Source: UBX Conference

Digital transformation of your brand and business

The following is a recent presentation I've given at a conference. Topic of the conference was "useful brand experience". My presentation is about how you strategically develop great experiences for the long-run.


We are here because of these people:

Creative Commons, Heisenberg Media
Creative Commons, TechCrunch
Creative Commons, Big Omaha/Malone & Company
Creative Commons, TechCrunch
Creative Commons, James Duncan Davidson

It's the technology first companies that are changing marketing, they are changing how business is done.

Creative Commons, Web Summit
Creative Commons, Web Summit
Creative Commons, US Embassy
Creative Commons, TechCrunch

{Do we agree that they are changing business? Raise your hand and say "Yeah".}

Creative Commons, Magnus Höij
Creative Commons, re:publica

… Because:

Today the key for success of a brand is being extremely useful. They serve people's needs extremely well. We also call that need-driven business (their business is driven by serving people's needs). {Do we agree that they are extremely useful? Raise your arm and say "Yeah".}

This is what my presentation is about. I'm going to answer that.

Or the question put differently:

Creative Commons, TechCrunch

What would a technology first company guy do to make your brand extremely useful?

I'm going to answer that with three circles. My presentation is about three circles.

I begin with four stories. All four stories have one thing in common. I'm going to ask what that is.

Cheerios product is breakfast cereals. If Cheerios would see themselves being in the breakfast cereals business, what would they communicate, what would the marketing be? They would talk about their product, the hole, the different flavors, how healthy it might be. Yes, they could even create a whole world to experience around their product by building a Cheerios platform. Instead, they see themselves being in the "having a great breakfast experience business". And for many having a great breakfast experience is being together with the family at breakfast. So Cheerios helps families enjoy breakfast together.


They started "The Family Breakfast Project", there each day for one week you get specific suggestions how you can have a great time as family around the breakfast table.


Children can put out their clothes the evening before to gain time for breakfast with the family.


The next day, get to know a new fruit together.


Have easy ways to have a fun conversation at the breakfast table.


And why not change the way your food looks for some more fun.

{Do we agree that that is great what Cheerios does? Raise your arm and say "Yeah".}

Next story:

If Ikea would view themselves being in the furniture and accessory business what would they talk about? They would most likely talk about their wonderful products. Even create a whole IKEA universe to experience around their products. Instead, they see themselves being in the "creating my home business".


So if you come to an Ikea store in Singapore you can adopt a dog. Because for some nothing says "home" more than a dog.

You can scan the barcode …

… reach a site where you select the dog, drive to the animal shelter and get your dog. {Do we agree that that is awesome what Ikea does? Raise your arm and say "Yeah".}

Next story is LinkedIn:

If they would see themselves in the "network for professionals business" they would talk about their great digital service and its features, and only improve that constantly. Instead, they see themselves in the "having a great career business".

So they not only help people in their career but help people start one. So they provide a university ranking based on graduates from which university got the top jobs in their industry. {Do we agree that that is awesome what LinkedIn does? Raise your arm and say "Yeah".}

The last one is the site and app Coffitivity. Some people enjoy working in a café because the white noise helps them to concentrate and work better. What Coffitivity did was recording this white noise, so those who work in a quiet office or from a quiet home office can use Coffitivity to hear the white noise of a café. If Coffitivity would see themselves being in the "white noise business" what would they put on their Facebook page? Maybe they would talk about the different café's they recorded sound. Or they would mention medical studies that prove that white noise helps to concentrate better. Instead, they see themselves in the "productivity business".

So on their Facebook page they provide helpful ways to be more productive. {Do we agree that that is great what Coffitivity does? Raise your arm and say "Yeah".}

[I purposefully have chosen examples that are close to what we know to be marketing to build upon a common ground. And these solutions are relatively easy to bring to life. I left out examples from digital business transformation that are in many cases more complex.]

What did they all have in common? How did those brands define their business? Right, they didn't define their business by their product but by the outcome people get from the product, the result they get, the use.

And they didn't do that because that leads to great concepts, but because it's truly what their business is.


Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, said "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"

That means, the real value is the hole, the outcome, the result. It's for the hole people put money on the table. (And smart people have said, yes, it's not the hole but the shelf you put on the wall. So they are in the "having a great shelf on the wall business" if you will.) {Do we agree that it's about the outcome, the result? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

So if the small circle is the product area, now the larger circle is the business area we defined.

Let's get hands-on here. Let's do it. Let's define the business of the brand Gardena, for example. Their product is garden tools. What is the outcome of garden tools? What is their business? {Turn to your seat neighbor and discuss which business the brand Gardena is in. Take 2 minutes.}

Right, the outcome of garden tools is a great garden. Gardena is in the "having a great garden business". {Do we all agree that Gardena is in having a great garden business? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

Let's look a bit closer into what happens when we define a business area. For the product area we'll take a car, for example. Now, around the car are needs the company producing cars doesn't address. For example, "working from home", "small distance between work and home". But these are real needs people have!

The general outcome of a car is "mobility". So a company producing cars is in the "mobility business". And here it comes: By defining the business area by the outcome for the people we enable the brand to serve those mentioned needs because it becomes (is) their business.

The brand wouldn't serve those needs for free, but it would make business there, it would earn money there.

{Do we agree that it would be great if a company serves those needs? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

Now, after we defined the area the brand should make business in, the next consequencial step is that we find out what people want in that area — what are people's needs there? (So we can serve their needs and actually make business in that area.)

To help us do that we divide people's needs into three areas.

We look what people do in the during-phase, and from their activities we see what they need. In that phase people purchase the product or service, and they use the product or service.

In the pre-phase people decide what to do, whether to make a purchase and which product to buy.

In the post-phase people evaluate, measure, review, update, renew, share.

We now step into the shoes of the people and walk through the pre-phase, during-phase, and post-phase, each step asking ourselves, what do people do here, and therefore what do people want here?

When I do that in a workshop participants draw a circle on the ground, divide it into the three phases, and literally walk through the phases, asking the questions at each step they take.

Here we identify people's needs by putting ourselves into the shoes of the people. {Do we think that stepping into the shoes of the people is a great way to find out their needs? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

Let's do that with our example of the brand Gardena. What do people need while they are digging in the garden and put plants in the ground (in the during-phase)? What do they need before they go into the garden (in the pre-phase)? And what do they need when the garden looks great (in the post-phase)? {Turn again to your seat neighbor and find out one need in each phase. Take two minutes.}

Great. Now we identified people's needs in the pre-phase, during-phase, and post-phase. In the pre-phase that might be that people don't know all the many opportunities, they have the need for inspiration. In the during-phase they might need people to help with larger projects, like cutting a tree, or planting a well-sized tree. They might need to know which plant to put where, how much to water it, etc. In the post-phase they want to enjoy the beautiful garden, maybe by throwing a garden party to enjoy the garden with friends. {Do we agree that it was easy to identify people's needs? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

To fully use the model we could do this as well: We want to get in earlier in the pre-phase, and stay as long as possible in the post-phase. We want to be earlier in the pre-phase than our competitor to influence people in the right direction and build trust, and we want to be as long as possible in the lives of people. That means, we have to identify what people do early in the pre-phase and late in the post-phase to know what their needs are.

Creative Commons, SPUR

Early in the pre-phase it might be that people want a garden but don't have the money. Or they live in an urban area where they don't have the space for it. They might turn to urban gardening as a solution. Early in the pro-phase they want to know which urban gardening project is the right one for them.

Creative Commons, sunshinecity

In the late post-phase people look at the past year and evaluate what went good and what went bad, and how to do it better next year.

All the needs we identified we write on post-it notes, for example, and place them to the right phase. {Do we agree that we have identified many needs? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

Creative Commons, Gabriel Kamener, Sown Together’s photostream

First way to identify people's needs was that we stepped into the shoes of the people. The second way we do is leaving the office, actually getting out and meeting the people. And it might be by taking a shovel in the hand and actually working in a garden. {Do we agree that it's great to leave the office? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

The third way to find out people's needs is by using data.

We could find this guy on Twitter, for example. He does guerrilla gardening. But he does it alone, he might want to do it together with others.

We could find this woman who experiences garden as a spiritual experience, for example. Would she want a community of likeminded? Most likely.

We now identified even more needs. We put them all into our model. {Do you agree that we now have many, many needs identified? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

Now we mark those needs that are not served or only poorly served. We then go systematically through technology, digital services, devices, and sensors, we also go to non-digital areas like retail design, events, and are open to anything really to find solutions to serve those needs.

Creative Commons, Samuel Mann

The moment we have a solution we will build it in a rough form and give it to people to use it. This could be a technology solution but it can be anything. We then improve it until it works.


That means, do. That means, being a maker.

Creative Commons, Ed Schipul

The result: happy people! We have happy people, and that means the brand grows and is successful. That simple.

It really is about creating great value. People in technology first companies say that they're working on their legacy, that they're changing the world, that they're having an impact. Can we do that with our brand too? Yes.

{Do we agree that we can create great value? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”. Can we change the world? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

We went from focusing on the product, a self-centered view, to truly serving people's needs.

But isn't that still an egoistic thing serving your consumers? Successful brands are developed further by going beyond that. They not only serve people (consumers) but the community as well.


For example, Starbucks is nice to its employees.


Vestas, a company that builds wind mills — to give poor countries the opportunity to have wind energy they started the business "Wind for Prosperity" providing more robust and simpler solutions for those countries. Now those countries get wind energy, Vestas earns less than usually, but they still earn money with it.


Google founded Calico that works on overcoming death.

{Do we agree that they serve society? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}

These then are the three circles, where we go from a product-focus to truly serving people's needs, and ultimately reaching out serving communities and society as a whole. This is how a brand becomes extremely useful.

If you want to know more about it, check out my book.

{Do you agree that your brand can become extremely useful? Raise your arm and say “Yeah”.}


Sum up

The five steps to develop great experiences for the long-run are:

  1. Defining the business
  2. Identifying people's needs
  3. Identifying the not served and poorly served needs
  4. Developing ways to serve those needs (by adding value, adding services)
  5. Prototype and test