What’s My TWIST? Unexpected experts can help your brand.

Far too often, brands get stuck sounding, looking, and feeling the same way to consumers as any other competitor in their field. These brands aren’t standing out from the bunch; they’re merely doing just enough to fit in and survive. The most successful brands owe that success to the fact that they’re different. It’s why you gravitate to Apple before Dell, and why you can’t forget GEICO’s gecko. To stand out you need to get some outside perspective and a little inspiration.

What's My Twist Panel - Unique experts give feedback

The “What’s my TWIST Panel” technique does just that.

The “inspired experts” panel uncovers fresh language by taking experts in related but distinctly different fields and asks questions to extract fresh language that can be TWISTED with your own brand.

For example, recently we helped a pharmaceutical client with an over-the-counter medication focused on protection, by bringing in four unusual experts:

  • A former fireman
  • A bouncer
  • A computer security consultant
  • And an insurance agent

The essential element of this panel was that the client had no idea what fields the experts were in. Similar to the classic “What’s My Line?” game show – the occupations of the panelists were guessed and revealed at the very end. This kept the pharmaceutical executives focused on active listening for fresh language that they could then TWIST to add distinction to their marketing.

The panel was asked questions such as:

  • “What does protection mean in your field?”
  • “What happens when there is a failure of protection?”
  • “What are the emotions involved? The consequences?”
  • “How do you act to prevent future breakdowns?”

The results? Fresh perspectives on providing control, comfort, and confidence to consumers in the most vulnerable situations – that can be TWISTED into marketing that breaks through.

What experts would you invite to your What’s My TWIST? panel and what related, but distinct categories should your brand be learning from? Learn about more TWISTING techniques in TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands.

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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.

Stanford Graduate School of Business Brand TWIST exercise

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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An Inspiring Entrepreneurial Twist that Warmed Our Hearts

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We are always looking for the twist – that little something special that opens our minds to new ways solving old problems. This entrepreneurial twist is one of the most inspiring we’ve seen.

Insight + invention + inspiration = Veronika Scott and The Empowerment Plan.

Having experienced homelessness, college student Veronika wanted to create something that would help serve that community as part of a design class assignment. She created a coat that converts to a sleeping bag – a truly innovative concept.

During the prototype testing, a woman yelled at her, berating her for this “band aid” solution, when what homeless people really need are jobs. That’s when Veronika decided to start her own production company and employ the very population she really wanted to reach. At The Empowerment Plan, workers are taught the skills they need to empower their lives while creating products that help others.

……….

Insight came from her personal experience; invention came from her college design class assignment; and inspiration came from listening to the perspective of her target. Well done, Veronika!

What can your small business do by combining insight + invention + inspiration?

In Brand School, students go beyond category boundaries, take lessons from successful brands and twist them with their own business to innovate and serve the consumer who really needs a new choice. See what Brand School can do for you.

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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-defined branding campaigns.” - Randi Curhan, Development Coordinator for Redwood High School Foundation, Non-profit

Why Bother Branding Your Small Business?

In this post, Why Bother Branding Your Small Business?, Malla Haridat shares the revelation that she, “…never realized how important branding was to small businesses. Especially those struggling with a clear and powerful answer to “why should I buy from you?” This is part of our guest blogger seriesMalla is an entrepreneur, strategist and Brand School graduate. Read more about Malla at the end of the post.  If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information.

Big fish, little fish
I always thought that branding only made sense for big companies.  I visualized an executive team strategizing about the vision and look of the company to ensure that all employees operated with one voice to give a consistent “feel” for customers.
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I never realized how important branding was to small businesses. Especially those struggling with a clear and powerful answer to “why should I buy from you?”
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I am a strategist for small business owners and help women entrepreneurs in the making take their talents to the bank.  You can visit my blog at mallaharidat.com for advice with a no BS approach.  I have been blessed to work with amazing clients who hired me to build small business camps and workshops.  But after years of serving corporate and not for profit clients, I realized there was a market I really should be serving – individual women entrepreneurs.  However, it has been a challenge for me to convey how I can impact individuals after years of focusing my marketing on the needs of large groups. I enrolled in the Fall ’12 Session of Brand School by Brand Twist and it gave me several insights on how to build my business.
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I learned that branding is so much more than creating a tag line or choosing your color scheme. It is an opportunity to craft a clear identity for your company that allows you to focus on what you deliver. And once you tackle this challenge, it’s much easier to communicate to prospective clients, the media and even your friends and family about what you deliver and why your company is better than others.

I also learned how to design a clear framework around my services – what I would focus on and what I would leave off the table. For a solo entrepreneur who is often enticed to take on all types of work that sounds interesting – it’s critical to have this boundary so that I don’t lose focus from my company’s core strength.

So here are the top branding lessons I learned:

1.   Creating a brand proposition is critical for a small business.  Yes, it’s hard work. And yes, you’ll have to spend valuable time creating and testing your brand while  you’d rather be finding new customers. But the payoff is INCREDIBLE. The clear verbal message I have about my business is making it much easier for prospects to “get” me.  And it really paid off recently as I was awarded a finalist spot in a business pitch competition!  I never would have been able to hone my message into a 2 minute pitch that was clear, compelling – and won me a coveted spot.

2.   Incorporating the values of brands you love into your business can be a fun and enlightening way to engage new prospects. I examined two brands that I love  – Embassy Suites and Trader Joe’s – and found themes that both companies use that have helped me to clarify my own brand.  What’s so cool about that activity is that you examine companies that are not in your industry to better strengthen your own company. I found that their focus on over-delivering on value yet charging competitively was an idea that I could incorporate in my own brand.

3. Get clear on who you serve.  It’s amazing how many times I have heard other entrepreneurs share that “I serve everyone” in my business plan camps. It’s impossible for even large multi-national brands with huge advertising budgets to reach everyone in the market.  And yet, when I first started looking at my target customer, I almost started to do the same thing. Yes, I knew that women entrepreneurs were a target but I hadn’t spent time in their “shoes” and really living and understanding  their concerns, needs and values to better position my product. It’s about getting to the core of what keeps them up at night and the language they use to describe their problems. And while I am clear that understanding my target customer will be ongoing in my business, I am happy to say I’ll spend less money on marketing because I have a deeper understanding of the copy and language I can use to attract her and the groups that I can start targeting.

Branding isn’t just for the big guys. In fact, I think its even more important for small businesses because we have to stand out, and make sure that every single dollar spent on marketing and client acquisition pays off. A strong brand with a clear message can help a small business achieve big things.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, delivers the tools and steps you need to grow your brand and your business’ connection to your market. Get our free brand-building tips and receive immediate updates about Brand School’s exclusive programs when you sign up for our newsletter at BrandSchoolOnline.com.
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“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
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MallaMalla Haridat is an entrepreneurship strategist and founder of Mom and Daughters Inc. As the founder and CEO of New Designs for Life, Malla is a nationally recognized expert in the specialized field of entrepreneurship education and has trained over 1,000 students. Her company was awarded the 2005 New York City Small Business Award of the Year by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and has been featured in publications like The New York Times and on Martha Stewart Radio.

How Lululemon Athletica Stretches its Brand Touchpoints

Check out “7 Bewitching Brands,” an article featuring an interview with BrandTwist founder, Julie Cottineau, in the April issue of Entrepreneur magazineShe addresses how Lululemon builds a community of brand ambassadors and uses all of its brand touch points (from tags to tote bags) to build its brand.

Despite the recent setbacks Lululemon Athletica has had with its recall of see-through yoga pants, we are still a big fan of this brand. We believe that all brands make mistakes, but in general, Lululemon does more right than wrong and we think they will weather this setback.

Read about Lululemon and 6 other bewitching brands HERE. This is a great issue of Entrepreneur – dedicated 100% to brand. A must read.

What brands would you put on the “bewitching” brands list? What’s missing? We’d love to hear your twist.

“Julie’s active participation in Brand School and feedback was amazing and helped a LOT. I received great value from this program.” - Leslie Hughes, PUNCHmedia 

Get  information about priority registration for the next session of Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also visit us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and inspiration on branding.

Necessity is the Mother of Brand Invention

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” That expression is as true today as it was when Plato first wrote it, circa 450 BC.

Here is another catchy term, “evergreen topic.” Meaning, a subject  that will always be of great interest to people. One of the biggest evergreen topics is health. If there is such a thing as a health bandwagon, it sure seems like EVERYONE is on it. Now, let’s take all of the above and create a little equation: Necessity + Invention + Evergreen = Brad’s Raw Chips.

Brad’s Raw Chips are a gluten-free, organic, vegan, kosher snack food. Founded by Brad Gruno, who had no experience what-so-ever with baking, cooking or nutritional health products. In fact, he had worked in the telecommunications industry for over 20 years, was 40 pounds overweight with high cholesterol, and was depressed… you get the picture. When Brad decided to get on a healthier track by following a raw diet, he found what he missed most was the flavorful, spicy taste and crunch of snack foods. Out of sheer desperation he began to “play” with kale. He made a kale “chip” and shared samples with friends and family and ta-da… Brad’s Raw Chips were born. Now, he’s expanded the line with other veggies, crackers, and even a snack biscuit for dogs.

It was Brad’s personal quest which led him to focus on a single product that made him stand apart from the thousands of snack foods lining the market shelves. Sharing his story and mastering one specific, singular niche, actually ended up enabling product development and market expansion.

Don’t be put off by taking a look at your own life. What you might want or need may be just the thing to fill a gap in the marketplace, too.

Your target market may have a lot more in common with you and your story than you think. When you share your story you add a deeper dimension to the user experience. You open the way for your customer to identify with you and feel a genuine connection with your brand.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but identifying your specific niche and honing your brand’s story takes strategic cultivation. Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, will give you actionable steps and strategies that you can use to grow an evergreen brand.  Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

This post is part of our Brands That Twist series celebrating innovative brands. Read about other breakthrough brands and more ways to grow your business and brand here

“I was starting my business from scratch and was all over the place when started the course. Brand School really helped me focus. I came out of it with a foundation for my brand that I know will work. Without Brand School, it never would have happened.” - Nicole Lesser, Entrepreneur

Polling is a Blast!

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Research Polling Finally Enters the World of 2.0.

It’s about a cool little widget called Urtak.

I’ve installed one of these on my blog (see side bar just under upcoming appearances).

So far the results have been fascinating.

I’ve received over 1,000 responses.

Some interesting tidbits about the BrandTwist readers:

- 30% of your Moms are on Face Book
- 67% of you have fired a gun
- 90% describe yourselves as happy
- 74% spend more than 2 hours a day goofing off online
- 71% would like to work for Don Draper
- 100% say you like this Urtak widget

I’ve just added about 40 new questions.

A sneak peek:
Keep reading »

Research Polling Finally Enters the World Of 2.0

Read this post and check out my BrandTwist Urtak poll on the sidebar.

There’s a fundamental flaw with the majority of research polls.

By their very design, they make assumptions on what questions are relevant and/or predictive.

In other words, the poll results are only as good as the questions that have been asked.

But what if the assumptions on what’s important are wrong? Then the data is not so useful.

For example, I could do a survey on airline travel satisfaction and ask lots of questions about seat comfort.

However, maybe I didn’t think to ask about food quality, which might be the key driver for a lot of respondents.

In this case, the relevance of the data is limited by the assumptions and bias of the researcher (me).

My friends at Urtak have set out to change this.
Keep reading »