Tag Archives: business strategy

Basic Rules of Branding: Crafting Your Image in the Public Mind

A lot of people spend time merely trying to mimic the business models and ad campaigns of iconic brands without really looking deeper into what makes those brands stick. Whether you’re putting together a new brand for your start-up idea or you’re conducting a brand refresh to focus your messaging after major market shifts or changes in leadership, it’s vital that you stick to some basic rules.

Metal Branding Brand Perspective

Your Brand is Built upon Core Principles

Contrary to popular belief, your brand is about more than your name and logo, or it should be. Your logo, slogans, product presentation and especially your company name are critical to the impact your brand has, to be sure.

Your efforts to build and manage a brand need certain fundamental ideas and values that anchor it. It’s when brands forget those key values that their brands are based on that they stop projecting an image to customers and the public that resonates.

Those core principles need to be more than just empty platitudes, though. Ask yourself and your executive team just what is important to them about operating in your industry, what sets them apart from competitors and what kind of presence they want your brand to communicate.

You Have to be Consistent

This means you have to defend your brand against erosion by bad marketing or just the variety of minds working on your campaigns. Inconsistent graphic design, colors, logo presentation, haphazard marketing copy that doesn’t project a consistent tone or follow central brand principles—your brand manager needs to corral all of these disparate messages into a consistent brand representation.

It’s much easier to maintain brand consistency if you’re able to launch your brand internally, getting buy-in from all of your staff and ensuring that branding gets consideration in everything you do. When everyone is aware of—and reminded of—your core principles and branding standards on a regular basis, they’re more likely to maintain a consistent brand representation collectively.

Customer Experience Must be Controlled

If you properly present your branded messages to customers in every instance, you’ll be successful in creating a consistent impression within just a few impressions. But if your messaging, styling and tone are all over the place, they may fail to remember your brand at all.

This is the reason for your obsession about consistency in graphic design, messaging and everything else. Not every customer will see every display ad, every commercial or every business card. But that’s all the more reason to keep them tightly controlled, so you get the same effect no matter where the customer is exposed to your brand. You’re controlling the image of your brand in customers’ minds by controlling the contexts in which they experience it.

Follow the KISS Rule

I don’t want to fall into the cliché of simply saying that you need to “keep it simple, stupid!” because it’s easy to dismiss. Yeah sure, you should keep your brand simple, but why and what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that you should dumb down your brand; just the opposite, in fact.

The principles around which you’re organizing your brand should be basic, but they shouldn’t be communicated in a cliché or tired manner. For example, everyone wants to say that they provide good service to their customers; you’re not going to impress anyone just by making sure you mention it in every branding message or slogan. But you will impress people by getting that message across elegantly, and in a manner that almost communicates that your brand is about service without actually saying so. This can happen in the tone and style of a branding message, right down to the way a brand tweets.

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.

Choosing a Brand Name: How Not to Screw it Up

I’m a little tired of people saying that groups come up with a brand name as an afterthought. If that’s true, those businesses are run by idiots. People put plenty of thought into their brand names, but it usually doesn’t go much further than picking a stylish name and dreaming up logo concepts. The truth is they’re actually shortchanging themselves and possibly even sabotaging their branding efforts by not going deeper.

Before you jump deep into the details of your logo, color schemes and the legalistic rituals of solidifying your brand, you need to do your homework and make sure you come out with a brand name that will be the foundation for everything else you do. Here are some rules to follow so you don’t fail colossally at choosing the right name for your brand.

Nametag Hello I am Your Brand Marketing Yourself Networking

 

Keep it Short

This may seem like common sense, but I’m not sure people get just how short a name should be in order to remain memorable, and I do mean short. I’m talking, like two or three syllables at most. Think of the big brand names you know (“Google,” “Apple,” “Coca-Cola”). Short names resonate; they have a verbal and aural texture that makes them stand out of the ordinary so they stick.

Organizations that have long names often resort to acronyms, but those are usually hard to brand. You should stay away from them unless the acronym itself is especially catchy. Even then, people will likely not know what it represents, like “M&M” or “IKEA”, for example.

What Connotations Does Your Brand Evoke

Think of naming your business like naming a band. It can really help to have some kind of impact; have some meaning behind it. Hearing it should fire off a host of other associations with other ideas and concepts in people’s brains, or at least not bring up any negative ones. Those ideas, feelings and concepts will attach themselves—however obliquely—to your brand, and they shape the first impression people have of it.

A lot of companies try to walk the line between being edgy and offensive/ridiculous, but it often fails because they’re going for a gimmick rather than thinking about the core values they want their brand to evoke. Don’t think you can beat a cultural or linguistic association, it’s a losing battle, and your branding energy is better spent elsewhere.

Watch Out for Unknown Slang

Our culture is an increasingly complex and fragmented one, with each subculture having its own slang, phrasing and terminology. Therefore, you need to be careful not to run afoul of bad associations with your brand name. Check the Urban Dictionary and do exhaustive web searches to make sure you’re not naming your company or product line after a dirty euphemism or otherwise embarrassing slang. Then your brand will be a joke and you won’t have a prayer of controlling your public image.

Check International Usage as Well

It doesn’t happen so often now that checking your brand name is as simple as Googling it, but you could be stumbling on a brand name that matches one in another country, even if the name has a different meaning there.

International translations and slang can also get you into trouble by associating your brand with inappropriate terms and concepts. It’s impossible to fully guard against this problem, but in our increasingly globalized marketplace, you should at least screen for the most obvious translations and associations to avoid future branding problems overseas.

Always(!) Shop the Name Around before Committing

As with brain surgeons and hair dyes, it’s usually a good idea to get a second opinion before you really commit to a brand name. Sometimes you’re just too close to the idea to look at it objectively anymore. Float the name(s) you’re considering internally first and collect as much feedback as you can from the people most familiar with what your business is. Then go external and find some trustworthy folks who will give you honest opinions and expert advice about whether the name matches your branding goals and values.

Following these types of rules can help you avoid the worst branding mistakes. Hopefully, they’ll help warn you off of conceptually flawed brand names and steer you toward a name that makes it easy to shape the brand, and its accompanying linguistic and cultural associations, in a way that pushes the image you want for your product or company.

What’s the worst brand name you’ve ever heard of?

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.

3 Things You Should Never Say in a Meeting

If you are very familiar with my work and the principles I teach, you know that I believe the primary motivation for making lots of money in high paying jobs and entrepreneurial endeavors should be based on the desire to make the world a better place to live in. Those who make money without any social responsibility attached to their actions often worry and wonder if karma is going to swing around and slap them upside the face, and well they should.

When it comes to karma in business, one of the most important things you can do to position yourself as a leader with a persuasive persona of success, is to choose your words wisely in meetings, times when you can make or break your image with the people that matter.

Building a Persona of Success

Each of us is building our own business persona by the words we choose to speak and who we speak them to. Just as major corporations like Nike, Coke, Apple and Starbucks have powerful brands that evoke specific thoughts and emotions; each of us also has our own brand or persona that we are building with our words and actions.

We seldom realize how powerful our own words are and how much of a positive or negative effect they have on others, not to mention our own careers. What kind of a brand are you building? What do people think of when they think of you? These are questions worth pondering. If you want to avoid poisoning your images in the minds of your colleagues, there are some things you should never say in a meeting or even out loud in the office—ever. When these things are said, they destroy morale, stifle creativity and damage your personal brand.

1- “It can’t be Done”

Truly successful personalities never focus on why something can’t be done; they thrive on the challenge of figuring out how it can be done. This is why lateral thinkers and those that live outside of the box often rise to the top of innovative organizations. The truth is that virtually anything can be done if the necessary energy and creativity is backing up the effort.

A businessman who should have held his tongue.

Don't commit career suicide by saying the wrong thing.

Even if a challenge has exhausted you and your creative juices just aren’t responding to a given task, it is better to simply focus on finding a better way to approach the problem than to publicly admit defeat to the current method being used. “I think there may be a better approach to this problem” is an alternative that puts a positive spin on your opinion and doesn’t associate you with negativity in the minds of others.

2- “It’s Not Fair”

Truly successful people refuse to view or characterize themselves as victims. Even if you are being unjustly targeted, it is simply bad form and uninspiring to others that are looking to you for guidance and inspiration. Never, ever—ever— say “it’s not fair”. Pointing out the obvious brings little to the table and it makes you look defeated.

Life is not fair. Get over it, get around it, work through it. Part of the intoxicating adrenaline rush that truly successful people get while slaying their daily dragons is the thrill of being the underdog that overcomes opposition. You need to have a “Bring it on!” attitude, walking the line between arrogance and competence. Be the leader that loves a challenge and never whines about unfavorable exterior circumstances. That is how you inspire those that follow your lead.

3- “I Don’t Get Paid Enough to Do This”

That phrase is a real downer and a dead giveaway that someone is just in it for the paycheck with no vision for the future. Such people are not passionate about what they do for a living. If that is how you are approaching your work, you need to have an industrial strength paradigm shift. Truly successful people always consider themselves involved in a passionate cause that leads to a higher purpose in life. If indeed you have an underlying desire to make the world a better place with the resources your success brings you, then in fact, you are involved in an important cause, no matter what you do for a living. Do the best you can, with positive expectancy, and the money will follow.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.

Get the Right People on your Team

Once you have designed a profitable business strategy, it’s time to find the right people to execute that strategy. The right people will follow the plan and grow your business. The wrong people will only do enough to look like they are working and take home paychecks they haven’t actually earned. You will know the right people because of the enthusiasm and confidence they show. They will focus on how to make millions in profits.

Hire the Right People

The right people are enthusiastic about your business and internally motivated. They will push themselves to succeed before you need to push them. They will be teachable and also willing to learn new skill sets on their own. They will care less about their pay and more about getting the job done. They will be polite when suggesting alternatives and give you the final say. Most of all, they will respond well to your directives. The right people are not offended when you correct their work.

When you start a new business, your first employees are going to be partners. As exciting as it is to call a business your own, being a sole owner leaves you open to risk. Business partners assume some of that risk in exchange for a portion of ownership. When choosing partners, you must be extra cautious. You are unlikely to find highly motivated and committed partners through an ad on the Internet. Instead, look in your own professional network at people you have known for years. They often make the best partners or will have connections with other great potential partners.

Incentivize Hires in Your New Business

To ensure that only the right people apply to your new business, offer stock options along with modest salaries in your compensation plan. The modest salary ensures that the uncommitted don’t apply, and the stock options ensure that those interested in growing your business do apply. It may make sense later to change this compensation strategy, but it is an excellent one for starting out.

Bonuses for extra performance are also important. Employees who work extra hard to grow your company should be rewarded. Their efforts will set an example for others and raise the productivity of the whole team. Besides, it only makes sense for them to get a share of the profits that they personally made.

Avoid Corporate Politics

One thing the right people will not do is engage in political games. The last thing you need is to have employees competing with each other. You cannot beat your competitors if your employees don’t work together. Achieving success is a shared responsibility. You run a serious risk if you talk about your business as “mine” because it encourages employees to compete to be your “second.” I always say “we” when speaking about my businesses because that’s how to make millions—by uniting your employees behind the shared goal of making as much money as possible.

Fire When Necessary

At some point, you will have to let somebody go. Don’t let your resources be drained and fall behind the competition by keeping people on board that don’t enhance the organization.

To make millions, you need the right people on your team. You need partners and employees who will make growing your business their top priority. With their help, you can beat your competitors and achieve lasting success.