Wednesday, December 19, 2007

David Airey's link for now

Follow this link to David Airey's Graphic Design blog.
Enjoy again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

David Airey was Robbed!

David Airey, a fine Graphic Designer from Scotland recently had his domain stolen from under his nose. Now if you go to all you will find is a sponsored link page instead of the great blog he's been building for quite some time now. Watch this space for a new link to his blog, so that we can continue to read his observations - inspiring all.

They may have stolen his domain but not his brand, which I believe will emerge even stronger once this ordeal has been put to bed.

All the best David in the New Year,


Monday, December 17, 2007

Have Friends - Will Travel!

What do you do when you are offered an opportunity, but you are unable to fulfill it? It would be a bad move to take it on then take the risk of fouling it up and damaging your brand. Sometimes our skill sets are not complimentary with an opportunity offered. BUT we have friends or colleagues who have the desired experience.

It is important that you build relationships with your industry for just this reason. All too often, business people are very paranoid to build alliances. We all hear about partnering but putting it into action takes trust in someone you essentially don't know. Myself, I give the benefit of a doubt. Through blogging I've met a good number of people whom I've targeted as potential partners of future projects - as yet unknown.

Off-line, I've also developed professional relationships that will definitely help to put another dollar in my pocket. A great recent example of this was an email I got first thing in the morning last Friday. The writer was looking for good advice on a branding issue concerning non-profits. This is an area I have little experience with. I wouldn't dream of faking it and trying to figure it out later. My goal is to try and find the writer a solution to their problem. They found me by googling and choosing my web-site to begin their journey.

The writer was a Canadian organization with a interesting dilemma. From the initial discussion, I offered to help by referencing my resources to pull in the right experienced party to solve the problem on the table. I am located in Leamington, Ontario Canada - across from Detroit, Michigan. I contacted an associate of mine in Cincinnatti/Northern Kentucky who has a partner in Minneapolis/St. Paul who has exactly the experience needed. The Writer hailed from our nation's capitol - Ottawa.

So, in the course of an hour the writer went from a blind contact to potentially finding a solution to their problem., crossing an international border. It was accomplished with help of affiliates all working together to find opportunities to solving brand issues where ever they may occur. Of course this is networking on a global scale, but suffice to say it works. I have access to specific talents in Tampa, Florida - Toledo and Cincinnati, Ohio - Brisbane, Australia - Chicago and Troy-Michigan to name a few. Of course by extension, you have trusted access to their affiliates. This is "Linked-in" on a more personal and professional level. It doesn't only apply to places far and wide but also locally with trusted contacts.

I'm not a secretive person and I dislike egos and game playing. In the spirit of trust, I enjoy the challenge of finding a solution that is asked of me. It makes my brand more powerful if I am able to develop solutions for any number of industries. It's like they say about hiring employees - hire those smarter than you. The same holds true for building your brand, build the walls with strength with yourself as the foundation.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ten Steps to Brand Power.

Let's start with the assumption that you've done your homework and you've established a competitive strategy based on differentiation. Now here's where we go next.

1. Develop a logo that inspires your audience adopting a palette that sets you apart.

2. Use the corporate palette through out your entire operation.

3. Use the same logo on your business cards, stationary, signs, vehicles etc.

4. Everyone in the company must know the same brand message.

5. Your marketing materials must exhibit the same brand image and brand message. Your materials should represent accurately what your companies stand for.

6. Your product or service should reflect your brand values and personality.

7. In your presentation materials - be sure that your brand image is on every page and in the corporate palette. The target audience should always be aware of who is talking to them.

8. Develop a PR presence that reflects the type of brand relationship you wish to create with your customers. Never surrender your brand values just for a little notoriety.

9. Put your differentiation front and center in everything that you do.

10. Talk to your stake holders to be sure that your brand is still on track and they understand exactly who you are and what you are offering.

Maintaining your corporate brand doesn't have to be difficult. Just bear in mind to stay on track with a consistent message. The worst mistake you can make is to tire of your brand image and "update" it way before your market has even come to value it. You have to give it time to make an imapct and work to your favor. Icons for instance can take up to 2 years before they are recognized as the parent company. Have patience and soldier on.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Newsletters made easy.

I know of many companies who have had the best intentions to start distributing a newsletter but failed after the first one simply because they take so much time to assemble content. This doesn't have to be the case anymore.

My newsletter "Useful Information" just celebrated it's 40th issue this month. I send it out monthly - free to it's subscribers. I'm on a MAc, so I develop it in Quark Xpress and export it as an PDF file with live links. Each month I only spend about 3 to 4 hours assembling it. I get articles from "" It's a great article service as you just pick topics of interest to you and they email you articles based on that query.

I usually write one or two articles myself, based on subscriber's requests or a topic I want to cover that month. From here I have a couple of regular features I include. One is a quiz whereby I show just the icon or symbol from a company and ask the reader to identify it. The answer is always on page two. To help relieve the workday stresses, I include a weblink to a novel or interesting website as a distraction.

Promotional content I typically include is some samples of some recent projects I've just completed, a plug for my favorite networking group in Detroit, and an ad for my current DIY product called, DIY Brand Builder.

Other than that, if a client or friend is promoting a charity event, I also include a plug for that as well.

After 40 issues, I find it a great tool for building my personal and corporate brand and I get a few new subscribers every week. It is called "Useful Information" simply because my goal is to provide information that readers can actually use to better their businesses. The articles I choose to use,
I find useful myself, ( which is part of my criteria ) . You too can build a monthly newsletter with great content with just a little effort. With the web you can develop a newsletter which is nothing more than relevant links to a niche topic. For the newsletters that I subscribe to, it is mostly important that it not be a blatant advertising piece. I deliver it in an email with a bulk mailer program.

I think you will feel you it is the perfect tool, when you get your first compliment on a job well done.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Good Will Invoice (Smart Idea!)

This is just a great and simple one that I picked up from a client yesterday during a branding session I was facilitating with them.

Essentially it boils down to keeping track of all those little favors you do for customers through out the year but can't really bill for them. How can you benefit from from your largess? Well here's a fantastic way to go about about it and something your customer won't mind getting.

It's called a "Good Will Invoice".

All you have to do is put a value to all those little things you do for free and once a year send out the "Good Will Invoice". It is not an invoice to pay, it is simply to show how 'much value' added there is to working with you. I believe this to be a great public relations move and one to kick up your brand in your customer's mind.

Have a good day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The customer is always right!

What is it they say - "If it wasn't for the customers, business would be a joyous thing!" Have you ever wondered what your customers think of you and thus by extension -your brand? If you are addressing your brand strategy correctly, you are striving to build strong relationships with your customers. You are probably doing your utmost to make sure that their every touch point with your company is a good experience. Do you have processes in place that addresses any problems that may arise? You don't want your customer to dance around voice mail hell or get the cold shoulder by service managers. Customer service should be exactly that 'service'.

What we all must respect is the customer's opinion. Some times for whatever reason, the customer may have a negative opinion of your brand. The opinion may even be based on something which is simply untrue, but the bottom line is the customer is always right. Nobody says you have to do business with them again, you only have to make it right. Regardless of how you 'truly feel', it is always best to take the high road and get the matter behind you both and move on. The value of your brand is much more important than making a few grudge points by laying into the customer just to make sure they understand your position. Believe me, over the past 25 years I've wanted to tear a few heads off, but thought better of the idea to make sure that I don't burn any bridges and that my reputation stays on a purely professional level.

What do you do to make your customer's experience a great one? Do you give thank you gifts at Christmas? Do you track their birthdays, anniversary's etc. and send out cards? One way I impact my customer's experience with me is to put myself in front of them personally. Today many of us are way to eager to take the easy way out and rely solely on voice, email and texting as our main point of contact with our customers. This can result in a large branding problem based on the fact that this expedient contact eliminates any personal connection to you. Your are easy to replace, since you have no personal contact. You are much like a price-based brand connection. The next cheapest price, replaces you. I make it a point to get face to face contact as much as possible. This also gets me additional business.

So I suggest infusing some low tech contact to make your brand valuable. This personal relationship goes a long way to smoothing rough waters when situations do arise. A customer is more likely to cut you some slack if they know "You". We also know for a fact that how we handle rough waters reflects in many ways what our brand represents. How you handle a customer's problem, if it is done correctly and on-brand, will turn that customer into a long term advocate for you. It pays that customers are right. In the business world, a customer's perception of your brand is as important as the reality of your brand. They must work in unison - this forms the bond of a great brand relationship.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Expanding your brand and earn income from the web

I came across and interesting new blog called, W Revenue Dot Com. The author is guy called Scott Wainner. What I like about this guy's opinion is his straight forward attitude. I've read countless articles and opinion on making money on the web and frankly his is a breath of fresh air.

There isn't a lot of hype and he shares a great deal of knowledge. Most other blogs tease a great deal, and are essentially excuses to sell something. They brag a lot about themsleves and don't share ideas. Scott does not share these shortcomings. If you are researching strategies on making money on the web you might want to subscribe to his blog.

A colleague of mine, Robert Kingston from Bracing Your Brand, put me on to Scott's contribution to blogging, and for that I'd like to thank him. Your visits here to my blog, and the communities we all build together, allow us to expand our successes, thus improving our personal and corporate brands. Selling relevant products on the web helps your audience to appreciate just how much you can assist them in their quest to improve. Following some of Scott's opinions and case histories will go a long way to helping you realize your goals.

I hope that W Revenue Dot Com will be a welcome addition to your blog reading.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

5 Better Mousetraps!

We humans are an amazing species and Western civilization in particular, having embraced capitalism, spends every waking hour in the pursuit of achievement. We are always trying to improve our lot in life and to accomplish this goal, we rely on advertising.

We are all familiar with traditional forms of advertising such as newspaper, magazines, radio, TV, adwords, email and direct mail. What intrigued me this week, was more unconventional forms. The "what will they think of next" form of promotion. I've heard critics say that ads are appearing in way to many locations and there is a need to limit their exposure. Personally I don't have a problem with advertising, it's what makes our culture click and for me anyway, it is another art form. It speaks to who we are as a society.

Here are 5 new forms of advertising that are unique. I hope you enjoy the creativity behind them.

• First up is Bumvertising™ - a name coined by the author of this site. Essentially it is adding an advertising message to a homeless person's home-made sign so that passing citizen's take note of the ad. Many consider the concept degrading. The homeless appear to consider it an opportunity. You be the judge.

• Next comes leasing out a part of your body to advertising tattoos. This is your opportunity to make up to $5,000. to put a logo and or message front and center on your forehead. If you are an extrovert and your employer has no issues with it (other than the competition's logo), I suppose it's a great way to earn a few buck and get a bit of notoriety.

• Third comes Target and their brilliant concept of putting their logo large on their store rooftops so that viewers of Google Earth will spot them when they zoom in on an earthly location. This is just way-clever!

• Fourth puts marketing where marketing has not gone before- outer space. Students from MIT and Georgia Tech, are launching a spacecraft into earth orbit in 2010 and they are renting out a spot on the sides of their spacecraft to visionary sponsors. This will be a great media opportunity.

• And finally Five: graphical waterfalls. This form of marketing is mezmerizing. I saw one for Jeep at the Detroit's international auto show and you simply can't stop looking at it. The video in the link shows this example as well as many others. It is not light projected on water but little droplets dropping in sequence to forms shapes and words. Big WOW factor!

Do you have other forms of advertising that are high in creativity? These examples caught my eye. My favorite of the five is graphical waterfalls.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Risk Zone does your brand occupy?

Bulky Package

In our daily lives we encounter risk in many forms. These risks involve crossing against a light, driving to the grocery store or mowing the lawn.

Much of it is minor stuff compared to risks we encounter in the course of running a business. How we face that risk has an impact on our brands. The business climate is a lot more complicated than it was even 10 years ago. A simple example is letterhead - where is it held, who controls it, how is it used?  If I can steal it, I can be a company without their knowledge.  It is much farther reaching then that!  What if I stole shipping documents with the brand on it?  I can then pretend to be part of the company and operate with minimal intervention both internally and externally (Customs or Police).  This is no different then stolen identity at a personal level.

Brand Risk Assessments takes into account all environments you do business in, production standards and all elements that could potentially expose your brand to risk. In a world tarnished by threats of terrorism, any risk exposure would harm your brand from the observing marketplace. Take for instance CTPAT, (Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) - a U.S. / Canadian government business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security. When a company is CTPAT Certified they lessen the chance of their brand being compromised by parties who would do them harm. CTPAT is an exporter iinitiative that speeds up border crossings and further ensures increased security for each country. If a company is exposed due to a breach in security they stand to risk a great deal with regards to shipping to the U.S. or Canada and this reflects negatively on their corporate brand. If for instance a company who manufactures auto parts were to have a dirty bomb or any illegal cargo hidden among their shipment (even unknown to them) and their shipment is seized at the border, the ensuing media attention can unjustly harm their brand. CTPAT puts in place increased security at every touch point in the shipping process with the goal to easing risk for all parties involved. This is increased protection for your brand.

Peter Berry, OB1 Consulting - a risk assessment and CTPAT specialist lists additional benefits of CTPAT as:

• Reduces border inspections.
• Minimizes border clearance times allowing for predictable transit times 
 and transportation costs.
• Allows for movement across the border even during a red alert.
• Reduces compliance costs with customs requirements.
• Allows companies to compete for opportunities that require a security clearance.
• Provides access to the FAST lanes at the Canadian/US border.
• Allows for improved security in your work place.
• Allows for reductions in cargo theft.

The Oklahoma City bombing thrust the Ryder Trucks Brand Risk into the Hot Zone. Today you can be sure, more precautions are in place to lessen that risk. Naturally it is pretty much impossible to cover every possible scenario, but a Brand Risk Assessment does a good job due to the fact that its facilitators typically are experienced people from within the security industry. They look out for situations way off a layman's radar. Take for instance the case of a well known coffee manufacturer who had their brand packaging copied and used on packages containing cocaine. The manufacturer was tipped off to the scam when a long shoreman was injured off-loading goods when a 50lb. box of cocaine hit him in the head, sending him to emergency. He ended up on compensation due to the severe nature of the injury.  It was investigated and suspected that the load was supposed to be intercepted by a long shoreman and had nothing to do with the coffee company. They had no idea that drugs were in the load. It was supposed to be taken out by longshore or the driver. News of the incident set off alarms that something was amiss - law enforcement was dispatched immediately and the shipment seized. An investigation resulted which proved the brand was not involved but it does cause business disruption, a great deal of anxiety within the workers and costs due to law enforcement interaction to normal processes and the employees involved. Not a comfortable feeling when the federal government investigates your company for drug or weapons smuggling. What tipped them off? Their coffee isn't shipped in boxes. They are shipped in bags. The street value was approx. $700K CDN.  A lot of money to entice a bad guy and hardly worth the value hit to the brand had it been public that coffee company brand had been used to smuggle. It would have sent the brand into the Hot Zone.

Every day, your brand's risk potential relies on the integrity of your company's security practices. When it comes to your Brand Risk Assessment, you want your brand to reside in the Cool Zone. If it goes up to Warm or Hot - watch out, you're inviting disaster to dinner. And your brand is the main course!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Does this brand taste as good as it looks?

A client referred me to Sprinkles Cup Cakes this morning.
I have to admit I am very impressed with the sense of design to this product. I understand that it costs about $3.25 per cupcake. They come in individual boxes. The boxes are superbly designed. The dozen trays are also well designed. The stores are outstanding. Everything about this product is high end.

I'd love to know from any out there in the blogesphere if you have ever experienced the store? What was the experience like? Does it compliment the esthetic? It has been featured on most popular televison buzz shows. I wonder if it has staying power, or it this month's flavor?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just say AYES to on-brand thinking

In my quest for a topic to discuss this week, I came upon a very good organization that assists auto dealerships with staff training. That organization is called the "Automotive Youth Educational Systems" or AYES. Apparently 4,500 dealers participate in this organization to help stem the tide of service technicians leaving for greener pastures. Dealerships face a 60% turnover rate, mostly because they aren't happy. Now here is a brand problem - unhappy stake holders.

Throughout the United States there are 417 schools involved with AYES. The organization provides training through processes involving job shadowing, mentoring, employability skills and hands-on training. The goal is to prepare students for jobs at an entry level position. And the industry is supporting this effort with the involvement of 14 major players in the automotive world including Honda, Chrysler, Mercedes, BMW, GM and Toyota to name a few.

This effort is fantastic on a lot of levels. It is a good brand story if there ever was one. In an industry soaked in horror stories, this effort is a breath of fresh air. It has community involvement, corporate leadership, youth opportunities, employment, and educational benefits for starters. If a dealership is not involved with this group they might consider it if for nothing other than to put a brighter shine on their brand. Once involved, the dealership would be smart to make their markets keenly aware of their efforts. It is a great PR opportunity.

The fact that the car companies embrace AYES is a testament to changing attitudes within the industry. We have all read (and written) some pretty sad brand stories in this series on dealerships, but here is a silver lining worth investigating. As a side note for any dealerships listening, it seems this educational process actually reduces turnover and allows you to make additional profits as well.

Great branding is all about changing your corporate environment to reflect your positioning strategy and thus grow your sales and service products as a result. I think you will agree that AYES would be a great catalyst to get you moving in that direction.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bad Auto Dealership Brands Are Good for Business!

This month I am participating in a lively discussion on branding auto dealerships over at Branding Wire. The following is part of that discussion:

Its been said that necessity is the mother of invention.

I was reading Derrick Daye's contribution to the discussion and a comment he made regarding Jiffy Lube got me to thinking that if it wasn't for the miserable brands of many auto dealerships a lot of very good auto service companies may not be in existence today. That means countless thousands of good customer driven employees would be out of a job - Ouch!

By extension, if if wasn't for the Big 3's contempt for giving the buying public fuel efficient cars back in the 70's, they never would have opened the door to imports who did exactly that and proved the public's desired for small fuel efficient cars. Now Toyota threatens their status.

The auto dealers traditionally high labor costs opened the doors to independent garages and chain repair shops. Their lack of respect for the very customers who keep them living large have over the years been responsible for the emergence of businesses who fulfill even the simplest of auto services - the oil change. Jiffy Lube thanks you for your arrogance.

If auto dealers were to clean up their brands and actually deliver a compelling service to their customers, would it not be BAD for the economy? What would be the motivation be for anyone to drop by a Belle Tire for some new rubber if their local autodealer provided them outstanding service, price and appreciation? Free coffee and magazine just isn't going to cut it in the face of sincere competence.

If auto dealerships actually earned the service awards hanging in their service bays, and could fix your cracked windshields with a smile while you waited, then what would the folks at Apple Auto Glass do to make a living?

If I were the after-market auto service industry I would be hiring lobbyists to help me maintain the status-quo with regard to auto dealerships. I certainly wouldn't be encouraging anything as stupid as correcting bad brands. I would even go as far as awarding them gold statues for keeping the auto service economy vibrant over these many decades. What good would it do anybody if they discovered that a loving customer could actually be a massive profit center for them?

What good indeed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Here's the deal - Trust Me!

The entire model of the concept of buying a car is waiting for an innovator who refuses to do it as it has always been done. We are waiting for the Richard Bransons out there to show us a better way. IKEA has done it in the furniture business.

One thing is for sure - there is a huge opportunity for someone out there to get it right. Imagine if your entire experience involves a combination of online shopping, hands-on testing and a totally customizable experiences for the consumer before and after the sale. It's true as Steve Woodruff, from the Branding Wire has said, that we all have our own horror stories and that in itself speaks to the negative brand image of retail side of the automotive industry.

Are consumers ready for a totally honest experience from auto dealerships? By that I mean - would we believe them at any level? I believe that to launch a new experience model they would first have to do some grass roots homework and earn the back the trust of the public. The auto companies have to offer their audience a major aha moment on this front. Saturn started it with their attitude towards the customer at the dealership level. Perhaps the Auto companies will have to take back greater control of the dealerships so that they can better control the brand experience and thus not allow a dealership to narrow mindedly do business as usual. In many ways the lack of trust is mostly at the dealership level. A lot of the brand building is done at the national level only to be later trashed at the retail level.

To control the service experience might be easier if they directed the entire delivery channel. The after sale aspect is even more important in growing that positive brand experience. I live in the Windsor, Ontario/Detroit, Michigan area. Dealers here have also become a little sloppy about a good customer experience. Because many of their customers work for the traditional Big 3, they can purchase on the "plan". which is a generous employee discount. So if they mess up the relationship with me - no biggie, there is always another customer on the "plan" coming down the road.

The people I do feel badly for these days are the dealerships who ARE trying very hard to make the customer experience compliment the brand. The public's historic distrust in them in general can only be a little less than that of a politician. TRUST is the number one common denominator with all the posts and comments we see here in this discussion. It is definitely the place to begin redefining the auto dealership's brand. It will also be the environment with which to position itself with an absolutely unique selling proposition.

They lost my trust years ago when they started telling me that it's not a "used car" but a "pre-owned car" and a "no haggle price" is better than negotiating for a better price. That told me of their regard for my intelligence. Trying to dumb-down your customer can never be good, I still bristle when I hear those terms and that's definitely bad for the brand.

P.S. This post is part of a discussion over at Branding Wire. It is orchestrated by our friend, Steve Woodruff. I am a guest writer this month on the topic of branding auto dealerships.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Summer is a tough time to develop articles.

So here are some links...

Not being a writer, it is rather tough to come up with a couple of thought provoking articles a week. One for my personal blog (here) and one for Small Business Branding. And today I agreed to be this month's guest writer over at Branding Wire.

If you happen to enjoy great Graphic Design, check out David Airey over in Scotland. David is very talented and has a healthy respect for the brand. It is by far my favorite design site.

Tomorrow I'm off to a small art fair in Oakville, Ontario just south of Toronto. I paint in watercolour. Check out my works at Ed Roach Watercolours.

Another interesting site for any of you who happen to be millionaires or who have a millionaires taste for the finer things check out For Millionaires Only. I will be showing my work at this site in the near future.

And one last blog that has just come on stream is Mystical Michael. Michael is a fascinating man who is very engaging if you ever have the opportunity to meet him. His thoughts are very uplifting.

Have fun.

Friday, July 20, 2007

When is change a good thing?

You've heard that commercial a million times. That ad is starting to look old. Your logo - does it really address who we are? The Sales Manager doesn't seem so hungry anymore, blah, blah blah. What is really going on here? Do the marketing materials need a kick in the pants? Well maybe, but let's hold our horses a bit. Remember, you live with your brand day-in and day-out. Your prospects aren't as aware of your brand as you are. My rule of thumb is, when you starting to get sick of your message, target customers are only now becoming aware of you.

It is so easy sometimes to change the commercial, change the advertising and logo, when you really must look deeper into your brand. Discover what about your brand is holding you back. Only careful analysis and stakeholder research will give you the answers you're looking for.

What you have to do is analyze your brand and determine if you are benefiting from a differentiation strategy, or are you blending in with all the competition in your category. If you are blending in then you know doubt have become simply a commodity item to your customer and this "lowest price trap" is the cause of your doldrums. The only way out is to develop a uniqueness that compels them to buy from you. It is your positioning strategy that must change - with marketing materials following its lead.

Of course it could be that sales manager. The mortgage is paid, the kids are out of the house - what's his incentive? This is a good topic for a future article.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Don't just sit there, grab your million!

I was watching one of my favorite shows the other night. It's called, The Big Idea - Donny Deutsch. Tonight's show centered around something all of us say from time to time and that is "Why didn't I think of that!" I've read from time to time that we should all keep our ideas written down. I think keeping track of your ideas should be your first big idea. I have ideas in my digital recorder I keep in the car. After watching the show, I think I will start an idea journal. These little gems may be just the opportunity I need at some point in time. There is something magical about writing down your ideas.

Have you seen ideas that you considered but never acted on, come to pass and make millions for whom ever? On The Big Idea Website linked above are a few of the example featured on the show. What is funny is how some of them appear so stupid yet it made millions for their authors. It appears that there is a market for almost anything. What I did find inspiring is that all of these folks achieved their success through good hard work and perseverance. There didn't appear to be any cases of money making money.

If you're from Canada like I am, you might be interested in a good blog from Sander Gelsing, on the topic of Canadian patents, trademark and copyright. The blog is called "Now, why didn't I think of that?" It is a great starting point for any ideas you want to start developing. The Big Idea's site has links to resources also.

Many of the very successful ideas featured on the show, stressed taking their brand images very seriously by hiring professional help. I guess it's the old adage - go big or stay home.

What's your Big Idea? Don't just sit there, grab your million!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but what does it do?

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to an Aflac sales person. They marveled how the Aflac duck has put them on the map. Before said duck, nobody had even heard of them. Now just mentioning the name of the company gets people within ear shot quacking away. That brand icon has been immensely successful in building brand awareness world-wide. Aflac's commercials endear people to the brand. They simply love that duck. I wonder if the Aflac Duck is even more popular than other famous ducks such as Daffy, Donald and Daisy.

(Now before you read on ask yourself: "What does Aflac do?" )

The most interesting thing in our discussion is after the awareness of Aflac is established, the first comment they generally hear is: "So, just what does Aflac do?" Now this person, (who is commission sales) must explain what Aflac does to make money. Isn't the job job of advertising to first get awareness and then tell them what they do? If Aflac could get that duck to spread a little wisdom, the sales person wouldn't have to spend valuable time explaining what they do, to a person who may not be a prospect. Knowing what they do, allows us the consumers the opportunity to make that initial connection based on our desire for more information on a need. The sales person would then have a warm lead and can spend their time more proactively selling their services, rather than educating. The sales person said that this problem has concerned them for some time. To a commission sales person time is definitely money.

Besides this situation, what does it do to Aflac's brand? I am not even suggesting that they haven't been successful financially with what they have done to date, I only suggest that they might want to consider broadening their focus to start actually telling the viewers what the duck does for a living. It would certainly increase revenues further if the sales teams have more time to actually sell. The sales person I spoke with thought that this would be true. They found many times after explaining what Aflac does the person turns out to not even be a potential customer. Problem.

How many times have you seen this scenario, fabulous brand awareness , lousy product knowledge. In the Detroit area many years ago there was a local car dealer who went by the name Mel Farr Superstar. People were amused by his schtick, but when pressed to identify which of the Big 3 he sold many got it wrong. The promotional balance was off - awareness over product. If your brand icon is doing you a world of good it is only human nature to go with the momentum. The only thing I would like to caution you on is to not ignore the products or services you sell. Balance the message and allow your sales people the opportunity to do what they do best which of course is sell. The more money they make, the wealthier you become.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What do portable signs say about your brand?

You see them lining the roads of shopping plazas and commercial zones - portable signs. Some are lit from the inside while others are not. All use bold easy to read flourescent letters. You can't miss them as you whiz by. One thing they all have in common is that they are plain ugly. Blights to our communities. I think they should be banned because of their esthetic insult.

What does a portable sign say about the brands of the host companies? I suggest that they say, "I don't care how bad this looks, so long as it drives sales!" Sometimes, you have to draw the line when it comes to how we advertise products and services. Surely with a little thought, a better alternative can be found to promote the company just as effectively. It irritates me to see these signs and the negative impression I have for the corresponding companies is a shame. This sign pollution is tarnishing good brands.
I wonder how many customers are turned away because of their distain for this promotional short-sightedness? In our city, they are like a plague - how about your home town?

I wonder if some intelligent sign people can dream up something more pleasing to look at AND do the job. Any ideas?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Them's fighting words.

Maybe it's best to avoid them.

As a brand we are no more than our reputation. Our personal brand is every bit as important as our corporate brand. What ever we do impacts on our brand. Many times I've been tempted to write a letter to the editior in our daily paper to address some irritable issue. But I think better of it in favor of rational thinking. The fun of knocking heads is replaced with a realization that it could impact my reputation negatively. I think we've all been tempted though.

My reputation (brand) is everything to me. If I were to butt heads for fun I risk the chance that of soiling my integrity for amusement. If I do respond openly to issues that are truly important enough for me to comment on I try very hard to choose my words carefully. Not being a professional writer is a disadvantage when we try to express opinions in text. Email is especially sensitive to word play. It is extremely difficult to play with sarcasm in an email. It just sounds darn right mean and arrogant, so of course I try and avoid it (especially since I appreciate sarcasm so much). Verbally it is understood for what it is.

Reading blog posts sets a tone. We try and understand the writer by what they say. We build opinions by what we read and this reflects on our personal brand one way or the other. The next time you write something contemplate on what it says about your personal brand. Are your words working for you or against you? Everything you say and do has an impact. There's no reason to be paranoid, just aware. It is actually a great exercise in helping you to develop better communication skills.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Here is a great item for a client to enjoy

During the course of reading some of my favorite blogs I came across a link to a website called, Simple Truths. It is an inspirational products company. The movies are truly moving on many levels. If you are looking to send something that will move a client this is a must see. Here is a link to one of the movies focusing on customer service. The movies are part of a package which contains a book, DVD and audio CD. I ordered one to give to my wife for our anniversary. They over-nighted it to me. Great service.

This is a great resource to keep in your back pocket.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Position yourself as the clear choice.

What are you nuts? We can't do that!

Or 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 it's relationship with your customers and competition in a spectacular way.

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

Sunday, May 6, 2007

When bad brand personalities happen to good organizations.

I recently completed a re-branding of a networking group within a private club in Detroit. The problem with the group was that they lost their direction and it was increasingly harder to get membership out to events. They simply didn't know who they were. In the sessions to tackle the problem, we addressed who they were by building a personality profile of the group as it existed today. It was refreshing to see that the group were prepared to be honest about themselves and the discoveries reinforced this effort.

Take a look at your own situations. If sales are lagging or moral is sagging, maybe it's time you sat down and worked out your company's personality profile. Perhaps it is the reason customers are not as responsive as they once were. For your brand to be effective it much be in sync from every touch point. All your stake holders react only to what is presented to them. If your marketing efforts are generally on-brand but your personality is off, then it is a conflicting message and this is costing you sales. You don't walk-the-talk.

The networking group saw the build of the personality profile as one of the a-ha! moments. This, they were convinced, could be improved. Now they felt they didn't suffer the same old question - what are we doing wrong? The personality that the group now strives to show directly reflects their brand values and core brand message which is, "We present custom opportunities to build new relationships by learning through engaging. We provide the venue - you set the pace."

To enhance the educational value it was determined that a typical networking focus was too confining. To differentiate themselves further from other networking groups in the region they decided to re-categorize themselves as a circuit. Now "Business Circuit™" is the only circuit group out there. Their positioning statement - "Where Opportunities Come Full Circle™" further strengthens their determination to change their personality to a more mutually beneficial position. Focusing your brand will go a long way to re-invigorating your team to get on the road to higher earnings by making sure that all facets of your brand are in sync with the ultimate vision of growth.

Today, "Business Circuit™" is developing it's processes and the year's events are charted. All of the efforts are developed with a new attitude and a focused brand direction. More people are coming forward and volunteering to help in the effort. A new personality has emerged and the steering committee have never been more motivated.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


I'm leaving this post open for anyone who wishes to as a question of myself or any of the readers. I wish blogs that I read had a question area - because often times I have a question that I know their audience has the knowledge to answer, but there is no formal avenue to do so.

So if you have the need to ask - please do.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Are you 'open' for business?

I had an interesting conversation with Jaimy Weiler, Executive Consultant. Her company's name is One Heart Waking. We were discussing my interpretation of the book/DVD The Secret. Essentially the Secret is the law of attraction. Which I took to mean, positive thinking attracts positive events. Jaimy's position was that my interpretation was too simplistic. I also had to be prepared to open up my inner self to accept positive events. It wasn't enough to just think it possible.

When you visit Jaimy's blog "Light Through The Heart" you will encounter some thought provoking posts. For a business blog - it has very unique commentary. I intend to put her suggestions to work when I encounter business opportunities and see if it affects the reactions I get positively. I found her suggestions for improving my communication skills very profound. She has the ability to identify conflicts deeper in your being. Jaimy has a very intelligent perspective on what is important and what is a waste of time.

Next time I will try to listen to The Secret with my soul, as opposed to my ears.

Wish me luck Jaimy.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Calling all introverts! I need your advice!

If you're in business, chances are you've had to sell something to someone. Maybe it's a product or service. When a lot of people start their businesses and they look forward to building their empire, one thing many of them don't enjoy is selling.

They love to do what it is they do, but selling for many is not a skill they have mastered. They have book shelves filled with books on the subject, have fiddled with sales coaches and taken seminars. BUT, the one thing all of these self-help tools have in common is the assumption that the reader is an extrovert and have no problem stepping up and talking to strangers. NOT SO! Introverts would love to be able to act like extroverts to sell, but have a real struggle even approaching the proper mind set.


I'm developing an eBook.

I'm looking for great sales stories from introverts, shy people, those of you who struggle to sell.

If you're someone who isn't prone to jumping into the limelight and selling, what have you done to over come your reluctance? Tell the rest of us out there, what successful techniques you've used to jump the reluctance hurdle.

This is your chance to inspire thousands of your fellow business people out there who can finally read genuine tips from real people who are not 'born sales people'.

What's your sales tip?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

IAMs what IAMs

Proctor and Gamble have just launched damage control ads in 59 major newspapers explaining the steps that they have taken to ensure their customers that the tainted pet food issue is seriously being addressed. Advertising Age covers this launch nicely.

I hope this effort is successful for Proctor and Gamble, but one issue that alerted me when the event first surfaced was that IAMs wet products were manufactured by Menu Foods. Since I equate Menu with cheap, I was immediately questioning the quality of the IAMs brand. I asked myself, "If IAMs is so superior to other brands, how can that be if it is made by Menu?" Is it just marketing spin? Are all the brands made by one place? I suppose with a little research you could determine where the truth lies. But the bottom line is the superiority of the brand has taken a body blow. Before this event I thought the IAMs brand was the high road, now I view it on the same foot path as every other brand including house brands.

It will be interesting to watch the brand recover. Proctor and Gamble are brilliant when it comes to brand, but this episode is a very serious breach of trust. A perfect opportunity for pet brands NOT involved in the recall. Is your trust in the "premium" pet brands compromized?


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blogcasting - the high ground in B2B blogging

Smart companies are embracing blogging strategies to deliver their brand messages to a growing audience that is increasingly sophisticated in their desire for media rich content.

Your customers can enjoy the immediacy of blogs and the accessibility to your company with their ability to interact with it. In a recent survey on B2B media solutions conducted by KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann, 80% of respondents read blogs and 50% visited more than once a week. Also very interesting was their view that the authors of posts were more credible than traditional media.

Most B2B blogs today are pre-dominently text based. But owing much to public blogs, more and more B2B blogs are adding audio and video content to assist them in getting just the right brand message out there. I'll refer to this as Blogcasting - sort of an extended podcast on a blog platform. One of the biggest opportunities for B2B Blogcasting is the infancy of the media. While many corporations have blogs in their arsenals, the vast majority do not. This fact leaves the door wide open for you to claim the high ground. A fantastic example of blogcasting is Martin Lindstrom's blog.

Does this open the door to branding opportunities? You bet it does. With an ever-growing audience turning to blogs for their information, your company can take advantage of this phenomenon by positioning your brand as the leader in it's category. When audiences are more likely to trust what they read from you, it is a fabulous opportunity to encourage an interactive relationship with your audience.

Take for example a legal practice, by posting landmark decisions and industry scuttlebut, a lawfirm can successfully position itself as the number one source for information in a legal specialty. How that information can be delivered, is only limited to your imagination. The opportunities presented are huge in delivering the brand message to a larger audience in a consistent way.

If you embrace Blogcasting early on, you will set the bar for your industry. If you deliver quality content on your blog which is lovingly administered with fresh compelling content on a regular basis, you will be rewarded with a loyal following. Due to the fact they choose what they read, listen to and view, your audience is more apt to retain the marketing messages targeting them.

Are you ready to address blogging before your competition gets wind of it? We all know that it is better to lead than follow.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stephen Colbert takes a shot at Windsor

On a recent Colbert Report show on the Comedy Channel, Colbert in his rant called, "The Word" was referring to some of the worst places on earth and the title, "Windsor, Ontario" came up on the screen. OUCH!

It would be funny if it were not consistent with the feedback I've been getting to my question, "Have you ever heard of Windsor, Ontario, Canada?" What ever reason Colbert had to poke fun at Windsor is anyone's guess, but it is a high profile (1.5 million viewers) hit to Windsor's brand.

In the local media, there was much indigation. Most of the viewers having very little understanding of what brand means, came forward with countless promotional ideas to boost the city's image. But those in the know, understand that to change your off-brand perceptions you have to address the problems directly. You can advertise any positive message you want, but if the root problem is still there, you're not going to fool anyone - you are just going to continue to be the brunt of jokes and your brand will be left in the control of others.

A good case in point might be Sudbury, Ontario. This Northern Ontario city is a world leader in copper and nickel mining. Years ago, it too was the brunt of countless jokes because of the incredible polution that reduced the landscape to what could be described as an environmental disaster. In the late 60's NASA in preparation for the Apollo moon landings, sent astronauts there to train because of its "moonscape" terrain. Sudbury, got smart. It recognized that its brand would never improve with marketing spin, it had to fix the root cause. After many years of serious effort it is no longer the brunt of jokes. It has achieved a world-renouned reputation for environmental renewal. The landscape is green again and it's citizens enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Sudbury has proved that you can change what seems like an impossible task - all it takes is the will power to make it so.

Place branding has some of the toughest challenges associated with it because of the diverse nature of the stake holders who make up any location. It will take incredible effort and leadership to bring about an effective brand strategy the city can build on. As, Derrick Daye from The Blake Project so aptly put it in a recent discussion on this very issue, "It's like herding cats!"

Colbert is the wake-up call to fix it or laugh along with it. It really is our choice. What do you think? Are you happy with your city's brand?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bloggcasting - the social media high ground

Smart companies are embracing blogging strategies to deliver their brand messages to a growing audience that is increasingly sophisticated in their desire for media rich content.

Your customers can enjoy the immediacy of blogs and the accessibility to your company with their ability to interact with it. In a recent survey on B2B media solutions conducted by KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann, 80% of respondents read blogs and 50% visited more than once a week. Also very interesting was their view that the authors of posts were more credible than traditional media.

Most B2B blogs today are pre-dominently text based. But owing much to public blogs, more and more B2B blogs are adding audio and video content to assist them in getting just the right brand message out there. I'll refer to this as Bloggcasting - sort of an extended podcast on a blog platform. One of the biggest opportunities for B2B Bloggcasting is the infancy of the media. While many corporations have blogs in their arsenals, the vast majority do not. This fact leaves the door wide open for you to claim the high ground.

Does this open the door to branding opportunities? You bet it does. With an ever-growing audience turning to blogs for their information, your company can take advantage of this phenomenon by positioning your brand as the leader in it's category. When audiences are more likely to trust what they read from you, it is a fabulous opportunity to encourage an interactive relationship with your audience.

Take for example a legal practice, by posting landmark decisions and industry scuttlebut, a lawfirm can successfully position itself as the number one source for information in a legal specialty. How that information can be delivered, is only limited to your imagination. The opportunities presented are huge in delivering the brand message to a larger audience in a consistent way.

If you embrace Blogcasting early on, you will set the bar for your industry. If you deliver quality content on your blog which is lovingly administered with fresh compelling content on a regular basis, you will be rewarded with a loyal following. Due to the fact they they choose what they read, listen to and view, your audience are more apt to retain the marketing messages targeting them.

Are you ready to address blogging before your competition gets wind of it? We all know that it is better to lead than follow.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How to improve your trade show presence!

If you are an industrial business, you have had your share of participating in trade shows. You probably agonized over your booth and offerings. Over the years we have advised clients on how to improve their presence at a trade show by using differentiation strategies.

Lets say you have the standard 10' X 10' booth. You typically have a back wall of some sort and perhaps even some banners signs. If you stood on a stepladder and looked around the room, chances are all the neighboring booths all end at about the 8' level - nice and neat.

Well lets disturb that conformity a bit by putting a pop-up in play. A pop-up is simply graphics that pop up past the top of your booth. This will give a good 3 dimensional feel to your display breaking you free of the square frame. This will also draw the eye to what ever is popping up. It can be your logo, an award, a guarantee etc.

Next, stand back into the isle and observe. Is everything pushed to the sides leaving the center clear? If you can put a small display table front and center we will create traffic flow left to right or right to left instead if just in and out. To take the hard edge off display booths try incorporating trees or shrubs into the scene. Use some calming music to compliment the presentation as well. Your display space should also be carpeted with a color that compliments your brand image. Who ever staffs the booth should wear appropriate attire to suit the audience and wear identity badges.

To take the message out of the booth and into the show, we have hired actors to mingle with the show crowd and hand out items to draw audience back to the booth. In Orlando, we had a client whose product was an improved faster software for the retail shipping industry, so we hired an actor dressed as a motorcycle cop and had him outside handing arriving attendees going too slow tickets. They were ballots to a draw back at the booth. (We hire actors because actors are not shy and will play whatever part is required of them)

You could buy up the billboards around the convention center. If you know which hotel a prospect is staying at, buy boards with custom messages outside that hotel. Another idea is to park a semi nearby with a message on the side.

The simple message here is not to limit yourself in the booth, throughout the hall or surrounding landscape. The trade show is a great opportunity to get your brand noticed by a target audience - exploit every opportunity you can. When you assemble your planning committee, don't limit yourself by just having a booth designed. Instead design an experience to differentiate your company, your brand will flourish because of it.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Great salesmen, lousy brand image!

I have been investigating sales training recently and it absolutely floors me how these very successful people have such amateur brand images. I am left wondering - given the amount of success these folks have enjoyed - how much money are "they" leaving on the table due to their amateur presentations? Money on the table is one of their strategies after all.

Take for example Gerry Weinberg. He is very successful as a representative of the Sandler Sales Institute. Sandler on the other hand has a very professional brand presentation. I believe Mr. Weinburg is not inspiring confidence with such a tacky presentation. Sure they are making good money but I contend that they are also losing business due to their amateur brand image. I catch myself lingering at Sandler's site where as I exit Mr. Weinburg's site because it looks like snake oil.

Dan Kennedy is another example. This gentleman is wildly respected and perhaps this style of brand image is what Dan believes is the ticket to his success. I think he would be even more successful if he had an brand image that didn't remind me of late night medical miracle commercials.

Look at how Tony Robbins" handles it. He is selling also other products (like Kennedy) - lots of offers down the middle, lots of distraction - but a massively stronger brand image. I don't know for a fact but I believe from brand observation that Robbins is bigger than Kennedy. Even if you could prove that Kennedy is more successful, his brand does not convey that to me. Robbins has my confidence from what I observe. And to be honest I have not purchased the services of any of these gentleman. Given the 3 examples here in this post, who would you trust to help you make more money? Do you think Kennedy is short-changing himself?

I suppose you could say that Kennedy is differentiating himself from the others. Which is true if Mr. Haney is who you aspire to be. Do you trust the snake oil presentation or do you think I'm way off base?

Help yourself to brand analysis!

I have been developing a do-it-yourself version of my branding process. It was a daunting task as my process was initially developed with the assistance of a group of branding professionals and it's effectiveness is due in part to my style of facilitating and my ability to create solutions. Because of my creative background, I tend to think fast and draw out interactions from everyone on the team. My biggest challenge in developing this new DIY process is how do I inspire the user without myself actually being there to assist? There are naturally some compromises in favor of simplification. It can never be an out-right replacement for the mother-ship. But I think I have captured in a nice workable package - a tool any entrepreneur can use to come to some inspiring conclusions and to build a competitive strategy that they can build on. Currently I am having a small manufacturer beta test it. I am interested in it's value both in terms of usefulness and retail price.

In the course of developing it, I read the book, The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, the editor for Wired magazine. This got me thinking of how I should price this package and try and go for the tail of the web market. I'm leaning more in this direction. The success I have had in blogging in such a short period of time (3months), inspires me to consider the Long Tail opportunity as a viable option. It is entirely a digital product. The main body of the DIY Process is an executable file with support materials accessible over the web, making it easily downloaded.

I'm hoping to be able to begin marketing it by early summer. I'll be using the blogs as one of my channels of promotion. What has your experience been in using the web to develop products which may have previously been developed, promoted and sold traditionally?

Where do you stand on sales training?

You have decided that you are willing to investigate sales training - which method did you find more effective? Some friends are saying that one-on-one sales coaching is very beneficial. Then another prefers a sales process to keep them on track. I am assuming it has a lot to do with your personal focus. I am going to try sales coaching. I think I just need some tweeking to my approach. I'm curious about what the rest of the world is doing?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Are you up to re-branding?

You're starting to hear it more and more in the business community, "We need to re-brand ourselves!" If this sounds like your current battle cry, ask yourself this question:

Am I really prepared to do what it takes to actually re-brand ourselves?

And with this question, let make sure that you actually understand what you are taking on.

If your intention is to re-brand yourself, then it is a forgone conclusion that you are not happy with your existing brand. Something has triggered you to want to re-invent yourself. Perhaps your brand has been left behind in a competitive environment where technology has passed you by and now you are left without the necessary tools to compete effectively. It could be a plethora of market conditions that leave many companies floundering, searching for anything to help keep them from imploding. Re-branding is a worthy goal but it is also a risky venture if taken lightly. To launch a new logo and catchy slogan is NOT re-branding yourselves - if it was only that easy. Putting a new face on the brand will not make the issues go away - they never go away.

From the out-set, let me say that you must be prepared to make fundamental changes to the way you currently do business.
You must tackle the issues head-on. And by issues we don't mean just poor sales, but anything that affects your brand, ie: environmental problems, labour issues, integrity - anything that potentially has the power to tarnish your reputation (whether true or not).

If in preliminary investigations you discover that your brand results in a very unattractive personality profile then you've got problems at the core of your brand. Are you now prepared to devout the necessary effort to change your current brand reality? Are you prepared to allocate the time necessary to see the changes through? Take for instance the question I have posted on several blogs concerning my city, Windsor. The results coming back show a very unflattering brand. As much as the information collected is unscientific in nature it does provide an interesting glimse of how we may be viewed from distances greater than a day-trip. If our city fathers truly want to re-brand ourselves to change these perceptions and move forward in bold new direction, they must take steps to change the negatives that persist in dragging down our brand. Not an easy or short-term task.

The simple fact that you are out here among the branding blogs shows that you are an optimist. You are looking for solutions to do more business. Re-branding your company will feel like starting over and breathing new life into your vision.
Give your brand the opportunity to be great and work it to keep it there. Build your brand strategy first and then strengthen it visually based on that strategy. It is a winning combination. If you have questions, there are a lot of us out here who are more than willing to help you through a tough spot. That is why our blogs exist.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A new brand for Detroit!

The Detroit area has just released the results of a branding effort whose challenge was to brand Detroit AND surrounding areas. Crain's Detroit Business has a good article on their efforts.

I think that they have done a good job and the brand logo shown here embodies Detroit nicely. I see automotive and sports culture in the image and this goes right to the soul of the motor city. Now it will be interesting to see how it is integrated in its overall marketing. The suggestion being put forth, is that Detroit is "Where cool comes from".


Does it matter if you're real?

This past week, I had lunch on two separate occasions with friends who are embarking on business ventures involving direct selling, (multi-level marketing, pyramid etc). One was trying to sell me, one was just updating me on his progress. What struck me was there was a "little" deception going on with each.

From the selling friend I experienced this...

Like many MLM situations, there must be a 'product' to sell. That's a given. You need to open that door and your good looks won't cut it. But, once that door is open there isn't much conversation about the product anymore. It turns quickly to money. If you don't bring it up, they will - it's the crack of their business. The product was Identity Theft protection coupled with pre-paid legal. Nice fit.

I asked the question- do you make more cash selling the product or by recuiting? BINGO, I could tell this question had been asked before as the facilitiator scribbled out the chart backwards. (this told me he's done this example before). He quickly hopped into how lucrative the scenario could be. Everybody up the ladder benefits. Old story, same ending.

With the selling friend I left the meeting feeling that he's drop a notch or two with regards to my respect for him. I was lured to the meeting through the premise of learning more on ID theft. The 2 young guys on either side of me who were half my age sucked it up like Pepsi through a straw. I was impressed by their presentation, my friend played the straight man to the facilitator. Why are good people drawn to situations where there has to be some initial deception to get you to listen?

I've been in business for about 25 years now, and I always believe you should be as honest as possible and deliver value. I am currently beta-testing a DIY version of my branding process and the number one thing that I asked of one of the companies that is trying out my product is: "Can this help deliver a genuine solution?" My brand - corporate and personal is key for me. I sometimes do business on a handshake because my word is my bond. I don't want to use deception to get a meeting with you, I want you to meet with me because there is a genuine interest in what I may have to offer. I don't want to talk to anyone who may not want to talk to me.

You will do better business, with stronger lasting relationships if you initiate it honestly. Care about the customers success and strive to offer additional value every step of the way. I have no problem with direct selling businesses so long as it is balanced. Good product, great service and superb follow-up. You also benefit with a selling network with the same high values. All I heard at the meeting was a focus on recruting your way to riches and any customer issues are handled by the system in place. You don't have to care. You focus on recruiting - the money.

To me being real, means having integrity and delivering value for what you have a passion doing OR am I naive?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can my blog help you?

My request for information regarding Windsor, gave me an idea: if there is a question you would like to post to my readers, let me know and I will post it for you. Thanks.

Have you ever heard of Windsor, Ontario, Canada?

This is an open question to all who visit my blog: Can you tell me what you know if anything about my city, Windsor, Ontario, Canada? All I ask is that in your response you tell me which city you hail from.

We here at the Branding Experts anticipate being a part of a tender to brand our fair city and I would like to build some un-scientific data on the city's brand as it exists. I feel that with the international character of blogging, I should be able to get some good feed-back to this request. It is relevant if you have never heard of Windsor also, so if you could let me know that fact as well it would be much appreciated.

This request is one of the incredible things about blogging - assistance on many levels with what we love to do.

Thank you,


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Help make the web safe for kids.

There is a good message circulating on the web right now that I thought I should help draw attention to. It is directed at porno sites that have have free content on the splash pages, allowing kids to view it. It is not aimed at kids, it is just that there are no barriers in place to restrict their gaze.

The following statement is their plea to the porn profession:

"Please require a password-protected login before allowing even free access to explicit adult content. We understand that selling porn is your business and we respect your right to make a legal living. But understand our legitimate concerns and work with us. You already have the “warning adult content” on your websites. Yet kids, who are not legal customers of your product, ignore the warning. So to prevent them from having direct access to explicit images, texts and sounds, the simplest way is to have a password-protected login. No more “free tours” before a visitor supplies basic information."

If you would like more information, please go here: Blogger Power: Safeguard the Web for Children. I'd like to thank Mihaela Lica at e-Writing for bringing this issue to my attention.

A kid's innocense is so fragile these days, try to help out this cause.

Thank you.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Help me welcome a friend to blogging...

An associate of mine, Marcia Hoeck from Toledo, Ohio has joined us in discussions on branding. Her "temporary" blog is at: Brands That Connect. I'll update this link when she launches her official site soon. Marcia and I are charter members of a group of branding professionals from Cinncinati, Toledo, Chicago and myself here in Windsor, Ontario. Together we are MOOB - Mind Our Own Business. We meet every quarter at one of our locations and spend the day discussing our brand products and other opportunities to broaden our intellects and success. We have been doing this for over 4 1/2 years now.

Marcia is incredibly well read, a good writer and public speaker. My only dilemma is going to be my general inability to disagree with her as we are generally on the same page because of MOOB. She has a great post on Sensory Branding, an issue I discuss when I do speaking engagements, but I don't believe I have seen addressed yet in the blogs.

When you visit tell Marcia I said hello.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Please, PLEASE do my poll!

I get regular traffic to this blog every day. Why don't they fill in my poll? I thought it would be a no brainer. Are people afraid of polls? Blogging by their nature gives opinion a place to breed, so why not give my poll a go? It needs to be fed too.

Go on, leave an answer. Please - I won't beg. Well...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

How to take your online brand image to another level.

Your online brand. It's a heady challenge. Many small companies do not take their web presence as serious as they should. Many view that presence in the simplest of terms. It is just a digital representation of their printed brochure. No matter what industry you are doing business in, if you choose to ignore the web's potential you are agreeing to leave money on the table.

A printed brochure by it's very nature is limited in it's scope. It's message is expensive to present. Content is set in a fixed time frame and distribution is expensive in labour and the cost to implement. It's main benefit is as a tangible marketing tool in a big box of tools we use to get our messages in the hands of potential customers. But today the not so subtle message on your printed materials should be the drive to the website. While your printed materials are considered successful to grab a 4 - 6% response rate in direct marketing the web can deliver far greater numbers. Online surveys enjoy healthy results.

It is critical that all brand materials across all media present a highly professional, consistent brand message and image. Your company really is open to the world and they are watching. I use StatCounter® to track useage. I am regularly visited by people from all the industrialized nations. StatCounter® is a free service, but it gives me plenty of information. Make your website a tool for your customers and resource to your industry. Offer a FREE newsletter to push out advice and other news your market will benefit from. A terrific brand building vehicle. If you are in retail, you can't find a better avenue for promotions and collecting data on customers who sign-up for a better experience from you.

Look at what Coca-Cola Canada is doing. Blogging - what you are actively doing now cranks your web presense up a notch. My opinions here and comments left out at other blogs, increase my brand presence every day. I get several visits each day directly from other blogs that I have visited. A number of them, I am aware of their visits simply because of my tracking and awareness of their brands. Today, millions of potential customers search for help for their businesses. Give them every opportunity to find the benefit of your business.

If you have publications to offer, the web gives you the opportunity to sell it cheaply to an immense web audience as opposed to a higher price point BUT in an expensive distribution cycle from a bricks and mortar store with a regional audience. Long Tail thinking. With every element you add to your site, you raise the level of your online brand. I will admit it is very time consuming, but think of it as a highly sophisticated form of networking with world-wide potential.

Once you have a professional online presence, the only real expense is effort. If you can't afford the time, delegate. Make the web work for you, the rewards come will a highly polished corporate brand image. For more on this topic check out this blog: ewritings.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

BLAST! A Free Card Directory

Check out this site if you are interested in some FREE advertising: Essentially you upload a business card size ad that links to what ever you like and it really is free. Promote them like I'm doing here and they will upgrade you in their rankings.

I got the tip from David's blog is an excellent read anytime.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Elusive USP.

The USP. It is probably the lead in the branding show. It takes a great deal of careful consideration. Every time I take on a focused brand project, it crosses my mind - "I wonder what USP we will develop?" As a matter of fact the thought is rather intimidating. I would probably compare it to stage fright. As with any discovery it is part intellegence, a lot of sweat and a dash of luck. Add to that the ability to dig, challenge and inspire everyone present.

The USP once discovered usually lights up the whole room. It is their aHa! moment. It is when they 'get it'. I really enjoy helping companies to focus their corporate brand. It definitely invigorates all the stakeholders in the room. I imagine that among brand practioners there are as many ways to reel in that USP as there are practioners. I enjoy the brainstorming session, where I challenge the company to dig deeper, ignore the obvious and the low hanging fruit. Don't worry about cost or practicality, let's just be great! Worry about how to do it later.

Do we have to invent a new category, do we have to sproat wings and fly? So long as the USP reflects our brand values and personality, we can truly shine. We strive to choose something that will make the competition whince and the customer embrace. Developing the USP is a lot of fun once you bravely take the stage and belt out that first line. It is a good story with a happy ending. Are you as annoyed as me when you read of a major "re-branding" effort and recognize that they confuse slogan with USP? Or use some weak statement like "The center of it all" to describe their uniqueness. Since I'm using theatre analogies here, this is where the big hook should come out.

So I guess you could say we are looking for the USP that is a big enough hit that we can take it out on the road and wow audiences everywhere. Everytime that happens, I'm the proud director backstage, watching another USP take their first bow.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Logo as brand. Agree or disagree?

I was over at a nice blog on branding at davidairey and I was driven to respond to their suggestion that the logo is the brand. It is an interesting exchange I think. In my opinion a logo is only part of the brand - it is not the brand as a whole. Anyway, check it out and leave your opinion here or there.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Are your brand values real?

Many times when I facilitate a focused brand session on corporate brand values, I am asked what the true relevance of the values are. After all they appear to be just words that make us look good. Of course at the out-set they may be random words representing values. But as the discussion whittles down, the true values are anchored in reality. These values are the promises to your stake-holders. Whether times are good or bad they must be the things that the brand stands for and everyone can trust.

To side-step a value is to essentially lie to your stake-holders and this leads to trouble with your brand. Reputation is your word. A good example is British Airway's call regarding a situation in the air when one of it's flights had an engine fail. It made a decision that ignored it's brand values - in favour of it's profit values.

Brands go up and down through out the life of every company. Business decisions must be mindful of long-term pain at the cost of short-term gain. Taking the high road is not for the weak, for it takes strong leadership to overcome the challenges.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Have you got any effective networking techniques?

I'm working with a group of professionals who wish to re-define how they network. Does anyone out there have any interesting techniques they use to build and do business in a network environment? If so can you post them here for all to benefit from.

Networking with Respect.

This past week I had a telephone call from a contact from a networking group I belong to in downtown Detroit. I had only met him once and then he moved to another chapter several months ago. It was more or less an introductory call to determine if I could use the product he was selling. I had no problem with this approach to getting new business. I always want to know what businesses are in other chapters. The interesting thing was how he closed the call.

He asked if I could give him numbers of 3 businesses who he could follow up on? This instantly made me uncomfortable. First, because I really don't know this gentleman. Second, because I don't easily give up numbers on people I respect. It is a confidentiality issue. He volunteered one of his contact's numbers for me to call, (the give first rule). The networking I enjoy is building up a relationship. I only want to pass on leads when there is an actual desire for service. In other words - qualifyed leads. I myself do not want just a list of names, I don't need a networking group to get that.

When I wish to refer a business, I first make sure that the customer is willing to accept the call. Nobody appreciates ackward moments and everyone's time is valuable, so I want to be sure the need is genuine. This way if business transpires - everybody wins - customer, supplier and facilitator.

Just last week I have had the pleasure of putting together a customer and supplier. It was a very comfortable referral, and the customer was very grateful for the caliber of referral I was able to provide. It increased my value to him. Win, win, win.

How do you like to network? Do you do it with an organized group or do you do it yourself? I am always looking for ways to do business. I find sales facinating and successful sales people inspiring. What is most rewarding is that truly effective sales people are not the 'snake oil sales people' that the general public associates with salesmen but are usually people who have a genuine desire to connect people and do a little business themselves. They are very focused people with a passion for their profession.

Monday, January 8, 2007

5 seconds can hurt your brand!

In a recent web use survey regarding shopping sites, Juniper Research found that 75% of 1,058 people said that they would abandon a website if it took more than 4 seconds to load. So I guess if you are an e-commerce site give some hard thought to that elaborate Flash opening. It may not be worth it.

What's more, if a site was over 4 seconds and the experience online was less than stellar, it reflected on the brand in the eyes of these people. They in turn spoke negatively about the site to family and friends. This survey is worth taking note of. I typically only recommend Flash for effect as a component of websites instead of the whole site or splash page. Lack of search capabilities is another reason to avoid becoming a Flash site.

The web relationship is one more huge opportunity for corporate brands to excell in their service to customers - but if this survey can be believed it can also be the fastest way to do damage to your brand as well. What ever the cold hard facts are, it is best to heed research of this type to assist us all in making our corporate and product brand experiences the finest they can be.

This story is taken from the BBC. Read more on it here.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Consistency. Say it 3 times.

Consistency in your brand is something a lot of small companies pay very little attention to. From time-to-time I speak to start-ups about taking their brands seriously from the outset. There is nothing more aggravating than to see a new company whose exterior signage is different from their promotional materials. And also through out the business there is a range of colors for their corporate logo and so on.

Consistency builds familiarity with your brand and it saves you money by not confusing your audience with mixed messages. The image component of your brand is probably the most obvious to the brand stakeholders. Consistency starts at the base level of image development. Brand image strategies must first be cast in stone. These are items like color palettes, font standards, useage regulations and style sheets. This document can be quite far ranging. If your business involves multiple transportation vehicles then vehicle signage will be covered off. Trade promotion, apparel, organizational communications etc.

What happens all to often is the scourge - desk top publishing. DTP is firmly entrenched in modern firms. Unprofessional design staff regularly make image decisions. One example might be ordering t-shirts for the corporate golf event. Unless you stipulate the pantone color of the thread, the corporate logo will be stitched in a color that is wrong. You are not likely to see this mistake with Coke branded apparel. This attention to brand standards are taken very seriously with larger firms. Non-creatives love to design marketing materials all the time. It is the only time in their work day that they actually create something. When you are used to Word® and Excel®, graphics are a welcome departure and a savings to the company - OR SO THEY THINK.

I've seen cases where in-house staff messed around with an ad for days. Because there was no invoice from a design firm it was looked apon as free. But let's take a look at their total hours spent and the results of a promotion piece that bears no relationship to the brand other than the name is the same. Consistency issues are just a part of the over revenue loss for the company in this situation. And lets face it a qualified designer can do in few hours what the non-pro takes days agonizing over.

The mantra of the in-experienced is "close enough" when it comes to corporate brand standards. I wonder how they would feel if payroll adopted their close enough attitude. Many of you in the business world probably don't think of color as much as we do in brand consulting. You probaly don't realize how powerful it can be until I ask what color UPS is represented by? ING Direct? How about the 'For Dummies books? What if these colors were not consistent, what if they were close enough?
In their over all promotional efforts, how much money do you think would be lost if those 3 companies got lazy.

Plenty, count on it. UPS would be light brown sometimes dark. Not one strong color over and over.

Brand image should always be left in the hands of professionals who understand the value of a focused brand. At the very least, drill it into staff and other stakeholders that your comapny takes it's brand standards seriously. There is no excuse for wasting money or letting your brands slide. It is not hard to do it right - it is darn expensive to correct it later.


Monday, January 1, 2007

Target brands new years in Times Square

Did anyone else notice that Target put their brand logo on confetti that was dropped in Times Square?

I noticed it, the other day in a photo showing the guys who tested the confetti for air worthiness. Very cool.


Creativity takes guts.

A lot of businesses today are lead by individuals whose parents sheltered them and provided everything for them. Let them live at home far too long etc. They never had to work hard for much, they follow the leader.

To do something different in your business and make a difference you have to think creatively. Once you discover a solution and sometimes it appears "out there" you now have to have the guts to do it - to take the risk.

Ever attend a brainstorming seesion? Everybody loves throwing ideas out there. Everybody likes the idea of creativity. "thinking outside of the box" is a very over-used mantra. Now try to implement that creative idea.

Watch how many reasons why we can't do it suddenly pops up. It will cost too much, it will never work, no one will buy it - blah, blah, blah.

No guts. Creativity in business, art and life in general requires the guts to put it out there and see it through.

Picasso could easily have painted sentimental scenes realistically but he chose to be creative. Guts.

Steve Jobs could have pulled a Dell and mass-produced beige products as well, but Steve chose to be creative. Guts.

Starbucks could have just served up java with cream but chose to get creative. Guts.

I don't agree that we all have the potential to be creative. It is more complicated than that. To be creative is to be a leader not a follower. We simply are not all leaders. Most of society are followers, they look to the creative thinkers for their solutions and their guts to make it happen.
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