How to Build an Innovative Brand – MENG

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I was so pleased to have been invited to present “How To Build an Innovative Brand” to the NJ Chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group). This was an energetic, hands-on workshop where business owners and entrepreneurs learned how to use lateral thinking to twist their brands with other successful brands and arrive at creative and inspiring ideas to keep their brands and businesses fresh and reach more customers.
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Everyone was engaged and eagerly participating. The afternoon was productive and fun and I am grateful for the opportunity to share and receive creative ideas with so many enthusiastic participants.
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You can read an insightful summary of the afternoon, including the top pointers, lessons and action steps in this OnDEMAND CMO blog post, “How to build an innovative brand” HERE.
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The Brand of YOU

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“I’M NOT A BUSINESSMAN/I’M A BUSINESS, MAN!” - Jay-Z

Jay-Z got it right. That’s what personal branding is all about. It’s not only your commercial brand that delivers a message to the marketplace; YOU do, too!

Maybe you’ve already worked on branding your business, but have you built a personal brand?  A personal brand is an aspect of branding that can often go overlooked, even though it’s incredibly important in business.

When you are competing for a job it is not just about your education and your skills, it is also about what’s unique in the way you think, the way you work and the things that you are passionate about. People hire people, not resumes.

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.

What is a personal brand? Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd.

Having a strong personal brand can help you

  • gain more confidence
  • feel more empowered to charge a premium for your valued services
  • stand out from the competition.
  • enhance your recognition as an expert in your field

Here are three necessary key steps to begin building your personal brand:

1. Tell Your Personal Story – What Makes You Tick

A great brand is a story well told. I often relate how I am the unofficial inventor of the “Pet Rock.” Having a brother who is highly allergic to animals we were never permitted to have a pet; so I created a pet by placing a rock in a Cool Whip container. I put grass in so it could “eat” and poked holes in the lid so my rock could “breathe.” My parents were relieved to see me satisfied with my “pet”. A decade goes by and Gary Dahl is listening to friends complain about their pets getting sick, costing money and taking up their time. He jokingly mentions that a rock would make the ideal pet because it would not need care, make demands or involve emotional attachment. Out of a joke the Pet Rock is born – and he makes millions.

Relating a story like this instantly communicates several things about me and my business. It’s a memorable story which means that I, too, am more likely to be remembered. It speaks to a key tennant of my business: how innovative thinking and taking action, even on ideas we might be inclined to discard, can lead to tremendous success.

2. Link Your Personal Story to Professional Expertise

Richard Branson used his daredevil personality to create buzz around his fledging Virgin brand through stunts like crossing the Atlantic in a Virgin branded hot air balloon. Blake Mycoskie turned a passion for helping poor children in Argentina into the thriving TOM’S footwear brand. UNREAL candy started with a question from a 13-year old kid, “Why does the junk food we love have to be so bad for us?” That question became a mission and a “healthier” candy company was born.

Other well-known examples of linking personal stories with expertise are inventor Sir James Dyson who revolutionized the vacuum cleaner and created Dyson Limited. As the brand was just getting started, Dyson appeared in every advertisement together with his machines.  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream who brought the “chunk” into ice cream and put “local” and social responsibility on everyone’s radar. They, too, are featured prominently on each ice cream carton.

These successful brands are practically inseparable from the personal brands that created them. Find your unique twist and don’t be shy about linking it with your business.

3. Use Every Touch Point for Your Brand.

Think of every point that a customer comes into contact with you as a chance to communicate your personal brand. Use those moments to make yourself and your business more memorable. Even little moments can have a big impact. The colors of my company, BrandTwist, are pink and purple. When I speak at conferences, I have a little purple bucket that people can deposit their business cards in. It’s a small touch, but goes a long way in reinforcing the brand of “me.”

The social media manager at Virgin Active SA had the following job description in his email signature: Social Media Ninja!  This makes an immediate, enjoyable impact that speaks to the whimsy of the Virgin brand and will long be remembered.

Consider other ways you can stand out besides the usual stationery and business cards. Perhaps you become known for a particular color or an accessory that  is always present in some fashion. Put a twist in your voice mail message. Create a unique salutation.

As an entrepreneur, independent contractor, artist, job seeker or corporate business executive, you are a brand.  As Richard Branson notes, “When you are running a business, the most powerful advertising asset you have is yourself.”

What’s your brand YOU story and how will you use it boost your business?

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, delivers the tools and steps you need to strengthen your brand and your connection to your customers. Get our free brand-building tips and receive access to updates about Brand School’s exclusive programs when you sign up for our newsletter at BrandSchoolOnline.com.

“Brand School was engaging and helpful to me in learning more about myself and my business. Results came amazingly quick. Now, my brand name speaks my message immediately and I’ve expanded my reach.”  - Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive  

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. 

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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.

Find Moments That Matter

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

TIP #8: FIND MOMENTS THAT MATTER

Many marketers fall into the trap of thinking that branding always has to be a huge gesture, a big billboard, a knockout commercial, etc. And while branding IS effectively promoted that way, sometimes, the little moments matter the most when it comes to reinforcing your brand promise. Think about the trivia tidbits on the inside of Snapple caps, the kooky smile on Amazon’s box every time you receive a home delivery, or the branded logo on the bottom of the Virgin Atlantic salt and pepper shakers. What little moments could your brand be overlooking? It could be a small line of copy on an invoice, or a greeting that loads as your website boots up. Take just five minutes out of your daily routine to stop and think about a potential mundane moment that, in fact, could surprise and delight your customer and creates a stronger brand connection in the process.

Remember, with a little creativity there can be tons of magic in even the smallest moment.

Check out tip #9 in the series, Make Your Brand Personal.

BRAND SCHOOL ADDS A TWIST TO YOUR BUSINESS

Brand School is the highly effective, premier branding program specifically designed to meet the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School here and read testimonials from many of Brand School’s satisfied former participants. To receive news about special offers and stay up to date on the next semester, please join our newsletter.

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“Quality information. The value is priceless. I loved every minute of it! I’ve recommended Brand School to industry friends and colleagues.” – Barbara Wanzo, Non-profit Homeowner Services

This Holiday, Go on a Brand Safari!

Here’s a way to make tedious holiday shopping a bit more palatable.

While your trudging around the malls and stores this holiday season,  don’t look it as a chore, look at it as a brand adventure.

Or at very least… brand research.

Notice which shops have the longest lines, what branded shopping bags are people walking around with.

Ask the shop keepers about the hottest items.

And make a mental note of what people are wearing.

Take your flip cam or a notebook and write it down.

Think about t what trends are revealed by these facts.

And then reflect on how these can be applied to your brand.
Keep reading »

QuickBite

“The apparel world is littered with companies who ruined their businesses trying to change their image and reach a different customer.”

- Gerald Barnes, the president of Neiman Marcus Direct

quoted in NY Times October 11, 2009 speaking about designer Eileen Fisher and her attempt to reach out to a younger, hipper audience.

Brand Schizophrenia?

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I love this sign.

It’s in a strip mall right near where I go to Jenny Craig.

I believe brands should diversify.

But this one just seems confused.

Right when they’ve got my mouth watering for some delicious (and convenient) ribs….

Suddenly they turn around and insist they’ve got more.

Is this a case of brand stretch or brand schizophrenia?

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Would this sign draw you in?