Archives for posts with tag: Perception

“Daur “Hockey” Sticks” by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D. is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

I’ve been in business for a good 30 years or so. For most of those years I remained confused about a phrase that a lot of my North American colleagues used.

‘We’re looking for hockey stick growth,’ they would say, ‘that elusive hockey stick growth curve.’ This image always left me flummoxed. After all, who wants to see a massive downturn in growth before you see the upswing? You might not survive the downturn…

I finally realised that I wasn’t thinking about the right hockey stick. In fact I was thinking about the right hockey. Hockey, or ‘Ice Hockey’, to give it its full name, is hugely popular in North America, and has a flat bottom part and then bends up in a straight line, the sort of sales growth envied the world over.

In Europe, hockey is field hockey, not anywhere near as popular in North America, and uses a differently shaped stick with a curved part where you hit the ball. Not the shape you want for sales growth…

Confusion over!

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‘Age is just a number.’ Don’t you hate it when the gym instructor says that, as you bemoan your general state of feebleness and fragility after a lung bursting effort following the latest ‘here’s a great new exercise for you to try, you’ll love it!’? Or coming from someone looking insufferably youthful?  Yup, I know. Your age is just a number, an inexorably increasing one, until it stops, obviously. Despite the fact we’d love to turn the clock back, almost all the time we’d rather ours went up than stopped, I imagine.

I get that our approach to ageing is often a reflection of our state of mind. It’s a perception thing too, the messages we send out and the way people interpret them.

There is still the raw number itself, however, our actual passport- or birth cert-verified age. When it comes to that, I prefer the odd numbers to the even. Of course 29 is better than 30, but what about 31? Counter-intuitive, no? I think it sounds better, feels better.

I’m not sure why I prefer the odd numbers. It’s illogical and irrational, I know. I just do.

When you’re getting introductions to people over social media platforms like LinkedIn, it always helps to see a picture of the person. It helps you put a personality to the person.

When it’s the other way round – in other words when you speak to someone over the phone before you actually meet them, and you don’t know what they look like – you have to speculate on what the owner of that voice will look like.

Voices and faces are strange bedfellows in my experience. I often imagine what someone looks like and acts like from their voice, as it helps me make the connection in my head. I almost always get it completely wrong.

When you meet them, the face never seems to fit the voice you’ve listened to. Or, put another way, the face we put to the voice is not the face that belong with that voice.

Try doing it with a radio DJ, whose picture you’re not familiar with, obviously. If you don’t know what they look like, and ten people take a guess, I’m sure the guesses will vary wildly. Is that guess based on our own unique experiences? Probably.

It always reminds me how much can be wrong with the assumptions we make about people.

I saw the headline of an article the other day, and clicked on it, because it looked of interest. Except I had clicked on for the wrong reason, or at least my analysis was wrong.

The headline was: When is a Sale a Sale? I thought it was a cool article about defining when you have successfully closed a sale; some new insight on sales methodology. What we would call closing a deal in B2B. Is it a sale because the customer commits to the order verbally? Is it the receipt of the PO or the contract? Or is it the payment of the invoice or the handover of the cash?

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The article was a consumer-focused piece about what constitutes a selling event, the other kind of sale. It was about the retail industry trending towards a state of permanent sales and how difficult it is now to differentiate a true sales event and a retail status that is claiming ‘special’ sales status when it really isn’t.

Not to mention how difficult it is for retailers to get out of that sales spiral and protect their margins.

So, two different kinds of sale, and I clicked through under false pretences, but an interesting skim-read nonetheless.

It’s well known that you pay more for branded products than their generic or knock-off equivalents. You get what you pay for, as the saying goes, but also you’re investing in the brand’s equity and goodwill, which comes at a price.

I was in a homeware specialist the other day, looking for an ‘Egg Perfect’, one of those clever things – or clever yolks as the Irish would say, and I like the pun in this context – that you pop into the water with your eggs and it tells you when they’re done to your preference by changing colour.

The price was €9, which I thought was a bit steep, but i’m familiar with the brand and they last ages, so I bought it. On the way home I dropped into a local store that sells almost literally everything. I’ve blogged about it before, in fact. They too had immersive egg timers, the generic versions. The price? €2.

So the branded version was 4-and-a-half times the cost of its imitator, a 350% difference. Which, I suppose, is not as bad as the difference between a Gucci handbag or a Rolex watch and their me too counterparts.

The proof’s in the pudding, so we’ll see how the two of them perform over time. Still, I did feel pained when I saw the €2 version. That’s a difference of about a pint and a half between the two of them.

I skim-read a fascinating article the other day that covered an interview with former FLOTUS Michelle Obama.

In it, Ms Obama talked about what she described as Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that sooner or later someone’s going to uncover you as someone who’s blagged their way in to position of status or seniority that’s above their station. I hadn’t heard it described that way before but I immediately latched onto it.

Who else feels that from time to time? More accurately, who hasn’t felt in a weak moment that they’re one misstep away from being exposed as a fraud, or at best under-qualified for the role they’re performing?

This is a normal reaction from time to time, normal at least for people who are pushing themselves, moving up the ladder trying new things, joining new groups, doing the one thing every day that slightly scares them. It’s a natural symptom of progress. The first time you step up there’s new things to learn and uncertainty before you get dug in. Then you have to move again before you get too dug in.

It seems too that since the article above others have identified with it and shared their stories, which you can read about here.

There’s nothing like a familiar sound to bring you back and connect you with something.

The other day I heard a wood pigeon coo-cooing somewhere in the estate where I live. It’s not a very familiar sound to me now, but back when I was a kid doing my homework in the bedroom that looked out onto the back garden of my childhood home, it was a very familiar sound. It instantly reconnected me to my past in an unexpected and not unpleasant way.

Sound and the hearing part of our senses have of course always been very important to a brand. We can all remember signature tunes from our favourite shows, programmes and global brands. A few examples: the 4-note signature of the UK’s Channel 4, the 5-note signature of the McDonalds ‘I’m loving it’ campaign, and the ‘Holidays are coming’ refrain from Coca-Cola for around this time of year.

Sounds are a key thread of how we identify with a brand and of the overall brand experience, along with the sights, touches, tastes and smells of the things we like to use or consume. They evoke an instant feeling and connection.

The Irish have a great word: passremarkable. It’s used to describe someone who is wont to pass remarks, usually of a personal nature, about someone or something.

You could say it means being judgemental, but that’s not quite right. It’s having no filter – or choosing to ignore the filter – between thought and speech. You usually associate it with, and I’m generalising considerably here, younger people and older people.

I always avoid being judgemental if I can. And especially being passremarkable. Better to give a feeling or opinion some thought and phrase your comment constructively than blurt out something that will probably offend. What are you hoping to accomplish?

And this, of course, applies in business as well as our personal interactions.

 

Flies looking at the sky the wrong way

It’s the beginning of the second half of the year, a chance to review how the first half went and figure out where we want to be by the end of the second half. A chance to step back for a moment, take stock and ask ourselves if we’re looking at things the right way.

There are lots of business books, concepts and parables to help us do this. One that comes to mind regularly is the parable of the boiled frog from Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline. The story goes that the frog will react to sudden changes, like being dropped into boiling water, but will not notice and respond to gradual changes in temperature if you put it in cooled water which you then heat slowly.

I’d like to offer another parable: the fly in the skylight. We’ve all seen moths round a lamp or flies on a window. They’re both in search of the light. I was reminded of this recently when I noticed the skylight in our sun room. We were enjoying a spell of warm weather and this had drawn a number of flies inside and into the recess containing the skylight. You can probably see them in the picture. The flies can see the sky, their way out or so it seems. They will constantly bang against the skylight, searching for a way out, until they die of exhaustion and lack of food.

Their problem is that they’re looking at the sky the wrong way. They need someone to show them the open window or door lying a few metres away that are 100% better ways for them to get to where they need to go.

So as I embark on the second half of the year, I ask myself this question? Am I choosing the right path for trying to get where I want to go, or am I stuck in the recess, looking at the sky the wrong way and not noticing the glass which blocks my path?

Is it just me or have eyes failed to to keep up? While peace, our understanding of nutrition and farming techniques mean that we are bigger, stronger, faster and we’re living longer than ever before, the eyes don’t appear to have got the message.

Take me for instance. Into my sixth decade, but not by much, I have 3 pairs of glasses. I have a pair for screen-work, phones, laptops, TV and other devices. I have one for driving, because I can see perfectly well into the long range but I can’t read the dashboard numbers and letters. And I have a pair of sunglasses for sunny or bright-light driving and so that I can read prices in shops and books when I’m sitting on a lounger by the pool.

I’ve always had perfect eyesight, except that mid-way through the fifth decade the focal point for close-up work had lengthened to the point where I couldn’t hold a book far away enough or reach the keyboard with the target in focus. From there it’s been regular and expensive trips to the opticians. More pricier than the occasional trip to the physio.

What was life expectancy as recently as a thousand years ago? Half what is is now? The eyes don’t have it any more. We’re living too long and it’s not like we can retrain them like other muscles. I know of no exercise program focused on strengthening the optic nerve and the muscles that control focusing, if indeed they are muscles. All we can do is have corrective surgery in some cases or wear corrective equipment in other.

I’m happy to acknowledge that all my experiences and observations might be coloured by the fact that up close attention to the typed word is my life. I’m both a publisher and consumer of it, for many hours a day, so that may have contributed to the speed of the decline. But even so, if all the magnifying tools in the world disappeared overnight, or I found myself washed up on a deserted island, I would be, to use a crudity, buggered.