Branding works pretty much the same whether it's personal or for a product, service, corporation, nonprofit, or government agency. And although there are bells and whistles that make it superficially different from marketing, advertising, PR or reputation-building, there are certain core concepts that never go away. The most important of these is:
Outcomes are what matter. Not intentions.
This occurred to me last night as I ate precisely 2.5 handfuls of chocolate almonds after dinner (no, not 25 but 2.5 is bad enough!) I have resolved about 50 million times not to eat too much at night, and I know that those handfuls probably cost me in the neighborhood of 500-600 calories - and that is after dinner. But all my resolve to "be good" and not overdo it melted in the face of the tempting treat.
If someone like me, who shares success tips all the time, can't keep a simple resolution like eating a lower-calorie dinner, then it's not hard to understand why many people don't even bother to make New Year's resolutions. According to today's USA Today (Dec. 30, 2011; poll by Bing/Impulse Research) fully 1 out of 3 respondents (32%) "just say no" to this annual tradition.
The flaw in my thinking, I believe, is that I gave myself "extra credit" for having good intentions when it is results that count.
You can see this very clearly in the movie Margin Call (I rented it on Redbox or you can rent or buy it from Amazon.com). As a government employee I was sort of shocked at the way they treated people in this movie (in fact the treatment of employees is part of the movie's premise, so I won't give it away) but suffice it to say that people were punished or rewarded by the company based on the results they generated.
I didn't agree with what I saw in the movie. But it was a good slap of cold water in the face. It reminded me that what matters is what the outcome is, not what you wanted it to be. And in branding, unfortunately, this is often the first thing people forget.
In fact the most common mistake in branding is confusing the message you are sending, for the impression that people receive. The fact is that people think whatever the hell it is that they want to. So the challenge of brand communication is to focus on the results, the outcome, the end impression.
On this, the mental block to overcome is that you may not be entirely comfortable with the methods it takes to get people to think well of you. But that you have to do those things in order to achieve success. (Example: When you make your customers angry, you either explain yourself and get them on board, or change course, and do it fast.)
Similarly, when it comes to staying in shape, you may not totally like all the things you have to do to succeed. For example, I vastly prefer walking to any sort of weight training. Yet it is starting to enter my brain that building up muscle is a more effective way to stay trim than just cardio. It is up to me what I do, but just because I walk with good intentions that doesn't mean any difference will occur with respect to results.
If you want to succeed in 2012, avoiding resolutions isn't going to help anything. Rather, introduce to yourself the concept that facts are facts no matter what you feel about them and no matter how much they are to your liking.
Have a good day everyone, Happy New Year, and good luck!
Photo by George Alexander via Flickr