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The 4 C’s of Branding

BrandingBrands aren’t just for big business.  Many small and mid-sized business seem to feel that branding is not for them.  I hear the arguments now.  “My company has a name and that’s what people remember.”  There’s a big difference between a brand and a brand name.  Coca-Cola is a brand name … not a brand.   And, then there’s the claim that “We have a logo!!!”   Keep in mind that your logo is merely a symbol.  What does your company name and your logo mean to your market?  Those associations are the core of your brand.


What is Branding

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours? … Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind. Source: Forbes

… your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.  Click here to view original web page at www.entrepreneur.com

You’ve probably been to a zillion big parties.  Do you remember everyone’s name? Of course not.  But you do remember the names of a few.  Odds are, they all fall into 3 groups.

  1. Do you remember the names of everyone who looked at you, nodded and walked away?  Probably not.
  2. Do you remember the names of people who were really funny, extraordinarily smart or helped you out?  Certainly!  Would you want to spend time wtih them again?  Of course you would.  Would you speak highly of them to your friends?  Sure you would.
  3. Do you remember the people who were mean, nasty, self -centered and supercilious? You probably do.  Would you talk about them kindly?  Want to spend more time with them?  Of course not.

That’s part of the power of a brand.  The folks in the first group were just faces in the crowd.  You don’t remember them because there’s nothing memorable about your interaction with them. The folks in the last group were memorable, but not for good reason.  Who wants to associate with mean, nasty, supercilious (love that word) people.  They created a negative ‘brand’ for themselves.  It’s the middle group we’re drawn to.   We like people are are funny, smart, engaging.  We like people who help us.  In turn, we want to see them again … and again… and again.


The 4 C’s of Branding

I’ll go into greater detail on how you might go about developing your brand in a future article.  For now, here are the 4 C’s of branding.

CREATE a brand that ties into the needs and wants of your customers while reflecting the truth of who you really are as a company.  Creating a ‘pie in the sky’ brand means nothing if you can’t live up to the brand you created.  You’ll need to live and breathe your brand in all you do.  Don’t claim that your company is the most customer friendly, innovative business in the market if you really aren’t.  Customers will soon figure it out and your efforts to brand your business will be useless.

CULTIVATE your brand throughout your company.  If innovation is part of your brand platform, then you need to own it and innovate!

COMMUNICATE your brand vigorously and consistently.

CHANGE your branding if need be.  Over time, most things might need to be tweaked.  Businesses are dynamic and markets ever-changing.


Define Your Brand = Change Your Business

When your brand marries the truth of who you are with customer needs and wants, you create value.  And that value your customers need and the value of your brand becomes stronger.  Customers will remember your (brand) name and have an indelible impression of who you are.  Defining, developing and communicating your brand will focus all of your business activities, enabling you to prioritize projects and programs.   It will increase your return on marketing investment and will, over time, help to keep the customers you have and bring in new ones.


Good luck.   Here are a few more articles on branding to get those creative juices going.

Branding From Costco – Aisle 12

5 Ways Your Brand is Like a Virus

Brand Yourself

The Fairy Tale of Purple Cows

The Fairy Tale of Purple Cows

Once upon a time, a wanderer traveled through a busy, crowded city. Deep in thought, the wanderer dreamed about what could be. With dreams fueling his travels, he left the crowded city and found himself in an expansive, green, lush field. Then, out of the corner of his tired eyes, he saw the purple cow. That was it! His dreams of ‘what could be’ were coming into reality. He began breeding purple cows and it was a winning business. His money multiplied and his customers were ecstatic.
But, happy endings are generally for fairy tales.

Purple cows are rare!

Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, posits that the creation of something that is innovative and unique is the only (best?) way to break through the clutter of mediocre products and messaging in the market. To quote the book, “You’re either remarkable or invisible.” I believe that’s still true today.
Finding a purple cow is unlikely. Creating a purple cow is what businesses need to do.

Create your purple cow.

Many businesses are, in their current state, very similar to their competitors. No purple cow here … unless you get a big ol’ bucket and paint that cow purple. Can’t find the purple paint for your business?   Think deep, long and hard. You may have a few drops of purple paint sitting right in front of you.
1. Is your customer service better?
2. Does your technology make your product/ service better?
3. Are you more accessible to customers?
If there’s really nothing different or better about your business, then build it. Make yourself the most friendly and accessible, with products that have the best features and hordes of customers who ‘love you best’.


Cultivate your purple cow.

Even after you create your purple cow, your work might not be finished. If your purple cow is more successful than your competitors’ white cows, they’re going to figure out how to paint their own. And when they, you’re going to see your brilliant cow fade. First to lavender. Then just a blush. And soon you may be just another cow in the field.
Be smart and always be thinking about how to repaint your cow. Polka dots. Stripes. Maybe a lovely paisley. Whatever it is, you should always be thinking about your next step.

Reinvent. Re-create. Re-think.  It’s the only thing that keeps your business brilliant.

Are You A Customer Bully?

Are You A Customer Bully?

CUSTOMER MARKETINGAre you a customer bully?  Do you find yourself saying these less-than-flattering things about your customers?

  1. They’re stupid.
  2. They don’t know what they want.
  3. They just don’t listen.
  4. They don’t realize how good we are.

If so, then you are a customer bully.  Let’s face it.  The problem isn’t the customers.  The problem is YOU!

Customers are your life blood.  You need them.  And, to a great extent, they probably need you.  You have the power to turn the tables.

  1. If they don’t understand your product … Explain it to them.
  2. If they don’t know what they want, listen to them and show them how you can solve their problems.
  3. If they don’t listen, it’s probably because your messages are boring, confusing or just not “on point”.
  4. If they don’t realize how amazing you are, tell them.  And, make sure it’s convincing.

Let’s face it. When you slip out of your go-to-business Superman costume, you’re just another customer.  Would you want Iiiiiiito be treated the same way you treat your own customers?

It’s easy to just bemoan your customers’ stupidity rather than do something about it.  The hard part is figuring out how to transform your customers lack of information, knowledge and insight a competitive advantage for you.  It can be done.



Year End Marketing Checklist

Year End Marketing Checklist

The end of the year is fast-approaching. That should be a trigger to evaluate last year’s performance and begin (or finish) work on next year’s business and marketing plan. Getting to the heart of what worked and what didn’t is critical. Don’t leave it to a gut reaction of ‘last year was a good year’. Get to the details.

Heidi Cohen’s (www.HeidiCohen.com) marketing checklist for small business should help you do just that. Review the performance and trends in 7 criteria should give you a great summary of 2013 and provide a good foundation for 2014 planning.

  1. Revenues 
  2. Profit Margins
  3. Promotions
  4. Products
  5. Customer Base
  6. Expenses
  7. CompetitionStrategy

6 Steps to Getting Customers to Sit, Stay and Poop Outside

6 Steps to Getting Customers to Sit, Stay and Poop Outside

(Do You Need To Train Your Customers?)



I am not suggesting that you tug a training collar to get customers’ attention.  Nor will I tell you to give them liver treats for paying attention to your messages.  But customers do need to be trained to understand what they can and can’t expect from you… and what you should know about them.


Living with dogs requires training (for both you and the dog).  I recently got a puppy and am learning some of the harsh realities of training.  At the ripe old age of 4 months, he was full of energy and didn’t understand the necessity of walking on a leash and pooping outside.  Training is the only way for both of us to reach a happy medium.


The core secret of training dogs:

1. Understand what they need
2. Be more exciting than everything else going on
3. Reward positive behavior
4. Use consistency to develop trust
5. Be just as tenacious about training as they are about not being trained.
6. Love them


Now think about it.  Is that any different that how you should relate to customers?

The secret of training customers:

1. Understand what they need

  • If you want people (or dogs) to do something, you’re going to have to get an understanding of what they need and then deliver to those needs.

2. Be more exciting than everything else that’s going on

  • Differentiate yourself from competition
  • Create some energy about your brand
  • Make yourself so interesting to them, they just have to pay attention to you

3. Reward positive behavior

  • Thank customers for you business.  Now thank them again.
  • Say thank you without trying to sell them something.  Sometimes, say thank you and GIVE them something.

4. Use consistency to develop trust

  • Make sure your customers can rely on you all the time.  Just because it’s the end of a crummy week doesn’t justify poor service.  Just because they’re annoying beyond belief doesn’t justify an obnoxious response.  
  • The only way your customers are going to know they can trust you is if you are consistently helpful, polite, considerate and prompt.  

5. Be just as tenacious about training as they are about not being trained.

  • Keep trying.  Don’t be one of those companies who says, “We tried that and it didn’t work.”  Try it again.  Tweak it.  Figure out what you’re doing wrong or not good enough and do it right, do it better, or just do it again. 

6. Love them

  • Some of you might think that loving your customers is a bit extreme.  It isn’t.  Your past, current and future customers are keeping your business alive.


Customers have a ‘leg up’ (pun intended) on dogs.  They (usually) don’t need any housebreaking.  On that note, I’ll leave you and take Barney for a walk.

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