Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Decision Filters: A Brand Strategy for You and Your Organization

In his book Brand Simple, Landor brand strategist Allen Adamson points out one of the key benefits of a brand, both for manufacturers and consumers: They make our lives simpler.

This may seem simple, obvious and unimportant. But it is 100% true. And exciting or not, it is a truth that is extraordinarily profitable. Because people, being survival-oriented, need to save time and energy for the critical things in life – like hunting for food and preparing for war. In addition, they will tend to avoid risk, because doing risky things can put your life and livelihood in danger. For example:

* When you’re in a place you don’t recognize, you’ll eat at McDonald’s or Subway or Taco Bell rather than a no-name diner because you know basically what to expect, how it will taste, what will be in it, and the quality is guaranteed.

* When your resume is submitted for a job opportunity, if it is stamped with the name of an Ivy League school, the recruiter will be more likely to put yours in the “interview” pile.

* When you have to buy a piece of software for your company, you will go with a name that’s “known” rather than a no-name, because “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”

No wonder, then, that everyone wants to be or own a great brand. You want to be the one that busy people turn to - one less of life's million daily decisions.

But another benefit of branding has to do with your personal ability to make decisions. Not necessarily the right decisions. But simply the ability to make them, when you're not sure what to do or when you're confronted with many choices.

If you think of yourself as a brand, you can then decide how you want to be perceived. If you know how you want to be perceived, you then know how to act. Thinking in brand terms helps you to focus where you may be confused by the different and seemingly equally important choices you have.

Once you know your priorities and what order they’re in, you then have a filter to tell you what to do when confronted with various situations. There is less questioning whether you did the right or the wrong thing, and more calm. Eventually, as you get feedback on your priorities (some of your choices will be right for you, and others wrong), you can shift them around until you get them on track.

This is similar to coming up with your personal mission statement, something we’re often told to do but which can be difficult to actually do, or live up to.

The way I think of it is that your priorities don’t come from what’s in your head. They come from what you’re already doing. Look to that, and simply put that on paper.

As an example, here are mine:

1. Conscience
2. Family
3. Work
4. Writing
5. Fun

Both personal and organizational branding can give you the focus you need to say "no" in a world where it is easy to get distracted by the myriad opportunities and attention-wasters, that tend to consume our time, fritter away our energy, and distract us from our primary goals.

Remember: At the end of the day, it is not your effort but the results that matter. If you follow your personal brand, you may not have the most money in the world, but at least you will have a measure of control over your life satisfaction, because you will have truly focused on the things that are important to you.