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Rob Fields: 6 Keys To Waging The War Of Ideas

Why it is important to separate your company from the pack by evangelizing the ideas that drive its mission.

Rob Fields, BAA
Rob Fields, BAA on March 3, 2013. @robfields

It’s probably never been more difficult to sustain and grow a brand than it is today. Your competition always seems to have more of everything: Money; share of wallet and mind; and advocates. And category leaders tend to get more bang for their buck: pole position has its advantages.  That said, if everything else is more or less equal–your product delivers in the way that’s been promised; it conforms to expected standards of presentation for the business you’re in; you’re minding your branding P’s & Q’s–how do you keep your brand competitive?

You wage a war of ideas.

When you talk about waging a war, it’s not about bloody violence. Rather, it’s about the intense, consistent and passionate seeding of your ideas to the audiences that matter most. When you talk in these terms, the next important question arises: How do we win?

Sometimes we’re so focused on the tactical aspects of brand marketing—New logos; presence at trade shows; revised mission statements and press releases; connection plans–that we forget to get out there and fight to evolve ideas about our brands. We forget that you don’t just take your product or service into the marketplace. Rather, the real challenge is to convince people that your offering is powered by a bigger idea.

And content is the vehicle your bigger idea rides on.  And not just any content, mind you, but content that helps you to evangelize the way you see the world (or, better yet, the way you’d like the world to be!).

That said, here are six things to keep in mind:

1. What’s the big idea?
You’re here to solve a problem.  You can show people and other brands a better way.  What is it?  Often we don’t take the time to articulate the reasons behind what we’re doing. Part of the problem is that too many of us are used to speaking in jargon.  There are times when shorthand is useful, but not when you’re introducing a new idea.  By definition, jargon isn’t about depth, and that’s what’s needed to make an idea compelling.

2. Reframe whenever you can.
Don’t try to make the same-but-different argument that your competitors are already winning.  Make the case for an alternate perspective, that your offer transforms business as we know it. Or that those who don’t come around to your way of thinking will be left in the dust by their competitors.

3. Think broadly about examples that underscore the point(s) you’re making.
Weave these examples into a story that will convince others to follow your argument down the path to what you know is the logical conclusion. You already see how to get from A to D, but you’ve got to take people through B and C first. No shortcuts.   Management thinker Umair Haque of the Havas Media Lab pulls from psychology, neuroscience, ancient Greek culture, as well as economics to make his case that we need to radically rethink capitalism.  His logic is tight and his story is compelling.

4. Now, what’s your content strategy?
It should be obvious, but original content is what enables your ideas to live on in the marketplace.  What can you produce that advances your perspective and shows how your offering solves a problem, even if that problem is one others don’t know they have?  These days, there are lots of ways to spread ideas.  There’s writing (blogging, case studies, primary research, books,etc.); video (Webinars, Google+ hangouts, EPK’s); offline events (speaking at industry events, etc.).

5. Make your content strategy repeatable.
Know your organization. What kind of production load can you realistically handle?  Understand that you must commit to supporting your idea with new content on a regular basis since the case you’re making will build over time.   Energy drink Red Bull has gone full bore with its commitment to supporting a community of extreme and action sports enthusiasts and the brand activates across print, TV, online and social media.  The point is: Make the commitments to the types of content that makes sense for your organization and do them well.

6. Evangelism is key.
Now that you’ve got the content, push it out via as many channels as make sense.  Yes, the company who has the best content has a good shot at winning.  Also true is that the company that evangelizes best certainly stays in title contention.  If  your company’s ideas and the way they’re presented are engaging, they’ll start to crowd out others that aren’t as compelling.  Social media amplifies great content.  Look at how wine expert and bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk created a cult-like following with his irreverent wine video commentaries.

The bottom line: It’s not just content, but the expression and sharing of powerful ideas can give brands an edge.  Nothing’s guaranteed in this ever-changing marketplace.  But companies stand a better chance of succeeding if they recognize the type of fight they’re in, then plan and act accordingly.

So, how ready are you to go to war for your ideas?

(photo credit: Tiger Muay Thai)

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