Grab a Branding Buddy This Winter

The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Social Innovation

Winter can be a tough time to get creative

During the winter you can really start to feel cooped up. (Most West Coasters need not apply.) Winter has wrapped its chill around everything, ice is prevalent and you’re feeling pretty blue. In fact, January 21st is commonly known as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the calendar year. And if you’re anything like most people, going slightly stir-crazy in these winter months can hinder your creativity big-time. I know I struggle with it!

Have more fun and get more done

Which is why I’m telling you, right off the bat, to get outside of your head and into your life. Really. Step outside of your office into the crisp (okay, frigid) winter air and go for a midday walk. Skip out of work an hour early, sit in a coffee shop and start stirring up some conversation with the double caf soy latte at the next table over – and maybe spark some new ideas. Know a friend or even a coworker who frequents co-working spaces, networking events or happy hours with like-minded friends? Tag along!

Energy is a funny thing; the negative sort can break your business and damage company morale. But positive energy can take you to a productive place, especially in branding. I want you to think more about feeding off the energy of others. Put yourself out there for more chance encounters and revitalizing experiences. Even overhearing a conversation about, say, social media, could spark a latent business idea you didn’t even know you had.


I’ve hosted several workshops for branding and innovation through a partnership with Inc Interactive at the Purple Crayon Center in Westchester, NY.  These are in-person sessions with me and other amazing business professionals. The feedback we’ve received has been amazing and the results and takeaways participants get last long after the session ends. One of the big bonuses to attending workshops and events like these is that you’ll meet other like-minded entrepreneurs you can learn from, and who knows, you may even set up some brainstorming sessions on your own!

Keep a watch on the Purple Crayon Center’s schedule for future workshops or sign up for the BrandTwist list for updates on all our future events.


Add a Fresh Twist

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.


Fresh ideas come from looking at old problems from new perspectives. If you are only looking at and thinking about what your competition is doing, chances are you will stay in the same rut and not come up with anything new or exciting. You need to look at old challenges from new angles.

A few years back I was at an airport and saw a 747 with McDonald’s golden arches on the tail fin. I started to imagine what this McDonald’s airline would be like. I imagined it would be a good value, family friendly and most importantly it would have flexible options in terms of how I bought my ticket and any upgrades – allowing me to supersize my experience to a seat with more leg room or special menu options. As it turns out, this airline was just a figment of my imagination. It was the reflection of the neon sign in the food court on the window, and there happened to be a plane parked behind the window on the tarmac. So while it was just imaginary, it led to the very real practice of TWISTING brands in different categories to come up with new ideas. (That’s actually why I named my company BrandTwist.)

Consumers don’t live in a one-category world. For example, they make note of great customer service experiences across airlines, retail stores, dry cleaners, fast food, fine dining, taxi cabs, doctor’s offices, personal trainers…you name it. So as marketers we should constantly be looking at the larger brandscape for inspiration. A great way to leverage lateral thinking for your own brand is to imagine what a beloved brand (in a different category) would do if it took over your business. How would this brand use its brand DNA to innovate in your market?  Twist an inspirational brand (ex. Virgin, Zappos, Starbucks, Apple) with yours and see the impact it can have in creating fresh ideas for your business today.

Check out tip #13 in the series, Commit to Continual Learning.


…After all, that’s what it’s designed to do.

Julie Cottineau, the former VP of Brand for Richard Branson’s Virgin, and entrepreneur and a branding expert responsible for countless small business and personal branding makeovers, has created Brand School, the highly effective, premier program to help you grow your business and perfect your brand at the same time.

Receive more information about the next semester and free brand-building tools and tips when you join the BrandTwist mailing list.

“Brand School was engaging and helpful to me in learning more about myself and my business. Results came amazingly quick. Now, my brand name speaks my message immediately and I’ve expanded my reach.” – Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive 

Want to Get Promoted? Try to Get Fired

Stuck in an innovation rut? Here’s a technique that will help get those creative juices flowing again.

Give yourself this task: “What idea could I come up with that would get me fired?”

I’m not talking about spreading company gossip on Facebook or throwing up all over the CEO at the office summer party.

I’m talking about creating an idea for your brand that seems so patently absurd that it could get you fired.

By thinking in this way, going to the extreme opposite of what’s expected, you actually free up your thinking and might just come up with a nugget of an idea that could be refined into something more plausible, maybe even brilliant and highly marketable.

Here’s an example

Use Your Brand to Say “No”


What are the most difficult words to say? For some of you it might be the anxiety-producing 3 words “I Love You”…

But for most of us, especially entrepreneurs, it’s one simple word – “No”.

Why is this? Because we are open, passionate, like to please and love new possibility and opportunity.

But mastering “No” is one of the most important things we can do to grow our businesses.

I know this might sound like an oxymoron- turn down opportunity to grow- but it’s true.

And your Brand can be a powerful tool to help you know when to say “No” and of course, when to say “Yes”.

When you really understand what your brand is about you can use it to help filter which ideas are great (but not for you) and which Ideas are worth pursuing and investing in.

In fact, I believe you should use your brand to impact every single decision you make. Not just how you communicate, but also… Keep reading »  who you work with (and don’t), who you hire and fire, what products and services you develop, the partnerships you form, even how you dress and present your personal brand.

Entrepreneurs are constantly drawn to new opportunities because we are looking for ways to do things differently, better, etc. Which often means that we are attracted to every shiny new proposition or opportunity that comes our way. It’s what I call the Magpie effect:

“Oh look something glimmering over there, let’s swoop it up in our beaks”.

But beware, for most of us (even those working in big companies) resources and energy are a finite often limited quantity.

I had my own brand-led decision making experience just this past week.

Someone presented me with an opportunity to get involved in an exciting project with a really interesting brand challenge. A turn around of a behemoth telecomm technology brand that had great products but an out-dated brand idea and image.  It’s the kind of thing most brand consultants would jump at.

But I said  “thanks but no thanks”.


Because as Founder of a new company I am finding myself with a lot of opportunity, but a limited amount of time. So I am trying to stay true to the idea of BrandTwist and pursue opportunities to help entrepreneurs grow their brands and help large organizations think and act more entrepreneurial.

This opportunity, while it seemed great (shiny) on the surface was for a very large Agency and a very large Client  and while it may have paid the bills for a few months (or more) just instinctively felt like it would be a classic re-branding situation, that while I knew I could do it, didn’t feel like it hit the sweet spot of my brand.

I could have gone down the road of finding out more, convincing myself it was kinda of on brand for what I was trying to build, let myself been seduced by the money etc.

But I know from experience this investigation process would have taken a lot of time and energy that I can’t afford to waste.

So I said “No” quickly and decisively and it felt great.

And instead of spending the time over the next few weeks chasing an opportunity that wasn’t quite right, I’m going to put that time to building the areas of my practice I am most passionate about and where I feel I can truly shine.

Brand is your secret weapon. Use it to grow your business. Use it to say “Yes” to what moves you in the right direction and “No” to what gets you off track.

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

How do you use brand to say “No” (or “Yes”)?

Our online Brand School course will give you the insight and tools you need to keep your brand in the forefront as a strong, innovative secret weapon. Receive more information about the next semester and free tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

I highly recommend tis class to anybody, to both those who have been in business for a long time, and those just starting out because it will put your business on a different level. – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of wired@heart

A “Corporate” Loss that Feels Personal

I never met Steve Jobs. In fact, I unfortunately never even had the pleasure of hearing him speak live.

So why do I feel sad?

Though I’ve never met the man, I’ve experienced his vision directly and personally…right here at my kitchen table.

Today I spent a good part of the day test driving my new Air Book.

Intuitive, lightweight, with layers of discovery and delight. I couldn’t stop touching it.

I never met the man, but I feel as if he knew me. He knew what a computer should be. Could be. Not just what is should do.

Vision is great, but it only has real impact when you can experience it first hand in products or services that make a difference.

And Steve Jobs understood this. He was one of the few leaders in business that was meticulous about design – not out of some obsession or affectation. But because he knew that good design really does make a difference in people’s lives.

Thank you Steve. I hope the Apple brand is strong enough to honor your legacy by remaining true to this principle.

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

Did Steve Jobs and Apple mean something personal to you?

Brand School had great examples of real companies. I was able to dig even deeper, think of things in a new way, and get new ideas for my brand.It was well worth the fee. – Brenda C.