Believe In Your Brand

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Believe In Your Brand

I’m sitting with a potential client who is building a nascent software company that might – or might not – be the next great discovery in his particular industry.

The problem is Mr. Entrepreneur just got back from his investment road show and he’s still in sales mode. That means he can’t answer any question with a simple response. Instead he hems and haws, pivoting away from every question and barreling headfirst into his prepackaged sales pitch.

He starts each answer with a “so” or a “well” and ends each sentence with his voice raising in pitch until only dogs can hear him. It sounds like I’m listening to a nervous 14-year old girl in the Hollywood Hills.

Finally, a smart woman sitting at the table asks him what he wants to achieve. “Well, I guess, it would be helpful if I was a thought leader” he answered slowly. “So I’d like to get on TV.”

Next she asks, “Do you really believe in your brand? Do you have a blog? Do you write?”

“So, we have a website and we repost articles and thoughts from others in the space. It generates lots of reciprocal traffic. Do you know that when we reposted Peter Thiel’s article about students no longer needing to go to college it got us our highest readership ever?”

“And who benefitted from that?” she asked rhetorically. “You or Peter Thiel?”

“So, I think that if we…”

That’s when the camel’s back snapped in two.

Believe In Your Brand
“You really think you believe in your brand? Do you know you haven’t answered a single question with a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘no’? Each one of your answers is a diversion, a sales pitch, a bunch of hooey. You’ve been asked the same question from three different people and you haven’t answered it once. No matter what the question is you don’t answer it, you just pivot away to the same sales pitch you’ve been delivering for weeks.”

“You want to be a thought leader? Then declare what you know that no one else does. You want to get on TV? Then believe in your brand and stand for something. If you answer an interviewer’s question the same way you’ve been answering our questions they’ll NEVER ask you back on the air.”

“You know who’s the perfect illustration of this? President John F. Kennedy. In 1961 he proclaimed that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard …because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

“Of course Kennedy had no way of knowing if we could actually get to the moon. There was no technological reason for him to believe it was possible. And everything in the country – from science education to financing to manufacturing – had to change to make it happen. But JFK did what a leader does. He boldly laid out the future and the rest of the country followed him into it. He didn’t equivocate, he didn’t question it, and sadly he didn’t live to see it.

But we took his direction and reached the goal. And we even did it a few months before our deadline. On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fulfilled Kennedy’s prophecy when they became the first humans to set foot on the moon.”

The rest of the room just stared back slack jawed. I thought that perhaps she had gone too far but what the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound. She started up again:

“When did you stop believing? You got into this business for a reason, for a big idea. At some point you thought enough of your big idea to quit your job, take out a second mortgage on your house, put the rest of your life on hold, and give everything to this new business. You had to convince your parents, reassure your wife, and explain it all to your boss. And you did it because you believed. You believed in your idea. You believed in your business. And most of all you believed in yourself. You knew you’d get to the moon, didn’t you?”

“Stop repeating what other people are saying. Stop reposting other people’s work. Stop overcoming everyone’s objections. Stop compromising. Stop selling. Stop saying what you think we want to hear. Stop hearing what you think we want to say. Stop upspeaking. Stop saying ‘well.’ Stop saying ‘so.” Stop saying ‘like.’ Stop hemming and stop hawing.”

“Look at Trump. Look at Brexit. Look at Elon Musk. You may not like their politics and you may not like their motivations but you can’t question their passion, their ardor, or their results. Is what they’re saying true or correct? Will Trump be president? Will England be better? Will we have fully autonomous cars by 2020 or a colony on Mars by 2030? Who the hell knows? But they said we will and their followers believe it.”

“If you really believe that your idea can make the world better then do it. Plant your flag. Make your statement. How? Write a book. If you can’t write a book, write a manifesto. Declare your future and lead your employees to it. THAT’S the way to both be a thought leader and to create your own opportunity.”

“All you have to do is to believe in your brand.”

Shorting Stocks for Fun and Profit

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Shorting Stocks

Let me be crystal clear: I’m not a money manager. I’m not a particularly astute investor. And even I wouldn’t follow my own advice. In fact, my go-to-line for advice has always been to try shorting stocks I buy. So you’ve been warned.

But today I think there’s a simple way to look for opportunity in the market. Simply watch for marketing trends that inflate big stock values and then come crashing down when the companies can’t handle the hype. The opportunity is in shorting stocks of media darlings.

Examples that have already happened? Chipotle and Tesla. An opportunity that’s ripe for exploitation right now? Keep reading.

Thanks to their inability to manage their food borne illness image crises, Chipotle’s March 7th high of $533 tumbled to $390 on July 7th. Even if you didn’t short at the maximum and sell at the minimum, there was still lots of time to exploit the stock’s volatility. Melissa Francis and I talked about Chipotle’s problems on FOX Business on December 11 and again on June 10.

Or how about Tesla? In July of 2015 their stock was valued at $282. One year later, it’s down to $224 and was as low as $143 in February. Why? Because in addition to the typical problems that plague tech startups, the word on TV screens and smartphones around the country is that Tesla’s auto-pilot software is killing people. Whether or not the car’s self-driving modes are ready for prime time is beside the point. The public believes that Tesla has a problem and their stock reflected that opinion. And all this after almost 400,000 would-be buyers plunked down deposits for Tesla’s model 3.

But so what? These potential windfalls have already happened. What you want to know is where is the great opportunity on the horizon for an astute investor like you? Easy. They are hidden in plain sight in today’s headlines.

Guess what game just made its namesake $45 million on $160+ million in revenue? It was the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood app and it was downloaded over 45 million times.  Forget Bitcoin, gaming is today’s new currency.

So is the Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ star, number 42 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list, the next big opportunity?

No, it’s not Kimmie. Today’s prospect is a fat little yellow creature and its friends. Pokémon Go, the mobile app version of the 1990’s card trading craze is the next big chance to score. Three days after its release the game been downloaded from Google Play and the iOS App Store about 7.5 million times and that number continues to increase. But more stunning is the company’s shareholder value which has already increased over $9 billion. Not bad for a few day’s work.

Where’s the opportunity then? Not simply because what goes up must come down but because people are going to be dying to play Pokémon Go.

Dying. Literally.

From The New York Post: “Mike Schultz, a 21-year-old communications graduate on Long Island… took a spill on his skateboard as he stared at his phone while cruising for critters early Thursday.”

From The New York Daily News: “The MTA tweeted a warning for players not to follow creatures off train platforms. In Missouri, police said they arrested four teens after they allegedly lured victims to remote locations using the game and robbed them.”

From The Wall Street Journal: “Dakota Schwartz…sprained his ankle at a park trying to capture a particular Pokémon.”

Sure, these injuries are minor but it’s just a matter of time before something catastrophic happens. Players will walk into traffic, walk in front of speeding trains, walk off of rooftops and worse. And just like the people who were Dying to be in Facebook  people will be dying to play Pokémon Go. Once the liability suits start pouring in you’ll be able to fan yourself with the gauge that records the dropping price of the company’s inflated stock.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I know next to nothing about buying stocks, shorting stocks, investing or speculation strategy. And until now, shorting stocks has always been something worth doing against my recommendations. But what I do know how to do is build brand value. And I also know when that value is about to come crashing down.

Ashley Madison on Branding Adultery

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Ashley Madison on Branding Adultery

From last Wednesday’s New York Times:

“Ashley Madison, a service that claims to facilitate extramarital affairs, has been in repair mode since last summer, when hackers exposed information attached to more that 30 million accounts and badly bruised the trust upon which its business was built.”

Ashley Madison

The news that there was an app created to facilitate cheating shocked lots of people. Many NYT readers were probably shocked that more than 30 million people had signed up. And lots of spouses were shocked to find their loved ones on the membership roster.

But what stood out to me was the ironic explanation of why Ashley Madison needed to repair their enterprise: Hackers had “badly bruised the trust upon which its business was built.” After all, if you are going to have an extramarital affair, and you are going to use a web app to arrange that affair, wouldn’t you expect — hell, wouldn’t you DEMAND — that your private information about the private things you do with your privates be kept private?

According to the Times, hackers “released nearly 10 gigabytes’ worth of stolen data, including details on member’s names, phone numbers and payment transactions.” It seems the hackers were upset because the company overstated “how many women really used the website.” The hackers also complained “the company charged members a $19 fee to scrub their profiles from the site but then failed to do so.”

But hold your self-righteous snickering for a moment. This security breech is more serious than it might appear. The Times says that the “…Ashley Madison release of user information had devastating consequences for at least some marriages. Blackmailers threatened to tell wives, and the attempted adultery of prominent people ended up in news pages. A New Orleans pastor, who was married with two children, committed suicide after his name was included in the data dump.”

The business was more substantial than you might think, too. More than 45 million members subscribed to Ashley Madison and it earned almost $80 million in revenue.

Regardless of what you think of Ashley Madison’s initial business model and extramarital affairs, you have to give them props for creating a business with authentic truth. That is, some people want to cheat on their spouses and Ashley Madison was a safe and secure way to do just that. But once the company found that the they could not walk their talk and provide a discreet way to have an affair they back-pedaled.

Now the company’s big solution to their problems is to sell itself as the world’s most open-minded dating community. Their new tagline? “Single, attached, looking to explore, or just curious.”


Here’s their  their original laser-focused line: “Life is short, have an affair.”

Just as nothing will bring back the lives and marriages damaged by the affairs Ashley Madison facilitated, nothing will bring back the company’s initial success either. Because once the company failed to live up to their authentic truth of discretion, they cheated on themselves and created a new business model that’s answering the question nobody’s asking.

Three Questions Every Professional Needs to Ask

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The Three Questions Every Professional Needs to Ask.

As service professionals we all do the same thing.

Sure, I create branding programs and advertising plans and you write screenplays, reconcile trial balances, argue court cases, engineer air-conditioning schematics, run a convention and visitors’ bureau, manage finances, diagnose health issues, or whatever it is you do.

The Three QuestionsBut besides the actual technical aspects of our jobs, we both do the same thing. We use our talents, skills, education, experience, knowledge, passion, and time to achieve desired results for our clients or employers.

You fill hotel rooms, protect assets, improve health, reduce taxes, and recommend solutions. I help make my clients’ products and services more valuable.

As different as those things might appear, the way we go about them is the same. We each make a promise to our clients and then we spend at least a third (and usually more) of our waking hours living up to our promise.

The trouble is, we often work for clients who don’t actually know if we’ve done a good job or not. Sometimes our successes aren’t acknowledged. Sometimes our successes (or failures) are due to circumstances entirely outside our control. And sometimes our clients simply aren’t qualified to know how well we’ve done in the first place.

The Doctor’s office called the patient, “Ma’am, your check came back.” The patient answered, “So did my arthritis!”

So we all do the same thing and we all have the same problems: We have to promise our clients a successful outcome BEFORE we work for them and then we have to validate our results AFTER we’re done.

If that rings true to you, let me suggest three simple questions that I’ve started asking my clients. They can help with both the before and the after of our engagements.

They are the three questions every professional needs to ask.

  1. What do you want to accomplish?
  2. How do you plan to accomplish that?
  3. How will you know when you’ve achieved what you want?

In other words, “What is your goal?” “What is your plan?” “How will you measure success?”

I find that if we have a substentative conversation with our clients before we undertake an assignment, and then we have an honest debrief after we complete it, we not only do a better job but we can help assure a satisfactory outcome and a satisfied client.

What’s more, this simple bit of client service does at least two other good things. It sets us up for additional projects and it pre-writes the testimonial that our clients will use when they recommend us to others.  And both of these can lead to new clients and new revenue.

The three questions every professional needs to ask are so valuable that they should become a regular part of every client interaction. And listening carefully to the answers and incorporating them into your work should be a regular part of every assignment you undertake.

Because when you use your talents to satisfy those answers, you’ll find you’ll satisfy your clients. Regardless of what it is you do, the three questions every professional needs to ask are the three questions you need to ask too.

Unintended Consequences

2 responses.

Unintended Consequences.

In my neighborhood — and probably yours too — there are new signs springing up everywhere. They feature a man bending over behind a dog under these words: “Pet waste transmits disease. Bag waste and clean up after your dog.” Apparently there’s an epidemic of dogs pooping on people’s yards lately because these signs are showing up wherever I look. And so are the legions of obedient dog owners who walk around with plastic bags — both empty and full — hanging out of their pockets.

At first glance the signs seem to make sense. After all, who wants dog poop in their yards? Poop smells, it’s unsightly, and it smushes sickenly between your toes if you’re unlucky enough to step in it with bare feet when you run out to get the newspaper in the morning.

Unintended ConsequencesBut wait just a damn second! Isn’t poop also used as fertilizer? And don’t many of the same people who go to The Home Depot to buy these anti-poop signs for their yards also leave the store with 20 lb. bags of cow manure to feed their lawns? Maybe they should be thanking the pet owners for helping keep their yards green and beautiful instead of lecturing them.

Instead, these same home owners demand the dog lovers scoop up the offending materials and isolate them in securely knotted baggies. This effectively destroys any value the dog droppings offer because after a short stay in the oxygen-free environment of the plastic bag the healthy organisms in the poop die and the fertilizer factor is finished. At that point the bagful truly isn’t worth a shit.

Unintended consequences, indeed.

I’m at a marketing workshop at a fancy hotel and I’m in line to grab a cup of coffee and a croissant before the boredom begins. Placed alongside the gleaming silver coffee urns are stacks of cups – both ceramic mugs and paper cups with plastic lids.

I don’t know about you, but I think coffee tastes better in porcelain than paper. In my mind (and on my tongue) the coffee stays hotter and doesn’t pick up any bitter taste from the cardboard. Plus, the mug is easier to hold, sits better on a table, and is easier to balance when I’m also holding a briefcase and trying to shake hands.

So why do people take the paper cups? Is it because they’re used to them from their daily Starbucks habit? Do they think the paper cups hold more? Do they simply not think of the difference and just grab whatever’s there? Or is there some other reason they prefer paper?

While I question why people would choose paper over porcelain, there’s no question why the hotels prefer paper. Despite their obvious ecological unfriendliness, paper cups are easier to handle and dispose of than ceramic mugs. They’re lighter, less expensive, can be stored in much smaller spaces, and don’t require washing, drying or restocking. Plus, paper cups don’t break. Based on this, it behooves hoteliers to save money by providing paper cups for coffee drinkers who either prefer them or don’t know the difference.

Again, an unintended consequence. But unlike the wasted fertilizer, this time the unintended consequence pays dividends to the savvy hotelier.

The importance of these two examples is to illustrate the phenomenon that while things happen that no one expects or plans for — Brexit, Uber, Zika, Donald Trump, skinny jeans – and while their consequences may in fact be unintended, they can present great opportunities to people who pay attention.

WTF and unintended consequencesAll you need to do is observe your own reaction to what’s going on. When you see something you don’t understand and you exclaim, “WTF??!!” understand that those initials do not stand for “What The F@#k??!!” but instead mean “Where’s The Future??!!” Because each time your intuition tells you that something odd is going on, it’s also telling you there could be unintended consequences in the making. That could mean that there’s a potential opportunity brewing too. It’s up to you to find it.

The 18th century British Nobleman Baron Rothschild said, “Buy when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” Rothschild, who made a fortune buying everything in sight in the panic that followed Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, understood exactly where the future was going to be. Maybe after reading this blog, you will too.

Unintended consequences, indeed.

The Value of Branding

One response.

Value of branding.

While I try to maintain this discussion on the powerful value of branding, some days I simply don’t have anything to write about. It doesn’t happen often, mind you. But now that I’ve religiously posted at least one blog post every week since 2007 (778 posts, btw) I must admit there are times when there’s not much to say.

There are a number of things I do to keep this from happening. I voraciously consume media – three daily newspapers, lots of magazines, and a number of websites and blogs – to keep up-to-date on our industry and the world around us. I think about what I want to talk about when I run my miles in the morning and when I’m out and about. And I constantly look for illustrations of good and bad branding examples to share with you. I also review a number of search engine protocols to see where people’s interests lie. It all creates a simple online focus group of sorts.

The value of branding. Marcel Breuer Cresa Chair.I’m also lucky that I’m so interested and involved in the subject that I always have a thought or opinion about what’s going on. Because of this, stories on diverse subjects such as increased travel to Cuba or the design of Marcel Breuer’s 1928 Cresca chair can be compelling inspiration for a post. Truth be told, my fingers often take over the writing when my brain can’t. That is, sometimes I just put my fingers on the keyboard and start typing and the thoughts flow out in an oddly coordinated way that results in a cogent post about the value of branding.

But perhaps the best inspiration for new ideas to write about the value of branding is the intersection of the business sector’s need for proven, hands-on branding advice and the vast selection of real world examples swirling around us.

For example, economist Paul Krugman wrote an editorial in The New York Times titled A Tale Of Two Parties. Krugman opined on the strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic and Republican establishments. Granted Krugman wrote a political column and you may or may not agree with his opinions, but what is interesting to me is that his op-ed on presidential positioning is really an insightful article on branding.

Krugman writes about Donald Trump’s primary success this way: “Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was (Trump’s) huffing and puffing …to blow their houses down.”

Politics? Surely. But what Krugman is really writing about is how Trump’s attacks defined the brands for both Bush and Rubio. Why? Because as we’ve said so many times before, the number one rule of both politics AND branding is to define yourself before your competition does. As Krugman noted, both candidates failed to create their own authentic brands and therefore paid the politician’s ultimate price.

These types of real world, real time brand stories are all around us. Whether you like or dislike the circumstances, the branding lessons you can find in these situations are always valuable. All it takes is an open and interested eye to see them. More importantly, it takes a bit of discipline and initiative to use what you observe to improve your business and your life.

At the end of the day, that is where the real value of branding lies – its proven ability to improve your business and make you money. Because when there’s a clear alignment between your company’s authentic truth and your customers’ aspirations, and when your brand can truly make your customers feel good about themselves, the value of branding becomes invaluable.


Order All About Them for brand motivationIf you’re looking for more proven ways to brand yourself and your business, you must be one of the first to get my new book, All About Them. It’s available now for pre-order in hardcover, Kindle, or audio on AmazonAppleBarnes & Noble800-CEO-Read, and IndieBound.

“For sheer charm, there is nothing like a new book from Bruce Turkel. All About Them made me laugh out loud in the first chapter, but the magic is that you are learning from the get-go.”

—Chris Crowley, author of Younger Next Year

Brand Motivation – Do You Know Yours?

4 responses.

Brand Motivation – Do You Know Yours?

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about brands and how to build them. What I’m finding is that in order to create a good brand for our clients, we find it important to understand their brand motivation. In other words, why do so many people spend so much time, money, and effort building their brands, and how will we know when they’re satisfied with what we’ve created?

Quite simply I believe brand motivation comes down to five basic drivers:

  1. Skill.
  2. Will.
  3. Thrill.
  4. Bill.
  5. Top of the Hill.

Skill.    Is your motivation based on the ability to practice something you do well? Many professionals – from accountants to zoologists, acupuncturists to zoning engineers – build their brands solely on their professional functions.

Will.    Perhaps your motivation is based on your strong desire to make something happen. Whether it’s an altruistic calling to make the world a better place, a need to design your environment, or a longing to build a better mousetrap, many business and personal brands are guided by the will to accomplish something better or bigger.

Thrill.    If your personal brand is built around the adrenaline shot you get from doing something exciting, then this might very well be your motivation. You don’t have to don a flying squirrel suit and go jumping off a mountain to find business thrilling, by the way. Often the pure entrepreneurial charge of starting a business and making payroll can be more than enough.

Bill.       Perhaps it’s almost too obvious to bear repeating but lots of people build businesses and brands simply to make a profit. If revenue is your primary motivation, and how much money you accumulate and keep is the way you keep score, then this is most likely your brand motivation.

Top of the Hill. Maybe your brand motivation is all about being on top, winning the game, proving to yourself and the world that you’re the best out there. If this is the case, then Top of the Hill is probably the reason you’re in the game in the first place.

Yes, there are as many motivations for doing things as there are people who do them. But if you step back from your marketing efforts for a moment and truly look at the why of what you do you’ll probably find some insight into building a better brand.

Good brand motivation

The ironic and counter intuitive thing is that the best brands are not actually about the person or company that creates them at all. Instead these brands are all about what that company’s customers want and how the company’s brand makes those customers feel about themselves. As I’ve said many times before: “A good brand makes people feel good. A great brand makes people feel good about themselves.”

Great Brand Motivation

Knowing your brand motivation, whether it’s Skill, Will, Thrill, Bill or Top of the Hill is a great place to start.  And it’s a great way to establish the most compelling intersection between your brand and your customers’ best selves.


Order All About Them for brand motivationIf you’re looking for more proven ways to brand yourself and your business, you must be one of the first to get my new book, All About Them. It’s available now for pre-order in hardcover, Kindle, or audio on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, 800-CEO-Read, and IndieBound.

Here’s what New York Times best selling author Randy Gage says about All About Them: “Buckle up. Bruce’s book is a rollercoaster of riotous righteousness on branding, positioning, marketing, and the mighty madness of messaging.”


My Brand Can Help Your Brand

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How My Brand Can Help Your Brand

I’ve got some great news for both of us. My fifth book, All About Them, is on press and will officially release on August 16 from Da Capo Press. YOU are a big part of this book which is why I’m sharing the news with you on my blog.

All About Them is based on everything I’ve learned about building my brand and everything I’ve learned over the last decade of writing about how to build your brand.

Order All About Them and help my brandI’m hoping All About Them becomes the instruction manual for getting ahead in a world that’s spinning faster and faster and where function is becoming mere cost-of-entry for success. Here’s a hint: Being successful will require creating your brand and marketing it in brand new ways for brand new times.

Over the next few months I’m going to tell you all about what’s going on with All About Them. I’ll introduce you to the concepts discussed in the book and show you lots of ways to get involved; Special programs, social media opportunities, exclusive events, and many other ways to build your brand and help me make a big splash for All About Them.

What I’d love you to do right now to help my brand  is simple – just click HERE and preorder All About Them.

If we can generate significant upfront interest it will further convince my publisher that my book is going to be a big success and that they should produce more and make sure that it’s available from coast-to-coast.

I’ve sent pre-release copies to business authors who matter and will share their comments with you too. Here’s are some very nice words from Tim Sanders, author of Dealstorming and Love Is the Killer App.

“A must read for modern marketers who want to cut through the noise, forge deep connections, and create memorable experiences.”

And this from Jeffrey Meshel, author of One Phone Call Away and The Opportunity Magnet.

“A brilliant guide to becoming an icon. Bruce Turkel is the branding expert of branding experts.”

I am justifiably proud of my new book. And I’ll feel even better when I know people are reading All About Them and using it to build their own brands and build their businesses.  Thank you for helping with my brand and thank you — as always — for your warm and gracious support.

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