What does “Your Iconic Brand” mean?
Recently, I asked my customers about my company’s name. Those conversations led to a startling (and rather unpleasant) realization.
The promise of being an “iconic brand” missed the mark.
This is a story about my company’s brand evolution – but it’s more than a story. It’s an object lesson for you to consider how your brand engages its customers. At the end of this post you’ll find actionable steps to apply to your company. Let’s jump in!
Once I evaluated the company name, I realized it failed on two important levels.
Defining the “Brand” in Your Iconic Brand
The first failure was the concept of “brand” itself. People were confused.
When people hear a company does “brand work” they assume it means logos, website design and such. That’s not what I meant. When I think about “brand,” it’s not those visual elements. It’s in a larger context.
Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster explains it well in my book, Keep Your Customers. “Building a great business comes down to having a brand that customers love,” Suster says. “A brand isn’t built on marketing campaigns. It’s built on customers.”
In other words, brand is the emotional connection you build to cultivate loyal customers. Sure, the visuals will be part of it, but the heart of a brand is the connection customers feel for a company.
Unfortunately, my definition of brand didn’t match the market’s. When people see a company name with the word “Brand,” they think visuals and design.
As a result, I fielded a lot of calls for work opportunities that didn’t align with my expertise of helping companies grow to the next level.
Bottom line: The word “Brand” in Your Iconic Brand was the first failure.
Who Wants To Be “Iconic?”
In 2014, when I came up with the idea of “Your Iconic Brand,” I was ecstatic. Doesn’t every business owner want to be iconic? It turns out, the answer is no.
For a lot of business owners, the notion of “iconic” doesn’t resonate. “Iconic” sounds too fancy our out of reach. They think they need a big, expensive marketing engine to support an “iconic brand.” Even when I explained that small and medium-sized companies can become iconic by developing connection with their customers, the notion was met with a resounding, “meh.”
The business leaders I serve are not sitting awake at 2am, worried about how to make their companies iconic.
So What, Now What
First, I had to acknowledge the company name was a mistake. That took time – it’s pretty much a suckfest to make that discovery.
I considered ignoring my discovery. After all, I was busy helping clients grow their companies! But I also had to face the reality that “Your Iconic Brand” wasn’t delivering on its core promise to customers. The brand experience wasn’t customer-centric.
I was out of alignment.
With that realization, it was time to rip the band-aid off and get a fresh perspective.
It was time to rebrand.
And not just a “refresh.” (Believe me, I tried to convince myself that was enough.) Nope, I needed a full-on, rename the company, do-over. Buh-bye Your Iconic Brand!
Let me tell you…rebranding is scary!
I began by hiring someone to talk with past clients. We’ll call her Sara – mostly because that’s her name. Sara asked clients about their past work with me. I had no idea what I was going to hear. When I got her report, this is what clients said:
- “It was amazing. A game changer.”
- “Every year since I’ve worked with her has been an improvement.”
- “If I hadn’t worked with her, I think I’d be miserable, working my fingers to the bone. I’m not a good pretender. That energy would rub off on my staff. I wouldn’t have had the success with keeping my staff. Eventually, I would have lost interest in my own business.”
- “We will use this for a really long time.”
- “My team will remember Ali’s work for the rest of their careers.”
Um, wow. I might have gotten verklempt.
Reading the report was important validation and welcome good news. No matter what the company name, my client work was delivering in a big way. One theme that came up several times was clients who said I over delivered. As they put it, the work was bigger than just customer retention. My new brand identity needed to capture the complete promise of my company. Sara and I got to work.
When branding is done well, it seems utterly simple. Elegant. You can’t imagine it any other way. Consider the Nike swoosh, and “just do it.”
Here’s the reality. Launching something “simple” is a ton of work.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be unveiling my new brand. I’ll share the steps I went through, so you can peek behind the curtains at the thought process. As I show you the evolution, you’ll have the opportunity to grab some key seedlings and nurture them in your company.
Here’s your takeaway
Getting feedback from your clients is incredibly valuable. (Even when it hurts.) To get the greatest likelihood of honest, actionable feedback it helps to have an objective 3rd party do the asking. It’s what I do for my clients, and it’s why I hired someone to do the work for me.
Ask yourself: When’s the last time you did a systematic, deep dig with your customers? I’m not talking about an NPS survey. I mean a series of intentional, one-on-one conversations that are designed to audit your customer’s experience.
Has it been longer than two years? If so, you’re overdue.
Find a way to connect with your customers and get real-world feedback. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.