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future perfect

Š Brand Manual, 2013 All rights reserved.

future perfect


“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Alan Kay




Tomorrow, your established business will be fighting for survival. You won’t face the competition you already know, but new companies that don’t even exist today. The information revolution is creating new industries, where the newcomers are incumbent and you are in the way.



“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Yogi Berra


From right to left

No matter how much brands and companies vary from country to country, people are still the same. In supermarkets people everywhere tend to walk counter clockwise and take more products from eye-height on the right hand side.



This book is not about you. It is about me.

Customers are self-centric and only in it for their own good. Nevermind that “own good� may be a willingness to pay for socially or ecologically ethical goods and services. No matter how it is defined, they are still in it for themselves and their loyalty is available only until someone else satisfies those needs better. For years companies have purported to have the customers interests at heart of their business strategy. With increasing awareness of real options, however, some of these companies are seeing an exodus of customers because saying it and doing it are very different things.


Jack of all trades?

Trying to come up with the next hot new thing can be an exercise in frustration. Focusing on your business without including a real customer in the picture often leads to innovations that only a handful of hardcore fans will appreciate. The MS Word has so many customization options that it boggles the mind. It is a complex self-publishing tool, but in reality, it is used mainly for putting words in a row in the default setting. Of course, one might argue, that there are people who do use all the advanced features. But for the majority of users, these features stand in the way of a good user experience.


Involve me and I’ll understand­

Including the voice of the customer from the beginning of an innovation cycle can lead to real gains in pro足 duct value at much lower cost, than trying to predict the future on tea leaves. Often the question is not at all in improving the underlying product or service. Instead the task is to remove barriers to use, which can be so incredibly mundane as being on the wrong side of the street. If the goal of business is to sell goods and services to customers, then it makes reasonable sense to involve them in the design of the product or service. They will understand. More importantly, so will you!


“The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past.�

Robertson Davies


You’re getting old

You know you’re getting old when the music on your kid’s mp3 player no longer sounds like music. What young people today know and care about is not what you cared about. Often we find ourselves “protecting” youth, by censoring what they see or hear or can do. Equally, old businesses try to protect themselves against new businesses by lobbying for tighter restrictions on industry, to create barriers to entry. Ironically, it is language and culture, which are the most effective. People buy books in their local language. They like to feel the quality of the tailoring. Where this is not important, or is willfully ignored, established business will face competition that is bound to disrupt. Because people are people and when there’s a better deal to be had, most take it. 25

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.�

Attributed to Henry Ford, without proof*


Gimme Although people might indeed have said, “gimme faster horses”, they in fact just wanted fas­ter transport. Henry Ford didn't in­vent the car, nor the assembly line nor interchangeable parts. He did, however, understand to put all these details into one virtuous circle that delivered the Ford Model T at a significantly lower price than what the competition could do. However, because the production line was a closed loop, Henry Ford also froze the design of the Model T. His continuous focus was on improv­ ing the production line, not the car. He drove down the price of the Ford Model T, which fuelled the growth of the Ford Motor Company. In 1908 Ford made 10,000 cars. In 1915 Ford

made 472,350 cars. Yet he only com­peted on price. When GM in the 1920s introduced “a car for every purse and purpose,” Ford began to lose market share. In 1921 Ford sold ²/³ of all cars built in the US. By 1926 it was 1/³. Finally in 1927 Ford responded to GM but to do so meant shutting down production temporarily to retool factories and bring the Model A to the market. Market share fell to about 15%. People didn't want faster horses. They wanted better cars, with better financing options and more colours, than just black. Listening to customers from the outset would have made significant impact. Because although Ford was selling a production method to meet a price target, customers were buying cars. 31

Your daily fix of data

Business is addicted to quantitative data. It is numbers based, based on the past (which is always better than the future) and can help you prove anything. As Mark Twain observed, “there are lies, damn lies and statistics.� Innovation, or even just tangible improvements to existing products and services, are not made by crunching data. Real change requires talking to people. And listening in.


Talking to people

Talking to people is scary. Talking to people is time consuming. Talking to people requires empathy. And you can't ask them, “what do you want� because they don't know either.

I have no idea what I really want.


What you can find out

“...young people want to listen to music all day. They'll take it everywhere with them…˝ Akio Morita, February 1979, Sony

Instead, you can find out what their life looks like. How they approach your product and service compared to someone else’s. You can deter­ mine when they start thinking about your product until they buy it and what problems they encounter along the way. By talking to enough people, to the point where the answers start repeating themselves, you will find enough information to base your future on. Mapping this customer journey, as it is called, helps you to understand the customer from the time she starts to think about your product or service until she is done with it. This may be 5 minutes or 5 years. In both instances, the purchase moment may be equally long.


What's your blindspot?

Once you know what they do, you can map out what you do and find your touchpoints. More often than not, you find out that there are blindspots in your service delivery – instances when the customer expects help but doesn’t get any. Just like physical blindspots, you didn’t even know that they were there.


At the centre of the universe In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox survives the Total Perspective Vortex by existing in an alternative universe. Unfortunately for companies, an alternative universe doesn’t exist and being presented with the fact of how insignificant or unimportant they are, has therefore startling effects.

Looking at the world from the per足 spective of the corner office window, it seems that the most important part of the world is the company. However, from the customer's pointof-view, the purchasing decision may be incidental based on very personal criteria which have nothing to do with what the company understands as value. Most companies overvalue radically how unique they are compared to the competition.


Reality check

d with The worl ............ ................ .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ............ duct) an (your pro where people c e c la is a p .. ................ ................ product .. .. .. .. .. .. .. our ...... t” with y (do “whaood for them). that is g


The future is what you make of it

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. 1977

Increasing competition, price pressure, changing industry paradigms, regulation, limited resources, global warming, eco-friendliness, social responsibility, disruptive technology... Trying to juggle all these variables is difficult. Of all the predictions you can make, the ones you can't will change your business the most, because we make predictions based on the past.

Read The Black Swan by N.N.Taleb

Past, present, future

The invariable in this world are people. You make the stuff for them, yet you can’t ask them what they want. Instead you can look at what they do. Every day they are expressing them­ selves through decisions they make. By understanding their reasoning and motivation you will understand why luxury products grew their market share in the midst of the economic downturn and why some brands have loyal customers that don’t even look at the competition. People like it that you listen and remember what they have said. This goes for customers, but more importantly also for employees, partners, suppliers and vendors.


“The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.�

Winston Churchill


Build your own empire

Looking around at successful business, from the hairdresser to the IT giant, we can spot a commonality: their customers know why they love them. Their customers endorse their products and understand the idea of the business as well as those in the business. This relationship starts and ends with the business idea. A clearly defined and understandable idea that can be interpreted and applied by everyone in the company helps deliver a product or service that is equally single-minded. Do it well enough and you’ll have people riot when you mess with the idea (remember New Coke) or line up for a day in advance just to be the first to get their hands on it (Apple).


Being prepared足

Ironically enough, having this very clearly defined core idea allows for far greater flexibility in meeting the future. If you know what you want to do, adapting it for the times is not difficult. If you are unsure of what you are doing in the first place, then you are very unlikely to change anything unless it is clearly proven to be broken. By that time it will be too late.

Read about the failure of rebranding the Post Office

The empire of the mind is first built inside the company

Your business idea must be your religion. Staff must believe. If they believe they can also deliver your promise to the customer. However, most companies operate on the principle that if you just pay the staff they will believe. The building of your brand begins inside the company. All the people must understand what the company does and why. Only once people understand what is expected of them can com足mu足ni足cation take place outside. The promise made to the customer can then be delivered by the product and service. As a beneficial side effect, a clearly defined business idea makes recruit足 ment easier because all the people who want to work for you know why they want to work for you. 55

Building blocks for your empire


1. Synchronise

Before you can get your staff to work on the same problem in a manner that drives the company forward, you must synchronise their knowledge. Everyone has to understand the company situation in the same manner. Moreover, not only do they have to understand, but they also have to be able to influence the means and ways to get there. This is not a quick and easy process. It requires discussion, conflict and resolution until everyone has gained the same understanding, but once they do the problems and opportunities facing the company can be resolved.


2. What is the goal?

Define it for the company. Where does it want to go and what should it stand for? Who is the customer and what makes the company special? Define the value it creates. We call this brand definition. What is important is that everyone in the company understands what the com足 pany wants to achieve, why and what their role in achieving this goal is. This will make the company more dynamic, faster to react to changes and much easier to manage because everyone knows what to do and why.


3. Unlearn

Talk to your customers. Understand how they view your product or service. How they use it, when they use it, how they look at the competition, how they look at you and if they even care about you. Draw out the customer journey in as much detail as you can. Understand what they are buying and why. Why they chose you and why they chose the competition. Talk to people. It’s not about statistics. It is about what real people do and why and when and how. Ask enough questions of enough people and a pattern begins to appear.


4. Map your own actions

Map your own actions in relation to the customer journey. These are the touchpoints, where what you do affects what your customers do. You may discover some blindspots – places where your customers could benefit from something that you should do, but don’t. It may be better packaging or saying goodbye or more advertising. The end goal is to achieve repeat sales at a lower cost to your company. Once you’ve mapped the customer journey and your own activities, as well as defined those areas that need work, then you’ve got a plan how to invent your own future.


If you build it,

they will come


Kafo Infomelton is the leading importer and distributor of Jura and Cimbali coffee machines as well as of Lavazza coffee. They started out in business with a passion for coffee but over the years became involved in the HoReCa business on the coffee end of things. In the beginning of 2012 they decided to re-brand, and to do it right, every­ one got involved. Staff got to blow steam and management got the straight dope. They discovered along the way that it wasn’t machines or coffee that made them famous, but in the words of a key account “I don’t care about the machines or which coffee as long as they take care of it.” This knowledge and passion about coffee has now translated itself into Kafo. 69

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SEB Instead of offering interest rates SEB, a bank, offers the opportunity to save. This change in the value offer came from the recognition that it is discipline, not interest in savings, that was lacking. In November 2012 SEB introduced the Digital Coin Jar (Digikassa). Every electronic payment is rounded up to the next zero and the difference is deposited in a savings account. Like the coin jar at home, you save a few cents here and a few cents there. Unlike conventional term deposits, the Digital Coin Jar doesn’t penalise you for withdrawing money. Now, even those convinced that they cannot save any money, can save some money.





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R-kiosk Over the past two years, R-kiosk has considerably changed its business proposition. Gone are the little kiosks on the corner. Walk-in solutions are the norm now. Gone is the dependence on selling bus tickets (which just disappeared), cigarettes (which are almost illegal) and lottery tickets (which you can buy online). Instead, food and environment are being emphasized. Increasing levels of service along with a more comprehensive value offer are turning R-kiosks from a point-of-purchase of last resort to a destination for a quick bite and refreshment. And very good coffee as well.





We wrote this book because we believe that building the future is up to you. You don’t need to hire consultants, advisors or marketing gurus to develop your business in the direction you want to take it. All you need to do, is take a step back and stop working on urgent tasks and instead start working with your staff and with your customers on what is important. The first step, as they say, is the hardest. Use this book as a source of inspiration to build your empire.


* page 23 / The quote doesn’t appear in publications until 2002, in “Beyond Disruption: Changing the Rules in the Marketplace” by Jean-Marie Dru. The Henry Ford museum said “In the past research on this topic has not yielded satisfactory results either for the researcher or the research staff. Mr. Ford wrote numerous articles for a variety of periodicals and newspapers and the quotes attributed to him were varied and often unsubstantiated.”


is a branding and service design consultancy. We work with companies to create new brands and revitalize old ones. We define competitive advantages and build lasting brands around well designed products and services. We make them talk about you.

is a founding member of the Network of Estonian Design Agencies.

This is our fourth book and in some ways is a summary of what we’ve been up to since 2009. Our first book was about branding. In 2011 we took a look at innovation and last year we dissected service design. This book puts those topics in the context of how we all meet our new challenges.

Future perfect  

Our fourth book summarises what we've been up to since 2009. It puts branding, service design and innovation in the context of how we meet o...

Future perfect  

Our fourth book summarises what we've been up to since 2009. It puts branding, service design and innovation in the context of how we meet o...