Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Leap for B2B Branding

Does anyone really believe that B2B buyers are robots?

When you stop to think about it, people who make business-to-business purchase decisions are still people.

They may look stiff and formal in a navy blue business suits with collar and tie, but I'm willing to bet there are multitudes of B2B customers who like to sing in the shower, drive their kids to school and help those same kids look for monsters under the bed.

However, for some strange reason, B2B executives find it difficult to appreciate the qualities people find most appealing in B2B brands are human qualities. Instead they drain any semblance of humanity out of their company with stoic, politically-correct corporatebabble that dominates most B2B websites:

"XYZ Industrial is comprised of many organizational elements with a single purpose: to enable, support and expedite our mission-critical objectives. We provide customized systems and solutions for businesses, organizations and individuals. We work with our valued customers in the creation of synergistic solutions that accurately reflect their operational requirements and our core values of honesty, teamwork, caring, humility and creativity".

If you're a B2B company that wants to be noticed, heard and respected, maybe it's time to consider making a bold leap into creating human connections with people you hope to do business with.

One of the best recent examples, is a company selling virtual phone systems that used chocolate covered grasshoppers, 5,000 FedEx packages and Homeland Security that generated nearly a million YouTube hits and a stir in the marketplace.



The most compelling aspect of the Grasshopper.com re-brand is the lack of focus on the standard "features, advantages, benefits" language, proving that even in B2B environments you need to win the heart before the mind will follow.

And the results are still pouring in.

Turns out, business buyers are just as human as the rest of us.

They may need to be persuaded in different ways, but there will always be a time and place to make an emotional argument that will separate any B2B company from the many competitors who will only ever appeal to logic. Nevertheless, many make the flawed assumption that B2B buyers assume a hyper-rational persona that drains all emotional influencers, leading to dull as dishwater print ads, websites, trade show booths and other marketing collateral.

Do you truly believe people can just "flip the switch" and turn off what makes them human once they walk into the office?

Or do you think B2B companies like Grasshopper.com have identified emotional triggers that help customers take notice and then buy? Could a leap like that work in other B2B categories?

Or would it be safer to pretend B2B customers really do think like robots?



"You can be professional while also ‘keeping it real’ with your customers. By interacting with customers in a less formal way, you’ll build a strong human connection that helps build brand loyalty"

DAVID HAUSER, Co-Founder, Grasshopper.com


You can learn more about Gair's seminars and speaking programs at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/. In the meantime, his book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

If you want the goods on The Seamless Brand and how this team can help sharpen your message and anchor your story, explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#%21/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seamless Summer 2011

"No more pencils.... no more books...No more teacher's dirty looks! Out for summer! Out till fall, we might not come back at all"
ALICE COOPER


It's that time of year again.

Like many of you, this is the time of year we get ready to trade business casual for shades and flip flops, enjoy a few cold ones and slow down for the summer.

Beginning this week, TSB launches its summer format for July/August, 2010. Regular visitors will notice a posting once a week as we dig into the TSB vault and re-post material that you might want a second look at.

It is summer, afterall.

When the right kind of day is welcome relief for winter-weary spirits.

Summer not only changes the way we approach our work, it also has a way of making the music we enjoy more vivid.

Summer songs are unlike any other.

Once "Schools Out", reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic give way to racing, romance, and rocking good tunes. It is only fitting that today on TSB, we unveil our 2010 list for the Top Five "Songs of Summer".

Our choices are based on three general criteria:

- The song needs to be a Top Ten single on Billboard.
- Reflects summertime values of fun in the sun.
- Comes with a kickass video.

Close, but no cigar honors go to several artists including:

- Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler with his solo effort ...



... as well as ...

- "Summertime Blues" - Eddie Cochrane
- "In the Summertime" - Mungo Jerry
- "Cruel Summer" - Bananarama
- "Surfin' USA" - The Beach Boys
- "Summertime Girls" - Y & T
- "Hot Summer Nights" - John Travolta and Olivia Newton John
- "Soak Up the Sun" - Sheryl Crow
- "Summer in the City" - The Lovin' Spoonful
- "Heat Wave" - Martha and the Vandellas
- "Summer of 69" - Bryan Adams
- "Margaritaville" - Jimmy Buffett

So here it goes ... TSB's Top Five "Songs of Summer":


#5. "Something Like Summertime" - BON JOVI




#4. "California Girls" - DAVID LEE ROTH




#3. "Walking on Sunshine" - KATRINA AND THE WAVES




#2. "All Summer Long" - KID ROCK




#1. "The Lazy Song" - BRUNO MARS



Hope you enjoy many perfect days through July/August when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, lawn mower is broken and the music is rocking!

All summer long.


"Money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it" DAVID LEE ROTH



You can learn more about Gair's seminars and speaking programs at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/. In the meantime, his book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

If you want the goods on The Seamless Brand and how this team can help sharpen your message and anchor your story, explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not My Canada


As Canadians we have all been tainted by Vancouver's ugly brush.

What happened in the aftermath of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final will have serious legal, financial social and cultural repercussions for many years to come.

To say, it was bad for Canada's brand as a progressive, peace-loving nation is a gross understatement.



I can't speak for Jimmy Kimmel, but "Vancouver" is not my Canada.

A truer reflection of the kind of Canada I know is the story of the Maeng family in Moncton, N.B., where a community rallies to support hard-working immigrants facing a cruel and misguided federal deportation order. The images in this video aren't nearly as graphic and won't inspire any late-night comics, but they do say something about the true fabric of a nation.



The Maeng story may not receive as much global media attention as the Vancouver riots, but from where I sit, Moncton's reaction to an ordinary family's ordeal says a lot more about this country than the actions of any drunken mob. People in Moncton, and all of New Brunswick responded with a tsunami of tweets and Facebook posting, urging political leaders to take the necessary steps to allow the family to stay in Canada.

"Moncton" is the kind of Canada you would find in any community from Yarmouth to Yellowknife; Truro to Toronto; Ottawa to Owen Sound; Saskatoon to Sherbrooke; Edmunston to Edmonton; Winnipeg to Windsor; Bonavista to Burnaby and all points in between.

In a most symbolic and metaphorical way, "Vancouver" is not my Canada.

But, "Moncton" is.


"There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured, and generous-hearted people"

SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL


You can learn more about Gair's seminars and speaking programs at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/. In the meantime, his book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

If you want the goods on The Seamless Brand and how this team can help sharpen your message and anchor your story, explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More than Words


You've dropped off the kids at school.

Back on the main drag, you are bopping along to the Bee Gees hit "Jive Talkin'", blaring from your radio.

As the tune fades, an announcer cuts in and segues to a commercial.

"We offer fast friendly reliable service at affordable prices. Our friendly & knowledgeable staff is here Monday-Friday 9-6 and Saturday 10-4 for your shopping convenience. Quality selection. Guaranteed lowest prices. Just some of the things that you can depend on and trust from your locally owned & operated value center. Convenient payment plans available. Some restrictions apply – on limited time offers. So call or drop in and experience service, selection and the difference quality makes!"

Never once, have you slammed on the brakes and turned the car around just to head to a store promising "friendly and knowledgable staff".

Later that same day, you arrive home, fire up the computer and search the latest job postings.

As kids focus on homework at the kitchen table, you stumble across an ad that reads like this:

"XYZ Company is currently seeking an energetic, enthusiastic, team player to assume the role of Executive Assistant to the President & CEO. Working with the President & CEO, the incumbent will be responsible for providing a high level of administrative support. This dynamic and rewarding career opportunity offers a challenging, fast-paced, results-oriented environment, ideal for positive, self-motivated and energetic multi-taskers with pro-active problem-solving abilities. You will need strong communication and computer skills, be able to work independently while exceeding customer and key stakeholder expectations".

Never once, when you were growing up, wondering about your dream job, did you aspire to become an "incumbent".

If you really stop to think about it, do any of these one-size fits-all radio ads or generic job postings ever, ever, ever register on your personal give-a-shit-a-meter?

Whether you are trying to sell a product or service or attract top-notch talent, your choice of language will either work for you or against you. The words you choose will either attract, repel or create indifference in the mind of the woman you are trying to speak to.

Choked by decades of hype, white noise and the emptiness of adspeak, your prospect, customer or future employee is hungering for words she can actually believe in. Inundated by more than 5,500 advertising messages a day, her brain has been trained many times over to tune out anything that comes across as "blah, blah, blah".

She is starving to feel something real.

Words that resonate within her soul.

She is the same person who was stirred by the aching words of a song written by the Brothers Gibb back in 1968 that promised:

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away".

What about your brand?

Is it carefully selecting from a cornucopia of words that seamlessly link your brand promise to something that actually matters? Or is it merely recycling the same old politically correct, guaranteed-not-to-offend, regurgitated crap that everyone else spits out?

Is it time for your brand to embrace a new language?

With words she craves?


"This world has lost its glory, let's start a brand new story now, my love.
Right now, there'll be no other time and I can show you how, my love"

THE BEE GEES


P.S. .... This topic requires no further explanation:




You can learn more about Gair's seminars and speaking programs at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/. In the meantime, his book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

If you want the goods on The Seamless Brand and how this team can help sharpen your message and anchor your story, explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Branding Guidelines: Brick by Brick


Branding can be a dicey subject for small to mid-size companies.

For some, it feels like you roll those bones and take your chances.

Branding is more readily associated with the world of packaged goods or the Fortune 500. Branding books (including my own) use examples like Apple, Starbucks or Southwest Airlines; stories that don’t always resonate with small to medium sized enterprises, business-to-business companies, or industrial product firms. But, these types of companies share more in common than you think with some of the biggest brands in the world.

Take for example, Proctor & Gamble.

The world's largest advertiser.

In 2010, the estimated total spend from P&G was $8.6 billion. It works out to nearly 11% of net sales produced by 24 brands, including Tide detergent, Pampers diapers, and Gillette razors. When it comes to sheer numbers, Proctor & Gamble sets the gold standard when it comes to spending money on advertising.

Knowing those numbers will give you added perspective on a legendary story about a former P&G chairman. It seems this chairman was addressing a high-level advertising conference many years ago, discussing the billions spent annually on marketing, advertising, sponsorships, coupons and many other promotional programs.

The chairman announced to all the other suits in the room, “I’m positive we waste half the money we spend”.

The he paused and admitted with a sigh, “I just don’t know which half.”

Whether your company is a global behemoth like Proctor & Gamble investing $8.6 billion or a small enterprise forking over $8.6 thousand dollars, no one wants to waste half of their advertising budget. More often than not, this is precisely what happens when business owners and executives fail to grasp several guidelines that provide the foundation for successful brand building.

Three things to keep in mind:

#1. Your choice of Message will ALWAYS be more critical than your choice of Media.

Think less about who you are targeting and how often your message is getting out there. Success in this game is less about "frequency" and "reach" and much more about what you actually say in terms of a "message". What can you be best in the world/country/state/province/city at and can you back it up? In what ways are you remarkably different from your competitors and how is that difference relevant to your customer?

#2. Your Message must be DRIVEN by emotion; supported through logic.

Will the message be one that an audience actually cares about and see as relevant? Or will you spread marketing fluff that sounds like "fast, friendly, reliable service at low prices', "we have a full range of products to meet all your needs" and "come and meet our friendly and knowledgeable staff". These phrases lost all meaning and credibility more than a decade ago. No one gives a rats ass about your staff and how helpful they are. That's a given.


#3. The level of COURAGE it will take to develop an emotionally-driven message and share it with your customers and employees.


Do you have the courage to make that leap - even without having all the facts? The courage to face complaints about your ads or videos? The courage go out on a limb, take a calculated risk, listen to your gut and follow your heart?

Never forget, fortune favors the brave.

No matter the size of the firm or whether it falls into the B2B category, any company can apply these principles. Just the other day, I stumbled on to the story of Acme Brick, founded in 1891 and based in Fort Worth, Texas. Acme sells most of its products through the building trades and a good portion of their $1.5 million marketing budget goes into strongly branded tactics including partnerships with pro sports celebrities and teams, supporting charitable causes or PR events (like setting the Guinness World Record for building the world's largest brick as pictured above). In 1995, Acme Brick also introduced an unheard of 100-year producht guarantee (3 to 5 years was the industry standard) to further differentiate themselves from others.

These brand-building efforts have paid off.

A 1998 survey of homebuyers showed Acme had achieved 84 percent brand preference when no other supplier was above 10 percent in their regional market. In fact, Acme estimates their brand is worth an extra ten cents for every dollar's worth of Acme brick sold and $250 in incremental revenue per home. The company also believes about $20 million of Acme's annual $200 million brick sales represents R.O.I. on the yearly investment Acme makes in brand-building. In other words, a 13-fold return on an average annual budget of $1.5 million.

Acme Brick has proven a strong message (100-year guarantee, for example), harnessed with emotion (you'll see in a minute) and the courage to put it out there (watch the video) can pay off in spades.



If you can create a brand of distinction out of a brick, can you see how almost anything can be branded to create value? Acme's efforts may not be on the same level as P&G's "Old Spice Guy", but the same principles hold true when it comes to giving any product or service a little more sex appeal.

A brand of distinction is so reliable and rare that people spread stories about them.

A brand of distinction will never be viewed as just another brick in the B2B or small business wall.

Regardless of size or industry, brands of distinction enjoy a tremendous competitive advantage since word of mouth and referrals are still the most powerful form of advertising. But, the reverse is also true. If your company wears little more than a badge of ownership, your competitors have a major opportunity to beat you to the punch and start building their brand of distinction.

Brick by brick.


"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently"

WARREN BUFFETT


P.S.... Can't help but think of diehard Bruins fans like Mark Eagles, who must be flying like Bobby Orr today after Tim Thomas takes Boston to 7th heaven.


You can learn more about Gair's seminars and speaking programs at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/. In the meantime, his book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

If you want the goods on The Seamless Brand and how this team can help sharpen your message and anchor your story, explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68