Podcast Episode 3 // 3 Ways to Sabotage Your Brand’s Leadership

You don’t always need a plan, Bro. Some­times you just need [guts]. Hard­en the [hell] up.”

There are 3 key ways you can sab­o­tage your brand’s lead­er­ship. And they all seem like the right thing to do. Here’s why they’re not. We want to build a great brand, but we also want every­one to like us and be hap­py. Even though we know what’s right, we spend time try­ing to ver­i­fy that, if we make every­one mad, even if they’re not our cus­tomers, that we can’t be blamed. So we research more, we look at the com­pe­ti­tion and the cus­tomers too much and at the wrong times. We end up with analy­sis paral­y­sis, which push­es back deci­sion mak­ing, tak­ing away any first-mover advan­tage, and takes the edge from our brand lan­guage. We just get scared.

Luck­i­ly, this has hap­pened before and prob­a­bly con­fronts any busi­ness that has any humil­i­ty and self-aware­ness at all. What I’m say­ing is that it can show a healthy humil­i­ty when you slow down and ana­lyze your actions. But when it comes to ques­tion­ing actions that are clear­ly in line with your brand and val­ues, you need to sup­press this humil­i­ty. Let’s talk about why.

Brand Thinking is Top-Down, not Bottom-Up

Top-down think­ing works from your brand, and then down. Bot­tom-up think­ing is the yes-man, the pan­der­er, the sell­out. Here’s how you keep it real.

Don’t Research

At least not until you have a clear research ques­tion derived from your lead­er­ship stance. And let’s remem­ber that a lead­er­ship stance does not need research. You start­ed the busi­ness to solve a prob­lem and to do it with your inter­nal val­ues. Don’t let your­self get side­tracked by research that just push­es back your decisions…at least until you’ve cre­at­ed a “work­ing hypoth­e­sis” that gives you a direc­tion. In oth­er words, always have an “Okay, we’re gonna do this, but we have a few unan­swered ques­tions about how.” And now your research has pur­pose.

Ignore Competition

Think­ing about your com­pe­ti­tion can be dis­cour­ag­ing and par­a­lyz­ing, espe­cial­ly if you think you should be good at the same things. But great brands learn how to first know what they’re about, get­ting famil­iar with their own strengths. Only then do you acknowl­edge the competition’s strengths, because you’re more emo­tion­al­ly sta­ble. There, I said it. We get emo­tion­al­ly unsta­ble  when we’re focus­ing on the com­pe­ti­tion and what’s out­side of us before we get con­vinced of our val­ue. And this caus­es us to aban­don our val­ues and our pur­pose and become yet anoth­er com­mod­i­ty. Don’t do it.

Ignore Your Customer

Because your cus­tomer has no imag­i­na­tion for what you should be doing. It’s like what Hen­ry Ford said, “If you ask cus­tomers what they want, they’ll say they want a faster horse.” The point is that the cus­tomer doesn’t know the kind of work you’re able and will­ing to per­form, so they tell you only what they can imag­ine. The prop­er way to engage cus­tomers is with this atti­tude: “Giv­en our brand, val­ues and how those are expressed in our offer­ing, how do we best apply that to our cus­tomers?” This means you under­stand your brand first, and only then do you deter­mine how your cus­tomers might help you help them, and then choose the prop­er research method.

Brand Leadership is Top-Down

Brand lead­er­ship is a very top-down affair. And this can seem arro­gant and closed-off. But that’s like say­ing that your best friend is arro­gant because he’s not total­ly chang­ing who he is to be what you need. In fact, in order to be your best friend, he has to bring traits, attrib­ut­es and beliefs that are dif­fer­ent from yours. This makes him inter­est­ing and some­one you can admire and whose com­pa­ny you enjoy. It gives him a place of lead­er­ship in your life. And this is why deci­sions should always come from who you are, regard­less of who likes it, before you go out and try to find out how to apply your brand lead­er­ship to the pub­lic.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, and you want to learn more about stand­ing up a brand in your own orga­ni­za­tion using the brand hack­ing method, which is keep­ing it sim­ple and iter­at­ing quick­ly, then let’s talk.

Bio: I’m Chris Stadler, and I’ve been watch­ing, work­ing, study­ing and con­sult­ing for brands since 2004. I will show you how to right-size your promis­es so that they’re promis­es you can keep. Because it’s not the expen­sive brand­ing agen­cies that make great brands; they’re just the dec­o­ra­tors. It’s your lead­er­ship and integri­ty that make it all work. But it takes process.