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Tips for brands from Dry July:

By George Hulbert, a part-time paragon of abstinence:

I'm a fan of Dry July and have been for a few years.

Last year I did it properly. I signed up to the Dry July website and abstained from the evils of booze for the full month, gaining sponsorship for this annual 31-day initiative that raises funds to improve the wellbeing of people affected by cancer. Good cause, good activity.

(In the spirit of honesty, this year I have done 'Mostly Dry July' and did not sign up to the formal initiative, as an unavoidable downpour had been forecast for weeks before - for Friday 8 th July. Otherwise, the umbrella has been up, even during two major birthday parties and multiple work functions.)

So, how and why is Dry July of use to brands?

On the Dry July website it says that part of the purpose of taking part in Dry July is that it "gives you the chance to also focus on yourself - notice your own habits and the value of a healthy, balanced lifestyle."

Brands could do well to take the statement above as a useful starting point for some focused self-examination because:

It's a great time to re-focus on your goals

We all spend our lives zooming through our To Do lists, battling the blizzard of emails and busting our guts to achieve our daily targets. Having the chance to stop and re-examine our wider brands – our objectives, audiences, messages and strategies – is a hugely useful thing to do.

July is also a good time to check in on any year-long plans you may have made: Have you kicked all the goals you had planned for the first half of the year? Have you got as far with your communication plans and activities as you thought you would by now? Do you need to re-examine your messages and strategies to ensure you get to the end of the year as you had hoped you would?

Notice your own habits

Is your brand behaving as it should? Are your actions living up to – and supporting - your words? Are the decisions you're making within your company delivering on your vision?

If not, now's the time to do something about it: after all, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" as is often attributed to Albert Einstein. So, it's not too late, as long as you do actually do something about it.

However, to get different results, deliver on your vision and change perception, you need to be deliberate and careful first about noticing your own habits: is your brand (metaphorically) picking its nose at the traffic lights, biting its nails, or doing shots in the pub after work?

And be honest with yourselves…

Add another goal to avoid depriving yourself

One thing I have learned during Dry July is that to be successful at sticking at it, I have to add another goal alongside it - something I really want to achieve – so that I don't feel I am holding myself back or depriving myself during the month.

Usually, for me, July is a good time to see if I can lose some weight. (I have my own targets, so let's just say that this time 6.5% of my body weight has been given the boot). It helps that July is mid-winter in New Zealand, so barbeques, picnics and food-filled weekends at the beach are rare!

For me, being able to move towards a goal at the same time as doing Dry July helps me to feel that I am making progress and achieving, rather than just enduring. This is an important distinction, and should apply equally to brands: after all, when you notice your own brand habits and press pause on one or more of them, it helps your sense of progress to ensure you are still achieving elsewhere while you make the changes in front of you.

Control is good

No, control is key. If you are not in control of your brand, you need to stop right now, put down what you are doing, and sort it out.

If you are not delivering your brand message correctly to the people who need to hear it – if your marketing plan is not working, if your public relations or social media strategies are not hitting the mark, or if your people are not behaving in the right way – then you need to re-establish control.

Now.

And July is as good a time as any to do this…

A month is a useful period of time

31 days. It can feel like a really, really long time: particularly at 10:30pm at a birthday party halfway through the month and everyone but you is warming into their evening… the volume is rising, a couple of jokes have been repeated, a few enthusiastic souls are even dancing: in short, the bus you normally ride is leaving, while you stand at the side of the road looking on.

However, if you want to make change within brand communications, a month is a useful time in which to stop, notice, plan, act and start to measure. It may not give you the whole picture, but you'll start to know if you're heading in the right direction.

Success is a good feeling

Today is 29 July. I know I'm going to achieve what I planned before July began – and more, in some ways.

It's been a hugely challenging work month and I never thought I would get as far into my goals as I did: but when I look back, we achieved a lot, and I know that the weekend will see it through.

It can sometimes seem to companies and brands that making changes to your brand communications – tuning message or delivering on new messages – is a bit of a slog: can we see the results yet?

All I'd say is stick at it: you'll get there if you show purpose and put some shoulder into it when it gets tough.

But of course the biggest question of all is: at the end of it, will you – and your brand – continue the journey of the month, or will you slide – or leap – back into the behaviours and way of life you led for the previous 11 months?

The choice is yours…