What “Hoosiers” Can Teach Us About Brand Management


In a piece for Advertising Age aptly titled, "Sometimes You Need to Let the Town Drunk Coach the Team," Tom Denari, president of the Indiananpolis-based ad firm Young & Laramore, explains how Angelo Pizzo’s cinematic masterpiece (a.k.a. "the best movie ever made" in this critic’s opinion) can help you manage your brand. The advice is timely and quite creative. Here’s a 20-second timeout’s worth, but I’d advise you read the whole thing:

Work on the boring stuff, like defense and ball handling, first. When Coach Norman Dale arrived at Hickory High, he didn’t just roll out the ball and start scrimmaging. Instead, he wanted to see what kind of talent he really had, and then he worked his players tirelessly on the basics of the game to ensure their fundamentals were sound. Dribbling around chairs and doing defensive drills wasn’t fun for his players, but these basics had to be sharp before they’d be ready to play a game.

Too often, new CMOs want a quick fix, thinking a new campaign or a new ad agency will solve everything. They choose to jump into the most outward demonstration of change — the advertising and communications plan. While it’s the easiest aspect to adjust, a new campaign will make the least amount of difference if your brand’s fundamentals aren’t right.

Before you change your campaign, ask yourself a few questions. Can you easily state your brand’s promise? Is your brand’s product offering deficient in any way? Is your pricing appropriate? Does your service model support what your brand stands for? Until these basics are tended to, the communications part of the equation is meaningless. Too often, we forget that brands are more about the consumer’s experience with a product than the ad campaign that tries to sell it. One of the best examples of a company that gets this is Zappos, which is completely focused on the unglamorous, hard work of getting its service model right. Making sure that its service is consistent at every consumer touchpoint has paid big dividends beyond any ad campaign it could have produced.

Sit the player that doesn’t follow the game plan. During Hickory’s opening night of the season, Coach Dale yanked star player Rave out of the game, even though he was making one-handed set shots one after another. Why? Because Rave wanted to play fast and loose, ignoring his coach’s game plan of passing five times before shooting. Despite Rave’s early scoring, his coach knew that instilling discipline and sacrificing short-term gains would lead to team success later.

Especially given the current environment, exercising discipline is difficult. What are you doing in the name of short-term results that you’ll regret later? Are you selling a product that doesn’t fit your brand promise? Are you discounting to the point that it’s mortgaging your brand strength? Don’t forget that a brand is not static — it’s either getting stronger or weaker. Which direction is yours headed?

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