The 6 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Brand

The 6 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Brand

Q: What are the most common mistakes we should avoid when building a brand?

A: Being an entrepreneur and launching a brand isn’t easy. It takes a lot of skill, hard work and usually a little luck. When it comes to branding decisions, sometimes one bad mistake can derail even the best idea. To be sure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure you avoid making any of these six most common branding mistakes:

1. Being customer oriented and not competitor oriented.

You can assume that most of your competitors are going to be customer oriented. So what happens in the marketplace? Everyone winds up with a similar product.

Back in 2009, we began working for Great Wall Motor in China. The research we received from the client told us that Chinese buyers preferred sedans rather than SUVs because sedans were more prestigious and SUVs were practical vehicles with no social status. So we recommend that Great Wall focus on SUVs because the other 28 Chinese auto companies were likely to focus on sedans. As a result, Great Wall became the largest, most-profitable Chinese automobile company.

Entrepreneurs should do the same. Start by analyzing your competitors and try to find a way to be different. You can’t win by being better; you can only win by being different.

2. Not defining your focus.

Every successful brand has a focus. If your brand is the market leader like Pizza Hut, your focus is “leadership.” Domino’s narrowed its focus to “home delivery” and became the second-largest pizza chain. Papa John’s narrowed its focus to “better ingredients, better pizza.” Little Caesars narrowed its focus to “two pizzas for the price of one.” There are hundreds of pizza chains, but these four chains dominate the category.

For entrepreneurs, you need to make sure your company has a strong angle and all your actions and goals are in line with it. Ask yourself, What category am I competing in? And how do I verbalize my difference in two or three words.

3. Thinking names don’t matter.

Hansen Natural Company had a great idea. Launch a 16-oz. energy drink to compete with 8.3-oz. Red Bull and the other energy-drink brands. The brand name: “Hansen’s Natural Energy Pro.” The brand went nowhere. Then Hansen launched Monster energy drink, also in a 16-oz. can. Today, Monster is a strong No.2 brand to Red Bull.

Names come last. Entrepreneurs should first develop a marketing strategy. And then name their products or services to reflect that strategy.

4. Not using a strong visual.

Many powerful brands have been built by using a visual that communicates something about the brand. Coca-Cola’s contour bottle. Marlboro’s cowboy. Corona’s lime. Stella Artois’ chalice. Blue Moon’s orange slice. Geico’s gecko. Aflac’s duck.

Before launching a product or service, entrepreneurs should try to find a visual that reinforces the marketing strategy. Quite often, that requires either a change in strategy or a different brand name, or both.

5. Assuming your new brand will take off rapidly.

That leads to many bad decisions, such as spending heavily on advertising to launch the brand.
Today, the best way to launch a new brand is with PR. You should only use advertising after your brand has become established. PR first, advertising second is our mantra.

Keep in mind, Entrepreneurs should be prepared to spend a substantial amount of time doing PR. Hiring a PR firm is an option only for those companies that have already built a substantial business, otherwise it is a waste of time and money.

6. Expanding your brand.

Once your brand starts to take off, you need to resist the urge to expand. Look at McDonald’s. In spite of adding dozens and dozens of items to its menus, the chain today is in trouble. On the other hand, look at In-N-Out Burger, a West Coast chain that still has just four things to eat on its menus: hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double (a double hamburger) and French fries. Per-unit sales last year. McDonald’s: $2,476,000. In-N-Out Burger: $2,546,000. (If In-N-Out Burger were a national chain, its sales would probably be much greater.) Provide link to data point.

Look at Yahoo, a company that once dominated the “search” market on the Internet and was worth $140 billion on the stock market. But Yahoo rapidly diversified into a portal and also made many acquisitions and turned them into Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Games, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Pager, etc. Today, Yahoo is worth just $30 billion on the stock market and perhaps $25 billion of that is due to its holdings in Alibaba.

Meanwhile Google remained a pure search engine and is now worth $498 billion on the stock market. But even Google is falling into the trap of expanding its brand. That’s the mantra of corporate American, keep expanding the brand until it falls off the cliff.

Except for geographic expansion, entrepreneurs should almost never expand their brands. Quite often, however, they should do the opposite: narrow the focus.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

Who Is Keeping You Addicted to Technology?

Who Is Keeping You Addicted to Technology?

“Nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet,” wrote Tony Schwartz in a recent essay in The New York Times. It’s a common complaint these days. A steady stream of similar headlines accuse the Net and its offspring apps, social media sites and online games of addicting us to distraction.

There’s little doubt that nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Net has difficulty disconnecting. Just look around. People everywhere are glued to their devices. Many of us, like Schwartz, struggle to stay focused on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update. As one person ironically put it in the comments section of Schwartz’s online article, “As I was reading this very excellent article, I stopped at least half a dozen times to check my email.”

There’s something different about this technology: it is both pervasive and persuasive. But who’s at fault for its overuse? To find solutions, it’s important to understand what we’re dealing with. There are four parties conspiring to keep you connected and they may not be whom you’d expect.

The tech
The technologies themselves, and their makers, are the easiest suspects to blame for our dwindling attention spans. Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” wrote, “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention.”

Online services like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed and the like, are called out as masters of manipulation — making products so good, people can’t stop using them. After studying these products for several years, I wrote a book about how they do it. I learned it all starts with the business model.

Since these services rely on advertising revenue, the more frequently you use them, the more money they make. It’s no wonder these companies employ teams of people focused on engineering their services to be as engaging as possible. These products aren’t habit-forming by chance; it’s by design. They have an incentive to keep us hooked.

However, as good as these services are, there are simple steps we can take to keep them at bay. After all, we’re not injecting Instagram intravenously or freebasing Facebook. For example, we can change how often we receive the distracting notifications that trigger our compulsion to check.

According to Adam Marchick, CEO of mobile marketing company Kahuna, less than 15 percent of smartphone users ever bother to adjust their notification settings — meaning the remaining 85 percent of us default to the app makers’ every whim and ping. Google and Apple, who make the two dominant mobile operating systems, have made it far too difficult to adjust these settings so it’s up to us to take steps to ensure we set these triggers to suit our own needs, not the needs of the app makers’.

Your boss
While companies like Facebook harvest attention to generate revenue from advertisers, other more generic technologies have no such agenda. Take email, for example. No one company “owns” email and the faceless protocol couldn’t care less how often you use it. Yet to many, email is the most habit-forming medium of all. We check email at all hours of the day, whenever we can — before meetings begin, waiting in line for lunch, at red lights, on the toilet — we’re obsessed. But why? Because that’s what the boss wants.

Near the top of the list of individuals responsible for your seeming addiction to technology is the person who pays you. For almost all white-collar jobs, email is the primary tool of corporate communication. A slow response to a message could hurt not only your reputation but also your livelihood.

Unfortunately, being chained to technology can leave little time for higher order thinking. Real work — requiring the kind of creativity and problem solving that only comes from uninterrupted focus — no longer happens in the office, it starts at home after the kids are put to bed.

Cal Newport, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, calls this sort of work “deep work.” In his book by the same name, Newport writes, “Deep work is to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task, and shallow work describes activities that are more logistical in nature, that don’t require intense concentration.” Playing email Ping-Pong with colleagues is shallow work.

Newport recommends people discuss the appropriate ratio of deep and shallow work with their employers. “Get your boss to actually try to commit to a vision like, ‘About 50% of your time should be unbroken and 50% should be doing these shallow tasks.’” Newport continues, “When they’re actually confronted with how much time you’re spending trying to produce real results with your skills, they have to start thinking, ‘Okay, we need to change some things.’”

Your friends
Think about this familiar scene. People gathered around a table, enjoying food and each other’s company. There’s laughter and a bit of light banter. Then, during a lull in the conversation, someone takes out their phone to check who knows what. Barely anyone notices and no one says a thing.

Now, imagine the same dinner, but instead of checking their phone, the person belches — loudly. Everyone notices. Unless the meal takes place in a fraternity house, the flagrant burp is considered bad manners. The impolite act violates the basic rules of etiquette.

One has to wonder: why don’t we apply the same social norms to checking phones during meals, meetings and conversations as we do to other antisocial behaviors? Somehow, we accept it and say nothing when someone offends.

The reality is, taking one’s phone out at the wrong time is worse than belching because, unlike other peccadillos, checking tech is contagious. Once one person looks at their phone, other people feel compelled to do the same, starting a churlish chain reaction. The more people are on their phones, the less people are talking until finally you’re the only one left not reading email or checking Twitter.

From a societal perspective, phone checking is less like burping in public and more like another bad habit. Our phones are like cigarettes — something to do when we’re anxious, bored or when fidgety fingers need something to fiddle with. Seeing others enjoy a puff, or sneak a peek, is too tempting to resist and soon everyone is doing it.

The technology, your boss, and your friends, all influence how often you find yourself using (or overusing) these gadgets. But there’s still someone who deserves scrutiny – the person holding the phone.

You
I have a confession. Even though I study habit-forming technology for a living, disconnecting is not easy for me. I’m online far more than I’d like. Like Schwartz and so many others, I often find myself distracted and off task. I wanted to know why so I began self-monitoring to try to understand my behavior. That’s when I discovered an uncomfortable truth.

I use technology as an escape. When I’m doing something I’d rather not do, or when I am someplace I’d rather not be, I use my phone to port myself elsewhere. I found that this ability to instantly shift my attention was often a good thing, like when passing time on public transportation. But frequently my tech use was not so benign.

When I faced difficult work, like thinking through an article idea or editing the same draft for the hundredth time, for example, a more sinister screen would draw me in. I could easily escape discomfort, temporarily, by answering emails or browsing the web under the guise of so-called “research.” Though I desperately wanted to lay blame elsewhere, I finally had to admit that my bad habits had less to do with new-age technology and more to do with old-fashioned procrastination.

It’s easy to blame technology for being so distracting, but distraction is nothing new. Aristotle and Socrates debated the nature of “akrasia” — our tendency to do things against our interests. If we’re honest with ourselves, tech is just another way to occupy our time and minds. If we weren’t on our devices, we’d likely do something similarly unproductive.

Personal technology is indeed more engaging than ever, and there’s no doubt companies are engineering their products and services to be more compelling and attractive. But would we want it any other way? The intended result of making something better is that people use it more. That’s not necessarily a problem, that’s progress.

These improvements don’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to control our use of technology. In order to make sure it doesn’t control us, we should come to terms with the fact that it’s more than the technology itself that’s responsible for our habits. Our workplace culture, social norms and individual behaviors all play a part. To put technology in its place, we must be conscious not only of how technology is changing, but also of how it is changing us.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com