Verbify! Verbify! Verbify!

What’s your brand verb? Yes, you read that right … verb. Each and every day great brands are energized by verbs. Google searches. Nike inspires. Disney entertains. J.Jill uncomplicates. Apple creates. IKEA improves. LinkedIn networks. Chipotle nourishes. These verbs harness and direct all the brand activities for these organizations both internally and externally. Jim Collins writes that “Greatness is not a product of circumstance. Greatness is a function of conscious choice and discipline.” Great brands purposefully and powerfully live by their brand verbs. Their greatness lies in this deliberate verb action-orientation day in and day out.

What’s your brand verb? Yes, you read that right … verb. Each and every day great brands are energized by verbs. Google searches. Nike inspires. Disney entertains. J.Jill uncomplicates. Apple creates. IKEA improves. LinkedIn networks. Chipotle nourishes. These verbs harness and direct all the brand activities for these organizations both internally and externally. Jim Collins writes that “Greatness is not a product of circumstance. Greatness is a function of conscious choice and discipline.” Great brands purposefully and powerfully live by their brand verbs. Their greatness lies in this deliberate verb action-orientation day in and day out.

We tend to spend a lot of brand energy on adjectives trying to best our competitors: smarter, better, faster, thinner, bigger, smaller, cheaper. I like a lot of these “ER” words and find them helpful in product development tinkering. There is indeed a place for them in our business planning. But “ER” words are at best incremental improvements on existing solutions. They are not words of vision. Verbs are where the real action is!

Try this simple but powerful exercise I call verbifying: Grab three stacks of different colored sticky notes and give one of each color to each of your key leaders. On the first color, ask each brand leader what one verb best describes what your brand does for your customers. Take a look at all those responses. Is there unity among your leadership team about what drives your brand’s purpose? About what matters most to your customers? If there are disconnects, what conversation is necessary to bring alignment internally? If your leaders are not on the same page, then your brand energy is being diluted.

Next, pass out another colored sticky note and write down three of your top-selling products or services. What verb defines each of those products or services? Brands are created by these tangible customer-facing touchpoints and experiences. What do these “spokesproducts” do for your customers? Are the verbs that describe these products and services connected to your main brand verb? Why or why not? In my new book, “ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators,” I share examples from across a multitude of industries and customer segments of products that support their brands through this powerful verb connection. Might your brand be sending a flurry of mixed messages into today’s attention-deficient world? If warranted, how can you better synchronize all your brand touchpoints to support your mission-minded brand verb?

And lastly, ask each of your brand ambassadors to note the verb that best describes their contribution to your brand on the final sticky note. Jim Collins advocates being sure organizations have “all the right people in the right seats on the bus.” As their leader, do you know what verbs each of your key contributors bring to your brand creation? Are they Innovators? Dreamers? Doers? Revolutionaries? Analyzers? Thinkers? Tinkerers? What does your brand require of its people? What might be missing? Do you have the right mix of leaders on board to fully and purposefully live out your brand verb?

Nike inspires athletes of all shapes and sizes (and the company lovingly declares that if you have a body you are an athlete!) to find their greatness. I encourage you to do the same. Find your brand’s greatness by taking a few moments to verbify your brand, your products/services and your people.

Just How Useful Is Your Brand?

In his new book, “YOUTILITY: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype,” Jay Baer states it simply: The only way to win customers is to make your brand “truly, inherently useful.” He cautions brands not to get focused on the wrong things—like trying to be amazing over actually being helpful. Being helpful is harder. I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps it’s a good time to “thinkabout” this important facet of your brand. Can you list 10 ways your brand provides real value to your customers? Take it further: Can you list 10 ways your brand helps your customers in ways that are significantly different than your closest competitors? Now, take it even further and get to the very heart of brand usefulness: How do you really know what matters to your customers these days?

In his new book, “YOUTILITY: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype,” Jay Baer states it simply: The only way to win customers is to make your brand “truly, inherently useful.” He cautions brands not to get focused on the wrong things—like trying to be amazing over actually being helpful. Being helpful is harder.

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps it’s a good time to “thinkabout” this important facet of your brand. Can you list 10 ways your brand provides real value to your customers? Take it further: Can you list 10 ways your brand helps your customers in ways that are significantly different than your closest competitors? Now, take it even further and get to the very heart of brand usefulness: How do you really know what matters to your customers these days?

I like Baer’s newly created word YOUTILITY as it is a clever shortcut and brand sound byte for grappling with two areas of important brand introspection: customer-centricity and usefulness. Recently, I saw one company execute this dual focus wonderfully: The Lincoln Financial Group with its multifaceted “Take Charge” initiative where customers are positioned as Chief Life Officers. Here’s how they describe this award winning, consumer-facing campaign:

You’re In Charge®
When it comes to your financial future, you’re in charge. You are the CEO and CFO of your life. You are your own Chief Life Officer®. You want to get the most out of life for you and your loved ones—a life filled with passion, where possibilities are embraced and promises are kept. We’re here to help you make it happen … on your own terms.

Dave Wozniak, head of advertising, Lincoln Financial Group elaborates: “Through education and awareness, our goal is to help people take charge of their financial futures. We believe the Chief Life Officer campaign presents an engaging way to share an important message, which is that everyone should feel empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Lincoln Financial Group knows what matters to its customers because it asks them—often—and in creative ways. The company believes deeply in research and being extremely customer focused. One example of how Lincoln Financial does this as an active part of its brand DNA was during the past holiday season. The company took cameras to the streets of New York City for part three of its “M.O.O.D. on the Street” video series to find out why being in financial control is so important during the holidays. The Lincoln Financial crew asked customers simple questions on this topic and shared their answers in a straightforward video available on YouTube.

The simply put “What does financial independence mean to you?” question provided insights into customers’ pain points. These learnings were not only incorporated into Lincoln Financial Group’s messaging campaigns, but helped the company create a series of useful financial planning tools to help customers address these real life concerns.

Jamie DePeau, SVP-CMO of Lincoln Financial Group shared this in a recent interview: “Listen to your customers. Too often firms become so internally focused that the voice of the customer is over looked, or worse, not even included in the development of marketing programs. That is a tragic mistake.”

So, with inspiration from The Lincoln Financial Group, why not thinkabout your brand’s YOUTILITY and how you can make your brand even more amazingly useful to your customers this year!

A New Year THINKABOUT!

Happy January—the month of all sorts of resolution making! It’s hard to resist the desire to start anew with a clean slate each year. Something in us likes that blank blackboard/screen feel and the  “do-overness” ability that comes with a turn or click of the calendar. But whether or not the act of resolution making resonates with you, I do advocate the practice of taking a pause for a New Year ThinkAbout with your brand leaders to reflect together on two powerful verbs. Ask yourselves these questions:

Happy January—the month of all sorts of resolution making! It’s hard to resist the desire to start anew with a clean slate each year. Something in us likes that blank blackboard/screen feel and the “do-overness” ability that comes with a turn or click of the calendar. But whether or not the act of resolution making resonates with you, I do advocate the practice of taking a pause for a New Year ThinkAbout with your brand leaders to reflect together on two powerful verbs. Ask yourselves these questions:

  1. How well did you WOO and WOW your customers last year?
  2. What are your plans to live out these verbs in a fresh and meaningful way this year?

WOO and WOW: Six letters with all sorts of magnificent brand potential. Short and simple little verbs that can easily get lost in the day-to-day shuffle of omnichannel strategy creation, personnel issues, financial plan execution and competitive activities springing up all around you. But these two verbs should be at the forefront of your best brand thinking. Here’s why:

• Wooing is a full-time, year-round, relationship-building branding activity. When brands forget to woo, that is, continually win over, both potentially new and, of course, existing customers throughout all their touchpoint interactions, these customers can turn elsewhere. When customers feel their business (and time and attention and wallets!) are taken for granted, unappreciated and or even assumed, they can start to slip away. You may or may not even notice at first … it may be subtle: one less purchase from you, one extra month between transactions.

• Wowing is a full-time, year-round, relationship-building branding activity. When brands fail to keep pace with their customers’ needs, when they keep doing more of the same, when they don’t stay a step ahead of their competitors or disrupt their own successes, they stop wowing customers. Customers get bored, fatigued and even worse, distracted by those competitive brands that are indeed wowing.

So, who is your Chief Wooing Officer? Who is your Chief Wowing Officer? What’s their action plan for 2014? Better yet, why not have a thinkabout incorporating wooing and wowing as a full time, company-wide, all-brand ambassadors’ initiative this year?

The Best Brand Gift Ever!

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is something from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is, as the song says, some version of “12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves or even a partridge in a pear tree.” You don’t need or want more stuff. You want a meaningful, long-lasting, brand-enhancing and life-affirming gift. Something useful and practical.

What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

The deal is that no one can give this gift to you. It’s a selfie. There’s no outsourcing this skill to a personal shopper, no concierge service that can do this for you. It’s a true DIYer.

As YES people, the word NO is an infrequent part of our vocabulary—in our brand lives and in our personal lives. But I have found that the happiest and most productive people have given themselves the gift of NO. They have learned to make NO a natural part of their DNA … both in and out of the office.

So, before you head out of the office to start holiday celebrations, why not raise a toast to that little two-letter word NO and see if these bits of inspiration may encourage you to treat yourself (and the brand you lead) to this very important present:

1. The gift of a new discipline … making no an art form. Missy Park, founder of Title Nine, echoes the power of no. “In my book, saying yes is over-rated. Fact is, it’s easy to say yes. No difficult choices, no disappointments. Ahh, but saying no. That is the real art form. There’s choosing to say no which can be wrenching. There is choosing when to say no, which is often. And then there’s saying it graciously, which is very hard indeed.”

2. The gift of throwing in the towel … the towel that really doesn’t matter. I greatly admire Bob Goff. He’s an author, an attorney and founder of Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization. He wisely shares: “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” With that in mind, Goff makes it a habit to quit something every Thursday. It liberates him for new things. What can you be simply done with?

3. The gift of margin … build in white space … everywhere! Dr. Richard Swensen, a physician-futurist, educator and author, advocates for purposefully creating mental, emotional, physical and spiritual breathing room in our full-to-brimming professional and personal lives. He calls it margin—like the white space around pages of books. He counsels that we need it more than ever. Appropriately saying NO gives us more white space.

4. The gift of focus … just say no … perhaps three times or more! Steve Jobs, Apple’s brilliant and passionate founder, shared this: “Focusing is about saying no. You’ve got say no, no, no. The result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

5. The gift of eliminating even more non-urgent and unimportant time fritters. Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” cautions us to be careful of defaulting too often into what he calls Quadrant 4 of his time management matrix … the place we naturally drift after spending lots of time in urgent and crisis modes: trivia, busywork, mindless surfing. Just say goodbye to all the nonessentials.

6. The gift of stopping … count the ways. Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” encourages us to create STOP DOING LISTS. That’s right … enumerate all things you are no longer going to do. Start by simply saying no to his Venn diagram of three crucial things-activities that are you are not deeply passionate about, that you feel you are not genetically encoded for and things that don’t make much economic sense.

7. The gift of holding back … a permission slip for more B+s. Must everything be done to an A+ perfection level? Pick and choose those activities that really warrant this kind of energy. Challenge yourself to not be an honors student in all you do. Award-winning author Anne Lamott had to remind herself in midlife that “a B+ is just fine.”

8. The gift of less … hit that delete key more often. Do we really need (or have time to read) all those subscriptions? Must we? Find satisfaction in architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “less is more” philosophy. Go ahead—delete, unsubscribe, edit, curate. Whatever you have to call this process, just do it.

9. The gift of simplicity … now. Years ago naturalist and poet, Henry David Thoreau warned us: “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Alan Seigel updates that sentiment for brand leaders in his book: Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself and your brand the gift of a serious simplification process.

10. The gift of benign neglect … just ignore it! Do we really have to have a multiplatform constantly clean inbox? Who cares? What’s the point? Mani S. Sivasubramanian, author of “How To Focus – Stop Procrastinating, Improve Your Concentration & Get Things Done – Easily!” writes: “Information overload (on all levels) is exactly WHY you need an “ignore list.” It has never been more important to be able to say “No.”

11. The gift of checking back in with yourself … so, what matters now? In her book “Fierce Conversations,” leadership development architect Susan Scott suggests people change and forget to tell one another. That is true. Sometimes we even forget to tell ourselves. What has changed for you or your brand? Your energy level? Your tolerance? Your interests? Your competition? Your customers? What needs revisiting so that your yeses are truly yeses and your nos are truly nos?

12. The gift of a do-over … recycle your mistakes. We’ve all made the mistake of saying yes when we should have said no. Jot down a few of those do-overs on a post it note. What were the learning lessons? Keep that note to yourself handy.

‘Tis the season for gift-giving. Be kind to yourself and to your brand and make the practice of gracious NO saying not only a year end gift, but a long lasting part of your DNA.

Are You Mad About Your Internal Culture?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

And by mad I mean actually passionate about your work in a good way, in a can’t-wait-to-build-the-brand-in-some-new-way-today kind of way?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

As I lead interdepartmental meetings these days with my clients, I often hear comments like these from our face time “group genius” gatherings:

  • “We really should connect as a group more often.”
  • “I now understand your department better.”
  • To a co-worker: “I never knew what you did!”
  • “Oh, that’s why we do that! That makes sense now.”
  • “How come I never heard this before?”
  • “We need to tell the rest of the team this!”

Building passionate brand ambassadors and an engaging culture should be high on every brand leader’s “must do” list. Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappos.com consider these internal branding strategies core to their successful business models. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, says, “our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.”

And these Zappos’ core values lay the groundwork for its notable and enviable culture:

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I’m blessed to work with clients like these who are positively mad about what they do! I recently had three experiences of working again with long-term clients. I hadn’t been on-site to their respective offices for almost a year. I smiled as I saw reconfigured offices to allow for more collaboration, customer comments boldly displayed on walls, brand storytelling by happy customers sprinkled throughout the entire office and profiles of customer segments/personas highlighted throughout the company. These brand leaders were so thrilled to show me how they’ve elevated the importance of internal branding and what it’s meant to their employees. Internal branding matters.

Sara Florin, senior director of creative services for SmartPak, the Zappos of the equestrian industry, was delighted to share one recent event she led to help the rest of this fast-paced entrepreneurial organization learn more about all that her talented department handles. Here’s how she describes it: “Our energetic, passionate creative department is constantly working on bigger and better ways to market our products, but not everyone in the company understands the scope or details of what we do. We wanted to take time to celebrate our accomplishments and show off our capabilities in a fun and formal way. Inspired by the hit show “Mad Men,” we hosted an open house and cocktail hour so we could show off our “mad style.”

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“We dressed up to fit the era, served 60s-inspired food and cocktails to encourage attendance, and set up displays of our recent work. With over 50 people from other departments attending throughout the hour, we were able to demystify the creative process and present ourselves as a polished, professional in-house creative team that could rival any external agency. And we got to have a lot of fun doing it!”

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Activities like hosting a “Mad Men”-themed party may not fit your brand personality, but why not brandstorm some ideas that might help your team members empathize more with all the various roles and responsibilities needed to create your brand experience. Identify activities that engage co-workers from cross-functional areas, inspire collaboration, and just plain add fun and playfulness to all the hard work in building remarkable customer experiences.

So go ahead, get mad … in a good way!

Lavishing: A Branding Must Do!

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year. This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With over 1 million-plus books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles.

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year.

This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With more than 1 million books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles. Most have their A list books/authors, B lists and C lists, and plan promotional dollars and energy accordingly. Out of all those millions of titles each year, only a few will trickle to the top of our country’s reading lists and generate worthwhile conversation, information, and entertainment. Most of the rest get lost in the shuffle until they are “remaindered” (like a funeral for a book).

But it was one verb in The New York Times description of Twelve that made me linger: “Twelve is an experimental boutique publisher dedicated to releasing far fewer books than a traditional publisher, with the implicit promise that an unusual degree of editing, publicity and marketing would be lavished on each book.” LAVISH. That really was the publishing company’s brand differentiator. The product developers (in this case publishers/editors and publicists) were lavishers.

Twelve’s mission statement declares: “Talented authors deserve attention not only from publishers, but from readers as well. To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works-that is our ultimate purpose.” They go on to share 12 Things To Remember about TWELVE … here are just a half dozen:

  • Each book will enliven the national conversation.
  • Each book will be carefully edited, designed, and produced.
  • Each book will have a month-long launch in which it is the imprint’s sole focus.
  • Each book will have the potential to sell at least 50,000 copies in its lifetime.
  • Each book will be promoted well into its paperback life.
  • Each book will matter.

For Twelve, lavishing works. Its books garner rave reviews, bestseller list success, and have won almost every publishing award available.

Lavish. It’s a powerful brand action. How might having a lavishing mindset make your brand more focused? Create more relevant products? Delight more of your customers? Why not spend a few minutes creating a “Lavish List” and just see where this verb leads you!

A Toast to Brand Effervescence!

While Shakespeare said it first, it is easily the lived mantra at omnichannel retailer Boston Proper: “Boldness be my friend.” I recently shared a glass of celebratory bubbly with two smart leaders at Boston Proper—Sheryl Clark, president, and Margaret Moraskie, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce—after being wowed by my first visit to their new boutique in Boca Raton, Florida.

While Shakespeare said it first, it is easily the lived mantra at omnichannel retailer Boston Proper: “Boldness be my friend.” I recently shared a glass of celebratory bubbly with two smart leaders at Boston Proper—Sheryl Clark, president, and Margaret Moraskie, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce—after being wowed by my first visit to their new boutique in Boca Raton, Florida.

Having had the honor of working with this brilliant team in the past, I was thrilled to literally walk into their newly reenergized brand experience and see this brand burst into an even bolder stance from their already well-designed and lust-worthy “take me on vacation” Web and catalog pages.

Apparently, so, too, were all their other brand fans. “We had customers standing in line for over two hours for our grand opening. It was a party before the doors even opened!” Clark said. “Our models were mingling with our customers while many of our employees greeted our loyal fans as well. It was wonderful to see the passion our customers feel for us.”

Many words came to mind as I first saw their new rose gold starburst signage upon entering the feminine boutique, whiffed the lovely (and proprietary) scent, then made a beeline to all the “must have” color coordinated outfits and finally stepped into the armoire-accented dressing room with attentive stylists standing by like girlfriends ready to “ooh and ah” and accessorize! A+ words like: audacious, all things feminine, amazing. But one word captured my entire experience: sparkle.

Boston Proper is a brand that sparkles. From the leaders who wear the clothes “like no one else” in and out of the office, to the designers who create the clothes with always the proper embellishments, to the photographers whose shoots transport their customers to exotic destinations where they imagine themselves in those clothes, to the stylists who only want to help make their customers shine with just the right outfit—the internal team of Boston Proper brand ambassadors infuse sparkle in all they do. Their brand effervescence is a competitive differentiator. It’s worth toasting!

I know Clark speaks on behalf of her entire team when she says, “There is nothing more exciting than the journey we are on. To meet our existing customers, deliver them a revolutionary boutique experience and welcome new customers to the brand has been truly unforgettable. We are having fun every day, making the Boston Proper experience, in every channel truly unforgettable—one customer at a time.”

Does your brand sparkle? What are you doing that deserves a toast? Is boldness your friend? What brand barriers might be holding you back? Why not spend some time thinking about ways to add a little bubbly to your brand experience?

Two Summer Must Dos: Play and Play On!

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

Nowadays, there are serious adult-level articles, books and TED talks encouraging us to play. Experts from the fields of research, creativity, management, innovation, medical, education and human relations all want us to set up play dates. They want us to take play seriously. They remind us how important it is to unplug and unwind. To detach. To disconnect. To pause and be. To give our multifunctioning, always-on brains a rest. These experts nudge us a step further and call play a necessity. A must do for long-term vitality, for peak performance. Samuel Johnson believed, “All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.”

We don’t quite believe it. Or, we believe it but we think it’s for everyone else but us. Or we nod and agree and think yes, it is valuable for us, but we just can’t get to it right now … and then right now becomes three months from now which becomes six months from now … which becomes well, like never, not this year!

Play
Perhaps we need a permission slip … a permission slip not to read or listen or intellectualize about play but to actually play. To catch up with our souls, to feed our imaginations, to simply rest and be. DO IT! Mark some days off to be totally off. Soon. This month! Then do something not related to business at all. Whatever that brings you joy. Do it all slowly. Let the work brain rest. No business books, articles, videos. Nap. Stroll. Wander. Daydream. Journal. Paint. The “whatever” does not matter. What matters is actually doing it. And soon matters. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

We must develop this talent so that we will have the capacity to …

Play On!
Our business lives are demanding. Brand leaders must be on their A games day in and day out. Without recharging our batteries, we may get winded … or worse … we may lose our passion. There comes a time when we might need a reminder to keep in the game, to play on. Missy Park, Founder of Title Nine, knows the value of staying in the game. Take a peek at the letter of encouragement she recently shared with her customers:

So, before this summer wraps up, give yourself a gift: take some time to play. There’ll be plenty of time to play on soon enough!

Make Your Brand Blossom

This week I have flowers on my mind. It is planting season here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains … a bit later than most areas of the country. My husband and I live at 8,100 feet near Pikes Peak and the log home that our five acres is built on is frequented by deer, rabbits, foxes, coyotes and wild turkeys. In addition, all sorts of birds from owls to bluebirds to magpies and hummingbirds flit about. For many, where we live is too remote. For us, it is our sanctuary.

This week I have flowers on my mind. It is planting season here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains … a bit later than most areas of the country. My husband and I live at 8,100 feet near Pikes Peak and the log home that our five acres is built on is frequented by deer, rabbits, foxes, coyotes and wild turkeys. In addition, all sorts of birds from owls to bluebirds to magpies and hummingbirds flit about. For many, where we live is too remote. For us, it is our sanctuary.

While we love the splash of color that annuals and hanging baskets add to our flower beds, over the years we have reluctantly succumbed to making more and more of our landscaping bloom without us. Older and wiser than when we first moved here, we have learned to give into the wildlife who view our flowers as food, the early summer hailstorms that can decimate all our hard work in minutes and our often-on-the-road travel schedules that do not allow much time for all the things that plants crave on a near daily basis: weeding, deadheading, transplanting, watering, fertilizing and tending.

So it was with great delight that I learned about Proven Winners Shrubs in Country Living magazine as I flew home from my last business trip. This company captured my attention with a colorful full-page ad that casually highlighted one word over a gorgeous Hydrangea plant: OVERACHIEVER. This particular plant is called the Invincibelle® Spirit, and is positioned as one that requires minimal care, supplies abundant blooms, and is easy to grow. This is our kind of shrub. As a matter of fact, the entire line of Proven Winners feels like it was created just for us.

Since being enchanted with that ad, I researched this brand further and learned that Proven Winners Shrubs’s tagline, “A better garden starts with a better plant” informs of all its offerings and helped focus the company’s 2013 consumer campaign. In this clever and effective promotion, Proven Winners’ top 10 shrubs are personified with titles such as: Prodigy, Humdinger, Workhorse, Charmer and even Survivalist (one we are particularly attracted to, given our above mentioned conditions!).

Here’s how Proven Winners describes its unique point of differentiation:

Proven Winners partners with the top plant breeders around the world to ensure our varieties are vigorous, healthy, vibrant, and unique. Once a Proven Winners plant makes it to your house, you’ll fall in love. Proven Winners plants are:

  • Easy to grow and care for
  • Covered with blooms
  • Bright and colorful
  • All-season bloomers
  • Disease free
  • Trialed and tested

Meanwhile, these full page ads and product adjectives tell Proven Winners’ story succinctly and engagingly and direct customers to their site for more information and a free gardening guide. This spot-on, brand enhancing campaign makes its brand blossom.

Using this example as a creative springboard for your brand, how can Proven Winners inspire you and your team to “storysell” your products in a new, unusual and humdinger way?

Here are a few inspirational seeds to prompt internal conversations amongst your brand builders and product developers:

  • Can you easily identify your company’s top 10 “proven winners” and what your customers love about them?
  • What playful titles might you assign them?
  • What specific problems do these products solve?
  • How do these products erase or alleviate these pain points in your customers’ lives?
  • In what areas of your competitive landscape do they help your brand overachieve?

Take some time this season to cultivate new ways to make your brand blossom.