3 Easy Steps to Avoid 3 Easy Steps

Every time I see a blog post, article or LinkedIn group discussion about three, five, seven or ten easy steps to branding or some aspect of marketing, I give a laugh or a grunt, depending on what type of day it has been.  As anyone who has responsibility for branding and marketing knows, there is very little that is easy about it.  Sure, coming up with ideas may be easy, but making those ideas happen is a whole different story.   So in the spirit of truth in advertising, here are my 3 easy steps to avoid believing there are easy steps in branding and marketing:

Complexity – A start-up company usually has a small staff and a very limited product or service offering.  Communicating a very specific value proposition is pretty straightforward (or at least it should be).  But as the company grows, it expands its markets, products/services and staff.  This expansion leads to complexity that can water down the value proposition.  The company has to make choices about what it is, what it wants to be and which business units are going to get the resources to achieve that vision.  Since creating an effective brand is more about how the company acts than what it says, as the company grows to dozens, hundreds and thousands of employees, controlling its actions becomes much more complex.

Selling – Branding and marketing are as much an internal job as an external function.  The effective marketer must get internal buy in before launching externally.  This includes “selling” to all levels of the organization that the recommended course of action is the right way to go.  This is incredibly time consuming and often frustrating, as people who may not understand marketing weigh in with changes they want.  But without this commitment, especially from customer-facing groups, the initiative is not likely to achieve its objectives.  And the larger the company, the more difficult the selling (see “Complexity” above).

Change – No matter how successful your branding and marketing have been, changes will happen and your company will have to adjust.  hese can include changing customer tastes and preferences, changing technology, regulatory changes, new competitors, new products/services, pricing pressure, new marketing vehicles, etc.  The list is pretty daunting and your company will have to decide how it responds to these changes.  It is marketers’ job to have their eyes, ears and minds wide open so they can understand what is happening, what it means to their company and what is likely to happen if current trends continue.  They have to live in the present and future.  And they not only have to be open to change but must be at the vanguard of change.  It is a tremendous responsibility, as they sometimes have to move off a position they sold very hard a year or two earlier to move in a new direction.

Once you accept that there are no easy steps to branding and marketing, you can be selective about the initiatives you undertake and realistic about the time and effort that is needed to implement any initiative.  You’ll also be able to explain to your boss (whether the CEO, CMO, VP or Director), why that article about 3 easy steps is dead wrong, why it is more like 57 steps and sub-steps, why you need his/her support to sell internally and why it is going to take 6 weeks or 6 months, not 6 days, until you implement that initiative and maybe a year before you see results.  If you need help with this discussion, just show him or her this article.


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