What are You Doing this Fall?

Categories // Branding

Here’s an Idea: Pumpkin Spice and How to De-clutter Your Brand

It’s beginning to get a little chilly. The leaves are transitioning to fiery hues. You’re finding pumpkin-spice everything and everywhere. I am, anyway. Seriously, did you know pumpkin spice deodorant is now available? This is a trend that has unquestionably jumped the shark.


This time of the year is usually dedicated to finishing strong in the last quarter AND planning for next year. It’s the season for harvest. You can reap what you’ve sown and take time to sort through what your work has yielded over time. Yay!


I’m proposing a new and different Fall activity that will help you with both AND strengthen your brand.


You’ve heard of Spring cleaning. Let’s talk about Fall brand harvesting. 


What is a Fall brand harvest? It’s an opportunity to take stock of your products, services and content, and get rid of anything that’s not related to your core business and brand uniqueness.


How does a business accumulate so much stuff?

Is Your Brand Special?

Categories // Branding

How to Uncover Your Uniqueness and Why You Must

When clients and I are diving into the brand co-creation process, I’ll ask them to imagine and describe their ideal brand in as much detail as possible.

I’ll ask them to describe their perfect future brand. What does it look like? What does it sound like? How does it connect with people?

More often than not, they’ll grab their laptop, feverishly type away, find something, then turn the laptop around to show me.

“This. I want my brand to look just like this. This company’s branding is so well done. I love the colors, the language they use, the style of the photos, the font, the messaging. I love everything about it. It actually makes me a bit jealous because it’s so good!”

With regret, I tell them, “Sorry, that brand is taken. You’re not going to create a copy of that.”

Sorry, that brand is taken

Most companies and business owners don’t believe they have that special something that sets them apart or makes them envy-worthy. They’re wrong. They have everything they need to make their businesses and themselves stand out. Just like no two people are alike, no two businesses are alike.

You don’t need to copy someone else.

No Need to be a copycat

There’s the Easy Way and There’s the Right Way to Brand a Business

How to Brand or Re-brand Your Business the Right Way

The first meetings are almost always the same. After the polite introductions and small talk I simply ask, “Tell me, what do you do?”

The answer starts out with gusto because all my clients are passionate about the work they do. Before long, we are drowning in a sea of information. This is understandable. In an attempt to simplify all that they do AND include all that they do, their energy overtakes their message. As they share stories, metaphors, tangents, uniqueness, facts, opinions, visions and hopes, they get tangled and confused. They begin to lose track of the question they were answering.

They look for signs that I’m following, but see an expressionless face that’s not giving them any feedback. I’m not reacting because I’m listening intently and taking it all in. They wind down their explanation with a grimace and hopeful eyes.

This introduction to their work has taken anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours. Yes. The current record is three hours. By the end, the speaker is more confused, maybe even discouraged. But, I’m overjoyed. Finally, some feedback. I spring back to life and tell them that they’re in the perfect spot!

The raw material is there. They just need an outside perspective from a process expert to take the ideas, stories, experience, uniqueness, hopes, visions, facts and opinions and distill them into a simple brand essence -- a sentence that will powerfully summarize what their brand is.

You need someone who can help you see who you are.

What is Branding?

Categories // Branding

A Deep Dive into the Correct Definition

A few weeks ago, I met my friend and fellow business owner for lunch and brainstorming. We helped each other generate ideas to build our businesses and reach new clients in the rest of 2017. We talked about people we know who might need the other’s offerings. 

My friend looked at me, scrunched up her face and said, “I’m not sure how I could explain to people what you do because what you do is so…..”

As she searched for the word, I panicked a little. Her face didn’t make it seem as though the word would be positive.

“It’s so nebulous,” she said with a smile, satisfied with her word choice.

While I’m not a theoretical mathematician -- work I’d consider “nebulous” -- I agreed with her. I’m a branding expert and I think the word, “brand,” and the concept of branding, are confusing.

This gave me the idea to make branding less nebulous. Less confusing. In this and some upcoming posts, I’ll provide an overview and detailed breakdown of branding and the branding process because I believe both are critical concepts every business must master. After all, this is precisely how great brands distinguish themselves from all others.

Rethinking Your Brand Strategy? 3 Questions to Ask First (and 3 Easy Makeover Solutions)

Tags // Brand Audit, Brand Strategy, Brand Touchpoints, Branding, Rebranding

Let me ask you a question.

When you hear the word “brand,” what do you think it means?



Marketing tactics?


Sure, these all play a part in branding. 

But, in fact, branding is much more than just these items.

I like to say branding is what people think, feel and expect whenever they interact with your company. 

Branding is an overarching image. 

It’s ingrained in everything you do—your operations, your message, all your touch points and your marketing.

It’s the DNA of the company.

When a company is thinking of rebranding itself, it can feel quite overwhelming. 


So before you dive deep into the world of rebranding and hiring a branding strategist, it’s important to ask three questions first to determine where your brand currently stands. 

Based on your answers, you can take a few simple steps to start bringing your brand into alignment or you can hire a branding consultant

Visual Facilitation: 3 Key Benefits of Using Visuals in Strategic Meetings

No one thinks about how much meetings cost a company.

Do you?

I didn’t think so.

Let’s take a look at what a typical meeting might cost.

Let's say you and seven of your coworkers have a two-hour meeting.

If the average annual salary is $45,000, the cost of salaries alone is $450. The annual cost is more than $23,000!


With that kind of cost at stake, are you getting a decent return on investment from your time?

If not, is there a more productive way to hold meetings?

In fact, there is—with the help of visual facilitation. 

When Should Start-ups Think About Branding? Sooner or Later?

Categories // Branding

It’s a chicken-and-egg question, isn’t it?

When should start-ups think about branding? Sooner or later?

Let’s take a short journey to find the answer, shall we?

When a company first starts out, it might have brand touch points like these:

  • A logo.
  • Some business cards.
  • A company name.

A start-up usually has some basic elements associated with branding but it doesn’t have what I would call a “cohesive brand.”

Branding is more than a few basic touch points

It’s highly likely that start-ups haven’t done any deep thinking and planning about what their brand means. They’ve probably been more focused on the business model and the products and services they sell. 

Brand Building Blocks 214

Brand Strategy: 3 Common Preplanning Mistakes to Avoid (and Their Solutions)

What drives a company to think (or rethink) their brand strategy?

  • Is it because the company asked customers what their brand stands for and everyone gave a different answer?
  • Is it because they asked employees what the brand means and no one knew?
  • Or is it because the competition refreshed their brand so they also should?

Companies undergo a brand strategy based on any one of these factors or some combination.

Either way, the company’s research indicates people are giving different answers about their brand message.

As a result, nobody has a clear idea of what the company does or what it stands for.

The company feels like it’s having an identity crisis

If a brand doesn’t have a clear identity, it becomes just another commodity.

The first step to avoid becoming another commodity is to put a plan together to create a brand. The first phase of putting a brand strategy plan together is the preplanning phase. Here’s how a typical preplanning phase would roll out for many companies.

10 Costly Business Consequences of Not Listening (and how to truly listen)

Tags // Employee Engagement, Listening, Strategy

Believe it or not, this is a true story.

One time the CEO of a company I was working with gave a speech to an audience of about 200 people. The speech was well received.

After the speech, a small group of people approached the speaker with questions they felt the CEO could answer for them.

ceonotlisteningWhen everyone left, I went over to the CEO and said, “It looked like you had a lot of people interested in what you were talking about. What did they say?”

And the CEO responded, “I don’t know—I wasn’t listening.”

Not listening?


But hang on a minute

What’s wrong with not listening sometimes?

After all, the CEO probably thought he’d never see those people again, right?

Why bother making an effort to listen to people you think you’ll never see again?

Strategic Planning: 3 Myths Senior Executives Can Abandon

Categories // In General…

Have you ever wondered why most strategic planning sessions include only the senior leaders? 

In fact, these planning sessions rarely include anyone else.

Clearly, there must be a good reason, right?

Well, it turns out there isn’t a good reason.

It’s simply become a time-honored tradition. And that tradition is based on two factors:

1. Including only senior leaders is the status quo

It’s often a best practice across many companies. Companies, in general, assume that senior leaders are the best people to create the strategic plan.

2. Companies are structured a certain way

Most companies are structured so that they have front-line employees, the ones who do what the business does. Then, as those employees progress in their careers, they are promoted to management positions.

But this way of doing business has negative consequences for any business

  • The plan sits on the shelf once it’s been created (because the plan wasn’t created by people who are involved in the product, service or the operation of the company).
  • The plan has a narrow focus and lacks a rich source of information (because it lacks a variety of input from people throughout the organization).

As a result of this process, three myths developed that executives should start abandoning now.

A Picture is Worth (roughly) a Thousand Words

Categories // In General…

I had been planning to write the story behind this chart for some time and was reminded to do so by a tweet from fellow visual strategist Tristan Ozero. Thank you for prompt, and here is the story in just over 1000 words.