It’s A Brand New Year

New Year’s resolutions mean that you are probably setting goals for a healthier, happier, more productive version of yourself. This is also a time to invest in a more positive image for your company brand. Just like committing to your gym schedule, easier said than done!

But first, just what is your brand anyway? Beyond a logo, ad or symbol, your brand represents how people (internally and externally) perceive your company – from customer service to reputation to products/services. You can offer the most brilliant services in the world at the most competitive pricing, but if you can’t deliver quality customer service or meeting deadlines, your brand perception will suffer. Think of your brand as an overall promise of what the customer/user will experience. Because your brand is affected by public perception the New Year is a good time to take a step back and reflect on what’s working well and what areas need to be improved. Be realistic about how and what you are actually delivering vs. the promise of the brand offering.

The below article “Three Ways To Give Your Brand A Happy New Year” by Will Burns was featured on Fobes.com on January 3, 2017. The article does a great job breaking out three insights to improve your brand this year. Enjoy and feel free to share your feedback with us!

If our brands are happy, we’re happy. So let’s kick this new year off with three insights, any one of which could dramatically improve the happiness, health and resonance of your brand in 2017.
These three insights start way up stream and finish at your advertising agency’s doorstep. Intrigued?

Let’s start with the whopper.

#1: Have you articulated a potent, meaningful brand idea?

A brand is just a meaningless logo without an idea behind it. Do you have an idea behind your brand? And, if so, have you articulated it in a way that everyone in your organization can understand?

The litmus test is simple. After this sentence stop reading, look out your window, and come up with a single sentence that represents the idea behind your brand. Now, write it down.

Is it a rational attribute of your product? Meaning, does it start with “We make the best…” or “We have the fastest…” or something similar? If so, I’d suggest you work harder on your brand idea.

A potent, meaningful brand idea is bigger than any rational attribute of your product or service. In fact, those product benefits and features should be a result of your brand idea (more on that later).

Now, if the statement you wrote starts with “We believe in…” or “We exist to…” then you’re on the right track. Here’s some inspiration from Simon Sinek, a TEDx Talk he gave several years ago that still resonates with me today:

Better yet, the exercise of getting to a brand idea is like corporate therapy. Seriously, having the debates and arguments over what the brand idea is today is far better than having a thousand arguments over the year over what to do because the brand idea is ill-defined.

#2: Channel your brand when behaving in the marketplace.

Some people believe that if they slap their logo all over the place, then branding is done. To which I would say, “Don’t Just Brand The Channel, Channel The Brand.” It’s a theme I constantly hit with my clients and an important one to think about as we navigate 2017.

What I mean is that marketing decisions shouldn’t only be based on what you or your direct report or your head of sales would do in the marketplace. While those professional opinions should certainly be factored in, marketing decisions should also be based on what your brand wants to do in the marketplace based on how you’ve articulated the brand idea (see #1 above).

The litmus test when faced with a marketing decision is this: “Would our brand do this or not”? If your gut says no, then you’re probably right. If you don’t have a good feel for the answer, then you probably don’t have a brand idea. Or it’s not articulated well enough to provide you the “gut” to answer these important questions.

Like a medium channels a spirit at a seance, get your team into the habit of channeling your brand idea when making decisions. “Brand integration” will be the result, not just an empty objective.

#3: Don’t fire your advertising agency, inspire them.

If your sales numbers are down, your brand trackers are showing weakness, and you’re sick to death of the ad campaign you’ve been running for five years, please don’t just fire your agency, as tempting as that may be.

Firing the agency means hiring a new one and you know what that means. You have to hire a pitch consultant, hold a pitch that may last months, not to mention the countless hours you and your team will waste reviewing the materials and presentations from 19 agencies who won’t end up winning.

Besides, you’ve probably been in marketing long enough to see that agencies are not terribly different at their core. The real variables are the nature of their clients because they hold all the power. Not to blame clients for all agency woes, but every relationship is a two way street and you’d be amazed how you can single handedly improve an existing relationship with a little inspiration that appeals to your agency’s nature.

If your concern is that you’re not getting the best talent from your existing agency, that’s a red flag. See, the creatives at agencies have a lot of power and its relative strength is positively correlated to their level of talent. Clients who are difficult, threaten, and cajole, are the ones creatives with the most power try to avoid. And who does that leave to work on your business?

It’s much better to do what you can to inspire your agency by tapping into their problem-solving nature. For example, don’t tell them what to do – that’s not solving a problem, that’s prescribing a solution. Instead, bring them your problems. Creative people love solving problems. It’s fun, shows that you trust them, and is enormously inspiring.

It’s worth a try at least. It’s cheaper and, hey, getting the same agency to go from poor advertising to brilliant advertising will look great on your resume. Much better than just hiring a new one will.

So there you have it. Three ways to give your brand a happy New Year.

Go get ’em.