Cool Brands Do Video. Do You?

We’ve all seen amazing promotional marketing videos before. Whether they’re funny, inspiring, shocking, or heart felt, some companies do video exceptionally well. They tell great stories and as a result they connect us with their brands in ways others cannot.

Traditionally only mega-brands and companies with insane ad budgets could do video and reach a reasonably sized audience over TV. However, with companies like YouTube and Vimeo completely dominating the online video scene over the last few years, the playing field has been leveled. Now anyone can produce a relatively inexpensive video and instantly reach their audience in a new and engaging way.

So, the question remains, with video being one of the best types of marketing pieces you can have in your arsenal, is your business getting in on the action? If not, you should be.

Here are three reasons why you need to start doing video yesterday.

1. Your competitors aren’t.


Cool brands do video because their competition doesn’t. Have a look right now. Go to your competitors’ websites and see what they’re doing. Chances are their sites are 1-dimensional. Text, text, and more text. Sure they have photos, (and perhaps they’re even professionally shot photos); however, they probably don’t have video. This means their website still isn’t a priority, which also means they’re likely still committed to killing forests to reach their dying audience.

Check out this video Edmonton-based law firm, Bishop & McKenzie developed for their website. While other law firms are still trying to figure web out, B&M is already moving ahead with a series of great, inspirational videos that tell the story of the firm and why articling students or clients should choose them over the rest. Brilliant.

Consider this your intervention.

Today is another day you could have had the opportunity to stand out and show all of your customers why you are different and better than your competitors. Which leads me to my next point. Positioning.

2. Position your company in 30 seconds or less.


Cool brands do video to stand out. Quickly. They know the quickest and easiest method to position their brand and get their marketing message out there is through video. Let’s face it. People don’t have time to dig. You have less than 10 seconds to impress your audience or they’ve left to find someone who can. Once you have a clearly defined image that embodies your brand; things like personality, promise, and identity; and once you know how you want people to experience your brand, video is one of the best ways to communicate your key messages and stand out among the masses.

The following is a video developed by Amplomedia for an Edmonton organization, Live Local describing its local food delivering services.

3. Diversify your content.


Cool brands do video because they understand their audience. They know their customers are tired of reading type and they’re begging for something more. Video is much more dynamic than text; so, rather than just read about your business, your audience can hear and see what you are all about. Video helps you appeal to more people, because many people prefer to watch than read. Making videos to diversify your content shows your customers that you’re well-rounded, you’re fun, and you care. Simply put, video is better marketing.

Here’s a beautiful video promoting the RunWild Marathon, Alberta’s fastest growing, family-focused road race. RunWild believes in the power of video, and so do RunWilders. In only 2 years RunWild has ranked as a Top 10 Event by Canadian Running Magazine and it’s already the fourth largest race in Alberta.

What’s the biggest reason not to do video?

To “go viral.”

Sure, when a company’s video goes viral, their exposure increases dramatically. Just ask anyone who’s had their video promoted by Ellen or Jimmy Kimmel. The statistics are staggering. Viral videos launch nobodies into the stratosphere.

Unfortunately your odds of becoming viral are much worse than winning at the craps tables at the Bellagio. Chances are you’re video will not hit 1,000,000 on YouTube. It probably won’t even hit 10,000. So the point of doing video shouldn’t be to attain Bieber status. It should be to convert qualified viewers into superfans. Would you rather have millions of views and be a celebrity or would you rather have 100 views with 10% becoming solid marketing leads and potential promoters of your company?

How to make video work for you.

We all know why the cool brands do video, but how do they do it?

Careful planning and expert execution are key. A marketing video shouldn’t just be something you do on your own or throw together in a hurry. Instead, get resourceful and work with a local production company to create a stunning high-quality, professionally made video.

If you’re in Edmonton, look to award winning video rockstars, Lindisfarne Productions. Lindisfarne was the company responsible for creating the RunWild video above, as well as this beautiful video for the Warner Hockey School, which shows how hockey literally saved the town of Warner.

If you’re out on the west coast, give RF Productions a call. RF is known as being one of the very few companies that create and deliver insanely cool and HD quality video on the same day. Yes, that’s right. Same day. It’s called a “Same Day Edit” or SDE, and RF completely kills it when it comes to SDE’s. Check out this video below they produced for Pinkberry Canada showcasing the grand opening of Canada’s first Pinkberry location.

The bottom line.


Get creative, and use video to your advantage. Whether it’s to entertain, demonstrate a product, answer FAQs, introduce employees, or show footage of a special event, make sure your vids are of something people will want to see

All the cool brands are doing it. What are you waiting for?

Culture Club: Are You Admired For Your Corporate Culture?

When asked, I define corporate culture as the blend of human psychology, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours within the workplace. Every company is different and the culture cocktail can result in an inspiring utopia, a depressing nightmare, and everything in between.

A company’s culture can build crazy momentum, or miserable stagnation. A strong culture flourishes with its clear set of values that actively guide the way a company operates. Employees are passionately engaged in the business as they self-govern from a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than left to navigate their days through miserably extensive procedures, policies, and mind-numbing bureaucracy.

Your brand is the single most important asset to differentiate your company consistently over time, and corporate culture is one of the most important elements in building your brand. As such, culture needs to be nurtured, evolved, and invigorated by the people entrusted to keep it true and alive.

With HR experts forecasting a people crunch similar to what Alberta dealt with in 2007-2009, one can only assume that culture will play an even more important role in companies successes.

Organizations are literally going to thrive or dive by the culture they’re creating today.

What does the future of your company look like?

 

What Business Are We In Again? When Diversification Leads To Disaster.

As companies diversify, they often drift further from their founding purpose. The original brand strategies that made them distinctive, compelling, and drove their success become less and less connected to the companies they are trying to become.

Unfortunately, when brands become unclear in the minds of their customers it spells trouble. Even more troubling is that they become unclear to the most important people of all, the ones tasked with delivering the brand experience to customers—the employees.
 

 

What are the consequences of this lack of clarity?

At best, it can lead to decreased sense of purpose, demise of corporate culture, lost sales, and ultimately a decline in profits. At worst, it can lead to outright business failure.

This isn’t to say that companies should not diversify.

Diversification is unavoidable for many companies, and in some cases it’s a necessity to remain competitive. When a company already dominates the market in their core business, and they have no other choice but to launch or acquire new businesses to drive growth, innovate, and fend off new competitors, then diversification is inevitable.

However, most companies (yes perhaps even yours), do not fit this model and therefore, the best thing a company can do to put itself in a dominant market position is to specialize. Be known for doing “one thing” ridiculously well, rather than many things mediocrely. Darth Vader wouldn’t lead Vader Industries into the alternative energy space, even if he saw an opportunity to make some sweet coin. He would stay the course until his goal of destroying the rebels and ruling the galaxy was complete.

But it is to say, you should aim to rule your galaxy.

Otherwise, why be in business at all? There are a ton of things businesses do to dominate. Here are but three practices you can adopt into your business’ strategy.

  1. Embrace and socialize your company’s purpose. Know what it is that you do well, and always aim do it better than anyone else in your industry. Period.
  2.  

  3. Use a consistent brand and naming architecture. It’s amazing how many companies out there strive to be forgettable. Clarity and consistency are key to communication. Make sure you use your name, descriptor, logo, tagline, and key messages consistently through all methods of your company’s corporate communications.
  4.  

  5. Create a cohesive visual identity. You wouldn’t go on a first date wearing sweatpants with your new Boss jacket would you? The same holds true for your company in the corporate dating scene. Establishing a design system and guidelines for usage ensures your staff are always able to present the company in the best light, as it’s intended.

 

The Pitch. Everything I Hate About Advertising.

amc-the-pitch-advertising

The Summary

The Pitch, a reality show aimed to capitalize on the success of AMC’s Mad Men, pits two advertising agencies against each other for a real account. So far, companies like PopChips, Frangelico, Subway, Waste Management, and JDRF (a non-profit organization funding Type 1 Diabetes Research) have been the “prize” accounts in each episode. One firm wins the account worth millions of dollars; the other is left in disarray, trying to pick up the pieces and explain why it lost. Sometimes in tears.

Awww. Doesn’t that just tug at your heartstrings? Yeah, me neither. But I digress.

The Pitch is actually a pretty accurate glimpse into today’s ad world and if you are considering hiring an ad agency, you should strongly consider watching the series with an objective eye.

The Purpose

The purpose of the post is two-fold.

1. It serves as a place for me to rant my abhorrence for certain short-comings of ad agencies, and

2. It serves as a place for me to rant my abhorrence for certain short-comings of ad agencies.

The Pitch

At the very least this post should give you some things to think about the next time you are in a pitch session with an Edmonton advertising agency.

At the very most, this post will end up saving you bags and bags of money.

Advertisements are literally farts in the wind.

advertisement-fart-in-the-wind

Really. Expensive. Farts in the wind. For every one killer idea like “Just Do It.” or “Got Milk?” there are millions of loser ideas worth billions of wasted dollars. As Edmonton-boy and Jones Soda founder, Peter van Stolk, says “Advertising is tax for being unremarkable.” And he should know. He took on the two biggest soft drink companies in the world and won. Without advertising.

Ads make noise for a moment.

And then they’re gone forever.

Ad agencies tend to primarily be staffed by kids.

amc-the-pitch-advertising-kids

And while there’s nothing wrong with a little piss and vinegar, it’s the seasoned vets who you want working for you. The challenge with kids is that kids are distracted. Kids don’t pay attention to details. Kids are busy LOL’ing, Pinning, and Tweeting. Kids don’t know better. And if kids don’t know what’s best for themselves, how can they possibly know what’s best for the client’s business?

Hi I’m your new account coordinator. Wanna Tweet me? 😉 ❤

Ad agencies think they are more creative than anyone.

I’d even go as far to say ad agency folks think that they’re better than all of us too. Of course we would all like to work in advertising if we could, but we’re just not quite clever enough to.

POP!

Sorry to burst the bubble, but great ideas are the ideas that work. The admin assistant from the client’s office is just as likely to come up with a great idea as any ad agency. In fact, she’s even more likely because she’s on the front lines, living the experience every day.

Ad agencies tend to be staffed by ‘yes men’ (of both sexes).

amc-the-pitch-advertising-yes-men

NO. I will not expand on this.

Ad agencies sell fixed concepts.

amc-the-pitch-advertising-sales

Instead of healthy collaboration to solve business challenges such as how to strengthen the company’s position, how to improve office culture, or how to realign the corporate vision, advertisers are only able to resort to the one trick in their bag—”The Big Idea.” You know, those cute-sy concepts and and “cool,” “clever,” “sticky” campaigns.

(If you ever hear the word “sticky” in a presentation or pitch, run. You can thank me later.)

The Conclusion

The days of Mad Men are over.

amc-mad-men

Except the part about drinking scotch at 10am. That’s alive and well. Advertising is just a part of the marketing mix these days. It doesn’t rule the mix any more than social media or a website does.

While there will always be people who love advertising agencies, many realize that for any integrated campaign to work, it needs a strong brand foundation built on clarity, purpose and promise.

Sadly some organizations always go to an ad agency first, and that is usually to the detriment of the client and the campaign as a whole.

How to Select an Edmonton Marketing Agency

First, the bad news.

Agency selection is a pain in the ass. You’d think it would be fun, but it’s not. It’s akin to getting pummelled by Evander Holyfield for ten full rounds.

Next, the good news.

If you are able to endure, you’ll end up coming out on top without having to throw any haymakers or losing an ear.

ROUND 1: Disqualify “agencies.”

This is the easy round. First, invite only members of the Canadian Marketing Association and the AdClub of Edmonton. These organizations only accept reputable marketing-based companies and people into their membership. If you’re really keen, post your job profile on the AdClub’s website and see who bites. This act alone will eliminate most of the insolvent, unethical, coffee mug peddlers. In one step, you’ll eliminate 90% of the self-declared “marketing agencies” in Edmonton. At this point only genuine marketing firms, graphic design studios, and advertising agencies will remain.

Side note: Throughout this entire process make sure you kick to the curb anyone with a glaring weakness, high-and-mighty attitude, or slow response time. You are not obliged to be courteous, or reasonable, or even rational. If they don’t return your call promptly, tell them to beat it. NEXT.

ROUND 2: Understand implicitly what are you buying.

What do you really want? Is it creativity? Prestige? Methodologies? Independent objectivity? Strategic branding? Marketing expertise? Golfing buddies?

This is likely the most important round you’re going to fight because you need to know what you want and need. If you don’t know what you want you’re likely to be disappointed with the end result.

ROUND 3: Look to qualify, not disqualify.

This round can be tricky. In many cases it’s difficult to determine what an agency brings to the table. However, if you want to confirm the positive contributions an agency can potentially make to your organization you should base your qualifications on how well the agency sells itself. What do they believe in? Do they have a regularly updated and insightful blog? Is their portfolio top notch? Do they have testimonials from previous clients? Do they practice what they preach?

ROUND 4: Choose the best.

Bigger ain’t better. Smaller ain’t better. Only better is better.
There is no economy of scale in the marketing business.

Can a marketing firm or ad agency be too big for you? Absolutely. Some won’t return your phone call if your budget is under one million dollars or your project is less than 10% of their total billings. If you are less than 10%, there’s an extremely high probability that your work will be shuffled down to the junior varsity the minute you turn your back.

Think about size another way: at any given moment, in any agency anywhere, your account is in the hands of a small team of dedicated professionals working from a blank piece of paper. What the heck does it matter how many people in the agency are NOT working on your business?

Can an agency be too small for you? Absolutely not. If you could get Jack Trout, Seth Godin, or Stefan Sagmiester all by themselves on a city park bench, you’d have all the strategy and creativity you could ever hope for. Well, okay, if you’re a multi-national conglomerate and you need international capabilities, some places might be too small. But if you’re a Canadian-focused organization and you want Canadian-focused strategic and creative power, go back three paragraphs to “bigger ain’t better…” and read it again.

ROUND 5: Don’t trust history.

A portfolio is essentially the doctor’s old prescription, but even less meaningful. Many design studios, marketing firms and agencies will show you work created by people washed away two downsizing bloodbaths ago. The questions to ask are Who will really be on your team? Key people or juniors? Will you see agency principals more than once a year, gladhanding at your sales meeting?

ROUND 6: Trust chemistry.

Do business with people you like. Seriously. It’s a radical philosophy, but Urban Jungle has followed it for years, and it works. Life is too short to put up with brilliant-but-annoying asses. Choosing an agency is like marriage (or at least moving in together), and you don’t want to be stuck with people you can’t empathize with.

(Suggestion: offer to buy beers and answer questions for each semi-finalist team, early on. You will learn more after 20 minutes in the pub than in most 90-minute capabilities presentations.)

Also, when you put together a scorecard for the finals, make sure “People Chemistry” is at least 50% of the points. I’m not kidding about this. A year from now, the problems may be different, the opportunities may have changed, the Oilers may finally have their crap together and win a Stanley Cup, but the people you work with will probably still be there. As such chemistry should tip your scale one way or another.

ROUND 7. Explore brand equity issues.

It’s the single biggest profit lever for the next ten years. Does the agency understand how important findability has become, where prospects search for you, or are they still in last-century hunter-gatherer mode? Can they conduct a Brand Asset Review? Do they know how vital your people are to achieving your brand vision? Do they understand any branding disciplines other than advertising? Or are they just an ad agency?

ROUND 8. Test assignments are unfair, but can be useful.

Nobody should actually use creative or strategy developed as a test assignment. Your challenges are not so simple that a campaign whipped together in a short time is going to be perfectly on brand or on target. On the other hand, test assignments let you evaluate something tangible. If you go that route, you should interact with the agencies in the process…because the process will be more telling than the results. Should you pay the finalists for their test work? Absolutely, if for no other reason than to own the legal rights to the content.

ROUND 9. As long as you’re going to be unfair…be very unfair.

A week or so before the agencies are scheduled to present to you, show up unannounced at their offices (Hi! I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop in.) at 5:10 in the afternoon. If you can find anyone to talk to, ask to meet the people working on your presentation. You’ll learn something (probably a lot) by how they respond. For starters, you’ll learn who’s really working on your business, as opposed to the polished suits you’re likely to see grinning at you in the formal presentation. Chat with the real foot soldiers. See what makes them tick.

ROUND 10. Be very, very unfair.

Give a test assignment, let the team get a good start, and then 48 hours before the presentation, change the assignment. (Gee whiz gang, I’m sorry but some new research showed blah, blah, blah, and so the campaign now has to be in a magazine instead of a banner ad.) Sneaky? Yes. Unfair? You bet. But last-minute, 180degree changes like these (you know, like the ones that happen in the real world) test an agency’s character. Find out now whether you’ll get workers or whiners on your team.

I can guarantee you this process will be painful, but if you slug it out, you’ll have a much better chance of finding great working partners.

Edmonton Branding Firm Urges Albertans and Government to Approve an Alberta Mission

For Immediate Release:

Edmonton, AB, May 3, 2012 — As Alison Redford’s Conservatives begin their 12th consecutive term governing Alberta, specialist brand marketing firm Urban Jungle is holding the premier to her promise of “positive change that moves Alberta forward.” The firm, which previously offered brand strategy services to Redford at no cost to the province but was turned down, has developed a mission for Alberta and is urging the premier and Albertans to approve it.

“There is only one way to ensure Alberta’s potential is realized,” said Craig Blackburn, founder of the Edmonton-based branding firm. “Collectively we must act like a corporation, with citizens and politicians working together to define and activate a mission for our province.”

Blackburn points out that the world’s strongest companies—Apple, Google, and the like—have clearly defined brand strategies, which include missions to guide their leadership teams. “A forward-thinking province like Alberta can lead the world in adopting the tactics that make corporations successful for the benefit of all Albertans,” he explained.

In January 2012, Blackburn’s firm offered Redford its comprehensive branding services at no cost to the province, a move that could have saved taxpayers millions. When the premier’s office came back with “Thanks, but no thanks,” Blackburn decided to show Albertans what is possible by creating a mission based on the traits that define the province: research, progressive thinking, and the desire to make a positive impact on the world. The mission is the first step in building the necessary framework to unite the province through shared values, purpose, and meaningful actions.

“Albertans have voiced their concerns against against government corruption, mismanagement, and lack of accountability. But it’s not enough to simply vote. We can’t expect change to happen as we sit idly by. I believe all Albertans need to take an active role in evolving our province. There is no better time to create, validate, and activate a mission, position, and mantra for the Alberta brand,” said Blackburn.

As with any brand, an Alberta brand would guide the government’s leadership and foster accountability. It would also allow Albertans to collectively change the negative perceptions others have of the province and its people. Most importantly, says Blackburn, it would enable Albertans to discover and achieve a greater sense of purpose.

Urban Jungle is engaging the public through an independent grassroots initiative known as Inspire Alberta. The objective of its online engagement campaign is to provide a forum for Albertans to approve a mission and basic set of core values for the province. The proposed Alberta mission can be found at InspireAlberta.com.

About Urban Jungle
Established in 2000, Urban Jungle specializes in brand development for organizations seeking to strengthen their brand, improve their business, and dominate their market. Unlike advertising agencies, marketing firms, and graphic design studios, Urban Jungle helps clients bring clarity to their brand vision—inspiring employees, guiding business development, and creating strong connections with customers and other audiences.

About Inspire Alberta
Established in 2012 as an independent initiative, Inspire Alberta’s mission is to motivate Albertans to discover and achieve a greater sense of purpose for their life in the province. By defining common aspirations of Albertans, the initiative aims to unite the province through shared values, purpose, and actions.

Urban Jungle
Phone: 780 701 9877
Web: http://urbanjungle.ca
Media contact: Craig Blackburn, Principal
craig [at] urbanjungle.ca
780 701 9877 x1

Inspire Alberta – Creating the Alberta Brand

The optimist in me likes to think something big in Alberta is happening — a monumental shift in the way Albertans think. The recent Alberta election was surprisingly one of the most emotional and passion-infused elections I can recall, with the PCs staving off the Wildrose party to remain in power for another term. That said, Albertans seemed to deliver a message that we will not tolerate government corruption, mismanagement, or lack of accountability any longer.

Has Alberta shifted from complacency and indifference to inspiration and leadership?

While it’s nice in theory, the pessimist in me wonders what is to prevent Alison Redford’s Tories from making the same mistakes as their predecessors? Having recently elected the ‘president’ and ‘board of directors’ to run our $41 Billion company, how are Albertans to ensure they succeed? These are tough questions, but I believe the answer is quite simple.

Alberta needs a mission.

The only way Premier Redford can deliver on her promise of “positive change that moves Alberta forward” is to have a clearly-defined mission for Alberta. A mission allows Albertans to always know whether or not our leaders are staying the course. It allows us to evaluate the province on an ongoing basis (not just at election time) to know whether or not we are achieving our mission.

So in January 2012, I set forth with my Alberta pride to try and do my part in the only way I know how. I offered my firm’s branding services to Premier Redford at no cost to the province. A move that could have saved Alberta taxpayers millions.

When the premier’s office came back with “Thanks, but no thanks,” I decided to show Albertans what is possible by creating a mission based on the traits that define the province: research, progressive thinking, and the desire to make a positive impact on the world.

And thus, Inspire Alberta was born. A grassroots initiative “by the people and for the people.”

What is Inspire Alberta’s objective?

Inspire Alberta’s objective is simply to create, deliver, validate, and activate a mission, position, and mantra for what is the “Alberta Brand.” The mission Inspire Alberta has proposed is the first piece in building the necessary framework to unite the province through shared values, purpose, and meaningful actions.

I believe this framework is essential to guide the government’s leaders, foster accountability, and allow Albertans to collectively change the negative perceptions others have of us. Most importantly, I believe it will enable Albertans to discover and achieve their greater sense of purpose for life in the province.

I hope you decide to be a part of evolving Inspire Alberta from a grassroots initiative into a movement, and I encourage you to support to help in the best way you know how.

Go to InspireAlberta.com »
View the news release »
Follow IA on Twitter: @InspireAlberta »
Twitter Hashtag: #inspireAB
Visit the Facebook Page »

Design Inspiration can Come from Anywhere

As designers, it’s easy to look at a singular item (be it a logo, a business card, a brochure, etc.) and think to ourselves, ‘I like this, I don’t like that’… but pulling together a cohesive brand identity, and incorporating the look, the energy, the spirit, and the voice across multiple mediums can sometimes be frustrating, and at times even impossible. Especially when you have a myriad of stakeholders and agendas involved.

One thing I have always tried to maintain in my creative process is to constantly be open what’s going on in other creative outlets. The cool thing about design inspiration is it can literally come from anywhere. For example, the curves and lines of a brochure piece might be inspired by the lines of a clothing design; a colour composition for a new corporate identity might be inspired by an abstract painting. Even the most brutal designs can inspire if you (like me), are one of those people who always strive to make it better.

Painting above by the amazing Marie Danielle LeBlanc.


Almost everything I see and do gets digested (either consciously, subconsciously, or superconsciously) and comes out in my work. Designers, like painters, sculptors, writers and musicians, have a distinct way of looking at the world around them and translating what they see into something new and beautiful so that others can learn to appreciate it.

Everyday I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore my creativity through work, and I don’t think that is something everyone can say.

Are you a designer? Where do you get you inspiration from?

5 Reasons to Rebrand (Redux)

Why rebrand?

And when I use the term “rebrand”, I’m not talking about creating a new logo. I’m talking about redefining your mission, position, and strategy. When is it time to chart a new course? Here are five great reasons to seriously consider rebranding your company.

1. You have no competitive advantage.

Cool sells. Bottom line. Apple is a prime example of the ‘cool’ that other companies attempt to copy but rarely duplicate. Apple’s cool was not by accident. It is the result of a killer strategy and precision execution. Cool companies don’t chase or copy cool. They create it.

If you look and sound exactly like your competition what does that say about you? What makes you different? What makes you better? What makes you cool enough in the eyes of your potential customers that they must have you?

Did you write your cliché-ridden content yourself? Do you use lame, inexpensive stock images? If you do, you’ll find comfort in numbers because so does everyone else. Instead, why not hire a professional to write your content. Why not create your own photo shoot using real people — your people in real situations? Did you know that getting a professional writer and photographer is usually cheaper than doing it yourself?

You can’t fake cool. Either you have it or you don’t. If you are truly as different as you say you are, your brand needs to portray its uniqueness through everything you do.

2. It’s unclear what you do.

Don’t laugh. You’d be shocked at how many businesses strive to be unknown. The quickest and easiest way to become unknown is to expand your product or service offering. Sounds odd doesn’t it? I mean doesn’t expanding your offering communicate to your customers that you can fulfill their every need?

No. As the saying goes, ‘trying to be everything to everyone, means you’re nothing to no-one.’ Instead of trying to be pretty good at everything, why don’t you absolutely dominate one category? Own a position and leave your prospects with little doubt as to who is the best choice.

Sure it’s okay that you offer other products or services, but as Curly so eloquently put it in City Slickers, you need to find your ‘one-thing.’

3. You’re irrelevant.

Staying relevant has become increasingly difficult for companies over the years. Twenty years ago it was fairly easy to stay competitive. There weren’t as many competitors, products had longer shelf lives, and consumers were comfortable with using the same product for longer periods of time. Gradually the landscape changed. There’s now infinite choice, constant advancement in technology, and consumers have evolved. We’re smarter, better trained, and more apt to choose companies whose value systems are closely aligned with our own.

We especially respond positively to what is new. We are always looking for the newest smart phone, the newest paint colour, the newest car, the coolest hairstyle, the newest fashion…new, new, new, new, new.

And while new doesn’t always mean better, old is rarely better. Perception as I’ve already mentioned goes a long way. A brand can tell us how much they care about themselves and their customers by how in-tune they are with staying relevant. A tired brand; a brand struggling to remain relevant, doesn’t have a clear mission or position, it doesn’t have clearly visible values for customers to align themselves with, and it gives customers the impression business isn’t good. This usually leads customers to believe the product and service aren’t up to par as well. (And chances are they’re right.)

4. You look unprofessional.

Many new businesses leave the image of their brand at the bottom of their to-do lists. The reasoning is it allows the business to get up and running while dodging the initial discovery and design costs. This is totally understandable and depending on the type of business, sometimes I recommend it. The company needs to discover itself through the formative years. Quite often a company doesn’t realize their true identity or their niche until they have a few years of business under their belt.

That being said, there comes a point in time when your ‘DIY’ attitude towards business needs to stop. The problem is many business leaders don’t know when to put their company’s image to the firing squad. And because of this, there are many companies out there with images that represent the way they used to be.

A good rule of thumb is to update your brand image when it doesn’t portray the professionalism you want it to. If you stick to this rule it could mean that you’re re-imaging after a month, or even after a year if business goes well. You have to remember that whether you like it or not your company has an image, and good or bad, it’s always representing you. An unprofessional image can often do irreparable harm because much of our decision making as consumers is based on preconceived perceptions. If you don’t look the part, how can you expect to attract the right kind of business?

Business is like dating. And in this case, it’s like you’ve landed a long-shot date with a supermodel, and you decided to wear your Zubaz pants to the party. Impressive? Not so much.

5. You don’t inspire.

The best brands defy convention and build excitement. It’s important for your customers to feel something when they buy from you. How does a customer get inspired? Well, you’re a consumer — what brands inspire you? What’s so inspirational about them? Do they have a funky space you love to hang out at? Is their product so unbelievable that you tell everyone about it? Do they have staff that are so helpful, so knowledgeable, and so cool you’ve become their biggest fan?

Inspirational brands start by inspiring their employees. The employees should be as much a part of the brand as the brand itself because they are the ones delivering the experience. They need a brand they can believe in; and if they don’t, quite often it means it will be tougher to believe in themselves. When your employee pulls out their business card, don’t you want them to have the comfort of having a brand they can stand behind?

Too many business owners don’t build inspirational brands and then wonder why their sales team can’t sell. You might have the best product out there but if people don’t believe in you, you might as well pack your bags and call it a day. Crash the car. Go home.

When inspired, your employees can potentially become your biggest evangelists and thus your most inexpensive medium for advertising. It’s called word of mouth marketing (and as we all know, word of mouth marketing is the most powerful form of advertising around).