Business Advice

Forget goals, what are your brand habits?

Michel Hogan /

“Set your goals” is a clarion call organisations faithfully follow. Goals as part of a strategy, goals for projects, goals for meetings and yes, even brand.

Yet, the effort to develop goals goes to waste if it is not supported by the right habits. A recent article delved into the under appreciated world of habits and got me thinking more deeply about the role they play in the brand result. From the article:

… Habits are processes operating in the background that powers our lives. Good habits help us reach our goals. Bad ones hinder us. Either way habits powerfully influence our automatic behaviour… The difference between habits and goals is not semantic. Each requires different forms of action.” 

The description of ‘automatic behaviour’ operating beneath the daily routines, actions and decisions of an organisation is useful when thinking about how to “live the brand”. Like the people who inhabit them, organisations develop largely unconscious ways of doing things. The group equivalent of the morning cup of coffee, or route home at the end of the day.

Habits take time to develop, but once in place, are remarkably sticky. Just ask anyone who has tried to quit anything. Translate that back to the organisation and you can see how habits could have lasting impact on the brand (both good and bad).

Educator and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey goes further, talking about habits as “the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do)”, which helpfully connects habits to my brand formula:

                       experience [employee/customer]
Identity  X   ––––––––––––––––––––––––––     = brand
                         promises

Across the elements of identity, experience and promises that result in brand, desire aligns to the identity; knowledge is used to make promises you can keep; and skill delivers the experience. Effectively, the brand result is the result of habits.

I’ve never seen a list of brand habits. If they exist, they take the form of dos and don’ts to try and illustrate what the organisation cares about. More often they exist unsaid in “how we do things around here” — a mish-mash of things that just happen.

To learn more about why you should be explicit about what you care about click here.

Habits connect what we’re trying to achieve with actually getting (and often surpassing) what we’re trying to do. More from the article:

“A common piece of advice for those seeking to build a habit is to start small. Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends ‘tiny habits’, such as flossing one tooth. Once these become ingrained, the degree of complexity can increase. If you want to read more you can start with 25 pages a day. After this becomes part of your routine, you can increase the page number to reach your goal.”

How can you use habits? Let’s look at the experience element of the brand result using the example in the quote.

If a company’s current way of handling a customer query is to drop them into a call labyrinth and let them wander until they push the right button, then attempting to leap to “first call resolution” will fail. People will run headfirst into a wall of ingrained habits such as avoiding the query or playing pass the customer. You need to look for a “25 pages a day” habit to move them from ‘avoid the question’ to ‘answer the question’.

When my old business was putting a new project management system in place, we didn’t ask people to remember all the steps from day one. We started by getting people to only look at what step they were at and what the step before and step after were. Doing it this way, they became familiar with the new system and within a few months, it became the automatic behaviour for how projects got done.

So, step back from the goals and step into your habits. Habits that support your identity deliver the experience and keep your promises. The result will be your brand.  

See you next week.

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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