Twist Your Brand For New Ideas

BrandTwist: Turn on your inner lightbulb

Let’s not kid ourselves. Branding is tough.

There are so many competing brands and messages, it’s can be hard to capture a consumer’s attention (and his/her buying power). But there are some brands that consistently breakthrough and get recognized. We often fast-forward, mute or pause advertisements, for instance,, but we’ll slow down the DVR to watch especially good ones from Volkswagen, Target or Doritos.

But its not just ads. Products and services capture our attention, too. How many of you have friends that are so completely brand-loyal they’ll tell anyone who’ll listen about the virtues of their favorite brand (I’m thinking of Lululemon in particular)? I know I do. So what are these brands doing that’s helping them cut through the noise and turn consumers into brand ambassadors? More importantly, what can your brand take away from these brands?


It’s crucial to constantly learn from well-loved brands.

Even the most skilled branders, marketers and entrepreneurs can benefit from brainstorming with others and mentally challenging themselves. But it’s really important to take these lessons from brands that are outside of your business category.What does this kind of lateral thinking have to do with great branding? In a word, everything. As entrepreneurs, business owners and marketers, we’re so concerned with what the competition is doing, we forget to look toward brands that are winning. Consumers don’t have this narrow view. They notice when a brand provides great service, and they come to expect it as standard. That’s good for you if you deliver excellence. If not, well…

BrandTwist’s foundation is built on lateral thinking, in part because it’s so effective, and in part because it helps others to be just as successful. Even if you’re a business of one, you can use best practices of brands like Apple to improve your own customer experience. The trick is to pick an inspirational brand that is as far away from your business category as possible. Let’s say you sell lingerie to women; you should twist your brand with a masculine, high-tech brand like BMW. What would BMW do to rev up your business? Think big picture. I guarantee that if you twist your business with just a few brands in other categories, you’ll come up with hundreds of actionable new ideas in a short amount of time.


Receive information about priority registration for the next session of Brand School, the premier branding program designed specifically for business owners and entrepreneurs who want to grow their business, and receive our top tips and brand-building tools when you join our mailing list.

“Julie’s active participation in Brand School and  feedback was amazing and helped a LOT. I received great value from this program.” – Leslie Hughes, PUNCHmedia          


Make Your Brand Personal

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


Most successful entrepreneurs – think Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, or the founder of TOMS shoes, Blake Mycoskie – started their businesses because they were trying to find solutions to issues that were personally meaningful to them. I’m going to tell you something that may strike a cord with some of you. If you’re not working at that something that really matters to you, then stop doing it. Seriously, just stop.

There will be a limit to how much you can solve issues for your customers, if you just don’t care that much. Conversely, if you have something that really bugs you as a consumer, think about creating a business or product that can solve this issue. This is a key sign that it’s time to turn your pet peeve into a business. Read more about how to make your hobby your business here.

Successful entrepreneurs also spend time managing their personal brands and leveraging them to support their professional credibility. Richard Branson’s daring stunts (like crossing the Atlantic in a hot air balloon) help re-inforce the image of Virgin as a challenger brand. Like professional brand building, your personal brand needs management. Figure out what you want to achieve for yourself and your business and then create a plan for how to get there. Do you want to have more exposure? Boost your credibility? Gain more confidence to speak in front of larger audiences? Feel more comfortable charging more for your services? All of this takes deliberate effort. Perform a careful analysis on the brand of YOU. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and create a plan on how to continue to build your assets, close any credibility gaps and personally support your business.

Check out tip #10 in the series, Hone Your Elevator Pitch.


Brand School is the premier program that teaches you how to grow your business by growing a stronger brand. Brand School takes best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappo’s and brings them to life in engaging videos, interactive  exercises and exclusive access to a private community of other entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School and receive updates when you sign up for our newsletter HERE

“Motivational! I’ve given recommendations to several clients about Brand School.” –  Liz Osting, Founder Herculiz Design

Considerations for Choosing Your Small Business Name

This is a guest post submitted by Sarah Levy of Merchant Express. Visit the Merchant Express Resource Center for more great small business resources.

What’s in a name? When it’s the name of your small business, there’s a lot riding on getting it right. There was a time when all you had to do was choose a moniker that reflected the products or services your business provides — Ahab’s Fish Shack, for example, or Betty’s Yarn Barn. But today, with the emergence of brands and marketing, the Internet and social media, a little more reflection and homework is in order.

Choosing the Right Name

Ideally, you will choose the name that most closely reflects your brand identity. Brand (derived from branding, as in cattle) is defined as a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as being distinct from those of other sellers. Think of your brand as the personality that identifies your business. Your brand identity is the outward expression of your brand.


When choosing a name for your small business, consider not only how it will sound but how it will look on a sign, on the web, in social media and as part of your logo. Obviously, it needs to be long enough to convey your brand but not so long as to become an impediment to the applications listed.

Make sure it reflects your business philosophy and culture, and that it appeals to your target market. Does it truly “fit” your business, or is it too formal (or not formal enough?) It should be unique enough to be memorable and lend itself to being featured in a variety of settings.

Trademark the Name

A trademark is a brand name. Once you’ve settled on a name (or two or three), you must check to make sure it (or a close variation) is not already trademarked. Learn everything you need to know about trademarks on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website. Not only does it provide basic information about trademarks, but it also allows you to search trademarks, file forms online, check their status and view documents.

“Although not required, most applicants use private trademark attorneys for legal advice regarding use of their trademark, filing an application, and the likelihood of success in the registration process, since not all applications proceed to registration,” according to the USPTO site. “A private trademark attorney (not associated with the USPTO) may help you avoid many potential pitfalls.”

Filing for a trademark costs less than $300. Applications are accepted online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

Federal registration of a mark is not mandatory, but it does have its advantages, primary of which is the protection of your rights. Other benefits include:

  • a notice to the public of your claim of ownership of the mark
  • a legal presumption of ownership nationwide
  • the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration.

It is important to note that the USPTO does not monitor the use of trademarks, although it does attempt to ensure that no other party receives a federal registration for an identical or similar mark for related goods or services. Consequently, as the owner of the trademark, you are responsible for bringing any legal action to stop a party from using an infringing mark.

Register Your “Doing Business As” Name

When you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business. If you choose to call it something else, you should register the new name as a DBA (Doing Business As) name. This is also referred to as a trade name or assumed name.

Registering your DBA lets your state government know that you’re doing business as a name other than your own personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. Registering the legal name of your business is important because it is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits.

If your name is also your business name, you can skip DBA registering. A DBA is typically needed by sole proprietors or partnerships and for existing corporations or LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a DBA guide online.

Claim Your Website Address

Your URL is crucial to your web presence, so claim it as soon as possible. You can find out if your business name has already been taken online by doing a simple web search — just type it into a search engine and hit “enter”.

If it’s not already being used, you also need to see whether the domain name is available. Visit the WHOIS data base of domain names and follow the step-by-step instructions.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to set up your social media identity as well, starting with Facebook and Twitter. Note that Facebook requires you to have 25 fans in order to claim a vanity or custom URL. Many businesses reach this milestone quickly by asking friends, family and customers to “like” their FB page.

Whatever name you end up using, really own it — and best of luck in your small business endeavors!


Do Blondes Have More Fun? Starbucks Thinks So

I recently came across this new Blonde coffee variety from Starbucks and I think it’s a great example of a name that’s descriptive without being boring.

Starbucks could have gone with more traditional descriptors like “Light” for this new variety.

But by choosing the name “Blonde” they are both helping the consumer navigate the choice of the many varieties and imparting a bit of personality – part of the strategy of what has made this brand so strong. They understand that it’s about the experience – not just the functionality. And they have always known that the devil is in the details.

Too often brands think the have to make a choice between clear and clever.

Starbucks shows you can have your (coffee) cake and eat it too.

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

What other great descriptive names have you noticed?

Identifying your specific market niche and honing your brand’s verbal identity takes strategic thinking. Our Brand School program will give you actionable steps and strategies that you can use to grow a strong brand.  Receive more information about the next semester and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

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

“Brand School allowed me to get to the essence of my  brand. I was able to hone and tighten up my brand. Thank you, Julie, it’s a great program.” – Jonathan Flaks, President, Jonathan Flaks Coaching Associates

Does Sex (Always) Sell?


I’m just back from a wonderful (dare I say “sensual”)  vacation in the South of France.

The weather was warm, the nights were long and, in general, our time was  spent in a relaxed languid and indulgent mode.

Our days and nights were a continuous feast of fragrant, heady wine and mouth-watering  local delicacies: mussels fresh from the Mediterranean sauteed in garlic, ripe figs picked right from the local trees, creamy gelato in inspired flavors and crepes dripping with chocolate…

So with all this rampant hedonism, you think an advertising message using sex as it’s theme would automatically hit a positive note, right?

Well, um no.

This Orangina ad was everywhere, using various wild animals in anatomically “interesting” portrayals.

And as much as my thirst was piqued by the 90 degree days…these ads for the popular carbonated beverage, in my opinion, just fell flat (pun intended).