How to give your business 20-20 vision…

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CEO of US spectacle retailer Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal, is quoted as saying: “The key to an ideal workplace, in one word, is this: self-awareness.”

At Fearlessly Frank, we think that’s two words. Either way, Blumenthal might be onto something. Because we also believe that self-awareness is the key, not just to an ideal workplace, but to a successful business.

We’re not talking about the self-awareness of individual employees here — whether someone at your office heats up mackerel salad in the microwave or refuses to hold the elevator doors probably won’t affect your listing on the stock exchange. But a business, just like an individual person, has a vision of itself — and the way a company sees itself is vital to its success. A company needs to know not just what it does, but why it does it, where it’s going, where it’s failing, what its place in the market is. In other words, it needs to take a long, hard look at itself from time to time.

Of course, all businesses try to do this. But not all businesses get it right. That’s partly because most trend reports and analyses designed to help achieve self-awareness focus on the now, or the very long-term – so the tools available for business self-awareness often don’t give a focussed view. Without being able to place your business within a five-to-ten year context, how can you be truly self-aware?

That was the germ of thinking behind Fearlessly Frank’s 20-20 tool. A tool to help you see your business more clearly.

What might that involve? Over the course of two weeks we analyse trends in order to create a model of what your company’s ‘perfect customer’ might look like in five to ten years time  – a sort of flipside to our Ultimate Nemesis tool. We then create the ideal proposition for that customer, and top it off with a round-table with a group of successful entrepreneurs who have thrived through innovation, to help add depth to your offering.

In fact, Warby Parker is a perfect example – $1.7 billion American prescription glasses business. What might the perfect Warby Parker customer look like in 2025?

Well, remember Google Glass? The wearable revolution never quite took off with Google Glass, partly due to the initial cost-of-entry, but also because of technical limitations and because the design was considered aesthetically unappealing. However, AR and VR technologies are still growing, especially in retail. Lacoste’s LCST Lacoste AR app allows customers to virtually try on shoes, while home goods retailer Magnolia Market partnered with Shopify a little while back to create an app that places virtual 3D products directly into a customer’s home. These technologies are likely to become commonplace over the next few years, given the enormous benefits they provide. VR, as it stands, is only just finding its feet.

A brand like Warby Parker has the opportunity, then, to do a similar partnership with a tech company like Apple, Microsoft or Google to co-create a range of AR glasses that fuse style with functionality — perhaps the aim will be to create an all-purpose AR pair of consumer glasses, or perhaps the lenses could be interchangeable for different functions — one set for watching movies with access to imdb trivia in realtime, another waterproof set for surfing complete with weather reports, another for shopping which allows users to inspects 3d renders of each item. Perhaps, as Warby Parker is known for its prescription lenses, the glasses could be used to test eyesight and inform the wearer when the visit an optometrist, and include eye exercises to help keep users focussed.

Or perhaps, as a retailer, Warby Parker wouldn’t even need to co-create the technology — by simply being market-leaders in selling and promoting AR glasses, retailers would have a comfortable platform to develop and market new products, while placing Warby Parker as a leading, modern company that keeps one foot in their traditional space while dipping a toe into the tech space. Physical pop-ups in the real world, digital campaigns celebrating AR glasses brands, partnership with small tech innovators, and of course the ability to inspect each model in 3D and try it on at the point of purchase.

It could even launch an innovative Netflix-style subscription model that allows users to “rent” pairs of expensive AR glasses on a monthly basis, through its online platform.

What this comes down to is ultimately an analysis of what an average customer might look like in five or ten years time — and, as tech continues to grow, what their needs might be. Most modern consumers are forward-thinking, tech-savvy customers – so how would Warby Parker appeal to their core needs by enhancing their everyday experiences, while also maintaining their reputation for affordable and stylish lenses and frames?

It might even be that a market analysis shows that the average customer in 2025 suffers from chronic eye-strain from the sheer number of screens we’re exposed to. This places WP in a perfect position to launch a set of eye-friendly AR lenses that allow customers to get a break from the LCD glare by interacting with AR interfaces instead.

The 20-20 process is designed to provide a lithograph of what the future might look like for a customer like Warby Parker – and, as it differs from business to business, might not include product at all. The important thing is that companies are able to understand their core offering and how it relates to their market – as well as how to move it forward. Without a deep analysis of their business, it’s impossible to say whether tech is even a concern for Warby Parker – perhaps their customer base skews older, and tends to prefer traditional retail; perhaps their average customer is extremely young, and is bored of being surrounded by screens. Either way, it comes down to constant, immersive self-awareness. And if nothing else, we can at least agree – Fearlessly Frank and Warby Parker alike – on the importance of 20-20 vision.

 

What’s eating Apple? We take a look at the tech giant’s Ultimate Nemesis…

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Welcome to the final week of Fearlessly Frank’s Ultimate Nemesis series. This series is about understanding how an unforeseen challenger can disrupt even an established business model, and so we’ve chosen to go out this week not with a whimper, but with an apocalyptic bang.

And what better way to listen to an apocalyptic bang than in the modern fashion: through a pair of Apple AirPods, the tech giant’s controversial but iconic wireless headphones that are now standard attire for many urbanites? These instantly recognisable white plastic appendages are now the choice du jour for beaming our podcasts and Spotify playlists into our ears, but du jour is an accurate description here – Apple have been criticised in the past for their short product cycles and accused of manufactured obsolescence, a fact that becomes more worrying when you read reports – such as this one from designlife-cycle.com – that Apple are still falling short in terms of the biodegradability of their materials.

Now, this is not to single out Apple – as we’ve explored before on this blog, we often don’t think of the massive amounts of logistics and resources that go into creating our favourite tech products, which we then quickly throw away as soon as next generation’s flashier iteration hits the shelves. Not only are four widely-used mobile materials – tungsten, tantalum, gold and tin – classed as “conflict materials,” whose sourcing is linked to violence and atrocities in countries from which they are mined and sourced – but there is also an environmental and ethical impact stemming from how we dispose of old tech, with much of it ending up in (often illegal) “e-disposal” sites in countries such as Vietnam and Ghana. As of March this year, Apple were the second-biggest manufacturer using conflict materials, and we collectively need an improved infrastructure for disposing of obsolete tech – and perhaps a new approach to how quick we are to upgrade perfectly-usable pieces of technology.

Apple aren’t doing anything here that they haven’t always done – in fact, the yearly product cycle has been a trend-setting part of their business model for years, and they have been – to put it mildly – quite successful in it. Therein lies the challenge. We live in an age where consumer priorities can spring up and spread as quickly as a wildfire, and nowhere is that more obvious than with environmental consciousness.

“Ethical consumption” has, in recent years, affected the food industry hugely, allowing scores of new challengers to emerge with greener offerings. Some companies, like Ben and Jerry’s, have taken this in their stride and turned it into a huge opportunity, where others – with less sustainable practises at the heart of their models – are finding themselves struggling. As headlines continue to emerge about extinction threats to swathes of species, and pressure from protest groups like Extinction Rebellion growing, will it be long before the tech industry also has to face its reckoning from the public? We’ve already seen movement in the tech-for-good space and predicted a growing market for b-corps – and with scrutiny over Silicon Valley getting stronger by the minute, this could be where even a huge company like Apple finds itself vulnerable to challengers. Let’s imagine a tech company – we’ll call the Grapefruit — that was able to fuse Apple’s innovative sense of style and design with openly sustainable new tech practices. With consumer values changing year on year towards ecological responsibility, the stage is pretty much set for a tech challenger to emerge that turns climate anxiety into a selling-point.

What if, for example, Grapefruit was to commit to not using conflict materials, for a start? We’ve seen from the vegan food revolution that a large number of people are happy to boycott products they like on ethical grounds, so our iPhone addictions might not be enough to stave off challenges from more sustainable offerings. But what if Grapefruit was also able to invest in chemical and agri-tech solutions for issues like tech biodegradability? What if Grapefruit built products designed to last longer than a year, with frequent software updates giving the consumer a sense of innovation without the hardware itself changing? Or, what if they were to preserve the annual-upgrade model, but pioneer the world’s first fully-biodegradable laptops, phones, and earbuds? By using more environmentally-friendly materials, a company like Grapefruit could make Apple feel less like a forward-thinking, modern tech brand and more like a brand stuck in an obsolete era of disposable luxury and indulgence. Companies like Symphony Environmental Technologies are already claiming to be world-leaders in oxo-biodegradable and anti-microbial plastics, so it might not be a fanciful future but an imminent reality.

Obviously, none of us are likely to be walking around with AirPods made of mulch and clay anytime soon – but the extent of the material problems of mass-scale tech consumption is not going to reduce on its own, and our awareness – and willingness to vote with our wallets – will grow, not shrink. As tech increasingly defines our lifestyles, we are becoming increasingly aware of its wider impact and how it intersects with our political worries – and, as companies like Apple may eventually learn, consumer attitudes and habits can turn on a dime.

That’s why Apple’s Ultimate Nemesis is likely to be one which understands and explores these concerns in a way that Apple will likely refuse – or be unable – to do. Make no mistake – AirPod plastic may last for decades, but if Apple are too large, too slow-moving and too complacent to respond to modern consumer concerns, then their market dominance might not.

 

 

 

Ultimate Nemesis: Facebook edition. Who will claim Zuckerberg’s throne?

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Sometimes the brands that are the first to go when a new type of challenger or technology (normally the two go hand in hand) enters the arena are the ones you least expect – the most seemingly stable and ubiquitous businesses of all. But as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall – and this is often no less true in business than anywhere else.

Did anyone predict that a British mainstay like Woolworths would succumb to an economic downturn? Logically, we’d expect smaller shops to be the first to fall victim from the Amazombification of the high street, but in reality, plenty of major players came crashing down too – and if you take a walk along any high street in the country, you can still see the wreckage – the proliferation of sprayed shutters and pawn shops – that Bezos’ behemoth hath wrought on the world of consumer goods.

With that in mind, this week we ask, what would happen if a new challenger were to take on one of the Big Four themselves – Facebook?

Facebook is just as ubiquitous – in fact, far more – than any of Britain’s big high street shops, even if you won’t see its branding on your Saturday stroll through town. When it comes to the digital space, Facebook is the sheriff of social media, at once omnipresent, scary, corrupt, but undeniably useful (as long as you’re on its good side). And it is precisely this monopoly that makes it susceptible to the sidewinder, the mosquito, of a smaller, nimbler business.

Of course, many have tried already – but they haven’t been mosquitos. They’ve been Mastodon, who were extinct before they even started, and Peach, to name but two unsuccessful debutantes. They failed because they offered too little to challenge Facebook’s monopoly – they simply offered similar services with tiny tweaks. The foundations of Facebook went unchallenged, and what allows any challenger to succeed is by being truly new – by being what the giant, by definition, struggles to become.

We are now seeing some new challengers, like Vero, begin to make steady inroads into the social space. Vero is a new ad-free, algorithm-free platform that had an explosive moment in 2018, and is taking on the likes of Facebook and Instagram. It won’t be an easy journey, as these sites’ very nature has allowed them to claw their way into the very loam of social media – particularly Facebook. But the fact that Vero is still standing where many have been swatted away is testament to the fact that there is a new consumer need that is becoming more and more apparent.

It has to do with data privacy. We can almost divide the world into a pre and post-Cambridge Analytics world; people now are increasingly cautious when it comes to online security. This growing awareness is a snowball, not a nuclear bomb; and it will keep growing and growing, until Facebook is forced to address it even more directly that it has already had to do.

Which leaves new social brands free to offer radical new solutions to the problems of the social media orthodoxy. It won’t succeed by tiny tweaks but by radical rebellion – like, for instance, offering a subscription-based ad free experience, chronological posts instead of constricting algorithms – and, for the sake of painting Zuckerberg’s Ultimate Nemesis, let’s say the ability for users to delete their data instantly, own and even monetise their content, communicate transparently with moderators over trolling and online abuse, and far greater online freedom and ownership. By removing the broken ad model that plagues social and the wider internet, Facebook’s Ultimate Nemesis will remove the consumer problems that Facebook is too big, too complacent, too established, and too rigid to address now.

What makes the Ultimate Nemesis so fearsome to a business like FB is this it is completely unpredictable. New technologies and business models can be charted and forecast, but what can’t be itinerated is the shifts in thinking that accompany them. Just as Amazon morphed both the way we mentally relate to shopping, reading and music, and to the geographical landscape of the high street itself, so Facebook’s Ultimate Nemesis will be the platform that finally allows users to break out of the feedback loop of the platforms they grew up with and embrace a new way of communicating online.

It can only be a matter of time before new models begin to take hold – and unless Facebook takes drastic action to remodel itself (which any business CAN do, even if most are too rigid and reluctant to try), then it may find itself under serious threat of going the way of the high street, thanks to a bold new offering that makes it feel cumbersome and obsolete. Oh, and one more thing that Facebook’s Ultimate Nemesis will give its users, right from the start? A dislike button.

 

Fearlessly Frank’s Ultimate Nemesis – Starbucks Versus ‘Tall White’

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This week on the Fearlessly Frank blog we’re exploring our new business tool: Ultimate Nemesis.

As the name suggests, the Ultimate Nemesis programme is an intensive business bootcamp that aims to kickstart your company’s innovation efforts by posing a simple – but vital – question. Who is your biggest enemy, your number-one competitor?

It goes without saying that, as a business, it pays to know your enemy. But in this world of disruptors and start-ups, the business that has the power to destroy you might not exist yet. As the high street found out when Amazon came onto the scene, your competitors might not come from traditional channels – you might not be expecting them at all. They might be using new tech or innovative business models to solve needs that you didn’t even know your customers had yet. They can approach by stealth and, worryingly, they can prove absolutely devastating to your business model.

That’s why innovation and imaginative, adaptive thinking are vital for any modern business. You need to be prepared for threats that don’t even exist yet. Ultimate Nemesis is about picturing what that enemy might look like, and creating a plan to make sure you are always one step ahead – always the disruptor, never the disrupted.

As an example, let’s take a look at Starbucks – a huge and seemingly unsinkable business whose main competition currently comes from other high-street coffee chains, like Costa or Café Nero. It is perfectly possible for Starbucks to anticipate what either of those chains will do next – but what if a completely left-field business were to emerge and completely change the way customers relate to their daily latte provider? Even big businesses can’t afford to be complacent – “unsinkable” is how they described the Titanic, and we all know how that ended (spoiler alert: not well).

The Ultimate Nemesis of a business like Starbucks might pose some kind of challenge to the very rudiments of the business. It might exploit the brand’s inherent weaknesses and make its strengths obsolete. For instance, we already know that Starbucks is as much a real-estate business as it is a coffee shop; most big coffee chains want to cover as much space as possible in their target areas because, ultimately, nobody is overly brand loyal when it comes to their morning beverage. They might prefer Starbucks to Costa, or vice versa, but if one is significantly closer, convenience will win out. Big, expensive purchases such as cars, houses, or luxury fashion items might place more stock on brand loyalty, but a flat white is cheap, disposable, and quick – so the best strategy is to always be the closest available brand. Only in a few specific arenas – like airports or stations – do coffee chains actually compete with one another on product-quality alone, so it makes little sense to focus on making the best coffee – it pays to focus instead on making the most.

That’s where our challenger comes in. Let’s imagine a coffee brand that has managed to achieve total ubiquity, without buying up entire high-streets. How might it do this? We all remember Amazon’s plans to implement delivery drones, though eventually this plan was put on the back-burner due to its impracticality. And yes, perhaps it is impractical to rely on drone technology to deliver consumer goods of varying weight at low altitude across miles and miles of lonely rural land or crowded cities – but coffee is eminently transportable, and what if our challenger – let’s call it Tall White – was able to use this to its advantage? Tall White would only need to cover an area of about one square mile – or in other words, the City of London. The difference is, its drones would be going up – to offices and desks hundreds of stories in the air.

Unlike Starbucks, Tall White has no physical locations, but simply sends you a steaming hot cup of joe via air-delivery within five minutes of ordering through a bespoke app. Suddenly, the act of buying up acres of premium real estate starts to look cumbersome and expensive compared to a much leaner method of giving you your habitual caffeine injection.

It’s the ultimate convenience – rather than taking the elevator fifteen stories down to street level, you can have your coffee delivered while you work, and all you need to do is reach out of the window to collect it. Let’s say the CAA has just cleared Tall White for takeoff as part of a tech-innovation platform, so there’s no legal fine-print to worry about – and, once cleared, this model could hockey-stick overnight, placing Starbucks in decidedly hot water.

Of course, Starbucks would still have at least one notable advantage – coffee shops are a physical “third space” in which customers can socialise, relax, and work, which Tall White cannot provide.

Yet.

If their business model involves coffee-making without fixed locations, how would Tall White address this particular customer need?

Imagine if Tall White was also the world’s first mobile coffee-shop. Imagine if small minibuses were, in partnership with Uber or Citymapper, converted into roaming coffee-wagons, with self-service machines, comfortable seating, coach-style toilets, Wi-Fi and plug sockets in the back? Customers would call a Tall White-mobile the way they call an Uber, then sit in the back and hold meetings, or simply browse the internet, while enjoying their much-needed fix. If they need to be somewhere, the coffee-station can head in that direction; if they just need somewhere to dip into, the wagon sits stationary in a quiet street or completes a small lap of the neighbourhood. Because everything is electric and driverless, operational costs are low, and the environmental impact is not considerably higher than a power-guzzling high-street outlet.

People are adaptable. If Tall White got it right, they could provide constant, hyper-convenient third spaces that aren’t burdened by stranglingly-high commercial rents, while zooming coffee to desks everywhere in the City – and, eventually, beyond.

At the moment, Tall White’s mobile coffee-wagons are not something Starbucks have to worry about. But the question companies like Starbucks need to be asking themselves is: when do they have to start worrying? The real Ultimate Nemesis, the one that has the power to kill their business, will likely be something even more everyday and less fantastical, and they need to be constantly on the lookout for it. Because one day, Tall White – or something even more devastating – will become reality.

After all, driverless cars and delivery drones, though they may still be a way off, are not the stuff of fantasy anymore. No high street retailer could possibly have imagined, before Amazon took off, how quickly their entire consumer base would be buying the items quickly and cheaply online, on a small device carried constantly on their pockets – that they could rent a flat and fill it with furniture and electricals while on the 242, at their desks, or without stepping outside at all. And they definitely would not have seen automated transportation as a viable possibility – but suddenly these science-fiction-sounding solutions are potentially only years, not decades, away. It’s a sobering thought, even for big, stable businesses.

We’re not saying Starbucks needs to literally prepare for a fleet of Gaggia-armed Ford Transits to roll up outside Chancery Lane and steal their lunchtime crowd, but they do need to be in a state of constant ninja-like readiness for the next consumer shake-up, and to prepare for the possibility that a competitor businesses they might overlook or disregard could become a very real, viable prospect overnight. Mobile technology, cryptocurrency, hyper-connectivity, open banking, 3D printing – there are shake-ups happening constantly, and small seismic shocks mean rogue waves will soon be on their way.

The only way to truly prepare for the unexpected, then, is to tap into the same mindset as the hungry young start-ups looking to take on the world with powerful new tech and ideas pulled from the uncharted possibilities of modern life. They need to not just protect themselves from Tall White, but ask themselves: how do we BE Tall White?

That’s what our Ultimate Nemesis bootcamp aims to solve, by combining research and insight with imagination and innovation, so that when Tall White’s coffee-mobiles finally hit the market, Starbucks is already halfway down the street, in a driverless Apache helicopter that 3D-prints pumpkin spice lattes on tap.

 

A Fearless Brexit (Part Five)

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We have reached the fifth and final stage of our Brexit series, and by now most of our work should be done – the first four stages of our innovation process have seen us research, rethink and realise a vision for the country that is all but guaranteed to make Brexit a resounding success. But it would be a mistake to simply conceive and implement a solution and then simply leave it alone – to squeeze the last drops of potential out of any opportunity, we must apply the fifth and final stage: measure progress.

As the name suggests, this involves ongoing analysis and fine-tuning of the original strategy to make sure it’s performing at maximum capacity. One of the fundamental challenges of innovation is not just arriving at the perfect business solution, but also implementing it without causing major disruption. Take driverless cars, for example – an amazing innovation that we are only just beginning to realise faces major executional obstacles between here and widespread adoption. Driverless cars may be a great idea on paper, or in an optimised setting, such as Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs in Toronto. But in order to fit into the wider market, the idea will have to go through a process of extensive tweaks and changes, or else it risks being incompatible with the real world. The only way to understand how to make those changes is to monitor how a new product, service or technology is actually performing.

Brexit, of all things, is likely to face many roadblocks before it can become anything resembling a success – if it ever does. Both the UK and the EU are aware of the challenges ahead; why else would we be staring at yet another exhausting deadline delay? It’s an enormously complex undertaking that we probably won’t get right on first try, with lots of hidden problems rearing their head after we’ve already left. Even if the government had followed our process to the letter, this would remain true – it always does – but since the country is largely flying blind at this point, the prospect of major issues down the line is pretty much inevitable. The one consolation for whichever government ends up delivering the final Brexit plan is that the Measure Progress stage, designed to minimise these problems as much as possible, is an ongoing and long-term part of the process – and thus one they still have time to undertake, even as we crash headlong into the terrifying future.

In order to deliver the best Brexit possible, we will need to establish some measures of success – how do we want a final Brexit to actually look? These KPIs, or targets, or whatever we want to call them, must be measurable – we need tangible metrics to set against our performance as a country. These might be things like a) faith in the government, b) Britain’s economic capacity and market value, c) jobs and employment figures, d) opinion polls that describe the overall contentment of the UK’s population. The government, if it is realistic about achieving the optimum results, must establish a clear game-plan not just for measuring its own success but for improving its performance if it turns out to be falling short of the ideal.

How will the government restore trust if a hard Brexit leads to unseen issues? Will there be a public relations campaign to reassure the public, or a budgetary allowance for social programs, or an economic plan to shore up domestic manufacturing? Will there be a negotiation platform to solve political deadlocks, as we were forced to do during the Winter of Discontent? Will there be funds in place to keep our power stations running if the worst should happen (and any company who has made a risky manoeuvre in the past will tell you: the worst can always happen, and it is unwise to assume luck will be on your side.) Will we form strategic alliances and partnerships with other countries to ensure that the NHS continues to function, business continues to roll in, and medicine continues to make it across the border?

Hopefully, all of these options will be somewhere on the table for the government. And, in the scenario of an unexpectedly successful Brexit, the same rules apply. How will the government communicate its victories? How will we make sure that economic prosperity is not just achieved but actively benefits the electorate?

In either scenario, the only way to sensibly operate is to carefully and constantly measure how the whole thing is panning out, according to a set of pre-arranged targets. If we conduct Brexit with the same haphazard, uninformed complacency that we had going into it, we stand the very real risk of coming unmoored, missing out on vital opportunities, or just generally bungling a whole generation.

No company worth its salt would allow itself to reposition itself, develop a new product or service, or rethink its core vision without some idea in mind of what it wants to achieve, and measuring progress is the only way to know whether or not you’ve achieved something. In some ways, it’s the most important step of them all; you wouldn’t throw your chips into a poker pot without imagining your opponent’s hand and then, most importantly of all, actually turning over your cards.

Whatever happens with Brexit – and whenever it finally, exhaustingly, happens – the dark wizardry of politics pretty much guarantees that the outcome will not be what we expect, and also will be too complicated to accurately forecast. That’s why, if we were in charge of Brexit, we would ensure we were holding the spirit level up to the country at all times – to see whether we were shooting into the clouds, or sliding into the sea.

Many of us, during all this tumult, have been reminded of the classic Clash song, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, to the extent that it almost feels cliché to treat it as a sort of ah-hoc national anthem, as Vindaloo was in the nineties. And yet few verses capture the modern mindset, its confusion and implied threats of peril, as Joe Strummer’s seminal song – and so, as we conclude this little thought experiment (and we hope you’ve enjoyed coming on this turbulent journey with us) we have only one thing to add.

Whether you choose to stay and face the trouble, or to go, and see it doubled (which doesn’t seem like that difficult a wager after all, on reflection) then at least – if absolutely nothing else – look where you’re going, and try to keep track of where you’ve been.

With that, we think we’ve just done about all we can do to help save the country – you can thank us via email, if necessary. The only thing left to do now is wait. And wait. And wait.

 

 

 

A Fearless Brexit (Part Four): Making It Happen

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This week’s blog is the penultimate in our Unframing Brexit series. By the end of this post we will be 4/5ths of the way towards unilaterally solving the UK’s complex political stalemate using our proprietary process – and in order to do that, we need to do what the government has, so far, failed to do. We need to Make It Happen.

Making It Happen means taking the change-making solutions from Stage Three (Create Change) and, well, doing them.

If we have decided, during the Create Change phase, that Brexit is an opportunity to unite the nation, not divide it, then Making It Happen means translating this into action.

Half of the country is desperate to see movement on the Brexit front, and the other half, increasingly weary, is divided between fighting for a second referendum and thinking ‘just get it over with.’ In other words, there is a strong consumer need for Brexit. And like launching a product or service, timing is everything. We must be ready to seize our opportunity at the right moment.

The stage is set for the UK to make Brexit happen, but we need a definitive, decisive plan. Even if we had successfully done the first three stages of this process, and come up with a perfect strategy, how do we turn it into reality?

The answer is by creating new brands, partnerships, products, services, go-to-market strategies, creative executions, tech platforms. Connecting the dots between the vision we have in our minds with how consumers will experience them.

For example, what if we were to partner with the BBC to create a permanent new TV channel, in which UK citizens at home and abroad are consistently informed about statistics, data and impartial truths of Brexit, to help citizens feel informed and inspired?

Or rebranding Brexit to focus away from traditional patriotism (which alienates many younger British people) and instead creating a new vision of sovereignty that we can all agree on, on all sides of the political compass. Our imagery would be less bunting and bulldogs, more neutral and modern.

Our messaging could suggest that Brexit is a time to “take control”, not of partisan issues like immigration, but of our future – a chance to decide what kind of country we want to be.

Perhaps this would involve a series of online “micro-referendums” which offer a list of specific issues of national importance, from social to environmental, local and regional, which we can all vote towards to help steer Britain through its newly-gained independence. This helps give people a sense of control, a stake in their future during a time when everything feels out of control and the future, to many, seems bleak.

There is no way of pleasing two diametrically opposed ends of the political spectrum, granted, but we could at least move towards a neutral territory that focuses on control and empowerment, so we can all feel we’re steering the ship together.

This probably won’t be achieved simply with messaging – change requires innovative, wide-ranging solutions. Making It Happen essentially means refining the nuts and bolts of these solutions, figuring out how they look and feel and how they’ll be implemented.

After all, change is hard. It can be a shock to the system. In order to create meaningful new opportunities, sometimes you have to throw away the idea of “the done thing” and do things in surprising, different ways – but only with careful implementation can the benefits outweigh any potential disruption.

As the current turmoil attests, we aren’t doing a very good job of changing mindsets for Brexit – one half of the country is frustrated that nothing has happened yet, the other is still fearful that the idea itself is flawed. This is a perfect example of the system-shock that can come from a big change – but there is still a huge opportunity to use change for good.

Things need to be calibrated and configured to segue smoothly, from concept to execution, without too much disruption. A truly successful Brexit – or, indeed, an unsuccessful one – will likely be a huge step-change, and the day-to-day running of the country must be subject to minimum impact as these changes happen.

We suspect that, if Cameron’s government had been more rigorous in its early stages, then May’s task would prove a lot less chaotic and divisive now, and there could be greater focus on making sure that these inevitable changes are positive. The two year period commencing from Article 50 is almost up, shoving us into a cycle of uncertainty and ad-hoc deadline pushbacks, and the government is still floundering.

That’s because Making It Happen isn’t easy. Only by carefully aligning ducks in a row can any organisation begin to take real action.

Brexit is a lesson, in some ways, to all businesses: change is going to happen at some point, sometimes suddenly and irrevocably. It’s best to be prepared, because there will come a point where your business has to adapt to it.

If only the government had the solidarity, the vision, the mandate and the courage to rewrite the country’s future and turn Brexit into a positive statement of empowerment for the whole country, not simply a disenfranchised half.

A Fearless Brexit (Part Three) – Create Change

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Last week in Fearlessly Frank’s Brexit series, we discussed the Brexit bus.

The Leave campaign wrote a message on the side of a decommissioned Routemaster. The message promised to give £350 million per week that was spent on EU membership back to the NHS.

That figure was inaccurate, but at least it promised something. It promised to Create Change. So people remembered it.

Politicians are often described as slick salespeople who deliver lots of recycled spiels, but never act on them.

That’s why the message was so powerful.

Any private company worth its salt knows they can’t hoodwink their customers. If a brand makes an empty promise, the customers will be wise to it the second they try the product. They will stop buying the product, and stop trusting the brand that sells it.

This is what happened to Westminster. Many saw Brexit as a chance to protest against complacent politicians who over-promise and under-deliver. A chance to put them out of business.

The trouble is, the £350m figure was also a promise. Now we are about to find out if the Leave campaign’s product is any good.

 

Creating lasting change is hard. 

A company isn’t competing to win a vote. It has to stay credible for as long as it wants to stay profitable.

If FF’s task was to deliver Brexit, how would we ensure that we were offering our client more than empty words?

How would we take that “£350 million” claim and turn it into a credible proposition?

Imagine that, during our Dream Big phase, we decided that our “perfect Brexit” scenario would be based on the NHS, just like the Brexit bus. We would need a clear vision — for example, “Turn Britain’s National Health Service into the strongest, most forward-thinking healthcare service in the world.”

Then we would translate it into action.

Maybe we would suggest the government provides an enormous £4.2 billion high-tech hospital in the UK. This state of the art facility would be directly funded by EU savings, and the messaging would say as much.

We would then communicate our vision to our target market — in this scenario, that might mean the people who voted to Leave on the basis of the NHS, and the people who wanted to Remain but who consider the NHS a top priority.

This is action. It turns a promise into something credible.

But even this isn’t enough.

If we want our audience to believe in our vision of a modern NHS, we need to move the whole industry forward. We need to turn plausible into undeniable.

The NHS could become the first service that delivers diagnoses, treatment guidelines and remote appointments via apps.

That uses FitBits and algorithms to detect potential illness without GP appointments.

That allows doctors around the world to work remotely, so those inside the EU can still contribute.

That crowdsources diagnostic expertise from the world’s top universities.

That uses tech to manage nurses’ shifts for maximum efficiency — an Uber for relief staff.

That perfects surgical robotics.

The funding for this would come directly from the 4.2 billion annual figure (or whatever the real figure is.)

We would develop a new identity to symbolise this shift. Then we would develop messaging to back it up. Which might be something like:

Healthcare is going into the next century.
And thanks to our new open-heart nano-bots, so are you.

This is how you Create Change.

Only by defining a vision and turning it into credible output can an organisation succeed.

Whether that’s a company disrupting the market, or a country redefining its future, change doesn’t come from sitting still.

Change comes from saying what you’re going to do, then being the first to do it.

And a company that tries to create change without taking these steps first?

Three words: dead on arrival.