Beware the Groundhog’s Shadow: Why some brands wallow in repetition (and how to avoid the trap)

Chris Heile

Chief Strategy Officer

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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Rarely does a single movie change the lexicon of the American culture. But Bill Murray’s popular ’90s film gave an entirely new meaning to the term Groundhog Day. The drudgery of repeating the same events over and over again is an unhappy warning to people who find themselves caught in an endless loop of life.

In the movie, Groundhog Day is portrayed as a sort of hell. And it is. But nowhere are the prospects of Groundhog Day more apparent than in marketing and advertising. For decades, our industry was built on the sturdy rock of consistency and familiarity. We built brands that lasted, icons that endured. Consistency of product and experience was the secret to success.

But, as the market evolved and competition for attention and dollars of consumers intensified, everything changed. Companies flooded the market with new and innovative products, the internet and social media created an endless network of sharing and discovery. And consumers - not surprisingly – started looking at older, familiar brands as uninspiring and uninteresting, rather than as the icons they were once considered to be.

In light of all this, it’s surprising to me how many companies continue to follow marketing's old playbook, settling for consistency and repetition rather than working every day to inspire their consumers and the marketplace. In truth, every company that isn’t constantly reinventing itself is simply treading water, watching its relevance and fortunes slip further and further away.

Change feels risky. Leading is a whole lot harder than following. But both are required for success in an ever-changing marketplace. Fortunately, there are steps marketers can take to intelligently reinvigorate their brand.

Immerse yourself in the culture of your customers.

Brands have always been good at understanding the functional needs of consumers, but I have yet to meet a consumer inspired by logic. Their world is constantly changing, their lifestyles and emotional needs are in flux. What they desire, what they dream, what they see for themselves is rich territory to connect with what is truly motivating to them. Don’t just get in touch with these feelings, stay in touch with them, evolve right along with them and your brand will always be current, dynamic and constantly in-tune with your audiences.

Understand what truly makes you unique as an organization.

Even if your marketing is predictable, I can tell you the culture of your company is not. The people in your organization make up a dynamic tapestry of personalities, interests and ambitions that is constantly evolving. The more you embrace your uniqueness and connect with the uniqueness of your audiences, the more vibrant and relevant you will be in their lives.

Let go.

Don’t give in to the temptation to tightly control your marketing and your consumers. Reimagine your brand as an inspiration to your consumers. A brand people want to be a part of, not a brand that relies on a heavy hand to hold their interest. Let the culture of your consumers help shape who you are, let the culture of your company shape who your consumers are.

Follow these steps and no two days will feel the same. Even better, you and your closest competitors won't feel the same either. And you will be well on your way to creating a brand that breaks new ground, not a brand that’s afraid of its own shadow.

 

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