Research insights from the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin
I work among brilliant people at the McCombs School of Business. For your benefit and mine, I keep my eyes open and watch for the big ideas that are most useful for brand builders and innovators. Here are five of the best tips gleaned from Texas Enterprise during 2014.
Professor Art Markman reminds us that communication is only one, and not the most important, factor in engaging consumers with a brand. “We are all lazy creatures,” he writes. “That means that [marketers] need to help customers to arrange their environments in ways that support the continued engagement with a product.” He points to a redesign of the Febreze container, designed to encourage consumers to leave the product out and visible rather than hidden away under the counter. Usage and sales increased.
In a must-see presentation for professionals, especially those currently looking for a job, Rajiv Garg uses his research on social networks to show that the quality of your professional network will advance your career, not the size. While having hundreds of LinkedIn connections may reward your ego, when it comes to leveraging your network when you need it most, there is nothing that replaces trusted colleagues who know you well and are willing to vouch for your abilities. Garg offers three key suggestions for building your personal professional brand: Identify, Connect and Convert.
Professor Jeremi Suri spoke to a rapt audience last February as he drew lessons from historical leaders including Abraham Lincoln and wartime general George Marshall to prove his premise that great leaders don’t pursue every urgent task, they focus on important goals–even when that requires ignoring issues that some consider important. While not directly addressing brand marketers, Suri’s message is applicable to every professional faced with limited resources and daunting challenges. “What these leaders have in common is an ability to keep the ball moving forward,” he points out. “And at every turn, they look back to remember from where it is they have come.”
New research by McCombs faculty members Susan Broniarczyk and Leigh McAlister present an interesting conundrum especially for retail marketers. When there are multiple similar choices offered to consumers in a similar product category, providing recommendation signing (such as “Top-Rated” or “Employee Favorite”) may actually exacerbate the difficulty of making a decision. However, this confusion might actually play to the retailer’s advantage as these “confused” shoppers were about 30 percent more likely to purchase more than one product in the category.
Why are some marketers able to rapidly evolve to respond to unpredictable market forces, while others bog down and fail? Professor Edward Anderson and colleagues have studied this question, addressing it in the book “The Innovation Butterfly: Managing Emergent Opportunities and Risks During Distributed Innovation.” Step number one is to decentralize decisions. “Companies with strict hierarchies and silos won’t succeed,” he says. Instead, he points to three approaches for leading innovation: the leader as architect, the leader as ship’s captain, and the leader as coach. “Your technical people and engineers know more than you do,” he says. “Your job is to channel them, don’t try to tell them what to do. They’re creative people.”