...goes a long way, especially when I'm thinking about brands, brand management and the power of brands to build successful organizations and careers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Engage everyone in brand management

The doorbell rang, earlier tonight and a neighbor, wearing a harness filled with a little baby, asked me to come restart her mower. When I arrived, I quickly started the mower and proceeded to mow the lawn, not wishing to see the tiny mom with the tinier baby struggle with the mower. Within a few seconds, I started wondering how she had accomplished the one trip around the lawn before the mower stopped. Pushing the mower was shear torture. I rested at the end of each trip around the yard, wondering why it was so difficult. After completing about one-quarter of the yard, I stopped to rest, and commented that I'd never used a mower this hard to push. As she started to walk over to see what my problem was, I realized what my problem was: it was a self-propelled mower, which I had not yet engaged. With the simple push of a lever, the mower practically did the job itself.

I laughed at myself, and then soon realized my experience was a metaphor for brand failure with some of our clients. Like the self-propelled mower, all the great brand management in the world does little good if the employees don't know how to use it, don't embrace the brand or don't own it every day.

My coworkers and I have been discussing this very issue lately, and realized that the failure of many of the brand management advice we give clients is directly attributed to the lack of follow through at the client level. When we include brand training at the front line, company-wide presentations and ongoing training, many clients say they'll avoid that cost and do it themselves.
Like picking a budget printer who has no contact with the designer or letting your in-house help desk team build the corporate website, internally launching the brand with only in-house resources is a recipe for disaster. In most cases, clients who come to us for brand management consultation and support don't have the team in-house to define the brand, let alone present the brand to the people responsible for owning the brand. The same outside viewpoint that discovers these clients' brands is also the best prepared to communicate that effort internally.

Even worse: someone completely outside the brand discernment process steps in at the last minute - without benefit of the lengthy, sometimes painful and always beneficial discussions - hijacks the process and the brand comes out the other end looking like its been through a mower.

The best way to attack the brand job: get many people involved in the beginning - the like-minded and the people most likely to puke on your ideas - in the middle and at the end, then let them get to work. It's a whole lot easier to get the job done that way.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Something weird is happening with Blogger

This is a test to see if I can upload a photo. It worked a few seconds ago....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You get what you pay for with Blogger

I started this blog about six months ago to say a few things about marketing, work out some of my ideas, discuss marketing and basically do like millions of others - have a take and see if anybody reads.

I've been writing less lately for a couple reasons: first, I've become quite busy with a number of other distractions and blogging has fallen to the bottom of the list. Second, I've become very frustrated with one little, tiny problem with Blogger: I can't post a picture!

Photos are an important part of the story and blogs are more interesting with a good photo. And there are millions of good photos available on the internet and from my own little digital camera (when I've not lost it on a vacation). But a few months ago, the FREE software just quit posting photos. (Weird, it started right after I lost my digital camera...as if MY digital camera was the interface to Blogger!). I've tried emailing technical support (quit laughing fellow bloggers), I've followed the message boards but nobody's addressed this issue. It's just not working.

I mentioned how brands can start to smell if nobody's paying attention. Well, something smells about the Blogger brand, and it's leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I'm going to have to do something about this soon.

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Does your brand smell funny?

First story: A few nights ago, I wandered into the kitchen for a little late night snack and some unfamilar, unpleasant odor hit me. When I asked my wife if she smelled it, she said she thought she smelled something earlier, and that it might be in the refrigerator drip tray. Now I didn't even know the refrigerator had a drip tray, so I proceeded to remove the little grill at the bottom of the fridge as my wife instructed, and then slowly pulled out the most disgusting puddle of hellish liquid this side of The French Quarter. Holding it as far away from my face as possible, I carried it outside, to the curb and then flushed it with the hose for a full five minutes. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect something that vile to be within feet of the food I eat. When I returned, my wife informed me that the water comes from the self-defrosting fridge and that she has to empty it two or three times a year, particularly with the humidity is up and the water doesn't evaporate.

Second story: I walked to lunch the other day, and at a fairly busy intersection on my route, I waited for a light. A guy on a nice looking motorcycle approached the red light and I thought to myself, "now there's one of the good motorcyclists. He's wearing a helmet, long pants, good boots: he's representing us motorcyclists." No sooner had I completed my thought did he blow right through the light and make a right turn without even the slightest pause. In all 50 states of the union, it's legal to make a right turn on red after a complete stop and yielding to all oncoming traffic.

Both stories are very representative of what happens in many organizations: the marketing or sales or management staff think everything's going fine, everybody understands the brand and everybody's living it. Then something starts to smell or someone blows through a stop light: someone ignores a rule, cuts a corner, shuts down early, blows off a customer and all the goodwill goes down the toilet. This is not an ongoing, low grade fever of failure that the zombies bring on: that kind of defect in the brand is pretty apparent. I'm talking about the occasional blip on the screen that goes unnoticed and unchallenged.

I like employees are your first line of brand defense, brand warriors unwilling to give an inch when it comes to protecting the reputation of their brand, unwilling to go to sleep on the job, unwilling to let the drawbridge down after hours.

And when one employee doesn't do the job, it's up to the others to let 'em know, hold them accountable. If employees are fully versed in the brand, are trained how to support the brand, tested to ensure they can protect the brand and empowered to defend the brand with every ounce of their being, they shouldn't be surprised when a co-worker holds them accountable.

Without that level of commitment by everybody involved, a little stink can bring down the brand.

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