If you’ve ever struggled with marketing your business, maybe you should ask yourself one question:
Are we iconic?
People don’t buy your product, they buy the stories that come with them.
Take for example this quote from Nike CEO Phil Knight: “Nike is a marketing-oriented company and the product is our most important tool.”
That’s a quote I learned from Soon Yu’s book Iconic Advantage: Don’t Chase the New, Innovate the Old.
He came on the show to explain how exactly it could be that Nike’s story is more important than its product and why being iconic is the goal we should all be striving for in our marketing.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Why stories matter more than the product
- Why meaningful marketing matters just as much in B2B
- Why you should innovate the old, not chase the new
Why do stories matter?
Soon: The reason people buy Nike products: Obviously, there’s functionality. You need something to walk on, you need something to run in. But the reason you would actually pay more than you would for a store brand is mainly for the stories behind that product.
It’s about how those stories connect to you and your life. How those stories about the product and the brand resonate with you and create meaning.
That’s what marketing is all about.
Marketing is all about the idea of attaching powerful meaning to a product or service. And then being able to have people connect with that in a way where they want to participate in the brand.
So, the product for them is their vessel to tell great stories. We love stories.
Sure, this works in B2C, but what about B2B?
Soon: This concept absolutely applies. Now, your universe may not be, I don’t know, the few billion people on the globe, but it doesn’t really matter.
Your universe could be 20 customers — 20 people that you call on all the time. And the question for you is: Why are they calling on me?
Why have they decided to engage with you versus somebody else?
And if you only sell based on being the lowest cost producer or having the best service, then I think that’s going to be something where you probably have more room to play with in terms of creating meaning with them.
This idea of creating distinction — even with your 20 customers — is critical. And then making sure that distinction is highly relevant and 100% applicable.
Those are the two qualities that are really central at creating this idea of meaning and building greater iconicity.
Don’t chase the new, innovate the old
Soon: Getting to that quote was from my own professional experiences. I spent the last 20 or 30 years failing more than I succeeded.
Through those failures, it ignited a certain amount of curiosity as to why other businesses, brands or people were more successful at commercializing new ideas, innovation and marketing concepts than I was.
With that burning curiosity, I researched 50 companies. And when I looked at the most successful companies, I had an “aha” moment.
These companies were very, very innovative. But it wasn’t how they did innovation, it was where they applied their innovation.
They took all their shiny ideas and applied them to their old franchises — franchises people loved, franchises people had participated in for most of their lives.
They were innovating where they had strength — where they already had momentum. And it made every hour, every dollar, on innovation that much more highly leveraged, productive and a lot quicker in terms of actually seeing a return.