Rocket Fuel

In an earlier blog, we talked about the importance of being emotional. Once you get on an emotional footing, you’re up for the next task: Keeping it simple.

But here’s the rub: That’s hardly simple to do.

Keeping it simple allows you to own a place in the mind that is as singular as possible. And, of course, you need this singular belief to register and connect with your audience.

We simplify communications in two primary ways: Avoiding the Vanilla Umbrella and Keeping Your Core Tight.

Let’s dive into the first now.

Avoiding the Vanilla Umbrella is about creating monolithic messaging that is compelling across all audiences, starting from the top down, rather than bottom up.

Often brands begin the strategic messaging process with customer profiles or personas. No problem there. The issue is the tendency to generate messaging for each persona based on wants, needs and motivations, then look for commonalities to meld into an overarching “umbrella” message—a bottom-up approach.

Sounds reasonable, right? But the result is typically a lowest-common denominator vanilla. It’s tough to find compelling commonality when you begin, tangled in the weeds, at the bottom.

Instead, try this: Begin with and focus on your core audience (you have one) and base your positioning on their needs. Laddering up (elevating) to emotional needs is especially important here. Then take a top-down approach, looking for ways to leverage and unify the positioning among individual audiences.

Let’s say that positioning is about Freedom. Think about the ways you are delivering freedom to audience A, B, and C. This enables a more singular, monolithic outcome. Yes, most of your audiences have different motivations. That’s okay. Those specific features and benefits become important key messages to those audiences that support the positioning.

Simple! OK, maybe not. It’s hard work to get the singularity you want and an umbrella that’s not so…vanilla.

And check back for more on our second tip to keep it simple: Keeping your Core Tight.

In a hyper-competitive world, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. But with so many touting similar benefits, how do you do that?

You make your way apart from the crowd, to a place where only you can stand.

Then you claim that place for yourself. Sorry folks, nobody else gets in. It’s yours and yours alone. Your one-and-only.

Your one-and-only is your territory. You own it, you build your story on it, you use it to uniquely characterize, differentiate and rise above the competition.

So how do you find that and get there? Try this:

Make a list of the three most important facets of your offering. For example, at the product level, that might be: 1. Speed 2. Precision 3. Ease of use. Maybe none of these things would be a point of differentiation by itself. But triangulated together as a unified territory, they could represent something distinct in the industry and, more importantly, ownable by you. Your only.

Maybe your only exists at a wider level, beyond the product. For example:

1.  Product: Advanced therapy capabilities

2.  Focus: Designed specifically for caregivers at home

3.  Support: Expert help on hand 24/7

However you put the pieces together, try to find your one-and-only. Because when you can say, “We’re the only alternative that delivers A, B and C,” you may find yourself in uniquely compelling territory. And there’s no substitute for that.

Your new product or service is the most important thing for you and your team. You’ve poured your heart and soul into every facet. But what happens when it becomes clear that whatever you’re introducing isn’t seen as vital by your audience? 

Don’t sell your product or service to them. That’s right. If your audience isn’t seeing your offer as meeting a core business need, stop selling it to them. 

Remember: you’re dealing with the emotional human mind. People prioritize their most immediate needs and wants—and anything else is secondary. 

We call these main course issues. Main course issues keep your audience up and night and steal their attention from just about anything else. We’re talking mission-critical concerns. In healthcare, it may be data security and compliance. For the CEO of a manufacturing company, it’s material sourcing and supply chain availability. 

Keeping with the dining metaphor, if your offering is not perceived as an answer to a core issue, you’re selling the side dish. It’s not that your product or service isn’t relevant or remarkably unique. It just requires a different communication strategy. 

We’ve worked with many companies with this communication challenge and found these ways to help shift perspectives.

1. Find common ground.
Go beyond just the finite. Think bigger, higher-order concepts. Make the association by connecting the dots between your product or service and the context of a larger topic. Talk trends. Do what it takes to be included in the main course conversation.

2. Flip the script.
Become a solutions provider. Arm your customers with center-of-the-plate content. Entice with valuable info like a white paper that’s central to their pain. Suddenly, you’re the company helping your customer address key challenges—and you just happen to have something that can help.

3. Prioritize your target.
Forget the corner office and the C-suite. Seek out the people in the organization likely to champion your offering. They’ll fight for you. Talk to them in the context of problems they confront and they’ll champion you internally. 

It all comes down to honestly assessing where your brand and offering fit in your audience’s mind. And if it’s not the main course, get creative and take other approaches to get there.  

Want to talk about how you can move from side dish to main course? We’ve got the recipe

There are many questions that come up in the launch process. But you’d think the one thing you know for sure is what you’re launching. Right?

It turns out sometimes the answer isn’t—or shouldn’t be—as obvious as you might think. In fact, we’ve found that a good percentage of projects we work on result in not launching what was defined at the outset. How is that?

It has a lot to do with today’s rapidly evolving, hyper-competitive and highly commoditized landscape. Sometimes a product or service alone isn’t enough to move the needle. And as this all about winning minds and taking share, it’s healthy to take a step back to make sure your offer is enough to do that.

There are a number of forms this (redefining the offer) has taken with our clients in recent years, including:

The Higher Purpose: Consider that you may be revitalizing your portfolio, a business unit or even the company itself. This can be about an emotional recommitment to the customers in a market segment. Or perhaps you’re launching your leadership vision, one in which you own the market issue. In either case, your product and/or service becomes the proof of purpose.

The Hybrid: It’s becoming blurrier each day — what’s more important, the tangible product or the intangible service? Blurry might just mean blending in a more meaningful way. Weave products, services, support, education, expertise, etc. into a singular offering and differentiated story.

The Category: Maybe you have a unique combination of components that deserves its own categorical distinction. It can be a bold move to restart the market conversation as the only offering that delivers X, Y and Z but it may be worth it when the market is crowded.

So take a moment and ask yourself what are you really launching? Because aligning your team on the right answer could make all the difference.

Earlier we talked about six things key to a viable launch. Now we’d like to delve in a little deeper into one of those areas—setting up your launch leadership team.

As the saying goes, any successful team needs leaders. The ones who will do the work and put in the time to make sure the project succeeds. Over many years and countless launches, we’ve learned some things about who should be on your leadership team to best position you for success.

The first element to success is finding people who have the right personality and clout to be open and honest. This is not the time to be passive, or focused on not rocking the boat. You need people who are willing to share their thoughts and, more importantly, will speak out when they see something that needs addressing.

Next, you need to find people who are willing to be true evangelists for the project. Like any successful movement, you need true believers. The ones who have the spirit and energy to push a project through the doldrums and confront the inertia. Because when the project hits a rocky patch—and it inevitably will—these are the ones who will take the reins and push it forward.

Finally, you need to draft a team across disciplines and departments. A cross-functional team helps create buy-in and allows everyone to feel like they have a voice. In addition, diverse backgrounds and viewpoints can avoid the oft-trodden tropes and drive truly novel solutions that make a real difference.

Wondering who should be on your launch leadership team? We’d love to help you draft a team of winners.

It might be tougher to succeed today than at any other point in history. After all, market gravity today is enormous. The world is changing, constantly and unapologetically.

On the outside, you’re facing:

● Shorter product lifecycles
● Rising consumer expectations
● Increased customer choice
● Decreasing attention spans
● Limited differences in products
● More commoditization and globalization

And that’s just externally. There’s a whole new set of complexities inside your own walls.

Internally you must confront:

● Decision-makers with competing priorities
● Poor communication between teams
● Doing more with less
● Compressed timelines
● Layers of decision-making
● Reduced margins

It’s clear companies are spread thinner than ever and being asked to do more with fewer resources.

So that’s how it is. And what do you do about it? You don’t throw your hands up in defeat. Not you. No, you find smart, savvy ways to be successful. You work to overcome the inertia and put your brand in motion.

There’s no secret to making it all happen. No magic. It’s plain old hard work. It’s having a plan, preparing for success, and seeing the work through to completion. That works. That’s the way you defy the forces of gravity trying to keep you down.

Looking for a lift? We’re ready to help.

You’ve probably heard us talk about how it’s essential to own a space in your audience’s mind. But it’s not just about the words you send there. It’s the sum total of every interaction they’ve had with you. And, more importantly, every emotion you’ve made them feel.

Because we have three brains: the sensory, the emotional, and the rational.

In terms of evolution, the sensory brain is the oldest, followed by the emotional, with the rational brain being the most recent. Understanding how the brains are all interconnected is key to mastering an appeal to your audience.

The emotional brain sends ten times the information to the rational brain than vice versa, creating an imbalance that means feelings and emotions have 10 times the impact on decision-making than facts and figures.

In fact, 95% of all decisions are made by emotion and backfilled with logic.

And when it comes to gaining attention, there’s no contest: The eyes have it. Because sight is by far our fastest sense, followed by touch, hearing, smell, and taste.

So we’re taking in all these visual cues, the vast majority of which are subconscious, and sending it all to our emotional brain, which then translates those emotions into rational thought.

That means to truly motivate people, to drive behavior toward your desired action, you need to play to the emotions.

Looking to improve the emotional connection with your audience? We’d love to help.

In a previous blog, we talked about how launching isn’t just for new products. In fact, anything can be launched as long as it’s worth the time and effort.

But what kind of time and effort are we talking about, exactly? Over nearly 30 years and countless launches, we’ve learned there are six essential elements that you need to have in place, in order for a launch to have a decent chance of success. They are:

Pick your Launch Leadership Team
The first thing on your list is set up a cross-functional team with members from several departments. The variety is important, because you want the benefit of different perspectives and experiences. Most important, though, is that team members are open and honest, and ready to serve as your biggest launch evangelists throughout the company.

Define your success metrics
After your team is set, the next task is to align on what success looks like. That’s right—how do you know if you’ve succeeded? Basic question. There is no standard, set definition for this, but typically a combination of hard and soft metrics is going to be most relevant and actionable for your team. These KPIs are the compass that guides you as you plan and build momentum going forward.

Set up a gated launch process
Launching is about gaining the market momentum needed to break through internal and external market barriers. That’s why you need to follow a set of fundamental best practices to guide your aim, align your team, and shape your communications. Having a well-defined, gated process will set you up for success in a complex, commoditized landscape.

Begin early
All of this pre-work needs to happen early in the process. This is important because it builds alignment from the start, helping prevent early missteps that can delay or derail you later. It also gives your launch team the opportunity to have ownership in key decisions, and the runway to be fully invested in the project’s success.

Get customer insight
The only perception that matters is your audience’s perception. So make sure you are implementing their insights in everything from business goals to creative concepts and external messaging. This ensures you’re delivering what the people who count the most really want.

Launch internally first
You want everybody in your company to be singing from the same sheet when it comes to your launch. Everybody should be saying the same thing, delivering the same messages. Complete, rock-solid alignment is key. That’s why it’s so important to launch internally first. That gives everyone the chance to understand the new initiative and prepares them to be its champions once it’s out in the world.

Want to know more about how these 6 steps are crucial to launch? We’d love to help.

We’re extremely fortunate to get to work with brilliant people—recognized thought leaders in their fields, people who take on extraordinarily complex challenges with mindboggling intelligence and insight.

But all that brainpower can sometimes be a burden. Bright people with deep expertise often struggle to communicate with the level of simplicity that sticks in the mind and wins in the marketplace.

That’s when it’s smart to be the dumbest person in the room.

As the old C.W. Ceram quote goes, “Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.”

Because you need to break down what you’re offering into the simplest terms and appeal to an essential human benefit. Make that so blindingly clear we can’t help but understand it.

How do you do that? Try the OK, So Game, otherwise known as the Toddler Game. Start by listing a feature of your product. Then ask, “OK, so why is that there?”. Repeat the process until you get to a benefit so clean and clear, no one could possibly ask “OK, So?” anymore.

Except a toddler. They never stop. Here’s a real example of the game for a new flexible bandage made with a proprietary polyvinyl material with multi-dimensional elasticity.

Feature: It’s flexible.
OK, So? It moves with you
OK, So? It won’t come off as you move your body
OK, So? You can move around your hospital room
OK, So? When people come to visit you, you can give them a hug

That’s so simple, clear, and impactful that anyone can understand the appeal.

Want help simplifying your message into something clear and concise? We’d love to help.

A Launching Agency

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