DominateYour Brand Space

Currently, the 2012 Olympics in London, England is playing to a world audience. Everyone is counting medals and having a great time watching the competitions unfold. Amidst all this good sportsmanship, there’s a commercial battle going on with rule #40. This rule disallows any athlete from wearing or exhibiting any commercial product except those sanctioned by the IOC. One headphone maker (Beats by Dr. Dre) had brilliantly (my opinion) high-jacketed brand awareness by giving a free set of head phones to every athlete. This effort has the athletes wearing them before matches, tweeting their gratitude and generally becoming willing advocates for Beats. This has the IOC up in arms. Nothing worse than letting a loose end, end-run their rule #40. Some satire has even surfaced on YouTube with athletes appearing with tape over their mouths with Rule #40 written on it. Of course this again benefits Beats and their awareness efforts.

Taking this as inspiration, you too can dominate your brand space with a little creativity. I happened to speak with a co-ordinator of a large industrial manufacturer who has numerous trades and labourers on construction sites. It was my suggestion that they wear one common colour shirt emblazoned with their logo. This move would allow them to dominate the job-site. At a glance any observer would assume they owned the job. Not unlike the Beats Olympic strategy, the goal is to project the illusion of dominance through brand awareness.

It’s always important that your brand dominate. Every chance large and small to push your name must be acknowledged. The smallest example might have to be the humble email address. If your email doesn’t end with your company name then you’re doing your brand a disservice. If your email ends in Yahoo, Gmail etc. the only brand you’re promoting is Yahoo and Google. It says your brands is not important enough.

When I blog or visit social sites, one way I try to dominate is to purposely leave comments and opinions all over the place. Leaving opinion behind, intrigues people who are also visiting those sites. My awareness is being touted by my becoming a thought leader.

Are you attending any conferences or trade shows soon? Are you attending any where you happen to know where your prospective customers might be staying? If so, consider hijacking the hotel they’re staying in. Maybe leave coasters with your logo and any information that might resonate with them. Leave postcards and brochures in lounges, buy the billboard across the street and use it to speak directly to them. There is any number of ways to pull a Dr. Dre in your world.

Dominate the space you do business in.

Don’t Copy Your Competitor.

copy cat brandThis afternoon I passed no fewer than 4 trucking company vehicles all sporting corporate logos that had a swish icon. They were either horizonal or vertical, red or blue. I’m sure if we check back with each of these companies, none of the images existed before Nike and their swoosh became synonymous. I imagine none of these companies realize that being a follower does nothing to strengthen their brands but rather strengthens the leader because of the similarities of image.

A lot of business people think wrongly that if they use a swoosh in their logos they will be on their way to fame and fortune. Let’s face it, Nike has worked very hard since it’s beginning to develop a brand that builds a strong active relationship with it’s customers. Their icon could have been a box – it is the association in the customers mind that is important. As Nike grew, it’s icon came to represent it. Much as Target and Apple are doing. Because of the reputation Nike has built, the association with the swoosh icon is strong and has cache because of it. Not the other way around.

Develop your brands to “Lead not follow.™” Differentiation is the goal, with it come the rewards.

How To Take Your Brand Seriously

How customers look at your brand sets the wheels in motion whether they will purchase from you or not. What are they thinking? Are they getting what you stand for? Is your image and brand promise resonating with them? How is your positioning affecting how a customer reacts? Here are some observations that might help you understand how even the little things can be taking opportunity out of reach:

1) Amateur Logos
Designed as art not a communications tool. Why is it you can tell the national brands from the local brands just by the design of a logo? The designer takes a world view. They take into a count the use and audience and deliver consistently.

2) eMail
Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very hard to take a brand seriously when their emails use gmail not their domain. I’m told that they’re worried about spam. Get over it and start pushing your brand. [email protected] says so much more than [email protected]

3) Authenticity
You might say you’re a coach, a mentor a leader but you’re not acting like one. As a matter of fact so many in this category don’t take their own advice. I know many in my region who profess to be management consultants but who have never had any reasonable level of success. Their advising out of someone else’s book. Be authentic – be yourself. I knew a person who sold CRM software but never used the system they were selling. Authentic?

4) Consistency of Everything
If I can take myself as an example. From the first point of contact through delivery and follow-up, my image and message are absolutely consistent. If we were to meet, you’d see me in my trade mark black and logged shirt. I’m approachable and willing to give free advice on the spot. When you ask for my card it too carries my brand colours. The same goes for my brochures, marketing materials, website, blog, social sites etc. Everywhere you check me out your sense of my brand will grow. The consistency develops trust. I appear to walk the walk. That is important. If given the chance to perform it is my opportunity to carry on this consistency of brand.

5) Invest in Yourself
This one kills me. I’m amazed how many business people tell me reasons why they can’t or won’t invest in themselves. Everything is on the cheap, looking for grandiose results. Only this week, I had a marketing person from a local Chrysler dealership proudly show me the flyer their 9 year old daughter designed and they were sending it out to win business. It was cute, but incredulous that they would even consider it. If they fail to get the result, my guess is they will fault everything BUT that 9 year old effort.

Another example is training. I was told by a business person that nobody would attend an all day session with an expert simply because the cost was $650 including lunch. Too rich. Really!? 7 hours of instruction for under $100. an hour. If this doesn’t convince, how about that it’s a right off. At tax time you mean you’d rather give $650 to the government for nothing rather than invest in yourself? The real opportunity is that for a handful of cash you will get real advice that makes you more money and perceivably much more than the training cost.

To have your brand taken seriously you must take yourself seriously. If you’re not worth the effort your brand has no foundation. Would you buy from a brand like yourself? If you even had to think about that question, tells me that you’ve got work to do.

How Turning Your Brand Around Can Be Like A New Pair Of Shoes.

Are you in this precarious position? Sales are flat. You’ve downsized as much as the business can stand. You’ve streamlined your processes to be more productive. You and the staff haven’t experienced a raise in some time. Moral is tenuous. What to do – what to do? It’s a scary position but every entrepreneur carries the word risk with them every day.

About 10 years ago I too was in this position. We wished our sales were flat. They were actually declining and the credit line was growing. We were looking for solutions in a fast changing economy. We discovered an opportunity in attending an industry conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The down side was the cost to attend for the week was in the $10,000 range. At the time the Canadian dollar was $1.40 for every American dollar. Ouch. What to do – what to do?

Well we (I had a partner at the time) decided that we already owed a large some of money, what was $10,00 more? What we couldn’t do – was nothing. You have to look for opportunities. Sitting back and hoping it will solve itself isn’t a smart option. As a matter of fact, a lot of that attitude carried us to this point. The conference topics addressed issues we were trying to tackle on our own. We needed another perspective. We had to talk to others within our industry and see where they stood.

Suffice to say, the conference was an epiphany. We were buried in deep conversation, morning, noon and evening. We were enlightened by similar experiences and brilliant concepts for success. That conference was a turning point for me personally. On our return, we were contacted by a few individuals we met at the conference with an interesting proposal. How would we like to carry on the conversation for the betterment of all? What this question gave birth to was a quarterly meeting with a handful of individuals who for the last ten years, meets every quarter at a member’s city and spends an entire friday, brain storming with the sole intention of helping each other succeed. We call the group “MOOB”, (Mind Our Own Business). As a matter of fact we meet in Gary, Indiana next friday (May 18th).

Are you letting money hold you back? Are you allowing fear to keep you from embracing a solution that is within your grasp? Are you throwing up barriers where you should be hurtling them? This article was inspired by a call I made recently with a lead I got. They definitely saw the benefit of strengthening their brand and clearly saw how it could increase sales. Short funds held them back. I was perplexed. If you see a path to increased sales, wouldn’t it offset the cost of the solution that could get you there? Obviously there are other internal issues holding them back. What ever the dilemma, doing nothing is not the solution.

Every entrepreneur including myself have been in their shoes. Some of us will bite the bullet and get new shoes. The rest struggle along with worn soles and a scuffed appearance. Nothing delivers like a new pair of shoes and a new attitude. Naturally the fit is important, but once you’ve done your due diligence, take them out of the box and try them on. It’s the first step in a powerful new brand journey.

BIG or small – Brands That Stand Out, Drive Sales!

#brandingBranding is critical in understanding where your company fits into the grand scheme of things. In the public domain, discussions on branding are almost exclusively focused on multi-national brands. Brands we see in our daily lives. Brands such as Apple, General Motors, Google and McDonald’s. In discussing these powerful brands it becomes hard for small and medium size enterprises to recognize the value of branding. To these entrepreneurs, branding is the domain of world companies. Not so.

Small to medium size businesses are the main employers in our marketplace. From my experience a great majority of them do not take any control over the management of their brands nor do they claim any resonating position in their marketing. Re-branding to a large number of them is simply putting on a new face. i.e.: new logo and marketing materials. SME’s are a demographic who could stand to benefit immensely once they got a handle on how branding can position them as a leader in their category, invigorate sales staff and control perceptions on the street. Understanding just what their brand stands for allows them a greater opportunity to consistently tell their story, build relationships and drive sales.

With each passing step in my branding process I facilitate with companies, I observe a growing excitement with each participating company. Step-by-step, I see the branding team starting to get it. From discovering their governing brand values to discovering their brand personality. Each reveals truths good and bad that guides them forward to an improved understanding of their brand. As SME’s start gaining control and recognizing how they can differentiate themselves as a leader do they begin to realize just how much the exercise will benefit them. It is inspiring to see their management and stakeholders excited in how they are going to bring this newly acquired brand awareness to their customers. They begin to recognize that they can definitely have an impact on how their brand is perceived and what measures are needed to nurture it.

What’s fascinating is that the unique positioning is typically not something we have to invent, but more pulling from their existing experiences. Buried in their work flow are gems (or seeds) that need feeding. My job is to pull these forward and get the brand to see their unique benefit as a bridge to satisfying the customers needs. This discovery of their new positioning strategy, absolutely empowers everyone. It shows that if you take a bold position, you can stand for something greater than simply a clever slogan. Branding in totality changes a business. In most cases it encourages management to take a harder and critical look at themselves and make changes that make your brand authentic in your customers and other stakeholders eyes.

Managing this understanding is where the control of your brand comes into play. Ignoring branding, leaves you exposed to an unforgiving marketplace, where customers don’t understand or care what you stand for and your competition takes great joy in defining your brand for you. You have to step up if you want to become the leader, if you want to own your colour and if you want your brand to stand for something that gets prospects to your doorstep allowing sales to welcome them in. Once past your threshold can you then build a mutually profitable relationship that you both can grow on.

Customers want to work with strong brands and strong brands want to satisfy customers through exceptional relationships. Branding delivers on this in a memorable way.

Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog…

Let’s just get right to it…

ONE: I can’t think of a better way to increase my ‘expert profile’.
Putting your opinion out there through blogging is a terrific way to show your audience what you’re made from. It allows to to control the conversation about you. Teaching your audience by providing valuable content shows your confidence and willingness to reach out. It also proves that you do indeed know what you’re talking about.

TWO: I love the publicity I get.
One of the benefits of blogging that took me by surprise 7 years ago when I started blogging was the way it attracted publicity to me. Major news sources as well as niche sources have sought out my opinion. This exposure increases my audience. (It’s also a major ego rub) I especially enjoy e-interviews – I don’t know why – I just find them fun.

THREE: Blogging attracts leads for new business.
Blogging has been the vehicle online that has garnered me some pretty significant leads for new business. I have attracted great new consulting clients from around the world as a result of my blogging efforts. Pushing your brand out into the world market, draws back this result. As your readership grows, and they in turn take your link and push it out to their audiences – your chance for business opportunities just increases with each link.

FOUR: SEO as a side benefit.
Because search engine spiders love the fresh content of blogs, even without basic SEO you can get pretty respectable search results. From time to time I Google my name and industry key words and am amazed at the rankings I get as I only do ‘basic’ SEO. It also helps that I, like you frequent other blogs and leave comments. All of these efforts favour search activities.

FIVE: Blogging helps my attitude.
We all get in funks from time-to-time. When I am in a gloomy mood, I turn to writing blog posts to boost my spirits and get my head into a better place. I guess it’s a form of therapy. While it’s not the only time I write, it is one of the motivators that helps me write. I think part of the reason writing posts puts me in the right direction is the simple fact that it allows me to help people by encouraging them to make their business and personal brands better.

That’s about it. I hope these 5 blogging benefits encourages you to consider blogging as a part of your marketing efforts.

Get Off Your Butt Branding

In a few weeks it will be spring. That gives all of us the opportunity to do some spring cleaning of our brand. It’s that time again where you should assess the effectiveness of your brand and tighten it up a bit. Is it working as well as it should for you? Do you stand out enough from your competition? Lately I’ve been involved with entrepreneurs and presented a webinar to the large format graphics industry. From their questions it’s apparent to me that their is a lot of frustration with their brands. Many of the concerns stem from establishing an effective positing strategy. Much of the dilemma stems from the fact that many small business don’t recognize differentiators that are frankly staring them in the face. They are so busy running their businesses they just need a second set of eyes to point out just how great they really are. Take a look at some of these suggestions on Spring Cleaning Your Brand:

1) Take a hard look at your brand image. And by that I mean your logo, website, marketing materials – all the visual components of your brand. Are they consistent with each other? Be sure that the logo on your cards matches the logo on everything else you do exactly. There is no room for “pretty close he.” On your logo there are colours. Those colours make up your brand palette. You can have other colours in your brand palette so long as they compliment your logo colours. Now use your brand palette on everything else that you do. That also includes apparel and fleets of vehicles. You want the public to identify your brand through colour use. Ideally you want to “own your colour” much like UPS owns brown.

2) Do your employees completely understand the promise you make to your customers? By brand promise, I mean what exactly you are offering them. If you are a collision shop, your promise may be to bring the person’s vehicle back to showroom quality every time and delivered on time. If they do not understand your brand promise they can’t live up to it. Internal branding instructs them on how they are to represent your brand and how they talk about it. Bringing them up to speed allows them the opportunity to understand the prime direction of the brand and what valuable role they play in its success. Its remarkable how many small business don’t understand the value in communicating their brand internally. They fail to see that it is more important in many ways than external branding , because, if they don’t get it – your brand will suffer, and that costs you money.

3) Brand awareness. What is the perception on the street of your brand? By street – let’s define that as your marketplace. If their is no perceivable perception, then you’ve got a job to do. You have to get your company out there and push your brand to the masses. Get involved, show why it matters that you exist at all. Just because you’ve built it doesn’t mean that they will come. You’ve got to show your public that you can resonate with them. Show your difference in a big way. Demonstrate how you can become their greatest resource. Occupy a piece of their mind.

4) Get out of your comfort zone. The best thing that you can do for your brand is to accomplish tasks that are holding your brand back. They might include developing your expert profile so that your market sees your brand as the expert it is. Look for ways to put your opinion in front of your customer’s eyes. Maybe that would involve trying to get a regular column in your industry publication or blog. Sure, your not a writer, but you do know everything about your industry and you have wisdom to share. Push away the barriers that stop you from promoting your brand. Stop telling yourself that “that will never work,” and start winning the praise of your industry by becoming their go-to person for insight. Get out of your own way.

5) Just do it. Nike got it right. I belong to many networking groups. The one thing that i notice is that most in the room are just going through the motions. They actually expect a lead to fall into their laps, by sitting, watching and contributing nothing. What does this in-action say about their brand? I want to provide leads to people who are passionate. I look for opportunities for other people all the time. It is my absolute belief that you have to create your own opportunities. If I waited for them to come to me, things would be very lean indeed. As much as i realize that business plans are very important for start-ups, it amuses me how long a body spends sweating all the details to the detriment of just jumping into the thick of it and making it happen. Look for opportunities to join forces with like minded individuals and jointly push your brands. The next networking meeting you’re at show the people at your table that you matter. Actively listen to them – contribute great information. Give them a reason to remember you when they are talking to their network of contacts. It’s not their business you are looking for, it’s who they know. Once you get that down you join the much desired group of contact s – “those who know YOU.”

Branding is a never ending game. But the simple fact is that you have one like it or not. You can choose to define it yourself or let the street do that. My guess is that you would prefer that honour. I find pushing out my brand a great deal of fun. I embrace the challenge. I am amazed at times, just what results I am able to achieve. I am no different than you, just a small business person looking to get a great message into the hands of all whom I touch. Every effort large and small contributes to this goal.And that my friend sis how i choose to make a living.

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