4 lies you tell yourself that will kill your brand

I’m getting sick of seeing it.

Far too many bright business owners, CEOs and directors—even marketing professionals—circumvent or shortcut the business and brand strategy process.  The research, goal-setting, and structure-building has a distinctly un-sexy vibe. So they skip RIGHT to the deliverables—logo, landing page, even prospective client outreach.

When the business strategy and brand strategy steps are skipped, the organization struggles endlessly to find their brand’s voice, to project a coherent message, to locate their audience, to grow their customer base, to define their services, the list goes on.

It’s foolish. No—it’s worse than that. It’s damn madness.

These are the 4 most common lies they tell:

1. I need it—right now.

Imagine that you rush up to a stranger’s front door, un-showered, breathing heavily, thrusting a bouquet of half-dead roses at them. You go to speak—you realize you’d only thought through the run-up-to-door moment. Then you blurt out, “You don’t know me, but I am perfect for you.”

Two crushes: Duckie in Pretty in Pink, Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. Molly Ringwald doesn’t choose the earnest, awkward, and insecure Duckie. But Ione Skye falls for Lloyd Dobler—just as earnest, but also confident, patient, reliable, mature, humble, and unique.

Lloyd Dobler Brand BuildingThink less like Duckie, more like Dobler.

A cohesive brand is now the expectation of just about every consumer in nearly every market or industry. Stunning visuals aren’t enough—that’s just the “pretty face” on the outside, not the whole package.

If your brand projects insecurity and instability, you’ll never go from first-date (or lusty crush) to relationship.

2. I will lose momentum.

Particularly for startups, there seems to be a fear that spending a few weeks developing a business and brand strategy will kill their drive.

If your commitment is that weak, then abandon ship. If you want your brand to survive beyond your woke-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night AHA! moment, patience is critical.

If you’re not that guy or gal, if you’re an ideas-person who cannot treat the process of business development and brand strategy with seriousness, find someone who can and add them to your team—immediately.

3. I can’t afford to wait.

Again, if your financial situation is that desperate, this likely isn’t the path for you.

You will spend more time and money approaching building your brand backwards, upside-down, and sideways than if you had committed to the process from the start.

If you cannot afford to hire professional strategists to assist you in developing your business strategy, check out your state’s SCORE program. Their volunteers, often seasoned industry veterans and academics, offer mentoring and business advice. They will work for free to help you devise a business strategy.

SCORE also offers an incredible library of resources, for early-stage businesses and seasoned business owners.

You can afford free—you can also afford the time it takes to do it right. Trust me, testing trial-and-error scenarios will cost you more in lost time and revenue.

4. I can sell anything, OR My idea is so good that it will sell itself.

OK, no offense, but it’s not. Or rather, no one will care how great you think it is if they can’t hear or see you. They’ll care even less if they can’t differentiate you from your competition.

This thinking is rooted, from what I’ve seen, in insecurity. The leadership doesn’t want anyone to know that they’re not quite sure what they’re doing. Because the brand lacks focus, they are in a weaker position. They:

  • keep messaging vague
  • use corporate jargon-speak
  • blast out features and facts, not benefits
  • can’t nail down their service offerings
  • have short-lived customer (and sometimes even staff) relationships
Guess what? Going through the business and brand strategy processes builds confidence and authenticity.

You no longer have that isolated feeling of fake-it-till-you-make-it. You know exactly who you’re talking to, who you are, what your message is, what the value of your services is to your target customer, and how to find them.

Your brand becomes not just a belief or an idea, something you have to hawk to the next unsuspecting customer.

(I can’t believe some people still operate off some bizarre assumption that the customer is a dumb enemy to be tricked or defeated.)

With the correct strategy, your brand becomes a certainty—a reality for actual customers, not just well-meaning friends and family who would support you no matter what.

Unless you like the feeling of jumping off a cliff and frantically praying you’ll grow wings.

One Last Thing

Allen Adamson, branding expert and chairman of Landor Associates, North America, has worked with Accenture, GE, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, HBO, Marriott, MetLife, and Verizon, as well as non-profit organizations like the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Central Park Conservancy, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

His words from 2006’s BrandSimple, a terrific guide that walks business owners and others through developing a clear, cohesive brand based around simplicity, are poignant:

You can’t make consumers aware of something if you’re not 100 percent aware of it yourself. Many potential clients call and ask for a new logo, a new package design, a new graphic identity, or typeface treatment. I tell them no. We can’t do anything until we determine what brand problem they are trying to solve.

If you want a logo or a landing page, crowdsource for a graphic designer. If you want a successful brand, commit to strategy.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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