Monday, May 16, 2016

Secrets to Get Your Brand in Lights!

As Walter Landor once said, "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." So how much effort does your business or nonprofit allocate toward branding? If you don't spend time and effort building your brand, you won't be the Nike, Disney, or Coca-Cola in your industry.

I recently met Bill Ellis on Twitter, and since we share a passion for branding, we had an interesting discussion. Here's a brief introduction before the highlights below: Bill works with business owners and professionals who want to increase their value to better serve others and achieve stratospheric success. His experience, perspective, and insights drive powerful results including clarity of purpose, executable strategies, business growth, and personal fulfillment. As the principal of Branding for Results, Bill works as a coach, speaker, and thought partner and is a certified Go-Giver speaker and coach. Connect on Twitter @WCEllis, Instagram @wcellis, LinkedIn, and visit his website Branding for Results. 

What is a fearless brand, and why should a brand desire to be one?
BILL ELLIS: Let me start by defining a brand. First, it’s important to understand that the meaning is the same for a personal brand, a company brand, a product, or a service. Your brand, a brand, is the value that you offer. A brand is the value proposition which is defined by the combination of purpose/passion, skills/assets/attributes, and relevance.

A fearless brand is built on a base of authenticity and is one which has complete conviction in its value and relevance. A fearless brand accepts both its strengths and shortcomings at face value, is committed to growing its value, and keeps its focus on the needs of the people it serves.

It's very important for brands to conduct audits on a regular basis. How do you define the three stages of a brand audit?
BILL ELLIS: The purpose of a brand audit is to obtain an impartial and expert assessment of your brand. Think of it similar to an accounting audit where an independent CPA is brought in to review your books, to verify and validate your financial situation, and to identify areas of improvement or concern. Your brand is your most valuable asset so it’s important to treat it as such. My brand audit has three overlying stages – the 3D’s of my brand audit:
* Discovery – This phase is comprised of learning, investigating, inquiring and seeking. Speaking with the business owner, key stakeholders to understand how they define their brand and its current messaging.
* Development – Phase II begins with a deeper dive into the brand via interviews across a broader slice of stakeholders – including employees and customers both past and present.
* Deliverable – The final phase of my brand audit is defined by my assessing all of the information, connecting the dots and then providing recommended actions which fall under one of three headings – Start, Stop or Continue. Discussions then take place to address any questions or strategic needs the client may have.

You've established something called the "Seven C's of Branding," what are they?
BILL ELLIS: I developed my Seven C’s of Branding as the result of my transformation from a marketing executive at Anheuser-Busch to a solo provider of business services. I present the C’s in a linear fashion, yet all seven of them interact and occur simultaneously.
*Control – Determine what can and cannot be controlled in order to make the most from one’s efforts – and to avoid wasting energy and time on those things which will not yield tangible results.
*Clarity – Perhaps the single most important “C,” clarity is where the work is done to identify purpose and passion and then talents, assets, and skills in order to identify the most effective value proposition. It is here that the work is done to validate what is the brand’s relevance and to whom.
*Conviction – It is at this stage that a brand knows that it is optimized – that it has become a fearless brand.
*Conversion – The intangibles of the first three C’s need to be converted to tangibles which define and communicate the brand’s essence.
*Communication – Determining what the correct message is, how to best package it and which delivery channel(s) are most effective.
*Connections – Creating connections with customers, prospects, and brand advocates.
*Consistency – A critical “C.” Consistency does several things, notably, it reinforces the brand’s value and message at every single touch point and it builds trust. Trust leads to more repeat customers, more referrals, and an expectation that the value sought from your brand will always be delivered.

You spent many years at one of the most well-known brands in the beverage industry. What three brand tips can every brand learn from Anheuser-Busch?
BILL ELLIS: I learned a great deal during my 25+ years in brand management at Anheuser-Busch so narrowing it down to three is a challenge.
*Know how your brand meets the needs of those you will serve.
*Be flexible in your strategy as the market dictates.
*Avoid change for the sake of change.

What's your favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: I’ve reviewed and written about and worked on so many brands I can’t select just one. I’ll just point out the two most ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ brands I’ve featured on my Building Fearless Brands blog. Those are Judge Judy and Jack Daniel’s…draw your own conclusions.

What's your least favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: Any brand which is disingenuous, deceptive, or has just awful marketing – sadly there are far too many to list.

Most businesses have added to their C-level suite with a Chief Talent Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and even a Chief Customer Officer. When will businesses create Chief Branding Officers?
BILL ELLIS: I don’t foresee the majority of companies creating the position of Chief Branding Officer…nor should they. What I would rather them do is adopt a philosophy of providing the greatest value possible to their customers, vendors, and most importantly, their employees. I would hope they learn to focus more on the human brands that are at the core of their success.

A big thank you to Bill for appearing on my blog!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leadership Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Whenever I think about leadership, I think about Eric Jacobson. Today, I would like to welcome Eric back to my blog. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog twice as a featured guest and countless other times with quotes. Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. Eric’s passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire. Recently, Eric and I had a conversation about the changing nature of leadership, and highlights follow below. For more about Eric, visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter.

QUESTION: I had a discussion with a fellow customer experience colleague (@AnnetteFranz) and she mentioned that heads of businesses should refer to themselves as executives rather than leaders. This comment has remained with me. Why do you believe there is such a lack of quality leadership today?
ERIC: There is a lack of quality leadership for a couple different reasons. Often, people who excel at a technical level within an organization are promoted to a management position only to discover that they either have no desire to be a leader and/or lack the skills to effectively lead. They hold the “executive” title but aren’t effective leaders. At other times, individuals who start out as effective leaders become less effective when they focus their attention on meeting the needs of Boards and investment bankers rather than their employees. These often conflicting situations keep these executives from truly LEADING their businesses.

QUESTION: There's a new book entitled "Superbosses" by Sydney Finkelstein. The book received the following praise from Millard Drexler, Chairman and CEO of J. Crew Group: "A smart leader surrounds himself with smart people. Through the book, Finkelstein showed the surprising ways leaders actually find, develop, and grow a team of curious, talented individuals." What are three ways YOU think a super boss grows a team of talented employees?
ERIC: Here are my three:
1. Ensure that each team member clearly understands his or her role on the team and understand the team’s mission. Discourage any one team member from “being a hero.”
2. View disagreement as a good thing and allow team members to constructively express their viewpoints. Encourage the team to steer away from groupthink.
3. Ideally seek to allow each team member's success dependent on another team member's to foster collaboration across all functions.

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer): “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?
ERIC: This is a great quote and such important advice for leaders. To me, it means trust your employees and get out of their way so they can do their jobs. Don’t sidetrack them from getting their most important work done by injecting tasks that don’t support the primary task at hand. Allow them to take risks and to fail. Then, use those situations as learning opportunities. It also means to me, remove obstacles within the organization. Remove outdated and no longer needed policies or processes. And when it comes to being trusted as a leader, do what you say you will do. Deliver on your commitments. And, don’t promise something you aren’t going to provide.

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.” What three tips can YOU provide to create this type of leader?
(Here's the link to my post about this news:
ERIC: Here are my three:
1.  Listen to all sides of an issue and provide individuals with a safe environment to express their opinions.
2.   Help educate and inform those you work with so that they, too, can understand the fullest spectrum of the collective viewpoints.
3.   Share and explain how coming to a consensus nearly always wins out over making no decision.

QUESTION: How can a CEO/President define or set the direction for his or her company's culture?
ERIC: Explain it. Believe it. Be it. Live it. In other words, walk the talk. Lead by example. Clearly demonstrate your support of the culture.  Fully support the employees who, and the actions that, contribute to the desired company culture.

QUESTION: What have you learned from your three favorite leaders?
ERIC: From my favorite workplace leader, I learned to listen to both sides of an issue because the truth is likely in the middle of the two sides. From a fellow Rotarian, I learned to lead with a “can-do” attitude. That positivity and enthusiasm is contagious. It drives success. From all leaders who do this, I learned to be decisive. Make decisions. Don’t stalemate yourself or your employees by being indecisive.

My sincere gratitude to Eric for sharing his leadership insights again on my blog. Check out his two previous appearances at the links below:

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via