You, me, and everyone we know have gotten to where we are today by leaning on a few tried and true techniques … approaches … strategies. Call them your go-to moves. Or your core competencies (if you are in that kind of TPS-Report-kind-of-organization.)
Our brains are hard-wired to repeat what has been successful in the past … and, frustratingly, also hard-wired against trying something new – even if the results to date haven’t been all that great. As maverick as you may think you are, brain studies show you are far more likely to avoid risk than to seek it out.
Think of our friend George Constanza as the poster man child of this phenomenon …
But let’s face it, from time to time, we’re all George Costanza.
Every once in a while, it’s time to Be Like George… and do The Opposite of what you’ve always done. (This goes for your career, too. More on that later. First, let’s look at brand identities.)
I realize that’s much easier said then done. Most organizations — and brands — have barriers in place to keep people from going all Costanza on them. Some are pretty necessary – like brand standards – while some may just be the vestige of “we’ve always done it that way” thinking.
Either way, your colleagues, your boss and your brain are probably conspiring against you doing The Opposite. Still, there are ways to baby-step your way to Costanzaland (or is it Costanzaville?)
1. Figure out where your brand is right now
You might be surprised at how differently different people in your organization see and imagine your brand. Some have a pretty definite idea of what it is — and should — stand for. Others probably haven’t even thought about it. Still, I bet there’s a pretty wide range of opinions there. So your first step is to figure out where things are right now. Does everyone know your brand promise? Hell, do you even have a brand promise? What differentiates you from your competition? What, specifically can consumers get from you that they can’t get from anyone else? Start by creating a little questionnaire, and give it to the people you work with. The important thing here is not to get everyone to agree. It’s to get everyone talking.
2. Do a market scan
You may have been zigging for years now … and even if you are ready to start zagging, you’ll need to know where there might be some open road — and what territories your competitors have already staked out.
3. Take another look at your audience
An easy way to do The Opposite is to find a new audience. Start by doing a little digging. How do you target your audience? Do you target left-handed MBAs who drive late-model Subarus and prefer decaf over tea? Or is your target “anyone who’ll say yes.” Identify your audience … refine it if necessary … and then consider some new territory.
4. Revisit your message
Unique Selling Propositions, Reasons To Believe and Consumer Benefits — no matter how artfully crafted — can become obsolete over time. It’s not that they’re not smart or well-considered … it’s more that consumers and the market change day by day. Make sure your message is a response to a genuine consumer insight. And, keep in mind, insights change. New needs, desires, pain points and frustrations are born all the time.
5. Try some new media
Adding a new marketing channel or shaking up your traditional media mix isn’t just a great way to embrace Constanzaism … it’s also a pretty cheap and highly measurable way to assess the effectiveness of trying something new. But be careful. “Let’s Do Some Social” is NOT a media strategy. (Even if it’s your strategist who’s saying it.) Integrating social into your media mix IS smart … but only if you know the who, what, when, where and why of what you want to accomplish. Just because “anyone can tweet” doesn’t mean that social deosn’t deserve the some strategic thought you’d give any other channel.
6. Stake out some new territory
By taking stock of your brand, your audience, your message and your competitors, you may be surprised at how easily a new direction will reveal itself.
By the way, you should also embrace opportunities to do The Opposite with your career development. Love writing long-form DM letters? Take a swing at a display campaign (even if it’s spec work.) Are you a wiz-bang developer? Try designing a logo. By hand. You’ll be amazed at the possibilities it can open up for you. Not to mention the satisfaction that comes from stretching out and trying something new.
And if you want to add the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae, don’t just learn how to do The Opposite … teach someone else how to do it. Educators have known forever that the best way to get someone to learn something is to have them have to teach it.
Today it’s chicken salad, on rye, untoasted … tomorrow, the world!