Thursday, December 2, 2010

20/20 Brand Vision

You've got to get this right...

Branding is not your logo. Brand strategy is not a marketing plan. Brand vision isn't what others think of you.

Brand Vision is having a clear picture (shared with your employees) as to the company you WILL BE 10 years from now.  That leads you beyond a single product line or a cool new package. It transforms your business into thinking strategically, and not just as a collection of tactics.  You can say "yes" or "no" to new opportunities because you will have a simply defined benchmark from which to judge.

"We'll be the household name in backyard gardening."
"Our products will be synonymous with luxury."
"We will become the most trusted brand in local marketplaces."

No where is there is a "HOW?" That's brand strategy, not vision. But, if you and your team are not in agreement with the larger goal, you will constantly work against each other vying for an uptick in sales off of tactics that are hit-or-miss at best.

Take the second sample above (synonymous with luxury)... were this company offered the opportunity to merge with a larger, but low-price competitor, should they take the deal?  The answer should be, "No."  How could the cut-rate competitor add to their vision? However, if a new product area opened up in a high-end market, should they consider entering it , — even if they don't have much experience? The answer should be, "Yes." They may still not choose to do so, but the exercise remains consistent. 

Think of Apple. iTunes saved it. Apple has stood for "cutting edge technology with stunning aesthetics" in everything they do. They now own music downloads as a by-product of the introduction of an entirely new category. If they only saw themselves as a computer manufacturer, they would have never worked on the R&D of transforming Flash drives into music machines. The scope of the product lines Apple works on are quite diverse, but their brand vision remains true. We all can learn from this - regardless of budget.

So where do you begin? Here's the exercise:

1) Who are you now? In short, how would your typical customer describe you, what you do and what you do for them?
2) What should they be saying about you?
3) What kind of company/brand will you have in a decade? Again, in short, not specifically a marketshare question, but an emotional one.  Who will you be?

Once answered — and they're not easy to answer... you'll be well on your way toward saving your company years of frustration and even more wasted investment.  The more fractured your brand is, the more you have to spend to keep it a float. The cool part is, the more cohesive it is, the farther (whatever money you spend) will go towards achieving your goals.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cartoons That Made Me Who I Am Today

My formative years were the 60's and 70's. I know, to my kids, that makes me a dinosaur. And yet, as they mature into collegiate know-it-alls, I begin to see the that the years of my youth were not wasted. My knowledge of TV sitcoms, movies and maybe most of all, cartoons of that era, has provided the conduit to connect past to present in ways that today's shows just can't match.

Today, after school... after football, tennis, Irish dance or detention, my kids never sit down to watch television — they jump on the computer or the Xbox when I haven't hidden the controller well enough). Having the ability to jump to whatever show, video or level you want to is incredibly empowering, but misses out on the joy of gaining a widespread knowledge of completely useless information serendipitously.


For those that wish to walk down memory lane, I give you...

The original "pre-school"... in which if you beat mom's alarm, you might watch a little TV before school, like:

6:30 Gumby & Pokey — Clamation at it's finest. You knew it was for little kids, but there was a creepiness to it that kept you watching.
7:00 Carmen & Clancy — With Frosted Flakes or Rice Krispies, how could you go wrong when a Little Rascals episode came on or share a few jokes with Roundhouse.
7:30 meant off to school — but if you were sick, you might channel change your way through a little Romper Room (I know, it was forbidden, but you still wanted to see if they might call your name) or even Captain Kangaroo. The only good part was when they dropped the ping pong balls on Mr. Moose... but still.

When you got off the bus from school, you plopped down in front of the TV with your 5 channels and an hour and a half to kill before dinner: your prime time.

3:30 The Flintstones — If you got the short bus ride (because they traded off each week as to which route to go), you might catch the entire episode. "That Barney Rubble, what an actor."

4:00 Gilligan's Island — This show alone may have provided more one liners for my life than any other, save Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. "Speedy, speedy, speedy."
4:30 Brady Bunch — Never one of my favorites, but you had to work through it to get to the 5:00 hour. But watching Marcia strut her stuff tickled me in ways I did not, as yet, understand.
5:00 Hogan's Heroes — The stuff of legend. Who knew that WWII could be so much fun? You'd practically have given yourself to the Germans to be in on Col. Hogan's hi-jinx.

But then, you waited for Saturday like it was Christmas. Mom and dad slept in, and on a good day, Saturday chores might not start until 10:30 or later.


7:00 Rocky & Bullwinkle — By the time I got to it, it had lost it's place as a top tier show... but it was always top tier. And think of the importance of Mr. Peabody in your life, eh?
7:30 The Jetsons — The mirror to the Flintstones... in space. Judy was a babe and Astro was the dog you'd kill for.
8:00 The Bugs Bunny Show — Ahh, the classics. How can you go wrong with Wile E. Coyote, Foghorn Leghorn or Yosemite Sam? From "taking a wrong turn in Albaquerque" to "Yoiks and away!", my kids have become wise to the shear genius of the power one voice can have in Mel Blanc. I'll also have know, much to the chagrin of my wife, that my entire knowledge of opera has been influenced by Bugs and the boys from Warner Bros.
9:00 The Herculoids — The weaker brother to Space Ghost, but the premise of a prehistoric alien family facing danger at every turn with the help of a fire breathing dragon, a rock ape and a couple of giant marshmallows was still great fun.
9:30 Space Ghost — Every kid tried his hand at being Space Ghost on the playground. Who wouldn't? Lava monsters? Get outta here.
10:00 Scooby Doo — I have had or owned over five Great Danes. Need I say more?
10:30 Jonny Quest — The king of cartoons. Everything that had gone before was mere child's play compared to this masterpiece. It was the show that treated you as if you were an adult. Mature themes, animation styles, the coolest jet plane and kids that might actually be like you. You wanted to be smart like Dr. Quest, brave like Race, mysterious like Hadji and as lucky as Jonny. And no, I didn't forget about Bandit... but I have yet to call a dog of mine by this name. Hmmm.

Like today's kids, the fun can go on too long. One needs discipline. Dad's chores were waiting, but occasionally you'd throw caution to the wind and settle in for more. Too bad, the good stuff was over after Jonny's plane sailed through the clouds. Stay later and you'd likely get into stuff you hoped would be good, but would never satisfy, like: H.R. Puff-n-Stuff or The Land of the Lost

Great lessons for us all.

------

Take this little quiz:
Here are your answers (don't scroll past here if you wish to test yourself honestly):




1) Scooby Doo 2) Marvin the Martian 3) Hong Kong Phooey 4) Jace, Jan & Blip 5) Dr. Zin 6) Igoo

What Happened to October?

Do as I say, 
not as I do.

No posts in October... how bad is that?

When you take up a blog, the idea to gain a following for it is to actually post something in a predictable fashion. No such luck for me... then again, it isn't luck, is it? So without fanfare, apologies or, for that matter, shame — I submit to you a humble post, but well worth your reading:

10 practical tips for living a truly happy life:
1) Eat whatever you like - only in moderation... except at Thanksgiving.
     Go big!
2) Stop waiting for perfection... accept 75% successes.
     It's OK, and you'll get more done.
3) Get involved in something larger than yourself —
     people will like you.
4) When you "work on yourself", don't take it too seriously.
     If you do, they won't like you.
5) Play hard, but don't "Super Bowl" it...
     unless you are actually in the Super Bowl.
6) Figure out what you'd actually fight for,
     but don't throw the first punch.
7) Do a favor for someone everyday.
8) Open doors for others and smile.
9) Try something new once a month.
10) Find your passions and live in them everyday...
       even if for a moment.
11) Get involved positively with kids. Your own or somebody elses'.
      — it doesn't really matter.
12) Seek out magic in the real world.
      You'd be amazed at how much is out there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Managing Mr. Big Ideas

A query came across my desk..."How do you manage the 'creative genius'?" The implication being: they're too disorganized, their ego is too big and they seldom get their paperwork in, much less on time. 

First of all, let me clarify my position...    "I am THAT guy."

Today, I run my own company, and, I suspect, your "genius" has similar designs someday. That said, he's on your team now and is disrupting the normal workings of the company, despite all the good he can do by the speed of his intellect or a talent he possesses. These kinds of people don't live in the same boxes as the rest of your employees, nor do they see their contributions in the same ways. They love to focus on the brilliance of their ideas, forgetting that the execution of it is most important to legitimate success. And, they would see a failing of their idea as the product of someone else's inaction, and not their own.

Discipline (shame, fear, intimidation) seldom works for these guys. Why? Because they'll see a superiority position OVER the disciplinarian. They may be recoiling on the outside, but on the inside, they're thinking, "If you were so smart, why didn't you come up with the idea yourself?"

The way you need to handle this person is with education — but that's putting it mildly. The kind of education this person needs, and the kind you have to give needs to be just as ingenious as this person's wit. Telling them that their paperwork is crucial to the effort will fall on deaf ears and idle hands. They'll see nothing crucial about sending off the communication to their co-workers, the harm in not booking their time on the project... they live far too often at the center of their own universe. You'll need to jump into that center and shake it up a bit.

Play to their pride, their ego and their intellect.

Tell them that it's not enough to have the idea. Their ideas and designs need to be handled in such a way, that anyone on the team can grasp what they have to offer. Their "job" is not just to be brilliant, but to make the work around their idea just as brilliant. "What good is the great design if we can't bill for it?" Accounting needs to know. "The trade show idea is awesome, but you're going to need 10 people to pull it off, right?" Set up a team e-mail to let them know how awesome it's going to be.  "You idea was crucial to winning that piece of business, but we're going to lose it if we're not on time." You've got to take care of your AE.

Set up a check list.

If you let a task go too long, it's gone. Is their a project list, and can a box be checked? Are those boxes chronological? Something this simple can be a real help. People who can fill up a blank sheet of paper with ingenious thoughts and designs, seldom see a start and stop to their work. They're on to the next thought. Give them an official box to check —literally. It will be their "I have made fire" moment.

Do it now.

Creative people may often be disorganized, but they typically are good at playing "hot-potato".  In your correspondence, don't allow latitude on executable ideas or tasks. Be specific (we understand deadlines - you just know that the creative will use every last second of it - so "cheat" a little and demand your deadline an hour to a day in advance) and give a clear direction of what and where something has to go. By doing so, you'll allow them to work within a framework that's comfortable for them and you may actually find some peace in your work place.

When all else fails...

Have them explain how their 2% inspiration is going to make a 100% success. Honestly. They most likely see the brilliance of their own thought. They may think that it's enough for something to succeed. You know that just isn't the case, but it hasn't been their job to truly understand that fact. They can and they must. Giving them ownership of the full process may get them to cow-tow a bit better to the hard work of the paper work and communication that should accompany every project running through your company.

...or maybe they'll simply hang out their own shingle, in which case, they're no longer your problem, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that they are paying their penance because they finally have to manage the whole process themselves.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social Media to the Rescue?

Yesterday, the tools of "social media" made an indelible mark on me. When a friend's in trouble, you react with whatever tools are available to you... and what struck me funny last night, is that the first place I turned to when I heard of her predicament was Facebook and LinkedIn.

Her day started with the curious sounds of mooing...

Turns out that the 6 inches of rain that had fallen the night before had caused the peaceful Rush River to swell into a monster, rising 8 feet and sweeping away a herd of cows returning back to their barn for milking. As her basement filled with water, she wondered what could be done, where the rescue, if any, was coming from and how she was going to get through the day with her son. Apparently, she had time enough to snap a couple of photos and post them to her Facebook page.

Her friends commented how tragic it was and offered her comforting words of encouragement. But, eating, breathing and sleeping marketing often makes one take different steps in light of such an event. If she was going to get some help, she needed attention — right away.

I'd put on my hip boots and jump in my Suburban to help, trouble was, I live 300 miles away. Yet what I had seen and read of the events of her day was a news story. Press coverage of her situation, and that of her neighbors, should only be made better if a news crews were on hand to shed some light on the slow tragedy that floods render.

But who do I know in the media somewhere near her farm?

Having lived in the area as a kid, I knew that all of the press coverage comes from the Twin Cities. I immediately checked into LinkedIn and searched WCCO, KARE, KMSP and the StarTribune Newspaper. To my surprise, one of KARE's reporters is a high school classmate of mine. He was even an existing Facebook friend — I just didn't know he was a reporter! I fired off a story tip for him on LinkedIn and Facebook hoping that he might check one of them (Facebook, BTW, won the day).

Meanwhile, others saw some of these posts and offered up their suggestions. We found a staff writer at the StarTribune and passed the same story tip on to him via the same channels.

Not more than 10 minutes later, I received confirmation that KARE-TV was packing their cameras and heading East to cover the story for TV and online.

My friend's TV & press report.
A competitor station picked up the story.
The Milwaukee Paper grabs the story.
And is finally picked up by the AP in the Chicago Tribune.

Social media is immediate, connective and viral. It's very hard to manufacture a viral chain of events, but if the story is honest and strong, you'll get traction. From fads to floods, crazes to cows, social media offers immediate impressions if you can put together the proper pieces.

As I write this, the waters are receding, but the damage done is significant. It's gratifying to know that I could play a part in getting others to care and provide some assistance, but now I'm left with the notion, "What's next?" Alerting people to the problems that our friends and neighbors face is important, but an actionable plan and real recovery are still in need. 

Social media doesn't have a tool for that yet... but, I'm working on it.

Do you have any suggestions? I'd be happy to hear them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Brand Better than McDonalds

The McDonald's golden "m"... can any brand identity be better than that?

Most likely, no.

What does it mean? Cheap hamburgers? Great french fries? Happy Meals? Mick-anythings? If you have a child, that golden M means only one thing: toys. You did realize that the largest distributor of toys in the world is McDonalds? Well it is. And anyone charged with chauffeuring toddlers around in their mini-vans and SUVs knows that if they don't want to go to Mickey-D's for lunch, they better start distracting junior as they race by.

Amazing - a child that does not even know what the alphabet is, can discern what that "m" means. Now that's branding!

But when Dick and Mac McDonald first founded McDonald's (as a BBQ car hop)in 1940, the logo wasn't the golden arches - it was a funny little baker-dude who later turned into the "burgerman" cartoon who then became Mayor McCheese. The golden arches weren't invented until architect Stanley Meston designed them into the modern day founder Ray Kroc's Des Plaines, Illinois franchise. It really wasn't until the 1960's that McDonalds recognized that their golden arches was actually an "m" and until 1969 to actually promote it. You can almost see Ray driving by one of his restaurants and watching those golden arches turn into an "M". Guess it just goes to show you that the genius of inventing a better way to buy, cook, and sell hamburgers is more important than the genius behind the logo.

That being said, how much further and faster would the brand have traveled had they recognized what they had from the very start? Happy Meals weren't invented until 1979! How many kids (aka families) did they miss from 1953 to 1979? Quite literally, millions.

The point is, you have an opportunity — right from the start — to recognize what you have in your brand and utilize it in every piece of marketing you create. Do so, and you maximize the profit potential from every marketing dollar you spend. And what if you don't? Well, if you recognize that your brand is greater than your logo, you could well be on your way just the same - just not as smartly or as profitably. McDonalds didn't know what they had, but forged ahead just the same and became one of the world's greatest companies.

So here's your chance to outshine Ronald McDonald and all of his friends. Start by seeing your own golden "m".

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaching an Old Dog a New Trick

Who hasn't seen the funny Old Spice spots?



This one, was recently selected as the best TV spot at the Film Grand Prix in Cannes. Why? I suspect it goes to the ability this spot has at holding your attention, the use of humor and the juxtaposition of one of the world's stodgiest brands with the new "Mustafa" pitchman. Thing is, Proctor & Gamble's gamble, actually started in 1990 when it acquired the brand and worked on revitalizing it's image. Long the mainstay of any mature man's medicine cabinet, the old ivory bottle of Old Spice aftershave seemed closer to a ship wreck than ship shape. It wasn't until 2003 that it overtook Gillette's Right Guard as the no. 1 men's personal care brand. What's been happening lately, is just the logical extension of a bold path and vision they had for their brand. Namely, "We want to own what men spread or spray on their bodies."

In a $10 billion industry, that's not a timid statement.

The Isaiah Musafa "Smell Like a Man, Man" commercial that went viral was the continued extension of applying solid branding principles to a brand. Wieden + Kennedy, the ad agency behind the effort, has been one of the world's great creative firms, ever since it first tackled the Nike brand in it's early days. So sharp is this recent round of spots, that many may have forgotten that just a few month's before, they launched the Terry Crews Old Spice Odor Blocker Body Wash campaign. It too, was a smash online sensation.


Now, for their third act, W+K's creative team pulled off the proverbial social media trifecta, by upping the ante on Twitter - utilizing the buzz around Mustafa by writing and filming video responses to popular Twitterers like Perez Hilton, Yahoo!, various regular Tweeters and even his own daughter, Haley. It's good clean zaniness, delivered Flip video style in a single 24-hour period on the 13th of this month. The "buzz factor" is over the top, as each "tweet" video link has received well over 300,000 hits a piece (many, in excess of 1,000,000 views). That's a lot of eyeballs on your man... er, your brand.



So what's the take-away for the rest of us? If you or I simply supplied shower video answers to the many followers we have on Twitter, would it go viral? Does one need to have a million dollar ad campaign already underway to attempt such a thing?

The answer is no, and thankfully, no.

Doing the shower scene now would be viewed negatively because it's a copycat; wouldn't be written nearly as cleverly or performed with as much panache, and, let's face it, takes balls (ahem) to deliver this kind of marketing campaign. But for any of us to create simple and fun real-time video replies to customer oriented tweets... I think it's safe to say that you'd generate some buzz for your business. OK, maybe not the 1,000,000 views kind - but what's the harm in trying? Everyone is looking for a positive surprise. When the manager of the store actually handles the complaint, negative feelings are usually dismissed. When we're given a little something extra for our efforts, we smile and place a mental note to think more kindly of even the cheapest of trinkets. Doing the unexpected is the very essence of changing stodginess into contemporary value. 

Find that in your brand, and you win.

The key to updating the branding image of an old brand is in affording your marketing team the kind of freedom to risk failure.  That's the real test for the rest of us: Do you really want to do what it takes to create publicity?

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

That Idea Blow'd Up Real Good!

I recently drove my "college boy" back to college for summer school... 5-1/2 hours. That's a lot of time to think about things and to share a discussion only a father and son can share. In our case, we spoke of the fireworks industry, as we noticed all of the "pole barns" erected near the freeway selling fireworks, 365 days a year.

OK, so that might not have been the discussion you'd have, but then, you weren't in my car and you most definitely are not my son. And in his world, life moves at a frenetic pace with thoughts that careen between the sophomoric and the brilliant.

We both had a thought.

The idea I'm about to share is a million dollar idea. You know, the kind I say I have at least once a week. So instead of hoarding it, I'm sharing it with you to: 1) Practice what I preach 2) This is the only way to give the idea a chance to actually succeed.

"Why on earth would fireworks stands operate all year long? There just can't be any business other than just prior to the 4th of July?"

That's what we thought. We stopped at one of them and asked the owner, and she answered our questions candidly. We found out that 90% of their business occurs within 4 days of the 4th. Four days! The problem is being found and available when folks want their fireworks. So most fireworks dealers concluded that you erect an inexpensive building to warehouse the stuff, pay for the licenses and taxes, and simply stay open to ensure that you get as much of a billion dollar industry as you can. The days of the small road-side stand have evaporated, primarily because after 9-11, the kinds of materials you could distribute changed and the rising costs of Chinese fireworks, as cheap as they are, needed to be bought in larger volumes to make the kind of profit that made sense for these fireworks sellers. But 361 days of nothing for 4 days of sales?


The answer is BOOMTOWN!

Here's the idea in a nutshell:

1) Erect a flag pole with a giant branded flag for Boomtown and pay rent to a farmer who's field runs next to a freeway with a nearby exit. The pole and flag stays up for 365 days, the warehouse, does not.

2) In June, you pay additional rent to the farmer to construct "Amish style", a warehouse where you will sell the fireworks. You even get locals to help do it for free because you are willing to barter the best seats in the house for the spectacle which is to occur on the 4th.

3) All of the advertising - billboard, radio and local paper and posters heads out the door in June as well, alerting everyone to Boomtown.

4) Boomtown is open from June 30th to July 5th. 

Folks park in the farmer's field just off the freeway. They buy their fireworks just like they normally would. The flag allows traffic to recognize where Boomtown is located throughout the year without paying for the upkeep and taxes on a building the rest of year.  Smart, right?

Now for the best part. Everyone lights off their fireworks and goes to the fireworks shows on the 3rd and 4th... and on the 5th, they buy fireworks at steep discounts. They do so at Boomtown, too, only the "spectacle" that occurs on the evening of the 5th. That's when we blow up Boomtown. 

That's right, whatever isn't sold, is part of the theatrical event of the season. Folks can even be encouraged to bring other stuff to be blown up, too. Maybe additional structures are built (i.e. a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a statue of some foreign despot, your old crashing computer) so that they can be blown up. The local fire department can be called in to keep everyone at a safe distance, ensure the safety of the event and to help train their volunteer fire fighters. There's a band, t-shirt sales, food vendors and a whole entourage of like-minded businesses who would love to take part in the festivities. Tickets could be sold to the event (or not). Maybe the sales of the fireworks is enough? Maybe the ice cream vendor who sets up shop with you, pays a cut of their action for the opportunity to join in the fun. I don't know. I don't care... go nuts.


It's Woodstock... with gun powder. What could go wrong?

Are there 1,000 reasons NOT to do this? Of course. What permits and ordinances need to be satisfied? Which mayoral candidate wants to get behind this one? Would any farmer be willing to go along with this madness? Kids and explosives... should I say more?

That's why giving away the idea is such a blessing. I have the 2% inspiration in spades, what I don't have is the 98% perspiration that's necessary to achieve the results. Someone has to pick up the ball and run with it. It could be you. Do you have to pay me for it? Nope, but you will... because if you can make this one fly, I've got 100 more ideas where this one came from — and a son in college who might just be your point man for Boomtown!

For those of my generation... you might recall this skit from SCTV, where the inspiration for this idea may have first taken shape.


Follow this blog... or follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, view me on YouTube or join my group on LinkedIn if you're interested for more.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How fast can you change the game?

Truthfully, I have never been much of a soccer fan. I played football, you know, AMERICAN football... not some game for "grass fairies". Then I signed the North Shore United Soccer Club as a client and all of a sudden, I'm talking corner kicks and FIFA World Cup!

OK, so some sales are made out of necessity. But when it comes to making a new pitch, maybe no place is more hard fought than the land of television commercials (which now have the chance to go viral), seeking out as big a targeted audience as they can find — while attempting to convert someone to a sale (actual or emotional) in :30 and :60 second clips. Now that's a tall order.... and no wonder why so many fall short so often.

Yet, as these few clips will showcase, you don't have to talk up the specific benefits of your own product to gain the associative feelings that go along with a more "compelling message". Find what's "sexy" about your sale and sell it with gusto. Far too many of us think it's the widget and what's in the widget. You couldn't be more wrong. All I want to know right now as a potential customer is, "what does it do for me?" Answer that in a compelling way, even if it's only: "it makes me laugh, or feel good or think a fond memory."

When you view the spots below - do they say anything more than that? Yet, do you feel more likely to buy what they have to sell? I think you'll have to say, "yes".

Football Evolution from Visa (It's like Jack Black vs. the World - very funny.)



Sony Bravia's Superstar (tap into the dreams of your youth - very poignant)



Journey of Football from Puma (win the world, even if you're not a sponsor!)


What's more, this is a lot like what you see in the best of social media today. If you come on too strong, you're more likely to turn people away, but caress them honestly with your like-mindedness, and they may in fact, turn to you for your expertise, your products and your services.


See if you, too, can be turned away from touchdowns to GOOOOOAAAAAAALs!!!  (That is, at least for a month while the World Cup takes center stage starting June 11th)
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Monday, May 10, 2010

6 People Away from Fame and Fortune

For entrepreneurial types, "going it alone" is a common mantra. We envision the day, at some big conference where we've been asked to accept a golden award for our success saying, "Thank you so much. I knew if I were determined enough... I would succeed.  Failure just wasn't an option, and after a lots of late nights toiling away, I had a tremendous epiphany — I had finally figured it all out."

You know, the "I" speech.

Too bad those are dreams most of us simply keep to ourselves (and for good reason). They just don't quite come true.

But what if there was a way to the fame and fortune you seek? Only, like all good fairy tales — it comes with a catch? Your fairy godfather (sorry Brando) makes you a bargain: "You get to go to the ball, accept the award, make the speech, but you have to say thank you — and mean it — to 6 other people."

Could you do it? Would you accept my offer?

Most of you are saying right now, "Sure, I just be happy with the success."

*          *         *       *       *      *     *    *   *  * * !

That's the magic wand... and it grants you your wish!

And here's how:
The 6 folks you're going to thank are the 6 friends, mentors and advisers you're actually going to bring into your business to help you promote, analyze and push you to a higher level. In turn, you're going to sit in on their businesses — all of you, aiding each other — for FREE. In essence, you're going to build a "Board" that's as eager for your success as you will become for their own. In doing so, you'll open yourself and your vision to both criticism and high praise. You'll learn from their triumphs and losses, while investing yourself in their positive outcomes.

Our solitary standing is, quite possibly, the largest road block to our own success. Think about it. If you had 6 sales people as good as yourself, you'd sell a boat load of stuff. You want to get the word out about something? You let your 6 assist. They'll tell their network while you tell your of their interests. Funny, how those exponential powers start to work in your favor when you have more than one to access.


So where do you find them?
Could be most anywhere — but the first sale you're going to need to make is to get one other excited about your vision. And that might take listening intently to their vision first. Give a little, get a lot. Once found, they may have a friend unknown to you, that's likely to compliment your background in ways you hadn't even anticipated. Finding the same kind of person over and over won't cut it and finding these six advisers isn't going to be easy. Once found, however, you will be a force to be reckoned with. One capable of achieving something that has eluded we entrepreneurs for far far too long: trusted teamwork.

_____

NOTE: Might I suggest joining my Big Ideas Group on LinkedIn to start looking for your new board member?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Got Vacation?

For entrepreneurs, the lure of reaching the pinnacle, risking life and limb and thrilling to the rush of success is not only tempting, it's mandatory. So why is it that taking a week off from my business is so hard to do? And why is it that I am such a chicken on the slopes?

Beautiful Colorado scenery; Quality time with my wife and kids; A chance to reflect on the successes my business has been able to provide and plenty of thinking time to determine new opportunities while driving 35 hours to Denver and back. Coming off of a rare family vacation, I was left wondering why I hadn't been pressing for more of these?

The answer, of course, is that when you run your own ship, you often get caught in every single decision - and when you're away from the office, bad things seem to creep in. When you're away for a week, a whole lot of anguish can set in. I'm not sure that I have the answers on this - in fact, I know that I don't. I'm still learning how to establish a routine that works for me, my business and my family. Most often, this blog is about what I can do for you... but today, I'd like to hear how you balance work and play and what single piece of advice you'd give to make this more palatable for us entrepreneurs.

What's your vacation secret?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Good Karma of Participation

Recently, Sue West, an old high school friend of mine who I had reconnected with on Facebook, challenged me to enter a T-shirt design contest for a place called Big Top Chautauqua (pronouced: Sha-tock-wa). If you've ever listened to A Prairie Home Companion or NPR, you may recognize the name. If you haven't, you're like most of us who haven't experienced the joy of listening to outstanding folk music under a big top tent near the summer shores of Lake Superior.

Being an "opportunist", I checked out the prize awarded to the winner of such a contest.

A $50 gift certificate and one free t-shirt... wow.

I decided to enter anyway. I thought that even though it wasn't worth the prize, it might be fun and it might produce some interest online. As long as I was going to enter, I might as well attempt to win — it's in my blood. Engaging the same skills I have used with literally hundreds of brands for the past twentysome years, I asked my Facebook friends what they knew of the place, it's music and how they felt about it. Why did people go? What kinds of folks are they? What's the history and so forth? Lastly, what is quintessentially "BTC"?

Receiving dozens of comments on Facebook from friends and strangers, listing what BTC meant to them and what their impressions were, I began to form an image of what this design might become. I posted images of different poster styles to help them define what they thought the proper style might be. More questions, more answers, more posts along the way.

In the end, I did the design based on what I had read and from the intuition that any good designer imparts on a blank canvas. After some final tweaks, I posted my design to my Facebook masses and let them take a last critique before submission. I e-mailed the collaborated design just prior to the deadline.

A week later, the results were in.

We won the contest.

Which, of course, I had to share with my "peeps" on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. From start to finish, about three weeks worth of info, interest and victory. What I learned is this: that the prize for winning may not have had anything to do with "the prize for winning". Simply engaging in this activity, under the freedom of doing so without monetary gain (at least momentarily), allowed anyone and everyone to participate.

My success would be their own success.... and who doesn't want to be a part of that?

My suspicion is that hundreds (maybe even thousands) of eyes have looked on this design and recognized some talent there. I've also re-engaged people from my past who now remember that I had a passion for good design. Could it be that they (or an acquaintance) may have a business in need of some brand assistance?

Here's to the good karma that can come from doing something well, for a noble cause, without the expectation of winning the contest in the first place... all under the starry skies of a warm Lake Superior night.

Oh, and now the hard part. Dividing up the winnings! :-)  Thanks to all who participated!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

JacksonSpencer named agency of record for Three Stooges!

Well, maybe not all three of the Stooges, only Moe's estate, for the moment. My firm, JacksonSpencer, will handle all marketing efforts associated with the launch of a new boxed DVD compendium of more than 30 Three Stooges episodes. This classic gold case edition will be launched worldwide in conjunction with the fully restored and digitally re-mastered feature film, "The Three Stooges in 3D."

Now that's a big laugh!

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to learn of our win. At first I didn't believe it, but when Paul Howard, Moe's son and executor of Moe's estate, contacted us, we knew it was very good news. We had worked together previously when I was the Creative Director at Ralph Marlin a full decade ago. Apparently he liked what we had done with ties, boxers and cargo pants.

To quote him from the call I received just this morning, "You were one of the few marketers who seemed to truly honor my father with your work." 

What boy didn't grow up on the Stooges? That I came from a family of three brothers only made Stooges humor that much more compelling for me. Frankly, Moe's dynamic wit and thoughtful leadership were always an inspiration to me.

We are not at liberty to disclose the details of the contract with the Howard Estate, but I can tell you that they will now be our largest client and we're in talks with Larry and Curly's executors in an attempt to finally bring the threesome back together again - at least in a united marketing effort to re-brand the Stooges for a new generation of fans.

Shemp's son, Buzz, already asked us to add our marketing firepower to their father's inclusion into this effort... but we politely refused, stating, "No one much cared for Shemp."

What can brown REALLY do for you?

By now, you've certainly heard that tagline and seen Martin Ad Agency Creative Director Andy Azula's whiteboard TV spots. All with the closing tagline, "What can brown do for you?"

For which company?

Of course, it's UPS. The color brown, as a memory trigger, for an entire company. You could say that the color brown is perceptionally owned by UPS.

Anytime you see a brown van, truck or package - you'll be tempted to put UPS at the front of your thoughts. Anytime you see a man in brown shorts or a brown baseball cap, you'll be teased into thinking UPS. Quite possibly, the next time your daughter brings out the box of crayons, you may start to think "shipping".

But it wasn't always this way.

For years and years and years, UPS' overnight boxes and packages were red and white. It wasn't until UPS decided to change it's logo to remove the old drawstring package that it finally decided to use what it already had established with it's trucks and drivers.

Why? You know why.

Gee, let me think... "our company's strongest colors are brown and yellow. What do I think of with those two colors?" No one in the company, and no agency (up until creative powerhouse The Martin Agency), could say that the Emperor had no clothes. And, for years, squandered the opportunity that they finally found the answer for. In stating the obvious, we know call it "genius".

We have to ask ourselves, "Is my brand missing out on the obvious? What do people already associate with us - even if initially negative - and TURN it into a positive?" White Castle did it with "sliders" and Volvo did it with "safety". Sometimes the "sexiest" thing you can do, is to praise the most mundane thing and claim your title in your very own backyard.

Monday, March 15, 2010

$20,000,000+ Reasons to Play the Lottery

And the winning numbers are...
No, I don't condone playing the lottery for the reasons lotteries around the country site:
• Quit your crummy job!
• Instantly retire!
• Travel the world!
• It's fun to play!
• You could win!
• Think of what you could do with all that money?

If you want marketing's simplest and cheapest promotional campaign, this is it: play the lottery

What I mean is this: purchase a few lottery tickets and give them out to your clients and prospects a day or two before the big lottery is announced. I guarantee you, that you will be in the minds of those "lucky" folks for much of the time between when you gave them the ticket and when the numbers are announced. For $1, you are now top of mind.

The power of this promotion is that they will have thought of you fondly for giving them the opportunity. You can say to them, "If this ticket is a $1,000 winner or more, I want half." Good luck in having them honor up. You'd probably be better off stating, "Whatever you win, keep it — just remember the little people when you're on your new yacht."  Most likely, they'll cut you in for a few grand.

Seriously, forget whether they've got a winning ticket or not, (trust me, you should be so lucky that they win — can you imagine their joy, and the publicity you could generate — in winning $20,000,000+?) the point is to be the guy who offers them the chance at more money than they can dream of. That's like being the sponsor of the hole-in-one hole at the golf outing hoping that someone actually sinks it. Now that's a lot of fun!

Just tell them to share the wealth.  :-)

- - - - CONNECT! - - - -
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Fastest Way to the A-List Secret Revealed

I'm going to give it away. Really.
Read on and be impressed. WARNING: You're not going to believe it, at first, but then, you will become a convert.

Here it is: CONVINCE (someone) THAT (something) BECAUSE (of something special).

OK, you ask, "What is that?" That, my friend, is a POWERLINETM. It's better than the old USP (Unique Selling Proposition) because it forces you to craft a laserbeam-like mission statement within a single sentence. But don't be fooled of it's simplicity. This is really hard to do.

Fill in those blanks about your business, your brand or yourself. Do this now.

(do you hear the Jeopardy song?)

Everyone tries this and fills out something that's completely bland and meaningless. That's the first draft and important, because it get's the crap (forgive me) out of the way. You've got to be tighter about your answers. More insightful about what drives your prospects (and exactly who they might be) to you and why (this is critical) they get to a transactional point with you. Answer this: "For what possible reason do your customers buy from you, and not someone down the street?" Need more to assist you? Try this Powerline winner to get you thinking more intelligently...

GOT MILK?
Here's the California Dairy Board's Powerline: CONVINCE grocery shoppers THAT they need milk in their cart BECAUSE without milk, you can't eat certain foods.

Break that down and you'll see the beauty in it all. This campaign came out in 1992 and has been a hit ever since. Think back on that era and you'll recognize that milk consumption was down due in a large part to diets that said milk wasn't good for you — yet the campaign for milk was "Milk, does a body good." You can see how this might be a problem for milk producers.

CONVINCE people who are at the very spot to make a decision on buying milk (grocery shoppers - not moms, dads or kids - just someone with a cart or a basket) THAT they need milk, (any size milk — gallons, quarts or even little pints) in their cart BECAUSE if they put Oreos, chocolate chips or peanut butter in their cart, they will have to buy milk.

Every tried to eat a snickerdoodle with orange juice?

Read that tagline (Got Milk?) The world's most effective tagline? Quite possibly, and it embodies the entire Powerline in just two words! Don't expect yours to be this perfect... and that's OK, because slicing your Powerline down to it's bare minimum (even if a run-on sentence) will force you to learn about your business and jettison those "benefits" of your product that have become meaningless to your customers. The ad industry has done a fantastic job of making powerful words completely meaningless (quality, integrity, value, etc.) — so you'll have to be judicious to get to the crux of your call to action. Having your own effective Powerline is the no.1 trick in getting to A-list trust...
   consistently delivering your reason to buy to the right prospects
   saving your firm time with creative-types charged with constructing your message
   saving your firm money by generating a quicker understanding of each message.

Now take a new attempt at that Powerline... take as many drafts as it takes to get to a statement that you can deliver with confidence. Do so, and your brand will get gobbled up like milk and cookies!

----- CONNECT! -----
JacksonSpencer Site  
Twitterpage for Mike 
LinkedIn for Mike    
Facebook Fanpage     
Big Ideas Group   

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Kicker's Dynamic Path to Success

Hero or goat?

We all wish to be a success. We all seek wealth, and let's face it, a bit of fame wouldn't hurt our egos either. So many look at achieving their dreams as a straight line between A and B. I'm here to tell you that you've seriously doing jeopardy to your future if you do. Were we to "laser beam" all our time and energy toward that one solitary goal, I suspect most of us would peter out long before we could ever obtain it.

Why?

Because life just doesn't work that way. I'm here to help you understand that it's OK to wander a bit, and maybe important that you do so. Mind you, it's important to have goals. It's important to work diligently toward something that's important, fulfilling and rewarding. "Life is in the journey, not the destination," they tell us - but we'd like to see the destination every once in awhile. Right?

You've undoubtedly zig-zagged on your own path and are seeking answers to an amorphous "something better" - but to bolster your efforts, and to spark a new idea on where your destination lies, consider this true story:


The Curious Case of Jan Stenerud...

I met Jan many years ago (you remember Jan, the NFL Hall of Fame kicker for the Chiefs, Packers and Vikings) and had the pleasure of discussing his curious road to fame and fortune. As a boy, Jan's dream was to be an Olympic ski jumper. In Norway, doesn't everyone? :-) His older brother happened to be a goalie on the junior national soccer team. Who do you think kicked all of the balls at the goalie? You can almost hear his brother chastizing the young Jan for kicking them to easily at him, "C'mon, place it in the corner, make me work!"

Jan did indeed become proficient at the crazy sport of ski jumping and came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Montana State. One day in the summer, for fun, he started kicking footballs through the uprights from mid-field. First to the left, then to the right. The coach saw him and was flabbergasted by his unusual technique (no one kicked soccer style then) and how far the ball was travelling. He subsequently invited him out for football. The rest, as they say, is history.  But what Jan didn't know at the time, was that the training he had done to become an Olympic ski jumper and a helper to his older brother in soccer was absolutely "perfect" training to become a professional kicker.

Think about it: kick after kick after kick, trying to place the ball exactly where you wanted it gave him tremendous control with kicking a ball. Any ball. And ski jumping? Can you think of a sport that requires more concentration (one has to hit a very precise spot on the take off otherwise you basically crash and die)? Kickers get nervous about a big kick - for Jan - after jumping off a 90 meter jump, how hard could it be?

Reassess your own path.

I suspect you might find a curious divergence in your own career path should you look deep enough. What are the skills you possess? Where does your interest lie... but what other professions, skills or traits are admired within your realm of expertise? Believe me, each one of us has expertise in something - often - like Jan, in a number of things. Take a little time out to wander down that path, you might just find that, like Jan, a "star is born."

This Dynamic Path is truly important for us to understand. It allows you a little freedom to smell the flowers along your route, and even argues that if you don't, you may indeed, be missing out on something quite important for your own success and happiness.

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Follow JacksonSpencer on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Big Ideas Group, and for you who wish to follow a true kicking guru - I can be found via the National Kicking League, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Twitterriffic?

10,000 followers and growing!

OK, so what can I say, I've been trying to figure out Twitter (for business) for a few months now. Of course, you're familiar with Twitter. Who isn't? But most folks get up and running, then peter out and fall off the Twittersphere. Those that remain are a mix between celebrities (and their ghost tweeters), spammers, get-rich-quick-by-being-an-affiliate Tweeters, groupies, gamers, and average everyday Joes.

Let's break them down and determine just who they are and whether or not there's any benefit to the medium.

Celebs: Personalities who most of us recognize, from actors and athletes to business gurus and reality TV divas. It's possible to attain a certain B-status celebrity by obtaining 100,000+ followers (to which we'll address below). Ashton Kutcher may be most famous of the actual celebs, making the cover of Fast Company because of his 3,000,000+ followers.

Spammers: The bain of Twitter and one of the key reasons that folks dump the whole lot. Just inundations of product come-ons sent out by automated programs with the hope of clicks by the shear volume of their Tweets. Percentage of success is low and the builds exactly -1,352 points on the Goodwill meter.

Affiliate Tweeters: These are the folks who tempt you with Tiny URLs affiliate links that are "sure to earn you over $3000/mo." Too bad almost none of them are actually succeeding at this. Lots of ways to make a buck out there - but the truth is... there's no such thing as a free lunch. Oh, we click the link from time to time, but we seldom buy the $79 e-book and revolutionary system it describes. Maybe we should? Maybe I would be an instant millionaire, as well?

Groupies: Those that profess that they are the real Tweeters because they only have a few followers and friends. You can't get in their group unless you truly know the person. What a concept... a real conversation amongst equals. Great for closed networks of folks who find Twitter to be their cell phone tool preference, but that's not most of us. And, these people never get insight from outside sources. Good if you work for ESPN, maybe not so good if you're actually looking for traffic to your post.

Gamers: As alluded to in "celebs", gamers are those everyday folks who have amassed 50,000 to 100,000 or more followers. Twitter is game to see who can get the most followers. The process isn't unlike any good Arcade gamer. You just keep putting in your time on the machine until you can post your 3 letter acronym for all to see. The difference between Celebs and Gamers is in how many friends they follow. Celebs follow under 1,000, Gamers will have an amount equal to their followers.

Average Joes: That's the rest of us, trying to figure out if we should use this medium or not and if 140 characters is helping or hurting our ability to communicate and make further connections.

- - -
Want to benefit from my 10,000 clicks? Do not try unless you are game...

Here's what you should do in "3-steps" to improve your chances:
1. Use Twitter to grow connections to the world and improve the likelihood for various folks to get to your web page, blog or transactional tool. Understand, they're not going to come by the truckload... just a small trickle to start. But, like any little snowball, it gets bigger and easier the larger and longer it rolls down the mountain. The question is, how high is the mountain? (see point 3 - but do not skip point 2).

2. Understand who you are and what you are "selling". Your website or blog or end destination for those that will follow you needs to be clear in your mind - so that you can articulate what benefit you bring to anyone who will listen. Too many of us sort of skimp on this part. Frankly, it's the most important part of the equation. You don't have to be handsome or pretty, thin or even rich. You just need to be genuine and smart about one particular topic that you have mastery of. (I suspect there is something you master - a hobby, a skill, TV show trivia perhaps?) Whatever it is, there are others in this world who share your love, but not necessarily your particular talents. That's what you're selling.

3. Get the traffic by becoming a Gamer to start. Not completely, mind you, always put out good content. Don't worry about directing too much traffic back to your site. Maybe 1 in 4 Tweets. The rest are to show that you really do know something or can at least spot something worth sharing on the Net. What you need to do is click and click and click on "following" and "unfollowing" to acquire 10,000 followers. That's how high the mountain is. Once there, your snowball is ready to move down hill. From there, you can continue your Gamer status, or you could begin to develop a Groupie mentality - cultivating your group into like minded folks who share your passion. Let's put it this way: if you could have only 1,000 "devoted" fans, you can make a healthy living for the rest of your life!

- - -

There are a whole host of strategies to generate web traffic, but for $0, this is one that anyone can do. Keep Twitter in your Social Media package? Yup... but you may wish to work on Point No.2 pretty hard. Becoming unique in this world is available to anyone. There are lots of mountains and hills to "plant your flag". Most of us never do because we are afraid to get knocked off. Some will try, but hey, that's the difference between winning and losing...

Besides, you said you were game!

Become a follower of JacksonSpencer and we'll follow you back! 

* Special promo for reading this: link to our fan page on Facebook and you could win a new Flip camera.

** Super secret promo for reading this: connect to my LinkedIn page (and join the Big Ideas Group) and I'll see that you get a free customized Twitter background like the one I use. (that's a $79 value - I just made that up, but you be the judge!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Are you Summa Cum Laude at Brand U?

Personal branding done right... but what's the tuition? What are the pre-requisite courses? And, how do you get a diploma from Brand U?

What we're really talking about is taking ownership of a brand that suits you. Everyone of us is a "brand" - a collection of traits, benefits and skills that can be translated into positive or negative feelings about who we are, what we do and how people interact with us and the things that we do. By borrowing from time-tested marketing principles that the dominant products of our generation use (i.e. McDonalds, Coca-cola & Nike), we, too, can move up the charts, gain marketshare, increase our chances of making the sale or even getting a date for Saturday night.

All of that in one blog post? Well... no. (You'll need to stick around longer for that, but this ought to get you started) Here's your Brand U course curriculum:

Self-awareness 101: In this course, you'll discover who you really are, what your likes and dislikes are and how to properly assess where your first step on the road to happiness lies — as well as a dynamic path to your own success.

World-awareness 201: This is the advanced course that gets you to understand how others perceive you. It's blatantly honest and can be pretty rough on our students to pass the class. But once done, you'll stay more focused on what's really important.

Branding 105: Understanding how icons, symbols and text can be cultivated to create "trigger" opportunities between you and your universe.

Iconic History 210: Looking back at the brands and personalities who have succeeded in capturing a space in our brain. Our instructors ask, "If it can work for them, what is it that you can adapt to your own personality?"

Brand Theory 300: This upper level course challenges you to find a unique aspect of your psyche and make it tangible. Not for the timid, but incredibly powerful once you've mastered the art of the "Powerline".

Social Media 100: This basic course introduces students to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a cadre of other websites that can advance your brand opportunities. You may test out to begin with the 200 course.

Social Media 200: Students have not only a grasp, but are actively using at least 3 SM tools and have already figured out how to create custom URLs within their social media pages. This class will begin to carve out a strategy that helps make the individual a thought-leader within their field.

Web Presence 995: Getting established with your own personal website will be part of the coursework, along with a nominal charge for a domain and hosting.

You'll also need to choose from a slew of electives, including, but not limited to: Salesmanship 221, Evolving Resume 145, Public Speaking 330 and Entrepreneurship 401.

When you've completed your coursework, you'll emerge an expert; a guru; a leader of your own tribe; capable of attracting and galvanizing people to your leadership. So let the hard work begin... become your own best ally in shaping the opinion that others hold for you, as well as promoting yourself to the point that your good reputation precedes you. Isn't that what's at stake? Ultimately, building a personal brand that is Summa Cum Laude is what our entire lives are all about. Why not take careful stock of your own brand now?

Enroll at Brand U!

Sign up today!

Monday, February 8, 2010

I love you, [ Client ]

Why not make this year's Valentine's Day more memorable by showing "the love" to your clientele? How many times do we miss an opportunity to do something special for our clients... just because?

Well, don't let it go unnoticed this year. And as for ideas... you can use all the tried-and-true methods from your personal life - just re-gifted as original thoughts for business!

1. Write a love letter. Start off your hand-written letter with this phrase: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." And list the ways in which you are thankful for your relationship. You might find the exercise enlightening (as well as helping you regain your focus on why this particular clients makes for a good fit with your firm.)

2. Send a romantic card. Find the sappiest, drippiest Hallmark card available and send it to your client, complete with a lipstick kiss on the envelope. Memorable, cheap and good-natured fun.

3. Send flowers and chocolates. Make sure that the flowers and the chocolates are fresh. Few businesses are expecting anything on this day. Your thoughtfulness is sure to score a few points - and the gatekeepers will hold a warm spot in their hearts for you.


4. Send anything heart shaped and edible. OK, almost anything (you may want to skip the panties). Pizzas, cakes, pies and cookies can all be used quite effectively. Remember, even though it only takes a phone call to order, the effects of ordering enough for everyone at their office will make quite a nice splash, next time you walk through their hallways.

5. Buy a ring. Well, maybe not a ring per se, but why not a trophy, plaque or anything else that can be displayed in their reception area? Even if you don't have a Top Vendor Award, or a 5-Year Partnership Plaque... you do now. If it can mean something special — fantastic! And if not — fantastic! What client doesn't want to display an award that at least looks the part?

Coming up with something further for your client? Be our guest, but when it comes to this special holiday, send something off soon. The 14th is this Sunday and your best laid plans should be in their hands by Friday. It just might save you in 2010 from the slings and arrows that are par for the course in any client relationship.

— XOXOXO
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

You're already a Guru

No one told you?

What I mean is that each one of us has special talents, skills or knowledge that makes us a real resource within that area of expertise. Think about it — some of us are great at woodworking, cooking or writing. Others of us may have a talent for juggling, playing chess or even skipping stones. Personally, I happen to have spent my career as a marketer... and I know a whole lot of what does and doesn't work when it comes to promoting your business or yourself.

However, you may not have known that I was a former professional football player. (It's true — I signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers as a kicker back in 1985. Alas, my kicking career ended at the end of preseason that very same year.) Even though I got cut, my skill in kicking a football was better than roughly 99.9% of the world's population!  Doesn't that qualify me as an expert?

But wait, there's more!

I am a product of the 60's & 70's TV watching. I have a lot of grey matter devoted to shows like Batman, Hogan's Heroes and Gilligan's Island. I love movies and when I was 15, went to see Star Wars 8 times when it first came out (remember kids, there was no such thing as a DVD, DVR or Hulu — once it was gone from the theater, it was gone). Quiz me about any of those things and I will give anyone a run for their money.

That means I could be the Marketing Guru, The Kicking Guru or the Gilligan Guru. Is there fame and fortune there? Quite possibly, yes. From writing books, public speaking or running a camp. But even better is establishing yourself as an expert in something that you're legitimately good at, fond of, or truly enjoy, is one of the great purposes in life.

Why not seize the moment and claim your throne?

Understand, most people never plant their flag. They're experts in hiding. Why? Timidity is no way to lead your life. Worried that you're not a "big enough" expert? Don't be. The fact that Neil Rackers of the Arizona Cardinals is a far better kicker than I doesn't hamper me from helping kids across the country kick a football better than they did before. And, when Neil missed a big kick recently in the NFL playoffs, he might have been interested in what a guy like me had to say... let's face it, I've had more experiences with missing kicks than he! :-)

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If you're interested to connect with me inside (or outside) my areas of expertise, feel free to do so:

— The Marketing Guru
— The Kicking Guru
— The Big Ideas Guru
— The Gilligan Guru

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Domain Name 101


You have a business or a brand, but you don't have a good domain name. Given that there are over 114 million active sites and another 377 million deleted names already in play, it's getting harder and harder to obtain a unique name that isn't five miles long.

It seems that there's just no way to get a decent domain name.

There's more myth in that one might think. Sure, every 4-letter combination of characters has been snatched up. (Try it - type in any combination of four characters and it will most likely take you to a site or a site holder page.) Understand, like playing the lottery, once you go beyond four, however, the combinations jump exponentially... meaning — there are still a lot of available names out there.

Here's how to craft your great domain:
Sor purposes of this blog, I presume you're already locked in to your company or brand name - so don't complicate things - just use the name of your business. It's how people know you. All that you're after is to place your existing business on the Internet map of your prospects and customers. If you're "Doug's Donuts" or "Acme Services, Inc.", search for those domains directly. You're not after a "Google" or "Flickr" kind of name (Go to Step 3, if you really are).

The problem, of course, is that your brand name may already be taken.

Step 1) Start by looking for your name.
Always start by trying to get exactly what you want - keeping the character count as low as possible without sacrificing clarity.If people know you, your company or your brand products or services, give them what they already know.

NOTE No.1: There are many domain companies, like Network Solutions, 1and1 and GoDaddy, but my favorite is Domain.com. I recommend them highly. Signing up with them is free; they're easy to work with; you can search in bulk for names and they have all the tools (hosting, web templates and such) that can take you from start to finish on the web for a very affordable price.

WARNING No.1: There are real concerns over some domain registries "poaching" names. I often check on the availability of domain names on behalf of my clients (yet often I have to wait for client approval before I can purchase the new domain). 9x... NINE TIMES, I have had available domains stolen from me just hours after I had searched for them. At first I thought it was pure coincidence, but when I searched WhoIs? for the purchaser, I found it newly owned by the very same registrar I had used! It's like going to the store - picking something out to put on layaway, but by the time you're to the back of the store to pay for it, the clerk is wearing your new shirt! I'm happy to report that I have not had this problem with Domain.com in three years working with them.

NOTE No.2: BTW, you're looking for a .com name.
The day is coming when other suffixes will be acceptable, but to be taken seriously (and perception is key out of the gates), you need a .com domain unless you're a non-profit or group, in which case .org may be just fine. Don't fall for .net. It makes you less credible to your new prospects - avoid it.

Step 1.5) Sorry for the interruption...
Where was I? Yes, start by choosing clarity. Your own brand name. "Dougsdonuts.com" would be a great name. "Acmeservices.com" or "Acmeservicesinc.com" are both strong names and easy to remember. When in doubt, use real words and avoid hyphens. How do you describe a hyphen to a prospect? "Dougs [dash] donuts.com"? It's not pretty.

Step 2) My name's too long and has unusable characters, what do I do?
What if you're "Tallahassee Industrial Power & Equipment"? "Tallahasseeindustrialpowerandequipment.com" is a mouthful and doesn't even fit on your business card. Oh, and what to do about that ampersand? ("Tallahasseeindustrialpower-n-equipment.com? Hopefully not.) This might be a case to try for an acronym like TIPE.com, but guess what... that's four letters.

Try again, with the key words. Typically, the first two words that people remember: "Tallahasseeindustrial.com" or "Tallahasseepower.com" You may need to do a little research to find out what your customers call you. Can the name be shortened? "Tallindustrial.com" seems a bit awkward, while "Tallapower.com" is catchy.

NOTE No.3: Why not buy the taken name?
Yes, you can try to buy it from the owner (check out WhoIs?), but don't do it unless you are expecting to go National and have the VC money lined up.

Try asking this instead: what's the benefit of your product? What's your tagline? Can that answer become the domain? You might be surprised to learn that "tastesgreat.com", "justdoit.com" or "imlovinit.com" are not owned by the corporate giants who use(d) these phrases. This means that yours may be available! You can see the obvious benefit of having that phrase be your domain instead of the corporate name.  What's more, your tagline finally gets to go to work for a change! One of the best examples of this is for a regional insurance company called West Bend Insurance here in Wisconsin. Their domain? "thesilverlining.com" - brilliant.

Step 3) But I want some pizazz!
If your gut is telling you that your brand domain is a yawn, I have a trick for you. But, remember, you're only looking for the domain name to make it back to your prospect's computer. Can they remember it? Can they type it in correctly? You may not need a jazzy name.I hate to see real equity thrown out the door.

But, if you still want one, understand you may be talking about changing the brand name altogether. Having your domain name be identical to your brand name has huge advantages over time. Consider this carefully.

If you're game, here's one way of how to make the attempt: list out the attributes of your firm, your brand, your products. Single words that have some relevance. How it looks, feels, tastes, its benefits, affordability and so forth. Highlight the words that either have the most power or resonance to them, or those that seem to roll off the tongue. Mix 'em and match 'em. How do you think "MicroSoft" or "GreenPeace" were born? This can be an effective way of finding something entirely new and memorable.

WARNING No.2: Certain words are close to extinction.
Almost anything with "soft" or "green" or "micro" has been taken. "ChartreuseSoft.com", however, is still available.

For help beyond what you can muster with this help... friend or tweet Mike Farley at JacksonSpencer and Become a Fan of JacksonSpencer on Facebook. If you like what you read here, FOLLOW this blog or jump over and join the Big Ideas Group on LinkedIn for more great small business insight. It's well worth the FREE pricetag! 

All the best — Mike Farley

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Becoming Iconic


Personal branding is one thing, but becoming an icon, well, that's for someone else.

Or is it?

On the WebDesignerDepot website is a curious list of the 100 most iconic people of all time. That's a list with personalities like Winston Churchill, Muhammad Ali and Jesus Christ. A pretty weighty list to be sure. But one thing struck me as I scrolled down the list to see who they had selected for their list... almost ALL of them could be identified by a visual characteristic - the very core of any good brand identity.

It's not that you have to be beautiful - you just have to work with what you've got.

Let me run down the list a bit, and you identify a brand image... if I said Albert Einstein, you'd say the big mustache and the crazy white hair. Try some others:

Woody Allen
Louie Armstrong
Ludwig van Beethoven
Napoleon Bonaparte'
Bono
Curt Cobain
Fidel Castro
Charlie Chaplin

I didn't even get to Salvadore Dali yet!

Woody Allen (glasses)
Louie Armstrong (giant smile)
Ludwig van Beethoven (brooding looks and wild hair)
Napoleon Bonaparte' (short stature and the hand in his coat)
Bono (tinted glasses and trademark scruff)
Curt Cobain (unkempt hair)
Fidel Castro (military hat, cigar & beard)
Charlie Chaplin (derby, mustache and walking cane)

What's the point?

If you consciously make the choice to focus on a part of your physical feature, your sense of style or anything else that sets you apart, people will remember. Like a brand that selects a specific color, type font or celebrity endorser - over time, that feature will stick in the minds of those who come in contact with you. "Top of mind awareness." Isn't that the old school slogan? It may be old school, but it works. For personal branding, nothing gets more personal - but few things are as difficult for us to do, than to focus so much of our attention to a single positive and impressionable feature we possess.

Perception Over Reality


Early in my marketing career, the hottest ad agency in the world was in my own back yard — Fallon McElligott & Rice. Today, Fallon is one of the world's leading agencies, doing ads for some of the very biggest and best known brands in the world. Yet, when they first started out in Minneapolis, they were but three people meeting over the lunch hour. They simply decided to do things a bit differently, and with hard work, and some very clever headlines, were able to radically change how ad agencies put themselves on the map.

The "real" FMR story...

Account executive Pat Fallon knew that Tom McElligott, a copywriter, and Nancy Rice, an art director, had the talent, energy and drive to succeed, but none of them had any recognition. So he took the simple assignments from low budget client's and parlayed them into a series of ads run in all the usual places (bus stops, billboards, weekly shoppers, newspapers, local TV and more). They practically invented the punny headline which caught the eyes of customers AND some local businesses, as well. In short order, they had banded together a nice regional collection of brands to work for.

But here's where Pat's marketing savvy took over. One of the key awards shows of the day was the One Show in New York. It's open to any agency that wishes to submit work (along with a check of $100 for each entry). Entries into exciting categories like BEST REGIONAL BLACK & WHITE NEWSPAPER AD, and BEST :60 SECOND PSA TV SPOT. Madison Avenue agencies typically walked away, coveting the 3-5 golden and silver pencils that they had won from the juried competition; on a great day, maybe a baker's dozen.

Fallon thought they might be able to win some trophies, too, proving that their brand of "creative" was as good as any in the country. Just think, a little shop from the Twin Cities mentioned in the same breath as venerable shops like J.Walter Thompson, Oglivy & Mather, BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi. Pat Fallon's plan was audacious, yet oh, so simple. If their clever headline really was clever, the judges would have to award it, but if you entered the same ad in multiple categories - wouldn't the judges have to award it in each and every one, too? Fallon ponied up close to $10,000 in entry fees.

The result?

FMR took home close to 80 pencils in one awards show (and parlayed those wins in other national and international competitions). The nearest competitor's tally was 15! As you can imagine, the new talk of the town was the "hot" shop from the Midwest. Fallon never looked back and now operates around the globe with over a billion dollars in business. They had officially become an "expert" in creative advertising on the backs of "exciting" brands like the Episcopal Church and Hush Puppies shoes.

What has this to do with your brand?


Fallon knew it had the talent, just not the PR to match. Generating a buzz for the very topic you wish to be an expert in should become your primary mission this year. Fallon wanted to wear the Creative Crown. The only way to "prove" that was to win an award show that had everything to do with creativity - what's more, it was juried by the "best in the business". If the judges liked it, EVERYONE had to like it. It was a risk, but they outsmarted the game - in effect, the risk they took was an "expert" one. So, where can you effectively place yourself or your products so that the outcome is proof of your own superiority? Consider how you might handle these areas differently this year:

• Doing something dramatic at a trade show
• Organizing something that gets local TV coverage
• Owning an issue in your industry to get write ups in the important publications
• Finding the blogs read by influencers and contributing to them
• "Piggy-back" the endorsement from an industry celebrity or expert
• Establish a professional image via web beyond anyone else in your field

The point is, there are a number of options from which you might find some traction. Rack your brain to determine who might be willing to assist or how you might generate a superior perceived level of importance. If you believe in yourself and the might of your brand, regardless of whether it's achieved any status as yet, the perceptional value is more important when you first begin. Perception becomes your reality.

For Fallon, it couldn't have been clearer. Three years from inception, they landed the Rolling Stone Magazine account and crafted the now famous comparison ad campaign... FMR's public perception had finally matched their fiscal reality.

Now create your own.

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If you're interested to gain more ideas on personal branding, contact Mike Farley via: Facebook, Twitter or his website.