Skip to main content

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.

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …

Should I Add My Beer-Focused Instagram Account To My LinkedIn profile?

This is my response to a question originally posed on Quora.

The answer, like lawyers tend to say, is: “It depends.”

Not knowing what you do for a living, let’s assume that your LinkedIn profile is typical, meaning that it reflects the image of a corporate professional.

Would your boss, or a prospective employer, think badly of you for promoting your passion for beer?

Traditional product branding says that you should focus on your unique selling proposition fairly single-mindedly. Your goal is to create a space in the customer’s mind dedicated to your brand so that when they want to purchase something like it, they shortcut all alternatives and go straight to you.

So from a product branding point of view, putting a personal beer account on your professional profile is distracting. It tells an employer that you’re not totally focused on the encyclopedic and ever-evolving knowledge, skills and abilities required to do your valuable type of job.

However, people are not products, and appl…