May 21, 2021|
8 min read
Stop Looking for Quick Fixes and Get to the Root of the Problem
Most of us have heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We think about it when it comes to medicine. If you brush your teeth every day, you’ll have fewer problems with them. If you do regular exercise and eat well, you have a lower risk of heart disease.
This thinking works in so many other areas. If you do routine maintenance on your car, it’s less likely to have a major mechanical problem.
The point is we need to look at root causes—think upstream—and expect issues before they become problems. And looking at those root causes gets us away from “quick fixes” or Band-Aid solutions.
Yet so, so many Brand Managers and Marketers rely on these “quick fixes.” We tweak, tweak, tweak until everything is so broken that it might seem like there’s nothing we can save. We wait until we have the “major mechanical.” We have to get a tow truck to haul our “brand vehicles” to the research or agency shop to see if they can fix our hopeless junker.
How and why do we let this happen? Why do we focus so much on symptoms instead of the underlying causes? More important: how do we prevent this kind of total breakdown in our brands?
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
A lot of us look at symptoms with our brands because it’s more comfortable or may feel more immediate. We can talk about needing a new logo or tweaking our ad campaign copy or whatever. That’s comfortable.
And it’s comfortable exactly because it doesn’t ask us to make big, sweeping changes. It doesn’t ask us to question and analyze what we’re doing. Getting in there and questioning what we’re doing can feel very uncomfortable. It makes us ask some pretty hefty questions. Why are we here? What are we even doing?
Those are uncomfortable questions, because a lot of us don’t know the answers. So instead of saying, “Hey, I’m not sure what we’re even doing here,” we look for small symptoms that are “easy” to fix. That makes us feel like we know what we’re doing. Like we have a purpose.
Those of us who do know the answers (or think we do) may not like them. Maybe they don’t jive with our understanding of what our brand is all about. We think our brand is all about fun and youth, but it’s actually about trust and tradition or something. Asking these questions forces us to confront that gap between what we’re doing and what we think we’re doing.
But that’s why asking these questions is so important! The longer we avoid them, the more likely it is we’re headed for a total “brand breakdown.”
So we need to be uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not asking the right questions.
Quick Fixes Are Inefficient
The other reason we jump for “quick fixes” is that we see them as more efficient. They’re not, but we think they are.
Why? Because we can point to a symptom and fix it in short order. We slap a Band-Aid on when what we need are stitches. But we have the Band-Aid handy and we can stick it on, then ignore the problem until we can’t any longer.
It’s like cartoons where the character’s stuck in a sinking boat. The boat keeps springing more leaks, even as they scramble to plug the holes up or bail water out with a pail. At some point, we have to realize the boat’s not seaworthy and haul to back to the harbour to get it fixed properly.
A lot of us avoid doing that—taking our brands to an agency or strategist before we’re drowning—because we see that as slowing down. Putting the Band-Aid on, plugging the hole, is faster, easier, cheaper. It lets us keep moving.
Until the point we sink, that is. Once we’ve “sprung a leak,” it’s kind of foolhardy to keep moving out of the harbour. Yet we do it all the time.
We think that taking the boat back is going to impede us, stop our momentum. We worry about how much it’s going to cost us. A lot of us are likely sitting there saying, “Ah, it’s one little thing, nothing to worry about! No need to do all that work!”
And there’s something to be said about not making mountains out of molehills. If you had one unsuccessful campaign, then maybe it was that particular campaign. But when it’s the next campaign and the initiative after that … we have to admit there’s something else going on.
That’s where we see so many Brand Managers and Marketers get into trouble. They are under financial pressure. They keep opting for quick fixes to hit short term sales/budgeting goals, and keep “troubleshooting” the symptoms instead of taking a good, long look at what’s under the hood of our brands.
And that leads to inefficiency. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We could save ourselves a whole lot—time, money, grief—if we asked those uncomfortable questions sooner.
Why Treating Root Causes Makes More Sense
In a recent online discussion, a question about how many clients came to agencies or consultants asking for brand strategy work and the answer was between zero and two percent of leads.
Most were looking for “quick or surface fixes”: give me a website that works, update the label, can you change our logo, and so on. And, if you already have a brand strategy, these aren’t bad things.
But most of these clients arrived without any sense of branding. Most were reluctant or even resistant to having “the brand strategy talk.” Even once they had, they still can dig in their heels—and simply believe they need a new website or updated logo, that’s all.
The website is a symptom, usually. We say oh, we’re not getting any traffic, so let’s get some SEO in here or run some ads. Website sales are down, so the solution must be to drive more traffic or to “spruce up” the site.
We’re not looking further up the chain here. Our company hasn’t invested in digital presence, and why is that? Moreover, we’re not listening to our customers. Did they tell you that they’d visit your website more often if it was prettier? Or are you guessing at what the issue is?
Website functionality is important, sure. But so is having stuff that people actually want. What are they getting when they arrive on the website? Is it content or products they actually want? What’s your messaging, and why should they choose you over all your competitors? If you have the best prices in the game, your customers may see “beautiful, website design” as a frill.
Again: saying something like “oh, we need a new web design” is comfortable. It’s an easy answer. But are we sure it’s addressing what’s actually going on underneath? We might be spray painting over the holes in the hull of our brand-boat here.
Looking at the essence of our brand is a better first step. From there, stuff like website design, logo design, and messaging develop organically.
That is why it makes more sense to skip the temptation to do these “quick fix” things. That approach ends up eating more of our resources than if we looked at the underlying issues to start.
Where Do We Start?
Like I said, there’s a certain amount of wisdom in not jumping to overhaul your brand strategy the first time a campaign goes off the rails. In that case, you might be able to treat a “symptom” or apply a “quick fix.”
We need to be careful about always reaching for the quick fixes, though. We should be ready to make ourselves uncomfortable. To do that, we need to ask those questions: why are we here? What are we actually doing?
If we’re willing to ask those questions, then everything else will follow from there. So remember: start with the why!
I m back after a few weeks of being absent from social media for personal reasons. My goal is and always will be to inspire and create conversation!
I am a businessperson who has excelled in driving a competitive edge through marketing, strategy, innovation, building irresistible brands and unlocking the genius that exists. I am writing to inspire or create new consideration. If you have ideas or questions that you would like me to put a pen too, I would be delighted.
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