Friday, December 28, 2012

What's Your Brand

Time to get ready for 2013. What's your game-plan for change?

Forget about the incremental changes, the "more of this" and "less of that". Let's go for a complete overhaul. 

Who will you be in 2013?  

While we're at it, let's drop qualifiers that muddy the water, e.g., "kind of" or "sometimes" or "pretty much".  Instead, let's use declaratives that involve neither adjective nor adverb. When considering strength: you will be a) strong or, b) weak. That's it. Nothing in between.You pick one or the other, plain and simple: no scale of one-to-ten, no situational qualifiers, nothing to compromise your declaration.

Not sure? Then pick the one on which you'd be most willing to bet $1,000. 

So, what's it going to be: 
strong[ ]- or -  weak[ ]
loving[ ]- or -  hateful[ ]
hardworking[ ]- or -  lazy[ ]
engaging[ ]- or -  standoffish[ ]
happy[ ]- or -  miserable[ ]
committed [ ]- or -  lackadaisical [ ]
sweet[ ]- or -  sour[ ]
passionate[ ]- or -  apathetic[ ]
spicy [ ]- or -  mild[ ]
Not sure? 

Hmm... is it the selection characteristics or your readiness to declare?

If it's the selection characteristics, pick any that you consider meaningful. What juxtaposed characteristics would you prefer? Hot or cold? Big or small? Fish or fowl? The main thing is to ask yourself, "What are the key elements that distinguish a personality?"

Pick a characteristic, think of it's opposite and determine which of the two you will be.

With characteristics that you've determined, how ready are you to declare? Is your readiness to declare impeded by your not having a preference or are you uncertain as to your readiness to live up to your preference? Perhaps there's a conflict between your aspirational you and your implementable you; there's the you that you want to be and the you who you believe you'll be. 

Is that it?

What characteristics inspire the greatest internal conflict between aspiration and implementation? Do you really wish you were someone who were reliable (note, not "more" reliable). Would you be someone who loves? (Note, not loves "more".)  In some ways we're talking about your brand. What's your brand? What would you like your brand to be in 2013?

Branding You
I've often consulted with companies that are trying to define their brands. I usually work with a team composed of executives and members of the marketing department. We start by talking about the company's existing brand and invariably we get something big, bold and beautiful. The team considers themselves to be the Apple Computer or the Mercedes Benz or the Michael Jordan or the Harvard of whatever it is they do. 

"That's who we are: we're the Jimi Hendrix of golf cart manufacturers!"

This is why companies bring in outside consultants to help with branding. The employees of a company often see the company's brand in terms of aspiration; unfortunately the aspiration can vary significantly from the actual company. A company that produces OK products, but charges a lot for them want's the image of quality carried by Mercedes Benz. A company that offers nothing particularly new or inventive wants the halo of innovation worn by Apple Computer. A company that is conservative and stayed wants a rock-and-roll image.

Problem is that, in order to be effective and sustainable, a company's brand must be organic. It must closely reflect who the company is. If it doesn't, then one of two things must change. The company or the brand.

The first step in the process is to set aside the aspirational brand and capture the organic brand. Sometimes you find that a company's challenges with brand are that the company's brand exactly represents who they are, and who they are isn't working. A company sells cheap stuff at a premium; they're brand is that they sell cheap stuff at a premium. Sometimes the brand is opposite; a company that wants to provide name-brands for less really provides off-brands for more.

More often than not you find that the company's brand is just fine but needs a little bolstering. The bolstering starts with getting past denial.

For example, having a strong, recognizable brand as the provider of cheap stuff is great. It's easy to articulate and sell. In a bad economy, being the "cheap" guy can be a real advantage. Being cheap is only a problem if you aspire to something else.

Similarly, there's nothing wrong with being outstandingly uncool. Duncan Donut's trademark pink and brown color scheme is anything but cool, but it's easily recognizable amidst a sea of signage. They're branding works, big time.

Your Organic Brand
The art is to reconcile your would-be with your is. In some cases, there's nothing more to be done than to embrace and accept the is. In other cases, it's time to change one or the other. In the end, the brands that succeed and thrive are the ones where would-be equals is. Sure, you can get by for a while unreconciled (US car manufacturers used to dismiss Japanese cars as having inferior quality),  but it's not sustainable.

You what's your organic brand? You pick the characteristics that you want to use as metrics. How's your organic brand compare to your aspirational brand? How will you reconcile the two in 2013?

Happy Friday,
Teflon







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