The Costs of Greatness

Building a great brand doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t come easily to anyone. It’s hard work and requires an almost inhumane level of commitment to values in service to a bigger “why.” Most people aren’t willing to do the work. That’s why so many brands fall flat. But for those of us who are willing to stick to our guns and commit ourselves to the process, we can build a truly remarkable brand. So what exactly does that mean? Let’s hone in on two areas of everyday business that are impacted by this commitment to remarkability.

The Cost of Sticking to Your Values

Very few companies care about their brand enough to go through a brand workshop and identify their unique values. They’re too focused on the short term — on their immediate profits — to see the long-term benefit of developing their brand. These companies will eventually realize their mistake once sales drop and they struggle to retain good employees. There are costs associated with such a short-sighted view of business. But sticking to your values also comes at a cost. We’d be lying if we told you otherwise. However, we believe the rewards far outweigh the costs.

Let’s break that down a bit.

Stating Your Values Narrows Your Potential Customer Base

“Made in America Without Compromise”

This is the headline on the Origin USA website. It’s a signal to everyone who views the website that Origin USA is a company that exists to support and strengthen the American people and the American way of life. It’s making a claim about the values of the company and its larger “why.” If you dig into the company, you’ll find they’re on a mission to regain Maine’s position as the leading supplier of clothes for Americans. You buy Origin USA products if you believe in traditional American values, and want to see more textile jobs return to America. It’s clear and bold. And it’s not for everyone.

Depending on your geographical location or political persuasion, the mission of Origin USA might not be for you. Or you simply might not be willing to pay the heftier price for the product. Whenever you see “made in America” on a product, you’re expecting to pay more for the product. The company that makes the product is paying American wages.

But for those who share Origin USA’s values, the fact is more of a reason to buy Origin, not less. These people will be more loyal and more committed customers because of their shared values. In other words, while having clear strong values limits your potential customer base, it deepens the commitment of the customers you acquire. Origin USA took a risk being so bold, but it’s certainly paying off.

When you serve something bigger than yourself, you’re able to really connect with your customer base. Why? Because you’re connecting yourself with a “why” that you both share.

The World is Holding You Accountable

It might be a bit of a stretch to say that the world is holding you accountable to your stated values (unless you’re Apple, Nike, Starbucks, etc.) But certainly, your world is holding you accountable. Your customers, vendors, employees, the board of directors and other stakeholders are all watching you. They are all wondering if you will stick to your values when it really matters. Will you stand by your word even when it hurts? Or will you abandon your values at the first sign of pain? What will you do when you see an opportunity to profit if you compromise just a little on your values? What you do really matters to these people.

Your employees need to know that your values are more than profit. They need to know their work serves a greater purpose. They want to know you value the same things they value. And that you’re willing to sacrifice in service of those values, just like they do. Otherwise, they will leave for another company that demonstrates its commitment to those values.

Your customers need to trust you. If they’re at all suspicious of your commitment, they will be much less likely to support your brand. People are no longer simply concerned with getting the most bang for their buck. They want to know their dollars are supporting the values they hold.

By stating your values clearly, you’ll be inviting the world to critique you. You will be held to a higher level of accountability. But we believe that’s a good thing. Those fires of accountability will refine your brand and produce a much better brand in the long run.

What’s the Risk if You Underdo It?

If you’ve made it this far and you still think it’s worthwhile to build a remarkable brand, awesome! You are the only obstacle between you and success. If you start making compromises, loosen your guidelines, and break from the course you outlined, your brand will suffer. Remember that thing we said earlier? Developing a great brand requires a wholehearted commitment. Without that, your results will diminish and you’ll become discouraged and exhausted.

Just like any other commitment we make, if we underdo it, all our effort, time and resources will go to waste. It’s like getting in shape. All the exercise in the world won’t make you healthy if you’re making mostly unhealthy food choices. Your claims about being healthier now will be met with skepticism as those who are close to you watch your diet and lack of results overall. Your advice to them about being healthy will fall on deaf ears and your word will become less valuable to them. They will see you as a person who talks a big game, but who doesn’t follow it up.

Your brand is no different.

Taking your team through the process of developing your brand without committing to it wholeheartedly will create internal and external distrust. It might even make things worse. When you’re inconsistently committed, you forfeit momentum. No one knows exactly what a win looks like. No one knows exactly how to handle sales. No one knows exactly why you’re doing anything. That will bleed into your public image and regaining confidence is twice as hard as building it in the first place.

There’s a lot at stake here. You can’t partially commit to building a great brand. You will only excel in the destruction of whatever brand you have.

Decide to Be Remarkable. Then Go Out and Do It.

Nobody wants to see a good brand go bad. We certainly don’t. So be sure to answer these questions as honestly as you can. Invite objective voices who want to see your brand succeed in this process. Determine if investing in your brand is really worth it. Get clear on who you are, and get ready to do the work. Then commit with every fiber of your being to making your brand as remarkable as the people working hard to build it.

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