Create powerful web content to build your B2B brand

Back in October 2011, Entrepreneur.com published an article by Mikal Belikove, Why Content Marketing is King (you can see my comment underneath the article).  According to Mikal, content marketing has surpassed "search engine marketing and public relations". I fully agree that content marketing is one of the best cost-efficient tools available for those entrepreneurs who want to build their brands in the B2B environment (read more on how to build a brand for B2B here) and don't have the budgets for placing expensive ads in specialized ad magazines.

 

Here's how the author defines content marketing,

 

It's the creation and publication of original content -- including blog posts, case studies, white papers, videos and photos -- for the purpose of generating leads, enhancing a brand's visibility, and putting the company's subject matter expertise on display.

 

My clients, as well as people who find me on on the web, sometimes ask me how often they need to produce content in order to have positive results. Many of them, especially solo entrepreneurs and small startups, fear venturing into online content creation just because they think that they will not manage to deliver blog posts, tweets and YouTube videos frequently enough.

 

But how important is the frequency of posts, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and other updates for B2B brands? It all depends on your objectives. If you want a lot of traffic coming to your site, then you'd better deliver content frequently, and with predictable regularity. For big blogs like Mashable, TechCrunch, Trendhunter, this is crucial to their business model, which depends on the amount of of web visitors, which, in their turn, attract advertisers.

 

But for B2B entrepreneurs, it's content quality, not quantity, that should matter most. If their prospects visit the blog, it's mostly for the purpose of screening the level of expertise of the expert whose services they are looking for. If you are a lawyer, who blogs occasionally, bear in mind that your customers will want to see how convincing you are about your expertise. They want to trust you. And top content published on your blog can deliver just what they are looking for.

 

Here's my branding advice for B2B companies: concentrate on making top-quality content. It won't build your brand overnight, but it's a sure strategy to stand out from the crowd and build your expertise.

Tufts Magazine publishes my article about personal branding

Tufts Magazine, the alumni publication of my US Alma Mater, Tufts University, has recently published my article Your Personal Brand: Succeed by Marketing the Real You.  In this article, I talk about using principles of product branding and marketing to build people's personal brands.  

Surely, products don't have the kinds of intrinsic qualities that people do, but sometimes, the kind of thinking we, brand and marketing professionals, use to create and promote product (and services) brands, can come in handy in relation to people's personal brands.

 

The print version of Tufts Magazine is published 4 times a year, and reaches 93 000 Tufts alumni worldwide. Amongst the Tufts famous alumni in business are Pierre Omidyar (founder of Ebay), Seth Godin (founder of Squidoo and author of several bestsellers about marketing), Peter Roth (CEO of Warner Brothers Television) and many others.

Why good packaging matters

Attractive packaging is very important in branding. This is a no-brainer, and if you've ever taken marketing 101, you might remember that lecture about the importance of packaging.

 

But did you know that, when buying food items, people are much more likely to chose shiny, attractive packaging over the actual taste? This phenomenon is referred to as visual saliency bias, and has been well described on the blog by Dan Ariely, in a post Why we really are distracted by shiny objects.

 

The visual saliency bias can be explained by how our brain processes information. It weighs different criteria (such as, color, taste, etc), and compares them to each other. Often, it seems, visual criteria weigh over others.  This goes back to my article Is your web site sticky enough? in which I showed the importance of visual brand communications, based on the fact that 65% of Earth's population are the so called visual learners.

What is the brand of ... branding?

If you follow my blog, you have probably noticed that I often like to explore quite intricate and quirky techniques used in branding. For instance, on previous occasions I've talked about international aspects of brand strategy, dynamics of co-branding, or the relevance of country of origin to product branding. All pretty advanced branding stuff.

But once in a while, I feel it's necessary to start anew, and go back to basics. I have done this on several occasions, for example in this short post about the difference between branding and marketing. 

Today,  let's go back to basics once again, and define the brand of branding. I've had this on my to do list for a while, and I even launched a LinkedIn discussion on the subject a couple of months ago.   During my experience of working with clients on branding projects, as well as talking about branding during workshops and conferences, I've come to realize that overall, people have no difficulty defining the concept of "brand".

The_brand_of_branding_Schmoozy_Fox
The_brand_of_branding_Schmoozy_Fox

There's usually a lot of agreement that "brand" stands for "promise", "trust", "personality", and other attributes that people can easily define.   However, when it comes to defining "branding", or "brand strategy", things start getting  a little bit more complex. I've often felt that, when people say, "Let's do some branding", they often mean, "Let's create a logo, and brand name." This is where the brand of "branding" gets really weak. Although logos and other visual identity attributes are very important,  and their creation IS certainly part of branding, they are not all there is to branding.  Moreover, logos should be put in place as a result of an in-depth brand strategy exercise, which centers around such elements as pricing and distribution strategy, brand positioning statement, and others.

It's only when the value proposition of your product, or company, has been defined, that you should think of how to translate it into visual form.  It's also much easier to work on your visual image if you know what your product, or company, stands for exactly.

Whereas branding is an excellent framework which can be used for overall business development, and creating excellence in organizations, its relatively weak brand positioning simply doesn't play to its strengths. Why is branding mostly perceived as work on logos, and what would you do to reposition branding?

Astonishing spatial design & funky brands

To follow up on my blog post Astonishing product design & funky brands, here are some of my thoughts about the role of spatial design in branding.  

I've already touched upon the role of space in brand management. To summarize my articles on the subject (Funky brands need funky spaces, Innovative advertising spaces, and Funky ambient ads), space is extremely important for idea generation, creativity and brand-building. For instance, think about Googleplex that I talked about here -- its main role is to reinforce Google's company culture of innovation and sharing, trigger creativity and solidify Google's brand vis-a-vis its employees, aka any company's biggest brand ambassadors. All of this achieved by means of design.

 

If  you place your product or service into an astonishingly designed space, this will greatly reinforce the rest of your brand building activities. One of the main reasons for this is how the human brain perceives reality.

 

The majority of people are the so called visual learners -- they constitute roughly 65% of the global population.  This is why a good business model, combined with clear positioning and superb customer service, also needs to look good. A good example of the role that design plays in brand building is nhow hotel in Berlin, previously featured in my series of Funky Brand Interviews. Needless to say, if you stay in such a hotel, you will most probably want to come back to experience the unusual, eye-catching design again. Which means, this hotel is likely to score pretty high on customer loyalty, an essential element of any good brand.

 

Another recent example of using design to create an extraordinary space is the work by Craig Redman and Karl Maier, known as Craig & Karl. What strikes me most here is a rather trivial starting point of the project -- a car park.

 

"When it comes to interiors, nothing is as traditionally drab and cold as a parking garage. There’s a reason why it’s the default setting for film directors looking to convey foreboding: garages are where people get grabbed, shot at, or straight-out whacked." (Source: fastcodesign.com)

 

I got in touch with Craig & Karl, asking them to share with my funky readers some of the background to their project, as well as the stunning images of the designed car park.

 

This is what Craig wrote me,

 

"The objective of the project was to breathe new life into the space which, having been rendered in concrete with little inlet of natural light, felt quite dark and heavy. Working closely with the owners, who possess a keen design sensibility, it was decided that the mural would cover all surfaces in a blanket of bright colour. There was also a request that the larger wall surfaces be left blank with an eye towards potentially introducing additional, individually commissioned works at a future date. Nevertheless it was vital that the installation feel and function as a complete work in its own right. The resulting design is a dynamic mix of overlapping geometric forms that mirror and respond to the angularity of the architecture. The whole piece is tied together by a winding, ribbon-style device which, acting as a central axis, leads in from the driveway, through the space and out to the garden beyond."

 

Kudos to Craig & Karl, as well as the design-conscious owners of the car park. They should certainly build upon the publicity this funky project has received to date, and think how to capture this value in the longer term.

 

 

About Craig & Karl Craig Redman and Karl Maier live on opposite sides of the world but collaborate daily to create bold work that is thoughtful and often humorous. They specialise in illustration, installation, typography, as well as character, editorial and pattern design. Craig & Karl have exhibited across the world, most notably at the Musée de la Publicité, Louvre. They have worked on projects for clients like LVMH, Nike, Apple, Vogue, Microsoft, Converse, MTV and The New York Times. www.craigandkarl.com

Photography credit: Katherine Lu (www.katherinelu.com)

DKNY: a social fashion brand from New York

Today’s brand to feature in the series of Funky Brand Interviews is DKNY. In one of my previous posts, Social Media with a Human Touch, I talked about Aliza Licht, SVP Global Communications for Donna Karan International, who is the real person behind the brand’s Twitter and Tumblr accounts.  

Called “the social media maven”, the woman “who runs New York and social media” and “a force to be reckoned with” by the press , today Aliza Licht talks about her love for social media, PR , the glamor of New York, and of course, the funky brand essence of DKNY.

 

Olga Slavkina: Donna Karan and DKNY are two brands with different brand positioning and different types of customers. How do you manage to combine work for both brands?

Aliza Licht: I'm the SVP of Global Communications for the company which means I oversee Donna Karan New York, DKNY and DKNY Jeans including all product categories. Because the brand DNA is so rich, everything stems from Donna's original inspiration which is New York. All the brands add up to the sum of the total which is the globally recognized "World of Donna Karan". I love working on all the brands because it gives me a complete A-Z experience. Because we are an American brand, everything starts in New York, and it is amazing to see collections from inception to the final result in a magazine or on the red carpet.

 

Olga Slavkina: Today, let’s talk about DKNY. As you know, I’ve already written about the video about the DKNY PR girl which revealed the real person -- you -- behind the smart, funny and very engaging tweets coming from the @dkny account on Twitter. How long had you tweeted on behalf of DKNY prior to revealing your real name?

 

Aliza Licht: I started tweeting in May 2009 and didn't reveal my identity until October 2011!

 

Olga Slavkina: Why and how was the decision taken to disclose the fact that it had been Aliza Licht tweeting on behalf of DKNY?

 

Aliza Licht: Originally, the idea was that DKNY PR GIRL was a "character", hence the sketch. But as soon as I started tweeting, I realized that Twitter was a conversation and the voice needed to be consistent. Naturally, people started to realize DKNY PR GIRL was in fact, one girl, but yet it never really mattered "who" the person was- it was the personality and content that mattered.

As such, it made sense to keep the sketch as the visual. As time passed and the account became more popular, the anonymity became "a thing".

 

Recently, I realized that people know me so well from the tweets alone that the anonymity isn't really essential anymore.

 

My #PR101 blog posts and tweets are a passion of mine and "coming out" allows me to be more a part of the social community in real life. I recently spoke at Teen Vogue Fashion University to their student community. Being able to participate in those kinds of opportunities is what truly inspires me.

 

Olga Slavkina: What was the reaction from across the web (and maybe also traditional press) to the release of the video and how do you think it helped boost the brand of DKNY?

 

Aliza Licht: The reaction was everything I could have hoped for. The public welcomed me with open arms and in fact I think it even helped further foster the relationship I have with the social community. The press coverage on the "reveal" was shocking. I can't think of a fashion press outlet that didn't cover it.

 

But that said, our followers are the best judges of how DKNY PR GIRL has affected the brand. They are the ones who consistently share the joy that they experience from the brands, whether tweeting an image of a new purchase or joining me in obsessing over our cape dress. They communicate, support and inspire the conversation. People constantly talk about the ROI on Social Media and how to define it. For me, it's brand evangelism. Whether we're talking about our favorite candy or #PR101, I'm focused on building a community of enthusiasts.

 

Olga Slavkina: What is the brand of DKNY all about? What are the values that you want to share with your customers?

 

Aliza Licht: DKNY is the energy and spirit of New York. It's classics with a modern twist. DKNY believes in individual style so it's about taking the items you love most and making them your own. DKNY has always been about trend that can live on from season to season. It's fun and feminine and doesn't take itself too seriously.

Olga Slavkina: How is the brand of Donna Karan different from the brand of DKNY? 

 

Aliza Licht: Donna Karan was conceptualized as a luxury system of dressing for the modern woman. It's sensual, empowering and entrance making. The fabrics and artisan hand that goes into designing collection is almost at a couture level. Most of our fabrics are milled exclusively for us and they really do set the collection apart in that way.

 

Olga Slavkina: How are the values of DKNY reflected in social media?

 

Aliza Licht: DKNY is friendly, eclectic and fun. It's understandable yet statement making. That's how I would like to think our social media is thought of.

 

Olga Slavkina: What would you recommend to other aspiring funky brands in terms of their presence in social media?

 

Aliza Licht: Keep the "social" in media.

 

All images in this article were provided courtesy of DKNY. © 2011 SCHMOOZY FOX. Funky Brand Interviews is a trademark of SCHMOOZY FOX. All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. If you would like to syndicate the full text of this article, please contact Olga Slavkina at olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com

Save the date: 2 February 2012 Personal Branding workshop

After the success of my first Personal Branding Masterclass that I gave in cooperation with IE Business School back in March, I am happy to announce that another one is on its way.

 

Together with Jump Academy, I will run a half-a-day seminar on how to build your personal brand. It will be a high value event, full of interesting cases about the women who have built successful personal brands, and practical exercises that will help you make a big jump towards your desired professional goals.

 

The workshop will take place on February 2, 2012 in Brussels (hosted by the Belgian luxury bags and accessories brand, Delvaux), from 1.30 pm till 5.15 pm.

 

Sign up on the site of Jump Academy, and, using the lyrics of Katy Perry, "Come on, show 'em what you're worth".

 

 

MTV: Brand Engagement for Generation Y

Today, it’s my pleasure to feature an interview with Mattias Behrer, Senior VP and General Manager for MTV North Europe and MTV International Property Marketing. MTV is a widely-known music and entertainment brand that has been part of the youth culture across continents since 1981. MTV has established a very strong brand with massive TV audiences. Having expanded its focus away from only music into entertainment in general (think of Beavis and Butthead, as well some of the more recent reality shows), MTV has reached a very high level of brand awareness vis-a-vis its main audience -- young people aged 13-29. My goal today, however, is to chat with Mattias about some of the aspects of MTV  that are perhaps less known to wide audiences. In particular, I’d like to talk about the role MTV plays in building brands of companies that advertise with it.  

Olga Slavkina: Mattias, when I met you about a year ago during the launch of your book “How Cool Brands Stay Hot - Branding To Generation Y” , something interesting struck me in your presentation. It was the extent to which MTV goes when it works with advertisers. Unlike many other channels which simply show TV commercials, you actually work with your advertisers to make sure that they reach MTV’s audience in the most effective ways. Is this a correct summary?

 

Mattias Behrer: Absolutely. At MTV we have more than a 100 researchers and analysts feeding all our teams across the world with the latest insights on youth culture, media habits and consumerism. We invest most probably more than any other media brand into the understanding of our target audience. In order to maximize the value for our advertisers and partners, we have specialized in using this knowledge while creating marketing solutions and communication concepts for them.

 

These client solutions are created and executed by our advertising unit called Brand Solutions. We pair our client's marketing challenges and strategies with our youth insights and create communications that are relevant and engaging for the millennial generation. Essentially, we work like an advertising agency, adding our own TV, online and mobile platforms, 31 years of experience in communicating with young people, as well as creative heritage second to none. We are very proud to be able to work with ideas which travel across all media and always try to make the audience the main communicator of the message, leveraging the social aspect of all communication.

 

Olga Slavkina: How could you define a successful collaboration with an advertiser?

 

Mattias Behrer: Successful collaborations are always defined by meeting the objectives set by the advertiser. All concepts are created based on the advertiser's goals, be it sales targets, brand positioning or engagement targets, number of entries for a competition, etc. We are always very conscious about breaking down the objectives defined by the clients, and we discuss unrealistic or poorly defined targets. I have to say that our brand solutions team has created a pretty impressive portfolio of successful cases by now, and I am proud to see that many clients keep coming back year after year. A good recent example is a campaign in Sweden, where Nike asked us to increase the sales of their running line by getting the attention and affection of a new target group - the young urban demographic.

Our concept, called Take Sthlm, was a real life running competition fueled by a 360 degrees integrated campaign with a multitude of social and viral elements. The inhabitants, opinion leaders and fans of each area of the city of Stockholm were encouraged to team up to defend the honor of their "hoods" and battle against each other using the Nike+ functionality to register miles covered. You could follow in real time online how the areas of the city were "taken over" by the respective teams.

 

It ended up being one of the most successful campaigns for Nike Sweden, boosting sales by 70% and their running line beat the football line for the first time ever. The fact that this campaign just won bronze in the Eurobest Awards last week was nice icing on the cake for us and our client.

 

Olga Slavkina: How do you make sure that your advertisers reach your audience with messages that are taken into account?

 

Mattias Behrer: The starting point is always to find the consumer’s "sweet spot" or proposition at the intersection of:

a) the client’s marketing challenge

b) the specific USP/ESP of the product or service

c) the client's brand positioning

d) our applicable youth insights.

In relation to some concepts, we pre-test our material with the target audience, but generally it is about working with the most skilled researchers and planners we have in-house and sometimes with the client or their ad agency.

 

These analysts work with the audience every day, they know how to support our creative and marketing people with the insights needed to develop relevant communications which really move people emotionally. Our research is very much about understanding the fears, hopes and aspirations of Generation Y and advertising is always about engaging and incentivizing your audience to move closer to the desired state of mind. It is much easier today to know when you are doing the right thing. Most concepts carry an element of "social currency" brought to life through the combination of TV and digital media. Through the latter, we get instant feedback on how we are doing.

 

But in the end, it is about meeting the goals of the advertiser and sometimes short term sales targets are best met with ads that don't necessarily get the highest liking in tests. We obviously need to tailor our concept development in order to always deliver on effectiveness and efficiency defined by our clients from one case to another.

 

Olga Slavkina: I’ve written quite a bit about the concept of so called meta-brands -- overarching concepts which add positive associations to other brands which relate to them.  Can MTV be considered a meta-brand and why?

 

Mattias Behrer: MTV is very much a meta-brand. By staying true to our core mission and brand idea - empowering young amazing lives - and by always being guided by our core values, we can navigate in a credible way across the different interests and tribes of youth culture. We can engage with and build stories and values for a rocker, a skater, a rebel and an geek. As long as we stay true to ourselves and never pretend to be something else, we still have the breadth and depth of brand associations that can be selectively highlighted in different situations and appeal to different interests and aspirations from time to time.

 

In collaboration with MTV other brands can - without compromising their own brand identity - lend and benefit from some of the MTV associations (and of course our channels and platforms!) and be more daring in their communication. A couple of years ago we collaborated with the biggest bank in the Nordics and at the outset the perceived positioning of the two brands couldn't be further apart. We managed to find a concept adopting a very creative and daring tone of voice and we helped to make the brand liking of this bank increase by double digits. Most importantly, the audience thought of the bank as one they would recommend to friends. We stayed true to our values and the audience by assuring that all activities gave something back to the audience - be it a laugh or an actual functional benefit.

 

The meta-brand relevance of MTV helped endorsing the relevance of the message. If the bank would have created the same communication on their own, they wouldn't have been able to communicate with the audience in the same "relaxed" and credible manner - the audience would have held their guard up high.  We also asked the audience if they liked the collaboration between MTV and the bank and it scored very high on our test.

 

Olga Slavkina: how does MTV make sure that it knows its audience well?

 

Mattias Behrer:  In this dynamic, complex and rapidly changing media environment the starting point is to acknowledge the value of securing insights and make the effort to be constantly plugged into the values, attitudes and behaviors of our audience. We put research at the core of everything we do. We have people in our teams who know how to turn information into intelligence and inspiration for our daily actions across all areas of our business: creative, content, communication and commercial. We are increasingly creating a brand and research led company and this approach is encouraged from the very top.

 

Olga Slavkina: What issues, in your opinion, do young people in Europe care about today, and how does MTV reflect this in its programs?

 

Mattias Behrer: On average, the youngsters today are better educated, more connected, more positive about the future than any generation before them. They also have greater self-esteem, ambition and ability to make their voices heard, commercially and in general. They have grown up with parents encouraging and empowering them to believe in themselves and the fact that they can make a difference. Compared to previous generations, they have far fewer needs to rebel against parents, authorities or society at large; they typically don’t fight the system, they “game” it and try to make the best out of it.

 

They are ambitious optimists striving for both material and emotional success in life and they are willing to work hard to achieve it. At the same time they are conscious of and unwilling to sacrifice their work-life balance or spending time with friends and family, a sustainable environment or a humane society at large. Overall, we see that young people today have a very positive outlook at their world but they are at the same time aware of the issues around them. For MTV this means that we have to broaden our content stories in order to reflect some of the most relevant real time millennial issues such as bullying, aids, career and life enhancement, sexual health and even teen pregnancy and parenthood.

 

We do this through observational documentaries and scripted drama, but also by being even more involved in contemporary social activities beyond entertainment, and by being more authentic, emotional, warm and direct in the way we communicate. Two of the MTV  brand values say a lot about the mindset of Generation Y: for us Smart & Fun is the new Rock & Roll and Warm is the new Cool.

 

Olga Slavkina: Could you share some of MTV’s plans for the nearest future?

 

 

Mattias Behrer: I am very proud of our brand new international pro-social initiative MTV Voices, an online platform where we and other talented and passionate contributors from all around the world share and discuss interesting social issues, content, events and trends. You should check it out, in English at voices.mtv.co.uk and in German at voices.mtv.de.

 

 

 

 

All images in this article were provided courtesy of MTV. © 2011 SCHMOOZY FOX. Funky Brand Interviews is a trademark of SCHMOOZY FOX. All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. If you would like to syndicate the full text of this article, please contact Olga Slavkina at olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com

 

Follow SCHMOOZY FOX on Twitter: @schmoozyfox 

Co-branding: Desigual and Cirque du Soleil

A nice recent example of a funky brand partnership has been the collaboration between Desigual, a Spanish fashion label (previously mentioned in my short post about funky brands from Spain) and the world-famous Cirque du Soleil from Canada.  The latter hasn't yet featured on my blog, but it's now part of my #funkybrands list on Twitter.  

From a purely creative and visually attractive point of you (which would make total sense to all of the visual learners), the brand partnership between Desigual and Cirque du Soleil is extremely successful, in my opinion.  If you know the outrageous character of Desigual clothes, you'd see that the clownesque fun flavor has been present in them for already quite some time, so the partnership with Cirque du Soleil is smack to the point.

But what does this partnership give to Cirque du Soleil?  My guess is that one of the main reasons for this brand partnership must be the target audience.   Desigual, well-known in Europe, gives the Canadian Cirque du Soleil better brand exposure in Europe.

 

Otherwise, there discourse in the video above is all about similarities betweent he two, whereas, for a brand partnership to be successful, it would need to focus on differences.   For more insights, read my aticle 3 co-branding rules for bigger profits.

 

Source: Brandchannel

Reverse product placements

Remember  Carrie Bradshaw wearing her favorite Manolo Blahnik shoes in Sex and the City?  This is an example of product placement, also referred to as embedded marketing.  

I've written about product placement in movies and novels (!), in songs and on TV.

But how about fictional products becoming popular in movies first,  to be launched and gain market success in real life later on? This phenomenon is called reverse product placement, and there was a good post on the subject appearing on Brandchannel last week.  There's a nice list of 5 reverse product placements for your perusal.  Whereas reverse product placement is certainly not the most common marketing phenomenon, it should surely be worthy of rememering by all funky brandsters.

Generous schmoozing

Every year around the time of Thanksgiving in the US I feel a bit nostalgic. I spent only 3 years of my life in the US (Boston, Massachusetts), but I still have this funny feeling that Thanksgiving is also my holiday.  

One of many reasons why I have very good memories about my formative years in the US is that I was constantly blown away by people's generosity.  I often felt that Americans had their homes, and hearts, open for me.  It often happened to me that, after just having met people once, I was invited to their house for dinner. It's not so common in Latvia, where I come from. Neither it is in Belgium, where I am living now.

 

There were generous professors who invested extra time of their work into me. In fact, I owe the fact that I can write in English relatively well (for a non-native English speaker) to Professor Patricia Cumming, who encouraged me to follow her creative writing course at Wheaton College back in 1995. I am thankful to her for this. People invited me to their homes during holidays and allowed me to stay there for weeks in a row. They fed me. And heck, people even gave me money I needed for my studies.

 

Schmoozing is also something that became part of my DNA during my time in the US. I did some very advanced, very authentic, and very warm-hearted schmoozing with some great people at the awesome Fletcher School, where I was Fulbright student in 2001.  That's where I learned the word "schmooze" and understood its real meaning. And look at this -- now it's even part of my own brand identity.

 

Schmoozing and generosity combined work very well in the business context, and Americans has taken this combination to perfection. When these two qualities come together, the effects can be bombastic. I've just come across a great article about generous schmoozing by James Altucher, American investor, author and entrepreneur. What James is talking about is the kind of schmoozing I find meaningful -- it's networking for the sake of connecting people, without expecting anything in return. Here's a nice quote for you from his article, "Connecting people who can benefit each other is the most useful skill you can have on the entrepreneurial ladder of skills. When you help others make money by connecting them together, the world forces itself into the Möbius strip of success that brings the money right back to you times ten."

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @schmoozyfox.

How to explain "brand" to someone?

As I wrote in my previous blog post about video, 65% of the global population belong to the so called group of visual learners. Visuals work for most of us, and that's why I find them the best option while explaining what the concept of b r a n d stands for.  

I'd like to share with you a video that I came across on the site thefinancialbrand.com. I think it is useful content for anyone who wants to understand what brand exactly means, or explain the concept to others.

 

5 reasons why branding works for B2B

Does branding work only for consumer goods? Does my services firm risk to be perceived as too funky if I start branding it? What are the advantages of branding a law firm, a raw materials supplier, or, to that matter, any company which provides services to other companies?  

These are the questions I often read in emails from people who are, on the one hand, attracted to the benefits of branding, but, on the other hand, hesitate that it's something relevant to their business-to-business activities. Some of them are concerned that branding can make them appear as unprofessional, over the top, and even too glamorous.

 

Why do such questions arise?

 

One of the reasons why B2B companies hesitate about the benefits of branding is, ironically, due to the vague brand of...branding.  The very concept of branding is often perceived as an activity to do with marketing beer, sneakers or chocolate bars. Here, I have to take a step back and make a reference to my article about the difference between branding and marketing.  To summarize, branding is all about getting your value proposition right - it's the WHAT of your business strategy. Marketing, on the other hand, is the HOW -- it's all about promoting the WHAT. Marketing tactics "become much more powerful when driven by brand strategy and aligned with business goals." (see source)

 

And isn't it of use to a law firm to get its value proposition right? The truth is, any B2B company can reap many rewards from applying the brand strategy framework to its business:

1) Your clear brand positioning will work as a form of shorthand to help you attract clients. Instead of spending hours searching, analyzing, comparing, and making decisions, people will be coming to your firm because they've already heard about it, and know in advance how you can help them.

 

2) Your strong brand will create barriers to competitors -- this logically follows from point #1.

3) Don't be afraid of infusing your brand identity with emotional associations. They work not only for consumer brands. The truth about B2B is that many collaboration and partnership decisions between companies are based not only on purely rational criteria. B2B is about forming relationships with people, and that's when branding can greatly help.

 

4) A strong brand will also allow you to command a price premium. If you are known to be an expert in your field, people would be willing to pay you the fee commensurate with your experience, and your brand.

5) Finally, a strong brand will create opportunities for growth. When you want to introduce a new product or service, a strong brand will serve you well. Even if you are a small company with clear brand positioning that you've made known to your target audience, you will find it easier to expand your services portfolio.

 

Your strong brand will help you build trust -- the essential ingredient of all good business transactions. If you are in B2B, go for smart branding -- you deserve it.

 

Social media with a human touch

Have you recently become a Facebook fan of a company? Or started following a brand on Twitter? If yes, chances are, you have no idea who's tweeting on behalf of these companies.  

There are a few exceptions to this rule. DKNY has recently revealed the real person behind its Twitter name. And it's done it by producing very personable, and sticky web content. Watch this video about Aliza Licht, the PR director of DKNY:

That's a pretty good way not only to gather more Twitter followers, but also to showcase, and build, your brand. Kudos to DKNY for this smart brand building activity.

 

I also recommend this article about real people behind companies' Twitter names, published by The Read Write Web, and this LinkedIn discussion.

 

My question is, why be dry and boring when you can be a little more personal and funky? 

 

Most companies, even the ones making funky products, often adopt a corporate tone of voice as soon as they start tweeting or facebooking. Only to have their fans hide them in their news feed.

 

But some brands, like DKNY, are beginning to understand that what we, fans, want to know, is something much more personal than product-related corporate speak and self-congratulatory retweets of brand mentions. Social media is, well, s o c i a l, and our expectations for something social and authentic are simply natural. That's why I expect to see more and more companies reveal the real people who tweet on behalf of their brands.

 

Is your web site sticky enough?

I don't know about you, but as far as my way of learning goes, the quickest way for me to acquire any new skill (from learning geeky social media tricks to painting with acrylics) is by watching a quick "how to" video on YouTube.  

I must be one of those visual learners, and I am certainly not alone. Compared to verbal learners (they learn by listening) who constitute about 30% of the global population, and 5% of the so called experiential learners (people who learn through tactile experiences), visual learners are the biggest group, constituting roughly 65% of the global population.

 

Here's something visual especially for you, the visual folks:

 

This explains why visual identity and product design are so important in branding and marketing.  It also explains why videos are crucial in making online content sticky.

 

And here's something for all those visual learners, to illustrate the point -- a video about videos. I saw it during a session on social video advertising, presented by Andrea Febbraio during the iStrategy conference in Amsterdam. Andrea, a pretty engaging and sticky guy himself :) , co-founded ebuzzing -- a company which seeds the web with branded content.