Unexpectedly and delightfully I ran into my friend @AJKulatunga yesterday. We always have great conversations and this one quickly ranged into the uncomfortable necessity of discipline in successful businesses.
Discipline is a fairly unsexy concept bringing to mind images of soldiers on the drill field and the early morning training grind of the elite athlete. Perhaps nowhere else, though, is it more underappreciated than as the hidden partner of building brand, because while most think of that as fun and creative, I would contend that no successful, resilient, long-lasting brand has ever been built without practicing discipline.
I was reminded of the importance of discipline in brand this weekend when rereading a book calledMother 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 summation of what goes wrong in the best intentioned of businesses when building brands.
It begins with incredible passion and energy. Everyone is excited. This is going to be great. Then reality sets in. This is 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 we want the brand to stand for. Getting away from that core of what we care about.
The answer is to have joyful discipline. Practice building the brand horizontally, in all the corners of the organisation. The bad news is that there are no short cuts, 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 in building the brand is the antidote to the boredom and complacency that is so often its enemy.
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 care about and believe in.
Once you have the foundation, finding new ways and places to embed that ever more deeply keeps people engaged and excited and has the benefit of making the brand stronger as well.
And when customers and other stakeholders see the people of the organisation connected and excited about the brand that’s contagious. And that’s joyful discipline in action.
How’s your brand discipline?
See you next week.
Get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at [email protected]
Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.