I ended up taking a few weeks off in December to recalibrate and focus which has left me energized and ready to tackle a new year helping executives weaponize their brand. As we dealt with economic collapse, a raging pandemic, and a political shitstorm, brands have turned to us branders to help them navigate the waters.
Almost a year into the standard, we’ve designed, we’ve built prototypes, we’ve made the mistakes we needed to make. Now it’s time for us to be bold. It’s time for us to plant a flag and watch it wave. This is what I’m defending the castle with and will die on the hill for — Boldness. And as branders, it’s both our nature and our duty to be so.
In my humble opinion, bold is the word of the year. Bold because if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s taught us that “me too” brands and “lukewarm” positioning doesn’t sell. Bold because competition is fierce, customers are fed-up with fly-by-night tactics, and quite honesty, so am I.
Customers want to be part of a tribe, a family. A brand that cares for them and will do anything to make them feel welcomed, warm, and included. This drives transactions past a one-time sale and focuses on the lifetime value of the customer. A metric all branders must be looking at to help gauge their work.
It’s playing the long and short game congruently while leveraging design thinking to ensure we’re always solving the right problem. It’s the harmony between disciplines, the awareness and intellect to shy away from ego and let the best ideas come to fruition.
To be bold is to be active, not passive. To have a purpose and deliverability to achieve the vision of that purpose. Bold takes courage and adds a layer of discipline on top of it.
As a strategist, I’m obsessed with always creating in the bold zone. The bold zone is a place where ideas may scare the executives I work with to the core. It shakes them because while they may have thought about it, they didn’t have a strategy to get there. Bold is a place where there are no sacred cows and we’re all working towards a common goal of differentiation and innovation.
The great Marty Neumeier talks about third pasture thinking in his book Scramble. Third-pasture thinking is the concept of going beyond the obvious to find the freshest and boldest of ideas. When horses or cows are turned out in a field to eat, the pickiest ones don’t settle for the trampled grass in the lowest pasture. They climb higher, up to the second pasture, and even to the third, where the grass is truly fresh. This is where bold lives and where brands truly become weaponized.
Bold is a recipe for success. Bold is not for the easily swayed brand manager or the CEO who changes strategy based on trends or new social media platforms like Clubhouse or TikTok. To be bold with your branding means to take ego out and craft a strategy for the audience you are communicating with.
Bold is the CTA of 2021 and I’m rising. Who’s with me?
[Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Branders Magazine]