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Author: Julie Cottineau
I am the Founder of BrandTwist a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build their brands and leverage them as actionable business assets. I was the VP of Brand at Richard Branson’s Virgin Group overseeing branding strategy for new and established Virgin companies in North America.
Prior to joining Virgin, I served as Executive Director of Consumer Branding at Interbrand as well as a VP Management Supervisor at Grey Worldwide in both the US and France. I have been an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Columbia and Cornell and a frequent commentator on brand innovation through my blog (www.BrandTwist.com) and on Twitter at @jcottin.
Branding is both an art and a science and it's a living, breathing discipline that’s always changing. We can’t take a class, get a degree, and sit back on our laurels and say we’re brand “experts”. Even those of us who have been successfully making a living for a long time in building and managing brands need to stay on our toes.
That’s because we live in a world where there are unprecedented changes in technology, social media and consumer macro trends, and all of these have an impact on the way we create strong brands that engage our consumers.
The good news is there has never been a more exciting time to be a digital marketer. The bad news is that it’s never been more challenging.
That’s why if you’re going to be in the game, you’ve got to play to win and commit to continual learning.
One of the key characteristics of brands that are launched by entrepreneurs is that they leverage the personal passion and history of the founder. It’s hard to think of Starbucks without thinking of Howard Schultz, Zappo’s without Tony Hsieh or Virgin without Richard Branson.
Each of these founders has spent time building their businesses but also paying attention to their own brands and building up a reputation for credibility and expertise that goes beyond any one individual business venture. Many entrepreneurs tend to be serial entrepreneurs; they get involved in more than one venture.
Personal branding is particularly important here as odds are some of your ideas will be successful and some won’t. But you want people to continue to invest (time, energy, money) in you as an individual.
Let’s not kid ourselves: creating a brand can be complicated. (If you’re reading this, you likely know firsthand how complicated.) Not only do you need to decide what your brand stands for, what you want to provide consumers and how to convey your brand promise, you must identify who you want to use your product.
This is one of the most important decisions you can make. After all, brands are relationships, and like romantic relationships you need to make sure there are two mutually interested parties. You don't want to get into an unrequited love situation where no one is interested in what you are offering. This can be a very cold, lonely, and ultimately very unprofitable situation to be in. Healthy relationships involve two interested and equally committed parties. Unhealthy ones don’t – and rarely last long.
Whether you live in London, Hong Kong or in the New York Metro area, like I do, brand images and slogans are everywhere. Not only are they in magazines, on top of taxicabs and plastered across billboards, they’re dominating the digital space. And we’re mostly okay with that, as consumers, because it’s how we relate to brands. A company’s logo and its tagline can tell us a lot about their business at face value.
Unfortunately, a logo and a tagline only go so far to capturing our attention, and most importantly, earning our loyalty.
Although it may seem seamless to the naked eye, branding that is truly on-target is no easy thing to master. But effective branding can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run.
In fact, let’s imagine for a minute that you’ve just spent those thousands and as many hours working with a web developer on a website or a mobile app, or even that you’ve just created a physical product that fills a gap in the marketplace. Essentially, you’ve created the thing you want to sell to consumers and you know it can make their lives better.
So you’re all ready to go out with promotion, right? Sell that product to its fullest potential – you’ve finally perfected it, so why waste another minute? Stop right there, though. Before you spend another marketing dollar, back up and make sure your brand is solid - or risk throwing your hard-earned cash down the drain.