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Archive for March 30th, 2006

A brand is a promise. An expectation. To a great extent, it is also a reputation. As a company, you either deliver on this promise, or you get the boot from your customers. Plain and simple.

Years ago, Mercedes stood for quality. Wait, no… not just quality but superquality. Mercedes was a luxury brand, much like Cartier and Chanel and Hermes. To a great extent, this is still the company’s stance. Mercedes, BMW and Porsche form the great German Luxury Automaking triumvirate. When it comes to status and image, they still rule over all other “affordable” luxury car brands including Jaguar, Cadillac and Lexus. (Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari and the likes could be more accurately batched into a superluxury category.)

At any rate, the decision to purchase a Mercedes comes with a certain degree of expectation when it comes to the quality of the car, its design, comfort, performance, safety, etc. Along with that should come a certain level of service. After all, the experience of shopping for a luxury car (and owning it) should come with a few perks. You expect to be treated professionally. You expect to feel like you are receiving VIP treatment by a dealership’s sales and service staff.

You expect friendly, able people to smile, nod, and say things like “yes Mr. Skipsquat, we’ll take care of that for you right away. Would you like some coffee while you wait? Can I have one of our drivers take you back to your office? Would you like us to send a car to pick you up when we’re done servicing your car?”

Okay, maybe that last part is too much to ask… but we’re talking about Mercedes, aren’t we? No offense to Toyota, Dodge or Citroen, but… the Mercedes experience (yes, it begins when you first drive up to the dealership) should be on a whole different level than that of other, more budget-friendly brands.

At the very least, even f you aren’t taken care of like royalty, you should walk away from every Mercedes experience feeling really great about it. You should be wowed by the excelent level of service. You pay good money to be a part of the Mercedes world, and that world extends far beyond the confines of your car. If you wanted to buy a poorly-built car and get the runaround from the dealer and the corporate office, you could have bought a Ford, right?

Eh… Well… times, they’re a-changin’.
Apparently, Mercedes may be dropping the ball. Read Francois Gossieaux’s Mercedes horror story here, and find out for yourselves what might be wrong with what was once one of the most sought after luxury brands in the world. It’s a great read.

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Check out these great bits of advice from Dave Lorenzo’s Career Intensity blog:

“Deciding: ‘Familiarize yourself with common decision-making errors—such as going along with a group choice to maintain cohesion. Watch for tendencies within yourself to commit such errors.’

Leaders make bold decisions. They see them through, and if they aren’t working out, they make new decisions. The worst thing you can do for your career is make no choices or let your choices be made for you. Taking a passive approach to your goals is unlikely to result in success. Even if you make a bad decision, it’s better to mess up and learn from it than to remain stagnant. Failures are great opportunities to learn more about yourself and the world. Move ahead by choosing wisely and boldly.”

(If you’re asking yourself… yeah, cool career advice, but… what does this have to do with branding, hold on. I’m getting to it.)

“It takes someone who believes in herself and her ideas to challenge the status quo. These are the people who shake things up and change them for the better. You don’t have to be contentious to challenge. The best way to suggest changes is not to bash the old ways, but to offer new and positive ideas.

If you are part of a team working on a project that you believe could be going more smoothly, step up and present your ideas. Most likely, everyone will be excited to approach the work from a new angle. And you will begin to earn a reputation for innovation.”

Still not catching on? Okay… Let’s try one more:

“In the famous words of Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.

What separates the dazzling winners from everyone else is that they are able to envision a grand future. What turns them into winners is that they are able to leap into that future and do the hard work necessary to make it great.

Particularly for die-hard realists and people who have been trained (by parents, friends, or spouse) to be ‘responsible’ and ‘stable’, indulging in imagination can be difficult. For every idea that’s even mildly revolutionary, a little voice chimes in, ‘Impossible. You can’t do that. That’s stupid. It’ll never work.’ Quiet that voice and spend some time ruminating on your wild, far-out, fanciful ideas. Great leader do things that no one before them has done.”

Still no? Tsssk… Okay. I’ll give you a hint: Substitute “brand” for “career”. Everything that Dave so brilliantly recommends is exactly the kind of advice that you can put to good use in building strong brands – from ‘brand you’ to the next retail darling, iconic consumer good or dazzling web application.

Brands aren’t built in a vacuum. They aren’t built by functionaries. They do not thrive in stagnant bureaucracies. Brands are built by empowered visionaries. Brands are built on enthusiasm, conviction, and courage… Or they are doomed from the start.

You are the heart and soul of the brand you represent and serve. If you want your brand to be a market leader, you must be a leader in your job as well. Your qualities are your brand’s attributes. Your weaknesses are its flaws. Everything you are, everything you do, affects its success and future.

So… don’t ever let anyone turn you into a tool. Challenge everything. Question every assumption. Wage war on routine and bureaucracy. Accept no compromise…

… and read Dave’s blog. It’s a good one.

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