I see it all around me: Behaviors and actions, misaligned with need; exceptional executions with the wrong strategy, companies focused like a laser on customers — when their internal brand needs work. I see whole organizations, semi-lost, on auto-pilot or even drifting off course, refusing to ask the tough questions about relevance, preferring to execute something — anything — as opposed to challenging the convention, understanding changing markets and realizing the actual opportunity, the true need.
* * *
I recently had an awakening. It’s something that I’ve mostly kept out of sight from the professionals that I work with daily and the client managers I am so thankful to know. I compartmentalized — bifurcated between a deep, heartfelt suffering and my work. Whether it was out of professionalism or not, I remained private about a painful emotional loss that ultimately served as the perfect catalyst to awaken and prod me into asking some hard questions. In the words of the band, Fun, “What do I stand for?”
We all sleep, and I’m not referring to nocturnal rest. Organizational brands sleep, professionals in them sleep. . . people sleep in their own personal lives all the time. We execute appropriately as we always have, as we believe to be the accepted course of behaviors and actions. But could we do better, if challenged?
I meet each week with existing and prospective clients about their brands and mostly, unless that obligatory “triennial” initiative has been handed down, the answer is resoundingly, “We’re not interested in reviewing our brand strategy. We have no plans to challenge our current marketing.”
They might as well just tell me that they aren’t interested in performing any better than they are.
An awakening is just fodder for a Blog or an entertaining film until you go through the transformation and truly open yourself to embrace personal change. I know. Over 19 years of managing IridiumGroup, it would have been difficult to bring an A-level of self-awareness and market-analysis to bear on a daily level. I drifted, sometimes for whole months. Organizations do the very same thing. The only misfortune is when they cannot see what they could become.
I once led an enterprise-wide rebranding initiative for a global organization with nearly 1.5 million members. We had a vision and saw the opportunities and fortunately, the client team was open and willing to listen. Change is hard, but I sensed something special developing. Within 2-3 years, that organization had transformed and invigorated its image holistically and dramatically. The effect reverberated internally and externally. Donations increased significantly and everyone associated with the brand had a renewed sense of purpose. We all felt part of a special community, lucky to be able to contribute to this unique organization, and there was absolutely nothing fake about what transpired.
* * *
I love the story of how pearls are made. The formation of the pearl begins with a foreign substance slipping into the oyster between the mantle and the shell, which irritates the mantle. It’s akin to the oyster getting a splinter. The natural reaction by the oyster is to protect itself, so the mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same substance that is used to create the shell. This eventually forms a pearl.
Is change easy? Of course not. It’s scary and it’s hard work. I’m thankful for that disruption in my life that made me ask even a few difficult questions. Am I the leader that I could be to my family, my company, and my clients? Have I always invested my full attention? Have I challenged myself and others to perform better? To the best of my ability, have I built a winning stage for the professionals I employ? Finally, at 51, have I been an appropriate representation of the Iridium brand? Have I always comported myself as well as I could? Have I honored myself, truly committed myself to excellence — not only in my career, but also personally?
I’m rolling along and feeling confident these days. I know that I’m grounded, working hard again and dedicated for all the right reasons, to the right purpose and mission. Personally, I’ve hired a trainer and I work out daily. I’m trying to learn about things I was always curious about, and I’m not beating myself up for sleepwalking, just as I’m not congratulating myself for sustaining my life and operations through a difficult period in my life. We all go through it sometimes.
For any organization or professional, any person who would dare to challenge themselves to do better, to ask the hard questions, an awakening is truly an amazing thing.
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 10th, 2013 at 4:00 pm and is filed under Advertising, Brand Identity, Brand Image, Business, Customer Experience, Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.