How to break your brand cravings

A brand requires a steady balanced diet of thought and action, interaction and reaction, constantly feeding the result. What often happens instead, are hits of creative endeavor that get the organisation hooked on the idea that this is how the brand is built.

Like the sugar or caffeine junkies who can’t get through the afternoon without another hit, organisations no sooner get the most recent thing launched than they are on to the next idea, taking the organisation with them on a continual rollercoaster ride. Sound familiar?

If you want a strong, resilient brand that withstands the test of time here are 10 things to think about and do to break your craving. In no particular order…

  1. At the heart of how you build your brand are your values. Not some processed “brand values”. Your real ones. Those non-negotiable truths that you will not trade no matter how juicy the opportunity is. The building blocks of a healthy brand, your own brand pyramid if you like. You can’t get from who cares to we can’t live without that if you don’t know them and practice them in everything you do. As a way to kill those cravings in their tracks nothing beats spending some time thinking about your values and how to be even more guided by them.
  2. Next time that sugar craving starts to take hold, put down the phone to the agency. And before you do anything, play a game of connect the dots. By that I mean map your business / organisation. How do the pieces fit together? Any good chef will tell you, knowing how the ingredients relate and react to each other is absolutely critical to good food. How does your business flow? Finance to distribution. Sales to marketing. HR to operations to technology. By area. By function. Throw the customer’s interaction with you into the mix. When and how? Where are the black holes? You have them. What connections exist that you aren’t seeing. Good and bad. A little more of this and less of that can make all the difference.
  3. Before you embark on a scorched earth, raise the marketing campaigns and the approaches you’ve got to the ground – stop and ask, “has something changed?” Do you need to evolve your positioning to be relevant in your market space? Or do you have the mid-afternoon crash and need a little hit? Spend some time looking over how what you have has been doing. What are the results you can (or can’t) point to? Is it aligned (as needed) across channels and platforms? Are they the right channels and platforms to help you meet your goals? Don’t know what your goals are. See #4.
  4. Before marketing comes goals. Before goals comes purpose (see #10). What goals do you want to achieve? I know, I know, it’s more fun to play with new creative and sit and dissect your follower and like counts. But just like you know you should be eating porridge not donuts for breakfast, goals are the basis of any healthy marketing. Want more sales (who doesn’t)? Need more people to know who you are? Why, what problem are you solving for them? Which people? (see #7) How about existing customers (see #8). Ditch the donuts people, porridge is great (you can even add apple and raisins for a kick and still feel virtuous).
  5. Think about people who work for you as the frontlines in understanding what customers might or might not want – after all they are all customers of something. A quick internal survey is a great ingredient to add to the mix. Start with the question: “would this feel/be ok if you were a customer?” Now stir.
  6. And while we’re talking about the people who work for you – there’s no such thing as an employer brand. It’s all part of the same bunch of actions and decisions underpinned by values and purpose that is your brand. So stop wasting time and effort on a kind of faux separation (yep, ditch that particular sugar hit) and instead spend time thinking about how you can bring your foundations (values and purpose) into your search for the right who or two.
  7. Everyone is not your customer. Anyone who knows me knows that line and it’s relevant here. Because when you remove the haze of craving, of trying to appeal to as many people as possible, a richer, deeper view of who your customers are can take its place. The advice tells us to shop the outside of the supermarket and avoid the aisles to avoid temptation and getting focused on the customers who are your customers, has the same effect. So next time the cravings have you wandering into aisle five, turn around and see #9.
  8. Talking about sales for minute, along with marketing, sales are most likely to be struck by cravings. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that many sales approaches are the pathway to the equivalent of a fast food diet. Commoditised, price point driven transactions are no way to nourish a brand. Relationships are where it’s at, even if you sell widgets (you have people you depend on for the product right…). And relationships, like a good meal are always better with a bit of time. When the ingredients are chosen with care and attention. How are you selling? Does it line up with your values? Will it support those goals today and lay groundwork for future crops?
  9. Amidst the allure of the new, one group gets short-shift – existing customers. Yes, you care about your customers, but once they’ve signed on the dotted line too many get treated like yesterday’s leftovers. Much more fun to take a bite out of the tasty ones who you don’t know yet. But it costs six times more to get a new customer than keep and existing one, so throwing some love and attention to the existing customers is a great way to stretch your budget and get great results with less effort.
  10. Visit (or revisit) your purpose and at least once a month but ideally, use it as a touchstone for what you should or shouldn’t be doing during every discussion. A bit like the can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it ingredient that makes what you’re doing and how you’re doing it all come together. “How does this help us meet our purpose?” is the must have ingredient for any healthy brand.

Do them all. Do just one and work your way up. Either way, over time this can help you move past the brand cravings and get to a balanced and healthy view of brand that includes marketing but is not its slave.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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