Endings and Beginnings

nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new endingAs 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on newsworthy events of the year.

The media in 2013 frequently focused on endings and beginnings. Nelson Mandela’s passing this month inspired a large number of articles about the leadership and brand lessons Mandela can teach us. However, by Googling “Prince George” and “leadership lessons,” I came up with no relevant hits; so at least in this respect, the future monarch has had humble beginnings.

This time of year is one of endings and beginnings for me, too. I’m closing my communications consultancy and taking on a full-time professional role here in Switzerland. That means the next article posted here will be my last.

In the meantime, do you have any lessons as a thought leader that you’d like to share with readers? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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A Peek at the Secret Sauce of a Brand Campaign

Stirring the secret sauce of a brand campaignRecently I developed a communications plan for a Company X that was changing to become both a commodity brand and a solutions brand. In designing the campaign, I pulled together a sample campaign theme that emphasized what was the same and what was different after the change.

At the end of this post is a link that leads you to a presentation with some sample themes and tactics and tools for running a rebranding campaign internally and externally. Another resource, also linked below, is a communications plan template for designing your own brand campaign.

Are you ready to launch a rebranding campaign? Do you need help with themes and tactics and tools and templates? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

ThoughtLeaderZone Company X Brand Presentation (pptx)

Company X Brand Communications Plan Template (docx)

Photo by Theresa Carle-Sanders

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Sticky Tricky Truths – Part 3

bschiss exhibition titleA small museum in aptly but coincidentally named Liestal, Switzerland, had a recent exhibition dedicated to lying that included lies in books by famous authors. The title of the exhibition was Bschiss, which means something like a trick or cheating.

Swiss newspapers condemned the Bschiss revealed this summer when a training document from Ryan Air was leaked to the media in the UK. In it Ryan Air flight attendants were instructed to tell passengers they didn’t have change following a purchase and then “forget” to return the money later.

Another Bschiss controversy getting a lot of play in Swiss newspapers this summer concerns the political 1:12 Initiative promoted by the Schweizerischen Gewerbeverband (SGV) and opposed by the Jungsozialisten (Young Socialists).

Overnight this summer the initiative’s Facebook fan “likes” nearly tripled, to the immediate delight of the SGV. But upon further inspection, the sponsors found that the majority of the clicks came from places not necessarily considered Swiss strongholds, like Azerbaijan, Turkey, etc. They deny buying clicks and accuse the Young Socialists of the provocateur action of buying false likes to discredit SGV.

facebook screenshotAccording to the Swiss paper Blick am Abend, the cost of getting 10,000 fans is 450 Swiss Francs (about the same in US dollars). Clicks from click farms are, of course, strictly forbidden on Facebook; but a recent expose on British television showed the ease of arranging for such a service.

Are you having trouble managing your online reputation and confused about how to make social media work for you without resorting to tricks and Bschiss? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help (and that’s the truth)!

Read these other posts from this series:

Lies, Damn Lies, and Sticky Tricky Truths Part 2
Chief Truth Teller – The Risks and Rewards of Full Disclosure – Part 1

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Lies, Damn Lies and Sticky, Tricky Truths – Part 2

facebook smear buttonThe first article in this series recounted some ways to determine whether a speaker is lying to you.

But what happens when physical and non-verbal clues aren’t available for interpretation? How do you spot a liar online? And what should happen when you do, especially when the lies are about you or your beloved or your beloved company?

Let’s focus on the third situation, where your company’s brand is being disparaged online.

Dissent and debate can be healthy, and as Mark Twain once said, ”It’s the difference of opinions that makes a horse race.”

You may be having a disagreement with a customer or a group of consumers. But before you even realize you have a problem, suddenly you have a PROBLEM! Let’s look at a case in point.

promoted tweet screenshotA disgruntled passenger on a British Airways flight bought a promoted tweet to complain about his father’s lost luggage. The tweet went viral, drawing the attention of BA’s competitors, too.

When news — whether true or false or misleading — spreads through cyberspace without any monitoring or appropriate intervention, you can lose control of your brand conversation and those bad messages can stick…and that’s certainly not good.

One popular ”complaint site” is taking steps to ensure companies have a forum to respond publicly to complaints. The petition platform/website, , has just begun offering the targets of an online campaign an opportunity to address any inaccuracies online. Companies that want to be extremely transparent are able to create their own pages that will show all petitions and their status.

Are you ready to take steps to protect your brand in virtual or ”real” life? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help (and that’s the truth)!

Photo Credits: Smear Button, Todd Barnard
Tweet screenshot via

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Are You Loco for Logos?

collection of many logos

Swimming in a sea of logos: it takes more than guidelines and graphic identity to develop effective brand strategies. Photo credit

My sister and I were enjoying a coffee and a chat about marketing her insurance business when her 5-year-old granddaughter interrupted us to ask what a logo was. I showed her the green logo on our coffee cups and sent her and her brother off on a mission to find other logos in the coffee shop.

They brought back several items with examples of known logos, as well as some random things like a piece of wood being used as a doorstop–things that made me question how clear my explanation actually was.

How do you explain logos and brands to your employees? Do you define these terms and show them examples like you do with a 5-year-old? Do you present the brand guidelines and templates for presentations, letters and email auto-signatures?

These approaches are good ways to start a dialogue about brand, but a memorable way to reinforce the true meaning of brand is to:

  1. Print out a paper copy of the cover of your brand guidelines or some of the rules themselves.
  2. Tear the paper into small pieces and throw it in the trash.

That’s a dramatic way to lead into a meaty discussion of how your brand is not just a set of rules about fonts and colors and sizes of your logo. It’s the total marketing proposal that your company is making to clients, potential clients and non-clients. Business guru Seth Godin defines brand more fully as

the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Do you need to communicate your brand better internally and externally? Ask, assess, then ask. We’re here to help!

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Social Media Risks – Real or Simply Managed

You’ve heard them all before – reasons why not to increase the scope and frequency of your company’s social media outreach.

crowd surfing and social media risks

Instead of sitting on the social media sidelines, ride with the crowd, manage the risk and reap the rewards.

The arguments usually include concerns that employees or consumers might abuse the channels and thereby put the company’s brand at risk. Other perceived threats are a loss of intellectual property as inappropriate news is posted in cyberspace or a drop in productivity among employees who are supposedly just checking the company’s social media sites.

Whether these are real or imagined risks, they can be simply managed by a robust, considered, enforceable social media strategy. Does your company have strong social media strategies and policies in place that manage these risks? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo Credit: Photos by Mavis

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What’s Coloring Your Decisions? Color’s Critical Role in Branding

Last summer a series of blogs on this site focused on a color theme and looked at pink matters and gray matters and even the varied colors of the Olympic rings. But is there a color connected to thought leadership?

color increases brand recognition by up to 80%

Over the last few months, a new communications group I belong to has been considering that question as we put together our consultancy website. More about that in the future; but in the meantime, I invite you to review some of the interesting articles I’ve found on using color to market products…products like ”brand YOU.” Continue Reading…

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What’s your local-social strategy for client intimacy?

A recent article on ‘How Walmart Is Localizing Its Stores With Facebook’ by Clara Shih discussed how the big-box retailer is developing what’s called a ‘local-social’ strategy to make their stores more relevant to the communities they serve.

Click to view full size

A corporate-wide brand presence on social media sites is a given, the author says, but the more effective channels are being built around local stores. She explains the authentic feeling of belonging those types of sites can engender:

‘Having 20 million fans secures bragging rights for a brand, but from the perspective of the fan, it’s far more engaging and rewarding to be part of a smaller, more intimate community.’

Even large multi-national companies need to create an authentic local experience in order to engage clients in their brand. A tailored communication approach — whether through traditional or social media channels — can enlarge the number of loyal members within the community without losing the ‘local feel’ of the brand.

Are you using traditional or social media channels to enrich the experience of your customers and make it more intimate and authentic? Ask, assess, then act.

Photo Credit: Giulia Forsythe on Flickr 

Now THAT’S Client Centricity!

Client Centric Samoa

A funny thing happened in Samoa last month. They lost a day. If you’re an international traveler, you may have experienced losing a day as you flew across international datelines. But Samoans just sat still and lost a day on 29 December 2011.
Samoa used to sit on the east side of the International Date Line; but on that day, the small island nation in the South Pacific realigned itself on the west side of the line. Samoans went to sleep on their Thursday night, and they woke up on Saturday morning. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for someone, say, who turned 40 on that Friday!
It seems that the majority of commercial business in Samoa was conducted with trading partners on the west side of dateline, such as Australia and New Zealand, so it was more convenient for their customers to deal with them in the same day zone.
Are you that focused on your clients that you would — metaphorically, at least — give up your Friday to suit their schedules? Are you so flexible in adapting to client needs? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help.