Small Business Advocate
Professional momentum starts with you. Karen Post joins Jim Blasingame to discuss how to create your own momentum by having faith in yourself and methodically turing obstacles into opportunities.
Brands are born, brands go through crisis, and some brands survive. Will you brand be ready to face an unexpected shakeup?
In the spirit of love and affection as many celebrate Valentine’s Day, the day of awesome relationships, frisky friendships, risky affairs and just plain gushy lust, I thought it would be appropriate to mention the everyday occurrence of unavailable brands. You know the kind, the not so healthy, lots of issues, not worth the time and certainly not worth the loyalty—when company brands get so chilly, so unconnected and just straight up are not available to their paying customers who truly want to love them.
The sad fact is there are many brands who behave like this and then wonder why their customers cheat and defect to a younger or more loving competitor.
Here are the red flags to know when it may be time to start dating- I mean shopping around:
- You’ve got a problem and there is no phone number on their website.
- Or it takes way too long and way too much work to find it.
- Or a “contact us” form with no reply or at best a form reply that says: “we are very busy, we’ll try to get to you some day”.
- Or you call them and after 20 minutes in the phone tree jungle, you speak with a customer service rep by the name of Carol, who you can’t understand, and you know darn well no Carols’ live in that country.
It’s unfortunate there are not horse-mounted brand police that would issue costly citations when companies play like this. But then again, unhappy customers now have a voice with social media, word of mouth and on high traffic blogs, just ask Dell, Bank of America and Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Tonight at tennis I asked my buds who they thought were some of the worst offenders, the not available brands, here’s what I heard. Tazo Tea, the Starbuck’s company, Sam’s club, the Walmart Company, Skype and the Microsoft Company. I’m sure you’ve got your list too. It is a shame that these big brands would be so clueless to the basic concept that open communication is essential to keep a relationship red hot.
Smart brands who value relationships with their customers make it easy for them to talk and they listen.
How easy is it for your brand to be loved?
To learn about more brand bumps and how the got back on the saddle, view: Brand Turnaround.
This past week one of my favorite guys and myself celebrated a birthday. I’m happy to report that I’m the younger one. In fact, Abe Lincoln is 203.
For those of you who know me well know I’m not a holiday girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate, I just believe that everyday you are above ground is a celebration and special, instead of making a big deal about the traditional Hallmark days.
As I added another year to my timeline this week, I reflected on some of the most meaningful threads that make up my fabric. I put together 52, and yes there is a reason for that number, I hope you enjoy.
These are not in order of priority.
1.) I used to think the number one factor in success was cash flow, this is a myth, it is self-confidence.
2.) Guilt, regret and worry are by far the most unproductive mind trips.
3.) More self-responsibility by everyone will improve the world. The government, your boss, your partner, your job, your clients and the next moron you encounter at the gas station can suck and impact a nice day. OK, what part of that situation can you control?
4.) Life is short. Live like it was your last day.
5.) I have over 10-deceased friend’s contact info in my iphone.
6.) Nobody or no thing can really make you happy.
7.) Peoples’ behavior, cash flow and things can definitely alter your mood.
8.) I can’t tolerate whiners, racists or people who don’t wear deodorant.
9.) Patience is not one of my virtues.
10.) Listening to music, playing tennis and winning are three of my top favorite past times.
12.) Hair color is by far one of the most important inventions in history.
13.) Unless you buy lottery tickets and win, delegation is a critical skill for success.
14.) If you give crappy instructions, you will get disappointing results.
15.) Awards are exciting, but the journey is where the riches are.
16.) Friends and relationships should add to your life. If they don’t, they are useless weights that should be dismissed.
17.) Design is really important. The elements of beauty, emotion and ease of experience make life better.
18.) If you don’t have a strong sense of humor, you won’t be strong in personal relationships.
19.) Spelling is important to many people. I’m not one of them.
20.) I wish dogs and other animals could talk.
21.) I wish some people would talk less.
22.) I hate mushrooms, phone trees (when you call for help hit #1 for this, hit #2 for that) and bureaucrats.
23.) Three of the biggest fashion crimes: men wearing too much jewelry, women wearing panty hose with sandals and long fingernails on both.
24.) There are way too many unproductive meetings held everyday.
25.) Thoughtful agendas and a meeting marshall can fix this.
26.) “Play up” in everything you do. This means hang with people and companies that are more accomplished than you and play sports with athletes who are better than you.
27.) Invest in you. Attend workshops, hire expert coaches and treat yourself often.
28.) Don’t always believe your mind. Sometimes it thinks up really stupid and damaging thoughts.
29.) Do follow your gut. It knows a lot more than you might expect.
30.) Appearance matters. Youthfulness, fitness, grooming, your teeth and wardrobe make a difference in business.
31.) Exercise is the best medication going. It sharpens your brain, provides more mental bandwidth and wards off evil stress.
32.) Self-promotion is not a bad thing. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is likely not too successful.
33.) The art of leverage is among the most important skills a successful person should master.
34.) No risk. No reward. Period.
35.) Bad fruit never gets better. You can fire clients, friends, spouses and brands. If they do not add to your happiness, get rid of them. NOW!
36.) Casting blame is often an action of a loser. Even train wrecks require willful passengers to pick the car, track and place it’s headed.
37.) Optimism is a virtue. I am an eternal optimist.
38.) The only person you can control or change is yourself.
39.) Don’t trust too soon. Don’t trust everybody and don’t harbor the past. But do file away any deceptive players in your experience cabinet.
40.) Market research has its place. However, it is not a crystal ball. Just ask Coke-Cola.
41.) You don’t have to like everyone. But you do need to respect everyone and their unique beliefs.
42.) When drinking wine or other adult libations cell phones, ipads and computers should not be present. In other words, communicating while under the influence of mind altering substances can come with risks.
43.) The past only matters if you choose to live there.
44.) Pole-vaulting to conclusions and writing the future can cause physical and mental anguish. Let life happen. Live in the present.
45.) Failure is the fastest way to success. And Failure is a temporary event.
46.) It’s never too late to start something, change something or be a better person.
47.) I like and enjoy breaking rules and I get annoyed by people who can’t go there.
48.) Often, I love acting my shoe size instead of my age. Playfulness, being spontaneous, independent and free to choose everything are a few of my driving values.
49.) I still don’t understand why our creators created cellulite, any moles or facial hair on women.
50.) My single greatest achievement: being a happy entrepreneur and controlling my destiny.
51.) You do not need to master everything. But what you do love doing—make it a masterpiece.
52.) Be the joy you want to experience everyday and life will never disappoint you.
What has the Planned Parenthood controversy done to harm Susan G. Komen’s brand?
Branding guru, CEO, marketing director, head honcho, boss, manager, entrepreneur—whatever your title, one day you may be faced with an unexpected challenge. Lead with courage, you’ll likely turn it around. Manage with mediocrity, and your brand’s life may be very short.
Leading a brand turnaround is no easy role. If it were, there’d be fewer brand casualties.
It takes a special kind of person—one who can lead and battle through brand bumps, uncertainty and the stress that comes with unfortunate situations like product recalls, scandal and controversy.
Having spent close to 30 years sitting in on committee planning meetings and inside boardrooms, and observing brands from around the world, I’ve paid close attention to how leaders act and react during catastrophic storms. Some gasp for air and drown while others take charge and employ strategic change that accelerates their recovery.
Those who pull through display a high degree of focus, resiliency and a sense of urgency throughout the entire ordeal. They are also willing to try new and unproven methods to meet their goals. This style of leadership and set of traits are pivotal in turning around a brand in trouble.
In my new book Brand Turnaround, I studied over 75 brands that were in serious trouble. I looked at their paths back to recovery and the leadership characteristics that helped propel the charge forward. Common behaviors included being:
- Courageous – They don’t fear uncertainty.
- Resilient and tough – They fight while under fire.
- Candid – They are honest, no matter what.
- Charismatic – They empower, inspire and excite.
- Humble – They are innately modest and value others’ worth.
- Gracious – They appreciate all stakeholders.
- Creative – They use imagination to solve problems.
- Generous – They share the rewards.
To explain these attributes in context, let’s say you own a vegan restaurant whose brand is suddenly under scrutiny because it was discovered that one of your signature dishes does in fact contain an animal ingredient. Being a good leader, how would you deal with this?
1. Detach yourself without losing sight of lessons learned. Momentarily abandon your emotional connection to your brand, and look at the entire situation as an outsider might.
2. Focus on making things better while avoiding blame. Maybe it’s the vendor’s fault. You were told that the ingredients contained no animal products. Suddenly the vendor drops a bomb saying that their manufacturer realized there in fact was an animal ingredient in the food. Even if this is the case, don’t spend time pointing fingers. It will waste energy and make you look like you’re focusing more on blame than addressing the actual problem and committing to a solution.
3. Have a clear vision of the future that addresses the triple bottom line: finance, society and the environment. Your recovery plan can’t simply be to fix your menu. How will you do this? What can you do to cut costs through the process? How can you make a sincere attempt at not displeasing too many people involved? Will your solution harm the environment in any way?
4. Leverage your own strengths as well as those of your team. Maybe your Marketing Director is a calm, pleasant speaker, able to keep her cool under stress. If this is the case, you might want to have her be the brand spokesperson. If your General Manager is a customer-service specialist, consider assigning him the task of personally talking to patrons about the issue. Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean the entire road to recovery has to be paved by you. You just need to be the one who leads the way.
5. Embrace new leadership tools including social media and digital communications. Whether or not you have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube channel or blog, you may want to start one during the shake-up. Have a designated team member manage the platforms and interact directly with consumers to show that your brand cares. Create a video on YouTube to personally express your concern and apology.
6. Be willing to take risks and accept failing forward. If something doesn’t work, try a different route. The main thing is to persist no matter what, because you are the one in the driver’s seat.
7. Be willing to “launch and learn.” Trust your respect for research and confidence in what you think is right. Don’t second-guess yourself too much during this time. If your first thought is to create an apology video via YouTube and then offer all Facebook fans a coupon, go for it. Maybe your video gets negative reviews and the masses bash your sincerity or feel a coupon isn’t enough of a fix. Try something else.
8. Love the game and play to win. Leaders are passionate people. No matter how much stress the customers and media may cause you, stay true to yourself and remember why you took the leader role in the first place.
9. Be willing to mix, mingle and listen to all stakeholders. Have an open mind because you never know who might come up with a good solution. Maybe someone knows of a more trusting vendor or a better way to boost morale. Don’t close yourself off to anyone, even if they belittle you or threaten to cut ties with you. You may even end up seeing some relationships crumble during this tough time. Be accepting and respectful then move forward.
The road to recovery starts with you, so tap into all these leadership traits you possess. This article is based on content from Karen Post’s latest book Brand Turnaround (McGraw-Hill 2011).
About the author
Known by many as the Brand Diva®, Karen Post is an international branding/marketing expert, professional speaker and author. She helps individuals; businesses and nonprofits around world succeed with powerful, distinct brands.
Karen has written two books: Brand Turnaround: How Brands Gone Bad Returned to Glory… and the 7 Game Changers that Made the Difference (available late 2011) and Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick in Your Customers’ Minds. For more info on Karen and branding matters, visit the Branding Diva thank you page.
How did the Super Bowl ads stack up this year?
Karen Post discusses Paula Deen’s brand hit and The Costa brand shipwreck disaster.
Signs are everywhere, unless you live on a zone-restricted island or in a cave, and even then there are signs. Maybe not the kind you order from Kinko’s, but there had to have been some sort of communication that was erected, posted or hung by someone with an intention to cause an action or a reaction.
I find signs interesting, sometimes confusing and often very enlightening. This week I was doing some cleaning in my office when I stumbled across some signs I saw this past year and shot photos of. Some made me laugh, some made me think, and others reminded me of the experience I had when I first encountered the sign. In any case, I thought they were worth a blog post and decided to share some ideas on smart signing.
This one was shot in New York City. I like it because it’s direct and the shop owner’s loose and random art direction earned him quite a bit of publicity. It was even featured on CNN.
Another shot in New York City. This one looks as if it has the same budget range as the previous sign… maybe it’s the same sign designer . A few good things here, resting areas are always a welcoming touch, plus they nicely integrated their website and Facebook page, a great way to stretch one’s marketing dollars or twenty five cents.
I bet I don’t even have to tell you where this one was shot. It’s a sad statement on how a bunch of criminal thugs can negatively brand a destination like Lagos, Nigeria. I do wonder how effective this sign was. Do bad guys read signs?
This sign was shot in Lewiston, New York just a few weeks a go. The interesting thing is it’s not a pet shop, but a gift shop. So are dogs behaving and people not so much?
I call this one a sign of retail friendship. How nice is it when the store Kohls helps a customer stay organized and make decisions.
I may be spending too much time in fitting rooms. Victoria’s Secret provides a gentle dose of Instant Self-esteem with their “I don’t care how much you weigh, you look hot in that thong anyway” dressing room message.
This last great sign I found while surfing the net. I really like it, because its simple and to the point.
All joking aside, signs connected to businesses are darn, critical touch points. Not only can they help direct buyers, or attract new customers, they are a reflection of your brand. If you are folksy and lighthearted, hand written, homemade signs can be ideal. But if you are upscale and elegant, don’t be using a crayon to scribble your message and wonder why your clients don’t think you are as chic as you do.
If your message is important, here are 5 tips for creating on brand and effective signage.
1) Use relevant type faces that are consistent with your positioning. A comic type face is not the best choice for a French fashion boutique, just like fancy wedding scrip doesn’t make a Western shop seem all that macho.
2) If you invest in a lit sign, maintain it. If the bulbs are out for 6 months, what kind of message does that send to your market. Not one of a well run operation.
3) The scale and kerning of letters (space between letters), and white space on the canvas are key design elements in conveying a professional image. Investing in some professional design help may be worth it.
4) What is your brand personality? If it’s silly, humor is great route to take to get people talking about your brand. If it’s hip and progressive consider materials that are as cool.
5) Audit your signs in the daytime and evening. Often prospects learn about businesses after hours.
For more on effective signage, view:
Outdoor advertising – effective tool? dangerous distraction?