How to Back Your Own Brand Through the Power of ‘No’

opinionThe following is a guest contributed post from Kimberly Tyner, Partner, Chief Creative Officer at Spire Agency.

In business, success is associated with “Yes.”

Yes to a new deal, yes to a new market, yes to a crucial new hire. Many businesses will reflexively say yes to any and all opportunities, no matter how difficult, daunting or outside their core competency it may be. Yes is also the quickest way to destroy a brand.

Branding is a long-term effort that requires a singular direction, a highly defined niche and constant diligence. What makes a brand strong is consistency; brands are powerful because they set a certain level of expectation and meet it over and over again.

That’s why truly strong brands understand success starts with the word “No.” In the B2B world, long sales cycles make it tempting to take on clients or initiatives that are a poor fit for both a company and the customer. While the best case scenario might be a foothold into a new market, the risks are endless: poor reviews, a ruined reputation and a sullied brand image, not to mention wasted resources on a business you shouldn’t have gotten into in the first place instead of investing in what you know.

From Crystal Pepsi to McPizza, history is filled with many unfortunate “yes” decisions. As much as this feels like it should be yet another reason to roll our eyes at the 80s, this is a mistake brands keep making. There are quite a few off-brand fails from the last few years:

For each of those core brands, there are certainly logical brand extensions to make. Fans would perhaps buy Paula Deen cookware, Eva Longoria lipstick or try an Arizona Tea kombucha because the connection is clear and relates to the original brand. But what does a lighter company have to do with perfume, a glamorous actress have to do with steak, a famous chef have to do with furniture or a drink brand have to do with prepackaged nachos? Marketers have no idea, and fans of the core brands don’t either.

In the case of each of these brands, they could have spent the same time, money and effort strengthening their core brand instead of chasing a shiny off-brand opportunity. It’s understandable: no one wants to turn down business. But creating products that are a poor fit, taking on clients outside of a company’s expertise or going into markets where a brand doesn’t have a compelling story can lead to busying marketers with unprofitable work while leaving the company unavailable to pursue and service your true customers.

So where do marketers draw the line? When do they say “no”? It all comes back to the core brand.  Companies must believe in what the brand stands for and stick to it. If it feels off-brand, marketers must take caution. By making the brand a part of the decision-making process, marketers will have a powerful decision-making tool needed to help grow a business. Including when to decide “no.”