How to Choose the Right Opportunities For Your Brand

How to Choose The Right Opportunities For Your Brand
19
JUNE, 2019
Branding
Brand Strategy
Brand Story
Communication
Brand Alignment
How do you decide what to say “yes” or “no” to in your business? When a potential new opportunity is placed in your face sounding and looking soooo right, what’s your process for determining if it’s truly strategic for the business and best for your brand? This blog post will give you 3 steps to take when evaluating new opportunities to see if what feels good at first will actually set you up for long-term success.   You can apply the tips shared to choose the right retail partners for your new product line, the right clients to take on for your service-based business, the right brands to partner with for campaigns, and the right influencers to help you market your new brand. 
 

I DID THIS RECENTLY …

I recently helped one of my beauty industry clients create a celebrity brand partnership strategy with the goal of reaching new audiences, reinvigorating current customers, and, of course, launching an insanely lucrative new revenue stream. When brainstorming potential A-list partners, a lot of names of people who were “hot right now” were put into the bucket. And while it seemed cool to have people like Serena Williams or Yara Shahidi endorsing the business, the brand strategist in me didn’t see the alignment, despite the popularity. 

If there’s anything that I know, it’s that popularity can never be the sole qualifier for anything – not in life and certainly not in business.

 
When brand building, alignment is everything. 

Understanding where your line is as a brand and what opportunities are on the right or left side of it is critical to maintaining the integrity of your mission and delivering what your customers expect of you.

Here’s a few things to consider when choosing opportunities for your brand, whether that’s a celebrity partnership, an influencer for a campaign, a co-branded product launch, a new retail partner, or anything.

“Choosing the right opportunities is far less about short-term success than it is about long-term alignment.”

 

#1: Match it to a goal.

When I sit down with a client or a Brand Story Mentorship student who has a bright idea (I’m not being sarcastic, I promise), my first question is always “What’s the goal?” You can have an idea better than baked bread marinating around in your head, but if there’s no goal attached to its execution, you have to ask yourself why you’re putting money and resources toward bringing that bright idea to fruition. Most business owners begin the year with a set list of business and brand development goals.

Make sure that the opportunity you’re considering helps you reach one of those goals, and isn’t just something that popped into your head in a dream and sounds nice to other people who don’t really know or understand your long-term vision.

If you can’t match the new opportunity to a business goal (one that you confidently set out for yourself over plenty of coffee and your trusted clique, by the way), table it. Plan to revisit when it makes more sense for you strategically, if at all. If the opportunity would, in fact, help you to achieve one of your business or brand-building goals, proceed …

 

 

#2: Check your values.

Since popularity or your own starry eyes cannot be the qualifier for recognizing a good opportunity for your brand, you’ll need to rely on a list that is much less emotions-driven and more rooted in business logic – one that allows you to simply check “yes” or “no”.

When helping my client determine the best celebrities to partner with for her brand, I created a Partnership Criteria List. In addition to quantitative status requirements (community size, social engagement, influence, notoriety, etc.), it also included perspective and personality qualifications that would help us determine whether or not a prospective partnership was truly a good move for the brand.

The same thinking can be applied to determining if whether or not that new retail partner is right for you, if sponsoring that event makes sense, if that client is the right one to represent, if that joint holiday campaign with those 3 businesses will help your business, or if that new service you’re considering reflects your mission. The list goes on and on.  Consider your core values and begin creating a list for your own brand alignment reference. Start with things like your beliefs or personal values as a founder, the ways in which your team chooses to conduct business or work together (i.e. with integrity, honesty, creativity, passion, etc.), the perspectives you hold about the problems in your industry or about your customers, etc.
Write down at least 3 of those values and title your list “Brand Alignment Criteria.”
Here’s an example that’s written on the walls of one of my client’s offices:

 

“The only way to get people to come to your website, stay there and shop around is to captivate them with a story.”

#1: Prove the potential.

The next time you sit down to evaluate an opportunity that sounds good, go through your brand values list (literally checking “yes” or “no”) to see if the potential partner, retailer, client, endorsement, or campaign aligns with who you are as a brand. If it or she doesn’t, then move on. Seriously. As hard as it can be to say “no” to a quick dollar or the promise of popularity, you have to in order to maintain the trust you have with your audience and the focus on your long-term vision. Choosing an opportunity that does not reflect what you stand for as a brand creates mistrust amongst your customers and slowly, but surely, erodes the ideals that your business claims to stand out. That erosion, over time, leads to irrelevance. And irrelevance, as you know in business, leads to complete and utter failure.
Before giving the final yes on an opportunity, do your own action research to find out if …

Choosing an opportunity that does not reflect what you stand for as a brand creates mistrust amongst your customers and slowly, but surely, erodes the ideals that your business claims to stand out. That erosion, over time, leads to irrelevance. And irrelevance, as you know in the business world, leads to failure.

I recently released my new e-book, “Storytelling Success Secrets: The 4 Questions Every Brand Story Must Answer to Sell Like Crazy and Stand Out From the Crowd”. 

If you’ve been struggling with how to communicate to your target audience what makes you different from the rest,  click here to download your FREE copy.

————-

Learn how to succeed in business and in branding with my new free e-book: Storytelling Success Secrets. Get the 4 questions every brand story must answer to sell like crazy and stand out from the crowd –> bit.ly/secretsofstory 

Written by: Amber Williams
Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

How to Succeed in Business & Branding With Storytelling

How to Succeed in Business & Branding With Storytelling

19

JUNE, 2019

Branding
Brand Strategy
Brand Story
Communication
Customers

Have you ever struggled with setting yourself apart from the rest in your industry? Maybe you know what makes you different, but the customers you want to reach just don’t get it. Despite your best marketing efforts, your message just isn’t connecting, which is negatively impacting your bottom line and completely blowing your budget. Sound familiar? This blog post will help you understand why what you’re currently doing is a recipe for failure and what you need to do to truly succeed in business and in branding by using one simple, yet highly effective method: storytelling. 

 

WE ALL LOVE TO TALK ABOUT STRATEGY …

How to find the right customers …

How to craft the right message to grab their attention …

How we wish we could find the right “way” to express what truly makes our brands special so our businesses can grow … 

How we’ve seen firsthand how an amazing story can make anyone (including us!) buy into it – even when the product isn’t all that life-changing. 

So if story is the answer to success, why aren’t you telling yours? 

“Your ability to tell your story as a founder is right next in line to having a product or service even worth selling in today’s market.”

SUCCEEDING IN BUSINESS MEANS TELLING YOUR STORY, THE RIGHT WAY.

In fact, storytelling is no longer a “nice to do” branding thing; it’s an absolute MUST HAVE asset for business success.

Do you ever sit back and wonder why some brands seem to skyrocket to the top of their industries and why others with equally great products don’t …

 

… Why some startups secure investors so quickly and some can barely get through the door to pitch …

Why some brand videos go viral and develop cult-like followings in less than a year of launching – all without selling anything particularly earth-shattering or “new”?

It can be frustrating to watch, especially when you know that what you have to offer is actually earth-shattering and quite inventive.

After researching and implementing brand strategies for some of the largest companies in the world and advising over 100 startups in the past 5 years, I get why story works. Here are the facts: 

🔸THE MOST SUCCESSFUL STARTUPS I KNOW SPEND THE MOST TIME SHARING “WHY” THEY’RE SELLING THEIR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. THIS IS WHERE THEIR STORIES AND THEIR MARKETING STRATEGIES ALWAYS START.

🔸UNSUCCESSFUL STARTUPS DO THE OPPOSITE, MARKETING “WHAT” THEY’RE SELLING AND OBSESSIVELY TOUTING THE FEATURES AND BENEFITS OF THEIR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES (You know, all the things that can be duplicated by anyone?) 

🔸IN OTHER WORDS, YOU CAN HAVE AN AMAZING PRODUCT OR SERVICE, BUT IF YOU LEAD WITH “WHAT” INSTEAD OF “WHY”, YOU’LL NEVER CUT THROUGH THE CLUTTER TO GRAB ANYONE’S ATTENTION. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE –

WHAT PATH ARE YOU ON?

 

“The only way to get people to come to your website, stay there and shop around is to captivate them with a story.”

So … how do you turn these facts into a brand story strategy that will sell (and not just sound nice)? 

I recently released my new e-book, “Storytelling Success Secrets: The 4 Questions Every Brand Story Must Answer to Sell Like Crazy and Stand Out From the Crowd”. 

If you’ve been struggling with how to communicate to your target audience what makes you different from the rest,  click here to download your FREE copy.

————-

Learn how to succeed in business and in branding with my new free e-book: Storytelling Success Secrets. Get the 4 questions every brand story must answer to sell like crazy and stand out from the crowd –> bit.ly/secretsofstory 

Written by: Amber Williams
Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

The Top 3 Mistakes Every New Brand Makes

The Top 3 Mistakes Every New Brand Makes
11
JUNE, 2018
Branding
Brand Strategy
Communication
Customers
Last week, I shared the story of how Shea Moisture, the very first haircare brand I used on my naturally curly hair, lost sight of their customers in a wide-net attempt to grow their brand.
Today, I want to share with you the top 3 mistakes most new brands make that lead them down a similar path of destruction. The only difference is that in the startup world, there’s not a cushion of cash to fund a comeback. In many instances, committing one of these mistakes causes you to no longer be in business.

It goes a little something like this ..

YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, SO YOU SOLVE IT.

I know so many entrepreneurs who go into business to solve their own problem at first.  Your children have eczema and suffer daily with dry skin so you create a handmade, natural moisturizer for them. It works and you decide to share it with your friends. They love it, which gives you affirmation that this one solution has the power to become an entire collection – one that you can sell. You package it up, brand it with your favorite colors, scent it with your favorite smells, name each moisturizer with your memories, and share with the world the story of how you did it all. Loads of other moms flock to your pop-up shop to learn more. Looking down proudly at your investment, you see the reflection of all of your hard work, late nights, and financial sacrifices. You successfully launched a business, but for some reason you and just a few of your friends are the only ones buying.

THEN YOU TRY TO SELL IT TO THE WORLD.

You decide to take that collection online and see if the web responds better. It took you awhile to figure out how to set up your digital shop, but you did it! With the help of some trusted friends and the (expensive) hiring of a website developer, your moisturizers can now be purchased from anywhere in the world. Your homepage has a picture of you and talks all about the process you underwent to create each product. It talks about your ingredient inspiration, your children, and your solution. The language on your site even sounds the way you talk. All of your brand messaging is a reflection of your family and how you communicate. As a final gesture, you ask your closest friends to help you select imagery to go on each page of the site. It’s finally done and once again, you’ve told everyone.  Within a week, you’re receiving traffic to your page (and not just family and friends!). You’re excited because business growth seems to finally be approaching. People come to visit your new shopping destination on opening week, and sadly within seconds, leave … without purchasing a thing.

You ask yourself, what am I missing?

YOU CRAFT A MASTER MARKETING STRATEGY. 

Final attempt. You tell your team it’s time to go big! This itty bitty collection of perfect moisturizers for dry skin is now for everybody. From now on, you decide to stop specifying who your moisturizers can help. Moving forward, these handmade mixtures can cure anything. More importantly, they can be used by anyone. Your web developer gets the order to remove all skin-specific language on the site. You take down the story of why you began and the healing benefits of your dry-skin-saving ingredients. The marketing strategy from here on out is one of inclusion, because maybe in the beginning, you were being too “limiting.” The wide net is cast and you anxiously await the sea of fish to come in to buy a collection that’s now for everyone.

BUT NO ONE EVER COMES. NO ONE EVER BUYS. YOU CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHY.

Your bootstrapped brand is now stagnant. You’re stuck. Out of cash and out of a single idea as to why such an amazing product line won’t sell.

“The only way to get people to come to your website, stay there and shop around is to captivate them with messaging that resonates with who they are, not who you are.”

Now, maybe you’re not in the business of handmade moisturizers, but I bet this story has a few parallels to your own brand building journey.  I’m almost positive that if you’re reading this message, you’ve made one of these core mistakes in the past or are currently making one right now as I type:

Mistake #1: Building & Branding For You & You Alone

This is where the founder of this cute little handmade collection went wrong. She created everything for her brand – from the names of her products to the scents in each mixture – around her own preferences. She never once considered how the market would respond and what the people actually buying these products would want.

Mistake #2:  Not Knowing Who You’re Talking To

If your brand sounds the exact same way that you talk, we have a problem. Sure, you may be part of the target market, but you are not a total representation of it. The only way to get people to come to your website, stay there and shop around is to captivate them with messaging that resonates with who they are, not who you are.  You have to know who your brand is talking to.

Mistake #3: Being All Things to All People

No brand can be all things to all people. It’s simply impossible. This is where Shea Moisture got caught up and where most brands make their final attempt to stay in business – opening up the marketing floodgates. There’s a reason why business plans require that you write down the problem you solve and who exactly you solve it for. Too many young brands suffer from the fear of limiting themselves, so they attempt to position their brands to serve everyone. This just can’t be done. Being something to your people doesn’t mean others won’t buy; it just means that the people you created your brand to serve will know that you are FOR them. And in return, they will buy from you.

.      .     .

All of these mistakes boil down to the fundamental first step so many new brands skip when trying to build their businesses – getting to know their customer. 

Your customer is who shapes your branding, your communication, and your entire marketing strategy. Are you building your business around them?

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Learn how you can get to know your customer and avoid these top brand building mistakes HERE!

Written by: Amber Williams
Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

Don’t Be Shamed Like Shea Moisture

Don’t Be Shamed Like Shea Moisture
11
JUNE, 2018
Branding
Communication
Customers
Press
Right around 7:45 PM Tuesday night, I was in desperate need of a deep hair conditioner. It was one of those beauty emergencies that I didn’t believe could wait until the next day. I headed to Target.
Once there, I turned down the aisle where the natural hair products were. What used to be a three-foot section dominated by just five brands for curly girls has grown (by popular demand of course) into an entire six shelf, double-sided aisle full of products, brand promises, and OPTIONS, OPTIONS, OPTIONS!

I can vividly recall the days when my choices for natural hair products were limited to a handful of brands that spoke my language and understood what I needed and truly wanted – which was to unabashedly rock my natural born coils. .

The first brand to indoctrinate me into this natural hair, afro, unapologetic lifestyle was Shea Moisture.

On Tuesday, as I perused through this new and “inclusive” Target aisle, I noticed a sea of other natural hair brands that made the same claims as Shea Moisture’s products. I was reminded of the ebbs and flows of business and just how quickly competition enters in. 

As a brand, being the first to offer something or even being amongst a limited few options is a huge advantage. You can dominate the conversation about your solutions and capture a large chunk of market share early on. The best part? You have the opportunity to really get to know your customer and build your business around their needs. 

But what happens when you’re not the only player anymore? What happens when everyone mimics you, or worse, outdoes you, your offering, and the way they connect with your customers? What happens when the section you used to dominate becomes an aisle that you’re lucky to even have a spot on? 

For strong brands that know their customers, they continue the connection despite the number of competitors vying for their customers’ dollars. They spend time building on the trust they already have and finding new ways to meet their people where they are.

Brands not as strong (or strategic) who don’t know their customers head in the opposite direction. In an attempt to capture the popularity of a growing market, they cast a wide net over ALL customers, trying to appeal to EVERYONE, in turn isolating the very ones that they created their products or services for.

This is exactly what Shea Moisture did last year – they lost sight of who their customers were. Or maybe, they never even know them. 

The 2017 “Hair Hate” ad campaign told a story that was not the Shea Moisture one at all. It showcased imagery of everyone but the natural Black girls that supported, advocated for, influenced, and grew their business. It invited a web of backlash that resulted in comments from customers like:

“Any brand that doesn’t know me is a brand I certainly don’t need to get to know.”

In a public apology from the brand, they attempted to acknowledge the disrespect their customers felt. And while they ended with a humble admission, “we should know better”, the sting remains even a year later.

While checking out at Target on Tuesday with the deep conditioner I purchased from the Camille Rose brand, it dawned on me that I didn’t even notice the bright coral-colored Shea Moisture brand in that huge aisle. Maybe it was there. Maybe it wasn’t.

Any brand that doesn’t know me is a brand I certainly don’t need to get to know. And after awhile, it’s one I don’t even notice.

Believe me, I’m not alone. 

.      .     .

Take the time out to get to know your customers and promise yourself that you’ll never deviate from the very people you created your brand to serve. 

DON’T BE SHAMED LIKE SHEA MOISTURE.

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Learn how you can get to know your customer and avoid these top brand building mistakes HERE!

Written by: Amber Williams

Master Brand Storyteller & Creator of Punkyflair

This is Why We’re Still Mad About Starbucks

This is Why We’re Still Mad About Starbucks

25

APRIL, 2018

Branding
Brand Story
Strategy

I want to share with you why my bruised feelings (and probably yours too) will remain even after the Starbucks smoke clears.

So it’s been about a week since the Starbucks incident and I’ve gone through ALL of the emotions! From denial to anger and now acceptance, I’m at a point where I can clarify my thoughts and perspective on this BRAND DISASTER.

Despite CEO Kevin Johnson’s apology and his scheduled 8,000-store shutdown for training on implicit bias, the bitter taste of two innocent arrests still lingers.

We, as customers, coffee addicts, and community, are very much in fact still mad.

We’re still appalled, still offended, and still heartbroken by the fact that people can be arrested in their neighborhood Starbucks for doing what WE ALL DO when we go to Starbucks – chill, wait for our friends, order coffee – now, later or never.

This is NOT what happens at Starbucks. It’s supposed to happen in that movie that takes place during the ’60s in rural Alabama or maybe in some ignorant corner of rural Alabama today. But, at Starbucks – the brand with the diverse staff of baristas that know your name, the coffeehouse that assimilates into the neighborhood with its music and decor, the shop that the entire community comes to in the morning to wake up and again at noon to meet up – nah, not here.

WE EXPECT EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE PROMISED.

As customers, our expectation of the chill environment, personable service, and community feel was not something we created from thin air; this expectation was established by the brand.

Our ideal of coffee and community utopia exists because that’s what Starbucks vowed to us in its brand promise: 

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

This promise is what the brand is built on. It’s what you buy into when you order your caramel macchiato, or your multigrain bagel with cream cheese, or those overpriced espresso chocolate beans. It’s why the baristas try to learn your name so that they can greet you personally the next day. It’s why there are tables and chairs to sit and enjoy your coffee or just sit and enjoy your company until you decide if you even want coffee.

This brand promise is what has subconsciously sold you into spending your time and money in overcrowded corners on overpriced lattes.

So when this promise was so brashly violated, it shook a community of (not just Black) people and brand enthusiasts who felt the betrayal of a broken promise.

That’s why we’re still mad.

THAT PROMISE WAS BROKEN.

Despite their best PR efforts, the promise of “inspiring and nurturing the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”  now feels like a lie.  Sadly, some of the Starbucks brand values do too: (1) Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome; (2) Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other; (3) Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect; and (4) Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

 

“Brands are incredibly fragile and complex, yet shockingly simple to create.”

Like in all relationships, Starbucks now faces the challenge of rebuilding trust and belief in the relationship between brand and customer.

Now, it must really hold itself accountable to recreate that coffeehouse ideal that has been publicly contradicted.

My graduate school professor once said,

“Brands are not at all what most people think they are. They are incredibly fragile and have little to do with products, services, logos, CEOs, or identities. A brand is something much more complex to continue, yet shockingly simple to create:

A brand is a promise, kept. “

.      .     .

Ask yourself what your brand promise is and if you’re doing everything that you can in your business (from operations to marketing and even in your hiring) to uphold yours so that the same brand irony Starbucks is experiencing never falls upon you.

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Need help mapping out your brand promise or your brand values? Book a 60-minute BRANDSTORM session with me here!  We’ll create a plan to bullet-proof your brand from Starbucks-like debacles and get you on the right track toward keeping your promise to your customers.

Written by: Amber Williams
Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

Marketing is for Dummies, Story is for Everyone

Marketing is for Dummies, Story is for Everyone.

19

OCTOBER, 2017

Branding
Brand Story
Strategy

In college, two marketing representatives from a Tahitian juice company came to speak to my class.

In college, two marketing representatives from a Tahitian juice company came to speak to my class.  They shared with us information about a new drink that promised good health, better digestion, and superior antioxidant protection. We were encouraged to become independent distributors of this life-changing juice that was transforming the wellness space and would, in turn, transform our oh-so-troubled college lives.

Selling to our network of friends would be easy if we followed three simple marketing strategies: (1) Scarcity: Lie and say you only have a few bottles left to persuade them to buy now; (2) First-in-Class: Tell them there’s never been anything like this before and that they’ll want to get in on the movement early; and (3) Social Proof: Share with them an inflated number of people whose lives have already been transformed from one simple drink.

I’ll never forget the expression on their faces as they explained why these strategies were guaranteed to work. It was the same expression you see on the faces of those cult members being interviewed by CNN – the one that lets you know they actual believe their own nonsense.

That’s what this entire pitch was to me: nonsense.

Did they think we were dumb? Had they assumed that our friends would not see through such inauthentic marketing ploys? Finally, if this brand was so life-changing, wouldn’t it sell on its own through some foundation of truth?

.     .     .

THIS KIND OF MARKETING WASN’T FOR ME.

I passed on the opportunity to become a student distributor of Tahitian juice. Instead, I continued my education in marketing and learned of a better way to sell products.

I still see companies today using many of the same marketing tactics that were presented to me in college. I don’t doubt their effectiveness, but I have come to understand that just like that life-changing juice brand made some money for a few years and then disappeared, these tactics offer the same outcome for the brands that rely on them: short-lived success.

THAT’S BECAUSE IT ONLY WORKS ON DUMMIES.

It’s for those unintelligent customers who can’t see through the psychological games.  And that customer, ladies and gentlemen, is dying. She is being replaced by a far-more-intelligent buyer who is persuaded through other means.

The 21st century customer wants to feel connected and understood by the brands she invests in.  She is compelled by messages that speak directly to her and where she is in life. To attract her, your brand has to stop marketing and start storytelling.

“To attract today’s customer, your brand has to stop marketing and start storytelling.”

Putting your customer at the center of your story is the most effective sales strategy a business can have today. It is also the best way to guarantee not just a sale, or a referral, or another sale, but a genuine connection that transcends those independent transactions.

After spending years making the switch for brands like Armani Exchange, The United States Olympic Committee, Heat Free Hair, and Camille Rose Naturals, one thing is clearer than ever to me:

Whether your customers are young or old, male or female, black or white, varied or the same,

Story SELLS and it is for EVERYONE. 

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Are you selling with story? Or are you using old school marketing tactics for dummies? Click here to book a FREE 15-minute Discovery Call with me to talk about how you can use story to create a more effective marketing to-do list this week!

Written by: Amber Williams

Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

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