Monthly Archives: January 2015

Chasing Tales

dog-chasing-tailLast year a friend of mine in DC went to work for the federal government after spending his previous career working in the private sector. A month or so after the switch he came to me saying, “You know people have got these guys all wrong, folks here work really hard.” I did not doubt the veracity of his statement. I know a lot of hard working government folk. (Yes Honey, I mean you too.) Recently we crossed paths again and he was rather despondent. He was dismayed how much time people in his division spent chasing rabbits down holes and how easy things were made difficult by “the system.”

(It’s worth taking a moment to say I hear this kind of story all-too-often in for-profit organizations also.)

I reminded him of his “people here work really hard comment” and said, “Remember, your dog is working really hard when he’s chasing his tail.” (And “Chip,” the Labrador in question, really does work hard! He is focused, resolute and even occasionally catches his tail…)

Something that is an output of our brand creation process is an “Observations and Recommendations” document. It often truly surprises clients what a fresh (and experienced) set of eyeballs (and a confidential set of ears) can learn about their organizations. Sometimes relatively easy things to change are having truly deleterious effect on morale or perceptions of the organization both inside and outside. But you can’t fix the things you don’t know about. You, chasing your peoples “tales” can, with proper analysis, stop them from continually chasing their own “tails”…

Because, if you don’t address these issues, it limits the brand promise you can make, or the kind of effective advertising you can do down the road. Not to mention the cost in employee morale.

One of my favourite quotes is by Basil King who said, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” Of course if one is going to act boldly it would be a good idea to be wise in the selected direction of all this boldness… The good news is that all the information you need for that wise decision is out there. In your head. In your staff’s heads. In your customers. If you ask them correctly or more importantly listen to them correctly they’d love to tell you.

It’s the difference between going bold, and getting bowled-over.

— Simon Dixon

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Flossed in Translation

HiRes_flossingLast week, I was talking to a good friend who is the Director of Marketing for a startup. His CEO had been talking about their positioning in relation to how easily their publishing product “got stuff out on the net.” However, my perspective was that my 11-year old son is great at getting things “out on the net” – it’s rather simple these days. I suggested that they instead highlight their skills at getting their clients’ slice of the ever-burgeoning internet morass actually noticed and consumed by the people they are seeking to communicate with.

Especially after you remind them, clients are (should be) much more interested in how many people actually interact with their messaging than how wide they happen to disperse it. Buying uninterested and incompatible eyeballs is not a good use of anyone’s media dollars.

Reminiscent of the old adage, “floss only the teeth you want to keep” – chase only the potential customers that make sense to you and you to them.

I have a quip that I often say to clients, paraphrased from something Pastor Britt Merrick said: “People don’t care who you are, they care what they are in you.”  Which is to say, “I don’t care who you or your company or product are, I care why my life will be better if I let you in it.”

And that should be the progression of your marketing conversation. I was chatting with a non-profit recently that could not figure out why they got people all excited and got initial donations but then had a terrible time with retention. The answer, I explained, was that they had not gotten donors passionate and excited about their organization; they had only gotten them passionate and excited about the issue they served. The non-profit had done a tremendous job of branding the problem but they had done a terrible job of branding themselves as the solution. So their donor base was very ripe picking for a non-profit working in the same space that was doing a better job of making their brand outcome-focused as opposed to problem-focused.

If the “brand” of your organization is just a list of things you do, there is no passion and therefore no adhesion. It’s like comparing a dictionary to a novel. I love reading both but there is no such thing as a “can’t put down” dictionary. So if you insist on branding yourself as a list of attributes and a mission statement… well, on behalf of your competitors, thank you very much.

— Simon Dixon