Thursday, November 03, 2005

Good Enough Isn't Enough Anymore

The old ways of thinking about a company's brand have changed radically. No longer can a mediocre player hire a fancy agency to pump out corporate identity, tag lines, et al, and expect it to fly. Anymore, that's as useless as socks on a rooster..

I believe this is true because we don't have room for mediocrity in our lives anymore. We don't need to put up with plain vanilla, because just down the street we can get all the savory sustenance we deserve. Our time is too valuable, our attention too distracted, our needs too urgent, to settle for anything less than authentic goodness. Isn't that great?

Depends who you are.

Products and services need to truly help people. There must be a commitment to excellence, to going the extra mile to delight your customers. That eliminates a lot of companies who have been coasting with the old paradigm for years, telling us what to believe, saying who they are rather than showing it, addicted to focus groups, where money often substitutes for forthrightness. As a people, we are demanding honesty, excellence and passion. Good for us.

So how do you communicate excellence and passion in ways that speak to the heart of the people who need what you do? (I refuse to use that old chestnut "target audience.") Snappy headlines and snazzy graphics are all sizzle and no steak without that backbone of excellence. You can fool people into a purchase, but you can't fool anyone into being a customer, let alone one who becomes your champion.

Everything you put out there has to have heart. It has to be real. It has to relay that this is not business as usual, this is humans being exceptional to one another. That doesn't mean it has to be sappy and sentimental, just the opposite, in fact. "Real" can be sober, touching, tongue-in-cheek, whimsical, or downright hilarious. It just has to be honest, excellent and passionate. That's all--just everything.

Big bucks brand advertising will not substitute for being true to your customers in every sense of the word.

So, think about this:
  • What makes what my company does different, and how can we be better?
  • How does we help people live better lives?
  • Do we have stories I can tell that communicate the real truth of the heart of my business?
  • Are we willing to be different from ourcompetition, not just to break through the clutter, but to deliver the best to our customers?
  • Are we willing to stand out from the crowd and take the risk of not being everything to everybody? (A losing proposition any way you cut it.)
  • Do we listen carefully to our customers/clients/users?
  • Are our communications worthy of the heart and soul we've put into the business?
These are all things we ask our clients to think about before we put pen to paper. That's because we've asked those things of ourselves, and to do justice and do well, we have to deliver excellence with passion. Can't do that without getting to know our clients' businesses, attitudes and realities through and through. I wonder why anyone would ever want to settle for anything less?