Tag Archives: books

Unordinary Thinking No. 17 – Turning the mundane into a miracle

In marketing, we are always challenging ourselves to improve upon our customer experience; to increase customer satisfaction, reduce costs, create competitor advantage etc. It’s a constant that never seems to drop from the marketing agenda. And if we are customer-centric, we typically frame the challenge as, ‘How can we make a user’s experience better?’ If the process behind the change is solid, we would hope to see improvement.

But some internal stakeholders might claim that repeating the same process of improvement will only lead to diminishing returns and eventually become counter productive. And at the risk of being presumptuous they are possibly right. This ‘tackle the problem head-on’ approach will probably not arrive at any business transforming outcomes or miracle consumer betterment either.

So what’s the alternative? Well you may not need to change the process which is the usual focus. Instead, be unordinary in your thinking and simply think more broadly about what customer improvement could mean. We typically focus on the sharp end. But we don’t always need to connect the improvement to sales. Improvement to brand perception or purpose of business can increase overall consideration which in turn increases the chances of customer preference.

Here’s an example from the unordinary thinkers at customer data authentication company CAPTCHA. When they looked at the improvement challenge side-on it enabled a much stronger and more significant ‘customer’ betterment to emerge.

An estimated 200,000 hours are spent by us every day typing in words to authentic ourselves as human users and not computer viruses on millions of websites across the world. The folks at CAPTCHA knew that whilst serving a beneficial service to us consumers, we saw it as a bit of a tedious chore.

Thinking about what could be done to improve the situation and pondering a more interesting way for individuals to verify who they are, the marketers at CAPTCHA concluded that what they’d created was still the best solution for customers, even if we didn’t get excited about it.

So they looked at the challenge from a different angle and framed it as as, ‘How can we make better use of the experience?’ This changed the direction of their thinking and attracted new attention. Google, now their parents, shared a project they were working on to digitise ancient books in order to ensure the scripts were captured and preserved electronically forever.

They were using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR) which photographically scans the word, and then transforms it into text. However it often does not recognise words which it flags up, as the image below shows.

To get these missing words authenticated requires manual intervention. Which if paid for would be expensive and time consuming…enter reCAPTCHA. And with it those 200,000 hours of free consumer resource every day!

How the reCAPTHCA miracle works?

The image of the unknown text is sent in the form of a reCAPTHCA code to the website where you are authenticating you are who you say you are – added as a second word to a ‘known’ first word. And then when you authenticate your personal details you now type in two words. As the first is known, if you match that correctly, reCAPTCHA accepts your deciphering of the second word too. And when it has 15 consistent matches from different users, the word is created from the image and added to the page from which the OCR took it.

So every time you are deciphering wobbly letters to verify you are not a virus, look for the ReCAPTCHA logo. If it’s there you are participating in the world’s largest book digitisation programme ever.

And with over 250,000 Google books and old copies of the New York Times currently being updated, your authentication code is achieving more for society than just protecting your identity online. Future generations will now have access to old, rare and important fragments of history that may have perished without digitisation, thanks to ReCAPTCHA and you.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands. http://www.lexdengroup.com

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris or @consultingajai.

Unordinary Thinking No.15 – Using death to create life and other stories, by SJ Watson

Being a law abiding citizen, I had never really thought that I could be inspired by crime, but that’s what happened last week.

I was lucky enough to be at an inspirational evening with SJ Watson last week including a reading from his best-selling crime novel, ‘Before I go to sleep’. As many will know this is his debut novel, in fact the fastest selling crime book ever from a new author. And before it even hit the number one spot in the Times crime novel list, Ridley Scott had snapped up the film rights. Which for an author who still holds a part time (although not drawing a salary) post with the NHS his story seems more like fiction.

During the evening he revealed how this overnight success actually took many months of writing and editing and a few years before that believing and growing in confidence as a writer. Which owed as much to the creativity in his process as anything else.

As the evening unfolded I was looking to pick up tips to help stimulate my own future writing ambitions but, in truth, I was finding I was also picking up a number of creative thinking suggestions to improve my present occupation as a strategic marketer.

Through his explanation of the creative writing process I found there were some interesting parallels between his world and my own. We both look to create a plan to achieve a goal and are heavily reliant on smart interpretation of research to create structure and need to inject this with creativity to achieve compelling output. Whilst I’m not convinced a strategic marketing plan would ever make the Richard & Judy Book Club, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be a boardroom page turner.

I believe great marketing strategy is achieved when you focus on where you take ideas to, not where you take them from. So with that in mind, indulge me and I’ll illustrate two of the many things from the world of crime writing which you can apply to the strategic marketing day job:

#1 A crime novelist researches characters; a strategic marketer looks deeply at customer insight

In order to breathe life into characters and develop their profile, SJ Watson looks for neatly packaged articulations of a life. And he finds these in obituaries, where a person’s entire life is summarised. Their stand out moments, achievements and defining characteristics are captured in a few short paragraphs. Very quickly you recognise and establish a portrait in your mind. Take this back into customer insight activities to frame segments and you will find it a very smart, and quite dramatic way to bring a segment to life. Try it, it works.

#2 A crime novelist builds his story around ‘magnetic ideas’; a strategic marketer develops ‘propositions’

SJ Watson also spoke about the strength of an idea as a magnet. It can be measured by the amount of related elements that can be drawn and attached to it. Which, in turn, strengthens it. Look at strategic marketing and we seek to build propositions which achieve the same magnetism by being able to incorporate the assets of a brand, resonate with the emotional needs of customers and optimise the capabilities of a business.

However, perhaps marketers try too hard to tick all the boxes of the proposition build checklist or an A3 mind-map template.  If, instead, we think about it within the laws of magnetism, it allows the mind to reach out to a wider selection of ‘attractive’ elements. And, when visualised, these elements will be pulled towards the central thought. You’ll find that your mind will repel the less attractive but those elements it allows to attach will make the central idea even more powerful.

Both are unordinary approaches to arrive at better outcomes for conventional challenges. That evening made a big impression on me. I caught up with the author afterwards and he acknowledged the importance of looking beyond the obvious places to find something extraordinary. The fruits of his method are in abundance in his novel. Do read it, it’s wonderfully original and executed in a captivating fashion.

Overall it reminded me of the extra energy and different perspective you can gain when you look at the challenge from an alternative starting point, or even apply a different logic and approach.  And, by doing this, you get to interesting outcomes you may never have considered.  Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris and @consultingajai.

Business Playground

Business books can be hard work sometimes. And when they are often about motivation and teaching change management skills, that’s not good.

So when one cuts through, it’s worth mentioning. The Business Playground looks ‘zesty’ and is co-written by Dave Stewart, so that immediately draws you in. But when you realise you’ve bought a book about business from a rock guitar legend, you might start to question it as being as logical as key cutters and shoe repairers always being in the same shop (why is that?).

However, open the cover, give it a few pages and bingo; inspiration and motivation abound.

A lot of cutting through conventional thinking and with it making sense in a memorable way to help marketers improve their strategic decision making.

There’s also a website. www.business playground. Get involved.