How to hack brand building in a noisy world, part 2

I’ve been comfortable being uncomfortable my whole life. So, to me, it’s a natural journey to lean into feelings rather than become entangled in a Web of brand metrics. Through this series of posts, my goal is to help you understand why that uncomfortable place leads to growth, and why the “zag” is worth it while everyone else “zigs.” Welcome to part two (part one here).

Having two parents in the military, change was constant. While others fight change, I anticipate it as an inevitable. Until I was five, I grew up in Germany. And returning to the US, felt like an American foreigner. Being an outsider was uncomfortable at first, but then later in life, I came to have an appreciation for the skills in the repertoire of an outsider. Writer and author Emilie Wapnick best describes the three skills you develop on the outside as a “multipotentialite” that goes against convention: being adaptable, possessing the ability to synthesize reams of data quickly, and recognizing patterns. Arguably, three skills that should be bedrock to any strategist. 

In the noisy world around us, where life can feel like an endless scroll between social feeds, news sites, apps, emails, alerts, playlists, and content libraries, we have a constant struggle to capture and maintain attention. For most sophisticated marketers, tracking over 100 metrics is a natural impulse. And unfortunately, most marketers are ready to add dozens of new metrics at the mention or adoption of new tools, technology, channels, or platforms. And as we stand on the verge of an exploding internet of Things, at what point do we say, “we have enough data, but do we have enough meaning?”

In last week’s post, I gave an analogy to playing ping pong, and asked whether you should focus on your competitor or the ball? Well, let’s unpack that more. When you focus on your competitor — all of their tactics, platforms, channels — you end up amplifying the noise around your brand and thus the noise around your decision-making. When you focus on the ball (i.e., your own brand/company), then you’re able to exercise precision, discipline, and authority. A lot of us have taken our eye off the ball — we’ve been told to find blue ocean space, to be a fast-follower, and to benchmark ourselves against category leaders. But you’re not competing in a world where there are categories anymore — great experiences travel and you’re only as good as the last best experience that a customer has with any brand (not just the ones in your category). So, we have to shelve the notion of keeping our eyes glued to our direct competitors, and start internally shoring up our own brand to win in a world of transparency.

We are going to get comfortable being uncomfortable. And that’s fine, because the first thing to learn about branding is that “great” “growth” and “value” lives on the edges. Literally.

The way we navigate the world around us — noise and all — is mostly on auto-pilot. How much of our navigation?


According to Nobel laureate, economist, and Thinking, Fast and Slow author Daniel Kahneman, “most of the time we coast.” And a chorus of academics agree including Harvard Business School professor and Marketing Metaphoria author Gerald Zaltman. That 95% of decisions are heavily influenced by peripheral cues on the edges of our consciousness — visuals and sounds — aka cognitive shortcuts. And those peripheral cues create short-term behavioral change — a change that can be prolonged if your brand can maintain a consistent, positive feeling over time. And with 70% of our decisions being influenced by emotions, those “feeling states” matter. Because in the long-run, those feeling states make brands matter.

 "Mental effort, I would argue, is relatively rare. Most of the time we coast." — Daniel Kahneman

When going through this content on feelings, I hope you feel excited, inspired, and engaged. That a topic that was once unapproachable has become fun to learn while principles are easy to put into practice. A topic that we felt was too mushy (i.e., feelings vs metrics), has finally become a viable option due to advances in technology that now allows for accurate identification, capture, and encoding of emotions through methods like facial recognition. And we’ll eventually get to the “how do I measure emotions and feelings” questions in this series; but for now, our goal is to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

So let's lean into that discomfort by shattering another notion: where creativity comes from. It’s going to require you to break the notion that only someone with “creative” in their title or in the “creative department” is “a creative.” We are all creative. And this series will give you the tools you need to provoke and demonstrate that you too can apply creativity strategically. We all must become creative champions in order for brand-building to work. 

Whether working with music artists, creative directors, television producers, photographers, videographers, designers, and others we consider the “creative class,” I’ve learned that curiosity is key. Being uncomfortable doing new things eventually goes away when you start to foster curiosity to peek around corners and immerse in new experiences. Luckily at SXSW, over 1,000 marketers, entrepreneurs, and students started the journey of following the feeling with me; here are some of their highlights to help give you a sense of where this series is heading next.  

If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post then that tells me you’re really feeling this topic. Awesome! Welcome aboard! Then you’ll be the first to know I’m offering two encore webinars based on the SXSW session. Wanna participant in the digital experience of the brand & marketing session that put interactive into “SXSW Interactive” for 1,000 marketers, students, and entrepreneurs? It's all fun and games, literally, as I'll use the interactive session to introduce you to my version of the branding olympics through a series of games to help you learn the parts of the new branding system — LAVEC — that will enable you to build a brand that cuts through the noise.

Sign-up for my newsletter here and I’ll keep you posted on the dates for the sessions. Expect the online sessions to happen in the next two weeks, though. Both sessions will cover the same materials — each two hours. I’ll do one during the day and one at night, to accommodate schedules. Just like SXSW, we’ll have a transformative experience that empowers you to follow feelings to building a better brand.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn:

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Kai WrightComment