Surf your way to brand success

Brand surfing for brand managers
Brand surfing for brand managers

Apply 5 basics of surfing to managing your brand.

Having recently relocated to Southern California, I soon discovered a sport that hundreds and thousands participate in on a daily basis: surfing. 

People in Southern California surf in the morning, during their lunch breaks, and immediately after work. They have it down to a science, equipping their cars with gear beforehand and following some basic rules that help make their surf time enjoyable.

So, while sitting and observing the surfers I got thinking about the need for marketers to keep things simple when preparing to brand a product. Here are 5 basic rules of surfing that marketers can put into practice.

1. Start with a good solid surf board.  

Just as surfers must learn to trust that the board under their bodies will get them over the waves, marketers must trust in their brand. Do your homework. Study the competition.

But most important, understand your brand's foundation. Everything starts there—and yet history has shown that this is where everything can fall apart. Ask the right questions of the R&D team. Understand not only the true heart of the product but the target you are trying to reach. Make sure the support under you is solid.

2. Learn to paddle. 

This seems simple enough, but if you are unable to go with the flow, or to keep your brand moving with the current, you may find yourself being carried in the wrong direction. For a surfer, reading a wave and then paddling out at a constant speed is essential. For a brand manager, being able to read the market and to keep both team and product paddling in the right direction is as basic as it gets.

3. Sitting on the board

Sounds easy enough, but surfers tell me that the ability to sit comfortably without wobbling and feeling out of control is essential to a good surfing experience.  Brand team leaders, too, need to maintain their balance.  They need to know when to venture out, but also when to stay pat—that is, when to hold the position that's been established. Resist shifting around.  Find a comfortable position and stick with it.  The less movement, the smoother the ride.

4. Standing on the board

Unlike sitting on a board, standing on one seems far more difficult. And as surfers have told me, accomplishing this feat can take hours of practice. Surfers and marketers should know, however, that in perfecting their technique they should seek out the kind of helpful critiques that will keep them standing gracefully on the board while moving in the right direction. Having a reliable outside viewpoint can help biotech, device, and pharma brand managers achieve their goals.

5. Safety

Here's the final basic that everyone stresses and that clearly makes total sense: have fun but be safe! With branding, safety can mean a lot of things—safety of product, safety regarding launch planning, and safety in conveying the right message.

Branding is complex, but sticking to the basic principles of surfing can make the ride smoother—and more enjoyable—for everyone.

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