As we approach the end of the year, its time to look back and do a review of our favourite posts from 2016. We've done another 102 blog posts this year, two a week, every week, like we have since the blog started back in 2006. Phew.
So, here are our top posts of 2016 from January to June, with July to December to follow in the next post.
Jan: Why we need to learn to "fail better"
This was one of our slightly 'off-piste' posts that looks beyond brands and business to life in general. The post was inspired by one of Mathew Syed's brilliant columns in The Times, when he wrote that "A positive attitude to failure predicts resilience, drive and, ultimately, success." Mathew was writing about the rise of tennis player Stan Wawrinka from an "also-ran" outside the top 10 to number four in the world. He suggests a clue to this turnaround is in the tattoo on Wawrinka's left forearm (from Samuel Beckett’s novella, Worstward Ho) around the time his performance improved: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Feb: Friends Reunited failure shows insight still matters for digital brands
This post was an important reminder than in today's digital age brand success still depends on a deep insight, as shown by the death of Friends Reunited last, one of the pioneers of social media. It launched in 2000 (below), a full four years before Facebook entered the market. And it was bought by broadcaster ITV for $250m in 2005. ITV sold it for a paltry $35m in 2009, and a few laters the pug has now been pulled, as reported here. The insight for the brand was around the desire of people to look up old school friends. The problem with the service proposition flowing from this insight is that it lacks "stickiness". Once you've checked out the people from your class and left a message for them, then what? Why go back?
Mar: Domino's digital drive turbo charges the core
This post showed how digital can grow your core business. It talked about how Domino's Pizza profits grew 18% vs. year ago by moving into online sales, which now account for 78% of all UK deliveries, using digital to change its business model, not just to "connect" or "engage" with consumers via social media. Digital channels have made ordering a pizza easier for consumers. Second, digital channels should have reduced costs, by having fewer people on the phone taking orders. Third, I imagine digital ordering is more accurate, with less room for human error.
April: Using neuro-research to refresh a brand property: Churchill the dog
This post looked at how new insight techniques using neuro-research helped demonstrate the enduring power of Churchill Insurance's distinctive brand property, Churchill the dog. Churchill has been used by the company for 12 years to build distinctive memory structure, helping the brand by top-of-mind when people consider which insurer to use. As Churchill's Head of Marketing, Lucy Brooksbank, explained: "Churchill is our biggest brand asset helping create market-leading awareness despite only having the 6th spend highest spend in the insurance market." Near Insight mapped brain responses at each stage of the advert, with peaks in brain response coinciding with when Churchill the dog appeared in the communication, confirming that the campaign was effective.
May: TomTom on track to re-invent the core
This post showed how Tom Tom is managing the incredibly hard task of re-inventing its core business, with revenues growing +6% to €1.07billion in 2015, the first growth since 2009.The original core business of satellite navigation devices (sat nav) for cars was disrupted by the arrival of smartphones with free built-in satellite navigation. TomTom re-defined their market as "navigation and mapping services" rather than "satnavs" to inspire and guide re-invention of the core. TomTom now has four key business areas, with growth in the newer areas finally offsetting the decline in the original sat nav business.
- Consumer, including the original sat nav business, in addition to wearable technology like sports watches
- Licensing, such as the partnership with Apple for iPhone mapping, and more recently with Uber
- Telematics for managing fleets of lorries
- Automotive, supplying mapping to car manufacturers
June: Leadership lessons from Eddie Jones and England rugby
As a rugby fan, I couldn't resist having this as one of the posts of the year. And I'm feeling rather smug at having predicted the success of England's rugby coach Eddie Jones. Back in November 2015, when England were ranked a lowly 8th in the world, I posted that "I believe, and hope, that Jones' leadership will produce better results." In June I posted about how a healthy and long over-due refocusing on performance was paying off, in contrast with the disastrous approach of previous head coach, Stuart Lancaster, who was on an ultimately fruitless mission to create the 'right culture'. By June England had won all eight of their matches in 2016, sealing a first "Grand Slam" since 2003 (where they beat Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy).
Well, fast forward to today and England have won all 13 games, and are ranked number 2 in the world. I suggested this was achieved by focusing on the right "playing model" (like a business model in the business world) that remembered and refreshed what made England rugby successful in the past.
So, there you have the first half of the 2016 top posts. In the final post of 2016 we'll look at the top posts from the second half of the year.