Written by Pete Nelson
Have you reached the point in your business where you’ve recognized the need to stop thinking like the company you are and start thinking and acting like the company you want to be? If you have not, you will.
Whether you’re the owner of a business or you work for a company there comes a time in every professional’s career where the road you’ve traveled reaches an impasse. You look in the mirror one morning and you know that the decision you’re about to make on the direction of your career will forever change your life. It’s the same way with your company’s brand and marketing.
Arrogance & Appreciation Do Not Mix
In his groundbreaking book, Leadership Is an Art, Max DePree stated, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” This is to say that the road you traveled to arrive where you are today may not be the same road that will take you where you aspire to be tomorrow.
When it comes to the branding of your company and how you market your business, DePree’s point takes on an added degree of importance and relevance to us all. This is most apparent when you contrast the ways and means by which companies brand and market themselves in today’s world compared to how companies did this in years gone by.
This is not to say that specific fundamentals have changed. For instance, the vital importance of being emotionally relevant to customers will never change. What has changed, however, is the means by which you go about branding and marketing your company’s relevance and value.
Regardless of your position in a company or how comfortable you are with branding and marketing, be sure of this one fact: every business brands itself and every company develops and executes marketing campaigns. Some are just better at it than others. But what separates the good ones from the bad ones isn’t necessarily the breadth and depth of financial resources, talent or skill, but intention. There is a monumental difference in a company’s approach to change when the intention of its brand messaging and marketing is done through arrogance as opposed to appreciation. These two intentions do not mix, as you will see with the following examples with Apple, Circuit City and Blockbuster.
Here One Day…Gone The Next
Take Apple for instance. Apple is one of best examples in the history of business for aligning its intention for change with a genuine appreciation for its customer. Few companies are as in tune with their customer’s desire for new product experiences as Apple is. In the last decade they have repeatedly demonstrated their knowledge of how their customers want to buy and what they want to buy.
Apple’s revamped product line and its “Think Different” campaigns got the ball rolling, revitalizing what many felt was a nearly irrelevant brand. This success was parlayed into new products that have included the iconic iPod and iPhones and their latest phenomenon, the iPad. In 2010, with a market cap of $241 billion, Apple officially passed Microsoft as the largest technology company in the world.
On the other end of the branding and marketing spectrum we have recently witnessed the dismantling of some of the most successful businesses in the last 20 to 30 years. Two of the most well known collapses were the world’s largest electronics retailer, Circuit City, and the world’s largest video retailer, Blockbuster.
From revolutionizing their respective industries to all but disappearing from the marketplace, Circuit City and Blockbuster provide two excellent cautionary tales of the effects that come from dismissing the need for aligning company change with consumer change.
In Circuit City’s case they underestimated the impact of removing key products from their stores, chief among them were consumer appliances. But product choices were not their only downfall. The arrogant refusal to accept Best Buy’s more effective branding and marketing as a legitimate threat to its business affected how they marketed and branded themselves, which proved to be a major factor in the company’s demise.
Blockbuster had a similar situation in that they underestimated customer reaction to rental fees and late fee penalties. The company’s choice for how customers could rent videos and from where they can access the videos was another major misstep.
Like Circuit City, Blockbuster’s arrogance of its own importance in the marketplace proved to be its undoing. In this case Blockbuster refused to accept the viability of Netflix’s business model. This prompted the company to completely ignore Netflix’s more customer relevant and timely online marketing efforts as a legitimate threat to its business.
Be Clear On Your Intent for Change
What can you learn from the above examples? First of all, do not let yourself be confused by the big company examples or the effects of their choices as it applies to you and your company. The cause of their problems and successes are the same as it is for you and your business.
In the case of Apple’s success it comes down to a genuine love for what it is they’re doing. Ask Steve Jobs or any Apple employee what it is they enjoy about their business and they will likely tell you it is a love for improving the quality of people’s lives through their innovative products. They are genuinely excited about what they do and who they do it for. This love and excitement is at the center of the intention of all their products, branding and marketing. You can feel it and customers respond favorably to this.
The lessons here are clear. Your brand matters only so long as it is emotionally relevant to your target audience. But keep in mind the key to being emotionally relevant, particularly in a changing world, is being in tune with your customer.
As Apple has so aptly demonstrated, much of this stems from the intent to be genuinely interested in the type of solutions your customers want and how they want to experience them. Apple employees are not immune to the changing tides of customer demand anymore than Circuit City or Blockbuster was. Apple, however, simply learned the lessons and value behind infusing their intent for dealing with change with excitement and a deep seeded appreciation for those customers they serve.
At the end of the day, no matter how you choose to approach your company’s branding and marketing in an ever changing marketplace, one thing to always remember is this: Be absolutely clear on the intent of your choice for change, for in your intention lies the future of your career and business.
3 Perception Exercises
Customers of today have clearly changed in how they buy compared to buying patterns in the past two decades. But has your perception of customers and how you market to them changed? Let’s face it, what you knew about marketing, sales and branding 12 months or even five years ago is not as relevant today as it once was.
It’s not that you should know everything there is that has changed, for no one does. What is important is realizing that you don’t know everything that has changed and understanding what you don’t know can and often does hurt your business. This is where it is imperative to take time to properly prepare yourself and your business for achieving your desired outcomes.
With that in mind, take a moment to review the following three exercises. We utilize these exercises with our clients, along with many others, to ensure our client’s intentions are aligned with their customer’s buying behavior. These exercises will go a long way to helping you successfully adapt to the changing trends and patterns that shape your business now and into the future.
Exercise #1 – Identify When & Where You Need Help
Author Les Brown once remarked that you “ask for help not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong.” With that in mind, list three (3) things you try and do yourself when it comes to branding and marketing but could achieve better results if you chose to delegate or involve (internal) or (external) resources for helping you change how your business grows.
Exercise #2 – Identify Critical Patterns With Your Website
List the 3 critical patterns you’ve identified with your website that if changed – right now – will significantly help your company grow in the present and future.
Exercise #3 – Identify Critical Patterns With Your Customers
List the 3 patterns you’ve identified with how your customers buy that if you were to better adapt these patterns to your brand messaging and marketing campaigns – right now – you would significantly help your company grow in the present and future.
Comments or questions are welcome.
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