Do you truly know what your business is about?
All too often, the soul of a business is lost as services and products evolve, market pressures shift and profit sources adapt, leading to the original inspiration getting lost in the daily noise. Time and again businesses fail due to a lack of understanding of the core questions: Why are we here? What are we trying to achieve? How do we want the future to look?
In the 1950’s Kodak’s advertising promised a way of allowing their customers to capture and keep their memories, brilliantly encapsulating what they were really about for their audience. If Kodak stuck to this promise they would have far better fortunes today in the digital age. Instead they decided to stick to what they thought they were good at and what was profitable, which was manufacturing photographic paper. Their customers still had the same needs and desires and Kodak was passed over for other brands that delivered in new and better ways, to facilitate the simplicity of their original promise.
I would urge all business owners to understand what they really do for their customers and communicate why they do it, to make this mission their passion, vision and destiny and the reason they get up every morning. The person that understands this and lives by it will attain a loyal following and strong business.
If at this point, whilst reading this article, you think your purpose is to make money, please have a rethink!
The people behind Ask Jeeves simply didn't grasp the magnitude of their purpose when briefing their branding agency. They may have been one of the first internet search engines to market, but they portrayed themselves as a fusty old butler plodding off into the library to retrieve information. This allowed Google the opportunity to become "Custodians of all knowledge", something that all libraries dreamed of being 100 years ago.
Hindsight makes it easy to criticise the decisions of others, but these simple, yet often difficult to answer questions, can make you fit for a healthy future.
As a branding expert my top 5 tips are:
- Have a big idea, as big as it can be, world changing if possible. A service or product that can really make a difference to people's lives. Never stop asking yourself "Can this idea be bigger?". Ideas are the most contagious thing in the universe: Darwin, Newton, Galileo and Simon Sinek can attest this. People have an amazing capacity to remember where they heard an idea first and the ideas that inspire them can generate a lot of trust, affinity and respect.
- Keep the idea simple. People have an ever-decreasing attention span and are bombarded with messages all day long. Do not think in terms of an ‘elevator pitch’, this is far too comfortable and self-indulgent, communicate the idea by shouting across a busy street or on a mobile phone with poor reception.
- Know your tribe. Who are you talking to? What do they need? What do they think? What can you do to make their lives better? What do they do now? What will they do in the future? The better you understand your customers the better you can serve them and bring them what they want.
- Understand your environment. Who are your real competitors? Where will you be seen? How will you get your message across in a meaningful way? One of my favourite ad men came up with the expression "when the world zigs, zag!", I don't interpret this as simply being different from your competitors, but it's about doing things your way, in your voice, speaking from your heart.
- Be consistent. I hate repeating myself, I really detest saying the same thing twice, but I am passionate about staying true to my message. You cannot bore your customers with a consistent core message. Consistency of message, once understood, is simply reassurance. Repetition is very different from boring your customers as valid and relevant ideas are never boring.
With all this in mind, take a look at what the most progressive brands of our time have in common:
- Apple - To 'think different', challenge the status quo and continually invent the future.
- Facebook – To make the world more open and connected.
- Amazon - To make everything from A to Z accessible with ease.
- Nike - Just do it! To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete (if you have a body, you are an athlete).
- Innocent - To make it easy for people to do themselves some good (whilst making it taste nice).
- Dyson - To innovate with engineering to make chores easier.
Clarity and purpose can only come from really understanding yourself and your business.
This does not just apply to global corporate brands, with huge marketing departments. For example, I have a friend who is a personal trainer, setting up a new gym and after a few coffees and some soul searching, he has taken on the mantle to educate and support people to transform themselves for the better, one step at a time through exercise, diet and mind-set. Now, he's really fired up with a passion for the impact he can have on people's lives and in truth he always was, but now he articulates this passion through his mission and his values.
The next time you answer the question "So, what do you do?", start your answer with a passion, a mission and speak from your heart!
If this has inspired you and you’d like to explore more, this new book (click here) is great: