Hope Springs Internal™

May 16, 2017

How to Define Your Personal Brand

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are undoubtedly aware of how trendy the concept “personal branding” has become. And there are as many definitions of the term “as Carter’s has pills” (to borrow one of grandfather’s favorite expressions). So what exactly does it mean to have a personal brand? Simply put, personal branding is the story of you. Think of it as a journalistic dive into your own who, what, when, where and how.

First, name the qualities that are distinct to you as an individual. That’s your who. Are you intellectually curious, uncompromising, articulate, flexible? How do others define your character traits? Even your body language says something about you.

Next, what are your skill sets? This is part of your “do.” What do you do exceedingly well? Think in terms of action verbs. Do you “perform”—or do you “spearhead”? Is the way that you perceive your performance consonant with the way your clients or colleagues perceive it? Why or why not? If you don’t know, then ask them.

When do you measure results? Do you depend on intermittent performance reviews to gauge your progress or are you driven throughout an engagement? Are you masterful at reinvention? Recall the old cigarette slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Can you relate?

Your personal brand may also be reflective of where you are. Are you a lifelong resident of a region or state? Consider how that impacts your knowledge of the market in terms of its attributes—e.g., the social, political, cultural and economic drivers.

Finally, think about how you work. Are you a leader or a follower? A visual learner or an aural one? Do you work better independently? Increase your self-awareness with an assessment tool like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or DiSC.

Personal branding, then, is a combination of your “who” and your “do.” Use it to assess your current situation, what you’d like to have happen and the steps you need to take to get there.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI

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December 13, 2016

Brand Tip #10: Managing a Brand

Once you’ve explored the basics of identifying and developing a brand, then you are ready to start managing it. Managing a brand means (i) monitoring its reputation; (ii) analyzing the competition and opportunities for synergies; (iii) protecting the brand through trademark maintenance, an understandable policy and the pursuit of infringers; and (iv) crisis management. Focus groups and surveys are effective means to gauge the perceptions of your audience and measure it against your own view of your brand experience. These activities serve important functions in both brand development and, as the life cycle of the brand increases, in brand management. Given the dominance of the internet, however, it is equally vital to monitor a corporate identity or brand online. One gauge of a brand’s online reputation is its search engine ranking, the most coveted position being the first results page of a search engine query. So how do companies land their brands on the first page of a search result in Google or other search engines? The answer is by practicing search engine optimization (SEO), a process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines. SEO experts help businesses build traffic and leads, and their services can cost a few hundred or a few thousand dollars per month. Through internet research you can also potentially determine such data points for the competition as a competitor’s market share, annual revenue, desired targets, rate of growth or decline, press mentions and so on. You can search for information on publicly traded competitors by reviewing their SEC filings online and find information on public or private companies by searching sites related to news, newspapers, networks, business journals and press release distribution services. For a fee, you can utilize the services of researchers to determine ad spend for your competitors. For all its advantages, the expansive reach of the internet is an ideal breeding ground for trademark infringement and abuse. Consider the case of a North American retailer that lost substantial revenue from the redemption of fake discount coupons printed by customers from unauthorized websites. Accordingly, you must monitor your trademarks for infringement and counterfeiting and educate your stakeholders on proper usage of your mark with an understandable policy. The last element of brand management is crisis control. A critical aspect of managing your brand’s reputation is defending it effectively in times of crisis. To be sure, an event like an oil spill, food contamination or airline mishap can have a catastrophic impact on consumer perception of a brand, particularly if the event is not handled well. Obviously, reacting immediately in a time of crisis is paramount. Oftentimes, a company’s less than immediate response to a crisis has much to do with a lack of strategy. For example, if your product were affected by widespread contamination, how would the message be communicated to your stakeholders? Who would be responsible for the communication? What would the message say?  Just as many businesses have contingency plans in place for business interruption due to acts of God, labor strikes and mechanical failures, so too must you have a plan for managing a crisis affecting your brand.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI

November 2, 2016

Brand Tip #9: The Role of Alignment in Brand Development

Now that you’ve established the building blocks for communicating to your target customers who you are, what you do and how you do it, it’s time to understand how alignment affects brand development. Alignment is the act of ensuring that your brand reflects your target’s needs, wants, feelings and desires. Think of it as the act of walking (or shopping!) a mile in their shoes. Indeed, you must put on your customer’s shoes to understand and anticipate what it is they want from you. The key to effective alignment is the recognition that ultimately it matters not what you think you are; what matters is what your target thinks you are. Rest assured, it’s their perception that is your reality. Imagine, for instance, the effect that one rude or brusque encounter with a receptionist at a favored service provider can have on the business relationship. Although the office may have cultivated a friendly and compassionate customer experience over many decades, that goodwill could be tarnished or lost in an instant over one negative exchange because the office’s view of its brand experience and the customer’s view are out of alignment. Like wheel alignment on a vehicle, it only takes a small misalignment to create problems. The above office example illustrates the need for proper internal alignment—a  recognition that everyone in an organization, from the CEO to the receptionist, is an ambassador for the brand. The need for alignment is not limited to internal stakeholders, however. External alignment—engagement with those stakeholders outside the organization (particularly customers)—is equally required to build the trust, patience and emotional bonding that establishes a rich and lasting customer relationship with the brand. The premise of external alignment is a simple one: the target audience for your brand comprises individuals with unique needs; aligning the brand with external expectations therefore requires you to incorporate a process into your brand development to understand these individuals and their requirements. Simply providing a pink version of a product for a female target audience, for instance, is not aligning with the market.  You must probe, question and listen to your customers to understand whether their experience of your brand jibes with your own vision of their brand experience. Two common methods for doing this are through the use of surveys and focus groups.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI


October 5, 2016

Brand Tip #8: Creating a Memorable Brand

Once you’ve identified your goals, business strategy and uniqueness in the market and undertaken careful selection of your trademark or service mark, you’re ready to deepen the development of your brand platform and begin the process of engaging with your target audience by making yourself memorable. Becoming memorable, as you might imagine, is more than just selecting an enticing brand name. The culture, or aura, surrounding your brand is just as important. A brand aura is the cultivation of an experience. Done correctly, the cultivation of an experience can produce unbounded loyalty. Consider, for instance, the empowerment philosophy behind Nike® athletic wear, the fan club mentality of Apple® computers or the dancing wait staff and ketchup smiles at a Johnny Rockets® restaurant. Building an experience is not an overnight endeavor, however. And don’t be fooled into thinking that a flashy logo or slogan will create an experience for you. The activities that you undertake to build a strong customer relationship likewise build your brand experience and brand loyalty. Indeed, many studies indicate that customers value reliability and responsiveness even more than the features and benefits of a vendor’s products or services. Some aspects of building brand loyalty include:  (i) consistency in the application of brand indicators; (ii) intellectual engagement; (iii) sensory excitement; and (iv) initiating a call to action and other messaging.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI

September 3, 2016

Brand Tip #7: Finding and Using the Right Trademark

Whether your brand comprises a word(s), a design, a tagline or a combination of the foregoing, make it relevant and compelling yet as uncomplicated as you can to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Choosing an uncomplicated moniker is especially important considering the phenomenon of “cognitive fluency.” This principle reflects the tendency of the human brain to favor information that is easily processed over that which is complex, which ostensibly explains why shares of companies with easily pronounceable names trade better than their complex counterparts. In addition to simplicity, the strength of your mark (or even whether it is capable of functioning as a trademark) should be considered. For example, generic terms are never capable of being appropriated exclusively by any one trader in the marketplace. On the other hand, inherently distinctive marks are the strongest types of marks and are most easily registrable with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Only owners of federally registered marks are entitled to use the ® symbol although some registrants continue to use the “tm” or “sm” symbol even after the mark has registered. The preferred practice is to use the ® symbol in close proximity to the mark once it has registered with the PTO.  Correct usage of a mark is just as important as its display.  Trademarks are technically adjectives and therefore should always modify a noun. For example, it is appropriate to refer to a Sony product such as a television as a Sony® television and not simply as a Sony. Marks are also often highlighted in textual materials such as advertising to distinguish them from common words. Whatever the type or style of mark, it is important to treat its usage in all marketing and informational materials consistently to maintain effectiveness. If you’re using a tagline, it is especially important to incorporate the concept of the key benefit of your product or service. Just make sure that you capture the essence of your brand in as few words as possible. Consider the impact of classics like “Fly the friendly skies,” “Finger-lickin’ good,” “We try harder,” and “Don’t leave home without it.”

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI


August 7, 2016

How to Build a Brand Tip #6: What is Positioning?

Positioning refers to a product or service’s place in the market or the strategy of giving a product or service its place in the market. Identifying the ways in which your brand’s benefit uniquely sets it apart from the competition is just one aspect of positioning. Indeed, consumer attachment is as much emotional as it is a rational purchasing decision; consumers buy from brands they like. There’s an adage in marketing that stories sell and facts tell. Therefore, even if your brand is loaded with features and distinguishable benefits, a brand story is an essential facet of a brand platform. What is the story of your brand? Think like a reporter in search of a good story. Is there a human interest component to the development of your product or service? A compelling aspect of brand story is support of a good cause. In fact, a recent survey indicated that consumers are increasingly apt to favor brands with a social conscience—that is, those brands supporting a charitable cause or other endeavor benefiting people or the environment. Of course, any such effort needs to be genuine and not opportunistic or else the brand’s image will likely be tarnished. Other potential story topics include multigenerational business, overcoming personal, social or economic challenges or inventiveness in the market.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI

July 6, 2016

How to Build a Brand Tip #5: Understanding the Competition

How well do you understand your competition? In the first instance you’ll need to identify who your competitors really are, which most assuredly is not simply “everyone else.” Depending on the nature of your business, competitors may be defined by geography or the relatedness of the goods or services being offered. Market research is essential because identifying your competitors is important before you finalize your decision about which business categories and market segments to compete in.

Once you determine who your competitors are, you need to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis. Obvious strengths include name recognition, good distribution channels and cash flow.  Weaknesses include the opposite of the foregoing and may also include alignment issues such as lack of uniformity in engaging customers through social media. Opportunities may involve uncharted pathways to expansion into other markets, strategic alliances that are ripe for the picking or favorable governmental programs or incubators for businesses.  Threats may include product displacement, quality control issues or a trending away from a particular product or service concept. Gathering this intelligence needn’t bust your budget; use Google as a research tool. For example, through internet research you can potentially determine such data points as a competitor’s market share, annual revenue, desired targets, rate of growth or decline, press mentions and so on. For a fee, you can utilize the services of researchers to determine ad spend for your competitors. Above all, revisit the competitive environment and your SWOT results frequently to stay abreast of trends and changes in your market that require adjustments to your business and marketing plans.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI

June 3, 2016

How to Build a Brand Tip #4: Find Your Unique Selling Proposition

Filed under: Branding,coaching — by latancs @ 3:18 pm
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Your unique selling proposition, commonly referred to as the USP, encapsulates why someone should choose your product or service over any other. Think of a word or concept that you want to “own” in the mind of your client base. To do this, you must consider the purchasing criteria of your clients and decide where you rank highest in fulfilling those criteria. One way to determine what is significant to your market is to know which keywords your potential clients use on the internet to find people engaged in your business. Is your geographic location important to the decision-making process?   What other values (explicit or implicit) can you define about your target market? Maybe they value cutting-edge technology or a specialist in elder care issues. If you’ve been engaged in business for a while now, you already have data related to your target market’s preferences and demographics from which to cull a working USP as well as any employees and service providers who can tell you what sets you apart from your competition. Start with what you know and what you have and work from there.

Read more tips like this in my book, From Brand X to Brand Rex http://amzn.to/1QZUUkI

May 3, 2016

How to Build a Brand Tip #3: The Difference Between a Vision and a Mission

Filed under: Branding,coaching — by latancs @ 2:14 pm
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Often thought of as a singular proposition, a vision and a mission are quite distinct. A vision statement usually expresses an organization’s values or goals in an idealistic way. On the other hand, a mission statement (akin to the  “About Us” section of a website) directly states a purpose of the organization that sets the tone and environment for employees and demonstrates for other stakeholders the scope of your desired activities. Despite their differences, both share a common purpose of setting direction and creating goal orientation. In establishing a mission or vision statement for your brand, avoid jargon such as “client-centered” and think beyond superlatives like “best,” “most,” “premier” and “leading.” Generalities like these fail to impress upon clients how you’re distinguishable from your competition. Keep both statements succinct (aim for a paragraph). You may choose to use your mission and vision statements in their entirety in your marketing literature or adopt aspects of them as you see fit.


April 2, 2016

How to Build a Brand Tip #2: Creating a Brand Strategy

Filed under: Branding,coaching — by latancs @ 2:00 pm
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Creating a brand asset begins with the formulation of a strategy designed to develop your brand. Whether you manage a global brand or one around the corner, strategic planning (as opposed to haphazard daily decision making) will provide you with the tools to communicate well and build commitment and collaboration among your staff, clients and others with an interest in your organization—collectively, your stakeholders. Those stakeholders include your outside consultants who have a hand in creating and delivering your brand messaging. Although it may sound intimidating, formulating a brand strategy involves the same consideration that you take to launch a company. For instance, in forming a company you select a name (one that is particularly susceptible to your exclusive use is best), devise a mission statement and identify your target audience. What steps can you take today to begin a strategy? See http://amzn.to/1V0SdA8 for more information.

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