How to avoid a zombie brand-pocalypse
- Created: Monday, 12 October 2020 11:01
- Written by Martha Bartlett Piland
Watch for the warning signs or it may be too late.
Watch for the warning signs or it may be too late.
As branders, the temptation to embrace a new trend can be as irresistible as that second (or third) Girl Scout cookie. It’s always a good idea to stay attention-getting. It’s also vital to be a steward of the brand you’ve worked so hard to build.
Before your team succumbs to temptation, here’s a 1-2-3 checklist to help evaluate before you indulge.
It's easy to make customers and donors want to come back again if you make them feel important. It's inexpensive—even free—to do it. But it doesn't happen by accident.
Are you building a feel-the-love culture?
Often unseen, corporate culture is your essential power supply that keeps everything moving full speed ahead. And like technicians who conduct an energy audit, or engineers who design bridges, you need to ensure your organization is fit from the inside out.
Here are three ways to ensure your infrastructure supports a powerful future.
In recent years, being busy, overworked and sleep-deprived has become a badge of honor. Ask how they’re doing at a cocktail party or a Zoom meeting, and inevitably, people proudly reply, “I am so busy.” Or they just answer emphatically, “BUSY!”
And especially in times of crisis, these same people feel ashamed to say they have down time or that they took some time away.
You may remember this story from childhood. Stone Soup is a European folk tale where a hungry stranger from out of town convinces the locals that his soup recipe—the basis of which is nothing more than a stone—will become something extraordinary.
There’s a lot of talk about how retailing—and other traditional business—is dead. And there’s much hand-wringing and complaining about how those big online giants are unfairly hurting brick-and-mortar businesses.
While some of this pressure on physical locations is unavoidable, many retailers are driving their customers right into the arms of their online competitors.
I don’t know whether it’s today’s consumer online habits or a lack of training. But I do know I don’t like it. “What’s the name?” the receptionist blankly asked me at my doctor’s office this week. Ick. There seems to be an epidemic of taking the person out of personal service.
The strongest brands on earth have a two-sided relationship with their fans. Like any real life relationship, there’s give and take. Speaking and listening.
If you’re only focused on advertising, posting, tweeting and shouting, you’re going to miss what people say—and think—about your brand.
Recently I received an email from a business asking me to rate a visit. While that visit was very positive, I used this survey as an opportunity to share a different and very negative experience that happened a couple months before that. This is a healthcare organization and the situation involved life and death decisions.
At the end of the survey, I had the option to share my contact information. I decided to share, wondering if anyone would reach out to me to find out more or see what they could do to improve the situation.
And then I waited.
I’ve been a loyal Mercedes Benz driver for nearly 20 years and four different E Class sedans. The last one let me down so hard I won’t go back. The reason: they cut corners and it broke my heart.
Here’s a warning to brands everywhere about the dangers of subbing cheaper materials and snubbing your loyal fans.
My mother grew up in West Virginia. Like many families at that time, hers had a sizable garden and some chickens and turkeys. Typically, my grandmother tended the garden and kept all the myriad household projects neatly organized and running smoothly. (Martha Stewart would be proud.)
Branders often overlook or ignore things that can have a big impact on the impressions they make on their customers. Case in point: the coat closet.
Some organizations inadvertantly leave others with a bad taste in their mouths over their closets—or lack thereof. Here's why:
While many organizations say they have heart, rare are those who have created a culture that truly inspires passion. The word ‘credo’ (I believe) comes from ‘cor do’ (I give my heart).
Do employees, customers and community give their heart to your brand? Here are some things to seriously consider:
Why should you be an “extra button” brand? The extra button brand is the one who gets a customer by when he’s in a pinch. It's the brand that helps a customer save face. It's the brand that has your back.
Deliver that kind of service, and you’re the life saver that builds unquestionable loyalty.
I recently heard someone in the c-suite of a company say that a key business development strategy hadn’t been launched because nobody told him to do it. I was shocked.
Why is he waiting—and by whom—to be told? Is this laziness or a symptom of something else?
Keeping your brand aligned means paying attention to the messaging and stories you tell inside your organization, not just what you say in public.
Why? Because without an intentional internal brand, your public-facing messages will never be truly authentic.
Keeping your brand aligned means regularly auditing everything that tells your story. When you evaluate advertising and PR messages, you should never overlook the many other things that speak loud and clear.
Here’s a starting checklist of additional things to monitor for your public-facing brand:
Watch any company’s recruitment video these days and you’re likely to see a foosball table, an espresso bar and a workout room. You may be wondering if you need those to attract great employees, too.
While games and fancy coffee are nice “extras,” they’re not the foundation of your culture. There are better ways to cultivate a winning internal brand.
You may think that because your website is updated and your new video takes your customers’ breath away that your brand refresh is spotless.
Employee behavior contrary to your brand promise will soil your brand overnight.
Many organizations have spent a significant amount of time thinking—and talking—about what they will do.
“We will deliver excellent service every time,” or “we will always be at the forefront of innovation.”
But what won’t you do?
Old school sales guys will tell you sales is just a numbers game. Get enough prospects into the funnel and they’ll dump out X% of customers at the bottom. Easy.
News flash, Herb Tarlek: your lack of a system is as outdated as your plaid polyester coat.
“Not a problem,” the customer service person said to me on the phone as we were wrapping up my transaction. What!? Not a problem? For who—you!? Wait a minute. Who is the customer here?
Last week, a hot, tired delivery man came into our office with some much-needed supplies. He delivered more than just packages. He delivered angry, ugly opinions about someone else’s brand.
Marketers are spending a lot of time talking about the customer journey. We’re not hearing the same talk about the employee journey, and that’s a shame. Because the customer journey with your brand will be bumpy at best if the employee journey isn’t thoughtfully mapped out and put into action first.
It’s an all-too-common malady: sales are flabby or fundraising goals are lagging, so leadership determines that a fresh new ad campaign is just the thing to make everything right.
When we start asking questions to diagnose the situation, we often discover something else: an internal problem.
If you ever put your car in drive with your parking brake engaged, the car lets you know it right away. Ignore the warning at your own peril.
You know not to do it to your car. So why let it happen to your brand?
Have you put off planning, budgeting and—dare I say it—dreaming? If so, you’re probably working too much in the business and not enough on the business.
Don't wait for a crisis. Plan now.
Amazon Chairman Jeff Bezos has famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
If you take this to heart, you need to understand all the people who talk about you when you’re not in the room.
Special blog submission by Moriyah Ramberg
I was lucky enough to be selected for MB Piland’s internship program this summer. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on it, I'd like to share tips on how to make an internship a valuable experience for both boss and intern, starting with the first day.
The starlet (insert name) was stunningly beautiful—until she opened her mouth and became a devastating disappointment to her fans. Her foot will be removed from her mouth with the help of a good PR agent.
Branders: it’s harder for you. You have numerous people who can make your brand look dazzling—or like Hollywood’s biggest trainwreck.
Be honest: have you ever heard an employee (sincerely) say “OH cool—I’m so excited!” when you announced a staff retreat? For many, the thought of a day away from the office stuffed into a conference room to plan sounds like as much fun as a root canal.
Look into the proverbial closet of your organization. Chances are, there are a few habits or tactics you know you need to give up—but for some reason, just can’t. Worst case scenario: you have a vast store house that needs to be purged.
What’s still hanging around is weighing you down. It's a sign of sickness that needs immediate intervention.
Whether you’re raising money, growing customers, pitching a reporter or recruiting committee members, you have to make some asks. It can be uncomfortable. But to advance your objectives, you’ve gotta brave the cold.
Oscar Wilde famously wrote these words to individuals. Branders should take heed as well.
Are you borrowing from another brand’s unique positioning?
Everywhere you go, people are revved up about exercising and eating right. And you can’t avoid hearing about the latest cleanse. (TMI). It’s possible that your brand needs all that extra attention, too.
Just how far should you go?
Though this week heralds the arrival of a brand new year, we’ll be making resolutions for 2017 before we know it.
Don't let 2016 slip away because you were busy.
Here are 16 strategies for a stronger, more profitable brand.
What could you learn if you and your employees really rode along on your customer's journey?
It can definitely build your brand.
Here's how to learn more and get profits speeding ahead.
Relationships sometimes don’t work out, and there’s a break up. The same is true for your employees and you.
“it’s not you, it’s me”
Not every employee will be with you for a lifetime. Sometimes they leave you. When they do leave, do you know why?
I’ve seen an awful lot of brand ugliness lately. Ugly design, cheap quality and slipshod work.
A “good enough” philosophy tells employees and customers a lot about your organization. Here are 3 DON’Ts:
Recently I received a letter from a business along with a survey. “I want to get to know you and your company,” the letter said.
But it was just plain lazy.
Mental habits turn into strategic and tactical action.
Are there some harmful habits you need to break? Here’s a quick check for things you should stop doing right now.
Turnover is very costly to business. It can cost a company up to 30% of the employee’s salary (and some say more) to replace someone. And in today’s labor market, there’s a lot of movement.
Twice this week, I’ve selected a menu item specifically because it was supposed to have something dear to my heart on it. Bacon! Both times, bacon was missing. It got me thinking about the way I felt, and how brands can disappoint their people in a similar way.
It’s a great day when you can whip through a meeting, present the plan and assign roles and responsibilities. Everyone is nodding and then they all go back to their desks and get to work. That’s solid, effective leadership, right?
Not so fast. Fear might factor into the silence.
There's a lot of talk about displaying welcome mats and rolling out the red carpet for customers. But are you also taking care of them on the way out? Here are 6 ways to ask the right questions.
People pay for your brand with their hard-earned money. They also pay with things they hold even dearer: their affection, their advocacy and their time. Are they getting what they pay for?
Many non-profit organizations have golf tournaments, 5k runs and fancy dance-dinner parties with silent auctions. But when you can make your purpose and mission part of the experience of the event, the result is far more powerful and memorable. It reinforces your mission like nothing else.
A blockbuster brand has all the elements of great theatre.
Creating drama, pageantry and excitement with both employees and customers generates raving fans who tell others.
Business process is important. Presenting and promoting options to customers is a necessity.
But when brands focus too much on selling and not enough on listening, profits will inevitably fall. Case in point:
Naughty kids get coal in their stockings. The nice kids get what they want. As a high growth business, how do you get what you want in your stocking? Here are some handy tips from Santa to fill your "stocking"—and your business—with profit and prosperity.
In many companies, training is a low priority. But every high performance organization acts differently. They're the ones who become legendary.
Case in point: Navy SEALs. Here are 4 lessons they can teach every corporate leader:
Too many CEOs are looking for growth but can't seem to get out of their current rut. Their greatest obstacle? Themselves.
Here are 3 common examples and how to obliterate them.
We often encounter business leaders trying to skip to the end without doing the hard work it really takes to get there. They jump from one big idea—or consultant—to the next, looking for the shortcut to leapfrog past their competition.
Creating a powerful brand experience goes far beyond having a sign outside and welcome mat at the front door. It's about expressing the brand's personality and promise everywhere. Read on for ways your environment can get your brand off the B list.
Employee recognition programs can be healthy internal brand builders—or just band-aids. St. Mary's Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado has a program that makes everyone feel fantastic.
Here in Kansas, everyone's got World Series Fever. The Kansas City Royals are playing in the series for the first time since 1985. Royals merchandise is flying off the shelves and blue is to be seen everywhere.
Sneaky, insidious little inconsistencies in your brand add up to big holes. That means you have to work harder or spend more to overcome them—unless you act quickly. Read on for our top 10 things to watch.
Employee appreciation events are usually born of good intentions. But somewhere in the planning process, committees and "have tos" suck out all the fun faster than a Dyson Ball. Here are 4 ways to make your event a rousing success.
I dropped in at Walgreens recently, picked up a few items to help me battle a wretched cold, and the woman at the cash register thanked me and said, "Be well." I felt like she really meant it and I almost stopped in my tracks.
Do your employees love your brand, and you, so much that they'd go on strike for you if you were fired?
Sounds crazy, but it happened this summer.
At the bottom of the fruit bowl, out of sight, a tiny blemish starts to fester. On top, everything looks beautiful and healthy. But eventually, an odor develops. By the time you investigate—and actually find it—it has spread.
Every high growth company wants to continue to grow sales and profits. And whether "sales" is in their title or not, you must get everyone throughout the organization to offer more to customers. Read on for 4 examples that offer win-win help—not just selling stuff people don't need.
Football is here! To "kick things off," here's our checklist to build a winning team, along with quotes from Paul "Bear" Bryant, one of the most highly regarded college football coaches of all time.
A meaningful brand is much more than just a logo or slogan. When done well, it delivers an experience that's far more than the sum of its parts. See our infographic for a look at how to evaluate and build yours further.
The heartbreak of going on a date with her "steady," only to see him schmoozing up the other girls at the party has a lot in common with the mob of marketing messages targeted at new customer acquisition.
How many times have you heard that question: at a check-out counter, at the end of a website transaction or the closing of a customer service call? I'll ask you another question: how many times did you believe the question was sincere?
Planning for a well-aligned marketing strategy is important. When the internal brand and external brand are in sync it's far easier to build loyalty, revenue and profit. Read more for a fictitious graph and some inspiration.
While the word "innovation" is almost ubiquitous, the ability to come up with new ideas that are truly groundbreaking seems to be anything but. Enter honeybees and jackalopes—and how they can lend a hand. (Photo by Louise Docker.)
Here are three things to watch for:
'70s era Stretch Armstrong was known for incredible, über-stretchy acrobatics that helped him catch bad guys. With engineering and ingenuity, branders can also accomplish big feats and capture more market share.
Here are 4 ways to grow sales from the inside out.
It's graduation season. Graduations have gotten a lot fancier since I was in school: large parties, catered food, extravagant gifts. That's a lot of pomp for their circumstance. But with the high price of higher education, some festivities are in order. It's a big deal.
TIPS FROM THE BARD
Shakespeare recently turned 450 years old. To mark the occasion, here's a review of some well known words to inspire and engage your employees from the most quoted author in the English language.
Animal House is probably the quintessential frat movie of all time. The outlandish actions of the Deltas are wildly exaggerated, but even so, they have important lessons for any brand–especially one on Double Secret Probation.
Brand slogans should be more than something that sounds cool. The best ones resonate on the inside of an organziation just as strongly as on the outside. Then, magic happens: trial, loyalty... profit. Read more for some of our favorites and why we think they're great.
When major changes are underway, it can be quite uncomfortable for employees. Like the shock of an unfortunate haircut, new initiatives may cause collective distress and the desire to hide. Or they could be as exciting as a brand new 'DO!
Groucho Marx is famously quoted as resigning from the Delaney Club quipping "I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me as a member."
Whether or not the story is actually true, it leads us to wonder why some brands are so eager to accept just anyone.
If revenue and profit aren't meeting expectations, a strong marketing program can be a big boost. Stretch that marketing investment as far as possible with some simple things you can start today.
There's been a lot of discussion lately about CVS Caremark's decision to stop selling cigarettes by October 1, 2014 in its stores.
Critics claim it's just a red herring gesture to outflank competitors for lucrative healthcare contracts.
The Big Game is over but the conversation about the commercials continues. This year, 3 commercials tied a brand to a cause. Though they all had an emotional tug, it made me wonder whether they were authentic to the core—or simply an empty campaign.
Focus groups are wrapped and results from the consumer panels are in. You're ready to launch a new ad campaign and WOW the world. Will you WOW your employees, too? Here are 3 reasons you should.
We've all witnessed it: the company retreat that gets people fired-up and ready to change the world. But soon, the insistent voices of daily work drown out the enthusiasm.
Have you made any business resolutions for the new year? Better yet: a business revolution. It's a new year, full of possibilities. Here are some ways to create far-reaching changes that make '14 your best year yet.
Twentieth century philosophers Timbuk3 sang "the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades..." Their '80s era music video on MTV leaves a message for leaders of this century. You have a bright future ahead, too... if you broadcast your vision in ways that are just as engaging to internal audiences.
"Frankly, some women's bodies just don't actually work [for Lululemon yoga pants]" famously said Chip Wilson, chairman of Lululemmon.
There's only been an "I'm sorry I'm not sorry" from Chip.
Do you know people who poke a hole in the bottom of a chocolate to see whether or not it's the one they want? The culprits I know never throw away the damaged piece they've decided against. They just sneak it back into the box. (As if no one will notice!)
We've all had one. At one time or another. You know what I'm talking about. A mustache. Maybe it's a milk mustache. A milk shake mustache. Or a pink Kool-Aid one. Then there's the one you get from an extra foamy cappuccino.
"Martha Ellen Bartlett, that's entirely too big a bite for a young lady."
I heard it more than once at the dinner table when I was growing up. I think it means that I enjoy food—and life—with passion. And as an adult, I still occasionally get a bit carried away.
People in your rapidly growing company are working at a hectic pace. They love the brand and are proud to give it their all. But they'll run out of energy (and the company will flounder) if you don't keep feeding their passion and purpose.
Don't let them starve!
Did I put that song in your head? You can thank me later. But first, why should you care what the fox says?
Does your organization make outbound calls to support your issue or invite people to an informational event? Here's a very, very wrong way to go about it...possibly the worst voice message ever.
But it's premature to shoot the messenger.
Please come to our fair city. Spend money at the shops—and some more with the cops.
A recent visit to downtown Grand Junction, Colorado felt like that. Mixed messages, brand dissonance...so, do they want me or not?
At a glance, this seems like a gimmicky marketing ploy. But is it?
Early last year Patagonia began a campaign that discouraged shoppers from spending on Cyber Monday and told them to "buy less."
I'm not sure if this is a series of coincidences or a disturbing trend. But this week, I've had two "asks" for sizable charitable donations via email or Facebook. And I've had at least five sales people try to pitch me with a cold call via email. Really?
When they're hiring, lots of companies spout "great benefits" and "positive work environment" to anyone who will listen. But they don't think about the type of person they want to attract. That's right. Attract. Shouldn't it be more like dating?
Recently my children went back to school. A sheet came home asking parents to have their children wear specific colors for the first two weeks of class. The reason: our kindergarteners need help learning their colors. First it was Red Day. Then Brown Day.
A friend just gave me the lowdown on the year-old effort at her company. It's grinding to a halt.
Even a casual Star Trek viewer has heard of the legendary Borg. So united in purpose and mission, they were stronger than almost anyone else. The Borg were also scary, evil and incredibly nasty.
There are lots of reasons to read the Art of War. Though it's literally about military strategy, I'll argue that it's equally applicable to a company's success:
"He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks."