The Power of Making a Choice

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Anna Pronina

Peter Schmidt-Hansen told us at the beginning of our very first exam on Brand Leadership,“Remember, there is no correct answer”. That is what branding is all about –at least for me and what I learned during the course and further practice. One of the most popular clichés about branding says that it is “not about doing right things but doing things right”. And here is the same thought again. The task of a brand manager is not to find the single right solution but to develop an idea (a BIG one is better=)) that will be  many-sided but will still have identity in everything. It seems, if not easy, clear enough, isn’t it? But this is not quite so as I discovered during my personal journey into the world of brands and Branding.

Brand Leadership program in NBS at UEA was my first stop on this journey. I came to this course with a degree in economics and various work experience including tourism and hospitality to the last job I had at a cinema producing company where I was responsible for product placement. Other students were from very different backgrounds. Some of them had relevant work experience in marketing or even branding and others had no experience at all. But they all had one thing in common: they tried to think differently and they all had their personal views and opinions on all topics raised in and out of the classroom. Probably someone would call them creative young people. But I personally don’t love the word creative because I feel like it’s overused. I would rather call them people with irregular thinking.

From the very first task through all the following assignments and work on projects, in teams or personal ones, one main difficulty always pursued us. It was not about finding the idea or developing it to some final version, but to choose one. And that is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge to all brand managers of all time. When we approach a new brand task we start thinking and innumerable thoughts stream back and forth in our heads. So, when we were at the start of the course developing our first presentations, we always waited until our teachers or mentors would stop our quest and name one of the ideas “the best”. After that we felt we could start the project. But what is that invisible obstacle that’s so hard to overcome while making the final decision? I think it’s the lack of experience and lack of trust in yourself and your ability or talent even. At the beginning, we all need the approval of someone who’s more experienced and more skilled. But only a real Brand Leader can lead –choose the one idea that after brainstorming and endless re-thinking will work and therefore, become the Big one. This is the greatest miracle and it should become the most wanted skill for everyone engaged in Branding – to have the guts to make a choice and to stop looking for ideas. Move forward with the certainty that you have already found one.

That was my biggest problem, my Achilles’ heel, at the beginning. When I started working on a new project, I began with searching for ideas. I had plenty of them by the first day or even hour of thinking, but I needed someone to come and tell me, “Anna, this one is the best! Great job! Let’s focus on it and work with it!” But as there was only me to choose and decide, I wasted days and days, trying to think of something else, bigger and just perfect. What a fool!

So, what is the main purpose of my post? Don’t try to find the perfect idea. There simply isn’t one.  Don’t waste your time searching for it and thinking again and again. Usually, a good idea comes to a fresh mind, which means during first 30-40 minutes of brainstorming. Believe in yourself, listen to yourself and be brave enough to make a final decision. After all, at the end, only that idea will be the right one that you will make work in the right way.

P.S. As I am still at the beginning of my Branding story, I would love to read comments and to know which problems you did not expect to meet during work with brands –or what is your personal challenge that follows you in every project and task? Let’s share our fears and achievements and therefore help someone to combat his or her weak points.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Making a Choice

  1. Hi Anna, I love your post and I find myself there not only as a person working in Brand but also as a person myself. We are always having so many choices that we are stuck in that maze. And sometimes we trust the third person who come in and tell us which to choose. So I really appreciate and agree the idea that we need to keep our mind fresh and have the gut to decide.

    One of the challenges I find here in Vietnam doing brand is that most of the time we need to forget totally who we are, what we want and wear the customers’s shoes because this is an emerging and developing market. For example, if you do a campaign for FMCG, the majority will be people with low income and you can not apply the beautiful and complicated idea that you may learn from abroad or books because it just doesn’t work. We need to tell them in their language not ours. So it’s about applying advanced knowledge for a growing-up market :)

    Thanks for sharing your observation from the BL classes. I will apply this year too and with my humble knowledge and a different insight, I would love to collaborate with my classmate for a more comprehensive understanding of this interesting field.

    • Thank you for your comment Van! And I really understand what you mean by necessity to “wear customers` shoes”. We need to know and be able to create and deliver a message not only to progressive, modern and rather well paid people but also to those who value price the most or maybe not using internet almost at all. I am living in a small town in Russia now and its so different from what I would be doing if I were in Moscow for example. Most of tools which are so widely used and popular in branding nowadays just don’t work here. For example, I am a marketing director at brewery. My target audience does not use internet too much, don’t really care about environment or charities. what they want is just to buy a proper beer for competitive price and better made of quality ingredients. that’s all. BOOM! a big wall here! what they want is simple and can`t really be promoted by cosmopolitan “beautiful and complicated idea”, like you’ve said. I have to find ways to speak “their language” and not mine. I`m sure though that Brand Leadership course will widen your views on numbers of options and tools that branding can include))))

  2. I`m really glad you enjoyed reading my post! And I totally understand what you are talking about. Probably I didn`t get that strong feeling of a difference because during the course our teachers and mentors introduced to us mostly the best examples of branding in UK. So, those brands were addressing their customers in a lot of different ways. And that communication was not only constant but very pleasant at the same time. I do believe that UK and US both have a lot of good and poor examples of branding. From my point of view, UK brands keep that “brand messages bombarding” in a more tastful moderate manner rather than US overwhelming presence of one or another brand. So, in UK it doesnt get that annoying.
    Well, still I might mostly guess from what I get from social media and TV concerning US market. For example, here in Russia, we are only at the edge of BIg Brands Era, so we try to look at our British and American colleagues and elaborate our own way. But i think the problem for local branding market is that everyone wants to work on brand awareness or image but only a few care about brand perception and what associations they build in customers` minds in real. People are still not ready to invest in such intangible thing like associations, they would rather pay for a nice logo. But every Brand Leadership student and alumni knows for sure, that image is only one of quandrants on which every brand is based on.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, Anna. You’re making me want to take the Brand Leadership course now!
    I don’t do a lot of personal branding (although am constantly being told to) or even particularly working on my online presence, but the company I’m working for have markets primarily in America and we are currently working on updating the branding. Have you found a huge difference between the branding in the US and the UK because I must say, I don’t think we brag enough about ourselves in Britain. The US have brands which will really bombard you – but the UK are more withdrawn.
    Do you agree, or have you found something different through your studies? Thanks again for the post!

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