To say I’m a dog lover is the understatement of the century. I’ve got four.  Yes you read  correctly, FOUR. All adopted as every dog deserves a second chance (in the words of Pedigree’s global dog adoption drive. I’m getting side tracked). Freddie the white  Basset was our first. IMG-20150326-WA0002 He’s a grumpy old man, who’s stuck in his ways. We love him anyway. Next DSC_0220came Tessa the Africanis (yeah it IS an actual breed). She’s the smart, soft spoken one, who will put her head in your lap when she senses you’ve had a bad day. She’s Freddie’s girlfriend. Our German Shepard, Zara is a nutcase! She has the attention span of a gold fish and the energy of a two year old. She’s our special one, but we love her still. DSC_0172Last but not least, Lucy the black Basset. She’s the cute one and best friends with Zara, even though she can be quite bossy. Once she turns on the charm though, you’re a goner and she knows it – just look at that cute little face under the blue towel! DSC_0100

I’m going somewhere with this so just bear with me. Each of my dogs have their own strengths and weaknesses. Freddie is the leader of the pack (strength), but he’s set in his ways, making it a tad difficult and hard work to teach him the rules of the house (weakness). I’m sure you can think of a client or competitor like that right? An old dog who battle’s to learn new tricks and  can’t adapt to change. You don’t want to be in this camp, as extinction is practically guaranteed. If you or your client are in this space, start moving and change! If you have a Freddie competitor on the other-hand, well…rejoice!

Tessa is second in charge and SUPER smart (strength). The problem (weakness) is she’s too smart for her own good and here’s why. When she gets over-excited, especially when she’s at our main gate looking out on the street, excitement turns to rage, which Zara gets the brunt of, because she’s at the bottom of the alpha-dog food-chain.

Separating them with a friend (boyfriend and girlfriend and best friends together of course) when we are not home is the safest for them both AND our pockets. Luckily we can easily do that, as our property is already separated with garden fencing, providing ample space for two aside. To keep the peace we alternate them, so that each get their turn at the beloved gate. Tessa however is SO in love with the view or rather those who walk, cycle or drive past,  that she finds all kinds of ways to get out.

As a strategist I could SURELY make a plan! Plan #1: erect a type of electric fencing around the broader area, she use to climb through. Don’t worry, it’s nothing hectic I promise! You can touch the wire and it just feels like static electricity, but that little shock is enough to stop her in her tracks – or so we thought. Before we knew it she found another way to get to the gate when it was Zara and Lucy’s turn – she just jumped OVER the static electric fencing and got through the usual way.

Plan #2: close the specific gap that she climbs through. If you look closely you’ll notice twoDSC_0175 VERY distinct things. One: the gaps between the fence rods are really small. Two: most of the rods are cable tied together, as she forced herself through the bars to such an extent that they started to bend. Crazy right! She’s got a massive ribcage and weighs about 25kgs, yet she got through! DSC_0180The cable ties worked. Thank GOODNESS we thought, but as I said, Tessa is smart. She found yet ANOTHER way to get through, but this time on the other side of the confined area which had the same type of fencing. She followed the same method: squeezed her big body through a tiny little gap.

As plan #2 seemed to work on the one side, we tried it on the other as well. The DSC_0174result…well, I guess the broken cable ties give it away. She got through AGAIN!! If you DSC_0173look closely at the gaps between the  bars, you will see that one of them are bent out of shape ever so slightly. I was flabbergasted! How could such a big ribcage fit into such a small space?!! Talk about commitment! We’re still working on plan #3.

On a side note: notice how many strategies we had to deploy? We’re sitting at number THREE! There is no such thing as only ONE answer to a problem. There are many. You just need to decide which one would work best (with legit reasons of course!) and implement it. If it doesn’t work, don’t sulk about it! Learn from it and move on to the next one. Back to applying Tessa to communication.

Think about your clients and their competitors. If you’re a Tessa, pat yourself on the back, because it means you are resilient, focused on finding opportunities where others find only problems and nimble enough to take advantages of them. What  makes this kind of brand the most dangerous dog, is the fact that they are unassuming. You never expect it from THEM. You would NEVER think Tessa could fit through those bars, but I’ve seen her do it! And that’s where they find their gap, as you never see them coming.

If your client is like this, be grateful as they will be open to do things no one else would ever dream of. Cherish them. Give them LOTS of love. And a competitor…quite frankly you’ll never really know who they are! Keep an eye on ALL of them, even if you think they’re a Freddie, as you NEVER know where brilliance can come from.

When looking at Zara, you can’t help to think “ag shame”. She’s a bundle of joy, with endless energy, jumping and running around like crazy, just trying to find someone to play with. DSC_0059However she has NO street cred within the group  (weakness). The others literally walk, or lie in this case, all over her. Yet, if you see her for the first time and you’re standing in front of the gate, you will be VERY happy to be on the outside, cause she looks pretty angry. She has a fantastic split personality! This is of course a strength for us from a security perspective, but not really if you apply it to communication.

Why? Because these type of brands just can’t focus on doing one or two things properly. They change their CI, logo and marketing campaigns so many times, THEY can’t even keep track of who THEY are. They’re consistent in only one thing – being all over the place just like Zara. If you are in this camp, you need to ask yourself “Do I know who or what my brand is all about?”. If you do, then stop being so all over the show and implement that vision CONSISTENTLY in whatever it is you do for an extended period of time. If you CAN’T answer that, you need to start figuring it out. It might take a bit of time BUT the rewards will be worth it.

Our last one is Lucy. She has bucket loads of charm and can wrap you around her little toe (strength). DSC_0218The problem: she’s waaaaaaaaay too big for her paws (weakness). To put it in perspective: she tried to take on Tessa; the smartest, biggest leader with the best disappearing act, to get higher up the pecking order. Yeah that didn’t really work out so well for her (luckily nothing serious). She got putt in her place very quickly.

A Lucy brand is one that charm’s the living daylights out of you in such a way that you buy into the brand, without reaaaaaly knowing why, other than “I WANT IT”. Why? Because they rope you in with their relevant and connecting communication and brand as a whole, making you fall in love with them. They know who they are and stay true to that in everything they do. These type of brands have their followers hearts. Keeping the love alive however is harder than you might think, as people can easily fall out of love with you. Be aware of that and work hard at consistently delivering on the promise you made to the people who love you. If you start to over promise and under-deliver, you’ve become too big for your boots and your business will suffer. If you don’t have this kind of connection with anyone, it might be because you are a Zara or a Freddy. The bottom line is, you need to start doing something differently. Remember the Albert Einstein quote “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

In summary: make sure you know the dogs in your category, even the Freddie’s and Zara’s – for all you know they become your worst nightmare as they evolved into a Tessa or even a Lucy. Keep track of all of them consistently, so that you can start to understand their behaviour, who they are, what kind of promises they’re making and if they are consistent in delivering on these promise. That will make their strengths and weaknesses pretty clear to you, meaning you can develop counter strategies for each of them. Don’t forget yourself! Assess yourself in the same way and be honest! There’s nothing worse than deceiving yourself, as the battle is then already lost.

So be smart. Be watchful. And most importantly, be strategic.