March 23, 2018 / TAKE A STAND
March 23, 2018
Men and women once wore bell bottom jeans to look cool. Think about that. Pant legs large enough to let a furry animal run up your leg and hibernate for the winter. That was the 1970s when society was clearly confused about fashion. But think of all the really smart people who wore bell bottoms because a celebrity or a successful friend or colleague wore them, thinking it would make them equally dashing and successful. The truth is that the likes of Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper looked good in massively flared pants in the movie, American Hustle, because they are charismatic, good looking guys. They could wear pretty much anything and still look good. Everyone else? I’ll leave it to you to imagine yourself or the men you know wearing bell bottoms.
Brand trends are a little like fashion trends. Some marketing guru or agency genius tries something original, hopefully based on the nature of the brand. They get the spotlight for a social media campaign, an event, a program that no one has ever seen before. Occasionally, these original efforts are spectacularly successful, like Toms’ One For One or Nike teaming with Michael Jordan and imploring us all to “Just do it.” Other times, the genius may be left shaking their head and looking for a new job.
Usually that kind of success or that kind of failure is determined by whether or not the effort was authentic to the brand. And for those tempted to jump on the trend, staying authentic to their own brand is almost never a consideration.
It is too easy and likely unsustainable to be a member of the herd, following the bell cow. Or to mix the metaphor, lemmings are a great example of the stupidity of following the leader over a cliff and plunging, en masse, to your death. If there is no purpose to your plan and conviction to see it through, you’re likely to fail.
So how do you achieve originality and success? For you and for your brand? Intentionality.
Focus on your own game plan
In sports, the team that focuses on their own game plan, built on their strengths, is more likely to be successful than the one responding to the other team’s strengths. It’s also a lot more fun. The Magic Johnson-led LA Lakers of the Showtime era may have had to adjust to deal with a bruising opponent, but they never failed to entertain in their own way.
Don’t be a copycat
The reason a brand campaign is working for a competitor is that it is likely the product of their own specific positioning, personality and value proposition. Not anyone else’s. Others who adopt it are going to feel inauthentic to their community and fall short of stated goals…and it crushes your spirit. Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery, but it makes you a follower and positions you as second rate.
Avoid short-term gains
Too many people are drawn to easy money and success, thinking that following a trend means they will have instant successful. Which, as mentioned above, is pretty unlikely without authenticity. Building a brand with intention over time is more important than chasing possible short-term gains with the inherent risk of eroding your brand.
Betrayal is a strong word
And yet, that’s how people in your brand community, especially consumers, feel when they have fallen for you and then see you behaving like a different brand. We look to build strong, emotional engagement with staff, partners, consumers and others by taking a stand to be ourselves. To commit to something. When we act differently, it feels like a betrayal.
The point of strategic branding is to set yourself apart from all others. To be intentional about who you are and what you offer the world. It’s about making choices and committing to them. It’s about having integrity and fighting for something you believe in.
So, whether we are talking about you personally standing up in a high stakes meeting and fighting for what you know to be right or fighting on behalf of your company’s brand as you would defend a child, be intentional, be courageous. Most leaders crave and respect people who are direct, honest and challenge them to do the right thing. The result of taking a stand and committing to it is building a life or a brand of passion, power and purpose.