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Branding

It Takes A Village

What does it mean to build a brand? And more importantly, how do you actually create a valued brand? There are no shortcuts.

Nicholas Haralambous

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It’s easy to find something that someone else made, buy it in bulk at a discounted rate and sell that product at a profit. That is the easy part, believe it or not.

The tough part is getting that customer who just purchased something from you to remember your company name and come back to buy from you again.

At my previous company we tried extremely hard to gain a userbase by spending money on adverts that drove people to our website and then attempted to get them to sign up, hang around and pay us. The problem was the premise; if you buy an advert and people visit your site, you are building a brand. I just don’t think that’s true. I think people click ads to buy products, not to invest in brands.

Related: Target Your Market… Or Die

There are many things I’ve learnt through many, many failed attempts at building a brand. Here are a just a few observations.

An amazing product

Before you even consider talking about your brand, spending money on adverts and trying to get customers to tell their friends about you, you need to have an amazing product or service to sell.

If your product isn’t the best it can be (and that means it needs to be amazing in the market) no amount of advertising, marketing or PR will keep customers buying. People will see your adverts, read your marketing and buy your product once. What keeps them coming back, what keeps them talking about you first and foremost is an incredible product. Without this, there is nothing else.

Once you believe you have the best product you can at the time, then start selling. I like to sell to three ‘F’s’ to begin with: Friends, Family and Fools. If these people support you and continue to do so then you might be onto something.

When they start telling their friends, family and other fools about you, then you’re definitely onto something. When you’re walking down the street and you see someone you’ve never met using your product or talking about your service, you’re doing it. You’re building a brand off the back of a great product.

Time

Nothing worth doing can be done quickly. If you are building a brand to last and your plan is to hang around through good times and bad then don’t rush. Don’t force your message down the throat of potential customers. Let them find you, discover what makes your business amazing and then tell their friends.

This type of organic, genuine and transparent growth can only happen over time. Even the most viral businesses in the world grew over time. Facebook took years to reach the mass market and break out of universities. Why would you be able to do it in a month? Be patient young grasshopper.

Related: Are You Sure Your Business Is Profitable?

Fantastic customer service

Customer-service-branding

Even the best brands in the world will incur a hiccup every once in a while (some more frequently than others). The key to a bad customer experience is fantastic customer service. Incredible brands understand that they sell a product or service but that their main goal is client acquisition and retention.

The fastest way to erode your brand is to treat customers badly. Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned. With social platforms like Facebook and Twitter turning everyone into a publisher with an audience, it’s easy to destroy a brand with a single bad experience. This is probably going to happen at some point and you need to be prepared to resolve the issues that arise swiftly and effectively. An unhappy customer is a marketing tool. Treat them well, win them over and they’re yours forever.

Community

For the first two years of Nic Harry —my daringly bold, premium sock and style company — we spent no money on marketing. I built our brand on word of mouth and traditional PR. Everyone around me was telling me to make use of the advertising platforms currently available. I bucked the trend and focused on finding and building a community of sock lovers.

I dedicated my time to talking about socks passionately to anyone who would listen. Invariably I found ‘that one friend’ that everyone has who loves socks. I spent more time cultivating relationships with those people, getting their feedback and building a loyal community of sockaholics.

Related: How To Build A Brand That People Care About

Today this community is the biggest part of my brand building. When I open a new store, they come and visit, they share the news and they send their friends.

The key is to work all of the steps together. Without a good product the community would not talk. Without taking my time I wouldn’t have found the community and without incredible customer service I would never keep the community and customers that I have.

Nicholas Haralambous is the founder of the style company, Nicharry.com. He is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer who likes to tell the honest, brutal truth at every possible opportunity.

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Branding

Move Your Brand Forward With Eye-Catching Vehicle Wraps

The Sign Africa Expo is Africa’s largest dedicated print and signage exhibition. Covering 13,000sqm and with the objective of attracting 6,000+ visitors, Sign Africa provides an ideal platform for visitors to investigate available business ventures, innovative products, technology, applications and education programmes for the signage and display industries in the sub-Saharan region. Entrance is free and the event is co-located with FESPA Africa, Africa Print and Africa LED and will take place from 12-14 September 2018 at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

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Business owners are constantly seeking ways to get their brands noticed. And with all the gigantic billboards, street pole advertisements and other media vying for consumers’ attention, it’s difficult to stand out. Enter vehicle wrapping, which is an effective promotional tool as it’s cost-effective, impactful and long-lasting.

‘Car branding will transform your vehicle or fleet into mobile billboards. Used for short-term promotions or long-term exposure, it is one of the more cost-effective advertising methods available. It is also a great option for personalisation or to improve the appearance of your vehicle,’ said said Manny De Souza from Wrap Vehicles.

Besides cost-effective general wraps for corporate fleets, custom vehicle wrapping offers special effects that create Instagram-worthy wraps that get brands noticed. Different textures such as chrome, wood grain, carbon fibre and a variety of metallic effects, glitter, ultra matte finishes and ‘sandpaper-like’ non-slip surface finishes are also available. One can also create pearlescent effects and even velvet, while colour changing vinyls also provide really unique wraps.

Vehicle graphics can also be tailor-made to suit any budget, allowing for options like partial wraps or small decals on elements of the transport such as the doors. A professionally installed wrap should last between five to seven years if properly maintained by regularly washing the vehicle. Many reputable wrapping companies offer warrantees on the wrap’s longevity.

Related: The Psychology of Colour in Marketing and Branding

Wraps also increase a vehicle’s value by protecting it from nicks and scratches. Then there’s the benefit of the conspicuous branding possibly making your vehicle less appealing to criminals.

Of course, you’ll have to ensure that you and your fleet drivers obey the rules of the road as reckless driving can damage your brand.

You can see vehicle wrapping solutions and business opportunities at the FESPA Africa and Sign Africa Expo at Gallagher Convention Centre from 12-14 September 2018.

Speed Wrap Challenge

An expo highlight is the Speed Wrap Challenge, a thrilling, live wrapping competition. Come along and watch experts compete against the clock for the title of champion. Vehicle wrapping companies can also enter their best wrappers. The challenge will take place on all three days of the expo. The first round will be at 10am and the final round will take place on Friday 14 September. For more information, visit: www.signafricaexpo.com/entrepreneur1.

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The featured image is credited to Wrap Vehicles.

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Branding

Personal Brand Or Business Brand: Which Is More Important?

Business today is all about relationships and the person behind the brand. The more the market knows the founder, the better their business performs in the market. But can we take this too far?

Jacques Du Bruyn

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If you’re like me, then you love reading online articles, opinion pieces and general books on the topics that you find interesting. It’s one of the ways that you can ensure that you keep your interest piqued and stay abreast of what’s going on in your industry. One of the topics that gets me thinking has always been the concept of branding.

It’s why I studied an undergraduate degree in marketing and I completed honours in brand management at Vega, the Brand Leadership School. I’ve always been curious to find out more. But one aspect of branding that hasn’t been given enough thought I believe is the relationship between the brand and the CEO of that brand.

Who should be more prominent?

It’s a straightforward question: Should the brand of the CEO or the brand of the business be more prominent?

What are the implications of the CEO’s brand being more prominent than the business’s brand? Similarly, what are the consequences of an unknown CEO where the business’s brand is the hero in the relationship?

Let’s perhaps start answering that question by talking about what a brand is. At university, you’ll be taught by your lecturer that Philip Kotler says a brand is a ‘name, term, sign, symbol (or a combination of these) that identifies the maker or seller of the product’. That’s technically correct. However, I’ve always believed that at the heart of branding lies perception. A brand is a perception. As marketers, we’re ultimately in the game of shaping positive perceptions, because perception sells.

Related: How Personal Branding Builds Self Awareness

I believe perceptions are shaped by three factors. What the brand tells us about itself (including what Philip Kotler mentions), what our acquaintances and friends tell us about the brand and what our personal experiences are with that brand.

Then there are the secondary factors that include where you were born, your cultural nuances, your history and so on. I’m sure it’s becoming clear that no two people can have the same perception. Nevertheless, perception matters and the art and science behind branding matters in shaping those perceptions.

So, then what’s more important? The brand of the CEO leading the business or the business’s brand? Depending on who you ask you’ll receive different answers.

CEO vs business brand

Let’s introduce two well-known South African brands into the conversation. Discovery and First National Bank. Both operate in the financial services industry, both are healthy brands — but chances are most of you can only name the CEO of one of them, and I’m guessing its Discovery.

That’s a typical example of CEO brand vs business brand. Adrian Gore, Discovery’s CEO, is an influential leader with a strong personal brand that works hand-in-hand with Discovery’s overarching brand. FNB’s CEO is Jacques Celliers, and in this instance, he’s mostly unknown to the general public. So, which then is more important? I spoke to a few thought leaders about this, and the general sentiment is mixed. Some believe a strong CEO brand does well for the business, others think the company comes first, and it’s first about the brand of the business. Personally, I believe it depends on the company and the health of 
the brand.

Let’s look at other examples; Apple and Steve jobs, Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Tesla and Elon Musk. All of these businesses, we can agree, are a success mainly because of the value that the CEO’s personal brand brings to the table. On the other hand, we have Coca-Cola, BMW and Microsoft. I bet most of you couldn’t name the CEOs of those companies off the cuff.

People do business with people

I believe that fundamentally people buy into people, not brands. That’s why I think there’s a strong case for a CEO with a solid brand. However, there are cons that exist. What happens when the CEO leaves? Has this CEO become so large that the business fails without them? After all, leadership is about passing the baton. In my opinion, Steve Jobs is the ultimate reason for Apple’s success, however he did a poor job of passing the baton. Luckily, Apple’s brand is strong enough to withstand uncertainty, but I think we can all agree that under Tim Cook, Apple has started to decline.

I used the example of FNB earlier because one of my favourite CEOs is Michael Jordaan. Under his leadership, FNB had what I like to call it’s ‘glory years’. They were simply unstoppable and every other bank in South Africa was struggling to keep up. Or at least that was the perception from the outside. Remember perceptions? Michael’s brand is strong, so much so that since his departure FNB has lost its story-telling innovative mojo.

Enter Bank Zero. An app-driven bank opening in South Africa in the fourth quarter of 2018. Why is anyone even paying attention? Because it’s Michael Jordaan. His personal brand is strong enough to grab attention. If it was a no-name would we care as much? Would there be nearly as much hype?

We therefore have two sides to the coin. A CEO’s personal brand is incredibly important when the business’s brand needs an injection of credibility. But the CEO must be careful that he doesn’t become too big when credibility is formed or restored. After all, great leadership is about passing the baton and leaving a sustainable legacy. Which means the CEO has built a brand that the customers buy into. I think Coca-Cola, Microsoft and BMW have done brilliantly at this. Their brands are sustainable because it’s about the brand, not the CEO’s brand. I also think there’s a strong case for choosing the next CEO from within the current pool of employees of that business.

Related: 5 Steps To Becoming A More Recognisable Brand


The elements of a strong CEO brand

  1. 
A fearless leader who motivates his/her employees into action
  2. 
A leader whose vision is simple and easy to follow
  3. 
A leader who rallies not only his employees but customers and clients too
  4. 
A leader who isn’t afraid to be in the media and on social media.

On the business side, here is what you should keep top of mind when building your corporate brand:

  • Create a strong corporate identity. That doesn’t mean doing it yourself, get the professionals to do it. It’ll include your logo, collateral and how your brand 
lives online.
  • Create your experience. It’s incredibly important that what you say is also experienced by your potential and current clients. This includes user experience offline and online.
  • Run online thought leadership and PR. This is what builds credibility. It’s one thing for you to talk about yourself, but when others talk about you it builds your brand in a way that adds much needed credibility. This also increases your SEO because any online thought leader should be linking back to your website.
  • Lastly, drive brand integration through your value-chain. When your audience and stakeholders see your brand they know you and what to expect.

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Branding

They’re Your Rules, Break Them

Could your brand benefit from the surprise factor? If you can package your information into a ‘mystery’, you’ll hold your audience in the palm of your hand.

Douglas Kruger

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The phrase has become iconic, and even those who have never caught an episode are familiar with it: ‘Winter… is coming!’

Many viewers have a love-hate relationship with Game of Thrones. It is impeccably well made, and, as the most expensive television show ever produced per episode, visually stunning.

Yet the level of violence beggars belief. Even if you are not an especially squeamish viewer, the assembly-line massacre of leading characters is perpetually shocking. And therein lies at least part of the reason why the enterprise is so successful.

No, it’s not the gore. It’s the unpredictable nature of each new development. The good guys don’t necessarily win. The bad guys don’t necessarily lose. Upheaval and disruption rock the storyline at every turn, making it one of the least formulaic productions around. You simply don’t know who’s going to prevail and who’s going to perish colourfully, and that keeps fans coming back for more.

So why is it so attractive for a store to defy conventions and, in a sense, ‘betray’ expectations? And can a brand story make use of the same dynamic?

I did not see that coming

In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath describe the powerful communication technique of ‘breaking people’s guessing machines’.

Related: The 3 Blueprints For Starting A Business

To make communication genuinely riveting, simply organise the information into a mystery, something in which the recipient can’t tell the outcome in advance. It can be done with something as traditionally dusty as a university lecture. George R.R. Martin certainly did it in a medieval fantasy about warring kingdoms.

It can even be done in a sales pitch. In Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Babble founder Rufus Griscom is described giving a completely counterintuitive presentation as part of a sales pitch. He headlined his slide: ‘Five reasons you shouldn’t buy Babble’.

And there was no trick implied. The presentation covered precisely these ideas, and not in an ironic way. He went into detail about the obstacles the company was facing, and described why these hurdles could be a difficulty to investors.

So why did it work (and work it did!)? The answer is two-fold.

Initially, the novelty factor drew attention. How do you not listen to a presentation like that? Secondly, the executives evaluating the presentation were basically being covertly invited to problem-solve.

‘That’s not so bad!’ they would say, psychologically bypassing the ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ step and going straight into assumptive ownership. They then began discussing ways of overcoming the obstacles. It became a challenge to their abilities.

In all of these cases, the approach has been to break accepted conventions in order to ‘break the guessing machine’ of the audience. The net result is heightened engagement, sustained curiosity and delight upon the reveal of the ‘answer’. When you depart from the accepted formulas of communication, you create cognitive dissonance. The audience (despite themselves, in the case of Thrones viewers who might not like violence), have to know how this will turn out.

Breaking the rules makes you distinctive

Rules can create set expectations. Formulas and accepted approaches do the same.

When you break and betray the rules, the level of anticipation remains high. In communication, surprise is effective and often attractive.

Does your brand ever surprise? Or is it constantly communicating in ways that are so predictable as to be mildly sedating? In your pitches and presentations, does your copy stand out? Or suffer death-by-predictability? What might you accomplish if you tampered with the rules on purpose, in order to up-end expectations? Do you have what it takes to break the human guessing machine? If you do, you just might achieve true brand distinction.

Related: 3 Strategies To Implement A Culture Of Innovation In Your Business (Without Blowing Billions)

Beyond mere words

The technique of ‘breaking the human guessing machine’ is not just limited to pitches and presentations. Your entire brand tells a story too, and with each new initiative, each new enterprise that it undertakes, it adds to the total tale in the public consciousness.

I contend that brands in South Africa tend to under-utilise the possibilities available to them. In an understandable quest to be taken seriously, they speak the language of ‘dependable business,’ rather than ‘exciting venture.’

A ‘dependable business’ has the narrative of stasis. There is no movement. An ‘exciting venture’ by contrast, speaks in vivid movement and attractive energy. It has purpose, mission and meaning.

The key to actualising this idea is theatre. And to understand the power of theatre in a brand’s narrative, let’s go straight to what must be the greatest example of brand theatre the business landscape has ever seen.

‘Here, hold my space shuttle’

Imagine you owned two organisations. One created space shuttles. The other made electric sports cars. What if you launched one of your cars out of earth’s atmosphere, using your own rockets? What if you then set the car into an orbit around the planet, with a little spaceman mannequin hanging out the side, playing a David Bowie hit as he cruised through eternity? Do you think such a theatrical initiative might just make it into every newspaper on the planet?

In doing just this, Elon Musk led the way. He demonstrated just how far we can depart from stuffy brand narrative to tell an exciting story, a surprising story. … And what will he do next?!

The very fact that we even ask such a question is proof of the concept.

It’s not about big budgets

Naturally, not every business has the budget to tinker with near-earth orbit. But theatre doesn’t have to be expensive. Have you ever dropped by a luxury car dealership, to have your cappuccino served to you with the brand’s logo drawn into the froth? That cost nothing but a little imagination.

Have you seen the number of YouTube views BMW achieved with their ‘drift-mob’ video in Cape Town? It runs into the millions, and growing.

Achieving surprise and telling a distinctive brand story need not be exorbitantly expensive. Kulula sets themselves apart with their inflight announcement. My all-time favourite is still: ‘In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your child. If you have more than one child, please pick your favourite now.’

This month, what if you challenged yourself to think about the key word ‘surprise’? What could your brand do that is unexpected and delightful, that will have people turning to one another and saying, ‘That was awesome!’, while still remaining true to your mission and vision? In fact, what if you started by looking over your mission statement, and then asked, ‘How could this be done in a way that is publicly surprising?’

Theatre can set you apart. It can make you what US speaker Joe Callaway calls, ‘A Category of One.’ And it only requires that you use a little imagination, then have the courage to be different on purpose. Your goal is simple, emotional impact. Wow factor. Nothing more intellectual than that.

New toys for rule-breakers

There are many other opportunities for rule-breakers to create strategic disruption. You might ask why things have always been done in a certain way. You might carry out an exercise in which you ask what ideal end-usage looks like for your client, then challenge your team to try to achieve that goal, using the phrase, ‘Couldn’t we just …?’ You might even ask insightful questions about what you actually sell, and not what product you believe you’re selling. All of these are useful exercises for the courageous maverick, and all can lead to different forms of productive rule-breaking.

For this month, though, pose yourself this single challenge only: What could we do in our brand narrative that might have a Game of Thrones-level impact?

In our household, that looks like this:

  • Douglas: ‘I can’t believe we keep watching this show!’
  • Wife: ‘Me neither!’
  • Douglas: ‘That was so shocking!’
  • Wife: ‘Unbelievable.’
  • Douglas: ‘Want to watch the next one?’
  • Wife: ‘Absolutely!’

… And that’s what you’re after.

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