The Art and Business of Selling Ties.

7 responses.

Frank Kiick was one of the best-dressed men I ever met. His shirts and suits were always immaculate and precisely tailored to fit his lanky frame. His beard was perfectly trimmed and he always got his accessories – tie, cufflinks, watch, shoes – just right.

Ugly TiesSo imagine my surprise when I walked into the headquarters of Surrey’s Menswear and found Frank sitting at a workable in his shirtsleeves behind three stacks of the ugliest ties I had ever seen. Frank greeted me without looking up, his hands moving quickly between the different piles.

Frank started with the long corrugated box of ties laid out directly in front of him. He’d pull one tie off the top of the pile, examine it closely for a quick moment and then either toss it onto the stack on his right or drop it into the much smaller group on his left. Then he’d yank out another tie and repeat the process.

I tried to figure out what Frank was trying to do. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“What’s up Frank?” I asked. “I don’t understand what that’s about.”

More Ugly Ties“I’m choosing ties for the stores,” he answered without pausing. “This box,” Frank motioned with his chin, “has the tie samples the mill sent for our consideration.” These ties,” he gestured left, “are the ones we’re going to sell. These,” he gestured right, “are going back to the factory.”

I looked at the three piles but still couldn’t see any difference.

“But Frank,” I finally asked in desperation. “All of these ties are ugly. You wouldn’t wear any of them. How are you picking between them?”

What Frank told me next was a life changer:

“I’m not our customer, Bruce. If I only ordered ties that I like we’d go out of business.” He paused to drop another reject on his right. “None of these ties are wearing ties. They’re selling ties.” The most important thing is to know the difference.”

There’s a difference between wearing ties and selling ties? Who knew?

Even More Ugly TiesMy great-uncle Manny once put his money into onion futures. The way he explained the investment to me, he bought a future interest in a boxcar of onions that hadn’t been harvested yet. When it came time to sell the onions, he’d make money if prices were higher when the vegetables were ready for market than when he bought them.

Unfortunately, Manny wasn’t a sophisticated investor and waited too long to sell his futures. One day he got a call from the train depot wanting to know where he wanted his onions delivered.

Apparently Uncle Manny’s selling onions turned into eating onions (and then rotting onions). Manny’s investment got eaten up too.

Still More Ugly TiesA few years ago there was so much construction going on in my hometown that people said our official bird was the crane. Then condo sales hit the fan and the real estate business plummeted into the crapper. Estimates were there was a seven- to ten-year glut of empty condos available on the Miami market. But within the last two years the surplus has all sold and the sky is again streaked with cranes.

But while all those condos sold, the buildings they’re in are still dark at night because most of the properties were bought as secure places for off-shore investors park their money, not raise their families.

Turns out there are also selling condos and living condos.

If you’re not in the men’s ties, onion futures or real estate business you might be wondering what this has to do with you. It’s simple – if you’re creating products or services for yourself instead of your customers then you might be building wonderfully creative and functional products that no one wants to buy. And no matter how well you construct your products, nor how little you charge, if they’ve been created for a market of one then they haven’t been created for the market.

Make The Ugly ties StopIf you’re in the business of creating beautifully crafted products for yourself you’re not a businessperson, you’re an artist. And to steal a line from the movie industry, there’s a reason why that trade is called “Show Business” and not “Show Art.”

Because just like ties, there are “watching movies” and “selling movies” too.




Real Life Super Heroes.

10 responses.

Seems like everywhere you look our heroes are falling faster than Icarus on his pyrotechnic plunge.

Fall of IcarusDonald Trump is a racist. Bill Clinton is a perjurer. Oscar Pistorius is a murderer. Lindsay Lohan is an addict. Bill Cosby is most likely a rapist. I could go on and on with my list of tarnished celebrities but the evidence is clear – the spotlight of fame either exacerbates or exposes the sins of the very people we hoist up on a pedestal.

Why is it that so many of those we revere as heroes disappoint us so? Is it because people who are driven to seek fame and fortune are just as ambitious in their dark urges? Does a lifetime of endless accolades and attaboys create an expectation of greatness that diminishes real-world inhibitions and filters? Do unlimited resources of time and money provide the means for bad behavior (idle hands being the devil’s workshop and all that)?

Or is it our fault? Could it be that our idol worship creates heroes of such exalted position that there’s no way they could ever live up to our expectations? Do we long to see the mighty, the wealthy, the famous, the ones who’ve accomplished what we can only dream of dragged back down to earth alongside the rest of us or even lower – penniless, beaten, humiliated, and defeated?

A Bronx Tale is a movie fable about Cologero, a neighborhood kid nicknamed “C.” In it Cologero falls under the spell of Sonny, the local tough guy played by Chazz Palminteri, who teaches the kid how to get girls, money, and revenge.

But it’s Lorenzo, Cologero’s bus driver father, an everyman played by Robert DeNiro, who teaches C what life is really about:

Cologero: “Sonny was right. The workingman is a sucker.”

Lorenzo: “Pulling a trigger doesn’t take strength. Get up every day and work for a living. Let’s see him try that. We’ll see who’s really tough. The workingman is tough. Your father’s the tough guy.”

Cologero: “Everybody loves him, just like everybody loves you on the bus.”

Lorenzo: “No, it’s not the same. People don’t love him. They fear him. There’s a difference.”

Cologero: “I’m sorry. I don’t understand, Dad.”

Lorenzo: “You will, C. You will when you get older.”

What Lorenzo learned from a lifetime of pulling on a uniform, driving a bus, eating from a lunch pail, and bringing his hard-earned pay home for his family is that that’s where true heroism lies.

Some of us strive and make it bigger than big.

Some of us strive and make it big.

Some of us strive and make it.

Some of us strive.

But just like the bear that went over the mountain and saw another mountain, the best and worst part about success is that there’s never an ultimate end – there’s always another mountain to scale, another dollar to make, another goal to reach.

Imagine if you were talking to Bill Gates and he was complaining about something he couldn’t buy – a Renoir hanging in the Louvre, maybe, or a small European country.

“Don’t let it bother you, pal,” you might try to console him. “There’s always someone ri… Oh wait, no there’s not, never mind.”

And what could Gates do anyway? Go complain to the Sultan of Brunei?

As James Taylor sang, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it. Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill. But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.”

Because ultimately the lovely ride—and the people we ride it with—is all we have. And YOU are the real hero.




The PR Shoeshine. Or How to Make More Money From Your Existing Customers.

9 responses.

Each time I get off the plane at San Juan’s International Airport, my favorite PR shoeshine entrepreneur is there, waving crumpled passengers to his little polish parlor.

I’m so fond of the five minutes I spend in his chair that I even make a point of wearing shoes that need a bit of touching up when I fly to PR to visit my client. That way I get a good shine, reward his entrepreneurship, and look that much spiffier when I pull up to Meet Puerto Rico’s office in old San Juan.

But on my last trip, my PR shoeshine guy added something new to the experience and taught me a whole lot about how to expand services and revenue opportunities with very little additional work or marketing.

When my shoeshine was almost over, my PR shoeshine guy stuck out his hand, looked up at me and asked, “¿Y su cinta?” (“And your belt?”)

Without thinking, I unbuckled my belt, slid it off from around my waist and handed it to him. The PR shoeshine guy dabbed a little polish on it, gave it a good buffing, dried it with a noisy black blow drier and handed it back to me, along with a bill for seven dollars more than I usually spend.

The Secret of PR Shoeshines

The best part? Not only did the PR shoeshine guy double the money he made from me but I thanked him for the extra service.

Smart restaurant operators understand this. They look to add new items to their menus without adding additional inventory and cost. Chinese and Mexican restaurants offer master classes in creating new products from the same old ingredients and giving their customers more reasons to come back and try new things. Infopreneurs, too, are busy figuring out new ways to increase their offerings by repurposing their content across blogs, books, websites, video blogs, audio interviews, and more. To meet this need, software developers keep creating new apps such as Vine and Periscope to take advantage of this phenomenon.

What opportunities does your business provide for increasing both customer satisfaction and revenue without much addition to your inventory or skillset? A quick look around – at both what you do and what your customer needs and wants – should provide you with a number of chances to grow your business.

Ironically, asking your customer what else they’d like is not usually the best way to uncover the opportunities that are hidden in plain sight. When Apple visionary Steve Jobs was asked how much market research he did for the iPad he famously answered, “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

Instead, look for the problem that’s not being solved, the itch that’s not being scratched, the solution that’s not being offered. Contrary to popular advice, you should try to answer the question that’s not being asked because that’s often where the gold is hiding.

Proof? Although I get my shoes shined regularly and almost always wear a belt, it never dawned on me that my belt needed to be polished too. That is until my favorite PR shoeshine guy suggested it to me.

And speaking of hidden in plain sight, when I started writing this post I thought the PR in PR shoeshine stood for Puerto Rico. Now I realize is that PR actually stands for Public Relations. Because what could make for better relations with your public than pleasing them with something they didn’t know they wanted? And if it helps you make more money for very little additional expenditure, then PR can also stand for Profitable Revenue!

Peace, Reader (PR).




Blitzster Can Build Your Social Media Followers

No responses.

Technology continues to provide many new tools for brand building. Over the next few months I’m going to talk about different apps and sites that we’re using for our clients and our own online marketing. I think you’ll find these recommendations eye-opening and very useful.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now or if you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on in the world, you know how important it is to build your social media presence. But just like planting the oak tree we talked about a while back, the best time to have started building critical mass on social media was months or even years ago. Or today.

Here’s a great — and free — new way to start building your social media following on Facebook or Twitter. Direct your browser to Blitzster.com and let their service help you build your fan base. Blitzster is a new online service and mobile app that incentivizes your customers and clients to like or follow you online.

Blitzster lets you create an offer – a percentage-off discount perhaps, or a free sample – that your customers and fans will receive after they “like” you online. That way you’re not only incentivizing your customers to post positive things about your company or products but you’re also establishing a relationship with a value-for-value exchange.

Blitzster Banner

To make it as easy as possible for you, the Blitzster app lets you set up your campaign and even print posters for your location and HTML codes for your website that include QR codes and URLs for your customers to access. Blitzster also tracks your users and provides you with up-to-the-minute metrics that you can use to test concepts, establish the effectiveness of your offers, and watch your social media following grow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, retailer, speaker or consultant, you’ll be able to use Blitzster to both engage and entertain your customers and build your social media roster. If you’re a CMO or social media manager or other marketing professional, you’ll be able to use Blitzster to strengthen your company’s social media efforts. And if you work in advertising, PR, social media or web design, you’ll not only be able to use Blitzster to increase your clients’ social media census but you’ll also have another service in your quiver that you can sell to your customers and further demonstrate your value.

Here’s how I’m going to use Blitzster, by the way. Each week more and more people sign up to be on my blog distribution list without Blitzster, but wouldn’t it be great if they also followed me on Twitter or liked me on Facebook in exchange for the post? I’ve used Blitzster to build a campaign that offers free registration to this blog in exchange for new users following me on Twitter. When they do I’ll have more ways to reach out to them and many more people to communicate with when my next book comes out – all of which will help me build and monetize my own brand. After all, I’m already writing and distributing these blog posts for free – why not use them to help build my online census at no additional expense?

That capability – plus the fact that Blitzster is absolutely free – is the good news. The bad news is that Blitzster is a beautiful concept wrapped in a still evolving interface and should be a bit more intuitive. But as Peter Diamandis wrote in his book BOLD – “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Surely the Blitzster guys aren’t guilty of waiting too long – instead they’ve put their product out there for us to use right now.

So go online and use Blitzster to build your business. It’s the easiest and most effective way I’ve found to grow your followers and fans. And it’s free. With Blitzster you’ll be able to incentivize your customers to engage with your social media sites across all of your various marketing efforts, both on- and offline.

Once you’ve experienced Blitzster, do me a favor. Write back and let me know how your experience went and what you discovered along the way. I’m curious to see how easy you found the site to navigate and also what you were able to do with Blitzster’s technology. And if you have ideas about how to make it better I’d love to hear them too. I want to do a follow-up blog on how my readers are using Blitzster so I’m very interested to hear what you discover.

Whether or not you send me your opinion, you’ll still be able to use Blitzster to build your social media following and build your business. And that’s certainly worth a little of your time and initiative.




Donald Trump is Not Running for President.

21 responses.

Remember the village idiot? He was the only one person who watched the naked emperor parade down the street and pointed out that the emperor wasn’t wearing clothes. Everyone else fumfered and mumbled and looked at their feet. Only the village idiot dared mouth what everyone else was thinking.

Apparently I’m the village idiot because I don’t see anyone else pointing out the simple truth. Regardless of what he says to the contrary, Donald Trump is not running for president.

Donald Trump is Not Running for PresidentWould Donald Trump like to be president? I’ll bet he would. I’m even sure the Donald thinks he’d make a helluva good chief executive. He’s probably created extensive and exquisite fantasies about how he would travel around the world out-negotiating our allies, bullying other countries into submission, and generally pushing America’s weight around.

I’ll bet the “Big D” is already picturing what a great robotic character he’d make in Disney World’s Hall of Presidents, what with his trademark pink satin ties and Daniel Boone raccoon cap of fluorescent yellow hair. Disney could probably just copy their Grover Cleveland android, dress it in a gray suit and a garish tie, swap the bushy moustache for a fiberglass toupee and they’d be all set.

Only problem is Donald Trump is not running for president.

You see, Donald Trump doesn’t care about the country and doesn’t care about the presidency. If he did, he wouldn’t say such inane and offensive things and he wouldn’t defile such an important undertaking with his nonsense.

When he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump…

  • Listed several foreign threats he said were “beating America.” His list included China, Japan, and Mexico (which he said was sending immigrants across the border who were “not the right people and brought disease”), and Islamic terrorism.
  • Insisted that he would “…be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
  • Said that he was “…in competition with (ISIS because) they just built a hotel in Syria.”

And that was just in one speech.

But of course none of this blathering matters. Donald Trump is not running for president.

What is Donald Trump doing? Besides having a good time, Donald Trump is building awareness and increasing his brand value. By throwing his hat into the ring, Trump will be on every news program, every newspaper, every magazine, every blog (guilty as charged), every social media site, and every other information distribution vehicle that exists.

Worse, he’ll raise tens of millions of dollars from supporters who sincerely think they’re helping to change the conversation and the course of the country. But all they’re actually doing is giving Donald Trump a tax-free way to fund his awareness campaign.

Republicans should be pissed. Because besides making the rest of the field look like a bunch of buffoons, Trump’s media popularity will actually mean that some other deserving candidate might not make it to the debates and their valuable input won’t be aired.

But all Americans should be pissed too because Trump’s candidacy makes a mockery of what should be a very serious undertaking. By using the presidential electoral system to simply increase his brand awareness and ultimately pad his net worth, Donald Trump devalues and debases one of the fundamentals of The United States of America – our free election system.

Of course, some will see a confirmation of strength in the simple fact that Trump’s sleazy hair gel can’t stain our elections for long. And while it’s true the Donald is not powerful enough to really damage the system, one of the real reasons he doesn’t matter is because Donald Trump is not running for president.




“Jeb!” Doesn’t Deserve an Exclamation Mark

12 responses.

Dear Jeb,

A few weeks ago I wrote a post evaluating the logos of most of the candidates for president, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton. All but one of the logos got low votes. I was expecting better from you, Jeb.

Let me explain:

Yesterday Jeb Bush threw his hat in the ring to compete for the Republican nomination and reintroduced the same “Jeb!” logo he used the last time he ran for president and very similar to the marks he used when he ran for governor as well.

Jeb!

The “Jeb!” logo is a no-go for me for four reasons:

  1. A logo needs to illustrate the brand it represents. The best logos are all about the authentic truth of the product/candidate and why it matters to the buyer/voter. I know Jeb. We’re both Miami guys and I see him around town and have spent time chatting with him. Jeb’s a nice guy, a smart guy, and a connected guy. But he is not an “exclamation point” guy. He’s a steady candidate, not an exciting one. The “Jeb!” logo does not represent the real Jeb Bush the voters need to meet. It might be a marketing technique to focus attention on “Jeb!” instead of “Bush,” but the logo does not fit him.
  2. Regardless of your political leaning, voters look for candidates with new ideas. Even very conservative voters, who want things returned to the way they used to be look for candidates with new ideas to get there. By using the same “Jeb!” logo he used the last time he ran (when, let’s not forget, he DID NOT WIN) Jeb telegraphs that you can expect the same old story. Same old “Jeb!” – same old ideas.
  3. Jeb’s biggest problem — amongst Republicans in the primary race and amongst Rs, Ds, and Is if he makes it to the final election — is his connection to his past; his brother, his brother’s advisors, and his brother’s bad decisions and what they cost the country. If Jeb wants to talk about new opportunities, new directions, new solutions, why would he use a symbol that traps him in that past? What the “Jeb!” logo says is that he’s just the same old wine in the same old bottle.
  4. It’s not a very good design. Regardless of what Jeb wants to suggest he brings to the race — intelligence, gravitas, experience, power, forward thinking, or whatever — the “Jeb!” logo does not represent those attirbutes. The typeface is weak, the letter spacing is too open (which makes the mark look even weaker and not solid) and while the color may be red for Republican it is otherwise uninspired. Only the exclamation point says anything (Excitement!!) but as we saw above, that excitement is not consistent with Jeb’s authentic truth.

Of course the obvious argument for reusing the “Jeb!” logo is awareness. “But Bruce, isn’t awareness the key to getting attention, money, and votes? Doesn’t a “Jeb!” logo that’s already recognizable make sense because of the brand equity it possesses and the awareness it brings to the election?”

Those questions are a fool’s challenge. The “Jeb!” logo is old and rehashed yet owns no brand equity. There may be some faded “Jeb!” bumper stickers on old supporters’ cars but beyond that it’s a bankrupt image. And that’s a shame, really, because Jeb is a good guy and deserves better.

Jedi

But here’s a big idea: Turn Jeb’s “b” around to make a “d” and flip the “!” over to create an “i” and “Jeb!” becomes “Jedi.” Maybe Jeb’s plan is to build his brand on top of the new Star Wars movie that’s coming out soon. As Yoda might say, “The conservatism needs to be strong in this one, yeeeees?”




Ogden Nash, Jerry Dior, and Major League Baseball

9 responses.

Ogden Nash is known for short, glib poetry such as “The Turtle:”

The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks

Which practically conceal its sex.

I think it clever of the turtle

In such a fix to be so fertile.

And “The Canary:”

The song of canaries

Never varies,

And when they’re molting

They’re pretty revolting.

And even “The Fly:”

The Lord in His wisdom made the fly,

And then forgot to tell us why.

So you may be surprised to learn Ogden Nash wrote more poignant pieces like “Old Men:”

“People expect old men to die,

They do not really mourn old men.

Old men are different. People look

At them with eyes that wonder when…

People watch with unshocked eyes;

But the old men know when an old man dies.”

My father gifted me with my love for Ogden Nash poems (and Pogo cartoons) when I was a kid. He recited that last poem when he himself was still a relatively young man, around the time my grandfather died. Dad was also fond of Nash’s send-off to his beloved hometown:

“The Bronx? No Thonx.”

Last week I read that Jerry Dior passed away at the age of 82. The New York Times called Dior “The Nameless Creator of a Lasting Logo.” Dior designed the silhouetted batter logo for Major League Baseball in 1968.

According to The New York Times’ obituary, the logo “appears on the caps, jerseys and helmets of major league players; on umpires’ uniforms; on television graphics; and on billions of dollars’ worth of licensed memorabilia annually.” But despite his success, Dior received no royalties and never got to toss out a first pitch.

Ogden Nash, Jerry Dior, and Major League Baseball

Twenty years before Dior created his design, Ogden Nash wrote the ABC of Baseball Immortals for the January 1949 issue of Sport Magazine. In it, he penned 26 four-liners honoring the stars of the game—from Grover Alexander to Cy Young. Here’s Ogden Nash’s paean for Jerome “Dizzy” Dean:

“D is for Dean,

The grammatical Diz,

When they asked, Who’s the tops?

Said correctly, I is.”

Ogden Nash, Jerry Dior, and Major League BaseballOf course there was no poem for Jerry Dior. Hell, Dior only even received credit for his design in 2009 after Major League Baseball conducted its inquiry. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, “Jerry Dior created a symbol that has stood the test of time.”

If “the old men know when an old man dies,” then perhaps graphic designers know when a graphic designer dies. After all, Dior’s work is notable not only because he created a ubiquitous piece of Americana, but because he created a genre. It’s no coincidence that many other sports logos, such as the National Basketball Association’s, were created as “deliberate echos of Dior’s design.”

RIP Jerry Dior. And Ogden Nash.




Why Standing For Something Matters

3 responses.

Last week Yum Brands’ (YUM) Taco Bell and Pizza Hut chains made a big announcement. They are going to remove “most” artificial ingredients from their food products “by July” (Pizza Hut) or “by 2017” (Taco Bell) “where possible.”

According to AP, “Instead of ‘black pepper flavor,’ for instance, Taco Bell will start using actual black pepper in its seasoned beef… Artificial dye Yellow No. 6 will be removed from its nacho cheese, Blue No. 1 will be removed from its avocado ranch dressing and carmine… will be removed from its red tortilla strips.”

In ad speak, “Most…by 2017…whenever possible” means not all, not now, and not when it’s difficult. In plain English that means that the fast food restaurants are not going to serve artificial ingredient-free products like their successful competitors do. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut will stand for something only when it’s expedient.

Why then are they even bothering? As my friend Melissa Francis says, “It’s all about the money.”

Taco Bell has been trying lots of different things to shore up its steadily slipping sales. They’re introducing new products, introducing liquor in one of their Chicago locations, and trying to make their offerings healthier.

But by only going part of the way with the health thing, Yum Brands will see almost no benefit. Health-conscious consumers will not be swayed because the company removed their unnatural ingredients “whenever possible.” And Taco Bell’s and Pizza Hut’s regular clientele – who care more about taste and low prices than health and ingredients – won’t care either.

By not standing for something, the company will find itself in the purgatory of being neither fish nor fowl. With no discernable brand value built into their new menu changes, regardless of what it costs them to make the revisions, no one will care and sales will continue to drop.

BMW is always standing for something. The car company promotes itself as “the ultimate driving machine” and lives up to the promise by engineering the same performance pedigree into their $30,000 cars as they do in their $150,000 models. Apple is always standing for something, too. They consistently maintain their commitment to design in everything they produce – from products to software to packaging. They even design and finish the inside of their devices which few of their customers will ever even see. Ritz-Carlton’s “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” are consistently standing for something. The hotel chain maintains its service reputation by providing superior levels of customer relations each time they interact with their guests.

On the other hand, Toyota virtually ruined its reputation as an always-reliable automotive appliance. They weren’t standing for something when they refused to take responsibility for their unintended acceleration problem. And Lululemon seriously damaged its reputation for empowering women. They weren’t standing for something when their since-departed CEO told the world their pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies.”

Standing for something is not always easy but it is an essential component to building brand value. Standing for something means companies have to turn down business opportunities that don’t fit with their core values. Standing for something means people have to say no to prospects that won’t enhance their personal commitments. And standing for something means that brands have to be ever vigilant about the training and follow-up required to always maintain their reputations and public image.

Of course standing for something requires a strong sense of self-awareness. After all, before you can make a commitment to what matters you have to know exactly what it is that does matter and why you’re willing to fight for it. But once you do, standing for something can become one of the most important things you do to build—and protect—your brand.




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