Are you too Close to your Brand to see Clearly? 7 Essential Questions

Topics: Advertising, Branding, Business, Creative, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Leadership, Marketing, Motivation, Sales, Social Media, Strategy By: Gregg Jaden

At Broadwave, we work with many types of verticals and diverse business models that are specifically tailored to our clients’ operations. Most clients run with our concepts and marketing plans while a select few resist it. I always wondered why. Why is there resistance when our team has come up with a killer concept? No matter how many times I go through this in my mind I come to realize one thing is consistent with all clients that resist. They all seem to be “too close” to their own product or service to see the perspective of the potential customer.

What does this mean exactly? This means that executive teams from brands usually have a solid understanding of their business model, services, products, demographics, feedback, and analytics. They are with their products and/or services day in and day out. The live, eat, and breathe their brand. They spend countless hours in conference room meetings strategizing and planning on how to better their brand experience, increase sales and loyalty to their existing and potential customers. After months and years of this perspective, I think sometimes brands become too close because they are on the “inside looking out” rather than being on the “outside looking in” to gain that fresh perspective of the consumer.  Let’s see how these “inside looking out” and “outside looking in concepts come to play in a real life example.

A Matter of Perspective

This reminds me of a story I once learned of a vehicle that drove out of control and crashed up the ramp under an overpass bridge while wedging itself underneath the bridge. Emergency crews were dispatched to “unwedge” the vehicle that had crashed so hard under this overpass that it was jammed in there pretty good. Emergency crews spent hours trying to dislodge the vehicle while local families watched. Even tow trucks couldn’t dislodge the vehicle. The strength of multiple men with crowbars using all their might couldn’t dislodge this vehicle. A young boy approached one of the emergency crew members and said, “Hey mister, I have an idea.” The fireman replied, “Not now kid, can’t you see we are busy?” The boy waited a moment then said louder, “Hey mister.” The man immediately replied without acknowledging the boy “Somebody gets this kid out of here before he gets hurt.” A member of the emergency crew was immediately escorting the young boy away from the scene when the boy yelled, “Hey mister, why don’t you try letting the air out of the tires?” Everyone heard the boy and stopped what they were doing while looking at the boy. Looking at each other in dismay, a couple crew members proceeded to empty the air in the tires, and the car rolled down the ramp effortlessly.

This story examines “being too close to the problem”. In this case, the emergency crew was “too close to the problem to see all of the solutions clearly.” Even though they are experts with these types of problems and deal with them daily, they entirely missed a simple solution right under their nose. In this particular situation, they were too close to see clearly and the little boy was the fresh perspective. Sometimes it takes simplicity to solve a major problem in life, business and marketing. This simple perspective is what marketing companies aim to do. Simplify brand messages and concepts while speaking to target audiences in a language they understand and are ultimately looking for.

When we examine marketing challenges for clients, we are the ones who are on the “outside looking in” so we have that fresh perspective to avoid marketing to people who already “get” your products or services.

How do you know if you are too close to your brand? Ask these questions:

1 – Are your headlines clear, concise and specific?

Headlines are the most important aspect to all marketing and media messages. They grab attention and keep people engaged. I have seen brands with powerful imagery but the headline is so complicated that they lost the consumer in a few seconds. Additionally, I have seen great headlines with the wrong imagery. Keep it simple! Use the 80/20 rule; spend at least 80% of your time on your headline and 20% on your ad copy.

2 – Are you looking at your product or service from the most obvious perspective?

This is very important and where most marketing plans fail. Are you marketing the obvious aspects about your product or the aspects customers might not have thought about? Make sure you avoid feature dumping on people without identifying how your product /service will improve their lives? Avoid marketing to the demographic that already “gets” your brand.

3 – Is your advertising/marketing campaign getting the response or social engagement you are looking for?

Try to use results as a measure of success. Measure things like traffic, conversions, engagement, click-throughs, impressions, buzz feedback, comments, and outside perspectives of your campaign can be powerful when gauging success.

4 – Does your advertising or marketing plan seem “complicated” to others?

Run ideas past friends and contacts outside of your industry to get a feel for what and how they feel about your brand. Ask questions. If you can’t release details due to confidentiality then try to get their input without giving away sensitive details about an upcoming marketing initiative. If these outsiders looking in don’t grasp it then your target might not.

5 – Have you researched campaigns that have caught your attention?

Find some campaigns or ads, TV commercials of products or services that you don’t use that have caught your attention, explained what product or service that brand was offering and if the message was clear enough to get your interest to either take action or at least research to see if it is for you. Ask yourself why did these appeal to you and what was it about the campaign that really caught your attention?

6 – Are you saying too much?

Good marketing messages are simple and designed to gain attention. I have worked with brands that insisted on “saying too much” in their marketing messages that they end up making things way too complicated and wordy. If you are a brand that has many key features then focus on one benefit at a time.

7 – Are you selling on price and price only?

Be careful when you offer a discount and how you do it. Offering discounts might reduce your brand credibility. Understanding that sometimes in different verticals discounting is necessary, but if you have to – do so carefully and not make your entire campaigns about the “discount” price. Instead add a twist on your key benefits for “less” but don’t come across “cheap”; it won’t install confidence in the quality to the consumer.

When you’re strategizing on your marketing initiatives with your team, don’t let your own bias and closeness to your brand hinders your ability to offer products or services that meet your customers’ needs. Every time you are presented with an idea or opportunity to innovate, ask yourself and your team, “Are we too close to our brand to see clearly?”





  1. Kathleen Beach

    Gregg: Outstanding article on brand perspective. The illustration with the little boy at the scene of a perplexing car rescue mission permanently cements the ideas.

    Stakeholders who have spent years building a brand are sometimes reluctant to see their efforts through the eyes of others. And since “others” are the market, a fresh perspective is critical.

    Thank you for such a well written, thoughtful piece…Kathleen Beach

  2. Broadwave11

    Thank you Kathleen,

    Appreciate the compliment. I agree it happens more often than not when stakeholders aren’t open to new ideas or a fresh perspective. That story has always stuck with me. I find it better than the Nike “Swoosh” design story. Hope we hear more from you and that you continue to enjoy our Blog. … Gregg

  3. Thanks you Kathleen appreciate your kindness and thoughts on this idea.

    I agree sometimes it is challenging to present ideas that have been proven by many brands and out of the box ideas that you can “feel” will work prefect with a brand that is set on a traditional way of marketing. I am happy clients are noticing that the internet changes every 3-6 months so they are forced to adapt or miss their opportunity to capitalize on a target audience.