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?

Posted by: brandextenders | July 30, 2014

What is Old is New Again…Even in Sales

Restored "Doc" & friends

Restored “Doc” & friends

I’ve always loved aviation and saw a story recently about a restored B-29 Flying Fortress named “Doc.” She was one of 4,000 B-29’s built during WWII, but after the Korean War Doc sat for decades in a California desert and was used by the military for target practice. Recently restored and flying, she truly brings to mind the saying what’s old is new again.

Sales people are always looking for the newest mantra to generate more sales, find prospects, close deals and make money. But the story of Doc and seeing the stats below from Referral Squirrel got me to thinking. First the stats:

  • 2% of sales are made on the First contact.
  • 3% of sales are made on the Second contact.
  • 5% of sales are made on the Third contact.
  • 10% of sales are made on the Fourth contact.
  • 80% of sales are made on the Fifth to Twelfth contact.


  • 48% of sales people never follow-up with a prospect.
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop.
  • 12% of sales people make three contacts and stop.
  • Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts with a prospect.

How many of us in sales bang our heads against a wall always looking for new customers and never understand the statistics above? Maybe we reach out to new prospects a few times and then move on looking for greener pastures. These stats should not be a surprise and have probably always been true. Sure, there may be times when you stumble on someone ready to buy today, but most people want to buy from those they know and trust and that takes time.

So if you’re looking for a sales advantage, note the two highlighted numbers above. 80% of sales are made on the fifth or higher touch points and only 10% of sales people ever make more than three attempts. More touches won’t guarantee more sales, but fewer touches will certainly guarantee fewer sales.

Posted by: brandextenders | July 11, 2014

Life, Liberty and a Birthright to Happiness

I love history, especially American history and the more I read and study the American Revolution the more amazed I am by our founders. The Declaration of Independence is a brilliant document in so many ways and set our country on her path to greatness.
thepursuit 2The second paragraph of that document starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the entitlement to happiness.” Oh wait, that’s not right, is it “life, liberty and the right to happiness?” Actually many people wish this inspiring document said that because they could then blame others for their lack of happiness. The fact it says “the pursuit of happiness” is somewhat annoying to many who would like to shrug off the minor detail that they are responsible for their own contentment.

It was Thomas Jefferson who added this line in the Declaration and if you Google the term “pursuit of happiness” you will take a mind-boggling journey down many paths and explanations as to the reason and meaning of this term. It seems Jefferson believed if you cultivated close friendships, limited your desires to the essential necessities of life, and rejoiced in the moment, happiness was yours to keep. That’s a far cry from those today who claim their right to happiness means the government supplies them with anything they want and desire at the literal the expense of everyone else.

We all have the right to pursue happiness, but there is no right to be happy. Happiness comes from within and it is up to each of us to decide what will truly make us happy and to pursue a course in our lives that will bring that about. I like the quote from Dennis Waitley, a well-known motivational speaker and author who said, It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” Thankfully we have the right to pursue happiness in whatever way we choose, but there are no guarantees in our Declaration that we will achieve it. And that’s the way it should be.

Posted by: brandextenders | June 23, 2014

Don’t Try This at Home

Try to do this with a pen.

Try to do this with a pen.

Here’s an experiment I’d like for you to try. Take a pen, any pen, and try to stand it on its end. Go ahead; balance it so it is standing on its own. Try the other end and see if that helps.

So what happened? Were you able to balance it? Did you try harder to make it work? Chances are no matter how hard you tried you just couldn’t make that pen stand up on its own.

Standing a pen on its end is an example of how you either do something or you don’t. Sure, there are some things where trying harder might make a difference, but for the most part we either decide to do something by setting a goal or putting our all into it or we don’t. When I hear that someone tried to do something I usually assume they didn’t want it badly enough to “Just Do It” as the Nike slogan says. And believe me, I am just as guilty of this as anyone.

Your mortgage company, power company or Internet provider don’t want to hear you tried to make enough money to pay their bill. You either pay it or you don’t. Same with life, you either make the decision to do it…or you don’t.

As John Yokoyama, owner of the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle said, “There is no state of being called “trying.”

Do it or don’t or try. The choice is yours.

Posted by: brandextenders | June 9, 2014

Are You Optimistically Cynical or Cynical Optimist?

That may sound like an oxymoronic headline, but it’s true. We’re all endowed with both optimism and cynicism, but usually one becomes dominant over the other as we mature. Do you always see the glass as half-empty? Are you like Lilly Tomlin who once said, “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”? Or maybe you feel like the comedian who noted, “I’m not cynical. I’m just experienced.”

If you see yourself in the comments above, then you probably won’t believe the study published in the most recent edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. That study shows people with high levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism. Earlier studies have also shown that cynics have a higher rate of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular problems, cancer-related deaths, premature death and overall poorer health.

sad-happyShould that surprise us? It doesn’t take a big leap of faith for me to connect cynicism and negativity with poor health. Nor the opposite of better health being associated with optimistic people. Would you rather deal with an optimist or a cynic? While I’m certain there are some wealthy cynics, I suspect research would show that positive and upbeat people are much more likely to become wealthy and be happy with their work and lives.

It’s true the world we live in is a stressful place where cynicism can become an easy sedative to disengagement, but I have to believe optimism and a positive attitude will always trump the cynic. Cynics say, “Life sucks then you die”, but I prefer the quote from Winston Churchill, “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”

The choice is yours

Posted by: brandextenders | May 29, 2014

What Would You Do Differently?

Here’s the scenario: Just shy of a year ago I was referred to a woman at a Fortune 500 company who’d just taken over a new position. Part of her job was purchasing promotional products in large quantities for scores of managers to use as gifts for customers and prospects. We met on email, then over the phone and finally in person to discuss her needs and how best I could assist. Over three months I pulled together ideas and samples, created virtuals of what their logo would look like on a variety of products, all for a meeting where managers could choose the items they liked.

Sales is not for sissies.

Sales is not for sissies.

The meeting came and went and the date she had given me for ordering also came and went. I reached out via email and phone calls, very few of which were answered, and I did my best to stay in front of her in hope some of the business she promised would come our way. After six months one small order arrived with promises again that she would be ordering in the next “few weeks.” Then nothing.
I finally sent an email I reserve as a last hope, where I ask if I have done something wrong or misunderstood the situation. I don’t whine, but simply ask for feedback in case I have done something unintentional. Still nothing. I decided to send a handwritten note basically saying the same thing; apologizing for any unintentional gaffs I may have committed. I marked the case closed and moved on knowing that things like this happen in sales and often there is no logical reason.
About three weeks later I received an email from her apologizing profusely and saying things had taken much, much longer than anticipated and there were still some large orders she would be placing and planned to keep me busy this summer. That was almost a month ago and I’ve heard nothing more, but will keep my fingers crossed and hope we do get an opportunity.
If you’re in sales, how do you handle this kind of situation? I know many people would have given up after a few unanswered attempts, but if nothing else I’m persistent. What would you have done differently? Have you ever had a sales situation like this? I’d love to hear your comments below and I know others can benefit from our collective wisdom.

Posted by: brandextenders | May 14, 2014

Just Wishing and Hoping

Question: What is that elusive elixir known as hope and how do we tap into it during the darkest days of our lives? During those times when it seems we can do nothing right?
Answer: I have absolutely no idea and if I did, I’d be a billionaire lounging on a tropical beach rather than writing this blog post.

Dusty Springfield in 1964. "Just Wishing & Hoping."

Dusty Springfield in 1964. “Just Wishing & Hoping.”

Hope can be elusive and is typically not something hard-wired into our brains. I’ve never been able to pull hope out of thin air and go from sad to happy and upbeat. But I’ve found there are things I can do to help me change my perspective, which is really what hope is. Exchanging a perspective that may be dire or (dare I say it?) hopeless for one of belief, desire and/or trust.

Movies: I love movies and by losing myself in the story I let go of my own worries and fears. And hope can be found in many movies, like this clip from the classic, ” It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Books: These are a great source of hope be they fiction, biographies, non-fiction or whatever. For some, self-help books can offer hope through increased confidence.

Music: This can so easily change my mood and there are numerous studies to prove it. Choose upbeat music, a favorite artist or perhaps even classical. Research at the University of Missouri showed people can improve their moods and be happier by simply listening to cheery music.

Meditation: Taking even a short amount of time each day to meditate or reflect can be beneficial. An attitude of gratitude will aid in keeping a hopeful attitude

Hope is the foundation of all success and without it, failure is surely inevitable. As Thomas Edison, who attempted creating a light bulb over 10,000 times before he was successful once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Posted by: brandextenders | April 5, 2014

The Tenth-of-a-Second Second Rule

Somewhere in the not too distant past someone created the five-second rule. Who that someone is we don’t know, but this law states that food dropped on the floor won’t be contaminated by nasty crap and bacteria if picked up within five seconds. As you can imagine, this theory has been studied time and again by scientists and others and has proven to be true, for the most part. A study by Professor Anthony Hilton of Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, shows the sooner dropped food is picked up, the less likely it is of being contaminated. Moist foods tend to become contaminated more quickly than dry foods and hard floors offer the greatest chance of defilement vs. carpet.

Is this a face you could instantly trust?

Is this a face you could instantly trust?

But have you ever heard of the tenth-of-a-second rule? This law states that people make their first impressions when meeting someone new in a tenth-of-a-second. Not seven seconds as many articles claim or even 30 second, but a decisecond. Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found first impressions are based on looking at someone’s face and deciding instantly whether you like or trust that person. So while dressing appropriately, being on time, a firm handshake and even confidence will go a long ways towards that first impression, it’s your face that’s going to seal the deal.

Be sure to offer a genuine smile when meeting someone new and make eye contact as you shake hands. If this one-tenth-of-a-second rule is true, then the fait accompli is over before you even utter your first word. Is this fair? Of course not, but didn’t your parents always tell you life isn’t fair? As Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible from Greek to Latin once said, “Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness?” And once someone has determined they either like you or don’t, the chance of getting them to change their mind will be difficult at best.

Smile and the world smiles with you; frown and that decisecond of impressionism may leave you out in the cold.

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