Another year is in the books and maybe the company Christmas party was one for the ages, but how has your brand fared over the past 12 months? Is it fit and trim and leading the way, or has it grown a little shabby, flabby and gabby? Here’s how a little brand introspection can go a long way toward a good year for your brand.
Get rid of the flab
Like attics, brands tend to accumulate all manner of old baggage that can take up a lot of space with very little value. This can include product lines that are no longer generating much revenue, and may even seem like an odd fit among the rest of a company’s products and services. Take a cue from the big guys. In August, Procter and Gamble announced that they will begin selling off a large number of their brands because they no longer meet the standards of profit and growth that P&G feels they should. Duracell is one of the larger brands that is the first to go because of stagnant sales for several years. Another global brand, McDonald’s, also struggling with declining sales, announced recently that they will be trimming menu items and refining others to meet more regional preferences.
Sprucing up your brand
How many times have you been in a meeting with several people from another company and not one of their business cards is the same design? How about walking into a store and being told that the promotion on signage out front has already ended? My pet peeve is employees complaining about some aspect of their job within earshot of customers. It can be easy to lose track of the details in the day-to-day pace of doing business. For example, in the course of doing brand research for a client in the signage industry, I heard their customers complaining about walking into the showroom and seeing other jobs leaning against the wall that had been dropped off for repair or were waiting to be picked up. Another common complaint was materials samples that were on display, but were incomplete or in disarray.
All these are examples of how a brand can grow a little shabby around the edges. Solutions: Do a quick audit of your core brand materials—business cards, website and retail environment, if that applies. Imagine that you are seeing each one of these for the first time. What do you notice? Are there distracting elements, misspellings, or pockets of disorganization? If so, get them cleaned up and put a process in place to keep them that way. As for employees that talk smack, I’d suggest three strikes and they’re out. Or maybe two.
Engage brand before talking
Speaking of employees talking, one of the biggest areas for brand dilution today is social media. While many brands lust to have their tweet, post, or video go viral, the reality is there are an equal number of chances for losing control. Part of the problem, of course, is that most social media platforms depend on a steady flow of content to make a dent. Generating daily, or even weekly, content is too often left in the hands of people who are primarily tasked with doing other activities, or who may not have the judgment to keep messages on brand.
A couple of years ago, J.P. Morgan tweeted that they would be conducting a Q&A session the next day and asked for questions in advance. They arrived instantly and very publicly, but they weren’t exactly what the big investment bank had in mind. Examples included “How far do you and your financial sector gang members think you can push things before you are driven off the continent?” and, “When will you all go to jail?” A tweet from J.P. Morgan soon followed, “Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.” This exchange not only backfired as it heaped criticism on the brand, it made several top 10 lists of social media failures for 2013.
Social media is a tricky channel in which to keep your brand’s message clear and on target. To avoid disasters and late-night phone calls, make sure that your program is well-planned and managed by a trusted member of your staff. Reacting to trending topics is fine, but if your social media team doesn’t know in advance what it’s going to post or tweet on any given day, it probably isn’t well managed. Winging it is where the worst mistakes happen.
Happy New Year!
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.