Archive for the 'branding' Category

The power of a brand

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of brands within different sectors for a long time, probably due to Naomi Klein’s controversial No Logo. I recently came across the BrandFinance Global 500 tables. This basically aims to position the most powerful brands in the world by their percieved value. Although it’s quite focused on the financial sectors, it does help to give an indicator of general trends within certain sectors.

Coming off the back of the deepest and longest recession since WWII, it’s interesting to see which brands have maintained their value and which sectors hold the most powerful brand identities. In the UK, the most highly valued brand is Vodafone, who have usurped HSBC. This lends us a clue as to a macro economic trend, which sees the value of brands within the financial sectors decreasing in line with motifs formed from the recession. Interestingly enough, the reverse can be seen to within the communications and technology sectors, with brands from these two sectors making up half of those within the top 25 positions. It’s hard to pinpoint on a micro level where to attribute this success, as various factors can be seen to have made a difference, from the continued dominance of the IPhone to increased exposure in the BRIC economies.

In it’s conclusion, the article also states that the top 500 brands are starting to geographically diversify from the power bases of the UK and US. Although the article mentions new entrants from the emerging markets from their respective finanical sectors, it’s interesting to note that the top brand valued from outside of the UK and US is Toyota. It will be interesting to see where they stand next year, with the automative industry constantly tackling ever changing regulation and Toyota themselves starting the year off with a serious safety crisis.

The big Twitter debate

Over the last two years, Twitter has taken the Internet by storm. Early adopters (myself included) saw it as just another method by which to communicate to your network, and dismissed it on this basis. However, as celebrities such as Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher started to jump on board, Twitter slowly started to become more of a mainstream media tool. This was further enhanced by events such as the River Hudson plane crash and the terrorist events in Mumbai. Now Twitter is seen as a fundamental broadcasting medium by many to obtain relevant news.

However, the problem with Twitter is that there doesn’t seem to be any obvious way to monetise their service. They have a massive subscriber base, all of which obtain a free service. Now they even have a large enterprise and corporate client base who use their service not only to promote their brand and products, but also to connect with their client base. Due to the size of Twitter’s user base, the temptation is always there to sell out to a larger player, and there has been a lot of speculation relating to an acquisition by Google. Real time search is the one area within their portfolio that they’ve had problems coming to terms with. However, with Twitter’s real time feed suddenly Google would have specific relevant information about up to date trending topics, of which to target their adverts too. The immediate benefits of this are there for all to see. Google can instantly monetise a service that currently does not have any obvious income stream. Whilst for Twitter, they have direct access to Google’s massive resource pool to be able to compete against the likes of Facebook, who with the acquisition of FriendFeed are slowly encroaching into the space of real time search. Also, Google’s track record of amalgamating newly acquired assets into it’s estate is strong, as is shown by the success of both YouTube and Blogger being able to keep their brand identity and prove successful in their respective markets.

However, Twitter does have an ace up it’s sleeve. With the use of hashtags, Twitter has a direct way of keeping a handle on the latest trends being discussed. They have large investors behind them providing them with the capital to increase their infrastructure. Also, despite the fact I mentioned earlier that their lack of an obvious business model was a problem, it definitely constitutes a nice problem . Currently their valuation is built solely on their subscriber base and their infrastructure. The minute they disclose their intentions, their value would rocket to potential investors, and may well even see them go down the IPO route. Remember that the guys behind Twitter are also the same guys that started Blogger, and sold it successfully to Google.

For my two pence, I think that Twitter would be silly to ignore the threat of Facebook, and sell in a hurry to the likes of Google and Apple. They have an extremely strong brand and an even stronger user base which they can use to their advantage. And just as Google did with the implementation of Adwords, if they can find a way to monetise the mammoth amount of hashtags flying around, I think they would stand a good chance of seeing off the combined Facebook/FriendFeed threat.

Can we take lessons from the Apprentice?

I’ve missed a lot of this series of the Apprentice, however last night I finally sat down to watch what many deem to be the hardest task of each series – the interview. The militant nature of the interviews reminded me of some of the worse ones I’ve had to endure. Having an interviewer tell me that at the age of 25, I had achieved nothing with my life hurt. However, my dad alwyas used to say to me that a man is not defined by the setbacks he experiences, but how he deals with them.

The one quality that all the candidates seem to share is that they are all extremely self confident about their abilities. And this needs to be the case in any interview. If you are going to sell yourself to a potential employer you need to be completely confident in the skills that you can bring to the table. There is absolutely no point in being modest about yourself. No employer wants an average employee. However, in my experience, you should never gloss over your flaws. If someone is highlighting a mistake, admit it. Don’t try and blag. I remember when I was younger having an interview with an a company who sold double glazing. I was so desperate for the job that I told them I had sold windows previously. I got the job, but was very quickly found out and promptly humiliated. The same happened to Yasmina, who completely fell apart once her business acumen was exposed.  In my experience, a candidate or even just a human being, who is able to admit to their flaws, learn to overcome them and then rise above them, presents themselves as a stronger and more rounded individual than someone who seems to be the perfect candidate. This is because you know what to expect with the ‘warts and all’ character, whilst you are always waiting for the veil to slip with the perfect character.

It was also quite admirable how none of the candidates lost their bottle in any of the interviews. Although this was the final series and you’d expect candidates of this quality to give polished interviews, they were really tested. In that environment, it is hard not to take some of the critiscim personally. For me, that quality, combined with the propensity to learn from an experience can really shape a person.

Lastly, who do I think is going to win? It’s got to be Kate. Who did I hope to win? Debra. I think Sir Alan didn’t pick her purely because he realised he had met his match!

The year of the experts

Former Solicitor Gen...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I’m not going to beat around the bush. I may call myself an IT consultant, but really I’m a sales person. ALL consultants are sales people. In whatever guise they wrap up their advice, they are essentially selling their clients their opinion. And the most effective consultants are the ones who are the best sales people. However, this is not a bad thing. Too many times I hear friends, family and colleagues whine about being sold too on the phone, via TV adverts and over the internet. That’s the mark of a bad sales person. If your client knows he’s being sold too, you’re no longer a consultant.

So what’s the difference between a sales person and a consultant? In my humble opinion, the clue is in the title. Consultants consult with their clients. They find out what problems they’re having. They understand how that is effecting their business. Then on the back of this, they recommend a solution, either theirs or someone else’s, that they are confident will resolve the issue at hand.

This is all common knowledge. However, one thing that distinguishes good consultants from great consultants is the fact that some pursue clients, while others attract them. And the reason? Because the latter are perceived to be experts within their field of knowledge. Think about it. When was the last time you received unsolicited communication from a lawyer or solicitor? Usually, lawyers and solicitors position themselves as experts within their field of knowledge to attract the bulk of their clientele. I’m not saying they don’t advertise, but I’m sure in your day to day life you will see more adverts for second hand cars and double glazing than you will see for law firms.

So how do we position ourselves as an expert within our field? First off, here comes the mandatory disclaimer! I’m no expert and am always on the lookout for people who have techniques that I can try. However, I have already learnt a lot about self marketing and positioning to have picked up a few tips that stand me in good stead.

1) You will very rarely find an expert who is anything but wholly confident about the information they are giving. Whether it is derived from their own research, or from learned colleagues/mentors, the majority of experts exude confidence when they communicate with others. So I guess my tip would be BE CONFIDENT when talking to potential clients. Whether this means learning back to front the technical aspects of what you are talking about, or whether through various visualisation techniques and self empowerment methods you become more self confident as a person. The end results will be your clientele will have more respect and assurance  in you and your opinions.

2) Once you are confident in your self and your offering, network. Network like mad! Pick up the phone, go to trade shows, participate in online discussions, go to relevant seminars. The more visibility you give yourselves, the more people will start to recognise you. And if you are constantly doing the rounds  at various shows, the more expertise they assume you have taken in. If you know how to network (and to be honest, I’m still learning…) then this skill is invaluable, as the more influential people you can attract into your mastermind group, the better. This will give you the benefit of having a rich source of knowledge to tap into when you need it most. In some circumstances, this can also act as an accreditation for some clients to validate you by.

3) Never ever stop learning. EVER. It’s all well and good going out to lunch with big executives, but if you do not know what policies have recently been implemented within your industry, or do no know the recent movers and shakers within your vertical, then you will only look out of your depth. This is NOT a good look. Confidence and networking can only take you so far. If you don’t know about the bigger picture, then you need to learn and QUICKLY. And if you’re one of those big executives who think they’ve learned everything there is to learn within their sector, as Jay Abraham so eloquently puts it, “you’re probably losing business and don’t even know it!” In a nutshell, if you think you’ve learnt everything about your product, learn everything about your clients. Or learn everything about your industry. Or learn everything about your competitors. Or learn everything about your governing body. Or learn everything about successful consultants. I cannot stress this point enough.

There are many many more ways in which you can become an expert within your field. I have only highlighted the 3 main ways in that I have used in my industry. Is it working? Only time will tell! However, one thing that I am sure about is that in this downturn, many more consumers will be nervous about parting with their money. If you are able to offer them unbiased, qualified advice, they will be a lot more susceptible to following you and your opinions.

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