Have you ever noticed how some companies continue to thrive, even in the worst of times? Some companies struggle in good times, while others grow right through good and bad. Why is that? While lots of things can draw customers to your company, there is one overarching thing that makes a difference for the best companies. Clarity.

Clarity of mission, purpose and values. Clarity in message. Clarity in how you interact with and treat your customers. Clarity in what you stand for as a company. Clarity about what drives results.

Clarity in all of these areas comes easily when you get clear on one overarching idea:

What makes you different from competition in a way that customers value?

With clarity around this critically important concept all the other challenges in a company become easier to navigate. Every decision, every ad message, every customer interaction supports your focused vision.

Great leaders provide clarity to everyone in their company. They provide a powerful, simple rallying cry by which everyone has a consistent vision of what’s important and how to make decisions. Whether they’re creating an ad, building the website, selling to new customers, servicing existing customers, or hiring a new employee, they know what makes your company special, and how to support that vision. To empower employees to consistently make good choices, give them clarity on what the company is committed to and why.

It’s Hard Work

This level of clarity comes from hard work. Clarity is messy in the creation process, but looks deceptively simple in hindsight, especially when it’s done well. Consider these brands: Chipotle, Corona, and Zappos. Do you know what these brands stand for? Food with integrity, relaxation, and customer service. It seems easy when you look at this clarity in hindsight, but becoming this clear is harder than it seems.

Think of the outcome of each brand’s clarity. For Chipotle, it leads to lots of ideas for marketing and promotions. Everything from featuring farmers in their restaurants, to running a radio campaign about how they use the same kind of food you’d find at your local farmer’s market. Imagine being in charge of ads for Corona. The direction would be simple – make it about relaxation, ideally funny. Every employee on the phones at Zappos is clear about how to service their customers, and is empowered to do it. They’re famous for it. At first they were an online shoe retailer, but now they’ve surpassed that label and are really known for surprising service.

Try This

Try this exercise. Think of an idea for an ad about beer. Now think of an ad for beer focused on 21 to 24 year old men. Now think about that ad for beer focused on 21 to 24 year old men about cold refreshment. Did you notice that the tighter clarity I gave you about your objective, the more ideas you could envision? This will be true for your customers and your employees as well.

As a great leader, you need to do the hard work to create and deploy this clarity in the most simple, consistent terms possible. Try it for your company. Can you describe in one simple sentence what makes your company different that customers are willing to pay for? Would everyone in your organization say the same thing? Give it a try.

Gerry O'Brion - Keynote Marketing & Branding Speaker


Gerry spent his career growing big brands such as Procter & Gamble, Coors Light, Quiznos, and Red Robin. Now, he translates strategies from billion dollar brands into techniques that any company can use, regardless of their budget.

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