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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