The 10 Pillars of A Lousy Brand

How he got the second chance to make a powerful first impression

About a decade ago, as I was hustling in the busy streets of Nairobi, I saw a spectacle that caught my brief attention before I brushed it aside and moved on. A boy about 17 years of age approached me. He looked relatively healthy, yet he held out a makeshift ‘begging bowl’ made of cheap cardboard. On this ‘begging bowl’ were a few coins. As he approached me, he mumbled something about “Diagnosed with TB”. I wasn’t moved an inch. Very many ‘posers’ had swindled people of their cash preying on people’s empathy and compassion. I was not about to be a statistic on this.

Fast forward to a few months later. The same location, the same ‘audience’ (that’s me), but a different brand. I looked in his ogling wide eyes that were virtually turning yellow in color. The eyes were sunken in his protruding skeleton. He was emaciated and now heavily bent over like an old man. He walked with difficulty and pain was written in every effort he took to make a single step. There were traces of pus in the corner of his lips. He couldn’t remember me. He was still at it, seeking help from passersby.

It Takes a Split Second

There is this saying, “You will never have the second chance to have a first impression.” That statement did not make sense that day, for in a split second, time just stood still. All the things that seemed important to me at that moment were relegated to the periphery of my mind. I had been captured by the condition of this boy. What had happened? Change had! His ‘branding’ had changed.

With my meager earnings then, I took care of Moses till I lost contact with him. To date, I have no idea where Moses is, if at all he is still alive, but fewer people have made an impression in my life like Moses did. I get emotional every time I remember him.

So we are talking about brands. A brand is what impression people have about you and I. Like we have seen, you have a split second to make that impression. Just like Moses had a second chance to make an impression with me, I am sure that we all have that chance to alter some things that are not working concerning our brands.

In a recent post, we talked about the back end and the front end of your brand. Today, we shall be dealing with how best to take care of the “front end” of your brand. We shall do this by taking a quick look at the 10 habits adopted by Lousy Brands. The lesson is simple: Take heed and don’t do these 10 habits.

10 Habits Adopted by Lousy Brands

1. Ignorance:

The biggest cardinal offense is peddling a brand when you are not sure it is yours. In the previous article on this, we noted that you need to first know the brand, own the brand, and then show the brand. We all have a brand that we are peddling daily, whether we know it or not. When you visit a social media page belonging to a teenager, you will see the kind of ignorance, I am talking about: names, profile photo, language, and content. The first greatest mistake in a lousy brand is the lack of authenticity brought about by lack of clarity on what the brand is.

“There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is the definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants and a burning desire to achieve it”

~ Napoleon Hill

2. Clear as Mud:

Ever had someone pitch an idea to you and by the time they are through, you do not know what the idea is, what the problem it is solving, how, to whom, where and how much time it would take? The second greatest mistake is to have a brand that is not clarified. A good brand is laser sharp in clarity. This means that you have taken lots of time iterating it until it speaks for itself. The rule here is to dwell on simplicity.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”

~ Bruce Lee

3. Lousiness:

This is lackadaisical attention to the excellence of your brand. It is the simple things that kill you. Remember this quote:

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe”.

~ Muhamad Ali

It is the little things about our brand that kill it: fonts, spelling & grammar, color, too much information and so on. This means that to have a killer brand, again, great attention must be put on every fine detail of it. It takes time. The third biggest mistake of a lousy brand is carelessness and laziness in building it.

4. Lack of Value:

If you got a chance to be interviewed on Oprah, what ‘continuing education’ would you be offering to your audience? Have you written a book? Do you have a training program? Perhaps you have built an app? What is your notoriety? Some people call this Unique Selling Proposition (USP). The fourth biggest mistake of a lousy brand is having a brand without a product or service of value. This is what Jesus Christ described as, “Whitewashed tombs!”

“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh”.

~Jesus Christ

5. Lack of Focus and Intention:

Tony Robbins once said that the reason many people are not successful is because they meddle a lot. They do not have a single thing that they can dedicate their lives to and be known for it. The fifth mistake of a lousy brand is broken focus. To be intentional means you do need to have a plan to daily grow the brand. Do not meddle, focus.

“The secret of success is concentration. The cause of failure is broken focus”

~Dr. Mike Murdock

6: Inconsistency:

Chances are, your brand checks all the big boxes in terms of standards for a great brand. This does not mean that that is all that is needed. Your brand has to be up to date. Inconsistency speaks so loud to your audience by shouting: “She is too busy, she doesn’t care and doesn’t have time for this. Probably she is not doing this any more.” And that is how you fall off the pecking order! The sixth greatest mistake of a lousy brand is lack of momentum in building it.

“Success requires first expending ten units of effort to produce one unit of results. Your momentum will then produce ten units of results with each unit of effort”.

~ Charles J. Givens

7. Rigidity:

Well, I think we have used Nokia as an example of rigidity too much, but still, there isn’t a better example. The way the audience thinks and perceives and requires a response from you will always evolve. It cannot be the self-same method year in and out. So be flexible and open to change. The seventh biggest mistake in a lousy brand is its staleness that comes from refusing to embrace change.

“Change is the only constant in life.”

~ Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

8: Selfishness:

A brand is not a popularity contest. Therefore, it is not about you. It is and will always be about your audience and the value you are giving to them. The only thing that you need to peddle is the value you are offering and the “wow” you are receiving from your audience. The eight greatest mistake of a lousy brand is neglect of your audience in elevation of your ‘greatness.’

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
― Theodore Roosevelt

9. Not Professionalizing it:

Perhaps this is the biggest of the ten. There are very many professional people out there who can deliver a great brand. These days, we have very competitive avenues of freelancers, such as where you can get everything you need to build a professional brand. As an author, I can tell you that the worst thing you can ever do is to design your own book cover! The ninth greatest mistake of a lousy brand is not investing enough resources in creating it.

“I am not going to create a platform to my God that costs me nothing”!

~ King David

10. Slow responsiveness:

In East Africa, way before many corporate organizations took to social media, one major Telecom company in Kenya had mastered the game of instant responsiveness. People live on the internet these days. If your audience is talking about your services online, there needs to be near instant response to them. Any delay in this world where people scream at radio waves to hurry up will dent your brand scores. A great brand though, is telepathic, saying what the audience is just about to. But that requires total attention. The tenth greatest mistake of a lousy brand is a disconnect and lack of engagement with its audience.

“The word “tip” stands for “to insure promptness.” So when should you give it? Up front,of course. Sophisticated people don’t take chances on poor service, they insure good service”.

~ Jim Rohn

If you want your brand to move from the lousy to the platform of notoriety, by all means break down these 10 pillars and you are good to go!

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