Transcend the Ordinary and Rise Above Your Competition

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 6.59.13 AMNow that we’ve got you planning your next Brand Safari it’s time to figure out what to look for. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about what we look for on our BrandTwist Brand Safari’s, kicking off with T – Transcend the Ordinary.

Today we’re going to talk about how brands like Coco-Mat and Microsoft transcend the ordinary with their customers by allowing customers to experience their brands in a way that’s different from anyone else.

Let’s start with talking about what it means to transcend the ordinary, I think it’s about looking for brands that go beyond what’s expected. Transcend ordinary experiences to provide something fresh. It’s about how your clients experience your brand. Coco-Mat and their flagship store is a great example of this.

Can buying a mattress be relaxing?

On a recent Safari, we visited the iconic Coco-Mat store in SoHo for some hands on inspiration that attendees then TWISTED with their own businesses. Coco-Mat has shaken up the mattress category on every level by providing mattresses that are customizable by layer and made with all natural materials- like coconut fiber (hence the name). No metal springs are used. That’s not even the best TWIST though.

Cocomat Brand Safari BrandTwist Brand Experience

They also have TWISTED the sales experience and transcended the sometimes stereotypical pushy mattress seller to a more thoughtful and zen experience. Their sleep specialists invite you to spend a few hours or even the night in a special “nap suite” in their SoHo store. They will make up the bed with the exact mattress you are thinking of purchasing. So you are sure that it’s the right fit. There’s a bathroom with shower in the suite and calming scents and decor.

It’s shifting an experience that can be stressful and frustrating and instead allowing you to experience the ease of their company at every step. It’s a completely unique experience that turns category norms on their heads. How can you relieve any friction in your buying experience for your customers- and make the process of engaging with your business as smooth and “dreamy” as possible?

How does Microsoft transcend the ordinary?

The idea of letting potential customers experience your brand instead of selling them on the idea is something Microsoft has done well with their flagship store in New York. Which is exactly why we’ll be hosting a Brand Safari in the NYC Experience Store there in September.

Microsoft experience stores give potential customers the opportunity to interact with the products. This helps them fall in love through learning more about the features. This is evident in the innovative Youth Spark coding camps.

These camps not only serve the community (another way to transcend) but it also gives consumers the opportunity to engage with the product, and fall in love with a product.

How can you transcend the ordinary?

Now it’s time for action, look for brands that turn the category norms on their heads. Remember, the best brands to TWIST with are outside of your category so get creative. Think about brands you love or have experienced that provide the opposite of what you expect (ex. a zen mattress buying experience instead of a stressful one).

Then TWIST this with your business. How can you tackle head on and rise above the common pain points in your category to provide a fresh, memorable and compelling brand experience?

Don’t forget to stay tuned, we’ll be talking about Walking the talk when we return with our next post.

Can’t wait to experience the TWIST for yourself? Grab one of our limited Safari spots for September here.

BrandTwist September Brand Safari

Get Out From Behind Your Desk – Go Experience Brands

Are you experiencing the world through your computer or phone screen?  As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you need to hit the streets, experience the brandscape through the eyes of your customers – to truly know how to meet their needs and offer something of value that will break through the competitive clutter and get noticed.

This is why BrandTwist Safaris are so valuable because they take us out of our every day and put us in the center of experiences where we learn important lessons about branding which are then applied directly through Interactive, hands-on exercises to TWIST that inspiration and create actionable innovative brand ideas for new products or services.

BrandTwist Safaris have been applied successfully for companies like Virgin and Spotify in iconic neighborhoods including Times Square, SoHo and Rockefeller Center. The good news is they can happen anywhere.

Microsoft Experience BrandTwist Brand Safari Experience

Can you build your brand by hanging out in a lego store?

Big brands, like Microsoft, are building flagship stores all over the world to change how their customers engage with their brand. Allowing customers to experience a brand by touching and feeling, or even playing with the brand.

For the next 5 weeks, we’re going to talk about how you can go on your own Brand Safari, and what to look for. Even better, this series is leading up to a Brand Safari in NYC at the Flagship Microsoft Experience Store – that 30 lucky applicants will be able to attend.

You don’t need to be in Manhattan to do a BrandTwist Safari, you don’t even need to be in a large city. The most important thing is to pick locations/experiences to visit that are 1) away from your category – to maximize the freshness of the ideas and 2) are locations that connect deeply with their targets. Don’t forget, the value is about getting out of your everyday and away from your own business.

If you are not sure where you would go on a BrandTwist Safari ask yourself these question:

  1. What are the brand experiences that really engage people?
  2. What’s hot and why?
  3. What’s a best-kept local secret?
  4. Where do all the teens love to go?
  5. Where do the tourists go in your town or city?
  6. Where does the customer service rock?

No matter where you go, the trick to getting the most out of your Brand Safari is to observe and record what is going on around you – bring a notebook or a clipboard with paper, take photographs, buy something from the store or location and see what the purchase experience is like and the packaging. Do they give you your purchase in a plain paper or plastic bag – or does the brand use the packaging as a walking billboard – like the Build-a-Bear Cardboard bear homes?

Dig into the details, that’s where the best insights are and write everything down. You never know what could inspire your own TWIST later.

Stay tuned for our next post, we’re going to dig in on some specific details around where to go and how to TWIST those valuable insights with your own business.

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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

empowerment

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 »