Posted by: brandextenders | January 21, 2015

You Want Me to do What for 30 Days?

Try Googling “how long to form a habit” and you’ll be amazed at the answers you see. 21 days, 30 days, 12 weeks, a year, a lifetime. The idea that habits are formed after 21 days has been around for years, but where did it come from?

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, an American cosmetic surgeon and author of Psycho-Cybernetics published in 1960, is often credited with this concept. In that book he stated, “It usually requires a minimum of about 21 days to effect any perceptible change in a mental image. Following plastic surgery it takes about 21 days for the average patient to get used to his new face. When an arm or leg is amputated the “phantom limb” persists for about 21 days. People must live in a new house for about three weeks before it begins to “seem like home”. These and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” This quote from his best-selling book was taken as gospel and the 21-day myth was born.

Commit to 30 days of change

Commit to 30 days of change

The point of this article is not to determine how long it takes to form new habits, but to issue a challenge that if successful can only help in making our lives better. Think about a few positive changes you’d like to make in your life this year. It could be to stop smoking, eat healthier, start an exercise program, read more, learn to play an instrument, make more sales calls every day, meditate regularly, spend more time with your children and on and on ad infinitum. Pick your top three and then chose the one that is most important to you.

Now that you’ve decided, commit to spending the next 30 days doing whatever it is you’ve chosen. If it’s eating healthier, commit to cooking a different meal every day that is healthy for the next 30 days. If you want to get better at golf, commit to hitting balls at a range on a regular schedule for the next 30 days. More sales calls might mean making five additional calls each work day for the next four weeks. Whatever it is, commit to spending the next 30 days doing whatever that first change is you want to make.

It might be easy the first few days with the excitement of making this positive change, but inevitably your enthusiasm will wane and it may take more effort to continue. Commitment is the key word here. Stick with it for 30 days and at the end you may decide eating healthier, reading more, learning to draw, making more calls or upping your tennis game just isn’t worth the effort. Or you might love this new skill or habit and decide to continue with the effort to make it a part of your life.

Either way, make the decision to continue or the decision to quit and don’t beat yourself up over either choice. Go back to your list and choose the next change you’d like to make and commit to doing that for the next 30 days. Do this every 30 days for the next three to six months and at the end, no matter the changes you’ve made or haven’t made, you’re bound to be in a better place.

The University College London researched and experimented with the 21 day myth and learned how long changes take vary by individual. For one it took 18 days to form a new habit while another took 254 with the average being 66 days. 30 days of working on a new habit may not embed it completely into your life, but it should help you decide if it’s something you really want to continue doing. Be strong, be persistent and be happy you’ve committed to making changes and developing habits in your life that will make you a better person and perhaps more self-confident and energized.

I like this quote from Mahatma Gandhi on where good habits (or bad ones) lead: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”

My first 30 day commitment is to read for at least a half-hour a day be it business or pleasure. How about you?

Posted by: brandextenders | January 14, 2015

Mind If I Tape My Business Card To Your Wall?

Imagine going into a prospect or customer’s office and taping your business card to their wall or perhaps the corner of their desk? Chances are you’d find yourself being escorted out of their office by security with a firm invitation not to come back…ever!

Please tape my business card to your wall!

Please tape my business card to your wall!

Now imagine your customer voluntarily putting your contact information on their wall and referring to it on a daily basis. Sound far-fetched? If your contact information is printed on a calendar; be it a wall, desk, pocket or magnetic calendar, chances are your customer will find a place to give it a home The reality is that even though we use the electronic calendars on our computers and phones, the paper calendar is still one of the most cost-effective promotional products you can purchase.

Here are a few statistics that may surprise you:

  • 98% of all homes and virtually 100% of all businesses have at least one calendar.
  • The typical person has 2.5 calendars in their working area and/or home (not sure why they would put up half a calendar!!).
  • 87% of householders and 94% of business recipients recall the advertising message displayed on their calendar.
  • Recipients say if they weren’t given a calendar they would purchase one from a retail outlet.
  • You can choose from hundreds of stock calendars with themes and pictures such as food, sports cars, big rigs, medical, Americana, lighthouses, airplanes, homes, beaches, Norman Rockwell, Native Americans, motorcycles, wildlife and the list goes on and on. Stock calendars have several areas you can customize with your company’s information.

Better yet, for reasonable minimum quantities, you can create a custom calendar using your own look and design, photographs you choose and copy throughout to tell your company’s story. Use your imagination and think of a custom calendar as a blank slate. Here are a few ways to make your calendar more useful depending on who your audience is:

  1. Add 12 coupons that can be used, one per month, over the course of the year. These give customers, be they retail or corporate, a reason to do business with you each month. 10% off on their next purchase, buy one get one free or discounts on seasonal items. Chick fil-A, a national restaurant chain puts out an amazing calendar each year, charges $5 for it and includes coupons worth 10 times that much in discounts and free food items.
  2. People will rarely throw something out with their name on it and with variable printing, you can now literally personalize each page of a custom calendar with a client’s name. Create a mailing to your data base with personalized calendars or have the account executives deliver them personally to their customers. How cool is that?
  3. If this is being given to workers or customers where safety is important, add relevant safety tips each month. Workplace safety is a huge concern given insurance and medical costs and reinforcing safety with monthly or even daily safety reminders is smart.
  4. Use the calendar as a way to get employees involved. Have a contest for the best recipes, most creative photography or best suggestions to improve their areas and include those on each month’s page.
  5. Pick a format that fits the people you’ll be giving them to. For those who sit in cubicles, pick a functional desk calendar that doesn’t take up a lot of space. For warehouses or home use a wall calendar might be your best choice. There are calendar cards, one-sheet 12 month calendars, desk calendars, magnetic calendars and pocket calendars. Work with your calendar professional to choose the right format for your business.

If you’re looking for inspiration go to your local book store and browse through the rows of retail calendars and see what’s selling. Also notice the retail price on those calendars; from $10 to $25. Keep in mind if you produce 5,000 custom calendars for your company chances are you’ll be able to get them for less than $5.00. Let’s say your client refers to that calendar you give them once a day every day for the next year (most likely they’ll look at it multiple times each day), your cost per exposure is a little more than a penny per view. Not to mention the long-term exposure your message gets which tends to build trust with your customer in a non-invasive way.

Calendars are a wonderful way to advertise your message in places you couldn’t pay for no matter how deep your pockets. Even in this world of technology they continue to be a great advertising investment and now is the best time to start working on your 2015 calendar. There are typically discounts given if you order before the end of April and most companies will hold the calendars you purchase now until the fall when you are ready to hand them out.

I’m not sure anyone will let you tape your business card to their wall, but most people will gladly put a calendar up with your advertising, especially if it is creative and informative. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case keep your name in front of those important to you.

Posted by: brandextenders | January 8, 2015

What’s in Your Time Capsule?

I’m an ardent fan of history and was fascinated with the discovery of a time capsule in Boston that had been buried by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. No, there was no beer inside (that Samuel Adams never brewed beer), but there were coins dating back to 1652 along with a treasure trove of documents, newspapers and other

Paul Revere & Samuel Adams buried this in 1795

Paul Revere & Samuel Adams buried this in 1795

memorabilia from the early days of our country. Fascinating stuff in a 5 ½” x 7 ½” metal box buried in 1795 and found in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State house during repair work. Historians will document the contents, add a few contemporary items and rebury the box in the same cornerstone for future generations to discover. Kind of like a really long game of hide and seek.

What if you were asked to create a time capsule of your life that would be buried and reopened in 100 years? What would you include? Some family pictures perhaps? Mementoes that are touchstones in your life? A pocketknife your father or grandfather gave you, your mother’s hair ties, some treasures you saved from your children’s early years? Newspapers, coins, a favorite book or a journal you’ve kept? Remember, the only way people 100 years from now will know who you are is by what you place inside your time capsule.

What if you were asked to create a time capsule of your life that would be buried and reopened in 100 years? What would you include? Some family pictures perhaps? Mementoes that are touchstones in your life? A pocketknife your father or grandfather gave you, your mother’s hair ties, some treasures you saved from your children’s early years? Newspapers, coins, a favorite book or a journal you’ve kept? Remember, the only way people 100 years from now will know who you are is by what you place inside your time capsule.

I started a time capsule of sorts 22 years ago, in the month my oldest son was born, when I began writing a monthly letter of what was happening in our family, in my life and in the world. Some letters are brief while some are 10 pages long or more with dissertations on politics, religion, dissident family members and other topics-of-the-day. I have close to 240 letters (I know, the math doesn’t work out because I skipped some months) and I’ve decided to write my last letter when my youngest son turns 21 in a couple of years. Then I will create two books with the letters, some pictures, drawings and other treasures they created as kids and give one to each of my boys. They’ve never seen them so it will be a total surprise and a time capsule of their childhood. I hope they will pass these along to their children and beyond so family members 100 years and more from now can look back and say either, “boy those people were cool” or “boy, those people were odd.”

A time capsule kit

A time capsule kit

Your personal time capsule need not be complex and can be as simple as a shoebox with those things you’ve treasured and cherished over the years that you keep on a shelf in your closet. Be sure to include a letter explaining what’s inside and why these items are important to you. You can even buy a cool looking metal canister or a whole kit that gives you a step-by-step process for creating your time capsule. And no, time capsules don’t actually have to be buried, but can be sealed and set aside with a plan to pass on to future generations and a specific date to be opened.

What you choose to put in your literal or figurative time capsule says a lot about you and the legacy you hope to create for you and your family. Who knows where this country or the world will be in 100 years. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone opens your family time capsule from today in his or her new apartment on Mars?

Posted by: brandextenders | December 29, 2014

What’s Your Story?

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort” – Opening sentence of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 

For thousands of years humans have been sharing the experience of life through stories. Before the “invention” of written language they were told orally by memory, perhaps around a fire. Storytellers held an esteemed position within communities and were relied on to carry forward the history of a culture. The first printed story was a poem called the Epic of Gilgamesh and was carved onto stone pillars for all to see. Eventually the written word took the place of oral storytelling and with the invention of the printing press stories spread far and wide. The first movies were silent with creative geniuses like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd telling their stories silently in black and white.

Clever storytelling can make a brand stronger

Clever storytelling can make a brand stronger

Today storytelling is everywhere; in the TV ads we see, the movies we watch, the content on websites, blogs and the books we read. Brands tell their story every day and the best ones do it consistently and through cross-channels that support each another. Companies like Apple, the Dollar Shave Club, Starbucks, Dove Soap, Samsung and Lowes have found ways to share their brands that touch our hearts, make us laugh, create wonder and take us on a journey. And that’s what good storytelling is all about.

Without a story, a brand or individual is just another commodity. Stories define us, but they are also cumulative, meaning it’s not just what you write or tell others. We see brands and people as a total of all the elements they create including our own interaction with them.

For the first time ever, more digital content is being consumed on mobile devices than traditional computers. This means brand and personal stories must be told in ways that resonate with these users and fit within a mobile app. 2015 will be the year of the video as more people click the play button than ever before. From Vine videos (yes, great stories can be told in seven seconds) to traditional :30 or :60 second spots or longer versions, video will drive much of the content marketing as well as be a tool for lead generation, an integral part of email marketing and overall  digital strategy.

It sounds elementary, but videos must first and foremost be something people want to watch, they need to engage the audience. And like any good story, they need to take us on a journey, to infuse wonder and follow the rule of the five W’s; tell us who, what, where, when and why. But most of all they must touch people hearts in some way if they are to be effective. AdAge annually honors the Best Brand Storytelling via videos and you can see the 2014 awards here.

As we go about building our personal and corporate brands this year keep in mind what filmmaker Andrew Stanton says is the secret sauce to storytelling, “Always set out to invoke wonder in your audience.” And Stanton should know being the writer of classic animated films like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, WALL-E and A Bug’s Life.

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”  Brandon Sanderson, an American writer.

Posted by: brandextenders | December 10, 2014

What Do TED Talks and Epiphanies Have in Common?

I’ve often heard that to think outside the box (a term I’ve grown to hate) we need to expose ourselves to thoughts and ideas outside our normal frame of reference. Epiphanies often come when you tie unrelated ideas or concepts together to create a paradigm shift.

I’ve made a conscious effort to do just that by listening to podcasts while working out and a favorite are TED talks, which explore a myriad of topics. A recent episode was on technology that is being used within the human body to help people see color, replace missing limbs and give voice to those who have none. Pretty edgy stuff

  • Neil Harbisson was born color-blind, seeing the world only in grayscale. In 2003, when he was 21, he became
    Neil Harbisson

    Neil Harbisson talks TED

    involved in a project called “Eyeborg”, a sensor that translates color into sound. Yes, color has frequencies and via a chip attached to his occipital bone at the back of his skull, which in turn is attached to an electronic eye, Harbisson can hear colors as musical notes. Red is F and green is A. Harbisson was legally named a cyborg in 2004.

  • Remember the Six Million Dollar Man (quick, who was the actor?). Amanda Kitts, who lost an arm in a horrific traffic accident, may be the new Six Million Dollar Woman. Todd Kuiken with the Center for Bionic Medicine, says nerve endings that control muscles in arms and legs continue to send signals to missing limbs. Thus the feeling by many amputees they still have an arm or leg even though they don’t. Kuiken takes these nerves, amplifies their signal and connects them to robotic prosthetics that react to thoughts. If Amanda thinks “open my hand” her hand opens. Mind control through robotics. How amazing is that?
  • If you’ve ever heard Stephen Hawking “talk”, you hear a robotic, impersonal voice. It’s the same robotic voice used by thousands of other people worldwide who can’t for whatever reason speak for themselves. Rupal Patel wondered why these computerized voices couldn’t be personalized for each person. As a result, she developed a technology called VocalID that combines human voices with individual speech patterns to give these people a unique voice tailored to their own personality.
Yum Yum!

Yum Yum!

Just how will these uses of technology help me to sell more promotional  products? Chances are they won’t, but perhaps I can one day take something I learn through a TED talk and tie it together with other ideas for an epiphany that changes the world. Like Jimmy Dean’s pancake and sausage on a stick. Just what the world was waiting for!

Posted by: brandextenders | December 2, 2014

There Aren’t Many Famous Accordion Players

See if you can guess this musical celebrity: He played the accordion as a kid, but wanted to be in a rock band (nope, not Bruce Springsteen). Had his first big hit on MTV in 1984, a time when they actually played music videos. He sold 12 million albums between 1974 and 2007. His latest release, Mandatory Fun, is the first comedy album to reach #1 on the Billboard charts in more than 50 years. Give up?

His name is Alfred Matthew Yankovic, but he much prefers the moniker he gave himself, Weird Al Yankovic, the king of parody songs. From Michael Jackson to Madonna, The Eagles to Eminem, Green Day, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, Weird Al has parodied them all. And the weird thing is, the artists he parodies feel honored.

What is it that makes this 54 year-old still relevant after three decades of taking other people’s creations and making them his own? Someone who is still hitting his stride when many of those he parodied have faded into oblivion? There are several keys to his success, keys which all of us would do well to take note of.

  1. He’s polite. Yankovic would never consider giving a song his treatment without first asking the artist permission. And all, with the exception of Prince, have been happy if not thrilled to have him do a number on their songs. For the original artists, a Yankovich parody in essence says they’ve made it.
  2. He’s not original. Let’s face it, he takes something that is usually already a hit and puts his own spin on it. So much of what we see in the world today is just that, someone taking a product or service and adding a twist to it, to make it that much better. While that may seem like cheating, almost every product in our lives is not the same after 10, 20 or 50 years as it was when it was created. Would you want to be driving a Model A Ford today?
  3. He knows how to adapt. His first hit, “Eat It” was huge in 1984 because MTV played it over and over again. But in 1984 PC’s were brand new, there was no Internet, cell phones were the size of a suitcase, social media hadn’t been created and word-of-mouth meant a friend told a friend, usually in person. With his latest album, Mandatory Fun, Yankovic released one song and video a day for eight days across a range of what he calls “Internet portals.” His record label told him they couldn’t afford to make videos for this release, so he went to these portals and convinced them to fund the videos if they got exclusive rights to release them.
  4. He loves what he does. He says he would have laughed if someone told him 30 years ago he’d still be making parody albums today. While money most certainly plays a role in his career, he is still having fun at other artist’s expense because he loves it. It’s his passion and the perfect job for him and he says he has no plans to retire…ever.
  5. He’s humble. One of the most thrilling moments of his life was years ago when he was invited to a party in Hollywood for Paul McCartney. He was told there was no way he would meet his musical hero, but once there he wound his way through the throng and tapped McCartney on the shoulder. The legend turned around and said, “Oh, Weird Al. Look honey (to his wife Linda), it’s Weird Al.” Yankovich was stunned that McCartney would even have a clue who he was.

Life changes rapidly these days and if we are to stay relevant and engaged, we have to keep up and continue to learn, change and adapt. Given the first 30 years of his career, I suspect we’ll see Weird Al doing parody songs on artists yet to be born. Perhaps they’ll be holograms or some future technology yet to be invented, but chances are he’ll find a way to keep us laughing.

Posted by: brandextenders | November 24, 2014

What’s Your Joy?

(I originally wrote this piece eight years ago and re-publish it each holiday season because of all the requests I get for it. It seems a good time of year to look for the joy in our lives and find ways to show it to others on a daily basis. Sadly, our friend’s mom who was the inspiration for this article passed away several years ago, but her passion and memory lives on in my mind.)

Elaine Feder's Smile

Elaine Feder’s Smile

We sat in the dining room of a friend’s home, having just finished a delicious and filling Thanksgiving meal. My wife, our two sons and I had taken a road trip to Florida to visit friends with children the same age as ours, albeit girls. Our friend’s mom, Elaine Feder,  a former dance instructor and now in her late 70s, sat across from me and it was she that asked the question, “What’s your joy?” One by one, we went around the table as she queried each of us, looking for an answer that came from our hearts.

For one of us, it was traveling and being able to help others go to the places she had been. Another told us reading was his passion—and taking naps (one with which I could strong identify!). Yet another loved woodworking and spending time in his shop creating things others would use and enjoy.

When she got to me, I answered, “My joy is my family and the time we spend together as I realize how, before we know it, our children will be grown and gone.” She responded that family should be a joy, but she probed deeper, wanting to know what lit my fire and what was it inside of me that sparked passion? I told her I loved to write and touch people’s hearts with the words I strung together to form the articles, stories and plays I create. I told her I also loved to teach about our industry and help others understand what a diverse and creative medium it is.

What this wise woman was hoping to do was to get me—and all of us around the table—thinking about what brought joy to our lives and how we could tap into it more often.

The sad part is that to survive in the work-a-day world, the majority of us have suppressed those things that make us passionate. Many have so repressed the things that bring them joy they can’t even tell you what really gets them fired up. In each of us though, no matter how deeply we’ve buried it, there is a passion that if brought to light and developed can not only make us happier as individuals but also bring joy to others as well.

Your work may be your passion, but chances are it is not. You may love to paint pictures, play an instrument, work in your garden or cook—and odds are you do this outside of your job. But why does this have to be?

I have a friend who is very good at sketching and has turned this love into a career by drawing people’s homes in pen and ink. She then sells these pictures to homeowners to frame for their walls and for putting on note cards, holiday cards and other things with the house prominently displayed. She loves what she does and is able to touch people’s hearts with the artistic gifts she’s been given.

So how do you go about finding your joy, your passion? Here are a few steps that may help:

  • During some quiet time in your life, ask yourself what you consider fun? What do you get a kick out of doing? Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, says, “Imagine you’re at a party and you overhear someone talking about a subject that fascinates you, one that makes you want to join in the conversation. Ask yourself, what would that subject be?” Also, think back to your childhood and try to remember what you enjoyed doing back then. Chances are if you were passionate about something as a child, it’s probably something you can be passionate about as an adult as well.
  • Determine your talents. Take a sheet of paper and brainstorm those things you enjoy doing and at which you’re good. We all have things we do that we enjoy and at which are skilled, but if you have trouble listing your gifts, ask those you trust what they think your best skills are. These might include sports, artistic endeavors, working with your hands or being mechanical.
  • Find the significance in your current work. Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, suggests asking yourself three questions:

1. Do I like what I’m doing?

2. Am I good at it?

3. Does the world need it?

If you’re passionate about something, but the world doesn’t need it, chances are you’ll eventually get frustrated. But if you’re really good at something, enjoy doing it and it’s something the world needs, what a chance to make a difference and earn a living at the same time. I truly believe we choose our career paths intuitively. If you can come to understand why you’re on the path you are, you’ll become empowered to make future choices to do the most good for yourself and the world around you.

Let’s face it, you’re going to spend tens of thousands of hours working during the course of your life, so why not spend that time doing something that will leave a positive imprint on those people and things you touch?

One of my passions is continuing education, and I agree with Oprah Winfrey who said, “Education is freedom.” As a result, I take classes on a regular basis to advance myself and had been working with Junior Achievement to teach business skills to 7th and 8th graders. These kids learn about science, math and social studies through a core curriculum, but business skills are something they may not learn until college, if then. I realize these kids won’t take what I teach them and become the next Bill Gates, Ted Turner or Fred Smith (founder of FedEx); but I pray I can reach just one in each class and touch something inside that one to help make a positive difference for the future. The key is I don’t know which of the kids I’ll reach, so I treat them all as though they are the one—and who knows, maybe one day I will reach them all!

What Brings You Joy?

What Brings You Joy?

Finding your joy and a way to share it with others, as your life’s work or a hobby, is an adventure that can bring bountiful rewards. To me, it’s what life is all about, the reason I’m here and why I wake up each day excited about the opportunities I’ll encounter. That’s not to say it’s always an easy adventure, but what in life that’s worthwhile is easy? Katherine Graham, owner and former publisher of the Washington Post, sums it up for me, “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

Posted by: brandextenders | November 12, 2014

Why do you go here?

I was driving home from an appointment recently and needed to pick up a few things for dinner. Normally I’d go to the store by my house, but happened to pass a Fresh Market and decided to stop. As soon as I walked through their doors, I felt at home. It was a sensual blast of nostalgia, warmth and visual enchantment.

I started thinking, what is it that makes a brand stand out from its competitors? How do you create an atmosphere that makes a customer want to

Do the brands you love value you?

Do the brands you love value you?

visit and buy or even hang out? There are many reasons and I came up with five that seem to ring true for most of those brands I love and trust.

  1. Culture: Brands we love grow on us over time and become part of our lives, almost like friends. Top level management must create a culture where employees are hired and trained to reflect the brand’s values at all times. A culture must exist that pulls us in and makes us want to return. It starts with the CEO and works its way down to every employee through training and passion.
  2. Consistency: If the brand is brick and mortar, strictly online or both the experience needs to be the same with each and every customer interaction. The coffee at one Starbucks must be the same from one to the next. The layout at each Apple store must be similar and the environment at every Fresh Market must remain the same. We’re creatures of habit and consistency makes us want to return to a favorite brand time and time again.
  3. Emotional Connection: In physical stores a brand can activate all the senses in their customers. In my Fresh Market example, the smells were of cinnamon and fresh-baked bread, soothing music played, people offering samples of food and I could touch items I might like to purchase. Internet stores don’t have this advantage, but can use colors, content, sound and the way they display their products to make that connection.
  4. Understanding their customers: Brands must understand who their customers are to ensure they create the atmosphere to make that emotional connection. Age, income, geography and more must all be understood if a brand truly wants to create an atmosphere conducive to building loyalty.
  5. Convenience: Internet stores have an advantage of being open 24/7 and always ready to greet their customers. For brick and mortar stores, convenience doesn’t mean a store on every corner. I will go out of my way to find the store of a brand I connect with knowing the experience will be worth perhaps the extra drive time to get there.

Seth Godin wrote, “A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.”

 Starbucks, Amazon, Zappos, Apple, Disney or ? Tell us what brands you love and why?

Posted by: brandextenders | October 6, 2014

Five Myths on Using Promotional Products

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear these terms: trinkets and trash, swag, giveaways, tchotchkes? Junk with a logo on it, right? Cheap pens, useless products with a logo, T-shirts you wear to do housework? Unfortunately, many companies purchase promotional products with no thought as to recipients or what those people might find useful. Thus myths are created, which I will debunk below.

How long the average promotional products are kept.

How long the average promotional products are kept.

People don’t keep promotional products: At some point in your life you’ve been given an item with a logo on it from a cheap pencil to candy, a key ring, tote bag or padfolio. The myth is people dump this crap in the trashcan however a study by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), an industry for-profit association, shows people on average keep these branded gems for six months. Awards and apparel have the longest shelf life at close to eight months with writing instruments (a fancy name for pens) the lowest at just over five months (hey, they run out of ink or you lose them). Further evidence shows only 16% of people throw promotional products away while 66% pass them along to others, thus extending the life and branding opportunities of these gifts.

Cheaper is better when it comes to promo products: Given people tend to keep these products for a measurable amount of time, does it make sense to give people the cheapest product you can buy? The study shows eight of 10 recipients will keep a product they feel is useful. That’s not to say that cheap products don’t have their place, but for longer lasting results, investing in items that are practical will yield better results. Useful means different things for different people so take into consideration your audience, their lifestyles and items that make sense for them. Investing in the right promotional products will, in the long run, offer a long-term impression for your branding message.

Promotional products don’t leave a lasting impression on recipients: In the world of media, CPI, or cost-per-impression is the measure of how effective a medium is. While it is somewhat more difficult to determine the CPI of something as fluid as a promotional product, the study shows tote bags, caps, writing instruments and apparel offer the highest exposure to multiple people given their visibility. More personal items like USB drives, health and wellness products and food products deliver the lowest number of overall impressions, but make personal connections with the recipients. Before purchasing a branded item, companies should decide on the connection they want their product to have and whether it should be more personal or be seen by a wider audience.

Marketers can’t track the effectiveness of promotional products: Those dang marketers feel it’s their job to be able to track the effectiveness of their campaigns, so the myth persists promotional product effectiveness can’t be quantified. While it’s true handing out something with a basic logo can’t be tracked, there are easy ways to change this.

  • Add a QR code or specific web address to your products that takes the user to a special landing page that only those with your products will access specifically for that product or campaign.
  • Add a call-to-action. Print an offer on your product that will give the recipient/user something if they respond. It could be a discount on their next purchase, a gift with purchase, a buy one, get one offer or anything else that only those mentioning the product or offer can receive.
  • Print a phone number on the product with an offer so you can count the number of calls received in response to that offer.

Promotional products don’t generate new business: It’s easy to see why this myth persists. Why would someone you give a product to do business with you? The study shows when consumers were asked how likely they would be to do business with a company they hadn’t done business with previously after receiving a branded item, 31% said they would. Products that make it more likely the recipient would do business with the advertiser include logoed apparel (53%), USB drives (43%) and tote bags (42%). Unique items and uniquely branded items tend to make the recipient more likely vs. a cheap pen or food products.

The conclusion is promotional products are a unique and effective way to keep your brand and message in front of those you would like to do business with. While some forms of media are seen as an interruption (i.e. TV and radio ads and those pesky pop-up ads on the Internet), promotional products become a part of one’s lifestyle and are seamlessly used and reused over long periods of time. There’s a reason the tagline, “Products that remain to be seen” has been successful in busting these myths and making promotional products a media presence to be reckoned with.

Posted by: brandextenders | August 20, 2014

Simple is as Simple Does

Simple Menu

Simple Menu

I was in California not long ago and had the chance to stop by one of my favorite fast food joints, In-N-Out Burger. What I love about this restaurant is the simplicity of its menu and business model. If you want a chicken sandwich, don’t go here. If you want a salad or onion rings or tacos, don’t go here. There’s a reason the word burger is in their name cause that’s what you’re going to get.

The first In-N-Out was opened in 1948 by Harry Snyder and his wife Esther in San Bernardino, CA. It was tiny and the very first drive-thru hamburger stand in California. Their vision then is still the restaurant’s passion today, “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.”

So what is it that makes this chain of 299 restaurants a place where customer loyalty is almost a religion?

  • Their menu is basic and uncomplicated. Double-Double cheeseburger, hamburger, French fries, shakes and soft drinks. That’s it. Because of the limited offering, the chain can focus on quality and consistency.
  • The restaurants don’t have freezers, heat lamps or microwaves. Everything is literally made to order and you can watch it being made through a large waiting area window that looks into the kitchen. Even the French Fries are cut one potato at a time.
  • The restaurant starts employees in California at $10.50 per hour, well over the minimum wage, as well as offering vacations and a 401K plan and as a result is rated as one of the best places to work. Employees are loyal and hundreds of people wait in line to fill out applications whenever a new location opens.
  • They have a (not so) secret menu that’s not printed on their menu board. A few hints are 3 x 3, 4 x 4, Animal Burger, the Flying Dutchman and On the Sal. You’ll need to do your research to figure these out, but that’s part of their allure. (hint: take a look at their website)
  • This burger mecca must be special because they have an online store where you can order all sorts of products with the In-N-Out branding. T-shirt anyone?

For me I’m at a point where I want my life to be simpler. I know, simple life is an oxymoron given the complexity of everything we contend with on a daily basis. But the success of In-N-Out Burger with such a seemingly simple menu means as companies and in our personal lives we don’t need to be all things to all people. We can make a very nice living and lead a satisfying life by getting down to the basics, keeping it simple and focusing our energies on our core strengths.

As David Myers, chef of Los Angeles French Brasserie Comme Ca says, “It’s fast, it’s hot, there are code words — what’s not to enjoy?” I’ll have a Protein Style with Animal Fries and a Tea-Ade to go. Don’t you just love secret codes?

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