Why you are called to create something that matters

Do you want to create something that matters? A business that makes a difference? If you want to change the world with your work, click through for advice from someone who has!

Do you want to create something that matters?

That sort of seems like a trick question, right? Who says “I’d like to create work that’s superficial, boring, and disposable?”

Nobody, right?

But sometimes we’re reminded about the importance of putting good things into the world by … magazines in the grocery store checkout line.

There I was, three months after giving birth to my son and buying a few groceries in a rare respite outside of the house. As I waited in line, my eyes scanned across the magazine headlines screaming at me from the checkout stand:

“Hate Your Butt? 5 Secrets to A Body You’ll Love!”
“Miracle Cream Erases Wrinkles Forever!”
“How to Be Rich and Powerful…And Work Less Than Three Days A Week!”
“(CELEB) Tells All About Her Life, Loves and Drug Use in Hot New Autobiography Buy it Today!”

A wave of panic flooded over me as tears sprang to my eyes. Frustrated tears. Angry tears.

Was this the world my darling little boy has just entered? This is what he has to look forward to once he learns how to read? Yikes.

Maybe it was post-partum hormones but, really…no. Anyone who knows me knows I have hated hyperbolic marketing and trashy reality TV (worse, people who are famous just for acting like infants) for a while.

And the digital marketing world is no different: people promising riches, 6-figure incomes, and pretty much everything but an evil lair in your own mountain hideaway (although it’s probably out there).

Despairing, I surfed social media when I got home and just felt sicker. All the noise, empty claims, the “Buy This!” and “You Need That!” It seemed everyone was promising people – entrepreneurs and women especially – a pot of gold at the end of their own personal rainbow.

I’m all for optimism. But I’m also for truth and value. For putting in the hard work required to build something wonderful. And many people I know offer such value to their clients and customers every day. You just can’t always hear them above the din.

Then, I finally got it. It’s not about silencing the crazies. They will always be there, promising people the sun, moon and stars, and yes, they will find an audience to believe.

But the more of us who pledge to put something good out into the world, something decent, and thoughtful and true – the more the tide will rise and lift us all up. It’s not about stopping them. It’s about stepping up ourselves and ensuring the stories we tell are honest, the work we deliver is quality and, most importantly, the marketing we create has value and meaning.

We see examples everywhere, if we look hard enough. People like Marie Forleo, Alexandra Franzen, and Jay Baer market themselves and what they offer with integrity, hope, and meaning. These are the ones we should emulate. These are the people we should strive to become.

Make meaning. You owe it to this noisy world to create something amazing and market it truthfully. (Tweet this!)

What’s your point of view? You’d better know.

10.6 Point of View (blog)

Creating thought leadership for your brand means you have something to say, a point of view to add to the conversation. If you just roll along the way everyone else does, what sets you apart? At that point, you’re simply a lookalike commodity and just another voice adding to the noise.

Being a thought leader means having a clear point of view. What’s yours? (Tweet this!)

Brand leaders who share a clear point of view make it really easy for prospects to say, “Hey! I like what she’s saying and how she thinks…what she offers is perfect for me.”

Scared to express your point of view because you don’t want to risk alienating anyone? Remember my mantra: “Everyone” is not a target market. You cannot be all things to all people or you’ll be nothing to no one. Power brands know that some people may, at best, ignore them and, at worst, despise them. It’s okay. They are not your target customers or clients anyway.

If you don’t clearly express a perspective, a philosophy, or a reason for being you’ll get lost in the marketing cacophony. And no amount of “But my products/services/offerings are the best” will help you, my friend, because no one will even know you’re there. In your quest to please everyone and “make as many sales as you can” you will attract nobody.

There are many ways you can express your point of view:

To express your point of view, you of course have to know what it is. What do you stand for? What do you believe? What are your brand values and attributes?

Want to gain clarity on your brand point of view and how to share it with the world? Check out my digital self-study program, MOMENTUM Pro!

 Photo Credit: Stephanie Watson via Flickr

What’s your brand position? 5 moves you can try

What do yoga, the Kama Sutra and brand strategy have in common?

It’s all about the right positioning. (Tweet it!)

When your brand finds the right position to attract the right target customer, it’s like star-crossed lovers meeting in the rain at the Eiffel Tower. It just works. There’s connection. There’s magic.

But what does “positioning” really mean? And how do you land on the right position for your brand? Positioning is not just about ensuring you speak to the right buying drivers of your ideal customer or client, but also about how you stack up against alternate choices.

Think about it in terms of brands you know: Does Porsche really position itself in the same category as a Volkswagen? Are they speaking to the same needs of the same target audience? Heck no. In a past post, I shared how brand analogies are a useful way of wrapping your arms around where your brand plays in the market.

Let’s discuss some broad-brush options – there are nuances to all of these. One is not “better” than the other, as there are markets and customers for everything. And you can offer a few of the same things, but what is going to be your Lead Offer? How do you primarily want the business to be positioned in prospects’ minds?

  1. PRICE: Price is a good choice if 1) you can achieve volume and 2) you are targeting an audience that cares about price as a buying driver. The fine jeweler Tiffany & Co. doesn’t position based on price, because that’s not why people buy from them. They buy from them because of elegance, cache, and luxury craftsmanship. Walmart, however, positions itself based on “lowest prices” because of their target customer and their volume and reach. Positioning based on low prices has its drawbacks: this strategy attracts the least loyal customers because if they find a lower price elsewhere, that’s where they will go. Someone can always undercut you, and it’s hard to defend long term. Plus, you may not attract the customer or clients you really want.  Competing on price has a tendency to “cheapen” your brand and perceived value. Some people may avoid you thinking your low price says something about the quality.
  2. QUALITY:  This positioning is not about price but about value. This message will resonate for people who are not as price sensitive but care about results, aesthetics, or craftsmanship. This position works if your products or services do indeed deliver the highest quality. If you tout high-quality products, they better last. If you are a life coach competing on quality, you’re going to have to have some strong testimonials and success stories to back up this claim. Price becomes a non-starter if you are leading with a quality position.
  3. EXCLUSIVITY: This position is about scarcity and limited access, as well as cache. It works if you offer a limited amount or only take on a certain type of customer or client, which can be can be perceived as higher value. Again, price is not an issue – and in fact if it’s too low, it could raise red flags.  A club with a expensive VIP wait list. A pricey seminar with limited spots. An event planner who only takes on four celebrity weddings a year. This strategy means you may well be targeting a very specific niche of client or customer – so your  customer list needs to reinforce this position. Many high-end designers or stylists employ this strategy. With this strategy, you are looking to attract people who want to be “in the know” and appealing to their sense of jealousy or aspiration. They are more attracted to you because it could be something they can’t have!
  4. SERVICE: Are you all about the customer experience? Do you respond within 8 hours? Do you offer a 100% money back guarantee? Do you customize your consulting offerings based on each client’s needs? Do you offer an amazing concierge service? How do you go above and beyond? Nordstrom combines a quality positioning with a strong customer-service component. So does Zappos. In my book, Branding Basics (2nd Edition) I included many case studies from small businesses that combine a quality position with one of dedicated customer service. Be careful, though, when combining low price and quality service: It’s fine to offer both – Walmart doesn’t necessarily want their employees to be rude to customers, right? But “best quality” and “lowest price” can often contradict each other and confuse two different buying drivers. Again, what is your “lead” position – who is your target market and which do they care about the most?
  5. PERSONALITY:  You can position based on your brand voice, look and feel. How do you you talk and act – and thus, WHO you are talking to? Are you the quirky, playful, whimsical one? The trusted, conservative one? The edgy, innovative one?  Again, choose wisely as the personality you position yourself around should map to the person you’re trying to attract and speak to their buying drivers.

Offshoots of a personality-based position include social good: positioning your business not as the best quality, or cheapest price or most exclusive but as the one that benefits a good cause. Tom’s Shoes positions themselves this way to appeal to a certain buyer who is driven to buy based on social responsibility.  They may not make the best quality shoes, or even talk about how much they charge. But they are leading with their social good message.

Another offshoot  is thought-leadership: is your business, founder or CEO a visionary or does the market look to your business as a bellweather? Think of Tony Hsieh (Shay) from Zappos talking about excellent customer service and “delivering happiness.” Steve Jobs and Apple. I once worked with an IT consultancy client. What they did was not unique but the CEO was an amazing man with an impressive military background and strong values. We combined a thought leadership strategy with a brand voice strategy to make his company stand out from the competition. This may not work for you in the short term or until you achieve scale and reach, but it is something to think about.

OK, great. You know you need a positioning strategy. How do you choose?

  1. First, take inventory of your strengths and attributes which are authentic to what you can consistently deliver.  It’s not the time to pretend to be something you know you can’t possibly deliver. What do you do well, or if you’re rebranding or launching, what will you do well?
  2. Now, identify those attributes that are most
    1. Relevant (does your target ideal customer care? Does it speak to how and why they buy?)
    2. Unique (none of your competitors are positioning this way or going after that particular buying driver. We call this “whitespace” in the market)
    3. Compelling (which ones will generate buzz and align with your company’s culture and personality?0)

Once you land on your position, you can communicate it through all your brand messaging, customer touchpoints and even look and feel.  Kismet. Connection. Ease.

Want guidance in determining your brand position, strengths and voice? Check out my self-paced digital course MOMENTUM Pro!

Photo credit: Bozdoz, Benjamin J. DeLong, Flickr

How is your brand positioned? To which target audience and buying drivers do you most appeal? Are you struggling to determine your position – maybe I can help? Please share below in the Comments!

Is accountability dead?

Sometimes, it feels like our world has turned into a giant game of tag. People and organizations are constantly pointing fingers to blame mistakes, gaffes and actions on someone else. The ink barely dry on headlines, and people are shouting, “Not it!” in an effort to get the spotlight off themselves.


  • GM uncovers ignition flaws on their Cobalt years ago, but instead of fixing the problem at the time (too much money and time) or recalling the vehicles immediately (or even now, doing a full recall to ease public concern, they blame the drivers:  “… the Cobalt and other recalled small cars were safe to drive as long as drivers used only a key and not a heavy key chain.” (WSJ)
  • Retailer West Elm backorders my table by over 2 months without notifying me. When I email to complain after checking my order status, there is no apology or offer to rectify – it’s simply “the manufacturer’s fault.”
  • An overnight dog boarding facility skips my dog’s dinner which I discover due to food being left over upon pick up. While they investigated the cause, the response? “We’re sure he was fed but it was probably another dog’s food.” Which is also not a good thing. No apology, no mea culpa, no offer to make it up to us, compensate us a free stay, etc.
  • An intern fails to report status of the work she’s doing. When asked to correct this going forward and work on improving her communication skills, she responds with, “But it’s not my fault. You never asked for a status update.”

Is apology a dirty word? When did accountability go out of style? Whatever happened to “The situation is what it is, for whatever reason. How can we now make it right?”

When it comes to your brand, how you respond to crisis says more about you in a louder fashion than the thousand heroic acts you may do when things are going right.

Explanation is not a substitute for accountability. Make things right to protect your brand. (Tweet this!)

It may indeed be factual to blame someone or something else for why you’ve disappointed your audience, client, or customer. Traffic, lost shipments, sudden illness a personal emergency that distracts you. All valid, all believable, all true.

But that doesn’t give you or your brand a free pass to disappoint and go back on your word. I can’t even count how many virtual assistants or interns I tried to hire who had something interfere with doing what they said they were going to do, leaving me and my business hanging.

Responsibility is defined as: the state of being the person who caused something to happen. Accountability is defined as: the quality or state of being accountable, especially :  an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Simply put, you may not be responsible, but you need to be accountable.

Hey, I get it. Life happens. Believe me, I know this better than anyone. I was in the middle of a client project when I had a brain aneurysm.  The firm under which I was subcontracted immediately sent in one of the principal partners to replace me so the client would not be left in the lurch.

I once gave an overseas client back a non-refundable deposit and lost money on the deal – after delivering all the work promised in the contract that she (allegedly) read and signed-  simply because she abusively claimed it was not at all what she needed or asked for. English was her second language, so I think there may have been a major communication gap. But at the end of the day, in her mind, she did not get what she asked for and it was not worth it to me to argue with a crazy person. So I took a loss: I still had to pay my subcontractor who did her part. I wished the client well and told her to use the work we’d delivered if she wanted.

You can be creative. You can find solutions. You can ask for patience as you honor your commitments. You can offer an alternative or line up a replacement. Or like a dedicated writer I know, you can go a night without sleep to deliver what you said you would if someone is counting on you.

What can you do to make things right? What can you do to turn disappointment into delight? What can you say to make the person feel heard and appreciated? It’s not enough to say, “Well, this is why it happened. So deal with it.” It’s YOUR responsibility to turn the situation around as best you can.

Epilogue: After a tweet, West Elm told me to contact elevated support, the woman personally located a comparable item from a sister company, credited me back the difference and added a 15% discount on top of it all to boot. Nice. I told her my biggest frustration was the cavalier attitude conveyed in the initial email exchanges. True, I didn’t get this service level until I took to Twitter to complain (that should not be the case) but in the end, she turned around my negative experience. It was not “Judith’s” fault this happened. It was not even West Elm’s. But they are the face of the transaction and they (finally) took care of it. Nice.

When have you bravely taken accountability for disappointing a client or customer even when it was “not your fault?” Would love to hear your heroic story in the Comments below!

Beneath the bling: Can you back up your “brand goods?”

We all know bling when we see it, right? It’s shiny, sparkly and distracts the eye from a person’s face, outfit or arrogant scowl (talking to you, Tabloid Divas). Crafters love the Bedazzler because it turns ordinary white t-shirts into dizzying love fests of color and light, temporarily blinding people as they walk past you on the street.

We can also use a little sparkle and fairy dust now and then. Hey, I love diamonds, too.

But sometimes brands get a little crazy with the Bedazzler. Instead of fixing their product or service flaws, they hide behind new bright shiny logos, cool websites, clever packaging or slick ads. Or their sales landing pages scream with neon arrows, BUY NOW! blinking icons and 80-feet of testimony and schmooze.


Maybe they think we’ll just tire out and click Purchase. Maybe they hope to distract us from their horrible customer service or cheaply made goods. Maybe they don’t really know the “10 Secrets to Creating a 6-Figure Business” and feel that with some shouting, sparkle and spitshine, they can fool us.

I don’t know. What I do know is articulating your brand strategy helps you make smarter design, messaging and yes, even packaging choices that promise to the right people what you can authentically deliver. I’m a HUGE fan of clever design and cool concepts. But as Jay Baer states in my upcoming 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (coming Apr 1, by the way – don’t forgot your Launch Week Goodies!) “Polish is the enemy of scale.”

If you have real value to offer and know how it needs to look and who really needs it, you can get away with filming useful and entertaining social media tip videos in your office like Amy Schmittauer (another expert in this new edition). You can publish a neat, well-written Word document turned PDF rather than an overly designed, fancy 90 page interactive worksheet if you can deliver the goods. You can skip the expensive Herman Miller conference room chairs if your tech start-up team is focused on building the best damn product under the sun.

Don’t write a brand check your business can’t cash. (Tweet this!) Instead, focus on continually delivering the right stuff to the right people with the right message and the rest will take care of itself. Bling or no bling.

Photo credit: Brandon Baunach, Flickr

Are you signed up?

My FREE teleseminar 5 Clever Ways to Boost Your Brand Online has limited lines so hurry and snag your spot for Wed, April 2 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. By attending, you’ll be eligible to win a free signed book, or one of three FREE Brand Bootcamp digitial courses. It’s all part of the Launch Week Frivolity for Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition, coming next week. And don’t forget all the Digital Swag Bag launch bonuses you can get to boost your business if you purchase the book before April 7. Can’t even tally what it’s all worth!

The secret to differentiating your brand? You.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde (Tweet!)

What makes your brand, business or creative endeavor uniquely you? 

When we’re insecure teens, it seems easiest to just copy someone else. At that age, originality is just too risky.  Or is it?

Let me take you back to 1988. My best friend and I were inseparable. Whether it was busting out dance moves to Whitney Houston’s latest hit, swooning over teen heartthrobs (she: River Phoenix, Me: Kirk Cameron – before he went all oddballs) or taping our own version of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies (hopefully lost forever), we found comfort in our shared interests and tastes.

But the scandal that threatened to rock our friendship? We bought the exact same denim miniskirt jumper.

I admit, it was adorable when she bought it and naively thinking it would fun, I went and bought one, too. It fit both of our lean frames to a T. But she was not pleased at all and as you can guess, the inevitable happened: we wore it to school on the same day. Now granted, out high school teemed with more than 2000 students, but still….she didn’t speak to me for a whole day, which back then felt as long as the Civil War.

And I realized I had messed up.

In trying to take a short-cut and simply copy her style, I failed to cultivate my own identity – and ended up coming off like a first-rate tool.

What works for someone else may not work for you. Either it’s not at all believable, or it just looks desperate and sad. Just think about all the Apple lookalike ads you may have seen for sub-par (and not as cool) technology. But the inverse is also true: what works beautifully for you may be laughable for someone else to even attempt. (Tweet!)

You need to walk your talk and authentically deliver what you promise. How do you do that? By embracing and owning who you authentically are. It’s your story. Only you – with your perspective, experience, world view, sensibility, taste, emotion and intelligence – can tell it the way you  tell it.

While visiting the UK, I caught a news program on an MSNBC-type network. The pundit shouting at me sounded an awful lot like Rachel Maddow, who I happen to like. But it was a sad attempt to mimic her success – down to the cadence and tone with which she spoke. It was clear she was trying to replicate someone else’s success rather than create her own.

Why do we think it’s easier to copy someone else rather than break new ground? Why do we feel that our story is not as valuable just because others have told something similar? If we all thought that way, another book would never be written, another painting never created, another innovative clothing design ever produced. (Tweet!)

Can you imagine? “Well, we all have enough shirts in the world, don’t we? No need to design another one.” Please.

When working with my branding clients, our process always starts with the unique spin, strengths, perspective and benefits they offer that no one else can, regardless of if they offer something that thousands of other people do. No one else can do it like they do it.

That is how you build a breakout brand  – find your uniquity and let it shine. I mean, there’s tons of branding strategists out there, right? But you’re here, now, visiting moi. Thanks for digging my unique style!

Photo by Levi Saunders on Unsplash

Face forward. Eyes on the road. The one rule you should never forget when chasing your dream.

Years ago, I got into a car accident on Virginia’s George Washington Parkway, just outside of D.C. Morning traffic crawled along on this gorgeous bypass road that runs alongside the Potomac River. I was happily headed to my gig as a Marketing Manager at Discovery Networks (yes, I used to get to put on marketing events for The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC – before TLC turned into trashy reality programming….loved it.) Glancing down to tweak the radio, I only took my eyes off the road for a second, but it was enough to miss the guy two cars in front of me stopping short. I jammed my foot on the brake  – WHAM! – slamming into the car in front of me.

The responsible culprit – the car two cars up – disappeared. My hood was slightly crunched and something was dripping from the engine, making the car undriveable. Thank God traffic had been moving so slowly at the time. The police officer was sympathetic to my plight when he heard what happened, and it ached him to say this but…

“Sorry. I have to cite you. You rear-ended her, even though she slammed on the brakes because of that other car. Her responsibility was the car in front of her which she didn’t hit. But you did hit her, so unfortunately, you’re the one at fault.”

I get it. We all learn in driving school about the two-car (or is it three? See, I forget…) distance rule: You are responsible for leaving the appropriate stopping distance between yourself and the car in front of you so that if they do slam on the brakes, you can avoid an accident.

Kind of a powerful metaphor, don’t you think?

You are responsible for what’s in front of you, not what’s behind you. (Tweet!)

You can’t change the past so stop cursing that horrible old boss, lamenting that start-up you passed up that made everyone gazillionaires, fretting over whether you should have taken that course, attended that event or invested in that opportunity. Interpersonally, stop dwelling on who’s nipping at your heels, what other people think about what you do or who’s more successful than you.

It’s done. Face forward. Eyes on the road. All of that nonsense is their business. Not yours. (Tweet!)

What are you responsible for now? Only your goals, your forward-momentum from this point on. Forget the distractions. Stop looking back.

God is clever. There’s a reason he didn’t put eyes in the back of our heads. (Tweet!)

Photo credit: epsos.de on Flickr

What one event, opportunity or insecurity will you let go of today to keep your eyes on the prize? Please state your intention out loud and share in the Comments!


Is your brand a “bad boy?” 3 signs you might be breaking hearts

You know the type. They knock you off your feet and you’re hooked. They come on all strong with promises of love. And yet, the reality of dating these bad boys (or gals, for that matter) falls so short of your dreams. They are always late. They never call when they say they will. And they continue to betray your trust and hurt you – but when they do, they always apologize in some grand style that you can’t help but falling for their charms once again. Stuck in this cycle, you begin to wonder if maybe it’s just easier to accept this unhealthy relationship because you’re tired, it’s comfortable and you just don’t want to be alone.

But did your mama ever warn you about those bad boy brands?

Oh, they exist. You know they do. And based on the last few years of bad experiences with United Airlines, an airline I used to adore, I’ve come to realize how easy it is to wake up one day and realize you’re in bed with a bad brand….and you know you’re going to come back again.

Here are 3 signs you are in a relationship with a bad brand. Or worse, that your business, organization or project is doing this to your poor customers:


  • You’re a smooth talker and sharp dresser – but you break your promises: United makes some pretty great ads and videos touting their renewed commitment to serving their customers. Each flight, you are forced to watch smiling, happy real-life employees talk about their job as more of a calling in caring for you like a mother hen. The CEO, with his silver-fox haircut and dazzling smiles reinforces how much United has improved in customer service over the years. Yes, they talk a good game, but after that screen goes dark, you are back to surly gate agents, chaotic ticket counters and a complete lack of respect of information. Good-hearted brands walk their talk. Recently, I witnessed a ticket counter worker refuse to help a poor non-English speaking passenger during a chaotic cancellation fiasco at SFO. She waved him away and barked quick and incoherent orders at him that even I, a native English speaker, couldn’t understand. It bordered on racism. And the other night, we had a horrendous experience with delayed flights at Orange County airport, where they kept making us go back and forth between gates, confused 2 SF-bound flights,  and had no clear information – and then the gate agents had the nerve to get snitty when people who had gone beyond the bounds of patience got anxious and frustrated. Like a bad boy, they made us feel like it was our fault. As if we had no right to be upset.
  • You make the grand gestures – but you keep breaking hearts: After my delayed flight fiasco last week, the crew and in-flight team finally apologized over and over again (“Baby, I’m so sorry. I swear I’ll never do it again!”). We received follow up emails routing us to a special website for our feedback and also offering some sort of compensation. Yes, I took them up on their offer for 3,000 bonus miles. But if this kind of behavior were not par for the course with them, I might be more willing to talk about how delightful was this gesture. Instead, I know they are just slapping a Band-Aid on the problems and that they tried to buy my loyalty and silence rather than earn it. Make-up gestures only work when they are rarely needed, not when they are the rule. Nice try, but too little too late.
  • You pretend you’re listening – but you’re not: Tweet @united if you ever get a chance. I’m not sure how they run their social media, but the first time I ever did this, I got a reply that was so obviously automated, it was laughable. It didn’t even address my original Tweet topic. Fast forward to sharing my fiasco last week and…..radio silence. Not even the automated garbage this time. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Do the same thing with airlines like Jet Blue or Virgin America and real people with real personalities are there to serve, responding right away to see what they can do. And they actually DO SOMETHING. Don’t bother playing the social media game if you have bots replying to people’s issues. It takes more than opening a Twitter account to say you’re engaged effectively in social media. How do big brands with the kind of resources that United has still not get this?

I always had a special place in my heart for United, as they were my first airline loyalty program. When I was a consultant for a Big 6 firm right out of college, I traveled with them every single week and got to enjoy the status perks that came along with that. Plus, I live in San Francisco, which is one of their hubs. But that brand love has been eroded by their bad behavior over the last ten years to the point that I don’t believe a word their CEO says. Sure, heroic acts of kindness from individual workers over the years has helped keep me “on the hook” and that is why I just can’t seem to say goodbye – plus being in a hub city, I’m often forced to fly with them.

But is that really the brand you want? One in which your customers are just “hanging on” and settling for the abuse until a better option comes along?

Now it’s your turn! What “bad boy” brands have you experienced? What do you do to ensure your brand doesn’t turn into a bad boy itself? Please share in the Comments!

Embrace your freakdom: Creating a breakout brand with Kelli Bielema of Shindig Events

I was hit by the hurricane that is Kelli Bielema at a recent Seattle entrepreneur panel which I moderated. Instantly, I fell in love with her vibrant personality and quirky branding for her event planning business, Shindig Events.  Her business creates “events that rock your face off” so you instantly know you’re not dealing with your everyday event planner.  Kellie longs to be a “Froot Loop in a world of Cheerios” and admits she stole that personal mission off Pinterest. She describes herself as a “Country girl who pines for city life. Chicago. Los Angeles. Seattle.”

Clearly she is not trying to attract your average bride or event maven. And I dig that about her. She boldly presents a unique alternative and either it speaks to you or it doesn’t. That, my friends, is targeting your brand and speaking to your tribe. But one thing is for sure: her brand stands out. So I sat down to ask her what advice she could share as you try to build a breakout brand.

RS: Welcome Kelli! I adore how your brand stands out in a world of very copycat event planning competitors. How did you determine your unique brand?

KB: When determining my business model, I knew I wanted to channel my party-participating energy into my party planning skills. Parties are fun and your planner should be too. The branding or marketing aspect part of an event is actually my favorite task, so I wanted to reflect that in my own business.

RS: Who is your ideal client? Were you ever afraid that claiming such a funky and offbeat brand would mean less revenue?

KB: People who are fun, flexible and funky are my targets.  We spend a lot of time together, doing everything from brainstorming to budgeting and then the event itself is often a marathon event, so you ultimately want to like and respect one another. You’ve got to have a sense of humor during the whole process or you are going to go bonkers.  Maybe once upon a time being unique was, well, unique. Any more, I see it as more the norm. People are embracing their freakdom more than ever (Tweet this!) and I am here to help facilitate that. Takes one to know one…!

RS: Well put! Based on your success, what wisdom can you share about effective positioning and differentiation?

KB: Having a point of view is great, but making it fresh, unique and distinct to your personality is vital. Finding out what it is that makes you and your business standout from the crowd is the key to developing marketing success. I’ll also add that being authentic in your business is just as critical as being authentic in your personal life.  People want to like and trust you…show them you are worthy of it by being real!

You can connect with Kelli and Shindig Events on her website, on Twiter @theshindiggery, or on Facebook: Shindig Events

What quirky brands stand out in your mind? What are you favorite ones? What is unique about your business brand? Please share in the Comments!

Do you judge wines by their labels? An adventure task…

While we are all taught not to judge a book by its cover, let’s get real. I’ve bought books, magazines, scented lotions, household cleaners (how can you resist Method’s packaging?) and yes, wine based solely on how the label looks.

I’m a marketing groupie. I admit it. I’m a sucker for cute, clever or crisp packaging.

As a former wine writer and still-active wine lover, I know that some gems are hidden in the ugliest bottles and even price does not necessarily guarantee “bottled poetry” But I’ve fallen in love with cheeky, well-designed wine labels over the years which enticed me to buy and try the product.

Nothing conveys a brand personality – and hints at the quality and delight of the wine experience bottled inside – like a wine label. And there are many diverse ones out there, all trying to communicate why they are good, how they are different and to stand out from the hundreds of options out there.

Your business needs to ensure its “wine label” stands out from the crowd. Can prospects tell what kind of product, service, or quality you offer right off the bat? If you don’t think visual identity or your website quality and design matters (“I offer amazing products/services. That is enough to convey my brain.”)  – think again. One stat suggests that in less than 10 seconds, you have the opportunity to lose or gain a valuable customer – just based on your website’s layout and visual appearance.

Your Slice of Adventure, should you choose to accept it:

Peruse the racks at a local wine shop or the wine aisle of your favorite supermarket.  Pick three vastly different wines based on their labels – don’t look at the price!! Just from the label, colors, font, copy – even the shape and size of the bottle – ask yourself four questions:

1) For what occasion would this wine be a good fit?
2) How does the wine taste?
3) Who is the winery’s ideal customer? Age, personality, lifestyle?
4) How much does the wine cost?

You will soon see in action how our immediate responses to visual cues tell a whole story that words never could. This is how people are judging your business: by your website, storefront, signage, product design. This is a powerful lesson in making sure all of your communication channels convey the right clear, consistent message that you intend.

And enjoy your wine. You didn’t think I’d skip the actual taste/experience test, did you? That’s the fun part.

PS, I’m also in love with unique wine/winery names, especially saucy ones. Here are some for your amusement:

Bonking Frog
Fat Bastard Wine
Spoiled Dog Winery
Kung Fu Girl, Boom Boom and The Velvet Devil from Charles Smith Wines

Please report back your findings below in the Comments – and of course tell us if you recommend the wine! Any faves you already have that you can share? Please do…