My mother taught me quite a bit about life, relationships and parenting. Inadvertently, she also taught me about branding. In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share three life lessons my mother taught me and how they serve as three pillars to successful branding.
Mother’s Tip #1: Build a tidy strategy to get a tidy brand.
My mother is a neat person. She enjoys order and cleanliness. I was chaos and mess. I was distracted, creative and intermittently focused. Since I was child, she would require us to clean our rooms before we began our homework, especially our desks. She felt if our environment was in order, our work would be in order as well. She’d drill into us, “A tidy room leads to a tidy mind.” To this day, before I work on my dissertation or a report for a client, I have to clear and organize not only my desk but everything in my office.
The same hold true for brands. But rather than a room or desk, a tidy strategy makes for a tidy brand. Too often, brands are built on half-baked ideas, weak insights and an attempt to make meaning out of a chaos of tactics. They lead to innovations that have no relevance to the brand. Remember when ‘Cosmopolitan’ magazine made yogurt? Exactly. When you begin with a well-organized, tightly drafted brand strategy, you will produce a well-executed brand.
Mother’s Tip #2: Brand for your customers, not your competitors.
My friend Jeff grew up in a different household than my own. He had a later bedtime and seemingly less rules. He did things I was not allowed to do. And when I would complain to my mother about these injustices (in the mind of a 10-year-old), she would remind me that she is not Jeff’s mother. She is my mother and mine alone. So what Jeff was or was not allowed to do did not affect what I was or was not allowed to do. We were different families with our own set of values, principals and freedoms. We were the Alomas. They were not.
Many brands are built on what I call a ‘Monkey-See Strategy’. What they see other brands do, they decide they should do, too. Remember McDowell’s from Coming to America? Unfortunately, this strategy will only lead to second-best status and a weak set of connections between the brand and its customers. Brand managers should always remember that they are not that other brand’s mother. While it is important and valuable to assess what the environment is up to and the context into which a brand will launch, branding is about building authentic, unique relationships with customers. Regardless of what a brand’s competitors are doing, how much fun it seems, or how much it appears to profit, build a brand that is guided by the organization’s values, capabilities and culture.
Mother’s Tip #3: Marketing plans brands. Organizations build them.
As a child, I was taught manners. I don’t mean in passing as part of every day life. We were taught manners like a lesson along with etiquette, silverware placement, and how to address adults. When I would question why we needed to know these things, my mother would remind us that everyone judges you. And as a child, they inevitably judge the parent. So how I behaved reflected not just on me, but on my parents and a my entire family. This shifted the motivation behind my behavior in public to be about the family’s reputation as well as my own.
Your brands operate in the same way. While much of it exists within the marketing department, how your accounting team, delivery people, and front line employees behave reflects on you and your brand. While customers may interact with just one person in your company, they use the experience to make judgements and build a perception of the entire organization. Remind your organization that every corner of the organization reflects the brand. It may just make them even prouder of where they work.
So, while my mother was just attempting to raise a good person, I think she also raised a brand strategist. And for that, and all the many lessons she taught me through my life, I say thanks, Mum, and Happy Mother’s Day.
Do you have a story to share about your mother and the lessons you learned that you still use today? Let me know in the comments or send me a note.
And if you want to chat about how to build a brand even your mother would be proud of, let’s chat. But call your mother first, she wants to hear from you.