The CEO was talking about his brand awareness. Everyone should have been listening, but they were all stifling yawns.
I’m invited to speak to companies about their business brand awareness fairly regularly these days. I think it has something to do with my greying temples and ever receding hairline. There comes a point when you just ‘look’ like you know what you’re talking about. I practice that look. It’s a bit like, ‘Blue Steel’, with a little less eyeliner.
So I turn up to the meetings, which are always couched in words like, ‘exciting’ and ‘opportunity’, and, ‘unparalleled’, but they’re not. They’re accidents waiting to happen or problems waiting to be fixed, depending on how ‘exciting’ the ‘opportunity’ really is.
I sit and listen. I try not to say too much because, well, because I’m not the problem. It’s usually in the room somewhere though. For me to be in attendance in the first place means there is an acknowledged brand… ‘opportunity’… but the B2B organization is always reluctant to look inwardly for the source of the trouble. So they call me. I fix brand problems. I tell people what they don’t really want to hear.
Sir looked me up and down and said, “So tell me about your process. It must be really difficult for you selling this kind of thing because it’s so subjective and you don’t know my business. I mean, what’s the delivery? You’re just going to give me a document right? What if I don’t like it? What if I’ve heard it before? What if I don’t think it’ll make any difference? What if it’s wrong? I’m really not convinced I want to invest in this. Why should I pay you if I can just do this myself?”
He carried on for a full 15 minutes or so and I do believe he maintained the entire sequence of questioning in a single breath.
The other attendees checked their watches. They doodled. Their eyelids dropped slightly and there was the occasional ‘shudder-cough’ that people use to wake themselves up when they know they shouldn’t be sleeping. I had already made the point that building brand strategy was as much about observing behavioural actions and reactions as it was about marketing, but they clearly didn’t think it applied to them.
In answer to Sir’s many question’s I asked only one; “You called me. So why am I here?” There followed another 20 minute monologue about how great Sir was, how amazing his company was, what a visionary he was and how invaluable he was. But, (there’s always a ‘but…’), for some inexplicable reason, the message wasn’t sticking and as soon as he left the room, the internal organization changed tack and told a different story. In other words, not his story.
Your brand problem, Sir, is your mouth.
For brand awareness to be successful, it has to be adopted by its audiences. People have to believe it and believe in it. A brand can only ever be adopted by external customer audiences if it first engages the internal audience. That will never happen if they can’t get a word in edgeways. Here’s the thing. It may well be your company, but it’s not your brand. The brand belongs to everyone, or, at least it is everyone’s perception of the brand that will shape your brand reality. You’re boring. Your brand doesn’t have to be.
Maybe they listened, maybe they didn’t, but the ‘opportunity’ will only really start to be ‘exciting’ when they do. Sunlight glistened off the dribble on someone’s chin, and, with the sound of gentle snoring from the corner of the room, I doffed my fedora with the tip of my cane, swooshed my cape over my shoulder and left.