The Value of Saying No in Branding

Have you ever wanted to say no to someone, but for some reason said yes anyway?

Perhaps you agreegd to a low-paying project because you needed the money. Perhaps you helped a client with a task outside of the project scope because she made you feel bad. Don’t worry, I’m not going to criticize you or anything. We’ve all done it.

Keep reading to see how freelance professionals and luxury brands alike maintain their brand value by sticking to such a powerful two-letter word.

Where is the line?

Sometimes it’s not such a big deal, but somewhere between doing someone a favour and giving up a piece of your soul, a very distinct line must be drawn.

One example of a soul-sucking situation might be a person who gets taken advantage of because he has a really hard time saying no. Of course, he may be the type of person that enjoys helping others when possible, but he devalues himself every time he truly wants to say no and cannot. But where does it stop? The people he helps will come back later and expect the same treatment.

“Hey, he helped us out with this last time. Let’s go ask him again. He should be okay with it.”

From here, the cycle begins.

The freelance professional says no

How does a freelance professional build her reputation and brand value over time? She says no to the demanding clients, the know-it-all clients, and the ones who only seek out deals. If experienced freelancers take on problem clients and let’s-make-a-deal clients, they’re just setting themselves up for more of the same in the future. Word of mouth travels very fast, and even faster when there’s something “good for a low price” to tell others about.

Low prices for graphic design are found in one of two places: 1) with inexperienced designers who need to build up their portfolio and don’t know how to do it more efficiently; and 2) on crowd sourcing websites that have no brand value and are as impersonal as the Bobbies at Buckingham Palace.

Take a world-famous logo designer like Paul Rand for example. He’s the man who designed logos for IBM, UPS, abc, Enron, NeXT, and many others. I couldn’t imagine him ever designing a logo for a few hundred dollars, or even a few thousand dollars. His professional experience, refined processes, and problem-solving brilliance dictate a much higher value for his services, and I suspect he would laugh at such a low offer.

The luxury brand says no

How about luxury brands? In a serious economic downturn, how do they manage to survive, let alone maintain their strong brand value? That’s right-they say no. They say no to the very thought of giving discounts or offering cheaper products to gain more customers.

What if a luxury brand were to offer a more affordable product line, present a two-for-one promotion, or give out coupons for a customer’s next visit? Oh man, the person who mentions an idea like that at the next meeting surely gets kicked off the team! To devalue themselves in such ways would drive away their loyal customer base and just confuse everyone else. The brand would lose value, lose focus, and lose the unique brand positioning it has held onto for so long. Even in hard times, it’s simply too damaging a sacrifice to justify making a little extra coin or gaining a few new customers.

More interestingly, what would happen to this luxury brand when the economy recovered? Who would their target market be then, the average Joe?! Yeah, right…

Don’t worry… they’ll get over it

If you’re the kind of person I was years ago, and you have a hard time saying no to others, then I suggest you get to work on changing something. For individuals, you can maintain your personal value by practicing the things you believe in when working with clients and partners. For brands, you can do the same by maintaining your brand values in all of your operations, transactions, and customer interactions.

Stick to your true morals and well-developed policies, and have these ready for when people ask for the reason you’re saying no. In my experience, they’ll ask every time.