Corporate Branding and jokes about The Voice
By: Jeff Barrett
From Fortune 500s to someone who bought their first $10 set of Vistaprints, branding is important. Evident in the term being used more than Men's Wearhouse gives out guarantees. Too often, though, we get caught up in the latest, gadget, tool, piece of technology. It can be overwhelming and doesn't need to be.
There are far more constants in communications than there are variables over time. Branding has been and still is about identifying a market, creating a unique brand proposition and communicating that to a target audience in a timely, relevant and engaging fashion. It is positioning, communication and motivation.
However, advancements in technology have created more opportunities and leveled the playing field. Much attention, for good reason, has been paid to leveraging social media in corporate branding. It's a powerful tool to organize a base of support. Powerful enough to overthrow government in Egypt or get Michelle Chamuel in to the finals of The Voice.
It has been paramount in my branding, the success of my firm and in the success of many others. Still, I have to stress that it is one part of an overall communications strategy. How you put together your brand, how you identify your audience, how you choose to communicate are all first and foremost.
With my background, I realize that sounds odd. I'm one of Forbes' Top 50 in Social Media. I have a tweet chat that trends nationally every week. Humble brag. It's like Tony The Tiger saying Corn Flakes are "Goooooooood." It's like Bill Cosby eating pudding and saying it's J-E-L-L-OK. I promise, it will make sense by the end of this article.
Approach social media as the new golf course. It's where you can meet, connect, rub virtual shoulders and network in a relaxed setting. Just like golf, it has its own rules, norms, evolving standards of communication. In business, golf becomes secondary to the conversation taking place. In social media, remember that the tools you are using become secondary to the conversation taking place. It's all about conversation, not how you are organizing your timeline.
Tools are fun. I wrote half of this article by speaking in to my phone. I'm from the generation that was promised Hoverboards in Back to the Future. I get it. I still want that hoverboard. Too often, though, we read Mashable or TechCrunch and focus on what changes Facebook made. Or we get interested in what the next platform will be and how we might use it.
It's far less complicated. Branding, in 2013, can be broken down to four steps.
Define who you are
Look at your competition before you do anything else. Your brand should be true to who you are but drastically different in approach than your competitors. There usually exists an opportunity to be humorous, serious, or innovative in contrast to an existing brand. Find what makes you unique and do your best to make that apparent.
The good news is that you get to create your own path. Create a culture and communication style that is natural and fits your organization. Comfort is key in communication. From an early age I knew I enjoyed making people laugh. I made it work for me. Don't be afraid to be real, natural, approachable as a brand.
Identify your audience
Take the time to study consumer psychology, what motivates your potential customers to want to engage with a brand and share content. This is the most valuable research you can do. Identify what they want and are not getting from competitors.
"Communicate to your audience not your peers." It's fantastic advice I received from Liz Strauss. When beginning we seek out like-minded individuals. A new technology company may market to the tech community and want to be featured in Technorati or TechCrunch. That's what they read, what their friends read, it's their comfort zone. It makes sense at first glance. However, let's say that same tech company has created a mobile retail app for shoppers. It would make more sense for them to be featured in People, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue. It seems like common sense but this mistake is quite easy to make.
Identify who your audience is and their primary form of communication. Then meet them there and tailor your message.
Create timely, relevant and engaging content
Content that is clever today may be obsolete tomorrow. Timing is everything. Being creative and having a great message are only part of the equation. The first thing to consider is when you will release content. I match up content releases with trending topics or conversations. By inserting content in to popular conversation it becomes relevant. This is where having an editorial schedule for your branding and promotions is vital.
Be aware of what people want to, are talking about on any given day and use it to your advantage. Create content at the right time that is relevant to your audience. Finally, make it engaging. Give people a reason to want to interact with it, share it, ask questions, tell their friends.
Your audience is key in branding. They will build you up if you let them. They will defend you, in times of crisis, if you have built up enough equity.
Bring your audience together
This is the variable in communications. Before social media this was less of a concern. Branding was a one-on-one relationship between the company and the consumer. Now it's a collective relationship. You want to create brand loyalists that talk to each other regularly. You want them to bond collectively with your service or product.
All or at least most of this is universal. It can be done online or offline. Social media is an accelerator. It's an opportunity for small businesses to level the playing field. It's an opportunity for large corporations to seem more human, engaging.
My business model is simple. I motivate brand loyalists to share content. This initial groundswell is then used to convince conventional media (TV, radio, print) to cover the story. News media agrees because it's a known quantity with traction. The result is high exposure with limited cost or time invested.
Remember when I said social media isn't everything earlier? This is why. Social media works in accordance with conventional media, your messaging, your brand loyalists to create effective branding.
Branding is not complicated. It's a circle. Your efforts continuously cycle and work to help the next move. Position in accordance to your competition. Communicate in accordance to what your audience wants and expects. Motivate media to share your content.
Position, communicate, motivate.
Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF
As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.
The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”
It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.
“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”
The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”
Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.
“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”