A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of a traffic jam. Not the slow moving type, but the “get comfortable you’re going nowhere type” that shouts, “You missed your morning meeting!” Realizing that a traffic accident could be to blame, I decided to practice gratitude.
“I am thankful that I am in a comfortable car, safe and sound. God, if someone is in an accident up ahead, please be with them and provide comfort.”
A short time later, the traffic began to move. It’s a good thing because I can only meditate for so long before I feel trapped. I’m sure I was there for at least an hour practicing mindfulness and gratitude, which means I was stopped for about 27 seconds.
As we moved up, sure enough, I could see what was causing the delay: an accident. I did what you would do. I steeled my eyes on the road ahead and drove without so much as glancing. Yeah, sure you do. Trying to keep moving, I glanced ever so quickly to note the vehicles, the emergency responders, and a fleeting view of the injured. I try not to look—I’ve read that rubberneckers cause numerous secondary accidents—but I’ve also read that looking may be good for you. Eric G. Wilson, the author of Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away, argues that it helps us understand life’s deeper meaning.
At the very least, we can tell ourselves that studying wrecks helps us learn from others’ mistakes.
As with accidents, I watch corporate disasters the same way. Several memorable disasters including Bridgestone’s tire recall, JetBlue’s trapping passengers onboard as categorized by Business Insider. Anything from the Paula Deen meltdown to Target’s PR nightmare qualifies.
This past week, I witnessed a different type of branding wreckage. Sure, it may not be as noteworthy as the mistakes above. It doesn’t involve a consumer brand name, and it doesn’t endanger anyone’s health nor involve racist or offensive remarks.
Still, it provides lessons that are worth exploring.
Last week, the National Speakers Association (NSA) announced it was jettisoning its venerable brand in favor of a new name. That name is Platform. Though I was not in attendance, I almost immediately was made aware of the announcement via emails, texts and tweets. (See also Rory Vaden‘s excellent post on this subject).
It was almost as if I could hear the tires screeching, the glass shattering, the metal twisting. This was a branding collision, and the onlookers would be gathering to watch. Why?
First two disclosures:
One of my close friends is Michael Hyatt. He is the NYT Bestselling author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. He runs a conference called the Platform Conference and has an online community that will make your head spin at Platform University. He was the driving force encouraging me to blog. On the book jacket, you will see my endorsement:
“Michael Hyatt, one of the pioneers of social networking and blogging, shares his successful blueprint for raising your visibility. Learn from his experience and save yourself time, money and frustration by following his step-by-step advice.”
“The most powerful concept of marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.” –Ries and Trout
I’m a fan of the NSA. Many of the members of this organization made a huge impact on my life. I have listened to the speakers; attended the seminars; wore out the old cassette tapes; and even worked for many of the greats from the organization. I have great admiration for this organization and the positive impact many of the speakers have on lives.
Here are a few branding rules to avoid branding wrecks:
1. Stay on mission.
Your brand is your reputation. Make sure that your brand provides clarity about your services.
The National Speakers Association needs little explanation. Whether you know the organization or not, you can guess what they do. Platform is not so obvious. It needs additional clarification.
2. Stand out.
A branding collision is confusing. Make sure your brand is differentiated and owns a unique space. Note: This does not mean that you must always have a unique title. Michael Hyatt was not the only one to use Platform in a title, but he has claimed the space. Unseating him is unnecessary and requires resources.
With this announcement, what’s the biggest mistake that the National Speaker’s Association is making? Drum roll. Dramatic pause.
Don’t alienate your future customers. Michael Hyatt’s tribe—his readers, those taking his courses, those adopting his blogging tools—these are the very people the NSA will want to engage and enroll in the organization in coming years. These are tomorrow’s budding speakers. Why would you want to alienate them by offending the leader of the tribe?
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” –John Powell
3. Understand the new rules of new media.
What Michael teaches is how to build your own platform. The NSA should read and understand the book. Michael has an engaged tribe and is a social media expert. His tribe is extensive. Understand this: Social media is responsible for a stunning power shift from organizations to individuals. Failing to understand that shift can lead to disaster.
4. Control the communication.
When faced with a PR crisis, there are some rules to follow. Get out with your story. Be direct, open and honest. Don’t make false promises. Don’t take too long. Achieve the right balance between acting rashly and studying the issue too long. Don’t let others tell your story.
“A brand is not a product or a promise or a feeling. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company.” –A Kassaei
5. Master perception.
In the The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Ries and Jack Trout provide a blueprint for marketing success. Let’s review just two of these powerful rules.
“Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.” –Ries and Trout
Rule #4: The Law of Perception. Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.
Rule #5: The Law of Focus. The most powerful concept of marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.
(Note: after writing this, I became aware of an excellent article on the same subject by Mike Kim. Mike references Rule #4.)
The NSA (sorry, I still cannot get my mind around calling an association “Platform”) and Michael Hyatt have collided. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. No one wants to be in an accident. The tips above may help you avoid a collision of your own.
“The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.” –Simon Mainwaring
But, one of the reasons we watch collisions is to find out what happens next. What will the leadership of NSA do? Will Michael Hyatt respond? Will the NSA continue with the rebranding? No matter what happens, Eric Wilson is right to look for the deeper meaning in wrecks. This branding wreck may be an unfortunate accident, but it is certainly one we can all learn from.