The Vulnerable Brand

The Vulnerable Brand


Stand-up comedians are fascinating. They get up on a stage, in front of thousands of people, and they can grip each one of them in the palm of their hands, just by talking into a microphone. With their stories and jokes, they are able to control the crowds for an hour or more.

How do they do it?


If you peel away the layers, you will see the way they make a connection with their audience by talking about the imperfections in their own lives. They are brave enough to embarrass themselves or to be shown as anti-heroes. And this creates empathy and understanding. The audience nods and laughs along, because, in their inner sanctum, they are able to recognise themselves as not always being the best or the strongest. They find refuge in this universal condition.


Self-deprecation not only creates connection, it is also a sign of superior psychological well-being. This fact was recently confirmed in a study by researchers from the Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre. Jorge Torres Marín, one of the researchers behind this project, says, “In particular, we have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-deprecating humour is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability.”

This further proves that individuals, like stand-up comedians, who use this kind of humour can create connection and display signs of happiness and confidence by showing their vulnerability.


The Vulnerable Brand

If we think of brand personalities as real human beings, and we should, what are the implications for how our brands should communicate to create stronger connections with their audiences?

Turn weakness into strength

One way to show vulnerability and create an authentic connection, is to turn a brand’s perceived weakness into strength. A great example of this happened in the car rental category during the 60s. Hertz was the undeniable leader, always followed by Avis in second place. So in 1962 Doyle Dane Bernbach developed a new positioning that simply stated:

Avis. We try harder.

Everyone instantly understood this. When you’re not the number one you have to try harder in everything to be competitive. Ordinary people could recognise the underdog spirit within themselves and therefore build a connection with Avis.

Turn crisis into opportunity

When KFC, the fried chicken fast food chain, faced widespread closure of their stores in the UK due to a chicken shortage, their agency, Mother in London, developed a newspaper ad that turned the looming crisis into an opportunity.

Instead of a long apology that nobody would be interested in reading, they simply showed the familiar KFC bucket … but with one difference. The famous three letters of the brand were jumbled to spell FCK. Anyone who read that instantly smiled. Here was a brand that felt embarrassed enough to change their logo for the sake of an apology, and display this embarrassment in very human language. People all make mistakes, and brands are driven by people. So with this brilliant ad, the brand was able to show its humanity.

Not just did they avert inflicting damage to their brand, they gained more goodwill towards KFC.

Turn the convention on its head

Brands like to associate themselves with celebrities in order to appear cool. Many people can see through this strategy. They understand that famous people are paid to extoll the values of the brand that’s writing the cheques, so they take celebrity endorsement with a pinch of salt. Sprite, the soda drink, featured LeBron James in an ad in which he said: “I would never tell you to drink Sprite, even if I was in a Sprite commercial, which I am.”

By poking fun at themselves and their own category and its conventions, Sprite instantly took a leadership position.

The brand’s rule of thumb

If we think of brands as people, it becomes easier to see how powerful brands can become if they communicate in a more vulnerable ways. Imagine going to a dinner and there is one guest who is constantly boasting about how smart or strong he is. Very soon nobody would be interested in listening to this showboat and he would find himself isolated and alone.

If brands keep banging on about amazing they are, they risk the same isolation.

Brands and people who are not afraid to embrace their own vulnerabilities, weaknesses and crisis, all stand to gain from their honesty and through the power of the connections they can make.

Brands should look to a person at the table who can simply and honestly talk about their own failures. Who can look themselves in the mirror and laugh. Brands should emulate the vulnerability and perhaps then, they too can grip audiences with whatever they have to communicate.


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Blockchain Implementation in the Public Sector

Blockchain Implementation in the Public Sector

Blockchain Implementation in the Public Sector

In 2008, Estonia revolutionized its private and public sector processes by launching the “Hash-linked time-stamping” technology. Considered as a pre-cursor of Blockchain as we know it today, the initiative helped Estonia significantly reduce its administrative load and emerge as the front-runner of Blockchain implementation. This exemplifies the potential of Blockchain to augment and innovate public sector services and intrigues us to explore similar possibilities that can be achieved by Governments around the world.

The Blockchain Biography

Blockchain represents a huge shift from traditional systems comprising a de-centralised database hosting validated transactions. A set of timestamped transactions make a “block”. Individual blocks are linked in a sequential manner. Any change in the information stored or in the block sequence immediately informs the owner and breaks the link, thereby indicating Blockchain’s fraud detection capabilities.

Ways Blockchain Can Help Government

Blockchain’s integral characteristics like transparency, immutability, and resilience, have captured the attention of Governments around the world to facilitate critical tasks like:


Storing personal identity information


Preventing cyber hacks


Managing contracts, assets, financial transaction and regulatory compliance


Managing information security


Streamlining government functions to increase efficiency


Enhancing data security and transparency


Improving voting systems and enhancing other public services


Providing relevant support in back-office functions


Managing information security


Mitigating fraud

Ways Blockchain Can Help Government

Jonny Voon, the Innovation lead at Innovate UK opines in his article on the blockchain that Governments often face a challenge in identifying an ideal and valid implementation of the technology in areas that cater to organizational needs, ensure seamlessness in daily processes and imparts technical strength.

To prevent technology overkill, a few priority areas have been identified for Blockchain implementation in the public sector:


Asset Management for efficient handling of property transactions


Identity Management by compiling, checking and verifying multiple data sources, transactions or events in a secured manner


Seamless and secured citizen services like voting or tax collection


Regulatory Compliance to automate legal and statutory requirements


Enhanced vendor performances through improved Contract Management systems


Improved Borderless Services

Government’s Role in Blockchain Implementation

Governments around the world are slowly but surely waking up to the immense potential of Blockchain in enhancing public sector services and achieving their digital milestones. In its May 2017 Survey report, NASCIO terms Blockchain implementation as the “next big transformational technology” owing to its safe, resilient and immutable nature.

Currently, Governments in 46 countries including Australia are making their mark on the digital map with around 200 planned Blockchain implementations. The map below highlights the status of Blockchain implementation across the world (as of March 2018).

Governments are increasingly entering into partnerships and forming communities both within and across sectors to implement Blockchain. This has led to the establishment of several Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to explore and implement Blockchains.

The article “Blockchains Unchained: Blockchain Technology and its Use in the Public Sector – Berryhill, J., T. Bourgery and A. Hanson (2018) ” cites the example of the ID2020 initiative, between United Nations, Microsoft, Accenture, and Rockefeller foundation that works towards strengthening identity management based on Blockchain technology.

To successfully implement Blockchain, Governments are purchasing technology services using three principal approaches :

Principles for use

To successfully implement Blockchain, Governments are purchasing technology services using three principal approaches:


Promoting Entrepreneurs


Awaiting innovations and best practices from private firms


Seeking partnerships with contract Technology vendors

Governments go through a detailed internal process before awarding the RFP to the selected contractor. The illustration below highlights the stages involved in the pre-selection process.

Blockchain in Australia – Transforming Processes Down Under

Australia is aggressively adopting digital transformation in its government policies and processes. The country has consistently secured a second position in the United Nations E-Governance Development Index Survey list ever since it was launched in 2014.

The chief stakeholders in the decision making during the selection process include Business Decision Makers (BDM), IT Decision makers (ITDM), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

In 2016 Australia garnered substantial global attention by becoming one of the first countries to combine the power of IoT and the brilliance of Blockchain technology for trade with China. Moreover, its e-governance initiatives, economic policies, and encouragement for innovative enterprises indicate an appetite for comprehensive digital transformation.

Tracing Australia’s Blockchain Footprints


In 2017, Queensland was the first provincial government to leverage the smart contract technology and issued a “virtual cryptobond”. This facilitated automation and management of coupon payments.


In July 2018, the Australian Government, through its Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), concerted with IBM to design a transformative digital network. The platform, known as the Australian National Blockchain (ANB), aims at facilitating businesses to leverage smart contract technology to manage transactions and events through their entire lifcycle.


The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has partnered with World Bank to issue Blockchain bond based on Ethereum. The bond will be denominated in Australian Dollars.

Blockchain Around the World – Implementation Use Cases

Countries around the World are also initiating their Blockchain implementation. Three sample use cases are cited below:

Dubai, UAE

In 2017, The Wall Street Journal opined that “Dubai Aims to Be a City Built on Blockchain” owing to the varied implementation of the technology in different areas impacting citizen’s life including healthcare, trade efficiency, tourism, registrations, property ownership.


The UK Government implements Blockchain for disbursing and tracking student loans and welfare checks. In 2018, it implemented the technology for regulatory compliance in the food sector.

Illinois, USA

The Government of Illinois has launched the “Digital Property Abstract” that consolidates land records from different governments into a single repository.

The Future Ahead

World Governments are increasingly acknowledging the definite advantages of Blockchain as a disruptive digital technology. However, challenges in the form of security concerns, lack of trust and awareness continue to impede the adoption in public sector services. Government agencies need to mobilise their energies to help create the right environment in terms of infrastructure, technical skills, resource capability, effective PPPs and appropriate awareness in order to make their digital dreams become a reality.


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The Power of Human-Centred Design

The Power of Human-Centred Design

Apple – a new kind of computer

When Steve Jobs briefed Jony Ive to design Apple’s first iMac, he wanted him to design a computer that would overcome the fear barrier between man and machine. The big, beige boxes of the world intimidated many people. Apple wanted a new kind of computer. A machine that would invite users to play with it.

So Jony thought of his grandmother. He asked himself what he could do to the machine’s design that would get even his grandmother to take command of it.

So he set out to design a big handle on its back. Because, he figured, if his grandmother felt at any moment she could lift it up and place it wherever she wanted, that she would be in charge of it. And not the other way round.

This is an example of a human-centred approach to product design. And it is entirely based on empathy. The ability of one human, in this case, the designer, to put themselves in the shoes of another (the end-user).

 Today, this approach to design is also used in designing the next generation of digital applications, websites and other interfaces. More and more, companies who make the things we use every day, virtual and real, are placing more emphasis on empathy.

The impact of design on our daily lives

The upside is obvious. When we think like the user, we are asking ourselves important questions and therefore avoiding pitfalls. This approach helps us to make products more meaningful and useful. When we feel like the user, like in the case of Jony Ive, who imagined the fear his grandmother had of computers, we can make iconic products.

Obvious does not mean easy

To follow the human-centred approach seems so obvious, yet every day we deal with countless products that are confusing, useless or downright impossible to use. Anyone who’s ever tried to connect a new printer, or figure out video-conferencing software can attest to this.

This is because empathy requires effort. It is far easier for us to see life from our point-of-view. And even more so for large organisations, that by their collective nature can get very entangled in their own perspective.

A human-centred approach can also make communication sharper, more engaging and more meaningful.

How to start to design

When creating any messaging, whether it is advertising, PR, a user-manual, micro-copy on an interface, putting yourself in the shoes of the user is essential. Great questions to ask include:

  • Where would I be when I get this message?
  • What else could be distracting me when I’m trying to interpret this user manual?
  • What kind of language would I like to read this product copy in?
  • How big is the screen on which I am getting this message?
  • In what state of mind am I during this user journey?

Another great example

One great example of a human-centred approach to communication can be found in the “get well” cards of Emily McDowell. She created a range of cards that are designed to convey a sense of understanding to someone who is even terminally ill. Consider some of the messaging she has used, compared to the normal cheesy copy one would normally find on a get well card:

  • Laughter is the best medicine. Until they find an actual cure for whatever you have.
  • If this is God’s plan, God’s a terrible planner.
  • Together we can find a cure for the phrase ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

This type of communication creates a meaningful connection with the receiver. It conveys a strong sense of recognition from one person to another – a feeling of I see you.

Applying human-centered design

As in product design companies, the same challenge in knowledge-based teams is to remain empathetic towards the end receiver, and not to revert to the perspective of the organisation – the sender.

This is only possible with a sustained conscious effort that is supported from across various verticals in an organisation – especially from management. Because being human-centred often required organisations to flex and bend their internal processes and paradigms.

Think of banks, for example, who present user’s money into buckets called ‘accounts’, because that is what makes sense to the bank’s process and mainframe computers.

But, what if a bank could put itself in a user’s shoes and imagine that people like to budget into more flexible wallets and containers that can be created and deleted on the fly – without paperwork. By building this kind of metaphorical layer on top of its existing framework requires extra effort and investment, but makes it easier for users to visualise and use their money.

Human-centered design is the way of the future

The potential of a human-centred approach to communication is limitless.

 Just ask the world’s first trillion dollar company.


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