Very clever

Yesterday I got an interesting package in the mail. When I opened it, it was a book entitled "Never put confusion on top of a crisis", and the author was a James Gardner. Immediately, I thought someone had sent it to me thinking I would like a book by someone with the same name as me. As you do, I turned immediately to the bank cover to read the About the Author part:

"James Gardner has achieved industry wide recognition for transforming the way his bank engaged with its customers…. With simple changes focussing on rich user experiences and improving front and bank office productivity, Gardner led the dramatic change across his organisation. Today, the bank is still continuing to deliver strong revenue and cost savings across it service delivery, sales, compliance and IT functions – without compromising the customer experience"

Now, until this moment I hadn't realised there was another James Gardner in banking, and then on the inside cover, where it talked more about the content of the book, it mentioned my bank by name.

The penny dropped when I opened the book and found only blank pages. The book, it turns out, was a marketing gift from Adobe Systems, who were advertising their enterprise document management solutions.


Now this is a very, very clever piece of marketing. The book looks exactly like a real one, except it is targeted to me and my institution. Everyone I showed it to was sooooo impressed that I'd published a book, and spent a few moments examining it before they, too, realised it was a marketing item.

And then, even with this realisation in hand, their first question was "how can I get one too?"

Imagine that – a piece of marketing collateral that has inherent value to the recipient, as well as to the company that wants to deliver a message.

I often say that real innovators know that boring, incremental work pays the bills. But then, every so often, you see a small idea coupled with excellent execution that makes you realise that even small ideas can be very significant. The amount of time I spent examining this book – which has a table of contents outlining every significant feature of their solution – was orders of magnitude higher than I would have done on a simple brochure. In fact, the brochure would have been put in the bin immediately.

This book, however, will stay on my desk, probably indefinitely.

Here is a demonstration of the real power of innovation: it generates something unique that causes potential customers to change their behaviour.

The holy grail of innovation teams, of course, is to find a way of doing so reliably and predictably.

14 Responses to“Very clever”

  1. March 10, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    That sounds like a brilliant bit of marketing indeed – can you post a picture of the book?

  2. March 10, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    Antony: terrible picture taken with my iphone added to post.

  3. March 10, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    Cheers, James – that’s excellent.

  4. March 10, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    That’s impressive – like you say you’ll never likely throw it away and also it shows the company did some research about you as an individual too. Not a bad idea for a present – it’s always said everyone has at least one book in them!

  5. March 10, 2009 at 10:34 am #

    It’s an inspired bit of promotion.
    Not sure about your comment “The holy grail of innovation teams, of course, is to find a way of doing so reliably and predictably.” If it were reliable and predictable, it wouldn’t be innovation any more.

  6. March 10, 2009 at 10:43 am #

    Marvellous and thanks for sharing this James (and Antony for your Tweet).
    The really important insight that Adobe tapped into is that many of us feel that we have a book inside of us.
    But very few of us have the time, dedication and supportive publisher to make it become a reality.
    Just goes to show that old skool marketing, when executed well, can create cut-through.
    Do let us know whether the sales follow up is as good as the mailer.

  7. March 11, 2009 at 4:07 am #

    Johnnie: Individual innovations aren’t reliable and predictable. But when you have an innovation process that manages a portfolio of innovation, you can get great predictability and reliability. You just have to spread your risk appropriately.

  8. March 11, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Great post. And really, there’s no such thing as old school marketing. There’s just marketing that works and marketing that doesn’t. As if somehow an electronic message could have captured your emotions as this book has.
    And just to be really provocative, I’d say predictable and replicable doesn’t have to mean 100%. I’m thinking you meant variability within a known and acceptable range. Which is how an innovation process can be reliable and predictable, even when individual efforts may or may not work.

  9. March 12, 2009 at 1:36 am #

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. James, did you not feel a bit duped by the fact that you thought the book was one thing only to discover it was something far less noble than you previously thought, namely a slick marketing gimmick? I, for one, dislike such ploys — even as I admire their “buzz” factor.

  10. March 12, 2009 at 5:01 am #

    @Susan: You got it. And in fact, we celebrate early failure (on specific innovations) because you don’t have to spend as much money. So long as you have enoigh going on at once, the end result is a distribution that has known propoerties you can rely on.
    @JJ: Appreciate your comment, but wonder if most people would actually feel duped. The only reason for my uncertainty was I do have a book coming out – and was wondering if there was an error that I’d missed somehow. Everyone else seems to just laugh when they find the pages are blank…

  11. March 12, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    Hi James
    The book is a great marketing promotion, although I note that you spent most of your post talking about the marketing promotion rather than about Adobe, (who only got a mention in passing as the sender).
    Your post highlights that we should understand customers’ needs by looking at the jobs they are trying to do. Most of the jobs are simple functional ones, like developing profitable new products, improving existing products, or even showing people how innovative your bank is, (through your blogging). But not all jobs are functional. Some jobs are emotional (about how you want to feel) and social (about how you want to be perceived by others). Adobe’s marketing promotion fulfilled the emotional job of making you feel important (not everyone gets to see their name on the cover of a glossy book) and the social job of having something interesting to talk about with your colleagues (even though innovation is an interesting subject in itself).
    When we are looking at customers’ needs as the key input into a structured innovation process, we should not forget that customers are people, and have emotional and social needs every bit as important as their rather more mundane functional needs.
    Which reminds me: When is your real innovation book out?
    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator

  12. July 20, 2009 at 6:00 am #


  13. July 31, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    Perfect work!

  14. June 4, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    This book seems to be very helpful for sales and marketing.

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