Nick Westergaard

Nick Westergaard

It’s January and a new year is upon us! Actually, it was upon us a week ago. But admit it — you’re just now getting up to speed after what was hopefully a restful holiday break.

The new year is an exciting time. A blank page for some projects and an opportunity to do better with others. Enter the New Year’s resolution. Whether it’s losing weight or saving more money, temporal landmarks like the new year have proven to be effective times to undertake something big. (Keeping those resolutions going throughout the year is another story as the Journal of Clinical Psychology finds that only 64% of resolutions continue.) If it can help you floss and put away more money for retirement, maybe a New Year’s resolution can help you build a better brand as well.

As a resolution alternative, bestselling author and business strategist Chris Brogan has been been practicing his “My 3 Words” ritual since 2006. Brogan’s idea consists of coming up with three words that will help guide your choices and actions in the coming year. Because branding is a complex undertaking, I’m combining the standard resolution with Brogan’s three words to provide you with not one, not two, but three brand resolutions for this brand-new year.

Find a Focus Word

Words matter. That’s why Brogan carefully selects three to provide his work with focus in the new year ahead. Find a focus word for your brand that’s representative of your goals and challenges. Are you planning new product extensions or launching into new markets? Maybe your focus word is growth.  Is your goal to publish more thought leadership content? Perhaps your focus word is expertise.

Think of this as your brand’s Chinese zodiac. What is this “the year of” for your brand? To be clear, this word won’t take over your marketing. It’s not meant to be a slogan or campaign theme. Use your focus word as a compass to point your brand in the right direction.

Simplify Where You Can

As the name implies, use your focus word to focus what you’re doing. With digital media, it’s easy to mistakenly think that it’s easier than ever to build a brand. Just step up to the social media megaphone and you’re done. The problem here is twofold. First, most organizations lack a cohesive brand strategy. Without this anchor defining who you are and what you stand for, you fall into the second problem. With no definition, you say and do everything, struggling to create every form of content and sharing it on every social network, regardless of what makes sense for your brand.

The infinite possibilities of digital media require finite strategies. According to Nielsen, at a time when we should be connecting with more people more easily than ever before, consumers are actually saying they understand brands less. There’s just too much noise. Where can you simplify your brand in the new year ahead?

Connect Your Dots

Study after study consistently shows that consumers value experience. They want a seamless experience online and off. They want connection between all of your touchpoints. And they won’t hesitate to drop you — and tell all of their friends — after just one bad experience.

And yet, because of the aforementioned infinite possibilities when it comes to digital, our branding and marketing is as siloed as ever with different teams working on different aspects of a brand experience that should be more connected than it is. The bad news is that this is extremely hard work. You have to audit and find missed opportunities in your brand experience. The good news is that once you’ve focused and simplified your brand for the new year, it’s easier to see where you can connect your dots both online and off.

Use these three resolutions to guide your brand through a successful new year. But remember, sticking to it requires a lot of work and follow through. Put these phrases up in your office and share them with your team so can work together to move your brand in the right direction. If you don’t, you may find yourself visited by the three “Ghosts of Resolutions Past” next December.

Happy New Year!



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Good marketing isn’t about expensive ad campaigns or jumping on the latest social bandwagon. Whether your company is a Fortune 500 behemoth or a nascent startup, Nick Westergaard’s detailed advice about how to Get Scrappy – and do more with less – is certain to improve your business.
Dorie Clark, Author of Stand Out and Reinventing You, Professor at Duke University Fuqua School of Business