“This sentence has five words.”
Is there any rational person out there who wants to debate this point? Probably not. It’s self-defining. It’s obvious. When we say, “This sentence has five words,” we are presenting our listener with a truism. It is, by its own definition, correct.
This is an Eigen Value, a concept from the field of cybernetics that describes a thing that is self-defining. Its outputs are replications of itself.
Conversely, when we say, “This sentence has lots and lots of syllables and words,” do the same conditions hold true? No. “Lots and lots” is a fairly subjective idea. What is a lot to me might be too few to someone else.
The first sentence – the Eigen Value – has meaning. The second does not. We’re busy and we don’t care enough about it to debate its truth or veracity so we quickly move on with our day.
And that’s the point here.
Eigen Values are what we, as businesspeople, do when we’re doing our best work. We produce work that is synonymous with our brand values, our mission and our strategy. Always. In everything we do.
Why is this important to us?
We have limited resources and we need to spend them wisely.
When you look across your company, how many companies do you look like? I’m not just talking about your packaging, website and collateral. Look at your management philosophy. Look at how you treat prospective employees – each of whom will exit the process either happy or not – and tell everyone they talk to about you. Look at your internal processes, from new employee on-boarding to procurement to finance to customer service. Touch points are everywhere and the more we focus on this and make each one synonymous with our brand and vision, the more strength our brand accrues.
Our customers – real, potential, past, future, on the fence, our influencers and others – are busy.
They don’t care that much about us. We only matter to them when they absolutely need us and are moved to comment or are screaming at us when we’ve failed them. We need to remind these critically important, stressed out, busy people who we are and why we’re relevant to them. And when we do this ambiguously, we become invisible to them.
Impressions build over time, just like advertising frequency, so why would we choose to do a sloppy job here?
Brand equity equals company valuation.
There is a large body of work that correlates brand equity with company valuation. Strong brands are financially higher performing and more successful than their lackluster peers. We studied this at Wharton back in my MBA days and a quick search turns up newer research to support this point.
We can discuss the research behind this contention, links to which are supplied below in the post script, but I think we all intuitively grasp what this army of brilliant management scientists have concluded.
When you’ve developed a strong brand, your valuation is higher.
What does this mean?
Look at the outputs of your brand. Are they self-defining? Would a random customer be able to look at your packaging or website or talk to a customer service representative on the phone and know, instinctively, that it came from you – even if your brand name was obscured or not mentioned?
Or is your experience generic? Is there a “check the box” mentality driving some of your critical consumer touch points?
Look at the rituals, practices and institutions within your company. Are they self-defining? Have you indoctrinated your employees and taught them what it means to be one of the tribe?
Or have they grown up on their own, prowling your halls like so many gang members having created their own rules and laws?
Once you view your company through the lens of Eigen Values, it changes how you view what must be done.
It’s not enough to be consistent. You must be self-defining.
Please feel free to download and share my e-book on this subject entitled, “This Sentence Has 5ive Words: Eigen Values, Creating Truisms and the Future of Marketing.”
PS: The e-book is available without registration, but between you and me, please register! I’d like to stay in touch with you – I’ll give you a monthly deep cuts + interviews newsletter that goes a bit deeper into the blog topics, so if you like the content of what I’m sharing here, please sign up!
PPS: Here are a few links to research – many require purchase, but the abstracts point to a general consensus on the correlation between brand equity and valuation.
PPPS: Photo courtesy of Flickr under (cc) Creative Commons license.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kriselle Laran, StephenDenny. StephenDenny said: Do you know what an Eigen Value is? It's self-defining. An unarguable truism. http://bit.ly/8YcEoQ [Big idea for marketers] #MENGOnline […]
As usual – terrific stuff. Downloaded the e-book and will read on the plane coming home today.
An interesting expansion on this idea is one of the ideas central to Eigen Values. The original prefix here – “Eigen” – is the German word for “innate” and used in a sense of “peculiar to”… Basically indicating that this could not only be something self-defining, but also a description of how key EigenValues are to defining something’s “uniqueness”…
Perhaps we can even start to think of these things as commonly as we do the USP (or UVP depending on your background)… Instead of determining a brand’s Unique Selling Proposition – we can start to think about the Brand’s Eigen Values… Interestingly, those values (in mathematics parlance) change only as a particular vector is “stretched” and “shrunk”….
Really interesting ideas here – and I think you’re really onto something…
Again, many thanks for your weighing in on this post. Your take on the “uniqueness of one’s own innateness” – or words to that effect, at least – resonate loudly. I think this idea of creating a position as unique (and eigen) to one’s DNA as a snowflake and then ensuring via the EV lens that everything one does to animate this brand is also, in its own way, innate and ‘eigen’ changes how we look at what we do.
Wonderful comment – thanks for dropping by –
Stunningly brilliant in its simplicity. This is a must-read post. And I hope you quote me.
I can’t wait to dive into the ebook.
Ted, I appreciate your vote of confidence in this one! I appreciate your note and when the time arises, wherever I may be, I will quote you! Thanks again –
Nicely done, and points well taken. Consistency is a key point but only if stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, leaders, neighbors, etc) understand the message. In my former life in the Advertising/PR world, making each communication “self-defining” is a constant goal (and one not easily, or always, met). Yes, every touch point is an opportunity for a self-defining moment – I only wish there were more of them.
John: thanks for your note – I think confusion on the part of your stakeholders usually means one of two things: your brand definitions aren’t clear or there’s a disconnect between your outputs (all the stuff you’ve made as a result of your brand definition, from logo to website, collateral, advertising, packaging, etc.) and your supposed brand. Both are addressable and both take time and effort.
I only wish there were more of them too! Thanks for stopping by –
[…] the ideas behind “This Sentence Has 5ive Words” resonated with you, I’d appreciate one additional second of your […]
[…] depends on who you are – and who you aren’t. Think back to the Eigen Value discussion – This Sentence Has 5ive Words – and recall that once we’ve defined our brands and made the hard choices of what we are and […]
[…] the self-defining truism – the Eigen Value. Remember the definition? “This sentence has five words.” Unarguable, self-defining. A truism. […]
[…] Takeaways: When we talk about Eigen Values – “This Sentence Has Five Words” and the creation of a self-defining truism – we are […]
[…] more info on Eigen Values check out Stephen Denny’s Blog. Make sure to download the free E-book as […]