True to the Brand

This was the home page of The New York Times two weeks ago, October 22...

Here's a close-up of the featured article...

Whether you're grieving or celebrating McCain's loss today, there's something to learn from this:

When you're communicating, consistency counts.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to the Hedgehog and the Fox. The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one thing.

When the fox attacks, the hedgehog curls up into a ball with its quills protecting him. So the fox tries a different approach. But the hedgehog just curls up again. The fox tries a third time. Again the hedgehog curls up. Boring. But effective. The fox is always moving. But never successful.

When things aren't going well, it's tempting to take the fox approach. We're seeing this now with Microsoft trying to be cool and hip in their advertising. Microsoft can be hugely successful without being cool and hip. But it's not in their DNA to do both. It's like what would happen if Patagonia tried to go mainstream. It's why Paris Hilton looks even worse when she tries to act smart.

What does this mean for you when you're putting your book together?

You probably get multiple assignments each week. For each product or service, your first job needs to be to find the DNA of the brand. You have to understand who they are, and what they stand for, and where they are (or should be) going. You  can't be schizophrenic with the brand. 

Understand your brand's DNA and stick with it. That's not to say "do the same thing that's always been done." That's not to say you can't take a brand in new directions. But they have to be inline with what the brand stands for.