Thursday, June 23, 2005

Creating an "Aura of Inevitability"

Through a combination of careful analysis and gut instinct, our team at SHIFT has identified 4 key ingredients to achieving “the aura of inevitability."


You know that aura. It's usually called buzz, but buzz alone will not create a leader, as I'll explain in this post.


Bottom-up revolution

Journalists – and Americans in general – favor underdogs and “people power.”

Examples: the Linux movement... The Internet... Google... Howard Dean had this going for him, too, back when he was a hot political prospect.

A tangent strategy is "the next big thing." Everyone wants to feel like they're discovering something. That's why the media is so often enthralled by "stealth companies" ... especially if the company has the OTHER 3 ingredients listed below.

Credibility

Credibility ensures a respectful hearing. "Credentials" can be based on lots of factors: technology, prestigious financial backing, proven executives, etc.

Tension

Competitive tension works best. Whether in the schoolyard or the evening news: “if it bleeds it leads.” The struggle for power is the sub-text of lasting stories, from David vs. Goliath to Microsoft vs. Netscape (or more recently, Microsoft vs. Open Source in enterprise computing and Microsoft vs. Sony in gaming).

Tension can come from other arenas, however. For example, the push for regulatory compliance (HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley); America's lagging leadership in areas such as broadband adoption and science education; etc. - these themes can create the requisite tension for stories about client companies.

Viability

It’s one thing to be credible: the Segway’s founder was credible and the technology was rock-solid…but how many have you seen on the sidewalk?

It’s another thing to be viable: luck, smarts, and public acceptance play a critical role. Why do you think every danged editor wants to talk to your client's customers? If you're so hot, you oughta be able to prove it, eh?

You really do need pretty much all 4 attributes.
For example, let's look at Howard Dean, circa the 2004 Iowa Caucus. Just before the big show, Dean had been the coverboy for all the major news weeklies, portrayed as a potential usurper for the Democratic nomination. He was "it."

Bottom-up revolution? Yup - the disenfranchised, college-youth, far Lefties all loved Dean's combative spirit.

Credibility? Well, Al Gore gave him the thumb's up. He was a governor. That's more credibility than some of the other candidates ever mustered.

Competitive tension? That's a cinch in a presidential election, and Dean amped up the competitive tension, didn't he? Did you often see him without his sleeves rolled up? The guy was a hard-charging gladiator, smash-mouthing the other Dems and Bush in particular.

Viability? Nope, nope, nope! He lost the Iowa Caucus and lost his marbles. He's only proven to be more unsteady in recent months. Extremism is not sustainable and thus is not viable.

Think about your own company or clients. If you can frame their story and strategy within this 4-part framework, in a sustainable and compelling way, you'll be successful.

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