The other day, my 10-year-old daughter Sydney asked me to edit an essay she was writing on rainforests. Of course I jumped at the opportunity because …
A) I love to edit
B) I love to edit
C) I love to edit.
As she began sending me paragraphs about the dark and wet climate of the rainforest; the mischievousness of the monkeys and the colorful feathers of the toucans, my writer’s brain kicked into overdrive as I corrected and embellished her assignment.
Then it hit me. I wondered if I was correcting in such a way that actually took away from the meaning and integrity of her paper or corrected a mistake she hadn’t yet learned in English class? In short, wonder if, in my pursuit to make her paper fantastic, I was literally taking away her potential to grow, learn and adjust to upcoming teachings and situations.
As I reverted to her original version and dialed down my edits to punctuation and a few spelling errors, I began to realize how pertinent this lesson is as it pertains to product and brand messaging.
Small companies promise the world – even though the business is composed of nothing more than a few people sitting in front of computers in a dank basement– just because they can. This is the spirit of enterprise – it is something to cherish, be proud of, but most of all, live up to.
The idea of brand messaging growing with a business is a beautiful narrative of hopes, dreams, hard work, some failures, success and a legacy of fulfilled promises, accepted products, loyal customers and business dreams fulfilled.
The idea a business has to be all things to every customer from the get-go is more-often-than-not the beginning of the end for most start-ups. Controlled, structured growth with a well-executed brand strategy that allows for stretch and growth with the business is the answer.
There is nothing wrong with reaching for big dreams, but understanding the steps it takes to get to it is where brands seem to lose identity and connection with the consumer.
As strategists and brand managers, it is easy to get caught up with all the new technology and the possibilities our businesses and products bring. It is our job to make sure we are setting the right expectations and growing at a pace that is sustainable, fiscally responsible and calculated. The problem is, in times past, strategists have been given a bad name: they’ve over-promised and under-delivered and caused the word ‘strategy’ to mean nothing more than blue sky dreams with low-yield or follow through.
The solid strategist knows that within every strategy outlined – whether it be digital, business or brand – there is an element of the unknown, the creative and the aspirational. The outstanding strategist knows these elements are necessary for good business planning but knows how to put them in perspective with what the business and/or product can indeed deliver upon to guarantee overall customer satisfaction.
Just as I pulled back my college-level edits from my fourth-grade daughter’s paper, an ideal brand manager and strategist knows marketing messages grow, change and even narrow over time. As strategists, we have the brand, the business and the consumer to think of all at the same time. Taking things in stride does not mean failure or unpreparedness. It means adaptability, focus and proves you have the foresight and business savvy to notice it and accept it.
One of my editors told me years ago, when I was a PhotoShop whiz at a newspaper that had just purchased the product, to ‘not throw all my tricks out there all at once.’ He encouraged me to gradually let my experience and talents emerge as those around me were willing to accept and learn from them.
More than 20 years later, I still remember this – it still astounds me how much I can learn in a day – who would’ve thought reading my daughter’s essay on rainforests would spawn a stream of consciousness about growing brand strategy organically.
And … I also learned monkeys peel their bananas from the bottom up … now that’s just cool.