I Dare You: Create a Brand Challenge!

Challenging something we do quite naturally and easily is indeed the perfect challenge. We all get into ruts—some even good and well-intentioned! Challenging ourselves to reflect, relook and rethink why we do what we do (or don’t do) can be just the process we need to achieve something different, something unexpected, and quite possibly, even something more.

When I popped into my local independent bookstore this week, I saw a slip of paper promoting The 2015 Reading Challenge. Intrigued, I read through a list of eclectic reading prompts, wondering if they’d be of any interest to me because I already am a highly self-motivated bookworm, and always have been. The only prompt I need is to not read 24/7! But I kept an open mind and read through prompts like the following:

  • Read a book from your childhood
  • Read a book in a genre you don’t typically read
  • Read a book you’ve been meaning to read
  • Read a book published this year
  • Read a book you should have read in high school

I changed my mind after reading the list and realized that challenging something we do quite naturally and easily is indeed the perfect challenge. We all get into ruts—some even good and well-intentioned! Challenging ourselves to reflect, relook and rethink why we do what we do (or don’t do) can be just the process we need to achieve something different, something unexpected, and quite possibly, even something more.

These reading prompts made me think of how I gently provoke my clients when I am in the midst of leading brand tune-ups. “Look up! Look around! Look sideways!” I encourage. “What has changed in your marketplace? With your customers? With your product line? Your promotional offers? Your marketing communications? With your competitors? With YOU?” I ask. We grapple with these challenges together, always wanting to examine and understand status quo before dreaming big.

In that creative and open spirit, why not, as a brand leader, create your own Brand Challenge? Make a list of all sorts of prompts that may both ignite new brand behavior and reexamine old behavior. Review with your team and then just jump into it! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Call a customer and have a meaningful conversation about their brand experience and insights.
  • Clean out your brand closet … what do you need to let go of?
  • Take a BrandAbout field trip and visit five brands not at all related to yours. See what you learn.
  • Take a BrandAbout field trip and visit five brands very much related to yours. See what you learn.
  • Make a branding TO DON’T LIST.
  • Figure out your brand verb.
  • Take a customer service person out to lunch and LISTEN to their experiences.
  • Simplify one process.
  • Spend a day in another department.
  • Find something interesting that your brand did 5 years ago, 10 years ago.
  • Eliminate one thing that does not enhance your brand.
  • Get a reverse mentor in some area.
  • Send a thank you to someone internally.
  • Send a thank you to a customer.

That’s it. I dare you!

Verbify! Verbify! Verbify!

What’s your brand verb? Yes, you read that right … verb. Each and every day great brands are energized by verbs. Google searches. Nike inspires. Disney entertains. J.Jill uncomplicates. Apple creates. IKEA improves. LinkedIn networks. Chipotle nourishes. These verbs harness and direct all the brand activities for these organizations both internally and externally. Jim Collins writes that “Greatness is not a product of circumstance. Greatness is a function of conscious choice and discipline.” Great brands purposefully and powerfully live by their brand verbs. Their greatness lies in this deliberate verb action-orientation day in and day out.

What’s your brand verb? Yes, you read that right … verb. Each and every day great brands are energized by verbs. Google searches. Nike inspires. Disney entertains. J.Jill uncomplicates. Apple creates. IKEA improves. LinkedIn networks. Chipotle nourishes. These verbs harness and direct all the brand activities for these organizations both internally and externally. Jim Collins writes that “Greatness is not a product of circumstance. Greatness is a function of conscious choice and discipline.” Great brands purposefully and powerfully live by their brand verbs. Their greatness lies in this deliberate verb action-orientation day in and day out.

We tend to spend a lot of brand energy on adjectives trying to best our competitors: smarter, better, faster, thinner, bigger, smaller, cheaper. I like a lot of these “ER” words and find them helpful in product development tinkering. There is indeed a place for them in our business planning. But “ER” words are at best incremental improvements on existing solutions. They are not words of vision. Verbs are where the real action is!

Try this simple but powerful exercise I call verbifying: Grab three stacks of different colored sticky notes and give one of each color to each of your key leaders. On the first color, ask each brand leader what one verb best describes what your brand does for your customers. Take a look at all those responses. Is there unity among your leadership team about what drives your brand’s purpose? About what matters most to your customers? If there are disconnects, what conversation is necessary to bring alignment internally? If your leaders are not on the same page, then your brand energy is being diluted.

Next, pass out another colored sticky note and write down three of your top-selling products or services. What verb defines each of those products or services? Brands are created by these tangible customer-facing touchpoints and experiences. What do these “spokesproducts” do for your customers? Are the verbs that describe these products and services connected to your main brand verb? Why or why not? In my new book, “ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators,” I share examples from across a multitude of industries and customer segments of products that support their brands through this powerful verb connection. Might your brand be sending a flurry of mixed messages into today’s attention-deficient world? If warranted, how can you better synchronize all your brand touchpoints to support your mission-minded brand verb?

And lastly, ask each of your brand ambassadors to note the verb that best describes their contribution to your brand on the final sticky note. Jim Collins advocates being sure organizations have “all the right people in the right seats on the bus.” As their leader, do you know what verbs each of your key contributors bring to your brand creation? Are they Innovators? Dreamers? Doers? Revolutionaries? Analyzers? Thinkers? Tinkerers? What does your brand require of its people? What might be missing? Do you have the right mix of leaders on board to fully and purposefully live out your brand verb?

Nike inspires athletes of all shapes and sizes (and the company lovingly declares that if you have a body you are an athlete!) to find their greatness. I encourage you to do the same. Find your brand’s greatness by taking a few moments to verbify your brand, your products/services and your people.