As an entrepreneur, you know that creating a great brand is really important.
But how do you do it?
In the short video below, I talk about how Starbucks did it. And the lessons we can all learn from them.
As an entrepreneur, you know that creating a great brand is really important.
But how do you do it?
In the short video below, I talk about how Starbucks did it. And the lessons we can all learn from them.
That he can credibly do this and that so many people care about it has a lot to do with how The Donald has created his brand.
You may not aspire to be like Trump, but if you run a company there are several important lessons to learn from him. Most notably in the area of personal branding.The fact is that he has branded himself more effectively than almost any entrepreneur alive.
Let’s look at how Donald has created such a mighty brand and how you can do the same. In my view he has followed three of the most fundamental laws of branding impeccably.
For better or worse, Donald Trump’s positioning is super clear. He is synonymous with brazen success and wealth. In the last ten years did you ever see Trump interviewed about anything else? Very rarely. He sticks to his brand, night and day, in what he says, does and where he is seen. He is very clear about the message he wants to convey, about himself and his company. Year after year.
Compare that with most entrepreneurs: they are neither sure what their brand stands for nor consistent in how they position themselves. As a result most CEO’s and entrepreneurs have extremely weak brands.
Ask yourself this: what exactly do I, or does my company, stand for? And are we embodying that in everything we say and do?
This is a very important aspect of branding and one poorly understood. To have a very strong brand, you must make a stand about something. You have to be willing to be different, to separate yourself from the pack. Now as soon as you do that you will get people who disagree with your stand and will actively dislike you because of it. You will get detractors.
To be known, you can be either liked or disliked. In fact you can’t create raving fans without also creating the opposite. Anyone who has no ‘anti-fans’ does not have a strong brand. If you play it safe and are scared of offending anyone, you may well have no haters but you will have few deep admirers as well.
Trump understands this. He is quite prepared to be disliked by many, knowing that he is becoming known by many. Now you probably wouldn’t want to get noticed the same way as Trump is going about it, but you must be prepared to be different, even controversial, if you want to develop a strong brand.
I’ve been mentoring companies and entrepreneurs on branding for over 25 years. And one of the main errors I see CEO’s make is they go to all the trouble of developing a good brand positioning and then they whisper it to the world.
Fast forward 18 months and their oh so clever brand is virtually invisible.
Look, it doesn’t matter how good your brand is on paper, unless you get out there and shout it from the rooftops, you’ll never get famous.
There’s just too much competition out there, too much media noise. Only those who endlessly push their own barrows will get heard above the din. You may not like promoting yourself or your company, but you have to do it if you want to get all the benefits that a stellar brand enjoys. This is no time to be a wallflower.
I’m not saying you have to exude the braggadocio of Donald Trump, but you do have to be loud, in your own way. Not just once either. Constantly. For years. That’s just how most enduring brands are built.
Will Donald Trump become President? Probably not, and he knows it. But he also knows that no matter what happens he will win. Because he will become even more known, and his brand will become even stronger, worldwide. Trump is all about building his brand and he knows that running for President is just another way of doing it.
So in conclusion, you certainly don’t have to be like Donald to create a great brand. But you should emulate his brand building prowess. Just follow the three branding laws above, as he does, and you’ll be more famous than almost all of your competitors.
Christopher Gregory/Getty Images
This week I saw some truly masterful branding.
Not from Apple, Nike, Coke, or any of the other well-known corporate branding maestros,
but from a restaurant that is unknown to many.
(But certainly not for long).
The restaurant is called Barton G, and while it has just opened in Los Angeles, it is already doing a roaring trade in Miami.
Now the food tastes great at Barton G, but the truth is that there are hundreds of restaurants with yummy food.
No, what separates Barton G from every other restaurant in the entire world, is the spectacular (bordering on outrageous) presentation of the dishes.
Imagine being served a steak with a 4 foot high fork stuck through it. Or tuna with a giant samurai sword on the plate.
Imagine a dessert that features a huge mechanical chicken that’s seemingly just laid enormous chocolate eggs. Or cakes served around the head of Marie Antoinette wearing a colossal wig of Fairy Floss.
Yes this is truly extreme cuisine – and the customers absolutely loved it. (Several times I actually heard other guests in the restaurant gasp when their meal came out).
So what has Barton G got to do with your business?
From a branding point of view, a lot.
1. Faced with competing in one of the toughest industries on the planet, the owners did not just try and produce a product that was just a little better than their competition. They sought to introduce a product totally unlike anything else available. (In your own industry, are you being too conservative with your product offering to get noticed?)
2. They didn’t try to be all things to all people. They made a stand. They wanted a segment of society to adore them, knowing full well that many others would never want to visit such a wild restaurant. (Are you trying to please everyone, and in so doing making your brand bland?)
3. They created a product that has everyone talking. (In a viral media world, are you delivering a service that deserves to get word of mouth marketing?)
Barton G has done so well in their industry for the same reason that many companies do well in any industry.
They aim to delight, not just compete.
They redefine the category, not just improve upon it.
They show commercial bravery, rather than being too timid to stand out.
To look at Barton G’s as just a restaurant is to miss the point. It is an example of strategic branding par excellence.
CEO Ron Johnson has been hammered in recent weeks by both the financial press and public markets pundits.
Sales down, share price down, low cash reserves. A common view is that time is running out.
But I’d like to present a different view. Ron Johnson is doing exactly what a CEO should be doing when put in charge of a moribund company.
Taking regular, calculated risks.
A case in point is a new JC Penney concept store that is within days of opening in West Hollywood, just near my home.
This is the latest in a fast growing group of cool, modern, vibrant, relatively small stores co- branded JCP and Joe Fresh, the successful Canadian retailer.
Take a look at the DJ booth in the centre of the store – this is not your usual retail outlet.
On huge orange walls the store’s manifesto is declared. The store exudes energy and youthful panache – and it hasn’t even opened yet.
What’s brilliant about Ron Johnson taking his joint venture with Joe Fresh out of JC Penney and onto the streets is twofold:
1. If it works he will be able to create a huge nationwide chain of boutiques, separate from the traditional department stores.
2. He is creating massive advertisements for the new JC Penney, altering perceptions of the previously staid department store group. Johnson figures if we won’t come to his stores, he’ll bring the stores to us.
Will it work? Who knows. But it’s yet another example of a gutsy CEO doing whatever he can to change the game, break the rules, move things forward.
Small, incremental change will not save department stores from an aging clientele and the ever mounting online retail attacks. Dramatic action is necessary.
Many things Johnson has tried may not have worked as well as he hoped (getting rid of sales, radical pricing policies to name but two). But plenty, like his new department store revamps are substantially lifting revenues. (Last quarter’s figures show the new store layout brings in $269 per square foot versus $134 for the old design.)
Rather than whine on the sidelines that the JC Penney turnaround is too slow or strategically unsound, we should all be cheering this guy for having the gumption to attempt to re-invent an entire business model.
We should also look at our own businesses and ask ourselves whether we should be doing a Ron Johnson on our company, rather than continuing with business as usual as the world changes rapidly around us.
As Britain’s special forces commandos, the Special Air Service, like to say, ‘Who Dares Wins’. Many of the world’s companies would do a lot better if they had CEO’s like Ron Johnson at the helm, shaking things up.
Any smart entrepreneur understands a strong brand is vital. (It separates you from your competitors. It enables you to charge more. It allows you to add new products easily. It makes people feel proud to buy from you. It increases loyalty).
But many people are not sure how to create an outstanding brand.
I’ve spent over 30 years creating and enhancing company brands, for some of the largest and most successful companies in the world, from Apple to Coca Cola. So today I’d like to give you a quick brand building checklist, to help you make the most of your brand.
Have a read and see how your brand measures up.
Great brands have the following characteristics:
1. THEY OWN A CLEAR SPACE IN THE CONSUMER’S MIND.
That could be a logical space – your product is cheaper or better made for instance. Or it could be an emotional space; your offering may make your customer feel safe, sexy, or smart, for example. Whichever way you go, you must make sure your space is clearly defined in the customer’s mind. When they think of your product, service or company, they should never have a muddled vision.
2. THEY ARE DIFFERENTIATED FROM THEIR COMPETITION.
If you can think of numerous brands that make the same promise as you, in a similar way, then you will find it hard to build a potent brand. (It can be done, usually through brilliant advertising, major PR, or just by being the first in a category, but it’s difficult to pull off).
Enduring brands are distinct from their competitors. Club Med is vastly distinct from Thomas Cook Holidays. Red Bull is far away from Coke. Ferrari differs greatly from Mercedes. Each of these brands are strong because they don’t try to be all things to all people. Stake your position and make sure it’s always differentiated from the pack.
3. THEY LIVE THEIR MESSAGE.
Most brands are merely skin deep. Once you get involved with the company you see that they don’t really live the brand positioning, it’s little more than a slogan.
Stellar brands make sure that every touch point is in keeping with their brand positioning. For example, at FedEx they pick up the phone in one ring. When I bought a Porsche I was soon invited to an advanced driving school. At The Como Hotel in Melbourne they don’t just say they treat you well, they offer you a menu of different bath experiences you can have in your room (and your own rubber duck).
These brands are alive. They are congruent. They are real. They can be experienced daily, not just in their marketing.
4. THEY DEEPLY UNDERSTAND THEIR CUSTOMERS.
Most companies are not really sure what their customers really want. Oh sure, they know the basics – for example if they run a car company they know their customers want it well made, to look nice and to be good value. But rarely have their interrogated their customers to the point where they really, really understand what they seek from their product, practically and emotionally.
How do you find that out? You ask them – via surveys and regular in depth interviews. And observe what they do, not just what they say.
Look behind the obvious for the real motive. For example, people who buy drills don’t want drills. They want holes.
So these are the crucial four elements for creating a mighty brand. How many do you score highly on?
Get all these elements right and you won’t just have a strong brand.
You’ll have a highly profitable enterprise.
Right now every business is sending Christmas or holiday cards.
I’d like to suggest you do something different.
I call it the New Year’s Card.
It’s really easy to do and it will make a major impact on your customers and prospective clients.
All you do is buy a bunch of a nice looking, plain gift cards and get a pen.
Instead of the usual Christmas greetings I want you to write something inspiring about the year ahead.
Here’s a few examples of the kind of stuff you could write, to get you started:
‘Everyone sends Christmas cards, here’s our New Year’s card. We hope your next year will be fantastic both business wise and personally, and we want you to know that we’ll be there for you all year long. Let us know if we can help you in any way. Have a fabulous year’.
Or you could write something like this: ‘You get a million Christmas cards, we thought we’d send you a New Year’s card. No matter what your last year was like, remember that on January 1 you have a chance to start again and make the next year simply the best of your life. We’ll be supporting you any way we can. Have a great one.’
Can you see how much more impactful a card like this is, versus sending the same stuff everybody else does?
It sets you apart. It’s more personal. More meaningful. And far, far more memorable.
Consider sending a load of these New Year Cards in the first few days of January.
Yes it’s only a small thing, but it’s little moments like these that over time make a real impression on clients.
People like dealing with companies that think differently, that surprise and occasionally delight.
The New Year’s card is an easy way to show that your company does all of these things.
Try it and see some good things happen.
Most of us enjoyed watching the spectacle of the Romney/Obama war from a human and political point of view.
But there are also some important marketing lessons that can be learned by analysing their battle.
1. ENTHUSIASM MATTERS.
When Obama turned up at the first debate as a seemingly unenthusiastic, quiet, taciturn leader he endangered his chances of staying President.
The next day the polls showed a substantial shift in public sentiment against him.
Why? It wasn’t the brilliance of Romney’s suggestions for the country’s future that damaged Obama, It was that nobody likes a leader without passion, energy and verve. Many were shocked by Obama’s unspirited performance and began to wonder if he was the right man to lead in these dire economic times. His lack of emotional energy cost him plenty.
The same is true when you’re trying to sell your product or service.
People buy enthusiasm, as much as they buy the product itself. If customers don’t feel that you’re totally committed to and excited by what you sell, why should they be?
Are you showing total enthusiasm in your presentations? Or only going through the motions? The difference can be worth a fortune.
2. DETAILS AREN’T REMEMBERED.
I assert that the average voter found the endless statistics and facts of both partys’ leaders totally befuddling. They not only didn’t understand the ramifications of much of the data proffered by Romney and Obama, but had very little memory of it anyway soon afterward.
It’s the same with your brand. Unless you keep your message really, really simple (then endlessly repeat it) then it’s unlikely you’ll make a memorable dent in your audience’s consciousness.
Most of us do the opposite. We say too many things about our company, so few are remembered. We list endless features of our products rather than talk in depth about the one or two that really matter .
As a result our brand doesn’t stand out amongst the countless other competitors who are all doing the same.
There’s money in simplicity.
3. COMMUNITY IS PRICELESS.
Anyone who was on Obama’s email list couldn’t help but marvel at the deep sense of community his team created with it.
Several times a day for months, emails were sent asking for donations, keeping supporters in touch with the latest news and taking every opportunity to make those on the list feel like they were playing a major role in the re-election of the President.
I remember that even on the election day itself, an email went out asking for 750 volunteers in my state (California) to leave what they were doing and lend a hand down at the polling booths. (I assume every state got their own email with this extraordinary request.) Because millions of people were brought into Obama’s ‘inner circle’ by these emails, they not only helped him raise over a billion dollars, they felt a deepening sense of comradeship and loyalty to his cause.
Which inevitably led to increased votes.
What about you? Have you developed a community of customers that believe in what you’re doing, what you’re selling and what you stand for?
Do they feel that you are about more than making the sale? The more powerfully you make a stand for something the more customers will get behind you.
To his audience, Richard Branson isn’t about selling airline seats.
He’s about making flying fun.
Steve Jobs didn’t strive to be number one in computer or music sales, he stood for an intense drive for product excellence.
Ralph Lauren doesn’t get up in the morning purely to make more money, he’s inspired to create a more beautiful life for his customers.
As a result, in all three cases these people created a community of millions of people who believed in them – and therefore the products they sold.
In your own way, you can do the same.
4. THE MESSAGE MUST BE CONSISTENT.
One of the key differences between Obama and Romney was their consistency of message.
One month out from election day Romney fundamentally changed many of his positions on important issues.
So much so, that Obama mocked him by saying there was a new disease of forgetfulness, known as ‘Romnesia’.
In contrast, Obama stuck with his core campaign tenets right throughout the election campaign. Yes, he adapted what he said about them, in response to Romney’s attacks, but he did not change his stance in any significant way.
It was tough to do, but was a crucial component of his ultimate victory.
How consistent are you? With your company’s message and brand positioning? Your standards of service? Your follow through? Your operational systems?
It’s not what you do or say occasionally, it’s what you deliver and how you come across day after day, year after year, that creates your reputation and engenders deep loyalty amongst your customers.
Consistency builds trust. Trust creates long term customers. Long term customers are the crucial element in building business wealth.
In summary, while politics may seem a long way from business, it’s easy to see that many of the same elements generate success:
Enthusiastic delivery of message. Not getting too complex with the details. Building a community of followers. Maintaining consistency.
It pays to focus on them. Whether you want to become President. Or President of your company.
Last weekend I went to one of the world’s biggest markets.
Over 2500 vendors sell their wares every week at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California.
You can buy almost anything, all of it old or used.
My wife and I went there expecting to walk away with a mountain of bargains.
Instead we left with nothing.
Because despite the fact that were over 50,000 items available to buy, there was a dire shortage of stuff that was actually special or unique.
If we are not careful, our businesses will end up with the same problem.
Offering plenty of stuff, but nothing extraordinary.
Selling goods that aren’t that good.
Presenting services, that serve nobody brilliantly.
The truth is that the world doesn’t need another okay business. Almost every industry is vastly over catered for already.
If we are to thrive in this overcrowded market place we must do something, anything, to stand out from the pack.
There are 3 fundamental ways to do this.
1. MAKE YOUR PRODUCT EXTRAORDINARY.
Right now I’m betting you’re producing a reasonable product at a reasonable price.
But that is a dangerous place to be. The last ten years has shown us forcefully that reasonably good doesn’t cut it anymore.
Take the cell phone industry as an example. Nokia and Motorola were both making quite good cell phones.
Then Apple came along with the iPhone, something that not only transformed the entire cell phone industry, but also revolutionised how cell phone software was developed. (It used to be that most of the IP magic happened in house, now more than ever the magic happens outside – with external companies developing apps for the iPhone.)
How could you make your product profoundly different from your competitors? Rather than just slightly better as it probably now is.
What could you add to it, or subtract from it, to make it really stand out from the sea of sameness in your industry?
Take a few minutes now to have a think about this; it will be time exceedingly well spent.
2. MAKE YOUR SERVICE REMARKABLE.
What if, no matter how hard you try, you cannot think of a way to differentiate your product or service?
No matter, all is not lost.
Just make amazing service your point of differentiation.
It’s easy to do – just look at every point the customer comes into contact with you and conjure up some way to make it special.
What could you say on the phone that would charm their socks off?
How could you make their experience at your office or store really great?
What about after sales service, how could you make that a little more unusual and remarkable?
In a world where few companies do any of this, you have a genuine opportunity to make your service really shine, and thereby greatly increase both your sales and the percentage of customers who come back.
Here’s some of the things we did at the last company I owned, an advertising agency:
When clients came into our office for meetings, they weren’t just offered coffee or tea. They were given an actual menu of numerous coffees and 6 different teas they could choose from.
Every 30 days they filled out a ’60 Second Monthly Review,’ where they ranked us in 5 different quality areas.
They were invited to boardroom lunches where interesting research was presented, and at night to concerts and movies.
They were sent important recently published books on business and marketing.
On their birthdays they received beautiful cards with written messages from our team. Etc , etc.
Were we the best advertising agency in the city? Maybe, maybe not.
But we certainly offered the finest, most memorable service.
And so can you.
Finally, there’s one of way you can stand out from the pack.
MAKE YOUR MARKETING DIFFERENT.
Like it or not, potential customers often choose who they buy from based on image.
That being the case, how does your marketing and brand identity stack up?
Does it shout “Look at us, we’re really special!” Or does it whisper, “Hey don’t take any notice of us, we’re pretty much the same as everyone else.”
If you don’t say something remarkable or at least look remarkable, why on earth should anyone call you?
Pretend for a moment that you are not the owner of your business. Take a look at it as an outsider. When you peruse your website, your ads, your brochures and sales materials, do they startle you with their freshness, energy, relevance and uniqueness?
No? Well maybe you should change them.
Appearances count. Branding matters. Advertising can be the crucial point of difference if your product or service doesn’t stand apart from your competition. (Even if it does).
So folks, they are the three areas to look at when evaluating how to stand out from the pack.
If you aspire to business greatness, they are not just nice to haves, they are must haves.