5 Temmuz 2012 Perşembe

Adapt Or Vanish – Is Proactivity Real ?

One way or the other, we all take changes that occur beyond our control with dislike.

Fast changes are notions that toughen our lives and push us out of our comfort zone.

Whether we like it or not, change is a reality and we are bound to live in a world that constantly changes.

This reality holds true for the marketing world as well.

Within the last ten years, the phrase “it all happened suddenly” has become more and more a part of advertisers’ discourse.

The marketing that has taken place within the last ten years happened without all the climate changes being expected, beyond control and instantly.

All these changes that took place in marketing underlined the existence of one power only: the power of change.

This power is “ever-ready for action” and it was almost impossible for the brand or the marketer to foresee what this power was to do.

All of a sudden, this power ever ready for action threw Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and several hundred similar changes into the laps of the marketer beating the hell out of him.

It outdated all that the brands and the brand managers knew in a blink.

The first thing that these unpredictable and uncontrollable processes taught us is that we need to question some of the marketing science facts, which have become clichés.

What does the word Proactivity, which every marketing leader goes on and on about nowadays, really mean?

The real question is: Does it matter to be Proactive? Is proactivity real?

Even though proactivity stands out as an “interesting” notion, which marketers like to mention during their presentations, in real life, the marketing leader spends 95% of his own management time reacting.

Being reactive stands out as the most important key for adaptation to change.

Well, why does the science of marketing still categorize “reactivity” as “bad”?

Whenever a process of change hits marketing in its entirety, the first thing the marketer reaches out for are those “bad” and “villainous” reactive strategies.

The marketing leader does not create the social, economic, or political climate changes, he only adapts to change.

Therefore, it is inevitable and reasonable that a marketing leader, who does not behold the power to create social change, lives mostly by reactive strategies.

Well, what kind of reactivity would be correct?

The rule is very simple: In a process of change which is beyond your control, he who adapts best survives.

Adaptation in itself means “instant reaction”, i.e., reactivity.

Therefore the golden rule must be: “The most reactive one survives”.

Meaningwise, “proactive adaptation” is a paradox.

The JetBlue Airlines case is a good example of the question of “reactivity or proactivity”.

After the events of 9/11, Americans minimize their utilization of airlines. The planes fly around empty.

Proactive airline brands invite their clients to be brave. It’s a proactive call: Campaigns say, “Get up and show that you are brave, take that plane.”

Unlike all the other airline brands, JetBlue calls out to its clients with a campaign saying, “You decide how much time you need to heal and feel as confident as before. JetBlue will be here when you feel ready to fly again. You do not need to prove your bravery by flying today.“

When things got back to normal, JetBlue emerged as the fastest growing brand in its sector.

The science of marketing has acted unjust by always categorizing reactivity as a random act.

Random reactivity is an approach brands never apply.

If the main question for a brand is to adapt or to die, good brand leaders constantly inject their systematic adaptation skills into their daily reactive strategies.

That means reactions come to life within a system, and not randomly.

So does this mean those who adapt fastest to all this always win the game?


Brands who succeed in playing the game on their own terms while adapting to the fast change, are the ones who will win the game.

For example, Turkcell has to both adapt by offering technological solutions to technological requirement changes and always keep the “power of perception” alive on the consumer’s mind as an important choice criterium. This is the only way the brand can play this game of reactivity on the terms it has established.

Therefore, brands need to establish their own mechanisms to play these reactivity and adaptation games correctly. In this mechanism, speed is only one of the parameters.

Brands with established mechanisms do not panic once the change hits. That is because they know they control the sail no matter how fierce the winds of change are.

In case the brand and its leader have predetermined adaptation mechanisms, the brand does not wear down vis-à-vis unexpected events and the reactions to change are always constructive.

So how did successful brands establish their adaptation mechanisms?

Which qualities make these brands different from the unsuccessful brands?

How is today’s JetBlue different from Kodak who is struggling to adapt?

The qualities of the brands and their leaders who have been successful during the adaptation process are as follows:

1. Adaptive brands and their leaders always stop to think

Fast adaptation does not mean acting without thinking.
Stopping to think decreases the risk of misinterpretation.
Smart adaptive brands always spare time for data analysis.
These brands try to look at the problem from different aspects and perspectives until they grasp a correct understanding of what is happening.
In order to see the different perspectives, one listens to the approaches of the internal and external stakeholders that are related to the brand.
Fast adaptation should never mean skipping the details.

2. Adaptive brands and their leaders never allow thinking beyond necessary

Smart adaptive brand and its leaders know that thinking too much is as risky as not thinking at all.
They know that too much data is as dangerous as none.
Both situations paralyze decision mechanisms.
Smart adaptive brands apply the 40-70 rule.
In order to make a decision, it suffices to obtain 40-70% information about the newly emerged process of change.
Any situation below 40% is brand blindness. The leader cannot see ahead and decides randomly.
Any decision above 70% takes the power of decision from the leader and hands it to the data.
Both of these cases usually end up in a disaster.

3. Adaptive brands and their leaders know that fast adaptation does not mean thinking short term

Even though changes occur often and fast, smart adaptive brands know the importance of “long term” thinking.
Each fast process of change and adaptation is an inseparable part of a long and broad brand adventure.
Even the smallest change may create substantial impact for the brand in the long run.
Brands cannot renounce long-term thinking for the sake of reacting daily to fast changes.
Every reaction must be a part of a bigger brand picture.

4. Adaptive brand and its leaders believe in Kaizen (continuous learning).

Change is a constant in the life curve of the brand. It is always there and will always be.
Every process of change and adaptation is a new learning possibility for the brand and its leader.
This learning process develops new adaptation skills and instincts.
For the brand leader, the continuous learning journey – Kaizen – is at least as constant as the change process.
That is why brand leaders welcome the difficulties caused by change gladly.
Every tough situation is a chance for smart and skillful growth.

5. Adaptive brand and its leaders believe in reactive innovation

The notion of innovation has always been identified with proactivity by the science of marketing.
Innovation does not have to be proactive.
Improving the already existent, making a better product than the existing one based on needs, may produce more efficient results.
Good brand leaders know that not the most adaptive ones but the innovative adaptives survive during the process of change.
The brand must inject innovation to the culture of adaptation.
When it is considered that innovation is not reactive, the leader needs to either build a very good estimation competence or try to win the innovation battle by doing “better”.

6. Adaptive brands live in consumer-focused company cultures rather than product-focused ones

Due to the dramatic nature of market conditions, adaptive brand leaders have started to change the existing business models.
In the product-focused system, the products were segmented and product strategies used to be based on different communication channels.
Today, the channels are more interconnected than ever. In the consumer-focused system, the brand leader segments his consumer and develops relation-based strategies. 

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