Archive | brands

Brand Identity Crisis

I have worked with many companies suffering from a brand identity crisis. It usually does not start with a phone call that says “Hey, Janet can you help us out with our brand identity crisis?”

Generally it’s the bottom line that speaks up first and gets everyone’s attention. Underperforming products, missed targets, and poor launches are all warning signs.

Sometimes it’s noticed in HR where a growing discontent leads to turf wars and the start of a toxic culture.

Generally there is just a deep confusion that feels chaotic, and a sense of being rudderless. People become very busy but the results don’t change.

The natural inclination is to fix what is broken. People look at the micro level, fix, and tweak, but when the results don’t change, it’s a long and drawn out death until capital runs out or clients simply run away.

For those not willing to let that happen they usually need to take on the elephant in the room.

It’s usually brand.

We are not talking about poor font choices  (but don’t pick ugly fonts).

Somewhere along the brand chain something is not aligned; and it can send your company quickly in a downward spiral.

Ask the following five questions and see how your brand stacks up:

  1. What are your corporate values? Do you live them everyday with your team, with your clients? Don’t think this is just the light fluffy stuff. This is the core of success. Don’t settle here for words that sound good but don’t mean anything. Your values should light you up, and everyone you work with everyday.

  2. Do your corporate values show up in how you answer your phone, send an email, or do a presentation? Can you see it and hear it? Can you pinpoint and say “Yup, that is us. Nobody does it like us.”

  3. Do your values resonate with your clients? After all, this is all about them. Would your clients recognize your values?

  4. Who is your top customer – today, last year, next year? Can you name them by first name? (You can’t imagine how many companies cannot do this. So if you can’t answer this question you are not alone, but it is not who you want to hang with.)

  5. Are you doing the work, making the products, selling the services that are deeply connected to your corporate values? The struggle is real on this one so don’t just tilt your head and say, “I think so.” Get your sales team together, do the math and see if there is a match with your brand values. You will be glad you did.

There are many aspects about your branding statements that will propel you to success and I will write about more of them. But none of them will be as critical as understanding your core values.

Ignoring branding statements will affect your bottom line.

Embracing branding statements will also affect your bottom line.

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Personal Branding is Not Bragging

Once a term like personal branding becomes a “thing” it becomes a misunderstood “thing”.

The question I hear most is, “Isn’t personal branding just another form of bragging?”  And in our insta-happy, Facebook perfect, selfie world that could certainly be true.

But don’t be fooled.

True personal branding could not be further from bragging.

Personal branding is about finding the best way for you to help others. It is about becoming more of you, not a new you, not an improved you, or a thinner you. It is not you in a red power suit and Louboutins.

It’s about the courage to look deep and say, “This is my set of uncompromising values, this is what I do best, this is what I stand for and stand up for. This is how I am different and like no one else. This is how I can best help you.”

That is powerful, transformative stuff.

Ready to create your personal brand? Click here

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How Stories Change the Brain: Looking at Paul Zak’s Research

At The Story Co., we fundamentally believe in the power of stories. We know there is power there; that the impact of sharing and hearing stories is inherently valuable. What we didn’t know is that there is scientific research to back up our gut instinct.

Paul Zak wrote a fascinating article about – you guessed it – how stories change the brain. Look at you, reading titles and putting two and two together! I will include a link to the original article at the end so you can check it out and highly recommend reading it. Here are a few things we could not resist highlighting:

Why Stories are Important

Not only are stories are more entertaining, they are also more effective in terms of communication. Zak’s research concludes that personal, emotionally compelling stories are better remembered than a set of facts. They are also a way to connect with strangers. Forming relationships is key as a business. 

On a truly base level, Zak says: 

“My lab pioneered the behavioural study of oxytocin and has proven that when the brain synthesizes oxytocin, people are more trustworthy, generous, charitable, and compassionate. I have dubbed oxytocin the “moral molecule,” and others call it the love hormone.”

Not included in this quote is Zak’s explanation that during a well told story (well told according to brain chemistry rather than just a dynamic speaker – but there’s a lot of overlap!) the brain produces the oxytocin drug. This is a huge benefit of stories – I see no downside to a more moral society; do you?

On a business level, it makes sense that we would want customers to associate our brand with the feeling they get from producing oxytocin.

So, it’s been established that on a scientific level, stories have the edge. Great! But not so fast – not all stories are created equal. So, how do you make sure that your story is having the desired effect?

How to tell a Good Story

Zak’s team found that there are two primary aspects: the ability to hold the viewer’s attention; and “transporting” them into the world of the character.

In today’s fast moving, multitasking world it can be incredibly hard to grab the attention of a consumer. Zak holds that on an evolutionary level we are programed to use our “attention spotlight” sparingly. He says:

In fact, using one’s attentional spotlight is metabolically costly so we use it sparingly. This is why you can drive on the freeway and talk on the phone or listen to music at the same time. Your attentional spotlight is dim so you can absorb multiple informational streams. You can do this until the car in front of you jams on its brakes and your attentional spotlight illuminates fully to help you avoid an accident.

Aside from being an interesting insight into the human desire to multitask – I’m glad to finally have an explanation as to why we turn down the music when we are trying to find a specific street name! That’s a custom that has confused me since the beginning!

Once you have managed to catch the audience’s attention, if it is sustained for long enough, the audience begins to emotionally resonate with the story. This is what Zak refers to as “transportation”, as the audience will feel the character’s emotions and become more invested in the outcome.

Every attention grabbing, “transporting” story can be boiled down to what is referred to by scholars as “the dramatic arc”:

  1. Begin with something new and surprising;
  2. Increased tension with difficulties the characters must overcome – often because of some failure or past crisis;
  3. Climax, where the characters must look inside themselves to find the answer;
  4. The resolution of the story.

Do you recognize these elements in any of your favourite tales? I know I do! Do you recognize them in your favourite brand stories?

Another interesting note for businesses: Zak’s research found that it was easier to sustain people’s attention and to generate “transportation” when the medium was a video rather than written.

This means it’s time to fully embrace the video trend on social media! Not only is there an advantage in terms of the algorithms, but there’s a neurological advantage too!

There’s no denying the power of story. We know that through our own experiences with a strong story, and now we know it through science too! So what are you waiting for? Tell us your story.

The link to the original article, as promised:
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_stories_change_brain#gsc.tab=0

Written by Story Co. collaborator Emily Brenner

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How to Be a Brand Within a Brand

As a marketer I look for gaps where opportunities lurk. It took me 20 years to find a glaring gap.

As a brand strategist, (although the most endearing title I was given was brand therapist!) I have built many strong, insightful and actionable brand strategies. Most met or exceeded the goals and objectives set.

And those are the best of times!!!

Some failed miserably.

That broke my heart.

Why would some thrive and some flop? The work was sound. Sometimes it was resource based, or commitment, or leadership. Maybe they just weren’t ready, or was that an excuse not an answer.  I had this gnawing feeling that there was something else at play. 

I dug deep into research, read, and listened to podcast after podcast. I surveyed clients, and talked to business owners. It wasn’t until I came across the work being done on personal branding that it all came together. The missing link: unless you understand your own personal value proposition, you can’t further along the corporate value proposition. 

Unless you can confidently stand up and say, “here is what I do best and this is why you need me on this project” and conversely be able to say, “this is not what I do best and I will likely not be successful on this project.” Personal branding is not for the faint of heart and has nothing to do with the car you drive. It has everything to do with the engine that drives you forward and the values of your personal dashboard .

Challenging times can result in businesses wanting to be all things to all people. Suddenly that means employees have to be a jack-of-all-trades too. Blending in becomes a much safer option than standing out; and as we all know, safe is never where success thrives.

However, when people connect and stand up for their unique personal attributes it is a game-changer. Engagement is real. Morale skyrockets, strategies that flopped became strategies that sail.

Finding, defining, and communicating your personal brand will transform you, your work, and how others see you.

Want to create your personal brand? Click here.

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Millenials + Brands

The Story Co markting and branding regina Emily Brenner Collaborator

As a millennial I’ve always recognized that my generation is “different” than those who came before us. These differences have made us unique in terms of the business world, and especially in regards to marketing. Forbes says that 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. We have left marketing departments scratching their heads, wondering “how do we reach them!?”

I actually don’t think it’s that complicated!

According to Forbes, millennials value authenticity over anything else. Adage says that millennials want a personal connection with brands, they want to be spoken with, not to. Entrepreneur.com says nearly a third of millennials are more likely to buy a product if the brand feels less “sales-y” and feels more authentic and truthful.

This all makes sense to me! We are a generation that has grown up bombarded with advertising. In a sea of companies trying to make us loyal customers, of course we are going to look for a brand that is authentic.

We are looking for a company that allows us to make a personal connection, even if “personal connection” has been redefined to include twitter conversations and Facebook likes.

So how does one keep a brand authentic in the eyes of a millennial? Well, simply put, don’t try to be something you’re not! Communicate with us, tell us your story and your beliefs, and embody those beliefs. We want to believe you!

The Story Co. helps companies communicate their authentic selves to their community through the power of story. There is a universal truth to this approach that resonates with all age groups – millennials included. This is why I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to help companies communicate their authentic selves.

Hello world! My name is Emily Brenner, and I am a Story Co. co-collaborator!

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