Channel 4 has a series called ‘Look 10 years younger’. Each week they take a woman having a bad hair day, not wearing makeup, and wearing dowdy clothes and ask 100 passers by to guess her age. Generally, the average estimated age is older than her actual age. The challenge is to make her look 10 years younger than her estimated age. The rest of the programme tries to show how new clothes, expert makeup and hair styling plus a little help from botox injections and cosmetic surgery make her look 10 years younger.

What do customers and prospects think about your business? Would they say that your appearance was a bit eighties? Does you business look as if it’s wearing a ‘favourite 15 year old jacket’? Has the business progressed in line with its customers and prospects?

Why is it important?

We are in a period of rapid change with consumers having greater choice and higher standards than ever before. New brands are appearing every week and you can’t be sure who is going to enter your market and take your business. 15 years ago, would WH Smith have anticipated that a US internet company called Amazon was about to have such an impact on their business?

Inevitably, some businesses get left behind. It’s an easy trap to fall in to. You’re busy focusing on the day to day, servicing existing clients and not taking the time to look at the bigger picture. Before you know where you are, your brand proposition, or service, or product, or approach, or marketing communications become dated. Your sales and margins decline. Hopefully you have enough time to address the issues before it is too late. Even long established businesses like WH Smith & Boots are finding it hard. Sadly for some businesses it is too late.

Reinventing a 100 year old brand.

Some of you will know I used to be Group Marketing Communications Manager at the RAC. When I went to the RAC for my first meeting, back in 95, I had mixed views. I loved the Knights of the Road TV commercial with the Rolling Stones sound track but had a perception that they were an elitist, old fashioned, stuffy organisation. I soon found out that my perceptions were shared by most people in the UK.

However, the reality was different. Their brilliant, stylish new building on the M4 M5 intersection near Bristol was like the spaceship from Close Encounters. All of the RAC patrols carried a CD player (remember, this was 15 years ago) with data about every car on a CD. They had fault diagnostic units, GPS in the vans (commonplace now)and a super sophisticated computer controlled ‘air traffic control system’ to ensure that patrols got to stranded motorists quickly. The reality was polar opposite to my perception. Inside, they were modern and technologically advanced but badly needed a make over. But in this case it was 100 years younger rather than 10.

We repositioned the brand by introducing a radically new corporate identity, (deleting the crown), developing a new advertising and marketing communications campaign and introducing one of the UK’s first ecommerce sites with technologically advanced web marketing services like online route planning and traffic alerts. For the first time in a long time, the inside and external views of the organisation were brought up to date and made relevant in time for its 100th birthday.

You make look 10 years younger, but what’s under the surface?

One of the areas about the programme ’10 years younger’ I dislike is their focus on the outside. The emphasis is on cosmetic surgery and botox rather than the ‘inside’. Someone might be smoking 40 a day, eating junk food and exercise restricted to opening a can of cola. For me (and I doubt if the programme considers me part of their target audience), this is where the programme falls down. Personally, I would like to see a program called ‘Live 10 years longer’

In a business context, you must focus on the inside as much as the outside. If you say you are modern and technologically advanced, your product and service experience must deliver against customer expectations otherwise its just marketing puff. I am passionate about marketing but for me marketing is about solving customers’ problems profitably. The communication and the customer experience have to be in line.

Reinventing your business?

Whatever, your business it is possible to reinvent yourself if the business has become tired. When I was a boy, Lucozade was a health drink for poorly children. Now it’s been reinvented as a Sports energy aid.

McDonald’s have recognised the growing concern about ‘junk foods’ and the potential impact on their business. Their product range is being changed to include lower fat, ‘healthier’ choices such as salads, pasta and chicken. They realised that they were at risk of losing business and obviously want to keep their customers. It may be a bit like ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ where given the choice kids still prefer burgers, but they are offering a choice now.

As part of this new health drive MCDonald’s are sponsoring Olympic hopefuls for the 2012 Olympics to promote the theme of ‘aspiration through athletic achievement’ according to their Chief Marketing Officer.

If you would like help on transforming your web marketing or business to look and feel 10 (or 100) years younger without the botox then talk to a web marketing expert