Seth’s at it again (thank goodness)

I admit it. I’m a Seth Godin fan. He’s a really smart guy, who doesn’t take himself too seriously, who is willing to take chances and take credit whether it works or not. He’s the kind of person I’d like to chat with at a cocktail party – although I hate cocktail parties.

Seth’s latest endeavor is a creative little e-book called “What Matters Now“. He is giving it away; asking people to email it to friends, post it on their blogs and tweet about it. I’m doing all three.

The idea is to ask yourself what matters to you, and then make plans to think about and do things that matter throughout the year. Seth asked a group of well-known individuals, big thinkers and generally cool people to tell him “what matters now” to them. The e-book is a collection of their thoughts. PLUS, it is a brilliant marketing device, of course. Many of the contributors have books coming out in 2010. This gives them an opportunity to promote their new works in an unassuming way. PLUS, there are well placed statements, I hesitate to call them ads, for a very worthy group called “Room to Read”.

So in a nutshell, Seth has given us a tons of great ideas to think about, allowed people to promote themselves and their works, and given visibility to a worthy cause. We should all aim so high.

What’s your brand promise?

I did some research earlier this year on the impact of personal brands, and people’s perceptions of what’s important in a brand – personal or otherwise. Respondents clearly indicated that what affected their perception of a brand were visibility, authenticity and honesty of the brand. Ok, great…what does this mean to someone trying to build a business and establish their brand? Or what does it mean to a company with an established brand trying to break into a new market with little brand recognition? You may be surprised to hear me say (or type) that it means the same thing in both situations.

Ultimately, the key is to have a defined brand promise – what is it that your brand stands for? Based on this you can then begin to prioritize your strategies and define your tactics accordingly. I have seen, over and over again, where companies (and individuals) jump into the tactics without understanding how they fit, or don’t fit, into the bigger picture. For example, I once worked on a brand re-design project with a major high-tech computer manufacturer. We had a well established brand and were trying to reposition it within in the confines of the overall product portfolio. Plus, we wanted to target a new demographic audience. Off we went to the branding agency who created several different graphic treatments. We reviewed them and made changes and came up with what we thought was a brilliant idea – very “off the wall”, especially for this company – but the new demographic “would be drawn to it” we explained to senior management who were having heart palpitations at the very thought of it. Picture this…a gorilla sitting on top of a PC. Something was definitely “off”, and it turned out, it was us.

This project never saw the light of day…why? We completely forgot the established brand promise we had been making, and continued to make, to the market. This design had nothing to do with the real world – it was graphically outstanding and visually compelling, but who cares? It didn’t relate at all to our brand promise.

Start by defining your brand promise. Here’s a list of questions to ask:

  • What does the company stands for?
  • What is the single most important thing that the organization promises to deliver to its customers?
  • How do you want customers to feel about your organization after interacting with you?
  • What the organization wants its brand to be known for.
  • What unique value to you deliver to customers?

Make sure you have agreement across the company – whether it is large or small. People should be excited about this. They should be able to rally around this promise and use it to make appropriate business decisions. If not, then you still have some work to do. But, I guarantee you, it’s worth it.

What’s the point of a brand?

We’re all bombarded with thousands of messages each day – personally and professionally. Maybe it’s because of new media like Twitter, LinkedIn or FaceBook. Maybe it’s the internet in general. Whatever the cause, the effect is the same. The volume of marketing messages is overwhelming to most Americans. In fact, 60 percent have signed up for the do-not-call registry; 33 percent have installed Web pop-up blockers, and nine percent have signed on to a do-not-e-mail list (and 40 percent may want to). So the question is: “How do you break through in this environment?”

One answer: branding.

Everyone has a different definition of branding – everything from your logo, your message, to your visions and personality. Each of these is correct in a way. My definition (just so we’re clear) is that a brand is a promise; a promise of authenticity and value and sets our expectations about the product or service we associate with the brand.

That’s all well and good, but here’s the real question: What’s the point of having a catchy slogan if it doesn’t strengthen or support your business? Why invest in PR if it doesn’t translate into increased awareness and recognition? Why go to tradeshows if they don’t produce high-quality leads? Branding, or a promise to your customers, is a way to differentiate yourself in a crowded market so your company can sell more stuff. Short and simple.

Independently, without a coherent brand strategy, these tactics do little to attract customers and drive revenue. However, as part of an integrated brand and marketing strategy, these and other tactics are the foundation that will deliver results for your business. Sounds simple, right? Well, often the simplest things are the hardest to do.

Here are three things you can do today to make sure your brand is doing it’s job – helping your company sell more stuff.

  1. Look at your website: Is your brand consistently applied on your website? Do you use the same logo, or do you have multiple logos scattered about the place? What about your messaging, are you delivering similar yet different messages and confusing your customers?
  2. Ask 10 people what they think: You want to know what they think your brand stands for. Hopefully you get similar responses, and hopefully they are right on target. If not, well, you have more work to do.
  3. Step out of the box: Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Step outside your company and look at what’s going on around you. Is your brand relevant in today’s market? Are you linking with current events and trends?

Marketing should get people’s attention, and convince them to consider your company’s products or services over the competition. An integrated brand including strategy, messages, visual identity, and other marketing tactics extends the impact of your marketing investments. You can more efficiently and effectively improve awareness, produce leads and ultimately drive revenue. After all, isn’t that the point?

Seth Godin has rules too.

I first saw this video of Seth Godin last year at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference, and it made its way to me again today. If you’re interested in branding and marketing, it’s worth 30 mins of your time…believe me.

Seth Godin has rules too

After re-watching it, I realized how right on track we are with 42 Rules. 42 Rules is about helping people get their ideas out of theirs heads and out into the world in a variety of formats – books, webcasts, blogs, videos, etc. Here’s is what I took away from Seth’s rules as it relates to 42 Rules:

  • We are doing the right things – just not enough of them
  • We invite readers to participate in the conversation – These Are My Rules…What Are Yours?
  • We give away content – via Get 5 Rules
  • We are strictly permission based

What can you do to apply Seth’s rules to your marketing efforts? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have permission to talk with your audience? Or do you just think you do and are hoping for the best…
  • Are your ideas worth sharing? Are they the words you hope your audience cares about, or, are they the ideas your audience cares about in your words?
  • Why are you doing what you do? Because you’re passionate about it, or, because you hope to make money at it?

The key is to understand yourself, understand your audience and identify where the two intersect. That is how you build your brand and your business.