SwitchCube is the name that Matt and I have chosen for our coworking space in Abbotsford BC.
We’re touring a few spaces tomorrow, and look like we’ll be ready to start making some offers on places as soon as next week. At the meetup we held last week, a lot of people were eager to get going soon 🙂
We also settled on our corporate color: purple. (Or some shade thereof …) Thanks to Kuler, we have a palette as well:
You may notice something different at the top of this page … an actual logo, rather than just the word “sparkplug 9.”
I’m still experimenting, but I did get a logo done for Sparkplug9 as I continue a bit of a rebrand of this space: from my personal blog and home on the digital range to my consulting business’s corporate site. I’m experimenting in public, which is why you’re seeing intermediate steps along the way.
As I continue this path, which includes the tagline “light up the web,” please let me know if you have any feedback. Love it? Hate it? Don’t care? It’s all appreciated.
There are three versions so far. Only two will survive.
As a logo for the top of this website:
As an icon for apps, Facebook, and so on:
As a vertically stacked logo (this one may not survive):
It’s always exciting to get new Moo cards. New business cards are cool, but new Moo cards are awesome.
Moo cards are personalized business cards. I’ve loaded mine up with my own photography, which is easily imported from Flickr. This time I decided to get full-size cards – here’s a quick peek:
Notice the nicely curved edges? And, of course, the stunning images 🙂
It’s always fun to give out a card with some personality. And to ask someone to choose which one they want … and then tell them the story of the photograph: where it was taken, when, why, what it is. That makes the act of handing over a business card so much more personal, so much more meaningful, so much more fun, and so much more creative.
And here’s the back:
There’s a pic of me on the back, which matches up with my profile pic around the web. So it should be easy to remember who I am. Notice, however that I messed up and instead of intelligently cropping, there’s only a piece of my left eye showing. I should have either cropped it out entirely, or included it entirely.
Sparkplug9 has been happily logo-less for 8 years. 8 years!
However, since I’ve been consulting more intensely in the past 3 months, I’ve decided that Sparkplug9 MUST HAVE A LOGO. I mean, with a logo, even a solopreneur looks pro, right?
So, I’ve been playing with Photoshop (bad idea) and searching the web for inspiration (better idea). All I can say is: creative commons is a great thing.
So, with a little help from Abdullah Najeeb Photography, who are very gracious to post their photos to Flickr under a Creative Commons license, and a little help from Photoshop, I’ve built a logo. Well, actually, I made a few … all based around a flame from Abdullah’s photography.
Unfortunately, they suck
Next step: find an actual designer 🙂
[ update ]
I’ve posted a project on Guru.com. Three designers have already submitted their proposals, so I hope to be happily logo-fied shortly!
That’s understandable, to a degree. Who likes being measured and analyzed … especially when the results may not always line up with how we think of ourselves. Or, when there are concerns about the methodology and accuracy of the measurement.
(In other words: avoiding extinction due to ignoring the rise of social … and the consequent change in customer expectations.)
Solis is a big thinker, and releases books with big thoughts. And I’ve had his blog post in a browser tab for almost a week now, wanting to blog about it but not sure how. Now I know how: simplification. Or, if not simplification, at least short-ification. Because if brevity is the soul of wit, Solis may not be the funniest man on the planet.
So, here are Brian’s 10 trends, shortened:
Social networks & key influencers
Geolocation & social
Referral & recommendation systems
Gamification of everything
Holistic branding & customer experience across MANY platforms & networks
New expectations of the modern consumer
You really need to go and read the article, which is great. But I wanted to boil down the essence of why business is no longer “business as usual” in fewer words.
I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with businesses and organizations that are recognizing the need to do something – anything – with social media.
The why is simple: they want to be where their customers are. The how: not so simple. Where do you start? What’s important, and what’s nice-to-have? How do you enter a social space appropriately, and how do you connect with people?
Here are 10 tips for businesses getting started with social media:
Claim your space
Domainer squatters are capturing all available domain names. And social squatters are doing similar things. So protect your future interests by automatically claiming your brand on any social media site. You don’t always know which ones will become significant remember Pinterest’s amazing growth) so cast a wide net.
Start by listening
Just like you wouldn’t show up at a party in a foreign country talking at full volume acting like you own the place, start slow. Start by understanding a social network before you try to establish your own presence. Reddit is very different than Facebook. Twitter is not YouTube. And different communications tactics and strategies work in different places.
Talk to a pro
If you’re new to social, buy some time from a long-time pro – a consultant who does social for a living. Even if it’s just an hour a week, get some tips, get some strategies, and most important, get some quick feedback on your ideas. A small investment here will save big dollars down the road: especially if you do something catastrophically wrong and create a PR nightmare.
Start a blog
Participating in social networks is like renting: it may make a ton of business sense, but it’s not on your own turf, and you don’t make the rules. Tilt the field a little in your direction by starting a blog, where you own the land and you set the rules. Everything you do here is an investment in your own property.
Connect with others in your industry
See what your competition is doing. See what your colleagues are doing. You can avoid mistakes that others have made, and you can learn from successes they’ve enjoyed. You’ll need to travel your own path, but you don’t have to do it in ignorance.
Know your story
Just like coming to a business meeting for networking, know a few things before you go. Who you are (your brand, your story), and what you want (your strategy). People who don’t know who they are or what they’re interested in can be boring … and the same is true with companies and brands. So figure it out before you open your mouth.
Be able to act on what you learn
As you engage with current and future clients, you’re going to hear some things that are going to need to be acted on. So have good communication lines with people in your company who manage marketing, production, customer relations, PR, and so on. Nothing’s worse than hearing about a major problem at your company that you can’t do anything about because you haven’t built your bridges first.
Lighten up and have some fun
Social media is … wait for it … social. So reading from the corporate strategy manual is a non-starter. Selling like it’s a TV ad is a waste of time. And keeping the stiff, formal tones of the annual report is not going to cut it. Social is about people, so talk like a real person. Just like you’d want companies to talk to you.
Be social, don’t just do social
Social is not something you do, it’s a way you live. So don’t just do social for the company, participate in social media yourself. Get as many on your team and company to do likewise. This will teach you the culture and communication styles of tomorrow’s clients and partners.
Set some goals
Nothing in your company gets done just to get done. Everything has, or is supposed to have, some kind of strategy – some link to what makes your organization successful. Social’s no different. Establish goals and track progress toward them. And, obviously, align your goals with company strategy … but make them realistic given the character of social networks that you’re engaging with.
Not only do we get to recognize great lower mainland companies who embody the ethic of diversity, we’re going to hear from Bobby Lenarduzzi, the great Canadian soccer player, coach, and executive. With 47 caps for Canada for international play, including going to the quarterfinals at the 1984 summer Olympics, Bobby is a legend. We’re super-happy to have him as our keynote speaker.
In addition, I’m pretty excited: I’ll have the privilege of introducing Bobby to the crowd. He’s the prototypical “the-next-speaker-needs-no-introduction” type of speaker, but I’m sure I’ll find something to say.
If you’re not already coming, please register online to attend. The awards are Tuesday, April 17th, at 6PM, and will be at the Vancouver Four Seasons at 791 West Georgia Street.
As we all know, Google+ is about to add brand accounts. And, following the Myspace get-the-bands-and-the-fans-will-com strategy, they’re working hard to get Hollywood stars on Google+.
I think that’s a bad strategy … if you really want a truly social experience.
For those of us who are on Google+ right now – here I am, let’s circle up – there’s a real excitement, a buzz, an eagerness, and a charge to using Google+.
There’s a lot of reasons for that:
it’s new and we like shiny new toys
friending is more manageable than Facebook and Twitter
sharing media is easier, quicker than Facebook and Twitter
Google+ is integrated into much of (not yet all of) the Google world we live in online
But that’s not the most important reason. The key reason a lot of us on G+ are absolutely loving it is the MASSIVE ENGAGEMENT FACTOR.
People see things. People post. They reply. They argue. They circle. They +1.
In other words, this social network is social. Whoda thunk it? In fact, it’s intensely social. So social that people like Digg founder Kevin Rose redirected his personal blog to his Google+ profile.
My worry and my concern is that by bringing brands in, Google+ will turn into a less social experience. And instead of being a valid and differentiated alternative to Facebook … it will just become more similar. Facebook is a huge marketing platform. Google+ is an innocent, young, on-monetized social network.
I know it can’t stay the way it is forever. But is it possible there’s another path?
Inspiration strikes a the oddest moments – such as a stroll back to your hotel in downtown Toronto.
Where I happened to notice this Grand & Toy truck being unloaded:
“Nobody looks at office supplies the way we do.”
Seriously? That’s your brand? That’s your tagline? Really? What on earth does that mean?
Are you confessing to unnatural urges? Do you have an autistic view of office supplies, like Rain Man, counting sheets of paper in each package and mentally dividing all the pens according to color and size?
A brand is important. A tagline should convey something real as well as expressive about that brand. It shouldn’t be a throw-away that lacks any real meaning.
Whether you’re an individual, brand, or company, it’s good to know when people are talking about you. It’s even better to know what they’re saying.
The last thing you want is to find out that there’s a firestorm of negativity about your latest post, product, or brand when a forest of media microphones are thrust in your face and the media trucks are camping out just off your property. Instead, you want to be in tune with what people are thinking and saying, and you want to be able to enter the conversation with your perspective.
Here are 8 quick, simple, free tools for listening online:
Best and easiest:Google Alerts
Set up an alert. Set it to be emailed to you at the frequency of your choice. Wait for the messages to hit your inbox. Could it possibly be simpler?
Most immediate and fun:Twitter search via RSS
Enter your search items. Grab the RSS feed. Save it in your RSS Reader (Google Reader, or any offline reader). Watch the items get pushed to you every 15 minutes – or however often your reader updates.
Web 2.0 old-skool:Technorati
The fact is, Technorati is not what it once was. But it can still be a useful tool to electronically eavesdrop on what millions of bloggers are blathering about. Go, search, subscribe to the RSS feed. Simple.
Pretty much the same as above, except this search engine focuses on what opinionated people – the 5-10% who comment on blog posts – are saying. Visit, enter your search terms, and get email alerts.
This can be particularly helpful if you’re in packaged goods or electronics and you want to check out how you’re being reviewed (example: Panasonic TV). But you can just visit the home page for generic search and cast a wider net.
Really old school:Google, Yahoo!, perhaps Live
Maybe, if you want to know what people are saying about you, you should just search the web. What a thought! Alas, you actually have to do it yourself, although you can set up some automated searches too … but it’s a good idea to do it weekly or so.
Social media ear to the ground:Facebook, MySpace, Friendfeed, etc.
More and more people are joining social networks, meaning a lot of the web’s conversation happens behind closed doors. But you can get in … perhaps with your own profile, perhaps just with judicious searching, perhaps by joining conversations … and hear what’s going on that’s important to you.
Yes, discussion boards still exist:BoardTracker
Online discussion boards still exist, despite their low profile in the web2.0 era. Even though they’re one of the oldest forms of online community, they are in some cases still growing. BoardTracker is a good way to search these often thinly sliced vertical niche sites. And yes, you can set up alerts to come to you,
So … that’s 8 ways of listening to your clients and your community that won’t cost you a dime, and in most cases not even much time.
Here’s a response I posted this morning on a Seeking Alpha story on Apple’s brand that seemed to imply it was all about marketing:
“All Day Breakfast” hit the nail on the head.
What people who don’t really understand branding don’t understand is that the best branding, the longest-lived branding, and the most financially remunerative branding is branding that is a result, not a cause.
The brand is authentic because it first arises from actual value and actual experience.
Brands that are invented via marketing alone are typically short-lived, expensive, and doomed to crash and burn. The product and the client experience need to be what the branding says in order to generate long-term value.
(The comment’s not showing up yet on Seeking Alpha … I had to sign up … they have an email authorization … I haven’t got the email yet … )
Seth Godin posted an article on really bad branding a couple of days ago, pointing out some company names that don’t differentiate companies very well:
Jewelry Central is a really bad brand name. So are Party Land, Computer World, Modem Village, House of Socks and Toupee Town.
It’s a bad brand name because Central or Land or World are meaningless. They add absolutely no value to your story, they mean nothing and they are interchangeable.
Why is differentiation such a key marketing strategy?
It’s simple – you only truly succeed as a brand, and as a business, by being top-of-mind in your targeted clients’ minds. And you can only be top-of-mind in your clients’ minds by having a clear, identifiable, distinguishable identity … ideally an unique identity with a story.
The name is a piece of it – an important piece. The image is an important piece. The story is an important piece. The products you choose to create and market are important pieces. The successes you build are important pieces. The customers that you enable are important pieces.
Put them all together, you’ve got a brand.
But if it’s not differentiated … if a client can’t distinguish your name, image, story, products, and successes from competitors … all of it is meaningless.
Because that client will open up the yellow pages (in other words, Google), search, find you and your competitor, and go eeny meany miny mo. Which means that all your hard work and all your investments in marketing mean nothing. Differentiation, which needs to start before your marketing, and even before your product development, is an effort to ensure this doesn’t happen.
This is all obvious. So why are so many companies not differentiated?
Here’s why: differentiation requires discrimination. If you want to be differentiated, you must say no. There must be certain products you won’t build. Certain markets you won’t pursue. Certain clients you don’t want. These are all clear and undeniable corollaries of choosing certain products that you will invest in, certain markets that you will pursue, and certain clients that you definitely do want.
However, many companies can’t say no.
They fail to see that in saying no, they gain increased capability to say a very focused, powerful yes.
About a month ago I took the three blogs I was maintaining and combined them into one: this one.
That included my business/technology blog, my family/personal blog, and my Christianity/faith blog … and that was quite a combination.
One response I got about that was fairly typical, I think, of how many of my business/technology blog readers might have responded. It happened to be from Juan Carlos Hernández Cámara, a blogging acquaintance:
Hey, I am just curious of your decision of merging all of your blogs… isn’t a branding principle to diversify with different brand names and focus each one?
I am interested in your response since (no offense) some of the subjects that you are now incorporating to your bigger blog are not relevant for me or maybe I don’t care to associate them with my blog.
What’s your strategy?
Here’s the reply I gave him:
Sorry for taking so long! I’ve been insanely busy …
I have been thinking about your question and would like to write a detailed answer. I guess the short version is:
you’re right as far as branding goes
but I stopped wanting to parcel myself out into bits
and I stopped wanting to treat myself like a brand
I am who I am. I don’t expect everyone to like everything about me, or even necessarily anything about me. But I can only become my best me by being honest and real and integrated.
The point you make about irrelevance is a real one, as is the point you make about maybe there being pieces of me that you don’t care to associate with. I can only say that the essence of decency and the truest sense of tolerance is being able to associate with people who have traits you disagree with. But it doesn’t mean you shun them or hate them … and it doesn’t mean that you have to be silent about them either.
It does mean that on some things we may respectfully disagree.
And here’s the reply I received back:
Awesome and inspiring answer John… your my kinda’ guy!
I thank you so much for it. It tells me a lot about you and elevates my respect for you.
See ya around!
That was a wonderful conversation … and I hope to have more like it in the near future with others.
What an incredible year to watch and learn from CEO-level behavior in times of crisis and difficulty. First we had Jet Blue, faced with an impossibly difficult situation, take to the airwaves on YouTube, apologize profusely, and announce a new passenger bill of rights. While Menu Foods practically hid their CEO during the pet recall issue, Mattel put their CEO, Bob Eckert, on the website video airwaves to nurture trust and confidence in the wake of the toy recall (a still-in-progress case study). Now we have Steve Jobs, who just wrote and posted the most remarkable letter in response to concerns about iPhone’s recent price decrease. He coupled an apology with a $100 Apple credit for all early-buyers of the iPhone. This is classic Defensive Branding. I predict it will be one of the most discussed, debated, and linked-to letters of the year, and so far I’ve already counted over 800 unique blog postings referencing his letter since 6 PM last night.
He needed to pick it up tout de suite but the Honda sales rep wanted to slow him down. Apparently the car needed to be detailed yet.
When my buddy declined the detail in favor of getting the car sooner, the rep said he couldn’t do that. Asked why, he replied “the law of Honda.” Apparently it’s Honda law that every car gets detailed before leaving the lot.
Sounds like good customer service … and good customer service matters … BUT …
The customer gets to decide what service means!. . .. . .
(That, and the fact that he was told the car was en route from a different location while it was actually sitting on the dealership’s lot all day somewhat soured my friend’s new car buzz.)
Mike Wagner has a great post (and follow-up) on how poor service, breaking promises, and essentially not living up to their brand cost a hotel $30,000 … all for a missing toothbrush.
Here’s the story:
He was in town to deliver a seminar, had forgotten his toothbrush, tried to take the hotel up on their stated in-room offer of providing replacement items for things that guests have forgotten, and was invited to purchase an over-priced toothbrush at the gift shop.
Here’s the result:
A seminar participant shared with the group, “I’m negotiating a contract for more than $30,000 with that hotel later this week. We bring our most important customers from around the country here throughout the year. That’s the hotel where we were planning to have them stay. Now maybe we won’t. Their sales staff has been great to work with, but if that’s the way they deliver on their brand…”
Key point: it starts with the people who want the buzz to spread. It starts with the people who are building/creating/growing/nurturing the product/process/market/widget.
Buzz starts in the hive. No buzz in the hive – no buzz on the street. You gotta drink your own koolaid, eat your own dogfood, be passionate about what you want others to be passionate about. If you can’t, tear it down and start over.
Text Link Ads just informed me that (yay!) they’ve sold another ad for me. (You can see ’em down near the bottom of the right column under, appropriately, text link ads.)
This is cool, because it pays the hosting bills and because I make more from TLA than I ever did from Google AdWords. It’s even more cool because text link ads are incredibly aesthetically better than AdWords. But it’s uber-cool because the latest one is for VentureThree.
Naturally, when someone wants to market themselves on my blog, I check them out. And VentureThree has the coolest interim site I’ve ever seen.
The title at the top says Branding | Brand Consultants | Strategic Identity Consulting Design, and the page looks like this:
I think I just saw one of the worst company names in history. OK, after ACME.
A truck passed me today on my usual lunch hour walk. On the side, in hand-lettered type, was the name of the company: Alternative Cartage, Inc.
I can just imagine how this plays in marketing.
“Um, yes, we’re Alternative Cartage Inc., and we do want your business, sir. The one thing I can tell you about us is that we’re definitely different than the other guys. See, they’re them and we’re us. We’re an alternative.”
Not the best alternative, not the only alternative, not even a better alternative, but I guess, yes, they are an alternative, just like everyone else.
I do give this business owner a modicum of credit, however. At least he didn’t name it Agressive Trucking along with the other 20 bozos who had that bright idea.
Or maybe he saw them in the Yellow Pages and figured that being #21 was worse than having an even lousier business name.
[tags] business, name, naming, branding, john koetsier [/tags]
I had no idea that chocolate was only for men. But then again, I’ve never been to Russia:
In case that’s not quite clear enough, there’s a warning on the back:
My niece just came back from Russia – visiting with her dance troupe. Amazingly, she attended a session in Catherine the Great’s private theatre. She also saw these wacky chocolate bars from Nestle.
Why are they only for men? I’d love to know the story – I can only guess.
Maybe manly Russian men don’t eat chocolate, and this is Nestle’s version of a Marlboro cowboy. Maybe the chocolate contains testosterone and other male hormones that would have deleterious effects on women.
If you know the marketing story behind this, let me know! (Please.)
The idea of this product creation, intended only for men, is based on deep understanding of a modern man psychology. “The role of woman in a society is more and more increasing. A distinction between a woman and a man is gradually drawn. So much the men would like to have things, which will belong only to them. Considering this need, “Nestle” company developed a key idea of “untouchable man’s property”, which was laid in the basis of Nestle® Classic for Men strategic concept”,- Aleksandra Tarasinkevich, senior manager of trademarks of confectionery products department of “Nestle” company, says.
[tags] nestle, chocolate, men, russia, marketing, john koetsier [/tags]
I popped into the local Toyota dealership a couple of days ago …
I’m looking for a car, and since our company is going through a lean transformation (essentially, we trying to grow a culture based on the Toyota Production System) I thought I’d check out the products of that process.
Unfortunately, while all of Toyota’s products are excellent mechanically, none of them stir my soul in the least. Camry, Corolla: bland as white bread. The Prius is interesting ecologically, but vanilla in terms of style. And so on …
I talked to the sales guy about it, telling him I was interested in something with style and aesthetic appeal, and he said that 80% of the market is conservative … buying 4-door sedans without too much regard for style and look.
Is that true? I sure hope not.
[tags] market, conservative, aesthetics, toyota, john koetsier [/tags]
I’m thinking/working/dealing with branding lately. Traditional branding sucks … isn’t that where some guy throws you to the ground and jams red-hot poker and right up against your ribs? Ouch! Who wants that?
Here’s a thought (it’s not really an idea) about modern branding:
Great companies don’t brand their products. They allow you to brand yourself by choosing to buy their products.
(In case you’re wondering, I had to boldface that because it’s so mindblowingly significant. Just so you know. You know?)
Think: do people buy a BMW because it has more X than the competition? Put whatever you want in X: power, style, leather, agility, rubber, buttons – whatever. The answer is: of course not.
People buy a Beamer to brand themselves.
Now they’re Beamer people. Someone to be taken seriously. Maybe not Trump, but Trump-ettes. (OK, that came out wrong.) Seriously on their way, dude. Going somewhere, even if they’re on the wrong side of the freeway.
If you can get that that stage as a company where people buy your products to brand themselves, wow you have it made.
Whether branding is still painful when you D-I-Y, I have no idea. I’m just an Apple-using iPod-sporting mac-addict.
What do I know?
[tags] brand, branding, bmw, john koetsier [/tags]
Denying he had seen that particular commercial, Mr. Gates said, “I don’t think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are.”
I hate to say – and don’t get all self-referential on me – but anyone who uses the word “dullard” is probably a dullard.
[tags] bg, bill gates, microsoft, apple, ads, advertising, john koetsier [/tags]