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TEDGlobal 2012

Tim Leberecht: 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand

June 25, 2012

The days are past (if they ever existed) when a person, company or brand could tightly control their reputation -- online chatter and spin mean that if you're relevant, there's a constant, free-form conversation happening about you that you have no control over. Tim Leberecht offers three big ideas about accepting that loss of control, even designing for it -- and using it as an impetus to recommit to your values.

Tim Leberecht - Business romantic
Tim Leberecht argues that in a time of big data and quantification of everything, we are losing sight of the importance of the emotional and social aspects of business and work. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Companies are losing control.
00:15
What happens on Wall Street
00:19
no longer stays on Wall Street.
00:20
What happens in Vegas ends up on YouTube. (Laughter)
00:23
Reputations are volatile. Loyalties are fickle.
00:26
Management teams seem increasingly
00:31
disconnected from their staff. (Laughter)
00:33
A recent survey said that 27 percent of bosses believe
00:36
their employees are inspired by their firm.
00:40
However, in the same survey, only four percent
00:42
of employees agreed.
00:45
Companies are losing control
00:47
of their customers and their employees.
00:49
But are they really?
00:53
I'm a marketer, and as a marketer, I know
00:55
that I've never really been in control.
00:58
Your brand is what other people say about you
01:01
when you're not in the room, the saying goes.
01:04
Hyperconnectivity and transparency allow companies
01:07
to be in that room now, 24/7.
01:11
They can listen and join the conversation.
01:14
In fact, they have more control over the loss of control
01:17
than ever before.
01:20
They can design for it. But how?
01:22
First of all, they can give employees and customers more control.
01:25
They can collaborate with them on the creation of ideas,
01:29
knowledge, content, designs and product.
01:32
They can give them more control over pricing,
01:36
which is what the band Radiohead did
01:38
with its pay-as-you-like online release of its album
01:40
"In Rainbows." Buyers could determine the price,
01:43
but the offer was exclusive, and only stood for a limited period of time.
01:46
The album sold more copies than previous releases of the band.
01:51
The Danish chocolate company Anthon Berg
01:55
opened a so-called "generous store" in Copenhagen.
01:58
It asked customers to purchase chocolate
02:01
with the promise of good deeds towards loved ones.
02:04
It turned transactions into interactions,
02:07
and generosity into a currency.
02:10
Companies can even give control to hackers.
02:13
When Microsoft Kinect came out,
02:16
the motion-controlled add-on to its Xbox gaming console,
02:18
it immediately drew the attention of hackers.
02:22
Microsoft first fought off the hacks, but then shifted course
02:25
when it realized that actively supporting the community
02:29
came with benefits.
02:32
The sense of co-ownership, the free publicity,
02:34
the added value, all helped drive sales.
02:37
The ultimate empowerment of customers
02:40
is to ask them not to buy.
02:42
Outdoor clothier Patagonia encouraged prospective buyers
02:45
to check out eBay for its used products
02:49
and to resole their shoes before purchasing new ones.
02:52
In an even more radical stance against consumerism,
02:56
the company placed a "Don't Buy This Jacket"
02:59
advertisement during the peak of shopping season.
03:01
It may have jeopardized short-term sales,
03:05
but it builds lasting, long-term loyalty
03:07
based on shared values.
03:10
Research has shown that giving employees more control
03:12
over their work makes them happier and more productive.
03:15
The Brazilian company Semco Group famously
03:19
lets employees set their own work schedules
03:22
and even their salaries.
03:25
Hulu and Netflix, among other companies,
03:27
have open vacation policies.
03:29
Companies can give people more control,
03:32
but they can also give them less control.
03:34
Traditional business wisdom holds that trust
03:39
is earned by predictable behavior,
03:42
but when everything is consistent and standardized,
03:44
how do you create meaningful experiences?
03:47
Giving people less control might be a wonderful way
03:50
to counter the abundance of choice
03:53
and make them happier.
03:56
Take the travel service Nextpedition.
03:57
Nextpedition turns the trip into a game,
04:00
with surprising twists and turns along the way.
04:03
It does not tell the traveler where she's going
04:07
until the very last minute, and information is provided
04:09
just in time. Similarly, Dutch airline KLM
04:12
launched a surprise campaign, seemingly randomly
04:16
handing out small gifts to travelers
04:19
en route to their destination.
04:22
U.K.-based Interflora monitored Twitter
04:24
for users who were having a bad day,
04:27
and then sent them a free bouquet of flowers.
04:29
Is there anything companies can do to make
04:33
their employees feel less pressed for time? Yes.
04:35
Force them to help others.
04:38
A recent study suggests that having employees complete
04:41
occasional altruistic tasks throughout the day
04:45
increases their sense of overall productivity.
04:47
At Frog, the company I work for, we hold internal
04:51
speed meet sessions that connect old and new employees,
04:55
helping them get to know each other fast.
05:00
By applying a strict process, we give them less control,
05:03
less choice, but we enable more and richer social interactions.
05:06
Companies are the makers of their fortunes,
05:11
and like all of us, they are utterly exposed to serendipity.
05:14
That should make them more humble, more vulnerable
05:18
and more human.
05:22
At the end of the day, as hyperconnectivity
05:24
and transparency expose companies' behavior
05:27
in broad daylight, staying true to their true selves
05:29
is the only sustainable value proposition.
05:33
Or as the ballet dancer Alonzo King said,
05:37
"What's interesting about you is you."
05:39
For the true selves of companies to come through,
05:42
openness is paramount,
05:45
but radical openness is not a solution,
05:48
because when everything is open, nothing is open.
05:51
"A smile is a door that is half open and half closed,"
05:54
the author Jennifer Egan wrote.
05:59
Companies can give their employees and customers
06:01
more control or less. They can worry about how much
06:04
openness is good for them, and what needs to stay closed.
06:07
Or they can simply smile, and remain open
06:11
to all possibilities.
06:15
Thank you. (Applause)
06:17
(Applause)
06:21
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

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Tim Leberecht - Business romantic
Tim Leberecht argues that in a time of big data and quantification of everything, we are losing sight of the importance of the emotional and social aspects of business and work.

Why you should listen

In his book The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself, Leberecht invites us to rediscover romance, beauty and serendipity, by designing products, services and experiences that “make us fall back in love with our work and our life.” The book inspired the creation of the Business Romantic Society, a global collective of artists, developers, designers, researchers and scientists who share the mission of bringing beauty to business. Now running consulting firm Leberecht & Partners, he was previously the chief marketing officer at NBBJ, a global design and architecture firm, and at Frog Design. He also co-founded the “15 Toasts” dinner series that creates safe spaces for people to have conversations on difficult topics.

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