Found/Owner Freakshow

06.10.16 / David Lemley

Something strange happens to entrepreneurs, it seems. They start their businesses with passion, insight and ambition. Many of them even get the concept of branding which is elusive to so many. Founder/Owners work relentlessly to build their brands, and then when their businesses take off—that’s when the strange thing happens.

They get lost, and for various reasons. For many, it’s a matter of getting lost in the daily grind and operations of running a business. Others get lost in space, navel gazing and contemplating what they might have done differently or better, or wondering which track they might pursue rather than the one they’re on. For yet others, there’s a constant second-guessing about their pricing structures, or whether and how to innovate their products or services. Often, that brings with it the inevitable fear of spending money; I mean, where and how should that be done? What kinds of innovations should be supported? Or should they just hold onto their money to improve their bottom lines?

Aye, aye, aye. It’s enough to give them—and us—a headache. And it does. To founder/owners of businesses: getting lost is not an option. Doing everything that needs doing every day, sans delegating anything, makes your brands suffer. I mean, who’s minding the store? Who’s seeing the big picture and running the show? Who’s at the helm? Apparently, nobody.

If anxiety is pushing off decision-making about the business, that can be even worse. No decision is a decision, right? Fear clouds judgment. It makes us freeze and that’s not a healthy thing. Look, if a unique brand was born as a result of a founding idea, it ought to be nurtured so that it can grow up healthy and strong. If it’s neglected, inconsistent, or constantly changing gears, it will lose vitality and eventually go the way of the dodo bird. You know, extinct.

Here’s the point: decision making is not as daunting when made through the prism of the brand; what it is and what it isn’t helps owners make the right decisions for their businesses. That’s not to say that they can’t change. Of course they can, and they have to if they’re going to remain relevant to their fan base, which is on the move and changing. But meaningful change happens when it makes sense to the brand and it’s in keeping with its values. Owners have to be on top of their brands to know what needs to be done and when.

Take a Note from Sahale

The Sahale Snacks brand was the brainchild of two co-founders who are avid outdoorsmen. They got tired of eating trail mix made from stale ingredients that lacked imagination. So they launched their own brand. We went back to our kitchens the very next day and created unique combinations of premium nuts, dried fruits, and exotic spices, each reflecting a beautiful location, culture or culinary tradition somewhere in the world.”

That’s their brand. Everything they say and do reinforces that brand. When their packaging didn’t get the “Snack better” message across to justify its premium positioning, we amped up the package design to show just how appetizing and appealing it really is. End result of the Sahale spend? Increased visibility, rapid growth and strong sales among discerning consumers who are becoming brand fans.

This didn’t happen because the founders were star gazing or frozen into indecisiveness. They understood that Sahale had greater potential but they had to do something to make it happen. That could only happen because they were looking at the big picture and managing the brand.

There’s another moral to this tale. Most brands aren’t alone in a category, are they? And for those enviable brands that create a category, we know that they aren’t going to fly solo for very long. Too many wannabees are going to try to take a chip off the old block, steal some of the thunder and the sales.

So What’s a Brand to Do?

Take a page from Sahale and dig into what makes your brand one of a kind. And shout it out to the world. Keep on moving but don’t stray from the brand: it’s your reason for being. When you create a unique niche in a category, you ought to be able to own it if you market it wisely. If you don’t, somebody else is going to come along and take your niche and your brand positioning from you. It happens every day and you don’t want your brand to become one of those statistics. So take the rudder, please.

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