The Benefit of Having Balls

Some people have them, others don’t. And I’m not talking about men vs. women here. We are talking the metaphorical ones. The ones that separate you from a grey blob in the universe. The ones that give you super powers. The ones that bring you a sense of purpose and a place in the record books. Brands can also have balls. Or at least companies can employ people with the desire to make a difference.

Unfortunately, many don’t. It is not easy to be the one person in an organisation who stands up for the extraordinary. You have to face many naysayers and people who insist on playing it safe. Especially where there are committees making decisions, the safe solutions tend to win. It’s understandable. Why risk your reputation, your job and even your career on something so minuscule as marketing a brand or a product? On the other hand, what is the point of any marketing activity, if it isn’t to position the brand differently to the competitors.

Look at successful brand marketing campaigns, throughout history. Nike. Apple. Avis. To name but a few. They all took chances, they all positioned their brand squarely away from the competitors. It couldn’t have been done without individuals who decided to make a difference, take a chance and be bold. Sure, there are many big brands with bland marketing. Stuff that we can’t remember and that no one talks about. Yet, these brands are still very successful. But the question they have to ask themselves is if they are leveraging every opportunity to attract customers and build a unique brand? Could they have been even more successful with smarter, braver and more unique marketing? Of course they could. And the success would be more sustainable too.

Take the beauty category. Everyone is doing the same thing. You put a celebrity in front of the camera, she talks about how her skin is smoother and shows less signs of ageing, and there you have it. Slap on a logo (any brand will do), and you have a campaign. The approach is indistinguishable from the competitors’, and even though people will buy the products, the marketing has done nothing to create engagement or even a longer-lasting bond. The only notable exception is Dove. They managed to create a movement through their “Campaign for Real Beauty”, which was an extremely bold move when they started.

If you have been given the responsibility to lead or assist in marketing a brand, it is your duty to make sure you get as much value for money as possible. It is not your job to safeguard yourself. Take risks. In the old days of technology, there was a saying that went “No one ever got fired for choosing IBM”. But in today’s accelerated business climate, avoiding termination should not be a factor in any decision. In fact, isn’t it better to be fired for pushing limits, where the reward is large, than staying in a role where you have to pussyfoot around?

Of course, one has to find the right balance of risk and reward. No one is advocating letting your brand history go, or taking stupid chances on changing your brand. But to take chances on new technology, ground-breaking creative ideas and new partners is usually a good idea. And in many markets and many industries in Asia we see that the bar is low. No one is doing anything to stand out, so the space for someone to waltz in and make a difference is ample.

Choose ideas that are great. The ones that make you feel uncomfortable. Don’t pre test everything to death. Don’t ask your spouse or your kids. Ask your gut. And fight your boss if she/he tries to stop great ideas. You will both win in the long run.

Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder & CEO of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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[Main photo by Bob White, under CC]