In the early days of Softchoice we liked to be a bit brash. We liked to be irreverent. We liked to show people that we were different. We would publish catalog covers for our complete listings of software products that were eye-catching. At times we had complaints from customers about the images (toilet seats, outhouses, lemons with the word “sucks”) and from lawyers ( After using the image of a sheep and the word Dolly we got a call from a lawyer who asked us to cease and desist using their cloned sheep’s name). At the time we loved the attention.
But, one day a branding firm, at our invitation did some work to have us identify our brand. We showed them the images of the things we were proud of. Often, branding firms use pictures cut from magazines to have people describe their brand because words are just simply inadequate to get at the underlying emotion that you want to convey. For example, If you are trying to convey that you are really wise you might pick the picture of an Owl. After several hours with many people trying to convey with the use of pictures “who we are” we came to a consensus of what represented the Softchoice Brand. We were then asked to compare the selected images to what we had been publishing via our catalog covers. Well, for me it was an embarrasing aha!
We were the little guys trying to show the establishment that we were cool. So, being irreverent was about showing people that we had the courage to be brash and unique. The major realization was that this was nothing that we actually believed would make a prospective customer buy from us! It was all about us. We, in effect, liked being irreverent for the sake of being irreverent.
We realized that our brand needed to represent who we were in a more honest and straightforward manner. Irreverance has disrespect as its core definition and we were anything but disrespectful in our everyday interactions with our customers. We were efficient (answer the phone within 3 rings with no voice-mail system), we were creative (find a solution and make the customer happy) and we were enthusiastic (be positive and upbeat about everything). The big aha was that irreverence had nothing to do with our brand. It was a distraction and created brand confusion.
Laying that realization bare was an important step in having us change our view of our brand. We stopped trying to be cute and cool and just got on with telling our story about why people should buy from us.
We had to be careful in this adjustment because we still like the idea that we were different and unique. As a company we were always willing to look at things differently. We like challenging the norms. We like to break unbreakable barriers by seeing things differently. But, none of that is disrespectful and we just had to clear that up! Our beliefs were right. We were just unclear about seeing how that drove our culture and ultimately our brand.
It is my belief today that we can look at out brand maps and clearly link that to the needed culture and then link that to how managers create culture. But, nothing changes in Branding without a willingness to address core beliefs!