Tag: branding


So, What if Yours is “Brand D”? Try this…


Don’t panic but ponder this: Our minds are filled with ladders. Unfortunately, there are only three rungs on each category ladder that really matter.

I’m not sure if there is scientific proof of the three-rung theory that is central to the marketing classic, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” but anecdotally, I’ve found it to be true. So much so that since 1990, Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book on the subject became “must reads” for my employees and clients.

My paraphrase of their premise is this: People have “ladders” in their minds for pretty much everything. The tough part: there are only about three rungs on a ladder in which people can remember or that matter to them. If your company or product brand isn’t one of those three, you are pretty much hosed from a market share standpoint.

Think about it for a moment.

What are the three top cereal brands that immediately come to mind? How about the top three pest control companies? What about the top three motor oil brands? The top three life insurance companies?

If I asked you to name the top seven in those categories, you’d likely have a tough time getting past the top three or four.

If your brand isn’t in the top three, what do you do? According to Ries and Trout, you set up a new ladder – create a new category that resonates with your target audience AND one that you can ideally own the top rung.

A fitting example is NyQuil. The cold medicine category already had three brands on the top three rungs of the ladder before NyQuil came on the scene. What did they do? They created a new ladder: “NIGHTTIME Cold Medicine.” Simple. Brilliant.

If you haven’t read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” as part of your brand positioning strategy, I highly recommend you do. Looking for outside help in addressing your company’s brand positioning as part of your growth strategy? We can help.

Good Name

The Battle for Your Good Name…

Good Name

The man credited as being one of the wisest (and wealthiest) men to have ever walked this earth, King Solomon, is credited with saying, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth.” Given his credentials and time-tested wisdom, it seems as though we – as individuals as well as stewards of our companies and their respective brands – would be well-served to probe a bit deeper into this insight and seek applications for our own situations.

Just as nothing in the universe remains static, I believe that the same holds true for our names (and brands). We are actively reinforcing, improving upon, or tarnishing our name (or brand) through every word spoken (or lack thereof) and in every interaction (or inaction). With the proliferation of social media and instantaneous access to a myriad of information and opinions online, our words and actions can get more quickly noticed and they can have a more expeditious result than ever before.

We’ve seen recently in the news how quickly a brand’s reputation – either as an individual, company, or brand in the classic sense – can be tarnished or even destroyed by one misstep (or a series of them). Aside from the news that is frequently riddled with politicians, newscasters, sports celebrities, Hollywood stars, etc. who have seen their once good name lose substantial equity, lists such as “The 10 Most Hated Companies in America” (http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/01/10/the-10-most-hated-companies-in-america-3/2/) also demonstrate that brands are also subject to the same swift judgment.

So, what are some of the contributors to ensuring that your (or your company’s) good name continues to grow in value? Though this short list is not exhaustive by any means, here are a few that I think are worth emphasizing as we evaluate how we can nurture a “good name” in our spheres of influence:

Integrity & Trust. I think they go hand in hand. Does your name stand for doing the right thing even if it costs you something to do so? Are you known for treating others like you want to be treated or does the Golden Rule get twisted to mean, “He who has the gold rules?” Is your company’s brand known for fulfilling its promises and claims? Can your vendors count on you to pay your bills on time? Is your company known for telling the truth or do you routinely live in shades of gray?

Conviction. Have you defined your “True North” – the mission, values, tenants, and behaviors that are uncompromisingly immovable? Or, do you change directions every time you dissect a new opinion poll or each time a new CEO or CMO takes the helm? You can’t please all the people all the time and it’s easy to accept that truth if you are solid in your convictions. I think Shakespeare was onto something profound when he said, “To thine own self be true.” To do so, it is important to know WHO you are and for WHAT you stand.

Consistency. This is a big contributor to trust (or lack thereof). It also is a barometer for the strength of your conviction. Is your company’s behavior consistent with your stated mission, core values, desired customer experience, etc. across all customer touch points, media outlets, venues, and scenarios over a span of time? Or, would those who know you best (employees, vendors, loyal customers) say that you SAY one thing and DO another?

Humility. Can you take input or even correction from those who know you best? How about taking suggestions from someone who just interacted with your brand, had a bad experience, and “flamed” you online? Are you willing to admit a mistake and address it? Can you forgive others when they’ve wronged you? Humility doesn’t mean weakness. In fact, I think it demonstrates tremendous power. It is the opposite of unapproachable arrogance. I think humility is one of the most beautiful attributes a person, company, or brand can exhibit. It is approachable, welcoming, vulnerable, and endearing.

Others-focused. Go beyond brands and think about famous leaders, heroes, beloved coaches, and selfless humanitarians that you admire. One of the common traits that resonate in each one of them on my list is being “others-focused.” They seem to be driven more by “How can I help?” than the “What’s in it for me?” mentality that seems to run rampant. They consistently transcend the self-absorbed, unholy trinity of “Me, Myself, and I.”

As part of my rather unusual career, I was privileged to serve a unique community of approximately 300 ultra high net worth individuals and their families via a private equity firm that acquired my consultancy. These are some of the most notable and accomplished people I’ve ever known. I continue to be struck by how “others-focused” these successful people are in the midst of such rarified success. Knowing most of their stories, they didn’t simply wake up one day after they “made it” and suddenly, they became altruistic. They nurtured and became increasingly proficient at these “good name” attributes throughout their oftentimes difficult journey.

I think Solomon was right. A good name is to be more desired than great riches. Wealth may come from fostering a good name but wealth isn’t necessarily the litmus test. There are plenty of wealthy individuals and companies who are a mess.

A good name doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes a heart-felt commitment, diligence, and dedication from all who represent that name to nurture it into something that can be called “good.” A good name takes a lifetime to build and yet it can be tarnished or destroyed in an instant. May we (and the companies we represent) be so rich to have those who know us best call us by a name that is synonymous with “good.”


External Perceptions Versus Internal Realities: Who Knows You Best?


As I just reviewed a recent article on “America’s Most Hated Companies”, it made me again question, “Why do people flock to some brands and hate others?”

Though I dare not to try to solve this mystery with a simple and tertiary exploration, in many cases this is answered by better understanding the Customer Experience. What is the Customer Experience? A basic definition of the Customer Experience is simply the sum of all perceptions, interactions, and experiences a customer has with a given brand and/or company.

Think for a moment about your FAVORITE brand – the one in which you are most loyal and most passionate. What are the feelings, emotions, impressions, and thoughts you have from the sum of all your experiences with that particular brand or company? Now, do the same with your LEAST FAVORITE brand. How do they compare and contrast?

Now, take it one step closer to home. Think about your own company’s external perception versus internal reality. Is there harmony or conflict? Why one versus the other?

Having spent over 30 years in helping companies define their brand, elevate their customer experience, and grow their sales, I really enjoy addressing inconsistencies, threats, and opportunities regarding brand environments, product lines, communications, and interactions from the CUSTOMERS’ perspective. In doing so, I’ve also come to realize that addressing the customers’ perspective is only part of the solution that separates the “Most Hated Companies” from the “Most Admired Companies”. There is more. An important differentiator comes down to the harmony or conflict between external perceptions and the answer to this question: “What is the experience of our employees, suppliers, and partners? What do THEY think about us?”

I’ve worked with a number of Presidents, Founders, and CEOs who are willing to take the first step and ask, “What do our customers think about our brand and/or company?” I’ve also been amazed how surprisingly few leaders are willing to ask the tough question: “What do those who know us most intimately, like our employees and vendors, think about our brand and/or company?” Perhaps it is due to the fact that it takes courage, humility, and a willingness to listen to those who know us MOST INTIMATELY. It is the question that can separate the external façade from reality. It has the potential to either affirm or expose. It is the one question that cuts to the chase.

Regardless of your particular belief, I think it is fair to say that no other leader has so radically impacted the world as Jesus has. I find it fascinating that one possessing the power and influence that was uniquely his was willing to ask his “leadership team” (those who knew him best and most intimately) these questions:

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Think of this in the context of a recent Customer Experience survey that asks, “What attributes best describe ‘Brand X’ or ‘Company Y’?”)
“Who do you say I am?” (Think of this in the context of a company surveying its employees, suppliers, and partners with the same Customer Experience question.)
The fact that such a powerful and influential leader who literally changed the course of the world was willing to ask this final question says a lot about his humility, leadership, transparency, and confidence. I believe we can learn from this example and apply an aspect of this to our own situation – both personally and professionally.

Whether or not you are in or leading one of the “Most Hated” or “Most Loved” companies in America, each of us has the opportunity to get real by asking those who know us best and most intimately the same type of questions that Jesus asked. In doing so, we might get validation of who we (and the brands and/or companies that we may be representing) REALLY are.

Though daring to ask those most intimately acquainted with us, “Who do you say I am?” may take courage, humility, and a willingness to listen to their answers, I believe it is the fundamental question we must ask if we are serious about making the greatest positive impact with the life we’ve been given as well as the brand and/or company in which we may be stewarding. It’s a risky but enlightening challenge. Are you willing to ask those who know you best the question?