Brand Building Requires Courage


After working on a number of branding exercises over the years, I’ve noticed the same issue surfaces time and time again.

Intellectually, executives recognize the challenge of differentiating their companies and brands in today’s noisy world.

Yet, these same executives gravitate toward approaches to branding that are similar (if not the same) to what everyone else is doing, a recipe for blending in, not differentiation.

In watching this dynamic play out, it always comes down to the same emotional component:

They perceive safety in sameness.

They worry that the marketplace won’t like it.

They worry that their spouses won’t like it.

Nothing scares the bejeezus out of an executive like the possibility of looking foolish.

Sue Kim, who opened our office in Seoul, Korea and now heads up global comms for IDT, taught me a wonderful Korean phrase years ago:

모단돌이 정맞는다

Loosely translated, it means, “The nail that stands out gets hammered.”

For executives, fresh ideas that make a brand stand out can be terrifying.

In such scenarios, there will absolutely be people who don’t like it and even a subset who ridicule it.

That’s why executive courage, particularly from those in B2B companies who often have little experience in this area, can go a long way toward determining the success of a branding campaign.

That’s what happens when you foist different thinking on others.

Just look at Albert Einstein who’s life was pretty much a train wreck until he hit 30. Eventually, his genius won people over.

Even the people who express negative views can be “wins.” At least they’re paying attention.

Of course, this assumes the company’s behavior and actions – the core of any brand – will eventually move these views to the positive quadrant.


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