Branding Your Kids – the next BIG thing?

I’ve got these good friends of mine who live in Kentucky. It has been a pretty traumatic summer waiting for college season to arrive. You see, they just sent their only child off to his first year of University. They are so very proud of him. He didn’t have any scholarships, well-placed contacts, or remarkable grades – he achieved his first real goal in life thanks in some part to branding.

His folks are colleagues of mine in the branding world. When the family gathered around the supper table, and prepared themselves to go through the groups of university brochures and browse the impressive websites, it wasn’t lost on them that they would also have to pitch their son to the universities. He would have to be branded. It would be an enlightening experience for him, and an assurance to them (the parents) that he put his best effort into getting accepted into his school of choice.

His resume wasn’t your typical binder containing exactly what would be requested but a more visual and intuitive presentation. His brand was polished, and it showed. Here are some of their branding highlights:

• His brand values were defined much like any great brand.They explained his commitment to these values and how they compliment the school and their value systems.

• His brand personality was visually presented using a “vision board.” This board contained words, pictures, colors, anything that portrayed his ‘personality’. His colors were used consistently through the presentation.

• His differentiator was his passion for the school. He chose them. His life goals matched their scholastic mandate.

• His visual image (or logo if you will) was designed to strike an emotion with the reader, who would no doubt judge their son on first impressions, not unlike the business world. Photos were designed to display his pleasant disposition and vigor of youth. He was a classic example of “their ideal student.”

• To further cement a favorable impression his personal interests and social skills were detailed to help establish a good profile.

• Aligning all his best attributes, their son refined his brand and enjoyed a boost in confidence. He realized a positive benefit with the genuine opportunities in defining his brand, aligning all his best attributes.

• He gathered favorable testimonials to his good character and included them to attest to his brand.

These were the main ingredients in their recipe to brand their offspring. Essentially branding your college student is another form of personal branding. The visual topper to this was a large branding board that visually showed everything about “his brand.” One glance at this board and you see his brand instantly. Since a picture is more powerful than the written word, this huge effort made it’s desired impression … he was accepted into his first school of choice. His confidence in himself helped him land on the student paper the first day on campus with a photo assignment. His passion you see is photo journalism.

His brand succeeded and gave him a powerful advantage. It’s his job now to make it better every day to help in his quest for glory.

Dork Your Brand!

You’ve got your cool little business, you’ve had some degree of success and you’ve done it all on your own. The only bar you’re interested in raising is the pub down the street. Who needs all those consultants and brand gurus when you can keep your hard-earned beer money and find the cheapest student or cousin to spin your magic.

Well I’m here to make your day and save you tons ‘o dough by giving you ten ways to “DORK YOUR BRAND!”

1) Don’t even think about being consistent with your image. The trick here is to have one logo on your stationary, another variation on your signs and when you do a trade show, something homemade would be outstanding.

2) Brand values – frankly that’s for pansies. Just do what it takes to get the business. View those people you have to walk on to succeed as mere stepping stones. Don’t concern yourself with your reputation.

3) Find the perfect opportunity to blend in with what your competition is doing. If they are doing great then they must be on to something. “More of the same,” I always say to Dorks. You don’t want to risk standing out, you might be discovered for who you really are. There’s probably more money running with the pack anyway.

4) Did you know that you can get a logo designed online for free? That’s right, no need to worry about demographics, first impressions, market share or what ever. Image is for movie stars, your running a bizness. The less things cost – more for you, right?

5) Don’t ask – don’t tell. You’re only looking for trouble asking your stake holders what they think.

6) Are you going to one of them trade shows. Stay away from a professional presentation and get yourself one of those free folding tables and dress it up with blue skirting like all the other dorks. We’re blending in again, that’s the ticket. (Now you’re catching on).

7) And while you’re at the show, and you want to catch a stare or two, don’t waste your cash on relevant materials promoting a unique message – get yourself a booth bunny! Hey sex sells and even if hurts your brand – what’s the harm in a little fun.

8.)Keep dropping your price until you are the lowest price in your bizness. Don’t let nobody beat you.

9) Don’t bother trying to forge relationships with customers. Let’s face it, you’ve probably got enough friends, and besides they’d probably expect you to pick up the tab.

10) When the phone rings, it’s not important how your staff answers it – just be glad it’s ringing. There’s no point wasting friendly on some Nancy just looking for the cheapest deal.

Well that’s the branding game in a nut shell. One thing I can guarantee you is, if you decide to “Dork Your Brand”, you will make one business person very happy…

…that person is your leading competitor.

This article was inspired by SBB commenter Steve, over at Pinnacle Displays, and Nichpreneur Michelle for encouraging us.

THE introvert’s guide to selling

Not everyone throws on their spidey outfit and relishes leaping into the fray of the business sales arena. As a matter of fact a great deal of people sell because it is just part of what they do. If they could get the sales some other way, they’d probably jump at it. In the mean time all of the reluctant sales people out there, have to do they best they can with the few sale skills they have.

For the past few months I’ve been in touch with several reluctant sales people from around the world, and we’ve been sharing tips and techniques that has made selling a little bit easier. None of these contacts are Anthony Robbins clones or Dale Carnegie wannabe’s, BUT the one thing they did have in common was that they are introverts in an extroverts world. They’re tired of the books on sales that assume you love to put yourself out there.

So guess what? I’ve taken this valuable conversation and put them together in a little eBook that I am giving away for the asking. It was a pleasure putting together this information because of the insight it gave me. This is my first offering in the eBook realm. I call the effort, “The Reluctant Salesperson: An Introvert’s Guide to Selling.”

If you see fit to add this eBook to your reading, I’d love it, if you’d drop back here and let me know what you think. One thing about blogging that I find immensely gratifying is the breadth of opinion – all of it with the goal of helping all of us improve how we do business.

…for all the reluctant sales people who may be too shy to drop by my site and pick up a copy, I don’t mind if you get a friend to do it for you.

All the best.

How to Make Brand Champions.

How many times has an existing customers asked you if you also do this or that? Your employees – how many of them understand your brand? Take a good look at all of your stake holders, do they have a good understanding of what your brand stands for? Chances are there is a mixed bag of understanding about your brand from your stake holders.

Brand Champions are advocates who promote and or refer your business to others. They are passionate about your brand and are active in your promotion. Many times even brand champions don’t have a clear understanding of what you do. So – here’s your chance to strengthen existing brand champions and empower others who could potentially become Brand Champions for your company. Lets tackle each of the stakeholder groups to shore up support for the team:

Employees:

• develop brand training that exposes the employee to the brand’s core capabilities
• give the employee a brand statement that they can use to properly explain the brand promise or key positioning strategy
• provide employees with apparel festooned with the brand logo and/or positioning statement
• be sure that they are aware of the company’s proud history
• develop a model where an employee has input on possible opportunities
• make available educational opportunities that can help employees make your product offering or service better
• make it possible for employees to belong to influential community groups
• for employees that have direct customer contact, be sure that they exhibit traits complementary to the brand personality and values
• help employees understand that a properly managed brand will benefit their incomes into the future

Suppliers:

• make sure suppliers know where they stand in the food chain of your brand
• let them know what is expected of them and how that impacts the growth of your brand
• be sure that they understand the culture of your company
• provide suppliers with apparel festooned with the brand logo and/or positioning statement
• be sure that policies regarding gifts or favors compliment brand values

Customers:

• provide them the opportunity to tell your story
• referral programs to reward their enthusiasm for your brand
• regularly survey them to be sure that you are exceeding their expectations
• make it a brand policy to go above and beyond what is expected
• get bodies in front of customers, don’t reply to heavily on email
• look for ways of enhancing the relationship with customers ( track their personal and professional motivations )
• provide customers with apparel festooned with the brand logo and/or positioning statement
• record testimonials from customer advocates, (don’t pay for these statements)
• quickly address problems and issues with professionalism
• nurture loyalty among customers by building relationships from sales transactions
• keep customers on top of changes and improvements to the brand

Management/Share Holders:

• be sure that everyone is singing from the same song sheet
• provide Management/Share Holders with apparel festooned with the brand logo and/or positioning statement
• be sure that this group understands and are loyal to the brand values and personality
• with every decision that effects the brand, be sure that the information flows down efficiently to the other stake holders
• be aware of executive decisions that could conflict with the brand
• audit your brand from time to time to be sure that the brand is not wavering in its focus
• be aware that the leaders of the brand impact it directly – implementing change should always compliment brand legacy

At the end of the day, Brand Champions will deliver a winning game plan. Branding is a team sport in the strictest sense of the word. If you have a tendency to go it alone,
you might find that your brand is stagnant. Your best chance at winning is when you allow stake holders to become part of the branding team. TOGETHER, YOU COULD BE A LEADER IN YOUR CATEGORY!

People – ya gotta love ’em!

If your brand is your reputation (and it is), then it’s important to keep it on track. Everything that you do and say will reflect on that brand. How you say it is one of the toughest tasks when trying to keep your brand image compelling over all media.

I regularly drop into blogs and business consultant’s websites to check out some tip or suggestion that I may find of use. I can’t tell you how many times, I’m confronted with a brand image that absolutely contradicts the message they’re sending. As consultants, they are by nature a people business. Their job is to help people with problems and situations in their area of expertise. What sort of message are they sending if their sites and blogs are totally void of humanity. Not a single shot of a person. I want any consultant I hire to like people.

Businesses in the manufacturing sector are also guilty of this error. Lots of shots of real estate but nothing of people actually working the shop floor. One , that made me chuckle said that it was “their people that made the difference”. Guess what was missing in their literature?

The restaurant and hotel industry are great for this – lots of shots of expansive dining rooms, luxurious guest rooms and health clubs with no “body” in any one of them. As people, we all love to look at other people. We are a social species by nature. How you position people emotes a certain attitude. Diversity among the people we use, sends a powerful message. We go where the people are. Have you ever noticed that people are more apt to check out a new restaurant or store if there are people there when they get there. Nothing is more alluring than a parking lot full of cars at a store opening. There is nothing inspiring about a health club with no sweating bodies in sight. Humanity inspires us.

In the use of people shots, one simple tip in setting up the shot is an old design rule. Never have the model looking outside of your frame. It sends the eye away from your message. They should be looking in – our eyes follow their eyes. One that I employ is cropping. In a head and shoulders shot, cropping off the top of the head sends the readers eyes downward into the eyes of the model. When ever I use pictures of people I am always careful when choosing their use. I want the message to be consistent across the board and their use must compliment my brand. Even my own picture sends messages. One shot I particularly like is to a peer of mine – not friendly enough. “You are much friendlier than that picture suggests”‘ she often tells me. When we got together, she shot one that was more appropriate in her mind. It is the one most often seen of me out there.

Use people (images) to your advantage. Have them in your corporate colors. Be sure that they are of the correct demographic. Don’t have a genX ‘er in your materials if they are not your target audience. The wrong shot can alienate as powerfully as the perfect shot. Overall, remember that when choosing people shots for your brand, they must conform to your brand message. Don’t sacrifice this important point on the alter of creativity. Your brand communicates a specific message to its audience who are willing receptacles.

Say Cheese!

Put Your Wrench On The Branding Team

So you’ve decided to to start taking a serious look at your corporate brand and you are left with the task of assembling your branding team. Your branding team is a group of individuals pulled from your brand’s stakeholders. They would be gleamed from the three essential groups: employees, suppliers and customers.

One of the issues you will have at the end of your branding process is buy-in among employees. Stand back and take a visual on your employee group. Most are your garden-variety employee, but a few, while good workers are out-spoken and quick to judge. Other employees look to them for direction. They typically see initiatives coming down from the corner office as “just more work”. They do their best to put a negative spin on the initiatives and are a drag to getting things done. We call these folks, “wrenches” because they throw a monkey wrench into everything you do.

The trick is to include the Wrenches in the branding process. The theory is simple and basic – you want the wrenches to become advocates for the brand initiatives. If they are part of the solution, then they will use their energies to push it through to the employees stakeholders. Just imagine how empowered they will feel being included in the high-level branding sessions with the leaders of the company in attendance – actually wanting their valuable input.

Now, when the brand process is complete and ready to roll roll out to the employees, you have their key mouthpiece on your team. That monkey wrench is now a brand hero – everybody wins.

5 Tips To Branding A Powerful Presence

ConsistencyConsistency

If there is one thing that many small businesses love to mess with, it is their brand image. Perhaps it is their chance to get creative, in an otherwise numbers oriented existence. It is also the one area that gets the greatest abuse in regard to the “holy Grail” of brand – CONSISTENCY. One area I’d like to address is your web presence.

Does your website reflect your brand accurately? Let’s take a look at 5 cyber-consistency challenges:

ONE: Over-all brand image of your website.

If I met you at a networking event and you passed your card on to me – when I got back to my office and went directly to your website – would I see something familiar when the opening page appears?
Your business card is my initial exposure to your brand image. I begins my journey down Brand You. If upon opening your web page, I am faced with an entirely different esthetic, then you are doing your company/brand a HUGE disservice. Your visitor now has to adjust their interpretation of your brand from another perspective. Ideally, you want their brand experience to reinforced from their initial exposure to Brand You. Don’t get tempted with the urge to get overly creative if it means moving away from what was already established on your business cards.

TWO: If your brand is information oriented, your website should reflect this.

Let’s say Brand You, has established itself as an expert, then your site should be focused on delivering information on your category. It should give the visitor the distinct impression that Brand You is indeed that expert. It should show that you are there to help them. Outside of the web, your collateral material should also portray this.

THREE: Your promise should be the same on AND off-line.

Whether your customer meets you at an event or on-line they should hear only ONE brand promise. The power of consistency goes a long way to getting the trust of a potential customer when the promise they hear is repeated at every point of contact. Also be sure that the promise is acted on, not just a hollow statement.

FOUR: There is more to a domain name than you think.

Your URL. Is it specific to your brand. Ideally it is the same name as your brand name. So if your company is called – The Acme Company then ideally the URL would be The AcmeCompany.com. If that isn’t available don’t be tempted with acronyms like TAC.com, while representational, it does nothing to make them think of Acme. If I called your office, you now answer the telephone with. “good morning Acme”, not good morning TAC. A good alternative would be something descriptive of Acme. Maybe something like, “TheAcmeAdvantage.com”. Now we’re thinking something positive about Acme.

FIVE: Is your website presence passive or pro-active?

Determine how your website can be an asset to your brand. If it is strictly informational, then it is a passive tool. Get the information out and make it easy for the customer to contact you. If it is to be pro-active, then you want your customer to stay around your site longer. Give them tools and information that they can use. Become a valuable resource for them. Which ever of the two strategies you follow, be sure that it is in sync with your brand.

CONSISTENCY – there is no more powerful word regarding your brand experience. With it, each element builds on the next. It leaves confusion in the dust. Without it, it is a harder, more expensive route to take. Never compromise. Take a hard look at your brand as it exists right now. Are there any loose ends that could use a tweak or two to assure that everything you do is consistent?

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