creation, to provide a good/service to the world, an expression of being human or something else?


Are Corporate Apologies Still Meaningful?

CEO, apology, corporate apologiesIt could be a failure with customer service, an industrial accident or a product failure. Potentially, the worst problem for an organization is when its leaders get embroiled in a scandal. It is typically up to the CEO to get out there and offer a mea culpa.

Aren’t apologies a good thing?

We are taught to apologize when we are children. You grabbed someone’s toy or you hit someone. These aren’t uncommon incidents for toddlers and very young children. After all, these are important life lessons about respecting other people and self-control.

When they are meant sincerely, they can be a great conduit for reconnection and reparation and a sign of integrity and ethics. People are more likely to acknowledge that people make mistakes when genuine remorse is expressed.

Corporate apologies are a somewhat different animal altogether

As was described in a Price Waterhouse Cooper – The  Resiliency Blog post, there are two basic apologies.

  • The CEO apologizes for something he/she has done
  • The (sometimes replacement or interim) CEO apologizes for something the company has done

Certainly the expectation from outside the company is that the apology is not a public relations stunt and will lead to some kind of change or reparation. However, as the PwC post noted, an apology is often issued to rebuild stakeholder trust. Essentially, stakeholders want a reason to believe the CEO and/or the organization could be redeemed. Without that reason, it is much more difficult for the company to recover.

And it gets more interesting at this point

The format a company chooses largely depends on culture, both of the individual organization and the country it operates in. In some places, a press conference is the natural place for a public verbal apology. However, a number of organizations are turning to YouTube as a means of communicating with stakeholders and the general public. Since people have access to social media all over the world, this is a useful tool to get the message out. In these videos, you see whether the CEO is carefully scripted and how the setting is staged. For example, you can hear the sound of seagulls in the background of this BP apology.

However, the most interesting part of either watching a press conference or YouTube video are the microexpressions the CEO makes while speaking. Microexpressions are very quick facial expressions that often last a second and can reveal masked emotions. Sometimes we’re aware that we’ve noticed these fleeting demonstrations but other times, we are left with the feeling that there is a discrepancy in the person’s message. When a CEO apologizes, it isn’t just that the message is sent out publicly and the company can move to the next step. For publicly traded companies, press conferences and YouTube videos have real effects on the price of stock. According to research by Leanne ten Brinke,  a company’s stock can fall dramatically if the CEO does not show consistency between his/her words and non-verbal behavior.

PR move or genuine connection with customers and stake holders

There is currently a trend that all businesses must connect more authentically with their customer base. Mistakes and scandals are seen through this lens and, consequently, organizations feel more urgency to get out in front of the public response. However, there is also the added challenge of how local cultures interpret the message. In the US, there is a cultural tendency to forgive and move on. In other countries, an apology might not even be required because the offense is not considered a major event. The executive team and the public relations staff may see the situation and tell the CEO what to say and how to minimize the degree of damage to the company. Given all of this an apology could be anything from a public relations move to a combination of damage-control and an attempt to reconnect with customers, stakeholders and the public.

What do you think? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 6th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to discuss if corporate apologies are still meaningful.

What recent corporate apologies caught your attention?

What purpose does an apology serve for an organization under fire?

How has social media affected the delivery of apologies?

How are corporate apologies interpreted around the world?

How does an organization balance between a genuine apology and the threat of being held responsible for damages/harm?

What happens when circumstances are so large-scale that the apology seems inadequate?

 About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, small business coach and executive coach, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.