THE 10 NEW RULES OF BRAND BUILDING
For decades, a single brand monarch ruled the large brand empires, controlling the message, the airwaves, and the channels. But now, consumers have broken through the gates and are redefining the rules.
Today’s brand-building game is played in an open, unpredictable arena where very few rules govern how a brand is positioned, where it is placed, and how it is talked about. The King is dead and now the Free Range Brands are winning this game of thrones.
We’re not in Kansas anymore. Here are the rules of the wild:
1. LEARNING IS NO LONGER AN ANNUAL EVENT.
Today’s biggest opportunities don’t show up at planning season. Or on “fill-the pipeline” Gantt charts. They present themselves in unknown places and disappear quickly. Annual learning events are now the death blow of innovation and relevancy. The future of insights is a daily exercise that demands action over analysis. Consistent, open-minded curiosity vs. cover-your-ass validation is what Free Range Learning is all about.
2. SEDUCE. DON’T SOLVE.
Free Range Brands don’t wallow in the shallow confines of functionality, bound and defined by a collection of features and benefits. They set their sights on the horizon, reaching for a higher plane, giving them the power to inspire, even seduce. Functionality is material; Free Range Brands position against the immaterial. Solving for deficiencies has a shelf life. Reaching for ideals allows for fluidity, reinvention, and freedom. There’s less turbulence at higher altitudes. Power up.
3. COURAGE IS MANDATORY.
When you know where you’re going, find your edge. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re getting there. Those who hide in the middle, will never get their share of the kill.
4. PREPARE TO BE TESTED.
If you’re good enough to capture hearts and imaginations, prepare to be tested. Your authenticity must be validated. From leadership to internal culture, every word and deed will either validate or erode your credibility on a very public stage. Authenticity is not something you claim; it is bestowed upon you by your community via ongoing credibility tests.
5. PUBLIC OPINION IS NOT YOUR GUIDE.
Once you find your edge, expect to find opposition. If you can’t be prepared to hold your ground, don’t go there to begin with. It’s not who you are. Once you know what you’re made of, you’ve found your compass. Time to get clear on that. You won’t have time to figure it out when you need it most.
6. RECKLESSNESS LEADS TO DESTRUCTION.
Since Sun Tzu wrote his book on military tactics 2,000 years ago, this tenet could not be more relevant today. With the infinite and expanding options of creative expression, it’s easier than ever to get sucked into the tantalizing world of social media tactics. But despite how much has changed, some core principles remain the same. While you now have an endless playground of creative ways to tell your story, your story still needs a point, a point of view and an authentic, consistent voice.
7. ADAPT. DON’T DEFEND.
In the face of destruction, you can either perish or come out stronger. While consumers today are quicker than ever to elevate drama and disaster to mainstream awareness, they also reward brands and leaders for being humble and responsive. Hide for cover, and you’ll be hunted down.
8. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS.
Both opportunity and danger lurk in dark corners. Heads up. Tune in. Look around. Cultivate instinct. Respond swiftly and appropriately.
9. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO CUT OFF YOUR ARM TO SURVIVE.
Don’t be this year’s Leader of the Irrelevant. What served you in the past may simply not be working anymore. We’ve seen the carnage of dominant brands become largely irrelevant within the few past years, taking nosedives while hanging on to “winning” formulas of yesteryear. If you’re feeling like minor bumps and scrapes are turning into gangrene, are you going to lead change or preside over death?
10. MONOGAMY IS NO LONGER REQUIRED. RUN WITH NEW PACKS.
You are no longer bound by a single demographic target, but by a shared belief system (if you’re doing this right.) It’s important for your brand to roam, explore, and spread its seed, forging ties when the chemistry is natural. Mash-up and fusion isn’t just for cuisine anymore.
So go ahead, put your peanut butter in someone else’s chocolate.