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

March 21, 2011

Living the Life You’ve Imagined

Filed under: coaching — by latancs @ 9:29 am
Tags: , , ,

By Linda Tancs

It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined – Henry James, author

Are you living the life you’ve imagined?  If not, why?  Is it lack of courage—or encouragement?  Let’s face it; it’s easy to play it safe.  But as the expression goes:  no guts, no glory.  Take a look at the excuses you use to keep from realizing your dreams.  I’m too old (or young)I don’t like riskMy family would never approve.  I don’t have enough moneyI don’t have enough influence. It’s all been done before.  I’m not that talented. What excuses do you make?  We all have hopes and aspirations.  The next time you contemplate yours, be very conscious of the excuses that creep into your thoughts.  Chances are, you haven’t given them much thought or even accepted them as excuses because they’ve become so much a part of your daily thought process.  Or you may have “inherited” one or more of your favorite excuses from a potentially well-intentioned friend or family member.  However, excuses derive their power from you—and only you.  And only you have the power to banish them.  Therefore, once you’ve identified your excuses, be prepared to challenge them.  Sure, many folks will say, “It’s not an excuse; it’s actually a fact.”  Take, for example, I’m too old.  How can you be sure of the truth of this statement?  Like a detective, seek the evidence that bears it out.  In other words, be sure to separate facts from feelings.  Do your homework.  How many others with aspirations like yours accomplished their goals at the same age—or even older?  Look for stories on your topic on the internet, in business journals, blogs, social networks, and so on.  Only after you’ve exhausted your fact-finding mission and found no evidence to refute your excuse should you even think about accepting it as a cold, hard fact.  If that’s the case, then consider whether your statement is really more a reflection of your own lack of desire to accomplish something.  Are you striving towards your own dream or trying to achieve something for someone else?  Is the task really doable?  For instance, you probably won’t be a five-foot-tall basketball star.  There’s no need to waste time with excuses based on someone else’s agenda or your own actual (rather than conjured) limitations.  In all other cases, continue to think big and look for inspiration.  Remove the word can’t from your vocabulary, as a high school teacher once exhorted me to do.  As the writer Frank Scully once remarked, “Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”


January 2, 2011

A Sporting Approach Toward Career Management

Filed under: coaching — by latancs @ 4:59 pm
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By Linda Tancs

Tennis icon Billie Jean King once remarked, “A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning.”  This got me thinking about the important life lessons that sport teaches:  perseverance in the face of obstacles, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship.  Aren’t these some of the same qualities that our most prominent—and promising—business leaders possess?  No doubt many of these qualities were picked up in the gym or out on the schoolyard, which is why it’s distressing when sports and academics are pitted against each other as mutually exclusive endeavors.  Sports are an important part of education, teaching the value of teamwork and other career enhancing skills like strategy, goal setting, feedback and review.  Would it surprise you to learn that the Olympics are referred to as the biggest peacetime event in modern history?  Regardless whether you’re a sports fanatic, watch a game and ask yourself what lessons can be learned and applied in your working life based on the conduct of the players towards themselves and the opposing team, the strategies employed, the reactions of the fans, the interplay between the coach and the team, and the commentary.  You’ll likely never watch a game the same way again.


October 23, 2010

The Road to Transformation

Filed under: coaching — by latancs @ 11:26 am
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By Linda Tancs

There’s a line in the movie Eat Pray Love where Julia Roberts’ character remarks that ruin is the road to transformation.  The remark was sparked by a tour of an ancient Roman ruin, but its deeper meaning is related to failures in life as the film’s story line indicates.  It’s a compelling statement, and oftentimes we do think of transformation in the context of some failure that preceded it.  But why focus on failure?  I prefer Thomas Edison’s famous positioning statement:  “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Those “10,000 ways” are success stories, don’t you think?  Every time we discover a way that doesn’t work, we’re that much closer to finding a way that does work–and learning a whole lot about ourselves in the process.  The point is that transformation isn’t an event, it’s a process.  Think about what you’ve learned from your “10,000 ways.”  Would you have learned as much without them?


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