July 19, 2022

Visionary Leadership

Visionary Leadership

In this episode, listen in as host and Brand Author founder Zahra Cruzan discusses how important vision is to the branding process. She shares compelling case studies and strategies on making sure your brand vision translates into the experience. You don't want to miss this episode!

Connect with Zahra:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/brandauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brand.author/   
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zahracruzan

Thank you for listening,

Zahra Cruzan

Founder, The Brand Collaborative And Brand Author

The Brand Collaborative      Brand Author


Why do some companies thrive, while others struggle? What keeps some brands strong, and others, non competitors? What makes one brand truly iconic, while others simply stall out? Today, our goal is to share with you how crucial vision is to the branding process and convince you to spend more than seven minutes developing it up. 

Hi, I'm Zarah Cruzan, founder and chief strategist at Brand Author. Our firm specializes in building brand systems that support truly remarkable vision, designed for impact and engineered to scale. Now, no matter the size or scope of any project, we always begin our work with vision exploration and we do this because until we have a clearer understanding of the vision, it is impossible to set goals and define success. Simply put, if you are not developing your brand, from a place of visionary leadership, then you have chosen to lead from a place of distractions and gimmicks that will ultimately confuse and alienate the very market you hope to win over. 

Now I know what you must be thinking, I don't have time for all this fluff, I have sales and fulfillment to worry about and I get it. We've all been there, we've all had to go through the overwhelm of entrepreneurship. But I'm here to tell you today, after working with hundreds of CEOs, the difference between having been there and being stuck there is visionary leadership. In fact, your most important role for your organization is to be the chief visionary officer of your brand. To help explore this, we're going to break this down into two sections. 

First, we're going to explore the relationship between vision and your brand and second, we're going to talk about how to lead your brand through vision. So let's start off talking about the science, this is where vision plugs into your organization, and how to take it from this magical idea into a tangible and realistic understanding of how it can help your business. Your vision is the foundation of your brand, and more specifically, your brand identity without it you cannot create alignment for your brand. In order to stay alive in business motion is necessary but how can you expect success if you haven't first defined it? Without a destination you're simply producing kinetic energy. 

Moreover, how can the team you've recruited and the customers you desire to help navigate to your destination if no one really knows where you're going. Think of it this way, just like you would never create a website without first creating a strong information architecture foundation. For all you non techies, that just means a solid map. You should never build an organization without a strong brand architectural model. If you've ever commissioned someone to build a website for you, or you've ever been commissioned to create a website, probably the first question asked is, what do you want this website to do for you, what's the point of the website. Once you have clarity on what needs to be accomplished, the task of creating relevant design and content and copy and function, it all becomes very clear. In a similar way, the vision makes clear what brand success looks like once we know the outcomes that we're looking for everything else falls right into place. 

So now let's take a look at some case studies. In some cases like Estee Lauder is fiasco of 2018. Someone on the marketing team did not get the memo and it costs Estee Lauder big. So if you read their ethos, Miss Estee Lauder was passionate about representing and serving women around the world, wherever and whom ever they may be. That means a commitment to developing products of the highest quality and performance, while also being responsible, trustworthy and giving back to the community. Pretty clear, pretty compelling. And then we get this app And then we get this app 50 shades of white, which does not line up with the inclusive commitment of the brand. Now, when you look at the available shades on their website, there are in fact many darker shades. But because the person creating the ad, the person editing the design, the person approving proofs are all not bought into the brand and in sync this picture didn't strike anyone as off brand. 

But do you know who did notice, the loyal customers of Estee Lauder, who were sold on the idea that Estee Lauder was rooted and inclusion, and now they felt betrayed. So, first of all, they did fix it, and all's right with the world now, but just to take it back. The reason that these brand followers his fans knew that the first ad was off brand, is because the company spends a lot of time training, teaching their audience and their customers about who they are as a brand. But you've got to do that internally also, because the internal team saw nothing wrong with it but the outer world did. 

So now let's take a look at one more case study, let's talk about LEGO. Did you know Lego nearly went bankrupt at the turn of the century 800 million in debt. The future looks bleak for this Danish company. Video games and afterschool programs were tough to compete with and moreover, Lego had a lot of products to bankroll, like a lot of products 12,900 to be exact. They had theme parks merchandising and even dabbled in publishing. Does any of this sound familiar? Rest assured if you've got a million products you're in good company. Most businesses both large and small fall prey to this in a mad dash for more revenue, we continue to make more products and offers because we can't, and we sell them slow down long enough to ask if we should. 

It wasn't until a new CEO took over that Lego was able to get back on track with their vision not only to Jorgen slash offerings down to 7000 but he called for an organization wide commitment to go back to the brick they recommitted to their audience, and even read ethnographic studies to better understand how their little consumers played and use bricks. This resulted in Lego boasting 600 million in profits, and a market cap of 7.4 billion. How's that for brand value? What a tremendous swing from 800 million in debt to 600 million in profit. 

So let's talk about why it matters to have alignment between your brand. So scientists and neuro economics, now have conclusive evidence that shows buying behavior is rooted in the limbic system. The limbic system is where we determine desire, trust, and memory recognition. All data must first pass of the limbic system before moving into the neocortex, where we can process higher function thinking, rationale, language, etc. But what this means is that if as a brand, you can't create buy in, on a fundamental level, if you can't create trust, belief, desire, for recognition first, then you're sunk before you've even shown them all the snazzy features of your offer, or wow them with your 80% discount. 

We've all been there and experienced this as consumers at some point. We're on our website, we're ready to buy, we make it to the checkout page and then suddenly, something doesn't feel right. We open a new tab, Google the company and three hours later in the black hole of searches, we find a competitor that we don't even bother to look up or compare, we just buy it even though it costs a little more. Now none of us would ever say there was a limbic glitch. Well, I would but essentially that gut feeling occurs when something from your mission on the about us page to the checkout cart wasn't in alignment. That may be a couple of components interactions that were lined up with a vision but the rest maybe wasn't. 

As captain of the ship, it's your job to make sure that people are picking up what you're putting down. You must ensure that the vision and the brand are in alignment. This is your role as chief visionary officer, stepping into the role of visionary leadership can be broken down into three steps, creating the vision, manifesting the vision and leading the movement. A visionary is someone who has created in their mind's eye an alternate reality. In order to create a proper vision, you must see it with extreme clarity with a 3d view. Often we see these two dimensional vision statements that are really elevator pitches, positioning statements, or even glorified USPS. How many of you are excited by this burger? Not many. What if you were to say that you are the premier burger in town? Do you even have a clear understanding of what premier means? How do we measure premier? 

Well, let's take a look at Hop Daddy's brand. Good food, good people, we pride ourselves on doing things the right way, not just the easy way, made by hand sourced for greatness created to be different a little more exciting, it's a little more there. That makes me interested, I desire something different, I desire something great. That is a difference. Between 90% of business visioning and the 10% of businesses visioning not only does your vision have to be crystal clear but it must also be inspiring and remarkable. It must emotionally move the limbic system in order to trigger motivation, and subsequently behavior. Clear three dimensional, no stone unturned static versus motion picture. You want it to be clear, you've got to be able to see all the way around it. You also want it to be simple. You must also be able to distill down this three dimensional view into an easy to digest version. Simply put, you need the trailer to convince them to sit down and watch the whole movie. Also, is it inspiring? Is it big enough? Is this a vision? Or is it just a forecast? Is it exciting enough that you would tell a friend or better still recruit someone? Is it relevant? What would it mean for the world or the group if you achieve success? 

Prophetic is it truly a future reality or just a repackage current existence and do you have the conviction to not speak of it as a possibility, but an inevitability. Now some of you might be worried that you're not cut out for this, but let me assure you by choosing entrepreneurship, you have fundamentally changed how you exist in the world in pursuit of a vision and the past and the best part is you don't have to be a celebrity or have this X Factor. 

In fact, when we think of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, they're not what you call extroverts. What they do have that draws everyone in is focus and that focus is the difference between wishing and vision. Now in order to create a working system for establishing and maintaining a vision, we must break it down into two pieces your vision statement. Think of this as your why, or as we like to call it, your shared unshakable belief. This statement never changes, unless the entire company changes in the constant a Northstar, if you will. This is what tells like minded people, they've come to the right place. The second piece is your vision register. This is a three to five page document explaining in detail what the next iteration of your vision looks like. 

This register is what allows us to zoom in and out and flip between perspectives and experiences. This is our recipe for how the sausage is made, and allows you the flexibility you need for growth and evolving your vision to the next iteration of what your vision statement means. These two tools work together to create a line of continuity that keeps the brand clear and relevant, because it moves off the page and into the business model and operations itself. This is what moves your organization from a reactionary state to an intentional one. Your vision gives context to the data, so you can use it as a tool to distinguish opportunity from distraction. It allows you to develop mission and goals and checks to make sure they are moving you toward a specific destination rather than just covering a lot of ground. Let's see what a good one looks like and the early 1960s, fueled by the Soviets recent accomplishment of sending the first man to orbit Earth, American President Kennedy announced his bold vision. 

Now it is time for the nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future honor. I believe that this nation should admit to itself commit itself to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind are more important for the long range exploration of space and no one will none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. It will not be one man going to the moon. If we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation for all of us must work to put him there. 

Now, in order to understand the magnitude of this crazy dream, you must understand that no one had traveled beyond 850 miles above the Earth and NASA plan to fly 240,000 miles to the moon. The rocket they wanted to use had never transported humans before and their previous attempts were failures. They did not have a communication network or Mission Control. They didn't even know how to calculate the truck trajectories they need to accomplish this. 

In fact, upon hearing this vision, Eisenhower called Kennedy hysterical and polls revealed that much of the population didn't support his efforts early on. In fact, Glennon NASA's administration said Kennedy's challenge to the nation was, quote, a very bad move. And yet, when asked both the lawn and Apollo astrodynamics scientists that we didn't mind working 80 hour weeks because we knew what we were doing was something different. Rana is Marshall team manager said it was the most complex, ambitious, as well as the most successful mission ever attempted in 50 years, it has not been bested. Now, I myself can attest to NASA's vision grip. 

As a student I won a scholarship to work on a research project with NASA. For three weeks I worked alongside scientists to identify the effects of microgravity on T cell proliferation. To this day, it was one of the most memorable times of my life. Stepping onto a Boeing specifically designed to mirror the effects of microgravity by creating parabolas in flight was a surreal experience. But what I remember most about this experience was how bought and I was I drink the Kool Aid, like a high school girl at an NC concert. How did NASA recruit students to trade in holiday breaks or work for them for free? They double down on buy in before you get the grand tour of the claustrophobic labs, and before you get assigned your workload. 

You get the buy in speech I remember the lead scientist welcoming us on our first day. And before he sold us on all the exciting things we were going to be allowed to do he sold us on the vision. If we could only understand he said, causation on how the human body responds to micro or zero gravity, we could find solutions that would eventually lead to sustained and maybe even permanent space explorations. Can you imagine what an 18 year old is feeling when they are told they will be part of something this huge, I could just feel my heart pounding in my chest. 

I worked harder than I've ever worked before, and I took such care to double check my work. I lost all sense of ego and insecurity. As I learned as much as I could from anyone I could. I forgot to be worried about what would happen if I couldn't keep up because it was really about because it really wasn't about me. It was about something bigger than me, something that I got to be a part of. Now that you've got a highly focused purpose, it's time to start building it. The word manifest means to make clear or obvious as a verb, it means to show or display. The reality is you must be able to take that perfectly crafted vision out of your brain, off of the paper and into a tangible, achievable goal. Taking your vision register, and from it developing on a mission and executing that mission to further the cause of your vision. This is tough, because it means you must find answers to questions that you didn't even know you have. 

Taking a vision concept from theory to application is where most entrepreneurs get stuck so they stop here and default to using their offer as a crutch. Imagine if Apple based their brand on their iconic product, the iPod. What Apple understood is that markets change, technology improves and competition is fierce. To fully commit to manifesting the vision, you've got to dig deep so often we rush through our vision, mission, manifesto core values to get to the budgets and marketing. And we miss the inconsistencies and irrelevancies that show up later in business and can cause some severe damage manifesting your vision is all about creating within the brand structure. It's about giving form, to the framework, and tangibility to the vision. We call this brand modeling, we can make our vision obvious and clear by showing the world what we believe is in fact possible by creating the evidence. 

We do this by creating customer experience cycles. We do this by creating brand standards. We do this by organizing our office structure to align with our vision. We do this by developing our offers with our brand guidelines as a rubric. In order to manifest your vision, we must ask ourselves tough questions like what do I mean by lead? What does integrity look like sound like feel like to me? I can tell you from experience. The best way to expertly manifest your vision is to first and expertly do it. There is no such thing as a perfect brand or vision. There is such a thing as an optimized one but you can't optimize what you can't measure and you can't measure what you haven't done. 

So the point is start doing as a visionary, you'll be a crazy outlier. So get comfortable with it and create it anyways. You could constantly evaluating the data you've manifested ensures that your brand ID remains in alignment with your vision. So I don't know how many of you have ever seen the Sasquatch Music Festival video, if you haven't, check it out on YouTube. It's a hilarious video and it's a great example of brandy. So this is pretty, a pretty popular YouTube it went viral. You know most entrepreneurs have seen it, it's a lot of many people presentations. And what most people like to point out is how from one we get to two and two becomes hundreds and hundreds become YouTube millions and that is a relevant point. But what struck me most about this video is how long this guy danced alone, looking really awkward. 

How many of us would honestly have the courage to continue on for as long as he did before he got early adopter person number two. As visionary leaders, we have the discipline to exist and that comfortable space and give our brand and vision time to work, we must choose not to pull the trigger too quickly. We need to give it time as business owners, we want our audience to not just have one great user experience, but rather several to create that consistent experience that will generate the buy in we need and are looking for for everything from marketing to product development. And that must be developed from the same central theme, the vision. 

How we do this is by using the idea of just thoughtful proximity, stating that the closer items are to each other, the more likely they are to be associated with one another. We use the vision throughout organizations to create small associations between customers offers and employees and stakeholders to help create an association, thereby giving them a deeper connection. Some of you guys simply call this the tribe effect or the cult effect. By creating these vision breadcrumbs throughout the brand, we are constantly reminding our followers of our shared why and we keep buying strong. 

So let's take a look at another case study, most people know Chick Fil A, it's a pretty well established brand. And the world of franchise, it's all about volume, more real estate, more markets more franchisees. But while others are racing to open up as many stores as possible, Chick Fil A approves less than 1% of applicants. And once they get them in the door, they have to undergo a five to six week trading program in Georgia headquarters. That's taking a stand for your vision and it works. Forbes Magazine listed Chick Fil A as McDonald's biggest threat in 2019 and here's what I want to know. McDonald's is selling more but people who come into Chick Fil A are spending almost twice as much per person as they are at McDonald's. 

So why is it that people are willing to spend almost twice as much for chicken than beef? Why do we wait to go to Chick Fil A when McDonald's is open Sundays. It's the value of experience from drive thru to condiment dispensers to educational toys or sustainable organic options have fresh cut fruit for the kids. Even with a limited menu, Chick Fil A is able to outperform on a value basis. And that tells us sometimes more, is just more. 

Step three, from leader to creator, creator to leader, sorry. So how do you go from awkward guy on an island to awkward guy on an island with friends and then a crowd. How do you get to keep your tribe your success as a leader is highly dependent on how well you can recruit followers. As Simon Sinek says, All you need to be a leader is to have followers. That sounds simple enough, until you try to get someone to follow you on a mission to a place that doesn't exist for a cause they don't understand and without any clearer picture of what's in it for them. Having a clear vision, along with the manifested evidence is how we begin this process. 

First crazy guy has to inspire you, then you have to see him having a great time, and believe that your musical experience would be improved to if only you would let loose. That gets you to participate but then you actually have to experience a better musical journey, as you expected in order to keep dancing with crazy dancing guy. Finally, we have to show up consistently, so you feel safe enough to bring your friends into the dance party. This right here is the core branding is making sure the vision of the brand translates into the experience. This requires stewardship and you must walk the fine line of constantly pushing ahead on your journey and being able to recognize when your need for speed is steering you off track. 

As a leader of your movement, it's up to you to ensure how you function tells the story of your brand's value by creating desire for the mission and second, staying committed to the constant evolution of that story. So let's take a look at this in action so blockbuster did a thing and they did it consistently for a long time. They were the anti theater but they got stuck. Their vision was to provide our customers with the most convenient access to media entertainment. Other than the addition of the video game section, there was no longer evidence that blockbuster was still driven to be the most convenient way to access video entertainment. 

Enter Netflix, what Netflix knew is that just creating a rental system through mail was only a lateral move. And in order to stay relevant they need to evolve. At Netflix, we want to entertain the world whatever your taste and no matter where you live, we give you access to the best in class TV shows, movies and documentaries because great stories can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere. We are the world's biggest fans of entertainment and we're always looking to help you find your next favorite story. Whether Netflix is developing brand standards, like no commercials, and simple pricing, or developing user experiences, like skip the intro, and because you watched features. Heck, now they're even producing their own content. No matter how they do it they're constantly moving the needle forward to achieve new levels of success as defined by their mission. But imagine if Netflix has said yes, we just beat blockbuster mail order DVDs are brilliant, mission accomplished dropped the mic. Hulu and Disney plus ESPN would have ended them. 

Visionary Leadership means staying brand focused. There is a reason the most successful brands spend millions of dollars and weeks of time locked away at retreats to work other awesome brands. They understand if they truly want to create buy in from others, they must create a manifest by themselves. They understand that branding isn't a once a decade project, but a commitment to excellence. I hope I've made a compelling case here today for visionary leadership and have in some small way inspired you to continue on your entrepreneurial journey with either a renewed energy or a newfound commitment to move from manager and CEO to Chief Visionary Officer.