Austin McGhie: Brand is a Four Letter Word

brand is a four letter wordA pleasure to welcome Austin McGhie to Intrepid Radio. Austin is the president of the Strategy Group at Sterling Brands, and the author of Brand Is A Four Letter Word: Positioning and The Real Art of Marketing.

In our interview, you will learn:

1. If you use branding as a verb, you are dead wrong.

2. Positioning is the true heart of marketing.

3. People confuse branding and positioning, thinking they are the same thing.

4. “Find what makes you unique, in a way that makes you better.”

5. How to really build a brand.

6. Brand is a response…not a stimulus.

Austin McGhie7. Why people are so afraid to really differentiate themselves. Is it because of our culture’s emphasis on conforming? Or a desire to be liked by everybody?

8. “You have to bake the differences in when you start…You can’t paint the marketing on later.”

9. “Niche is NOT a four letter word.”

10. Why Austin doesn’t really want you to think outside the box.

11. The difference between strategy and tactics, and that most people don’t really know what strategy is.

12. “Strategy is the art of forced choice.”

13. Too many traditional sales reps struggle because they are branding, when they should be POSITIONING instead. The number one reason sales reps ultimately have to sell on price is because they’ve done a lousy job positioning their product or service.

I will be giving away a copy of this book to my mailing list SOMETIME WEDNESDAY, so click here to join the list in time to be in the running!

You can learn more about Austin here, and click below to purchase the book (affiliate link):

If you enjoyed this conversation, and want to hear from other cool and hip folks like Austin McGhie, subscribe to my podcast on iTunes by clicking here. And, a review and customer rating would be much appreciated as well!

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6 Simple Keys To Successful Branding

I was speaking with a prospect of mine from the west coast the other day. We were discussing a brand vision development engagement, where I will help her craft a message and vision for what she wants her newly-formed organization to stand for.

As a result of that chat, I jotted down six things we talked about, and wanted to share these with you. These are some simple, yet critical things you should think about when it comes to executing your brand vision and fulfilling your brand promise.

1. Start with why – Simon Sinek says we need to know why we do what we do. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is our purpose? What is our mission?

2. My obituary model – What do you want your obit to say? What cool story about your life and work should that obit say? What do you want people to think about when they reflect upon your life? So, write your obit right now. Then live it.

3. What emotions do you want people to feel when they interact – or are exposed to your brand? I want to distance run and achieve big things when I see Nike ads. What actions/emotions do you want people to feel with your brand?

4. The “Live vicariously though you” concept. Your story, and your mission, needs to be so compelling that people want to be a part of it, to go on the journey with you. In other words, to live vicariously through you. Read another way, they are living your brand too.

5. How can people contribute to the story? How can they add to it? Look at what Coca-Cola is doing with their Content 2020 initiative. You don’t tell the story of your brand…your audience does. Empower them to do so…

6. Is living your brand promise enough to get you up and moving in the morning? If not, you need to find something else to do….

What do you think? What other ideas about branding can you share…or identify with?


[learn more intrepid branding strategies here]

[you can purchase Simon’s book here (affiliate link):

[photo from flickr]

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Steve Jones on Intrepid Radio – Brand Like A Rock Star

Steve Jones

A pleasure to welcome Steve Jones to Intrepid Radio, author of Brand Like A Rock Star: Lessons From Rock and Roll To Make Your Business Rich and Famous.

Let me just say this. This is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. It is takes the experiences and stories of rock and roll artists, and applies those lessons to branding your business. Trust me when I say, you will learn something from this read. And have a damn good time doing it.

[see special video bonus below - an intrepid companion piece to the book!]

Highlights from the show:

1. We talked about the Grateful Dead, and how they built an international brand by sharing, and giving things away.

2. Jimmy Buffet built an international following selling an experience. It isn’t about your product…it is about the experience surrounding your product.

3. How the Sex Pistols challenged the status quo, and why your business should too…

4. How KISS excels at being different, and why that matters to your branding. You get attention when you do something no one has ever seen before…

5. Is there a business lesson from the Jamaican bobsled team? Find out by listening…

6. What can you learn from Harley-Davidson?

7. Is all hype good for you and your business? Or are you better off with honesty, transparency and a wee bit of humanity instead?

[hint: get a taste of the other artists talked about in this book by scrolling down...]

You can learn more about the book and blog here. And you can purchase the book here:

So, what I thought I’d do is make a companion supplement to the book. Featured below are videos from most of the rock stars featured in Steve’s book. Enjoy, and play along whilst reading the book!

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Taja Dockendorf on Intrepid Radio!

A pleasure to be joined by Taja Dockendorf, principal of Pulp + Wire, a strategic, creative, web and branding firm based in Portland Maine.

The main theme of the show was branding strategy for entrepreneurs, starting off by clarifying what the definition of branding actually is (too many get it wrong). Taja shared what she believes is the critical first step in establishing your brand, as well as what she considers the most important branding mistake entrepreneurs make.

Taja and I talked about how entrepreneurs can maximize their marketing spend, and once they engage a professional agency and consultancy, how to be a better client to achieve the best results.

Lastly, we discussed two critical reasons why entrepreneurs and small businesses should engage on the social web, as well as important decisions when considering your online presence.

You can learn more about Taja and her company by clicking here, and find them on Twitter here.


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Do You “Feel Like Home?” Why That Isn’t A Good Thing For You Or Your Brand

Within the past year, I moved across town. After I moved, my new environs felt strange, different and uncomfortable. Which, to be honest, was just what my life needed at the time – a jolt to get me out of my rut.

But with time, my new community now feels like home. Comfortable and familiar.

I needed both feelings exactly when I needed them. It worked for me. This new place, which once felt foreign, now feels like home. You know the feeling I am talking about…

But how do these feelings of “being like home” impact your brand? Thinking on it, I think “feeling like home” is bad if you are an entrepreneur, business owner and brand.

I cannot remember where I heard or read it, and I am sorry that I cannot give proper credit, but someone recently said that when you are comfortable, you aren’t pushing yourself. You aren’t innovating. And you aren’t learning.

And when you are running a business and trying to serve customers, this is a very dangerous place to be.

Honestly, you should always be uncomfortable when in business. You should never be satisfied. And if you are striving to be comfortable, two things will result:

Boredom. And failure.

And by failure, I don’t necessarily mean going out of business. But becoming ordinary. Irrelevant. Boring. Just one of many on the shelf.

The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas and creations. | Jonathan Fields

Ask the recording industry, or bricks and mortar book stores, if they wished they hadn’t remained comfortable.

No, honestly, many businesses make good profits when they “feel like home” to their new customers. “Ah, a great new product that works for me,” you think to yourself. And you become loyal to that new brand, for a while anyway. And it is probably good to make your customers feel like they’re home.

But you know what happens.

Over time, as a long-time user of a product or service, you get that itch. There’s a new thing. There’s a new idea. There’s a new way. And you almost can’t help yourself in being curious to check it out. Just because it is fresh.

I think that’s human nature. And I think it’s natural.

So, as a business person, you HAVE TO ACCOUNT for this phenomenon, and make it a part of your long-term strategy. You have to expect – and prepare – for it.

Never be comfortable. Never settle. Always learn more. Always seek to question basic assumptions. Always ask your customer how to improve, how to do better, how to remain meaningful.

Because not only is effecting change important to keeping things fresh for your customers, quite honestly, they can invigorate you too.

How many businesses and brands are negatively impacted by the owner who has lost interest, lost the passion, and frankly, no longer cares?

No, the lesson in my life? I will never allow myself to remain comfortable again. I won’t wait to make changes, adjustments that will keep me thinking and innovating. I admit that I used to seek being comfortable. But looking back, most of life hasn’t been. And for the most part, that’s been ok. I’ve learned a lot, and achieved a lot.

Now I accept it as my full-time paradigm. And I think healthy brands should seek that out too…

What do you think?

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[pic by jasonwhat]

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8 Simple Things You Can Do To Stop Brand Equity Bleeding

Your brand is bleeding. And you know it, and need and want help…

…or you don’t care because you are just going through the motions. These are the kind of people spring-loaded to bolt out the door at 4:59pm.

If you want help, sure, you could spend your vast treasure hiring an agency to build (or rebuild) your brand…

…or you could just do these 8 things. And these won’t cost you a dime to implement:

1. Listen to people, especially customers. Don’t placate me. Just look me in the eye and care what I have to say. We can tell when you are faking. And faking, as in all cases, is bad here…

2. Be proactive in solving problems. Don’t wait for a call to customer service. Sense a problem? Good. Take action — don’t hope that it just goes away. I often feel like employee repellent: when I need help in a store, amazing how the people there to help me seem to scurry away.

3. Empower employees to resolve customer problems without needing to “connect you to someone who can help you.” Your brand bleeds when an employee tells me “Let me see if I can find someone to help you…”

4. Remove any risk of customer exposure to an automated phone system. A company goes down several notches in my brand rankings when I have to press one to do this, or press two to do that…

5. And if you do have real human beings on the phone, be damn sure the first person they speak to can address the problem. If you have to transfer customers to several different folks, your brand is bleeding…bad.

6. And again, and I sincerely don’t mean to be ugly here, if you have customer service people, be sure we can understand them. Honestly, it is frustrating when I can’t understand the person trying to help me…

7. Recognize that every employee serves in the marketing and sales departments. Every. Employee. And this means that you need to proactively seek the “how do we improve” inputs from everyone, even the janitor.

Sidebar: you better hire people who want to give input. If you don’t, and you only hire mutes, your brand will soon bleed to death.

8. Make an attempt. And be glad to make an attempt. Even if you can’t solve the customer’s problem, try something. Anything. Make the customer feel like you cared enough to give it a go. This often does more to build long-term loyalty than actually fixing the original problem…

Any questions? What would you add?


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[cartoon by hugh macleod]

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Just Focus On What Is Important, Please? A Branding Lesson

Two quick observations from Super Bowl Sunday…

1. Lay off Christina Aguilera. I’d sooner have a large pipe inserted up my fanny than sing the Star-Spangled Banner a capella in front of 11 BILLION people. The only people more courageous are America’s fighting men and women…

But that said, just sing the damn song. Don’t fancy it up so much that you lose sight of the message behind what the song stands for. More attention was paid to the style and delivery than what the words mean, and it doesn’t surprise me an error was made…

2. I dig the Black Eyed Peas. They make me happy. They make me feel good about life. And thus, I will long be a fan…

But that halftime show was simply silly. I mean really silly.

There was so much going on that I lost sight of what I was supposed, to, um, the what, who, the what, I mean, what was going on? Did I just see Slash? I had more beer than I thought, but I just had Usher show up in my dreams about the Super Bowl halftime show.

And all that was missing was lighted outfits that glowed in the dark. Oh wait…

But at least the sound quality was superior. Oh wait…

Anyway, my point is there was too much happening. Too much going on. It took away from what should have been a fun, memorable show featuring some great entertainers…

And that’s my message with this post.

Just focus on what you do…best.

Just showcase who you are, what you do, and how you matter. Don’t add so much to your “song” that you forget the actual message. And don’t add so much fancy schmancy glitz and pop and buzz that you forget who you are, and what joy you can bring to your audience.

Sometimes, I think we try to add so many bells and whistles that the true magic is lost.

Stop doing that. Just focus on what is important please….


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The Best Blog Post Ever!


But I have a hard time when people tell me they are the best this, and the best that. Or that they host the best networking event in town. Or that they have the best appetizers in town…

“I can sell bubblegum in the lockjaw ward,” some tell me. With a straight face.

I say hooey.

Do this instead. Just be the best this, and the best that. Go ahead and host the best networking event in town. Make the best damn appetizers.

But don’t boast that. I seems fake. It seems hokey. It seems cheap. And “cheap and hokey” isn’t good marketing. People mock you on Twitter. They make spoof videos and pop them on YouTube.

The market will decide. And your cash register will be full of the evidence. Then let others say you are the best. People don’t make fun of that on social media…

I wrote a while back about people boasting of their influence and power on the social web. And I think this is as equally grievous.

Am I alone in this? Agree? Disagree?


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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

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Your 2011 Marketing Plan: Will Cause Marketing Work For You?

Day Eighteen (of Thirty-One):

Question To Ask Yourself: Will cause marketing work for you?

We admire people/organizations that go above and beyond to give back to the community.

I’ve always believed that “giving back” is good marketing. Our society allows us freedom to live the lives we want, to achieve the things we want. It certainly can strengthen your brand to align you and your company with causes and organizations doing good things for those in need, and making the community a better place.

Not to mention (selfishly), doing this will expose you and your brand to a whole new reach of people. Good networking!

What will you do?

What I am doing: I plan to do two things this year:

1. Start a new foundation of my own, partnering with a friend or two. I love helping other organizations, but I want to devote my energies with a cause I am specifically passionate about.

2. I want to sign a non-profit as an Intrepid client. It want to help them go-to-market better, forging deeper connections with its intended constituency… Any ideas?

What about you?


Todd is planning his 2011 marketing attack. He is asking himself a series of hard questions, questions that will fine tune his go-to-market strategy. This December, Todd will share one question per day, hoping these questions help you too…

Click HERE to follow the entire series on what questions to ask as you draft your 2011 marketing plan!

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Shine A Light: A Strategic Branding Shift

This past Tuesday, I served on a Social Media Atlanta panel called Shine A Light.

The gist: by shining a light on the good works of others, you thereby increase the reputation of your own personal and/or corporate brand.

Of course, this isn’t a new concept. We’ve been talking about the golden rule, paying it forward, and karma for a long time. But the point of our panel was to get you thinking about this more strategically. Not only for you personally, but for your business as well.

The best feedback I got was from a gentleman who emailed and said, “well sure, I’ve done a lot of these things, but I have never really thought about this concept from a strategic business perspective.” This was music to my ears.

The decision to embrace this idea that you can spotlight the good works of others – as a strategic marketing decision – can and should be a big piece of how you and your company goes to market.

You can shine a light on customers, prospects, thought leaders in your space, your competitors (yes, i said that. they do amazing things too…), partners and suppliers, and people and businesses you want to interact with.

This builds trust…and trust is an important element in making a sale.

Yeah, we all get marketing that attempts to interrupt and grab your attention. We all get marketing that attempts to display and demonstrate the value of your products and services. But do we understand – or more importantly – have faith in a marketing strategy that focuses on others?

This does require a fundamental shift in how you think about marketing. It requires belief. It requires faith. It requires trust. And yeah, it requires hope, hope that people will value and appreciate the fact that your focus in not necessarily on you and your business, but on people…the people who matter to you and your business.

Achieving that faith is the hard part, faith that this fundamental shift matters. Finding people to shine a light on? The easy part. Or at least it should be. If not, you might be in the wrong business…

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[photo from James Jordan on flicker]

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