Finding your North – Branding in a Confused World

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In this chaotic world, we are besieged by information and multi-channel communications. Every day there is a new digital device, platform or social network being created.  And, there could be a crisis lurking behind any corporate communication, commercial launch, customer comment, much less complaint.  As a result, business leaders and brands can easily be led astray.  Intelligent business leaders and consultants invoke the need for focus.  And, focus is certainly important to optimize resource allocation.  The bigger question, though, is why a certain area deserves the focus.  This is an integral part of a process that I like to call: “finding your north*.”  I believe that answering the question why is absolutely strategic.  If the answer is always about “making more sales and/or profits,” I would argue that longevity is at risk.

Finding your North – a brand’s compass through chaos

With the extraordinary number of choices and exogenous events that come across one’s desk as a business leader, it can be very challenging to stay on track.  But, what track are we talking about?  The ratrace track, where sequential quarterly numbers must be hit to assuage shareholder pressures?  Not for a lack of intelligence, but most leaders have only a general sense of their northerly direction.  Statements like “we want to grow our client base to achieve x% growth this year” are bereft of purpose other than a thirst for greater revenues.  The general direction includes a host of strategic initiatives and priorities.  Each unto themselves might be justifiable.  However, at the end of the day, a lot of activity is made, a lot of ground is covered; but, there is not as much progress forward as desired.  Diagnosis: the northerly setting is too broad.

Find your north, the myndset digital marketing brand strategy

A true North setting goes well beyond the current CEO’s mandate.  The North direction speaks to the brand’s legacy, not to the CEO’s.  The North setting places the growth of the company at the service of some greater good.  It’s not about what the company sells, but establishing why the company exists.  The definition of one’s North must be refined, such that each activity makes sense and channels directly into the northerly setting.  The great thing about defining one’s North with greater clarity and precision is that each activity gives energy back, as opposed to merely extracting energy and resources.  The brand and its employees are inhabited by the cause and are clear on the reason.

Finding your North, The Myndset digital marketing brand strategy

Here are the top 4 reasons why I believe that finding your North — your true purpose or mission — is so important.

1/ Long-term value

A large part of the durable value of a brand name, its profitability and, ultimately, the share price valuation will be intimately related to the larger purpose of a brand.  For what reason are we in business?  Coke: Enjoy.  Apple: Think Different.  Google: Universally useful.  IBM: A smarter planet.  How that mission is made a de facto reality for employees, customers and the broader stakeholders is where the value is created.  {Click to Tweet}  In other words, trust and value is created when we do what we say.  {Go ahead tweet this!}

2/ Content strategy

5E's of new marketing myndset, digital marketing 5eCommerceIn a Googlific world, content is king.  Why is content so important?  Because, over the years, consumers and employees have gained a high level of mistrust of corporations and marketing messages; and good content provides a foundational layer of trust.  Content that is genuinely helpful, for example, is going to be given more attention, more value in the eye of the beholder.  Content that relates to more essential considerations — that resonates on a human level and is relevant to the audience — will garner greater engagement.  In sum, great content is loaded with the 5E’s: emotion, exchange, engagement, experience and essence.  {Click to Tweet}

3/ “Social” media

With so much attention given to social media, it is very hard for a business to ignore this channel — even in circles such as private banking, luxury jewelry or airplane manufacturers.  Yet, most brands are not finding great success in their social media marketing efforts.  The challenge is finding a social voice that resonates over time with the audience.  As my friend Jeremy Waite among others tenders, we should no longer be concerned with social media marketing, but with becoming a social business.  At the core of a truly social business is the reason why we exist.

4/ Employee engagement

Lastly, and not least, is the need to give employees that extra boost.  The energy where the smile is genuine, the step a little faster and the urge a little greater.  Every company looks for ways to motivate its troops.  Carrots, coercion, cheering, competition, compensation…  But, the enduring and most profound motivation comes when you believe that what you are doing serves a stronger need, a higher purpose.  {Click to Tweet}  Innovation to make shareholders wealthy is a hard sell down the line.  Moreover, in this digitally enabled environment, where keyboards, telephones and storefronts must yet be manned, customer service and customer delight passes through an individual’s hands.

So, the issue is finding focus, yes; but, making sure that the purpose is well and truly defined.

In an abstract testament to the power of knowing where your North is, I found this charming fox an inspiring contributor!

Your thoughts and reactions are, as ever, welcome!

*As a certified NEWS coach, created by the brilliant Aviad Goz, I wanted to translate the concept of a creating a personal compass and apply it to a brand.  To the extent that I have always said branding gets personal,  it only makes sense that a brand can be treated as a personality and its prescription be essentially human.

  • frederic abella

    Excellent :-)

    Of course, the value part reminds me Simon Sinek and his golden circle.

    In my opinion, as everyone is a media (7 billions medias), a company doesn’t control anymore its communication. Multiply it by the possible contactpoints and the good or bad experience an individual may have and his capacity to (social media) share it and you go beyond control process.
    The only way to ensure the experience matches the brand message is to share a strong value (the North) to guide the employee and the fans, as you mention it “The brand and its employees are inhabited by the cause and are clear on the reason”.

    This may create a “virtuous spiral” and value the happiness of employees as they will be better at acting according to the value even in unexpected occasions.

    Frédéric

    • http://themyndset.com/ Minter Dial

      Simon Sinek is all about the “why”! Part of the process is inevitably cutting out activities and making some tough choices that can end up alienating / distancing some. And that’s probably a good thing. One can’t please everyone! Once the core group is tightly aligned, as you say, the virtuous spiral is set go build …!

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