We live in a conversational world

Last weekend Peter Economides (the Brand Strategist behind Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign) and Leda Karabela, Leadership Coach & Communication/ Marketing Strategist, joined Athens’ creatives, entrepreneurs and techies for a casual chat (come mentoring session) at Colab Athens.

For those who don’t know (where have you been?!), Peter Economides caused quite a stir last year when he gave the keynote address on “Rebranding Greece” at EEDE’s 11th “Aristoteli” Conference in Thessaloniki. Since the conference, “Rebranding Greece” has taken on a life of its own. Peter has also started the “GINETAI Workshop”, a Facebook community for collaboration, and has a new “Ginetai” website in the works. Leda coaches CEOs and executives in both Greece and the US, and mentors startups (she loves the creativity!) – and her mantra is “why hesitate” (also the name of her site).

What strikes me again and again when I attend these kinds of meetings is the underlying message that people must fail in order to succeed. Or more correctly, people must not fear failure (what’s so wrong with failing anyway?). Hence the messages “ginetai” and “why hesitate”. It sounds like a no-brainer but fear of failure is a major block to creative expression and entrepreneurship. Leda gave the metaphor of the child learning to walk – a child must fall before walking and running. It’s just part of the process. Before you ask anyone else (such as an investor!) to believe in your idea, you must believe in it yourself. I mean, really believe in it.

Once you’re over that hurdle, you’ve got your idea, your team and possibly a product; then it’s time to think branding. According to Peter and Leda, there are 3 necessary parts to a branding strategy:

  1. Knowledge: you must understand your brand essence/ who you are
  2. Vision: you must know what you want to be
  3. Insight: have insight in who you’re speaking to/ your audience (or market)

Peter suggests starting from insight first, and allowing your actions to be determined by your vision. With insight you can then define your messaging strategy. This contradicts the old-schoolers who advocate perfecting the product and then branding it. Peter argues that brand is culture. Hence the drive must come from its ‘DNA’.

Now this is where the business of branding gets interesting and where organizations often miss the boat. Since branding is culture, branding is also community. In the world of new media people want (and expect) conversations not broadcasts – so companies must create conversations. This is where organizations squirm – if you don’t know your DNA, your essence, then it’s very difficult to humanize your brand and converse.

So how can an organization tackle this? Know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The why comes before the how and the what. Once you know ‘why’, your ‘what’ and ‘how’ must be consistent with it. This should form the basis for all your communication, i.e.: express the brand through all communication (everything you say and do) and “keep your story straight and true” (people see right through bulls#@!t).

Remember that business is a social activity. Or to quote Peter,

The business of business is social!

If you missed the Colab event check the recording here:

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