Slay Giants with Brand Building Exercises

In marketing circles today, all the rage is about being ‘authentic’ and ‘transparent.’

It’s sad that we even have to discusstopics such as ‘being real’  because we should all be operating from our core.

A big reason why open and honest relationships for people and brands are tough to engage in, is because so many of us – people and brands – are dishonestly living a fake image of ourselves.

Being someone you’re not – trying to be all things to all people and living anyone else’s ‘ideal’ image of yourself never works – it’s impossible, not profitable and you’re doomed to fail.

However, what is possible, doable, enjoyable and profitable is living your life from your core being – your true north – because when you do, the right kinds of people will be attracted to you.

When Michelangelo was asked how he created David, he supposedly said, “The Angel was already in the marble, I simply chipped away the excess.” 

Begin today to chip away your excess/es of what’s covering up your angelic being and slay giants!

Here’s a little five question brand building exercise to help you in your endeavors.

Ask yourself and/or your team these questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What’s your story?
  3. Why should someone care?
  4. What’s your dramatic difference?
  5. How can you passionately demonstrate and clearly convey your dramatic difference?

Think long and hard about your answers. Work to refine your story – expand and enhance it. Make sure you have a clear and meaningful dramatic difference that can attract a large enough audience to make you profitable.

Effectively communicate your unique difference and you’ll be on the road to success.

The Harvard Business Review reports that, “up to 90% of spending goes to advertising and retail promotions. Yet the single most powerful impetus to buy is often someone else’s advocacy.”

Create and communicate stories worth reading, sharing and participating in and you’ll gain customer advocacy, patronage and slay a few giants along the way!

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Colussy Chevrolet’s Place in Americana

Chevrolet will be kicking off a huge celebration in early November for its 100th Anniversary.

And, what many people do not know is Pittsburgh’s unique role in Chevrolet’s history courtesy of the Colussy family.

Check out this story by Teresa Lindeman which we earned for our newest client Colussy Chevrolet on the front page of today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Business Section – Colussy Chevrolet, A Place in Americana.

Chevy Runs Deep In Pittsburgh, PA

Congratulations to brothers Tim and Jon Colussy who now lead the third generation ownership of Colussy Chevrolet in Bridgeville, PA for their well deserved recognition. Chevrolet’s oldest dealership in America is now in its 93rd year of operation since 1918.

It’s true when they say that Chevy runs deep. Chevy runs deep in Pittsburgh, PA and a little deeper in Bridgeville, PA.

P.S.: Here is the first Road We’re On’ video from NYC’s Mother ad agency in preparation for Chevrolet’s 100th anniversary.  It’s the first in a series and features Bridgeville, PA and Colussy Chevrolet.  Enjoy – it’s excellent.

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Thanks for Making a Dent in Our Universe

Our world lost a great man yesterday – Steve Jobs.

Jobs impacted my life in numerous ways through not only his great innovations and style, but also in his words.

Here’s my top 10 list of Steve Job quotes that have resonated with me over the years.

God bless you Steve and many thanks.  You’ll be missed.

Steve Jobs Top 10 Best Quotes

  1. “We’re here to put a dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here?”
  2. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
  3. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
  4. “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity.  Simple can be harder than complex. You need to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
  5. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
  6. Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
  7. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
  8. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
  9. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone elses life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
  10. We don’t get a chance to do that many things and every one should be really excellent because this is our life.”

…And, one more thing!

10+.    “You know a design is good when you want to lick it.” … And, “Design is not what it looks like.  Design is how it works.”

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How High is Up

True nobility is not about being better than anyone else, it’s about being better than you used to be.”

The halfway point of the 2011, was at noon on July 1st, exactly 182 1/2 days left before we ring in 2012.

So how are you doing on your New Year resolutions?

Personally, did you lose the weight you were trying to lose?

Professionally, are you hitting your sales goals?

Have you taken a hard look at your results to date and put a plan in place to finish what you started or are your goals out of whack, meaningless and unimportant?

It’s never too late to late, to improve, to succeed.

You have plenty of time, it’s just that you’re not using it properly and majoring in minor things.

Think (and do) about setting clearer goals for the rest of your year and think about (and do) easier ways to achieve them.

For example, if you’re like me and don’t always have time to go to a gym to workout, do you just give up?

Or, do you find an easier way to accomplish your fitness goals by working out at home using your own body weight, doing pushups, situps, skipping rope etc.?

If you’re not hitting your sales goals, do you know why? Do you know your sales ratios (e.g., how many calls/communiques lead to appointments to contracts)? Is it a simple matter of just making more contacts?

My goals are quite simple and they’re based on improving my own situation and being better than I used to be, not better than someone else.

“IT” should always be about you!

In short, my overarching simple goal is to improve my states of peace, love and happiness and I look at making plans for each many roles as a small business owner, marketing professional, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, community member and most important ME (spirit, soul, being) and craft simple strategies, objectives and tactics to follow to improve my states of peace, love and happiness.

And, how to I get there?

I work on ‘getting there’ via several ways such as:

  1. Being in the moment and focusing on being fully engaged
  2. Delegating to great people
  3. Working in process improvement (checklists – group similar activities together)
  4. Waking up early (not watching much TV etc.)
  5. Saying ‘no’ to things that don’t help me achieve my goals (like lots of meetings when a phone call would do)

And lots more, because this is a journey!

And, hey I don’t always get there, but my batting average has increased over time with practice.

Focus on your being better than YOU used to be and your happiness because when you’re happy you’ll find that it’s contagious.

Don’t waste your time.

Learn to let go of – and don’t sweat – the minor things and focus on what’s really important to you, to your business etc., and see your happiness soar!

How high is up? As high as YOU want to make it! It’s always been about YOU and no one else.

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How to Make 2011 Your Best Year Ever

Throughout 2010, we consulted with over 30 brands – most small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) like ourselves. And, from this experience, we’ve determined that if brands follow the following seven marketing strategies in 2011, they’ll succeed big time.

Here are our Big 7 Steps to Marketing Success in 2011:

  1. Clarify your marketing message to something memorable and meaningful
  2. Look for ways (and do it) to cost effectively promote yourself (Web, Social, PR, Media)
  3. Do something remarkable (Innovate)
  4. Craft and execute a 3-part marketing plan (so many SMEs lack one). The first part of the plan is an acquisition plan; the second part is a retention plan – retain/build existing business; and the third part is a win-back plan to regain lost business
  5. Build a comprehensive customer database and treat different people differently
  6. Look for ways to make your business easier for customers to do business with you
  7. Provide a unique, value added quality experience that makes your competition irrelevant

When you roll the dice with these key marketing steps yell, “7 come 11” and trust me, you won’t “crap” out next year!

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New iPad Wine List Rocks

I got my new iPad back in May – a moment in time I’ll always refer to as my “Christmas in May” and am having a love affair with it.

Sure there are things about the iPad that I wished it had, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

When I started to play with the iPad, I started to think thought long and hard about how we can apply it to improve our client’s business.

We do a ton of hospitality marketing work and this past summer, one of our great clients, Kevin Joyce owner of The Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh had closed his restaurant for two months for a much needed remodel after 25 years in business.

Kevin called me to go over some new ideas to kick off the new restaurant with a bang –  especially since his reopening was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 18 – opening night of Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center with a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

One of my first thoughts, was what could we do to:

  1. Reaffirm the fact that The Carlton has the biggest and best wine lists (15+ year Wine Spectator Award winner) – Great Wine is a big USP for the restaurant
  2. Complement The Carlton’s new 450 bottle wine library – the restaurant’s soul
  3. Showcase the fact that The Carlton offers the best wine dinners in Pittsburgh

In a snap, we thought, “Create an iPad Wine List to replace The Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list.” Using an iPad wine list would create a “halo” effect of flawless contemporary execution of the Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list and separate them even more so from the pack of restaurants they compete against.

As an aside – I know I may be biased, but I think The Carlton i the best restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and I thought that fact to be true long before I started working for them…anyway…

Instinctively back in May, we Googled “iPad wine list” and could not find any U.S. restaurant using iPads for menus, but we found a great story about an Australian restaurant that swapped out its menus for iPads.

Kevin and I must have been doing a “Vulcan Mind Meld” at the time, because when we called him, he said he saw the Aussie story  and was ready to rock.

Our iPad wine list is not as aggressive as the Aussie menu – we prefer to walk before we run with the wine list first then potentially move to the food menu – but I can tell you that the iPad has significantly improved The Carlton’s brand image of Pittsburgh’s premier dining and wine establishment and improved wine sales too – customers love it!

We’ll soon cut a brief video explaining how the wine list works, but know these things:

  1. The iPad can be used to help lift your business
  2. Look for products and/or service executions that create brand “halo” USPs
  3. It’s better to phase in technology improvements to your business to flawlessly execute and gain an immediate WOW from your customers before someone else comes along and steals your marketing thunder and you look like a market follower and/or a “me too” brand**
  4. Great clients make great marketing firms

**Note: In the time we started to work on and launch The Carlton’s iPad wine list, there have been major news articles about iPad wine lists in use at Central Park South Gate restaurant (7.2.10),  Bones in Atlanta (9.13.10), III Forks in Jacksonville (8.11.10), but hey The Carlton had the first iPad wine list in Pennsylvania! More news to come as we continue to improve our iPad wine list effort.

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Always Aim to be the Best

We work with clients of all shapes and sizes – from struggling start up moms and pops to thriving market dominating multi-million dollar enterprises.

Recently, we were blessed to be introduced to Steve and Jen MacBride, a young married couple and co-owner/operators of The Archer’s Edge (TAE) in Oakdale, PA.

We assisted in their Grand Opening this past Saturday on National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Check out this news segment of The Archer’s Edge featuring Steve and reporter Kelly Frey of Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV (ABC affiliate) which will give you a good feel of the place.

Pretty good priceless PR for rookies – we’re so proud of them.

Proud because they deserve it. Proud because they “bring it.”

I’ve only known the MacBride’s for a few weeks, but I was impressed by them from the start and their desire to do great things.

I’m always surprised and saddened to visit businesses that simply just go along with the flow doing mediocre work and have no processes in place to “WOW” you. It’s all so boring, average, mediocre, dangerous and unnecessary.

Steve and Jen WOW you. Here are a few ways they WOW me.

  1. They have a ton of enthusiasm and passion for their new business, because they love archery and their enthusiasm is contagious
  2. They’re resilient because of their love of archery. They experienced a boatload of unfortunate and unforeseen challenges prior to launch, but their passion overrode all of them
  3. They “bring it” – enthusiasm, attention to detail, passion, excellence to their work
  4. Their goal is to be THE best archery center in Pittsburgh – not one of the best

I’m not a hunter and our business with TAE will not finance my retirement, but I’m a HUGE fan. Sure we’ve helped them a bit along the way with their PR and Marketing and will continue to offer our services. However, because their aim is to be the best (and they have plans to be), their future looks to b a bright one. We’re big fans and we will bust our tails to help them achieve their goals.

Great clients like the MacBrides make great marketing firms like us (we’ve got their back now) and when you build that kind of relationship everyone wins!

Always aim high!

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
– Les Brown

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”
– Robert Browning

“If you reach for the stars, you might not quite get one,
but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.”

– Leo Burnett

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9.12 Marketing Lessons

Today marks a special day for all Americans, the 9th anniversary of 9.11.

This year, this special day of reflection has been marked by toxic amount of hate and anger. It seems to have started with the Islamic mosque that’s planned to be built near Ground Zero in New York followed by the planned announcement then cancellation of a misguided Florida pastor who  – along with his congregation – was planning to burn the Quran.

Where’s the leadership, compassion, common sense and class among Americans?

I can recall 9.12 and the feeling of concern we Americans had for the general health and welfare of others and how we came together as a family under one color of red, white and blue and the tolerance the majority of us paid to Muslim Americans.  And, then in the days and weeks that unfolded thereafter the amazing stories of heroism, volunteerism and love made me so proud to be an American and a proud consumer of BRAND USA.

Today, the American Christian pastors and followers who are spewing anger and hate toward Muslims are not true Christians and they are not following the maxims of Brand Jesus. They may think they are, but they are not.

Is there any place in the Bible that shows Jesus hating anyone?

No.

Jesus was tolerant, kind, understanding, welcoming and loving. He broke bread with tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor and more.  The only thing he condemned was the devil. And, when confronted with anger and violence – even his own brutal death – he said “turn the other cheek,” “those that live by the sword die by the sword,” and “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Building a religious denomination is no different than building any brand. If you want to attract someone to your brand, you’ll never be as successful as you could be by putting down your competitor. To be successful, you need to sell yourself. No matter how unfair, dishonest or terrible your competitors are you should never go there. Sell the positives of your brand and work to eliminate the negatives. And, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are a ton of negatives in all religions – both Christianity and Muslim alike – that could/should be fixed.

Full disclosure – I am a Christian (and American) and certainly far from sainthood, but the so called “Christianity” I see being preached and practiced disgusts and saddens me.

And, the Americans who are spewing hate and anger toward Muslims, are they the kinds of Americans that make up the kind of Brand USA we aspire to be and our ancestors fought to be?

No.

It’s crazy to imagine American Christians burning books – the Quran of all things. Book burning is actually against Constitution, nothing good has ever come of it and simply feeds into Islamic beliefs that American’s are against Islam. So utterly stupid and disgusting.

My Brand America is so much better than what I’ve been seeing. And hey, as a patriotic person, I certainly detest seeing the American flag being burned, but I respect and honor the freedom of someone who wants to do it.

Certainly, we’ve made our share of mistakes as a country in treating others unkindly (i.e. Native Americans), but our batting average of being a religiously tolerant land of freedom and a beacon of hope that welcomes everyone, is still pretty high. we’re far from perfect and far better than most countries but right now, we’re in a bad slump.

Going forward as Brand USA, Brand Christianity, Brand You, Brand Whatever, if you want to be successful,  I assure you that you’ll greatly increase your odds of success if you follow the “9.12” example of:

  • being a hero to others and a Servant Leader
  • sacrifice your short term goals for the goals of the greater good
  • lending a helping hand and being kind, considerate
  • freely give of yourself and be a caring person
  • looking for the light in yourself and others
  • being positive and hopeful and lift others up
  • being a good listener and open to other points of view
  • being tolerant and understanding
  • being nice and loving

These are the attributes of the faith I want to practice, the country I want to live in, the life I want to lead, the business I want to run.  How about you?

Today, we pay tribute and honor to the heroes who gave everything of themselves nine years ago on 9.11 and the days beyond and those who lost their lives and their families.

Today should never be a day of hatred, but a day of personal reflection on our heroes and how we can all be heroes of peace and love and leave the world a better place for generations to come.

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Why Burger King Will Never Beat McDonald’s

John Belushi in Animal House Screams "Food Fight!"

As a former McDonald’s marketing guy, I pay attention to references of the so-called “burger wars” – as some people still call them – but please they’ve been over for years!

I ask you, “Is it really a war when the number one kid on the block – McDonald’s – continues to open up it’s marketing can of “whoop-ass” on just about any retailer that serves food and/or beverages and on average does it better, faster and cheaper than anyone else?”

The answer is, “No!”

What went wrong at Burger King, by Dan Mitchell in the September 3rd issue of Fortune caught by eye and he’s spot on in so many areas as to what’s wrong at BK.

However, I’d argue (and I’m proud to say without reservation) that the main reason Burger King will never beat McDonald’s, is that “Mia McFamlia” still walks founder Ray Kroc’s talk when he famously said, “We take the hamburger business more seriously than anyone else!”

McDonald’s personnel, owner/operators and partners have always worked together and have been in it to win it from day one. Sure, they got a little of track a few years back – who doesn’t after being so incredibly successful for so long – but Burger King has been off track for over 30 years!

McDonald’s recognized  awhile back with its “Plan to Win” initiative that to quote Pogo, “We have met the enemy and they is us!” So they got back to work and focused more on themselves and satisfying their guests changing needs. Bravo.

OK, so McDonald’s takes the burger biz more seriously than BK and others. You get it you say, but I know you want more substance.  OK…here’s 5 more reasons why Burger King will never beat McDonald’s.

  1. All of McDonald’s staffers, owner/operators and partners (or at least 99% of all of them) own stock in the brand and know that if the brand improves so does their financial situation. All of BK’s corporate behemoth owners (before and now) own other things.  McDonald’s is (practically) all McDonald’s.
  2. McDonald’s is just plain better – they’re more innovative, financially astute and they execute better.
  3. McDonald’s owns 100% (OK 90% plus) of the real estate the restaurants sit on which provides enormous cash flow and bankable assets
  4. McDonald’s owner/operators are part of the fabric of the communities in which they do their business, they’re involved in the communities, are operationally excellent and are not absentee landlords
  5. McDonald’s constantly reinvests in improving their restaurants, operations, staff and more.  BK is just now trying to get around to it

So, do you really think Burger King’s new owner, the Brazilian-backed private equity firm 3G Capital can ever beat McDonald’s? Neither do I.

BK is way behind in the pack.  They haven’t even been number two for a long time. And if you think the view never changes if you’re not the lead dog well…

P.S.: Here’s one more case in point about the lack of commitment by BK to challenge McDonald’s. About 15 years ago, I was part of a team organized to help put Burger King out of business in downtown Pittsburgh.  The BK franchisee was selling and we simply turned the heat up and got a great franchisee to take over some of our corporate restaurants. BK closed up all of their restaurants then and have never reopened in town to date. I know Pittsburgh isn’t the Big Apple or LA, but come on!

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You Can’t Make Friends in a Crisis

In business life as in your personal life you’re going to screw up.  It’s a given. You’re going to fail.  You’re going to miss a detail, break a commitment and not keep a promise.  Deliberate or not, you’re going to blow it some day, some how, some way. It’s bound to happen and it will hurt your business, cripple it or close it.

So what do you do?  Make friends and sincerely work hard to become part of the fabric of the communities in which you do business…NOW!

From a media relations standpoint, the BP Oil Crisis in the Gulf has been a complete disaster and a case study of what not to do in a crisis that will be taught in university public relations classes for decades.

My personal 100% boycott of BP started at the very beginning of the crisis – although I started to reduce my purchases over the past year (see Why Southwest Airlines Rocks).

However,  as a marketer I’ve paid close attention to their crisis communications efforts and thought to myself, “Why should I support them when they’ve done nothing to support my community.”

Should I? No.  Would you?  No. Not now…too late.

But then BAM! Last week my local Pittsburgh BP puts a banner on its road sign declaring, “This location independently owned and operated by EZ Energy USA.”

Again, I ask myself, “Why should I support EZ Energy USA when they’ve done nothing to support my community.” They’re quite happy to hide quietly behind BP’s logo when they’re raking in tons of cash and not reinvesting in the community, but when times are a little rocky they want me to support them because they’re supposedly my neighbor?

Should I? No.  Would you?  No. Not now…too late.

I mean who is EZ Energy? Where are they located? What are the names and faces behind the company? What do they stand for, who have they helped?

These days you reap what you sow in today’s marketing arena.  Yes, you might gain in the short term by only thinking about your own bank account instead of the greater good, but &^%$ happens.  And, when the ^%$# hits the fan, look out.

For me, I’ll drive a block or two to get my gas from my local Sunoco owned by a nice family, or to GetGo locally owned and operated by Giant Eagle run by the Shapira family – great people – locally involved and/or if I’m on a regional highway maybe Sheetz another great family that respects the communities in which they do business.

This is not to say that BP and/or EZ Energy aren’t involved in my local community, but if they are they’re keeping it a secret.

A great case study to follow to lessen the blow that a crisis can make on your business (self inflicted or not) is McDonald’s during the Rodney King race riots in LA in 1992.  The riots left 52 people dead and 2,000 buildings destroyed and $1 billion in property damage. With all of the looting, fires and destruction, not one of the 30 McDonald’s was touched.

Why? Based on a long term vision of founder Ray Kroc who believed in a “trust-bank” philosophy of giving back to the communities McDonald’s does business in, the local owner/operators’ investment in being involved, committed and visible community partners paid off. See: America’s Hamburger Helper, Time Magazine, 6.29.92.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”Santayana

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