In 1829, George Stephenson created the first locomotive. It was about to revolutionise travel in the UK. At the time, some feared that the speed of Stephenson’s “rocket” would be harmful – even fatal – to people’s health. How fast could it go?
We’ve always had a fear of speed, not least in the decision-making process. Snap decisions are frowned upon and seen as reckless, which can often lead to a general reluctance to deciding things at pace. “Let me have a think about it”. “Can I get back to you?”. “Leave it with me.”
This hesitation around fast decisions, I’d assume, stems from the anxiety around not being able to change things at a later date. There’s some truth to this, especially in the digital/social media age. Once it’s out there, it’s out there and things can’t be taken back. But fast decisions produce action, prevent distraction, create momentum and keep things moving forward.
In David Hieatt’s book “DO/Purpose” he says:
“If you want to achieve amazing things quickly, set yourself tough, almost impossible deadlines.”
Spending twice the amount of time making the decision or completing the task won’t make it twice as good. If you keep on your toes, you can stay nimble, learn and adapt at a later date if your decision wasn’t quite right first time around. But indecision isn’t the antidote to poor decisions.
You can’t build a brand out of theory alone – it requires action to get ideas out of your head and into the world. Make stuff happen. Fast.
Over the last week, I’ve been thinking through a few problems related to a couple of projects I’m working on. It’s surprising how often my ideas on potential solutions have changed.
My first reaction to almost any complex problem is usually to be a revolutionary. Everything is broken. Let’s start again. I must implement change.
I don’t think I’m alone in that knee-jerk reaction, but often it’s misguided. The urge to blame the hand you’ve been dealt and wish for better cards is strong. It’s also an easy escape. More often than not the cards you’ve already got are more than adequate. You’ve just got to play them right.
If you’re looking at your business and wondering how you’re going to forge a strong brand out of what seems like a mess, or far too boring, or ill-thought-out – resit the urge to start again. Start by thinking long and hard about the truths of that mess – the indisputable facts – and then start to piece it together in a way that means something more.
Here’s where my thinking lies at the moment: carefully-considered evolution often produces better results than all-out revolution. No doubt it will change again.
If I were to try and get you to sign up for a paid subscription service where you’d get regular, exclusive and high-value content, all written by me, you almost certainly wouldn’t. Why? Because I haven’t earned your trust – not least because I haven’t posted in over two weeks.*
I haven’t built a solid track record of consistent delivery for any of you to trust that your monthly subscription would be worth it.
Within the last couple of years, my mum has taken up running. Having never done much before, she has persisted in getting out and putting in the miles on a regular basis, and lo’ and behold she’s got herself up to a very respectable standard.
I think she enjoys it now, but she’ll tell you that when she started it was a slog:
“If I only went when I felt like it, I’d never have gone. I had to tell myself that it’s just something I do, not because I feel like it, but because it’s what I do now.”
The people we admire most are those who, come rain or shine, are consistent. They are consistently productive, or polite, or principled, no matter what they’re faced with. It’s that level of consistency that builds admiration and trust.
It’s not just about consistently showing up, but consistently being consistent in how you show up.
How can you show your audience that they can trust you and your brand?
*Somewhat ironically, the last post I wrote was about ‘showing up early and consistently’ in order to build that trust…
Everyone knows the saying.
Trust is earned, not given.
This is true. But how exactly do you earn trust?
The most obvious way is by sticking to your promises. Say you’ll do something? Do it. Say you have a set of principles? Stick to them. Say something is important to you? Prove it.
I’ve talked about this and how it relates to brands before.
But there’s another way brands can earn the trust of their customers – by consistently showing up before they’re required. That is, doing the right thing day in and day out, before you’re called upon to do so by any increased exposure or notoriety.
Whether that’s a commitment to every last detail in the quality of your product, the reliability of your content output, or the way you treat your staff, suppliers or customers right from the off. Your consistency and willingness to ‘show up’ even when no-one else is watching, counts for an awful lot down the line when it comes to earning the trust of those you hope will pay your bills, and someone just happens to notice.
It doesn’t really matter how. What matters is that you did it consistently – and continue to do so – not because it’s looks good, but because it’s important to you.
People can trust that.
Not my best, but I’m here. Showing up. And I’ll be back, hopefully, with something better.
Thanks, as is so often the case, to Seth Godin for the inspiration on this on.
The other day I read something in the brand and marketing Twittersphere that went something like this:
“The only people who care about brands are the people who work on them – no-one else gives a shit. If a brand disappears, the world will just go on as normal.”
There is an element of truth to this. It’s always easy to overstate the importance in global terms of something you happen to have a particular interest in. It happens all the time in politics, sport, universities, and places of work all over the world.
But I’m not sure I agree with the thought entirely.
Most people don’t care about most things, that’s just the way it works. But isn’t the point of creating a brand to at least try and overcome that? To matter to someone? To have achieved a level of important those who *are* interested in your particular field?
If you’ve done it properly, someone should miss you if you ceased to exist – even if everyone else ‘goes on as normal’.
Your aim isn’t to get everyone to ‘give a shit’, but just the right amount of people to make a real impact.
Apple. McDonald’s. Tesla. Nike. Netflix. Amazon.
All these names mean something. They’re recognisable. They spark immediate images in the mind, be it the logo or an idea of what they stand for. If these brands had been founded under a different name, would they be as successful?
Of course they would.
These particular examples obviously have one thing in common: their names are short, snappy and memorable. This obviously helps, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that they wouldn’t be who they are if they’d picked something else.
If for some reason your brand isn’t hitting the mark, the first place to start is with your strategy and execution. Is your messaging right? Is it differentiating? Do the actions of your business support your words? Are you providing the solution to a problem that needs solving?
If you can do these things it doesn’t really matter what you’re called. You’re going to do alright.
Of course a great name will always help you out – things that are clever, easy to say or a doddle to remember will always give you the slight upper hand. But, thinking your brand name is the problem is you looking for an excuse, and creating a extra hurdle before you can tackle the important stuff. Focus on you’re brand’s behaviour. If yours good enough, people will learn to remember your name.
Sorry I’ve been away! I’ve been a bit under the weather the last week so this has been more a ‘sort of’ than a ‘daily’ blog. I promise to try and make up for lost time.
In football, it’s well known that a manager’s philosophy has a big impact on the success of a team.
Asking a team of individuals to pull on the same coloured jersey and just ‘go play football’ without any direction – an idea of how, why or what’s expected of them – rarely works.
This past season, Liverpool and Manchester City were the embodiment of teams that all gathered round a single footballing ideology and went on to dominate, while gaining mass recognition for the way they played.
From performance on the pitch, to transfer strategy, the training ground and commercial teams, the best football clubs create a culture around a single unifying idea. Everyone inside knows what it is, everyone knows how they fit in and what they have to do. It just works.
Why is business any different? What’s your single unifying idea?