more than ever, brand marketers are under intense pressure to deliver results
for their brands. The intensity in every marketer’s attempts to get it right every
time is palpable. The fact is they don’t get it right every time, and they never will. This
is tough for CEO’s to accept. To them, this sounds like a lame excuse for not
wonder marketers have an over-dependence on fixed strategy and proven tactics -
making and delivering more and more messages
This is an absurd expectation – in fact, it’s more than that – it’s a danger to
innovation and competitive advantage.
live in a new normal where the social web has wiped out established barriers to
entry in a whole host of business and product categories. It’s certainly made a
shambles of the advertising agency model. What worked predictably well
(advertising) no longer does. Yet marketers still place tremendous energy on
convincing rather than engaging.
is not a path to perfection.
the light speed pace of business today, brand strategy must be a guiding force
to help us learn and re-learn our way into the future – brand strategy must be
a vision out on the horizon, an ideal to shoot for rather than a stick in the
ground. All success is risky business. Contrary to those who believe the
marketplace is linear, neat and predictable – brand building is a risky, messy
business to navigate.
change on the mere whim of the next best thing. Product innovations (both
latent and blatant) change the whole ball game over night. Seemingly marketers
have forgotten the universal truth that change is the only constant. Change is not a momentary aberration in time;
it’s a natural component to the flow of everything.
flexibility and constant re-learning are the necessary and fundamental
attributes for brand building in a knowledge-based economy. There are no
“best-practices” only learning then re-learning.
To learn then
trouble with marketing and brand management is most of the time we don’t know
what we don’t know. When the focus is always on the results, you learn and are
encouraged to do more of what works. Everything is tactics. But when that
learning becomes organizational quicksand… your brand is, well…stuck.
Innovation is a continuous process not an event. All innovation is about
learning then re-learning, and so it is with brand innovation. Challenge your
assumptions, learn then re-learn.
In the pursuit
of any goal, most of the time you’ll be off course.
sailing a boat or flying an airplane, to get to where you’re going, your course
is continually being slightly adjusted as you go along. Most of the time you’ll
be off course. There are no straight lines when you are dealing with the
gravity, wind, current and terrain of the marketplace. To grow and manage an
enduring brand, brand owners must strengthen their capacity to navigate, tack
and adapt as the circumstances and conditions shift. This is difficult to do on
limited resources, but it’s not impossible. Apple knew this well long before it
was the richest company on the planet.
the big idea bombed is difficult for marketing organizations. From my own
experience working with hundreds of marketing teams, most marketers would
rather believe they’re smarter than anyone else. It’s tough to admit failure
within an ROI obsessed corporate culture when your career prospects are on the
line. Failure to admit a wrong turn undermines the benefits of the
organization’s learning from the mistake.
you sense something is wrong in your brand strategy and your marketing tactics,
chances are your right. Take action! If your strategy or tactic isn’t
happening, admit the “failure” with joy and move quickly forward with your new
learning. Everything that’s awesome at first sucks.
Knowing why is
better than how.
At the end of the day, marketers have to know the reasons behind why things
seem “off-strategy”. Perhaps its because your current brand strategy is
“off-strategy”. Maybe this is one of the things you don’t know you don’t know. If
you can’t determine why something feels off, get outside help if you need it.
Seek advise from outside sources (brand consultants included please). Expand
your awareness, go outside your industry, move your thinking upward and
outward, gain insight not data and seek an outside perspective – then listen.
is a business of messaging more than listening. I believe it should be the
other way around. Listening to customers, trending the category, observing
behavior, whatever the method – engagement begins with listening first. When
brands take a wrong turn, it’s terribly difficult for some brands to admit it
and shift course in plain sight of customers and stakeholders. Just look at
Research In Motion, Sears and Kodak. On the other hand, when brands do listen, all is quickly
forgiven. Netflix has emerged from its very public failure stronger than ever.
clawing your way to the middle.
you’re brand becomes a middle player, perhaps your organization values learning
from what worked (or didn’t) from competitors in the category and then doing it
better. Doing is easier than being. Brand innovation is never about doing more
of the same only better. Brand owners spend so much time defining their “brand
essence” and why they matter; yet so much effort turns out to be navel gazing.
True north is never revealed through words in a Powerpoint deck, but by
behavior in the marketplace.
brands are brilliant at being and consequently they lead markets simply through
the evolving quality of their presence. The “quality of your presence” in the
marketplace is not perfect nor will it ever be. That’s what makes this game so
exciting, rewarding and messy too.
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