BRANDING TRAGEDY….OR NOT

I’ve been working to finalize my book and get it published. When I was literally about two weeks away from publication, I thought I’d double check a few things…including the title. I looked at it as merely a formality, as I had researched it about three years ago when I originally had the idea for the book. I considered it all part of “crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.” I did a search on Google and search on Amazon to see what else was out there…and something came up that I hadn’t seen before. It led me to dig a little deeper and a little deeper and then realized there might be an issue.

Oh no.

I touched base with the trademark lawyer, who advised against using the name that I’ve been using because someone has a trademark on it. While you can’t trademark a book title, you can trademark courses and programs related to a book. Since I planned to conduct seminars and teach people how to develop their personal brands, I knew I needed to be mindful of trademark issues. It didn’t really matter for the book title itself, but for the courses that would correspond to the book, the title I had chosen would be problematic.

I was devastated.

Here I was, all ready to go. I had the (which I’ve had for several years), everything designed and laid out–the works. But because of my background in branding, I knew that this could be very tricky.

So I fell back and regrouped.

With the help of family and friends, I explored a bunch of different options and finally narrowed it down to what I felt was a good title and subtitle, one that still integrated the core concepts I have been espousing without violating anyone’s trademark.

I used trademarkia.com to do my initial research. This is a super handy site if you’re looking at branding questions. You can search on words, phrases and marks that are filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Just to be safe, I hired a lawyer from legalforce.com for a 15 minute consultation. I was skeptical going into the call that it might be a scam, that she would only try to upsell me to a more expensive consultation (I had been given another quote for a thousand dollars to get advice on the exact same research). But that is not what happened at all! I got great advice quickly and was able to move forward with confidence that I was on solid ground.

I’m actually really happy with where I landed, and I think it’s even stronger than what I had before. Throughout this process, I’ve learned:

  • Sometimes our setbacks are really a set up for something even better!
  • Legalforce.com is a viable solution for simple legal questions.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur and need to be mindful of your brand trademark issues, be sure to do your homework and triple check that you’re in the clear before moving forward!

So now the name of the book is Your Branding Edge: How Personal Branding Can Turbocharge Your Career. Let me know what you think of the new name!

BEACON TREND WATCH: THE IMPORTANCE OF TRENDS

profits-1953616__340As part of a new product development project I worked on recently, we looked at current and upcoming trends to spur our imaginations and see what new product ideas could be generated with those trends in mind. In your new product development, make sure you include some trend work in your ideation session, as the combination of a few random trends could make for some really inspired new product ideas!

To spark your thinking, I am including a few trends–from American Tea Parties to American Idol, from the appeal of the latest technological toys to a yearning for simplicity–that may have implications for your industry:

Recessionary Reset

How has the shift in American spending impacted your industry? What will healthcare reform mean for you (personally and professionally)? What do you see ahead? As the media argues over a double-dip recession versus a slow return to prosperity, marketers must evaluate the permanent mindset change that has impacted consumers over the past two years—the loss of jobs that is forcing greater entrepreneurialismexploding direct selling industries, and causing the belt-tightening that has led to a struggle for middle tier brands to prove their value amidst the resurgence of private label brands, the staycation phenomenon, the rise of DIY décor, and the inconspicuous consumption of those who still have jobs and money now tiptoeing out to spend money without anyone noticing, not bringing in their designer shopping bags from the car until after dark.

Empowered Narcissism

The rise of the social media allows everyone to shine a spotlight on everyone’s favorite topic…themselves. Now that people can tweet about what they had for lunch today and blog about their opinions on the latest celebrity scandal, it means that everyone’s an expert and everyone is media (see blog post from April for more on this topic). Crowd-sourcing on-line has empowered everyone, given each person an opportunity to contribute a potential SuperBowl ad idea, speak up and let their voices be heard, from American Tea Parties to giving their rating on the latest novel at Amazon, voting on who should win American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars or any of the other “audience participation” shows on prime time.

Authentic Environ-mentality

Green efforts continue to build, as more Americans are gravitating to products and services that can boast environmental friendliness. However, buying green must be easy, and authenticity matters —DON’T bother to “greenwash” your product; such efforts will eventually backfire.”Buy local” is a watchword that goes along with those efforts, with many just now discovering the delights of the weekend farmer’s market.

Technological Touchpoints

Whether you are an individual consumer or a multinational retailer, technology still rules. With M-commerce on the rise as now 32% of Americans using mobil phones and mobil apps to access email, text or shop on-line, technology is changing how and when we communicate, while web-based training programs at the office and do-it-yourself scanners minimizes the need for human interaction—even at the hardware store. While some argue that today’s mobile-empowered consumers cannot communicate “properly” (meaning that they can’t carry on a conversation of more than 160 characters at a time), others will argue that technology is only enhancing how that social interaction happens, with tweet-ups and meet-ups organized on twitter.com or eharmony.com.

Take some time with each of these ideas (and many others that you can see in your own industry) and discuss how they are impacting or could impact your business moving forward. Looking at these trends slightly differently could yield a whole new stream of revenue one year, three years, even ten years down the road!

YOU JUST CAN’T RELY ON FLUBBER FOR THE GROWTH OF YOUR BUSINESS

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It’s been said many times that “hope is not a strategy.” Everyone’s heard the stories of those who stumbled upon great inventions that revolutionized their tiny corner of the world (like 3M Post-It Notes or Disney’s mythical “flubber”), but in general, new business development, and in particular, new product development is a lot more structured than that. Even when you are exploring unchartered waters, it still helps to have a goal in mind so that you can build even a rough plan for how to achieve that goal.

I’m working on a new product development project and one of the first essential activities is to ensure that everyone impacted by the new product exploratory agrees on the objectives of the project. You see, everyone says, “We want more business! We want to grow!” But they don’t always take the time to determine specifically what they are looking for. “We need new products—we don’t know exactly what it is, but just bring us your idea and we’ll tell you if it’s any good.”

This is not a recipe for success. It’s so much more efficient to outline the criteria against which the project or product will be measured—even if you aren’t certain exactly what the outcome will be.

Usually, the easiest measurements include gross revenue, but the more specificity you can provide up front the better your outcomes will be. Are you looking for $1MM idea, a $5MM idea, or a $100MM line of business? Also, what’s the timeframe expected to generate that revenue? In general, there’s a “build” that happens in most industries as consumers become more aware of your new offerings, so it’s important to think through your timelines leading up to (and through) commercialization.

It is helpful to gain agreement with every interested party, as each will have their own perspectives on what you should be striving for—the VP of Finance has certain gross margin expectations, while the head of Sales needs products that deliver specific turn rates in order to sell it in to his retailers. Brand Management will be looking for those innovations that enhance the brand’s image and answer unmet consumer needs, whereas Manufacturing is concerned with how much excess capacity this new product will use and how it will integrate with current manufacturing processes. Getting everyone’s desires and expectations out in the open up front will streamline the evaluation process and ensure that the innovation process is not just a “fluke” (or a flubber) but is a methodical system for new business development.

If you’d like to help bring consumer-oriented innovation to your business, come talk with us about how we can help facilitate the growth of your business.

Last week, I conducted a “Lunch ‘n Learn” session on personal branding to a real estate investment company and had a great conversation about personal branding as it relates to those at the VP and above level. The question had to do with how personal branding can help those in leadership positions “take it to the next level.” My answer? Personal branding is extremely important at the executive levels because it is critical for leaders to convey what their leadership brand is. I have conducted personal branding exploratories with those at the executive level for this very purpose. Usually, someone reaches an executive level because they have core competencies in a certain area; however, leadership requires a whole different skill set. Leaders are not “doing” the work anymore…they are coordinating getting the work done. They must learn how to inspire others to do the work, and for that, they need a strong personal brand. I presented seven principles of personal branding and discussed how they relate to one’s job search. As it relates to leadership, the same principles apply. All the principles we discussed in the Signature for Success program are invaluable to expressing a leadership brand. Leaders need to ask themselves: Do I lead by example? How best can I share my vision for what we want to accomplish? How can I instill trust in my people—those who report to me, those who work with me, and the leadership above me? For leaders, the principles discussed are reviewed from a slightly different perspective, as follows: Be Clear: What do I stand for? What is my leadership brand? Leaders are visionary and need to be able to convey that to their organizations clearly and effectively. Be Professional: Leaders need a whole different set of skills, such as managerial and organizational skills that they may not have had to call upon prior to being thrust into a position of leadership. However, they usually still need to have core competency in the area they are leading so that they can provide sound guidance on how the day-to-day operations get done. Be Confident: Who would follow a tentative, wishy-washy leader who seems unsure of himself/herself? Be True (Be Consistent): Of course, much has been written about how leaders need to “walk the talk.” In addition, leaders generally need to hammer home their vision over and over again, to repeatedly hold the high goal before everyone so that they are continually motivated to reach those goals. Be Bold: Leaders are necessarily leading….That means they are out in front, leading the way, sometimes treading in unknown territory. Boldness in leadership takes courage of a different sort. Be Connected: The higher up you go, the trickier the networking gets (and the more important it gets). When you are networking with your peers, you must always be mindful of the messages you are conveying. In general, leaders do not whine or complain about unrealistic deadlines or unsolvable problems to those who report to them. They must find other like-minded leaders to discuss their challenges with, in an appropriate forum. But often, the alliances they form throughout their industries can really be beneficial to the company as a whole. So once you become a leader in your company, being connected gets taken to a whole new level. Be Dynamic: Leadership skills are different than professional skills. There are ALWAYS new levels of leadership to be achieved. We are never “done.” While someone in Accounting may eventually be able to “check the box” on skills related to tax implications and general accounting principles, a leader of the accounting department will need to motivate a team of tired, overworked individuals when the end of quarter or end of year crunch-times come around. Motivational skills, listening skills and communication skills are the hallmarks of good leadership, and these skills can always be further honed. If you’re a leader, then you need to focus on your leadership brand. If you aren’t (but would like to be), then you need to focus on your personal brand. The benefits are tremendous!

flask-908887__340

It’s been said many times that “hope is not a strategy.” Everyone’s heard the stories of those who stumbled upon great inventions that revolutionized their tiny corner of the world (like 3M Post-It Notes or Disney’s mythical “flubber”), but in general, new business development, and in particular, new product development is a lot more structured than that. Even when you are exploring unchartered waters, it still helps to have a goal in mind so that you can build even a rough plan for how to achieve that goal.

I’m working on a new product development project and one of the first essential activities is to ensure that everyone impacted by the new product exploratory agrees on the objectives of the project. You see, everyone says, “We want more business! We want to grow!” But they don’t always take the time to determine specifically what they are looking for. “We need new products—we don’t know exactly what it is, but just bring us your idea and we’ll tell you if it’s any good.”

This is not a recipe for success. It’s so much more efficient to outline the criteria against which the project or product will be measured—even if you aren’t certain exactly what the outcome will be.

Usually, the easiest measurements include gross revenue, but the more specificity you can provide up front the better your outcomes will be. Are you looking for $1MM idea, a $5MM idea, or a $100MM line of business? Also, what’s the timeframe expected to generate that revenue? In general, there’s a “build” that happens in most industries as consumers become more aware of your new offerings, so it’s important to think through your timelines leading up to (and through) commercialization.

It is helpful to gain agreement with every interested party, as each will have their own perspectives on what you should be striving for—the VP of Finance has certain gross margin expectations, while the head of Sales needs products that deliver specific turn rates in order to sell it in to his retailers. Brand Management will be looking for those innovations that enhance the brand’s image and answer unmet consumer needs, whereas Manufacturing is concerned with how much excess capacity this new product will use and how it will integrate with current manufacturing processes. Getting everyone’s desires and expectations out in the open up front will streamline the evaluation process and ensure that the innovation process is not just a “fluke” (or a flubber) but is a methodical system for new business development.

If you’d like to help bring consumer-oriented innovation to your business, come talk with us about how we can help facilitate the growth of your business.

“INNOVATION DESPERATELY NEEDED”

With all the research into consumer insights, and the type of strategic work that we do, new product development is a natural extension of what we can bring to clients. The following article by Jack Loechner discusses the new product processes and how we can help our clients grow their businesses.

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“Innovation Desperately Needed”

That’s what today’s business community is crying for. Given the Great Recession and the state of business, today’s companies must produce growth through innovation. Performance improvement and expense reduction have already been effectively implemented and owners, directors and stockholders are expecting a rebound out of the recession—one that will require bold, aggressive, maybe even risky efforts. How can you innovate without a team behind you? The current configuration of many of today’s companies has left a void in advance planning that an independent business development company can fill.

Most “make and sell” companies have these things in common:

  • The majority of profits are generated by 20% of the current product line. A core business dependency that has traditionally been considered the” bread-and-butter”
  • Product Development is either stagnant (without a proprietary breakthrough) or is evolving from a competitive product in the marketplace whose lifecycle has usually matured by the time your new product reaches the market (a me-too product introduced too late).
  • The weakest 20% of the product line is expected to be discontinued near the end of the current sales or production cycle. These products usually serve a limited customer segment, could be replaced by a more profitable alternative, and don’t get attention because they don’t “seem important.”
  • The performance of the remaining 60% of the product line could be improved, but every department of the company has a different recommended approach to change; sales wants a lower price, marketing suggests new packaging, the user would like better performance, manufacturing needs longer runs or higher volumes, distribution prefers a better deal, finance insists on increasing the margins, and QC wants improvements in reliability. Every one of these suggestions has some merit but treats only the symptoms.

Let us help you. We understand that a situation analysis is required before taking action. In addition to the accurate analysis of the symptoms of product weaknesses, and uncovering the underlying problems, a tactical approach to the profitable solution is necessary.

Beacon Marketing can now implement an accelerated scientific process with your integrated team to discover workable new opportunities to meet your company criteria of investment, time constraints and profitability requirements. We do this by bringing an interdisciplinary growth and development program designed, refined and implemented with innate business savvy, years of experience in operational skills and grounded in consumer learning.

We will create a custom program for each client and include the team in this innovation cycle. This process considers the best interests of everyone involved from the production line, to distribution, to the end user. The program is an interactive project with your integrated team from general management, sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and finance to uncover specific opportunities for profitable growth in your business. Here are some of the outcomes we can guarantee:

  • New business growth opportunities
  • Proprietary new products
  • Strategic marketing improvements
  • Easily implemented minor modifications to the core business
  • Longer-term new business opportunities.

Please give us a call if you’d like to discuss how we might be able to help you innovate your way to business growth.

BROADENING OUR OFFERINGS WITH NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT EXPERTISE

 

We’re so excited to share that, for business development identification, product development and introduction, Beacon Marketing clients can now also tap into the expertise of Jack Loechner, who has been responsible for the strategic planning, product design and sales development for new business in excess of 400 million dollars for multinational companies since 1979. If you are looking for practical experience and operational expertise to guide you throughout the life cycle of any project, from inception to introduction, give us a call! We believe the combination of branding expertise, consumer focus and now, the addition of product and operational mastery makes an unbeatable combination for our clients to experience double-digit growth! To read more about Jack’s background, click here.