Recently the Victorian metropolitan train system has not been working very well. So much so that the incumbent Connex trains was sacked and replaced recently.
It’s created an interesting example of how not to re-brand something. And before I rant further, I’ll remind you of the startupblog definition of a brand:
Brand: A cognitive shortcut from which informed decisions can be made.
The brand is always the acummulation of the many interactions consumers have with the product or service. So with Connex, the brand was the overcrowded, delayed, cancelled, crime ridden, dirty train service. In fact much of the bad experience can be attributed to the inherited infrastrcutre. And it’s here that the key lesson lies. Whenever a re-branding event occurs, the brand custodians can’t wait to tell everyone how it will be different this time. They go off and implment a shiny new logo, make an advertisment, and paste the new brand, word or design on all the physical elements that represent the brand.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The reason the brand sucks, is because of the experience people are having with it. A new word or logo will never fix this. Re-branding should go all the way back to the start. A total product / service re-design, or maybe even an infrastructure update is needed – as in the case of Melbourne trains and Connex. If we want to re-brand anything with success, first we have to prove it’s better with real evidence. Slapping a Metro logo on the broken Melbourne train system will only damage the brand before it even begins. They should have fixed everything first. Even if it means not branding anything for a year or two. Having no name trains running on the tracks. Radical, maybe. Correct, no doubt. Fix the experience first, create cognitive associations later.
For entrepreneurs the idea is simple. Our brand will only ever be the memory of the experience our people had when interacting with us. If we want a new meaning, we need to create new experiences.
I used to think my skills base limited the areas of business I could play in. I remember thinking back to the dot com boom in the mid and late 1990’s wishing and dreaming that I could some how be involved in the excitement, the fervor, and yes, maybe even the money. But I wasn’t a programmer, a digital designer or media player or a venture capitalist. I was merely a marketing manager trapped in the industrial complex of consumer goods. The bust came and I was quietly happy that peoples paper fortunes and egos got busted too. Which in hindsight was not a nice way to think. It was built on jealously, lack of knowledge and immaturity on my behalf.
Since then I’ve learned this: The type of skills we have matters far less than the fact we have a skill set which is valuable.
Translation: We don’t need to be a technology gurus to be operating or starting up in the technology space.
Maybe we are good at sales, marketing, raising capital, managing and motivating a team, project management, accounting. All of these skills will be needed in whatever business we start or are involved in. What matters is that we can add value in the chain somewhere which takes us from idea to revenue. Where we sit in that chain isn’t as important as we think. What really matters is being able to create the value chain.
It’s a rare combination indeed for a person to have tech genius and business brilliance. Fact is we need each other. We couldn’t have succeeded at rentoid without the business heads or techies collaborating. I wish I’d known this 10 years ago.
Sure it can be an advantage to startup in an area where we have expertise. It can be an incredible way to keep our costs low. But it’s not necessarily a barrier to entry. If we want to success, we’ll have to build a team in any case. And building a revenue infrastructure is what we ought be focusing on as entrepreneurs.