Top 5 Freedom Brands

Independence Day in the U.S.A. is a time to salute our founding fathers and mothers and take a moment to celebrate the birth of our great country…and of course consume way too many hot dogs and too much coleslaw and beer.

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But while enjoying these important festivities, I think there is something else we should salute.

Brands!!!

Not just Brands in general, but Brands that give us freedom. Products and services that allow us to do more, roam freely and achieve a certain level of independence and control over our lives.

Here are  my top 5 “Freedom Brands”, I’d love to hear yours.

(Cue the fireworks please)…

#1)  iPhone

#2)  Netflix

#3)  Google

#4)  Kindle

#5)  Spanx

#1)  iPhone: Like many of my BrandTwist readers, I also have a love/hate relationship with my  iPhone. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. No other brand in my life has given me such a degree of flexibility and freedom. Keep reading »

Being an Entrepreneur Can Be Lonely – But It Doesn’t Have to Be

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Solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and small business owners end up spending a lot of time alone, immersed in running their business, working from home or by themselves in an office – and it can be lonely and draining. A highly effective way to break out of the solitary rut is to spend some time at the latest trend in workspace innovation – shared workspaces.

I urge you to check out venues like the Stamford Innovation Center. You’ll be able to interact, exchange ideas with others, and soak up inspiration in beautiful environments that will support you and keep you and your business in the brand-building zone.

Many of these workspace venues offer educational workshops that allow you to interact with like-minded business owners determined to take their brands to the next level. At each workshop participants share their enthusiasm, creative ideas and positive feedback.

To learn more about the effectiveness of in-person workshops, please check out this article, Twist Up Your Space – Wake Up Your Brand.

And, if you’re in the Greater New York City area, please JOIN US at one of our workshops. These interactive workshops will get you ready to launch into high gear with practical advice and tools you can start using that very day. We’ll show you how to:

▪   Create an achievable plan to grow your brand

▪   Reach your most valuable customers

▪   Generate fresh ideas – with a twist!

▪   Connect with like-minded entrepreneurs for powerful results

Sign up for our mailing list to receive word of upcoming Workshops, Brand School Master Class and a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session.

 

 

 

Five Brand-Marvelous Ideas for Mother’s Day

It can be challenging to come up with a gift idea that is thoughtful, meaningful, fun and unique for mom on Mother’s Day. We’re here to help! Check out these brands we love, and that mom will love receiving.

Box up a bundle of goodies with a Birchbox - It’s difficult for active mothers to get into stores to sample new products. So why not make it easier for her and bring those samples directly to mom’s door? Birchbox does just that. Birchbox bundles several samples of cosmetics, skin care items, bath, beauty and lifestyle products all into a beautiful Birchbox and delivers it directly to mom’s doorstep. (and they have a line for men too… Father’s Day is right around the corner! Check out the men’s Birchbox in our Father’s Day post ) Read more about what we feel drives the success of the Birchbox brand here.

 

Hire a rabbit to take on a task with Taskrabbit – A mom’s life is busy, busy, and… did we say busy? There’s always some task that she doesn’t have time to complete. She would really appreciate a helping hand. TaskRabbit is all about getting the job done.  This company has experts in just about every field who are ready to take on mom’s request, and as their tagline promises, to help mom go “From To-Do, to Done.” Interested in how Taskrabbit built a succesful brand? Read more here.

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes through chocolate! Chocolate is always a welcomed gift, but when it’s fun, meaningful and connects you to the world, it’s even better.  Each sweetriot chocolate candy purchase supports sustainable cocoa farming, native and local farmers, and the emerging artists community by featuring works that embrace sweetriot’s culture on the candy wrappers. A sweetriot gift purchase does more than simply satisfying mom’s chocolate craving. Want to know more about the secret to sweetriot’s sweet branding success? Read about it here.

 

Take mom on a fabulous get-away –  Treat mom to a fabulous weekend away full of local flavor by celebrating at a unique hotel. Discover a new city together – and build memories that will last a long time. The  Provenance Hotels are a great boutique collection that offer wonderful decor and  authentic local touches in some very cool US cities. How can your brand cash in on the trend to hyper local? Read more here.

 

Support mom in growing her business. Is your mother an entrepreneur, small business owner, artist, performer, or freelance contractor? Here’s a way to help her take her business and brand to the top! Brand School is our highly effective, premier branding program that will give her the tools and insight she needs to grow a stronger personal, career or business brand. To get more information about the next session and a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session, please click HERE.

Twisting Book Trailers to Boost Any Business

Book trailers bring big business. These video spots don’t stand out for their star-power alone, but for their formal inventiveness and willingness to take risks as well. In this guest post, Liam Powel shows how your business can take what publishing houses are doing to market their authors and products and apply those same ideas to your business for big marketing and brand-building benefits through video trailers.

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LITTLE FAILURE’S BIG SUCCESS. 

If you’re not up on literature, you may not have heard of Gary Shteyngart, but odds are you will soon.  The quirky satirist – whose novel Super Sad True Love Story garnered him a spot on the New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” list two years ago – is known for his biting wit, bumbling characters, and stunning backdrops. Little Failure, a memoir released early in January, 2014 by Random House, has already garnered glowing reviews, and if history is any guide, sales are radiant as well.

To hype the title, Random House released a “book trailer” – if you’re not familiar with the form, it’s exactly what it sounds like – and Shteyngart’s are grade-A satire. Little Failure has already made a splash because of its star-studded cast, featuring James Franco, Rashida Jones, Alex Karpovsky, and of course, Shteyngart too. Random House, no stranger to the medium or its capacity to push publicity, had previously released a similar trailer for Super Sad – it’s just as hilarious, and can be seen here.

However, these video spots don’t stand out for their star-power alone, which any hefty budget could use to garner attention, but for their formal inventiveness and willingness to take risks as well. This is what we’re interested in. Let’s look at a few lessons from the art of the book trailer that you can apply to your brand and business.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO BREAK NEW GROUND. 

The vast majority of book trailers are fairly one-dimensional, composed of excerpts from a work read over a series of simple images or videos. Few build a narrative, and among the small number that do, fewer still are as cunning or generally well-composed as those for Little Failure or Super Sad.

So aside from it seeming strange, or stunt-ish, for a piece of literary non-fiction to engage potential consumers through such an infrequently, and often ill-used media form, Shteyngart’s piece distinguishes itself for its wryly inventive quality. Particularly when compared to other book trailers, Little Failure’s comes off as sketch comedy, worrying less about clearly pushing the product (the memoir itself) and more about conveying core value propositions in an engagingly slant, indirect way.

So what if you won’t be able to hire out a Hollywood star to shill your brand anytime soon?  This release, Worst Case Scenario Survival Video Series: BREAKUPS, couldn’t either, nor could this Skagboys video, but each crafted compelling content – well within their means – and made efficient, inventive use of a quirky medium to engage their audiences, new and old. The latter trailer, for Skagboys, is particularly on point, a wonderfully executed example of consistent brand identity – note how the skeleton from the video is modeled after the novel’s cover image, and how the whole tone is very much in line with Irvine Welsh’s writing – that only required a Final Cut video editing program and some papier mâché to get up and running.

Sometimes, especially if you’re a solopreneur, all it takes is going the extra mile, even if you have to run it alone.

SO YOU DON’T RUN A PUBLISHING HOUSE? 

Whatever industry your brand is competing in, don’t be afraid to go beyond convention when reaching out to potential consumers. Brands, particularly emerging ones, too often fear venturing beyond a simple benefit analysis or overt calls-to-action while representing themselves – from taglines and logos to small collateral. Slant approaches aren’t only for the industry bigwigs: they can be for everyone, if you’re willing to take the risk.

Successful trailers use inventive, thoughtful approaches to innovating an established medium.  They convey how their product functions, who uses it, and where it’s used to inform and entertain.

What if a video, or a trailer, isn’t right for you? The point is to reach out to your consumers in engaging, surprising, direct ways – trailer or no trailer. Here are a few tips and lessons we can take away from Random House’s – and other’s – use of an innovative form.

  1. Ask yourself: is there a particular aspect of your brand – logo, tone, media presence – you think could benefit from an overhaul or re-imagining? If so, isolate it and take a moment to ask yourself how it could be better and what could be gained by crossing a line of convention here or there.
  2. Think lateral.  Make a list of potential media you’d like to engage in that you haven’t already. Is it video? A social platform? If media isn’t at the forefront of your concerns, what elements of design, or tones of voice, would be exciting and new for you to experiment with?
  3. Spend the time to develop a high concept, and stick with it. Measure twice, cut once.
  4. Think lifestyle and/or novel, layered tones. Slant, or indirect, approaches to brand development aren’t just for established presences in the market – emerging brands can use them too.
  5. Always assume the most of your consumer, and expect the most from your brand.

About the author: 

Liam Powell is Lead Copywriter at Imagemme, a Brand Innovation Lab based in TriBeCa, NYC. He recently received a Masters from Columbia University, where he would catch the occasional glimpse of the man himself – Gary Shteyngart – walking the long, marble halls. You can connect with Liam on Facebook, and on Twitter he is @YazooStScandal (from the Dylan song).

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Connecting: How to Build an Unforgettable Brand

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BrandTwist Founder & CEO and former V.P. of Brand for Virgin, Julie Cottineau, shares her entrepreneurial story and talks about personal branding, innovation, and future brand trends in this interview by Bill Sobel for CMSWire.com. Bill is the principal of SobelMedia and NY:MIEG/The New York Media Information Exchange Group. He’s been described as a media powerhouse and a master connector. (You can connect with Bill on Twitter: he’s @bsobel226 -  tell him we say “Hi”)

CMSWire.com is a popular web magazine published by Simpler Media Group, Inc. There you’ll find an abundance of helpful articles, interviews and resources that keep you in the know about Customer Experience Management, Digital Marketing, Social Business and Enterprise Information Management. Check them out.

Catch Bill’s interview “Connecting: How to Build an Unforgettable Brand” with Julie HERE. 

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Branding vs. Advertising: Know the Difference to Grow

A common marketing gap is the failure to understand the difference between branding and advertising. In this  guest post Chris Garrett illustrates how knowing the difference between branding and advertising can strengthen your marketing strategy and your brand. Read about Chris in his bio below.  If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information.

apple branding

A common marketing gap is the failure to understand the difference between branding and advertising. While both are a part of marketing and are done with the express purpose of increasing revenue, they do so in different ways, and each has the ability to make other more or less effective. Let’s take a look at branding and advertising and how knowing the difference can strengthen your marketing strategy and your brand.

Branding

Branding is a lot deeper than we might realize when we’re reading about the newest marketing fads on the internet. Branding has everything to do with identity: who are you and what kind of business are you? What’s your name, and why should I remember it? How do you and your brand make me feel? The answers to these questions should be  related to your products and services – but not limited to them. Your brand is what makes your business feel like a person, and a person is more than an automatic vending machine, business transaction or product; a person has a personality, and just like a person, your business’ brand needs to show its personality. For example, in Apple’s iPod advertisement pictured above, Apple goes beyond simply presenting a “product” for you to purchase. It’s the explosive size, lively color and the dancing, active “youthful” silhouette that communicates how the brand wants you to feel when you interact with them.

Let’s take a look at the major contributing factors and ways to communicate your brand identity.

Logo and Name – Your logo and name are often the first thing people see, and they work essentially as a visual representation of your name. “Brand Recognition” usually refers to people recognizing your logo or your company name, but brand-building encompasses more than that, because in brand-building, the focus is on what people will think of and how they will feel when they hear or see your name.

Atmosphere – Think of Starbucks, what does it make you think of? Wood paneled décor, warm yellow lighting, comfy seating and the cozy smell of coffee, right? What about McDonalds? Bright colors, bright lights, play areas and a whimsical looking clown. Consider what you want your customers to think of and experience when deciding on your décor and environment. How does it make people feel? If you don’t like the view from your windows, get a wall mural that gives your clientele the view you want them to experience; customize everything and make your business’ space the one that people will want to come back to.

Community Outreach – What does your business and it’s employees do during down time? Lay on the couch and watch TV?  Buy fancy things and party all night? Volunteer at a neighborhood shelter? That’s not to say you need to literally go volunteering, but it means you should think about the image your company projects beyond the professional realm. Does your business donate to any causes, or participate in fundraising efforts? Does it sell fair trade goods or use particularly energy-conscious equipment? Let people know what your brand and employees care about.

Work Environment – You might be surprised to see this listed here, but think about the companies we’ve all recently read about in the news and you’ll find that most of the negative brand associations for these companies are related to disenchanted workers speaking out about their abysmal working conditions. On the other end of the spectrum are brands like DreamWorks, Costco, and Whole Foods, all of whom are famous for their widely-recognized employee-friendly policies and happy, helpful workers. Your employees are also part of your brand. Provide a supportive business culture and guide employees on how to best represent your brand and customers will feel and apreciate the difference, too!

Advertising

Your customer’s relationship with your company begins and ends with your brand. What keeps your business profitable is, of course, sales, but the ideal customer comes to buy from your business or use your service specifically because they want to support your brand, not just because they want a product. That’s why it is important to really identify clearly who your ideal target customer is.

Advertising is about communicating what you have to offer through sales, coupons, radio and TV ads, and posters. An advertisement is soliciting a meeting between your ideal customer and your company, and the difference between a customer who knows your brand and one who doesn’t is like the difference between asking a stranger on the street to go to coffee with you, and asking a friend.

Advertising, Branding and Trust

Let’s examine this through the lens of a personal relationship. In the two scenarios below, let’s say that your brand is you; your product is a cup of coffee and your customer is your friend:

Scenerio A: You call up your friend and ask them to come over because you have a cup of coffee you’d like them to purchase. Most likely, your friend will feel you were only interested in making a deal; that you (the brand) don’t really care for them, their feelings or their experience – because you’re clearly placing your product and profit before your relationship with them. What’s missing here? A genuine brand relationship.

Scenerio B: You ask them to come over for a cup of coffee because you want to visit with them, engage in conversation and enjoy some warm and cozy time together. In this instance, you’re making the relationship between you, and how your friend will feel when they engage with you, more important than the product – and you are experienced as being a trusted and genuine person (brand).

The bottom line is to consider the many ways that your brand goes beyond colors, logo design or a jingle, to provide the experience and feeling your consumer is seeking. Once you clearly identify who your ideal customer is and what they need and are specifically looking for, you can pinpoint what your brand should be doing to gain your customer’s trust and deliver what they want. Once you do, your business’ brand can generate loyal followers, who will keep coming back for more.

About the author: Chris Garrett is marketing writer who blogs about aesthetics in marketing, brand building, and advertising for Megaprint.comOn Twitter he’s @GiantGarrettArt.

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3 Signs Your Brand Has the Blues – And How To Shake Them Off

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Could your brand have seasonal mood disorder? It’s possible. Many of us find it challenging to stay motivated – and it can be particularly hard to jump-start our lives after the bustle of the holidays, and winter’s colder weather and shorter days are no help. It’s hard to focus on business-building when you’d rather hibernate. But we’ve got some sure-fire ways to bust your brand out of the winter blues.

Watch a replay of our webcast that will help you banish the brand blues “The Yin and Yang of Powerful Brand Stories” with BrandTwist Founder & CEO and former VP of Brand for Virgin Julie Cottineau and Head of Creative Planning at iStock Rebecca Swift. 

Here are three “Brand Blues” symptoms to look for and ideas to get your business back on track:

1) You’re feeling the Brand Love, but not the Cash

You’ve got something special to offer, and you’re connecting with people that your product or service could help. They seem interested, but when it comes to the moment of truth they’re just not buying. This is the dating equivalent of being told “you’re nice but let’s just be friends”

This usually happens when you don’t really understand your ideal customer and what they need. What keeps them up at night? And what triggers are going to help them move from being a “Brand-friend” to a committed “Brand user and fan”?

We spend quite a bit of time on defining our Bull’s Eye target in our Brand School program for small businesses. The most important part of making sure you’ve got a vibrant brand is targeting the right people, understanding their motivations, and speaking directly to those feelings to get them to act.

Take a look at your website (or your primary marketing vehicles) and ask yourself honestly…is it clear who this product or service is for and why should they buy it?

Does it present a clear statement of a problem and a solution that’s going to shake people out of their own doldrums, get them to identify with what you are promising and take action?

Before you re-do your website, or any other marketing materials – stop and think about your target – who they are and what they need. Don’t worry about being too narrow.  It’s better to connect with fewer people who actually buy your product or service, then have a lot of generic messaging that appeals to everyone, but converts no one.

2) You’re Bored with your own Brand

When you work day in and day out on the same business in the same category it’s hard to keep the fresh ideas flowing. But we need innovation to drive interest and keep our customers coming back.

While Brand Boredom is understandable, it can be harmful to your business. When you’re not excited about what you’re promoting – this comes across loud and clear to customers – in face to face meetings and even online.

So how do you keep it fresh? You need to TWIST it up.  When you stay too focused on your competitors and your own category, you end up with “me too” brands.

We believe you need to look at old problems from new and different angles. This is where the TWIST in BrandTwist comes in.

Leverage this lateral thinking by imagining what a beloved brand (in a different category) would do if it took over your business. How would this brand use its DNA to innovate your market?  Twist an inspirational brand (ex. Virgin, Zappos, Starbucks, Apple) with yours and see the impact it can have in creating fresh ideas for your business.

If you own a dry cleaning business you might want to TWIST it with Starbucks.  We’re not suggesting you serve better coffee to waiting customers. We want you to dig deeper. Think about how Starbucks customizes each order – could you offer a new type of dry-cleaning service where you offer a menu of customized options? “I’ll take a ½ starch, ½ steam no hanger pressing please.”

Innovation is critical in creating strong brands. Our Brand School curriculum offers several specific lateral thinking exercises and teaches you how to apply the TWISTS of break through brands to your business.

3) You have too many ideas and no idea how to move forward

For some people, the source of brand blues is having too many ideas. Many business people have an idea a day (if not a minute) and this can be overwhelming. It can lead to a crippling condition we call “fear of the idea”. Every new idea brings up a whole new level of stress on how you’re going to execute it.  This state can actually lead to a situation where nothing gets done.

Have no fear. The trick is in prioritizing which ideas to pursue and breaking down the steps to move them forward.

Look for ideas that have both high feasibility and high impact. By high feasibility we mean ideas that can be reasonably implemented. They may take some investment in resources or partners, but they don’t require inventing a completely new manufacturing process or any involvement from NASA. By high impact, we mean the ideas that would appeal strongly to your target and support your brand’s overall authority and distinctiveness.

Lastly, we recommend that you break down these ideas into small actionable steps. Instead of saying “I need to create a fresh, new killer website” we recommend breaking it into smaller steps that you will actually get done. For example, asking friends via Facebook and LinkedIn for web designer recommendations, investigating online resources like 99 Designs, creating a web design brief, and identifying 3 websites you admire (and pinpoint why) so you can share them as examples with your designer when you find them

We also recommend finding a Branding Buddy to keep you accountable and moving forward. Weekly check-ins (over Skype or coffee) will help you keep moving ahead. Program these into your calendar – pick a consistent day and time that works for you and your buddy and make these meetings a high priority.

In Brand School Master Class we have found that creating a private community of like-minded entrepreneurs to support one another and hold each other accountable is a very effective way to help everyone stay on track and bring their ideas to market.

We know its cold and your brand might be feeling the winter blues right now, but with a bit of ingenuity, discipline and the right kind of support your business can emerge into Spring stronger and more invigorated.

Interested in more brand building tips? Make sure you check out our Brand School Master Class site and join our mailing list. You will get a free e-book “Brand Like a Billionaire – 5 Tips I learned from Richard Branson”. You can also learn how to qualify for a FREE one-hour strategy Brand Health Check session with Julie (valued at $500).

AND don’t forget to watch “The Yin and Yang of Powerful Brand Stories” FREE webcast replay with BrandTwist Founder & CEO and former VP of Brand for Virgin Julie Cottineau and Head of Creative Planning at iStock Rebecca Swift  - all about on Visual and Verbal Branding.

In just one hour you’ll bash your brand blues and learn:

  • How to get your brand noticed by creating a compelling story using pictures and language.
  • The three main tones that resonate with customers.
  • How the verbal and visual balance helps your business succeed.

Watch it HERE.

 

The Ying and Yang of Powerful Brand Stories

FREE REPLAY. Rebecca Swift, Head of Creative Planning at iStock, & Julie Cottineau present a Visual and Verbal Branding Webcast on how to get your brand noticed by creating a compelling story using pictures & language; the 3 main tones that resonate with customers; how the verbal & visual balance helps your business succeed.

Twist Your Brand: Grow Your Business Workshop

Show your brand some love. On February 19th and 25th we will be offering a special “Twist Your Brand. Grow Your Business” Innovation workshop. Come join other passionate entrepreneurs and learn how to create fresh ideas for your business. Includes a bonus 1-on-1 private session with Julie. Make sure to enter TWIST at check out to take advantage or our friends of BrandTwist discount

Brand Like a Billionaire Workshop

Julie will be sharing tips she learned from her five years as VP of Brand for Virgin North America and show you how you can make them work for your business. Learn from one of the best-loved brands on the planet and one of the most successful entrepreneurs. PlUS a private 1-0n-1 with Julie. 20% DISCOUNT when you use promo code TWIST.