4 Lessons from the Olympics for Brand Building

By Matter



On Monday, while watching the swimming events with my two older kids, I fell (like the rest of America) in love with a girl named Missy Franklin.  Sometimes, you hear a story like Missy’s, and can’t wait to see an interview with the athlete, and then the person opens their mouth and you think…Please. Stop. Talking.

Not Missy. She answered the questions she was asked, she listened, she was articulate, happy, and exhibited genuine joy in and love for her sport.

Last night, we watched (in tears, on the edge of our seats even though we knew the outcome already) as the US Women’s team worked together, cheering each other on, smiling, and earned the team gold. I couldn’t help but compare these young women and their “yes, you can” support of one another to the grouchy-faced, not-talking-to-each-other-or-listening-to-their-coaches Russian team, well. Maybe I’m not being fair. But who could believe in or cheer for those unhappy little divas over the focused, but-still-smiling talents of Team USA? Not me. (I know I’m biased. Stay with me.)

I couldn’t help but think, while watching, about perception and brand building and management. While some of the above sounds intensely surface level (who doesn’t prefer smiling faces over frowning ones?), I think it comes from a deeper place, and that human behavior and attitude can be hugely instructive in the strategy and practice of corporate reputation management and branding . Especially in this hyper-engaged, social age.

It seems to me that there are four fundamental, and simple attitudes and actions that are difference-makers for brands (and Olympians) who earn good reputations, positive perception and maximum credibility.
1. Believe. It’s so simple. If you believe in your mission and goals, it shows, and it builds credibility. If you don’t, it shows, and it erodes trust and reputation.
2. Listen. Nobody gets a great brand (or a gold medal) all alone. Listen to the other experts, to the person interviewing you, to the people you work with, to your team, to your customers, your partners, your board members.
3. Aim high. If you have a great product, service, idea, team, talent, you should have your eye on the top spot, not on being a spoiler or an acquisition target.
4. Smile. The greatest clients I’ve ever worked with have a deep joy in their work that emanates from them and infuses energy and excitement into their business. That honest excitement and thrill in the work itself forms an incredible foundation inside and out for a great brand.