A mentor has driven into me that “unless you toot your own horn, there is NO music!” Large corporations spends millions if not billions of dollars each year packaging, marketing, selling, and protecting their brands. Why? We intuitively understand that brands are soft assets and that they have a very quantifiable and strategic value. So do relationship by the way. I would submit, they’re an organization’s most valuable off-balance sheet asset! So why don’t we invest consistently, proactively, and strategically in our business relationships?

Here are 8 tips to restoring innovation to a recognizable brand (or past relationships!):

1. Strengthen the Financial Foundation – Successful brands or relationships become complacent over time, applying less vigor to cost performance and returns on investment – of time, effort and resources. Before trying to reinvigorate a brand (or a relationship), develop a solid financial foundation that provides the resources and flexibility to invest and seize growth opportunities. Business relationships are at their best when both sides are financially better off because of one another!

2. Restore the Culture of Innovation and Strategic Relationships – DNA of innovation, creativity and relationship-fostering can not be limited to pockets in the organization. For an organization to thrive, it must inject an innovative drive in every facet of the business. “Intrapreneurship” is taking ownership of marketing, strategy, finance, technology, research, and strategic relationships to name a few key levers.

3. Assess the Market Landscape – Dominant brands and mature relationships become victims of their own “tunnel vision,” missing key value-chain disruption opportunities. If you’ve ever heard me speak on Adaptive Innovation, I often reinforce that if you don’t reinvent your value chain, someone else will. Take a fresh and objective look at the landscape and determine where and with whom are your best focused synergies.

4. Put Customers at The Absolute Center – Leading brands and relationships hold titles such as “market leaders, category-killers, or the unparalleled.” By listening intently to customer needs, wants, wishes and proactively responding them, they become “category makers, game changers, and the untouchables.” Reviving a recognizable brand or a mature relationship requires disposing of past assumptions, and getting a new source of unique insights and independent perspectives.

5. Align the Team and the Organization – Amazing how many teams and organizations become complacent with both their brands and past relationships. Reignite them, reinvigorate them; hell, rebuilt if you must but make certain that the team and the organization is aligned in its structure, processes, policies, resources, and most importantly – FOCUS – to drive growth. Shrink or dismantle others that are no longer relevant.

6. Renew the Focus – Sometimes, alignment alone won’t suffice. You’ll need to help everyone (from the long-standing to the fresh just joined you) understand where the ship is headed. Because your relationships – whether customers, members, investors, the media, and particularly employees – can not follow you if they’re not crystal clear on where we’re headed! Along with the focus, make sure you also bring discipline, metrics, and incentives for peer-level accountability in idea generation, the right kind of growth, and strategic relationship-development behaviors!

7. Reinforce Your Words With Your Actions – Many leaders are OK at communicating the vision, mission, strategy; but it doesn’t cascade down the organization because their personal or perhaps the senior leadership team’s actions are not seeing as enforcers or enablers of the former. When trying to innovate a recognizable brand or a past relationship, your actions speak far greater volume!

8. Compensation Drives Behavior – The real impact you seek comes from a change in behavior. Behavior is consistent and the three fundamental drivers of the right behavior are: logical self-interest, metrics, and compensation. If you appeal to their logical self-interest (“we won’t have a company or jobs next year if we don’t make course correction now”), jointly develop the right metrics, and truly compensate the behaviors you seek, you’ll exponentially increase your chances of driving deep lasting change at the heart of the organization.

Many leaders are sitting on the next Polaroid, Blockbuster Video, Borders, or Kodak and simply don’t recognize it. Recognizable brands and past relationships are soft assets with quantifiable and strategic value to individual leaders, teams, and organization. But they must be constantly reinvented through a disciplined process, with passion and conviction. I’ve outlined 8 ideas – what have you tried or what else can you add to the list?

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