You Can’t Build A Brand On Today Thinking

A few years ago I pitched my branding process to a mid-size Canadian City mayor. Suffice to say he loved the presentation and the opportunities it would open up. The one item that buried the project was his short-sightedness. Knowing upfront that there were deficiencies in the brand, he didn’t appreciate my comment that those deficiencies would have to be fixed so that their brand had a better chance of being authentic to it’s target audience. The fastest route to failure is to tout something powerful and then have your buyer discover it was all just advertising spin. The city can’t walk the walk. Today they’re still just doing advertising but labelling it branding.

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Here in my community we have a city market. The bylaws people saw an opportunity. They showed up early on a saturday morning and went booth to booth gathering business cards from the grannies selling biscuits, young people selling items from their hobbies and other micro entrepreneurs. Satisfied that they spoke to everyone, they went back to their offices and proceeded to send out notices to all these people that they’d all have to buy a business license or shut it down. Their phoney smiles hid the reality of their intentions – more fees for the the city. They didn’t care what happened to these individuals and their dreams. What they failed to see was the long-term benefits of city market vendors. Many of these folks are testing their ideas and planning for the future. A local furniture store just turned 90. It all started with one guy peddling furniture door-to-door. Where would the 4 locations and hundreds of employees be today if the city had shut them down because they didn’t have a $XX business license?

Another new grocery business in Ottawa, Canada ( Farm Boy ) started in their city market and now have multiple locations and are spreading across the province. That equates to property taxes, bricks and motor leases, employment, and investment all started in a small city market. What our city should have done was gone in, introduced itself and offered to help them in any way they could to succeed. They should provide mentors, and business incentives to go beyond the cookies in wax paper to opening a small bakery in an area the city would like to re-new. But, this involves long-term thinking and long-term branding.

Place brands like any other thrive on long-term thinking. Bureaucrats have to start understanding that short-term gains CAN and DO suppress long-term growth. Being smug about shutting down the painted flower pot booth today changed the future that might have been – namely a unique gift shop in a wanting downtown area. All this is branding folks. Doing it with vision creates log-term wealth. Short-term advertising spin is just that.

Get Real! Brand Authenticity and You.

Today’s marketplace is a great place for brands and their advocates to exist. Traditionally, prior to the web, all a brand could do was to make their consumers “aware” of their brand was using advertising channels such as bill boards, transit, radio, TV and public relations. Once a consumer got wind of the brand that interested them, they would have to physically visit the bricks and mortar location for more information. Or they could look in their mail boxes for flyers, or their daily newspapers for inserts and printed ads etc. The entire buying cycle was initiated by the brand and reacted to by the buyer. Very straight forward and not very deep.

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In today’s marketplace the consumer has a limitless access to the brand’s environment. Brand’s can more easily form strong relationships with their customers. Some would say today’s digital environment makes loyalty tougher. I believe it to be easier, so long as you’re willing to engage customers with a genuine brand experience. If the brand chooses to try and manipulate the experience based on an unrealistic expectation, they will more likely be viewed as not being authentic. That authenticity is a hallmark of proper branding.

But if your brand strives to provide an authentic persona, it’s a great platform to engage customers. You’re able to feed them your expertise on many levels. This acceptance allows you the potential to charge more for your services. If you’re a services based brand this open environment allows you to properly exhibit your expertise and this draws customers to you. Your are perceived as the expert your brand touts you to be.

The bottom line is to embrace the opportunities the digital world is serving up. You make think that there’s no space for you to play or that it’s over your head. Toss those barriers aside and embrace the web. You will be shocked with the results of your efforts over time.

Now’s the Time to Step-up your Game – AGAIN!

9673439_s2015 is the year that you’re going to do things a little differently. The time is right to step up your game. Without gazing at the past too much, recognize that that was how you used to conduct business. That’s when all you’re best strategies delivered on making your brand better, more memorable amidst your stakeholders. Give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.

That said, the fastest way to step-up your game is to change-up your game. Start doing business differently that anyone in your industry. Break the norms, shake the bushes and start acting in a way that has the competition questioning your sanity. “Bob’s finally lost it.” they’ll say. “Where’s he coming from” they’ll add. Those are comments aimed at a person who keeps ’em guessing. These are brands who are following not leading. They spend more time watching the other guy’s butt to the point they have to keep putting the brakes on for fear of (I think you’ve got the picture).

There’s one strategy that will absolutely change the game once again for your brand and that is positioning your brand. I would hazard to guess that well over 90% of companies have never effectively positioned their brands or even considered it. They’ve certainly applied pretty catchy slogans but they’ve never given positioning a second’s thought. Many, if not most think the slogan IS their positioning. A slogan inspires the brand culture while positioning makes your brand the only choice. It absolutely resonates in the mind of your stakeholders. Jack Trout and Al Ries call it, “the battle for your mind.” The perception of your brand in mind of your stakeholders is your positioning whether you enjoy it or not. This perception is key to making 2015 your best year to date.

You see it all around you all time – more of the same. I often wonder why businesses just carry on all the same practices without any strategy in place to help them leap ahead of everyone else. Great brands sometimes get there in spite of themselves, others use strategy to their benefit. We all know there’s no magic answer – there is only effort and a willingness to change-up how your do things. Not only does it keep the competition ay bay, but it also reinvigorates your entire brand culture. Brands people like to talk about are inspiring by just how different they really are. These are the brands who walk the talk. You see, hear and read about them in the media and social channels. These are the brands that are well known within their communities. They are known and spoke about. They are judged favorably and are the ones who seem to bounce back fastest from brand foibles. But don’t kid yourself, these brands are there through shear effort. They keep their eyes on the ball and watch for any opportunity to step-it-up.

What can you do for your brand this year. Make it something that gives the competition the cold sweats. Help them out with a case of Ban Rollon.

Why Are You Afraid Of Me?

I’m seeing more and more of this -especially on tech sites. On the contact us page all they offer you is a form so that they can qualify you. What I don’t see is anything about where they are located, what they’re phone number is etc. For me, I want to know where you’re from. No particular reason -I just like to know. Sometimes you’re near other companies I know.

It concerns me that you don’t want to divulge that information. God forbid I actually call before you vet me. Already I can see that dealing with these hidden companies shows that they are all about their convenience not yours.

It is a pet peeve of mine, but I think it speaks to authenticity in a brand. I would bet that one of their brand values is service. They understand the word, not the effort that goes in to making service part of their corporate culture. If I was to somehow find their phone number what do you think the chances are you’d find a live body answering it?

Great service is not convenient it’s expected. Every little thing you do to diminish service is one step walking away from you. There are manufacturing companies in my region who have replaced live contact at the front door with a telephone and a directory. How’s a new customer to feel when they are forced to sit in a cold little seat searching a tacky directory to hale their contact to recover them from the vestibule?

Both of these examples are from the front end of the business. Both initial contact points. Sometimes saving a few dollars or being closed to connecting personally are small ideas that can cost you a huge amount of money in the long run.

Or it could just be me. I’m guessing a lot of professionals resent these tactics. Are you willing to bet
your brand on it?

The “NEW” Business Card

whatsnewcardUse traditional 3.5″ X 2″ business cards to promote new services, products, specials or whatever is new at your business. They would still have your contact information. Use them to drive business to your website or location. Treat them as promo cards with a personal circulation. A clever new way to celebrate your brand.

When you go to a networking event in your community, you can take the opportunity to NOT hand out your traditional card but instead, hand out your “what’s new card.” One great result is that it initiates conversation on your “news.” It’s a simple idea, but one that is inexpensive and novel. It doesn’t matter what size company you have – there’s always great news to spread. What could you put on your promo card?

What are you nuts? We can’t do that!

confusedOr can we?

In helping companies to position themselves, half of the challenge is inspiring them and the other half is encouraging them to embrace what may seem at first to be impossible. Much of what I do is listen to how your company works. What is it that your customers love about you? What would they miss if you were to disappear over night? I have to get into how you think. If you are an owner – the visionary of the company, your dynamic plays a large role in your brand. Your decisions have affected for a large part the reputation your brand carries into your marketplace.

Many times in developing the positioning strategy for companies much of what inspires the Bold Idea comes directly from the mouth of the company’s visionary – other times the Bold Idea is inspired by the visionary’s passion. How ever the idea comes, it almost always emboldens you, the visionary to do remarkable things with it. This is due to the fact that we are bringing to the table a very compelling proposition for the customer. My job in developing the Bold Idea Positioning Strategy is to find a marketable point of differentiation. Many customers have built a very good business being all things to all people. If they wish to go to the next level they must be bold. They must stand out in the customers mind as the clear choice, not one of many.

The very nature of a bold idea challenges and then inspires. Your competition will probably think you’re nuts (at least that’s what their hope is). Even they know that while a bold idea is what everyone craves very view have the fortitude to act on it.

The Bold Idea Positioning Strategy is your opportunity to show the real value of your company and its relationship with your customers and competition in a spectacular way.

No, you’re not nuts and YES you will succeed!

Gawd Brand It!! Do As I Say Not As I Do!

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I came across an interesting article today that smacks the face of good branding. It speaks to authenticity. Colby Sambrotto, the founder of ‘for sale by owner’ recently sold his home through a real estate owner. He even paid full commission. What does that say about his authenticity? The negative press will certainly hurt the DIY market. Read the story here.

Are you and your brand on the same page? Do you manufacture parts for GM but drive a Chrysler? You can’t have it both ways. We are all guided by our perceptions. I’ve met people who sold sales training packages but they themselves never used it in their sales efforts. I’ve met Dale Carnegie guru’s who never exhibited traits complementary to Mr. Carnegie’s principals. Hypocrisy abounds. It takes real effort to live your brand. To do otherwise shows that you don’t take branding seriously and put its value as so much spin.

Branding is not a slogan or an “I wish I was great.”

Branding is the reality of your company at this point in time.

It’s not what you wished it was or hope it could be one day. Real estate agents across the continent are going to be re-defining Mr. Sambrotto’s DIY brand for him over the next little while. He wrongly thought his personal and business brand were exclusive of each other. That kind of arrogance can be very costly and hard to back away from.