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The Mammoth Differentiator Of Going Beyond What You Do As A Business

santaIt’s the article for Christmas week, so I have to get a bit sentimental.

If you can add value that goes beyond what your product or service does, you never know where it leads.

I’ve lasted this long without making any reference to the John Lewis Christmas ad and now I’m breaking that rule.

It has taken only nine years to create an annual event. It has now become a Christmas tradition in its own right.

What John Lewis now have is the ability to productise an annual tradition. Don’t believe me, just click here and see that you can now buy the man in the moon pyjamas, mugs and telescopes and buy the song from iTunes.


No One Cares, Until They Know You Care

Creating revenue streams outside of your core belief (or advert in John Lewis’ case) is one side of the coin; the other is to show a commitment that you care. I wrote about this during summer 2014 for Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog, called No One Cares About What You Know Until They Know You Care. Have a read that gives a bit of context into a belief that becoming a valuable resource, you have to invest time, learning and try to be of use to others.

What John Lewis has done is to create deeper value outside of their core business. It’s not just partnering with Age UK, but adding telescopes to the Oxford Street store and adding something that goes beyond an advert. It has also become a learning platform for others to take from.

They really are giving something of value that no other retailers are doing.


Different Product, Same Plight

Lets look at what the world of gravy is doing beyond promoting adding flavour to your dinner.

More proof of a brand providing value beyond what it does. Much like the role of a Sunday dinner it’s about serving an audience.

This is contrasted to purely promoting product that the whole of the country has become used to for generations.

Bisto are working in partnership with Contact The Elderly to encourage homes to take part in Spare Chair Sunday. This is aimed at tackling the issues of loneliness felt by many older people within the UK.

The thing that connects the brand with the sentiment behind Spare Chair Sunday is that Bisto has been ‘a part of family mealtimes since 1908’ according to their ‘about us’ page. This is about bringing people to the dinner table for over a century.

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This is what connects the Spare Chair Sunday campaign and the overall ethos of Bisto. The brand may not have been able to create deeper partnerships with charities that had a connection to what Bisto stood for a few years ago (remember all they had was those relentless adverts of a family enjoying gravy), but they do now.


How This Links To You

This is where the link comes into your business.

All it needs is a spark and a sentiment that starts as a snowball rolled for fun that becomes a huge snowball that builds momentum down a huge hill.

You just don’t know where an idea can flourish and grow. However, what it relates to is what your business stands for. It is the ‘we are…’ moment that goes hand in hand with another venture.

It doesn’t have to be charity focused, that would be the easy way out. It has to have far more longevity than that. This is something that links to what your business believes in. It is about demonstrating and delivering responsibility outside of your marketing efforts and pride of posts on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This is what Joe Chernov said to me in my favourite quote from the Talking Content Marketing series where, ‘it’s up to the influenced to decide if you are influential.’

Bringing it to a more local level, I have seen this demonstrated by the likes of Ryan Woolfenden from Leader & Co, a local estate agent with an ongoing community newspaper (called The Green). It’s what cookery school and restaurant brand River Cottage are striving for with their #wastenot petition campaigning for supermarkets to take action against food waste. It’s what lighting design consultancy Michael Grubb Studio work on every year to bring old lighting equipment that is either destroyed or filled within landfill sites to life again and for community projects in the UK (it’s called The Relit Project).

It doesn’t mean charity; it represents a link to a greater cause that goes beyond what you do as a business that connects you and your business as a wider authority to encourage trust and a better customer base.

I know I have to show my hand, rather than bleat about something that I cannot talk with experience about. This started for me working with The Young Enterprise programme since 2011 and then taking a move for the business to provide a participatory role for other businesses to learn together and take from. This always comes back to this idea of businesses owning the spaces that are theirs. This is seen with the Once Upon A Time events, the Talking Content Marketing project and also the Content Marketing MOT workshops coming in 2016 (will share more on the first week of January). It all relates to businesses taking control of what is theirs again and not just the core business model of a marketing agency set-up.

This is all about instilling an attitude that goes beyond the pursuit of collecting money.

I know that the ‘Man In The Moon’ was an advert and the intention was to make you feel like spending your money at John Lewis is the right thing to do, that’s not the angle I am interested in.

What I am seeing is a movement behind businesses to have a wider responsibility within the communities they are part of (but not necessarily limited geographically).


Bringing To A Conclusion

This is more powerful than any LinkedIn post or free ebook download. This is about curating a philosophy that can build momentum and always come back to the core of the business ie. bringing people together round the dinner table in the Bisto case.

In order for you to differentiate you now have the opportunity to step up and be ok that you may not necessarily know where something may lead, the ability to do it comes down to speaking to others and giving it a go. It’s more than a New Year’s resolution, it’s about a mindset that is a bit more sophisticated than ‘buy this now.’

Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, have a great one.

Happy Christmas and have a fantastic break


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