What holds brands back from innovation and market leadership is the same element that holds people back: FEAR!
As a species, we humans fear change. We can’t help our natural inclination for safety and security. It’s wired into the lizard brain at the base of the skull. We fear taking risks, making mistakes, not meeting plan, looking stupid. It’s far better to fit in, go with the flow, be safe and not freak out our fear-based bosses.
Yet no one will argue innovation requires taking risks, making mistakes, not meeting plan and looking stupid. All transformation is scary.
Brand transformation (like personal transformation) requires a passion driven decision to add to the growth of the world. It requires creating opportunity by first bringing new value to people, rather than competing for the value already created by others.
If your intention is to build a leading brand, the majority of your organizational thinking must be on the creative plane (possibility and potential) not the competitive plane (hard bargains and discount pricing).
Indeed, we live in world of nonstop interactions and connections. Soon humans (if not already) will experience life as a digital reality as well as a physical reality. Yet our relationships (with brands and people) will most likely begin in the digital before they can move to the physical. Ideas are the new social currency, and they now come from everywhere and from every direction– only faster!
As trite as it sounds, marketers are scared. Frightened of what is required to be a leading brand.
Brands (like people) are heavily invested (encased) in their identity and their story. To transform brand “followship” to leadership requires the brand to pass-through a distinct set of transformational phases that are messy and painful:
the rupture: the realization that what worked so well no longer does.
the release: letting go of the resistance to change
the retreat: the scariest part because it requires a period of non-marketing.
the revival: new ideas, forms, and structures take early shape…like seeds.
the rehearsal: play, play, play with these new idea seeds.
the realization: when the possibility becomes an achievement.
This is a dynamic, never-ending process – one continuous circle of rupture to realization. Unlike predictable gestation periods, innovative ideas TAKE THEIR OWN SWEET TIME coming into form and serving people. The creative process is rarely quantifiable.
This is the squishy manifestation stuff that metrics obsessed, risk-averse brand managers and their CMO bosses have difficulty talking about. Most would rather call their order-taker ad agency to crank out the next promotional campaign to spike some sales this quarter. After all, they have a business to run.
It takes courage to lead. I define leadership as the quality of one’s presence in every aspect of life. Elevating the quality of your presence is not painless or pretty. And so it is with brands.