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Fix My Brand

Typically when people ask me “how can I fix my brand,” the answer is very simple. They just don’t want to hear the answer.

Here are five examples of things people don’t want to hear.
  1. Communication is a critical function that must be heavily staffed with highly qualified people who live, eat, drink, breathe and exude the brand. Most executives pay lip service to it, but at the end of the day their assumption is that “anyone can do it, I’ll figure it out on my own.” As an extension of this mistake, organizations will sometimes hire professionals who serve as the official communicator for the organization, but only as a token — akin to hiring a great lawyer and then ignoring their advice, or a super cybersecurity professional and then refusing to take even the most basic advice about strengthening passwords.
  2. Most of the things you are saying right now are actually hurting the brand, not helping it. This is primarily because most organizations talk in a very generic way to “everybody,” rather than to their unique audience which loves and prizes them and is deeply loyal to what they stand for. I’m not going to get into the Freudian reasons why this happens but suffice it to say that it has to do with that old Woody Allen joke, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” Secondarily it connects to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance, where we tell ourselves that “if I can’t see it, it isn’t happening.” The fact of the matter is that your brand is revealed by every single interaction your employees and operations have with the public, and to be successful you must manage each and every one of those.
  3. Your names and logos are a confusing mess. What this means: too many names, name doesn’t add value, logo isn’t professional, no clear connection between name and customer, use of acronyms, and so on. Brand value begins with an intelligent use of name and logo that clarifies who you are and how your separate products work together or apart.
  4. You’re too obsessed with your website. Get heavily onto the right social media channels and don’t over-focus on your static website. Most of the action nowadays is centered on conversation — between you and your customer, between your customers and each other, and between your customers and non-customers who include your brand in their conversations.
  5. You don’t use your brand in the real world. Branding is not an idea exercise. It is meant for the trenches: Come up with a unique way of doing business that combines your name, your logo, your vision, your mission, your values and your operating methods. This combination is your “secret sauce” — use it, protect it, repeat it, and don’t give it away.
Normally the root of the problem for these clients is that they have competing brand elements at work. They can’t bear to give any one of them up, they don’t like the idea of prioritizing, and inevitably therefore they have a complicated reason why the messed up image must stay as it is.

The key issue here is subconscious: People identify with their brands as with themselves. And because brands are really artificial souls, there is a direct parallel between the confused, disorganized psyche and the convoluted snarl that is most of our individual personalities.

(Of course I don’t mean to be snotty, as I am as aimless as anyone.) The truth is that there are microscopically few people on this planet who can truly lay claim to single-mindedness. It is a part of the human condition to struggle, evolve, grow, and make a ton of mistakes along the way, leaving your friends and colleagues wondering who you really are, anyway.

But an organizational brand is not a human being at all. Where we want to see messy humanity among individuals, our companies should not be that way. As the business guru Peter Drucker famously said, and I do repeat this in my head all the time: “The purpose of business is to create a customer.”

If your brand is so complicated that only a psychotherapist can figure out how it makes sense, then it is truly messed up.


All opinions my own.

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