I was doing some gardening the other weekend. I like to potter about and as I weeded and prepared my veggie garden for spring planting (a few weeks later than I should have but even that has a lesson) I got to think about the parallels between how a garden grows and how a brand grows – but of course as you’ll see, growing the brand is a misnomer because it’s the organisation that is doing the growing.
Both a garden and an organisation need a good foundation. For gardens that’s soil with lots of good minerals and nutrients. For the organisation it’s preparing the ground or space you want to occupy. Understanding what the people you want as customers want and need. Thinking about the values and purpose of the business.
Both start very small. For gardens the seeds or seedlings start to put down roots to draw from the soil and sun. For the organisation someone has an idea, something they cared about. No matter how big they are today every business out there was a seed once upon a time. They had a first product or service that started it all.
Both need to be fed. For gardens, water and sunlight do much of the work with the occasional addition of some plant food. For the organisation, adding the right people – that is employees and customers who share what you care about and who will help you tell your story to others. No dead leaves or branches allowed.
Both can suffer if they grow too fast. For gardens the plants that are made to grow too fast aren’t robust, they look a bit straggly, break and die off easily, slowly breaking down back into the ground. For the organisation that grows too fast it’s the same story. Things aren’t in alignment – it looks and feels a bit straggly. It breaks easily, the people are often stressed and can’t cope when things don’t go as planned and often the supernova growth can’t be sustained and the company dies, either it gets acquired and is absorbed by someone else or goes out of business completely leaving nothing but lessons learned for the next ones to step up and plant their organisation.
The analogy could go on in many ways. The wrong plants for where the garden is located or the wrong location for the garden and it won’t flourish or even survive. Just like the wrong products and services or location for a business and it won’t get customers.
Plant things too late and it’s hard from them to catch up and thrive. Release your product once everyone else is already there or start your business at the crest of the wave and it will likely struggle.
Too many invaders like snails and insects before it is established and the garden will feel a bit like a war zone. Much like too many others doing what you are doing before you have a solid customer base can make it nearly impossible to compete…
I’m sure you can think of your own examples.
I’ve uniformly talked about the organisation as the thing that grows because brand is a result. You don’t grow the brand if you don’t grow the organisation. Getting bigger, getting better, having more customers, reach and impact are all functions of a healthy organisation and so is a strong resilient brand.
So next time you are looking for ways to grow the brand take a walk out into the yard and take a look around. Happy gardening!
See you next week with “Stop wriggling!”
Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.