Your Brand Is A Feeling, Not A Noun

Branding. It’s all the rage, but what is it exactly? According to Merriam-Webster, branding is the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand. Of course, there’s as many definitions of branding as there are flavors of chewing gum.

These are just a few of the brands who have connected with me.

A few of my favorite things — Starbucks espresso, Chuck Taylor shoes and Merona socks.

I’ll make it easy though. Branding is a feeling you create in people, an emotion. It’s the way that seeing a Starbucks cafe makes me smile. Sure, I’m an espresso junkie, but that’s not the only reason I love Starbucks. It’s the atmosphere in the company’s cafes, the best reward program in the industry. It’s my personal Starbucks cup, paying with my phone and earning stars, all while doing what I love — drinking espresso.

It’s the same type of connection I have with Big Red gum, New Balance running shoes, Sharpie markers, PaperMate Flair pens and so on. When I use these products, they evoke a special feeling in me. When I chew other gum or write with another brand of pen, it’s just not the same. (As a writer, I’m serious about my writing instruments!)

The Garth Brooks brand has a loyal fan here!

17 years ago, Garth put a kid from an unincorporated village 10 rows from the stage, convincing me that dreams do come true. Almost 17 years later, the love affair continues.

And then there’s Garth. It’s not just my country roots or my cowboy brother who turned me onto his music. When you go watch Garth Brooks perform, it’s an experience, not just a concert. And 17 long years ago, he signed this fan up for life with a gesture that he repeated over and over again. He took the time to look at his show from his fans’ point of view and came up with ways to make their experience even better. And this fan will never forget it.


Brand You

What are your favorite brands?

How did they make a special connection with you?

As a brand, how can you connect with customers?

Cheers,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your favorite brands, your playlist tunes or your branding needs):

6 Valuable Snippets of Career Advice I’d Tell My Younger Self

After reading some of the entries in the popular #IfIWere22 LinkedIn series, I was inspired to think about what I would tell my younger self. Hindsight is 20/20, right? So here I go…

college graduation photo

Yours truly at 22 — ready to take on the world!

6 Snippets of Career Advice I’d Give to My Younger Self

Don’t let yourself be used. Yes, it pays to be a hard worker and to chip in where you can. Some of your best opportunities may come from projects outside of your ‘job description.’ Yet, it’s not helpful to willingly work 70-80 hours a week and become a catch can for the company while others maintain an actual work-life balance. There’s nothing in the Ten Commandments about burning out before you’re 25 and routinely doing other peoples’ jobs for them.

This point also refers to regularly ‘covering’ for co-workers or even your boss while they’re sleeping in, out socializing or living their life. In group environments, you’ll always have people riding others’ coattails. Sometimes, these people promise ‘exposure,’ promotions, even raises. Unfortunately, these are often empty promises.

Start networking now! Your professional network can be a big boost to your career, but it’s up to you to build and maintain it. I’m not just talking about collecting business cards or adding connections on LinkedIn (although that’s a great place to be!). Get to know professionals in your industry, offer your help when appropriate and pick their brain. Remember to give twice as much (of your time, talents, etc.) than you receive.

Speak up. You may be the low man (or woman) on the totem pole, but don’t hesitate to chime in when appropriate. If your boss asks your opinion, speak up. As a newbie to a company or situation, you can offer a fresh perspective that veterans cannot. Besides, the simplest solution is often the best, and others may be over-thinking the project. Your superiors will notice when you routinely offer valuable insight and fresh ideas.

Speak up -- and shine like a star!

Speak up! Your insight and ideas can be just as valuable as someone twice your age.

Learn from every opportunity. You were excited to land an internship at a great company but all you’re doing is picking up coffee, making runs to the mail room and updating endless spreadsheets. First, do whatever tasks you’re assigned to the best of your ability — even making coffee runs. If you can’t handle the routine, why would anyone give you more responsibility? Look for opportunities to improve the situation — save the company money, enhance a report or bring efficiency where you can. If your supervisor doesn’t notice, bring it up (appropriately of course). Then, ask for more. Let your boss know that you’d love to sit in the next brainstorming session or be involved in a conference strategy session, and offer your help — to take notes, order lunch, etc. It may just be that the powers to be have so much going on that they don’t realize you’re being shut out. (This applies to seemingly non-related jobs and experiences as well. You’d be surprised what you can learn from working at Walmart or helping your youth group.)

Try new things! You’re young, so it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life. This is where talking to other professionals, shadowing them and volunteering for opportunities will help. For example, volunteering at an American Diabetes Association walk may show you a love for event planning or participating in student government could spark an interest in public service. The more you experience, the more confident you’ll feel in your chosen career path. Change your mind at your first career stop? No big deal. Keep looking for what you want to do and avenues you can take to get there.

Don’t burn bridges. It may be tempting to walk out of a job on the spot or tell that professor what you really think of his teaching, but it’s probably a bad idea. We’re a mobile society today, so you never know where or when you’ll run into someone again. That professor? He may be a consultant for a company you apply at. Your internship supervisor? It turns out his brother-in-law works in HR at your dream company. It’s amazing how small the world turns out to be. So try to act professional until the end, even if that means graciously leaving an opportunity before you explode.

What’s your advice?

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

Is there a decision you made when you were younger that you love or regret?

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

p.s. Entering the workforce? Changing careers? CCC can help you with a number of personal branding needs, including resumes, cover letters and social media profiles/usage. Learn more or contact us to discuss your needs today!

Older and wiser,
Jaime

Building your professional network? Connect with CCC!
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14 Tips for the High School Class of 2014

college workspace

Oh, the memories. My desk in my college dorm room… I didn’t gain an appreciation of clean lines and white space until later. 🙂

  1. Always carry a notebook. You never know when an idea will strike. (This post was born in mine.)
  2. Start building your professional network now. It’ll come in handy later (and that may be sooner than you think).
  3. Learn every day. Formal education is important but remember that some of your most important lessons will come outside the classroom.
  4. An inspired professor (adviser, coach, counselor, etc.) can change your life.
  5. Be proud of how you got here and plan for the future, but always live in the moment. You miss so much when you don’t.
  6. Work hard but take a moment for yourself now and then. College (and life) should be fun too.
  7. Be a broke college student/young professional now so you can live a little later.
  8. Take a risk. Do something that makes you nervous — and excites you.
  9. Always think of real world applications. How will this class help prepare me for a career? How will this degree help me pursue my dreams? How does this apprenticeship prepare me for my future?
  10. Intern, intern, intern. (And that doesn’t mean you have to work for free.)
  11. Call your Mom once in awhile. She’ll appreciate it. 🙂
  12. Take good advice. (The hard part is knowing which advice is good.)
  13. Make your own decisions. Others can recommend, suggest and help guide you, but you’re responsible for your education and life.
  14. Some may think its cheesy, but take the time to walk on graduation day. You’ll be glad you did later.
college graduation photo

Smile! You’re a college graduate. Yours truly, before walking at graduation.

Share Your Real World Experience

What other tips do you have for this year’s high school graduates?

What do you wish you would have known at 18 years old?

What’s something that you did that worked wonders for you?

p.s. Did you know CCC helps with resumes, cover letters and personal essays, too? They’re a big part of your personal brand, which we all have today, like it or not. What does your personal brand say about you?

Class of ’99 and ’03,
Jaime

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Get Real, Brands: Why Real Is Usually Right

Whether you’re a racing fan or not, you have to love Jeff Gordon and his sponsor, Pepsi MAX, right now.

Last year, the duo produced an awesome ‘test drive‘ video, where a disguised Jeff Gordon took an unsuspecting used car salesman on the ride of his life. Only, it was fake. A stunt driver, paid actors and a car that didn’t exist (an ’09 Camaro). Some of the thrill wore off after the truth came out. And the truth will come out in today’s ultra-connected, 24/7 world.

So this time, they got it right. They wanted to show the reporter, who broke the story of the initial video being fake, that they could, in fact, pull off a real stunt of EPIC proportions. And they did. Jalopnik‘s Travis Okulski went for the ride of his life. All real this time, and the Internet’s buzzing about it.

No, you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet. But when a brand gets real, it usually gets it right.

What did you think of the video?

“Test Drive 2” video courtesy of Pepsi YouTube Channel
Tweet from Travis Okulski’s Twitter feed

Cheers,
Jaime

All real, all the time. Let’s connect:
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You Don’t Know Jack About Brandjacking

In the mid-nineties, there was a trivia game called You Don’t Know Jack. As a trivia buff, I loved the game and even had it on CD-ROM (remember those?). OK, I also loved telling people, “You don’t know jack” when they answered incorrectly. Which brings me too…

You Don't Know Jack logo

Brandjacking. What is it? When someone hijacks your brand, either personal or business, in order to steal your thunder (and publicity) or to hurt your brand’s reputation. It usually happens online, especially on social media. The term is widely credited to Business Week, which used it in a 2007 article.

So what’s the problem? First of all, it’s desperate. You’re either trying to grab some cheap publicity from another brand’s (hard work &) success or trying to cause damage to someone else’s brand. Either way, you look bad.

Second, come up with your own brand. Put in the work to build your brand, formulate a strategy and put it into action. Don’t try to jump on someone else’s coattails to success without putting in the work.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much time working on companies’ brands and understand how much time, effort and money go into the branding process. As all of you fellow marketers and business owners know, it’s a lot of hard work. For someone else to benefit from that (outside of donated publicity for a non-profit or cause) is incredibly frustrating and annoying.

Clearly Conveyed Communications logo

As a small business owner, my brands (personal and business) are my everything. I’m all in, as they say at the poker table. I’ve put every last chip I have into making Clearly Conveyed Communications work. For someone to come along and hurt my brand(s) would be a horrible blow.

As Tony Zayas so elegantly puts it on the Proforma blog, trust is the new business currency. If clients and prospects don’t trust you, they won’t work with you.

So if you think brandjacking is cool (or a viable marketing tactic), then you don’t know jack about branding.

The mic is yours…

Do you agree? Or is brandjacking a viable guerrilla marketing tactic?

Are there any brandjacking examples that you feel have been a success?

Would you brandjack?

You may also like: The Art of Branding | The Olympics: A Global Brand (Kind Of)
Rage Against the Political Machine: 5 Takeaways for Your Marketing Efforts

Photo credit: You Don’t Know Jack

Your trivia (& branding) buff,
Jaime

Connect with CCC & me…
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Social Media Savvy: It’s Still All About the Brand

One of the more popular posts I wrote last year was about social media branding and its importance to your brand’s reputation, especially if you’re in the marketing, social media, technology or related fields. After reading Dustin W. Stout’s excellent post on the subject, I realized an update was in order. The major social networks were busy editing, tweaking and re-branding in 2013.

Why does it even matter?

  • Your reputation — If your social media branding is out of date, what else is?
  • Respect — You’ve carefully cultivated your brand and want people to use it as intended. Extend that courtesy to others, including social media networks.
  • Brand police — The networks may not notice that you’re using their out-of-date branding unless you’re Coca-Cola or Apple. But remember, you are renting space on their platforms so it’s not a good idea.
spotlight shining on the major social media network logos

Your brand conveys who you are and what you’re about. Make sure to always comply with other company’s brand guidelines.

Facebook rolled out a new like button this year, but the social media giant’s main logo has remained pretty consistent. The company uses a white ‘f’ in a blue square and does not allow use of the full Facebook logo.

Google may be a brand master, but it’s social network Google+ is still figuring out which way it wants to go in that department. This platform has changed its branding every year of its short existence, and has currently settled on a centered ‘g+’ on a red background.

Twitter‘s flying high from its splashy IPO earlier this year (which has since come back to Earth), so its fresh branding with its legendary bird angled up makes sense. Stay away from the old ‘t’ or full Twitter logos, or the dreaded Fail Whale may appear.

Instagram is a new addition to this year’s post as the visual social platform has exploded over the past two years. The company has added video to its repertoire, been purchased by Facebook and moved to the web — a major reason to grab a badge and promote your account.

                 Facebook logo     Google+ logo     Twitter logo     Instagram logo     Pinterest logo     LinkedIn logo     YouTube logo

The current branding for the major social platforms is shown above. (Keep in mind that some offer additional options, depending on use.) For your convenience, I’ve linked each logo to the current branding guidelines for that social network.

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you about social media brand compliance.

Is using current social media branding on your website, blog and other marketing materials important to you?

Is it as important if you’re not in a related industry?

Is there another social media network or platform you’re interested in?

Need to update your social media branding? As a special treat, Dustin has shared a downloadable file at the end of his aforementioned insightful post.

Well blog readers, it’s  been an eventful year. Thank you for reading along, joining the discussions and sharing our content to your connections. We really appreciate it, and wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!

Spotlight photo courtesy of Virgin Mobile’s Wallpaper Swag Gallery // Social media icons were added

Stay safe and enjoy ringing in the New Year!

Jaime

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Should Brands Get Political?

Brands are encouraged today to be living, breathing entities with values and to form relationships with customers. Is it any surprise then that some have jumped into politics?

An Obama campaign decal next to the Apple logo on a user's laptop.

In 2012, Apple Inc. spent $1.97 million on lobbying and contributed $620,929 in campaign donations to both political parties.* Should brands get political?

I realized recently that this topic has entered the mainstream conversation when an iconic brand wanted to explain to the public why it did NOT want to jump into the political fray. Starbucks ceo Howard Schultz wrote an open letter explaining why the company did not want its cafes to be battlegrounds in the hotly contested gun control debate. Honestly? Starbucks would just love for you to meet friends or a client at one of its cafes and have some coffee — not picket or protest.

“I am proud of our country and heritage of civil discourse and debate. It is in this spirit that we make today’s request. Whatever your view, I encourage you to be responsible and respectful of each other as citizens and neighbors.” –Howard Schultz, Starbucks ceo

On the other hand, some brands have decided to jump in and announce their views to the world. Last year, Chick-fil-A made headlines with its views on gay marriage rights, which led to passionate responses on both sides of the aisle. Those opposing gay marriage scheduled ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Days” to support the company while gay rights advocates called for a boycott. Eager to remove itself from the controversy, the company issued a statement saying it would “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena” going forward.

Join the Discussion

Should brands get involved with politics? Or take stands on hotly debated issues?

What’s your take?

Photo courtesy of swiperbootz via a Creative Commons License
*Apple statistics courtesy of Ethical Consumer
Starbucks ceo Howard Schultz’s open letter available at starbucks.com
Chick-fil-A quote via Wikipedia  

Cheers,
Jaime

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The Art of Branding

Branding is a buzz word today, so everyone wants to drop it like the name of the hottest new rapper out there. While it’s overused and abused, it’s still an instrumental element to companies and people everywhere.

“Good brands are able to set the tone, create the scene, and make us a part of it all.”  –Danny Trizio

We’re all brands, you and me, Apple and Google. Living, breathing entities that customers and fans connect with, get to know and enter into relationships with. Sound strange? OK, think about why you buy an iPhone instead of another smartphone or why you choose Google over Bing. It may be a subconscious choice, but it’s not likely random.

Apple ad

Apple has designed a brand with staying power.

Of course, some brands get it more than others. The aforementioned Apple is one of the strongest brands alive today, and this is coming from an Android fan. I came across a blog post by Danny Trizio, marketing campaign manager at Proforma, touching on why Apple ‘gets it,’ so I’ll let him explain.

Along with the tech icon, another brand who forges a deep bond with customers is ABSOLUT. (Full disclosure: I am a customer!) I previously offered a toast to this icon for its fine take on branding.

ABSOLUT UNIQUE

One of a kind, millions of expressions…
ABSOLUT UNIQUE

Keep in mind that it’s not only industry leaders who can develop strong brands. While I’m a fan (and heavy user) of Starbucks, I also love our local spot, Angel Falls Coffee Company. It’s located in a neighborhood with a unique flavor that loves to support mom and pop shops. Angel Falls embraces its role as a local favorite, with an eclectic spot that welcomes you in to play some checkers, discuss current events or people watch while enjoying its brew (and a delicious, fresh out of the oven baked good).

So how can I bond with two brands in the same industry? First, as previously noted on this blog, I’m an espresso addict. Second, I patronize both of these companies on different occasions. I love to walk to Angel Falls to enjoy a steaming GingerBeast (relax, it’s only a gingerbread latte) while catching up with a friend or gazing out the front picture window, lost in thought.

Starbucks is a different breed. It’s everywhere, so I can stop in for a mouth-watering soy hazelnut macchiato, breakfast sandwich or old fashioned glazed doughnut whenever I want. The breakfast sandwiches are available all day, so it’s perfectly OK if I want breakfast for dinner or am really slow moving on a lazy Sunday. I can meet business associates or customers there to discuss projects while enjoying the breeze on the patio. One of the main reasons I became a Starbucks fan is the company’s prevalence in airports. I could grab an espresso and Perfect Oatmeal (which fits neatly on top of a lidded Starbucks cup, by the way) en route to my connecting flight at 7am. Haven’t we all been there?!

Now that I’m not traveling so much, I find that I love hitting up my local Starbucks, which makes every effort to fit into the community. Its baristas are some of the happiest people I see all day, the atmosphere is conducive to thinking (which I like to do) and this coffee giant’s reward program is phenomenal. I was pretty excited when I received my gold card in the mail this week. Brightened up my Monday!

Follow my take on my favorite brands on Pinterest

Chime In

So, who are some of your favorite brands? Who ‘gets’ the power of branding?

Did I miss the boat on any brand I referenced above? Who did I miss?

Let your voice be heard!

(Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention my favorite brand, Clearly Conveyed Communications.)

Apple ad courtesy of Apple, Inc
ABSOLUT UNIQUE photo courtesy of ABSOLUT US

Cheers,
Jaime

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How Ben Affleck’s Story Carried Argo to a Best Picture Oscar (And What We Can Learn From It)

Argo_Best Picture

When Argo won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, I was thrilled. Don’t get me wrong; there was some stiff competition in the category, and I was impressed by some of the challengers, most notably LINCOLN. However, it was interesting to watch how Ben Affleck’s Best Director snub by the Academy became a leading story, how the actor handled it, and ultimately, how it helped push Argo to the forefront of the Best Picture discussion. And of course, how we can all learn from it.

Ben Affleck has been in Hollywood a long time, bursting onto the scene with his pal Matt Damon while winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Good Will Hunting in 1998. As he noted in this year’s rambling, heartfelt acceptance speech,

“I was here years ago or something. I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all… really just a kid.”

Despite this initial success, Affleck continued to seek out and learn from others in the industry while honing his craft. He thanked the “… so many wonderful people who extended themselves to me when they had nothing to benefit from it in Hollywood.” We can all continue to learn every day, no matter how many years of experience we’ve accumulated or success we’ve achieved. Appreciate those who have contributed and continue to contribute to your career. 

In addition to learning every day, perseverance is key.

“It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up.”
-Ben Affleck

We all need to learn to persevere because things won’t always go as planned. There are a lot of potholes, detours and speed bumps on this road we call life.

Along with his perseverance, one of the qualities throughout the entire process that drew people to this story was Affleck’s humility. He didn’t respond angrily when the Academy snubbed him of a Best Director nod; he only spoke of the deserving directors who were recognized. This was a big reason why the press and social media picked up the story and brought Argo back to the forefront of the Best Picture race. People empathized with Affleck, spoke positively about him and rooted for his movie.

When you are humble, it goes a long way to connecting with others and forming meaningful relationships — in business and in life. 

So there you have it — continued learning, perseverance to his craft and humility along the way; three reasons that Ben Affleck has achieved success and his personal story helped carry his film to the forefront of the Best Picture discussion. The same three qualities that can help carry you in business and in life. If you missed Affleck’s heartfelt speech (or just want to watch it again), enjoy!

What do you think?

Did Ben Affleck’s personal story help carry Argo to a Best Picture win? What are other examples of the press and/or social media bringing an issue to everyone’s attention and affecting an outcome? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on social media.

photo credit: Disney ABC Television Group

Cheers!
Jaime, amateur de cinéma

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Super Bowl XLVII: Not A Complete Blackout

I planned on writing about marketing lessons to be had from some of the better Super Bowl commercials until I read 5 Marketing Lessons From the Super Bowl’s Most Popular Commercials from the fine folks at Entrepreneur this morning via Pulse. So that’s been done.

Speaking of the Super Bowl commercials, I felt like they grew more interesting along with the game in the second half, and more specifically, after the blackout. Or I should say during the blackout.

How about Oreo? It almost seemed as if the company knew the blackout was coming. (Hmm, cue up the conspiracy theorists.) More likely, this fun brand was just prepared for the big game instead of sitting back and watching its ad run. Talk about great social media management. And better yet, it’s impromptu ad reminding us all that “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark.” actually made me crave an Oreo. Go figure, an ad that sells!

Oreo Super Bowl blackout ad

As of the writing of this post, Oreo’s clever tweet had earned nearly 16,000 retweets and almost 6,000 favorites on Twitter alone not too mention its success on other social media platforms. There’s something to say about being ready to take advantage of an opportunity!

Of course, Budweiser weighed in with another winner. I almost expect this giant in the beer industry to top USA Today’s Ad Meter and satisfy fans annually. The company used its famous Clydesdales for instant brand recognition and included a direct call to action, which many ads did not. People watching the commercial were asked to help name the baby Clydesdale pictured in it by suggesting names with the hashtag #clydesdales on Twitter.

Budweiser just launched its first-ever Twitter account on January 27th (after Twitter introduced age verification), so the commercial was a great way to attract attention to its new handle. As of February 5th, the new account already has nearly 10,500 followers despite being restricted to fans at least 21 years old.

Last, but certainly not least, let’s not forget about JELL-O! The legendary snack company came on right after the dramatic ending to congratulate San Francisco on being #2. How many companies have thought of that strategy?! JELL-O promised fans in San Fran free product today (Feb 5th), because winners shouldn’t have all the fun.

In addition to free pudding, distraught 49ers fans can install the Baltimore Blocker Google Chrome extension, which replaces the words Baltimore and Ravens anywhere they appear on the Internet with blah blah blah and swaps out pictures of celebrating Ravens fans with cute animals. This strategy has people talking on Twitter, Facebook and watching the pudding drop on the company’s website. “Who’s the big winner now, Baltimore?”

Well, that’s my wrap on Super Bowl XLVII, which despite a dramatic second half and some intriguing commercials, will be remembered for a blackout. While I had no loyalties on either side, I am happy for Dean Pees, current Baltimore defensive coordinator and former Kent State head football coach. Way to represent, Coach Pees!

What’s your take? Did you enjoy the game? The commercials? Or did you switch over and watch Downtown Abbey? (I DVR’d it.)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on social media. I”m always up for a discussion, especially on football or commercials.

Waiting for pitchers and catchers to report-
Jaime

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