My guest, Tino Chow, and I talk about reinvigorating your brand during a crisis. He is a brand strategist, TED Fellow, and former military officer who works to help organizations effectively tell their stories so they can make the world a better place.
Topics We Discussed:
-Reinvigorating Your Brand During Crisis
-How To Renew Your Brand Values During Unexpected Hardship
-Using Adversity To Validate Your Brand Values
-The Discipline Of Brand Strategy
-Measuring The Impact Of Your Brand
-How To Bring In People Who Multiply Your Organization’s Value
-The Importance Of Admitting Your Mistakes As A Leader
Tino Chow comes to branding with an unexpected background. As a former military officer in the army of Singapore who went to art school, Tino discovered his niche by combining his experience in operations with creativity. His passion is helping companies and startups leverage the power of brand strategy, design thinking, and design doing in order to maximize their position in their market.
Before starting Giant Shoulders, Tino sent a decade building creative cultures and collaborative teams at agencies in New York and startups in Silicon Valley.
3 Phases To Effectively Grow From A Crisis – Tino Chow
We discussed this as well in terms of, reacts, reset. And renew. So the three phases, three phases as you go through a crisis. I think we have a lot of us are in that reaction mode is like, okay, now the DUS assigned to settle, you know, kind of. What is the new normal. Okay. Now, when I have a little bit of breathing room, and before you go out and renew and of seek the opportunity and double down as first
so, before we kinda get into that stage of let’s pounce on the opportunity, I’m making sure that you are, have re grounded, because you just spent so much energy putting out a fire. you know, before going out and, finding out, Pursuing opportunity, recenter yourself. And I think this is one of those things where it’s so critical with, with any brand, with any leader is like the before you do more because there’s always more to do.
And I’m so preaching to myself too, because this is something that I have a hard time with. I’m like, ah, I’m such a go getter. It’s like. I’m an entrepreneur. This is what we do. It’s like, Hey, let’s go, go, go, go, go. But it’s such great wisdom, to just stop, and just renew, have your values when you kind of, who you are, where you want to go, before then pursuing opportunity.
So let’s, let’s kind of hone in on that kind of specific, cover. reset stage. and this is also part of a course that I am called launching that it’s going to start in the day after labor day.
Minimal Viable Brand Methodology
Our methodology in branding is called minimal viable brand with blatantly stolen from minimal viable products. but with any product or any brand that you have to go out into a world. Announcing something, right? Like you can’t just say, Hey, I’m just here learning about the world and if you want to buy my product, you want to buy into what I do. Sure.
But I can’t really tell you who I am. so that’s the, that’s perhaps the least effective way of launching any brand, launching any products. You have to be able to clarify how, well, why do you exist? Even if the Y, only resonates kind of with you. You have to be able to describe that to people. and then as you build that brand, as people, come in and , determined who you are and why you exist, you can then either absorb that, well, firstly you have to evaluate when not, it’s where you want to go.
Similar to the conversation that we have earlier, where you want to go if this is really who you want to be and evaluate when not, this is a part of my brand that I want to build.
That’s at the end of the day. kinda what branding does is, help people define kind of their perception of you. If you don’t control that, people are just gonna create their own perceptions.
all perceptions is our reality. Like the way that I see a certain brand.
more specifically, your perception is your reality. How you perceive the world is what you believe is true. Gotcha.
So, and this is kind of what branding and marketing really tie in together as that you can be true to who you are and not tell anyone. And let people make up their minds of who they think you are, then you’re not really in control of your own, your own authenticity and your own story.
So there’s this kind of a marriage between branding and marketing where, you know, how do you actually socialize that? How does your brand show up in adversity? How does your brand show up in the greatest need?
And I think right now, and this time is one of the best examples where it comes to, where, some brands step up and the pandemic and others can just fade away and like almost seem to be completely irrelevant, in this time.
So, you know, going back to sort of the idea of, in adversity, you find your values. I think that’s absolutely true. but also at the same time, I think adversity it’s a great place to test and validate your values. and I think the authenticity of brands, oftentimes come from leaders who are willing to put two put the next out there as like, Hey, this is what we believe in. And even if, the world disagree with us, this is why we do what we do. We are going gonna stand up for even if, if other people around us and don’t believe it, but because we do, we are going to do what we do. and we are going to get some noise. We’re going to get people who would throw stones at us. But, we’re going to stay true to ourselves.
this is kind of a minimal Bible branding process, and oftentimes with, with the leaders that we work with. That’s the greatest pain where it really defined who I am. you can start to find elements of what you truly value. What was the same that the decisions that you made, how would it make you feel? and if you were to do it again, would you do it differently?
We can start to kind of parse out what are some of those values and the things I, it might be adrenaline that made you do whatever you do and you might overthink it. And this is something that, as a strategist, I do all the time. I overthink things all the time. so that’s where the discipline of, okay, let’s take a step back.
And make sure that we have, cover, people or within your team or in the larger world that has a non biased perspective to give you genuine feedback of who you are as those values really you or you’re trying to be someone who you are not.
Your Authentic Brand Is All About How You Make Others Feel
Leaders right now, so many of them are making extremely tough decisions, and oftentimes, they end up making some, essentially less of two evils.
and it’s either way, really challenging cause your resolve as a leader, as what you, in terms of what you believe in. So, and I’m definitely not envious of that situation. We have a couple of, clients. who are go home and cry at night as just like, Oh my goodness, I have to let go. a good number of people who have been loyal, trusted partners, soldiers that have been alongside and I have failed them.
I think that’s something that I have come up over and over again. however, when you have that felt experienced, I think one of the things that comes to my mind is on my Angelou, who once said, people will forget what you say. People forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel.
I start basically all of my branding talks with that.
It’s like if you fall asleep. If you don’t remember anything that I say remember that because that is the essence of brand.
it’s a relationship that you’re building with people. and even if you have to make a tough decision,
in a single moment. you can judge, if you can judge people based on a single action that they take. When you look at the trend of who they are, kind of the decisions that they have to make. and, I guess like could brand that they, they kind of expose they all, there’s oftentimes a pattern come over time.
So cut. Connecting comes out with a couple of things we talked about as well. In terms of authenticity. It’s like, well, you can fake having some values, but how long is that going to last? And you can start to see cracks and also not just cracks, but a pattern of I’m not living up to those values.
so once again, going back to sound comes to something that we said before, as I kind of, that’s where the, the, the strategy, such a breakdown. If you don’t test and you don’t update that strategy, is that you can go out and make a lot of assumptions.
And this is generally what strategy is, is that you make a bunch of assumptions based on existing data and based on existing behavior. And you’re predicting that if you, have, occupied this space in the world and move in this direction and show people, and help people kind of form a specific, perception of you, this is going to help you succeed.
And most of the time, and this is some of the open secret of kind of strategy is like. Most of the time we are wrong. But, it’s not about just being right or wrong in a specific moment, but it’s the discipline, very much like a scientist of like knowing exactly how, what your a hypothesis is and you go on and test a hypothesis.
And if it’s right. Great. Let’s move on. but often times there are things that might be just slightly off of completely off, but you have a point of reference in terms of why it didn’t work, why it work, adjust your hypothesis.
And I think that adjusting a hypothesis is important because firstly, you need to filter it through your own values and to filter through when not that’s authentically you.
And also is this where you’re going, update the hypothesis, go on and test it again and keep doing that over and over again.
Creating A Framework For Measuring The Power Of Your Brand
Brand is experience, right? So then what do you measure?
because it’s not just the number of views on videos cause those are proxy indicators of the felt experience, but what do you measure in terms of brand.
Yeah. So this is definitely that. That’s a really good question. This is something that, that we are still in a journey of exploring.
I think the, the ripple effects of brand is way easier to measure. And I think the, the second order of the felt experience is whether or not people willing to follow, and not to reduce it down to simply like, how many followers do you have on like social media?
But that is an indicator. And once again, a brand
like some kind of affinity yet towards this. I see. Okay.
Yeah. And also a big part of leadership does come down, took on, went out. People. willing to take action, people kind of willing to following, or, you know, cut clicks and downloads, buying a product.
All those can be used as a measurement for brand, but also can be, you know, and I think this is where it has, you have to be very, very careful in terms of, if you’re looking at sales number alone. Now from an accounting perspective, it was like, wow, if sales has gone up, you know, you have a more successful business.
Sure. as you’re, and if you can take a step back and be able to measure how, your product reaches, Or expresses your value and help you take steps towards your goal. you can start to create different kinds of measurements for different departments of your business, to be able to create specific measurable outcomes.
and I’ll want to take a step back and talk a little bit about that a strategy perspective, a brand is you’re unwavering truth. Of who you are.
And if you’re able to be a leader and you’re able to communicate that to all your lieutenants, all your staff, and allows them to basically create a framework that allows them to make decisions in their job based on that truth.
and being able to then measure that decision , it helps get you closer to that. and sometimes those measurements are the wrong things to measure, but once again, it’s less about whether or not youre s always right? Like in every single decision, whether or not there’s a black and white right or wrong, but as a trajectory towards your end goal to what’s your vision?
That’s way more important because as leaders, you want to create some space for other people to bring the superpower to fill in with their own strengths and you want to create the space for them to thrive.
Because often times. we are very limited at what we are really good at and we don’t have some of the peripheral vision that a lot of kind of your team might bring to the table and can make, not just make the company better, but makes you better.
so when it goes back to your point of how do you measure it? having kind of unwavering truths and being able to kind of create a framework for other people to create their own ways of measuring how they’re helping move the business or the vision forward.
that is a way more important than what is the tactical way of measuring it, if that makes sense.
How To Bring In People Who Multiply Your Organization’s Value
Culture add versus culture fit? Okay. And I think this is something that is very much the way that I view a leader leadership where, it’s about making other people successful. and I think in one way you can look at your culture as something that you own exclusively as a leader.
This is my culture. I’m going to set the rules. You don’t like it? That’s fine. You don’t have to be part of it.
however, this is one thing that I’ve come to realize and learn about myself and, and as I’ve worked with different people in different industries all around the world, is that I have some giant blind spots. I come know that. And I also know that I have all the blind spots I’m not even aware of yet.
and the best thing to do is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and have different perspectives that compliments yours, and in the way it comes out fits in so that sort of culture add perspective
if you’re bringing somebody on board, they can either be a drone. I mean, this is all an extreme example of being a drone and do exactly what you tell them to do. That means that all they’re adding is a body and being able to kind of carry out tasks.
And then on the other kind of a spectrum of kind of leadership and management is how do you bring in somebody who adds value and multiplies the work that you do and that you are doing collectively? so I think that’s sort of the helpful framework, of like culture add versus culture fit.
Because every time you bring in a human right they will bring the good hand, the bad. That’s just the human nature. but whenever that happens, whether you like it or not, when you have this tight culture that you are controlling, it’s going to start to throw things off.
so there’s two paths that you can take. One is that. You can clamp it down and just kind of try to micromanage and control. The other is how does this actually help make you better? How do you leverage that instability for the greater good and for the collective.
How to Do Effective Hiring As Your Company Grows
It does depend what stage you are at and who you’re bringing in. if you try to hire a philosopher as your first hire, good luck.
you need to get stuff done. so I definitely, I have made that mistake. I was like, Ooh, wow. You think alike? And then we ended up having two people’s thinking and no one actually doing. And I was like, well, that’s not actually a great fit. and then, then on the other side of like, you know, the fast growing startups where, you know, it almost too easy to just throw money at hiring and it’s just a number count.
you know, there is no, structure or purpose behind culture fit or culture add as a, Hey, I need 10 engineers. Great. what kind. Alright. I’m just gonna kind of turn on this pipe and when it comes through and maybe there’s a lack of management system, lack of cultural accountability, and the CEO is still the one who is a bottleneck on making decisions.
great, bodies is not going to really help. So coming back to your question in terms of the wrong hire. The wrong hire could mean very different things in all stages of a business. but I think something that is in common with a lot of leaders who I respect is that they’re not immune to making bad hires, but they learn.
and I think this is one thing that does separate, a lot with good leaders from great leaders, mediocre leaders with good leaders. It’s all that learning process of okay, we have tried something out, and let’s be able to take a step back and have a discussion.
Or even simply admit to that that was a bad idea and this is what we can learn from. and move forward. so the same person who introduced me to the idea of, culture add culture fit, he ran a, a startup. and then. got funding, got booted out, as, as a founding team. then went to work for another startup.
got funding and then wanting to shield his kind of engineering team for rest of the company, and didn’t work. And then try to third time trying to build good culture and failed. Failed three times. and, and every time he vowed. To not make the same mistake again, which he technically didn’t, just that the results were exactly the same.
And so, but one thing that I do respect him a lot is he kept at it and it’s like, this is extremely important. This is something that eventually I get right. And eventually this is going to be, this is what’s going to make or break a company. so I think is that’s much more impactful, important trait, kind of as we kind of hone in and talk about leadership than it is like how do you avoid making a mistake?
CTA: Three Steps To Reinvigorating Your Brand During Crisis
Absolutely. so it’s called reinvigorate your brand during a crisis.
and it’s all about kind of that reset stage. and it’s in three parts, and this is. Basically kind of one brand strategy, if you can boil brand strategy down into, into its fundamental parts is these are these three things.
Number one is to, remember I very important right now is to remember who you are. Remember of your superhero origin story? How did you become who you are and, come to the place that you’re at right now? Remember, that’s the first. That’s step one.
Step two is now to look forward and see where you want to go. To imagine as, so asked to what if question, where is this a better place that you want to go, that you want to bring your business towards?
And then step three, now that you have your 0.8 your starting point and of your end point. Now going back to sorta the, the, the internal GPS metaphor that you brought up in the beginning. Now renew your set of values. write that down, right? All of these sweet things down.
and if you have a team, share it with them. and I think even better if you can do that exercise. With them. and kind of with my course, this is what I’m offering our leaders to do, is that you can sign up as an individual, or I can sign up as a, as a team of two or three, to do this together. But sometimes you just need, while a nudge and other times you need someone to just tell you, Hey, your superpower is actually this.
because you’re just in your lane. You’re kind of just really busy being great at whatever you’re doing. and you have your blinders on. You don’t see what other people see.
I think a very practical, kind of a kind of takeaway whether or not you do my course. remember who you are. kind of define where you’re going and, write down how you set up boundaries.