Junior Achievement interviewed me recently and asked me what my 10 tips for entrepreneurs would be, given my own experience as an entrepreneur and my research for Accidental Branding. Here’s what I came up with – let me know what you think:
This morning I was on Fox Business News. It wasn’t the first time but the tenth. While I was there I realized that I’ve officially become a talking head. Today was a little different though. I was there to talk about a re-branding that the new owners of The Athlete’s Foot are undertaking. They are changing the name to TAF and moving to a variety of store formats that will add more apparel and cater to more segments including the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd and urban kids.
I really did not like the re-branding plan because I thought it was walking away from the core expertise of The Athlete’s Foot (who used to be positioned as experts in technical footwear) and because I think acronyms are very confusing for consumers.
The other nine times I’ve been on Fox I’ve either agreed with a company spokesperson or disagreed without seeing the human face I was disagreeing with. This time was different because I was brought on almost immediately after the new marketing director, Darius Billings, and I had to basically say that I thought he was wrong and that his plan wouldn’t work.
I suspect that most talking heads on business networks are stock analysts, consultants or academics. I’m not. Yes, I do teach at NYU, but I spent over 15 years on the client side at places like Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. So when I am watching Darius, I am thinking that he seems like a very nice guy, that this probably was not his plan to begin with but something handed to him by his CEO who is an investment guy, not a marketer and that I am basically trashing his plan on national television. And I know exactly what that might feel like. And I realize at the same time that even a bad branding strategy executed well might work, at least for a while. So he might be able to do exactly what his bosses are asking from him.
This makes the talking head business a bit more difficult. I’m still happy to do it, but now I see that there may be human consequences.
I would recommend this for career seekers, particularly recent college grads or soul searchers currently reading “What Color is Your Parachute?” Alexandra creates a self assessment that lands you in one of a number of different career profiles including Adventurer, Creator, Data Head, Entrepreneur, Investigator, Networker and Nurturer. Based on this she spins out convincing descriptions of jobs – some of which you might never have thought of (Congressional Staffer, Health Club Owner, Zoologist, Foreign Service Officer).
This book will stimulate your career thinking and it’s concise and well-written.
This is the official launch week for Accidental Branding. The launch day is Friday, March 28th. I will not be home in New York, but speaking at a conference in Las Vegas when the book comes out.
However, two weeks from today, I will make up for it by throwing a charity benefit for the launch of Accidental Branding. NYU is co-sponsoring and the event benefits Junior Achievement, an organization which helps build young entrepreneurs. I am honored that Carolyn Kepcher, the former Apprentice co-star will host the event. Three of the entrepreneurs I featured in Accidental Branding are flying in for the event: John Peterman (founder of J. Peterman), Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist) and Roxanne Quimby (founder of Burt’s Bees). Full details for the Accidental Branding launch are here and although the event is almost sold out, there are still a few tickets left.
In the next few months I will be in Las Vegas, Annapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago. If you’re a fan of the book, send me a note or find me on Twitter.
This morning I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Stu Taylor, on the #1 drive time business talk show in Boston and New England. Stu is a longtime radio personality and also has a nationally syndicated radio talk show called “Equity Strategies.” He has interviewed luminaries like Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. It was a great conversation that spanned two segments and I’ll link to it as soon as it’s up on his website.
Yesterday I had an opportunity to introduce Seth Godin at the speaker series that my company, ThirdWay Brand Trainers, runs. Seth stopped by to talk about Meatball Sundae, his new book. Seth – being Seth – was full of energy and incredibly insightful ideas.
The book is about the indiscriminate use of new media by brands that don’t really fit the ethos of the Internet. One thing Seth Godin said while talking about widgets (functional applications that can slot onto your my Yahoo, iGoogle page, blog, Facebook or in other places) is that he didn’t think marketing widgets would be successful because they were ungenerous where as successful widgets needed to be generous. In other words, a widget that shows the weather for my area is generous because it is useful without being demanding or pushy. A widget from the GAP which features a new sweater everyday is inherently ungenerous because it’s not that useful and demands my attention.
We discussed this issue in my NYU class ‘From Blogs to Buzz’ last night. I think the solution is that marketers need to focus either on their most passionate consumers or find generous applications that might still benefit them. For example, one of my students runs a loyalty program for British Airways. That brand could have a widget for its most rabid frequent fliers which tracks flights and frequent flier mileage and delivers targeted offers. But for the less-involved BA frequent fliers, they would need something like an aviation weather forecast that could be set by region or destination – to allow them to predict weather delays regardless of whose plane they were flying.
If you’ve read Accidental Branding or are interested in how entrepreneurs brand, you have probably noticed that they create brands that have incredibly tight-knit communities of brand enthusiasts. One of the big questions in todays world is how these communities are evolving online. I want to thank Jeremiah Owyang and Tracy Sullivan for allowing me a preview of “Online Community Best Practices” a new Forrester report on how brands are developing online communities. I will be writing more about this on The ThirdWay Advertising Blog – but it looks to be a good resource which I will also use to help my NYU students understand online communities. I also found this post on Church of the Customer to be very helpful.
The definition is “a presentation format in which (mostly creative) work can be easily and informally shown. It started in Japan and a 20×20 format where each presenter is allowed a slideshow of 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each. This results in a total presentation time of 6 minutes 40 seconds on a stage before the next presenter is up. Each event usually has 14 presenters.” This all from Wikipedia.
In any case, the New York office of London Brand Consultancy Hall & Partners is sponsoring a marketing-based Pecha Kucha as the next in it’s “Fresh Meet” series. I’ll be there on Tuesday evening, February 26th.
Welcome to the blog for Accidental Branding. I started writing online (for the ThirdWay Advertising Blog) so it’s appropriate that after finally publishing a book I get to have a dialogue online about it.
I hope to use this blog for two basic purposes. One is to share developments on the book with those of you who are interested. As of now (in February) only a few journalists and friends have read the book. As the number grows, this is the place you can find out more about me and more about the progress of the book.
The second thing I would like to do – which is more interesting by far – is to use this as a place to talk about your stories. The eight entrepreneurs I interviewed for this book don’t begin to scratch the surface of great entrepreneurial branding stories. If you are interested I will ask you to answer 5 simple questions about your brand and brand story honestly, and I’ll feature you here.