August 1st, 2014
Here’s the CEO distress signal I hear most frequently: My company doesn’t stand out from the competition. We’re just one of many, and it frustrates me.
This is a CEO actually admitting to a weak brand, without knowing it. Generally speaking, a company that doesn’t stand out from the competition is guilty of focusing on its product and describing it with generic jargon.
So, when I tell the CEO, in response, that he has a weak brand and ask when he wants to sharpen it, he invariably backpedals, dithers, and dilutes his just-expressed distress signal: “Let me think about it.” Let me think about it?
Think about this: Would you ever ignore the malfunctioning engine of your car, as you are ignoring the malfunctioning engine of your company, your brand?
That’s right: Your brand is your engine! Ignore its importance at your company’s peril.
People Are Tactical, Not Strategic
Recently, a friend was waiting in line at a lunch cafe, where she overheard two corporate executives, in utter exasperation, bemoaning their CEO’s astounding paucity of regard for and understanding of marketing. Having experienced this phenomenon, ad nauseam, my entire career, I welcomed her to my world.
There are four factors at play here, as in all of management:
If your newspaper ignites from a candle flame, urgency requires that you extinguish it ASAP. Neither newspaper nor candle is important. But, by ignoring the urgent fire, you’ll needlessly escalate unimportance to importance, thereby risking expensive damage.
In a tennis match, if you have no strategy for defeating your opponent — by capitalizing on your strengths and his weaknesses, compensating for his strengths and your weaknesses — you will spend the entire time on the court tactically hitting and returning balls, expecting an unlikely victory while exhausting yourself. I’ve seen businesses run this way!
If you ignore or delay the important and strategic branding process, it will become urgent, tactical, ineffectual, and expensive. Alas, this scenario is more the rule than the exception.
A few years ago, after witnessing this “rule” executed repeatedly, I concluded that most people are tactical, not strategic, and operate in the costly, inefficient, high-urgency mode. Consequently, I coined the following axiom:
“The price of panic greatly exceeds the price of preparation; alas, most people are willing to pay it.” — Marc Rudov
Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted
Typically, CEOs who don’t value marketing and branding either never have sold anything, face-to-face, on commission, or they once did but forgot how it’s done. In today’s indirect, detached, Millennial-driven world of unsocial networks, many CEOs think of customers as mere clicks! Numbers, myopically and imprudently, become the CEO’s primary obsession.
Real selling, like branding, is predicated on a deep knowledge of customer emotions and behaviors — which cannot be calculated on a spreadsheet.
For too many CEOs, that which doesn’t live on a spreadsheet doesn’t count: unmeasurable entities are beyond their comfort zones.
Is this true about you? If so, expand your comfort zone: Read my chapters on GutShare™ and comfort zones, respectively, in Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
Ironically, Albert Einstein, never memorialized as a branding expert, had a sign hanging in his Princeton office, stating: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Einstein, whose livelihood and fame derived from physics and mathematics, understood that much in life of great value cannot be quantified.
If you don’t recognize that your brand is your engine, and that it counts, you will not attach importance to it. When your company, therefore, disappears into the white noise of me-too competition, you will seek to make a high-urgency, panic-based repair of that engine. You also may, as the opening paragraph suggests, unwisely procrastinate.
Many years ago, I went skiing at Jay Peak, Vermont. It was too cold to ski — so cold that, one morning, my car’s radiator hose split on the way to the slopes. I stopped at a gas station, where the owner replaced the hose. Also, unbeknownst to me, he punctured my radiator with his screwdriver. After a wasteful day in the bar, I drove my passengers up the mountain and down the other side, en route to a village for dinner. It was a nerve-wracking voyage. Upon reaching the mountain’s crest, steam blasted from the underneath the hood, because of the puncture. I switched off the engine, to preserve anti-freeze, and coasted down the mountain bereft of power steering and power brakes. Because I had no engine, urgency and limited control ruled my day.
Let me paraphrase what I stated above: If ignored, the brand, your important and strategic engine, will become urgent, tactical, reactive — and costly. This is up to you.
Gravity helps only when you’re coasting from previous victories. If you don’t accept that your brand is your engine, that it drives every function of your company — from product development to manufacturing to human resources — your journey will be fraught with coasting, stalls, panic, and late arrivals. Branding is your #1 priority.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.