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Business people are practical. They are reasonable people making reasonable decisions - and that's their problem. Begin with pragmatism and you kill the brand. A pragmatic point of view can be your worst enemy....


Following are five pragmatic questions often asked of any new idea. If you are building a new brand or re-imagining an old one, refrain from asking these questions upfront:
Question #1 .... "How will we do it?" There is no emotional energy inside many companies because they were seduced by this simple, seemingly innocent, question. You suppress other, more important, questions when you ask "how" too soon. Start by asking passion-generating questions like:

  • What makes this worth doing?

  • Is this something I want to do?

  • Is this something we ALL want to do?

What feels like a delay in action is an opportunity for the team to own the branding mission at a deep level. I've been in organizations that were "making great time, but going nowhere." Their brands were DOA in most cases.
Question #2 .... "How long will it take?" The speed of today's marketplace makes it tempting to go for a quick fix rather than crafting a brand for the long haul. Don't underestimate the time it takes to create and fully operationalize your brand ownership vision.
Question #3 .... "How much will it cost?" It's easy to rationalize brand-destructive actions: "We don't produce things we really believe in because it takes too long or it costs too much." Their brands become more infamous than famous.
Question #4 .... "How do we measure it?" Pragmatic efficiencies can kill brands before they have a chance to establish themselves. It drains the human "something else" from a product or service. Optimization cultures have a hard time holding off on this question - then they wonder why no one dares to innovate. Great brands often start with crazy ideas that are, initially, immeasurable.
Question #5 .... "How have others done it successfully?" Start out with this question and you'll look just like your competitors. Brands are not built on "better sameness." There are many brands stuck in the mediocre middle that began with the best practices of others.
Again, I'm not arguing against pragmatism - these are all valid questions. They just shouldn't initiate the brand creation process:
  • Determine what you want to do

  • Focus on how much time, effort and treasure you will commit to your vision

  • Put your humanity into it

  • Create your unique difference

There will be plenty of time to be practical once you know what you really want to do. Don't kill your brand with premature pragmatism -- give it a fighting chance.
NOTE: The ideas in this posting are mine. The inspiration comes from a wonderfully provocative book by Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Wagner

As founder and president of White Rabbit Group, Mike Wagner has focused his energies on creating a model of branding every business leader can grasp and apply to their organization: Brand Ownership.

Mike’s understanding of creative and competitive business cultures was formed at Franklin Covey and Saturn where he witnessed how brand critical standards resulted in exceptionally successful marketing and sales processes.

In the early days of Internet marketing, Mike was instrumental in leading a web development company into Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies. Helping clients make sense of e-business when others could not, his insight as an Internet business strategist won over clients that included Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group, AOL Time Warner publishing, and more.

Mike speaks, trains, and coaches clients across the nation. His messages and workshops help business leaders re-imagine their brands and creatively practice enterprise-wide brand ownership. He is the author of the professional business blog, Own Your Brand.