What You Can Learn From John Wayne and Your Brand

Marion Mitchell Morrison. What does that name mean to you? Does it sound tough or heroic? What if I told you that Marion is really John Wayne? That’s right, folks. Marion was his given name but it didn’t quite convey the cowboy, rough-rider style that “the Duke” was known for, so a name change was in order. It became his brand, one that Marion embraced throughout his life and that still resonates with people today.

Consider your brand. Is it saying what you want it to say? Does it create a connection with your audience that they can feel passion for, get behind, and love for years to come? For Marion, his original name didn’t quite fit with that persona, so he became John Wayne. Yet today, the big question would be how “the Duke” might approach a strategy in 2017 to keep his brand relevant.

So what does this all mean to you and your organization? Well, perhaps it’s time to make a brand shift. Or, perhaps it isn’t about your brand at all, but rather about your marketing strategy to support your brand. Here are things to think about when contemplating your brand and whether it needs to shift:

  1. When you explain your brand to your audience, or when they experience it for themselves, do they get it? If they do, that’s great! You may just need to rethink some of your strategy or tactics. If they look at you with a deer-in-headlights expression, because your brand promise is all about the “ingredients” (all the details and systems about how you’re going to get what you want but never talk about what IT is), you may be in for some branding work.
  1. Does your brand create loyalty? Your brand should create an emotional connection with the audience that makes them want to come back time and again. They want to buy from you, even if you’re more expensive. If you find that your customer base is a rotating door of one-time shoppers, you may be in for some branding work.
  1. Does your brand create an experience for the customer? We always tell people that your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your customer says it is, and that comes directly from their experience with you. That means that you must deliver what you promise. If you don’t, that promise is empty and your story becomes something different in the minds of your customer. Think about a luxury-oriented business who promises to personally greet every customer at the door with a bottle of water, yet when customers visit, no one greets them or even talks to them. What do you think that brand story really becomes? If something similar is happening in your business, you may be in for some branding work.

As you consider the points above and how they relate to your brand, also remember the types of things that could get your confused or lead you off track during the process:

  1. Don’t confuse the brand with the marketing strategy, or the tactics included in that strategy. This will lead you to do lots of “stuff” that doesn’t have purpose, and isn’t brand-driven
  2. Don’t try to re-define your brand if it’s never been defined in the first place.
  3. Avoid jumping onto the latest and greatest tactics before defining your brand, and certainly before defining all of the customer touch points where your brand story will be told.
  4. Don’t ignore your brand. Constantly evaluate if it’s on track, and creating the experience you intend.

Where to begin:

Building an iconic brand takes a lot of reflection, introspection, and honesty. Go back to the beginning and think about what your passion was that led you to start your business. Dig into the parts that you love, but maybe didn’t share. Ultimately it is never about what you do – it is about what you love about what you do. While this doesn’t sound like this is what will help you sell more stuff, it really does. This is what builds the framework that people understand. They get that you believe in something deeper than selling stuff. After you have developed this iconic brand, then define that strategy on how people will experience your brand and what they’ll feel when they encounter it, then tactically how you deliver it.

So in the end, the conclusion is be very consistent with your brand. If you are a cowboy, embrace it, own it and develop a strategy that gets the message out. Then start delivering and implementing.

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