A Better Mousetrap Is Always Around The Corner

The world saw cracks in the armor of Google this week when Alphabet’s earnings reported below analyst estimates. It looks like Amazon and others have found weaknesses in the search-based advertising model — golden geese are mortal, after all. So if Google is vulnerable to disruption, we all are. Our future research offers two key insights to help your business be the disruptor, not the disruptee. First, we just previewed our framework for driving disruptive innovation through technology. Second, we are about to publish a report on adaptive businesses such as Mastercard and CVS — both of which have been in the news this week regarding their success. We think these firms continuously rethink themselves to stay ahead of customer needs instead of sitting back and waiting for a competitor to invent a better mousetrap. Finally, putting technology-driven disruption together with adaptiveness seems to be the winning formula. A study we just completed revealed that the firms that were both adaptive and technology-driven innovators were growing at four times (4x!) their industry average.

A New Turn For Your Partnership Strategies: Ethics

After pulling tobacco in 2014, this week CVS Health announced that it would not work with agencies that have tobacco or e-cigarette clients. Both decisions stem from the retailer’s desire to align operations with values. The strategy has merit, even if short-term sales hits result. Survey data shows that 57% of consumers will boycott brands that don’t share their beliefs. As if the talent wars weren’t hard enough, employees are vocally vilifying employers whose policies don’t align with their values, such as the 2,500-person-strong pushback that led Google to disband its AI ethics committee. You might think this is an agency- or Silicon-Valley-only problem (and not without some schadenfreude). But it signals a trend for any brand with partners or clients (i.e., all brands). In 2017, we predicted a “guilty-by-association phenomenon” in which brands would be called out based on the actions of the companies they associate with. If CVS is ready to apply values-based requirements to agencies, what’s to stop them from applying it to any partner, such as those who supply tech or raw materials — or expand to other categories? Standing up a cross-functional operational ethics committee ASAP to audit partnerships will help you avoid getting caught off guard. And get a handle on your employee experience to find the link between their sense of purpose and their work, where important values may lie.

Not Yet Ready For Prime Time

The use of intelligent agents (IAs) such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri is increasing, and currently, 45% of US online adults are using at least one voice-activated digital agent. The most common use case for consumers is to ask them questions, and marketers would love to take advantage. The problem? These devices are not very good at answering commercial questions (“Alexa, where can I find diapers for my baby near me?”). In fact, we found that, across those four agents, they were only able to answer 35% of the commercial questions we posed to them. So before you start creating a voice search strategy, learn how well IAs are able to answer questions in your industry and what insights you need to know.

Without Creativity, Brands Are Left Desperate For Differentiation

The comparison of two global consumer packaged goods giants show us the perils of underinvesting in creativity. Kraft Heinz has lost half its value and significantly reduced its dividend in the wake of 3G Capital’s extreme cost-cutting strategy failing to properly invest in and support Kraft Heinz brands. In contrast, Mondelez credits its strong Q1 results, in part to its investments in local and global brands and marketing. Brands that underfund creativity become mired in sameness and become desperate for differentiation. Marketers that turn the brand promise into action and put emotion in the code of digital experiences and campaigns create distinction and value for their customers and prospects. There’s a reason why today’s parents avoid serving Oscar Mayer cold cuts but willingly sit down with their kids and dunk Oreos.

Differentiation From The Tech View: “Game Of Thrones” Edition

Without risk of a spoiler alert, I think we can all agree that the zombie hordes of the Night King’s army are terribly effective but boring all the same. They get the job done but without any sparkle, sizzle, or joy. The same is true of the Dothraki. Effective, but not emotionally interesting. And of the Unsullied. They slaughter bad guys with ease, but who could love them? (Well, except for Missandei.) Sadly, the same is true of your digital experiences. You’ve driven the top and bottom lines by giving customers easy and effective digital experiences. But the templatized approach has left brand values and emotional resonance on the cutting room floor. The result? Experience sameness and CX scores in a rut. One thing CIOs can do is move beyond packaged software stacks to build an experience architecture that codes emotion into the experienceSee more here.

A Week In Blockchain Is Like A Month In Any Other Place

There’s never a dull moment in the world of distributed ledger technology (AKA, blockchain). And no, I’m not talking about the dramas unfolding in the world of cryptocurrency rates and exchanges. My focus is firmly on enterprise blockchain and how that’s progressing, both in terms of technology development and real-life projects. Yes, the technology is still nascent. But the rate of innovation is tremendous, as evidenced by a few key events just last week. Exhibit A: ING Group included a slide on its strategic blockchain initiatives in the CEO’s Q1 2019 results presentation on May 2. Exhibit B: Also on May 2, J.P. Morgan announced a partnership aimed at driving adoption of Quorum. Exhibit C: SecureKey’s blockchain-based digital identity network Verified.Me went live on May 1. Exhibit D: Amazon Web Services (AWS) on April 30 announced general availability of its Amazon Managed Blockchain offering. For a flavor of some of the other significant recent developments, and a review of the predictions in this space made for 2019, take a look at the blog, It’s Spring: Time To Dust Off Forrester’s Blockchain Predictions.

VMware Joins The Party

The company that drove server disruption with its 1990s virtualization solution, VMware, saw its value disrupted by cloud computing and struggled for years to extend its value to cloud effectively. In 2016, it finally embraced public cloud as the reality for enterprise digital transformation advancement but went AWS-only. And it took another year to embrace its other disruptor: containers. This month, it finally provided its vision of the multicloud reality of most organizations with its support for Google Cloud Platform and Azure. And with its acquisition of CloudHealth, it is now in a position not only to host hybrid cloud applications but can also help drive security, software-defined network connectivity, and cost and best-practice optimization. Companies can now leverage VMware to help shift from tactical cloud management to empowering digital transformation efforts.