Walk Your Talk by Living Your Brand Promise Every Day

Last week we talked about the importance of Transcending the Ordinary, the issue is though that it can’t end with one idea or one-touch point. It’s critical that you are living and breathing your TWIST. That’s why this week I’m sharing two brands who walk the talk.

What does “Walk the Talk” mean?

Brands that “Walk the Talk”  are brands that live their brand values – they don’t just talk about them, they bring them to life through their actions and behaviors. Employees are a key touch point for the brand and important brand ambassadors.

REI is a great brand to visit on a BrandTwist  Safari. It has many touch points which help set this brand apart and are on proud display in the stores, in walking the talk. One of the brand missions of REI is “dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship”. They showcase this in the store, but also share it with the “employee in action” wall. This is a whole wall of photos showcasing employees participating in outdoor activities.

 REI BrandTwist Brand Safari Brand Inspiration

Do you walk the talk even when it’s the opposite of what everyone else is doing?

One of the most publicized ways they speak to that mission is the award winning #OptOutside campaign. Instead of opening their doors on Black Friday (or even Thanksgiving) they forgo the sales and urge not only customers, but employees to go outside. This also speaks to their business model. In 1938 REI launched, and in their own words they chose to begin a “consumer co-op, rather than a publicly-traded company, enables us to focus on the long-term interests of the co-op and our members. We answer to you—our members—and run our business accordingly.”

Do you and your employees walk the talk?

To really ingrain this experience at every touch point it starts with employees. Microsoft, for example, starts every morning with the Microsoft team doing a “Stand Up” meeting where they get the employees excited for the day- sort of a pep rally based on the brand values. And they end the day with a similar “Stand Down” meeting- recognizing and celebrating the positive on-brand behaviors of the team members during the day, and no doubt discussing how to continuously improve.

 How can your business be inspired by great brands like Microsoft and REI to “Walk the Talk”? Are you brand values celebrated front and center? Are you and your team living them every day?

TWIST Book Julie Cottineau

Transcend the Ordinary and Rise Above Your Competition

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 6.59.13 AMNow that we’ve got you planning your next Brand Safari it’s time to figure out what to look for. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about what we look for on our BrandTwist Brand Safari’s, kicking off with T – Transcend the Ordinary.

Today we’re going to talk about how brands like Coco-Mat and Microsoft transcend the ordinary with their customers by allowing customers to experience their brands in a way that’s different from anyone else.

Let’s start with talking about what it means to transcend the ordinary, I think it’s about looking for brands that go beyond what’s expected. Transcend ordinary experiences to provide something fresh. It’s about how your clients experience your brand. Coco-Mat and their flagship store is a great example of this.

Can buying a mattress be relaxing?

On a recent Safari, we visited the iconic Coco-Mat store in SoHo for some hands on inspiration that attendees then TWISTED with their own businesses. Coco-Mat has shaken up the mattress category on every level by providing mattresses that are customizable by layer and made with all natural materials- like coconut fiber (hence the name). No metal springs are used. That’s not even the best TWIST though.

Cocomat Brand Safari BrandTwist Brand Experience

They also have TWISTED the sales experience and transcended the sometimes stereotypical pushy mattress seller to a more thoughtful and zen experience. Their sleep specialists invite you to spend a few hours or even the night in a special “nap suite” in their SoHo store. They will make up the bed with the exact mattress you are thinking of purchasing. So you are sure that it’s the right fit. There’s a bathroom with shower in the suite and calming scents and decor.

It’s shifting an experience that can be stressful and frustrating and instead allowing you to experience the ease of their company at every step. It’s a completely unique experience that turns category norms on their heads. How can you relieve any friction in your buying experience for your customers- and make the process of engaging with your business as smooth and “dreamy” as possible?

How does Microsoft transcend the ordinary?

The idea of letting potential customers experience your brand instead of selling them on the idea is something Microsoft has done well with their flagship store in New York. Which is exactly why we’ll be hosting a Brand Safari in the NYC Experience Store there in September.

Microsoft experience stores give potential customers the opportunity to interact with the products. This helps them fall in love through learning more about the features. This is evident in the innovative Youth Spark coding camps.

These camps not only serve the community (another way to transcend) but it also gives consumers the opportunity to engage with the product, and fall in love with a product.

How can you transcend the ordinary?

Now it’s time for action, look for brands that turn the category norms on their heads. Remember, the best brands to TWIST with are outside of your category so get creative. Think about brands you love or have experienced that provide the opposite of what you expect (ex. a zen mattress buying experience instead of a stressful one).

Then TWIST this with your business. How can you tackle head on and rise above the common pain points in your category to provide a fresh, memorable and compelling brand experience?

Don’t forget to stay tuned, we’ll be talking about Walking the talk when we return with our next post.

Can’t wait to experience the TWIST for yourself? Grab one of our limited Safari spots for September here.

TWIST Book Julie Cottineau

Small Business Brand TWISTS – Dr. Tim Aquatics

Dr. Tim runs an aquarium supply company and has an impressive list of professional credentials including a Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and marine biology. Before Brand School, the “about me” section of his website was a laundry list of academic degrees, published articles, industry titles and honors, but it practically required a Ph.D. to read and understand it.

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The problem?

His ideal target included regular “Joe” aquarium enthusiasts who are looking for support in keeping their aquariums healthy and vibrant. Through the work Tim did in Brand School, he transitioned his brand idea from “science-based solutions” to “success at any level.” He now deliberately presents a less intimidating, more welcoming user experience (complete with an interactive recipe TWIST – think of your favorite Food Network show) where buyers feel more at ease to interact with the brand and ask more questions.

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Do you see the difference this personal and authentic TWIST adds?

 

It makes his brand more approachable, more relatable, and more likely to attract the amateur aquarium enthusiast who might be turned off by a brand that seems too scientific and overly authoritative.

“Before Brand School, we were more a ‘science’ brand but now the brand is about being a natural fish care company.  That was common with dogs and cats but we were the first with fish. The products, liquids, and fish food are natural and that resonates with consumers who see fish and an aquarium as a slice of nature in their home.”

That wasn’t the only way Tim used the TWIST lessons he learned in Brand School. They also used a TWIST to overcome objections when launching a new product.

 

“We had developed the first 100% natural, non-GMO fish food but a possible roadblock was the customer had to make it themselves which takes only 5 minutes to make a month’s worth of food.  So we twisted that possible negative – “Oh, I have to make the fish food” into a positive “ Really, I can make my own fish food”  by adding our EXTRAS which are various additions (think of them as spices) that one adds to food to customize it for their fish.”

“The EXTRAS come in pepper grinders so the consumer literally ‘twists’ the EXTRAS into the food before placing the food in the freezer to gel. This makes the food easy to demonstrate and you see the smile on people’s faces as they instantly see this is fun and not hard at all.  We even had a major store in NJ have their clerks dress up as cooks and demo the fish food – it’s a great YouTube video”.

Tim now has a powerful understanding of how to use TWISTS in his brand, but it he admits it wasn’t always easy.

 

“Initially it was hard to maintain focus and concentrate on running everything through the pillars but, as with most things, the more you do it the easier it gets and, this is the surprise, it actually makes it easier to make decisions. It if doesn’t fit – it’s out.”

“You have to trust the process. It was such a great experience for me. Though, after delving in, doing the work is hard. There is resistance, but having access to Julie with the one-on-one meetings helped to move the needle so we can continue in breaking through with a more creative flair to our brand. I’m so grateful I went through it.”

What’s My TWIST? Unexpected experts can help your brand.

Far too often, brands get stuck sounding, looking, and feeling the same way to consumers as any other competitor in their field. These brands aren’t standing out from the bunch; they’re merely doing just enough to fit in and survive. The most successful brands owe that success to the fact that they’re different. It’s why you gravitate to Apple before Dell, and why you can’t forget GEICO’s gecko. To stand out you need to get some outside perspective and a little inspiration.

What's My Twist Panel - Unique experts give feedback

The “What’s my TWIST Panel” technique does just that.

The “inspired experts” panel uncovers fresh language by taking experts in related but distinctly different fields and asks questions to extract fresh language that can be TWISTED with your own brand.

For example, recently we helped a pharmaceutical client with an over-the-counter medication focused on protection, by bringing in four unusual experts:

  • A former fireman
  • A bouncer
  • A computer security consultant
  • And an insurance agent

The essential element of this panel was that the client had no idea what fields the experts were in. Similar to the classic “What’s My Line?” game show – the occupations of the panelists were guessed and revealed at the very end. This kept the pharmaceutical executives focused on active listening for fresh language that they could then TWIST to add distinction to their marketing.

The panel was asked questions such as:

  • “What does protection mean in your field?”
  • “What happens when there is a failure of protection?”
  • “What are the emotions involved? The consequences?”
  • “How do you act to prevent future breakdowns?”

The results? Fresh perspectives on providing control, comfort, and confidence to consumers in the most vulnerable situations – that can be TWISTED into marketing that breaks through.

What experts would you invite to your What’s My TWIST? panel and what related, but distinct categories should your brand be learning from? Learn about more TWISTING techniques in TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands.

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How to Represent Your Brand at Big Events

In May I was asked to be a part of two amazing events with strong (and unique) brand experiences. First I stopped by the Business and Burgers segment during the Newfronts with Entrepreneur TV to talk TWISTS and burgers. The next day I headed to Northern California to join Tyra Banks at Stanford Graduate School of Business to talk TWISTS for personal branding.

Representing Your Brand on stages like Entrepreneur and Stanford Graduate School of Business

I think you’ll agree, both of these events had their own unique and very strong brand experiences, and in both cases, multiple large brands were involved. In events like these, the challenge becomes how do you make sure YOUR brand connects and stands out?

It all comes down to three Rs…

  • Research
  • Represent
  • Repeat

Let’s talk research.

For years we’ve heard about the importance of doing your “homework”, but for many business owners they skip over doing it before these types of events, and this is where you can lose some important brand leverage.

Before both events, I was in continuous contact with the teams putting on the events so I could know not only the details and expectations, but also how I could best support the event, and the event leaders.

By connecting with them before the event and digging in on my own research I was able to do two very important things.

First I was able to offer relevant recommendations that could help the event and hosts. This allows me to stand out to them, and that’s valuable not only the day of the event or for future events, but for possible partnerships in the future.

Stanford Graduate School of Business Brand TWIST exercise

The second thing it allows me to do is over deliver for the audience. I know exactly who they are before I entered the room and that allows me to make sure my content is directly targeted at them. I am able to make sure they hear it and remember it.

This research can happen right up until you go on stage. Before the Business and Burgers segment, I asked the guest chef about the burger and what the TWIST was. This allowed me to highlight the great burger and talk TWISTING. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t taken the time to ask a few quick questions. In case you are curious, it was a pinch of cinnamon added to the lamb burger. YUM!

Let’s talk represent

Representing your brand is more than carrying your card and handing it to everyone you meet. You’re a walking and talking example of your brand. This means you can be a constant visual reinforcement of your brand through wearing your brand colors, but also it means living your brand promise, so think not only about the color but the style as a whole.

Julie Cottineau and Tyra Banks talked Personal branding at Stanford Graduate School of Business

It’s also important to have collateral that represents your brand, and if you have a book – that gets really easy. I went back and forth about carrying books with me for the Business and Burgers events, and I’m glad I did. We ended up having one on the table during our chat. The same thing happened at Stanford. After the class, Tyra went live on Facebook with some students and held the book while sharing how she enjoyed it.

Remember this is all about being visual, what can you put in front of your audience’s eyes that will help them remember who you are? It doesn’t have to be a book, it can be a “report” of findings with your logo loud and proud on the cover.

Let’s talk repeat

One of the most important parts of Brand School is knowing your core brand message, and that’s because knowing that allows us to build everything else. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to know that for me it always comes back to the TWIST.

Julie Cottineau looks for the brand TWIST in a burger

That’s why during my time at Business and Burgers I asked about the TWIST in the burger. I also complimented the hosts on their own unique TWISTS – revving up business content with engaging cooking tips and, fun to eat, delicious (messy) burgers! It allowed me to have another place in the conversation to talk TWISTS. Even better was a way for me to talk about my core message, without just talking about me. It allowed me to highlight that you can find the TWIST in anything.

You’ll also notice in the videos from Entrepreneur TV and Tyra Banks we use the word TWIST a lot because it’s all about repeating that brand message in new and creative ways so that you can connect with the people listening.

It’s important to remember though, my ability to repeat came from doing the research, and visually representing the BrandTWIST brand.

What tips to do you have to help your brand shine during important events? Share them here at our BrandTwist blog.

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