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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BrandTwist’s Julie Cottineau on HispanicMPR.com

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In this interview for the Hispanic Marketing & Public Relations website host Elena del Valle discusses how you can TWIST to build a power brand with BrandTwist & BrandSchoolOnline.com Founder and Best Selling Author of TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build breakthrough Brands, Julie Cottineau. 

You’ll learn how to look for TWISTS that bring customers deeper into the experience of your brand and inspire them to share and help keep your product, service or business on the social radar.

Click HERE to listen.

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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.

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. 

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.

Elder Care with a TWIST

GRANNYPODFamilies with elderly relatives who need constant caregiving have few options when it comes to long-term housing. Assisted living and nursing homes can be expensive and many older adults want to maintain some independence and stay close to their families. Enter N2Care’s innovative TWIST to address a growing need, the MEDCottage, a.k.a: “The Granny Pod”.

The MedCottage TWISTS an RV mobile home with a hospital room.
“Our products offer families the ability to directly participate in the recovery, rehabilitation and extended care of the people they love.”
These are mobile, modular dwellings that can be temporarily placed on a caregiver’s property. There are three designs to select from. One is designed to fit into an
existing garage. Another is designed on an RV platform and the third comes as a kit you or a contractor assembles. Each is handicapped accessible, comes equipped with safety rails, first aid kit, defbrillator machine, lighted floorboards, floor sensors, a computer virtual companion, and video cameras that alert the family if something goes wrong.

AARP says 25 million Americans need to take care of their elderly parents. N2Care recognized the growing need of this target population and created a win/win concept that allows great care and more independence for older Americans.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

Brand Twisting on Creative Warriors Podcast

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Julie Cottineau, BrandTwist and Brand School Online founder, former VP of Brand for Virgin, and author of “TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands”, shares branding and business-building tips to help your business and brand stand out on Creative Warriors Podcast with host Jeffrey Shaw.

Highlights:

  • Your brand is your business
  • Taking off your brand Blinders
  • 3 Pillars to create lasting impact
  • Leveraging industries outside your category
  • The importance of a Brand Audit

Creative Warriors is dedicated to serving and supporting service-based professionals who are in business marketing themselves and their talent. To make the journey more joyous and the path more profitable. Their tagline: Create. Serve. Be Prosperous.  Check out their site for more helpful resources, podcasts, and courses.

To listen to Jeffrey and Julie’s discussion, click here: Episode 180 – Julie Cottineau

 

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.