Brand gurus suck

I get worked up by the dearth of brand charlatans out there. I’ve written about here and over here as well.

Why the heck do I care about these hucksters? Here’s a little story to illustrate.

I was meeting with a new prospect. His organization had the potential to tell a unique brand story. A story rich with what I call the Big Audacious Meaning. It just needed to be coaxed out and refined through collaboration with him and his leadership team.

But he and his team were hesitant.

They had been more than disappointed by an “expert” they had previously hired. This “expert” had taken their money, disappeared, and re-emerged with the finished solution.

My prospect was left with a solution that didn’t quite address what they needed as well as a hefty bill. To top it off, they now perceived the process of working with brand consultants as a crap-shoot at best.

Overcoming the damage left by brand amateurs

My engagement with this prospect involved bridging a fair amount of scorched earth this other branding wannabe had left behind.

Rebuilding someone’s faith in branding is no easy task. You can’t just promise them that it will be great. You have to show them.

I use a process that runs completely counter to the wizard-behind-the-curtain approach that my prospect had previously been subjected to. That process has four parts:

  1. Collaborate - a proven process engages key stakeholders in the organization to uncover the rational and emotional drivers that lead to a brand purpose that we all agree will excite everyone from team members to customers and prospects.
  2. Validate - we put the idea in front of everyone from team members to customers and prospects to get their input.
  3. Iterate - we take the feedback and find interesting ways to express the key ideas that have emerged.
  4. Repeat - we collaborate again on those ideas and then validate and iterate - and repeat until we get to the real solution.

By following the process you achieve two key outcomes. First, you get to a solution you know is relevant, differentiated, and valuable. And second, your key leaders feel a sense of ownership of the brand. They become the kind of advocates that help energize the introduction of the brand.

This is how awesome brands are built. Brands with real meaning and purpose. If somebody tries to tell you differently, ask for a peek behind the curtain. If he refuses, spit in his eye.