One day in Siena
July 1st, in Siena was a special day. I was invited to collaborate and present at a seminar focusing on safety, business and innovation, targeting businesses and local government organisations.
The seminar was held at Palazzo Patrizi, just behind Piazza del Campo, home of Siena’s town hall. Two words seemed appropriate for the situation: Renaissance and Strategy. In addition, the speakers felt quite ambitious, with our desire to explore the junction between mandatory and regulatory activities and innovative business.
I was happy to see my expectations met. It was great to contribute to the fusion of different ideas to create a strategically solid, sustainable, and safe business model and operational canvass, market-oriented as from this focus any company receives energy and propulsion and on which it is measured.
The introductory speech focused on the concept of ‘safety’ and we all realised that the past few months have not only been tragic and ‘useless’, instead they have sharpened the will and ability necessary to find non-traditional alternatives and solutions, a path out of a ‘dark’ period and to put people back in the center, of both the ‘company’ and the ‘market’.
For my presentation (or lecture, it was an officially credited seminar) I had designed a path through interconnected issues, ideas, and insights. Resilient organisations do see opportunities in any occurrence and are conscious that all corporate activities – from those more market-oriented to the apparently back-office ones – have a significant impact on the ability to operate effectively, serve clients efficiently and augment the loyalty levels.
With examples of the transformative impact of the pandemic over the travel and tourism sector, discussion touched areas like social influence, complexity, and control of customer and user experience, branding when facing disruptive events, and the reflection of external, market-driven actions over to internal optimisation strategy.
We found the meeting point – between ‘Renaissance and Strategy’. Those who were present appreciated the work, and after the summer the series of meetings will restart. It was a beautiful and inspiring day in Siena. Stay tuned!
From weapons of massive consumptions to caring individuals?
We have been living with the pandemic for over a year now and I am thinking back to what I was hearing back in spring 2020. An interesting stream of thought was about the possibility for mankind to become more acutely aware of the importance of the environment, how we treat nature, and – perhaps – accelerate on what we are supposed to do to make our lifestyle more sustainable and in tune with the planet. More on this line, someone was thinking we were on the brink of a New Era of the Aquarius (astrologically, the Age of Aquarius represents cooperation, humanitarianism, and peace).
We talk a lot about sustainability, what companies should do, and how sustainability could be enhanced by the faster-than-ever digitalisation organisations have been implementing since the beginning of the pandemic.
The main challenge here is again about consumers. The present system is built around the idea of ‘consumption’ – possibly massive and very fast – and the creation of ‘needs’ to drive such consumption into business manageable directions. Even before the pandemic we knew the model was unsustainable, presently we know for sure it is not sustainable given the global economic layout and underlying logistics. Furthermore, the pandemic is creating massive differences across society – the gap between rich and poor is widening, class differences are more acute, and in some countries, even the vaccination is creating gaps between people, professions, and geographical areas. We are reinforcing – willingly or not – an unsustainable patchwork of siloed societies and people. It won’t bring anything interesting unless large chunks of this system are moving to meet ‘sustainability’.
For long sustainability has been pigeonholed into something that it is not. It is not a way to ‘green wash’ consumers’ minds, it is not a bunch of sugar-coated ideas with no substance. It is instead a multi-faced, people-driven, all-encompassing concept. Everything counts, everyone counts when thinking about how to re-shape our impact as mankind, starting from individual people to entire country systems. For example, according to Statista, Italy is recycling an average of 51,3% (at the municipality level) and the city of Mumbai is tasking citizens to suggest solutions for improving the liveability of public spaces. Even Vogue has a list of 35 things everyone can do to adopt a more green lifestyle in 2021.
Companies are role models. A recent Deconstruct research shows that more than 55% of younger generations see brands somewhat like a ‘beacon’ for ideas and behaviours, and more than 65% of customers would pay a premium for the same product if it was more environmentally conscious. Adding environmental value will go a long way in building both a ‘reputation’ in a changing marketplace and a solid revenue stream – since a purchase behaviour based on an ethical system is stronger and more loyal than the attention to just price or performance. The concept of an ‘augmented product’ does include packaging, so why not starting from here to state the new course a company is taking? I mean – more broadly – why do not we change the ‘wrapping’ around the concepts, to make them more appealing?
We don’t buy anything with just logic, we buy with our heart, soul, instinct, and guts, we can be caring individuals, but please give us a shareable purpose, a warm understanding of why, not just cold data.
Circular economy, end of the property?
We have heard about the circular economy since quite a while ago – first hints dated back to 1966, with a more structured and ‘palatable’ approach for modern people in 1996.
Still… today the circular economy is on everyone’s agenda and part of high-end speeches and strategic thinking – from World Economic Forum to McKinsey discussing the future of fashion and the ‘end of ownership’.
The little problem here is about the discrepancy between what seems to be an economic model – or approach – very much idealistic and the reality of the ‘consumer’ mindset. I would suggest having a deep look at the tension we are experiencing these days between ‘central’ management of the macro-environment at social and economic levels and the inadequacy of those management practices at the micro-environment (read: people) level.
The individualistic society we have built to foster hyper-consumerism is now firing back at us when we have to control and act against planetary-level threats. We simply do not respond as individuals in what would be logical, community-oriented ways, simply because we are not educated or – better – we have not trained ourselves to think in terms of community.
Therefore, seems to be that before singing the praises of the circular economy or the end of ownership (this being the ultimate and fundamental pillar of what you do see around) I would try to understand how and what should be modified at the cultural level to move such triple-somersault changes from the wishful thinking to a real, globally impactful trend, and no longer an item we use to sound clever and à la page – with a delay of several decades.
Bad, WhatsApp, bad. Or not?
WhatsApp sits on the first screen, the first row from the bottom on my mobile. Facebook is now relegated in the fourth screen, lost in between COVID-19 infection tracking app (which I use regularly, by the way!!), loyalty apps from railways and airways, Mastermind, and a couple of mapping alternatives to G-Maps. WhatsApp is genetically embedded into what I do every day, Facebook is my notebook for birthdays.
Still, when the news came out that data, traffic, or whatever would have been happily shared from WhatsApp to any other Facebook galaxy of companies, I felt the chill. Then, after, I realised the chill was just a ‘me-too’ one, admittingly we all do far more silly things that could hinder our privacy – eg. discovering via an app and an unknown link to click which sort of magical being we were in the Medieval ages (no, this does not exist, do not ask! At least I think so, I am not sure…) – and in fact, using WhatsApp is quite the least of my worries.
Nevertheless, I have downloaded Signal – I still do not remember this name by heart – and started to use it with a handful of friends and colleagues. A real handful, I swear. So, the big question: why all this fuss about WhatsApp?
I have decided to ask a sample of people I know – from business and marketing professionals to creatives and artists, all ages – to understand whether we have a case or is just another schizophrenic, pandemic-speed reaction to rather boring news. I have used the TRI-Model framework to dissect the loyalty we once had in an app into its components and understand where WhatsApp failed us – if at all – and where it was still dominating the IM – Instant Messaging – landscape (2bn users globally).
WhatsApp came across as highly unethical – 3.8 points out of 10, people thought it was not playing fair and the impact of the news seems to have affected, but since I do know the ‘sample’ of people I did ask the questions, I am inclined to believe this is a basic assumption about WhatsApp and lots of other IM (and companies?): “I am with you, but I cannot pretend I like you, I simply use you for a lack of better alternatives”. The problem for the ‘better alternatives’ in this quest for IM dominance is mainly one: WhatsApp came out as very, very strong in terms of ‘usability and performance’ (from 8.4 to 9.0 on a couple of related variables).
A question came up: where do customers draw the boundary between ethics and convenience? How radical is that boundary so to force a shift to an alternative? Furthermore, is that boundary real and thick enough to stand the trial of habit and direct loyalty somewhere else?
I believe the answers can be found focusing on a few concepts – and analysis, of course – including brand perception and product augmentation, however in reality I feel it is all down to basics: why should we – people – change IM, and how cumbersome is this change for us? Ethics is a powerful concept, but we are all still genetically programmed to reward convenience. Not for much longer, I believe!
Here’s our quick analysis on WhatApp using the TRI Model:
How do you spell ‘loyalty’?
Loyalty. \ ˈlȯi(-ə)l-tē is how you spell it according to the dictionary.
That is dry, impersonal, meaningless in its definition of “the quality or state or an instance of being loyal”. Back to square one, what is that determines for anyone, in any situation ‘being loyal’?
We need more. Let’s try and make some sense, here.
We are all loyal, whether to someone or something. Loyalty gives us the possibility to deploy the best of our resources, it allows us to connect with people we care about or respect, it is ultimately our own and personal gradient of value that we apply to the world around us.
Challenge: the world around us has deeply changed in the past 12 months. So have customers, priorities, needs and wants, and companies. Indeed also ‘customer’ loyalty has changed, or better, has not even changed entirely, it is in constant beta. The big challenge then, if we do not have the faintest idea of what makes ‘loyalty’ a bit more stable.
In Deconstruct we have recently been analysing customer loyalty, and we have elaborated the Trust, Relevancy, Iteration (TRI) Model, a framework to understand loyalty even when it is a touch too wavy – at least for the time necessary to make our adjustments, as people and companies.
Loyalty is a product of three factors:
In simple terms, people are loyal to us – or an idea, or indeed a brand – because they trust us, since what they know about us, about what we have done consistently in the marketplace. The trust message becomes a foundation because what we are, represent, and deliver is relevant to the person’s lifestage and status. Trust and relevancy are magnified in importance if confirmed during every iteration of a customer’s interaction with us from any angle or touchpoint, digital or other. She or he may stop loyalty from waving around.
The TRI Model we use in Deconstruct takes into account a series of variables making Trust, Relevancy, and Iteration (TRI) a specific combination of values for different companies and across different sectors. After all, we are not all equal. Same same, but different!
Today, Trust, Relevancy, and Iteration are under threat, as some global trends and occurrences put a question mark on what companies have done until now to keep ‘loyal’ customers and business partners. Globalisation and de-globalisation, the impact of sustainability and conscious capitalism, diversity and inclusion, climate change, and geopolitical imbalances were already forcing companies to revise their stand, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the impact of those trends, adding an unprecedented level of fear and uncertainty at a global level.
Loyalty brings rewarding, long-term relationships, whatever is at stake in the connection. In business terms, loyalty brings a reliable source of revenues and competitive advantages, sustainable over time, in many different forms. It is – therefore – paramount that executives focus on reinforcing loyalty leveraging coordinated and informed changes across all three dimensions, holistically.
To give loyalty to someone or something today is a far more important act than ever before, as it determines your possibility to believe in a liveable future. Companies have to act as role models and foster environments in which customers can thrive as human beings for a better future. That is why we like to think that we could be at the doorstep of a ‘Customer Renaissance’, from a period guided only by sheer profit to an age in which ‘health’ takes the place of ‘wealth’. And this is quite a big change.
If you would like to read our brand new report focusing on customer loyalty and learn more about our TRI Model, please get in touch with the Deconstruct team!
Planning ahead, always!
Just a couple of days and 2020 is over. With a sigh of relief for most of us, I believe. No need to remind anyone how we have spent the past months, let’s try to take another road, walk a different path.
We have accumulated – taking Italy as an example – 335 days of unique and unusual energy, throughout complex and harsh times, and we gave different meanings and importance to everything that makes ‘life’ as we know it. Relationships, friends, family, future, security, trust, everything that involved us, and people around us. The future has been forcefully scrutinised, analysed, changed, reorganised, or – for some – frozen in the hope of better times to come.
This is the big question. Are we going to freeze, to put everything to a halt waiting for someone to ‘solve the issue’, or do we proceed chasing the next big thing, ready to discover what will make our lives better?
We are on the verge of a new era that is called the ‘Augmented Era’. We, as humans, will be able to use technology deeply embedded into our lives to be ‘augmented’, empowered by this injection of novelty.
Are we really at the cusp of such transformation or were we? At Deconstruct we believe we are.
During our project planning sessions, when brainstorming, we discussed that we do not like the idea of a ‘new normal’, as there is not such a thing as ‘normal’. Every day is different, months after months things change without asking for permission to change. Humans like the idea of ‘things’ to be motionless, static, as this gives the illusion of control, but how could the world be immobile with almost eight billion minds, sets of needs, lives, complexities, dreams, aspirations, futures? It simply cannot.
The past months have changed the ways, altered the speed, shifted the focus of an inevitable transformation, but have not stopped the momentum. Plans need to be adjusted – simply by living – to seamlessly modify reality.
That is why at Deconstruct we are all mindful about what we have done and accomplished during 2020 – the very same launch of the network this spring, the creation of new analytical frameworks to understand and explain markets and people dynamics, the inclusion of bright new professionals in the global team, and the delivery of innovative projects to clients – we are planning to constantly adjust.
In 2021 Deconstruct will be unique and very creative. Professionals and teams will join the network to augment our capabilities to deliver high-quality research, to create new digital ecosystems and respond to customers’ changing needs, to design new ways to approach the markets.
We will be launching two new services in the digital business and marketing areas, and we will have a focus on customer behaviour and loyalty, brand’s role and brand strategies, people skills, and learning paradigms, community-driven economic models, and trends.
Expect this, or more, as we want you to be with us ahead of the curve, ready for reaping on changes.
Welcome to our world!
I was walking around Milan, this spring, and it all looked so spookily different. Obviously, the pandemic the entire world is facing today is now more clear in its impact and boundaries, but at the time the feeling was: it is not going to be ‘business as usual’, and not for a while, forever.
We – I and some friends – had endless discussions (obviously online!) about the future, what would it look like, what was in store for us, as human beings, as civilisation, and as a global business system. The interesting fact was that, naturally, different approaches and points of view mixed together nicely, pragmatism and creativity, economics and philosophy, old ways and innovation… everything found its place, as in a carefully rehearsed play. But it was not rehearsed at all, it was normal, it was needed, it was a new way.
It was also fairly obvious there was something in the market that could transform into an opportunity: people and companies do not need more data (there is plenty, too much in reality) but more understanding, more insights, more ‘new ways’. One day we decided: “we need to dismantle this huge amount of information and recompose everything in a way that it is more understandable, usable, a little bit more human”. That day the idea of Deconstruct was born.
Deconstruct has the aim to offer companies – but more so the people running companies – the opportunity to find a plethora of different capabilities fused together. to tackle any challenge by looking at it from different angles. To analyse any challenge, idea, assumption, certainty, and dissect the big picture, and recompose it in a more intelligible way to manage the complexity we are all living in right now.
This is what we have decided to focus on: help our customers understand market complexity and adapt their strategies to whatever their challenges are.
We are now a group of professionals based in different parts of the world, with different cultural and professional backgrounds, driven by our passion and ideas, and yet we all meet at the same crossroad.
Together with our customers we explore ways and opportunities, we redesign potential scenarios and business ventures, and we have understood we have to use one, very powerful filter: people.
People are everything: people are market, people are companies, people are desires and needs, people are past and future, people are reactions and actions, people are certainty and uncertainty.
We wanted to start with people as the essential variable of everything we have around. And this is what we did, and what we will do: help customers understand market complexity and design smart responses to whatever challenges they face.
Because we indeed are, as people, at the center of it all. This is true also for Deconstruct.
Welcome to our world!