Why Brands Like American Girl Build Fans Not Customers

Great brands touch consumers hearts, not just their heads. They go beyond rational proof points and connect on an emotional level, and that’s why it’s the last criteria for the brands we choose on our BrandTwist Safari. So our Safari attendees can see brands that get this.

These brands know that branding is a relationship, not a transaction.

Ever feel so passionate about a brand you can’t wait to tell your friends all about it? You’re on a mission to get them to try it too so you can share this experience? When you feel and act this way, you’ve become a brand ambassador and your relationship has gone way beyond the “client zone” to something deeper.

I remember back in the day my friend Shari couldn’t believe I had not yet tried Netflix (this was back in the red envelope era). Every time I would see her she would pester me about it. I actually had a fleeting suspicion that she might be getting a commission from them. Not until I tried the brand and realize how much it changed my ability to watch TV and movies on my terms- did I understand why she was being so persistent.

The difference between fans and buyers.

When we choose brand experiences to visit on our guided BrandTwist Safaris, we look for brands that have fans – not just buyers. Brands that understand the emotional need they are filling – and who work hard to keep that relationship healthy.

American Girl Place is one such experience we will be visiting on our upcoming Safari.

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This brand really gets that they are not just selling dolls. They are fostering important friendships. The entire brand experience is designed around this special bond.  From the cafe where you can dine with your doll, the hospital where dolls are treated with special TLC, the Hair Salon with its pampering services for both girl and doll -even the clothes where you can dress like twins – American Girl is fostering a unique friendship. And not surprisingly, given this bond, commanding a premium price.

Your business can learn so much from TWISTING with American Girl and other brands about building deeper, and more profitable relationships with your customers

Join us in person in NYC as we visit Microsoft, American Girl, and more on our Brand Safari.

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How to Represent Your Brand at Big Events

In May I was asked to be a part of two amazing events with strong (and unique) brand experiences. First I stopped by the Business and Burgers segment during the Newfronts with Entrepreneur TV to talk TWISTS and burgers. The next day I headed to Northern California to join Tyra Banks at Stanford Graduate School of Business to talk TWISTS for personal branding.

Representing Your Brand on stages like Entrepreneur and Stanford Graduate School of Business

I think you’ll agree, both of these events had their own unique and very strong brand experiences, and in both cases, multiple large brands were involved. In events like these, the challenge becomes how do you make sure YOUR brand connects and stands out?

It all comes down to three Rs…

  • Research
  • Represent
  • Repeat

Let’s talk research.

For years we’ve heard about the importance of doing your “homework”, but for many business owners they skip over doing it before these types of events, and this is where you can lose some important brand leverage.

Before both events, I was in continuous contact with the teams putting on the events so I could know not only the details and expectations, but also how I could best support the event, and the event leaders.

By connecting with them before the event and digging in on my own research I was able to do two very important things.

First I was able to offer relevant recommendations that could help the event and hosts. This allows me to stand out to them, and that’s valuable not only the day of the event or for future events, but for possible partnerships in the future.

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The second thing it allows me to do is over deliver for the audience. I know exactly who they are before I entered the room and that allows me to make sure my content is directly targeted at them. I am able to make sure they hear it and remember it.

This research can happen right up until you go on stage. Before the Business and Burgers segment, I asked the guest chef about the burger and what the TWIST was. This allowed me to highlight the great burger and talk TWISTING. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t taken the time to ask a few quick questions. In case you are curious, it was a pinch of cinnamon added to the lamb burger. YUM!

Let’s talk represent

Representing your brand is more than carrying your card and handing it to everyone you meet. You’re a walking and talking example of your brand. This means you can be a constant visual reinforcement of your brand through wearing your brand colors, but also it means living your brand promise, so think not only about the color but the style as a whole.

Julie Cottineau and Tyra Banks talked Personal branding at Stanford Graduate School of Business

It’s also important to have collateral that represents your brand, and if you have a book – that gets really easy. I went back and forth about carrying books with me for the Business and Burgers events, and I’m glad I did. We ended up having one on the table during our chat. The same thing happened at Stanford. After the class, Tyra went live on Facebook with some students and held the book while sharing how she enjoyed it.

Remember this is all about being visual, what can you put in front of your audience’s eyes that will help them remember who you are? It doesn’t have to be a book, it can be a “report” of findings with your logo loud and proud on the cover.

Let’s talk repeat

One of the most important parts of Brand School is knowing your core brand message, and that’s because knowing that allows us to build everything else. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to know that for me it always comes back to the TWIST.

Julie Cottineau looks for the brand TWIST in a burger

That’s why during my time at Business and Burgers I asked about the TWIST in the burger. I also complimented the hosts on their own unique TWISTS – revving up business content with engaging cooking tips and, fun to eat, delicious (messy) burgers! It allowed me to have another place in the conversation to talk TWISTS. Even better was a way for me to talk about my core message, without just talking about me. It allowed me to highlight that you can find the TWIST in anything.

You’ll also notice in the videos from Entrepreneur TV and Tyra Banks we use the word TWIST a lot because it’s all about repeating that brand message in new and creative ways so that you can connect with the people listening.

It’s important to remember though, my ability to repeat came from doing the research, and visually representing the BrandTWIST brand.

What tips to do you have to help your brand shine during important events? Share them here at our BrandTwist blog.

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TWISTING to Help Causes Succeed on Selfish Giving Podcast

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BrandTwist Founder & CEO, Founderj of BrandSchoolOnline.com and author to “TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands” is the featured guest on CauseTalk Radio, with Joe Waters.  Visit the Selfish Giving website to learn more about how nonprofits & businesses can raise money & make money with win-win partnerships that change the world. – See more and hear the whole discussion HERE.

Highlights from the show include:

  • Julie’s career path to branding expert, including her unacknowledged invention of the Pet Rock and a stint with Sir Richard Branson.
  • How Julie defines Brand and a Brand Twist.
  • When is it appropriate for organizations to Twist? And why it’s okay to turn off some people!
  • How you find your twist in the marketplace by looking both within your own brand story and outside your industry.
  • The importance of failing harder and developing focus when it comes to brand development.
  • The incredible opportunity nonprofits and businesses have to promote themselves and build their brands.

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Finding the right TWIST can help your brand innovate and deliver. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program. Pick up your copy today.

An Airport TWIST Makes Wait Time More Fun

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Today’s traveler spends increasingly longer time waiting at airports. To address this, many airports offer more conveniences than ever before from health clinics, beauty salons and gyms, to designer brands, fine dining and entertainment – but every airport is different and most travelers are not aware of what’s available. Flyinstyle app solves this problem with a TWIST. It’s an interactive consumer app that connects you to all the concessions and goodies an airport has to offer- plus bonuses and discounts.

Says Flyinstyle Founder & CEO Amanda Anthony, “Our aim is to improve the airport experience, enhance communication between consumers and airports/airlines/brands/concessionaires…” *

Anthony saw that there were few options available to let travelers know about brands, products and retailers at airports. Thinking, “We could use an app for that” * she set out to create Flyinstyle, a personal shopper/travel airport guide available right on your mobile device. It allows retailers to directly connect and engage with travelers, offers special deals and discounts, has a blog giving travel tips and news, and users can share their first-hand airport stories.


Flyinstyle app is a TWIST that makes it easier for airport businesses to reach consumers and for consumers to get more enjoyment from airport travel. What TWIST would make it easier for your customer to enjoy your product or service. Is there a missing piece preventing you from getting the word out to your customer?

 

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Finding the right TWIST can help your brand innovate and deliver. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program. Pick up your copy today.

* The Moodie Interview

Promoting Pet Adoption With a Tennis Twist

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Stray dogs are problem the world over. Shelters are overflowing and animal rescue organizations are desperate to find ways to increase pet adoptions. How could a completely outside of category business lend support? Take the USTA (United States Tennis Association) and TWIST it with the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). That’s what The Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBS) did when they created the “Ball Dogs”  campaign – an entertaining and fun initiative that demonstrates how smart shelter dogs can be.

Debuting at the Brazil Open tennis tournament, four stray dogs abandoned in Sao Paulo slums participated in the match demonstrating their newly learned skills as ‘ball dogs’ – and captivated everyone’s attention and hearts.

“The idea is to show people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy. We have more than 1,000 dogs in our care,” Marli Scaramella, the organizer of the ball-dog initiative, told the Associated Press.

Successful businesses promise to solve problems, make lives easier, better and more fun. When the CBS partnered with the shelter dog initiative, they showed the world they have a heart, are willing to help, and that they care – creating a deeper and more emotional connection with their audience.

What pro-social cause should your brand TWIST with to add impact?

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Finding the right TWIST can help your brand stand out. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program.

The Pocket Dial: An iPhone and Fashion Twist

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Love your phone, but don’t know where to put it when you’re dressed for a nice evening out? Women can stash their phones in stylish handbags, but what do men in suits do? Cell phones weight down pants pockets and look bulky. Enter The Pocket Dial, invented by The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. Fallon TWISTED debonair fashion with a basic cell phone case to create a new solution to a common problem. The Pocket Dial is an iPhone case that has an interchangeable pocket square – so a gentleman can put his cell phone into his suit pocket and be stylish and unencumbered.

Fallon and his assistant literally hot glued a pocket square to an iPhone case creating the first prototype and marched into J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler’s office to pitch the idea, and they loved it. Proceeds go to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust so you not only look good, you feel good too.

Look at old problems from new angles and TWIST your way to new solutions. Consider a homemade prototype to make the idea more real and get others on board. What could you do with a glue gun and a bit of imagination?

Brand School gives you the tools to innovate and deliver more of what your ideal customers really crave. See you qualify for a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session HERE.

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“Working with Brand School … opens up so many doors and affects so many areas of  your business – an invaluable experience.” - Sarah Hinawi, Executive Director, The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Innovation

A Sweet Twist That Delivers Results

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Many non-profits rely on volunteers – but some actions, like giving blood, require a temporarily unpleasant experience to contribute to long term benefits.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service TWISTED with some out-of-category top celebrity chefs and Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster to promote the message that donating blood, beyond doing a good deed, is a fun, approachable and friendly experience. They focus on the biscuit (cookie) given after donating as a delicious, desirable – even sensuous – reward.

“Giving blood feels good.” “Enjoy the best biscuit after saving three lives.”

A spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down worked for Mary Poppins. What “sugar” can you deliver to your clients and customers to make it easier to say “Yes” to your service or product?

Brand School gives you easy, actionable tools that you can use right away to boost your brand’s impact. Get access to our team of experts and enjoy support and inspiration from an exclusive community of like-minded business owners, non-profits and entrepreneurs.  Learn more about Brand School and see if your business qualifies for a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session at BrandSchoolOnline.com

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“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, Non-profit

Twisting Luxury and Mass Market Fashion Brands

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Today, the luxury fashion market is facing many challenges – as many business are. Mass brands are growing in reach and competing with Luxury brands, and Luxury brands are forming partnerships with Mass retailers to meet new audiences. This phenomenon of both trading-up and trading-down has increased in popularity over the past 15 years and has increased more than 40% annually in the last decade.

The co-branding strategy can:

  • Strengthen a brand
  • Differentiate a brand from the competition
  • Extend a brand into other segments through the partner brand.

However, one of the risks in co-branding is overexposure and brand dilution.

Luxury brand dilution occurs when there’s:

  •  An incorrect fit between co-branding partners
  •  Unbalanced prestige positioning in a mass market
  •  Overexposure
  •  Lack of successful co-branding management
  •  Unknown strategic purpose.

For example: at first Karl Lagerfeld and H&M seemed to be the perfect fit because they share similar values, but in the long-term the differences in management caused dilution of the Lagerfeld brand. While, Vera Wang and Kohl’s at first seemed an unlikely pair but ended up a good fit because they’re both interested in management and quality control throughout the collaboration.

Furthermore, Karl Lagerfeld limited his co-branding to H&M, therefore the brand received limited exposure. Vera Wang has been collaborating with both Kohl’s and Zales making the Vera Wang brand more accessible to more mass consumers.

It may seem like Lagerfeld missed out on receiving big gains from the co-branding collaboration especially with some brand dilution, but both Lagerfield and Wang ended up benefitting from the partnerships. The strategic aim of Karl Lagerfeld was to gain knowledge, consumers and awareness through collaborating with H&M, and after the collaboration, he made his own masstige collection for the mass market. Whereas, Vera Wang’s SimplyVera collaboration with Kohl’s was to increase her consumer segment and branch into the lifestyle market.

What lessons can your businesses learn from these collaborations?

As the world becomes more accessible, brands need to follow suit and become more accessible to reach broader audiences. Collaborations and partnerships are powerful tools to help spread brand awareness, but it’s important to have a firm understanding on what your desired benefit is – before you launch a partnership.

Having a solid brand vision is essential when designing the next step to grow loyal brand followers. Brand School gives you the tools you need to recognize the right market for your business and chart the right course for the future. See more about our next session and a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session HERE.

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“Brand School is a must class for you! The exercises really help you to focus and re-focus on what branding your company is all about. You will get results you can use for the future,” - Brenda Dillion Cavette,  Fashionista Tea

About the Author:  

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Melanie Walt was born in Switzerland and has lived in many parts of the world. She recently finished her Master degree in Brands, Communication and Culture and has a Bachelor degree in Management with Marketing from the University of London. She is currently seeking job opportunities in the field of Marketing in Switzerland. Contact Melanie via: walt.melanie@bluewin.ch 

 

If you would like to be a BrandTwist guest blogger, please contact Jamie@brandtwist.com.

Innovative Connecting at 35,000 Feet

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Since commercial airlines became popular in the 50’s nothing much has changed. Unless you are on a luxury jet, most of us sit like anonymous sardines. We believe the airline industry is ripe for innovation and we often tell the true story of how we created the innovation TWISTING technique through a mix up with a McDonald’s mirage at Newark airport a few years ago.

When we do this TWISTING exercise in workshops and Brand School we often ask participants to imagine what would happen if a traditional airline like Delta would twist with an iconic brand like Starbucks – how would the airline experience become more innovative? Most respondents say that it would be great if we could have more convivial seating and make more meaningful connections on airlines, like we do at Starbucks. After all, Starbucks is not about coffee, it’s really about community.

We’re wondering if maybe the folks from Delta have been reading our BrandTwist blog or sneaking into the workshops, because they recently launched “Innovation Class” - a mentoring program at 35,000 feet that allows people to travel with innovators and use the flight time for valuable business connections.

Looking outside of your category for inspiration is one of the best ways to create fresh ideas and stand out in your market.

What iconic brand can your business TWIST with to reach new heights?

Brand School Master Class inspires innovative thinking to implement TWISTS like these that can broaden your business’ reach. Enrolling now – see if your brand qualifies HERE.

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“Brand School turned out to be like the Mastercard commercial, priceless.The one-on-one sessions really allowed me to go deep into what my practice was about and how to implement it” - Sandeep Manchanda, Giraffe Partners Program Management

A Tiffany’s Twist With FARE Halloween Pumpkins

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Nonprofits and small businesses have big challenges getting brand attention. An innovative TWIST can go a long way toward getting your brand recognized and embraced.

Take a look at this clever TWIST from nonprofit FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education nonprofit). Halloween is a particularly dangerous holiday for children with food allergies, so FARE found a clever way to get attention. Instead of simply broadcasting an awareness campaign, they added this TWIST: They used an iconic color to break through. They also drove engagement by inviting user participation.

Families wishing to be identified as “food allergy friendly” were invited to place a teal pumpkin on their doorstep or a computer print out on their window to identify their house as one that  hands out  out allergy-safe treats like toys, puzzles, games, or books,

They made it easy for kids to get involved by offering free downloads of promotional materials like pumpkin templates.

While the teal pumpkin idea was not specifically influenced by Tiffany’s (Teal has always been the identified color of food allergy awareness) We love the inspirational TWIST that a teal pumpkin is like a Tiffany’s box, which means that when you see it, you immediately know something special awaits.

What can your small business or non-profit TWIST with to create more impact and more engagement?

At Brand School, the premier brand-learning program for small businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs, we don’t simply teach you the brand facts; we invite you to become an active participant. You have access to an exclusive group of like-minded business owners who support and encourage one another. Find out how your business can benefit from Brand School HERE.

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“Brand School’s guidance and support has helped grow my business to new depths of expansion, creativity and financial worth… and keep it growing and transforming to passionately share what I love with others.” - Deborah Coulter, deborahcoulterartflow.com