Brand and branding are a part of everyday life, pop culture and even the media. It’s not uncommon to hear a journalist, a high school kid or even a seemingly out of touch, very mature person talk about brands, what they love, hate or the latest news about them. So if the world is brand-driven, why do so many individuals and businesses get the brand-building dance so wrong?
Branding is not rocket-surgery or tango on a tightrope. In fact, the principles behind a great brand are quite simple. Where I see the weakest brands, I also see patterns of missteps that a little planning, practice and discipline can correct.
The stage for any brand, including speakers, consultants, trainers, authors and entrepreneurs have a lot of similar factors to face. Competition is more intense than ever, as buyers are often uniformed and or confused out of their minds and our world is noisier than ever.
Great brands break through all of this chaos.
Your brand, if done right can actually have a powerful affect on your competitors’ brands. When your brand is perceived as memorable and distinct, the competition will appear like a lost guppy in a sea of sameness, standing for nothing special and with no compelling value.
If thoughtfully planned, your brand can turn the uninformed consumer into a smart buyer. In addition, by getting your brand kicking on all cylinders, your other marketing and sales efforts will be so much more effective.
So what are you waiting for?
Get your branding boots on and let’s shuffle through five critical steps of brand building that will improve your bottom line and make new business development easier and more fun.
When I entered into the speaking business in 2000 my tank of resources was bone dry. I had no experience as a professional speaker, and I had just lived through a really bad experience with a dot.com investment that wiped out all of my bank accounts and 99% of my confidence.
Fast-forward 14 years, today I own a successful and rewarding branding firm. I speak professionally, I’m a published author of two books, and lead a consulting practice. I credit my commitment to building my brand as the Branding Diva® as the number one game-changer in achieving these career results and enjoying a very comfortable quality of life.
Here are the steps I took that can be applied to any organization or individual brand. While I love to dance, if you have two left feet, that is no excuse to miss out on having a rocking brand.
Get clear on what your brand is and is not.
Your brand is the sum of all you do. It’s the impression you create from your story, your communications, your behavior and your performance. It’s not your logo. A logo is no more than an elective tool that works for some brands. I don’t have a logo. I do have a look and feel and tone to my branding that resonates on all of my touch points.
Your brand is sum of all you do.
• How you look
• How you act
• How you sound
• And whether or not you deliver on promises
All of your actions matter.
Remember your market is not limited to just buyers of your brand. The image and perception you portray to your employees, yours peers, the media and even your competition count as well.
2) Articulate your brand essence.
Great brands that stick in the mind of buyers are aligned to business goals, reflecting the core values and the personality of the entity or individual behind them. To stay focused, I suggest developing a written document that clearly articulates your brand essence. While this may be the toughest part of creating or updating your brand, it is also the most essential. Without this one-to-two page brand-planning document that clearly summarizes who you are and what you stand for, you will have to work twice as hard while spending more, and you will likely lower your odds of being successful.
I started practicing this step of articulating my brand essence early in my career. As markets changed and as I’ve grown, I update my brand essence annually. Once you have completed your brand essence, all of your big decisions about marketing, operations, your team and even the kind of work you will accept should support this strategic direction.
A strong brand essence or framework document can take many forms. To help develop this document for your organization, I suggest answering the following questions that I’ve used to help craft my brand.
What is your brand purpose?
Your answer should include: your business mission, your vision and your aspirations.
What are your brand values?
Your answer should include: What motivates your actions? What do you believe in?
How would you like to position your brand compared to your competition?
Your answer should address pricing, social and leadership stature.
What are 3-4 adjectives that best describe your brand personality?
Your answer should be traits or characteristics that you live out everyday. In my case, they are: creative, stylish, witty and confident. Initially, limit your list to 3 or 4 descriptive words, as this will keep you focused on the most prominent traits. You can always add more adjectives later.
What is unique about your brand?
Every brand has unique attributes. Unfortunately, many don’t take the time to identify their strongest differentiators and come up with a plan on how to leverage this distinction as a brand platform. Your distinction could be visual elements, a style of work, or even a communication voice.
So what is unique about you? If you are thinking it’s your love for your customers, or that your service is the highest quality, STOP!!! That is totally LAME. Everyone can say that. Dig deeper. Get creative and put the spotlight on a real point of difference about you or add something to your platform that is different. The list of ways to be distinct is endless.
Once you decide what your unique elements are and you consistently present them to the market, they will become your brand assets. Some brand assets can be protected with trademark registration and copyright law. I trademarked my Branding Diva® years ago. This past year I amped up my brand persona and distinction by producing a music video complete with dancers, costumes and a branding jingle I call The Branding Boogie. Every program I give opens with this branded video. Below you can watch how I end my presentations.
3) Create a rhythm with a consistent brand voice.
Once you are clear on your brand essence, your brand voice needs to develop. Your brand voice is the consistent body of content, words, and phrases you use to tell your story. When developing a brand voice, word choice and tone are the two most important aspects. Word choice relates to vocabulary, while tone refers to the attitude of your copy. When you write, consider both. A tool I use is a simple page of words I call my brand language. I try to use these words and phrases on all of my content further strengthening the equity of my brand.
Your list can include:
• A tagline
• Words you made up or coin
• A set of names or nouns you call your offerings and services
• Select adjectives
4) The costume matters. Look your brand.
We are a visual society. In fact some communication experts say 90% of a first impression is formed by what people see. This means every ounce of your brand packaging counts and these elements either add to your desired brand identity or dilute it. How you dress, what your business cards looks like, what your website and social media communicate and your choice of photography all matter. This means small details like the image you post on your Linkedin page is a reflection of your brand, your style, your persona and positioning.
Red has always been a part of my brand identity. I always wear red when I speak. This year I added bright red cowboy boots to my wardrobe to further communicate my down-to-earth, Texas-chic and fun style. Go back to your brand essence. Do your visuals align with what is on this brand framework? If not, you’ve got some work to do.
5) Do the branding boogie everyday.
Great and memorable brands don’t happen overnight. They take time. And in the busy and competitive world we all operate in, consistency and frequency are key. One clever, unique act will not build a strong brand. An attractive logo and punchy tagline won’t do it either. You must live your brand essence everyday. Then repeat, repeat and repeat again.
Your brand essence needs to be integrated into all of your touch points. Every single place you interact with buyers, employees, colleagues and even the media is a brand molding touch point. How your voice mail sounds on your phone, what your office looks like, and the promotional things you give away all need to resonate your brand essence.
Without any choreography at all, every business and person has an organic brand. This free-style brand, reputation and image is the by-product of just showing up in the marketplace. This dance will only get you so far and the market will control your destiny.
Why not take the lead?
Be clear on who you are and where you want to go. Take these strategic steps forward, so all of your moves support your brand essence and you perform at your best everyday.
I wrote this article for The National Speaker’s Association Magazine. It was published in their June issue. If you are interested in taking your message to audiences through speaking, writing, training or consulting you should consider joining NSA. I’ve been a member for years and find that it’s one of my most valuable investments in my professional development. This year I will speaking at NSA’s 2014 convention in San Diego in July. For more info on my talk, the organization and convention visit their site.
As a branding speaker and business consultant, I rely on technology to present ideas and content that educates and inspires my audiences. My presentation software of choice is Power Point and while it has certainly contributed to my success, recently it made me furious.
I’m a MAC user, so this issue may not apply to my PC readers. When I present talks on branding, I insert videos into my Power Point deck. I’ve been doing this for years and by clicking the start arrow button they project sound and display video beautifully.
Then one day I’m in front of 100 people. The video I’ve inserted in my Power Point is a critical part of my program. I tested it the night before and the video worked fine. I arrive early to set everything up. I plug into the venue’s projector and sound system with all of the right adapters, and I think I’m ready to roll.
The host introduces me. I click to move my slides forward anticipating that my cool video will play next. I hit that arrow button that always works and nothing happened. Except my heart rate increases so much, I feel like a heart attack may be next instead of the video playing.
I tried again. The resident IT support showed up and they tried too. Nothing worked.
How could this happen? Who at Microsoft did I piss off? Was it the driver that was tailgating me yesterday that I shot a not so ladylike gesture to, could they have put the technology voodoo curse on me?
I hate to admit this, but I was definitely shaken by this malfunction. I tried to keep my confident persona present and deliver my content. I got through it without shoes being tossed at me, but no doubt this was not one of my finest presentations.
And I hate when that happens.
As soon as I got back to my hotel I called Microsoft support. “How could this happen?” I screamed.
A calm, gentle voice from some place far away replied, Ms. Post please tell me what version of Power Point is this file in?
With the same hair on fire voice, I said, PowerPoint 97-2004
That’s the problem he said. There are bugs in the older version.
Here’s the crazy thing, I have the newest version loaded, but somehow I either opened an old program version to file my new presentation or accidently saved it back.
The lessons here are:
Always work in the latest PowerPoint from Office 2011, the title will end in .pptx, not .ppt.
I also learned that the current version of PowerPoint is not perfect either. Should this issue of can’t play the movie you inserted properly thing happen to you too, be aware that in the Office for MAC 2011 version, sometimes the microsoft.powerpoint.plist gets corrupt.
If you encounter a moment like I did and you are about to potentially deliver a less than killer presentation because of your PowerPoint is not functioning properly, try this.
Just for MACs
1:Quit all the Office Applications
2: Click On GO in your top menu bar
3: Hold the Options key and click Library
4: Select Preferences
5: Look for Com.microsoft.powerpoint.plist and move to the trash
This process will automatically create a new plist Preference, wiping out the corruption and any “ruin a good day” ghosts that were causing you the issues.
In closing, unless you move to planet perfect, technology snafus will happen. Be bigger than them, don’t let them spook you and throw you off your game. Have plan B in your back pocket and do your best!
I adore my iPad. It keeps me connected and productive especially when I’m sitting idle somewhere waiting for something, my food, my drink or my next big idea.
When I purchased it, I opted for the simple black case with an extended keyboard. That worked for a while until my keyboard battery seemed dead more often than I had patience to deal with. Plus, what was I thinking? That black case was boring and did not symbolize my brand style.
Well I fixed that. I found the perfect lipstick red leather case at the Apple store.
Michael Kors iPad clutch
This investment not only generates regular compliments by my fellow fashionistas, but it also makes me feel a lot more creative. It will set you back $130.00, but if you divide all that benefit by 730 days or two years, it’s a steal.
Jot Touch4 – iPad pen also known as a stylus
Now that I’m a bit more branded up with my accessories, I needed a Bluetooth pressure sensitive writing instrument for my tablet. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do, it’s a very slick and a useful tool to take notes on the fly, doodle in a rainbow of colors and even work the keypad and your favorite app. If you have an iPad, I’d recommend getting one of these. The battery will last a month and recharges with a USB connector. Just keep your eye on it. Losing this $89.00 pen would be a bummer.
Samson mini Go Mic
One of my goals this year is to master some new skills, using iMovie and then being able to make videos and audio tracks with my Macbook Pro. I’m making decent progress and hopefully will have some things to share soon. However, along the way, I did discover that the built in microphone in the computer is not good. I found this small and portable clip on model from Samson for $39.00 and it’s really good, plus you can throw it in your bag when you need to produce stuff on the road.
Downbeat hearing protectors
This past year I’ve been doing a lot of work in the audiology industry, working with Oticon, a leading manufacturer of hearing devices and their retailers. These are the folks that test your hearing and provide some truly innovative technologies to restore hearing loss. While I’m glad they do what they do, I hope my hearing remains and I’m not a customer anytime soon. Which brings me to my last gadget from Downbeats, high fidelity hearing protectors. These small, fit in your earplugs reduce the damaging noise that can hurt your hearing and clarify the great sounds and grooves you want to enjoy. I’ve worn them several times and they really work. And the best part they are only $10 and come in niffy carrying case that clips on your keys or other accessories. If only they made a red case, then they’s be really perfect.
I wrote this blog a couple of years ago. Today it may even be more relevant as brands and businesses look for fresh ways to stand out in a busy and noisier marketplace. If you read it the first time, I’ve added some new ways to stand out that are worth checking out.
Odd Fish Finish First
Imagine a big glass tank loaded up with hundreds of squirmy gold fish. Pick the one you want and in seconds you’ve lost it because they all look alike.
Suddenly, behind the coral tree, from within the school of many, emerges a slim, purple and orange fish. He quickly stands out from the group, his distinctiveness apparent. He swims around with a unique confidence and a bold identity, while the others just seem to fade away.
Odd fish are memorable. Odd fish command a premium price. Odd fish exude added dimensions of value. Odd fish finish first.
In business, understanding this metaphor is the difference between drowning in a sea of sameness and being a great brand. Jack Trout (speaking of smart fish) noted in his bestselling book “Differentiate or Die” that choosing among multiple options is always based on differences, implicit or explicit. Psychologists point out that vividly differentiated characteristics anchored to a product can enhance the public’s memory of it because they have added uniquely to the mind of the consumer. In other words, if you are promoting a product or service, give the consumer a reason to choose it. This concept is so simple, yet many business leaders
struggle with applying it to their brands.The problem starts with defining what distinction truly is and is not. Distinction is not that you love or care for your customers more than your competition does. It’s not that you are a one-stop shop or even that your product or service is of the highest quality. Those are all vital attributes, but they are also likely touted by 90 percent of the competitive players in your category.
Distinction in branding is something that you do so well and often that it is truly different and has become your asset—so much so that your competition would be unlikely to try to mimic your actions. It’s something that your buyers identify as really unusual and, as a result, award your brand extra space in their info-aged, over-crowded minds.
Developing a platform of distinction requires courage by leadership. Doing things differently can draw out herds of critics, from customers to employers to industry players. That’s to be expected, because new or different requires the adoption of new thinking and it’s human nature to resist it for some time. Have faith and believe in your oddness. Believe in your brand.
Take the test:
How distinct is your brand? Are you an odd fish that stands out or are you simply one of many in a school of fish?
• Visually, does your brand look different than your competitors?
• If you covered up your logo on your brochures and We site with only the content visible, would anyone know it’s your brand?
• Does everyone in your organization know how you’re different?
If you answered “no” to even one of these, you’ve got work to do. As you explore new points of distinction for your brand, ask yourself:
What’s relevant to the needs and desires of your customers?
Are there current events, social attitudes or recent wounds from an issue that would prohibit open acceptance of your point of difference?
Can someone easily copy or imitate your point of difference?
Will this point of difference be sustainable for a substantial period, get better with age, or quickly become irrelevant and out of style?
Does this point of difference have the legs to carry the brand? Can it be leveraged by other aspects of your brand?
49 ways to be an odd fish and stand out. Some of these can be strategic story platforms and others can be seeds for tactical actions.
- Share your unique history
- Create a distinct experience
- Do something backwards
- Design a delivery process unlike any other
- Let speed (fast or slow) be your unique thing
- Show off what you do
- Show off what you don’t do
- Pick an exclusive philanthropic cause
- Design a unique signature gift
- Coin a unique word
- Produce a unique event
- Launch an advertising or memorable campaign
- Let your location/building set you apart
- Design your office décor/environment in a special way
- Partner with a distinct association
- Play off your unique brand name
- Tell a compelling story
- Introduce a new technology
- Leverage a Graphic icon/mark
- Combine two unique things to make an unusual combination
- Serve a niche market-A lifestyle, age, gender
- Offer a distinct pricing model/buying program
- Off unique products and services
- Own a special style
- Have a really cool theme
- Use an unexpected color
- Build a new system
- Tout an accolade
- Different ingredients
- Unique uniforms
- Save the earth while you are at it
- Use unexpected humor
- Package it in an unexpected fashion
- Give something big away
- Offer an unbelievable guarantee
- Gift often
- Be exclusive
- Create a mascot
- Charge a lot more
- Give it away for free
- Take alternative payments
- Use a metaphor
- Rearrange something
- Sacrifice something important
- Break a century old rule
- Conduct an annual poll (quirky, scientific, funny)
- Super-size it or exaggerate it
- Get nostalgic with something new
- Simplify a process
Consumers are smothered with more than 5,000 brand messages every day. The marketplace is cluttered, with many excellent options offered. If you want to make the buyer’s choice easy and finish first, you’ve got to be truly distinct and communicate those unique attributes at all touch points every day. The services and products space is very competitive. To find your distinct calling, you must look deep inside your organization and explore all your branding touch points.
Think about your processes, your communication and your services. The possibilities are endless.
Using video is like adding high-octane fuel to a Hennessey Venom. In case you missed it, because you blinked, this year the Hennessey Venom GT broke the world speed record at 270.49 mph at the Kennedy Space Center.
“Video has been the fastest and most consistently growing medium for content marketing,” said Lori Rosen, Executive Director, Custom Content Council.
Want more traction on your Website and social media channels? Add video.
Branded video is sharable.
It can become viral.
Today everyone can use video.
I recently added video to my branding tool kit. When I speak, I open every brand talk with my Branding Boogie music video. The video tells a story about boring Bob’s brand and his cry for help. This drama sets the tone for my presentation message. Boring will get you nowhere.
Using video in a presentation is a powerful way to get the audience’s attention and project a consistent brand essence. Like in my case, that’s fun, entertaining and bold. So I produced this video with the help of my long-time, trusted broadcast resource, Christian Schwier and Litewave Media. They are a great firm to work with – always professional, creative and deliver on time and on budget.
Beyond professionally produced videos, this year I’m committed to creating more videos myself too. With an iPhone and iMovie, there’s no reason not to take advantage of this high impact branding method.
Research confirms the muscle of branded video.
Videos in a Tweet can bump engagement 28% according to Twitter’s media blog. Facebook’s stats show even more. Expect a 120% higher hit rate when videos are posted on your Facebook business page.
Got 6 seconds? Twitter Vine is short, sweet and can help you sell.
I just downloaded the app on my iPad and iPhone. I have not mastered it yet, but am working on it. I did find this excellent article with helpful tips and examples on using Twitter’s Vine video to build your brand and this one by always entertaining Gary Vaynerkchuk too.
Got a big budget? Check out what Chipolte did.
Last week the Groupon content team asked three branding experts for their favorite food branding examples. I cited Chipotle and how they used video to share their social values and further build their brand with a comedy series they call “Farmed and Dangerous.” The satirical video puts a dark light on corporate agribusiness. Even though Chipotle’s brand role is almost absent until the end, they used entertainment and value spotlighting in a very provocative way to let the public know their views about this issue. Read branding experts favorite food brands article here.
Video is where it’s at. What are you doing to add it to your brand arsenal?
Vision boards – get what you want
I recently attended the National Speaker Association’s mid-year conference. I took away many awesome ideas about branding, presentation skills and new technology. My biggest takeaway was to accelerate your success, get a vision board.
In the early 1990s, I always had a vision board, in my office, at my branding agency in Houston. A large black bulletin covered with pictures of situations, places and things I wanted to experience, share or own. When I made something happen or achieved a milestone, I removed the item from the board. By the late 90s, my vision board was empty and I had manifested a bunch of amazing stuff. I credit that board of pictures as an important tool that kept me laser focused on my goals.
Last week, a good friend of mine who had also attended the NSA conference and heard the same speaker recommend, “Get your vision board up. If you can see it, you can achieve it.”
Friday, my friend texted me a picture of her newly completed and hung vision board. It was really cool to see her dreams. It got me thinking—it’s time to have a new visual board again too.
Today it’s easy, free and fast to create a vision board. With the internet you can find pictures of anything in seconds, versus mine in the 90s. I had to buy tons of magazines, dig through hundreds of pages to find the perfect images that represented my wish list.
My new board is in my office. My friend put hers in her bathroom. Put yours where it works best for you. Include everything you want to achieve. Look at your vision board often and do what it takes to make it happen. There’s not much that a determined person can’t do, especially if you live in the USA.
Another powerful picture – get over rejection
I’ve been reading, How to Get Unstuck by Barry J. Moltz. Barry’s a successful entrepreneur and leads an angel funding network that helps start-ups succeed. This book is really good. As it points out, no one is immune to getting stuck. In a well-organized style, the book addresses how many entrepreneurs and business leaders often feel. They work hard, put in crazy hours, and it seems they are on a treadmill going nowhere—Barry provides straightforward answers to fix this.
What I love about How to Get Unstuck is that it addresses typical scenarios that growing enterprises experience. From days when you hate your customers, want to kill your employees and vendors, to selling based on features, to not managing rejection well and operating like everything’s an emergency instead of from a pragmatic and proactive game plan. Barry offers up simple steps to get back on track, along with snippets of truth from real companies that were stuck and got unstuck.
I’m telling you about this book for two reasons. One, it’s a worthy read and it can make a meaningful difference in how you run your business. Two, Barry shares another visualization technique that was a huge game changer in his life. In chapter nine he covers how dealing with rejection can keep you seriously stuck, or using that rejection as a way to put you on a fast track to accomplishing great results.
You see early in his career he was in sales, making over a hundred calls a day and immersed in rejection. People would not return his calls, gatekeepers would not let him get close to the prospects and his self-worth was feeling below low. Then one day he came up with a strategy. He positioned a picture of his family in front of his phone. Every time he made a call and got the BIG NO, that visual reminded him, that if he didn’t make the calls and land business he could not take care of his family. That was a powerful visual aid in motivating Barry. From there, he calculated how much he made on each sale and the number of calls that were needed to close a deal. This calculation showed Barry that even when he was rejected, he was earning $2.50 for every dialed call. The bottom line of this math showed Barry that he was earning money even when he was being rejected. Fast forward to today’s branded, relationship selling—every time you send a prospect a relevant news article or share something insightful on social media you can use this method. Making a strong visual, tied to your goals and utilizing this same calculation will get you over your fears.
These two fast, free and effective methods can make a big difference in your life today.
What are you waiting for?
That’s right. Unless you have a written transfer of copyrights from the creator, whether an artist, copywriter, video producer, web designer etc., you don’t own squat.
I recently had the pleasure of working with Julee L. Milham an intellectual property attorney, on a song copyright issue. In upcoming blog posts, I will share more about this branding dilemma I faced and the advice Julee provided.
My experience with Julee was excellent. I was very impressed with her knowledge and her level of client service. For a reasonable fee, she quickly provided me counsel and insight on my matter.
I told Julee I was going to blog about my experience with her and asked if she could share some advice that the Karen Post blog readers and others in small business, marketing and branding could gain from. With permission from Julee, here is an important copyright fact every business owner should know about.
When you hire people to create things for you, you don’t own the results unless the transfer of ownership has been agreed to in writing — regardless of how much you pay for the work or what was implied or agreed to verbally.
While that statement sounds unnatural, it’s true. An exception to the rule is when an employee creates something within the scope of his or her job. Under this specific circumstance, you as the employer own legal rights to the work. However, this only applies to true employees (not contract or commissioned labor), and parties often disagree on what’s “within the scope of a job.” Outside of the employee exception, the law says an author (the creator) of a work owns it unless he or she gives it away in writing.
Does anyone take photos for your business? Do you hire contractors to create content for your website or marketing and advertising materials? Without the proper paperwork, the greatest rights you can have in such content is a non-exclusive right to use it. It’s confounding to pay for a job to be done and have ownership still vested with the person you hired.
Transferring copyright in these cases is simple but imperative. This principle runs true all the way down to your personal decisions, such as when you hire a wedding photographer or videographer. After you establish ownership, consider whether you should register any works you create or acquire.
Registration is not required but does provide some advantage- especially in the case of litigation. And before anyone asks, mailing a copy of your work to yourself does not count.
When you hire people to create things for you, you don’t own the results unless you have it in the proper type of writing – no matter how much you pay them or what they said. While that statement sounds unnatural, it’s true. If an employee creates something within the scope of their job, you as employer own it. However, this only applies to true employees (not contract or commissioned labor), and parties often disagree on what’s within the scope of a job. Outside of the employee exception, the law says an author of a work owns it unless he or she gives it away in writing. Does anyone take photos for your business? Or create content for your website or marketing and advertising materials? Without the proper paperwork, the greatest rights you can have in such content is a non-exclusive right to use it. It’s confounding to pay for a job to be done and have ownership still sitting with the service provider. Transferring copyright in these cases is simple but imperative. This principle runs true all the way down to your personal decisions, such as when you hire a wedding photographer or videographer! After you establish ownership, consider whether you should register any works you create or acquire. Registration is not required but does provide some advantages, especially in the case of litigation. And before anyone asks, mailing a copy of your work to yourself does not count.
Julee’s expertise is not limited to general intellectual property law. In fact, she is a specialist in entertainment law. And today with the Internet, the lines between business law and entertainment law are often blurry due to the popularity of audio and broadcast media.
About Julee and her contact info
Julee L. Milham has been practicing law since 1986, primarily in the fields of business, intellectual property, entertainment, alternative dispute resolution, and service to the court. She is board certified in Intellectual Property, AV-rated by Martindale Hubbell, Chair Emeritus of the Florida Bar Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law section, and co-founder of the NYSBA Committee on International Microfinance and Financial Inclusion. Julee is admitted to the bars of Florida, New York, California, and the District of Columbia along with several federal courts. A graduate of Stetson University and Stetson University College of Law, she studied Comparative Human Rights and Corporate Governance at Oxford College of Law in Oxford, England and is admitted to the Roll of Solicitors for England and Wales. Julee can be reached at julee@milhamLaw.com.
If you’ve got a copyright issue or need to protect something you have created and need a trusted legal eagle, I highly recommend Julee.
. . . and lives a happier and more fulfilling new life.
A couple weeks ago I attended the The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in Tampa with my buddy, fellow motivational speaker Tami Evans. Showcasing over 300 talented artists, the event transforms a downtown Tampa park into an amazing outdoor museum.
I really enjoy attending festivals where creatives not only get to show their work, but where capitalism is alive and well and the masters of this talent earn money too. And when I discover a new artist, buy a piece of their work and there is a story of a newly born entrepreneur, that’s a bonus!
Meet Jason Brueck who only a week before turned in his resignation after 12 years as a corporate lawyer. He is now free to be the boss, as a full time artist.
Jason’s work caught my eye. His artistic style used dramatic black and white photographs and then a mix of color and graphical digital effects. The result was a real and surreal visual story, leaving the final interpretation up to the viewer.
In the piece I bought, which he calls Birds of a Feather, I saw a symbol of how I feel just about every day as entrepreneur. Balancing life, work, relationships with my independent and creative-souled values. At the same time, I related to the young woman confidently walking on a tight rope, feeling liberated to conquer yet facing the reality of the uncertainty and the risks that come with being self employed. And the soaring birds, while beautiful they can also poop on your head and ruin your perfectly coiffed hair in a minute.
I loved the piece. It spoke to me. I bought it.
As I’m about to pay for my new art, I quizzed Jason about the nicked up black frame that encapsulated the work. I was also curious about his journey as an artist. Turns out Jason originally from Ft. Myers, FL had spent the last dozen years in a suit and tie defending pharmaceutical companies.
So how did this corporate lawyer get the call from entrepreneurial voices and take the plunge?
For Jason it happened 4 years ago when he moved into a new house. He wanted something fun to hang on his walls, but found himself in that middle market with few options. Wanting something interesting, more than a mass-produced $40 print from IKEA, but he couldn’t afford to spend a ton on his artwork.
Ultimately he ended up hiring a digital artist to create three images for $600. After a good bit of collaboration and a lot of time, Jason was disappointed with the end result. His ideas got seriously lost in translation. So he decided to buy the software and teach himself, knowing this was the only way his ideas would manifest in the way he wanted. That year an artist emerged.
Toying with the idea of a career change in the summer of 2013 while participating in some pretty big art shows, Jason realized that being an artist could be a sustainable vocation. At the end of a big weekend, he crunched the numbers and realized if he could devote himself full time to being an artist, not only would he be happier but potentially better off financially as well. Plus, the fact he couldn’t stand his job, or his boss, didn’t hurt either.
The nicked black frame, well that was part of his new journey and the business law of: “Shit happens”. On the way from Philly to Tampa, Jason had loaded up his truck, packed with framed artwork. As he headed south, he suddenly heard a load noise and pulled over. Unfortunately, the shelving safeguarding his artwork broke and all the art hit the truck floor damaging many pieces, including the one I was buying. But as another law of entrepreneurialism shows its face, “What does not kill you, makes you stronger”.
Hearing Jason’s story was exciting. Another smart, courageous person enters the small business nation and joins the forces of millions of others who are willing to risk the imaginary safety blanket of a corporate career to follow their dream and control their destiny.
When I met Jason, I promised him some advice on being an entrepreneur and concerning his new website that he had just launched.
3 pieces of entrepreneurship advice:
1) There will be bumps along the way.
Your shelf breaking in your truck will likely be one of the smaller challenges you will face. When you hit a bump, learn from it quickly, don’t make the mistake again and return to focusing on your goals.
2) The term starving artist came about because a group of creative people didn’t make good business decisions and blamed others.
Selling art is a business. Finances, branding and operations are all important functions and critical disciplines that need to be managed everyday. You are driving the truck, so drive it wisely. Invite other smart people to help you and have fun.
3) Work from a plan. Or plan to fail.
Start with the end in mind by writing out your 12 month and 24 month goals. Schedule your days. What gets scheduled gets done. Write short-term goals every month. Share them with a trusted person, so you will be accountable.
4 pieces of branding advice for Jason:
1) Your Website (http://alterimages.net/).
Good start. As a visitor, I want to learn more about you. I’d add more copy about your story, what’s important to you and details on your pieces. They should all have stories. I like how you use lower case letters on the header. I would make that part of your graphic style and lose the upper case letter on your website titles. I also want to know about the limited editions on the large prints, so you can start marketing the higher priced items on your site.
2) Your blog.
You are in a visual field. Your brand needs to be visual. When you blog, add photos. Use your name and company in your posts. Search engines like this and over the long haul it will be easier to find you on line.
3) Your social media.
Make it easier for people to get social with you. Add social icons next to your prints. Move your social icons up on your site from the bottom, so people connect right away.
Your phone number is hard to read on your business cards. Consider adding video to your site too. Re-post your blogs, either manually or with an auto feed, to Facebook and Twitter. I’d add a section called “press”. You should have your press kit there and once you start getting publicity via blogs or other news venues, you need to add the links. Add your bio, facts about your work, etc., and include the photo you want used when you get covered.
You’ve got talent. Now you’ve got time.
Make it happen!
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.