Creating Contagion: 5 Rule to Delivering Brand Success

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Here’s the rub…against a backdrop of thousands of new brands appearing daily, you decide to take your destiny into your own hands and create a new online brand. Your friends call you crazy, after all, how can you be heard above all the noise in the marketplace, how can you think anyone will become an evangelist for your brand.

Rest easy, there are 5 rules to creating contagion. Follow these rules and you will be well on your way to getting a strong following and building brand success.

RULE 1: Embrace Messy
The real world isn’t a clean, ordered place. So why should your brand be? Embrace the messy bits, do things when you have yet to perfect them, release alpha. Get out there, push the edges.

RULE 2: Release Control
Don’t think of your brand as a fragile newborn that you need to hold onto tightly and nurture closely without giving it any room to grow unchecked. Instead look at your brand as a sprightly teenager that needs a level of freedom to go into the wide world, explore new avenues and grow in ways you never imagined. Give up some control in your brand to your users, let them evangelise for you and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

RULE 3: Back Fires
OK, you’ve got your site up and have regular users. Some of them are innovating on your site, but you’d also like to do some really big things on the site. Wisdom says rather pour small amounts of gasoline on the fires your users have already started, than pumping gallons onto large logs that no-one has tested. The analogy is that a fire with a small amount of gasoline on it will be boosted, whereas a log with gallons of gasoline will simply be a …wet log.

RULE 4: Scare Yourself
Look for issues that would take you way out of your comfort zone and tackle them. If you go right to the edge and really scare yourself, it’s easy to then deal with the smaller issues closer in to your comfort zone. Continually challenge yourself.

RULE 5: Solve Small
Give your users small problems to solve. This gets them used to working with you on building your brand. Once you have established a pattern of problem solving you can ratchet up the size of the problems you open up to your users.

Build these rules into your daily mantra and go build your brand!

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I love the point made by Charlie Crowe of C Squared: “A brand can be built over generations, but destroyed in 140 characters.”

Definitely worth keeping in mind!

The most poignant comment, though, was made by Kamel Oudi, Digital Media Director for Louise Vuitton France: “Each brand has a heart, a DNA.”

He urged brand custodians to follow their brand’s DNA ‘down the natural evolutionary path of your story, your brand and your people.’

He discussed the recent Journeys Awards, a crowdsourced campaign in which Louis Vuitton showcased emerging filmmakers following a brief from Wong Kar Wai. As pointed out on the mipblog:

The work was particularly meaningful because it demonstrates there’s a use for social media by luxury brands, which sometimes worry there’s no way to maintain exclusivity and cachet on democratic media. But with clear boundaries in place (for example, the same “journeys” text appeared in all film festival videos) and a clear communications strategy, users followed the tone set by Vuitton, speaking in the same artistic, ephemeral accent that the brand used.


Here’s the video of Sho Tsukikawa, which won the jury prize. Well worth watching:

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If you haven’t factored this into your business yet, you’re already on the endangered list!