What in the world does the British Monarchy have to do with marketing? You might be surprised but back in 1917, a British King did something that would result in the rise & growth of the British Monarchy as we know it today. In fact, it could be argued that his decision was a marketing & positioning brilliance.
Adapt or die (Transcript)
Talia Wolf: What if I told you that your business survival depends on leveraging a marketing strategy used by the British King back in 1917?
Ross Simmonds: I’d be very surprised. 1917, that was before a lot of things that we have today. So I would be very surprised. But I would love to hear a little bit more. Because they didn’t have computers. I don’t even know if they had cars, to be honest, but I’m definitely very curious.
Talia Wolf: Interesting. Yeah. None of all the famous agencies and all the things that people… Like mad men and stuff that we learn from, none of that existed.
Ross Simmonds: 1917 is very, very old.
Talia Wolf: So it’s 1917 and the British monarchy is about to collapse. The thing is that all over Europe all monarchies and all the kings and queens were German, they were all descendants of the same family. But after World War I, the hatred toward anything German was rising. So essentially if you had anything to do with Germany, you were being hated. You were ignored, people didn’t like you, didn’t want to see you. And according to historians, this was such a huge problem for the King in England, obviously, because he was German.
So after decades of ruling and prospering all over Europe, basically this entire family was collapsing. And the British monarchy that was based from a German family was about to collapse too.
So at this point you may be thinking, okay, cool story, Talia, but how is that even related to what we do these days?
And here’s the thing, the King’s story, and this huge issue that he was facing, isn’t too far from what many organizations through these days. We’ve all seen huge organizations completely crumble or collapse overnight due to one simple mistake that they made, or from one change and how people think or feel about them.
Ross Simmonds: I hear you 100% in terms of this being a situation today. Decade after decade we can go back into time and we can think about these organizations that ruled their industry and their space, just to find a new player come up and rise up and take their crown. Whether it was MySpace, and then the rise of good old-fashioned Facebook, and Instagram and all of those companies, or whether it’s something like Napster. And then we see Apple Music, we see Spotify, we see all of these organizations coming into the landscape after they were for many years a household name, kind of dwindle into the background. And it’s just a nostalgic nice thing that we all remember from the past, but not something that we interact with on a regular basis. Or even things like Yammer. Yammer for a short period of time had their grasp on the market as it relates to like intercommunication within an office. And then the rise of things like Slack has completely shifted that and changed the way that the people in teams communicate.
So it’s definitely something that we’ve seen before in the wonderful world of business.
Talia Wolf: Right. And there’s even more to it. Because it’s not just about having a new player come in and take over and dominate the market suddenly, there’s also the whole world of social media today.
So it’s enough to have one bad tweet or one bad picture, or just one bad catch phrase. And it can set things in motion that bring an entire industry down. And suddenly everyone hates it, and suddenly everyone thinks it’s the worst and they never going to use it. Or sometimes there’s a piece of news, or research, or something new that comes into knowledge. And then everyone’s like, “Oh wait, everything we’ve been using before is terrible.
This is a chemical, this is bad,” or, “This is good.” And suddenly everything completely shifts. Even new technology. When we think about Kodak, that used to roll, or HP that used to have computers, now it’s more into printers. You have to make those shifts in order to survive because things are constantly changing.
Ross Simmonds: Yeah. Every brand is one article away from completely having their entire industry and reputation thrown on its head. Anyone can create content today. Anyone with a smartphone can take a photo today. Anyone with a smartphone can send out a tweet, record a video, et cetera. And because of that, information can be shared very quickly, even if that information isn’t necessarily true.
And if the wrong message gets out there to your customers, to your ideal client, and that message has a negative association with what it is that you represent, there’s no question that you could be very much like the King, where the entire industry turns against you on the back of something that you had nothing to do with.
Talia Wolf: Exactly. And this is a point in your life, of a business, where you have to make a decision. And here’s a thing, and an interesting thing you should know, is that at this point the King made one critical decision that saved his entire family. Not just from death, and not just from falling apart back then.
The king’s decision back in 1917 actually guaranteed the survival of their monarchy till this very day.
One decision: He changed his name.
He changed it from Saxe-Coburg (hopefully I’m saying this correctly), to Windsor. A very, very well known British castle, so it had a very big impact on people.
Ross Simmonds: I think there’s a movie about this.
Talia Wolf: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s on Netflix. This is where I learned this. I was watching this on Netflix. So I was like, “Shoot, the King did such an amazing rebranding thing.”
Ross Simmonds: What is it called? I’ve been hearing about this and I’ve never watched it.
Talia Wolf: It’s not The Crown, if that’s what you’re thinking about.
Ross Simmonds: That might have been what I was thinking about.
Talia Wolf: The Crown is an amazing series, which you should watch right now. It has three seasons. Super, super good. But the one I’m referring to is a documentary about the British monarchy and where it started.
Ross Simmonds: Is it called the Royal House of Windsor?
Talia Wolf: Yes.
Ross Simmonds: There it is, The Royal House of Windsor, folks. Make sure that you check it out. Apparently it’s an amazing movie.
Talia Wolf: Oh, it’s a documentary. Let’s not go overboard. For me it was amazing, because I was watching it and I was like, “Oh, everyone has to know about this. This is amazing. People were doing rebrands back in 1917.”
Ross Simmonds: That’s amazing.
Talia Wolf: We should have leveraged this. But it’s interesting because back then the British monarchy was actually one of the most well distanced monarchies. They never left their palace. They were real snobs, and they didn’t want to talk to anyone in the common folks.
But after they did this rebrand, they changed their name to a British name, they had to strengthen this tactic. So what he did is he took to the streets and he met people face to face. So he attended events. He visited busy shops. He went to where people were meeting. He shook hands, he asked questions. He essentially rebranded the archaic Royal Family as the people’s monarchy. This is a huge shift.
Talia Wolf: And maybe if we think about it as a B2B company.
Most of us think of B2B and software as like this heavy business that has to be super serious. But we do see many B2B companies today shifting towards the people’s company, using different language, being more approachable. And this is exactly what this man did.
So he took his archaic monarchy and turned it into the people’s monarchy. And by the end of World War II, I want to say that almost all European monarchies, so all the descendants of this family. We’re talking about Russia, Belgium, and so many other countries, they were gone. All these monarchs were gone except for one. The British monarchy.
Ross Simmonds: Interesting.
Talia Wolf: Yeah. And this is all thanks to the swift response of this King, and his ability to understand what his people need from him. And when you think about it again, it’s 2020 and the British monarchy is one of the last ones left. It’s an achievement that very few have managed. And here’s why you should actually care about this. Okay. Because obviously you might say:
“Okay Talia, we get it. 1917. Rebranding. We know this is important.”
What we can all learn from the king’s response
But this is super important to everyone, because so much of our time is spent comparing ourselves to our competitors. We’re worried about their features, we’re worried about their pricing. When actually when we should be focused on is the people that we’re serving.
The ultimate judges, that will determine if you will scale, if you will grow, if you will survive, or if you get left behind, is your audience. So in 2020, and moving on 2021, 2022 and so on, our biggest challenges isn’t to outshine our competitors. It’s to consistently adapt. It’s to change. It’s to optimize ourselves, to fit into that ever evolving world that our audience lives in.
Ross Simmonds: I love that. I think you nailed it. The goal should never be to always be thinking about, how can I get this incremental win? We need to start thinking long term around how we can last as long as the British monarchy. They have built a brand and reputation and a stronghold in the world solely because a decision that was made back in 1917. Did I say that year right? Yes.
Talia Wolf: Yeah, you did.
Talia Wolf: I’m such a geek. But when you watch it and you think of companies like Kodak. They’ve vanished.
Ross Simmonds: They’re gone, they’re gone. And it’s because they didn’t adapt with the times and recognize what their customers, their audience, what the people who they were serving, to your point, really wanted.
Let’s break this down into tactics a little bit. So how can we really start to leverage the King’s approach, and guarantee our own survival and growth when it comes to establishing a bit more longevity for your brand?
How to leverage the king’s approach in your own business
Talia Wolf: All right. Well I think step number one is, be where your audience is spending its time. Ross, you have spoken about this time and time again, and I love this approach of yours, of just understanding where people are.
Ross Simmonds: Yeah. Right. And I think that’s the key. One of the things that oftentimes people underestimate is the importance of actually going out and spending time on the channels where your audience are spending their time. We get so caught up in let’s use this tool, let’s use this gizmo to understand our audience. But oftentimes just using data isn’t enough. What you need to do is actually put yourself in your audience’s shoes and go into the channels that they’re spending time, and actually interact with people there. And you’ll be surprised by the amount of value that you can get from them.
For example, if your audience is spending a lot of time in a certain subreddit, don’t just think to yourself, okay, let’s run ads in this subreddit. Become a part of the community there. If there are 5,000 people who you want to reach, or if 5,000 people who may be your target audience and they’re in this subreddit, you don’t need to think about, okay, let’s run ads to this community. You need to think about how you can build those 5,000 people into loyal subjects under your monarchy. You want to make them love you, adore you, and believe that your brand is going to do everything it can to support them achieve their goals and their own desires.
And that’s kind of what you have an opportunity to do, not only on Reddit but also on Facebook, on Tik-Tok, on Slack and YouTube. You name it. Any channel where your audience is spending time, you should be jumping into those channels and reverse engineering them to better understand how you can serve them.
Talia Wolf: Right. I mean even listening to the podcast, watching the videos that they watch, joining the Facebook groups that they’re in, reading the books that they’re reading. There’s just so much that you can do in order to get into your customers and your prospects heads, and getting closer to where they are. And I guess once you’re in those thoughts, what you want to do is to pay attention to what they’re saying.
Ross Simmonds: 100%.
Talia Wolf: You want to look at their comments, you want to look at their tweets. You want to understand their stories. You want to listen to them. What are they complaining about? What are they identifying with? What are they relating to? What’s driving them nuts, what’s waking them up at 2:00 AM? What is exciting them? What are the desired outcomes? What are the things that they dream of? All these things. Or even what hobbies they do. All this stuff is the grounds for identifying with people, relating to them, being able to shift your entire brand and your entire business towards the people that you serve.
It’s not what we’re achieving as a business, but what our audience is achieving.Gia Laudi
You know, I was just listening to Gia Laudi, and she was talking about this. She’s from Forget The Funnel. And she was talking about this the other day, where we spend our time as businesses measuring different KPIs, like revenue or retention or conversions. And what that essentially is, is the results that our business is seeing. But what we actually should be measuring is our customers results, the things that they’re achieving through us.
So it’s not what we’re achieving, but what they’re achieving. And I think that is the essence of a good and successful company. When you can identify sentiments, when you know how people feel, when you know what they care about, you can actually create that content that they care about. You can write high converting copy, you choose better hero images, you can write a better blog post, you can run better ads.
Everything that you do is about meeting people on their home ground, and becoming the people’s choice. That People’s Choice Award, I guess.
Ross Simmonds: I love it. So yeah, I totally agree with what Gia was speaking about. I kind of view it in the British monarchy realm, around organizations, whether you’re a freelancer, whether you are a software company, whether you’re a DTC like e-commerce brand.
When you have a perspective where your results are essentially the results that your customers get, and that’s what you measure yourself from, you’re able to take a bit of a governmental stance. The best governments really look at the results that the public are having as their indication of how good they are doing to serve them.
So for example, if there is a decreasing amount of unemployment, meaning their people, the public, are working more than they are a doing good job. If they find that the people within their constituency have a high happiness rating then that demonstrates to them as well, okay, we are doing something right.
And I think if we can start to view the world from that lens as organizations, as companies, as marketers, et cetera, it’s going to help us be better marketers. It’s going to help us be better company owners that are entrepreneurs, et cetera. Because our goals are in alignment with what we want our customers to achieve. So to take this a step back from a tactical lens.
For an SEO agency, let’s say. Rather than always holding yourself to how much revenue can you get from your various clients? Maybe you’re going to start tracking publicly, across your entire organization, how your clients are doing from a search ranking perspective. So how many keywords that you have identified as target phrases are your clients actually ranking in the top three for?
And you hold your team and yourself accountable to maintaining a certain level of success across the board. Or maybe if you’re in the SEM world, you’re going to be holding yourself to a benchmark around how much cost-per-click you want your team to have, or whatever the KPI is that matters to your customer. And you think about that on a regular basis. Then you communicate it to your team to ensure that everybody knows you’re not just here to generate revenue. We’re here to serve our clients and achieve a certain goal at the end of the day.
Talia Wolf: Right. And you know what I love about this approach is that this leans in to the customer led / customer driven companies. Because so many companies are focused on the product, and they’re product led, they’re very focused on the product that they’re creating, the solution that they’re creating. But when you become customer driven, when you focus on the people behind the screens, the real people, you guarantee not just having a better customer journey or a better product, but you are actually working into the whole idea of reducing churn, you’re working on retention, you’re essentially guaranteeing that you are creating a relationship with someone.
And this affects not just your marketing team but the product team, the customer success team, and everyone on your team. Because when they understand who the person is behind the screen, and their success metrics, and how how they measure themselves and what they want to achieve, everyone else can align around that. And that entire idea brings everything up in the company, so everything scales and becomes better.
Ross Simmonds: 100%. And I think the other benefit of all of this is directly related to the insights into how you can improve your product. So the more you get to know your customers, the more likely you are to serve them, the more value you will be able to provide them in terms of making product decisions, not just marketing decisions.
Like it’s one thing to know, okay, we need to share certain types of content on LinkedIn, but when you really, really start to dive in deep and get to know your audience and understand the things that are triggering them and the things that are keeping them up at night, you can start to make more strategic product decisions around where you need to go in the future.
That’s what the British monarchy did. They understood clearly that the fact that they had a German last name could be off-putting to their audience.
Ross Simmonds: If you as a software company, or you as a E-commerce company, or even as a freelancer can understand something about your industry because you talk to your customers, that people don’t like, or that people are uncertain of. It could be a lack of transparency. It could be a lack of a certain feature, or it’s been best practice to do something a certain way.
If you can understand the pain that your customers have by getting closer to them, and then react based off of that, it can not only influence the way that you connect with people in the future, but it can increase the likelihood for you to have longevity that will last for decades to come.
Talia Wolf: I love this. This is music to my ears, this is everything that I preach when I talk about conversion optimization. Because most people view conversion optimization as a tactic. Okay, let’s change a button, let’s move the headline around, let’s change the image. But for me, when I think about conversion optimization, it’s all about getting into people’s heads, understanding the way they make decisions. What triggers them, their emotions behind everything. Because at the end of the day people don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.
So everything that you do in your company should be about that. It should be about understanding who that person is beyond gender, geographical location and the browser that they’re using.
What we care about is what do our customers, what do our prospects feel? And when we know that, when we’re in tune with these people, it’s so much easier to adapt and move quicker and change what we’re doing, and not be the Kodaks, the Blockbusters, all these companies that completely vanished off the face of the earth. And essentially become other companies that move, and they understand and they listen. The companies that succeed are the ones that listen and adapt and change, and also aren’t too set in their ways.
The companies that succeed are the ones that listen and adapt and change, and also aren’t too set in their ways.
Talia Wolf: And I think that is a very big thing. It’s that too many times, and I guess more often than not, companies and people get set… Like they have a mindset and they have an idea of how things should work, how things should go about, how they should be doing things. And when it doesn’t align, if things start changing, there’s too many new things coming in or new technology that comes in, we get frightened and we hold ourselves in our fort. And we’re like, “Okay, we’re not moving. If we just stay this way, everything will be fine.” And they never survive, because they don’t adapt.
So at the end of the day, what you want to do, and I feel like this could be the conclusion to every episode we do, but at the end of the day, when you know who the people are, who you are targeting, the real people behind the screen, you can create a company that will last for decades and decades. And something that will scale and grow. And not just for yourself, not just for your own revenue, but actually create something that puts good energy into the world, that helps someone. And I guess for me, that’s all I want to do. That’s all we want to do.
Ross Simmonds: That’s awesome. I think that’s a great way to wrap this up. I think folks will get a lot of value out of this, whether it’s just going in and recognizing the importance of sometimes making a hard decision like going through a rebrand and making a complete shift on something as important as a last name or your brand name. Those types of decisions might not come easily, but sometimes they’re important and they’re necessary.
I think the idea of going deep into understanding who your audience is, what they’re all about, and where they’re consuming content, is also very important. Listening to the podcasts that they listen to, watching the videos that they can consume, and using all of that to guide your own communication messaging will be without question valuable for any of these companies as they start to tell their story.
And then also taking that step forward and going, okay, let’s actually read and consume the content that they’re putting out there. Let’s read the comments, let’s read their tweets, let’s listen to the stories. Let’s jump on a sales call and actually listen to how they’re being sold to. And use all of that to make those decisions.
I think at the end of the day, if folks can take away all of those things from this episode, they’ll be able to make some great decisions around their organization. Whether it’s structural, or even just from a messaging perspective, that can help them sustain themselves longterm.
Ross Simmonds: So thanks for sharing this story. I didn’t think that something from the 1917s would have the ability to have so much relevance today, but you surprised me with this one and I think it’s a episode that folks will enjoy.
Talia Wolf: Cool. And now you also have two Netflix shows to watch.
Ross Simmonds: That is true. That is true.
Talia Wolf: Added value.
Ross Simmonds: Exactly.
Talia Wolf: All about the added value.
Ross Simmonds: I love it.
Talia Wolf: So guys, please leave a five star review for us, because Ross will not accept anything but five stars reviews.
Ross Simmonds: Nothing less, five stars only please.
Talia Wolf: And also join us in our Facebook group, because that’s where we will be picking up the conversations, diving deeper, and answering any questions that you have. You can find this on facebook.com/groups/action driven podcast.
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