What the Heck is Branding?

What the Heck is Branding?

I had a chat with a friend recently who is looking to take his business to the next level. We were talking about websites and marketing and standing out from the crowd. I asked him about his brand. What makes it special – different from the rest of the competition? Who is his customer and what is it that draws them to that brand – his shop? He didn’t know. He wasn’t really sure what I meant by “brand”.

Let’s just take a look for a second at this concept of “branding”. He like many people, think of branding as the logo, website, marketing or advertising when actually your brand has much less to do with those “outward-in” business tools and much more of an “inward-out” story about who and what compromises the essence of the business. It’s the sum of experiences and messaging about your shop, products, services, value… all of it. It comes from the inside of the company structure, not from the last cool commercial you created (although cool commercials might be a part of your brand). It’s who you are and what you stand for. It’s the promise to your customer that you are something special.

If you are a shop selling jewelry, for example what is it that makes you special or unique to the market? Are you the highest quality gemstones or one of a kind jewelry design? Do you sell reasonably priced jewelry with loads of selection? Are you experts in your specific niche of the jewelry industry? Do you have the market on black pearls or Hawaiian styles? Do you have the best customer service in the industry? Do you give back and are environmentally caring? What is it about you that makes you – you?

Once you have that, then you can work on the rest of the “outward-in” stuff like your logo and your website design. All those things like your business cards, digital marketing strategies and campaigns, content and voice have got to come after you know who you are on the inside. Then you follow through in all areas of your business with that story. Emphasize it, shout it from the rooftops! Make sure that voice and message is in every single point of contact with that consumer.

All the best brands in the world have that. Brands on the down slide have lost that focus.

Think about Apple. Apple screams who they are in every ad, web page, store front and commercial. Of course we may not all like what they are screaming, but it’s crystal clear. And the people who are their target like it, which is what they are aiming for. Good branding is about knowing who you are and who your target audience is. Then getting that conversation going with them in the words they want to hear.

Keep in mind, it has to be real. If you tout yourself as having the best customer service, you better have it. If you say you serve the best seafood in town, it better be true. If you promise the best quality merchandise then your customer better not be getting knock-offs and inferiors. Keep your brand real and pure and those people who have an affinity for it will stay true and loyal to your products.

Take a look at Seth Godin’s brand definition which I think really nails it.

How to Stay on Top of the Technology

How to Stay on Top of the Technology

Technology – and let’s be clear, I am talking about all technology, but ESPECIALLY technology in the Interactive space – is always in a never-ending state of change. It is in continuous flux and always undergoing a metamorphosis of one type or another. It’s not only in that constant state of motion and re-creation, but it’s also really the one thing these days that truly has the capability to disrupt the way things are done all over the world.

It’s all about paying attention to your market and the new technology and seeing ways to fit them together “WHERE IT MAKES SENSE”.

Nothing makes me crazier than hearing about some company that comes out with a mobile app that does nothing but act as brochureware or similar just because somebody told them they should have one… because all the cool kids are doing it. UGH!

For example, what did I do before I had my smart phone? How did I find out what time it was or how to get from point A to point B? How did I ever know what the exact temperature and what was that big bulky machine next to my bed that I needed to get up in the morning? I have replaced at least a dozen products with my one now… and it fits in my purse. Joy!

Now, I’m sure we could debate at length if this speed of new technology makes us better off or worse (I vote better), but that’s not the point. That ship has sailed. Technology changes are happening with every keystroke I type and you and your business can’t be left behind or somebody else will be right there to take your place (or recreate your business in a better way – Say goodbye, MySpace and Alta Vista).

So what are you to do?

As somebody in Interactive strategy, production and marketing; I have a deep passion for this emerging technology and change. I want to be a part of this magic and really create something amazing that will disrupt the way we do things in the future. As a business owner or employee in another field, it is hard enough to make your own magic happen in whatever industry or position you are in much less keep up with what crazy new “thing” is going on in the digital space.

You know you should have an idea what new things are coming down the road. You know you need to understand enough of what is going on to know what may be able to move along your business or help make your job easier and better. You know how important it is to keep improving and growing.

Take Amazon for example. They saw the changes in the way people absorb information and the ease of how people can get digital information and read from anywhere at any time. They created easier ways for people to get this information and now Amazon sells more e-books than printed books.

OK, so where can you go to get information that may be important to you about emerging technology and Interactive marketing, strategy and production?

  • TechCrunch: What can you say about the king of all tech blogs. It has it – all and in doses that will not make your brain explode if you are not a die-hard techie.
  • Wired: Also a leader in the tech field. It has future forward thinking and a lot of great in-depth articles on the latest and greatest in all areas of technology including science and business.
  • Mashable: One of my personal favs although it has a lot more than current and upcoming Internet related information. You ca also check out US & World, Watercooler and Entertainment.
  • The Next Web: A hot colorful look into what is and will be in today’s Internet. I like it.
  • The Verge: A newer to the game upstart with lots of cool kid information on not only emerging technology; but also business, design and culture and more.
  • WSJD : Do you like reading a lot of stuff and have a love of verbiage? If so this might just work for you! It’s the Wall Street Journal’s tech section of their blog. It’s got a lot of information, in the fun-filled WSJ style. Enjoy.
  • ZDNet: A classic, but still chock full of information. OK, mostly for true IT and IS types, but still has some nuggets.
  • ThinkGeek: And this one is just my gift to you… ThinkGeek is a tried and true paradise of fun stuff that any of us geeks would love to have ( you might want to take notes for my upcoming birthday). They offer things for every geek flavor in your life such as A Feast of Ice & Fire – Official Game of Thrones Cookbook, Star Trek Enterprise Bottle Opener, Doctor Who Adipose Stress Toy or the ever useful Death Star Ice SPHERE Mold.

Now, there are a lot of newsletters and Linkedin groups and other things that do have value, but I’m intentionally not going into that in this post. I hope you find some of these useful and if I have forgotten any that should be added, make sure to let me know!

Innovation and the Little Picture

Innovation and the Little Picture

Innovators come in all areas of business. From those bold enough to try somethings straight out of a sci-fi novel (3D printing, cars the drive themeselves, Google Glass, smart phones), those who accidentally created something new (velcro, popsicles, potato chips) all the way to the person just trying to solve a little problem and coming up with something that turns the marketplace upside down (grommets, kongs, and even Greek yogurt).

It’s not about coming up with the “BIGGEST NEW THING IN THE WORLD” up front, but sometimes just looking around you at the little picture and skewing your angle just enough to see where there is a void that can be filled with something more helpful that what is out there now. The next time you are looking for new ways to increase your marketshare or revenue stream, how about not only working to move the needle, but maybe get rid of the needle altogether and use a rod instead.

What does your business really have to offer? Now let’s bring it into the Interactive space in a big way and really disrupt the way the market moves.