Julie Cottineau, Founder & CEO, BrandTwist
Whether you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the founder of a start up with big plans, looking at branding best practices from successful brands such as Kool-Aid, Avon, Apple, and Virgin can yield some valuable lessons that can then be applied to your brand for big impact.
The most important thing is to look outside of your own business category to successful brands that you admire then twist those best practices with your own business or sector. In an effort to look legitimate, many business use promises, words and images that blend in instead of break through. A “twist” approach helps businesses remove their brand blinders and look outside of their categories for actionable insights that build stronger brands and better business results.
Here are tips for successful twisting inspired by beloved brands.
Speak to Customer’s Hearts not just their Heads
Kool-Aid is a more than water and powdered sugar, it’s a mixture that stirs up memories of childhood. Kids connect to the Kool-Aid man in the red suit (updated over time to a CGI figure), and moms are transported back to their own childhoods thinking about the iconic pitcher and spoon. Kool-Aid is not selling powdered soft drinks. It’s promising an idyllic childhood. Just like Nike isn’t peddling running shoes; they are really selling the potential of unleashing your inner athlete. And Starbucks is offering community, not coffee. What is your brand really selling? Take lessons from these iconic brands and go beyond hanging your hat on your products and services – to offering your customers a way to feel better, stronger, more empowered, and smarter when using your brand. This creates loyal brand users, who will in turn shout your praises to friends and colleagues. As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
Make Sure Your Employees Are Equipped to be Brand Ambassadors
Regardless of our job titles – we all work in branding. Employees are on the front line of bringing your brand promise to life for your customers and you need to make sure they fully understand and embrace your brand promise. You don’t need a cadre of employees ringing doorbells like the Avon Ladies, but you do need to make sure your employees get your “twist” – what’s unique about your business. Make sure that a review of the brand promise and values is part of new employee on-boarding and schedule time to frequently review and update the company’s behaviors, not just your marketing, through a brand lens. Make “walking the brand talk” a part of weekly staff meetings and training. Observe other brands that you admire and delve into what makes their employees such strong brand ambassadors. What can you learn from the blue shirts at the Apple store or the baristas at Starbucks? What gestures (large and small) make those interactions so on-brand and how can you twist and get inspired to strengthen your employee culture (even if the employee is just you!)?
Define and Own Your Personal Twist
Personal branding is a key element of telling your story and telling it well. You want people to invest in you as an individual, irrespective of what company you work for or what business you are promoting. This is especially important in today’s economy when many people have multiple careers over a lifetime or want to look for new opportunities within the same company. It’s also critical for entrepreneurs who are often serial entrepreneurs with multiple ideas and ventures over their life times. It’s hard to think of Apple without Steve Jobs, Zappo’s without Tony Hshieh, or Virgin without thinking of its iconic founder Richard Branson. Branson is a billionaire in his 60s and a recent grandfather. He could easily slow down but he doesn’t. He continues to take on challenges such as climate change, saving the oceans, and setting up programs to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. This is because he fundamentally believes in shaking things up and challenging the status quo. It’s not a marketing slogan for him, it’s a way of life. And this is a big part of the success of the Virgin brand. Even though Richard is not actually running the day-to-day operations of the 100-plus Virgin businesses around the world, his personal commitment is known, felt and emulated by all of his employees on the front lines. As a result, the brand experience is genuine for customers. What makes you unique and how can you twist this with your business? These can be your personal passions. Richard’s was music and challenging the status quo in business and in personal pursuits like attempting to break world records for crossing the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. You don’t have to jump out of buildings like Richard does – but bringing your personal passions to the table will help people connect with you and help your business stand out.
[Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
About the Author
Julie Cottineau is founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy, and creator of Brand School Online, a premier learning program that teaches small business owners, entrepreneurs and non-profits how to create more distinctive, more powerful and more profitable brands that break-through in crowded markets. Her new book is called Twist: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands. For more information, visit BrandTwist.com and TheTwistBook.com.