Category Archives: innovation practitioner

Keep Brand Chaos From Eroding Your Innovation Platform

Order-chaosCreating an innovative brand is a great way to build loyalty with your customers. For many companies, brands are the single most valuable asset. But once you’ve created a brand, that’s where the challenges kick in. And it can be a real headache if you don’t manage brands correctly.

These challenges come from both inside your organization as well as outside. For example, one of the most common problems marketing leaders have with brands is what I call brand chaos. It happens when new brands start popping up almost out of nowhere. And sadly, they have no consistent look or feel to your other brands. Then, one day, you’re flipping through your product catalog and see a mish mash of products and brands that having nothing to do with each other. Your brand architecture is in a state of anarchy.

How does it happen? Well, marketers love to create brands. It’s fun and exciting, and they like creating ones that are distinctive and unique. Let’s face it, they want to put their mark on something.

So they get together with their design team and branding agencies and throw a lot of money creating the next big thing. If left unchecked, you’ll experience brand chaos. It’s expensive to fix, and it can really confuse customers on what your brands mean.

Another common brand problem is when employees take one of your brand marks and create their own adapted version of it. In other words, they make it look different than the official version. A sales rep might put an altered brand mark in a presentation, or a marketer might change it slightly to fit on a package. The sources of this problem are many.

Brand chaos can also stem from things outside the company. If your competitors start attacking your brands by depositioning them, you have to fight back. For example, a competitor might begin an advertising campaign telling consumers that the benefits of your brand just aren’t that important. This type of depositioning strategy can lower your brand equity.

Another common problem is when some company copies your brand and creates counterfeit products and services. Consumers don’t know the difference, so you lose a sale each time they buy a fake product with your brand on it.

So how do you deal with these challenges? First, you need to create a Brand Book. Just as the name implies, the brand book is the complete story of the brand and all the elements that go into it.

It establishes strict guidelines on every aspect of how a company’s brand will be managed. This affects everything from how the logo can be used, the look of a website, how social media is used, advertising, product design, and so on. For details on how to create one, see the course, Branding Fundamentals.

Second, you need to appoint a strong brand champion, someone who is senior enough in your organization to regulate and monitor brand compliance and stop anyone who violates standards in the Brand Book.

And finally, you need a strong legal team, internal or external, that will go after counterfeiters or anyone that hijacks your brands for their own use.

Great branding is about making and keeping promises in a consistent way. That’s why great marketers do whatever they can to prevent brand chaos.


Launching Innovations: The Do’s and Don’ts

Do-dontAt some point as an innovation leader, you and your team will launch new innovations into the market place. Those could be new products and services, it could be a new advertising campaign, or simply displaying your products at a trade show. These initiatives are an important test of your leadership. So here are my tips - the DO’s and DON’Ts for launching new initiatives.

First, lead through people. That means delegating to your team rather than trying to take on these projects yourself. Your first priority is to create a team of A players. So now is the time to use them. Thoroughbreds like to run and run fast, so put them to work on these initiatives. If you’re thinking that “it’s easier to do it myself than to explain how to do it,” forget it. When you assign a new initiative to a person, tell them what you need done and what success looks like. Let them figure it out from there.

Next, be visible during the launch of any new initiative. There’re lot of reasons for that. First, it motivates your people when they see you care enough to be part of their event. Second, it never hurts to have another pair of hands in case a team member needs help. As a marketing leader, don’t put yourself above the team when it comes to the dirty work. Hey, a good leader needs to pick up the broom and sweep the floor just like everyone else.

Finally, hold people accountable for the outcome. It’s critical that you give people constraints up front so they know the boundaries of what they can and can’t do. Measure those results and reward people for what they achieve. If they exceed the boundaries you set for them, you gotta point it out to them.

Now, let’s look at the don'ts.

First, whatever you do, don’t micromanage your people. Details are important in any initiative, but if you get in the habit of pointing out every last detail of a project, you’re telling your team that you don’t trust them. That will eventually undermine your leadership.

Next, never upstage your team members responsible for the event when the initiative is launched. If they do all the work but it’s you that gets in front of the camera to take all the credit, your team won’t ever be loyal to you again. Now it’s okay to manage up a bit and keep your bosses informed about the initiative, but just be sure to give credit to your team for their hard work. And by the way, when you give credit to others instead of taking it all yourself, your bosses look at you as someone who’s going to move up the ladder.

Finally, avoid playing the blame game. If the initiative doesn’t go well, take responsibility. Don’t start naming others on your team as the guilty party. You want to give that team member feedback about what could have been improved. But publicly blaming them for the failure is a mistake. As the leader, stand up and take full responsibility. But then go back and understand what went wrong. What were your assumptions? What unexpected things happened that hurt the initiative? And most importantly, what are you going to do about it next time?

And that’s what great innovation leaders do. They create a competent team that continuously learns, and gets better every day.