‘Tis the Season to Build your Brand

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We know the holidays are a bit crazy, but they are also a great time to connect with customers and clients and build your brand. In case you missed some of  our recent entries, here is a re-cap of a few seasonal posts to inspire you:

‘Tis the season! Creating a gift guide for your business is a great way to explore what your brand really stands for and is a nice twist on reinforcing your brand values – plus, it’s fun to do! This post from BrandTwist guest blogger and Company B founder, Bonnie Rothman Morris, was inspired by Seth Godin and gives tips on how to create one for your business. Check out “Your Brand Needs a Gift Guide.” 

Amidst the chaos that is the holiday season is can be tough to make your brand stand out among the rest. This doesn’t always require innovative creativity or a hefty marketing budget. Here is a guest post from marketer Alice Jenkins giving four cost-effective ways to market your brand this holiday season that will both show good character and expose your brand to the masses, “Marketing Your Brand for The Holidays.”

Holidays, and especially holiday gift giving, can be extremely taxing. This year why not take a step back and create something special? Catch these “5 Creative Gifts that Won’t Break the Bank.”

Many companies engage in the practice of sending holiday greetings (print or emails) to colleagues, clients, partners and prospects. But what does your holiday card really say about your brand? After all, it’s not just a card it’s a communication vehicle. Here’s what we did while I was working as V.P. of Brand at Virgin, “What Your Holiday Card Says About Your Brand.”

The holidays are about connecting to one another, and a personal brand is an aspect of branding that can often go overlooked, even though it’s incredibly important in business. Whether you’re looking to use your personal brand to get a job, are launching your own business, or want to strengthen your existing business, building a strong personal brand will help you to transform your passions and personality into a brand that works for you. Don’t miss these three essential tips to building “The Brand of YOU.”

Stay warm and keep TWISTING!

“What an excellent experience. You have turned our business on its head! We are in the process of re-inventing our brand and company!” - Gavin Meiring, CEO, Rugged PC, South Africa

Your Brand Needs a Gift Guide

This post, Your Brand Needs a Gift Guide, by Company B founder Bonnie Rothman Morris explains how creating a gift guide for your business is a way to explore what your brand really stands for. It’s a great idea and a nice twist on how to reinforce your brand values. This is another in our guest blogger seriesRead more about Bonnie in her bio below. If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information. 

Present

Seth Godin just came out with his holiday gift guide. I trust his opinions, so I enjoyed clicking through his curated group of quirky products looking for ideas. My favorites? Brooklyn-built headphones and a Bob Dylan collection to match. I don’t have a giftee for either, but never mind, what I really loved was how well those products align with Seth’s brand. They’re insider-y and should make you feel smart and thoughtful when you give them. Like Seth.

Any brand can create a gift guide, and it’s a worthy exercise, whether you choose to share your picks on a company blog, with the media, with your customers … or not. The exercise of building a curated lists of gifts your brand could give to someone you care about can help you tap into what you really want to mean to your customers.

Here’s why: gift giving is an art. And every gift tells a story (or it should!). The best gift-givers make the recipient feel special and appreciated by you. The best gift-givers also give gifts that are memorable. What brand doesn’t want their customers to feel that way about them?

Here are some questions to ask to get you started.

  • What are my brand’s core values? How do they translate into my brand’s personality? List them.
  • If my personality is accessible and friendly, for example, what categories of products can my brand legitimately recommend? Think broadly. A food brand can venture into style; a tech brand may legitimately recommend food.
  • If your brand is clever, make sure the gifts are, too. If you’re mainstream, stick with something that’s delightful but relatable. Useful? Twist it up and make it completely useless but fun. If your brand is hip, well, it goes without saying what you need to do. If it’s not hip and you, the gift-giver, are, think about something campy. You get the idea.
  • Play the Amazon game: If my customers like X (i.e., me) they might also like Y. This springs the doors wide open.
  • Most importantly, what do I want my customers to remember about me after receiving this gift?

Once you create your gift guide, there is so much you can do with it. You can make a Vine. (Stop motion animation of the gifts going into a big box). Share it on Facebook or your website. Write a blog post, like Seth, with links. Or, better, buy a bunch of the stuff and send it to your customers. If you’ve done your job right, they’ll remember the gift and, even better, remember your brand and what it stands for.

Okay. We’re putting our money where our mouths are here at Company B. To see Company B’s gift guide, click HERE.

About guest blogger Bonnie Rothman Morris:

Bonnie Rothman Morris became an official storyteller at 6, when she won a short-story writing contest sponsored by the public library in her hometown. She founded Company B in 2008 to deliver Public Relations, Social Media and Branded Content. Today, she tells smart stories for consumer brands that captivate and engage. She’s also famous for giving great gifts. Tweet @bonniemorris.

Finding the Right Job Fit: Large vs. Small

Julie Cottineau gives her top tips from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin in this post, “Finding the Right Job Fit: Large vs. Small” from our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

A question I often get from job-seekers is, “What are the trade-offs of working for a big vs. small company or agency?”

“Does size really matter?”

When deciding between a boutique ad agency, a global one, a major mass-marketer client or a small start up, there are definite pros and cons of each you should consider.

For example, if you have wanderlust, like I did a few years out of college, the bigger the better. I was fortunate enough to spend 3 of my 10-year tenure at Grey Global in the Paris office. This was an amazing, life-changing experience (I met my husband, who is French, while living there). Grey had a fairly established program of sending people around the globe. So while I did have to press to be one of the lucky ones chosen for an international assignment, the program was already well-oiled and very much in place.

I’ve also worked at small agencies when I was first starting out and have found several benefits in the boutique model as well.

These include: 1) access to senior mentors, 2) fewer layers often means more responsibility for juniors and, 3) participation in new business.

On our pitches the entire agency got involved instead of just a small select new business team, and I learned a ton.

But my wisest piece of advice to help alleviate some of the worry over the debate of small vs. large is to prioritize these two more important factors: 1) What account am I working on, and 2) Who am I working for?

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These two factors are more important then the number of employees listed in the directory. A dynamic brand- one that you are really passionate about, even at a relatively small, up and coming Agency or a start up, can teach you a lot and you will invest more time and energy into it – and this will shine through in interviews and your resume as your move on after a while to look for your next opportunity.

Also the right boss – someone who will invest in you, share their wisdom, give you tools, feedback and responsibility- in my opinion trumps any factors of big vs. small. It also doesn’t hurt if he/she also has had experience with both big and small Agencies – so you can benefit from both sides of the coin.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the strategies and tools you need to create a  personal and professional brand that’s a fit in any sized company. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also join us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“It was great pulling everything together from touch points, to pillars. I would recommend Brand School to any small biz owner or entrepreneur.” - Sarah W., Entrepreneur

Agency vs. Client: What’s the Best Fit For You?

This post, Agency vs. Client: What’s the Best Fit For You? is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

Here’a a question I get a lot:

Should I work for an Agency or a Brand?

This is a tough one. There is no one right answer. I’ve been lucky enough to work on both sides of the branding aisle and I think like most career paths, there is no right or wrong path. Just the path you choose.

But I can tell you that from my perspective, if you are interested in an agency role, it’s good to pursue this at the beginning of your career.

Agency jobs can be tough. The pay (especially at the beginning) is low and the hours are long. But, at the right Agency, you will learn a lot. So if you are interested in trying the Agency side, it’s often best to invest this time early in your career when normally you have less obligations (mortgage, spouse, kids) and can put in the long hours and be less concerned about the pay.

In contrast, the relatively shorter and more predictable hours of a client-side job can often fit your lifestyle better when kids enter the picture.

I also believe one benefit of working on the Agency side is that by being accountable to a client, you can learn a great deal about program management and meeting management skills. As an Assistant Account Executive at Grey, I learned how to be very buttoned-up. I had to make sure everyone was prepared for meetings and we weren’t wasting the client’s time. Agendas went out with meeting invites, materials were prepared and next steps were clearly outlined in meeting reports. This kind of discipline, learned early on, stayed with me and was helpful as I advanced through my career.

You can also learn this on the Client side, but often meetings are a bit more casual. At least this was my experience at Virgin- but also at many Clients that I worked for as an Agency partner.

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The other aspect that I loved about working on the Agency side was the exposure to different accounts and business challenges. You don’t always get that when you sign on early with a client that works in one category.

So there are a  lot of plusses about the Agency side, but here’s one tick in favor of a Client job…if you are really interested in the business side of marketing you will likely learn more about this if you are on the Client side. This isn’t to say that Agency people don’t do a good job of learning about their Client’s businesses. They do. But in my experience, no matter how close an Agency partner is, its still not the same as being on the inside and hearing first hand all of the business and financial conversations – and being truly held accountable for business results.

My 5 + years at Virgin was like getting my MBA. I became much more comfortable and familiar with different business terms and business models. I saw first hand the impact of different marketing decisions. From a much closer perspective than I ever had on the Agency side. I also learned how to be more accountable for my creative ideas. I couldn’t propose solutions that were going to cost a lot without thinking about how we would make the cost up in additional revenue. This might sound like a constraint, but it actually made me make sure my creative ideas were more sound, and in turn, they had a better chance of being implemented.

So what’s the right fit for you? It’s hard to say. One way to make the choice is to think about where you see yourself in 5-10 years. If you have any ambitions of someday starting your own business, then I would say it’s really important to get some experience on the Client side. Even if you have an MBA from a top school – there’s really no substitute for in market experience.

And if you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur or are already building a business, our highly effective, premier branding program, Brand will give you the insight and tools you need to get the job done. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School was helped us set structure to our process, define our target and recognize our customer’s motivations. We were able to create timely taglines and better define our branding campaigns”.  - Randi Curhan, Development Coordinator for Redwood High School Foundation

Land the Job: Bring Your Experience Off the Page!

This post, Land the Job: Bring Your Experience Off the Page! is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

One of the most important challenges to landing a job in branding is knowing how to make sure you stand out. Chances are there are more than a few candidates vying for the same internship or full time job that you’ve got your eye on.

Having been on the hiring side many times, I can tell you that after a while the stream of candidates becomes a blur. One thing that helps a candidate stand out is to have a presentation of his or her experience. I call this a “visual resume.” By that I simply mean: a well-designed, clean PDF that brings some of the examples in your resume to life. For example:

  • Spent a summer as an intern at a local agency? Put a screen grab of that agency’s logo and some of the key projects/brands you were involved with on a page. Make sure you don’t show anything that the Agency or their clients would consider confidential (when in doubt ask).

Help your prospective employer visualize your experience.

  • Ran the marketing for one of your school’s events? Show pictures from the day and include stats about how many people you reached etc.

Unless you’ve worked on mega brands like Coke and Nike, it’s going to take your interviewer a few minutes to really understand what you are talking about and determine if the experience is relevant to what he or she is looking for. Help them make the leap more quickly by brining the examples to life. To that end, make sure you are taking pictures at any school events, and scanning the covers and key pages of any relevant projects (like a marketing class project where you had to come up with ideas for a new brand).

Another effective thing that you can do which shows your interest in the job is do an informal customer experience audit before the interview and bring your findings with you.

When I was interviewing to be the VP of Brand at Virgin, I did my own desktop audit of the Virgin brand – I looked at the websites of each of the individual brands in the Virgin family and I did an informal survey about what the brand stood for among people in what I perceived to be their target market. I presented these “findings” along with some initial suggestions on how to address the brand’s challenges as part of my interview. I didn’t present it as in-depth research, just a conversation starter. But it did show that I wasn’t just saying I was interested in working there; I was proving it through a bit of extra research. And the rest is history…

Think about putting in a little extra work prior to your interview and be prepared to share a point of view. You don’t have to be “right” in your learning, just as long as you can demonstrate a solid thought process. It will also help you gauge how open your potential employer is to suggestions. Receive more tips and techniques on how to do this in our post HERE.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the tools and techniques you need to keep your brand shining through and standing out. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School had great examples of real companies. I was able to dig even deeper, think of things in a new way, and get new ideas for my brand.It was well worth the fee.” - Brenda Dillion Cavette, Founder Fashionista Tea

13 Tips For Stronger Branding

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips for Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the posts HERE.

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You might have been thinking about whether you’ve been bringing your A-game to your branding – let’s face it: creating and maintaining a strong brand can be complicated, but I’m here to show you how to make your branding seamless — and help you understand why doing so is MORE than worth the time you put into it. Start here for 13 tips (yes, 13!) you can apply right now to make your brand and your business stronger.

 TIP #1: LOOK THROUGH YOUR CUSTOMER’S EYES

It’s extremely important to continually look at your brand through your customer’s eyes. After all, brands are relationships, and like every successful romantic relationship, there must be two mutually interested parties. Start 2013 with your first customer experience audit. Map out all the touch points on your customer’s journey. Many companies focus just on when their consumer uses a product or service. I want you to think about the entire process.

Think about the moment your consumer starts to interact with your product up until they set it down, until they leave your business’ environment. Enlist help of friends, interns, and neutral third parties, like that kid in a coffee shop playing on his iPhone 5. Ask all of those people to interact with your brand and report back to you on where they felt engaged and well guided and also moments when they felt abandoned or confused. Make sure to photograph or record the experience so that you have documentation and can reference it whenever you think about engaging with your consumer.

Check out tip #2 in the series, Focus on Usefulness, Not Innovation.

BRANDSCHOOL: WHAT THE FUSS IS ALL ABOUT

Like what you’re reading? For more actionable strategies, consider BrandSchool. BrandSchool is the premier program that teaches you how to grow your business by building a stronger brand. From bull’s eye targeting to strategic social media and more, Brand School shares current best practices from Virgin and other world-leaders in branding and shows you how to apply these lessons to your business for greater impact from day one. Learn more about Brand School HERE

“I received huge value from Brand School. You can’t put a price on that experience. I loved the integrated learning experience and that we walked out of the series with a working brand strategy.” – Rachel Watkins, Brand Development for Large Businesses 


10 Ways to Say Thank You to Your Clients this Holiday

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and it’s a great time to start to say thank you to your clients and customers. Whether you are a life coach, marketing consultant, personal trainer or a candle maker. Your business only survives (and thrives) because there are people out there who are willing to choose your brand out of all the many options available. Why not take a minute to say thanks?

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Here’s 10 easy and effective ways to show your gratitude. They don’t have to cost a lot of money. Mostly it takes an investment in a small amount of time. But isn’t that worth it for people who have demonstrated that they are also invested in your success?

  1. Like their fan page on face book, follow their business on twitter, repin something from their Pinterest page
  2. Offer to do a testimonial (written or video) for their website
  3. Add a positive review of their product on line
  4. Introduce them to 5 of your friends or clients that could use their services
  5. Give them a free “tune up” session  (ex. free hour of coaching)
  6. Send a donation in their name to a charity they would like
  7. Do a free diagnostic of their website/marketing and suggest improvements
  8. Offer to write a guest blog post for their site
  9. Invite them as your guest to a relevant industry conference
  10. Share with them your best kept secret suppliers who do great work at low cost

I am sure there are many more. We’d love to hear from you on how you say thanks.

What’s you twist?

We’re regularly posting free, actionable branding advice like this on the BrandTwist newsletter. To receive all the latest updates, tips and tools, sign up HERE. And to for even more about creating a stronger brand and business, check out Brand School, the premier program that gives you all the knowledge and hands-on experience you’ll need to build a more profitable brand.

“I received huge value from Brand School. You can’t put a price on that experience. I loved the integrated learning experience and  that we walked out of the series with a working brand strategy.” – Rachel W., Brand School Participant

Does Size Really Matter?

Excellent time participating in the She Says panel Thursday night hosted in the beautiful bar/auditorium at JWT.

Topic was the “New Decade. New Agency”.

We got into an interesting discussion, at times fairly heated debate, about the benefits of small vs. large agencies.

As is often the case when you get a bunch of women together, the conversation was around whether size really matters. Only this time it was a slightly more PG version.

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Helping Creatives Become Better Presenters

Is a killer idea poorly presented still a killer idea?

Maybe, but it probably has less of a chance of getting sold through.

In my experience, many of the qualities that make creative people great creatives, don’t always make them effective presenters.

I am of course generalizing, but sometimes creative types seem more comfortable interacting with their macs then they do with actual human beings across a conference table.Especially when the conference room is quite full.

Or since they don’t want to be too “salesy” (which is understandable) they come across as lacking  conviction or passion for their ideas.

That’s why I was intrigued when a former Interbrand colleague, Darrell Hayden, emailed me and told me he had created a methodology designed specifically to help designers and other creative people hone and improve their presentation skills.

It’s called Speaking of Creative. Check out his website and you can see Darrell in action with some of his students.

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How to Lose a Pitch in 5 Minutes or Less

Pitching is like blind dating.

Within the first five minutes (or less) the person seated across from you has sized you up and made one of three decisions:

#1. Lightning bolt, jack pot, soul mate alert

Note: This is very rare except in beer commercials and Meg Ryan movies.

#2. I see potential, let’s keep talking and maybe meet again

#3. Total turn off… “Waiter, check please!”

How can you avoid being in the all too common, but completely undesirable third category?

Some tips for making it past the “blind date” test:

Engage in some foreplay

Ideally this first meeting should not be your first contact. Try for a short pre-meeting or phone call at the very least before you show up in your Saturday night best.

Think about dating.

Would you ever launch right into  “let’s meet for dinner” before at least having a quick IM, email exchange, or perhaps phone conversation?

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