What a ‘Brand’ Is and 3 Reasons to Care – Now.

One of my favorite homebuilders got a new logo passed down from corporate recently. When proudly asked by the CEO if they liked the “new brand” – they answered yes. No deeper than that. 

The slightly depressing reality behind this common story is that what could have been an amazing differentiation for a builder – won’t be.  (Indeed, we are in a time when those in the building industry and beyond need to not miss a step, yet many of the steps needed today -never even enter the picture.)  So…let’s start with…

what is a ‘brand’?

A Brand – is what people perceive about a product or a company.  It’s everything that’s been heard, seen…felt about it.  It’s your reputation from yesterday &  today. To really get this – a favorite quote:

If you’re not metaphorically “standing in front of your audience” with promotion and people understand, like and/or talk about you positively – that’s worth something to your bottom-line.  It’s known as positive brand equity.

However- if when you leave the room, the real stories come out and you’re basically looking like a jerk – well no logo is getting you out of that.

3 reasons to care about ‘brand’ – today

Some of you may consider this question a “no-brainer”.  Still, Builders, Developers and other companies with millions of dollars in assets go no deeper than a logo, graphic continuity and maybe a surface competitive positioning when considering their brand.  3 reasons to care about your  “brand” now:

#1  Your Real Brand Can Move Faster Than Ever Before in History

Social media has lifted back the curtain on companies and transparency to the public continues to increase.

It used to be that a problem in the sales office- never got past our 10 closest friends. Now we go to our car – briefly “Like” the brand on Facebook and if possible “briefly” post to their wall telling their whole following that they suck. Then onto our wall to tell our 400 friends about it and for good measure we  jump onto twitter to yell at them again. This takes us all of 4 minutes. Then we start to calm down,  while corporate scrambles to get us to chat privately – or ignores us.

That said,  social media also allows brands an interactive voice to build relationships like never before.  Here when a “problem” arises, you think “Wow that’s not what ____ is about.”  and you get in touch to let them know what’s going on. The heat is lessened in the situation. Sure you’re still pissed, but hopefully the relationship is deeper than just that one salesperson / customer service agent / superintendent.

Bottom-line: Social media communicates your brand in a new, more personal way and can spread directly to your target customer faster than ever before. 

#2. Organizational Effectiveness.

Last week, I read an article titled “The 10 Most Hated Jobs” – 2 of them were in marketing.

“2 –  Director of Sales and Marketing – … The majority who responded negatively cited a lack of direction from upper management and an absence of room for growth as the main sources of their ire.

10 –  Marketing Manager –  respondents in this position most often cited a lack of direction as the primary reason for job dissatisfaction. The most optimistic respondent described it as “tolerable,” and gave it the faintest praise possible by saying, “It’s a job.” (In this labor market, that’s not such a bad thing.)

These are the folks primarily focused on building brand equity and positive momentum for sales…and their biggest complaint is Lack of Direction. [sigh]

Here’s the question – “How can employees build relationships and demonstrate what their company/community/product brand is about – if no one ever clearly told them what it was about?”

People will try. They will interpret as best they can, but with no framework to refer to, the experience provided will vary for customers. The brand perception is muddled and not worth mentioning.

Bottom-line: It takes an intentional team approach to build a remarkable brand. 

#3.  Positive Brand Equity is Valuable.

Years ago a gentleman I worked for who is rightfully considered a leader in the community development industry told me you couldn’t build brand equity. It happened naturally – it was earned.

Today, with transparency at an all-time high – if you set your brand equity goals with your team; perform for customers consistently to meet that goal, and openly communicate the real experience as the social space allows like never before– you can  build positive brand equity. It will be rightfully earned by the team, and not just a natural occurrence.

Become a truly remarkable brand and the value would be: a predisposition for people to consider your product/service/(–approval); a faster sales process; higher referral rate;  lower marketing cost per sale (aka higher ROI) ; competitive differentiation; higher product value. It depends on the team.

Bottom-line:  Companies can intentionally build positive brand equity & it’s worth it. 


KEY TAKE-AWAY:  When you walk out of the room – what do you want people to say? 

At HM-2, we help companies and planned communities clearly define their Brand, engage their teams and intentionally build valuable brand equity. It’s a journey worth taking to get ahead of competitors and excel with customers.


When Surf City becomes NikeTown: 5 lessons in brand experience

Huntington Beach, CAI may live in one of the most branded towns in the U.S.. Afterall, Huntington Beach threw-down with Santa Cruz  to capture the trademark on “Surf City USA” .  However – every year about this time, the big guns come to town with the US Open of Surfing and school everyone on brand experience.

It’s about that time again and I find myself thinking back to how well that 9-day experience comes together and plunges everyone into a world of surf – youth culture – freedom – accessibility creativity and lots of products.  So what is it that these marketers do so successfully to take physical and virtual participants on this journey?

What follows are a few key take-aways to  inspire new approaches to cultivating engaging experiences.

lesson 1 : review positioning

The U.S. Open of Surfing is a respected competition that dates back to 1959. Many might say,  “don’t mess with an institution”, but in the late 1990’s the contest had fallen on hard times. The appeal of sitting on the shoreline for hours watching the best surfers in the world compete was limited. 

In 2001,  International Management Group (IMG) – one of the oldest and largest sports marketing firms – took over.   IMG  re-positioned the US Open of Surfing as the anchor of a massive beach lifestyle festival featuring several sports (BMX, skateboarding and volleyball), live music, fashion shows and an interactive festival. 

This moved the event beyond the hard-core surf enthusiasts and tapped into a larger customer group that embraced the underlying lifestyle and values. Now, Continue reading

great places and brands connect emotionally. meet replay.

“a great place” – a series of engaging spaces for consideration…perhaps inspiration for the people who build spaces everyday. 

meet replay

Replay, an Italian denim company, reaches new heights in brand experience in their stores and view them as key to developing & quickly conveying their brand.  The company seeks to redefine the traditional concept of a store as a mere “container”  Here creating emotional connection is the goal.

And bottom-line what it appears these Florence city-dwellers are craving is  a respite to walk peacefully through a forest and explore the timeless Americana-esque goods nestled with the leaves.   

The ecological theme of this 3-storey boutique was inspired by the undergrowth of a temperate forest that can be found not far from the city.  The stunning two-story vertical garden by Michael Hellgren  is joined with a central fireplace, and a moving water wall to embody the basic natural elements of earth, water, air, and fire. 

The interiors aim to “evoke industrial archaeology areas where natural materials like wood and iron are transformed by a skilled human hand to create a perfect balance between art, matter and sensorial impact.”

 Replay Stores Design Philosophy

“Replay Stores are … based on an awareness of the wide-spread need to experience new emotions and find somewhere reinvigorating…  This concept derives from…the relationship between nature, living space & emotions – and the desire to go beyond the classic conception of a store as a simple container where goods are displayed and only quantitative & aesthetic factors are important.”

Key Point: How places are emotionally perceived by people is critical to brand experience. This takes focus and a clear brand strategy. 

Worth a Visit: Replay  (note: their website is experientially great & corporate profile- really interesting) , Vertical Garden Design  (prepare to be amazed.)

This is the first “a great place” series post, to learn more – click here.

Homebuilders with Klout and What’s Klout…

6/1/11 UPDATE:Klout scores change constantly as the activity in social media is dynamic. I checked back on the Builders in this post 60 days later to see if anything had changed. It had for the positive. Updates shown in orange. ————

In my on-going experiments in social media, I’ve become slightly addicted to  Klout  – the service that measures social web influence based off of twitter and Facebook activity.    Klout analyzes Reach with true Followers/Likes, Engagement with Retweets, Comments, Mentions etc. and Content with topic, frequency  to decide how high your Klout score is. (Range: 1 to 100 with higher being better). 

On the fun side you can easily check out how you rank, how your friends rank and how your competitors rank. KloutPerks add to the experience with the potential to get Free Stuff for being an Influencer. (When I looked into it a Klout Score of 53-70 got some OC locals a sneak Free Movie Preview of a Matt Damon film. My Score…29 to 30 (46)- so goes the dream. ) 

On the business side  a Klout Score is a simple metric to track  social influence on the web.  With Klout, a business can see if they are improving over time. However, this is purely quantitative and  popularity doesn’t always equal real influence. So, take this with “a grain of salt” and a quick look. Note: if you don’t have goals and a strategy in social media – you may grow your influence in a meaningless fashion for your business. A wasted effort.

For brands that want to “get the word out” on a product, KloutPerks offers an interesting vehicle that follows a Code of Ethics for all Influencers to help maintain authenticity. Consider reaching specific influencers by known geography, interest, and sphere of influence.  (See how this applies to the building industry?  ;)  KloutPerks reminds me of Tryvertising” – but MORE.

Klout Influence Matrix 

The Klout Influence Matrix can be used as a framework to bring intention to what you are doing in social media and insight into the dynamics of the social space. 

The matrix shows how people act in social media, by summarizing approaches into 16 profiles. If you understand the Influence Profile that that fits your brand strategy, you can tailor your actions towards achieving it. Act with intention in the social space and you’ll move towards goals.   For a larger version of the matrix – click here.

So…Who’s got Klout in the Building Industry…

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a great city starts with 1 question

In just 4 years Gainesville Florida’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) accomplished the unthinkable: 1,500 new housing units were built, property values increased more than 60%, fiber optic cables were laid in long-neglected neighborhoods, and a signature park on the site of an abandoned train depot was begun.

Pretty impressive for former art student turned redevelopment guru, Anthony Lyons and his team…with help from the design firm of Perkins+Will. 

This success did not start with the typical questions asked by urban planners today, nor did it begin with the myriad of complaints that the locals had about their community. Instead it began with a very simple question… Continue reading

how remarkable is your brand?

Is your brand “remarkable” ?   A huge question that in today’s marketplace really asks “Are you engagingly marketable?” 

Communication is now overflowing with irrelevant clutter;  providing instant transparency; and social media allows everyone to comment with just a click.  For this environment – let’s redefine the word “remarkable”. 

“re·mark·a·ble:(adj) worthy of remarking on.”    

If something is remarkable –    talking about it, actually makes you more interesting . 

Let that sink in.  What is the potential demand for being perceived as more interesting?    What does that mean on Facebook…Twitter…the blogosphere?

Companies in Continue reading

why people “Like” brands on facebook

In April 2010, Facebook changed the terminology of becoming a “Fan” of a Page (Pages are Facebook profiles for companies, celebrities, groups –ie brands) to “Like”ing a Page.  There was lots of discussion about the change, but the end-result is that if someone wants to stay in touch with a brand – they just click a “Like” button.

Is this worth talking about? *Consider that  for people who “Like” a brand on Facebook:

  • 51%  – likely to buy from the brands they engage with
  • 60%  –  likely to recommend the brands they “Like”
  • 49%  –  customers of the brand

These people are customersActively thinking of buying. And open to recommending.  

These are exactly the people brands want to talk with and by understanding the motivations of these people, brands have a much greater chance of successfully connecting with them.

So what is the primary reason  people “Like” brands on Facebook?      

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