“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”
This title may read funny to you and that’s because brand and patience don’t exactly pair together. Unlike peanut better and jelly or salt and pepper, the two words don’t quite stick, do they?
I will tell you why they don’t feel complimentary to one another. Today’s brand and marketing landscape is a hype competition. It is a well-trod path that is known to produce fast results. Marketing focuses solely on the hustle and trend. This leaves marketers with a quenchless blueprint that constantly needs revisiting, updating, and pivoting.
The dichotomy between the two words exists because branding revolves too much around speed when it should revolve around focus. A brand must set a direction before it sets a pace and direction is more important than speed. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you’re headed the wrong way.
Too often, brands jump on the trendy bandwagon with little thought or consideration of their audience or brand positioning. For instance, should a nursing home business create a TikTok? Does it make sense for Oreo to be an active user on LinkedIn? Should the local coffee shop on the corner create an e-commerce app? These questions should be greeted not with impulse and reaction because ‘that’s what everyone else is doing’, but with logic and thought. Just as you say to your children ‘well, if John jumps off a bridge will you too?’, I ask your brand… will you jump, too?
Contrary to popular opinion, successful marketing is slow. Nike wasn’t Nike the day the Nike swoosh was birthed. In fact, Nike commissioned a design student named Carolyn to draw the logo and they were pretty underwhelmed about it. With patience, time and a genius marketing strategy, that underwhelming logo is now symbolic for much more than the Nike brand, but for the pursuit of athletic achievement at large.
Twelve years after the Nike logo was created, Nike returned to the graphic designer, Carolyn, with a custom Nike ring and an undisclosed amount of Nike stock. The takeaway? Patience is the currency –– especially in marketing and brand building.
They say good things come to those who wait and this is true for marketing as well. Instead of feeding the hype beast and opting for clickbait to produce quick actions, it’s best to methodically approach your marketing strategy so that it may transcend time and trend.
Think of some of your favorite and notable brands. It is likely that the brands that come to mind have been with you for some time now and have established an emotional connection with you or maybe they simply have treated you very well and have gone above and beyond the customer service status quo.
For some, there may be a cereal that is near and dear to your heart. It may be nostalgic to reminisce on early mornings at the breakfast table with your family over a bowl of Frosted Flakes featuring Tony the Tiger spread large across the cereal box. Or perhaps, it’s Macy’s and you have fond memories of going to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC with your family.
The point is that the brands that have established a strong brand salience (meaning your customer thinks of your brand in a buying situation) did not grow overnight, but rather they grew like a seed that was carefully planted, watered, and nourished to grow adjacent with you, their audience.
Before brands seek out approval from industry standard and competition, it is best to go back to the basics: why are you doing this, what are you doing this for and who are you serving. Establishing your brand’s purpose is not only the foundation for all decision making, but it must be referred to in all decision making processes to ensure that your brand’s choices reflect the company’s vision at all times. If things do not align, if investments don’t make sense, if your audience does not benefit directly, if it is in contrast with your brand values; well, than the answer should be no. The foundation is your brand guidelines. When in doubt, lean on the foundation.
Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot, often received a lot of public ridicule for going against the grain when it came to building his business and growing his company. The Home Depot kept it simple and was founded on basic principles like service and integrity that enabled the company to become the world’s largest home improvement retailer and one of the nation’s most profitable and socially responsible companies.
He proved these simple and elemental principles to be successful when he left The Home Depot in 2001 and went on to become owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons, owner of Major League Soccer team Atlanta United, owner of the PGA Tour Superstore, owner of Paradise Valley Ranch in MT –– to name a few.
All of his endeavors have been successful because they each shared one common theme: brand principles. The same principles that nourished The Home Depot. Brand principles identify the brand, give the brand meaning and direction, and protect the brand.
There are two kinds of brands: finite and infinite. The finite brands are profit-oriented. They are short-sighted and can only see about ten miles in front of them, just in time to react to the next viral and trending ‘5-seconds of fame’ moment. This model is not sustainable nor is it productive or effective. Think Blockbuster, Pan Am, or BlackBerry.
On the other hand, infinite brands are playing the infinite game. Infinite brands are mission-oriented. These are the brands that have set out to change the world and they truly believe that they will. These are the brands that have 100 mile visibility and they are looking straight ahead. They do not turn their head to see how close their competition is and they don’t make a detour to double down on the hype content. Think Apple.
The fundamental difference between finite and infinite brands is patience (and purpose, but that’s a topic for another article). A brand without patience is a lamp without oil. Without patience, a brand is subject to be told who they are by their customer and when they are no longer relevant. With patience, a brand will tell the customer exactly who they are methodically and intently overtime so the brand accomplishes something bigger than themselves with their customer, together.