The Fear Factor

03 April 2020

The Fear Factor

The crippling effects of fears and how to overcome them...

Fear’s a double-edged dagger. Without fear we’d probably lose all common sense. But on the flip-side, an unchecked fear of failure can really wreak havoc on a brand’s fortunes.

At Third Floor, we’re not immune to some self-doubt ourselves and we run into clients’ anxieties often enough to have given it a name: The Fear Factor.

Because bravery’s never been more vital in business, here’s a glimpse of our clients’ most frequent fears and some positive and reassuring advice on how to navigate through them.

Clients have different fears depending on where their company is on its journey. Launch, grow or change; each step brings its own anxieties.

“Is my idea even relevant, to anybody?’ Is it even a feasible product? Is it profitable?”

It’s staggering how often basic common sense gets flung out the window in a fit of entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Start-ups are often so wrapped up in impressing investors that it’s almost like having a sustainable business is an afterthought. And then there’s the crazy idea you can brand something, stick it on Instagram and it’ll be the next big thing, with absolutely no concept of what it costs to do something well on social media. Which is a lot.

It’s so important to put the brakes on and test the validity of your product or service before rushing in. So if you’re wise enough to invite others to challenge your idea then that’s no bad thing. And this is when Third Floor’s focused ‘Dig’ session can bring a vital sense check.

Before we put pen to paper, we’ll get to know you; what you stand for, what you offer and what makes you unique. To do this, we must Dig.

Our Dig sessions vary from project to project and are tailored to your business. We’ve developed the format over many years and it consists of a number of exercises that help us get under the surface of your business and hear the information first hand.

We break through the marketing talk, ask you (and sometimes your clients) a lot of questions, make a lot of notes and then report back with our findings and market analysis. It’s only when fully armed with insight from the Dig and an agreed brief that we start the development process.

“I don’t want to be too bold because no one will take me seriously, I’m just a start-up.”

Clients with no brand equity often lean towards trying to look like everyone else. It might look like a safe option, but fitting in is the absolute worst thing a start-up can do. This is precisely when you want to stand out and be noticed. Do the opposite of everyone else. Take a look at our "‘Is craft beer branding about to implode?" blog for more on how bucking the trend is the best way forward.

“What happens if it all goes wrong because people know and love my brand and they recognise the logo?”

Clients with flourishing companies that are seeking to break new markets are often afraid of change. Why? Because they’re handing over a degree of responsibility for something that they’ve nurtured and grown and it’s their livelihood. So we don’t want to appear patronising and insensitive by saying, ‘Well you need to let go a little bit.’ But ultimately it’s true; you need to control your fear and be brave. If actions are based on solid research and a strong brief, there’s every reason to be confident.

“What if I’ve picked the wrong agency?”

If you’re not the business owner, you’re tasked with appointing a brand agency and you’re accountable for the results, then it’s only natural to be questioning your judgment.

Without complete confidence in their choice of agency, clients tend not to want them to go outside the box. They want the agency to be quite safe because at least then they know won’t get any horrible surprises. This can really scupper progress. The old adage is true: if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Here’s a great example of what an agency can achieve if it’s trusted to do what it does best. At Third Floor we don’t just tell people what to do with no first-hand experience. Aside from Third floor, I own my own brand “&SONS" [], with my talented business partner and &SONS’ Creative Director Phil. As creative owners, we lead all of &SONS’ design and branding work ourselves. We’re not paralysed by fear with &SONS because it’s ours: we can do what we want with it, it’s our train set. So we’re much bolder and we’re much more challenging in everything that we do.

When you introduce a client into the mix, with their own budgets, milestones and fears, then creativity can be stifled. Clients don’t want to push those boundaries with an agency they’re unsure of.

For advice on how to choose a design agency you can trust to be creative, have a read of our blog post dedicated to just that.

“What if parts of the organisation don’t like the rebrand and don’t adopt it? What if the CEO doesn’t like it?”

One way of overcoming the fear if you’re tasked with choosing an agency is to take the stakeholders with you throughout the entire journey, even if it’s minimal touch points. If a client goes on a full journey with us they stop looking at whether it’s a pink logo or a blue logo. They understand what the agency’s doing and they understand the rationale for it.

The bigger fear that clients who are accountable for a rebrand have is that it’s a huge undertaking and the changes are not being delivered across the whole organisation. That’s a very real problem that we see. The entire organisation needs to feel as though they’ve contributed and that they’ve been a part of the journey. If you can make sure that everybody feels they have had a voice then that fear is alleviated because they’ve had a chance to speak and have chosen not to – that’s on them.

As the agency that comes along and makes the change, Third Floor does feel it should be part of the communications process because of our responsibility to the client. We are talking to people at every level of the organisation with the research that we do and the stakeholder interviews that we do. The brand is something that everyone can relate to. So it’s Third Floor’s remit to give the client the tools to do that and to give them the voice, but it’s up to members of the organisation to make it happen. And some simply don’t. Organisations can and do change their rebrand back and it’s due to one of two things, or both. Either what was delivered wasn’t communicated well enough or what was delivered wasn’t right.

“My brand’s hit a bottleneck and I’m too crippled by self-doubt to do anything about it.”

The change phase of a company’s lifecycle is a really interesting one because ultimately the client’s coming to us because there’s a problem and they need to change perceptions, or they’ve got a new service offering or product line, and the fear kicks in over making the right decisions and choosing the right route forward.

Some self-doubt is healthy. It will help you to ask those sensible questions that led to a sound judgement. Again, the Dig process will be useful to sense check ideas and make informed decisions you can be confident in.

Of course these are generalisations and of course there’s no one size fits all but a question I think everyone should ask themselves every once in a while is, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? The answer might just be your brand’s pivotal moment.