Brand Matters

Andrea Syverson is the founder and president of IER Partners, which has guided and strengthened brands of all sizes with savvy best practices for creating customers for life. Combining her passion of adventurous listening and working across diverse industries, her "outsider-insider" creative branding and merchandising expertise and objectivity has been valued by companies as diverse as Spanx, Ben & Jerry's, Celestial Seasonings, CHEFS and Boston Proper.  She holds an MBA and has dedicated more than 20 years to providing clients both domestic and international with innovative approaches to branding, product development and creative messaging. She is the author of  two books in which she shares her hands-on approach for both brand building and creating customer-centric products that enhance brands: ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators, and BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants. You may reach her at asyverson@ierpartners.com.

Challenging something we do quite naturally and easily is indeed the perfect challenge. We all get into ruts—some even good and well-intentioned! Challenging ourselves to reflect, relook and rethink why we do what we do (or don't do) can be just the process we need to achieve something different, something unexpected, and quite possibly, even something more.

'Tis the season for valentines. What makes me smile in my professional life is finding companies that foster an intentional and caring attitude towards their employees all year long. Of course, I am taking for granted that these brands already show an intentional love for their customers all year long. That's certainly how they have become "Lovemarks" (to borrow Keven Roberts' term for beloved brands) in their industries: building trust, continually wooing and wowing new and existing customers and exceeding expectations.

You know hospitality when you feel it, or as officially defined by dictionary.com it's "the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way." Hospitality is actually more valuable than ever in our rushed, device-first and attention-deficit overloaded world. And yet, I find it missing in many brand experiences.

No doubt your strategic plan has powerful verbs in it already: verbs like activate (previous customers), entice (new customers), cross-promote (merchandise across channels), engage (customers with content) and increase (profitability). I expect those verbs are baked into most plans. But brands that make a difference in the lives of their customers often add a few unexpected verbs into their strategic planning and their actions.

As I reflected on a client interaction I had this week, I thought about how helpful it is for organizations to learn from the past and then also to let go. I had facilitated a meeting where we tried to embrace failure not as life-over, but simply as feedback—to have a more positive outlook on the unplanned learning lessons that failure brings a brand. It was a tough sell. These young, smart, good-hearted brand builders were perfectionists. They only ever saw A+ on their report cards. Red Fs would have been scarring.

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