One of the highlights of the Congress was the presentation by Randi Zuckerberg (of Facebook fame). She advised the audience to listen to your customers and deliver the new services that they ask for. She spoke about the importance of listening to those customers who complain, explaining that these are valued customers because they’re already engaged in your brand. If they care enough to take the time to complain to you then you can often turn them into a loyal brand ambassador/fan by satisfying their complaint and going beyond that to even impress them. It seems to me that such a customer may even be a source of new business ideas and innovation if they’re pointing to a hole in your service. You should also be thanked if they’re identifying a common problem to your customers that could be dangerous if not brought to your attention. Unhappy customers often tell a great many other people, often without telling you that there’s a problem, so those that do come directly to you should be respected and appreciated.

On the topic of start up businesses (like Forward Thinking Design), Randi recommended not losing the energetic and dynamic, fun start up culture and becoming too corporate. This culture can make such organisations very appealing employers to the best of new generations of prospective employees and such a vibe also supports internal innovation and creativity. I certainly concur with Randi on this point. She expanded further on the topic of creativity by observing that great ideas can come from anywhere within an organisation and that the most forward thinking companies embrace ideas generation by providing stimulating activities/challenges and forums for all staff to be heard.

Randi also spoke about the advancing sophistication of Loyalty Programs as they progress towards providing greater interactivity and engagement between the consumer and the brand. The best Loyalty Programs make their members feel like the brand is relating to them as an special individual or ‘VIP’ by offering exclusive rewards, giveaways, access and information. These brands also offer forums in which the members can speak to the brand directly and contribute their own content to the Loyalty Member or fan community. These members are made to feel like they are contributing to the brand, shaping its direction and being brought together with like minded stakeholders in the tribe/identity.

It seems to me that the strongest brands in popular culture, whether general or niche, are frequently those who are perceived as being the most emotive and rich in meaning. They have strong brand personalities that consumers can relate to and aspire to adopt as complimentary to their own personalities or visions of ‘self’ (or the self that they want to be/be seen as). These brands give a lot away, creating a world of content, news, change and excitement around themselves consistently. Perhaps this accessibility also drives the current trend towards a more aspirational consumer? When brands are so embracing and interactive, we tend to all feel the desire to join in. Along this train of thought, Randi identified the rise of ‘luxury living without luxury spending’ typified by websites such and When we can see how ‘the other half live’ we all want a slice of it and brands are using Loyalty Programs and access initiatives like these sites to balance what I’d like to call a sense of ‘inclusive exclusivity’.

Randi spoke about creating value by becoming a curator of content; indexing a particular theme such as baking, race cars etc. This activity is both something that can allow an individual or brand to build their profile as an ‘expert’ and it’s also something that brands can do to more easily provide constant new, highly relevant content, to their consumers. Sites such as Pinterest and TrendHunter make curation easy, as well as making every new innovation immediately accessible in support of ongoing conceptualisation.

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