Photo from ArtistasCafé.com website.
Cause marketing is nothing new to brand builders.
But this program is really special and was the deciding factor when I purchased my last automobile.
Several years ago I had to put my car in the body shop and I needed a rental car. The rental car company that my insurance carrier worked with had a relationship with the local Mercedes dealership and I ended up there to pick up my car.
I had never been to this dealership before and was not in the market for a new car, but that day I left with a memorable first impression.
The showroom was more like a sophisticated retail store than the typical dealership. There were no hawking sale people looking for their next deal to pounce on and there were no loud blinking signs promoting their low prices. Instead there was a professional and knowledgeable team all stylishly uniformed, from the greeters in bright designer dresses to the valets in tailored khakis and sporty shirts. Smooth jazz filled the air and the walls were filled big contemporary art and images of art like cars.
Even though I was just there picking up a rental car, everyone was over the top kind and welcoming.
In addition to beautiful display of cars, they had a boutique filled with well-merchandised Mercedes-branded apparel and accessories and a quiet waiting room with ample private areas to work or make calls. However, the coolest part of the experience had nothing to do with selling cars, it was their refreshment area. A place they call Artistas Café. Here customers are served complimentary coffees, teas and fresh fruit smoothies. And not your average coffee shop, this gem is run by a non-profit foundation called Art for Autism. Beret sporting and garbed in purple art smocks, the team at Artistas Café is beaming full of happy and hospitable attitudes. All of the baristas share a common challenge, they have Asperger’s and are autistic.
The café is the brainchild of Vicky Westra whose daughter has autism. In 2007 she struggled to find information on the disorder and the foundation was born. The café idea came in 2010 when GM, at the time, approached her wholesale coffee company about running a shop in the dealership. Westra saw a chance to help those with autism. The dealership agreed.
This win-win partnership provides training and job opportunities for folks who may have a tough time finding an understanding employer due to their autism while providing the dealership and the community a great little brand that serves up big smiles, coffee and snacks. The café is open to the public. You can learn more about the program and the team here.
A few years after my initial introduction to the dealership and the Artistas Café, I needed a new car. That awesome experience that day, years earlier stuck with me. I had many choices in Tampa to find nice cars and even friendly service. This dealership created an experience unlike other dealerships and added something really special.
Is there an opportunity for a win/win cause marketing program that gives back to a non profit and adds to the experience your brand delivers?
Branding tips from the road warrior.
This past year I’ve been to over 50 airports in the US. I’ve seen and experienced the good, the bad and the most disappointing. For a long time airports have merely been geographic facilities that connect people to places, events or attractions that they were headed to.
Today airports are hospitality brands.
They have a bigger role in our lives. They feed us, entertain us, provide shopping, spa services and technology, and they hopefully keep us safe. They also hold the keys to the first impression as leisure and business travelers journey to their ultimate destinations.
It’s nice to see government bodies and transportation leadership that get it. And do their part to enhance the destinations that these airports lead to and also provide consumers with a nice experience since their taxes fund these places.
Here are a few cool things that I spotted airports doing well. How can you apply these ideas to your brand?
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) brings an artful adventure to their brand with a memorable underground light and sound tunnel. The 700-ft. walkway moves passengers from concourse to concourse. The display is one of the first large-scale uses of color-changing LED lighting in the US. There are numerous traveler-produced videos of the tunnel available on YouTube! When you build a brand, you earn points when you deliver something different that people can talk about. DTW did a nice job of enhancing their environment and standing out in the blur of boring airports.
A customer-centric experience adds to economic development.
Tampa International Airport, (TPA) my hometown airport is awesome. In fact, when I was deciding to move to Florida, this airport was a big reason I picked Tampa. Named year after year by top travel publications as one of the best airports in the US, it’s easy to get around, has free Wifi, the environment is bright and clean, they offer good food and interesting shopping options. And they have set up social media channels to quickly respond to and help travelers. Every time I’ve posted something on twitter they respond in minutes.
What sets TPA apart from many airports is that they truly care about the customer experience and show it. This airport hosts business workshops, provides spontaneous entertainment, from marching bands to dance teams and they have their own in-house personality/celebrity, AKA The Airport Insider. This super brand ambassador not only holds down an important job at airport as an audio video guru, but regularly appears in social media and videos about Tampa and airport news and topics.
Check out the Airport Insider here as he interacts with airport visitors and gets involved with the local community.
Their great work never stops either, this year TPA started a billion dollar renovation and expansion to stay competitive as an airport brand of choice.
3) Surprise your visitors with something unexpected.
One Flew South – airport brandingImage from One Flew South’s website
An airport restaurant so good, you book a plane ticket with enough layover so you can eat there.
While the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport (ATL) can be hairy, their mix of retail and great dinning has earned them a good airport brand score in my book. It’s called One Flew South and I have often scheduled my flights so I can enjoy a meal here. Can a memorable meal change attitudes about a stressful travel experience? It certainly doesn’t hurt.
4) Empower your employees to reflect the brand.
Brand ambassador Service with an added beat.
When you think about all that goes into creating a great brand experience whether it’s your business, one of your clients or major airport brand, don’t lose sight of the value an individual brand ambassador who carries the torch directly to the customer every day has. A few weeks ago I was in the Atlanta airport and met an amazing sales person named William Hannah. He works for Inmotion Entertainment, a company that offers electronic gadgets to go, at over 37 airports in the US.
William mastered the art of attraction as he danced non-stop in front of the storefront. Beyond his display of talent, his friendly, positive attitude, he aced product knowledge too. It’s no surprise that William leads his team in sales performance too.
Check out William’s smooth moves here.
And then there are airports that consistently deliver awful experiences.
In business and leisure categories, unfortunately there are some brand categories that people will use or support even if they totally suck. This applies to these sorry airports.
San Diego Airport
This one was a surprising disappointment. San Diego (SNA) has great reputation of being a beautiful, relaxing destination, so when I recently flew on Southwest and had one of the worst three hours of my life, I was puzzled.
Maybe it’s a stepchild gate and Southwest is still fighting for respect.
What’s more bizarre is SNA’s website makes you think they understand creating a great brand experience. It’s one of the few airport sites that uses a creative tagline “Mastering the art of airports.” The site opens with this copy:
San Diego International Airport is committed to providing superior operational efficiency, service and comfort. Each of our three terminals is passenger-friendly facility designed to accommodate the needs of our many travelers.
Seriously, has this copywriter ever really flown out of this place? Maybe the entire airport is not this bad, but if you are flying out on Southwest, prepare to be miserable. The Wifi is beyond lame, there is no food in sight unless you like fried fast food, there are no recharging plugs/outlets anywhere, let alone enough seating. On top of that, the 4 or 5 people I communicated with were grumpy and must have skipped the customer service class in their training. I had to pay a shoeshine guy to clean my boots just to sit for 10 minutes and be treated well.
I’ll keep this short and to the point. This place is nasty all the way through, every time I’m there. The only bright note is Felix with http://kglimo.com/, my car service for over 15 years, is there to sweep me away to the city that I love to visit. If you travel to NYC and need safe, reliable transportation, Felix is the man.
Airports are brands too. Hopefully, the bad ones won’t stay on the “airports to avoid” list forever or new options will emerge and consumers can decide who they want to do business with.
Just yesterday, I received seven requests from companies I do business with.
Some are not too disruptive because they arrive in your email. Others can feel annoying, like pesty flies, especially when they are tied to an experience that has caused you a lot of stress — like when your Internet goes down or your computer locks up. Next thing you know is that you are behind on your work. Not five seconds after you hang up with a technology support person whose English is not the best calls you to find out how their brand performed.
While research is well intended and provides critical insight to make the best decisions, if you are customer-careless, it can backfire too.
As a marketer, gathering customer experience feedback is important, but being sensitive to the situation, the buyer’s mood and appreciating their time is key.
Here are seven ways to get better feedback from your customers.
1) At the beginning of the outreach, message or call, always give your customers an option of participating or not.
2) Keep things simple and brief. So your customers do not feel like it’s a lot of work on their part. I recommend a mix of closed and open-ended questions.
3) Do reward customers who participate with a voucher or a tangible gift. This can be a valuable touch point to build loyalty too.
4) If you use email as your survey method, make sure it’s branded with your graphics and brand voice and if you can include a signature with a real person’s name.
5) Let your customers know their feedback matters by showing them that their feedback actually transpired into improvements and new offerings.
6) Monitor your social media. This is a good way to gain intelligence while being non- disruptive to customers and is low cost.
7) Make it easy for customers to post reviews about your brand by reminding them of your feedback and social media channels.
Bottom-line stay connected with your customers. Listen and pay attention to their behavior. When you learn something new, take action.
One more quick thing
Interested in building your consulting practice? Join me in Atlanta for the first Million Dollar Consulting Convention.
I’m one of the global, expert faculty members at the Million Dollar Consulting® Convention in Atlanta, March 11-13, 2105. The keynoters are Alan Weiss and Dr. Martin Seligman. The 11 expert presenters and your colleagues from all over the world will create an experience that has never before been provided for solo practitioners and boutique firm owners. My program will be on branding. Alan Weiss has been one of the most important coaches in my career. If you are looking to amp up your career, I highly recommend you check this out.
You can learn more about it, watch a video and register here:
This will be a unique event in the world of consulting, coaching and professional services. If you can come, I hope to see you there.
It’s never easy to let go of something that’s been a part of you, your work and your life for years.
Brands come and go.
Some last longer than others. Recently Procter and Gamble alluded to saying goodbye to approximately 20% of their brands – the underperforming ones. The ones that didn’t align to the company’s core business and the ones consumers just don’t care about anymore. One of these includes Ivory soap. If you were born before this decade, you know the brand.
Consumers mourn the loss of brands they love.
Great brand builders know that time heals.
And the story can be reframed.
Change is the fuel of progress.
Stuff that was once relevant is out of style.
Relationships that were inseparable lost their passion.
Popular ways of doing things are now obsolete.
What do you need to lose or change to improve your outcome?
Back to Ivory Soap, They’ve been around for 135 years; kids don’t want to use things they read about in their history book. Now if they changed the shape to a smart phone or called it Zombie Suds, they may have a future.
Today’s loss is tomorrow’s gain.
Some days writing is effortless, fun and comes like breathing, easy and without much effort.
Other days writing can be really hard. It’s like climbing the tallest mountain with no sight of the top and brutal weather beating up every inch of your soul.
The final report, a book proposal, a blog post with the next branding tip, an article, a letter, ad copy or brochure content is no different on either path. The difference in the journey and joy is to not seek perfection. Do your research. Do your best. Give yourself a deadline. Add a period or exclamation and start working on your next masterpiece or victory.
Commit and carry on.
My good friend and fellow branding buddy Bruce Turkel is an amazing writer and talent. I’ve been reading his blog ever since we met at a comedy workshop for the National Speakers Association.
Recently I noticed that I was getting two copies of his blog in my inbox. I pinged Bruce and asked him, “Was this an email error or a smart intentional marketing move?”
Totally planned. The mail system he uses lets him resend the mail to folks who didn’t open it the first time. Here’s the real kicker, the click through on his email/blog after the 2nd hit increased by 8-12% by sending it again.
Makes good sense, right? I know I often mean to open and read his blog… but, I just run out of time in the day. However, that friendly second send get’s my attention and I click through and read it.
I use Mailchimp for my outreach mail service and just learned I can set this feature up too. So if you miss opening my branding blog, you will now get a friendly 2nd reminder.
What else is worth a double or even triple dose?
Repeating a point or as my storytelling coach Doug Stevenson coined, a “Phrase that Pays”, when you give a speech or presentation. By repeating a short, punchy action driven line, he contends the program message will stick to the audience’s mind much easier.
Repeating the name of a person you just met has value too when you struggle to remember names. Just say the person’s name in your conversation back and it sticks.
If you missed any of the messages in my blog this week, print them out and read them again tomorrow. That should help.
It’s called content scraping.
Your content is basically copied and used on someone else’s site for their search results and credibility benefit. This can be accomplished by a lazy human who cuts and pastes your words into their site. Or it can be done with automated software, owned by equally lame people. Without lifting a finger, your branded, search engine-optimized content appears on some bogus URL or website.
The first type of crime happened to us. Restaurant Branding Roadmap blog is a site that Jocelyn Ring and I run. Our focus is to help restaurateurs build brands. As part of our marketing, Jocelyn was on the social media site LinkedIn, posting discussions about a recent blog article she wrote. As she was reading other posts to learn about what people were having conversations about and what topics of interest were trending, she stumbled on a discussion with the same exact title as her post. So she clicked through… and to her shock, she saw her post verbatim on someone else’s blog with no mention of her name or credit to our site. In fact, the byline was the owner of the site and his blog was also based on restaurant marketing/branding.
Jocelyn immediately reached out to inquire. “Mr. Blogger, your content is a striking resemblance of ours, word for word.” Mr. Blogger was quick to reply saying that he was so sorry because he had interns working for him on social media… and they obviously messed up.
Yeah. . . students thrown under the bus, because he got caught.
So how do you prevent this from happening to you?
There are monitoring methods and software that can help. After doing some research, this article by Kissmetrics.com sums it up well and provides a good list of helpful tools. Don’t be a victim of content scrapers.
It’s always been a dream of mine to attend Fashion Week in New York City. Thanks to a local charity auction, it became a reality a few weeks ago. In April, Wheels of Success, a nonprofit in Tampa that provides automobiles for people in need, held their annual fundraiser. Like many charity events, they had a live auction offering some very cool items. The package I bid on and won was two tickets to go to a show at the 2014 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
Fashion Week New York started in 1943 as way to distract from French fashion during World War II, because the fashion industry could not travel to Paris. It was also an opportunity to showcase American designers who at the time were in the shadow of the French Couture houses. Today, New York Fashion Week is the first of 138 Fashion Weeks around the world that kicks off the two main buying seasons, autumn/winter and spring/summer.
Fashion Week in the major markets like NYC, Paris, Milan, London and Berlin are mostly invitation-only events where design houses, fashion brands and their public relations firms invite store buyers, fashion journalists and celebrities to view the new styles, colors and looks that will set the trends for the coming season.
If you are not in the fashion industry, the media, or like me and had an opportunity to snag a ticket through a charity event, you can still attend. American Express Concierge service offers several events ranging from runway shows in their skybox, to private meet and greet events with designers. The costs range from $75-$350 a ticket. I attended two shows, Georgine through the charity package, and Malan Breton, that I purchased through American Express. Another option is to get a gig as a volunteer contact: email@example.com, or try interning for one of the sponsors, designers or a PR firm.
My experience at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was a blast. Beyond the runway productions, beautiful models and my sneak preview of next season’s fashions, I gained insight on how an industry like apparel is adapting to change and how non-fashion brands are now getting in on the spotlight of this international trend setting stage.
Since I was in the city for Fashion Week, my friends at Fox News asked me to come by the studio to provide some footage for their affiliate networks about my observations and what I learned about branding trends. Here’s some of what I said and some other interesting finds.
Fashion Week is a runway for all kinds of brands to take off!
The stage starts with 100,000+ trend and fashion influencers coming to New York City. They’ll add over $25 million to the city’s economy.
7 days of showcasing over 250 designers and savvy brands seeking a connection to the styling crowd will help: journalists pen their stories, trend setters decide what is cool and mass market retailers determine what to knock-off to stock their fast fashion stores.
The critics’ loves and hates, pics and pans direct what is pushed out to consumers and the scan of impact is so much greater than fashion, these style trends will be seen in décor, technology and even food.
The world of fashion influence has a new face.
It’s not limited to the big books of fashion like WWD or Vogue from years past. Today some of the runway’s front row seats were taken by social media tastemakers and bloggers with big fan bases.
You don’t have to be a design house to get in on the action at Fashion Week.
Zappo’s set up recharge stations across the street from Lincoln Center offering weary fashionistas and other industry folks a place to chill, relax and refuel.
Brand visibility never hurts.
Swag, product sampling and placement were alive and well.
My American Express gift bag was full of cool things, my favorite being a commemorative swellbottle.com, the reusable drink container that looks fabulous too. If you’ve not seen these, check them out here. They offer an array of designs, finished in insolated bottles.
Technology and fashion continue to merge.
Samsung was one of this year’s Fashion Week sponsors, showcasing everything from their latest smartphone to their new wearable smart watch at the Samsung Galaxy Lounge. Open Ceremony launched their Intel-powered smart bracelet and other tech brands like Fitbit are partnering with fashion names like Tory Burch. Even Google techies are teaming up with fashion veteran Diane Von Furstenberg – and this is just to name a few. And if you are not that into accessories, just wear a well lit dress by London-based firm CuteCircuit who uses LED technology on its designs to display twinkling lights that react to the wearer’s movement and charge when plugged into a USB. They can also be programmed with customized text or feature designs chosen via the company’s app.
Had a great time in at Fashion Week and look forward to many more. So as you can see, branding is becoming more important than ever, even when you throw tech companies in the fashion world!
Stress sucks energy out of people, then they get distracted and don’t produce because they cannot focus on the stuff that makes them productive. Without productivity a professional or entrepreneur can’t generate value, which converts to income and joy, which makes them really stressed.
A lot of stress that we invite into our lives is preventable. But often we don’t invest in small things that when you need them have a big payoff.
Investing in stress reduction.
There are some things in life I really don’t enjoy spending my hard-earned money on. Three that come to mind are tires, parking tickets and any kind of insurance. While I’ve never experienced a blow out on my car or had to spend the night in jail for parking violations, I do have three stories about insurance that I hope you’ll gain from. Investing in insurance has great upside, especially when your bad luck number is called.
1) Luggage does get lost.
Luggage insurance is $7.50
I buy luggage insurance through American Express. Every time I buy a plane ticket they automatically bill my card $7.50 each way. A few months ago I flew Southwest airlines from Tampa to San Diego. I presented a program on branding for speakers and consultants at the National Speakers Association’s annual conference. I arrived safely, but my luggage did not. With American Express luggage insurance, if your checked luggage is more than six hours late, you can buy what you need for up to $500 and American Express credits your charge card. If my luggage never showed up or was damaged, this coverage also provides additional replacement cost above and beyond what the airline gives you. Most airline replacement policies pay pennies on what you lose.
The low cost and the ease of getting what you need quickly made this insurance work for me.
2) Stuff happens.
Content insurance is pennies compared to replacement cost
I own a condo that I rent out in a Tampa high-rise. Last month, I got text from my tenant at 4 a.m. saying there was a major water main break in the building. He was not exaggerating. A pipe burst on the 10th floor and water flooded like a baby Niagara Falls for several hours down to the first floor lobby. What a mess! The reality is this stuff can happen in your home or office on any given day. Fortunately I had dwelling insurance, my tenant was not so fortunate. He did not have renters insurance, which is very inexpensive. When he moved to Tampa his former policy lapsed. If you rent, make sure your office and home have content insurance.
3) Computers still crash.
Make sure your data and any contractors’ data is being backed up too
Everything is digital today. Accounting records, work product, and photos and videos preserving your important events and memories. My computer has not crashed in a few years, but when it did, I learned my lesson the hard way. I take two measures to back up my files, one on a cloud product called SugarSync. The nice thing about a cloud is you can access your files on the road and from many devices. I also do a daily back up to an external drive that syncs as soon as my computer connects. Here’s the key, even if you have this all set up like I do, sometimes the sync won’t happen. I can’t explain why, just trust me; it’s a good idea to set up a weekly reminder in your calendar to make sure all systems are working and backing up. And if you’ve got contract staff working remotely, make sure they are taking the same measures as you.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper created the Ridiculist, where he features questionable news items, actions and interesting people with his signature full on snarky smile. FOX has Bill O’Reilly and his Pinheads, a noble collection of his favorite idiotic personalities doing really stupid things. This week I’m rolling out Brand Bummers, my official list of brands, people and organizations doing things that I scratch my head and go WHY?
If you make it on the Brand Bummer list, don’t take it personal, take some action and ask yourself, is the Branding Diva® right? Is this a pretty lame act, is it helping build your brand’s image or is it diluting all of the other good branding efforts and investments?
Personal brand bummer! Professional image, NOT!
For years I’ve been a support of Tampa Bay WaVE. It’s a start-up organization that provides education, networking and resources to local startups in the Tampa Bay area. This week I received an email announcing a Shark Tank Simulation event. The event sounded great, but what I noticed might not be the most strategic brand building moves for one of the judges. I’m not sure if the organization posted it or Mr. Simpson provided it, but either way this image would not be the #1 choice on my list for reflecting the credibility of the CEO, Troy Simpson or the image of a successful technology company like ProntoNOW.
Brands are built from a collection of experiences and visuals. If you’ve got an opportunity for brand exposure, put your best picture forward that reflects your brand.
Retail brand bummer! I don’t want to carry this brand home.
I’ve shopped at Dillard’s for years and while they aren’t Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus, they are a fashion brand. Fashion is what society leans on to express who we are, fashion reflects our values and sometimes even badges us with a symbol of social status. Dillard’s carries many great fashion brands from Chanel and Ralph Lauren to Calvin Klein. In fact, their tagline is: The Style of Your life, which in the branding world should confirm the essence of the store.
So for the life of me I can’t figure out why for years Dillard’s sends us home with our fashionable purchase in the ugliest shopping bag known to man. Did they buy a 20-year supply and just can’t give them out fast enough? Hey Dillard’s bag buyer, I’m not saying you have to spend tons of money on an amazing bag like Tory Burch’s fabulous bag. I am saying this touch point is just a huge disconnect to who I believe you want to be in the minds of your customers: a style resource, who gets what’s going on in the world of looking good.
Brands are built from a collection of experiences. Your packaging should reflect your brand essence.
Banking brand bummer! Please cut down the phone trees.
This next brand bummer is not isolated to this brand category; in fact many big company brands commit this brand sin everyday. I call it phone tree hell, when calling this brand is dreaded more than getting a root canal and calling your experience brutally miserable would be an understatement. My recent culprit is Bank of America. I get a mailer from them letting me know a loan I have will be maturing soon. They provide a 1-800 phone number to call for questions. I call the phone number only to be directed to the wrong department three times, having to explain my story to three different people. The forth time I call I’m assured they will connect me to someone who can help me, I’m transferred again, only to this time get disconnected.
I know you’ve been here. Poorly planned phone trees that are never tested by brand leadership generally suck. If executive leadership experienced what customers do, I believe we’d have more customer-friendly phone systems instead of hopefully cost efficient ones. I suppose I could change banks, but the thought of what I envision would be even worse, not just a root canal, but one without Novocain.
Brands are built from a collection of experiences. The one your customers have on the phone should be as delightful as your interacting with your in-person support team and your product or service.