Why a Brand Project is a Transformation Project

A Brand Project is a Transformation Project

What can management consulting teach you about brand strategy work?  


My very first post-college job was as a change management consultant for a large consulting firm. My job was to equip people and teams at Fortune 1000 companies to adopt big changes, whether that was a new system implementation, workflow, or organizational structure. 

All of these projects had one thing in common: They transformed the company and the jobs of the people in that company. On the human level, they transformed how people thought of their jobs, their skills…and how they saw themselves. 

We dealt with the gamut of human emotion: Anger, fear, worry, excitement. Change brings that out in people. As diverse as humans are, they will all react differently to major change. 

Nothing could have equipped me better for my work as a brand strategist. 

Let’s be clear: A brand strategy and messaging project, whether to create a new brand or revamp an existing one, is a transformation project.  (Tweet this!)

Clients come to me because they know they need a change of some kind. In sales and marketing message. In reputation. In customer base. In market position. And change, of course, excites some people, worries and confuses others, and angers a few more. 

There are many brand strategists who come at this work purely from a marketing angle. “This is about your marketplace reputation and simply how you look and talk.” Yes, partly true. But it’s also about how you ACT as an organization. 

For going on 13 years now, I have brought diverse groups of leaders (at all levels) together in a room to hold an all-day brand strategy workshop. Some are psyched the company is finally “doing something” about their brand and lack of clarity in message. Others just want to pop off about how marketing sucks. Still others don’t quite understand why they are in the room. 

And then…magic. 

I must admit, when I first started this work, I wasn’t sure how my process was going to fly. What if I couldn’t wrangle the voices or disagreement? What if no one completed the pre-work? What if no one spoke up? What if EVERYONE spoke up? What if at the end of the day, we still had no consensus, and everyone left not only dejected but pissed they’d wasted their time? 

Turns out, there was nothing to fear and everything to gain. 

Because I have found in my proven brand strategy process, that when you bring these diverse voices together (after prepping with some crucial pre-work) to hit them directly in the face with their strengths and red flags; when you force them to hear each other and respect the vantage point each one has of the company and its customers; when you allow “non-marketers’ to express what customers ask for and how they think the company solves problems; when you get the founder or CEO to vulnerably riff on the impact and legacy she or he hopes the company will have on the world (in a way many of them hear for the very first time), there is no other word to describe it but magic

Why? How? It’s partly a forced exercise in empathy. Partly making people take a chunk of time away from daily firefighting to think ABOUT the business. And partly deft facilitation and dot-connecting. But not just on our part, but on how they step up to do the same.  Often the ground-breaking phrase or big idea comes from a heated moment of debate, shouted out by one of my clients, not me. (Instigating and provoking, when used for good, are two of my superpowers.

Together, these people transform perceptions and prejudices of each other. Yes, marketing cares about driving sales. Yes, engineering has an eloquent and inventive way to describe the product (and often, some pretty creative marketing campaign ideas). Yes, HR is actually a strategic business driver because they bring in and nurture the most important aspect that drives our growth: Our talent, our people, our brand ambassadors. 

A brand strategy and story is not just a marketing exercise, but a company-wide transformation exercise. It attracts the right customers with clarity and conviction. It inspires them to want to join in. It inspires us as employees by giving us purpose. And in almost all cases, it ignites serious discussion on how operations, policies, hiring, even product design needs to change, if everyone wants to live up to that articulated new brand story. 

One of the best compliments of my career was from the CEO of a tech company. He said our brand strategy work did not simply result in a new product name, message and look and feel for the company. It forced the leadership to have core strategic conversations. He relayed that the project helped them change the way they talk – internally and externally – and would help them achieve their ambitious corporate vision and goals. That’s transformation and it’s way more than a new logo. 

Brand strategy, true brand strategy and story crafting, is not just about cute taglines, logos, or ads. It’s about transforming the way employees see their work, the company sees its purpose, and customers engage and clamor to be an important part in that story. 

Ready to transform? Take a look at what we can do together and let’s have a conversation about your goals to see if this is the right fit. 

Photo Credit: Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Innovation Builds on What Comes Before

What do you think of when you think of innovation? 

Do you picture a think tank of experts, crammed into a meeting room with Post-it notes on the wall, formulas on a white board, leftover pizza boxes strewn about, and crazy ideas flying back and forth? 

When we think of innovation in that way, it can seem daunting. What if I go into a room to innovate and come out with nothing? How long will this take? How do I spend time on this while running my business? 

The reality is that many innovations occur when we borrow and build upon what’s already there. What has come before. And we make it better. We find new uses for it. We slightly tinker with it to make it fit a brand new customer, market, or purpose. 

I’m a huge fan of not reinventing the wheel. Like, ever. Sure, inventing something completely unheard of is amazing (iPhone, Tesla, ride sharing, anyone?).  

But not all of us are wired this way. While, I’m rapid-fire white-space thinking and can come up with new, crazy ideas with the best of them, I am also someone who excels at reacting to something first and then finding all the ways to make it better.  I’m also good at seeing what’s there and connecting the dots that no one else sees. 

Are you like this? 

If you are, cool. Embrace it. Understand that this is a skill and it makes you more efficient at adapting and evolving.  

When there is no need to reinvent the wheel, don’t. Simply improve it. (TWEET THIS!)

A past marketing VP of mine used to call this “Stealing with pride.” Not quite plagiarism, but if you see a company or team doing something great, learn from it. Adapt it to your own purpose, voice, data. Don’t “rip it off” but build upon it. 

In my inbox, lives a little folder called “Good Marketing Funnels.” This is where I save any email campaigns that resonate with me. Maybe I loved the brevity. Maybe the call to action was irresistible. Maybe I liked the way they wove the story across multiple emails. 

Often, I use these as inspiration instead of starting from scratch. But I make them mine. And I make them even better. 

Use your resources. Learn from those who’ve mastered things. See what others in your industry are doingNot to make yourself feel bad or get jealous. But analyze the ideas that work, make them your own and make them better. 

Consider it a more efficient way to innovate! 

Want to borrow some great marketing ideas, powerful sales email templates, and proposed blog post topics to take and customize for your own brand so you can boost business? Check out my digital program, MOMENTUM Pro and get all the goods!  

Photo Credit: Photo by Alessandra Caretto on Unsplash

Why Brands Need to Speak Up

Why Brands Need to Speak Up

With everything going on in our world – from a global pandemic to economic hardship to countless social justice and racial inequality issues, corporate brands might be tempting to adopt a “business as usual” approach and focus only on their products and services. 

But you can’t. And here’s why. 

Your business thrives on people. And your employees, customer, suppliers and partners are all people, being impacted at home by hardship or adversity. Whether they are juggling work demands with homeschooling their kids…or whether they are people of color who are fighting for their rights and their lives, they are all IN THIS. They are dealing with a lot. 

Your brand cannot be tone deaf right now. Your company will simply look out of touch at best and callous and heartless at worst.  (TWEET THIS!)

And the public is paying attention. Not only have people watched and made purchase decisions based on brands’ responses to the Covid crisis, new startling research shows that people are expecting brands to take a stand and speak out on social issues. Edelman reports: “Respondents believe that brands must act to create change and influence: 60% said brands must invest in addressing the root causes of racial inequality and 57% said brands must educate the public.” 

Younger consumers are even more critical. According to ongoing research from DoSomething.org, Gen Z is demanding that brands provide useful content, community resources, and treat their employees with respect: 

65% wants brands to ensure equal representation in their leadership, including having people of color on their executive team and promoting people of color to management. And 64% want brands to promote diversity in their advertising, like having more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) models. The biggest takeaway from what Gen Z wants from brands right now is aligned with what they’ve always wanted: show, don’t tell. Yes, use your platform. But go further. Those who will win among Gen Z are those who back it up, do the work, and show us the money.” 

So optics aside, what can your brand say and do right now to make things better? What real change can you make to not just talk the talk but walk the walk? How can you pivot your message, customer focus, or even hiring, sales strategy, product and service delivery to keep pace with what your audience wants but also to show your company is using it’s influence for good, rather than evil? 

Show up. Don’t shrink. Not when your customers and society need you to lead. 

Need help thinking through the current disruption and coming up with a solid game plan, in an efficient strategic sprint?  Please reach out and we’ll talk. 

3 Tips to Differentiate Your Messaging

3 Tips to Differentiate Your Messaging

So often underused, yet so powerful. MESSAGING 

Sure, messaging might not be as sexy as logo design or digital marketing but nailing your messaging can do more for your brand effectiveness than any other aspect of your brand strategy mix. 

Many times, I work with successful companies that already have customers and are generating revenue, but they are revamping their messaging to accelerate sales, go after new markets, or stand out in a crowded market

Did you catch that last one? Stand out in a crowded market. 

Marketers often get too hung on thinking “rebranding” means the whole visual, verbal, and experiential kit and kaboodle. New logo, website, colors, stationery, signage, t-shirts, tchotchkes. But many smart companies know that simply revamping messaging can do wonders to accelerate growth and attention. 

If you clarify your messaging and ensure it’s absolutely compelling to your target audience, I submit this will take you farther than a slick website or cool visual design. 

Not at all to say those things don’t all work in tandem to tell a cohesive brand story. But if you’re looking for the lowest hanging brand fruit, start with your messaging. 

Messaging is where my brand strategy works starts! Without clear messaging, how do you know what you are trying to communicate and to whom visually or experientially?  (TWEET THIS!)

But how can you use your messaging to stand out and get noticed?  

Here are 3 tips to differentiating your company messaging 

(Warning: This will all sound great in theory, but your company leadership may not have the stones to implement them!) 

  1. Adopt the language of your customer, not jargon: No one cares what the analysts call your category or what your CEO decided in a vacuum was the most important term for your space.  

Your company should talk how your customers talk.  

Ditch the jargon that (you think) makes you sound really smart. Talk to your customers and capture their exact words. Articulate the problem and solution in the words your customer uses inside their heads. When you talk how your people talk, they will connect with you. They will pay attention. They will say, “Hell, yes, that’s what I’m talking about!” and will clamor to learn more. If you only care about appeasing the Gartner analysts, ask yourself if Gartner pays your bills! 

  1. Take the competitors stance – and twist it: Watch what your competitors are saying…but don’t worry about it. Find a way to turn it on its head and capitalize on how you do it better. Never adopt messaging simply it is because it’s how everyone else talks about your product or service. Of course, use the language of you industry but never second-guess yourself just because a competitor is saying something you are not. I’ve suffered through too many CEO’s who wanted “our website to have a section like their website.”  No strategy. No vision. Just “do what they’re doing.” 

Well, first, what if they don’t know what they’re doing? What if they’re wrong? And second, what if their brand voice and story is speaking to a different buyer than ours? Resist the urge to simply adopt messaging because it’s what everyone else is doing, unless there’s a strategic reason to do so. Remember, your mom’s advice whenever you wanted to do something all the other kids were doing? “Is all the other kids jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too? 

  1. Develop a unique brand voice and tone: One of the best ways to differentiate your messaging is not in what you say, but how you say it. After a deep dive brand strategy exercise, determine the unique brand voice and personality that best serves your customers and genuinely reflects who you are. Method Cleaning Products does a fabulous job of owning a unique, funny brand voice on their products and it’s aligned with their culture of “being weird.” If you truly want to stand out, stop sounding like everyone else and develop your own viewpoint and personality so when people come across your messaging, they will know it is distinctly YOU. 

Want some help crafting that brand messaging and unique voice so you can stand out and accelerate sales? Take a look at what we can do together and let’s chat!