The New Year recently ticked over, and as such we are conditioned as a society to try new things; new diets, exercise routines, hobbies or habits to improve our lives. Nutribullet anyone? It’s also instinctive to do the same for our jobs and the brands which we manage, to ponder the possibility of new products, new customer segments or new social media platforms to maximise our 2016 success. But the best thing you could do for your brand this year could be nothing.
“The boss is coming, quick, look busy.” We currently live in a culture that glorifies busyness. Since TV dinners first filled our freezers in the 70s to the rise of ‘time poor consumers’ on creative briefs in the 90s, our obsession with daily noise has become an unstoppable machine and a validation of purpose. Falling trap to ‘the more bubble’ as Greg McKeown explains in the Harvard Business Review; “we back-door-brag about being busy: it’s code for being successful and important.” Even the seemingly neutral word, slow, carries a negative stigma being used to describe a person of lesser intellect. So when it comes to building brands, we must resist the undeniable temptation to create busy for busy’s sake.
1/ First Focus
There’s no way around it: you must develop a brand strategy and positioning that is more focused than James Bond’s firing range. If you have 7 different strategies, you’re probably trying to be everything to everybody, and therefore more likely nothing to nobody. Regardless of how complex your organisation or business model is, it is always possible to create a single-minded brand positioning. Know your strengths, know your customers and know where they intersect. Create one strategy everyone within the organisation can remember and apply. If that’s not happening, make it happen.
Ikea has always focused on value and design and reflects this in everything they do, from product design and inventory storage to communications and packaging.
2/ Have the courage to do less
Perhaps even more important that what you do, is what you don’t do. Be selective. As Tom Goodwin, SVP of Strategy and Innovation at Havas Media, recently pointed out; “in a typical year Samsung launches 45 new phones, yet Apple will launch one.” Apple’s focus, not only helps with cost minimisation, but also provides consumers with a more simple decision making experience, sparing them the paradox of choice. And whilst it’s true, Samsung sold more smartphones than Apple in some quarters of 2015, it’s hard not to wonder whether they could have done so in less than 8 years if they were more focused. When it comes to media, Goodwin goes on to explain: “[Apple is] never hijacking the Oscars or promoting tweets. It’s not on Twitter or SnapChat, or Periscope, or Peach or the channel du jour”. Take note, the world’s biggest brand, valued at $170,276m by Interbrand, does not rely on social media.
Aesop don’t believe in false promises, so they don’t advertise. Instead they focus on scientific products and unique retail experiences.
In a strategic shift, Coca-Cola recently unified its four core brands (Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life) under one strategy, evident in its January 2016 global ad campaign “Taste the feeling’.
3/ Stick to it
Over the last several decades there have been more changes in brand strategies and advertising campaigns than ever before. It directly correlates with the higher rotation of branding professionals in charge of these decisions and their quest for busyness. Avoid the trap of ‘making your mark’ and ensure that you put the best interests of your brand ahead of your own. The strongest brands evolve and revitalise themselves but remain true to their core brand positioning, and allow time for significant shifts if they prove necessary.
The Mastercard Priceless campaign has been entertaining audiences since 1997.
Nike advertising is always consistent in look, attitude and message, their ‘Just Do It’ campaign is 25 years strong.
Be focused. Be selective. Be consistent.
So when 2016 presents a smorgasbord of new marketing options to you this year, fight your inherited appetite for busyness and stop. Stop and consider whether it aligns with your brand strategy and genuinely adds value. Or have the confidence to do nothing. Because nothing, might just be the best thing you could for your brand this year.