Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top 10 Brand Tips for 2015

Early last year, I presented some brand tips for 2014. As the new year begins, it's a good time to analyze your branding strategies so that you can reach the largest audience possible, stand out from the competition, and create the most buzz.

Brand Tip #1:
Be mobile accessible. Does your website look good on mobile devices? Does it scale appropriately? If not, spend the time to make sure your site looks good and is easily accessible from smartphones and tablets. Many people access the Internet while on the go, so you don't want to lose customers or prospective customers because your site looks like it was designed during the last century. This goes for making emails mobile accessible too.

Brand Tip #2:
Does your brand store data in the cloud? With all the data breaches in the mainstream news, make sure to spend the time to protect your customer data. Just because you store data in the cloud does not mean your data is safe. Implement complex password practices for all employees who will access your data, which means that all passwords should be at least 10 characters in length and integrate lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid passwords of "12345678" and "password" like the plague.

Brand Tip #3:
On this same note, think about security from your customers' point of view. If your brand has suffered a data breach, implement procedures to alert customers and the mainstream media immediately. Don't wait for someone in the media to tell your story - your brand and business may not survive the negative publicity.

Brand Tip #4:
While the Internet of Things is a hot topic, not every industry and brand are affected. Your brand may have nothing to do with an app that can remotely control a refrigerator, but there may be some unique ways to integrate the Internet of Things into your marketing strategies. The theme here is: Think outside the box.

Brand Tip #5:
How often do you request feedback from customers? Do you send electronic surveys? Do you thank customers for completing the surveys? And what do you do once you receive the feedback? As with any other part of your overall marketing strategy, have a strategy from start to finish for the feedback project.

Brand Tip #6:
Don't let the number one brand in your industry scare you. Remember the famous tagline from Avis, "We're #2, We Try Harder?" Sometimes, brands that aren't industry leaders turn out to be the trendsetters. Apple was a small company when it ran its famous 1984 Super Bowl ad.

Brand Tip #7:
While the concept of customer experience marketing is not new, the implementation of providing consistency across multiple touchpoints may be new for your brand. How often does someone within your company call the toll-free number, visit a retail store, make an online purchase, participate in an online chat - all with the intention of checking out the consistency of the customer experience? If these situations don't happen on a regular basis, there's work to be done because you don't want to provide different experiences and confuse your customers.

Brand Tip #8:
What social media platform are you most comfortable using? During 2015, try reaching a new audience with a new social site. You may be surprised by the results.

Brand Tip #9:
This tip is timeless: Since all employees are ambassadors for your brand, train employees on a regular basis so that they can talk about your brand when out in the community and interacting at industry events, etc.

Brand Tip #10:
This tip is also timeless and is the core of branding: Implement consistency. No matter what marketing tool you use - printed collateral, websites, emails, advertisements, brochures, annual reports, flyers, presentation templates, business cards, stationery, folders, tradeshow booths, or social media - make sure your brand identity (logo, tagline, and color palette) is CONSISTENT!

What do you think will appear on my list of branding tips for 2016? Check back next January.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Leadership Insights from the Nonprofit Sector

I would like to introduce Scott Bowling, Psy.D., to my blog. Since 1999, Scott has been President and CEO of the Exceptional Children's Foundation (ECF), a nonprofit based in Culver City (California) with 15 service sites throughout Los Angeles County. ECF provides services for young children, students, and adults with special needs. Scott leads a staff of over 350 employees, a budget of $25 million, and for the last year, I’m honored to say I've been a member of Scott's team as Marketing Director. Recently, Scott and I discussed leadership, and highlights from our conversation follow.

QUESTION: How is the process of leading different when leading a nonprofit versus a for-profit business?
SCOTT BOWLING: The leadership process and principles applied to nonprofit vs. for-profit businesses are more alike than dissimilar. The employees of any business must be prioritized as the organization's greatest asset. Motivating staff to the mission of the business and ensuring each employee understands his/her role and value to achieving desired outcomes are paramount. Acknowledging performance excellence while keeping everyone invested in the company's direction is what achieves the best (mission and financial) results.

QUESTION: What three qualities are most important for employees to be successful in the nonprofit sector?
SCOTT BOWLING: I believe in these three: shared company values, communication flow, and positive attitude/energy. 

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO set the direction for his/her company's or nonprofit's culture?
SCOTT BOWLING: The CEO sets the tone for the company's day-to-day operations and therefore creates its culture through consistency of actions, applied policy, and communications. S/He must live and breathe the company's values (integrity, service excellence, fiscal responsibility, people first, for instance), and attract and retain the human resources (staff) who share these values and facilitate the tone (culture) established by the CEO.

QUESTION: In the nonprofit sector, employees wear many hats, so how can an individual gain respect without a leadership title?
SCOTT BOWLING: Respect is earned by individuals with and without a leadership title. When individuals maintain a positive attitude, perform duties with consistent quality, and can be relied upon to reflect the company's values, trust and respect will follow.

QUESTION: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become brand ambassadors?
SCOTT BOWLING: Once a clear branding plan is established and communicated, follow the plan – consistently. Branding is seen in the way leaders dress, how s/he speaks to others inside and outside the business, the messages sent in writing and orally (how s/he represents the company), and in actions taken.

With Scott Bowling at ECF Event.
QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert: “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
SCOTT BOWLING: It means that everyone has the opportunity to lead. Seize the opportunities that inevitably become available to demonstrate your belief in the whole, and those who comprise the oneness of the company. Defend what's right (through consistent actions and words), and stand firm in the values that advance the company forward.

My thanks to Scott Bowling for sharing his leadership insights. Learn more about ECF at and on Facebook at

Image Credit (Leadership): Stuart Miles via