Mike Tyson, a living legend that caught the attention of the world. He is probably the most phenomenal fighter of all time. He now rests in the shadows with a moving life story of a man that defied all odds to become champion of the world. Today I draw a number of lessons that jumped at me as I watched the moving documentary of the champ. Here we go:
- Destined for Doom before he had an opportunity to speak for himself
Mike Tyson’s story starts from the tough crime prone Brooklyn streets growing up to become a thug in order to survive. It was the only way to go and all roads led to prison for the average young man that had that hood for his home.
They way only one out of five companies live to see their fifth birthday and only one in ten gets to see their tenth. It is a harsh harsh unforgiving world that guarantees the failure of your business before your business or product has a chance to speak for itself
- A visionary draws out the champion
It took a visionary to draw the champion out of the hard core thug by focusing him on the future that Mike Tyson would never ever see on his own. He spent three months meditating and setting his mind right before he threw a single punch. He spent hours and hours watching the champions of old and memorizing every move to make him a weapon against all that stood in his way.
Your business or department must be focused on a core, a brand essence that will differentiate it from others that surround. It’s the hours spent in research and development that will make your brand unmatched in the presence of your competitors and position it for a destiny bigger than the natural.
- Nothing to live for any more
Tyson become the champ of the world after his trainer, coach and father, Caster. had died. He lived the dream that was made possible by the strong foundation laid down. No one could stand his way; nothing but his pride, indiscipline and love for women. He achieved his dreams and there was nothing more to live for. His wealth came and went away, his name tarnished in rape charges and divorce and his respect in the ring dragged in the mud… He was reduced to a nobody.
Success without a plan beyond the wealth and the affluence is a recipe for disaster as pride negligence and assumptions court you and jeopardize your destiny. You must define the way to walk, the values in relation to experience and institute strong structures of leadership and accountability that will handle the danger that surrounds success.
“When you do organisation profiles, do they need to come edited or do you work through the reducing of words etc. to fit well in the profile.” was the question from a friend. My answer ” 90% of the time I edit the content because many businesses go on and on about themselves instead of addressing the pain points of the prospective customers.”
Your typical organisational profiles have the vision, mission, values, history of the organisation, product and services and a host of content that many times feels like what a candidate would say on a first job interview. Your prospects have no interest in your vision, mission and the other things that do not address their here-and-now needs. Part of the reason they are not interested in your profile is that it is focused on you you you and how you are better than your competition.
Sometimes we forget the reason we have their attention is to demonstrate our understanding of the role we are interviewing for and we have what it takes to get the job done.
Here is a simple formula:
- Say hello and introduce your organisation’s mandate
- Demonstrate your understanding of their pain/needs
- The reason you are the best choice- approach, method, team and value on offer
- Provide engagement options that fit different scenarios. Customers love options.
- Guidance on what next now that they know what they know.
The company profile is many times the first or second customer touchpoint, therefore, it must be short and succinct. The content must be written to evoke an interest and desire to engage the company and not just for information sake. There is a crop of wordsmiths called copywriters in the creative space whose sole purpose is paint pictures with words that draw your customers to act on your pitch. These work in tandem with brand & graphic designers to deliver profiles that win the hearts of your prospective customers.
It is fascinating to observe how we are tuned to respond to products and services all around us. Colour is part of an orchestra of signals that our five senses use to assign meaning to our experiences. Think about the Safaricom green on Mpesa shops that cause us to know our search for an agent is fruitful, Ketepa’s yellow and green that says here is tea from the rich highlands of Kenya, Barclays blue that announces class, Colgate Herbal’s green that draws us closer to nature. They all work along with other touch points to evoke certain responses from us. I had one such experience earlier this week on an out of town trip.
I accompanied a friend and his family to their home in Naroosura, Narok County. Naroosura is around 80Kms after Narok Town, We did a couple of diversions on a 17Km stretch before going off-road. It does not rain frequently in Narok but when it does it pours and that is exactly what happened the day before our travel to set the stage for the drama that ensued. We struggled to stay on course as we slid off the muddy roads time and time again.
The entourage was almost there when we got to a sea of mud that made us all appreciate four-wheel-drive vehicles on the convoy. All passengers alighted and watched in dismay as two-wheel cars spent over an hour being pushed by local folk or towed by tractors across the ‘mud sea’. We knew we were in trouble when we looked at the fuel gauge post the mud saga. Once the function at Naroosura was done, we made haste for Narok while the sun was shining. We were about 50 kilometres from the closest fuel station when the low fuel light came on and stalling was a possibility.
We were relieved to see tarmac at around 8.00pm and made a decision drive past the first fuel station because we didn’t trust them. We went past a couple of other franchise stations before the driver shouted “Total” like we had struck gold. All we could see were red lights in a distance. The car owner recommended that we go a kilometre further to the Shell Station.
One observation I have made about the Shell Service Station as we approached it was is the absence of the name Shell. You only see the legendary icon and the red & yellow sitting on a white background. At that hour the red and yellow colours represented a haven of hope, a relief from stress. Here, we are guaranteed good quality fuel, a clean windshield, snacks & water at the convenience store as well as decent restrooms.
There is a rationale to the choice of colours for the logo and other collateral that represents the brand but I must admit that some happen by accident like the Coca-cola red that was used so customs officers are able to distinguish the soft drink from the taxed alcoholic drinks in the US over 130 years ago. Today, if you googled the meaning of Coca-cola red you will come across passion, stamina, power and energy. Brand identity designers lean on a colour chart to inform them about the Pantone that set our perception on a particular path. See the following meaning drawn from a colour psychology website.
- Red – passion and drama.
- Orange – encouragement
- Yellow – optimism.
- Pink – sensitivity
- Blue – trust.
- Black – mystery.
- Green – growth and health.
Colours form part of the orchestra of customer touch points that work together to produce a positive or negative perception in the mind and hearts the customers & prospects.
Colour is a language that we all speak.
The art of storytelling is key in inviting an audience to journey with you to the desired destination. Politicians, parents, motivational speakers, preachers, journalists and every other person with the desire to influence an outcome use it.
Businesses take the same approach when putting a message across to its customers and prospects. Remember “Mimi ni member”– Equity bank, “Twaweza”– Safaricom, “Utahama Lini“- Daily Nation and ‘Magical Kenya’– Kenya Tourism Board. Their stories draw us to reflect our status quo, be inspired to do more, laugh a little or just be thankful for the little things we take for granted. They cause us to connect our life experiences to them, we make room for their stories in our hearts and minds. Now that is great storytelling.
This thought process was triggered by yet another advert in the dailies; this time around it is the household brand, Bata. I saw the above ad on Friday 30th November and could not comprehend it. Ran it by a colleague who could not make heads or tails of what Bata meant by “BEEN NAUGHTY?”. This is a creative design guru who makes a living from bringing marketing campaigns to life.
It took me a minute to connect the “BEEN NAUGHTY?” statement to Santa Claus and by extension the Christmas season that is here with us. If you have been a naughty boy or girl this year then you know Santa will not gift you anything so you better go to yourself and your family some good shoes at Bata. That was my interpretation of what Bata intended to say to its customers.
A few lessons we can learn today is, keep the customer in focus throughout the entire storytelling process, keep it simple and finally its a head and heart journey so make it worth their investment.
Market disruption is a lot like saloon brawls in a western movie; you see the tension building and hope that reason prevails but the opposite happens. Chaos erupts in the establishment and everybody’s caught up in the fight. You dodge a chair tossed in your direction only to get in the path of a punch intended for someone else and the culprit now follows up with uppercut punch and a kick in the gut. You have no choice but to neutralise him along with everyone else in the salon who threatens your survival.
I greeted the (above) Standard Chartered advert in Today’s Business Daily with a smile. The insurance companies and agencies may have seen the flying chair tossed by the competitor insurance agencies but not this uppercut punch from an establishment regarded as a neutral party. I witnessed the same kind punch when I attended a Marketers’ Night at Nairobi Hospital’s new state of the art convention centre that is open to hosting global conferences, trade shows, concerts, celebrated stage productions and anything that the hotels have used a bargaining chip. We witnessed Safaricom disrupt the banking sector with Mpesa and internet services with their home fibre.
Either start the brawl or be on the lookout for the tension build up. Make your move in time to defend your wellbeing and neutralise any threats to your survival. Nature abhors a vacuum, occupy or get occupied. Good luck!
‘I can’t run to save my life’, ‘I am a sweet tooth’, ‘numbers are just not my thing’, ‘that is Kenya for you’, ‘my family has always…’, ‘ It is impossible to achieve that in this economy’, ‘These millennials are just…’, ‘ I am just being real here, you can’t expect me to…’, ‘you cannot get a tender in this country without…’ The new kid on the block is ‘ rust is cool’ which I stumbled on a VW Beetle when reversing into a parking spot one late evening. What is cool about rust? Someone, please explain that.
My November has been littered with reflections on identity. I have confronted a number of “rust is cool” narratives I held close to my heart and mind to justify why things have unfolded in the past and why the future needs to embrace the harsh ‘truth’. The ‘truths’ we make up to get away with failure and settle for mediocrity while the people around us beat the odds to achieve excellence.
Rust is not cool. I have work to do as a son, brother, husband, friend, mentor, teacher, recreational runner, creative, brand strategist, Kenyan, custodian of an Africa-wide vision and global citizen.
A friend asked for my help to craft a life purpose statement. Yap! one that captures the essence of who they are and what they live for. I asked them to use my tried and tested method of first crafting a bio and then deducing a purpose statement from it. Here goes.
It usually takes four sessions get the job done but we are going to squash it to one sitting. First, explore to explore your story since you were a child, go on to experiences and lessons that have shaped and credited you with the skills you possess and then explore what you would want to change in the world if you had all the resources to execute it.
Finally, look at what tools and platforms you need to continue on your life journey successfully. Some of them will include a bio, your CV, a pitch or mission statement, the kind of people you need to team up with and the channels you will use to engage your world.
Now that you have all the ingredients, here is the writing guideline:
The first paragraph must capture words that anyone and everyone who knows you will use when describing you to a new person or when they are talking about you
The second paragraph can then dive into your skills and what you get paid to do by your employer or your customers
Then you move on to discuss things that drive you or given a choice what would you do to every waking moment
Lastly is the things that are in your circle of concern and you are hoping will become part of your circle of influence in collaboration with others… it will be a dream come true if you saw these happen.
Africa and community go hand in hand, a little “inconvenience” here and there from family, the extended family, inlaws, friends, friends of friends that we have just met is what enables us to connect and grow community all around us. I have met life long friends, made fresh connections and gotten business deals from unplanned car-pool or hitching a ride to a social gathering.
But change is in the air, we now call up Ubers to pick our moms from bus terminals, long lost friends from out of town jet in with no notice, our friends and children are picked up and dropped off by strangers in clean cars via apps we dial from the comfort of our homes. “Why can’t you Uber?”is our answer to a call to connect, to invest in relationships, to be a little African.
I won’t throw the baby out with the bath water because there endless beautiful things that have come with Uber that can fill book or two. What I am calling for is conscious engagement, to find a balance between relationships and convenience. Take the Uber revolution with a pitch of salt.
Election year is around the corner, this a good time for candidates seeking public office to start making their intentions known to their constituents; before the airwaves are filled with campaign rhetoric, and our walls smeared with posters of strangers seeking political power.
I made a decision to do this piece after stumbling on Hon. Sakaja Johnson’s I am Nairobi post on Facebook. I clicked on the link to a website with a sign up form, sponsored by ‘Organising for Nairobi’, Sakaja for governor of Nairobi and no more information on what ‘I am Nairobi is or who Sakaja Johnson is. I then pulled up my laptop to see if I could get more information from the same site since I imagine perhaps the mobile site was limited but it was a dead end.
There is a couple of things that Hon. Sakaja needs to do different in his quest for governor of Nairobi, as far as his communication is concerned. One is to acknowledge that he has three audiences: those that don’t know (ignorant), others that know and will cheer him on but are not convinced he is the right person for the job (skeptic) and lastly, his supporters; that have everything to gain or loose from the outcome of the elections (loyalist). Hon. Sakaja’s communication team must inform the ignorant, persuade the skeptic and keep the loyalist happy.
Second thing is to use various communication platforms to present the following:
- Factsheet on Nairobi: The good, the bad and the ugly
- Information on county government of Nairobi: how it should ideally work
- The role of the Office of Governor of Nairobi: it’s a relatively new position
- Formally introduce himself to the ignorant, the skeptic and the loyalist
- His plan to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly that define the county and to demonstrate what Nairobi will miss if they did not elect him as the next governor.
Lastly, I would say communication is a two way street. Be accessible to people from all walks to life, become their voice and be involved in their everyday lives. Let the ‘I am Nairobi’ campaign be a channel by the people and for the people, a safe place to share their fears and find hope for a brighter better Nairobi.
Friends are the film crew that work with you to shoot your autobiography. Make them audition, treasure those that make it, shoot every scene like it was the last.
The Oscar’s are awarded by casts, directors, producers who did the extraordinary to what would have a normal life story.
If you passed the audition to star in life story of a friend. Do your level best to work with their support cast to make everything beautiful.
God-the script writer, director and executive producer- is working you best collaborator to deliver an award winning piece that will impact and inspire your audience today and generations to come.