David Takeuchi

A Branding Lesson:  The Four Cornerstones

November 10, 2007

Case categories include: Marketing   Strategy & Planning   

By Robert Sher
An intimate business relationship with our key customers is what many CEOs yearn for.  We know that we'll be the first to know of client's needs, so we'll be the first to present solutions.

Bedrock Brand Consultants grew out of such a client, and David Takeuchi, CEO, took the lessons to heart.  In the beginning, he was a contract employee working in Chevron's offices.  His official task was to design and evolve the image of Chevron’s service stations while developing communication guides to reflect the evolution. But as he did his work, his predominant attitude was, "How can I help my client achieve their marketplace goals?"

The extra mile
He did his work well and on time.  But he didn't insist on having just one "boss.”  He was flexible enough to work with several people and departments, and soon became the "hub" that coordinated activities related to his work.  They began to depend on him. 

While we all know that relationships are critical to success, too many of us stop short.  We accept that a good relationship with the buyer is enough.  We don't do the work to create multiple relationships with a client or customer, at multiple levels.  The truth is the depth and breadth of the relationships with a client act as insurance against the departure of any one person, or the firestorms that can occur in a relationship with one person.  What's more, there can be lots of new opportunities for business inside clients that will only be discovered through multiple relationships.  In David's case, he understood the client's business holistically, and even became instrumental in helping them communicate with each other.

As the man in the middle, he started to notice issues and opportunities that were important but not clearly "owned" by any one department.  So David decided to own them.  He surfaced them, gained consensus on what to do about them, then executed the work.  His business began growing. 

Think about your business definition.  While the world seems to preach that you should sharply define your business and build brand recognition around that, there is room for re-defining who you are when you're deep in a relationship.  If you have other skill sets -- or can develop them -- that allow you to solve more of your customer's problems, why not reel in those opportunities?  Bedrock Brand Consultants was a young company and its greatest external asset was its customer relationships.  They chose to have a nimble approach, and develop related services for their client as needed.

With eleven years experience working for brand and design agencies, David wasn't steeped in the "Chevron way.”  He took what he needed from the "look and feel" of the Chevron brand, but kept infusing a fresh flavor into his work.  It was unlike what would have come out of Chevron's internal team had they tried to do the same work themselves. 

This world is too full of knockoffs and copycat products and services.  Frankly, it's easier for most to avoid big changes and just roll the ball forward incrementally. At the opposite extreme are people making massive leaps forward, sometimes so great that the world just isn't ready for them.  Bedrock Brand Consultants uses the term "creativity in context" to capture the mid-point between these two extremes.  Strive to be creative with fresh new approaches and ideas, but make sure they fit into the context in which the customer will experience them.

Seeing all sides
For seven years, David had been working on entertainment accounts – Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, and more.  Those companies are masters at creating a customer experience, whether it is in a movie, a ride, or a theme park.  Applying the same mindset to his brand related work, he applied a time based, step-by-step inspection of the experience his customer, and his customer's customer, would go through at each touch point. 

Take a walk in the customer's shoes.  The world of retail does this, and they're called professional shoppers.  Retailers get a full report, in writing each month from the "shopping" service.  Every business can take a lesson from this.  If you look at every aspect of your business as it touches a customer, and at each stage, ask yourself, "How does the customer feel now?"  If you don't like the answer, do something about it.  This encompasses not just your marketing and advertising, but delivery of your service or product, billing, sales, lead generation and more.  It only takes one gaffe to shatter the customer's glowing vision of your company.

Bedrock has committed the lessons they learned from their early experiences to writing as the four cornerstones of their business.  They are: relationships, a nimble approach, creativity in context, and customer experience.  At first blush I thought they looked great for a creative business such as Bedrock, but as I thought deeply about these principals, I found they applied to all my clients.  Think deeply about applying them, together, in your business.

Takeaways:
• Creating deep, broad relationships with customers can bring new opportunities.
• Be nimble. If redefining your role in a relationship benefits the client, do it.
• Inspect your customer’s experience by walking in their shoes.

Robert Sher is principal of CEO to CEO, specializing in assisting CEOs and business leaders as they navigate critical passages.  He is the author of The Feel of the Deal; How I Built a Business through Acquisitions.  He may be reached at Robert@ceotoceo.biz.

Company and Case Facts:

Company: Bedrock Brand Consultants
Person: David Takeuchi, CEO
Alliance Member since: 2004
Business Founded: 1996
Annual Sales Volume: $3.5 million in 2007
Head Count: 35
Service: A wide range of creative services integrated with the client's business
Typical Customer: Global 100 players like Unilver
Written: November, 2007
Address: Bedrock Brand Consultants, 318 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA  94607
Web Site: www.bedrockbrands.com
Phone: (888) 722-1582
E-Mail: dtakeuchi@bedrockbrands.com