What Wheel of Fortune taught me about branding

Remember watching Wheel of Fortune (or "Fat People Guessing" as it's sometimes know) back in the 80s? Of course you do. Well in the final round everyone picked the same letters R, S, T, L, N and E for the vowel. Why? Because more often than not the word or phrase contained those letters. Why? Cos they're the most frequently appearing letters in the English language. It was a given, everybody did it, if you didn't there was something wrong with you. From then on you relied on your wits to solve the Ivy League puzzles that Vanna White threw at you. Anyway, the smart people at Merv Griffin realised that everyone spouted off the same letters because that's what they saw Merle from Sandusky, Ohio do when he won a boat load of money that one time. So they changed the rules. When you reached the final round you were automatically shown every instance of R, S, T, L, N and E because they're just a given, everybody gets them. You then have to choose 3 more consonants and an additional vowel yourself.

Ok, Alex, where are you going with this.

I came across the brand guidelines for a major brand this morning and I realized something. The RSTLNE scenario is exactly the same as when you determine your brand values. When we're asked to define or state our brand values, most companies will spout off the same list and I guarantee it contains at least 4 of the following 5: - challenging - ethical - fun - inspiring - quality-driven

Ok I don't think I should have to tell you this but if you're NOT all of those things, then you're in big trouble. In fact, you're a dick. Not fun? Not ethical? Not quality-driven? I don't want anything to do with you.

Instead of taking the easy option and adopting a list of values that should be already in the DNA of your brand, try spending a bit more time to define values that properly reflect who you are and who you want to be. And just as importantly, clearly define HOW you are going to live those brand values in everything you do for every moment that your brand exists. Don't just carve it in marble and stick it up in your lobby, LIVE it.

So here's what I'm going to propose. When you're developing your brand, consider those brand values as a given. Vanna is going to give them to you before you even have a chance to start because……EVERYBODY DOES IT. And so should you.


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