We are moving into a fundamentally different world. The inherent asymmetry of market relationships is being hyper activated in this many-to-many world. It is our argument that this is a really big event in the function of market economies, just as the same emerging technologies are radically challenging the political landscape of democracies and dictatorships alike.
For enterprises and brands to be able to succeed in the new world order it will require real change to the internal distribution of authority. Everyone has a set of rules that inform their choices and decision-making. This is as true in business as it is in all other aspects of life. We are making claim for the role of the old-fashioned elevator pitch as the center of a brand’s rule set. And its essential value is not its extensiveness, but rather its purity.
The well-known elevator pitch has been a standard tool for marketing teams for years. Don’t know it? It goes like this:
You step into an elevator and bump into the CEO of a potential major client. You have the opportunity to present your offer. Could you succinctly communicate the core of your offer and your brand in the time it takes to ride the elevator up a few floors?
That is the elevator test, and as legend goes you need to be able to pass it, because if you don’t understand the core value of your brand’s offer, then how will anyone else? And why will they choose you over your competitors? The purpose of the elevator pitch has been to craft communication to the consumer, to hook them in to wanting to know more and to show you have a wealth of substance bubbling beneath.
The value of the elevator pitch, is that it uniquely defines your brand as the resolution to the consumer’s need. For the right consumer, the language, colour, form and content of every aspect of your brand should resonate deeply and positively. Your brand’s elevator pitch is what makes them all resonate and ensures that there is no dissonance in the signals your consumer interprets.
So far, and so good, but what makes this anything other than the old marketing trope?
- To begin with almost no one ever executes properly, and like the SWOT analysis its use is often abuse
- Most importantly though, in a world of social media, brands now live in a metaphorical elevator of entirely unpredictable exchanges
Back in the day, a brand lived in a one-to-many world where the central planning brand god could design a coordinated representation of every aspect of the brand’s core values. Now, in our many-to-many world of #independencesquare and #insertyoursuckybrandhere campaigns, a successful CEO simply can’t be a control freak. That consumer comment that became a campaign won’t stop while you workshop your response. And without a brand control mechanism a decentralized structure can see an ill-advised response from a customer service officer write off decades of goodwill.
The essential statement that passes the elevator test enables a brand’s responsiveness to the unexpected encounter with the consumer. Success depends on more than an immediate response; it requires a response that is consistent with the values and intentions of the brand. A widely and completely understood statement of what makes your brand unique allows the frontline managers of your brand to make coherent and timely decisions. This is the secret value of the elevator pitch.
Asymmetry is not a bug, it is an essential characteristic of the market economy that has only been heightened in our hyper connected world. A brand and a business strategy should fit hand in glove. Too often though, the pressures of the day mean those who lead organisations are focused on ‘what must be done’ to keep up in the game. While in the act of coordinating all those decisions it is easy to lose focus on exactly what it is that makes your brand special to the only individual that matters.
Universally, every individual has a future state of being they intend to achieve. This is as true for buyers of tinned foods as it is for those interested in sports cars or professional services. Every individual acts on their intentions, and the attainment of those intentions requires them to resolve the constraints that act upon them. In doing so, the individual becomes a consumer.
A business’ brand and strategy both play a role in resolving the constraints of particular consumers. Every brand is defined in a unique response to the specific constraints of their own history and their present choices. For example, money is money and equities are equities yet no two pension or superannuation funds are alike. The shareholders of Aston Martin may wish to be as dominant as Porsche or Ferrari, however they are no more likely to produce a 911 Turbo than they are to produce a Transit van. This is a product of their essential values we perceive as brand.
The symmetry of commitment and power are defining characteristics of all relationships. The importance of that is no greater anywhere than in the free exchange of markets. Any consumer’s commitment is to their intention and almost never to a specific solution. By comparison, a business is committed to a specific solution defined by their intention and constraints. Business executives are committed to a ceaseless series of choices. What they do to allow for that moment of consumer choice is extraordinarily complex, and the value of all that activity is entirely dependent on that single act of consumer choice.
There is an inherent asymmetry to the relationship. In the entire history of the modern sports car a consumer has been able to consistently understand why you chose a Porsche or an Aston Martin. During that time it had next to nothing to do with type of carburetor or the location of the engine. And yet, the overwhelming demand on management is for focus on the detail of production. Nonetheless, if you can’t immediately describe the essence of your company’s unique resolution to constraints faced by a consumer you are bound to fail in that asymmetric relationship.
Young mums in Shanghai, the global head of manufacturing for Big Digger Inc., and a self-funded retiree all have unique constraints to the world they seek. We can’t ever know the specific subjective and relative basis for the choices they make. If we hope to win the asymmetric battle of attention we need to be able to describe the essence of our brand character in one fluid statement. If you can’t do that, why should those you seek to influence be able to do so? To sustain long-term success that statement needs to consistently inform every action undertaken by everyone who is a party to your brand. To carry out its essential function in a hyper connected world that single statement will capture almost all the value your brand ever offers.