I just received the graphic below as part of a marketing campaign and laughed out loud. For anyone who has seen the Netflix original documentary “Fyre, The Greatest Party That Never Happened” you know why. Take a close look at the precise choice of words in the copy: “ultimate team player,” “man of many talents,” and “whatever it takes.” This is spot on and on-brand for Andy King who went from a well-regarded industry insider to the poster child for ‘take one for the team.’ (Truly, if you haven’t seen the Fyre documentary, you should).
I am writing this because it is a great example of owning your brand. We don’t get to choose what our brand means to the public, they do. We want to shape it, to cajole it, to manipulate it to match our strategy. But in the end, brand essence is determined by those other than the owners of the brand. At the point that brand perception goes in a direction other than our choosing, we have three choices: 1) do nothing, 2) fight against it, or 3) own it. In the case of Andy King, I would surmise he evaluated that being world-renowned for a positive attribute like being a team player was better for his brand than being a little-known but highly respected event logistician. He must also have calculated how difficult it would be for him to reshape his brand essence after the debacle that was Fyre rather than riding the wave.
Another example of owning your brand was ‘Kombucha Girl’ Brittany Broski who accidentally became a meme. In this case, her evocative reactions posted on a TikTok video to trying kombucha for the first time resulted in the Internet doing what the Internet does, applying her reactions to all manner of topics—some tame and others highly inappropriate in polite circles.
She was fired from her job at a bank and faced the prospect of not being able to pursue a ‘normal’ corporate career. Brittany embraced her fame and crafted a new career by owning her newfound brand and using it to her benefit.
So what would you do if an event happened that turned your brand in a direction you did not intend? Would your internal teams have the perspective and chutzpah to argue for a direction that was different than what they have been previously promoting to the depth of their souls?
There are times when it is vital to bring in an outside perspective who will work well with internal stakeholders but who also has no aversion to speaking truth to power, allowing all avenues to be explored. It also is advisable to commission a study every now and then to try and find out what your brand essence truly is out in the world at large. Do you really think you already know your brand essence, and that it hasn’t veered off in a different direction?
Like Andy King or Brittany Broski, maybe a huge new opportunity is waiting for you to grab on, embrace a new direction, and take one for the benefit of your team.