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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Small Business Brand TWISTS – Dr. Tim Aquatics

Dr. Tim runs an aquarium supply company and has an impressive list of professional credentials including a Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and marine biology. Before Brand School, the “about me” section of his website was a laundry list of academic degrees, published articles, industry titles and honors, but it practically required a Ph.D. to read and understand it.

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The problem?

His ideal target included regular “Joe” aquarium enthusiasts who are looking for support in keeping their aquariums healthy and vibrant. Through the work Tim did in Brand School, he transitioned his brand idea from “science-based solutions” to “success at any level.” He now deliberately presents a less intimidating, more welcoming user experience (complete with an interactive recipe TWIST – think of your favorite Food Network show) where buyers feel more at ease to interact with the brand and ask more questions.

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Do you see the difference this personal and authentic TWIST adds?

 

It makes his brand more approachable, more relatable, and more likely to attract the amateur aquarium enthusiast who might be turned off by a brand that seems too scientific and overly authoritative.

“Before Brand School, we were more a ‘science’ brand but now the brand is about being a natural fish care company.  That was common with dogs and cats but we were the first with fish. The products, liquids, and fish food are natural and that resonates with consumers who see fish and an aquarium as a slice of nature in their home.”

That wasn’t the only way Tim used the TWIST lessons he learned in Brand School. They also used a TWIST to overcome objections when launching a new product.

 

“We had developed the first 100% natural, non-GMO fish food but a possible roadblock was the customer had to make it themselves which takes only 5 minutes to make a month’s worth of food.  So we twisted that possible negative – “Oh, I have to make the fish food” into a positive “ Really, I can make my own fish food”  by adding our EXTRAS which are various additions (think of them as spices) that one adds to food to customize it for their fish.”

“The EXTRAS come in pepper grinders so the consumer literally ‘twists’ the EXTRAS into the food before placing the food in the freezer to gel. This makes the food easy to demonstrate and you see the smile on people’s faces as they instantly see this is fun and not hard at all.  We even had a major store in NJ have their clerks dress up as cooks and demo the fish food – it’s a great YouTube video”.

Tim now has a powerful understanding of how to use TWISTS in his brand, but it he admits it wasn’t always easy.

 

“Initially it was hard to maintain focus and concentrate on running everything through the pillars but, as with most things, the more you do it the easier it gets and, this is the surprise, it actually makes it easier to make decisions. It if doesn’t fit – it’s out.”

“You have to trust the process. It was such a great experience for me. Though, after delving in, doing the work is hard. There is resistance, but having access to Julie with the one-on-one meetings helped to move the needle so we can continue in breaking through with a more creative flair to our brand. I’m so grateful I went through it.”

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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Small Business TWISTS – Rey Insurance Agency

Brand School Alumni, Linda Rey, has a family-owned insurance agency that celebrates its roots in the community. This includes a unique TWIST of sending out email advisories during bad weather with very localized updates on specific road closings and streets to avoid. This is something the larger companies could never do. And Linda’s customers are grateful. It’s one thing for an insurance agency to talk about its auto insurance policies, it’s another for it to actually keep you safe on the road.

Before Brand School it had been about 15 years since Rey Insurance had updated the brand. And as Linda put it, “we never really went through the process of what a business does for branding purposes. We didn’t have a strategy for how we wanted to look. Brand School afforded us the opportunity to explore how that might work for us without breaking the bank!”

Rey Insurance - Before and After Branding

One lesson from Brand School that helped Linda was to think about storytelling. Approaching their brand with that objective allowed them to be more human and step away from “textbook language about insurance”. Linda shares one of the ways they’ve implemented the TWIST, “BEING FUN in our DESIGN by presenting ideas and concepts about insurance that bring attention to considering the possibility vs. avoiding the consequences.”

Rey Insurance New Website Logo Update Rebrand

Linda transitioned her brand from a traditional family-owned insurance promise to a more modern “We help you GET insurance” brand idea. When she did this, she realized that her red and blue logo developed in 2000 blended in too much with her competitors and undermined her company’s TWIST of approachability.

She kept the core element of the shape but updated it with vibrant colors, which were inspired by her favorite organic grocer. When she walked into this grocery store, the fruits and vegetables were so inviting and colorful that she wanted to pick them up and put them in her basket. She loved the new logo so much she added bright throw pillows that adorn the reception area of the agency. This splash of color is distinctive for her category and really underscores her brand’s intention to be friendlier, more welcoming and more down-to-earth than traditional insurance agencies.

Before an After Rey Brand Logos

Investing the time in finding the TWIST and following that up with action, made a big impact on Rey Insurance. The key there is doing the work. It can feel overwhelming to implement, but that’s where the support of Brand School can really help. Linda says it best, “(Brand School) was such a great experience for me. Though, after delving in, doing the work is hard. There is resistance, but having access to Julie with the one-on-one meetings helped to move the needle so we can continue in breaking through with a more creative flair to our brand. I’m so grateful I went through it.”

Brand School by Brand Twist  Branding Course for your Small Business

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, delivers the tools and steps you need to strengthen 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.

How Twists Grow Business

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This is a replay of Julie Cottineau’s webinar presented to UPenn students and alumni on how to use branding to grow business. A lively Q & A session followed. This is loaded with helpful TWISTS, tools and takeaways for business owners of large to small businesses, non profits, or personal brands. You can hear the replay HERE. 

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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.

Talking Brand and Entrepreneur TWISTS with Steve Blank

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Julie Cottineau, founder of BrandTwist and BrandSchoolOnline.com and author of TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, talks branding and entrepreneurship TWISTS with Steve Blank on The Wharton School’s “Entrepreneurs are Everywhere” show on Channel 111 on SiriusXM Radio. LISTEN TO A REPLAY HERE.

Twist angle white

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.

Twist to Help Causes Succeed

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Non-profits face unique challenges in reaching their auciences. Julie Cottineau, BrandTwist Founder & CEO, Founder of BrandSchoolOnline.com and author of TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, chatted with Joe Waters, host of  CauseTalk Radio about how to find the TWIST that will make you stand out and make a bigger difference. You can listen to the interview on his Selfish Giving website, HERE.

Twist angle white

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.

Pokemon GO: Gaming With a TWIST

Next time you see a group of teenagers glued to their phones in public, do not assume they are on Instagram or Snapchat. Rather, they traveled to this specific location to replenish their supply of Pokeballs at what is called a Pokestop. That’s right. They are engulfed in the world of Pokemon GO, the smartphone application with a TWIST that is sweeping the nation.

As a rising high school senior, I have many friends who have been involved in the Pokemon franchise as long as I can remember. They would wait on the long lines at Gamestop and Best Buy for the release of each Pokemon installment. However, the game has never garnered my interest until now, with Niantic’s release of Pokemon GO.

In Pokemon games, you are thrown into a new world where wild creatures, named Pokemon, run free with special powers. A professor, an avid Pokemon researcher, asks you to catch different kinds of Pokemon and bring them back to him for his nonstop research. All the way, you battle other Pokemon “trainers” and level up.

Pokemon GO has a new TWIST: it incorporates the concept of augmented reality. The world we live in is merged with the Pokemon world, enhancing the reality we see day to day. This is quite different from virtual reality, where you are fully immersed in a new environment. While virtual reality simulates your physical presence in a new atmosphere and synthetically creates a sensory experience, augmented reality simply brings artificial aspects into the world we live in. Never has an augmented reality experience been so accessible before the release of Pokemon GO.

Pokemon GO’s other TWIST is its use of physical activity. In order to successfully play the game, you must be active. The app forces you to walk to new locations to make Pokemon appear, battle other players, and replenish your training supplies. In some cases, you must walk a certain distance, often between 2 and 5 kilometers, to activate certain aspects of the game.

Unfortunately, your supply of Pokeballs is limited. It is a devastating feeling to be without these red and white spheres, as they are essential for gameplay. The Niantic team found a way to incorporate physical activity with the replenishing of Pokeballs with the creation of Pokestops. These locations, usually found at landmarks, allow you to replenish your Pokemon tools every five minutes. You must be at this location for the Pokestop to be activated. Your local church, park, or memorial just may be a Pokestop! The concept of Pokestops works great for city dwellers, where there are multiple Pokestops on every block. Pokestops are much more scarce in rural areas, where players must travel half an hour to encounter one of these necessary locations.

Once you have enough higher-level Pokemon, you can go to locations with Pokemon gyms. These locations, also found at local landmarks, enable you to battle other players. Each Pokemon you catch is equipped with different attack  s and health levels. The higher your Pokemon’s combat power, the better equipped it is for battles. If you are successful in beating the players in the gym, you then take over that gym, leading to many rewards. If you are unsuccessful, your Pokemon loses health. If it tragically loses all of its health points, it must be revived. You can do this by gaining revive tools at your local Pokestop.

Many workers at notable locations, where Pokestops and gyms are located, are in favor of Pokemon GO. Philadelphia park rangers welcome the game, as it draws a younger crowd to the city’s landmarks. The rangers hope that, once players arrive, they will look up from their smartphones and take in their surroundings. In contrast, other famous locations, like the Arlington National Cemetery and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, have different policies. These national treasures have asked Pokemon GO players to turn the game, and their phones, off out of respect.

Pokemon GO is revolutionary, and it is exerting a clear influence on teenagers, as well as twenty-somethings who have followed Pokemon since its initial release in 1996. Its TWISTS, augmented reality and physical activity, make the game unlike any application on the market today. If your children have not downloaded Pokemon GO yet, it is only a matter of time before the game takes over their lives.

How exactly does the game work? Essentially, when you open the app, your smartphone’s screen becomes a map of your surroundings, showing you streets, bodies of water, and more. When moving, different Pokemon creatures will often appear in your path. Once you click on the Pokemon you wish to capture, your smartphone’s camera is activated. The Pokemon is right in front of you! Swipe the Pokeball at the bottom of your screen to toss it at the Pokemon. With proper aim, the Pokeball will engulf the creature, adding it to your inventory.

Some Pokemon are rarer than others, making them harder to catch once found. The female Nidoran in the image to the right has a measly combat power of 10, making it a very common Pokemon that is easy to catch. Meanwhile, there are Pokemon with combat powers that exceed 1000.  It is rumored that the more notable your location, the more notable the Pokemon you will encounter. You are more likely to find a rare Pikachu at the Eiffel Tower than you will in a rural Idaho potato farm. The rarest Pokemon that I have caught (so far) is a Venomoth with a combat power of 290 – not too shabby for a novice Pokemon player.

Think about ways you can TWIST to involve your customer more. There are easy-to-build app programs, loyalty apps, even the classic Bingo card or a “Find the star” on a receipt could make a more lasting impression on your market.

 About the author:

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Justin Cohen is a rising senior at Dobbs Ferry High School. An International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidate, Justin hopes to pursue a career in advertising. He is happy to be a part of the BrandTwist team!  You can reach Justin on Twitter at @justcohen18 and via email at justcohen18@gmail.com.

 

 

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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.