Is Comfort Killing Your Brand’s Ambition?

Why brands need to break out of their comfort zones to keep up and keep growing

We often find solace and security within the familiar confines of our comfort zones—safe spaces where our routines, environments, and experiences remain predictable and more or less low-risk. But, as Robert Kiyosaki once said, “Comfort kills ambition.” When we get too comfortable we limit the exploration of new possibilities that lay just beyond its boundaries and as a result, fail to make necessary changes that drive growth, and sometimes, survival. 


The issue is that comfort can be a master of disguise, seeping into a company before we even know it’s there. It makes us complacent. It makes us content with the status quo. And the longer we stay comfortable, the harder it is to want to be uncomfortable. But getting uncomfortable and re-discovering that ambition isn’t just for scrappy upstarts or challenger brands, it’s a muscle all enterprises need to flex to survive, now more than ever.  

Keep Pace With Culture

Is your brand keeping up with culture? Major league baseball realized it hadn’t. For over a century, in fact the game has been the same: nine innings, three outs, and really, really long playing time that was causing its fans to become bored and stop watching—meaning less ticket sales, less ad sales and less profit. So even an organization as old as the MLB decided it was time to challenge the status quo, introducing pitch clocks, disengagement rules and putting runners on second during extra innings. And while baseball purists first balked at these new rules (pun most definitely intended), they have resulted in faster-paced, harder hitting games that are better attuned to contemporary expectations and attention spans.. Indeed, teams like the Savannah Bananas (think the Harlem Globetrotters for minor league baseball) are downright crushing it by introducing choreographed dances, songs and even players on stilts on the field that have garnered them fans in the field and all over the internet.

Challenge Category Truths

For a lot of brands, the dictates of their category can become impediments to meaningful evolution. But if the things we believe to be true go unchallenged, the “classics” become basic. That was the case for North American Whiskey—until recently, anyway. With most brands obsessed with tradition and heritage, few brands were brave enough to break convention, or even break beyond the borders of the Kentucky bourbon trail. Enter Screwball whiskey, a brand, like its name suggests, was ready to color way outside the lines with peanut butter flavored whiskey. Made in Ocean Beach, CA—over 2,000 miles from the iconic Bourbon Trail—made big waves by bucking convention and beginning to pave the way for other out of the box whiskey brands to make their unique mark, like Garrison Brothers out of Texas who’s incorporating unique flavors, innovative aging processes and a whole lotta southern spirit into the category.

Similarly, when VIZIO first came to us to support the launch of their first smart television, we knew that we needed to break with category conventions. Long-marketed as a hardware, we helped VIZIO pivot from the world of value-based big box televisions and reimagine their new offering as a software and a source of entertainment at the heart of the home. The idea of “beautiful simplicity” countered category tropes of sailboats and frogs and became a lens both to the execution of their brand as well as the approach to its products and interfaces. In challenging TV conventions, we helped to position VIZIO as an elegant feature in the modern, connected home and, perhaps most importantly, a source of quality time versus distraction.

Turn Commodity Into Community

Arguably, there’s no product-offering more ubiquitous than water. But Mike Cessario, founder of Liquid Death, decided there was still opportunity in a highly commoditized and competitive market by doubling down on originating a brand everyone would want to be a part of. The combination of a sensationally irreverent attitude and a commitment to sustainability appealed to contemporary consumers’ values and created a distinction in an otherwise diluted category. Launching with the slogan “murder your thirst,” Liquid Death has leveraged improbable partnerships (like this “dismembered moments” candle with Marta Stewart) and experiences in non-traditional venues like tattoo parlors and barber shops to establish themselves as a $700 Million brand… that also makes canned water.  

We partnered with Petco at a time, they worried, their space was being commoditized by the likes of Target, Walmart and Safeway who were launching their own white label pet brands. To maintain their leadership in the pet specialty category they devised Wholehearted, a natural, better-for-pets line of food that we helped to bring to life with a bold new brand, featuring real pets and their owners. The results spoke for themselves:

“[Envoy] helped us push outside our comfort zone, challenging Petco and the pet food space. Together, we created a brand that we’re incredibly proud of, with a strong backbone and exceptionally creative product design. Their team dedicated themselves to helping us build WholeHearted, which has eclipsed forecast and budget!” NICK KONAT, SVP

For many brands, ongoing growth is the combination of both innovation and adaptation—the willingness to take risks, do things differently and most importantly, do things uncomfortably. It takes category-awareness as well as self-awareness to move forward, and a trusted partner to help you get there.


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