Resolutions abound this time of year. Do a quick google search for “New Year’s Resolution” and you’ll find lists upon lists packed full with headlines like, “Top Ten Resolutions For Women on the Run,” “7 New Year Resolutions That Take 5 Seconds or Less!,” or my personal favorite, the “New Years Resolution Generator.”

(I used the generator…apparently this year I will “get jiggy wit it.” For fun, try it here.)

New year resolutions are not a modern invention. The Babylonians celebrated the New Year with a 12 day festival called Akitu that marked the spring harvest yield (in March, not January). During Akitu, special rituals that affirmed humanity’s covenant (resolutions) with the gods were performed. The Romans brought in the New Year with public ceremonies, oath-taking, and temple sacrifices to honor the gods and goddesses. Rome originally celebrated during March, much like Babylon, to honor Mars, the god of war. As Romans became less war-like, they switched from March to January to honor Janus, a god of home and hearth.

Psychologically, humans are hardwired to recognize new beginnings that offer us a fresh start and a clean slate. A New Year’s resolution gives us a natural way to prepare for change and to fire up for the shifts we intend to make.

This applies not only on an individual level, but on a collective level as well. Collectively, it’s important and healthy for us to recognize new beginnings and take advantage of a fresh start and clean slate. That’s why I believe it’s important for brands to make New Year’s resolutions.

(**One caveat: given the fact that most New Year’s resolutions fail, I urge you to think of a resolution as realistic, intention-driven aim that defines the direction in which you are choosing to move. There is no set timeline, due date, or deadline to achieve, but rather a focus to introduce and connect with.)

So, in this year of the horse, here are some starting points for your brand’s New Year’s resolution:

1. Resolve To Get Outside of Your Building.

Planning, strategy, devising, outlining, meeting, scheming, and calculating are probably the majority of your activities as a steward of your brand. But they uniquely keep you trapped inside of your building and worse, take you away from physical proximity to the people that matter the most — your customers.

That’s why I say, get outside of your building, get outside of your meetings, planning sessions, and board rooms and get in contact with customers. Yes, that actually means interacting in a relational way with your audience. This isn’t a promotional tool. It isn’t a PR stunt. It isn’t a trade show. In fact, it isn’t about you at all! It’s about them. Be quiet, listen, relate, learn, and observe. For 2014, brands that focus on getting outside of their buildings and in contact with their customers will thrive.

2. Resolve To Be More Human.

At the heart of your brand is a living, breathing relationship that will evolve as you grow and pivot and evolve. Your brand has to have the flexibility to grow with you. Otherwise it becomes obsolete. The answer isn’t to simply begin a new process, wholesale, once again. Instead, the answer is in how you approach your brand from the start.

Become more human. Relate in a human way. Shirk the process and embrace the humanity within your brand. For 2014, brands that focus on becoming more human will thrive.

3. Resolve To Create More Dynamic Artifacts.

Artifacts are anything that “live” in the real world and point back to the relationship you share with your audience. Most artifacts are static, meaning, they are one-dimensional, immobile, and passive expressions of your brand. Logos, color schemes, billboards, and TV commercials are static. Stop putting so much trust in your static artifacts! The challenge is to create dynamic artifacts.

Dynamic artifacts are interactive, activating, and magnetic expressions of your brand that invite your customers to join in rather than observe. And the best dynamic artifacts take into account all five of our senses. Don’t worry about the longevity of these artifacts, worry about the remark-ability of them. What does a dynamic expression of your brand that engages all five human senses look like? I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet it’d be pretty amazing. For 2014, brands that focus on creating remarkable dynamic artifacts will thrive.

4. Resolve To Be Delightful, Not Disruptive.

Being disruptive isn’t a strategy. In fact, it’s an anti-strategy. Shock and awe brands fail to sustain their connection with real people because people don’t connect with disruption, they connect with delight. Think about it. Do you want to be disrupted by a brand? Or would you rather be delighted? Which one of the “d” words draws you in?

Delight is about finding spaces beyond your brand promise to create joy and surprise. The point is to define the moment of delight and align your brand to release it to your audience. For 2014, brands that focus on fostering delight, not disruption, will thrive.


5. Resolve To Free Your Story.

Stories are powerful. They have the power to engage, delight, and relate to your audience in a way that creates traction in the marketplace. Yet, we often segment out our story to a narrow aspect of our overall brand experience. This is a big mistake. Your story is the single most powerful and distinguishing asset you own. Stop burying your story in mission statements, brand promises, messaging matrixes, and vision statements.

Get intimately in touch with your story. Start with the WHY, and align everything back to it. Set your story free from the confines of structure and process, and allow it room to breathe, to grow, and to become meaningful once again. For 2014, brands that focus on freeing their story will thrive.


The Spirit of the Horse

2014 is the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be our ethos — making unremitting efforts to improve oneself. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. If you shift your focus to becoming more human, getting outside your building, creating dynamic artifacts, being delightful, and freeing your story; 2014 is sure to be an energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent, and able year.

Happy resolving! Feel free to tweet me @JeremiahGardner — I’d love to hear how your resolutions take shape.

Also, as a gentle reminder, most of these resolutions are primary focuses for my upcoming book, The Lean Brand, coming out in April 2014.