Brand Strategy / Catalytic Thinking

Overcoming brand-block

Brand-block – most major brands have hit it at some point (in exactly the same way as most writers have hit writer’s block). The moment of stagnation when the realisation dawns that all perceived forward motion is actually treading water, that sales aren’t coming in, that engagement is dropping off, that the new strategies are actually nothing more that desperation. Then the fear that sets in. Swiftly followed by the inevitable urge to rebrand because, with a shiny lick of paint, it’ll be all wonderful again.

Brand-block can kill if not overcome.

A potentially great business hits a rough patch of neutral or negative growth – a brand-block – and there are two apparent options: wallow about, blame external factors and hope it’ll all come good, or rebrand.

Wallowing about never solved anything. In fact, it’ll only serve to deepen the block as the last vestiges of brand purpose evaporate. And no matter how bad external factors get, there’s always something you can do (you just might have to be a bit more radical).

And rebranding just because you’ve hit a block could be the most expensive, ill-thought-out and deadly action your business has ever taken. A poor rebrand conveys desperation and risks papering over the cracks. Customers hate that.

In fact, there is only one solution. Own the block.

Admit that you’ve hit a brand-block – and that you’re going to take action to overcome it. Get your team together, get off-site and blast through it.

Something I’ve used in the past to give focus and direction is a very simple four-way matrix which runs something like this:

What do we think about the brand?

Ignore emotion, be logical, cold, precise. Stick to the facts, nothing more, nothing less. Be honest – painfully so.

What do we feel about the brand?
Ignore all of the above and talk about your emotions surrounding your brand. Think about asking your colleagues why they work for the brand (assuming it’s not just to get paid at the end of the month – and if this is why they work for the brand, that could be your problem right there), or anthropomorphise it into an animal/celebrity/flour/food etc – so long as people can explain their choices you’re getting somewhere. Even if they can’t, it’s still fun.

What do we dream for the brand?
There are no limits to dreams – so there should be no limits to the discussions. Don’t let any blocks come into the conversation. So you want to crochet a blanket big enough to engulf the moon. Why the hell not?

With all of this information, what’s our action look like?
By this point in the brand-block-busting, you know what you think, what you feel and where your dreams are leading. If it was me running the session, I’d have all of the above on paper pinned to the wall – and great long connecting arrows between linkable elements.

You’ll be amazed at the synergies.

And the synergies will give you the tools you need to break the block. You’ll find a new, tighter focus that links both sides of the brain to the future.

In fact, you’ll probably find a new funnel.

Part of the brand building process is moving members of the public from ignorance to interest, interest to purchase, purchase to loyalty and loyalty to evangelism. If you’ve hit a brand-block, it’s likely that your customers will have done too. So by busting your block, you’ll bust theirs as well, which will help the brand grow again and sweep away the last crumbs of any brand torpor that remained.

So give it a try. If you’ve hit the block, getting off site and running through the above might be just the stimulus you need…

The above has worked really well in my experience both in local government and the priate sector, and I’ll continue to use similar creative strategies both in consultancy and in-house work. If you’ve had any really great brand-block-busting experiences, please share them below – it would be great to get some examples of best practice coming together!

And if you want someone to work with your business to beat a block… Yup – shamelesss promotion – email me!


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