The legendary American poet Sylvia Plath said it best: "If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed."
For more than 20 seasons, that was the prevailing sentiment among many Blue Jays fans. For many of those years, expectations among the fanbase were decidedly low, and therefore so was the level of disappointment felt by fans when the team failed to make the playoffs year after year.
That is, until 2015, when the Jays went on that magical run to the playoffs which culminated in the Jose Bautista bat flip moment.
Now, going into 2016, it's safe to say that expectations on the Jays have changed. The hype around the upcoming season has reached an all-time high this week in the office and around town, as anticipation builds for the home opener on Friday. This is no longer a team that is expected to finish in the bottom of the division; fans are expecting big things from the Jays in 2016.
Which got me thinking: The Jays are now expected to perform well. If the team doesn't exceed, or at least reach the same bar the team set last year, fans will likely be disappointed. This leaves me with one burning question: how do these new expectations change the Jays' approach to the season?
Brands go through similar situations when they produce a great product, video, or ad campaign that raises the bar, turns heads, and puts their business into a new league.
So how can a brand go about living up to vastly heightened expectations in the wake of a big win? How can you take a winning season and turn it into the beginning of a dynasty? Does your brand have what it takes to become a 'superbrand,' perform off the charts year over year, and become universally loved by loyal supporters like Coca-Cola, Apple, or Budweiser?
Change up your 'game'
Do not, I repeat, do not play the same game that you did last year. Just because it worked well then, does not mean it will work well now. Last year, the Jays snuck up on a few teams who maybe didn't think they had what it took to reach the playoffs. Well, this year, no one is taking them lightly. The playing field has changed, the market has changed.
For brands, what you did last year may not work this year. Your competitors have adapted to the new market and trends. They've studied what you did last year and are hell bent on beating you this year. Even if you played exactly how you did the previous year, you will fall short, because the competitive landscape has changed. It's time to play to the current market.
Taylor Swift is the master of shifting her strategy and upping her game every time she comes out with new music. She knows that her sound and performances cannot be the same each time she drops an album because times change, and people's tastes changes. She knows she needs to evolve with her fans and adapt to the current trends. Your brand is no different.
Keep moving forward
Fear the underdog and do not get comfortable being on top; these are two lessons all brands must learn. You cannot stand still if you want to stay on top – it doesn't matter whether you're a sports team or a retail brand. Improvement should always be the goal. Just as the Blue Jays division rivals like the Yankees and Red Sox went out and signed new players, so too are your competitors improving, innovating and changing. To keep pace, you're going to have to constantly improve, innovate and change. Competitors have researched, developed and brainstormed new products and ideas, aiming to supersede anything that came before it. If you don't continue to be better you won't become a dynasty.
Look at a brand like Under Armour. It wasn't that long ago that Under Armour was a niche player in the sports apparel market, facing competition from global heavyweights like Adidas, Nike and Reebok. But thanks to an incredible thirst for innovation in apparel technology, and great design paired with genius marketing, Under Armour last year overtook Adidas to become the No. 2 sports brand in the United States.
Act like you've been there before
You have a leg up on competitors now that you know how to have a winning campaign. Although you can't repeat what happened last same season, you now know how to act once you get there. You know what it takes to win. You know what it's like and what it takes to have a successful campaign, and you know that you're capable of doing it again. You can learn from past mistakes and make them better. You know how to manage growth, navigate and overcome obstacles and perform under pressure. You have hindsight and experience, which will help you make the right decisions and lead to another successful season or campaign.
On Friday, the Blue Jays will hold their home opener as they seek to build on the success of last season. To do so, they can't be complacent or rest on their laurels. They will need to take their game to the next level, learning from what they did right, while shifting their strategy improve on their past performance. If your brand is hoping to become a winning franchise, you'll need to learn how to have a great follow up season.
Mia will be speaking at The Globe Small Business Summit, an upcoming conference that brings together business leaders who are growing their companies. Other speakers include Harley Finkelstein from Shopify and Bruce Poon Tip from G Adventures.