What Kentucky Bourbon Can Teach Us About Change

What Kentucky Bourbon Can Teach Us About Change

What is it about “taking action” that managers and leaders seem to balk at? At the root of the fear, likely, is fear of change. The fear of change and upheaval is often found at the roots of failing brands. And when brands DO embrace change, their stories can turn into success. Great leaders, and successful brands, incorporate critical changes from customers and employees, but also maintain a focus on important things they won’t change. A great example of this, is the story behind the current number one NY Times Best Selling Business Book: Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last. This book weaves together the story of the author and the story of Julian Van Winkle III, heir to the Old Van Winkle Distillery.

The story of Pappyland ultimately is a story about having one thing about your brand that doesn’t change.  One look at the worlds top most loved brands and immediately it becomes apparent that each brand represents something that we can count on: consistency.  Whether it be the US Post Office, Clorox Bleach, or M&M’s, they call have survived the ups and downs by providing some semblance of continuity that distinguished them from everyone else and all other brands.

A plaque at Pappy & Company reads: “WE MAKE FINE BOURBON AT A PROFIT IF WE CAN, AT A LOSS IF WE MUST, BUT ALWAYS FINE BOURBON.” The Bourbon business is a business that has undergone immense change over the years since 1893, but this guiding principle has never changed at Pappy & Company, year in and year out. Do you have guiding principles that won’t change each and every year? One thing to consider is that once you have established the things you won’t change, doesn’t it make it a lot easier to change everything else?

Another quote from the book summarizes this macro trend as well: “The homogenization of America has left people wandering the land in search of a place to belong. We are a tribeless nation hungry for tribes.” People crave for some element of consistency in their lives that bucks the trend of homogenization, something that they can count on that has values that transcend time. People want something to soothe the cognitive dissonance of a fast changing world around them.

How has your brand created something people can love and latch on to? Have you reached out and asked them? Because if you haven’t, it might be a good time to see what your brand does to stand out from the “homogenization of America.”