Aug 31, 2010

The Achilles’ Heel of Branding

Today is August 31. For some it’s a month end, and for others it’s a quarterly end or a year end. Sales people are frantically closing deals, negotiating terms and offering discounts. It’s like playing Let’s Make a Deal. The closer a company is to their fiscal year end, the better the deal you can get.

What drives your business?

  1. Clear brand objectives
  2. Or quarterly revenue targets

I know most of us would like to choose #1, but the reality is closer to #2.

The tyranny of the quarter end has cannibalized many high potential brands. Quarter-after-quarter decisions are made to satisfy short term objectives. There’s a lot of pressure to satisfy the expectations of shareholders and protect the stock price. The problem is many of these short term decisions do not build up a brand’s long term potential. Customers learn to expect deep discounts at certain times of year, which drives their purchasing behavior.

Branding is like dieting

There’s no easy formula for building a great brand. It takes focus, discipline and making tough choices. It’s a lot like dieting.

If you want to be lean and fit, you have to forego instant gratification. You can’t eat whatever you want whenever you want. You have to make healthy choices, and you have to sustain them. A healthy lifestyle is accumulative. One month of exercise and clean eating won’t get you there. It requires a set of disciplines that must be developed into an overall lifestyle.

The same goes for branding. Apple consistently creates incredibly designed products, because they treat design as a discipline. They work at it. They make strategic design choices, and they don’t compromise on these decisions for short term gains. Design is a fundamental part of their brand.

We can all fall off the horse

Flip into Google News and search “Misses Expectations”. You’ll always find a story. The first item that popped up for me reads, “Scotiabank 3Q Net Up 14%; Just Misses Expectations.”

Every company faces financial pressure. Pressure to perform. Pressure to meet expectations. Pressure to exceed expectations. It’s no wonder executives make poor long term decisions to fulfill short term needs.

Nobody is perfect. We can all succumb to the pressure. But work to stay true. Identify the key defining aspects of your brand, and protect them. Commit to them. Make them disciplines. Treat them like Apple treats design.

When you know what is truly important to your company and your brand, you can make smart long term decisions: decisions that will build your brand, and drive your company for long term growth and profitability.

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