There are a number of things I do to keep this from happening. I voraciously consume media – three daily newspapers, lots of magazines, and a number of websites and blogs – to keep up-to-date on our industry and the world around us. I think about what I want to talk about when I run my miles in the morning and when I’m out and about. And I constantly look for illustrations of good and bad branding examples to share with you. I also review a number of search engine protocols to see where people’s interests lie. It all creates a simple online focus group of sorts.
I’m also lucky that I’m so interested and involved in the subject that I always have a thought or opinion about what’s going on. Because of this, stories on diverse subjects such as increased travel to Cuba or the design of Marcel Breuer’s 1928 Cresca chair can be compelling inspiration for a post. Truth be told, my fingers often take over the writing when my brain can’t. That is, sometimes I just put my fingers on the keyboard and start typing and the thoughts flow out in an oddly coordinated way that results in a cogent post about the value of branding.
But perhaps the best inspiration for new ideas to write about the value of branding is the intersection of the business sector’s need for proven, hands-on branding advice and the vast selection of real world examples swirling around us.
For example, economist Paul Krugman wrote an editorial in The New York Times titled A Tale Of Two Parties. Krugman opined on the strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic and Republican establishments. Granted Krugman wrote a political column and you may or may not agree with his opinions, but what is interesting to me is that his op-ed on presidential positioning is really an insightful article on branding.
Krugman writes about Donald Trump’s primary success this way: “Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was (Trump’s) huffing and puffing …to blow their houses down.”
Politics? Surely. But what Krugman is really writing about is how Trump’s attacks defined the brands for both Bush and Rubio. Why? Because as we’ve said so many times before, the number one rule of both politics AND branding is to define yourself before your competition does. As Krugman noted, both candidates failed to create their own authentic brands and therefore paid the politician’s ultimate price.
These types of real world, real time brand stories are all around us. Whether you like or dislike the circumstances, the branding lessons you can find in these situations are always valuable. All it takes is an open and interested eye to see them. More importantly, it takes a bit of discipline and initiative to use what you observe to improve your business and your life.
At the end of the day, that is where the real value of branding lies – its proven ability to improve your business and make you money. Because when there’s a clear alignment between your company’s authentic truth and your customers’ aspirations, and when your brand can truly make your customers feel good about themselves, the value of branding becomes invaluable.