Is Your Brand Arrogant?

Have you experienced brand  ar·ro·gance?   noun \ˈer-ə-gən(t)s, ˈa-rə-\

: an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people (or businesses)

Momma Don't Take My Kodachrome Away
Arrogance exists in companies when they believe that their brand represents one thing but refuse to hear the signals indicating that the market disagrees. It occurs when a company is dismissive of a competitor who is biting away at their ankles. It occurs when you mistakenly believe that sales today represent sales tomorrow.  

In essence, the arrogant brand believes they are too big to fail and too important in the daily lives of its customers. Ask Kodak how those Kodak moments are doing today. Better yet, Kodak, check your Instagram feed.

Ask Gap customer’s what happened to Gap’s cool? They thought they could advertise their way back to cool but consumer's rejected their product offerings.

Look at the millions wasted by fast food chains trying to drive customers into their stores only to have them disappointed by their experiences. 


Stop pretending that your competitors are weak; they will nibble away at your market share. Hello Microsoft. Make sure you aren't seeing the world with blinders on. Recognize the threats to your business and change your attitude. Maybe those complaints aren't noise but are distress signals. 

Stop pretending that your consumer isn't noticing the difference between your beautiful advertising and their experience. Hey there McDonald's. Why doesn't my food look like it does in those TV ads? Try a a little authenticity in your approach. Humanize the business. Demonstrate some compassion and concern. 

Stop pretending that consumer needs don’t shift.  Ask the Post Office. Ask Radio Shack. Ask Sears. Brands need to be fluid and adapt to an ever changing marketplace. You don't compromise on your values but you must understand where you really connect with consumers. Kodak filed thousands of digital patents, creating one of the first digital cameras and did recognize the threat to their business. But they forgot about maintaining their emotional connection to consumer's memories through picture taking. They got stuck making products not staying connected with why customers bought film. 

Action Plans
The best way to avoid arrogance, is to gain a deep insight into customer’s needs and utility you offer them. Do you live up to your brand’s value proposition in every touch point along the way of a customer’s journey? 

New products alone aren't the answer. More advertising won’t alter an arrogant brand. You need to understand what great brands do. 

In her new book called What Great Brands Do, Denise Lee Yohn defines a brand as:

“ A brand is a bundle of values and attributes that define the value you deliver to people through the entire customer experience, and the unique way of doing business that forms the basis of your company’s relationship with all of its stakeholders.

Simply put, your brand is what your company does and how you do it. Your brand is not what you say you are – it is what you do.”

Denise nails it. A brand is what you do not what you say you are. 

In the book, Denise demonstrates how a brand has to be operationalized and requires that you fulfill that vision in every aspect of what you do. Arrogance is a symptom of companies that relegate their brand solely as a marketing function. Brands are not the sole property of your marketing department. They are the embodiment of living the values in every way you do business. 

Does your company practice this “brand as business” as Denise describes? Does your brand live in every nook of your operation? I believe that to avoid being an arrogant brand that quickly becomes irrelevant, you must find a way to live the vision in everything you do.

Arrogant brands often try to advertise their way out of their misery only to stumble as they drive customers to their products only to disappoint them with bad customer experiences, shabby products or undifferentiated offerings. Arrogant brands create products they want to make and then pushes them onto their customers. 

This is backwards. 

Great brands that are profitable and successful live their brands in every aspect of their business. You experience the brand through customer service, logistics and operations. The brand lives everywhere and its values are reinforced in every action. 

Think of the seamless experience of music through Apple versus photography through Kodak and you’ll get the picture. Kodak created me too products, had inferior innovations and stop living its brand. As a former commercial photographer, I had a deep emotional connection to the little yellow box of Tri-X film or Kodachrome slides. When the digital age came into being, they lost their way and could reconnect with me. 

Nike knows that its biggest competitor is complacency, arrogance and resting on its laurels. 
On the positive side, think of Nike's Just Do It as being more than a consumer message but a call to action for everyone in the business. They make products cool but it goes beyond performance as they live their brand through every business interaction. Nike is a company with 44,000 employees and their CEO Mark Parker readily admits that celebrity endorsements and the SWOOSH logo won't help them stay connected to their consumers needs. Read more about how Nike lives its brand in this excellent article in Fast Company by Austin Carr called The #1 Most Innovative Company of 2013. 

To ward off the arrogance, your company needs to live your brand in every part of your business. 

Is your brand operationalized throughout your company? 

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