Successful Brands Compete On What Matters Most

The world seems plagued by a crisis of leadership. Declining trust in government institutions, media, and civic leaders has been a well-documented trend for many years. In this year’s Trust Barometer, business was revealed as one of the last strongholds where trust was above the midpoint. This is presenting an unprecedented opportunity for (the right) brands to step up; to inspire by their actions, and demonstrate responsible stewardship for the multiple moments of happiness, satisfaction, connection, delight, cleanliness and all of the other feelings we associate with a positive brand experience.

Over in the UK, Mark Evans, CEO of O2 (Telefonica) has made increasing trust a priority. Speaking to Campaign he says, “The [telco] sector as a whole is not as loved as it needs to be. It’s pivotal to your lives but if you look at the trust and confidence that consumers have, it’s not great. So we’re keen to call on the industry to change that.” He’s called on his competitors to offer similar programs as O2’s Refresh, which decouples device fees from airtimes, and increasing transparency around charges and contracts.

Evans acknowledged that moves by other networks to replicate the selling points of O2 Refresh would have some impact on their selling position but said the greater priority for them was now overall trust levels in the industry. While it’s easy to argue that simply ‘calling on the industry’ is just talk, the fact that there is even this kind of talk might show momentum in a positive direction.

In his article called How Rival Brands Can Win Together, Mark di Somma explores the irony of obsessive competitiveness where brands lose objectivity and end up alienating the customer. He says, “No brand wants to admit they are uncompetitive, or that they are at risk of being so. Maybe that’s why so few brands can look candidly at what is happening in a marketplace and draw the real lessons they need to take to improve. For some, it’s easier to call a war or to cry foul than it is to face a truth.”

The truth, in O2s case, is straight-forward: Mobile is integral to our lives, it is only going to get more pervasive and more required to interact with the people, places and things we want. At least in the telco sector and likely any sector where the dominant players are fairly well-entrenched, fierce competitiveness that seeks to identify rivals as ‘bad’ sets up the kind of binary that is all too-familiar and boring.

And while O2 is trying to restore some love for the industry as a whole, they continue to differentiate around experience, reminding customers that they are much more than a mobile network. In a purpose-themed campaign called “Follow the Rabbit,” the brand hopes consumers will buy into its plethora of live events, rather than doing what many others in the space do by promoting content consumption and downloads. It’s a great move that aligns to a larger digital detox trend.

The takeaway from this is in step with the shift to collective journey storytelling: We are all in this together. It seems much of the media and politicians own the monopoly on “crying foul” and “calling to war,” and most people are tired of those storylines. They’ve just been done for so long and where has it left us?

Now it’s your brand’s turn. Here’s what you can do:

  • Focus on what matters. Ken Favaro cites the example where Jet Blue discovered traditional airline offerings of free meals and first class seating weren’t important and thus freed up resources to install better seats, more space for all and media consoles.
  • Be wary of making your story all about the competition. Instead, look to understand their value proposition in order to form differentiating and more compelling strategies.
  • Make love, not war. Understand your competitors are also your colleagues who go about doing things in their own way. Whole industries can be improved when we train ourselves to embrace a growth mindset.

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