Last week I was invited to do a presentation at an area high school for a group of students that were chosen as leaders in their fields. It ranged from sports stars to the Auto Club (really? there was no Auto Club when I was in high school). There were four presentations intended to help the students be more successful in school and life. Tom Reber gave a presentation on his not-for-profit called “Motor”. He taught them how to be UNcommon and Unordinary (that dewd is quite the motivator). I was up next and talked about branding. Next up was a 11-year-old girl named Aria Novak, who was deemed a whiz kid for a program that she started called a “Time For Kind” day (she totally upstaged me : ). And finally, musician Shuree did a little song and dance to help them explore their creativity. The cool (and ironic) thing is, Tom, Shuree and I all shared the stage at Orchard Valley Community Church (we were a convergence of Rock Stars : )
The goal of my presentation, was to show these guys and gals that what they do on the internet.. can define their personal brand. To help them better understand the concept of branding, I showed them a couple of videos… The first was most everybody's annoying favorite “The Hamster Dance”. The second was a Kia commercial that features rapping hamsters. They totally got the concept that, something that used to make them laugh as a kid, was now being used to entice them to buy a car. Most of them were shocked to learn that everything they do on the Internet is there forever. But the most important message of the presentation, was to get them to understand those posts will have a lasting effect on their college and ultimately work life.
I know it made an impact, because the next day I got an e-mail from one of the attendees saying how much the presentation opened her eyes to what is really going on across the web. She asked me to send her links to some of the content so she could share it with her parents… Now that's what I call a leader!
A Branding Story
Another story about branding, actually started 3 years ago. I was teaching a class at Elgin community college on “Being on the Internet” for business. After the class I was approached by Juliana Vinson of Cell-Parts. She explained that her company was struggling because… all of the business she used to have was now being done overseas in China. So we set up a meeting and I drove to her office in Dundee. Her company was started by her grandfather in Chicago. The only thing they manufacture is a part of a golf club called the ferrule (a little plastic part that goes between the head and the shaft). The product was used by almost every golf club manufacturer in the US because of the quality and reputation. She was selling millions of them at about $.07 apiece and making a pretty good profit off that. Back around the year 2000, most manufacturers thought it could be more profitable by having all of their production done overseas… taking Cell Parts out of the mix. She went from selling millions to thousands, and for all practical purposes business literally dried up. She was desperate to find some way to save the business.
So to start of the re-branding process I did some market research. I talked to club pros, distributors, and even someone who builds clubs for touring professionals at tournaments. I asked them, did the feral do anything to improve the game of golf? The answer I got was a resounding “NO”. What I did discover though, was the quality of cell part ferrules was more than significantly higher than anything else on the market. If that little piece of plastic, breaks during manufacturing or use of the club, it could cost over $100 to replace a $.07 part. So together we came up with a concept that could re-brand and rebuild her business. We knew it was just a matter of time before manufacturers figure out that the cheap ferrules would cost them millions in repairs. So she begrudgingly decided to package that $.07 part, into a 12 pack, and sell them for around a $1.00 a piece. We've redefined the marketing to target hobbyists who build their own clubs, and who would pay a premium for custom colors and styles.
The 1st step was to build a new website that focused more on the product and less the manufacturing process (like her old one did). The 2nd part was to create an e-commerce website where people would see and buy these new unique products. And the 3rd step, was to use social media and online marketing techniques to help spread the word about her products. I logged into websites and forums where I found people who built their own clubs commiserating. One of the first posts I did went something like this, “Hey guys check out this new website with some really cool products… custom and colored ferrules for building your golf clubs.”. The initial reaction I got is “This guy is a spammer… get out here”, but right after that post another dude posted “No seriously… I tried some Cell Parts stuff, and it rocks!!!”. That 2nd post started a chain reaction that was beyond all of our expectations. A couple of days later I got a phone call from Juliana who said, “I don't know what the hell you did… but I can't get any work done because I'm too busy answering the phone and e-mails”, and then she laughed and hung up.
Yesterday I got another call from Juliana (roughly 3 years after we started). She called just to say “Thank You!”. The golf club manufacturers ultimately realized the error of their ways and the cost of poor quality… So now Cell Parts is manufacturing their ferrules and shipping them overseas to some of the golf club manufacturers that left her years ago. She said “I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but I have to ramp up business to meet the new demands of the large manufacturers again!”. The rebranding was never intended to replace The business she had lost, it was an effort to keep her afloat long enough until the clients that left her, realize what a big mistake they had made. Ultimately it was her dedication, tenacity but more importantly the quality of her product which made all the difference!
In the presentation I did last week about branding to the high school students I had a couple of tips for them for that I thought could be helpful for you…
- Your brand is dictated by your audience just like Kia knew to use hamsters that rap… to appeal to young adults. Once you know who your audience is, you should package your product or service to appeal to what motivates them.
- Just like coffee retailers: Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and the McCafé, appeal to different audiences because of their price points… your pricing can be part of your brand! Are you a premium brand, or the low-cost leader? How you price your product or service, can determine which customers will want to buy.
- And just like I presented to those high school leaders… what you say and do online can affect your brand. You may have a very well defined website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn presence… but what you say on your personal profile can alter opinions. In my classes… I teach that if you want to alienate 50% of your audience start talking about religion or politics. So keep that in mind when you're posting personal content on the Internet.
I have had to re-brand myself over the years to adapt to the ever-changing internet. Some people call it re-inventing themselves. Social Media was not a viable option for business 3 years ago… now I am giving 3-5 presentations a month (regionally & nationally). Learning to adapt to the changing marketplace… keeps you relevant… and in business!
Want to leran more? Check out our new website – socialnetworkconsulting.com or call me at 630-692-1431