If you regularly follow this blog and my social profiles, you know I love the Denver Broncos. That means you know I’m stewing over the recent Denver Broncos loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts played an outstanding game, and I appreciate the tribute they did for Peyton in the “house that Peyton built”, but the Denver Broncos LOST that game. Here are 4 Branding Lessons from that Denver Broncos loss.

1. Fear of Failure Leads to Failure

When you have a prolific offense like the Denver Broncos, everybody expects the “track meet”! Fans anticipated Manning running the no-huddle, hurry-up offense and distributing his passes to his virtually unstoppable receivers. Instead, the Broncos had six “3 and outs” in this game – including 2 out of their first 3 possessions. Manning was checking into ultra-conservative running plays (even on “passing downs”) and running back screens versus engaging his receivers downfield.

Branding Lesson: I dedicated an entire post to Fear of Failure when the Denver Broncos lost in last year’s playoffs. When you are too conservative, you give your opponents confidence. You also tire your defense because it doesn’t get any rest since your offense isn’t productive enough to stay on the field. If your brand focuses on not making mistakes, your competitors will surpass you with innovation and resultant market share.

2. Protect the Edges

The Denver Broncos were missing their two starting offensive tackles, and it showed. The running game could not get going, and Manning was sacked four times with pressure coming from both sides of the formation. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble, and another hit resulted in an interception.

Branding Lesson: Identify the resources best suited to monitor and protect your brand. Then equip them with the right tools and training. Finally, take care of them and show your appreciation. The Broncos lost their best defenders to injuries – you do not want to lose your best resources to your competitors.

3. Protect the Ball

Another favorite topic on this sports analogy blog: ball protection. If you turnover the ball, you can’t win. The Broncos had three turnovers: 2 fumbles and 1 interception. Two of those turnovers happened deep in Broncos’ territory (putting the defense under incredible pressure to stop the opponent), and one of those turnovers happened as the Broncos were driving for a touchdown to get the score within a field goal.

Branding Lesson: Every ignored consumer is a “branding fumble” who has the option to choose your competitor. If that consumer feels both slighted AND motivated, they may do what it takes to influence their friends and followers to ALSO defect to your competitors. Actively monitor what your consumers are saying on surveys, social channels, and review sites. Engage your consumers “where they are”, and definitely adapt your products and services based upon consumer input. Then be proactive communicating to your consumers that you ARE listening to them because you believe that their input is priceless.

4. Minimize Impact of External Influences

Even after all of the punts, penalties, and turnovers, the Broncos had a legitimate shot at winning the game. They had already “put themselves in a hole” by trying to draw pass interference penalties and then complaining when they did not get the call. At one point, Eric Decker had his arms thrown up in frustration when he could have still caught the ball for a first down! Decker also dropped the ball after landing with two feet in bounds and knocking over the pylon for an apparent touchdown. The referee judged he did not go to the ground with control of the ball, and the Broncos did not get a touchdown. Finally, Broncos’ Kevin Vickerson chest-bumped the back of Indy’s Andrew Luck after the Broncos made an important stop late in the fourth quarter. Luck accentuated the action by falling, and the referee threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct that resulted in an Indy first down to keep the clock moving.

Branding Lesson: My judo coach repeatedly said “do not let the outcome of the match be determined by a referee’s judgment – because the ref might be wrong”. If the Broncos take care of business by addressing the first three points in this post, it never comes down to point #4. Do not leave outcomes with your consumers to “judgment calls”, and definitely do not lose your composure with your consumers like some of the Broncos did in this game.

Your customers keep the doors open and lights on. No Customers = No Business = Branding Loss!