This agency believes it’s unlocked the secret to boosting sales and creating brand magic
The key to business success lies in the delicate balance of three dimensions: generosity, responsiveness and proximity, according to the new GRiP concept laid out by New Republique CEO Nima Yassini and strategy director Robert Hutchison.
The duo believe their new way of looking at brands and products will replace other, “outdated” marketing models. In this interview, the duo tell how they stumbled upon the concept, and how it has become their new way of looking at all aspects of their business and the way they work with clients. Yassini and Hutchison have co-authored a book explaining the three dimensions, including an analysis tool companies can use to determine where their strengths and weaknesses lie. The GRiP ebook is available for free download here.
Marketing: Can you start by giving us a bit of background inspiration about how this all came about?
Nima Yassini: The inspiration comes from my own life experience – I recently got engaged and I was really curious about how we move through stages in a relationship: getting to know each other, getting to like each other, and falling in love. I was just having a conversation with Robert and I said, “You know, I bet you could make anyone fall in love with you if you just do these three things”, and Rob’s like, “You just cracked the code”. Then we thought, “Actually if you think about it, its the same as how company could attract customers”.
M: So then you went and did lots of research to solidify the theory. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Robert Hutchison: First of all, we went and did a whole lot of desk research, particularly into the psychological theory of interpersonal attraction, to really understand exactly how that worked with people and to what extent that could be applied to brands. When I had that buttoned down, we did a whole series of focus groups with different sorts of consumers and we just explored those areas around generosity, responsiveness and proximity to see what people responded to, to see, without asking them those questions directly of course, what territories they were playing in, what sort of things did they think were generous.
The first thing I did after that was I wrote this presentation and took Nima through it. The interesting thing was, when we analysed our own brand [New Republique], actually we were looking at it through this lens without even knowing it, and we just crystallised that lens. My background is psychology anyway, so I was really starting to get a very good sense from all the research that we were very much onto something that had a very substantive academic or at least psychological foundation to it, and then from that we said, ‘Ok, we can start applying this’, and the first thing we did actually was a GRiP analysis on our own brand and we changed our behaviour as a result.
M: So how have you applied this to how you work with clients?
NY: A lot. And then also, Rob and I have done a GRiP analysis on our relationship. Honestly it’s so funny, we run this now through everything: How generous are we towards our staff? How well do we understand their needs or their career paths and where they want to go? How do we drive proximity in the way that they want to be close to the business and their line managers?
RH: When Nima and I did it, talking about proximity for example, we were having a communication issue and it was because one of the big things between us is I like emails and the written word, and Nima likes conversation. When we did the analysis, we went, ‘Oh actually, this is why we keep butting heads on certain things, it’s because we’re communicating in the wrong way. The proximity that we have is actually not right for us’.
NY: And it was really nice because it took away all the emotions in the conversation and it actually brought it down to the practicalities and understanding the behaviours and the drivers of those people.
M: So do you think that brands need to be more emotionally intelligent? It sounds like you can apply GRiP to lots of different situations, internally with your staff. What about brands themselves?
RH: All decisions are made from an emotional basis. Brands are awash in the science, they’re awash in big data, they’re awash in the technical side of understanding consumer relationships. They have a sea of data that they can draw on, but actually when you get down to it it it’s about emotions – people get emotionally attached to a product. Just think about the last time you bought something that you really like, like a car or a dress, a piece of clothing or even food. It’s an emotional purchase, and brands need to be more human, they need to be more humane, and they need to understand that emotion is at the core of all decisions.
NY: I think we’re moving out of an era where we create propositions that are very much around cost. The most important variable in GRiP is responsiveness, which is all about understanding people’s drivers; the values you hold in life are the ways you make all your decisions. So I think by understanding that, brands are going to get smarter about how to be generous to a customer. Because right now they’re generous but they’re not understanding what are the generosities that people actually value. And on proximity, blasting advertising everywhere, is not really talking about how people want to be communicated to. It’s really about understanding the responsiveness and understanding how to be generous and how to drive proximity, ultimately to put you on the consideration set to be purchased.
M: You talk about creating brand magic. There’s some stuff in the book about Disney and Apple. Do you see that going through the Grip formula is the secret to brand magic?
NY: Think of it this way, have you ever done a magic trick? There’s a process, right? You go through a formulaic process, and I don’t believe processes ever [completely] deliver answers. They get you close to the answer, then you’ve got to let the happy accident happen where you discover stuff. I think the world needs a bit of magic, I think the world wants to believe in something that’s great. Look at the iPhone – it was a magical product. It’s not that we’re saying we’re going to be magic, it’s about saying, at the end of the day, customers want to buy products that make them feel good. And that simple things are magical.
M: We chatted with Philip Kotler recently about his Marketing 3.0 concept [view our video interview here]. It goes along the lines of corporate social responsibility and getting in touch with customers’ values. Do you think Grip fits in with all those new ways of doing marketing?
NY: Rob and I are very clearly saying, ‘Stop trying to make customers different so they believe and they buy your product, start making your product better so that it becomes attractive’. Steve Jobs always said, ‘I don’t need advertising, the product is advertising’. Thats what we’re saying. For Coke, stop changing the colour or stop putting your name on it, because all that’s going to do is give you a sales spike. Start looking at your product, reducing the amount of sugar, start talking about healthy consumption, which they are. But it really it’s the responsibility of the product to attract customers, its not the responsibility of the customer to be attracted to a product.
RH: That’s one of the fundamental things that we’re arguing in the book. People want to buy things, they just don’t want to be sold them anymore. At the moment, a lot of companies are saying, ‘Hey, you change. Change your opinion, change your behaviour so you’ll buy my product’ and we’re flipping that and saying, ‘No, consumers now are expecting you to come to the party, so you need to change’. But how do you change? We believe wholeheartedly that change comes from those three dimensions of generosity, responsiveness and proximity.
M: So surely for each different brand, the harmony and the balance of those three dimensions is going to be different?
NY: One of the most important things I want to say is, fundamentally we didn’t build Grip to be a brand platform, we built it to be a product platform. Brand is something that happens over a long period of time, its an experience that people feel. There are so many brand models out there, and they’re all great. What we’re really focusing on is, how to you ‘Grippify’ products to make them more buyable? So this is really a sales model, a product model, as opposed to a brand model. Brand models are about ‘How do I make you feel or believe about my brand?’ Sometimes they’re really powerful and the product communicates that as well, but a lot of times the product does one thing and the brand says something completely different. Hence why you get people who don’t trust what’s been told to them. So the model we built is all about, we don’t want to solve the brand problem, there’s plenty of companies who can do that. We want to be there to solve the product problem because thats what people touch, feel, eat, work with. Our position as a business is, I hate to say it, as a sales agency. We sell product, we just do it through traditional advertising formats and new-world advertising formats. But our tool, GRiP, is really a product-focused tool.
M: So you said in the book that this GRiP model “offers a new way of looking at brands and products, leaving other marketing models looking outdated”. Have you got any specific models that you’re hoping to replace?
NY: Zag. You’ve heard the saying, ‘if they zig, we zag’. Very simple – if they wear black, I wear white because I stand out. But in the socially connected world, it’s pretty hard to stand out, because someone’s out there to tell you it’s not unique. Being unique today is very difficult. It’s not impossible, it’s just difficult.
RH: Something like Zag, which was probably produced in the late 80s, it’s fine, it’s about differentiation, and we use the tool when it’s appropriate. But it’s a pre-modern consumer concept. Things have changed so much for consumers that the concept doesn’t work as it once did.
NY: The other one is behaviour change – at the end of the day trying to change people won’t work. They’re too connected and they’re too informed at every level. So to tell people that this behavior is wrong and this one that we do is right, it’s too hard. The world’s too connected, they’re too skeptical, they’ve learned not to trust.
M: So can you tell us about some brands that have had success with this GRiP concept so far?
NY: We’re actually trying to get everyone to use GRiP and feed back to us the results. We had this one guy who came in for a meeting and we gave him the book then he got on a plane to Adelaide, did his own grip score, and emailed us back and said, ‘Did it. This is my area. We’ve got a lot of work to do’. It was just lovely because the conversation just quickly went to, ‘Ok, we’ve got to look at the responsiveness of the product’ and it was so simple and easy for him to do and it broke down all of the work that we’d have to do to find it and prove it. The language just became, ‘Ok, lets focus on your responsiveness’.
We do it across all our clients. One client in particular made an extra $15 million on top of their revenue from last year just by being more generous and responsive.
RH: I’ve just done a bit of work with an educational institution, and they were looking to connect to mature age students which they didn’t have a relationship with. They were wondering whether the product that they had on offer was was appropriate. When we did the analysis we found that actually, compared to competitor institutions, their product offer was better than anyone else’s around. They were very responsive to the needs of that target market, they were generous to a tee – things like their course fees were competitively the lowest, and that resonates especially with mature age students, the class sizes were small, the one-on-one interaction that a mature age student needs was there. But what we found was that it was an issue of proximity. Basically they just weren’t present where mature-age students were. So it was a matter of saying, ‘Ok, you’ve got the responsiveness, you’ve got the generosity, we’ve just got to work out a way to get you in front of them’. That was the analysis then out of that we came up with a campaign.