The future of the country rests firmly in the hands of the entrepreneurs. Tabled as the flavour of the decade, entrepreneurs are fast becoming the base of the wealth pyramid and are the people who will give rise to the mega-companies of tomorrow.
If entrepreneurs are the recipe for success in South Africa, and the world, right now, why are so few brands acting like entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs (and from now on this term should encompass people and businesses and brands) set themselves apart from everyone else through one single belief, they believe in the power of change.
To simplify, what is innovation if you’re a brand? Is it a new product? Is it a new way of selling the product or is it new way of communicating about the product? Could it just be a new look? The most successful brands in the world don’t worry about any of these things in isolation; they worry about all of them.
Coca-Cola has not changed its core product essentially since inception. They have a good thing and, ‘it ain’t broke’ so they don’t fix it. But they change almost everything else. How it’s packaged, how they talk about it, where they talk about it, sponsorships, real-world and online content, regular line extensions, support brands and just about anything else not core to the brand itself. They lead the world in brand ownership and stewardship because they are always the pioneers that do things first and let the world follow after.
Let’s take a look at some of the behaviours that define entrepreneurs. If they’re largely present you’re almost guaranteed success.
Drive and energy. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Yet you’ll find that it’s a decisive factor in the success of brands as much as it is for individuals. There are loads of clock-watchers and time bandits waiting for time to run out to get themselves permission to go and do something other than their jobs.
Without passion, there’s no energy. With passion, effort becomes enjoyment. Look at your brand team and decide if together you really love what you do. If not, go and find that thing and leave the brand to people who actually care. Think of the people who personify brand success – Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. Did they ever punch a clock? Were they ever doing something they hated?
Self-confidence. It’s easy to spot in a person but how do we measure it in a brand? It’s a tonal thing. A new kid on the block is bold about who they are and what they stand for and unashamedly stands up to the competition. Look at Frank.net.
Insurance unapologetically put into the world in a straightforward, no-nonsense way that shoulders aside the giants of the industry and stakes its claim. That’s self-confidence. It’s undeniable. It’s attractive. It’s noticed.
High internal locus of control. Entrepreneurs truly feel that they control their own destiny. They are not beholden to anyone to create change and in fact they are the primary change merchants themselves. Brands like this bend the world to themselves and achieve brilliance. Think Virgin or Apple. They are the masters of this.
Entrepreneurs seek out feedback. They want to learn how to do things better. Bad news or honest criticism is more valuable to an entrepreneur because it gives them an opportunity to get better at what they do. Brands who listen and learn are always more powerful than those that preach to persuade.
Work efficiently and effectively. The hallmark of entrepreneurial enterprises is the ability to use the resources to maximum effect. People, cash, assets, knowledge and anything else they can find is really squeezed for all its worth.
That efficiency makes brands that behave like these create ‘large bangs’ for relatively small bucks. These are challengers who box clever. Think Amstel Lager carving out a 38% share of voice using TV content (SABC 1’s Class Act Reality TV show) over classic advertising in early 2009 against a giant competitor outspending them 10+ to 1.
The beating heart
So with all this evidence mounting up, why are there so few brands taking heed of the forces shaping their world? Perhaps they are too internally focused. They are certainly committed to their markets but maybe they spend too much time and effort trying to find the deep penetrating insight that will unlock growth that they forget to take action.
Perhaps they are just stuck in the tangle of red tape that stifles growth and strangles activity. Or maybe they are simply too lazy to make a difference. Days of corporate complacence are over. Success demands energy and those who offer it will reap the rewards. Brands need to stop behaving like institutions and start acting like people again. Get motivated and do stuff. Embrace change and create it for themselves.
They need to be energetic and make themselves felt. They need to do a little less talking and a little more doing, all the while fighting their fear. Brands need to fail. And win all the more. Just like the entrepreneur.
Creativity is the ultimate tool at your disposal to truly change behaviour, influence people and win them to your brand, your cause or your movement.
At the heart is the idea. And it needs to be a big one.