Brand is a discipline
Discipline is a fairly unsexy concept, and possibly no more so than in connection with brand (much more fun to think about the creative possibilities than the operational realities). However, I would contend that no successful, resilient, long-lasting brand has ever been built without practicing it.
I was reminded of the importance of discipline in brand this weekend when reading a new book called Mother Teresa CEO (full disclosure: one of the authors, Lou Faust, is a good friend of mine).
From the book:
"The joy of discipline starts with understanding that discipline is a practice. Like any practice to be effective it must be repeated. It develops character, skills and endurance. But repetition can lead to boredom, and little by little practice becomes monotony. It is at this point that willpower can fade and boredom becomes the first excuse to get off track."
I don't think I have ever read a better summary of what goes wrong with the best intentioned of brands.
Brand (and business) begins with incredible passion and energy. Everyone is excited. Then reality sets in. It is hard work. It's harder than we thought to get it out to the marketplace. People inside the company aren't buying into it. Our customers don’t seem to believe it.
Then as time goes by it all starts to feel a bit boring. We need to inject some excitement. Let's "rebrand." And the cycle starts again, all the while undermining what brand really stands for.
The answer is to have joyful discipline. Practice the brand horizontally, in all the corners of the organisation. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts, there is only the work. But by doing that work with joy you can avoid the pitfalls of boredom.
Again from Mother Teresa CEO, "...It is joy, not only willpower or commitment that keeps us going and moves others to go with us..."
To remember and embrace that joy, the excitement and passion of the brand is the antidote to the boredom and complacency that is so often the enemy of brand.
This is why it is so important that the brand be founded in the purpose and values of the organisation. Without that foundation, the temptation to take the “first excuse to get off track” will be too great. It’s got to be something you can believe in.
Once you have the foundation, finding new ways and places to embed the brand ever more deeply keeps people engaged and excited by the brand and has the benefit of making it stronger as well.
And when customers and other stakeholders see the people of the organisation connected and excited about the brand that is contagious. So the brand spreads. Joyful discipline in action.
How’s your brand discipline?
See you next week.
Michel Hogan is an independent Brand adviser and advocate. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia and in the United States, she helps organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make, with a strong sustainable brand as the result. She also publishes the Brand thought leadership blog - Brand Alignment. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan