Branding: An Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon, smallbizdaily

Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed about entrepreneurship and business branding by author, columnist and online talk show host Jane Applegate for her column in smallbizdaily, “The Applegate Report.”

smallbizdaily is an online publication dedicated to Ideas, Insights. Information and Inspiration for Entrepreneurs.

Among the questions Jane asked were:

  • How do you define “brand”? Isn’t it just a company logo?
  • What is the biggest mistake business owners make when it comes to branding?
  • What advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting a business?

That’s just for starters.

You can check out smallbizdaily and read the entire interview HERE.

BrandTwist’s highly effective, premier branding program, Brand School, will give you tools to develop your brand, innovate your business and engage your customers.  Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

“I highly recommend this 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

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Branding Lessons from Beyonce

It takes more than a catchy logo, flashy colors and a little bit of “shake your hips” and “show some leg” to create a trusted, consistent brand, and no one knows that better then Beyoncé. The whirlwind of negative press that circulated about how she had lip-synched the National Anthem during President Obama’s Inauguration could have tainted her gleaming reputation, but it didn’t. Why not? She could have ignored the matter or she could have admitted an error in judgment and apologized. She did neither. What she did do was communicate. She expressed what she did, why she did it, and remained rock-solid true to her brand.

Beyoncé admitted to singing with a recording, and in doing so continued to deliver what her fans expect most from her: quality, emotional connection, passion and some real “Sasha Fierce” (her brand avatar) attitude, which further endeared the market to her.

Businesses of every kind encounter errors and mistakes. The challenge lies in finding ways to rise above those bumps in the road. How can your business and brand benefit from looking at the way Beyoncé handled her lip-synch snafu?

Let’s look at how she succeeded in preserving trust and actually strengthening her brand:

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IF YOU LIKE IT, THEN YOU BETTER TAKE THE REINS ON IT

Shortly after the Inauguration, at a press conference about her upcoming Super Bowl Half Time Show concert, Beyoncé took the reins. Before reporters had a chance to toss her a question, she belted out a powerful acapella rendition of “The National Anthem” followed with, “Any questions?” and a laugh. Not only did she take control and write her own ending to the lip-synch buzz, but she even over-delivered by giving everyone what they wanted to see and hear in true “Sasha Fierce” brand style all the way. 

SHOW YOUR HUMAN SIDE

She went on to share her humanness and vulnerability. She expressed that she is a perfectionist, was uncomfortable performing live without a sound check, and did not want to let everyone down with a less-than-perfect moment. She then reinforced her dedication to continue delivering what her fan following expects by stating she would not disappoint in the upcoming Super Bowl Half Time Show.

KEY TAKE-AWAY? BE PREEMPTIVE AND WRITE YOUR OWN ENDING

Your business can rise above bumps in the road. How? Identify the problem quickly. Address your market with conviction in a way that’s in line with your voice, image, and customer expectation. Over-deliver by providing discounts or free downloads, etc. Tell your story, share challenges and re-commit. Give your market the opportunity to better understand who you are. Then reinforce what your brand stands for by communicating positive intentions. You too will create a positive ending to a challenging situation.

AT BRAND SCHOOL WE SHOW YOU HOW TO ROCK YOUR BRAND

Understanding your customers’ needs, being able to exceed their expectations and effectively communicate your ideas is critical to maintaining strong brand loyalty. Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the tools you need to develop your branding and use it to make your business sing. We give you hands-on exercises, exclusive online videos, and the opportunity to connect with a supportive community of fellow brand-building entrepreneurs.

“The value I received from my investment was incredible and I have no doubt that it will continue to pay dividends to me.”  – Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive

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?

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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.

COME TWIST WITH ME – AND TEST DRIVE SUCCESS

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          

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Find Moments That Matter

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

TIP #8: FIND MOMENTS THAT MATTER

Many marketers fall into the trap of thinking that branding always has to be a huge gesture, a big billboard, a knockout commercial, etc. And while branding IS effectively promoted that way, sometimes, the little moments matter the most when it comes to reinforcing your brand promise. Think about the trivia tidbits on the inside of Snapple caps, the kooky smile on Amazon’s box every time you receive a home delivery, or the branded logo on the bottom of the Virgin Atlantic salt and pepper shakers. What little moments could your brand be overlooking? It could be a small line of copy on an invoice, or a greeting that loads as your website boots up. Take just five minutes out of your daily routine to stop and think about a potential mundane moment that, in fact, could surprise and delight your customer and creates a stronger brand connection in the process.

Remember, with a little creativity there can be tons of magic in even the smallest moment.

Check out tip #9 in the series, Make Your Brand Personal.

BRAND SCHOOL ADDS A TWIST TO YOUR BUSINESS

Brand School is the highly effective, premier branding program specifically designed to meet the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School here and read testimonials from many of Brand School’s satisfied former participants. To receive news about special offers and stay up to date on the next semester, please join our newsletter.

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“Quality information. The value is priceless. I loved every minute of it! I’ve recommended Brand School to industry friends and colleagues.” – Barbara Wanzo, Non-profit Homeowner Services

Use Your Brand to Say “No”

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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”.

Why?

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