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The trifecta and a farewell


Many moons ago, while studying journalism at university, one of my professors taught me something on the first day of class that’s still lodged in my skull 37 years later:  never bury the lede.

So here it is:  I’m closing the doors on my consulting business and going to work for a long-time client in a full-time leadership capacity.  This will be my last blog under the Brand Nourishment banner.

It’s a third chapter of sorts for me.  The first was spent in the corporate jungle, working for two of Canada’s iconic financial companies. (I learned tons there and met some terrific mentors that I still turn to for advice today.)  The second was running my own thing for 23 years – an advisor-writer-consultant guy who made a living out of saying things like “you really oughta do this”to clients.

Now it’s put-up-or-shut-up-time, as they say.  Time to take my own advice and practice what I’ve preached.  It’s a tad daunting, but mostly it’s energizing and I know I’m going to enjoy working full-time with the great people at Creaghan McConnell Group.  (I’ve been consulting to CMG since 2010, so we’ve had the mutual benefits of an 11-year job interview.)

Enough about me.

Mostly I wanted to use this space one final time to thank you.  I started blogging in 2010, with a small subscriber list and the notion that I might have something useful to say on a semi-regular basis on this topic called “brand,” which I still consider to be mis-understood by many.  Over time, the number of readers grew significantly.  Some on this list (you know who you are!) have been with me for the entire journey… often chiming in with your own views on the topics of the day – as well as my many goofy sports analogies and weird references to pop culture, if we’re being honest.

For that, I thank you.  You may not fully appreciate how the ‘dialogue’ helped me along the way.  Truth is, I wrote hoping to help you… but mostly trying to help myself.  I studied journalism because I loved writing.  To this day it’s been a decent way for me to channel my thinking.  When I’m dealing with a challenge, writing about it seems to clear out my mind and help me move forward.

And it was the same with this blog.

So one more time, as a sign off:  

If there’s one thing I tried to emphasize over the years it’s that our brand is much more than what we often make it out to be.  It’s more than our name and logo, more than the website and TV commercials, much more than the brochures and the coffee mugs.

My view is the best brands build on a ‘Holy Trinity’ of ingredients, namely:

1.   A clear purpose.  

Purpose is our soul, the dramatic difference we make to those we serve.   It should never be about selling more stuff or making more money.  That follows if we link the three ingredients properly.  Most people want to engage with (and work for) brands that stand for something and make a true IMPACT, not just sell something.

2.   Marketing that spreads.   

Marketing is our front stage.  It’s how we plant the right messages in our targets’ minds. Once upon a time this meant advertising and “hype,” but no longer.  Marketing is everything that touches the customer.  And it needs to HELP, not take or sell, in a way that makes us “spreadable.”   I think two things can do this particularly well: (1) a true ‘experience’– the products, services, benefits we offer and how they’re delivered – that’s so good that people can’t resist telling others about it; and (2) useful information (the buzzword is content) that helps in a practical way in their lives, and that they feel compelled to share.  Both are all about giving, not taking.

3.   A culture 100% in sync with the purpose.   

Culture is our back stage.  It’s our glue, what we believe in, our values – and the mix of people and mindsets that all wrap into how Steve Jobs once described culture: it’s  how we do things around here.  Best of all, our culture can’t be copied.   It’s ours alone.  It might be the last (and only) real competitive advantage any of us have.

Sadly, many brands miss this trinity.  They lock in one or two ingredients, but rarely get all three working together.  It’s the whole enchilada that matters.

• Purpose, without culture or marketing = great intentions, and a whole lot of wishful thinking.

• Culture, without purpose or marketing = a good vibe, but little else.  What’s the point?

• Marketing, without purpose or culture = all hype, no substance.  Ugh.

The companies that minimize this Holy Trinity or lag behind will… lag behind.  And the ones that truly get it will win.  They’ll stand out.  They won’t lay with the herd in the field, waiting and wondering, hoping.  They’ll be the ones confidently standing up and headed in the opposite direction.

I’m humbled to be asked by the owners of CMG (Peter Creaghan, Bob Gould and Marty McConnell) to be their first official CEO.   And I know I’ll be dedicating a lot of my time to our own purpose, our own culture and our own marketing.  I’m energized about what lies ahead.

In the meantime, to all of you:  thanks once again for following along over the years.  I hope you see the benefits (and impact) of continuously ‘nourishing’ your brands.

And I’ll always be cheering you on.

Now, one final ask yourself:

  1. What’s your purpose?
  2. Are you nurturing a culture that fulfills it?
  3. Are you spreadable?