Horses and unicorns: you shouldn’t be Amazon with a cone on your head

I spent a week attending a handful of different expos and conferences and I saw a common theme - people are scared to challenge normality and the way things are done. Shouldn’t every brand aspire to be a Unicorn?

After a week of attending various Expo’s, covering both verticals and horizontals of sector and service, there was a common theme. We live in a world where people (by people, I mean brands, but those brands are made up of their people, so it fits) are scared of being different. People are scared to challenge normality and the way things are done. Shouldn’t every brand aspire to be a Unicorn?

As an Amazon Prime member, I want to heap praise on them. I love Prime. Not least as my wife and I have a 5 ½-month-old, and next-day delivery on anything which we think may help her sleep is a godsend. Amazon has undoubtedly set the bar in terms of eCommerce platforms and systems, but that doesn’t mean the DNA of the world’s largest eCommerce platform is right for any brand. The ‘Amazon do it’ approach is all well and good, but what solution is Amazon trying to solve with their system? Something bespoke to Amazon. So designing an experience based purely on Amazon’s architecture isn’t going to solve the same problem as yours. And that’s true of any customer experience. Unless you’re the unicorn, you should have aspirations of setting the standard, creating that threaded experience that is unique to you, your culture, your people and your customers.

And here’s something else from my week of travel – brands still don’t really understand what their customers want from their products or services. Yes, that’s a sweeping statement and isn’t true holistically, but it is 100% the case for a lot of brands. Solutions shouldn’t be made on assumptions, and shouldn’t be used ‘because they worked before’. There is absolutely no doubt that in this world of the promiscuous customer, the overall CX has improved. And it’ll continue to do so with the increasing impact of automation, AI and machine learning. But nothing will ever replace fundamentally understanding what your customers (but equally your employees, as they are just as important in this process) actually want from you. This should be an inherent part of your core strategy and should be laser-focused and aligned to your brand and proposition. Nobody else can own that. Not even Amazon.

Being at the forefront of technology is amazing. Being immersed in a world where we’re talking about ‘Intelligent Buildings’ (bye bye SmartHome) and how sensory input from the outside world can enable a safer, independent and more automated life for all of us, is awesome. But, we’re at a point where layers of bureaucracy have a negative impact on the creative layers of technology, inhibiting the ability to design something quickly and for the needs of the user. What any product/service development decision should be predicated on is this: Don’t focus on what’s next. Focus on what is going to stay the same, and you’ll wed yourselves to your consumers infinitum.

Getting it right.

So, let’s say you’ve honed in on what it is you think your customers want. Now you’ve got to deliver. And ultimately, you want your customers to be fundamentally happy with the product or service they’ve ‘rented’ from you. So, what are the 4 things that will dictate a user’s happiness of a product or service:

  1. Aesthetically, it has to be pleasing
  2. It has to deliver on expectations
  3. We have to like the output that is delivered
  4. And it 100% has to be convenient

You can have the greatest looking thing in the world, but if it doesn’t deliver what you expect and it isn’t convenient, you aren’t going to retain custom. You, therefore, present a problem to a customer. That’s the last thing you should be doing. You should always be presenting solutions. Good brand experiences are those that are reliable and offer transparency of deliverables right throughout your end-to-end customer journey. Too often over the last week I’ve heard stories of organisations who are fundamentally making decisions for business benefit, selling their tech, software or whatever in between. Authenticity will drive engagement and will build an emotional relationship that drives customers toward your business goal. Focus on the people, and the numbers will look after themselves.

So, what are the key themes from my week on the road and some very different expos? It all boils down to one thing. People. And what brands need to start doing is being authentic, understanding the priorities of their employees and customers, deliver personal and emotional products and services, and be unique.

Don’t fall into the Black Friday trap of doing things because everyone else is. Dare to be different by knowing what you want to convey and owning it. Be brave in your outlook. Adopt a Test and Learn mentality. Be uniquely you. Be your own unicorn. And nobody can take that away from you.

If you disagree with me or want to share your own thoughts, I’m always open to healthy debate, just drop me an email to

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