Yesterday, I had the good fortune to close a terrific day of conversations big and small here at Shoppers Insights. This is an annual conference hosted by the Institute of International Research. People come in the hundreds for up to three days of keynote and breakout discussions focusing on how to understand and measure the purchase journey and the forces – from brand to channel – that shape sales.
Heroes of the Purchase Journey
My talk is called Heroes of the Purchase Journey, and the shortest synopsis is: it’s not you – at least not in your professional or organisational capacity. Phil McGee of The Campbell Soup Company warmly welcomed me with a quote from Dale Carnegie – was the it the one about remembering that people are creatures of emotion? I’m sure I heard another idea in there as well. What hit me most in Phil’s intro was the way he built a bridge between “Heroes” and an approach that has broad-based acceptance and is deeply practical. That was really helpful.
Why? Because contained within “Heroes of the Purchase Journey” is a framework that overturns a lot of conventional business thinking. We are taught – both in Business Studies and in the workplace – that the brand, the product, the organisation is the hero – the main character, the winner. Reality shows us something quite different. Companies and brands succeed when they make offers that enrich people’s lives. The heroes aren’t the products, services and brand identities. The heroes are people. Plain and simple.
“Heroes of the Purchase Journey” is a multi-media talk in three sections.
I. Stories and commercial storytelling
First, stories and commercial storytelling.
II. Today’s world demands that business create experiences
In the second section, I move from myself to the world. The world is changing, and we can drive change through innovation. But the context for all innovation is an age in which “experience” and “emotion” envelope the knowledge of the information age and the technical prowess of the industrial age. Reaching people in order to influence their behaviours is about creating experiences. Performing artists know how to do this, and in business we should learn from them.
III. Products as heroes> products as people> people are heroes
In the third section, I discuss three approaches to stories in business. The first places the product as hero. It underpins virtually all mass advertising from the 1940s to the 1990s. I see “Product as Hero” as an anachronism. I get the sense that many people agree, but what’s hardest to change is the mindset because business activity is managed and measured within systems that reinforce the product-as-hero.
The second approach is both established and evolving. In this approach, the product is thought of almost as person – thanks to its provenance (we saw this often in drinks and certain kinds of foods) or its production form (the use of reclaimed materials, for example). While rich genuine history isn’t always available, nor defined place of origin, I expect we’ll see more businesses using such stories as supply chain transparency and use of reclaimed materials become more influential.
The third approach is one which focuses on people, and the stuff they use to live their lives. The surprise example – given their market stature, manufacturing, commercial and ecological practices – is Apple. What Apple articulated in 1997 is a wonderful example of putting people first, product as an ingredient. I didn’t mention this because I didn’t want to fall down a rabbit hole of hot discussion, but when JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson asked in January 2012: “How can we reinvent the store to enrich customers’ lives” I recognised the ethic that Apple wins by applying.
IV. Let’s “do an Apple”
Wouldn’t it be nice to “do an Apple”? Well I can’t promise that, but we can now offer StoryFORMs – a tool for thinking about your core business story “the way Apple did”.
Using Apple and another story from the British retail scene, I introduced our tool, called StoryFORMs.
Here is a big picture view of StoryFORMs – captured in a StoryFORM. It’s a little “Pet Milk Can” but your time and attention are short, I’m sure. And if you’d like tto bring StoryFORMs into your organisation’s conversations please get in touch.
The talk is available and workshops will launch in September.