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Whipping Brands Into Shape

I’m a total gym rat. I exercise each and every morning. Some days with intensity, others just to get the blood flowing. And as a relentless fitness freak, I can say there’s nothing I look forward to with more amusement than the month of January. January is when all you New Year’s resolution people show up—you know who you are—and pretend to work out for a few days or weeks. Yeah, it can be pretty entertaining.

And also sad. Every year they crowd into my domain, sporting squeaky clean spandex and brand-new Adidas, and they leap around full of enthusiasm, ready to tackle the Peloton or the barbells and transform themselves into Ken and Barbie. Of course, after a short while—it never takes too long—they’re pallid and breathless, stony-eyed and bored, and they wander off usually never to return.

And look, I can admire the chutzpa of these folks: they actually went to the gym and gave it a shot. Most people do not. Presumably, they still want to get healthy, but they’re just unable to gain the proper clarity on how to get there.

As it turns out, these poor fitness wannabes have a corollary in the marketing world.

Flabby Brands with Wheezy Marketing

As you probably know, I’m also a total marketing rat. And I see this same phenomenon in the world of branding—even with big legacy brands.

Just like us humans, brands can get into bad habits and get lazy. With the economy changing and a transformative digital landscape that can easily upend marketing strategies, companies can get touchy and turn inward, choosing complacency over action. Then they, well, get overweight. They get depressed. They start asking themselves some rather existential questions: Who am I? Why have I stagnated? What do I have to do to win again? In many instances, these otherwise decent brands are just resting on past glory, and the energy they once had to stay spry and fit starts to decline.

So it’s easy to see how they can become January gym bros. One day, they have an epiphany. They suddenly decide it’s time to get in shape again. But often it’s too late. They jump on a stationary bike and start wheezing, feeling like they’re actually getting somewhere. But you know and I know that it’s not that simple. In such a panicked and rushed atmosphere, CMOs and branding teams either end up making near-useless aesthetic changes (new logo, new campaign, new color scheme, etc.) or they go hog wild and try to transform their brand from top to bottom overnight.

And I’m telling you, that stuff never works. The only thing that works is ruthless consistency. I’ll tell you what I mean.

How to Get Fit for Real

Getting fit doesn’t have to be hard. Improving marketing fitness and going for that hot brand bod is similar to improving your own personal health—except without all the sweating and grunting. Sure it may take time, but it’s very obtainable as long as you’re focused and consistent.

There are three basic steps to attaining brand health.

First: Simplify your brand story. Is it clear? Is it easy to articulate? Is it six seconds long? At TopRight, we spend a lot of time honing and rewriting, discarding all the fluff and getting our story down to those essential words and ideas. It is that brand story that will define you. Any place where it’s overly complicated, under refined, or dull will mean you’re going to lose major segments of your audience.

Then: Clarify your strategy. Are your assets aligned to tell the story with ruthless consistency? If not, even the best strategies won’t deliver optimal results. The world is changing and in many ways digital has overtaken traditional marketing. That fact is not as important, however, as your goals and how you want to attain them. You need to ask yourself not whether you are using the most cutting-edge tools, but are they the right tools for the job? Are you talking to the right people and making the kind of impact you want to make? You can only do that if your strategy is comprehensive and clear.

And Lastly: Align your systems. Once you have your story and strategy in place, there is a lot you can do to automate and analyze using digital tools. But first, do you have the right people, processes, and systems in place to assure flawless execution of your strategies? Do you have digital expertise (and I mean expertise, not experience) and the right CRMs and platforms? Do you have the agility to pivot as the market evolves? All of this will be important, even more so as we move into the 2020s.

If you’re not taking care of your brand’s health every day, it will decline. That’s inevitable. And if you don’t approach your brand’s health the way you should approach your personal health, just like those January gym bros you’ll be gone before February even begins.

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