I am fascinated with the number of talented CMOs and VPs of Marketing that I come across every day who know precisely what they need to do but whose hands are tied by CEOs and Board of Directors who demand results but are not willing to commit to change.
A few years ago, I was walking into an important presentation with our client. We did our homework; we understood the underlying emotions of the target audience; we created a strategy that was counter to the norm and developed work that would disrupt the category. Five minutes before stepping into this meeting, the CMO turned to me and said “are you sure this will work? I have a mortgage and kids in private school.” I felt his pain, but at the same time, I understood that he was missing out on an exceptional experience. He was about to jump into the deep with something new, exciting, disruptive and purposeful. He could not bring himself to experience this emotion because although he knew this was the right thing to do, he was afraid of the response from his CEO and Board.
Most pain is self-inflicted. We know what we must do to make a difference. We just don’t do it.
Your brand needs to continuously be relevant and purposeful. That means focusing on creating products and services that make consumers shout “Wow!” This is not about doing a satisfactory job. It’s not about being proud of Customer Satisfaction Scores (being “satisfied” is not enough). It means going more in-depth with insight and creating experiences. It means understanding why you wake up each morning.
Your confidence comes from doing your homework. Here are some things I always keep in mind:
Define your purpose and don’t be afraid to take a stand
Why do you exist? What are you giving to the world? What is your organization passionate about? Does everyone understand the mission at hand? Are they empowered to bring the brand to life every single day? You and everyone in your company should be able to answer these questions.
Use Data as a weapon, not a crutch
Everyone is talking about robust first-party data (qualitative and quantitative). This should be top of mind. It’s what gets us to highly personalized learning and the delivery of exceptional experiences. However, it takes time, energy, money and a robust strategy to understand what drives your consumer. People ask why a branding agency spends so much time on data. Answer: I can’t attract you if I know nothing about you. I can’t delight you unless I understand what gives you goosebumps. Yes, I said it . . . goosebumps. Data and consumer insight are critical to the process of designing products, services, a retail experience, or a digital experience. They are your ammunition giving you permission to disrupt. Build your data lake, CRM system, and marketing automation and prepare to delight. Build your foundation! Don’t forget the importance of observation. Data DOES NOT replace our ability to listen and observe in order to feel empathy and humanity.
Visual and Written Articulation of Your Story
The execution of the strategy should be a living and breathing articulation of your story and purpose – where the rubber hits the road. Why are consultants purchasing agencies? They cannot create . . . the big idea . . . that bad-ass, ‘OMG, this is incredible!’ experience. They do understand the process to which we acquire actionable data. Why do agencies fail? They don’t respect the power of the data. This is not about two separate disciplines — it’s about these disciplines co-existing.
Dare to Disrupt
Pablo Picasso was obsessed with being different. His respect for Matisse grew out of observing Matisse daring to be different in a sea of sameness. This inspired Picasso to push the boundaries. He understood the power of shock, disruption and the unexpected. In a world where loyalty is harder to earn, and attention spans are limited to a few seconds, it would make sense to design products, services, and experiences that break the mold. Storytelling with a sense of purpose is always better than storytelling for the sake of hearing oneself speak. Our business is about creativity. The research, data, and everything else is meant to enhance this creativity — nothing else.
Creating a brand message and following through with insight and work that breaks conventions takes focus, dedication and above all else bravery. It means you are willing to wear your purpose on your sleeve. Your company and your agency need to challenge each other, clasp hands and jump into the deep end of the pool of a meaningful and bold direction.
Everything else is bullshit.