You invested years and millions of dollars developing a brand positioning. You sat through endless workshops and thousands of slides to come ahead of the competition and move your client/brand to the next level.

It took you gazillion meetings to get every stakeholder on the same page and everybody agrees to the new positioning.

And now it’s time to share your new positioning with the world. Millions of dollars are being invested to share your new vision with the ones that want to hear. Brain power that could light up Beijing is being used to developed integrated strategies.

And then the recall hit. A tsunami. An irreverent tweet. A customer service mishap that goes viral.

Millions of dollars: Gone. Wasted. Years of hard work: Gone. Wasted.

Your happy ads and smiling faces now seem so irrelevant and can’t compete with the reality of the news. That happy model doesn’t look like your customer service representative whose totally stressed out and can’t help but reverting to the script. Suddenly, your Alice-in-Wonderland-ad-world feels like a parody. The ivory tower of brand positioning while the world around you falls apart.

When life hits, it makes all your meetings and positioning documents look silly

The brands that survive these hits, these black swans, are the ones that live values and philosophies, not live them through decks and internal meetings.

These brands understand that life is not lived in the corporate ivory tower, it’s lived by real people dealing with reality. That means: stuff happens. Black swans will suddenly show up. And destroy your carefully developed strategy in one second.

A brand isn’t developed or positioned by sticking to a strategy document. A brand is developed by doing stuff that reflects your culture, your values, your beliefs. In a relevant way, tightly aligned with the needs of people.

It makes me sad to see how few Japanese companies have been able to turn the earthquake/tsunami into an opportunity to trust these companies for life. We read a lot about their supply-chain problems, they have given money but I don’t see anything that comes out of the core of the brand. Nothing that makes me believe or feels like it’s moving Japan forward.

People are fickle. We already started to move away from Japan and focus on Libya. The opportunity is slipping away. Your brand and reputation is built more in bad times than good, it saddens me that only a few have embraced this opportunity to live their brand values.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” –Charles R. Swindoll