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What is a brand and why should it matter to you?

Branding Insights
One of a series by John Paulo Cardoso, Spyder Works Chief Creative Officer

Brand-why-it-matters

As Michael Eisner says, “A brand is a living entity — and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

I love that quote because it takes branding out of MBA seminars and puts it directly in your loading dock or on the desk of your sales rep or in your next e-mail to a supplier.

Brand is the culmination of everything an organization believes in, stands for and aspires to be. It must have real value and meaning for customers… and for everyone else. In essence, a brand is what you believe in (values), what you do (offer) and what you say (message).

A brand is not a logo. It exists in the minds of the marketplace. The visual aids like a logo, colour, typeface and design are the visible cues of your brand that ignite your customers’ emotions and how they feel about your business. A great brand is the consistently positive feeling that your customers, suppliers and employees enjoy when they deal with your company.

A more concrete way to think of it is to replace the word ‘brand’ with ‘reputation’. Through the process of creating a brand, we’re personifying a company. Why do we need to attach human characteristics and behavior to a company?  Simply because we want our customers to have a real relationship with our business so that they will have positive feelings when they think about our products, services or stores.  In other words, ‘branding’ is the management of our reputation in the marketplace.  It’s how we manage those thousand small gestures.

 

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The right vision can inspire innovation, passion and pride

Originally published on May 23, 2012 as a Special to Globe and Mail Update

the globe and mail canada

As Canadians, many of us understand the enormous power of a vision. Just imagine holding the Stanley Cup over your head. Millions of fans share a passion for the quest for hockey’s greatest trophy and we continue to believe that the right people, with the right plan, will someday make it happen for our team.

In the corporate world, your goals may not be summed up as neatly as they are in a single gleaming trophy. Nonetheless, your vision for your organization must fuel your people’s hopes and dreams. Your vision should be more than a bottom line or a number on a sales chart. It should be a tangible big-picture goal that galvanizes your people and exemplifies the pride – and the values – of your entire organization.

Professional hockey players will leap off their sick beds or skate on broken legs to play in a Stanley Cup final, driven by that vision of drinking from the Cup or flashing their Stanley Cup rings. To get similar commitments from your team members, your organization must invest time and energy to create lofty, future-oriented visions that everyone can share.

Crafting your vision statement is more than a goal-setting exercise. The process of envisioning and articulating the future offers a singular opportunity to gather the whole team together to build a consensus around not just the organization’s objectives, but also its purpose. With an aspirational vision that goes beyond the company and the immediate needs of its customers, you can create a powerful new springboard for growth and innovation.

To me, the responsibility of articulating an organizational vision belongs to the CEO. As the boss, you are your company’s chief innovation officer. Through the creation of a specific and compelling vision, you can also become chief inspiration officer. Consider Jack Welch, who reignited people’s passion for the behemoth known as General Electric by announcing that GE would exit any industry in which it could not be the clear No. 1 or No. 2 in the market. He focused the company on eliminating waste, trimming bureaucracy and upgrading its products and processes in order to serve customers better – a much more tangible goal than his predecessors’ objective of increasing shareholder value.

With the right mission and vision, you too can tap the true creativity and passion of your people; those deep reserves that most people don’t bring to work unless they’re fired up and striving for meaningful goals.

As an entrepreneur, you have an advantage as an inspirational leader. It was likely your vision of creating something new – a product or service that was much better than anything that came before – that spawned your organization in the first place. Keep that vision alive. Update it and share it. Your singular vision will bolster the energy and clarity of your whole team. It will act as a beacon to guide future decisions and rally others – customers, suppliers, and other potential partners – around your mission.

My advice: Keep your vision lofty. Of course it must be doable – but maybe it shouldn’t be too easy. To drink from the Stanley Cup, your team must win four hard-fought best-of-seven playoff series against equally fired-up opposition. That’s what makes a vision so powerful; who knows when you will have a chance like this again? Make sure your vision appeals to the highest and best values of your team – and keep the pressure on.

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You Wouldn’t Change the Oil in Your Car Just Once a Year

Innovation Insights
One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

innovation-not-invention

Innovation is about bringing ideas to market rather than letting them languish on a half-forgotten scratchpad. And innovation doesn’t necessarily mean invention. More often, it’s about acting on an opportunity you have already recognized, or adapting existing solutions for other markets or industries.

How simple can innovation be? Consider these examples:

Seeing the same thing in a different way
Think of the publicity coup for Post’s Shreddies – and its 18-point gain in market share – when it reintroduced the timeless breakfast cereal in diamond shapes rather than squares.

Exploring new markets with the same products (or slightly adapted features)
Toy giant Lego has launched a “Lego Friends” brand to target girls in addition to its dominating “boy brands,” such as Star Wars Lego and Lego Ninjago.

Tapping into (or teaming up with) new market trends
Hyundai now provides a multimedia tablet as an owner’s manual instead of the traditional printed book.

Bringing together features from existing products or markets to create something “new”
The maker of SLAP Watch offers a unique twist on silicone watches with interchangeable faces, bright colours, and spring-coil bracelet – all in one item.

Innovation is the engine that drives your business forward. Think about it: customers are engaged by new and exciting products and services. It gives them something to talk about, a reason to buy again, and more often.

You wouldn’t change the oil in your car just once a year – the engine would sputter and die. Your company shouldn’t leave ideation, innovation or the introduction of new – even small – improvements to an annual schedule. Without the tune-up of continuing innovation, your business will also sputter and die.

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