Opinion / 01.03.21 / 4 min read

Getting sticky with it

How ‘walking the walk’ will always be the toughest part of any branding project.

Getting sticky with it

Here at Mr B and Friends, we’re on a mission to simplify all that we do. To make things as clear and engaging as they can be. We believe this is the magic sauce for delivering brilliant work and helping drive a culture where we all want in. It’s all part of delivering our brand strategy and how we want to position ourselves.

This desire to ‘live and breathe your brand’ is such a critical part of any branding project, yet without the dedication it needs, the energy tends to fizzle out. Because when it comes to positioning, it’s easy to go out there and say whatever you want, but backing it up with your actions and behaviours is where the hard work really starts. And if, like us, you’re on a mission to become a true, brand-led business, the difference between success and failure will lie in your ability to get everyone in the organisation pulling in the same direction.

It’s this transformational aspect of getting your brand to stick, by readjusting your path, adopting new behaviours, and essentially asking people to change, that will always be one of the biggest challenges you face.

And even for seasoned brand practitioners like us, the same classic challenges still raise their ugly heads, forcing us to constantly adjust and adapt. They act as a constant reminder that a branding project never really finishes and that there is always work to be done to embed and improve.

So what are some of these classic challenges when trying to live and breathe your own brand? What should we be looking out for and addressing in order to succeed in our respective missions?

Learning can suck.

Whatever the level of change you want to see across the organisation, never underestimate how hard it is to shift old habits. Over years of employment, people tend to default to their own carefully formulated ways of working no matter what you tell them.

But to become a brand-led business, your job is to help every single one of your employees re-learn what it is they do and how they do it. And whether that’s a tiny adjustment or a significant change, it’s still going to be a difficult pill to swallow.

But to make your brand stick, you need to be on a constant mission to embed and uphold these new actions and behaviours. Simply giving everyone a copy of your brand guidelines and expecting them get on with it, just isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest mistakes organisations can make when it comes to branding.

Because the reality is that when it comes to embedding your positioning the work never ends. Think of Steve Jobs constantly championing ‘Think Different’ and rejecting anything and everything that doesn’t fit the bill. You need to be on a never-ending quest to stick true to what you believe in. Because the more consistency you can create, and the more proof points you get out into the world, is ultimately how great brands are built. 

Do as I say, not as I do.

Driving a brand-led organisation requires strong leadership. It doesn’t necessarily need to be driven by those in charge, but it certainly helps. For people to adopt new behaviours, it’s critical for them to see positive change going on around them, and from their leaders in particular.

Giving guidance to others is one thing, but as business leaders, what are we actually doing to change, and tangibly display the new behaviours we’re asking others to adopt?

It’s particularly tough for business leaders to change, mainly because we’re all a little long in the tooth. Whether we’d admit it or not, ego instantly becomes involved. You might love the sound of your new positioning, but when it comes to the crunch, you aint changing nothing. You’ve spent the last 20+ years perfecting your craft, so things are just fine as they are.

But this is poor leadership at a time where strong leadership can make all the difference.

Business leaders need to set the tone. They need to encourage, motivate, and give others a sense of empowerment by demonstrating the very change they want to see.

We spend a lot of time telling others how to change, but the change needs to start with us.


But just as change is hard on a personal level, it can be even harder on an organisational level. Nobody really wants to be that person who puts their neck on the line and changes something deep-rooted and significant. I mean what if it fails?

But if you’re not careful, this fear of change leads to taking the comfortable option rather than making bold statements of intent. It’s where momentum is lost and a key reason why many branding projects fail to deliver results. You might have a lovely new identity and positioning idea, but ultimately nothing has really changed. It just becomes a liberal pasting of fresh wallpaper.

Now that’s fine if you’re not looking for business transformation, but it’s an epic fail if you’re looking to build a brand-led organisation.

Because the learning here is that becoming a brand-led business takes balls. It’s no place for meaningless sound bites and tokenistic gestures. As leaders, it will be one of the single biggest decisions you’ll ever have to make. And once that decision is made, the huge opportunity your positioning presents needs to be fully embraced. The time for deliberation has passed. If you’re not fully on-board, or if the strategic implications scare you to the point of inactivity, you really should be thinking about going back to the drawing board. Commitment is critical.

So if you want your people to sit up and take notice, you need to show you mean business. Think about all the things you do. About every single interaction you have with your employees, from internal templates, to job descriptions, to how you support and manage your staff, even the working environment itself. Every single one of these touch-points is an opportunity to lead the way and bring your positioning to life with real purpose and intent.

It’s the best opportunity you’ll have.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for any of these challenges, other than real commitment and hard work.  But as we all know, nothing worth having ever comes easy.

Adam Partridge

Executive Strategy Director