Posted by: kwbrand | July 10, 2009

The Brand Management Balancing Act

My birthday is next week. I won’t tell you how old I’ll be but suffice it to say, I’m still young enough to fancy myself young and hip but old enough to have learned a few things. One of the things I’ve learned is that themes tend to emerge over the course of one’s life. One of my recently re-emerged themes is that of personality preferences and balance—specifically that as people, and people-led organizations, we have personality characteristics that manifest themselves in our motivations and behaviors and that there is an important complementarity to the differences we contribute.

I’ll give you an example from my past. Before I do what I do now, I was a management consultant who designed and facilitated workshops on the kinds of soft skills that help organizations succeed. One of those workshops was based on a popular personality assessment based on the (Carl) Jungian theory that we are all born with preferences that manifest themselves in our personalities. Two such sets of preferences pertain to innovation and change. According to the theory, there are those of us who are born looking for innovative ways to create new things. We thrive on creative new concepts and the interesting possibilities that might unfold. The opposite and balancing personality preference thrives on the measurably knowable information of the past and present. Then there’s another whole dyad of preferences that identifies people who prefer to respond to fun new opportunities as they present themselves, and those who prefer the routine of a steady schedule.

According to the theory, neither of the sets of opposing preferences is good or bad—they are simply useful ways of understanding two sides of the same coin and both are vitally necessary to bringing balance to a situation.

Here’s where the theme of personality balance has manifest itself recently. My unscientific observation is that Ad Agency folks and consultants like myself are probably a group driven by the interest in new and different ideas. We’re at our best when a client comes in and says: we need something new and creative! We need something fresh! On the other side of the table are the clients; the internal brand managers who find it’s their job to ensure that their organization has a well-positioned brand that builds equity in the hearts and minds of its market over the course of many years. Things go awry when brand management is too forcibly led by those with the undisciplined Agency/consulting mind-set of new/fun/fresh. Long-term brand management can also get stale if nothing new and different ever happens. Here’s an example:

The orange juice giant Tropicana recently decided to embark on a fun refresh project by changing up the OJ packaging for the low-low cost of $35 million. What happened? It tanked. People got so upset about the change, they called, they wrote, they blogged and Tropicana eventually went back to its traditional brand identity (it blows my mind to think of where consumers find this kind of time, if they’re that bored, they’re welcome to come to my house and do some laundry or pull some weeds…but, whatever.)

What’s the lesson of this recurring life-theme? Is it the old adage: “If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.” Maybe. But that assumes “it” is a brand that has solid footing in the first place. Many of the clients I work with aren’t managing established, well-funded brands like Tropicana. They are somewhere in the process of building a brand. So the deeper lesson is this: Balance. It’s always about balance. Company brand managers need to remember that brand equity is about relationship deepening and as such requires constancy and commitment to the long-haul. But, it also requires the ongoing communication that deepens the relationship and keeps it current. Or, to go back to the personality balance idea, it requires the foundation-building stability of one preference with the creative fun of the other personality type just to keep the dynamics interesting.

So, happy birthday to me and here’s to another year of learning how to balance.

Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation



  1. Great post!!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Management consultant in Netherlands!!
    Financieel adviesbureaus -the best business consultant.

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