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Stephen Denny California
Photo of Stephen Denny

Stephen Denny is a competitive strategy and marketing consultant, helping emerging brands define their competitive positioning, communication strategies and go-to-market strategies. He is the author of Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry (Portfolio US & Penguin UK), which was named one of Advertising Age's "Top 10 Marketing Books of 2011.

Denny has consulted and spoken to brands including Jabra, Cocona Inc., Altria, Campbell's Soup, Gold 'N Plump Poultry, PNY Technologies, Fuel Cell Energy, American Roamer, Looxcie, Koodo Mobile, Vibram US and others.

Prior to consulting, he was a 20+ year senior marketing executive responsible for the people, strategy and budgets for major international consumer electronics brands including Sony, Onstar, Iomega and Plantronics.

Apart from writing and consulting, Denny is a frequent speaker at corporate events, industry conferences and graduate business schools on topics relating to competitive strategy and marketing. He holds multiple patents, has lived and worked in both the US and Japan, and has an MBA from the Wharton School.


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  • The Five Lessons that Separate the "Giant Killers" from Everybody Else - The leaders of brands that have successfully out-maneuvered the giants they face see things differently than the rest of their peers. They have learned how to view the battlefield from vantage points that others have missed, which allows them to see things that most everyone else fails to notice. Some of these learnings cut against the grain of "common knowledge." Others seem obvious, but their nuances reveal a startling shift into new territory. All of them can be applied to your business.

    The compiled teachings of over fifty of the world's top business thinkers can inspire and galvanize any business leader. These business leaders and their combined wisdom come from a diverse set of industries, from technology to consumer packaged goods to professional services, and from every continent on the globe.

    Audience Take-Aways:
    • Understand how "Giant Killers" get inspiration from very unusual places - and how you can apply this to your thinking, problem solving and hiring.
    • Why ignorance can be a sustainable competitive advantage - and how to turn your lack of expertise in a new area into a dangerous competitor.
    • Understand the subtle difference between being great at what you do and changing how your market thinks about your category - and how this shift has galvanized more than a few "Giant Killer" brands.
    • Why friction is good - and why companies that choose to compete on the basis of faster decision making tend to make better decisions, as well.
    • How "Giant Killers" get closer to their customers - and in the process, play a far bigger role in their customers' lives than their giant competitors do.

  • The Four Hidden Lessons of the Giant Killers - This program discusses the non-obvious, counter-intuitive and radically different perspectives that are gained by careful study of those global business leaders who have done the seemingly impossible task of out-maneuvering the giants in their respective industries. This keynote assumes the audience is both versed in marketing and is ready for a handful of high level and conceptual lessons - all illustrated with a dozen rapid-fire case studies.

    Audience Take-Aways:
    • Brand tension: it's never about being good at one thing - one thing is never enough. "If we had only been about one thing, the big guys would have figured us out long ago," says one of my Giant Killer founders. Brands that are successful long-term are complex, interesting and hard to replicate.
    • The strength of self-definition: it's not enough to be consistent in a crowded marketplace of interruptions, greater complexity of media and more choices. Our brands must be self-defining Eigen Values.
    • The power of strategic shifting: thinking outside the box isn't the point - especially when you don't know where the box is. Strategically shifting the component parts of your situation - the "givens," time, interactions, perceptions and structures - allows us to engineer successes where others only see failures looming.
    • The politics of identity: beyond the definition of focus, we see examples of smart brands that have so closely identified themselves with a core group that they are impossible to dislodge - or defeat. Whether the politics of identity comes down to ethnicity, nationality or proclivity, self-identification is a powerful weapon if it can be carefully and authentically crafted.

  • Speed as a Competitive Weapon - You launch a product. The giant you compete against forms a task force to study what to do about your product. You launch your second version. They form a "Tiger Team" to develop the right action plan to deal with what is now the old version of your product. You launch your third release. And they circulate the Product Requirements Document for their product that would have been a worthy competitor to your first product, while you launch your fourth release.

    "Giant Killers" understand that they can work faster than their competitors can. But what many students of business don't understand is that companies with speed cultures make better decisions than their slower counterparts because their internal decision making cultures are designed to eliminate bureaucracy and hubris. Better decisions happen because everything unnecessary is stripped away. Speed cultures and the lessons they teach us can be applied to any company at any level.

    Audience Take-Aways:
    • Understand the four principles that define speed cultures - and how they can transform any team into one that gets results, faster.
    • Learn why teams that get along aren't always the ones that do the best, or fastest, work - using friction for your advantage, leveraging star performers and ensuring that momentum and morale are on your side.
    • Hear how Fortune 500 companies use "evidence-based decision making" to end the internal debate and move to closure quickly - and how any team, department or company can apply these lessons quickly, as well.
    • Get the inside story of how a speed culture within Scott Brown's successful US Senate run in 2010 pulled off a stunning political upset - relying on platform development and technology, but also the psychology of turning passive supporters into activists.
    • Learn the secrets of a Silicon Valley legend that produced a $100 million exit within 2 years - and how you can align your team to get results faster.

  • "This Sentence Has Five Words." Eigen Cultures, Creating Truisms & The Future of Marketing - "Giant Killers" out-maneuver their much larger competitors in the marketplace of ideas by being hard to miss - every customer touch point is more than just consistent: it's self-defining. We know who it is without ever seeing the brand. And each touch-point builds upon the last, creating a mosaic of consumer experiences from websites and ads to customer service interactions and hiring processes. We're all being asked to do more with less, so we need to foster a self-defining environment where every bullet counts. There's no room in our P&L's for waste anymore. And companies with greater brand strength have higher valuations.

    The idea of self-defining truisms is derived from the concept of Eigen Values, a phrase that comes from the discipline of cybernetics. Eigen Values have influenced fields as far flung as philosophy, psychology, architecture and art - this idea has found a natural home in the worlds of marketing and management, influencing how "Giant Killer" brands use product development, human resources, pricing and other disciplines as means to connect their brand DNA to the needs of their consumers.

    Audience Take-Aways:
    • Learn how to view your company through the lens of Eigen Values - and why this idea will change how you approach your next department review, website launch or customer service training session.
    • Realize that ideas like "unique selling propositions" - which have stood the test of time - become transformed when viewed not just as relevant arguments, but as ownable and believable statements.
    • Learn how "Giant Killer" companies like Method, Vibram, JetBlue and others have developed cultures that produce Eigen Values - and how what they do affects their customers for the better.
    • Learn step by step what questions to ask of yourself and your team to ensure that everything you do - from your internal processes to your external customer touch points - help further your brand and your meaning to an increasingly jaded and busy market.

  • Winning in the Last Three Feet - "Giant Killers" out-maneuver their much larger competitors at retail not by out-spending them - they win by letting the giant spend the money to drive customers into the stores so they can convert them there. Customers are never more qualified than when they're off the couch, wallet and circular in hand, ready to buy - and few are so confident in their decision making that a sincere pitch at that last moment, in the last three feet, won't make them consider a new brand.

    Drawing upon both case studies and the latest in the social psychology of interpersonal influence, audience members will learn not only how smart "Giant Killer" brands have created "jump balls" where their giant competitors have assumed they had a "slam dunk," they will also learn the decision triggers that make these tactics so effective.

    Audience Take-Aways:
    • Learn what smart companies do to take advantage of every event their giant spends money on - and how to leverage your competition's larger marketing budget to your advantage.
    • Learn the psychological decision triggers - the innate levers that determine what influences us to take action (or not) - that impact our decisions at retail.
    • Hear from several of the best guerilla marketing companies in the world and learn how they have out-maneuvered the giants they faced on the retail floor, from winning the hearts and minds of end users to winning the war for channel influencer mindshare.
Killing Giants
Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry

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