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Do you want to book the same old boring speaker who will show up and deliver a canned message – or do you want to book someone who truly cares, and goes the extra mile? If you are like most people, you’ll do what you’ve alway done, and will end up with the same old boring, predictable, uninspiring leadership event. That’s sad.

The Admiral Beverage Group in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has booked me to come in for an upcoming leadership meeting that will focus on the future of retail, consumer behaviour and more. They join good company – organizations like Disney, The GAP and Godiva Chocolates have had me in for similar events.

To get the leadership team thinking in advance about the event, I went and filmed this little video clip about the event, trends and more. Give it a watch!

Then ask yourself – are you going to go out and book the same old boring speakers like you always do – or do you want to kick up your event a notch?

“Inaction in the face of opportunity is but an excuse!” – #Futurist Jim Carroll

Part of the role of a futurist is to provide people insight into the trends that will be a part of their future, but also to put into perspective the opportunities these trends present. A lot of people get excited when they see what I can offer in that regard.

But people are funny – and here’s a good story you can think about to see if you are suffering from a culture of inaction.

I recently had a call from a senior VP of a major company in the retail industry. She thought that it would be extremely helpful to bring me in to their upcoming corporate leadership meeting – with so much change in retail they need to be challenged in their thinking. With clients like Disney, The GAP, Pepsi, Godiva, and more, I certainly have a track record for doing just that – I spend a lot of time speaking to the massive and fast trends sweeping the world of retail. I even have separate keynote topics on retail and the Amazon effect.

Fast forward. She wrote back last week, indicating that their CEO didn’t think it was a good time to be doing this. As in, stay the course. Stick with the status quo. They didn’t need to be challenged right now ; they had a strategy and needed to see it through. They might think about doing a deep-dive future session next year. Something like that.

Continue Reading

I just wrote this one up for the brochure copy for an upcoming 2018 event.

The issue of Amazon isn’t just about retail — it is about any industry with a middleman. Insurance, wealth management, finance, medical or dental care, home services and renovations. You name it. And the big question is – what are you going to do about it?

Disrupting Amazon : Accelerating Strategies for Success in the Era of Industry Transformation

Amazon is the elephant in every industry room. They will challenge and disrupt your business model, and shake your belief in the future to the core.

Why not change that before it changes you? Don’t wait for Amazon to disrupt you – disrupt yourself and disrupt Amazon first! As we witness the Amazonification of industries, deep insight into this massive-but-cheetah-like-elephant is critical, a fast strategy is required.

Futurist Jim Carroll has a key message: Don’t compete — transform! When Amazonian scale disruption occurs, you can’t hope to complete on price, the sophistication of the online interaction, or the other areas in which Amazon (and similar disruptors) clearly excel. You need a different proposition, different ideas and a different strategy. In many cases, this will come about through an implicit decision to compete based on the unique value you can bring to the relationship – service, support, personal interaction and other factors. In doing so, you specifically choose to not compete based on a race to the bottom and price.

Futurist Jim Carroll has headlined ‘Amazonificaiton strategies’ at a wide variety of corporate leadership meetings and association events in the medical, dental and veterinary industries; in the global optometric industry; in the agricultural dealer market, in the home renovation sector, and many more. He has provided deep insight on the transformative strategies and mindset that needs to be pursued.

The acceleration of disintermediation via Amazon is a cruel reality of our modern day world. Think about the business model of a a group of agricultural dealers who sell products to farmers. The simplistic view is that they buy products from the manufacturer, and then sell them to the farmer, with an obvious markup in price. Amazon could do this (and will) with a more sophisticated online system, and avoid the cost of the markup, thereby offering a lower cost alternative. How to compete? Become an invaluable partner to the farmer in terms of advice, expertise and personal support for new initiatives, products and ideas.

In the era of Amazon, you can’t hope to compete on price — because you will watch your business disappear! Futurist and innovation expert Jim Carroll outlines the key trends, strategies and opportunities to be pursued in the ear of Amazonian acceleration!

In more industries than you think, Amazon is the elephant in the room. My experience has taught me that in every single industry, regardless of what you do and what you sell, you are or will soon be faced with a situation in which they will challenge your business model, and shake your belief in the future to the core.

Why not change that before it changes you?

What do you do as this situation comes about? Don’t wait for Amazon to disrupt you – disrupt yourself and disrupt Amazon first!

This particular photo is from an event with several hundred insurance brokers. Might Amazon disrupt the world of insurance? It’s certainly possible -the phrase used for this type of disruption carries the fancy term “disintermediation” – it simply means that that the middleman is cut out of a business relationship.

Let’s coin a new phrase for what is happening — the Amazonification of industries. Continue Reading

What does a global futurist do? Assist clients in understanding the key trends which are impacting their industry, and sharing insight on a pathway forward!

Companies that book speakers know that there are a lot of them out there that will deliver canned talks that, while they might be inspiring, don’t really offer much in the way of substance. I’ve developed a global reputation for being spectacularly different, with highly customized talks based on original research that go into the key issues of today and trends of tomorrow. You don’t get to have clients such as NASA, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Nikon and over a thousand more without offering depth of insight. Watch my video, “Why Jim Carroll“, to understand why these and hundreds of other clients have booked me.

I do much of my work on big fascinating stages at big events such as seen below – but I also share my insight at small meetings with Board of Directors meetings or in senior CEO led sessions, with as few as 20, 50 or 100 people in the room. Whatever the case may be, my job is to take people into the future, and guide them on how to best get there!

With that in mind, here are some of the highlights of my 2nd half of the year of 2017.

Nikon 100th Anniversary Celebration, Tokyo, Japan

This was certainly a treat – they invited me in to headline a dinner with my observations on the future! I opened with a story on when NASA invited me in (twice!) for a talk on the disruption of the space industry, transformative leadership and fast paced trends. Continue Reading

A question came in from a potential client last night, and after writing a long answer, I thought it was probably a good idea to blog it and place the answer on my site!

The question was for a potential European event, and really had to do with whether I could work with an a European / international audience, be respectful in my timing, work with the translation team, work with simultaneous transition, and provide enough regional or localized content.

The answer is yes, yes, yes and yes….!

On stage in Sao Paolo for the Worldskills global conference. My audience featured individuals from 85 countries.

My mother tongue is English, and sadly, while I don’t speak any other languages (despite some 10 years of French lessons in elementary and high school!), I regularly speak on an international basis. This involves working with translators. focusing on international content, and working to keep my pace slow enough for the audience to be respectful of their needs.

Here’s the critical background on the international work that I do:

  • global audiences. I do a LOT of international work; I’ve presented in Sao Paolo, Budapest, Munich, Athens, Stuttgart, Prague, London, Paris, Brussels, Ghent, Stockholm, Zurich, Tokyo, Mexico …. and in all of these situations, have ensured that I have slowed my pace to be respectful of the audience.
  • simultaneous translation. Many of these events have featured onsite translation through headsets; the fact is, I regularly do sessions that feature simultaneous translation, and know the criticality of sharing the deck in advance with the translation team
  • advance translation planning. In some cases, I have done a Skype or Google Hangout walkthrough with the translation team of my slide deck, so that they are comfortable with the content and direction
  • a long track record with stage translation. I’m based in Canada and have been on stage for 25 years. Given that, my earlier years featured several hundred (!) events that have involved simultaneous translation (English/French) with headsets/translations. It’s just a thing in Canada!
  • sequential translation experience! My Budapest event actually featured sequential translation into Hungarian as opposed to simultaneous translation. Tthat was kind of fun, since my translator was actually on stage with me, followed me around, and even mimicked my stage actions!

There are many relevant examples of the international work I have done.

  • I just keynoted Nikon’s 100th anniversary dinner in Tokyo, with an audience from 37 countries. I provided my slide deck in advance to the translation team; I was simultaneously translated into Chinese and Japanese.
  • in January, I keynoted the first leadership meeting for Ulker; the parent company is Turkish, and the meeting represented the entities of the corporate group with the leadership team for Godiva Chocolates (Belgium), Ulker Biscuits (Turkey) and McVitie’s Biscuits (UK),  but with individuals from each of those 3 groups from around the world; a secondary booking had me with Godiva’s global supply chain team from 25 countries. Both massively global audiences.
  • Accenture had me speak at their annual energy conference in San Francisco; we had utility executives from China, Japan, Russia, Philippines, India, and 26 other countries. In that case, I was simultaneously translated into Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Japanese!
  • my keynote for the Worldskills conference in Sao Paolo featured simultaneous translation into Portuguese and Spanish.

In addition to speaking internationally, I often do Fortune 500 events that feature a leadership team from around the world. Some recent examples are global leadership meetings for Dow Chemical in Wilmington (2 events) with individuals from 57 countries; Disney (27 countries); and dozens, dozens more. So can I work with an international/European audience? Definitely yes. (Plus, when I mentioned for the Ulker group that I was Canadian, I got cheers. I think that the Canadian brand image is kind of fun right now!)

The other question that often comes up has to do with regional content, as in European specific examples/storylines. Can I customize my content so that it doesn’t include just American examples. (Well, did I mention I’m Canadian?)

It’s not the cover of the Rolling Stone, but I was once featured on the cover of CEO Magazine Hungary. The only speech where I had armed guards in the room with Uzis! But that’s another story for another time!

The answer is yes – I can easily and often do that do that. Many of the client bookings above have involved a necessity where my examples include global, not North American centric examples.I am regularly booked and work with content that is specific to the folks in the room. And so my Godiva Chocolate supply chain event included retail trends from Asia, India, the Middle East. My Dow Chemical talk took a look at global trends with examples for many of the different groups in the room.

The fact is, I do *extensive* research as a part of my talk, and regionalization is part of what I bring to the table if we need to do that with the content.

I work hard to alleviate the concerns of any clients who book me, and this includes translation and internationalization.

So – pick up the phone and call me. Let’s chat!

Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think. My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, participating in leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry. Clients such as NASA, Disney, Godiva, Nikon, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson, and many more.

There is so much coming together all at once, and it accelerates everything. You might not understand the multiple trends that are coming together, so let me take you there.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. There’s a lot going on! Individually, any trend is disruptive. Combine them together, and it’s transformative. 3D printing, exponentiating bandwidth, hyper-connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, Bitcoin and blockchain, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry.

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare to insurance, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul.

3. Moore’s law innovation speed defines every industry. It’s the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — and that speed of change is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry as we all become tech companies. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before.

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This fall, I’m headling a major retail event in Las Vegas – Xcelerate 2017! Details are here.

 

There’s a lot of change underway – and certainly, the Amazon/Whole Foods situation is a wake up call for everyone. I’ve been speaking about the decline and transformation of traditional retail for over 20 years. In the 1990’s, I even wrote a book about e-commerce that was translated into German and Russian, as well as being picked up and distributed by Visa USA to it merchants.

Retailers must scramble to keep up with fast paced change. Maybe that’s why Godiva Chocolates has had me to Europe twice this year for insight on what’s going on.

Here’s the description for my September keynote.

The Disruption and Reinvention of Retail: Aligning to the World of Speed  

It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. Consider this: E-commerce could be 25% of the retail – grocery and convenience — experience by 2021. Shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology for a new form of in-store promotion, continues to move forward. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay and disappearance of the cash-register, providing opportunity and challenge with loyalty, infrastructure and disruption. Then there is Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots! Simply talk and products are added to your shopping cart, and delivered within an hour! Let’s not stop — there’s also the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location). And last but not least, the arrival of active, intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products, collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain!

We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next 5 year than we have seen in the last 100. Savvy brands, retailers, shopping mall and retail infrastructure companies are working to understand these trends, and what they need to do from an innovation perspective to turn them from challenge to opportunity.  Futurist Jim Carroll will help us to understand the tsunami of change sweeping retail.

When the GAP went looking for a trends and innovation expert to speak to a small, intimate group of senior executives, they chose Jim Carroll. He has been the keynote speaker for some of the largest retail conferences in the world, with audiences of up to 7,000 people in Las Vegas, including Consumer Goods Technology Business & Technology Leadership Conference • Subway • Multi-Unit Franchise Conference Las Vegas • Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit • Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit • Retail Value Chain Federation • Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) Global Leadership Conference • Burger King Global Franchise Meeting • VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executives) Summit • Manufacturing Jewelers Suppliers of America • National Home Furnishings Association • Do It Best Corporation • US Department of Defence Commissary Agency • Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Group Branding/Retail Summit • Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association • National Association of Truck Stop Operators • Convenience U annual conference • Point of Purchase Advertising International Association • Chain Drug Store Association of Canada • Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors • Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers

 

I spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.


The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

* * * *
There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months….” In that context, you’d better get ahead of the fast future, before it gets ahead of you!

Consider Sony. Once they were a really cool company with the coolest technology on the planet — the Walkman.

Then they weren’t, because they didn’t keep up with the future, and didn’t innovate fast enough.

We live in an era of instant obsolescence. I often tell the story on stage of how my sons — now 24 and 22– perceive many of the things which were once a part of my life as being from the “olden days.” We’ve actually come up with a pretty long list.

Sony once had a really cool brand name, and the Walkman had deep, deep brand value. Yet Sony seemed to lose its innovative spirit, and started going wrong in a big way. It ended up destroying a good chunk of the brand value behind the Sony name — when I think of Sony now, I think of a company that is slow, behind the times, ponderous.

Which begs the question : are you operating with enough agility and rapidity in order to ensure that your own brand doesn’t become a “brand from the olden days?”

The rate at which the Sony brand lost its value is nothing short of stunning — and was due to a series of well known missteps (among others):

  • they failed to keep up with the rapid growth and demand for flat panel TV’s and other hot new technologies: they failed with market agility.
  • they decided that going to war with their customers (by slipping destructive software onto their music CD’s) was more important than developing great technology that caught the next wave of consumer electronics. Look up “Sony rootkit” for the story from over a decade ago.
  • they dropped the ball on the necessity for continuous operational excellence , as evidenced by a disastrous recall of laptop batteries some years back.

The list goes on. Are you making similar mistakes that is costing you brand image? You certainly are, if:

  • Your brand looks tired, because it is tired. Case in point — many companies in the automobile industry missed out on the revolution as the dashboard becomes a computer, because they weren’t watching what their customers were doing. They were busy releasing automobiles that were some five years behind the living rooms of their customers — and that certainly brought the brand sheen off of some of the biggest auto companies. They are still trying to catch up.
  • Customers see a lack of innovation: Consumers today are immersed in a global cloud of new ideas. They’re witnessing constant, relentless, awe-inspiring forms of innovation all around them, as they deal with a flood of new consumer technologies, packaging based product innovation, and ongoing advancements in retail environments, both offline and online. They’ve come to expect that the brands they deal with are at the leading edge, in design, functionality, message and purpose.
  • Lousy, ineffective customer service: Guess what – when it comes to interaction with your customers, they measure you up against the world’s best. If you don’t add up, you are doing some significant damage to your brand equity right there. Customer support is no longer good enough — fanatical support is better.
  • You don’t know that you customers know more about your brand than you do: Your customers today are immersed in the global innovation idea feedback loop. They busy sharing ideas on what’s really cool, and they are even busier taking apart the folly of those who have been left behind. In doing so, they are rapidly reinventing products, services, brands and image. If you aren’t listening, you are guaranteeing that you’ll fall behind.
  • A lack of purpose or urgency: I’ve studied many organizations who still don’t have the key information they need for market agility. They don’t have instant feedback mechanisms which tell them of rapid developments in specific markets. They don’t know how to regroup quickly “when bad things happen.” They still operate blind, as if it’s 1990: their sales force goes into a customer meeting, oblivious as to what that customer has been thinking about them. They approach every day as if it were the same as yesterday; meanwhile, their market and their customers have run away from them!
  • A lack of market and competitive intelligence: It’s the information-age, get it? There’s no shortage of information to be had. Yet I see companies who seem shocked when a competitor drops a ‘bombshell’ announcement — only to realize that they were the only one who thought it was a bombshell. Everybody else knew what the competition was up to, because in this new hyper-connected world, everyone knows what everyone else is doing!
  • A regular series of fumbling missteps: The saddest thing is that Sony has messed up in so many ways, that some customers now look at as if it has a “L” on its forehead. Today, small mistakes can be instantly compounded. Take the concept of compounded financial interest. Now realize that a small PR mistake, a lousy executive decision, or poor execution, can lead to the same type of instant, global brand devaluation — that can compound on itself at an extremely high interest rate!

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months. How do you avoid such a fate?

  • Recognize that brand longevity is now a critical issue
  • Ensure your sales, marketing, development and customer support team are relentlessly focused on the currency of the brand
  • Make sure that continuous brand innovation is part of your corporate mantra
  • When confronted with the new and challenging customer, learn from them rather than running away
  • Be incessantly focused on the likely innovations that will come to impact your brand
  • Learn to think five to six product lifecycles in advance — and plan to do them all within six months.
  • Make forward oriented intelligence a critical aspect of what you do.

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