“With that much horse manure,” she exclaimed, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
Here’s a useful tool for how to develop a brand, leading your team through the brand discovery process. I’m including it here with relatively little explanation, as most of it is Branding 101 stuff. It isn’t brain surgery, but it takes skill and diligence to pull together a successful brand strategy in actual practice.
The name Pony Sheet came from the old story about the young girl whose parents took her out to the barn on her birthday and announced, “We have a big birthday surprise for you.” Opening the door, she spied a huge pile of horse manure in the middle of the floor, a rather disappointing sight. Yet being a young optimist (most children are), the lass clapped her hands with joy. “With that much horse manure,” she exclaimed, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
“We have a mission statement posted in the lobby, but who knows what our vision is now.”
Ernest Auerbach knows his way around the corporate world, including the carnage that often follows after a merger. As a corporate general manager with a global portfolio of senior positions from Xerox and CIGNA to New York Life and AIG, he has seen the ugly when “mergers trumpeted as made in heaven end up in hell.”
He warns that mergers sometimes fail because the hard work isn’t done after the announcement confetti is swept up and everyone files back to their office (or collects their severance check).
“Some mergers work well, but it takes good strategic work at the front end and excellent post-merger work afterwards,” Auerbach recently wrote in Texas Enterprise.
Let me add two cents from the brand corner of the room.
I’ve made good money off of troubled mergers, aiding worried executive teams trying to figure out how to wrangle their company culture and their external brand in the weeks and months after a merger. You only have to think about the nature of a good brand to understand why.
Consider five simple points about what a brand position should be:
- Based on the truth; consistent with your strategy and organizational realities
- Something of value to your customers
- Something your staff and stakeholders can believe in and support
- A profitable market position you can own
- A single idea (not a laundry list of attributes)
As Warren Buffett has written, it’s not until the tide goes out that you know who is swimming naked.
The new Texas Enterprise business and public policy news site just launched from The University of Texas at Austin, where Jeffrey Phillips, VP Marketing for OVO Innovation and author of Make Us More Innovative, recently discussed six archetypes or roles that senior executives play in fostering (or poisoning) innovation within their organizations.
The first role or archetype is the Visionary. In this case think Richard Branson from Virgin. He has big ideas about transforming a number of industries. His is the public face of the company and he seems to be the motive factor in Virgin’s innovation efforts, yet he can’t possibly be an expert in so many different fields. He has one belief — that he can bring the “Virgin” way to many different industries and force them to respond.
Brainiacs are often Visionaries but they themselves are also the source for many of the ideas that are implemented. Steve Jobs is my archetype for the Brainiac. He is the public face for innovation and I suspect the source for many of Apple’s ideas. He leads a very top down driven innovation program and is active in the program as an idea generator, communicator and lead user.
There are many executives who understand that this is the best role they can play in their organizations where innovation is concerned. Jeffrey Immelt at GE springs to mind. He is constantly spotlighting work within the many divisions of GE that is innovative, and works hard internally to champion innovation, including providing funding for the efforts. I don’t think Immelt is necessarily a Visionary and I’m relatively sure he’s not a Brainiac, but his efforts in Cheerleading are key to the changes and focus on innovation within GE.