Consistency: The not-so-secret ingredient to building a strong brand


If I were to ask you to name your favorite brand what would you say?  What metric or definitions would you use to acknowledge those companies whose brands rise to the top?

Brand building is big work.  Heavy work.  Time consuming work.  It takes patience, curiosity, interest, a willingness to listen, a willingness to act, a conscious effort to deliver what you promise day in and day out.  Yes, a brand is simply that…a promise.

Chances are your favorite brands may do many things well, but there’s one thing I bet they do better than all the others.  I’ll bet your favorite brands deliver what they promise consistently.  Not 70% of the time, or 80% of the time, but 10 out of 10 times you get exactly the experience you’ve come to expect.  It’s exactly the reason you keep going back.  It’s THE reason it’s your favorite brand .

Consistency is the little, but not so secret, ingredient of successful brandsDunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Wawa deliver great coffee all the time.  Apple delivers quality products for home, work, or on the go, that are easy to use and deliver what’s promised.  The gym I go to is always so clean you could eat off the floors which says a lot for a gym!  I drive 23 miles to take my car to a Cadillac dealership when there is a Caddy dealer 4 miles from my home.  Why?  They always recognize me by name, their waiting area is ultra-comfortable with TV, work stations and high-speed internet, not to mention their  “Nordstrom-like” restrooms.  Speaking of Nordstrom, their service is remarkable each and every time.  Whether you’re buying a brand name shirt, or one that carries John Nordstrom’s name, you can rest assured you’ve purchased something of quality.

We all have examples of our favorite brands.  What’s funny is how many companies I’ve experienced where paying attention to those little things is viewed as more of a luxury than a requirement.  Dunkin didn’t get the reputation for great coffee by accident.  They didn’t say “it doesn’t matter where we get our beans from or what type of equipment we use to brew it”.  They are all about those coffee details.  Nordstrom’s didn’t develop its reputation as service workhorse by giving customers a hard time when an item didn’t fit, work, or hold up as expected.  And for those of you privileged enough to live in a city where Wegmans operates you know how consistent their delivery of remarkable service is.  Wegmans has been known to take back, refund, and provide other goodwill gestures for food purchased that the customer didn’t like.  Consistently consistent.

If you’re selling fast and easy, it better be fast and easy all the time.  Not just most of the time. If you’re selling fresh, it needs to be fresh at 6 am or 6 pm.  If you’re selling durable, it better last under the harshest uses or conditions.

Regardless of what you sell, think about how consistent your brand delivers on its promise.  If it’s anything shy of 100%, or Six Sigma, I suggest you reevaluate and understand not just why, but what you’ll do to correct it.  Nobody wants to buy “sometimes”.  In fact most people buy with their emotions, and as human beings our emotions are wired for a “forever” experience.  People don’t like change and if your brand is inconsistent you’re indirectly creating a situation that will bring a change to your customer.  Not a good thing.  Consistently consistent.  That’s the key.



A Few Thoughts On Change


I recently had an interaction with a group of folks embarking on a new change.  Like most recipients of change there was hesitation and apprehension. Normal emotions that typically accompany change. When we are faced with change it’s human nature to question, doubt, fear, and distrust the impending change. First reactions are often negative with a sense of “OMG what now!”.

Years ago I had a boss teach me a method for adapting to change. I have used this technique several times and have found it to be calming, enlightening, and in many cases beneficial in helping me adapt to the change I was facing. It all starts with changing your paradigm on change.

Life’s biggest change-fests include getting a new job, a new boss, having a new child, getting married for the first time (and hopefully the only time), starting a new school, making new friends, or working with a new agency partner. All these changes bring a level of stress that includes many of the emotions I listed above. One way to eliminate those butterflies in your stomach when facing change is by asking yourself one question. Resist the urge to predict the future this change will create and ask yourself one simple question: What good will this change bring me?

A new job can bring new and exciting experiences. A new boss can provide new insights, coaching, development, and opportunities. Changing to a new school opens the doors to new friends, programs, activities. Getting married provides stability, support, love, and a safe place to land when you need one. All changes bring opportunities. Unfortunately, and most likely due to past experiences, we tend to immediately go to the negative when it comes to how we perceive change.

Remember this. Nothing improves without changing something. Tide, Crest, Cadillac, Apple, Wegmans, Nordstrom are all companies that continue to innovate and change, and it’s in these changes that these companies prosper and flourish. The same is true with people. Phil Mickelson changes his approach and improves his golf game. Peyton Manning changes his training routine and improves his passing efficiency. No matter what the case, change has to occur before things can get better. So next time you’re faced with a change don’t panic. Just ask yourself, “how will this change benefit me”. Not will it benefit but how. Assume it’s for the good and it will be.

Supercharge Your Results With 3 Easy Steps


A new year is around the corner and there’s no better time than now to start thinking about how to juice your performance in 2014. Whether this past year has been an incredible success, terrible failure, or plain old mediocre, in a matter of days you’ll receive a wonderful gift…the chance to do it all over again! And herein lies a choice you must make. Do things the same and most likely get the same results or mix things up and push for a different outcome. Hey, even if this past year was outstanding, and what you accomplished impressed even you, why let up? You can do more, accomplish greater results, and push yourself to new limits. Here’s how you can supercharge your results in 2014:

1. Pick 1 area or topic and go deep. If you’re in the B2B space brush up on healthcare reform, the unemployment numbers, or interest rates. If you’re in B2C think about what trends the Consumer Confidence Index suggests. The skies the limit.  Your competition is fierce and getting tougher by the day. They’re looking for ways to differentiate themselves from you, and your company, by adding value. If you simply focus on being the best salesperson, marketer, service manager, etc for your company, and not open your eyes to the world around you, soon you will be chasing the pack. Those that excel and reach the top will look different by acting differently.
2. Make 1 more call a day. Tap into your network and use it. Call one person from your network everyday. It doesn’t need to be an hour phone call. A short 15 minute check-in can provide insights, perspectives, and ideas. You should build your network to include a wide range of people within your industry, outside of your industry, blue-collar, white-collar, etc.  Just like your investment portfolio requires diversity, so does your network.  Make it one of your top priorities to meet people and develop relationships.
3. Spend 15 minutes of alone time each day. We all need time to think. Time to recharge, time to reflect, time to create. Taking a few minutes every day is critical to your success. The human brain is the fastest processor of information on the planet, however, unlike a computer that can run for an unlimited amount of time, human beings need to shut down to rest their brain. Just like an athlete requires “recovery” time for their muscles, we all need recovery time for our brains. Take the time, block it out, put it on your calendar and think…just think. Think about your goals, where you are relative to each of them, and the actions you’ve taken to get you this far. Think about where you want to go to next and some of the steps you may need to take to get there.

Try doing each of these activities and see how quickly your results improve. And when they do let me know!

General Motors Big Comeback


They most certainly have had their ups and downs, but 2013 looks to be the comeback year for General Motors.  With their stock trading near a 52-week high, their bond rating just increased to investment grade by Moody’s, and 4 of their brands rated by J.D. Power as “The Most Dependable”, GM seems to be on the mend.

Tracing its roots to 1908, General Motors started as a holding company for Buick.  In less than two years, GM merged or acquired 8 brands including Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, Elmore, Oakland, Reliance Motor Truck Company, and Rapid Motor Vehicle (predecessor to GMC Trucks).   The company ran into its first experience with leverage in 1910 when then founder, and majority owner, William Durant lost control of the company to a bankers’ trust due to the overly aggressive, rapid expansion and acquisition spree.  Durant would later take control again of GM in 1916, this time for good.  GM would experience stratospheric growth until the early 1980s when new cracks in its armor would begin to appear.

For years GM had operated with hubris…an extreme arrogance coupled with the Company’s inability to realistically understand its own competence.  Build it and they will come was the motto.  This led to poor quality, cheap and unreliable components, and total disregard for consumer preferences.  GM actually pioneered many of today’s most popular in-vehicle features but was unable to follow through.  The 1955 Chevy was the first documented car that offered cup holders, but it took nearly 30 years for a different car company to make them standard and popular.  That car company was Chrysler and the vehicle was the Chrysler minivan.  GM was the first to manufacture a mass-produced electric vehicle in 1990, the EV1, and also is recognized as the inventor of air bag safety systems in our vehicles today.

Watching GM from the mid 1980s through the early 2000s was like watching a company in suspended animation.  They produced vehicles that were average at best, offered mediocre quality, and still had not paid much attention to the interior features of its cars.  The Japanese and German automakers fine-tuned their cars offering better sound proofing to eliminate road noise, higher-end textures inside the cabins to make the vehicles more comfortable, and new exterior designs offering new looks every few years versus the seven years it took for General Motors to make exterior changes.

GM’s disregard for what the buyer wanted finally caught up to them in their 2009 bankruptcy filing at the height of the Great Recession.  Public opinion ran in extremes during this time.  The topic of a GM bailout was viewed as black or white.  You were either in favor or not…no in between.  Ultimately the U.S. government propped up General Motors with $50 billion dollars, of which half has been repaid.  The remaining balance – about 200 million shares will be sold off in traunches by the U.S. government.  To break even the stock will need to trade north of $70 per share as of today.  As so sticks the name “Government Motors”.

That brings us to GM’s comeback.  While a $70 dollar share price is still very aggressive in the near term there are promising signs that GM may have found its swagger.  They’ve unloaded their unprofitable brands including Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab, and Hummer.  They have poured millions into Chevy and Cadillac and so far the results have been impressive.  The new 2013 Cadillac XTS won an Edmonds “best car of the year” category while the ATS won the North American Car of the Year award.  GM’s 4 remaining brands can be found in J.D. Powers top 10 list of most dependable vehicles.  From styling and quality, to sales and service, General Motors seems to be coming back from the dead, and that’s a great thing.  Putting aside the politics of the bailout, the fact is we should all be cheering them on.  After all it’s our money.  It’s quite possible we are witnessing one of the greatest comebacks in the history of corporate America, and if that’s the case, we’re all the better for it.