(Time to read this Blog is about 4.5 minutes)

Before we get to the main topic, here are a few things to get you thinking:

  1. My Quote of the week:

“Technology makes it possible for us to continuously improve our business.  But, we must also have the passion and desire to improve…plus a sense of what ‘better’ might look like in every part of our business.  The technology itself is useless without the vision of a better future and the passion to get there.”

…Donald Cooper.

  1. Quick Biz Tip: Get rid of stupid rules or policies.

The city of Barrie, Ontario has a beautiful lakefront beach and park area that’s hugely popular and overcrowded on summer weekends.  They charge $10 an hour for on-site metered parking with a $100 fine if you overstay your ticket time.  So, many visitors park on the grass, pay no parking fee at all and, if caught, pay a $30 fine for parking inappropriately.

This is a great example of having rules and policies that are counter-productive and make us look stupid.  In your business, do you have any internal or customer rules or policies that make you look stupid?  If so, get rid if them…fast!

  1. ‘Live’ Conferences are back! After 2 years of virtual Zoom Conferences, ‘LIVE IS BACK’!  We’re getting lots of bookings for Keynotes and interactive Workshops at live events! 

For a list of our most requested topics and to chat about ‘possibilities’ for your next business or Association Conference, call us at 416-252-3703 in Toronto, Canada, or email me at donald@donaldcooper.com.  

  1. Here’s ‘Bonus Tip’ re Email Signatures from one of our readers. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of a professional looking email signature that creates confidence and makes it easy for folks to contact you.

One of our loyal readers, Crista Costen of Costen Insurance in Calgary, Alberta has taken it one step further.  Each year, in early July, the city of Calgary hosts the famous ‘Calgary Stampede’ Rodeo and outdoor show. The entire city embraces the ‘cowboy spirit’. Costa Insurance hosts a free ‘Stampede Pancake Breakfast’ at their office as

part of this celebration and they very cleverly promote that by changing their Email Signature for several weeks leading up to the event.  This is brilliant marketing! 

How could you use your email signature to deliver important reminders or promote events or special occasions?  

 

Now, to this week’s important topic:

Three clear steps to creating your powerful Brand:

Businesses with a powerful ‘brand’ typically have more loyal customers and higher profits.  Whether you’re a manufacturer, retailer, distributor or service provider, your industry is over-served and under-differentiated. There are way too many other businesses selling what you’re selling.   You all look alike, sound alike and charge about the same price. That’s your biggest problem. 

So, to succeed, you must create, deliver and effectively communicate compelling value and experiences and live by a set of values that will ‘grab’ your target customers, clearly differentiate you from your competitors, make you ‘famous’…and grow your bottom line.  In short, you must create and communicate a consistent and powerful brand.

But there is lots of confusion as to what a brand actually is.  On the surface a brand is just a company or product name, a graphic logo or catchy slogan.  But these are simply memorable icons designed to trigger a powerful set of assumptions and emotions about such things as quality, performance, service, price, value and integrity…and about who we are as consumers if we purchase your brand.

There are many definitions of what a ‘Brand’ is.  My definition is…

’Your brand is your promise to deliver a consistent set of qualities, values, standards and experiences that your target customers want in their lives.’

That’s it. Do you have a clear and compelling ‘brand promise’…and do you keep it, every customer, every day, at every ‘touch point’?

Creating your powerful brand is actually a simple 3-step process…but very few businesses ‘get it’.  The hotel industry is a great example.  For years I’ve stayed in hotels and resorts around the world about 200 nights a year and in the process have discovered huge differences within most hotel brands.  In Asia, a Holiday Inn will likely be a five-star property, while in Cincinnati it’s probably a ‘tear down’.

A few years back I was in a magnificent, uplifting Westin Hotel on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas and then, a few days later, in an absolutely depressing Westin Hotel in downtown Atlanta that felt like a prison on a bad day!  There’s no consistency so there’s no brand clarity, confidence or trust. Just confusion and doubt, which destroys their brand.  “If you don’t know who you are, how can we know who you are?”

The 3 steps to creating your powerful brand are ‘DECIDE, DELIVER & COMMUNICATE’.

  1. First, DECIDE who your target customers will be and what clear and compelling Brand Promise will ‘grab’ those target customers, clearly differentiate you from your competitors, make you ‘famous’…and grow your bottom line. You can’t be compelling to everyone, so don’t even try.  It will confuse, dilute and pollute your brand.

    Next, you must understand what life is really like for each group of target customers you chose to serve. Below are 5 questions to help with that understanding…

    When each of your target customer groups is choosing, buying, using, maintaining, recycling or disposing of the products or services you sell:

    1. Functionally, emotionally and financially, what are they really trying to do?
    2. What are their fears or concerns that might prevent them from buying what we sell…or from buying it specifically from us?
    3. What do they want or need to know to wisely choose, effectively use and (in some cases) maintain, recycle or dispose of what we sell? What kind of info, coaching, reminders or encouragement do they need?
    4. How do they want to feel when choosing, buying and using what we sell?
    5. About how much do they expect to pay?
       
      Now, using your ‘new and improved’ understanding of each of your target customer groups, decide specifically what ‘promises’ your brand will make about the compelling value and customer experience you’ll always deliver and the values you’ll always live by.  Remember, your market is over-served and under-differentiated, so you must be extraordinary.  Mediocrity is no longer an option.

      When you’re clear about your Brand Promise, you need to decide on your Brand Personality.  Will you be ‘serious, polished and formal’ or ‘friendly, informal, quirky and fun’…or, perhaps, ‘outrageous and flamboyant’.  What ‘personality’ will be congruent with your Brand Promise, connect with your target customers, make them comfortable with you and make you memorable to them?  If your brand was a person, would you be Madonna or Martha Stewart…Bill Clinton or Bill Gates…Michael Jordan or Dennis Rodman?

  2. Step #2, you must DELIVER what you promise! For every ‘touchpoint’ at which your customers see, hear or interact with your business, your products and services or your brand in any way, get specific about the kind of experience you’ll always deliver. Then, put in place the culture, the people, training, physical infrastructure, amenities, systems, policies and processes required to deliver your brand magnificently…every time!
     
    Make sure that everything you do is consistent with your Brand Promise, Brand Values and Brand Personality.  A while back, I attended an ‘Info Session’ for new Lexus owners at one of Canada’s largest Lexus dealers.  The event ran from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM and the invitation assured us that ‘refreshments would be served’.  For years, the Lexus Brand Promise has been ‘the relentless pursuit of excellence’ in both their vehicles and the customer experience.  But at this evening event, the ‘food’ consisted of two plastic trays of tired looking sandwiches, some cut up fruit and a bottle of water.  Nobody who can afford a Lexus eats sandwiches for dinner.  Nobody. They failed to be congruent with their brand promise. Trust me, this stuff matters.  Everything matters.  So, are your Brand Promise, Brand Values and Brand Personality  congruent with who and what your target customers want and expect you to be?   

    Brands are quickly damaged, as Volkswagen discovered when it was revealed a few years ago that they sold over 11 million ‘clean’ diesel vehicles that had intentionally been programmed to circumvent accepted emission standards.  These 11 million vehicles were emitting up to 40 times the pollutants allowed, and they got caught. Volkswagen paid billions of dollars in penalties and their brand has suffered. 

    Every person you hire, every product or service you offer, every ad or promotion you run, every policy you create and decision you make affects your brand.  In fact, everything you do, every day, either delivers and honors your Brand Promise, or damages your brand. 

    Everyone in your business is a Brand Ambassador, especially your front-line team.  It’s sobering to realize that much of the delivery of your all-important Brand Promise is in the hands of your lowest paid (front-line) staff.  If your promised Brand experience is not being properly delivered on the front lines, you don’t have a Brand…or, at least not the one you think you have. 

    So, how well are your front-line Brand Ambassadors doing?  Do they know and embrace your Brand Values and Brand Promise?  Do they embody your Brand Personality?  Are they trained, passionate, committed and empowered to deliver?  Are they rewarded and celebrated for delivering the Brand …and is non-performance dealt with quickly and constructively?  Which of your people are not delivering your Brand promise…and what are you doing about it?

    To make sure you’re living and delivering your Brand Promise, Values and Personality, measure performance, listen to customers and your front-line team, follow up and fix what needs fixing.   

  3. Finally, effectively and consistently COMMUNICATE your Brand Promise, Values and Personality.  There’s no point being the best if you’re also the best kept secret.

    Many businesses think of their brand communication as the advertising and promotion they do but, in fact, everything you do communicates a message, good or bad, about your Brand Promise, Values and Personality.  There are literally 100s of ways that you communicate who you are and what you stand for in a way that get you noticed and create clarity. They fall into 7 main categories:

    1. How you look in every part of your business.
    2. How you ‘sound’ in every part of your business. 
    3. How you and your products, services and staff serve and perform.
    4. The price you charge communicates powerfully what you think you’re worth.
    5. How and where you advertise and promote.
    6. How you care for others, your community and the planet all communicate your values.
    7. How your business ‘feels’ when people interact with your brand in any way. Do your target customers feel safe, valued and uplifted every time their life touches yours?  Do they feel better about themselves and the world?

    In addition to all the ways you communicate your Brand Promise, Values and Personality, through Social Media, Google Stars and Google Comments, the general public are now powerful partners in managing your brand reputation.  What others say about us matters more than ever before.

    Beware of the ‘Brand Paparazzi’.  In the world of celebrities, ‘Paparazzi’ are the relentless photographers trying to catch famous people doing bad things.  Well, now everyone with a smart phone is a potential ‘Brand Paparazzi’ waiting to catch you and your Brand, on camera, messing up.  Whether it’s an airline assaulting a passenger and dragging him off a plane while 20 passengers capture the whole thing on video or your posting a photo of a fly doing the backstroke in your soup at a high-end restaurant.  So, don’t mess up.

    On the other hand, you could get creative and come up with ways for the ‘Brand Paparazzi’ to catch you doing amazing or kind things!  What might that look like?

    Your business or product name can dramatically communicate your Brand Promise. ‘Miracle Grow’ is a leading brand of plant fertilizer.  What a great name…but it had better make stuff grow!

    ‘5-Star Landscaping & Snowplowing’ in Michigan has a name that suggests excellence, but they get only 3.7 Stars and terrible, damming comments from customers on Google.  OOPS!   

    Are you sabotaging your Brand?  The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s finest wine regions.  Folks travel from far and wide to sample their high-quality vintages.  A few years ago, we travelled half-way around the world to spend New Year’s week there.

    Right in the middle of one of the Hunter Valley’s most beautiful vineyards is Peppers Boutique Hotel.  But wait, here’s what their website said about their special ‘Complete Indulgence Package’…

    This special package includes: 

    • Accommodation for two guests.
    • Full cooked breakfast daily.
    • Pre-dinner beverage and canapés.
    • French sparkling wine on arrival.

    So, you travel half-way around the world to enjoy the extraordinary Hunter Valley wine experience and what they’re telling you is that their local wines really aren’t that great, so for our ‘Complete Indulgence Package’ we’re going to treat you to some really good French wine. This is Brand suicide!  How can businesses get it so wrong?  Don’t sabotage your brand.

In conclusion:   So, there you have my 3 clear Steps to creating, delivering and communicating your clear and powerful brand…DECIDE, DELIVER & COMMUNICATE.  How will you use these insights to clearly differentiate your business…and grow your bottom line?  

 

That’s it for this week…

Stay safe…live brilliantly!       

Donald Cooper 

 

Donald Cooper speaks and coaches internationally on management, marketing, and profitability.  He can be reached by email at donald@donaldcooper.com in Toronto, Canada.

About Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper, MBA, CSP, HoF: Donald speaks and coaches in over 40 industries throughout the world.  He delivers the ‘straight goods’ on how to sell more, manage smarter, grow your bottom line...and have a life!  To chat about ‘possibilities’ for your next business or Industry Association Conference, call me at 416-252-3703 in Toronto, or click here to connect to our ‘Enquiry Page’.  

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