In marketing, most brands that are enjoying success are likely doing so because they created something that WORKS. Whether it’s a consumer product like a vacuum cleaner that never loses suction, or the standard-setter in smartphones or a business-to-business service like an ad network or a social media platform or even a service provider like an ad agency or web development firm, something is WORKING. It could be the product design, or the solution to a common problem, or a specific process or a recipe or even an algorithm.
But what’s the secret sauce that KEEPS brands thriving? How do we move from enjoying just a modicum of success to relishing a systematic pattern of victories and enduring prosperity? While some may chalk it up to luck or a charismatic CEO or market timing, I assert that the most successful and most profitable brands in every corner of the marketing world all share a similar trait: they employ the Law of Constant Improvement.
When brands (in virtually any category) are thriving, it’s typically due to a combination of factors that include the basic food groups: an ability to deliver [manufacture/write/uncover/sing/whatever] something of value, an understanding of the market environment, an understanding of the target consumer needs, an understanding of limitations and mandatories, and so on. But the lasting effects of excellence are usually garnered by a sustained and even obstinate desire to continue improving on current successes.
The Law of Constant Improvement states that you are never quite “there” yet. While you may be enjoying success (and profits,) there is no qualifying reason to halt the process of improvement. And in this law, improvement is not one-sided. Normally, we would focus on the consumer audience, and how to make the product/experience/service better for them. But brands can constantly improve internally, [financially, operationally, culturally, philanthropically] as well. This is true if you run a small business, a large corporation, a non-profit or a community. It’s especially true if you’re in marketing.
A healthy side effect of The Law of Constant Improvement seems to be a proclivity towards extended tenure. It becomes evident when you review success stories in almost any category: a technology leader like Apple; an online leader like Amazon; a consumer leisure brand [or is it a retail experience? or is it a coffee shop?] like Starbucks; a band like Coldplay. All seem to factor a common denominator: they are constantly striving to improve. And it doesn’t have to be big, blue-chip brand business: local and regional marketers can employ the same law, and alter their DNA to replicate success. The evidence seems to suggest that brands who continue to improve with a near-obsessive regularity become leaders.
Another aspect of The Law of Constant Improvement is its ability to permeate into the corporate culture. It’s clear that brands who adopt a process of constant improvement don’t do so as a line item operational procedure, but rather because it’s embedded into the personality of the company, and into the personality of each employee. It turns out that constant improvement is less a thing to do, and more a thing to be.
Also note that in the inner gears of today’s consumer-centric commerce machine, the market has come to DEMAND constant improvement. That’s just the new rules at play. There’s so much competition and customization out there that brands have to continue to evolve each product and feature to keep their audience(s) engaged and entertained.
It would likely be a lot easier to happen on a formula and then just keep churning it out for eternity. (Note, for some brands, that’s a solid strategy – see Coke vs. the New Coke debacle.) But for the vast majority of brands, The Law of Constant Improvement is the new mandatory to continue to engage your original audience, to roll up new fans, to outperform expectations and if you fit into this category, to satisfy shareholders.
So start improving today. And be prepared to never stop.
Great post. Constant Improvement is not necessarily equated with cost improvement. I’ve witnessed many companies striving for cost improvement only to find that they’ve damaged their brands value and equity.
Very interesting point, David. In many cases, improving on the brand or product or service could come at a cost, and you’d seriously have to weigh the long-term value relative to the expenditures. In other cases, however, improving costs/expenses is an important aspect for any company, as long as it doesn’t compromise the ultimate customer experience.
Great post Nader and I also agree with David’s point. I recall a line from the movie ‘Social Network’ where Mr. Zuckerberg’s character (well played by Jesse Eisenberg) is asked
about what he will do once the work on Facebook is finished. I paraphrase – as he says – ‘That’s the beauty of it – it’s never finished’. One could argue that FB and Mr. Zuckerberg do not always follow the ideal of constant improvement on behalf of the user – but the point is that the desire is there for constant improvement. Constant improvement doesn’t always work out like people (or companies) might imagine.