in Thoughts

For the Entrepreneurs

On Saturday the 19th of November I had the honour of speaking at Cape Town Entrepreneurship Week. The four-day event was held at the Cape Town City Hall. As per my usual style of presentation, it was made up of images that I spoke to, rather than using words on slides. So since distributing my presentation won’t help I wrote this summary to share what I spoke about.

My speech was based on how challenger brand thinking can be used as a framework for entrepreneurship and some other thoughts. Challenger Brand thinking is based on ‘Eating the Big Fish’, a book by Adam Morgan – a London based business strategist. The book establishes eight credos or behaviours that are consistent across ‘challenger brands’ like Nike, Apple, Pepsi and even Nandos. I have adapted some of the credos to creating a more meaningful dialogue on entrepreneurship.

Behaviour 1: Human behaviour is predictable
The Bell Curve, by Harvard psychologist, Richard J. Herrnstein published in 1994 was a good place to start. The book covered the distribution of IQ across the American population with some rather controversial findings mainly because of its hypothesis that there was a correlation between race and IQ. I won’t deal with that now, however, the key point it made was that most people have an average IQ, with a smaller number of people with a high and low IQ – hence the term “bell curve”.

This “bell curve” pattern also applies to many other forms of human behaviour – most people behave in the same way with a smaller percentage of people deviating from that pattern – it applies to sleep patterns, bad habits, income and so on. The implication for entrepreneurs is that predicting human behaviour on the whole is quite simple. So, if you want to introduce a product or service take a look at human behaviour and let that guide what you do. You can aim to change behaviour or leverage that behaviour. There are plenty of free statistical resources available online that can help you.

Behaviour 2: Old rules don’t necessarily apply
The world is changing faster than ever before. The advances in technology are accelerating this pace of change. In this new world, opportunities for entrepreneurs are abundant as cracks start forming on the walls of established businesses, brands and institutions. Who would ever have guessed that PEP Stores would be the largest distributor of mobile handsets in the country? Its crazy to think that the iPad didn’t exist two years ago and that iTunes would be the world’s largest distributor of music. Only one of the companies (Shell) in the Forbes top 500 companies list of 2001 is on the list today. When the world changes, someone drops a ball and that presents entrepreneurial opportunity.

Behaviour 3: Everything you do communicates
Often marketers think that their responsibility for communication lies in the traditional marketing mediums they control (TV, radio, events, websites), they have a blind spot about the way they treat their staff, about small things like the customer feedback box, big things like their trucks on the road, or my favourite – the look, feel and etiquette of the security guards at their entrances. Everything communicates – your customers don’t selectively look at your tailored communication, they absorb everything and inconsistencies are glaring.

Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this and ensure that everything that represents their universe is consistent with what they want to communicate to the world. Everything is a medium of communication, use each one effectively and you will stand out.

Check out this clip from South West Airlines – the worlds most consistently profitable Airline. It illustrates how even a mundane safety announcement can be used to say something special about a brand.

Behaviour 4: Assume thought leadership
Thought leadership is about reflecting a vision of the future in the things that you do. It could be through writing, speaking, product or marketing innovation. It’s different to market leadership which belongs to the established player in the market, but it exudes momentum and energy which most market leaders struggle to do. Eating the Big Fish gives simple yet effective tools on how to achieve this. It says that thought leadership is about breaking the existing convention of how products are communicated and experienced. When Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) was launched into the country in 2003, it broke many conventions about how beer brands were promoted, while most advertising focused on the heritage of the brand MGD launched with an ad that looked like a music video. Its launch event in three airport hangars in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town is still spoken about almost 10 years later. It changed the way beer brands engaged consumers by breaking expected conventions. There are conventions in all categories and entrepreneurs can exploit the ‘normality’ of life to their benefit.

Behaviour 5: Hit the refresh button
People are generally too busy to pay attention to your brand all the time. You need to constantly be entering their mind space. This doesn’t mean by the way that having ATL exposure will do the trick – it becomes wallpaper. What you need to do is refresh your brand and make people notice you. Audi did it with the launch of the TT in 1998 and again with the introduction of the LED beams that most motor manufacturers are now copying. What does your refresh button look like?

Behaviour 6: Sacrifice
“If you try and be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to no one” – Bob McClain. It’s as simple as that. Often entrepreneurs don’t have sufficient resources to do all they want to do but that’s a good thing because sacrificing a segment of the target market or a particular distribution channel or even communication mediums like TV, gives you the resources to do what you are able to do, better than anybody else. Grolsch for instance is running one of the most effective networking and consumer programmes (Swing Top Circle) I know of. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they focus so much energy into it as they have a limit on the mediums they are able to utilise due to the size of their budget. Most established businesses and brands are so thinly spread that the best strategy is to eat the elephant in bite size chunks – just make sure you’ve invested in some razor sharp, titanium teeth.

Bahaviour 7: Over-commit
Linked quite closely to sacrifice, over-commitment is possible when you focus your resources effectively. Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the 10,000-hour rule which purports that one must practice for at least 10,000 hours if you are to become an expert at what you do. This rule obviously applies to different activities relative to what your field of business is. Most people will never even get half way there, so that should encourage you to commit yourself, being better than the rest isn’t that far off.

Behaviour 8: Leverage technology and popular culture
Social media and technology have made it cheaper to communicate to customers. Leverage social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In to amplify your message. These tools allow two-way communication with your customers so leverage this capability to share knowledge and interact with your customers. New technology in the form of mobile and tablet computing introduce new channels of engagement. 85% of cellphones in South Africa will be smartphones by 2015 so this becomes a real and significant channel for everyone.

Behaviour 9: Be idea-centered not consumer-centered
Henry Ford once said: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”. People will only give you incremental ideas not revolutionary ones – we simply aren’t wired like that. Idea generation is a skill that entrepreneurs must harness. Ideas are the currency of the future. In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, he argues that the world has moved from the knowledge age into the conceptual age. Economic growth will come from nations and people that are able to conceptualise new ways of utilising resources and solving problems.

The Entrepreneurship Fallacy
Finally, the fact that you have to leave your organisation and start your own enterprise to be an entrepreneur is a fallacy. Entrepreneurship is an attitude. All the behaviours I listed above can work just as well within organisations as they do outside of one. Don’t let the fact that you have a job detract from your entrepreneurial spirit.

Books I recommended:

Eating the Big Fish – Adam Morgan
The Pirate Inside – Adam Morgan
The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
A Whole New Mind – Daniel H Pink
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle(the summary, the full version is just too heavy)


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