5 Brand Trends for 2013

I don’t have a crystal ball, but that doesn’t stop me from having some opinions about what the year to come has in store. Check out my five predictions for brand trends in 2013 and let me know what you think in the comment section below!

1. The Royal Waiting

Anything Kate Middleton wears while baking the royal bun in the oven is sure to be an instant hit.  And it’s a pretty safe bet that the Duchess won’t be wearing anything too sexy or body clinging while she’s waiting for her royal heir to hatch. Will we be seeing a throw back to the formless maternity dresses and peter pan collars of Lady Diana? Probably not. You can bet Kate will continue to build her own personal brand with a maternity look that’s stylish, practical, and demure all at the same time. There’s likely a relatively unknown British maternity designer that’s about to become a household name. Look for knock-offs to appear immediately in the stores. Topshop may even start a maternity line.

2. Instagram becomes the new Facebook for tweens

Many tweens (ages 10-12) aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts, but many others have their own iPads (or at least constant access to the family device). Bottom line: these almost-teenagers want to share everything, and pictures have always been worth a thousand words. Will this set still want to graduate to Facebook when their parents finally give the ‘okay’, or will they eventually fuel the growth of Instagram as the hottest social media channel? I predict the latter.

3. Blind Agency Pitches

The best part of the immensely popular talent show “The Voice” is the first weeks when the judges choose contestants based solely on their singing ability. Chairs facing away from the stage, the performers’ appearance has no influence on whether they make it on to one of the judge’s teams. I think agencies will soon be asked to pitch in a similar way. I mean, I can just imagine potential clients sitting enthroned in over-sized leather chairs, fingers hovering over big red buttons. Perhaps the strength of a small, relatively obscure agency’s simply brilliant core idea will finally have the chance to trump the dog and pony shows that many of the larger agencies have come to rely on.

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4. I Heart Brooklyn

This younger-brother borough has long been creeping up on its more popular counterpart (Manhattan) as the coolest place to see and be seen in the NY metro area. The shiny new Barclay Center, home to uber cool Jay-Z’s Nets, may have finally given this area the last boost it needed to wear the crown. Will Brooklyn finally win the sibling rivalry and become the focus of the iconic “I Love New York” campaign? The way it’s looking right now, it just might happen. I Heart Brooklyn bumper sticker anyone?

5. Weather or Not

For the past few years, the seasons are completely out of whack. Regardless of whether you believe in global warming, you have to admit that the temperatures are not what we used to expect each season and Mother Nature seems to be having a field day at our expense with hurricanes, October snow storms and then 60 degree Decembers. Will these changes affect the way that brands are created and marketed? For example, maybe we won’t see the same seasonal collections in fashion lines. Maybe a “round the year” collection from designers will become the norm. Hey, it could happen.

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Fear of the Idea

Does this ever happen to you?

You (or someone in your organization) comes up with a new idea, and after an initial stage of euphoria and excitement, you are left with a sinking feeling of “Oh, sh*t”.

Your enthusiasm dwindles as you are filled with anxiety about what to do next. How do I turn this idea into action? How do I get it out of our heads and into the marketplace?

Perhaps these are some of the thoughts running through your mind:

  • Getting ideas approved through our organization is an Olympic sport
  • By the time everyone is on board, our competition will probably beat us to it
  • It seems like an interesting idea, but maybe we need more data to know for sure.
  • If it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t someone tried it before? What’s the catch?
  • Seems risky, I’m not sure we can afford to fail. Do I really want to stick my neck out?

Well if you recognize yourself in some or all of the above statements, you are not alone.

I have worked with many entrepreneurs and all of them have faced moments of fear and self-doubt. Many of them have described the idea like a big elephant in the room. You can’t ignore it but you don’t quite know what to do with it.

These feelings are natural. It’s the way our mind’s are wired to process something new. But just because you have these feelings, it doesn’t mean you have to give into them.

The secret to successful entrepreneurs is that they channel this anxiety back into something positive. They acknowledge the fear, embrace it, and use it as the adrenaline they need to take action.

Here are a three tips that I learned from successful entrepreneurs during a  recent BRITE conference I participated in:

  1. Go with your gut: If the idea is appealing to you, if it solves a problem that you find personally relevant, then it will most likely appeal to others. Limit the market research Keep reading »

Marketing is Not a Spectator Sport

But too often, people who work in this field, treat it like one. We’re afraid to move too quickly, think too boldly or try something before it’s proven or has measured impact.

So we stay on the sidelines, safe and sedentary (and most likely bored).

What if we acted that way on the tennis, soccer or football field?

The balls would come whizzing by us, our opponents would gain yardage, points, etc.  and we’d surely be on the losing side of the scoreboard.

Marketing is Not a Spectator Sport.

Get out and play. Win or lose, at least you’re in the game.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What keeps you on the sidelines?

The Thrill of Flying (and Trying)

Yesterday we went on a company outing to a Trapeze School.

Wow!

What an experience.

A while ago I wrote a post about getting out of your comfort zone and feeling butterflies.

Well, this was easily a 100 + on the “Monarch scale”.

Those butterflies were fluttering like crazy as I climbed the extremely steep ladder to the top of the platform.

The whole while I was wondering how I could gracefully turn around and go back down the ladder and not make too much of a fool of myself in front of my friends and colleagues.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) backing down the ladder wasn’t an option. It was already being climbed up by the next victim (I mean participant).

So I listened to the instructor, took a deep breath, and took the plunge.

And it was hard. And I didn’t quite do it right. And I was horribly ungraceful.

(By the way, this is not just me being modest. Later, over drinks I actually won a trophy for the “worst grabbing of the bar” from my crew at Virgin).

But I did it. And much to my surprise I actually put my name on the list to go up again.

And the second time was slightly better than the first, but still not great.

But I am glad I did it.

All the trite sayings about taking risks, feeling alive, etc. are true.

And although I wasn’t perfect, I still felt good about challenging myself.

But do you know what was actually the coolest?

Watching other people conquer their fears and triumphing.

During the day, on the ride over to the location, and certainly during my long climb up the ladder it was all about me, me, me.

But once I completed my two turns and felt I had done enough, I got changed back into my street clothes, sat down and watched everyone else.

That’s where I got the biggest thrill.

All around me, people were taking risks, climbing ladders, swinging on bars, and crossing a very high and scary metal tight-rope.

And although they were sweating, and shaking, and sometimes missing and falling…they were trying and succeeding…definitely succeeding in pushing themselves to try something new.

Hours later I can still vividly recall the look on my friend Paul’s face as he nailed a challenging swing and catch into the arms of a waiting staff member.

A beautiful, pefect, s*** eating grin.

Watching him was definitely the best moment of the afternoon.

Reflecting on the highlights of the outing, it hit me that sometimes the reward doesn’t have to be in the risks you take.

It can also be in sharing and celebrating the triumphs of others.

Maybe that’s obvious, and probably it’s a bit corny. But it’s still true and worth remembering.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
Whens the last time you celebrated someone else’s victory?

Dance to a Different Drum

I love this video. It takes something traditional and turns it on it’s head.

What fun and joy (and creativity).

From what I’ve read, this innovative entrance was the bride’s idea.

The group only had one quick practice before the big event.

What a daring risk to take on the “biggest day of your life.”

Sometimes it pays off to just go for it.

I have a hunch these two are going to have a happy life.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
What do you think of this reinvented tradition?

Taking it to the Streets


I love New York.

A few days ago I was walking in Soho down Broadway during lunch. The streets were packed with shoppers, and tourists and the atmosphere was almost carnival like.

In the space of one single block there were:

Two Hollister lifeguards” (shirtless, buff young men in orange shorts) standing in front of the store

One drag queen on a treadmill in the window of Ricky’s beauty supply shop

One person with a tray standing out sampling chicken sandwiches in front of Miro sandwich shop.

All of this activity causing consumers to pause, smile, and more than likely enter a few stores they might not have been planning on.

It made me wonder why in these somewhat dire times more brands aren’t going the extra mile to turn the retail shopping experience into well…an experience – and not just a transaction.

The trend towards retail as experience is nothing new. In fact it’s been in full force for a few years. Just duck into the M&M’s store in Times Square and you will see it in all its power and glory.

But lately it feels like a lot of retailers are pulling back from this. No doubt because the economy. But does it really cost that much more to deploy a few people street side (instead of having them hang around in an empty store)?

Maybe.

But I got to believe its worth it.

With the economy in a slump, online retailing so easy, and today’s stores full of “noise” around sales and “drastic reductions” – maybe it’s time to invest in some light-hearted, old-fashioned street entertainment.

Step right in folks and see the bearded lady….or the buff surfer…or the even buffer drag queen.

What have retailers really got to lose by spicing things up?

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
Are your favorite brands taking it to the streets?

Becoming Digitally Fluent


I’m on a journey…to digital fluency.

It’s a long and bumpy road, but I’m glad I’m on it.

Everyday I encounter new obstacles and things I don’t know. But I am committed to staying on course.

I’ve been thinking alot about the lessons I’ve learned in the relatively short time that I’ve been climbing this mountain.

I thought it might be interesting, helpful, dare I dream…inspiring …to share what I’ve learned so far.

To make it seem a bit less overwhelming I’ve come up with this acronym, which incorporates 5 key steps to digital fluency. I call it SMART.

S- is for Start. Take the first step. Every journey begins with one. Depending on your current level of fluency that could mean joining Facebook, signing up for Twitter, or in my case… starting this blog.

M- is for making connections. The real point of social networking is to connect with people. So it’s not enough just to join a network and ignore it. You’ve got to reach out to other people. Leave comments on their posts or updates, retweet interesting content. Get involved in the conversation.

A- is for Ask. Ask questions when you don’t understand something. I spent most of the day at the Wired conference on Monday wondering if “the cloud” everyone was talking about was the real one looming omninously outside. I finally asked my seatmate and realized it was the computing one.

R- reach out to people that have a higher level of fluency than you do and ask them to teach you. Twitter is actually an amazing way to engage with experts. I reached out to Steve Farnsworth on Twitter and he was incredibly generous with his advice.

T- is for making time to actively explore this new world. It doesn’t mean you have to drop everything to Tweet all day. But it does mean recognizing that technology, like all skills and hobbies, can’t be mastered in a day. Set aside 15 minutes every morning to surf interesting blogs or read a magazine on technology (like Wired), or even just the wikipedia definitions of terms you keep hearing but don’t understand.

SMART. Maybe a oversimplification, dare I say a dumb, way to look at it.

But as I said, hey at least I’m trying.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What are you doing to improve your digital fluency?

Disruptive by Design

Monday I went to a Wired Magazine conference called “Disruptive by Design”. (Twitter#WiredLive).

It had great speakers like Jeff Immelt (GE), Elon Musk (Telsa Motors/SpaceX), Shai Agassi (Better Place)and Vivek Kundra (the Information Technology czar for the Obama administration) just to name a few.

All of these guys were mesmerizing with their passion and conviction around technologies and business ideas that are disruptive and game changing.

But far and away my favorite of the day was Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder).

He made the pursuit of innovation personal and accessible. He talked about his conviction even in the early difficult days that Amazon would make it and his passion for his latest invention, the Kindle.

Here are a few choice tidbits from his speech (quoted semi-accurately, but you’ll get the meaning):

“If you are going to be disruptive, you have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

“Companies over dramatize failure. Failures of commission (taking action) are rarely that expensive. The real danger is in failures of omission (not seizing an opportunity).”

“Amazon makes decisions on business extensions by working backwards from consumer needs or working forwards from our skill sets.”

“I always told my staff not to take fluctuations in stock prices too seriously. If you feel 30% smarter the day our stock goes up by that amount, are you going to feel 30% dumber the day it drops down?”

He says he knew that Amazon was going to make it even when the stock was tanking partly because it’s harshest critics were among their best customers.

He talked about the power of the Kindle being that it is a singular focused device. He thought multi-taking devices were often over-rated.

“I love my smart phone, I love my Swiss army knife, but sometimes when I’m sitting down for a great meal, I love my steak knife.”

I think it’s fascinating that he’s taking on books, which for many are sacred objects, and declaring “they’ve had a good 500 year run” but it’s time for something new.

His problem with books? Too heavy, hard to turn the page with one hand, hard to find your place again, always closing at the wrong moment.

His problem with reading on another “multi tasking device” like a laptop? Too hot, too cumbersome, and not that easy to curl up in bed with.

I haven’t tried a Kindle yet. But I’m curious. The people I know who have them seem to be passionate advocates. (Always a good sign).

I think time will tell if the Kindle really is a better mousetrap. But I know for sure that whether it fails or succeeds, Jeff Bezos is someone who is not going to stop disrupting.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Is the Kindle a disruptive innovation or a fad destined for failure?

Feeling Butterflies?


When is the last time you felt butterflies in your stomach?

If you can’t remember, maybe it’s been too long since you ventured out of your comfort zone.

We all need to take risks in order to learn and achieve something new.

Sometimes this can be a big butterfly moment like taking on a new job, moving to a different country, or getting up and speaking in front of hundreds of people.

Sometimes it can be a little butterfly moment, like speaking up in a meeting with a controversial or unusual idea. Or introducing yourself to strangers at a networking event.

I had a butterfly “moment” that lasted about 3 years when I moved to France with my job back in the early 90′s.

I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t speak the language, and I was walking into a new role with a challenging client.

It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.

The first 6 months were excruciatingly difficult and exhausting. But eventually I found my way. I learned the language. I made friends both in and outside of my job. I got to visit some amazing places in France and all of Europe.

And I met the man who would eventually become my husband and the father of my kids.

It started with an enormous flutter, but at the end of 3 years I count my time in France as one of my life’s formative experiences.

I’ve had many butterfly moments since then (although probably none as intense).

But I’ve actually learned to be comfortable and even seek out that feeling.

Sometimes when it seems like things are getting too comfortable and complacent (particularly in my professional life) I find myself gravitating towards new challenges and I start to feel the rumbling of tiny wings.

It’s definitely not always easy or convenient. But I’ve learned to recognize that flutter as a positive signal.

Even if we have a bad experience or a difficult time doing whatever it is that’s making us stretch, in general it’s still growth and learning… and as human beings and as innovators isn’t that what life is really all about?.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

When’s the last time you felt butterflies?

Three’s a Crowd?


We all know three’s a crowd, but can crowds be the new answer to innovation?

Yesterday I published a post on the right timing for creating, evaluating, and killing (if need be) new ideas.

Thanks to one reader, Sara, I learned about Quirky a community from the creator of Mophie and Kluster set up as a way for people to expose their ideas to a larger groups and get feedback (all for $99 bucks).

I think it’s worth checking out.

My own experience with Crowd sourcing has been pretty positive to date. I used the website 99 Designs to create my Brand Twist Logo.

99 Designs let’s you launch contests to create branding elements (websites, logos, etc). You write a brief, pick a prize amount, and for 7 days designers from around the world bid on your contest by submitting designs.

You have to keep giving feedback in order for your contest to stay healthy and attract the best talent. At the end of 7 days (some extensions allowed) you pick a winning design, release the money, and go through a file transfer to get the artwork.

While I know this site is not without some controversy in the design community…particularly because the prices are very low (the average for a logo is $300) my experience was very positive. I felt it to be in many ways very similar to the traditional agency design process.

Many of the submissions weren’t very good, but a lot were. And the journey of seeing what I liked and what I rejected helped me hone in on what Brand Twist means to me as a brand. The tag line I use “a fresh approach to new ideas” was also an added bonus, it was suggested by a designer- unsolicited.

As in any design process, your output is only as good as your input so it was critical that I had a well thought out and well-written brief and that I gave continual, specific and constructive feedback to my designers.

I ended up choosing a design and a designer that I created a bond with (albeit virtually). Like most great designers he brought me ideas that went beyond the original brief and that I really liked. He also made some strategic suggestions that helped me in deciding which way I wanted to go.

The main difference, I guess, is that he was an anonymous face in the crowd and our whole relationship was virtual.

Only after I awarded the job did I learn his name and that he live in Greece.

Love it or hate it, I think crowd-sourcing for both evaluation (like Quirky) and creation (like 99 Designs) is here to stay.

The question for me is not whether it’s good or evil, but how do we get the most value from it. Not in a monetary sense, but how can it best be leveraged to fruitfully further ideas.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How are you using crowd-sourcing?