Last week CVS/pharmacy stores announced they will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1.
Congratulations! Hopefully this will start a national trend with other brands who preach wellness and healthy choices, it’s time to walk the talk.
Ending tobacco sales “is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said in a statement.
The company also announced that it plans to launch a national smoking cessation program in the spring.
This move will not be without short-term pain, the retailer estimates it will take an annual loss of $2 billion from tobacco shoppers.
If I were a betting girl, I’d put my money on CVS. They will survive and gain a much stronger and even more profitable brand in the long-run. A brand that keeps customers healthy, will have more customers.
Industries everywhere and everyday are faced with issues like this. It takes courage to be the first. It takes vision to be a leader. And it takes brand integrity to do the right thing.
Is there anything in your business model that needs to go away? A product, a process or even an old irrelevant policy? The upside to change like this is priceless. I suspect CVS will earn millions in publicity that will make many shoppers love them more. And soon, they will have new shelf space for even more interesting products that meet the market’s needs, desires and impulses.
On a side note, if you’ve not seen the new ad campaign the FDA just launched, they are well done. Focusing on teenagers, with a message around the real cost of smoking. The campaign is eye opening and hopefully packed with enough shock value, that a few more young smokers will kick the habit now.
This past week I took my mother to her first Tampa Bay Lightning game. I go often, and as always the experience was blast. The Lightning hospitality team is world-class. I’ve blogged about them before. Every staffer treats you like you are the most important customer.
As my mom and I were headed to our seats, we asked the usher for assistance. I mentioned to him this was my mom’s first time to a Tampa Bay Lightning game.
Acting like we were the most important fans in the house, he introduced himself as Tom. We small talked with him for a few minutes. He told us how much he loved his job and that he had worked for the Lightning for ten seasons.
He walked us to our seats, two rows behind the goalie. The game was exciting. Although sometimes it got a little scary as the players slammed up against the glass that was inches from us.
Tied at 2-2 after the first period, Tom the usher who showed us our seats reappeared. This time bearing a big first-time fan button and personalized certificate signed by Lighting’s mascot Thunder Bolt and former Lightning team captain, now VP of Fans, Dave Andreychuk recognizing my mother and welcoming her to Lightning Bolt nation.
That’s customer service. That’s a brand that gets the importance of making a customer feel awesome. That small, unexpected gesture made my mom’s night.
What do you do to make first-time customers feel special? If nothing, what can you do to make the experience memorable?
Here are some ideas to consider.
- Give them a branded gift.
- Let them sample or try something you sell.
- Personalize some part of their experience with their name.
- Gift them some type of incentive voucher to return soon. This could be an added value bonus with purchase, or a percentage off (depending on your pricing strategy). Either way, the goal is when they do come back, make them feel special again.
- Send them a hand written thank you note.
Over the past few months, I’ve been giving my brand, Karen Post, The Branding Diva® some deep pondering and exploration time. Thinking through where I’ve been and where I want to go. Most importantly, what do I need to do to further separate myself from other speakers, consultants and writers whose expertise is branding or marketing too. The photo posted here will give you a sneak preview of what I’m doing. I’ll be showing you more in the coming blogs.
Brands are a work in progress (W.I.P). They evolve and the best ones continue to improve their distinction, story telling, and they freshen up their communications to reflect their essence, standout and stay relevant.
I’ve set some very ambitious goals for this year. One of my key strategies is to be bigger, bolder and even more bodacious.
As I make this journey to brand up, I’m going to share my process with you. Whether your brand is you or you direct an organizational brand, my goal is to inspire you to work through your brand and see new opportunities to take it to the next level.
One’s beliefs and values are important bricks in building a brand foundation.
Beliefs are concepts that you hold to be true.
What are you unequivocally convinced is true about your professional expertise?
Here are mine:
1) Every person, company and organization is a brand.
Some choose to ride the brand wagon organically and accept where the wind takes them. Others take the wheel and arrive at the destination they choose.
2) We are a visually – judgmental society.
What your brand looks like and how it is packaged molds 90% of the first impression you earn.
3) No risk. No brand.
Standing out and standing for what you believe requires guts. It’s not easy and that’s why there are so many sissy brands competing on price and losing out to stronger brands.
4) Simple ideas stick.
This applies to design, messaging and methods. The human race is easily confused.
5) Boring brands have to work twice as hard and often are forgotten twice as fast.
This means being boring is a costly trait. If you want to earn attention and be remembered, don’t be boring.
6) Having a big budget is not required to create a great brand, being resourceful is priceless.
Creativity and innovation trumps the bucks on any day.
7) Consistency counts.
Repeat, repeat, repeat your message, your visuals and your story.
8) Great ideas are worthless without decisiveness and execution.
Bad decisions are better than no decision at all. Plans without action have no value PERIOD.
9) If your brand sucks, and it is not helping you reach your goals, it’s your fault.
Quit whining and get to work.
Values are concepts that we hold to be important.
What’s important to you or your brand culture?
Here’s what’s important to me.
- Financial freedom (so I can be independent and not dependent)
- Design, aesthetics and beautiful things inspire me (ugly, boring and common are disturbing)
- Personal responsibility (is everyone’s lifetime job)
- Having fun (mandatory)
- Creativity (fresh and unique ways to do common things and acts)
- Luxury (no camping for me, unless it’s at The Four Seasons Hotel)
- Helping others succeed (sharing expertise, leading by example, being generous)
Values govern the way we behave, communicate and interact with others.
Beliefs and values determine our attitudes and opinions, both critical in a brand’s foundation.
Get clear on your beliefs and values, the rest of the brand process will fall into place.
The past few weeks you have likely seen the CEO of Target trying to manage the aftermath of the massive credit card hacking scandal. Not a fun situation for any brand leader. One recent interview on CNBC caught my eye. While Gregg Steinhafel was assuring customers that the company was taking the right steps to deal with the mess, a beautiful logo-patterned, red Target vase was perched on the stage behind him.
Was his intention to communicate, yes this is bad, but you can still expect great design and a style edge that the big blue retailer just can’t do?
Using logo marks well in non traditional touch points is a great opportunity for any brand.
I read an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal about the return of wearing branded apparel. The story was titled, “The Return of the Fashion Logo”. Full story click here.
The article reports how many big, luxury-fashion houses are using their brand-logo mark in garment and accessory designs again because consumers’ appetites for sporting brand marks are back in style.
In the early days of the 2000s, the plastering of brands was everywhere, inducing a logo-type mania. Today’s trend is not quite as prominent and is portrayed in a more understated way. This more discreet application of the logo mark still allows consumers to broadcast their financial success all the while making a fashion statement too.
That’s great if you are a fashion brand. But, what about if you are a business to business brand or a service brand?
I have always believed that brands with a clean, simple logo mark have a marketing advantage because those marks have a powerful visual asset that can be applied to some interesting touch points and woven into branded experiences.
When I say clean and simple, I’m generally not referring to your full logo with text. I mean just the mark; like Target’s bull’s-eye or Nike’s swoosh. If you do use text, don’t overdo it because the idea will quickly move from a nice, cool touch to a cheesy, hard-sell tactic.
How can you brand leverage your brand mark?
This depends on what you sell. If it’s an object, think about how you can add your mark to the design. Like in the Wall Street Journal article, luxury brands use their mark as hardware, decorations and apparel trim.
If you don’t sell an object, consider adding your mark into some touch points like:
Whether you are printing a bound, coffee-table book to give clients, or a brochure, consider using the logo mark on a flysheet.
Why not add a touch of your brand to a room or space? But don’t go overboard; sometimes just doing an accent wall is the best look. Here is a custom wallpaper resource.
This company can take any file and create a range of design applications from wall borders to wall decals to full blown wallpaper.
3) Computer wallpaper or screen savers
Adding computer wallpaper is simple. Create a pattern of your logo mark and save it to a jpeg file and make it your computer background or screen saver. Want something a bit more dynamic? Hire a programmer to create a moving screen saver design incorporating your logo mark.
4) Wrapping paper
Don’t just give your clients a gift; give it to them wrapped in branded gift wrap paper. You can make your branded wrap on your desktop printer or have a custom wrapping paper company create it for you.
6) Stickers and seals
Stickers and seals can be used in many cool ways; from sealing an envelope, to packaging a proposal, or adding it to a book you give a client.
7) A pattern in your ads
If you have created an online or offline ad campaign, consider using your logo mark as part of your design. Every since I can remember Target has been doing amazing job of using this method by having the Target bull’s-eye appear in many of their campaigns, furthering their brand equity and their distinction.
Using a simple logo mark as a pattern in something, or as a stand-alone element, can be an effective way to keep your brand top of mind.
Your voice mail message, on your office phone or cell phone, is an important brand touch point. And it cost nothing more to sound impressive. This is free branding. Often those messages are the first impressions you give to a prospective client, a business colleague, a strategic partner, or a new friend.
So don’t even think about using the non personalized recording that comes with your phone. That’s LAME with a capital ‘L”.
So, is your message giving the best first impression?
Give yourself a call. If your message is not on brand, re-record it using these tips:
State your name.
How will a stranger know they have the right number?
Reflect your personal brand.
- If you are creative, then do something creative and try changing it up monthly.
- If you are a performer, like a stand-up comedian, say something funny.
- If you are bubbly with high-energy, sound that way, don’t sound like you just woke up.
Keep it short.
People know the drill. You don’t need to give them play-by-play instructions.
Make sure the sound quality is good.
I recently called a broadcast producer and his voice mail message sounded like it was recorded in a busy subway station, with a back-up sound track of sirens and flying bats.
Your voice message is one of your no cost, or lowest cost, touch points you have. Make it on-brand and impressive.
Instead, many companies hide important details in very small print knowing that 98% of people won’t ever read it. This is no better than whispering, “your pants are on fire” to a deaf person. It’s just not cool.
Here’s the story. Three years ago, a Utah couple had a bad experience with an online retailer called Kleargear.com. After the transaction, they posted a negative review on a consumer-venting site called ripoffreport.com. They cited that the purchased item was never shipped and after numerous attempts, could not even get a customer service person to help them.
Fast forward, the couple tried to get financing on something and could not due to a bad credit score. The bad credit score was because Kleargear.com had fined them $3,500 because they would not remove the negative post on the venting site.
This is wrong.
Apparently, Kleargear.com and other companies have started including a clause in their terms that states, if you accept your transaction, than you give up your right to ever bitch, or say anything bad about the brand, or you too will feel the sting of a fine.
The couple is marching on with a fight, trying to get the courts involved, and trying to stop this nonsense.
I wish them well.
Strong branding stems from healthy, happy relationships with customers and the companies you do business with.
Non-responsive customer service, fine print filled with unreasonable policies, and even crazier fines, is not the way to build a brand.
My hope is companies will focus on providing an excellent buying experience for their customers, listen to their customers, offer awesome products and services, and not provide nightmares like this one.
This past year, I had the privilege of working with a chemistry company called Celanese. The assignment was to re-energize a business to business brand that helps manufacturers of all kinds create innovative products. The mission was accomplished. In collaboration with a team spanning 26 countries, the company’s brand evolved into an even stronger persona; one that reflected ingenuity, creativity, forward thinking and a united spirit of over 7,000 global employees.
The 12-month brand transformation centered around the core values of the organization and required serious alignment with the company’s vision, business practices, communications and the internal culture.
This meant many major branding elements needed to be changed. The corporate communications look and feel was changed, a new brand promise and tagline, “The chemistry inside innovation”, were created, and the web presence was updated, as well as, the image ad campaign. They all received a brand new face.
Along with updating the big stuff, equally important to the new brand’s roll-out success were the small touch points. One of the coolest things produced were branded coasters. Spheres of bright colors with the company’s values printed on each one of them. They also printed round stickers with equally as inspiring messages. Both were a big hit with the employees. In fact, they are still displayed around the offices months after the new brand launch. The coasters and stickers were sources from Micro Brew Marketing and they were great to work with.
How can you spread some brand messaging in your office environment?
Last month, I attended an Ohio State football game in some very cold weather. To battle the frigid climate, I purchased long underwear made by Coldpruf®.
I opened the package, and to my surprise, a branded coaster was inside. This is a nice way to give the customer something to keep, while telling them about your company’s philanthropic philosophy of how the brand donates 1% of sales to environmental causes. All of Coldpruf’s branding is well done and worth checking out too.
How can your educate your customers and give them a keepsake too?
There’s no shortage of boring, blend-in business cards. Why not make a lasting impression with a unique, round business card. Here’s a couple of sites that feature creative designs and printing resources to make help your brand stand out.
Links to round business card ideas
How can you make a statement and stand out every time you meet someone new?
Maybe thinking outside the box is not really where it’s at, but instead thinking inside the circle might be a better answer.
Imagine this guy showing up at your office for a job interview. It’s likely your judgment filter would kick in in less than 30 seconds, and you will conclude the applicant is severely out of touch and may have been living in a cave for the last 30 years.
Not a good first impression.
This week I was working with a trade association that has engaged me to speak to 5 of their chapters in 2014 on branding. During our negotiations, I mentioned to my contact that the trade association’s current logo needed a facelift. In addition to the logo mark being too busy, a major part of the design was the state of Florida.
Lose the “So last decade” logos.
Yikes! Someone call the brand police, Using the state as art is passé, just like a blue leisure.
The light blue leisure suit is a great metaphor for branding that is outdated and reflects a tired or should be retired elements.
Sure light blue leisure suits had their hay day. Along with fax machines and the Sony Walkman. But unless you a putting together an exhibit at a history museum, they need to go away and be replaced with something current.
Design styles change just like fashion. Is your logo or look and feel of your brand communications relevant and in tune with the times.
Even if your brand image is nostalgic or classic, it’s important to make sure it’s still relevant.
Beyond logo marks and the look and feel of a brand, here are two other areas where those light blue leisure suits can pop their ugly heads.
Update your sad office décor.
Last month I gave a speech to a design and construction company. They worked on a lot of cool projects. Their work was creative and modern, yet their office was filled with light blue leisure suits.
Their décor was full of way ugly and old furniture, hanging plants that were popular in the 70’s and art that did not support their brand essence.
The next one I was recently guilty of.
Upgrade the tired technology.
Until last month, I was using an old iphone. One of my clients called me out. Karen, what’s up with the antique phone. He was right, my choice of equipment was dated and not consistent with my image as a progressive and relevant branding authority.
Touch points like your logo, office décor and even the equipment you use should represent you are, not who you were in another life.
This week audit your top touch points.
Your web site
Your brand identity, logo, look and feel of materials
Your business cards
Your social media image
Spot a light blue leisure suit? You know what to do.
This week, I accompanied my dear friend, Pam Iorio, the former Mayor of Tampa, to the Lead & Succeed event in Tampa. If this event comes to your town, attend. For five bucks you will hear top notch business speakers and likely make some great contacts too.
Pam was one of several keynote speakers and she inspired everyone, including me, to find a higher level of leadership in themselves.
She shared stories about her journey in life and she talked about the three important behaviors that she sees in great leaders.
1) They don’t waste energy fretting about the competition. They focus on their own performance and improving.
2) They treat everyone with respect and make everyone feel important.
3) They don’t give self-doubt a chair at any party.
While these points are pretty simple advice, if you think back to any moments of soft leadership you observed, or were a part of, they were not likely practiced.
Along with Pam, the speaker roster was impressive and included: Steve Forbes, Les Brown, Carly Fiorina, Terry Bradshaw, Former Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords and her husband, Former Astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander, Mark E. Kelly.
Pam and I got to meet Gabby and Mark just before their talk. While our time together was brief, it reminded me just how precious life really is and how things we all take for granted, like speaking and having a healthy, functioning body, can be taken from us in 45 seconds. Gabby’s resilient spirit and will to return to normalcy, while dealing with the tremendous scars and pain of that dark day in 2011, were beyond inspirational.
A couple of weeks ago, I seduced many of you into opening my blog only to find out that I’ve not read Fifty Shades of Gray yet but did read Magic of Impromptu Speaking, by Andrill Sedniev, while taking some time off of work.
I promised a review on the book, so here goes.
The book caught my attention as its subtitle states: Create a speech that can be remembered for years in under 30 seconds. The fact is, I and gazillions of other book buyers gravitate to titles that promise fast and almost immediate results. A good formula to remember when you are writing product copy or selling a book.
So was he telling the truth or committing a marketing sin and telling a big white lie?
It’s a gray area. Maybe not fifty shades but at least three. The book is excellent, filled with wisdom that can be applied to formal speeches and varied other opportunities of attention, like when doing a media interview, interviewing for a job or taking a stance in a board meeting. All good stuff for building a brand.
His driving premise points out that in any speech only small pieces are truly remembered and these message gems are often unscripted, off the cuff and impromptu.
So if you knew that going in, you’d think Andrii delivered on his claim. If you were expecting the ability to craft a speech, a brilliant 30-60 minute presentation in 30 seconds you may question his claim, but no one will be disappointed in this book.
4 brand building take-a-ways:
1) Great speeches answer questions.
Andrii’s book and formula puts attention on situations where there are questions. Which is important. Questions are thrown at us all everyday. If you are preparing for a full-blown presentation, you can still benefit from his concepts. Just ask yourself questions you believe your audience will be thinking and address them in your content.
2) Your mental state matters.
Whenever you are on stage (literally or figuratively), or poised to talk or answer questions, being in a high-performance mental state is critical. This means being relaxed, open-minded, confident and excited.
3) Don’t strive to be perfect.
This is self-inflicted stress. There are no speech police that will arrest you if you miss a point or can’t answer a question.
4) Stories provide anchors and associations that audiences need.
Stories connect facts, data and principles to life and hopefully your audience is alive. As a business expert, you should have a handful of stories that you can recite blindfolded, or hanging by your toes, on any given day with poise and passion.
Which brings me to my next adventure.
This week I’m headed to Colorado Springs to spend a couple days working with a long-time coach and adviser of mine, Doug Stevenson.
Doug a former actor and stand up comedian created the Story Theater Method, authored a book by the same name and is a master storyteller. His work helps professional speakers, like me, topic experts, and businesses leaders around the globe, deliver stories that rock, persuade and stick.
I’m looking forward to amping up my story telling, enjoying the mountains and maybe even some snow.
Next week, I’ll recap what I learn.