Monday, May 16, 2011

Brand Humility

There's a reason why people follow Seth Godin's blog. Normally I would just retweet something of his I find especially compelling, but given my last blog post of approaching innovation as an exercise in brand strategy, I thought I'd expound a little more on something I read on Seth's blog this week.

The title is "Brand Exceptionalism." When promoting that brand of yours, Seth cautions you not to think too highly of it, not to convince yourself that its means to everyone the excellence it may mean to you. That's a trap.

The problem with brand exceptionalism is that once you believe it, it's almost impossible to innovate. Innovation involves failure, which an exceptional brand shouldn't do, and the only reason to endure failure is to get ahead, which you don't need to do. Because you're exceptional.

The solution is what Seth calls "brand humility."

The humble brand understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its audience as if every day is the first day.

And that's exactly what associations must do when it comes to innovation. You can actually just substitute the right words and it makes just as much sense. The innovative association understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its members as if every day is the first day. See what I mean?

At my association we're talking about revamping an exitsing program with new features and benefits. We've got a couple of good ideas from a couple of our members, but so far the effort has largely been staff-driven. I'm pushing for more connection and transparency with the members throughout the development process, but as the project moves forward I'm discovering something very similar to brand exceptionalism infiltrating our thinking.

How can we launch something that's only half done and not working properly? What will the members think of our capabilities? We have a reputation for quality to protect.

I'll bet you've heard the same words said in your organization from time to time. In our particular case, Seth has helped me see that we should be less focused on our reputation and more focused on re-earning the attention and loyalty of our members by engaging them in a process that develops programs better suited to their needs.

We have an exceptional brand. And being humble about it is how we'll keep it that way.

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