Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

The Difference Between A Weak Brand And A Strong Brand

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The biggest mistake a brand can make is to try being all things to everyone. Weak brands settle for doing what’s easy or obvious. They appeal to the market of everyone, avoid the edges and thus become interchangeable with their competitors.

Strong brands know they are this and not that. They intentionally aspire to be something to someone and so become irreplaceable to their customers.

Who’s your someone? What do you want to be to them?

Image by Nathan Makan

The Choice

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

We know how the trip will pan out even before we get on the tram. The driver is agitated. He uses his bell accordingly. He repeatedly ‘dings’ three times, announcing his tram’s presence on the road. His bell is warning system—reflecting his mood. Everything becomes an emergency. How the driver operates the bell changes his attitude and the way he drives the tram. It also changes the posture of the passengers on board. We collectively become jumpier.

Contrast the ‘treble ring’ warning system with the way most Melbourne tram drivers use the bell. They ‘ding’ in a potentially dangerous situation—to alert a cyclist and distracted pedestrians or to let passengers know the tram is about to start moving. Often their bell signals a friendly greeting to other tram drivers as they pass each other on the road. I can empathise with the ‘treble ring’ tram driver. Perhaps he’d just had one of those days? But he has more power than he realises.

We each get the chance to, as author Neil Gaiman says, ‘make the world better for our having been here.’ How we show up to do that is a choice.

Image by Edward Blake

The Best Of Us

filed in Brand Story, Success

Our youngest son got his first paying job at a fast food restaurant this summer. He’d walked up and down the street handing out resumes for days and got a single call back. He was interviewed over the phone and invited in for trial one evening. He got the gig. Twenty dollars an hour and as many shifts as he could handle taking orders and wiping tables late into the night. The shifts ran from the evening until the early hours of the morning. Sometimes he was barely in bed before dawn. But he stuck with it for the entire summer without complaining. Then one day he mentioned he hadn’t been paid for a couple of weeks. His boss owed him over a thousand dollars in back pay.

My husband and I reacted as many parents would. We were suddenly on guard, wary that our child (who is his own man now) wasn’t exploited. We offered unhelpful suggestions about what he should do next, telling him he probably shouldn’t work more shifts until he was paid. Our boy didn’t blink. Not showing up wasn’t an option. He’d committed, they were short staffed. He wouldn’t let his other team members down.

I remember when he was seven years old and winning prizes for being top in everything at school. The quiet, watchful blonde kid with deep brown eyes, who seemed to make no effort and yet always come out on top. After an assembly where he was awarded a medal for the best piece of creative writing in the state, one of the class Mums approached me. She had two questions. ‘What does he read? What do you feed him?’ I laughed until I realised she wasn’t joking.

People who don’t know our son judge him by his academic performance. He’s evaluated by his grades and ability to ‘achieve’ in the conventional sense of the word. What they don’t often see is the real measure of him. His kindness. His sense of fairness. His tenacity. His wicked sense of humour. His character. The things that can’t be measured. The things that make him, him.

He will probably be picked one day because of how he looks on paper—for his scores or the number of research papers he’s published. Whoever works with him won’t know until later why they are lucky to have him on their team.

Our stories are not defined only by what is seen and known. The imagination can’t always capture the best and the beauty of us.

Image by Robin Jaffray

How To Craft A Powerful Message

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

The acceptance speeches are the highlight of every Oscars ceremony. I’m a sucker for them. It’s fascinating to see how the best communicators in the world share their personal message in a just minute or two. This year, actress Frances McDormand stole the show. This wasn’t an accident. Frances knew how she should craft her message to create the change she was seeking. And while our delivery may not be as fabulous as Frances’, we can get better at crafting more powerful messages by following these three steps.

Three Steps To Crafting A Powerful Message

1. Determine the who
Who is your audience?
Why are they here?
What do they care about?

2. Work out your what
What do you want the audience to know, think, feel, say and do as a result of hearing your message?

3. Work on your how
How can you craft and deliver the message in a way that helps you to achieve your goal?

All great storytellers begin with the end in mind.

Image by Kevo Thomson

Make Fewer Promises

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

It’s a Saturday night. Jeff, the on-call Planning Enforcement Officer for the local council, is just about to sit down to a takeaway meal and a movie with his wife when his phone rings. Residents close to a new nightclub want him to come and assess the noise levels at the venue. Even before the conversation starts, Jeff is not primed to listen. What he thinks is a good outcome—getting the caller off the line in the quickest time possible, doesn’t align with what the caller thinks is a good outcome—Jeff dropping everything and getting around to the nightclub in the next thirty minutes.

Misaligned expectations are the greatest source of dissatisfaction in any service interaction. You can’t begin to satisfy or delight your customer unless you are prepared to meet his expectations. Two things need to be in place to make that happen. Firstly, you need to understand the customer’s desired outcome. And secondly, you need to have the resources and the willingness to meet it.

If the last thing Jeff wants to do when he’s on call is get in his car to investigate complaints, then it’s unlikely he’ll satisfy ratepayers. The way he handles incoming calls is affected by his desire to enjoy a quiet night at home. His tone will be defensive and his manner abrupt. The organisation does more harm than good by having a 24-hour hotline that sets the expectation that an officer might visit in an emergency if that’s unlikely to happen.

Excellence is about making fewer promises that you always keep.

Image by Nathan Rupert

Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

Send this to a friend