The Hard Brand Vs. The Deep Brand

During a lunch conversation with an expert in brand and marketing strategy, the conversation drifted to different ways to go about brand management. More specifically, the discussion was the different ways companies can go about rebranding, or as I call it evolving a brand. 

First, there’s the hard way. 

These are brands that update the exterior of their brand, focusing on the look, feel, and overall visual expression. Usually, the company does this in response to market conditions, economic forces, or threats from the competition, because they feel the need to refresh how they’re perceived by the outside world. For the most part, this is a hack, and most hacks don’t work.

For the hard way brands, the pressure is always on: market conditions, the necessity of short-term profits, employee engagement, new customers being beckoned by competing brands, customers be lured away by the competition or apathy. It’s a juggling act of piecemeal metrics. The choice to constantly react to these pressures is real and never-ending.

It’s hard to chase customers.

It’s hard to constantly drive for short-term profit.

It’s hard to engage employees who aren’t clear what your company stands for and how that aligns with their values.

Brands who make these choices are on a constant treadmill for more and harder work. This way takes a massive amount of money and energy, and if you play this game the work is never done.

Then, there’s the deep way.

Other brands respond to the call of enoughness through a confident guidance system that goes deep and long. In this way, a branded business makes decisions on what to do and how to do it based on the confidence that comes from your organization’s deeply held beliefs. It mines a deeply held purpose, promise, and core value set that defines the short- and long-term actions. Branded businesses who choose this way make their own rules, set their own metrics, and have their own guidance system. They tend to be the companies who chart a 100-year vision and will be around in 100 years to talk about their next 100 years. 

Self-confident brands (not to be confused with bravado) surprise us when they hit the marketplace. They stand out among the sea of noise because they build value on the path to delighting customers—making a real difference in the world of their customers. Their competitors are envious of them and end up trying to emulate or outright copy them, which deepens their hard way treadmill. And, you won’t be surprised that these evolved brands are led by self-awareleaders who are driven to create deep customer value.

  • Instead of playing the short-term game, why not craft a 100-year vision plan?
  • Instead of working to constantly respond to things that are out of your control, what if you doubled-down on the decisions that are completely in your control?
  • Instead of being the crowd-pleaser, why not commit to serving a greater purpose that truly delights your most valued customers?

But if all a brand does is the constant hard work to maximize the short term, you’re going to meet a breaking point. Because the business of running a business is not a short-term proposition. Whichever way you choose to run your branded business is the game you’ve chosen to play—only one of them is in your control.

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