Friday, May 11, 2012

Does your brand have a story?

All great brands do.

They may have had an interesting birth: Apple was created by two entrepreneurs tinkering in a garage in California. Facebook was founded student at Harvard who may or may not have stolen the idea from two classmates and the desire to get back at an ex-girlfriend. The idea for Federal Express only received a C from a Yale business professor when Fred Smith submitted it in a paper.

They may have overcome monumental challenges: Harley-Davidson has thrived since its near-death experience in the '80s. Tylenol's quick response saved it from product tampering. Ford made incredibly tough choices a decade ago and is now stronger than ever.

They may be populated with personalities and characters, champions and enemies.

Strong brands are more than just a collection of products, logos and ads. They are living, breathing organisms that evolve and grow, or whither and die. One way to prevent the latter from happening is to know your story and tell it well.

Don't just write a bio for your brand. Do more than list the achievements and milestones. Write the story. Novelize it. Illustrate it. Bring your brand to life as the hero of an epic tale.

People love stories. Tell yours well and you'll have more than customers. You'll have fans.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The price of choice

Wendy's, a company that had been on a roll, recently passing Burger King for the #2 spot in Hamburgerdom, has hit a bump in the road. It seems that sales are a little sluggish growing only one percent in the first quarter, while McDonald's posted gains of almost nine percent.

What went wrong?

Like a lot of marketers they made the mistake of thinking that if some choice was good, more would be better.

Specifically, they created a new burger for their menu called the W, a mid-priced offering created to get carnivores to trade up from a 99¢ value menu burger to something a little more substantial, thus increasing sales and profits.

What it did was the exact opposite.

Not seeing a difference between the W and their regular offerings, people traded down. So while unit sales remained essentially unchanged, dollar sales decreased.

Offering options to your customers isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it is if they can't differentiate between those choices. And don't count on advertising to make it clear to them.

If the products aren't obviously different at the point of sale, price wins.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Five questions to help you reach your goal

Before you start a new business, tackle a new project or make a decision that will effect your future, ask yourself these five questions.

Where am I?
Have you ever tried to give directions to someone who's lost? You can't until you figure out where they are. The same is true with business. Before you can make progress you must know where starting from. Create a clear picture of the present, your position in the market, your assets and challenges. Only then can you create a roadmap to your goal.

Who cares?
Who cares about your product or service? Who cares if you succeed or fail? Who cares if you take a risk? Who cares if you create a new business model? Identify those that matter and develop plans to make them happy. You may find that the only person who really matters – and the only person you have to please – is you.

What gives?
Don't assume you know everything. As you move forward, you'll learn. You'll be challenged. The landscape will change. You'll need to alter your course. Be ready to see the future as it emerges, not just as you have envisioned it.

Are we there yet?
In every journey there are milestones. Know what they are so you can track your progress and make the adjustments necessary to get back on track. Are you on schedule? Do you have the resources to make it to the next milestone? Has anything changed to make you rethink your course?

Why not? 
If you spend all your time asking why, you're looking for reasons not to do something. Ask why not and you'll begin to remove those barriers. Then you can start moving forward.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting to great

The difference between good and great isn't a big idea. It isn't breakthrough technology. It isn't a billion dollar launch campaign. Nor is it the celebrity you've hired to endorse your product.

The difference between good and great lies in the details.

It's in the curve of a surface.

It's in the simplicity of the interface between your device and the server.

It's in the elegance of your code.

It's in the feel and placement of a switch.

It's in the ability of salesperson to remember a new customer's name.

It's in the casting of your commercial.

It's in the editing of your newsletter.

It's in the the quality of your images.

It's in the kerning of your type.

Great ideas are a dime a dozen.

Excellence in execution is the most important determinant of success. It's what separated iPod from Zune, Ford from Chrysler, Avatar from Land of the Lost.

In a time when consumers have more choices than ever, good enough just isn't good enough. You have to sweat every detail on your great idea. People are not interested in shelling out their hard-earned pay for mediocrity.

If you're not willing to go all the way to great, you might as well not even start.