[Cache – #113]
Want to be mediocre? Easy: just be inconsistent.
So says Jim Collins, the world’s most-read management guru, with more than 10 million books sold – including classics like Good to Great and his most recent volume, Great by Choice. Along with 3,000 other people, I had the privilege of seeing his tour-de-force keynote at last year’s HealthAchieve conference. Among his many pithy quotes was one that struck me as especially encouraging: “The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”
“The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”
Encouraging because its flip side is that to be great, all you have to do is be consistent. Collins’ massive research into thousands of companies reveals that the “10 x-ers” – the companies whose stock price has outperformed the market not just by a bit, but by 10 times – have a few crucial things in common. One of them is that while they may not have the most exhaustively-planned strategy, they choose a strategy and then stick with it for a very, very, very, long time. We’re talking decades here.
In contrast, a hallmark of mediocre companies is inconsistent strategy and execution. The stock price of these less disciplined players may even rocket up at times, giving the appearance of fabulous success. But their inability to adopt a strategy and simply stick with it always brings them back to average.
Of course, my book partner Ted Matthews has been pounding the table for 40 years on the importance of consistency. Based on the reality that a brand is what people think of you, if you keep changing the message all the time, people won’t know what to think.
Lisa Patel, aka The Property Princess, doesn’t have that problem. Her snail mailouts are a master class not just in consistency, but in two other essential branding tools: having a clear, differentiated position and being remark-able (worthy of word-of-mouth).
In terms of consistency, postcards like this arrive in my mailbox every month like clockwork. For major holidays or celebrations on the calendar, the Princess adopts a theme – St. Patrick’s Day, Valentines, Hallowe’en, Christmas, New Year’s, and so on. The image on the card is always the same, with the twist that colours are tweaked and the Princess is outfitted according to the occasion.
Lisa’s remark-ability factor is primarily created by her stage name, The Property Princess, which couldn’t possibly be easier to remember – and because it is cute and fun to say, people who hear it want to share it with others. That she has a cartoon character alter ego is an almost as effective word-of-mouth facilitator. Put simply, Lisa has made it extremely easy for people to talk about her.
Lisa has clearly differentiated by having a cartoon character of herself created, which, while done by a few others, is nonetheless profoundly different and refreshing compared to your average agent mailouts, such as these:
Back to Ted, who built an integrated marketing communications firm from zero to 80 employees and $25 million in sales by the time he sold it in the late 90s. I once simply asked him: “How did you do it?” A paraphrase of his simple reply: “It was ‘elegant persistence’: consistently delivering valuable communications to your contacts in a thoughtful way.”
Referencing our three years as business partners, and the seeming simplicity of his formula, he added: “You have seen the ‘magic’.”
In case you missed it: my short interview on CBC Radio One about IKEA’s horse meat problem.
Also in case you missed it: My BNN interview re. Lance Armstrong’s brand (starts at the 3:30 mark, after the ad).