Brand Matters: How's Your Brand's Margin?
When was the last time you took your brand on a holiday? A real, live "getaway from it all" pause for refreshment and renewal? I don't mean the annual rah-rah sales meeting or the obligatory management off-site. I mean a true time-out.
In today's multitasking, chaotic and breathless work worlds, brands-and their creators and maintainers-have little margin. They are stretched to capacity; they are firefighters and crisis interceptors, constantly feeling behind the eight ball, "Crackberried" to death, racing to solve the latest problem du jour. They are running on empty.
I first learned about the concept of margin years ago from Dr. Richard Swenson, a medical practitioner who wrote an entire book, "Restoring Margin to Overloaded Lives," on the topic. It had nothing to do with brands, but rather our overloaded lives. Swenson argues persuasively that all areas of our lives (emotional, physical, financial and time) need margin. He shares this metaphor: Think about the white space surrounding this article and the white space on every page of this publication-the margin. Its cleanliness and emptiness allows you, the reader, to comprehend these words more clearly and easily. By placing less words and more space between the lines, the message can "breathe." A practical and everyday example of how less is, indeed, more. Swenson is a cheerleader for margin. By cutting his own medical practice in half, he increased the quality of his life tremendously.
Our brand lives need margin, too.
A time-out could be just what your brand and its managers need. Now. Not after you get it all done, because that just never happens. I encourage my clients to take "stop and think" time as often as possible. Unfortunately, it's a rarity in the workplace today.
The Power of Stop and Think Time
Bill Gates is famous for his "Think Weeks," where he extracts himself from the day-to-day pressures and challenges and leaves the office for a twice-a-year ritual of private thinking and deliberating about Microsoft's future. Powered by Diet Orange Crush soda, he mulls over an edited pile of strategic positioning papers from employees and responds with electronic comments for all in the company to see. He has been doing this for more than a decade. These important Think Weeks have not only been critical to Microsoft's progress, but have affected the entire industry.