by Kelly Hobkirk
The branding process is many things to many people. To us, it’s about defining your visual identity, verbal tone, and action character. That last one, branding actions, is perhaps the most difficult to understand because it can be hard to see what we’re talking about until you see an example of it. That’s what this post is about—understanding how your actions define your brand, and how we can help you refine and change actions to provide greater connection.
Word to the wise: This is not easy work. It’s hard work, particularly because it requires a great deal of openness and objectivity. The benefits, however, are well worth the efforts.
I’m not going to mince words here. This work is so hard that it tends to offend one’s pride in their accomplishments. It challenges long-held beliefs, requires a degree of introspection, challenges the concept of what is possible, and asks you to do the one thing that is hardest for most human beings: change.
People and companies most often seek to rebrand themselves after they have either seen great success then watched it dwindle, or they tried branding themselves and watched it fail in an overall sense. In either case, business is suffering, and they need to turn it around before revenue falls any further.
Since this post is focusing on branding actions, we’ll consider that we have already redesigned the visual identity and rewritten the verbal messages and tone.
How do you brand actions? What do we even mean by that? I’ll illustrate a few simple examples below.
Imagine that you have brought in thousands of customers and made many millions of dollars for your efforts. The normal human response to this is to take pride in your accomplishment, and to develop an increasing sense of pride in your offering, because it is obviously valuable to quite a lot of people. But there’s a problem with this, because your offering is essentially the same as when you started, only you may not be as hungry after achieving great success. Instead of appealing to people with a ‘can-do’ attitude, you shift to a ‘will-do’ attitude, which is inherently very different. ‘Can-do’ is humble, but ‘Will-do’ is not humble in the least (it’s boastful). Meanwhile your smaller, younger competitors have filled the ‘can-do’ attitude gap that your success left open, and they are nipping at your heels. This subtle shift in action undermines your brand’s success, and little by little it shows up in eroding sales.
You hand out a business card or tell people your website address in one breath, while apologizing for the state of it in the next. “This is just a temporary,” or “This is old, but we’re working on a much better one,” or even “It’s not very good.” How many times have you heard (or even made) these types of statements? They are in essence apologies for who you are, the character you show with your actions.
Cultivating just the right balance of knowledge and pride for your customer service team is a difficult, ongoing task. Once you achieve success or dominate your market, it’s easy to lose objectivity. Or say you hire someone new and don’t teach them how you got where you are, instead only imparting knowledge of where you are now. Their actions in representing what they know of your brand – the things they say and how they interact with customers in person and on the phone – can be severely undermined without you even knowing it. When your company’s actions have been slightly off the mark for a while, the trajectory can be far off of center by the time you discover it. The way back to excellent connection with customers is by changing your actions.
All of the above actions undermine connection. Changing them is as simple as starting the work of implementing something better, objective, and true.
Branding action is about recognizing beliefs and problems, defining new actions that align with your brand and client needs, documenting them in compelling ways that will actually be read and accepted, and reteaching yourself and your team. Most times, you can’t simply go back to where you began because the reality of now is different from when you started. Instead, you have to find the sweet spot in between that represents who you truly are. The key to that effort’s success is in trusting the people who are helping you change.