Friday, May 25, 2007

Volume 35 - Passion and the i.2 Brand

As Charlie Staples says "I add an extra cup of love, that makes my barbecue sauce something special." At the corner of Rayen and Belmont Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio houses a little barbecue joint, owned and operated by one Charlie Staples. His "secret sauce" is his "cup of love", just like "good too the last drop" is Maxwell House's, as well as hundreds of other sayings and slogans to make the customer's experience special.

It isn't any different in the world of Business to Business, when the end user is one step removed. As a private labeled architectural hardware supplier using various revenue streams, in which our product is then resold to the end-user, it still matters that our company enhances 'passion and the brand.' In fact, it could be argued that without these ingredients one would not succeed. Even if a product is technically sound and 'works' (that is expected, so no 'applause' for that achievement), it's the 'passion', drive, energy, attitude and resourcefulness of the people associated with the 'brand' that counts.

Hanging on my office wall is a autographed picture of the guys that made up the resourceful advertising agency DMB&B. The article that was signed was a story (about them) entitled "It Ain't The Meat, It's The Emotion." Done in the early 80's, the guys who worked on the Burger King account strived to do it 'like you wouldn't do it.' But they turned out to be the best dudes for fast times! It truly is about the Emotion, Passion and Drive that separates companies. For those that manage companies that have this unique style, it might also be the ingredient that drives the managing partner 'over the hill', but let the people run; let them solve there own interactive problems, let them know they have the support to experiment, to achieve, as long as individual respect is maintained, and the team is always intact. Connecting these people to the brand in a positive way is the essence of an effective brand, which, 'when it works', is as tangible an asset as brick and mortar. Mix this concoction with a product that works, a marketing program that is innovative, always watching and understanding the cost structure, and the outline of a 'money machine' is in place.

Having stated all of the above, don't be so naive to think that its implementation is the equivalent of a 'walk in the park'; more like the climbing of Mt Everest in the winter! Look at all the really successful companies that exist. Not the ones that grow through M & A, then bubble and explode through 'top number' stupidity, but the ones that really understand and grasp the ability of an individual, and the courage to let them 'run'. Legendary brand builders have focused on building a culture and an internal brand that will sustain profitable growth for decades.

I like to think that we are in the process of creating this environment within i.2, even at this early stage of development, not only with our group of 'owner partners' but with the standards in place for others to join our organization; certainly not 'business as usual'. A 'greenfield' or start-up from a 'clean sheet of paper' concept certainly has its moments, but the ability to construct the functional benefits of a product that consistently works with the emotional benefits produced only by an extraordinary group of people marks the path of a formidable brand.