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Presentation for Food Bloggers Connect Conference Talk in July

I did it, loved it and held a workshop after. London was amazing. Super weather and Andy Murray won Wimbledon that afternoon.
Here is the presentation from the day. I am working on getting the workshop notes across to those lovely people joining me that afternoon – I’ll be in touch in the next few weeks.
[slideshare id=24418630&sc=no]

All Change! (Perhaps?)

You are working like crazy on building your brand, playing it all by the book, getting plenty of exposure and collecting feedback. Make it a recurring practice to analyse and digest your findings.
We are in the great position that the old communication model of blasting out a message to the masses and hoping some of it sticks on some of the target market is long gone and a much more transparent communication model has replaced it.

Old brand communication model
Old brand communication model

New brand communication model
New brand communication model

It’s no longer a shouting match, it’s a conversation (or at least it should be). Many brands have embraced this and it adds an interesting dimension to marketing – the scope for more targeted campaigns to smaller audiences with a higher response rate has increased and is supported by the ever-increasing adaptability of digital print for ‘traditional’ campaigns.
As your brand evolves so will your customers. Vice versa, you have to be able to adapt to changing consumer behaviour due to new technology, politics, the economy, social trends, medicine, etc.
It may mean that advertising campaigns and loyalty programmes have to be adapted to suit changing communication styles, but it is above all a great opportunity for brands to act ‘real’ and show their personality.

brand communication model, brand management, Brand Strategy

Brand Touch Points – Get Your Hands Dirty!

“BRAND IS NOT WHAT YOU SAY IT IS – ITS WHAT THEY SAY IT IS” Marty Neumeyer

Brand strategy and brand building is a vast subject, ever-evolving and ever more relevant to everyone. Brands used to be owned by life stock owners to mark their cattle, by manufacturers to mark their products and assure us of their quality, by advertisers and marketeers trying to push their clients ahead of the competition. It’s only in recent years that brands have had to get their head around the transparency brought by social media and digital, by the immediacy of feedback via smartphones and tablets – and now more than ever brands are owned by all of us, they are made by us and risk being abandoned by us. Brands no longer have segmented touch points – they are interlinked and interactive.
Alina Wheeler made a lovely simple brand touchpoint diagram showing a number of brand touch points. Since I am having a bit of a cup cake theme for the food bloggers conference talk, here is one I made earlier.

Brand touch points
Brand touch points based on a diagram by Alana Wheeler

And if this is hard to read as a diagram, here is a list as well with some added points:

  • Advertising
  • Telephone
  • Social Media
  • Trade Shows
  • Networking
  • Signage
  • Blogs
  • Word of Mouth
  • Direct Mail
  • Competitors
  • Associates
  • Public Relations
  • Websites
  • Newsletters
  • E-Shots
  • Publications
  • Packaging
  • Emails
  • Voicemails
  • Proposals
  • Speeches
  • Employees
  • Products
  • Services
  • Billboards
  • Business Cards
  • Web Banners
  • Exhibits
  • Letterheads
  • Vehicles
  • Merchandise

We can categorise these into internal and external stake holders, into customers and suppliers, partners and the competition – these days chances are that an employee is just as much a brand advocate (or the opposite!) than the media and it is ever more important that the message a brand sends out is the same on a web banner, in speeches, when commenting on subjects in the press, on bill boards or vehicles, internal publications or lovely designed marketing material.
The amount of touch points may seem scary or irrelevant, but it is also a great opportunity for smaller businesses to make their mark because most of these points of engagement with a product or service are now easier to achieve and manage. As usual, it makes sense to have a bit of a strategy in place. Think about where you would ideally like to engage with your customers, then try and build up that ‘touch point’ so it becomes a buzzing hub of brand exchanges.
This part of brand management can be as hands-on as you want it to be. There are lots of examples of brand involvement on a corporate level and as people brands. Think Jamie Oliver. He has a whole brand guideline manual written about him as the person and him as the brand. Both are equally important and interact with a multitude of stake holders on different levels.
He sets a good example of a successful balance of blatant product placement and social engagement for the ‘greater good’, corporate responsibility on a ‘one man band’ level one may say. The apparent consistency is part of the strength of his brand strategy and something to aim for if you are in a similar position as an expert in your field wanting to raise your profile and reputation.
Jamie-Oliver-personal brandJamie-Oliver-personal brand
There is so much that can be explored. If your central focus of featuring your products is on a website, for instance, think about different avenues to interact with your target audience with the underlying strategy to increase traffic to your site. It won’t be an overnight project, but there are many options to engage the public.
Here are just some thoughts on how to network around a website.
ONLINE Reputation building

  • Exposure on expert sites (Linked in Answers, Wiki, squidoo, hubpages, alltop etc)
  • Online PR
  • Social media to share content and relevant information (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr etc)
  • Online reputation building platforms (Proscore, Klout, etc)
  • Social bookmarking (Reddit, digg, delicious, folkd, etc – see a list of the top 1000 kindly provided by genius optimizer here
  • Blog about related subjects setting you apart as an expert (in-built, wordpress, tumblr, blogger etc)
  • E-newsletters (mailchimp, maxmailhq, campaign monitor, constant contact, sendy, answerbag etc)
  • Guest article writing, blogging or commenting
  • Online networking (LinkedIn, SunZu, etc)
  • E-book or self-published book about your expertise
  • Advertising (google, bing, etc)
  • Reviews on other blogs or e-magazines

‘Traditional’ marketing

  • Networking / business breakfast clubs (Business Scene, Bob Club, etc)
  • Conferences and trade shows (various depending on subject)
  • Competitions or awards (enter or create your own)
  • Charity support
  • Advertising campaign in relevant publications
  • Marketing collateral to promote via direct mail or at trade shows
  • Merchandise (corporate gifts, loyalty giveaways, etc)
  • Collaborating with other businesses
  • Generating partnerships and affiliations with similar aims
  • Teaching about the expert subject
  • Holding open days or events

This is just a small selection without paying specific attention to the business or service in question – its specialism will dictate which engagement channels will work best and most effective.
It’s never good to put all eggs in one basket and brand engagement certainly is one of the subjects where you have to keep hatching out new ideas and ways to keep your brand in the conversation.

brand management, Brand Strategy, online brand management, reputation building

Be an Original Brand Builder

Another brief exploration of what it takes to change a product or service to a brand. It’s not rocket science. It’s about being different, adding personality, style and content. It starts with the name – whether you are looking at a blog, product or service.
What’s your name?

Naming a brand
Name your blog. Name your URL. Name your products.

It’s a bit like giving birth. Think about the name for your brand in the context of today’s market, your brand positioning and target audience, but also about how it will sound in a few years when you are more established and spread out across lots of brand touch points/different media.
Make it as future proof as you can… and above all, make it unforgettable.
What’s your identity?
Think about the whole brand identity as a reflection of your vision and values. What does your logo say about you? What do your colours mean? How is your layout? What’s your photography like? Are you minimalist or exuberant? Identify your brand with a style that sticks and then stick to it! Ever changing visual representations may be fun to develop with a designer, but they are guaranteed to leave your customers perplexed and confused.
As well as photography and colours, your writing style also defines what your business stands for and helps to build your brand. Be different! Research your market, find a niche or a gap – or be better than the rest! Think about the tone of voice and how you can emphasise this with suitable typography.
Sometimes it helps to envisage your product as a person. If your brand was a celebrity, who would it be? Or which famous person would be the ideal brand ambassador for you?
Don’t shy away from trying something daring or from using humour if it suits. As long as you develop an identity that is easy to understand and easy to recognise, you are on a winning streak.
What’s the brand architecture?

When you are trying to create a long-lasting brand, it makes sense to envisage a future where you may want to grow the business into different areas and have sub brands or affiliates that nest under the same mother brand. This brand architecture does not have to be put into action straight away, but making sure that a brand identity can cope with expansion can save future headaches when it becomes a necessity.
There are three common types of brand architecture.
1) Freestanding pluralistic brand structure

  • unconnected brands, the consumer is not aware that there is a holding company connecting them all
  • Each brand has to develop its own reputation, has own brand management strategy
  • Brands owned by the same parent company may be competing in the market place

Different TradeMarks
Brand architecture pluralistic brand structure
 
2) Hybrid solution

  • a main brand will associate itself with another brand
  •  as a synergy, both will be affected if things go wrong though each coud create their own strong market position

Trademark by / powered by
Hybrid solution brand architecture
 
3) Masterbrand

  • a strong main single masterbrand
  • public is aware of the masterbrand when dealing with any of the sub brands
  • Trust in the brand has greater effect on a buyer than benefits of the individual sub brand
  • works on brand loyalty, the master brand reputation is developed at all times

Trademark and descriptive name
Trademark and trademark
Masterbrand brand architecture
Virgin master brand architecture
fedex-logo-blog-post-1
No matter what you decide works best for your business model and goals, adding passion and originality into every aspect of the experience you give people with your product or service will work towards creating an engaging brand with a recognisable character people can learn to value and trust.

brand architecture, Brand Strategy

Building a Brand with Research and Strategy

If you are serious about building a brand for your business, blog or product, here are some thoughts on what to consider.
Start building your strategy by thinking about who you are, what you do and why anyone should care. Imagine a personality for your brand. Be different, be it by product selection, service offering, way of communicating or anything else you can think of. Build a reputation. Are you an expert? Is your product a specialist item that solves a need? Can you prove your superiority? What’s your market? What are your opportunities and threats within that market?
Brand strategy is powerful, and as so often, the simplest strategies are the best.
The power of the ‘big idea’

Coca-Cola Brand strategy
Sharing happiness and bridging the gap between in-store promotions and social media campaigns…

Coca-Cola. Everybody knows it, loving or hating its omni-presence. Most will say they love it because of the way it makes them feel. That’s an amazing effect to have as a drink! Coke promises fun, freedom and refreshment – and whilst the brand is ever evolving, it combines its nostalgic heritage with cutting edge campaigns centred around ‘sharing happiness’ which resonates with millions and connects consumers to the brand.
‘Always coca cola’ may have changed over the years, but Coca-Cola reinforces its values through celebratory promotions – like recently celebrating its 125th-year anniversary (“Sharing Happiness”) and the London Olympics (“Move to the beat”).

“According to a survey released in July by Research Now, Coca-Cola scored over 90% in brand awareness among respondents from the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Australia. One of the few marketing platforms that are relevant to a global audience, the Olympics have allowed Coca-Cola to solidify a powerful association in the minds of billions. Through its consistent presence at the Games, Coke, a sponsor since 1928, continues to build its brand strength, reach, and impact every time the Olympic torch is lit.” – Interbrand

Coca-Cola has another attribute that is vital for a successful brand – despite being a giant corporation, it remains flexible,  innovative and reactive, working with local knowledge and respecting its heritage. It embraces new digital media as much as traditional promotions and has created connections far beyond the world of drinks to ‘common sense’ audiences in the events and music industry.

“Coca-Cola may be 126 years old, but with more than 50 million fans on Facebook, 1.8 billion Coke products consumed daily and 3,500 beverages in its diverse portfolio — Coke’s still got it. – Interbrand”

Create a Legacy

Create a legacy- apple brand
Still thinking different

Brands live on even when those who have defined them are gone. Look at Apple and Steve Jobs’ legacy.
Create a legacy- cottage industries built on apple brand
iPhone stands are just one of many products designed to serve Apple…

Steve Jobs managed to create a brand that is so well-respected and loved that it has sparked off a whole cottage industry of Apple accessories, affiliate shops, goods designed to look good with Apple products – and despite new challenges the brand has having become a household name with their iPhones, iPads and Apple TV, his legacy lives on.
That’s the magic of creating a brand rather than just a service or product.
If your business is a blog that becomes a brand, you can have guest writers, or ghost writers – as long as the values you introduced to the brand are still respected and the experience is consistent, people will follow the brand rather than just you.
gold-star-netmums
Once a forum, now a trusted brand…

NETMUMS are an example for that very effect – it’s a forum that has evolved to a trusted brand and is now pretty much an institution for anything family related, companies paying to advertise on the site or to have their products reviewed.
 
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6VzhDE1Wso&w=560&h=315]
British Airways did a FaceBook campaign during the Olympics in London 2012 which invited viewers to see the plane on your own street at http://www.facebook.com/britishairways #HomeAdvantage. The message was to stay home and watch the Olympics, which didn’t work for everyone – but the idea was nice…
Marmite brand campaign
Love breakfast, love Marmite?

Marmite has always had the simplest of strategies – Love it or hate it. Its Facebook campaign is once again a personal approach to brand messaging with changing page profile image of Marmite lovers or haters. Emotional! (And fun…)
And why should you care about all this?

“Only one brand can be the cheapest. The rest have to use branding. The stronger the brand, the greater the profit margin.” – Marty Neumeier

Brand Strategy

Brand basics - Food sign Brand basics - Food sign Brand basics - Food sign

From Marking Cattle to Marking Expertise – Branding Benefits

branding-sheep
I love walking in Derbyshire and the Lake District, experiencing unspoilt nature, raw countryside and the feeling of going back to basics – and I always get a bit of a shock when I see red, pink and green patched sheep skip around fields. My kids are now asking why someone painted them so funny and I have to explain that they are marking which sheep belong to which farmer. Make that a bit more sophisticated and you have the origins of branding – marking products or livestock with a branding iron.

branding iron - history of the word branding
“The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.” It refers to the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products.” – Wikepedia

We’ve come a bit of a way since then, but perhaps more in evolving the meaning and using it to define our lives and cultures than in the actual act of differentiating one product or service from another.
Brand basics - Food sign
Back to basics. Though we all have a feeling that this type of ‘food’ is not necessarily winning health food awards…

It used to be enough to simply name the product. With competition, the market share decreases and suddenly it is no longer enough to ‘bake the bread’ in the village, you have to ensure people understand that your bread is better than that of the bakery down the road, and you have to try to sell their product as more than just a price-driven commodity that is worth paying a premium for.

Marketing has shifted from communicating FEATURES ‘what it has’ (1900) to BENEFITS ‘what it does’ (1925) to EXPERIENCE ‘what you will feel’ (1950) to IDENTIFICATION ‘who you are’ (2000) – Marty Neumeyer

brand basics - shopping isle
Where is your brand and how can your customer pick you out from the mass of competitive items?

Today’s overwhelming offers and information on products and services at our fingertips makes it ever more important for businesses to break out of the low margin – high competition cycle and to create a name for themselves that goes beyond packaging.
Brand basics - what sticks if the label comes off
“Branding is about everything.” – Tom Peters

Once people seek out your brand in overcrowded supermarket shelves or in business directories because they trust you, they relate to you or they are proud to be associated with you, that’s when brand strategy comes to fruition. When more than the label sticks, you know your brand message is being received and working for your business.
Of course not every business is built on a product that can be packaged and marketed in the ‘traditional’ sense. Much is being discussed about personal branding and reputation building for experts – and the benefits of branding are obvious even for writers, speakers or trainers that are consultancy based or have more intangible products and services.

  • More brand awareness = more opportunities
  • Commercial success from increased exposure
  • Personal development, confidence and motivation
  • Sense of achievement

The magic of it all is that even if you are developing a personal brand (hello Jamie Oliver), it won’t stop you from transferring those brand values on a business or range of products you endorse. With all the complicated layers of shopping offers and packaging, ultimately you mark your brand in the mind of your clients as the synonym for the one category they are shopping for so they know if they think FOOD, they think YOU (if that is what you are selling of course)…

brand experience, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy

What brands do – when they get it right…

What-do-brands-do
“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.”
– Kent Huffman

We are creatures of habit with some basic instincts subconsciously dictating every day actions and decisions. Even in our oh so cultural society, it often feels that we are just a very thin layer away from our ‘uneducated’ ancestors we would now call wild. We remain  territorial and most of us seem to have an underlying desire to find a partner with certain attributes (depending on male or female preference), to have children, to gain a position within social and work circles. (It seems to me that ultimately pretty much all of our behaviour can be tracked back to the innate desire to find the best partner and pass on our genes).

Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most—and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past.’ – Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape

Businesses can tap into this unshakeable heritage of emotions and rational/irrational behaviour and build their brands to answer the basic needs of their clients.
In a nutshell, brands are about:

  1. BRAND AWARENESS – Most people don’t like  making choices. Brands add familiarity and a sense of comfort when picking a product. Our memory is selective and limited. Standing out and being in the mind of the consumer at the time of purchasing or decision-making is paramount.
  2. BRAND EXPERIENCE – Giving consumers confidence into their choice of product or service. Get it right, and you have won half the battle to get point 3. Better still, a happy customer will probably recommend you – but beware, there is the thought that people experience loss about ten times as much as gain, so better they see interaction with your brand as a benefit, not a disaster!
  3. BRAND LOYALTY – Evoke aspirations – inspire consumers to want to become part of the brand’s ‘tribe’. Would someone buy a t-shirt with your slogan on even though you have nothing to do with fashion? Is it ‘cool’ to be associated with your business? Are your products status symbols or attract a certain audience? People don’t like to be proved wrong, they don’t like to regret their buying decisions. Brand loyalty is a difficult one to get especially if your product is seen as a commodity, but if you can break into the world of being seen as a brand with added reputation and values instead, loyalty is a key factor to evolve and adapt to changing markets or consumer needs.

Perhaps, if a brand can create comfort, confidence and connections, it is doing so by being less of a manufactured product and more of an expression of human personalities. Bring on passion brands!

attitude, brand loyalty, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message

A Brand is Not a Logo

I have been invited to talk at this year’s food blogger’s conference in London in July. As excited as I am about the opportunity, I am also terrified of public speaking and thus wondering how I will actually present my thoughts in a comprehensive and meaningful manner to those wanting to hear about branding for bloggers… Preparation is everything, so I will use the next few weeks to go through salient points of my presentation to ‘practice’ in writing.
To introduce the subject, I’d like to clarify my understanding of the word BRANDING. Ever since the word entered the general marketing and design chatter more than a decede ago, I now often come across it as being misused to describe the brand identity of a business or organisation or be interchanged with the term LOGO.
A logo is a visual mark or identifier for a product or service.
An identity, or brand identity, combines the logo, the colours, the photography style, the tone of voice, the sound, smell and anything else sensory that represents the product and brand.
A brand however is more intangible, more touchy-feely, it’s the gut feeling a person has about a product or service. It creates an emotion of what the company or product stands for and what it means to us if we associate ourselves with it.

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind” Walter Landor

I tried to visualise the key words foodie style… it’s never perfect but I hope it helps to quickly grasp the concept.

A-brand-is-not-a-logo
Aristotle – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

So, in cup cake land, a logo may be a decorative identifier of the specific flavour. The colours, packaging and shape are all part of the brand identity. The brand will only come to life, however, once a customer has taken a bite. The flavour, texture and how it was digested are just as important if not more so than all the triggers that made someone buy and try this particular cake instead of another.
Where branding becomes really powerful though is when you also take into consideration  the ambience in which the cake was selected and eaten, the interaction with the seller, the buying experience as a whole and of course the ‘value for money’ feedback that follows.
It really is an opportunity for businesses to make a difference by optimising their customers’ brand experience and making sure they don’t leave any bad tastes in their client’s mouth.
Here is to branding sweetness… Bon appetite!

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