The Olympic games are now over, but the Olympic Spirit still lingers in the atmosphere. Still inspired, I dove even deeper to see what the Olympic Charter had to offer. This is a document similar to a constitution and it describes and defines the Olympic Movement, including its most important principles and values.
I had no doubt that the Olympic Movement is powerful and that it still had lessons to teach brands. Following are extracts from the Charter that stood out and to me and which I think have the power to reinvigorate your brand.
“It (the Olympic Charter) governs the organization, action, and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games.”
There is a very important significance in wording here. According to the Charter, the Olympic Games are not being “held” nor “made”, but celebrated. This is a crucial distinction which encompasses the Olympic spirit and serves as a vision of how the Olympic Games should be treated as. The Olympic bodies treat the Games as more of a festival than a competition. This can be observed in reality too: from the big and colorful opening and closing ceremonies to the spirit of hope and joy the games bring globally.
This kind of wording is a very good indicator of self-awareness and self-knowledge. Traits which fundamental to any brand. They stem from careful observation of one’s own history and reflect insight of the present day. To possess this ability though, to testify about your organization’s truth takes particular will and effort not everybody is willing to make.
In my experience as a consultant, some brands try to live up to an unrealistic expectation of themselves, especially those tied to megalomanic projections of being “The biggest” and “The greatest”, but they could never escape the perceptions people had of their businesses.
Brands are inevitably tied to perceptions, but more importantly, they are tied to the truth. From a branding perspective, the first step in developing a successful brand is reality itself. It’s much easier for businesses to work with their own truths and build upon their own strengths. The only way to reach that elusive 100th floor is if you start from the ground and up.
A Brand with more than 100 floors can also suffer greatly if they don’t tune in to what their customers and press are saying. Living in the clouds, as attractive it may sound, hasn’t done businesses any good. Any leadership, new or old, experienced or not has to be prepared to look directly into the eyes of truth if they want to ensure their brand’s future.
What are the realities of your business you are not prepared to face? Do you keep finding yourself in a position to constantly disagree with your clients? Has a negative word or sentence been associated with your business? Maybe it’s time to put down those rose-tinted glasses.
“Olympism is a philosophy of life…”
Far from reaching quarterly sales goals, the essence of the Olympic movement is a philosophy. Moreover, it’s a philosophy of life itself. What can be more in touch with reality than this? Businesses also start as an idea, a vision to contribute and change the world in some way. This is very obvious, but some businesses can lose total track of it.
For startups, as we mentioned, it’s easy for them to get carried away with their megalomanic ideas. CEOs face the hurdle of being swept by so many different things at once that they lose track of why they funded the business in the first place. It’s especially hard to maintain a certain philosophy when it comes to high-performing managers who can perceive business principles as “obstacles to success.” Culture in higher management circles can get out of hand so quickly that a life-affirming philosophy which is set out to bring good in the world can easily be transformed into a philosophy of greed and corruption.
These are only one of the few reasons why brands should disseminate and practice their core philosophy every day. Not only can it prevent morally questionable business decisions, but it can be used proactively too. Whether if it’s hiring the right employee, designing a new product or expanding to a new market. Having a company philosophy signifies that you know who you are and what you are about. This position is a position of stability and strength and it makes the jobs of decision makers much smoother and easier.
What is the basic idea responsible for your business’s existence? What thoughts did your company’s “founding fathers and mothers” have? How can they be reimagined to serve our contemporary circumstances? Going back to your founding roots might uncover some much-needed energy, inspiration, and guidance.
“…promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
It seems very easy for businesses to lose track of how to treat employees and customers with basic dignity. There is something in the way we organize ourselves in a group, whether it’s the “not my responsibility” mindset or the simple fear of admitting your mistakes that brings out the worst in us. If human dignity is nowhere to be mentioned within the company’s culture, the possibilities to do wrong are plenty. Take Volkswagen and the Standing Rock incident for example. One doesn’t have to think twice that human dignity wasn’t on top of people’s minds when these events happened.
On the other hand, our human bodies react positively when we do something that’s good and positive. Research shows that the best thing you can do to boost your general wellbeing and happiness is to volunteer i.e. to do something for somebody else. While a business is a business, it can be most rewarding for employees to witness the positive impact their work has on others. Happier employees make happier customers and happy customers make more purchases. Coca-Cola’s happiness factory might have been on to something after all!
So, what kind of values, culture and policies does your business put in place to make sure every employee, customer and human being are being respected and protected? How would you approach solving conflicts with groups with different values and opinions? Do you measure your business decisions morally and what’s your company’s bottom line: is it money or making lives better?
I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.
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