As a Leader, Brand Identity is Reflected in Your Presence

Mismatched shoes may not be a reflection of brand, just an embarrassment.

Mismatched shoes may not be a reflection of brand, just an embarrassment. By: Charlotte L

Your personal appearance is your brand identity

We’ve all had the experience — at the end of a long day discovering we’ve worn one black shoe and one blue shoe, or socks that don’t match or have worn our shirt inside out all day long…and no one noticed. When this has happened to me, I find myself wondering, “Why didn’t anybody tell me?” I also wonder who now thinks of me as sloppy, or someone who doesn’t attend to details.

For most of us, our personal appearance is important. We take care to groom ourselves to present a presence which reflects and reinforces our sense of self.

The ante is upped when you are a company delegate who speaks with the public or the media. You are an embodiment of the brand experience.

As a leader, you are the exemplar of your firm’s brand. You must check yourself in the mirror or ask your colleagues to review your clothing, appearance and presence to evaluate whether or not your appearance reflects the values of the brand.

quotation-Marks.jpgWhen you make a personal appearance representing your business, you ARE the brand.

Because of a shirt, for a moment, the world was inadvertently focused, not on the Rosetta Project’s success — as the Philae lander approached a comet — but on Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor’s shirt which was insensitively selected, given his position of leadership and need to appear on camera for interviews.


If the European Space Agency’s PR person had reviewed their team member’s appearance prior to interviews, perhaps all eyes would have been on mission success, not the shirt. With a bit more thought, the public relations team would not be defending the leader’s values and their congruence with the space agency’s, but would be talking more about the globally recognized accomplishment of getting a probe to land on a comet.

So, when is a shirt more than a shirt? Or a shoe more than a shoe? When worn by a leader.


Update: Taylor apologizes saying,

“I made a big mistake, and I offended many people,” Taylor said at Friday’s media briefing, his voice trembling, “and I’m very sorry about this.” Read more


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‘Tis the Seasonal Marketing Time of Year

Sesame Street Bert

Sesame Street Bert ponders the gigantic holiday season which seems to last as long as his unibrow.

‘Tis the unibrow of seasonal marketing

Ahhh, the holidays.  They’re here.  And by holidays I mean the Q4 period from Halloween through the New Year. The last quarter of the year in the Western world has come to be known as one massive Hallowthankshanuchrisnewyear celebration when every business owner is engaged in seasonal marketing and promotions.

In my opinion, this season is rather smashed into a unibrow of a holiday season.

Chris Rock hosted Saturday Night Live and offered his take on the holidays and the over commercialization of Christmas. Agree or not, his send up of Christmas was wonderful. So, just as you’re getting ready to offer your holiday promotions, watch this for a laugh as we enter this frantic sales time when customers’ demands increase and their and our patience wears thin.

No bling on Jesus says Chris Rock

You can try to push back against the torrent by refusing to open on Thanksgiving and by letting your employees and staff have time to enjoy the holidays with their families.

Satisfying demand

Whether you like it are not buyers have learned to think of seasonal shopping and respond positively to it.

Plan some reward for your customers who have been loyal over the course of the year. Not every customer is seeking a discount. You can provide added value and extra service during the holidays to set your business apart.

Honor customers

Whether a drop-in with libations or contributions in their honor, or holiday hams or Hanukah gelt, there is a way you can thank and reward your loyal supporters and opt out of the mass market crazy holiday promotions.

Charleston Organization Lowcountry Local FirstIn the greater Charleston market, we hope when you shop, you’ll spend your dollars locally and support small businesses like ours which are the bedrock of our community. Lowcountry Local First sponsors an annual campaign aligned with the holiday season which encourages you to shop locally and buy locally. For more about the observance, visit  Buy Local.

So, while every season comes with a set of expectations, you don’t have to bend to the crowd to satisfy your buyers or be distinct.

*Photo credit: Bert from Muppet Wikia

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Blue Sky Thinking and Innovation


blue-sky thinking: noun .  1. creative ideas that are not limited by current thinking or beliefs[1]

At the beginning of the great housing apocalypse I suggested to several home builder clients that they offer an opportunity for people to experience life in one the builder’s homes by allowing potential buyers to spend a night in a model home. I called it “sleep with a model.” When I suggested this — to a person —every one of the home builders said, “We can’t do this.” or “Our insurance will allow it.” and even “They’ll tear up the house!”

I also recommended to a Realtor client that she develop an alliance with home renovations contractors so she could provide buyers with immediate access to trusted vendors. I also advocated to the same client that she arrange value loss insurance, soothing buyers’ greatest fears: losing money. Such innovations would distinguish the Realtor’s brand in the crowded market and set her apart for the customer-focused benefits she could provide.

In both situations, there was extreme resistance and objections about why these things could not be done. Not one person stopped to consider how these things could be done.

Innovation is rare

True innovation comes along very rarely. And in (almost) every instance, real innovation is met with extreme resistance. Everyone thinks of all the reasons why something cannot be done. Given the amount of resistance when it comes to innovation, you would think that innovation is against the natural order.

Companies that prosper are those which give power to customers, — providing consumers with their most desired choices and options. Think things that make it easy on the customer. And therefore help you gain more business.

Technology related firms generally make the greatest leaps these days providing people the innovations they want to smooth daily life.

Taco Bell New App

In recent news, innovation is coming from the food and beverage sector. USA Today reports,

“Taco Bell will unveil an advanced mobile app that lets folks order and pay on their smartphones and then walk or drive in and pick up their food.”

The new app is being spotlighted by taking the entire Taco Bell website dark October 28, 2014. How much resistance do you think was heard around the office when this was proposed? You can imagine the conversations: “What if they pay and we don’t get their order?” “How will we deal with incorrect orders?” And on and on. But clearly somebody overcame those issues and designed the new smartphone app.

Also reported by USA Today, another sacred cow, the wait line at Outback, is being conquered by new tech with the launch of their mobile app allowing diners to see real-time estimated waiting times and to add their names to the wait list.

“It’s more important than rolling out a new steak,” says John Schaufelberger, chief marketing officer, in a phone interview.

Nurturing blue sky thinking

Innovation comes from blue sky thinking. Unhindered, unfettered consideration of ground-breaking options which lead to new procedures, new products and ease of use.

When was the last time you did some of your own blue sky thinking? Did you censor yourself? OR did you just let the ideas flow? Is your culture one of encouraging innovation? Do you listen to employees who have ideas of how to streamline production? In a classic model, U.S. auto producers changed production lines in the 1970s to complete with Japanese automakers, with a great many of their ideas arising from those who actually worked on production lines.

Censoring your creativity and wild ideas will keep you exactly where you are. Want to grow? Want to be talked about? Be different.

Blue sky thinking cultivation:

  1. Talk to your customers. Ask them what is their most difficult issue or problem. Ask them what they most need. Then figure out how to do it.
  2. Keep a notebook. Whether digital, or hand-written, capture arcane ideas or transient thoughts. This is why writers and engineers keep notebooks at their bedside so they awaken from dreams to record their nocturnal imaginings.
  3. Observe. Watch people. Watch your customers. Note how they actually do things, not how you’d like them to do things.
  4. Have a blue sky session. Include everyone. Customers. Owners. Stakeholders. Don’t censor. Record. Process later.
  5. Examine common problems. Apple’s iPad evolved from a desire to provide portable, lightweight, powerful devices with multiple capacities. The tablet computer they created revolutionized the market and created a new category.

How have you created innovation in your firm? Tell us how you’ve encouraged blue sky thinking and innovation.

[1] blue-sky thinking. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. thinking (accessed: October 28, 2014).

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Advertising Copy: Avoid Negative Connotations


Avoid negative connotations by using positive associations

Years ago, when reading a parenting guide, I learned a bit of sage advice which I paraphrase here:

“When offering direction to children, avoid negatives; e.g. ‘Don′t jump on the couch. Rather, say, “Stay on the floor.’ If you choose negative direction, the child will hear, ‘Jump on the couch!’ and will do precisely that. If you say, ‘Stay on the floor’ the child hears exactly what you want them to do.”

When it comes to ad copy, deliver messages using words without negative connotation. Those negative connotations are easily pulled into the reader’s mind and stick, where they fester and undermine your message.

In the ad below, a health care firm seeks new physicians. However, rather than say that they were growing (and in our culture growth is generally good) and want to add new staff members, they state that they are growing like a weed.

Doctor's office ad with a negative connotation in the headline

I don′t know about you, but in my garden I pull up weeds: those undesirable, troublesome, unwanted plants. Ken Immer, a chef turned entrepreneur, said upon reading in social media my comments on the ad, “That’s like a restaurant advertising that it’s waitstaff scurries around the dining room as quick as roaches!!”

Simple, direct is best

When you write your advertising copy, it’s best to use simple messages. They can be direct, funny, contain puns or allusion. But when you want a positive association, you must take great care with any terms or phrases which have negative cultural associations — especially ones with deep roots in the psyche.

This ads copy could be restated as: “We′re growing.” Then followed with the message that the organization needs more docs. Enough said.

Oh, and proof read your ads. Docs is plural, not singular.

What are your most nettlesome notes on advertisements? Share your thoughts in comments.

If you found this article helpful, informative and useful, please share and recommend it to others.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte: Creating Product Demand

Pumpkin Spice Latte

 Just a simple seasonal delight

Ah, Fall! The season of colorful leaves, cooling evenings, long walks in the woods and …pumpkin spice!

Yes, it’s that time of year when devotees of the all-consuming fall flavor go on overdrive searching for their next fix. Why all this rabid fandom for a little cinnamon, cloves and pumpkin? And how did it become the fall cult classic flavor to rival candy corn?

Starbucks introduced the #PSL (as it is frequently hash tagged) 11 years ago. As noted on,

“Since the Pumpkin Spice latte’s inception 11 years ago, customers have ordered more than 200 million, each topped with whipped cream and a parting shake of spices. It arrives while the summer sun still beats down hot over most of the country, but a combination of masterful marketing and a fan base with the kind of obsession usually reserved for pop stars has transformed this drink into a national harbinger of fall.”

Rabid fandom aside, what makes a product so beloved and craved

In the case of this treat, its seasonality and limited appearance — similar to other mass market seasonal products like McRib, McDonalds imitation barbecue rib sandwich which pops up in markets from time to time — are what drive anticipation. In a word, rarity drives desire.

When a product is only available for a limited time, there is incentive to buy now.

Also at work in the adoration of pumpkin spice latte is its sensual hold on our psyches. No, I’m not talking about silk sheets and body oil type of sensuality, but its literal appeal to our cultural nostalgia. The odor of cinnamon is linked with baking, is linked with home, is linked with love is linked with belonging. And each of us want to be loved and to belong. It’s a fundamental need. Starbucks deliberately tapped into our needs.

Scent and tribal association mixed in one beverage

Buying pumpkin spice lattes could indicate our belongingness to our tribe. In the case of #PSL, that might be the tribe of white girls, but comedian Jay Pharoah mocks that in his ribald, hilarious send up of the drink.

Pumpkin Spice Funny Video

In the case of cinnamon, there may even be a powerful physiological response to the spice as it has antibiotic and potentially curative properties.

As entrepreneurs, we can learn from these observations when creating new products.

  1. Create a product that is amazing. Normal run of the mill products just don’t attract fans. Whether it tastes good, feels amazing, or is simply drop dead gorgeous or fulfills a strong need, as long as it is perceived as incredible, you will achieve demand. There’s no getting around this.
  2. Tap into powerful psychological needs.
  3. Limit your product’s availability and provide mental or market incentives to buy now.

What other products do you know of which have similar limited seasonality and rabid fandom? Why do you think they are much beloved?

In the meantime, enjoy an array of pumpkin spice tweets.

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