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Tools | Brand Influence Circles

Brand Influence Circles The original usage of the word “brand” referred to identifying things like cattle.  When cattle were grazing, ranchers needed a way to distinguish their herds from others.  So they “branded” their cattle with some sort of symbol or name.  This has basically two functions: it groups them and separates them. Brands are about connection just as much as they are about separation.  There is no such thing as a brand that is truly “for everyone.”  In order to develop a clearly defined brand, it’s as important to know what your company will not do, what it doesn’t believe in, as it is to define your values, your mission, and your vision. Try this simple exercise.
  • List everything your brand believes
  • List everything your brand is against
Be ruthless.  Really get to the heart of what your brand stands for.

Tools | The Customer Distribution Curve

Customer Distribution Curve Everett Rogers famously identified that technology innovations tend to follow a bell curve distribution of adoption.  He labels the first group of people to adopt a new technology, “Innovators.”  The next group are considered “Early Adopters.”  And so on. Let’s use this model to identify different customers your business may have. Innovators: These are the people who are your customers before you even have a business.  They believe in your idea itself and they want to be a part of it. What you should do One of the best things to do is to learn from them.  Get their insight on your business idea.  Have them try out samples and test things out on them.   Early Adopters:  These are some of your first customers who first heard about you and really believe in your product or service.  These aren’t just friends and family.  But the people who simply discovered you and loves what you do. What you should do Cater to them. If they love you, they’ll spread the word.  Their endorsement is worth ten times the amount of one-off sales.   Early Majority: They say this is where you’ll likely get the largest portion of your customers.  They understand your value proposition and were drawn to you because of it. What you should do Focus on them.  This is your sweet spot.  By appealing to them, you should be able to also reach out beyond them.  Just be careful not to lose what made you unique in the first place.  It’s a slippery slope, trying to reach the masses.  Maintain who you are, but also adapt to their needs.   Late Majority: They have come to you because everyone else says you’re good.  They’re followers, but paying followers. What you should do Watch them.  They are your window on your competition.  They’re not really that loyal to your company necessary.  They’re just there because they’ve heard you’re the best in what you do.  If someone else comes out with something better, they’ll be the first to leave you.  Keep a keen vigilance over them.   Laggards:  They buy from you because you happen to have what they need at a given point in time, but have zero loyalty. What you should do Don’t worry about them.  Don’t provide a lower level of service.  But you also don’t have to try to please their every little need. If they leave, it gives you more time to devote to customers that matter.

Tools | The Network Effect: How your company makes the world a better place

Network Effect It’s an overused visual.  A single drop of water creating expanding ripples, affecting an ever-growing area. However, it reminds us that a small action can generate huge repercussions.  It’s often a good idea to take a step back and consider the positive difference you make on people’s lives. Try this ongoing group exercise to discover your company’s Network Effect.
  1. What’s your CORE? Some call it Unique Selling Proposition.  Others call it Strategic Intent.  It may be your Mission or your Vision.  We often call it your Differentiating Value.  Whatever you call it, I’m referring to the basic reason why you’re in business.  Why does your company exist?  Write a succinct answer on a post-it and place it in the middle of the board.
  2. Think of 7 things your company does to improve people’s lives. Write them on post-its surrounding the CORE.
  3. Gather your employees and ask them to recall stories of customers who were positively affected by those actions.  Write them down on post-its and connect them to the actions.
  4. Keep building on it.  Put the board up in an employee gathering area. Invite them to continue to add stories to the board.
Looking at the positive difference your company makes in this world can be a huge boost in morale.  It gives employees pride in what they do and provides a tangible resource on how you deliver on your value proposition.

Tools | How to create a terrible ad

People Cheering One of the exercises we do with our clients is to have them think about the worst way to run their business or promote themselves.  The answers are enlightening and often very humorous.  We then follow that with asking what would the exact opposite of each of those things to determine potential best practices.  By looking at things from a completely different perspective, it allows you to break out of your preconceived notions. So let’s use this exercise to see how we can improve your advertising.  If you were to create a truly terrible ad, what would you have to do?
  1. Try to be all things to all people.  Focus on trying to appeal to widest audience, like all adults 18+.  Make sure that it doesn’t offend anyone in that group, no matter how small.  The result will be a bland and uninteresting.  Barely even noticeable because it doesn’t spark any reaction.
  2. Cram as many messages as possible.  Incorporate as many different things to say in your ad as possible.  The more you try to say, the less people will be able to focus on anything.  It will all just be a blur.  And you will have successfully gotten them to remember nothing.
  3. Use amateur designers, writers, photographers, etc.  We’re talking your cousin’s nephew who has Microsoft Paint.  Nothing destroys your credibility faster than looking completely unprofessional.
  4. Be as fake and unrealistic as possible.  Use technical dialog that no ordinary person would say.  Show only happy smiling people in silly poses that no one would do.  People have become trained to spot insincerity and tend to avoid those who embody it.
  5. Use clichés; be unoriginal; do corny things.  Appeal to the lowest common denominator by treating the audience as idiots.   Show things that are always used in ads from your industry, so people will “get it.”  While pandering can be effective in reaching people, it can’t build loyalty.
So to continue the exercise, what would be the opposite of each of those steps?
  1. Focus on a core customer that has unique needs that you fulfill.  There is simply too much competition in the world today to simply be like everyone else.  The cure to that is to identify who your best kind of customer is and then figure out how to communicate and cater directly to them.
  2. 1 ad = 1 message.  There is simply too much communication out there.  People are constantly bombarded.  If you’re really lucky, people will be able to digest 1 clear message.  Try to do more and all they’ll hear is the adult-talk on Charlie Brown.
  3. Hire the best professionals your budget will allow.  There’s a reason why Tiffany’s and Nordstrom can charge more money for virtually the exact same product as another retailer.  They demonstrate quality and service in everything they do.  They have created brands people desire.  Quality is evident when you produce any kind of creative work.  Don’t skimp or your customers will skimp on you.
  4. Be real.  People respect authenticity.  It lowers their BS detector.  When you show how your product is actually used, when you show it’s real value and not a made-up fairy tale version, people believe it.  They may even be drawn to it, warts and all.
  5. Strive to be innovative, original, and forward-thinking.  It’s ok to be ahead of your audience.  When the iPhone came out, pretty much every focus group said that smartphone users wanted keyboards and a variety of pre-loaded applications (myself included).  When you strive to be different and lead the way, you tell your customers that you’re not a brand that follows, but one that should be followed.  Not a bad position to be in.

Tools | Brand Positioning Compass

As in all things, you have a number of different paths to go with your branding efforts. The first step is to determine where you really want to position your brand.  Use the Brand Positioning Compass to quickly orient yourself and give you the direction to move your brand forward. In terms of marketing, a brand can wither position itself as premium or inexpensive.  “Good value” is a misnomer.  These days, people always expect a product or service to have a good value regardless of whether it’s expensive or cheap.  On the other axis, it can either position itself to capture a wide audience or a targeted niche market. Choose the direction you want your brand to go. Premium/Niche: Focus on a small market and deliver high-end features and/or services that specifically meet their needs.  (Example: Tesla) Premium/Mass: Focus on building a brand reputation that a wide audience would respond to. (Example: Mercedes Benz) Inexpensive/Niche: Determine what features and/or services that a small market most values and optimize your offering to deliver it for the least cost. (Example: Smart Car) Inexpensive/Mass: Focus on optimizing economies of scale to reduce costs as much as possible. (Example: Toyota Yaris) MCA Brand Positioning Compass