The stumbling blocks to effective branding

An effective, enduring brand is one that knows and conveys its identity very well. Fall prey to distraction and ill judgment and run the risk of losing to the competition. Always, the marketing tenet that reins brands to their identities is having a clear understanding of what the brand stands for. The following roadblocks to creating and sustaining a successful line of products or services impart vital lessons in the ways of branding:

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1. Extending the brand line without planning and discretion. From being a purveyor of animated clips and full-length movies, Disney became an entertainment empire thanks to line extension. The secret behind its success is focus—every product or venture, from cruise ships to Hannah Montana shirts, is aligned with its intent to provide wholesome entertainment. Harley Davidson got lost along the way, according to the book Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 Biggest Mistakes of All Time. Instead of moving the legendary motorcycle forward, the line extensions, which had been as weird and off-putting as shampoo and infantwear, obviously just milked the name for all its worth and failed to live up to the brand’s rugged image. Needless to say, many of its loyal customers were alienated.

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2. Being way too silent. “As a brand, you are what you say or do,” says Entrepreneur contributor Neil Patel. There is no messaging worse than not saying anything at all about the product or service. Hence, the wheels of marketing should always be set in motion, rolling out ads, blogs, social media content, and email alerts, among others. Bear the aphorism in mind: “Out of sight, out of mind.” A prolonged absence in the spheres of both traditional and new media translates to diminished consumer consciousness, increased brand disengagement, and flatlining sales.

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3. Making costly mistakes in social media. Always, social media content should be fresh, sincere, and tastefully crafted. Brands like DiGIorno and Bank of America had to learn this lesson the hard way. The former associated its brand with the hashtag #WhyIStayed—used last year to spark conversation on domestic violence—by cracking an insensitive joke that invited a cascade of social media fury. Likewise, the latter suffered a virtual beating after dissatisfied clients underscored its ineffectual practice of handling social media queries with automated messages instead of sincere, real-time solutions. Social media gaffes spread like wildfire; a brand can get away with such oversight by issuing an apology, but it is better to have a game plan for preventing them in the first place.

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REPOST: 5 Ways to Distinguish Yourself With a Personal Brand

Personal branding influences how professionals and businesses market their expertise and services to clients and partners. The following article from provides tips for creating an effective personal brand:

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Personal branding has become an essential part of entrepreneurship. Your brand affects the reputation of your business as much as it does your professional career. Whether you deliberately pursue fashioning one or not, your personal brand affects how you market yourself to those around you.

Your creation of an effective brand helps other professionals think of you first when they hear about a new business opportunity. Whether you need to impress a new investor or convince a client that your business is the best choice for a new project, your personal brand will influence how successful you are when you sell your professional capabilities.

Your personal brand paints a picture of who you are. It encompasses all your characteristics, from the way you dress and the look of your business cards to how you handle conflict — and everything in between. It results from how you see yourself but adds up to how others perceive you.

Don’t let your personal brand develop by accident. That leaves too much to chance. Instead, purposefully determine and cultivate the best brand for yourself as you navigate your career. Ask yourself, How do I want my peers to consider and remember me?

Use these tips to ensure that your personal brand sends the right message.

1. Write down how others describe you.

Think about how you want to position yourself before you create your brand.

What types of comments and feedback have you received from clients, colleagues and acquaintances? What words do they use to describe you? The qualities that others associate with you — such as intelligence, charm, kindness and humor — can become a core part of your brand.

2. Develop a tool kit.

Every aspect of your brand should consistently reinforce the message and reputation you want to convey. Create a website, blog and portfolio, along with social-media profiles, to accentuate your brand and better market yourself.

If your professional photograph is outdated, hire a photographer to take a new head shot. It can be included in your branding tool kit and used when you’re invited to speak at events or featured in a newspaper or magazine.

For the shoot, select a classic outfit that complements your hair color and complexion. Your photograph should reflect your professionalism and credibility.

3. Choose a car carefully.

The type of vehicle you drive is a personal choice. Though you may think of your car as simply a means of transportation to get you from one point to another, it says a lot about who you are and what you value.

People are often attracted to cars that mirror their self-image, whether it’s practical, luxurious or sporty. Whatever car you choose, keep the interior and exterior clean. A poorly maintained or cluttered car can send the message that you’re disorganized or irresponsible.

4. Invest in personal stationery.

It’s easy and inexpensive to create your own branded stationery. Invest in quality. Opt for paper of heavy stock and choose a color that best complements your brand.

White and ivory business cards are common choices for professionals in traditional and conservative careers, but brighter colors can be eye-catching and convey a more creative tone.

Purchase personalized thank-you notes on 100 percent cotton paper. Though more expensive than thermographed or lithographed stationery, the look and feel of engraved messages will lend a more stately impression.

Get in the habit of sending a personal note whenever someone does something nice for you. This will also enhance your personal brand.

5. Imbue your workspace with your character.

You spend a good share of your waking hours at your desk. Investors, clients and colleagues can glean a wealth of information about you from your office. A workspace devoid of any personal items will make your desk seem barren whereas a cluttered desk filled with stacks of paper and sticky notes may convey disorganization or a lack of discipline.

Don’t be afraid to decorate your office with a few personal touches. And if clients regularly visit your workplace, keep it neat and tidy.

Gotham Brand is a New York-based full service branding firm founded by Spiro Baltas. Get more tips on branding and marketing here.

REPOST: Attention Brands: This Is How You Get Millennials to Like You

The most effective way for brands to attract and win the support of millennials is by talking to them in their own language. Melissa Hoffman discusses this topic at length in the following article:

How can a brand get that coveted millennial nod? It’s all about talking to them in their own language.

“Ever since youth culture became a defined concept, marketers have been using the unique values of youth as an ‘in’ to young consumers,” according to a study from Havas. But in the 1950s and ‘60s, that essentially meant being against authority and the establishment. But that, the study says, is no longer true of the younger generation. Millennials “have less of an interest in rebellion and revolution” and tend more toward problem-solving, the study notes.

They also have a different relationship with their products and the brands that create them, said Norty Cohen, founder and CEO of agency Moosylvania. “This is a group that will adopt brands,” he said. “If you can create a friendship with these consumers, you really take it to the next level. They will go to great lengths to support you.”

In its study, Hashtag Nation, Havas notes that this loyalty aspect is very good news for marketers: “Today’s youth are significantly more apt than their elders to recognize—and value—the role brands play in their lives.” But this can be a tricky relationship to maintain, the study notes, as 40 percent of respondents ages 16-24 complain that brands don’t take them seriously enough.

“Brands also need to recognize that they’re now dealing with a generation of consumers who are much savvier than their parents were at that age,” the study concluded. “Young people have an innate understanding of marketing and of their value as consumers. And they’re significantly more likely than older generations to believe they have the capacity to help a brand succeed or fail. And why would they think that? Virtually every day they see some evidence of the power of ordinary people to effect change, whether it’s using Twitter to foment a rebellion in the Middle East or using social media to compel a company to behave better.”

In its 2015 study, Moosylvania benchmarked qualitatively what brand characteristics mean the most to millennials.

Initially, Moosylvania’s Cohen said, marketing “was all based on sort of this militaristic approach: Here is your target, blitz them with media. And now what we’re finding is they don’t want to be blitzed. … The tonality has to be in the zone of what’s on this page making people look good, keeping them entertained,” he said. “It’s all about this friendship piece.”

And how can marketers move into the friend zone? “There’s a lot of personal interaction with this demo. They’re going to look at any kind of social endorsement. TV still has a place, as do magazines.” And, he said, millennials love experiences, whether they’re in-store or app-based or video or experiential.

Innovation in this space is helping some new names into Moosylvania’s top 50 millennial brands for 2015. Macy’s was one of them. “Macy’s is doing all sorts of predictive analytics,” Cohen said, adding that Ralph Lauren is doing same. He added that their marketing is “very personalized and about making you look better, making you feel better.”

The Yahoo/DigitasLBi/Razorfish/Tumblr study included a list of tips for content marketers trying to reach this dream demo:

  1. Set the mood. Give them a repository for a particular emotion, or bond over a universal human experience.
  2. Help them escape by giving them a glimpse of the good life, inspiring them, and “reinforcing the millennial values of embracing life and finding happiness along the off-roaded path to adulthood.”
  3. Fuel creativity and play with absurdist mash-ups, artistic installations and carefully curated memes that are the tight fit for a brand’s attributes.
  4. Spotlight pop culture, especially using nostalgia nods, superfandom and celebrity musings.
  5. Help them succeed with how-tos, lifehacks and any content experience that makes them feel smarter.
  6. Help them discover things and see topics in a new light, which “taps into millennials’ desire for discovery.”

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Spiro Baltas is the founder of Gotham Brand, a full service branding firm. Get more branding tips here.

REPOST: Personal Branding Basics: 3 Easy Steps To Advancing Your Career

A brand is only considered effective when it has already established a certain reality based on the products and services it offers. High-grade fuel makes a petrochemical brand high-grade; top-rated shows make a TV network top-rated; and so on.

I googled “personal branding” today and got nearly two million results. When I started my personal branding business, Reach Personal Branding, almost 15 years ago, few people knew what personal branding was, and even fewer were interested in building their brand. Today, as Google results reveal, there’s lots of talk about personal branding, and virtually every career-minded professional understands its importance. Personal branding helps you find a new job, get promoted, open clients’ doors, increase business success, and enhance your happiness at work every day. And it helps you do your job better – regardless of your role.

Today, most major corporations have programs to help their employees uncover and build their brands to increase engagement, performance, satisfaction and retention. Yet, despite this high awareness of personal branding, misconceptions persist. In this article I share with you the personal branding basics from my latest book, Ditch. Dare. Do! – what you need to know so you can use the power of personal branding to fully energize and maximize your career. Personal branding is as easy as 1-2-3:

Step 1: Know Yourself

Effective brands are based in reality. When we think of Volvo, we think safety, and that’s because Volvo builds safe cars. Apple is known for innovation because everything they do, from their products to their stores to their genius bars, is innovative. Disney is synonymous with family entertainment, delivering memorable moments for every generation. To build a strong brand, you too must focus on authenticity – who you really are. Branding is not spin, and it’s not packaging (though packaging is a component). Strong brands are uncovered – not created.

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If you’re like most people, when you think about personal branding, you’re thinking about the sexy stuff – social media, writing articles, delivering presentations, etc. But if you aren’t clear about who you are, what sets you apart from others, and what makes you relevant and compelling to those who are making decisions about you, you’ll squander your communications efforts. You must know yourself.

Strong personal brands know their vision, mission, values and passions, have documented their goals, and are fully aware of their super-powers – their signature strengths. But it isn’t all introspection. In the “Know” phase, you need to learn what others think about you (here’s how you can get this kind of feedback). Since your brand is held in the hearts and minds of those who know you, you must be keenly aware of external perceptions when you’re uncovering and defining your brand.

Once you’ve gained the clarity of knowing yourself, introspectively and from external feedback, you can distill what you learn into your personal brand statement that describes your unique promise of value – who you are, what makes you unique and what makes you relevant and compelling to the people who are making decisions about you.

Step 2: Show Yourself

With a clearly defined and documented personal brand statement, you can begin to get the message out. In this step you build your career marketing tools, like your 3D brand bio, which expresses the whole you – who you are in your work, life and world. You also start to hone your message and your point of view. You learn to tell your story so you can build emotional connections with your target audience.

The 3D brand bio  has quickly become the most important marketing tool career-minded professionals use. It hasn’t replaced your resume. You still need to show a timeline of your accomplishments and career growth. But your bio does more to create emotional connections – to show the complete you – to those who want to learn about you. And it can play many roles; it can be refined and resized for your LinkedIn summary, on your company intranet, in your social media profiles and as your byline for articles you write or blogs you post.

In “Show,” you also design the packaging that embodies your brand. You do this by defining your personal brand identity system. This design system includes the font(s), colors, images and a tagline you will use consistently as the wrapper to all your communications. This wrapper helps reinforce your brand attributes and create recognition. Of course, when you’re communicating on behalf of your company, you must follow their brand identity guidelines, but for all of your own communications, your personal brand identity system is an essential element.

Step 3: Grow Yourself

Effective personal branding requires consistent repetition. In this step of the process you integrate your brand into everything you do by building and executing your personal media plan to increase the breadth of your brand and reinforce your message. You also increase credibility by integrating your brand into all your activities. Identify the tools in the real- and virtual-world that will be used to keep you visible and available to your target audience. Just as every company has a media plan, you too need to build and execute a communications plan so you are always in the sight lines of decision makers. Develop your media plan by looking at the intersection of the communications tools you love to use and those that will reach your target audience. Then, research the options available and start expressing yourself through those targeted tools. Remember to choose the appropriate social media tools to amplify your message.

To grow yourself, you also need to practice brand integration, meaning you need to rethink everything you do every day and find ways to inject your brand into those tasks. For example, if your brand is all about creativity, make the way you write agendas, lead meetings, compose emails, etc. more creative. Everything you do needs to scream creativity. Lastly, you need to think about your brand community. The members of your network can truly grow your brand by promoting you to those in their brand community. Building and nurturing relationships needs to become a part of your daily actions – that means finding ways to give value to those in your brand community.

Personal branding requires steadfast commitment, regular attention, and constant intention. But this should not be as daunting as it sounds because, above all, personal branding is simply about being yourself – your best self – always.

Gotham Brand, a branding firm founded by Spiro Baltas, is committed to establishing a productive partnership with clients in the creation of a customized brand identity and personality. Reap high returns on your brand-based investment by visiting this website.