We all know the trademark turtleneck of Steve Job but he also had his favourite work shoes, the Balance 992. Personal branding has become quite important these days. Even Sundar Pichai has trademarked his simple image in a class of his own. Considering that the founders of Google were never seen in the limelight, Sundar actually came in as a torchbearer of a whole new generation of bright minds. If Steve (was) = Apple and Tim Cook stepping into the formers’ shoes in his own unique style whilst still maintaining the aura of the legacy that was created, Google actually showed a more oligopoly structure of stakeholders that the company represents. It also reflects on how Google has introduced its new product launches.
Work style and work culture is all going through a change that was never foreseen. As ‘normals’ are being reset so would people’s comfort levels of getting into someone else’s shoes or wearing a different hat.
Work culture has changed over time since ‘smart casual’ became fashionable in contemporary times. It has a direct bearing on the company’s, products and services that are promoted. We have a lot of examples of this in India.
Brands (per se) can fit into many shoes and work culture itself has spawned a number of stories on corporate values that have motivated the youth, aspiring to build a career.
Just like the six thinking hats, shoe types can be a metaphor for illustrating different working styles that characterises personal branding, corporate culture and perhaps brand positioning?
1. The good old classic Bata ‘ambassador’ pairs are the shoes that I know as my first pair of working shoes. It is modest, humble and hardworking. Your ‘first job shoes’ continues to remain your hard working shoe. Despite being leather, it will still take all the rains and dust of Indian cities. With a little bit of hop-skip-and-jump between puddles and the next sales call, you can wipe off on the top with a tissue paper and still look spotless. It does take a bit of art though! The shoes that are known for its wherewithal, ‘Gheesa Pitta’, take that long hard walk shoes, I will always rely on to accomplish those difficult tasks.
2. The classic Brown alternative. This also belongs to a hard working detailing of the project but with less pressure on your own self but more kick-arse results from colleagues and associates. I am on a delegation mode. Get more work done from others and do more of housekeeping in your own area of KRAs. It is rare when you have achieved much, but relatively speaking you have gained much ground so you need to sink in, soak in and get out to take the next big steps. Plan out the next few weeks. Ensure that existing tasks and assignments are well taken care of. Take lighter discussions both on client side and/or Associate side.
3. Dress boots: My best formal chic wear. I am suited booted. Having achieved an important milestone. Need to spread the word, the networker shoe ‘types’. Building visibility for yourself and the company.
4. Broque: I fancy a bit of style, a bit of panache, launching a new innovation. Putting my best foot forward to keep the momentum, wrapping up and closing deals for a profitable quarterly review.
5. Brown loafers: I sometimes have a lazy day. Days when you want to spend to get your creative juices flowing. I also need to think ‘outside of the box’. There are some challenges that evidently need a different approach. Take a detour and find newer ways!
6. Blue Suede shoes: The party shoes as I would say, my Elvis Presley moment. The hard work is done and dusted. I want to wander into my personal time, go a bit footloose as the hard working week wanes into a play hard weekend.
7. Daily shoes: If I have not hit the jog or my physical regimen then I am not at my best. I must get into those pair as that really decides how decisive my day is going to be. But some people use this to work every day like Steve Jobs! He was a 24/7-marathon runner, a constant innovator.
8. And there is the weird outlook: This is an example of market disruption. These different shoe styles can be symbolised in many ways. One is on work culture or personal branding, two in brand building; each shoe style can take different positioning. You can pick many brands that fit into these different types of shoes. Some brands can fit into many ‘types’ of shoes hence it is debatable whether we should be single minded or fit into different types as per the occasion or the challenge.
Similarly, every project is about breaking down the task. Each task might be different in the way we approach it, quite like Edward de Bono’s 6 thinking hats.
Today, lot of marketers are not talking about brand building in the traditional framework that shaped our thinking in the early days of advertising. If WOM is the strongest medium, then the product should stand the test of time with continuous innovation. Steve did a good job on this and few others like him. But the Chinese copycats caught on pretty fast!
Somewhere, I read that there have only been around 10 worthwhile innovations in the past century. So how does one succeed when you have new brand launches more frequently then ever before. Whilst we can strive to disrupt market trends it is more easily said than done. In a competitive market however, brands do stand out for the way it is perceived. Quirkiness is a trait and can be built into a virtue.
The attempt (if I may) is to open a conversation to a different ‘school of thought’.
So who wants to step into one of these shoes?
The author is director, account planning, Sensibly Weird Company