Archives for August 2012

Is Your Brand Believable?

I’m struck lately by large companies who say one thing but clearly speak out of the other sides of their mouth. It strikes me that some PR person or ad agency is advising them to put a great spin on everything. Say it enough times and the masses will believe them. Reality has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the spin. It’s also timely that it’s election season in the U.S. and many of the negative ads are also following this pattern. It doesn’t matter that Anderson Cooper is “Keeping them honest,” drive it home enough times and it sticks. Sometimes.

Oil companies are incredulous how, on one hand their spin tells us how much they care about us and their beloved homeland (whether that’s Canada or the United States). They proudly outline how many jobs they create, how they support community, how much they influence innovation and on and on and on. Then they jack up the price at the pumps and collectively drive the economy into the ground. Everything comes from oil. If they “really” cared, they would charge a fee that allows them to make an honest profit, but not hold the world economy hostage. They would be an honourable citizen partner. But greed is really their brand. Wait until gas is $15 -$20 a gallon, wow, just think of all the great things they’ll be able to do for us.

Airlines too are heavy into speaking out of two sides of their mouths. Siting in your seat watching the CEO of the airline on the video spew out how much he appreciates your business, and then rambles on about how great they are and how wonderful they are – blah, blah, blah. What is incredulous here is that while you listen to this tripe, the hostesses are trying to sell you a pillow to use. A few dollars more for a headset. Earlier in your trip you were subjected to: pre-boarding fees, extra luggage fees, long lines and the humiliation of security. I had a friend recently who clicked the wrong button by mistake when purchasing a ticket online, only to be told it would cost $250. to make a correction. Today the worst part of any trip is the flight. They have sucked the pleasure out of it.

None of us can afford to have a brand that relies on spin to try and fool our customers. Airlines and oil companies know that for the foreseeable future we have no choice. They can play their games and win. BUT, there will come a time where they will fall, and fall hard. When faced with a choice our customers will show their dissatisfaction with their feet. You’ll get no second chance. If it is your intention to make your brand shine for years and decades to come it has to be built on authenticity. Your values have to be rock solid. Thank heavens most brands do exactly that.

One thing that greed brands do is is serve as an awesome mirror for everyone else. They reflect on how not to do it. Holding your brand up to them, allows you the opportunity to do the polar opposite and be great.

Publicity and Thought Leadership

branding strategy for branding expertsAs I sit typing this month’s newsletter article, I remind myself that all my subscribers are experts in what they do. You may not acknowledge this fact, but frankly it’s true. Life gives us experiences. Entrepreneurs take those experiences and turn them into businesses. It is this knowledge base, and the ability to exploit it that makes you an expert that people want to learn from. In my weekly tips, it never ceases to amaze me that some of the simplest tips get me some fantastic feedback. What I thought to be a throw-away, was actually an ah-ha moment for some. I have come to learn to not underestimate what may be important.

I have found (thankfully) in all my efforts to promote myself, that garnering publicity is one of the rewards to those efforts. When launching my strategy several years ago, publicity was NOT one of my goals – getting great leads was. To my surprise and delight, becoming a source for journalists became another way to get my information out there. When contacted for a story, I’ve found journalists to be engaging and thoughtful people. They recognize that we are helping each other. They put you at ease which of course is their job. It is up to you to not get too comfortable and say something off-brand that does you no good. But I am usually called upon for my opinion on a brand issue that is in the world view at the moment. ie: CNN calling to ask me if I felt that Rupert Murdock’s company News Corp can come back from such a brand fiasco? Or Canadian News calling to know if KFC’s changing their slogan from “Finger Licking Good” to “So Good” was a smart brand move or whether Blockbuster’s sale to a media company was a good move for the purchaser from a brand value perspective.
So far it’s always about a current event.

This is just a few of the publicity opportunities I have enjoyed. I should also share that I came within hours of a story with Nightline, but I was in the air when they needed their clip and thus was unaware until landing and checking email. But now I am on their radar. You may be asking yourself, who did Ed know to get action like this? The straight answer is “no one.”
The journalists found me through my blogging efforts or a Goggle search. All of my online activities play a combined role in making a search easier to find me. To make that point stronger – I am not involved in any real SEO activities, all my results have been from on-line marketing and social networking which involves blogging, linkedin and basic use of Facebook and Twitter. I also subscribe to a free service called HARO (Help A Reporter Out). This is a great resource that has journalists putting their need for an expert on a particular topic and having YOU the expert respond. There is no fee to pay. I have successfully garnered more publicity this way.

The overall benefit of publicity is of course awareness of Ed Roach of The Branding Experts. Every bit of exposure adds to my expert profile which in turn helps a potential lead build a comfort level in working with me. It plays into my brand of delivering valuable information very nicely. It is a great compliment to all my other efforts on and off-line to grow my influence.
As they say, “It’s not who you know, BUT who knows you.”

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.

Branding Yourself Online

Chances are great that your competition is not taking full advantage of their time by promoting themselves properly. Take comfort in the fact that most people will not do the hard work it takes to succeed.
If opportunity resists walking through their door, they blame the world for their failure to make an impact.

This time of year is ideal for taking a step back and analyzing how you have done over the past year and what goals you will strive for in the near future. How you achieve those goals will be critical in validating new media you’ve taken the time to implement for your own success. Traditional media are becoming increasingly less important. Technology is fast dominating how we live our lives. How we stay connected from a personal and professional perspective.

Some of these new media include:

• Social networking including Facebook and Twitter. Make sure that your comments are directed towards your services that you offer. Mix in a healthy dose of comments to do with your personal interests. Together, all of your comments will flush out your personal and professional brand.

• Html email. Virtually every one of your target market willingly accept email at their desktop. Where traditional mail fails to breech the gate keeper, email is delivered right into their hands. Developing lists is fundamental in targeting messages that resonate.

• Targeted text email. The simplest form of email promotion. Text email allows you to express a quick message without concerning yourself with visual content.

• Websites. Where once it was sufficient to have simply a brochure site, today the focus is resources and tools for your customer. Using your website to fulfill a need for information, throws a lifeline to them.

• Web video. A fabulous platform for inspirational messages, product launches and any message where visuals can be harnessed to tell a story.

• Podcasts are audio files that generally provides great free content that benefits your audience. There are also video podcasts that extend the medium.

• Mobile marketing is the new kid on the block. The vast majority have smartphones in their possession. Increasingly it is becoming apparent that harnessing this new media will prove it’s importance to us all.

What other new media are you watching? Sharing your insight strengthens us all. Slow moving competition have no idea that many of these new media models exist. Snatch the opportunity before they do catch on. If your competition has embraced these new media, then it is your duty to out-finesse them. As I’ve always stressed, “Lead don’t follow”. Use this holiday season to investigate how you can adopt these new areas to your benefit. Establish time and budget targets to start using them to develop new business leads.

Brand Bump Ahead!

If all you have to do to succeed was to provide a valuable to service to a waiting appreciative audience, it would indeed be a perfect world. But from the moment we walk into our offices in the morning the real world kicks in and provides yesterdays unseen challenges today. If only we had a crystal ball, we’d all be a little smarter. What I hope you will find useful are signs to watch for that your brand has challenges up ahead and that perhaps now is the time to strategize ways of pre-empting what I call:

“Brand Bumps in the Road Ahead”.

Bump #1
You’ve begun noticing from that customers are mistaking your business for a competitor.

Strategic fix: You are not differentiated enough, meaning your brand message offers no compelling story that sets you apart.

Bump#2
More and more every piece of business is won or lost solely on price.

Strategic fix: Your customer has no relationship with you. You have become a commodity in their eyes. Maybe sales are relying on email too much and should get more face time with your customer.

Bump #3
Bumps 1 and 2 have you a little rattled – your first thought is to up-date the brand logo.

Strategic fix: You are missing the point and shooting from the hip. The problem is not the logo, your brand has lost it’s heading. It is high time you had a good hard look at just what you stand for to your customers. Survey them to identify what will probably be obvious problems.

Bump #3
Staff seem unmotivated. They have lost the fire in their bellies.

Strategic fix: They reflect a symptom of your leadership. You’ve no doubt lost a bit of shine and they’re attitude is a symptom of this. They look to you as the visionary. Any negativity has a direct effect on their understanding of what is expecting. It is time for an attitude up-grading – it’s time to raise the bar.

Bump #4
You can’t seem to attract the best people anymore.

Strategic fix: What has changed in your market is that your brand perception has taken a hit. In the mind of your community, your company is not seen as an opportunity or challenge. Your company is probably following not leading.

Bump #5
At business functions you are hard-pressed to give a quick description of exactly what your company does. You more or less tell them you are a provider of many and a master of none.

Strategic fix: Focus on what the company does exceptional well at that NOBODY else in your category does. This is your door opener. A differentiator.

Bump #6
You are at a company function and staff are wearing branded clothing. It hits you that there is no consistent color scheme.

Strategic fix: Consistency in brand image breeds awareness. Your brand image has be bastardized over the years. Have one person in the company be responsible for the brand image strategy. All color decisions must be approved by them to be sure the only the correct colors are used. Color is a powerful emotional icon.

Bump #7
There are trade shows coming that have traditionally gotten you important leads. Your attitude is to hurry up and get materials in place to bring and it is a grueling experience.

Strategic fix: It is grueling because you are not excited by your offering. Your message (I’d put a dollar on this) is the same old message you’ve always used. You have no differentiator, the booth staff will be unmotivated (sound familiar) and it will show big time on the show floor. The displays just shows pretty pictures of product, no humanity what so ever. Trade shows are theater. Time to put on a show.

Bump #8
In your trade magazines and community newspaper, the competition is quoted more than you.

Strategic fix: Your brand is not seen as the leader EVEN if you are the larger company. Time to develop a public relations initiative for a regular release of good news and information about your company. Maybe launch a blog to build on your expert profile. Reporters regularly look to blogs to develop stories. This has happened to me, and a number of my peers.

Bump #9
National competition is moving into the neighborhood. It is keeping you awake at night.

Strategic fix: I will bet that your marketing materials are either done in-house, done for free by the publication or by a son or daughter of. The public trusts professionalism. You must hire professionals to put the shine back on your brand image. Nothing brings success than the look of success. Nobody eats at a restaurant that has no cars out front. Nobody does business with the loser.

Bump #10
You find yourself looking for ideas to find that magic solution. Only your heart rate is going faster than your desire for that quick fix.

Strategic fix: It took years to get into this position, it will take time to fix. Give yourself a deserving pat on the back for the fact that you have at least begun your journey to smooth out the bumps in your road. Nothing is so broken it can’t be fixed. Get a group of stakeholders together, call them your road crew if you like.

It’s time to re-surface your brand! Do it today.

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