While at breakfast with some new friends this past week, I happened to once again relay the tale of the six blind men of Hindustan, a famous Indian folk tale. In it, six blind men use their sense of touch to “see” an elephant. I was using the story to illustrate how different people experience brands in different ways and how it’s important to craft brand strategies that will address all those points of view. One of the people at the table very kindly complimented me on the metaphor. And that inspired me to notice that it’s been two and half years since we discussed brand constituencies in this blog. Time to rectify that now. Our tale begins in ancient India …
A few weeks ago, I wrote about charting a course to brand performance. To completely torture that maritime metaphor, when your brand is performing well, it’s like having your boat perfectly outfitted and your course plotted. At this point, your brand should be working efficiently for you. But where are you going? Most owners and managers of small and middle-market buildings have no idea. They point their vessels, imprecisely, toward “success” or “increased sales”. But that’s just like steering toward the horizon. A business needs a more specific goal. And, luckily, one of the benefits of constructing a brand strategy is that the goal becomes immediately apparent. Once you have assessed your products and services, matched up to your market’s values, assessed your storytelling capabilities and surveyed your competition’s positioning, you’ll see a rich goal that is readily available to you. And you’ll have plotted a course to it, one that neatly sails past shallow water and treacherous rocks.
I was in Paris once and ran into a family of American tourists. They had just arrived that very day and were tired, stressed and hungry from their travels. They asked me if I knew anywhere good to eat. First of all, this was Paris. There’s good food everywhere. Serving a bad meal in France is practically a capital offense. But this family was really in luck because I knew just the place. “Yes!” I was happy to help, “I happen to know a fantastic little bistro right around the corner from here. Ask for Marcel. He speaks English. He’ll take good care of you.” But all I got from them were blank stares. Then the mom explained they were hoping for a restaurant more like from home – something like McDonalds. Such is the power of branding that Micky-D’s was their top choice in a city world famous for its spectacular gastronomy. After parting, I felt sorry for this family. I kept thinking of them as missing out on a wonderful life experience, sampling Parisian cuisine. And I started wondering how McDonalds does it. How does their brand wield such power so far from home? But of course I knew the answer because for one week of my life McDonalds held that kind of sway over me, and it was when I was traveling.
The stock market has been a little volatile over the last week. Hopefully, it will settle into a healthy market correction. Two years ago, I wrote about the importance of investing in your brand before the next market crash. I’m not predicting anything dire is about to happen this month or anything. And I don’t want to contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, traditionally, we experience an economic turndown every ten years of so. By that reckoning, we’re about due. It’s not a subject I dwell on but I was reminded about it when I read this recent Forbes article. Readers should rely on professional financial advisors to make their business and investment decisions. But we have had ten years of robust economic growth. Now the Fed is starting to tap the brakes, which is probably a good thing. But who know what effect our new trade wars will have once those dominoes begin to fall? Just sayin’. So now’s the time for small and middle-market businesses to ask, “What, beside price, will bond our customers to us once everyone starts to feel the pinch?”
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