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Thinking Like A Branding Rock Star

Why you need to think like a pro in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

Dylan Kohlstadt




In a crowded market-place, you have to stand to get noticed or make your peace with being invisible and forgotten.

“Branding” might seem like just another marketing term to you, but it could mean the difference between feast or famine for your business.

A few decades ago, someone called Valentino Liberace started playing piano and performing in concerts. Legend has it that he was approached by a critic who said to him, ‘You play piano well son, but you’re not memorable.’

Liberace went away, thought about it and returned wearing a suit made of lights that went on to define his every performance and public persona, shooting him to fame and fortune as the top paid entertainer during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

A modern day example would be Lady Gaga: do you think she dresses in those outlandish outfits because she wants to? No, she wants to stand out in a market filled with thousands of pretty blonde girls with averages voices who sing pop songs.

It’s worked for them but will it work for you? How do you make this type of flashy showmanship relevant to your stationery business or your printing company?

What is branding?

Let’s start at the beginning: what is branding. Branding isn’t something that happens organically or by itself; it is the result of a conscious effort by the business to create a perception and an experience that leads to differentiation from competitors and loyalty with a preselected audience of potential buyers or users.

When I ask you how Samsung is different from Apple, at least five things should flash through your mind; from the presentation to how it makes you feel to use it. This is all a by-product of a successful brand strategy. Mediocre branding leads to a mediocre product perception.

Branding is filled with terms like ‘brand equity’, ‘brand assets’, ‘brand value’, ‘brand promise’, ‘brand pillars’ and so on. In order to be as productive as possible, let’s avoid terms that smack of jargon and just focus on the key things.

1. Get a plan of attack together

Why do you think rock stars have managers? These people know what they’re trying to achieve, which types of songs are right or wrong for their image, where they should sing and what their public image is.

Sit down with a brand strategist who understands what you’re trying to achieve and figure out the roadmap together.

Without a strategy, you’re not going to know whether you’re on the right path or not. You need to know where you are at the moment in order to effect change. Your roadmap should cover the key points below. Remember the goal is to be memorable!

2. How are you different?

Every brand needs an element that will make it stand out from competitors. Is it your location or know-how or your wide product range? It might be your cool brand or the quality of the product or experience.

Just another country singer producing cowboy songs? Do a Dolly Parton and differentiate yourself using assets other than just your voice.

Remember that using price as a key differentiator is fine when you first launch your service but isn’t a sustainable strategy when meeting the potential pricing war it will spark between you and your competitors, where ultimately nobody wins.

3. Who are you competing against?

Sun Tzu, the famous military general, said ‘Know Thy Enemy’ and as in war, it is imperative you have an understanding of the competitive landscape in order to find a gap in the market and position yourself therein.

Know who is closest to you in product offering and what they’re offering that might win your customers over to them.

Competitors make you better at what you do; they’re not to be hated or feared but competed against in order to raise your game and make you better at what you do.

Remember, this is all about standing out, so find that gap and take advantage of it.

4. What do your customers think?

Research is powerful and highly underestimated by many businesses.

Find out what your customers think of your company and service before deciding on your new brand roadmap.

  • Why do they buy from you?
  • Why are they loyal?

This might just be the essence of your brand and a reason for differentiating. You might find that your brand is just fine, and nothing needs to change, or you might realise that you’re about to be overtaken by a competitor.

Research will colour in the landscape you operate in and tell you objectively how you are performing against others.

The other day I walked into a shop and asked the sales rep about their prices, only to have another customer start telling me how great they are and why I should use them. Now that was impressive! You know you’re doing something right when your customers start convincing potential customers to buy from you.

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How to Get Media Coverage for Your Brand


5. Is your staff living the brand?

Your staff is the most important part of your brand because they are the ones who interact with your customers. If they don’t have the right values and personality you will find your customers shopping elsewhere.

Now that you know what you stand for, the key question is whether your staff has the right personality to match your brand.

Put the right people in the right roles; administrators to deal with tasks and people-oriented staff to deal with humans.

The team at Hirsch’s Home Appliances in Milnerton Cape Town, stand out to me time and time again for their exceptional ‘go-the-extra-mile’ service. Nardo, the head of PR has personally hand-delivered items to me at my offices when they weren’t in stock. This smacks of staff that live the brand.

Ann, the brand manager at Woolworths, Sunset Beach, also drove to my house to drop off items that the checkout clerk failed to pack into my bag, with a bunch of flowers. No wonder she’s won top awards year after year.

6. Barriers to entry

The trick is to make it difficult for competitors to enter the market. Service, friendly staff, product range, brand, all of these things are ways you can wrap up the market so your customers refuse to shop elsewhere.

7. Touchpoint analysis

Assess each point of contact between your company and the client.

  • Does your staff greet customers when they walk in, or are they heads-down, working?
  • Does your cashier thank the shopper for each purchase?
  • Do they go the extra mile to satisfy the customer?
  • How long does it take to answer the phone, reply to emails or get work down?

8. Non-negotiables

Certain elements are ‘non-negotiables’. Typing errors, mistakes on invoices, pricing mistakes, wrong deliveries, breakages, poor quality; if you don’t have these ‘hygiene factors’ in place it won’t matter how funky your brand or brand strategy are, and it won’t matter how amazing your service or staff are, your business won’t stand out and might not even succeed.

Those who excel at every point win the war for a share of wallet. Good luck!

Dylan Kohlstädt is the founder and account director of Shift ONE: outsource marketing for entrepreneurs. She has ten years marketing management experience in insurance, financial and property industries plus six years hands-on experience in online marketing involving web, mobile, SEO, CRM and Social Marketing and is considered a subject matter expert on all things digital. Visit for more information.



Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Gary Harwood




Being in business is about more than just hitting the bottom line. Sure, financial growth is imperative to continued success. But if nobody knows about you, then your achievements will be limited to the short-term. Enter the world of brand and marketing.

To the uninitiated, these concepts might seem interrelated. And to a certain extent they are. However, branding revolves around delivering on a promise, it is what defines you as an SME and what makes you different from your competitors.

Marketing is about how you do it – your tactics and your strategic goals. It is about promoting a product or service to sell and earn revenue.

Both are equally important, and no entrepreneur can afford to ignore one in favour of the other. But how do you balance a limited budget and resources to finding the right balance? In some ways, it is best to take a step back and view your business from the perspective of your customers.

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Emotional versus rationale

Cynics might argue that branding is all about emotions while marketing is a more rationale (and logical) pursuit. After all, how do you ‘know’ your customer? How do you analyse the effectiveness of your brand promise?

It might be an easy thing for large organisations to measure, but for a business just starting out, it is quite a challenging prospect. Given how data has exploded in recent years, organisations have a wealth of information at their disposal to analyse, scrutinise, and draw insight from in getting to grips with the effectiveness of their brand promise.

And while this might seem daunting for your SME, it does not have to be the case. While there are more than enough models to measure brand equity, most are challenging (not to mention costly) to implement and they all require extensive research.

Fortunately, things like internal staff surveys (questions like what do your employees think your brand identity and promise is), how integrated your brand and marketing efforts are (do your tactics reflect what you want to achieve), and how you compare to the competitors, can be reviewed relatively quickly and cost effectively.

Related: The Economics of Branding

The business of marketing

Marketing can add a dynamic component to this mix. By focusing on the tactical elements of how to achieve business growth (specific to your brand promise), the SME can develop a more nuanced strategy that factors in both emotional and rationale elements.

We all want to make money but that hardly has the makings of a solid marketing strategy. In fact, marketing is less about flashiness and more about implementing solid business principles.

Sure, the sexiness comes in some of the tactical executions but it all revolves around delivering value to shareholders, marketing to the strengths of your business, and setting yourself apart from your competitors.

A successful marketing campaign revolves around bringing customers to your business. And this is where the brand promise is so important. You must understand what the customer requirements are if you are to deliver tactics that fulfil them.

Business today requires branding and marketing to work together. By compromising the one in favour of the other will not result in any significant long-term gains but risk your SME losing ground to competitors.

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5 Steps To Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

Whenever you engage, shine a light on your values.




What would you like people to say about you?

As Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Your personal brand is the sum total of what you do, how you do it and why you do it. It’s not something you can fake. It’s authentic and deep-seated.

If you get it right, your personal brand will make you stand out from the crowd, shine a spotlight on your expertise and enhance your value. You’ll have an energy and a buzz about you that people can’t help being drawn to.

So how can you build your personal brand?

For starters, don’t make the mistake of thinking your personal brand is all about you. It’s not. Your personal brand is not about your work experience or your personal accomplishments. Your personal brand should be about other people, specifically what you can do for other people.

Start by asking yourself a few questions: What needs can you address? What are the areas where you can offer the most value? What makes you different from the rest?

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

With a little thought and planning, you can build your personal brand from scratch. Just follow these five steps:

1Discover your opportunity

Passion is not enough. You might have a passion for rock climbing, or playing the ukulele. But having a passion does not automatically translate to recognition and success.

Instead of focussing on your passions, study the needs of the people in your circles. What are they trying to achieve? What are they struggling with? What are their frustrations?

Think about how you could best help these people.

Dig deep into who you are. Identify what you can bring to the table. Evaluate not just the skills and experience you’ve acquired but also the values that guide and inform you.

Study your competition. Can you serve a need that in an area that doesn’t have lots of competition?

If there’s lots of competition wherever you look, don’t be discouraged. Can you serve a need in a way that’s distinctive and noteworthy?

You’ve identified your opportunity when you’ve found a significant need that you can serve, in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

2Know your audience


Everything starts with your audience. Find out as much as you can about them. This includes standard demographic data such as what jobs they do, how much they earn and where they live.

Equally, if not more importantly, you need to know what their beliefs and values are, their hopes and dreams and the challenges they are facing.

Talk to your audience. Take them out for a coffee or set up a Skype call. Study them by reading what they’re saying on relevant social media, forums and review sites.

Is your audience more interested in quality or value? What’s more important to them, making a difference or making money? What public figures do they admire?

How much do your audience know about what you can offer them? Will you need to educate them for them to appreciate your value?

Identify who your core audience is. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Identify which audience segments are most likely to become long-term customers and advocates. These are the people you should focus on.

Related: Personal Branding Pitfalls Women Should Avoid

3Craft your message

In Hollywood, budding filmmakers learn to prepare an “elevator pitch” to sell their movie ideas to busy studio executives. The key is to summarize their idea in a short, memorable phrase that could be pitched even if they had to do it in an elevator.

For example, the movie Alien was initially pitched as, “Jaws in space.”

You want to tell your audience about what you do, about what makes you different and exciting. But they probably won’t have time to listen to your life story.

Instead, you should create a short message that sums up what you’re about in a way which connects with your audience. Keep it simple and memorable. Think of it as your elevator pitch. Your message should reflect the people you serve, the values that you embody and the results you achieve.

If you have any testimonials, study them. What were the things about you that people valued the most? Observe the exact phrases people use when talking about you. Often, these are the precisely the phrases you should use when describing yourself.

Use your message to brand yourself on your professional profiles. Most importantly, embody it in everything you do.

4Hone your uniqueness

Maybe you can do something highly useful that very few people can do. Well, that’s your unique quality, and you should tell your audience about it.

But perhaps there are plenty of people who do what you do, and you’ll be competing for the same audience. Being able to demonstrate a point of uniqueness is your key to success in a competitive market.

The most obvious point of uniqueness is to be the best. There are many ways of being the best. Find out which way plays to your strengths. Are you the most experienced, most creative, most efficient? Do you excel at customer service?

Related: [PODCAST]: Listen To Rich Mullholland Share Tips On Building Your Personal Brand

If you can’t be the best in some way, becoming more specialised can make you unique. For example, instead of offering a marketing service to small business owners in general, you could offer a marketing service targeted at chiropractors.

And don’t be afraid to be controversial to stand out. If you hold different opinions from the others, don’t be afraid to voice them. Just stay away from topics that are likely to cause offense, like religion and politics.

5Define your values

Authenticity is the cornerstone of personal branding. Your authenticity is what allows your audience to trust you, to engage with you, to tell their friends about you. Being authentic is about having stated values and being true to them.

So what are your values? You should include business values, such as driving innovation or personal accountability. You might also add ethical values, such as care for the environment.

How you speak and write is also a reflection of your values. Are you serious or informal? Do you address the layman or expert? What are your cultural reference points?

Guard against inconsistency, such as saying one thing and doing another, as this will cast doubt on your values and undermine your brand.

Keep your values at the heart of everything you do, as you interact with people, network on social media, or publish blog posts. Wherever and whenever you engage, ensure you do so in a way that shines a light on your values.

This article was originally posted here on

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Wrapping Up Profits With Niche Vinyl Wraps

Marketers always want to grab consumers’ attention while business owners may want to differentiate their company’s fleet.




Marketers always want to grab consumers’ attention while business owners may want to differentiate their company’s fleet.

Cars are used as form of self-expression, and some individuals will pay a small fortune to make their wheels unique. All of this can be achieved with speciality vinyls, which allow a range of attention-grabbing special effects.

Robbie Fuchs from World Signs said that these unique effects are sought after and that matte black finishes are popular, and are being used in some campaigns to tone down shiny chrome.

Popular requests include partial wraps for select sections of cars, such as: mirrors, stripes on the sides of vehicles, bonnets and high gloss black vinyl on roofs, which gives a panoramic look and feel.

‘There are a handful of people who will spend a lot of money on a car and then spend more money on making it look fancy,’ he says.

Related: Celebrating Women In The Signage And Printing Industry

Fuchs added that vinyls for home owners and private use is a niche market. ‘We have also had requests to wrap toilet seat covers, fridges and kitchen cupboards.’

Different textures such as chrome, wood grain, carbon fibre and a variety of metallic effects, glitter, ultra matt 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 advertising is good for any business size, and some small-business owners feel it legitimises their company by getting their brand and logo out where potential customers can see them,’ said Rakesh Rosen, Midcomp.

‘When smaller businesses use vehicle wraps, it puts them on the same playing field as franchises and companies that are large enough to maintain vehicle fleets. Vehicle vinyl wrapping is definitely on the increase in South Africa and will continue to grow.’

Henri Robert from Sign Wonder, said, ‘Vehicle branding is an effective promotion tool because it combines the key elements of marketing, advertising and branding into one convenient and proven solution. It is high impact, cost effective and they work for all types of businesses. Vehicle branding allows a vehicle to serve as a low-cost mobile billboard seen everywhere a vehicle typically goes.’

You can see vinyl wrapping solutions and business opportunities at the FESPA Africa and Sign Africa Expo at Gallagher Convention Centre from 13-15 September.

Visit for more information. 

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