Friday, December 30, 2011

DoYou have A Mobile Brand?

So I guess that was 2011. It was a pretty good year for the Branding Experts' brand. Interesting opportunities and a growth of my brand strength within my marketplace. I have an affirmation of my promotional strategy from reputable online experts Hubspot. I turned to them this week to see if there was anything they could add to my existing efforts. Their honesty impressed me with this reply after our half hour telephone discussion - "If only you had a problem I could help you with ... your marketing and sales philosophy matches perfectly with Hubspot's." I regularly download ebooks from them and subscribe to their newsletter. They put out great no B.S. info on current online topics for business. FYI: I am not an affiliate - just a fan.

As part of my Christmas week re-evaluting efforts I am in the process of redeveloping my website. My stats made me aware that almost 25% of my visitors have done so on a smart phone. That lead me to add to my list of to-do's a mobile version of my site. I wouldn't have even considered it if it was under 10%. I plan on having the landing page offer you the visitor a web or mobile choice. This will also help me see if they actively choose the mobile version.

I strongly believe it will help my brand image among prospective customers. You could wait and see, but leaders accept the obvious and do it now. It's all about making it easier for customers to find and benefit from your assistance. If you've been following my opinion for any period of time you know my strategy is to lead not follow.

Have you checked your stats on this lately? What are your customer's actions telling you?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Positioning Is King!

Online and off, one the most important services I am often engaged to perform is the development of a positioning strategy for small to medium size businesses.

A positioning strategy is not simply a cleaver slogan but a powerful and dynamic stand that your brand takes in your category. Right now as you read this, I believe that you are sitting on something that would absolutely position you as the leader in your marketplace. All too often, we as small business people think that advertising an inspirational tagline, will draw in customers. But that really isn't enough to make them engage you.

You have to been seen and believed to be a leader. Customers like to do business with leaders. Your position has to resonate with them. When was the last time you bought something based entirely on the slogan? We purchase all the time on our perception of their brand position all the time. They belief that they have something that is better than everyone else. Apple is a good example of effective positioning. You can benefit from the same thing and have your brand raise the bar and claim the high ground. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is Social Santa coming down your chimney this year?

Has SME's (small to medium enterprises) taken up the social networking banner? I'm coming off one of my branding projects and as part of the research we asked the brand customers if they use Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or None of the above.

100% of the respondents answered "none of the above." 100% can you believe that? Wow. 

That flies in the face of what traditional media says on the subject. But in my local market, ( southwestern Ontario/Michigan ) it does resonate to some degree. Most of whom I speak with have very little knowledge on the subject, or are curious but noncommittal. They hear the buzz, but don't understand what it means for them. Since I work with predominately the heads of companies, they understand the passive approach of traditional media, where you run an ad or send out PR and wait for a response (if any). Social is very much a hands on, labor intense exercise. It also has to be on-going and non-stop. This takes quite a commitment. 

I see it in my wife Rose. She loves Facebook and spends hours every evening doing her thing on her MacBook. In my region, there are the social guru's who try to help SME's grapple with it. Even after all this initial startup effort, those who carry it forward are a small minority. Myself, I am 100% committed to blogging. Here and at my own blog (Brand Corral), I try to keep the information flowing. My efforts have definitely been rewarded with leads, projects and publicity. Friends and colleagues are fascinated by the results i've gotten. But as I share with them - it's got nothing to do with luck but solid effort. I'm going into my seventh year blogging now, and it is my number one online marketing vehicle. Offline is networking, which to me is live blogging in a sense.

Clients I have convinced to blog are still hard at it and are getting results. Any reaction they get is attributed to their efforts and opinion. They have embraced social media and are forming relationships with readers in their categories. They too, are getting leads, projects and publicity. 

It escapes me why any modern SME would ignore the potential of social. The only explanation I have is that the traditional media when reporting on it view it from strictly the personal side. They appear never to speak from a business to business perspective. When they do address business it is more the consumer versus business side. So the natural reaction is going to be - "How does that help me get more business? I don't care that a potential customer's cat's birthday is tomorrow." 

Facebook is introducing Timelines now. I understand that they are considering a business version. This hesitation on their side, will only exasperate the business person trying to come to grips with all of this. I only use Facebook and Twitter to promote my articles to try and draw audience back to my blog and website. I yearn for a productive presence on Facebook. Over time I'm confident the social media will shake out and a business fit will flow from it. I admire those of us who have successfully integrated Facebook and Twitter into their marketing efforts with results. I envy you. Myself, I love blogging, and have centred my efforts there. 

This year for Christmas, why not give yourself the gift of committing to one of the social medias to start building your online audience. I know for a fact that your SME is on the good list of Social Santa, so you're deserving!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Seven Secrets to Disaster Preparedness for Your Brand

Guest article by: Karen Post

It can strike without warning. It can slay your stock and drive away your customers.  It’s bad news when your brand undergoes a complete meltdown.  The good news is there are proven strategies to get your business back up and running after a cataclysm.

Today’s competitive and transparent environment offers any number of threats from within and without, from customer complaints, negative press, product recalls, natural disasters, to financial failures.  A single individual with a strong social media following, or the poor performance of a highly visible employee, can turn the company tide.  These events can blindside even the strongest of brands.

Karen Post knows that a loss can be a gain, and she has the turnaround examples to prove it.  BRAND TURNAROUND (McGraw-Hill Professional; December, 2011; Hardcover, $28.00) examines the seven principles and strategies that will protect your brand against any corporate storms that may arise without warning – and get you back in the game.

Ford. Barbie. Exxon. Martha Stewart. Tylenol.  Eliot Spitzer. BP.  JetBlue. Michael Vick.  Harley-Davidson.  Pee-Wee Herman.  Here is a diverse mix of more than 75 brands and celebrities, and Post’s fascinating post-mortems of how their public profiles tanked and how the losses in each case were specific and unique.  All the examples Post features in the book were once at the top of their game, fell from grace, and rallied back in the face of loss using a series of Post’s key survival principles.

Researching the keys to brand recovery, Post has put together a strategic game plan that needs to go operational within the first moments of crisis: 

·       Take Responsibility – Shift the brand tide from crisis to composure. This chapter examples a wide variety of instant handicaps and how they should be handled immediately.
·       Never Give Up.  After suffering losses, here are profiles of companies and brands that bounced back stronger  - and why.
·       Lead Strong – The special qualities of the people behind the turnarounds, responsible for making key decisions in the turnaround process.
·       Stay Relevant – How to indentify, prioritize, and craft a strategic communications and relationship-building program.
·       Keep Improving – In addition to returning to that original state of glory, brands must also show that they are committed to doing even better than before.
·       Build Equity – In the face of scandal, successful brands create bonds with an increasingly cynical consumer market that will stick by them through good times and bad.
·      Own Your Distinction – Call it your unique attribute, your “Brain Tattoo.” What’s your compelling differentiator?  What are the unique qualities of your brand that will fuel your comeback?

Writes Post, “If and when your brand gets hit by outside forces and uncontrollable situations, or if the bad or weak in you and/or your brand explodes, remember, there is life after a disaster and brand meltdown. Take a deep breath and apply the seven game-changing strategies.”   
BRAND TURNAROUND offers the keys to rallying in the face of disaster.

Read more Brand Turnaround success stories and blogposts at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How To Release Your Brand

So many businesses around us pay very little attention to their brands. Some are under the illusion that to have a brand is a question of choice. As some have said to me, "Ed, I'm not ready for a brand just yet. I'll let you know when I am." What they fail to understand is that they have a brand, whether they want one of not. From the very first hour a person decides to put out their shingle, their brand also begins its journey. In straight terms a brand could be replaced by the word - reputation. Everything that your brand touches and everything that touches your brand affects it. Some allow their brands to grow and morph on its own - in other words do nothing and ignore their brand. Failing to define your brand leaves one uncomfortable reality - it allows your competition to define it for you. Once that happens it is very expensive to claw it back and change the negative perception of your marketplace. This is critically true if your competition is perceived to be the leader in your category.

Are you allowing your brand the freedom to flourish? Without a strategy in place, your brand is not properly positioned to take the high ground. To be the leader it rightfully deserves you have to takes steps to cut your brand free. Look for the restrained brand behind barriers such as:

• Weak uninspiring slogans
• Tired or unprofessional logos
• No brand values to speak of
• Multiple logos
• No local profile
• Just like everybody else marketing
• Uninspired sales staff
• Off brand employees
• Drowning in the sea of sameness
• You're competing on price

To breadth fresh life into your tired brand, you have to get out there on-line and off. Make your presence known. Start building your expert profile. It's time to come out from behind the mediocrity. It can't be business as usual anymore. As the head of your brand you have to start showing your passion and spreading it among all stakeholders which include clients, employees and suppliers. Your positive attitude would be a terrific start. Nothing motivates a brand better than a passionate leader. People take notice and look for cues to react. There is nothing more satisfying than having your leads react the way you intended. When stakeholders get the message and deliver their business to your doorstep, your brand has succeeded in leaping the hurdles. 

The one important message here is that once the brand strategy is in place, you have to continually nurture it. It can't be allowed to grow on its own, it has to be guided. Getting it right is key to your brand's success. There is no easy strategy, it has to be constant, consistent and contagious. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa Brand!

Another great brand move is acknowledging your customers and advocates at Christmas. Ending the year on  a high note is very motivating while you're moving into a new period. Looking back over the year appreciating those who saw fit to trust you and bring you business. Every year I put together something I think will resonate with this supporting cast of players. For the last several years, I put out a quality calendar of my water-colour paintings ( a serious interest of mine ). They were well received as most never had any idea that I painted.

This year I took my motivating slogan "Lead don't follow." and put it on black mugs and sweatshirts. I will wrap this package up and present them. I didn't want to just put on my logo which would be more or less an ad for me, and instead put a motto that my supporters could definitely live by. Having gone through my process, they 'get' that statement in a big way.

It is not so important what you give, it is the appreciation you show for their support that counts. It makes your brand shine that much more in their eyes. It's all part of the big package. If you're in retail, you can offer customers back a percentage of their yearly purchases. This has the added benefit of drawing them back into your location as a premium customer.

The reaction this effort produces will immediately resonate with you. Nothing feels better than giving back.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time Marches On

I imagine you're like me and are amazed that Christmas is right around the corner. In the past year have you been able to raise your brand awareness? Has you brand gotten stronger? I look back and can see clearly how my brand has grown. The new year brings promise and further opportunities. I'm not much for resolutions - I don't see the point as I have ongoing goals.

I enjoy what I do for small to medium size businesses very much. It is so much fun meeting new people and seeing how together we can make their brand stronger. Throughout the year I do numerous speaking engagements where the goal is to enlighten and share valuable information that a company can use right now. Are you looking forward to the coming year?

I'm going into my 7th year blogging - a terrific way to build leads. It is also they year that will se my 100th newsletter edition. Pretty cool I think.

What are you up to?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Are Values The Foundation Or The Roof?

I am in the middle of a discussion among branding professionals on the subject of brand values and when they should be established. My belief is that they must begin any branding initiative. The opposing view was that they follow the development of the differentiator.

I believe that the differentiator must be based on your existing brand values. Not contrived to match the differentiator. For instance when I facilitate a session, we use the values and personality of the brand to validate the differentiator. If it doesn't stand up then it (the differentiator) won't last because the company has to walk the walk. the brand has to be genuine. To do the differentiator first then come up with values to match it, tears down exactly what the values are supposed to represent. When based on what makes them different, can it really survive during tough times when the temptation to compromise values is at its peak.

When the values are based on stakeholder's beliefs at the very start of the process - then this I believe is the true character of the business and what they stand for. They are the foundation of the brand. Values should span the test of time, not change when ever the differentiator is up-dated to match it. 

So for my process, values are bottom up - not top down.

As for corporate brand and product brands being the same, I must also respectfully disagree. A brand is the perception on the street, and that perception of the individual is your brand in their eyes. Take Apple for instance. From a corporate perspective their brand is huge. But when the Newton came out its brand was less than stellar. It never lived up to its expectation. That product's brand was poor compared to Apple's corporate brand. Every company has hits and misses - how could both brands be the same in light of this?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Slim Down For Success!

When your company goes to market are you doing it with messaging that spells out all the many services you perform? Is your marketing the king of the bullet point? I admit it certainly is tempting to add as much as possible. You feel as though this strategy tells of the vast scope of the brand. You may possibly be right in that assumption but to your consumer it can be so much static. Their eyes blur over and worse they assume things. Things like, "if it isn't listed here, they must not do it." Ouch, imagine if you left something out in error. There's a better way.

Focus your offering to the most profitable service that will resonate with your customer. Use this service as your door opener. Do this one thing very well - much better than your competitors. Be the leader in this service and your brand takes the high ground. It becomes your differentiator. Once through the door, sales can update your customer on other services they can take advantage of. Focusing on one thing is much more cost effective and powerful. Consolidate your passion and rule your category. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Your Business Leary Of Facebook?

I'll admit it - I'm not  a fan of Facebook for business. I'd much rather Linkedin. At Linkedin, it "thinks" like a business environment. Everything is geared to making that connection and sale. Facebook, is way too personal for me. I really don't need to know that my potential customer is boating tonight, or is joining his son's family for a barbecue. It's frankly - none of my business.

I can't tell you the number of times I've tried to start a "focused" conversation only to have it high-jacked by a well meaning friend or brother or sister, turning it into an entirely conversation than what was intended. For some businesses it works great for awareness and drawing people to an issue. I guess I'm just saying it's not a fit YET for me. Some of my peers have great success with it. 

I enjoy Oreo cookies business page on Facebook. When I do figure out my fir there, I think it will follow their model.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

10 Networking Tips I live By!

1) Don't hand out a business card unless asked for one.
2) Get involved in committees. It provides the opportunity of showing your value.
3) Sit at a different location at each meeting. People are a creature of habit. Break it and meet new people.
4) Don't ramble on about yourself, ask about their businesses and barriers.
5) Join multiple groups. Spread your influence around.
6) Put some real effort into connecting people. Do this even if there is no immediate reward for you.
7) Drag yourself to meetings even at times, "you just don't feel like it." I find low expectations sometimes turn into the best meetings.
8) Don't sell yourself, but give lots of free advise willingly, (don't make them ask for it).
9) Help new people over come that initial hesitation of not knowing anyone in the room. Introduce them around.
10) If you are the newbee, make an effort to have at least one meaningful conversation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Claim It! Own It! now Promote It!

It's time your brand got out from behind that inspiring advertising slogan and actually stand for something. A large part (and I would argue) the most important part of your brand is your positioning. Where can your brand take the high ground? What is your brand leading in? Are you the only something? Positioning is absolutely based on differentiation. I hear countless companies state things that don't really make them different, but actually make them blend in. For instance, "our people make the difference." Sure, you and a thousand other companies. Or how about "we excel in service." If your competitors are still around, perhaps they do as well. 

Taking a position based on differentiation takes moxy. Not only does it take guts to take the high ground, it takes commitment to own it. By owning it, I mean that you have to live the brand promise in the position you take. If you say you will deliver that pizza in 30 minutes or it's free, then you had better do exactly that. Your customers have no appetite for false claims. They will eat your brand for breakfast if you don't deliver. Deliver and they will love you and reward you.  

For your brand position to work it has to resonate with your customers. It has to speak to them. One of my customers, Suntrition, whose brand positioning is: "Leaders in small-batch, oral-dose manufacturing," speaks directly to their target audience. Small suppliers in the nutraceutical products industry. While all of their competitors are seeking the large contracts and giving short -shrift to the little guys, Suntrition has chosen to specialize in small batch production. They are laying claim to this high ground. It's working. At recent industry B2B trade shows, small batch suppliers flocked to their booth refreshed that someone actually values their business and is actively seeking it. They not only came home with hot leads, they are setting sales records.

The difference between a slogan and a positioning statement is that the slogan inspires and the position resonates and sells. It's no reason that sales staff and management are rejuvenated when they actually develop their differentiator and take their branding more seriously. Now marketing truly has a story to tell.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deere To Your Heart Branding

When I moved into this neighbourhood 12 years ago, the neighbours all told me the riding mower I had to buy was a Deere. I had come from the city and I only ever owned a regular push mower. I was prepared to do a lot of research for my first rider. But they insisted that for the 2 acres I had to mow, John Deere was the mower of choice. We bowed to their experience and bought a Deere. Here 12 years later I still have the same one.

What else do we purchase based on the opinion of people we respect? Looking around my home, I see plenty of products that carry logos of products that my friends also own. In the Spring Rose, my wife and i bought a hot tub. We looked around, but in the end we bought the brand one of our best friends bought. In purchasing the tub, we discovered why they recommended the dealer and model they did. The experience was head and shoulders above the competition. The tub was also the most expensive. Price never entered into the equation other than we had a top limit.

How much of what we buy is more because of our friends? Maybe this is another good reason why consumer brands should pay extra attention to social marketing. Turning customers into advocates for their brands can make life-long customers. Even how we choose our friends is based on criteria we admire. Our wives love to match-make with our friends. That's how seriously we trust our friends' opinions. We bet our lives on it.

The best ribs are at a certain butcher shop, call Lyse, she'll help you find the perfect house. I only trust my books with Janice or all my computers are Macs. It sounds like we're selling, but in reality we're sharing our life with friends. We want to share experiences. We don't like to see our friends ripped off. You in return can trust their opinions, because they have no ulterior motives. This is why referrals are the finest leads you can get. Shared experiences. 

MLM (multi-level marketers) rely of this dynamic to increase sales. They know that all the ladies attending the house party will buy something from their friends. And their friends and their friends and so on. If you've ever experienced a house party, you will be amazed by how much an individual will spend on products they've never heard of and have not researched. The power of relationships transcends everything here.  

Even when I discover a product or service, I'm anxious to tele my friends about it so that they too can benefit. If your buddy discovers the slice-free golf ball, you can bet he's going to bring it your attention. This advocacy works across all relationships whether personal or business. Finding strategies to develop them should be paramount with you. It's relationship marketing in its most powerful sense. 

Branding Without A Net Is A Risk Worth Embracing

A powerful brand position is one that puts it all on the line and leads. No Plan B means that failure is not an option. 
With branding you plan for success, you don't plan for failure.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What's Your Success With Social Media Been?

Social media - we read about how powerful it is, but I want to know what the reality is on the ground. Are you seeing any leads from social to speak of? Myself I see success with blogging and email marketing. What has your experience been?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How To Make Blog Reading Work For You

Even before I sat down to write this blog post, I was out in the blogosphere reading other people's blogs. This is something I have done most every night for the past five or six years now. It is other people's opinions on branding that helps me to fine tune my service as well understand other points of view

I often discover blogs that have nothing to do with branding, by following reader's links from their comments on one of my blog articles here. Often times they
have blogs of their own and I get to see where their head is at. Because I blog, I especially like the "groups" and "answers" sections in Linkedin, as they allow for conversation and the exchange of ideas.

If you only read blogs but are hesitant to comment then you are missing out on the best part of blogging - the conversation. A benefit of this conversation is people following you back to "your" website or blog. Commenting also benefits search engine spiders. By commenting you are growing your expert profile and if you comment enough at a particular blog, then you quickly become a thought leader there.

If you remain anonymous in your blogging and never comment then you are missing out on opportunities. Journalists scour blogs for sources for articles. I've gotten requests for my opinion from many news sources and also leads for branding projects all from my blogging efforts. For me, blogging is a major marketing effort as well as reading portal. Those who know me, are familiar with my blogging rant. Even if you never start your on blog (don't get me started on that), commenting can still draw great and positive things back to you. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top 10 Brands That Stopped Being Cool

Let's face it: America's fickle. We change our minds about products as fast as we can tweet about them, so what's cool today may not be as alluring tomorrow. This makes life hard for marketing directors since brands can lose favor with the public if they don't predict trends correctly. Even the biggest brands are in danger of losing their cultural icon status if they don't keep up with the times. Here are 10 big brands, recent and old alike, that simply stopped being cool. Read them at Preity Smith's blog...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fund It! Brand It! Sell It! 3-step workshop at the Windermere Manor in London on November 15, 2011

Have you ever wondered...

• Is there a shortcut to Government funding"?

• Is your brand about due for an over-haul?

• Do you have the sales training you need to jump-start your goals?

Coming to London on November 15th is Fund It! Brand It! Sell It! - a one day, 3-step workshop that answers these questions and dozens more. Check out and find out more details and how you can save on admission too. This workshop is limited to the first 50 registrants who feel a desire to bring their businesses to the next level.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Walking Brand

Recently I stepped it up a bit and had some quality dress shirts embroidered with my logo and slogan - "Lead Don't Follow." For a while now I felt this area a loose end in my own personal brand. I wanted a dress shirt to put forward a more business like appearance rather than the casual appearance of the golf shirt. I wear black pants to complete the desired look.

Immediately, I got the response I desired. When I speak it helps me stand out. It also positions me as the one who has the floor. I've also gotten numerous compliments. My end goal is to become known as the branding guy in black. Now I feel that I am absolutely consistent. It also speaks nicely to my small to medium business audience.

Monday, August 22, 2011

When Is It Time To Call In The Pro's?

I'm in the process of expanding my services and part of that involves extending the range of my WI-FI. If you've even looked into bridging you might agree that it's a daunting topic. I understand the premise behind it, but when they get into set-up that's where my eyes cloud over. FYI: I am miserable with wiring. Setting up a stereo confuses me very easily. In - out, out - in - yikes!

Well today I called in the big guns. I figure that yes I could figure it out myself (muddle through if you will), but frankly I've wasted enough hours on this one. I have better things to do with my time. Maybe is just a guy-thing, but every issue I tackle, I figure that I should be able to figure it out. Years ago I even tried to learn basic because I thought, "how hard could programming be." Well that never happened. Today I am very impressed with those who make programming their passion.

What are you wasting your good time on that, like me, you should be getting help with? Designing your own website maybe? Or, perhaps you're doing your own books. Maybe you're looking to save a few bucks and learning how to file your own tax return. Get real for a moment, how much do you really know about tax laws? I know nothing about them and I don't want to know. As a matter of fact having professionals handle my money issues makes me more money because of their unique knowledge.

If I can, through this little article save one entrepreneur from tearing their hair out trying to figure out something they have no business trying to figure out, then boys and girls I've done my job.

Now put down that ego and get back to what you love!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jehovah's Witnesses' Powerful Branding Opportunity

There came a knock on the door last yesterday morning and on opening the door, there stood two very pleasant looking young women. They politely introduced themselves, but I had already guessed that they were from the Jehovah's Witnesses.

I immediately asked them if they were the religion that refuses blood transfusions for themselves and their loved ones? I've always found this fact to be concerning, if not somewhat barbaric. They grimaced a bit, but acknowledged the fact - but quickly followed up with showing me the scripture that explains their case and a comment that there were alternatives to "blood" transfusions. This latter comment was news to me.

After a pleasant exchange of opinions, the ladies wished me a pleasant day and departed. It then occurred to me that the Jehovah's Witnesses could improve their negative brand from that of those anti-blood transfusion people to something more powerful. No longer would they be compared to people who let a child die for lack of enough blood.

The Jehovah's Witnesses should take it upon themselves to fund and research "alternatives" to traditional blood transfusions. They should undertake this in a major way. They should become the poster boy for this effort. It would put them in a position to be a leader in medical research and not compromise their beliefs. What a tremendous brand story. They effectively become a solution and admired much like the Salvation Army for their non-partisan efforts. They lose the stigma of the "blood transfusion" controversy.

The question is - are they up to it? I think it's an opportunity they should consider and it also goes a long in helping their fellow citizen who may have reasons other than scripture for not being able to respond favourably to blood transfusions.

If you know the leadership with The Jehovah's Witnesses, please forward this article to them, it might inspire something great.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

10 Old Brands That Managed To Stay Modern

You might have more in common with your great-grandparents than that receding hairline or cleft chin; some of your favorite brands might have been used by your predecessors, even as early as the Civil War. And while your elders may not be transitioning into the digital age with ease (or at all), several of America's oldest brands have thrived through multiple technology changes. Here are 10 well known brands that appear a lot younger than they are. Read more...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eco Packaging Great For Your Brand

If you're a business who packages goods, then having a great sustainability story is golden to your brand. If you use styrofoam or other petroleum based packaging, this moth's issue of Packaging magazine has a terrific article and video outlining mushroom based packaging.

A sustainability story gives you something positive to tell about the social conscience of your brand. Down the food chain it gives your customer's a story to tell as well. Every body would love to do their part for the environment. This is your opportunity.

This is an idea that is worth investigating. Beat your competition in being an early adopter. Lead with your brand.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

911 Branding

When it comes to branding - small businesses in general assume a lot. They more or less figure that if money is coming in the door then everything must be alright. But is it? Do you have that nagging in your gut, that you simply aren't performing to your potential? Maybe you're not getting your fair share. Are you aware of what your brand actually stands for in the mind of your stake holders? What are you doing to distinguish your brand? Are your sales staff motivated and moving your brand higher? If you don't know where your brand is right now or what it stands for, at least investigate what you can do about it.

911 Branding is my proprietary process that immediately addresses your brand anxiety. Working with a branding team comprising of your stake holders we determine your brand values, which are the foundation blocks of your brand and the brand personality which is the soul of your brand. Identifying these two attributes is the initial characteristics of any brand. Identifying them sets the tone in brand development.

One sure-fire way to motivate employees and especially sales staff is to give them reason to crow about your business. Many times, sales staff are tired of the same old marketing lines and don't really believe that you need one more hook to get leads. They need to be the leader in their markets. The last thing you or sales people want is to solely compete on price. You want doors to open because of your strong brand perception not because you're the cheap guy. 911 Branding's advanced deliverable is the positioning strategy. Compete based on a leadership perspective. An effective positioning strategy's sole aim is to resonate with your audience and to differentiate your brand. It is not a broad brush approach but a targeted one.

As an example of what I mean, take three of my clients' positioning lines. Great Northern Hydroponics: "The ONLY tomatoes tested for taste", Guardog Skate Guards: "Original Guardog - Anything else is a mutt" and Suntrition: "The LEADER in small-batch, oral-dose manufacturing". In each case the positioning speaks directly to its target audience. Each is taking the high ground and boasting about it. Although bold, these statements reflect a real advantage that each of the businesses own. Their claims are genuine and defendable. A brand must be genuine to be of any use. Now your sales staff has a story to tell. NOW they can sell from a position of strength.

Validation of the results above is carried out by speaking directly with stake holders and getting their perceptions of the brand and see if they agree with our discoveries so far. This bit of research is key to being sure your brand is authentic. It tells us that we are headed in the true direction.

Rounding out 911 Branding, is an analysis of the competitions brand including their image and positions they hold. We also do a brand image audit of your company to see how consistent your brand image is. We are looking for inconsistencies that can cause your brand damage and cost you money. We wrap up the process establishing a proper brand standard that is adhered to by all stakeholders. 911 Branding also intends on establishing image elements that you can own and use as memorable brand icons such as colour. Much like UPS owns the colour brown.

911 Branding is my most comprehensive approach to branding and delivers in a big way. It gives you a clear perspective of where your corporate brand sits today and how it will move forward with a position of leadership that resonates with your customers. It delivers a knowledge and confidence that brings clarity to your brand.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Perils of Ignoring Your Brand

I believe that most small businesses ignore their brand. They have absolutely no idea what the perception of their brand is among their stake holders. Many even fail to recognize that they are a leader and are content with settling with following the perceived leader. They allow that leader by default to define their brand for them.

If your understanding of a brand, is restricted to that of your image then I've got some bad news for you. Your brand is so much more than that. Your logo and marketing materials are simply the face of your brand. Every touch point reflects on your brand. When I speak to groups of businesses on the subject, I simply say that "Branding = Your Reputation." At the end of a work day, stake holders don't leave your brand behind, they take it with them. If you the leader, take your brand lightly imagine how they (the stake holders) regard it. More to the point - how they misrepresent it. Your brand when managed properly allows you to command a leadership position, attract great employees, draw the attention of other brands who may want to acquire you and motivate sales staff driving meaningful sales to you.

Your brand is real. When individuals contemplate you, they have to draw their conclusions from some where. If your brand has grown free-style then you are what you get. Perception is reality. Assumptions are the foundation of your brand. You have absolutely no control over what the message is. In describing you, the marketplace defines you by comparing you to the leader - "They do stuff like ABC Company." A brand like this is definitely not a thought leader. Publicity eludes you, they want to speak to an authority. As you can see so far we haven't even touched on image.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Workshop for Canadian Small Businesses

I'm currently in development with two other individuals in developing a workshop for small businesses here in Canada. Our goal is to provide real-world advice and direction, so that business owners can take advantage of resources and strategies that can bring them new and better business opportunities. This is intended to be a full-day workshop with valuable take-aways. It covers the three areas critical to success.

First learn what programs are available to small business to finance their ideas. Many business people have simply no idea what is possible from Government agencies - we intend on bringing these financial opportunities into the light.

Next we intend on showing how branding can bring vigor back into your company by having a positioning strategy that resonates with customers and reinvigorates your sales team as well as the other stake holders in your company.

Rounding off the workshop, we will show you proven sales strategies that take and sell the brand strategy to your audience.

Well, that's the plan so far. I'll update you as time passes and development progresses.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How To Get A Linkedin Testimonial

Does this sound familiar? You'd love some testimonials for your Linkedin profile but feel it's pathetic to ask for one. A solution I use, is to go to people's profile whose recommendation you'd like and leave them a testimonial unsolicited. Most times they will reciprocate with a testimonial to you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Relationship Strategy

Brands are built on relationships. People love to do business with people they like. Relationships puts a face and personality on any business situation. A particular friend of mine who is in the insurance industry, pays particular attention to introducing his wife to his business contacts during organized social gatherings. Having his wife involved allows the client (if they're a man) to bring along their wives and interact with his wife. Both enjoy this connection.

It has on several occasions, made him the client favorite among his partners. This favorable attention was particularly beneficial in negotiations with the client.

Sometimes relationships turn into long term friendships. Many of my best friends started out as clients. Now we are considered close family friends. Life is funny sometimes. One thing that must be maintained when entertaining is to keep business with business and personal, personal. This will guarantee a mutual respect. Business should be a pleasure for all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five Tips for Working with a Graphic Designer

As a successful business owner, you make important decisions every day. Everything you do is for the good of your company because, after all, nobody knows your goal, vision, and purpose as well as you. So why would you blindly turn your visual branding needs over to a graphic designer without having a hand in the finished product? While it is true that graphic designers are professionals in their creative arts, a good designer wants to ensure that their product fully satisfies your needs. That is why it is imperative that you collaborate with your designer every step of the way. Clear communication is the key to reaching your desired outcome. Here are some important steps you can take to make your work with a graphic design professional exactly what you want.

Use a creative brief

The best way to make your needs and goals clear is to complete a creative brief before beginning a project. This provides a framework of the needs of your project as well as the elements that should be considered. Your brief should include what you need and why as well as the goals you hope to reach with your design. Let your designer know who you are as a person and the personality you wish to have with your company. You should also include your ideal audience and the core message you wish to communicate. Finally, make sure your designer knows what you don’t want. Sometimes, an idea is reached more easily by stating what you wish to avoid

Know your budget

Before undertaking a design project, be clear on how much you are prepared to spend and make sure your designer knows that you cannot exceed your budget for any reason.

Understand the charges

Before beginning any project, get a written quote of charges. Ask your designer how changes may affect the price as well as how many drafts are included in the fee. How much will additional drafts add to the final cost? If you require changes, try to make them in batches to keep the costs to a minimum. In graphic design, as with any other business, time is money.

Be involved

Carefully review each stage of the design and keep open communications between yourself and your designer. This can help avoid any misunderstandings and the charges that may accompany avoidable changes. Talk with your designer about who owns the rights to the design upon completion.

Be diligent

Proofread finished copy and check designer’s final version of the work carefully and more than once. This material represents your business so it is of utmost importance that you ensure its quality.

By following these simple steps and hiring qualified graphic designers, you can ensure that you will be happy with your finished project. Remember, this is your business and nobody knows it as well as you do. When choosing a graphic design company, choose one that welcomes your involvement. If a designer presumes to know your needs better than you do, find someone else. The best designers will welcome your input and involvement.

Graphic Design Melbourne expert, Wes Towers has many years experience in visual branding design. His company, Omnific Design has successfully worked with a number of small and large business brands. For more information and resources visit

Monday, May 9, 2011

Making Your Own Economy

The way I look at the economy is that there are two positions that any business can take. One is you can let the economy "happen to you" OR you can develop your own economy. I choose the latter. How can you develop opportunities? Myself, I'm in the middle of developing a few ideas to bring opportunity to my door. The first is a workshop series that is targeted to start-ups. It involves a government grants expert, a motivational speaker and myself, The Branding Expert.

We're calling it, "Fund it! Brand It! Do It!." Catchy don't you think?

The goal is to bring it to cities initially in Canada, and also to widen it's scope by offering it online as well. The first one or trial (if you will) is aimed for the east coast in late summer/early fall. Not only is it a paid gig, but it also generates warm leads.

You too can create your own economy by doing much the same thing. Become a valuable source of information and initiate a new revenue stream in the meantime. Develop a professional brand image to sell it and boost your expert profile at the same time. Put yourself out there and grab the gold.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Inconsistent Brands Confuse Buyers?

Recently I had a meeting in London Ontario. I happened to be in a coffee shop drive-thru when I glanced over at the plaza next door and saw a classic case of inconsistent logos representing a business. In this case it was a local pizza chain. The sign on the building differed from the logo on the street sign and the portable sign also had another image. Later in the day I saw a delivery vehicle of theirs, and as you may have guessed - it too had a different variation of the logo. That was four different image directions. You probably wondered how this happens? It has everything to do with a company not having any brand standards. Every supplier, comes up with their own individual solution. The pizza management allows this freedom. All of it contributes to confusing their customers.

A client of mine recently had a local sign company try and break their logo into separate pieces in the development of new signs. We quickly halted that. Their comment was that they had twenty-years experience in the sign business, and even multi-nationals have allowed this practice. Can you imagine McDonald's or Harley allowing their logo parts to be taken apart and re-assembled at the discretion of the sign compan? Not in a million years.

In the case of the pizza stores, management should pick one configuration and lock it in as their standard. As they grow their franchise, consistency makes them money and builds trust. Much like the golden arches are a beacon for McDonalds, similar brand standards also make it easy for customers to findthem. Standards in every aspect of the company builds a trust and loyally among customers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Do You Have Brand Scent?

This podcast discusses using scents as an icon for your brand.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

FREE New eBook from Ed Roach (Me)!

After years of running your business, things change with your brand. Edges wear and everything gets a little tired. I wrote this eBook to address exactly those issues. It's entitled - "15 Branding Things That Your Competition Doesn't Want You To Screw With!" to draw attention to specific issues that should not be ignored in regard to your brand's health. If you do ignore it (so the premise goes) your competition with extend their hand of fate and thank you for your inaction.

But if you're smart, you'll pull up your britches and get your brand back on track and avoid that bullet.

I hope that you enjoy this new offering to you my readers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Your Brand Is More Than Face-Deep

Every brand is more than its brand image. We all identify a brand by it's image and logo, but the true power of a brand is in its relationship with its audience. Many entrepreneurs fail to understand the depth of their brand. They only see a brand as its logo. It's amazing the basic damage they're doing by not taking their business activities more seriously.

I had one individual ask me this week… when does a product end and a brand begin? You have a brand from inception. As it grows it develops its brand- good or bad. I am always aware of my brand and I endeavour to stay on target. Every positive effort iI make reflects on it. Every misstep also leaves a mark.

I'm very pleased when ever anyone compliments me on my brand considering the amount of effort I put out. It's a daily effort.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Routine, Repetition, Recognition, Results

Guest writer, Lora Crestan.

Execution requires good direction from the leader. More importantly it requires focused attention on details to get the job done well.

Using the four R's can help you get the execution you are looking for, from your team or yourself.
Have a routine. Make sure the team knows it or you follow it.

Repetition is important. Repeating instructions for questions, repeating work processes can make efficiency happen as well as improve quality.

Provide recognition as execution is in progress. This will help move the project along, inspire continued effort and even build self-esteem.

Expect results and follow up to get them. By showing the team what the results could look like and how it would make a difference to them you are setting the benchmark for execution.

Use the R's...they R simple and get you and your team to execute.

Lora Crestan
Solstice Group Coaching
For Daily Inspiration and more join me
on Twitter @linxcoach
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Enhancing Resumes With A Strong Expert Profile Podcast

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Success Formula:

Quest writer: Lora Crestan

Delivering on vision + dealing with the here and now= Success
What is your formula for Success?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

5 Reasons A Listening Brand is Powerful:

1) If your job is to provide valuable service to a customer (and most of us do), it behoves you to be on top of what they need from you. It's your job to over deliver and make the experience a pleasurable one. Great service should be a given in business, but we know that not everyone is listening.

2) When it comes to performing our services it's good if you get it. Nothing is more irritating to customers than having to explain it more than once. Time is money and an inability to listen can cost you big time.

3) What's up Doc? Bugs had it right - keeping your ear to the wind, alerts you to opportunities that could make your month. Being alert brings in leads, listen for the cues.

4) Not listening can lose you a job. A client recently informed me that a supplier they recently hired badly dropped the ball and delivered something that they felt was out of left field. Their collective comment was, " Weren't they listening?" You know where they're going to end up don't we. When you're listening it's all about them, when you're not it's all about you. Ouch!

5) If your brand is known by how effective you are and how you resonate with people, then your brand is a "Listening Brand." This is a huge compliment and a branding must. When you listen, everything happens in a positive way and that's great for everyone.

5 Reasons A Listening Brand is Powerful:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fingers and Toes Networking - Which Are You?

I've been reading a lot lately concerning networking. The general discussion has been the effectiveness of the endeavour. The interesting thing for me, was that it was generally seen as a one or the other scenario. It seems that most people from the off-line camp network through organized groups or events and on-line people network through social media. But neither crosses the road to the other side. I don't understand the logic in this.

I absolutely use both. One compliments the other. Locally, my audience is very much aware of my online presence. My brand is consistent across both channels. Lessons learned off-line can be applied on-line. On Linkedin there is a group filled with business people from this area. They meet in person from time to time. This is very powerful for building real relationships. Choosing one over the other is very short-sighted and lazy from my point of view. Both channels are necessary in building your expert profile and also develop sales skills. Sort of a "leave no stone unturned" strategy.

I think that it is so important when you let your fingers do the networking online to pay close attention to your brand perception. Be sure that you are known for something positive. Whenever you have to show image be sure that it's consistent.

Off-line your toes are doing the networking. Brand perception here should also compliment what you doing on-line. If you "give first" on-line then give first off-line. Branding only works when it's a genuine experience. When i am out giving my toes a workout, I always drive people I meet to my on-line presence, then of course my fingers take over and everything helps move my brand forward.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

23 Public Speaking Secrets Gleaned from the Greats

Quest writer: Lora Crestan

Whether you're giving a report in a college classroom, or delivering a speech to thousands, public speaking is an important skill to master. Everyone has their favorite tips, including picturing the audience naked, but no one says it better than great speakers themselves. Read on to find out how 23 great public speakers learned how to do such a great job.

1. Be persistent and practice: "All the great speakers were bad speakers at first." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Know your purpose: "You shouldn't give a public speech unless you want to make something happen." -Tom Peters

3. Be a real person: "If you have enthusiasm and excitement, if you show your humanity up there, that's when the audience starts to warm up." -Richard LaGravenese

4. Believe in your message: "If you believe in something, you can talk about it. All my life I have been very, very shy. To get in front of a crowd drives me nuts, but I have a message to deliver." -Jack LaLanne

5. Offer a moving speech that sticks with your audience: "Have a unifying theme tethered to a powerful, inspirational story." -Ken Starr

6. Seek our your most difficult audience member: "Engage the lowest common denominator, someone with a negative attitude or who can't concentrate. If I can engage that person, everyone else with fall like a domino." -Erin Gruwell

7. Don't bore your audience with unnecessary data — deliver a simple message: "I speak at nursery schools; benefactors ask me to speak for Earth Day. It is invariably the most challenging presentation I ever give, but I force myself to do that because it really forces me to get down and think [about] the basic message and how can I communicate it as simply as possible." -Allen

8. Speak for your audience, not yourself: "The single most important thing you can do is put yourself in other people's heads and hearts. I think about what they truly need, not what I want to talk about. Whatever size the group, whether five or 5,000 people, you have to at least try to imagine what each of those individuals are there for. -Tony Robbins

9. Use humor appropriately: "Never make any jokes in the morning. They're absolutely deadly. No one has gotten their full dose of caffeine." -Dick Rudder

10. Resist the urge to speed through, and get attention by speaking slowly.: "Slow down, especially at the beginning of a speech. You'll get the audience's attention by pausing." -Bob Kerrey

11. Consider how you can entertain your audience: "There is always risk with being funny and controversial that the audience will miss your message, but I think there is a better chance they'll hear it if you are entertaining." -Scott McNealy

12. Never underestimate the power of eye contact: "When I'm preaching, I'm not speaking to 800 people–I'm trying to speak to each person individually," he says. "I move from west to east, making contact with people for a second or two. If there's someone who seems disengaged, I'll keep coming back in hopes of reaching them. But you have to be very careful: If you're talking about, say, adultery, you don't want the person you are looking at thinking that you've found them out!" -Rev. Kieran Harrington

13. Warm up with one on one conversation first: "If you are the type that gets frightened or intimidated by speaking to large groups, it doesn't hurt to speak to a couple people in the audience before you start your speech." -Kate White

14. Always be prepared ahead of time: "I have the speech nailed two weeks before I have to give it. I don't go out with a written speech, but with eight to 10 line connectors [transitions between points I want to make]." -Glenn Rothman

15. Avoid using jargon, and never assume your audience knows your topic: "Too many speeches are either too dense or too dull, particularly in the corporate sphere. Use examples that include dialogue–two people talking to each other in their own spoken language. Don't assume your audience knows your topic. Never fall into jargon." -Floyd Abrams

16. Have a "front page news" message: "Step one: Literally write the headline you want a newspaper to carry as if your speech were going to make front-page news. If you can't, your message is too complicated, too boring or too vague to impress anyone. Step two: Be substantive. Make a strong prediction, take a controversial stand or deliver a keen insight–but back it up with facts and research. Step three: Be entertaining. Use anecdotes and self-deprecating humor to connect with the crowd. Step four: Don't speak too long. Even a good speech loses people after at most, 40 minutes." -Ari Fleischer

17. Dream about your speech at night: "The night before a speech, I go over my notes right before I go to sleep. There's almost something magical about it. You remember the words in a dreamlike state and it helps your brain absorb the material." -Sally Koslow

18. Remember to have soul in your speaking: "I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking. I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver. When one feels, from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head, that he has something to say that is going to help some individual or some cause, then let him say it; and in delivering his message I do not believe that many of the artificial rules of elocution can, under such circumstances, help him very much. Although there are certain things, such as pauses, breathing, and pitch of voice, that are very important, none of these can take the place of soul in an address. When I have an address to deliver, I like to forget all about the rules for the proper use of the English language, and all about rhetoric and that sort of thing, and I like to make the audience forget all about these things, too." -Booker T. Washington

19. Repeat yourself without sounding repetitive: "Say the same things over in different ways, especially when you are trying to sell something. When I would teach law, I did this as an educational tool, but it's also a sales tool. It will make an imprint that people will remember." -Judge Maria Lopez

20. Choose your words carefully: "Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true." -Brian Tracy

21. Consider the unknown first: "A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying." – G. K. Chesterton

22. Know that it's an honor to be asked to speak: "Compliment the audience. Every invitation to speak is a compliment and an honor to you, so you better recognize that starting off." -Dr. Robert H. Schuller

23. Mean what you say, and be careful not to overspeak: "Little said is soon amended. There is always time to add a word, never to withdraw one." -Baltasar Gracian
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