-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Differentiate or die" (Jack Trout). What's the opportunity cost of being the same? How are you REALLY different from your competitors? What can you do to get noticed? Check out this great read on radical differentiation: ZAG: The #1 Strategy of High Performance Brands BACK TO MAIN BLOG … [Read more...]

Interview with Vikram Vij: A Common Sense Approach to Branding


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- By Mark Smiciklas Has the brand building process become over-complicated and intimidating...something for big corporations with big budgets - and out of reach for small business owners? Have marketers become blinded by science and forgotten the basic principles of building a successful brand? These are some of the questions I find myself asking after a recent interview with Vikram Vij, owner of Vij's, a popular Indian-fusion restaurant in Vancouver. Vikram's philosophies on food, life and branding left … [Read more...]

The Risk of Becoming an Expert


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- David Armano doesn't see himself as an expert - do you? To me, experts are the modern day oracles. Authoritative figures that feed traditional and social media with quotes and sound bites that form the structure and framework supporting "news". Sounds sort of cool, the public hanging off your every word - very Rock Star. Where's the risk in that? The danger of becoming an expert doesn't lie in the label or how freely others bestow it upon you. "Expert" becomes a risk to your small business when you buy … [Read more...]

The Dark Side of Brand Evangelism


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- By Mark Smiciklas A recent news story about iPod Loyalists places the iconic Apple brand in the middle of a discussion about the spread of "iCrime". What happens to a brand when its influence is so great that it becomes the central focus of negative societal behaviour? Do companies have a social responsibility to try to mitigate some of the negative behavior that may be associated with their brands? Can negative brand evangelism result in long term damage to a brand or do passionate consumers simply ignore … [Read more...]

Every Interaction is the Most Important When it Comes to Building Your Small Business Brand


By Mark Smiciklas Your small business will have the opportunity to forge relationships with clients, prospects, suppliers and employees across many different touch points. It's important to understand where these touch points can occur and how the cumulative effects of these independent interactions can shape your brand. Where are the Touch Points? We are living in an age where infinite touch points exist - the reach of your small business extends far beyond the traditional four walls of your retail store, office or warehouse. Here are some touch points to be aware of and a few questions to ask yourself while looking at the list … [Read more...]

The Fear of Differentiation

By Mark Smiciklas Building a unique small business brand requires some courage. Why are unique brands so scarce while middle of the road products, services, retail stores, etc dominate the business landscape? My theory is that it has something to do with an innate fear (we all have) of being different. In a branding context, this poses a problem because differentiation is one of the key elements in the development of a great brand. So how do small business owners face the fear of differentiation? The Opportunity Cost of Being the Same One way to challenge the fear of being different is to try to understand the consequences of "being … [Read more...]

The Steps to Brand Greatness…or Purgatory


By Mark Smiciklas This post was inspired by the great image below designed by David Armano. The process of developing your small business brand is made up of a series of steps - interdependent and progressively connected. Each step... requires cultivation over time represents an important brand building opportunity needs to be achieved in the eyes of your customers before you can proceed "up the ladder" Positive Interactions Your brand story begins with the interactions your small business has with all its stakeholders (customers; employees; vendors; volunteers, etc). Positive interactions that take place across all … [Read more...]

What is eDNA and How Can it Affect Your Brand?

Have you ever written anything online that might cause someone to question the integrity of your company or brand? Think about all the imprints you've left online over the last few years - emails, blog posts, forum comments, articles, etc., essentially an eDNA trail that leads back to your small business.  As I recount the following story, consider what kind of impression your eDNA might have on your brand - will it be positive or negative... A few months ago I was alerted to a forum post about one of our products. A prospect was asking for feedback about our system on a popular forum - someone responded with a series of negative … [Read more...]

The Science of Differentiation


By Mark Smiciklas Author Jack Trout coined the term “Differentiate or Die†Ã¢â‚¬ ¦a concise and powerful message that warns of the consequences of brand mediocrity. There is no shortage of great books on the subject â€" all clearly defining the marketing rationale of choosing to be different. There is enough evidence in the annals of branding to convince even the most skeptical small business owner that differentiation is a critical component of building a successful brand â€" yet there are very few that embrace the concept. For those of you that are not convinced, there is another way to look at differentiation - … [Read more...]

Telling an “authentic” story about your brand

Story telling can be a powerful marketing tool for your small business. Communicating stories about your company history, people, culture, services, etc helps customers identify with your brand. Seth Godin, a popular marketing author and blogger, made a great comment about story telling during a recent teleseminar - part of the virtual book tour for "Meatball Sundae - Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?". He said "telling an authentic story starts by living an authentic story." It seems like a simple concept... The problem as I see it - too many companies get excited (panicked?) about building their marketing messages around the latest … [Read more...]