Minneapolis is home, which means I am used to 40-degree temps in April. I am still enjoying the comfort of flannel sheets and wearing closed toe shoes. The thought of “swimsuit season” makes me shutter. But just 4 short days from now I’ll be in Miami for FUSE. Delta Airlines will safely deliver me to the right coast where I will be greeted by palm trees and 80-degree goodness. This is change with which I can deal.
Change. It’s something we all face in everyday life. Taking a look at my daily calendar quickly informs me of logistical differences from yesterday to today. Perhaps I change a breakfast selection or my commute route. I’ll certainly change my clothes. Then there are unexpected forces that thrust change upon us willy-nilly. Inclement weather challenges an outdoor wedding that’s been planned for a lifetime, a fender-bender on the way to work, or the dreaded and unexpected diagnosis of the Big C. Wow, this just became depressing. Shift gears. There are certainly positive and unexpected life-changing events like winning the lottery. Which reminds me, I need to buy a ticket.
In short, shit happens. Cheese gets moved. Just as we deal with change in our personal lives, business and brand leaders have to adapt and overcome as the world changes at a feverish pace. As 21st century human beings, you’d think we would be more accepting of change. After all, we have evolved. We are survivors. We live in a competitive culture and society. However, human beings are naturally averse to change. This doesn’t mean we’re stodgy sticks-in-the-mud. We just find natural comfort in knowing what to expect. So when businesses and brands face change, it’s natural to feel some trepidation.
Much of the work we do at Capsule focuses on helping brands from all over the world manage change. Our clients understand their brands are assets. And all assets need to be maintained and nurtured for them to thrive and grow in value. Businesses that invest in purpose-driven change will thrive. Businesses that don’t invest in their brands will whither and die. Or at least languish until someone wakes up and says, “Hey, our competitors are kicking our ass. We haven’t updated our logo since 1985. When was the last time we talked to our customers? Who is steering this ship!?”
When Captain Stubbing finally wakes up and realizes the ship is taking on water, it’s time for purpose-driven change.
1. Commit to the investment.
Bring your leadership team together for a heart-to-heart. Everyone needs to be on board and committed to the effort. The business of updating a brand and setting course for the future is not the job of the beauty department. This effort needs to be at the center of your business strategy. Gather leaders from across your organization including the CEO, sales, manufacturing, customer service, human resources, etc. Don’t exclude the CFO thinking she is only interested in the bottom line. That’s exactly the point of this effort. Invest now; you’ll reap the rewards. This is a moment in time when you have the opportunity to commit to the future of your brand.
2. Talk to your audiences.
Brands are built on perception and reality. Do you know how your various audiences feel about you? If you ask, they’ll tell you. Valuable insights can be gathered through a variety of research methodologies. Yes, you’re going to pay a third party to engage your customers in quality conversations. People like to be asked their opinions. Trust me, you’ll uncover perceptions and reality that will provide all the motivation you need to continue this effort.
3. Conduct a comprehensive brand audit.
Certainly, speaking with your audiences is part of a brand audit. But in addition to the externally focused research, it’s important to assess your visual and written language. What tools and tactics have you used in the past to communicate with your audiences? Are you using consistent language and imagery? Is there a plan supporting your communications strategy?
4. Assess the competition.
You know who your primary and secondary competitors are, right? Well, thanks to the interwebs, it’s really easy to check in on them. What are they talking about? What’s new? We don’t look at our competitors to replicate what they’re doing. We assess the competition to identify ways we can differentiate. And finally, don’t ignore those crazy tertiary competitors. Remember, Uber and Airbnb came from nowhere. Category disruptors strike when we least expect.
5. Design the conversation.
With all this new information and insight, you can effectively design the conversation you want to have with your audiences. With purpose, create your brand story, key messaging (appropriate for each different audience type), brand mark and visual language. Design moments of engagement considering the various places in time and space your brand interacts with your audiences. Consider the five senses and use them whenever possible. (Sticking with the sinking ship metaphor, I’ll just note that this one measly paragraph mention of designed moments is just the tip of the iceberg. Designing moments is a massive topic and one we write on frequently. More on this topic in a future blog post.)
This coming week at FUSE, we will hear from brands that understand the importance of investing in regular brand maintenance and designing the conversation. They are leaders not only in their respective categories but also in the discipline of managing change. I’m sure if you spoke personally with these leaders they would all admit to experiencing trepidation from time to time. But they’d all agree change is necessary, exhilarating and purposeful.
Well, with this blog post complete and only 4 days until FUSE begins, I have one last important task to complete. It’s not rocket-science and it certainly isn’t life or death for a high-asset value brand. Simply, I must change the color of my toes. You see, my hope is that I can take a signature “Mauro’s Shoes” photo with the Italian shoe fashionisto and Pepsi’s Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini. And since it is Miami, it must be open toes. If I achieve this goal, I’ll be sure to post a photo.
See you all in Miami!