I Think I Can Beat Steve Jobs

I am not applying for a new job as a CEO or Marketing Director, but if I did that would be my headline and I would run the brand I’d work for based on the insights that follow.

Steve! Bring it on!

Ok, so you’re s marketing director or even a CEO struggling to beat the he’ll out of your competition? Well, you are not alone. That’s more or less what all brands want, but why then are there so few that actually make a mark that can stand the tests of time?

Here are 14 pointers on how to get your brand charging into the future.

0.1. Before you read anything else. If your product or service doesn’t stand the competition. Get back to the drawing board and make sure it does. Then continue to Nr 1.

It’s really quite easy. Apple started their brand journey by making sure they had kick ass products.

1. Great branding is not about sticking to graphical guidelines, it’s about sticking to values and beliefs

I think I’ve written about it before. But years ago (1999) I found myself working with Nike after having called them to talk Framfab into a pitch. In one of the first meetings I attended I of course asked for Nike’s visual guidelines. One guy from Nike looked at me and said: “Just don’t touch the logo”. I repeated myself and clarified that I wondered about fonts and colorings. The guy again: “Don’t touch the logo, that’s all”.

How does Nike keep it together then? With great people of course. They act as gatekeepers of the brand. It’s in their spine like I’ve written about before.

2. Do things larger than life

Anish Kapoor knows how to make things larger than life!

Don’t be shy! Whatever you do, don’t expect that people wanna see everyday life things. We wanna get carried along and dream. The way you shape your products and services, your communication and advertising defines the way forward. Have a look at great brands. They go for the max.

3. You can never do wrong if you do different

The biggest reason for most brands not becoming true Superbrands is rationality and not believing in their potential. Take risks. Make mistakes. Turn yourselves into fools. All these things will undoubtedly lead you forward and suddenly you’ll know how to ride the horse that kicks high and outraces the competition.

4. Don’t be smart.

I’ve met far to many companies that tend to think communication and advertising is a all about calculation, analysis and smart things. Of course there are media channels where you should aim for super straight forward messages such as Adwords for example. But in most cases you should aim to create an impact. Make sure people see you and react. Any emotional reaction is better than any rational understanding.

5. Work with the best people, not the best agency

Choosing to work with an agency is not the way to go about it. No agency in the world builds a strong brand. People however, they can build you the brand you want. Either someone within your organization or someone on the consulting side. What they need is the power to change. Usually this power cannot be given to someone, it can only be earned. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the greatest brands in the world and let me tell you, the people there they either give you power to change by briefing your right and letting strange but powerful ideas through or they steer you with hands of steel. One thing they don’t do is summon big meetings where ideas are being torn apart.

6. Take control of every piece of communication

As a CEO or Marketing Director you’ve gotta own your brand. Day one at work (if you’re an employee) you’ve gotta adopt that brand, build it into your spine and decide to become the best brand in the world. Don’t look at your competition, instead decide how you intend to shape a brand the world has never seen. Every brand has the potential to become a Superbrand. It’s only up to yourselves!

7. Piss people off

Don’t be sloppy. Everything matters. Be a pain in the ass. Take control. Demand greatness. Don’t settle for less. Apple, Nike, Porsche, American Express, Sony, Starbucks etc, these brands we not build by people who said ‘This will do’ These brands were built by people who said ‘We can do better!’

8. Constantly innovate your communication activities

Whenever you’re planning a new communication activity, live by the rule “Creativity is the opposite of routine”. You constantly have to break out of your mold. What makes your client stay put is of course consistency, but It doesn’t have to mean your tactical executions have to stay the same. As long as your activities are on brand and you stick a strong logo to it, you’ll see that people tend to stay with you.

People will stay your fans as long as you treat them this way. The second you start treating them as a mass, as consumers, as numbers in a marketing plan – they’re gone!

9. Your brand equity is measured on the numbers of WOWs, not the media spend

It’s not money (ok a little bit is always good to have) that buys you new customers. It’s the numbers of WOW that does. Only by WOWing people with your products, services and your communication will you gain effects that have a positive impact on your brand.

(Ok, I know that we’re living in Sweden and you believe we don’t wanna stand out. But that does not include you not standing out. We love brands that stand out from the mold cause we dream of doing it ourselves. Brands are built on dreams!)

10. Never base your ideas on history. Base them on the future.

If it’s been done, do something else. That’s the strategy of great brands.

11. Surprises that ends with a smile builds relations

It’s like falling in love. People wanna smile. Smile is what fuels relations and relations is what you’re after. Put smiles on peoples faces and you’ll end up branding their brain. And hey, don’t forget to keep em´smiling!

12. Great ideas communication comes cheap if you let them

Some of the greatest people I’ve worked with have all said they would work for free as long as they get to shine. Most marketing directors focus 90% of their relations with creatives on telling them what they can’t do. Do the opposite – spend 90% of your time telling your creatives you want more.

13. Everything matters!

All in all. Like in every sport you’ve gotta set your mind on winning. People will keep on telling you about the best competitors out there and your answer should always be “I’ll beat the shit out of them” – Managing brands isn’t different. It’s about being the best and beat the hell out of the competition, in everything you do!

14. Set your goals high. Really high. No, I mean reeeealy high!

The title was intended to tease you of course. But then again I’m 100% honest with you. If I’d run a company I would aim to become the best brand in the world, not the best brand in Sweden, Europe or USA. The world, that’s where I’d aim. I can’t see why I’d go for anything less?

Finally, if you’re preparing to write a comment telling that I can’t beat Steve Jobs, forget it! I know I can!

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