Branding, Strategy

Don’t Fear the Drawing Board

Part of being brand driven — in the imortal words of Kenny Rogers — is knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Now that I have The Gambler reference that I’ve always wanted to make out of the way, what I mean is that being brand driven means you have a vision of who you are and who you aren’t. What your product or service is and what it isn’t. As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh said recently, “the real power comes from alignment with your core values and your actions.” In other words, you have to walk the talk. And when you find yourself off track, Kenny would say you’ve got to walk away. Or run.

Case in point: When most of us think of Pixar, we think of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and all of the other quality animated masterpieces they have skillfully crafted through the years. Just as telling about their commitment to their brand though, are the pictures they have walked away from.

Recently, Pixar announced that they are abandoning Newt, a movie about the last two members of an endangered amphibious species scheduled for release in 2012. They have been working on it since 2008. They didn’t just do a few sketches and walk away. They had a substantial investment in this development dating back to the Bush White House. But it wasn’t a product that aligned with the Pixar ethos and probably never would be. So they scrapped it. And rather than sweeping it quietly under the rug, they posted a ton of the aforementioned developmental art on their Facebook page (above and below). Talk about a brand-driven choice.

And this isn’t the first time either. Back in 1999, Pixar was due to deliver Toy Story 2 to distribution partner Disney when they did an about-face and confessed that the product was sub-par and not inline with the brand quality to which they cleaved. The Mouse pushed back but Pixar stuck to their guns — scrapping everything, reworking the story, and inducing carpel tunnel syndrome by animating around the clock for nine months to deliver a new product that they were confident in. Sometimes it’s that important.

If what we’re doing isn’t inline with our brand vision, values, and expectations, we shouldn’t fear returning to the drawing board. Your brand should be that important. Your team should fight to get the product (or service) right. Because your product is your brand. You should take great care to protect it. And sometimes you may have to resort to extreme measures like Pixar. But walking away isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s the sign of a brand driven organization that knows when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

So here’s to Newt. He may have never made it to the big screen but his legend imparts an important parable for organizations striving to walk their brand’s talk.

View all Newt images on Pixar’s Facebook page.