April 19, 2010
There are no guarantees of success when developing a modern brand. There is no switch that will pour out money, there are no stunts that will automatically create attention, and there is no how-to manual that, if assiduously followed, will assure your brand’s place in the annals of the great Internet legends. Brands are driven as much by the customer as they are by the originator, and the customer doesn’t always want what’s being sold.
That said there are certain behaviors and practices that are guaranteed to kill a brand, virtually without fail. There are always exceptions to the rule, but by and large you can at least count on these ‘do nots’ as fairly ironclad rules. What follows are four ways you can miss the point, and some advice for avoiding them.
Misfire #1 – Number Chasing
This may feel like a complete turnaround from previous articles. After all, we’ve discussed metrics and their usefulness in measuring success, haven’t we? Surely the larger an audience the better a brand is doing.
The problem with this logic is that it confuses the goal with the measurement. Instead of focusing on satisfying customer demands for particular content or a certain product quality, the company focuses on making sure web traffic stays high. This kind of thinking disconnects you from the actual cause-and-effect of working on the product you’re pitching, and creates an artificial reality that will do your brand no good.
As a rule of thumb for avoiding this behavior, consider the way you set goals. If you find the goal focusing on increasing audience numbers or some abstract figure instead of refining your core product, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Misfire #2 – Going by Rote
Part of maintaining a modern brand is providing regular content. Updating frequently enough to maintain viewer interest is vital for any service, and making sure the physical product is advertised for the public’s awareness is equally important if sales are the goal.
That said, there is a problem inherent in a scheduled updating system that can sneak into the provider’s routine. Specifically we’re speaking of the tendency to update without purpose. You see it frequently on twitter or certain blogs, where the provider is strapped for ideas and just posts a bit of airy, fluffy filler because ‘it’s time to post.’ While this does meet the customer’s expectation, this can work against you, as it leaves a bit of the ‘what was the point?’ question in their minds.
Instead, consider missing out a day if you genuinely don’t have content to provide. It happens, there are slow days for everyone. Missing the routine for a day will give you time to pull up some new content, and when the audience chimes in and sees there isn’t an update, they’ll be curious and more likely to check back the next time.
Misfire #3 – Fadding Out
The difference between a movement and a fad is that a fad sits on the surface of things, changing very little; whereas a movement alters the very basics of how the world functions. ‘Virtual Reality’ was a fad. People hyped it up, but there was no way the majority of people were going to shell out thousands for VR systems and their ten-pound headsets. Twitter is a movement, having developed a broad appeal and fundamentally changed the way people think about spreading information.
We have spoken of the need for innovation and the ability to take risks in brand development, and these things are still true. However, how innovative is it to jump on board something someone else has created? Instead of following the trends, focus on what your brand needs and how it functions. If adding in an element makes sense, do so without hesitation. If you have to force it, forget it.
Misfire #4 – Losing Focus
At this point it’s virtually ancient history, but there is a lesson for modern brand development in the Video Game Crash of the 1980s. The short of it is that every single company worth mentioning decided video games were the future, and opened up a video game division. They launched these efforts without any serious dedication to the craft of game design, and some succeeded while others failed. The most bizarre entrant was Quaker Oats, the people that make oatmeal. The result was a complete disaster.
What business would an oatmeal company have making games? On the surface, any business they desired. Perhaps it was always their secret passion, who knows? However, they lacked any serious experience in the venture, and you probably can’t find ten people out of a thousand who remember what game or games they put out.
Focus on your message. This ties in with the idea of fads, but warrants its own point. If you have to stretch yourself or come up with a new department to accommodate a new idea, it’s time to sit down and decide just how essential this idea is to your core message.
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to http://www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at http://www.iBrandCasting.com/