Saturday, 14 May 2011

Conviction Thinking..

Innovation needs table-thumping levels of conviction

In the UK we have a fast growing men’s shaving brand called King of Shaves – it’s got big ambitions.  Will King, CEO and founder has just done a deal with Remmington which will see his the King of Shaves razors and shaving products roll out across the US.  Now, my job title at ?What If! is Chairman and Chief Enthusiast so I was really looking forward to meet someone who is a self proclaimed evangelist for his brand and it’s benefits of a great shave at a great price.  Could Will out enthuse me?  Could I out evangelise him? 

We happily gassed on for an hour about how we were going to revolutionize our respective markets.  We threw out statements about how the world would look in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years…  in so far as we could in a trendy London members club we thumped the table about what the future would look like.  Great fun.  It was only after spending the rest of the day with an enormous packaged goods company that I realized meeting Will wasn’t just fun.  Company leaders need to be able to see around corners, they need to be able to thump the table and say “this is how it’s going to be and that’s where were heading”.  I’m going to call this conviction leadership and what I’ve noticed is it’s value in innovation (pretty obvious) but importantly how the innovation debate reveals just how convicted leaders are.  The trouble with innovation is that you can’t really use traditional business skills to paint the exciting future picture, you need belief for that.  And belief, or conviction comes and that comes from getting out of your office and getting dosed up on your particular cocktail of inspiration. 

Will King will is and will be King of Shaves because he has conviction, I’m sure it hasn’t come from market research.  One factor might be that the media are interested in his story as are private equity houses.  This means that Will, unlike many brand owners is constantly telling and re-telling his story, and it’s not a story about the past – it’s about the future, what King Of Shaves is going to do to the market.  There’s something potentially huge in this for large multinationals that are mentally wired into ‘insight – benefit’ thinking.  This can become  rear view mirror thinking, the ‘future’ or ‘see round corner visioning’ muscles just don’t get a work out.  This is a challenge many of us know well, the issue is that classically trained marketers (I put my hand up here) just don’t get how fashion is made.  Who you know and who they know is the new marketing battleground.  You can't play at this 'new marketing' without bags of table-thumpingness.  So if you need to see round corners, if you're in the market for a big new revenue stream then why not plot how you're going to get conviction first?