Collateral Damage

There is a war going on and if you’re not aware of it, you’re likely to become a casualty.

Believe it or not, your business is in a state of siege, under attack from external hostiles, tensions, and conflict. If you allow yourself to become complacent, you’re risking death. Today’s competitive and very volatile business environment is truly a battleground. Only the exceptionally smart will survive, but what does it take to wage smart war? In a word, intelligence.

No war in the world has been won without intelligence. Whether you’re a brand, an organization, a manufacturer, a retailer, or a not-for-profit, every one of us is fighting for market share, for a share of consumers’ wallets, or simply consumers’ attention. He who shouts loudest no longer wins and he who has the most media dollars is often the loser, because throwing money at the media is now a double-edged sword: while it might help you gain that short-term edge, it no longer offers what consumers want.

What is it that they want? They’re looking for an experience. This has driven the rise of social media, where we, as brands, businesses, organizations, can now interact and engage and offer them that experience—and also where a discontented consumer story can go viral in five seconds and destroy you. Twenty years ago, if customers had a bad experience, they told five friends; today they tell 50,000 friends in five seconds. One hundred and forty characters can change the world; a tweet can, in fact, start a revolution. The only way to survive in this dynamic business environment is to have unparalleled, ‘freshest’ intelligence at your fingertips.

In order to understand where we find ourselves today, it’s useful to revisit the history of what I call the progress of economic value. In the beginning of time we dealt exclusively in commodities: raw materials or agricultural products, mined from or grown in the earth and sold on the open market. Along came the Industrial Revolution, in which commodities were now used to make manufactured goods, so goods became the dominant economic offering. A paradigm shift then occurred, in which people no longer cared who made the goods; rather, it was price that dictated demand and so goods became the new commodities of the world. In order to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace, companies started to customize or personalize their goods, manufacturing them for a specific person or a specific company and delivering them on demand. If you customize a good it becomes a service and thus we moved from the industrial economy, which was all about goods, to a service-based economy. Customer service was key and you could make a difference with your service offering, but once again it was short-lived; services become commoditized. Now even long-distance telephone providers sell on price and nothing else. It was time to move to a new level of economic value, time to go beyond the goods and services. To differentiate now, companies have to customize services, because when you customize a service it becomes an experience, a memorable event.

This is the new predominant economic value; the changeover to what I call an experience economy. Companies that have understood this and tracked the intelligence of what customers and consumers want in terms of the experience economy are thriving today, because they had the foresight and intelligence with which to make predictions and they used it wisely. In this experience economy, it is more relevant than ever to have real-time intelligence and lore.

Donovan Bond

Toronto, Canada