November 6, 2015

Fearless! Are you? Is your brand?

Fortune favors the brave

Fortune favors the brave

Should you be fearless? Can you? Draw a graph of risk tolerance. Put “totally terrified” on the left end, and ”bizarrely brave” on the right. Most of us live our lives in the big fat middle of the bell curve: we may ride a roller coaster but fear spiders. We’ll ski down the double-diamond slope but fail to ask Betty Sue to the prom; buy a house but never climb out on the roof.

And that’s perfectly normal. Most people mix certainties and doubts, rationality and romance, lock the deadbolt but bicycle without a helmet. We don’t hide under three blankets paralyzed by invisible demons  – or swagger through the world with zero doubts like serial killers or Donald Rumsfeld.

But should your brand be fearless?

Brand strategies also follow a snake-swallowing-a-pig “normal distribution.” Some are timid, some are reckless, most nestle in the conventional bell curve bulge. Where’s your brand? Market leaders often move toward the cautious left half. Entrepreneurial startups are pulled to the disruptive pointy right end. Family firms tend to repeat rather than reinvent, so usually become risk-averse.

We strongly advocate a strategy of anchored fearlessness – because fear is an enemy of opportunity. “Prudent caution” can produce marketing that’s ordinary and ineffective. Not very prudent. This is not to say your brand should be out on the edge of recklessness – but push it as close as you dare, provided you have an anchor of prospect understanding. The one indispensable ingredient in marketing success is market insight*.

For instance, suppose your fast casual restaurant chain is looking for Millennials, and from actionable research, you know they place high value on “crafted by hand.”  You could do the expected, and show your burger/burrito/wrap/pizza being manually and artfully built. Or you could show burrito-rolling machines being blown up by grinning mad bomber millenni-troopers. Which one registers? In the heavyweight bout between disruptive and expected, disruptive wins nine times out of five.

What’s true for advertising is doubly true of naming. The safe, cautious, perfectly descriptive name withers and dies. The disruptive name, the one that makes people look up and ask about it, lives. Be fearless.

*For more on the role of insight in today’s content marketing, get my book.