What to Do When Your Brand Is Stuck or Stale with Steve McKee

December 7, 2015

steve mckee on brand

“Figure out what you’re doing right and do more of it.” This deceptively simple advice should come as a cautionary tale to brands of all shapes and sizes. As a best-selling author and leader of one of the Southwest’s top agencies, Steve McKee spends all of this time help stalled, stuck, and stale brands. I couldn’t wait to chat with him about all of this on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Steve McKee

Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Company, Advertising Age’s 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. He is the author of When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck and What To Do About It, an award-winning business book now published in four languages, and Power Branding: Leveraging the Success of the World’s Best Brands.

MWC specializes in revitalizing stalled, stuck and stale brands across the U.S. A marketing strategist for nearly thirty years, Steve has held executive positions at notable international agencies including NW Ayer, Della Femina, and a division of McCann-Erickson Worldwide. He is also the co-founder of a successful Bay Area tech startup, a company that is redefining an entire industry as a result of insightful research into its “rationally irrational” consumers.

Steve was a popular Businessweek.com columnist for more than a decade and has been published or quoted in The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes.com, Investor’s Business Daily, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. A popular speaker at corporate and association events, he has appeared on CNBC, ESPN2, CNNfn, Bloomberg, and network television affiliates across America.

Episode Highlights

What to do when today’s consumers are rationally irrational. This concept comes from one of Steve’s most popular keynotes. “Very few decisions are made rationally. That’s why we approach these situations with our CERTS acronym — Context, Expectations, Risks, Trade-offs, and Short-Cuts. It’s a five-dimensional Rubik’s cube that can help.”

What to do if your brand is stalled, stuck, or stale. McKee reminds us that most of these challenges come from one of three root causes — “loss of focus, loss of nerve, or inconsistencies. You must address the internal first through better alignment.” Brands need a strong center of gravity pulling them together. Gravitational pull is stronger than building a fence. And that starts with the CEO.”

Are we co-creating brands today? “It’s really more of an un-earthing.” This also relates to one of Steve’s Power Branding Principles: “The more powerful your brand is, the less you own it.”

Which Power Branding Principles do readers ask him about the most? Steve’s book Power Branding features 75 principles. Don’t get scared at that number — each chapter is short and bite sized. Here are some favorites from readers … “Nothing you do isn’t sending a message. Not just your advertising. Your on-baording and HR documents.” Another favorite: “Doesn’t it make sense to challenge yourself before someone else does?” Absolutely. Especially with as fast as brands are moving and evolving today.

And what about locked-down brand standards and style guides? “It’s like a tree. If you restrict it too much, you’ll kill it.”

What brand has made Steve smile recently? “Old Spice. They used to be so stuck and so stale. Now look at them!”

To learn more about Steve, check out McKeeWallwork.com and PowerBrandingBook.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …  Angie Greiner gave us a shout on Twitter about our recent episode on design featuring Aaron Draplin. Thanks for listening!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.