What Aspiring Startups And Music Artists Share In Common

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It continues to amaze me that most people feel comfortable in moving in the same current as others. There seems to be a relief in knowing that others are doing the same things. Maybe it’s a mentality of ‘we will all fail or succeed together’ that makes us think in that way.

In business that way of thinking can get you killed – if you are an entrepreneur.

I like to compare the similarities of contrasting business segments. Usually I do so in hopes of finding a similar thread of consistency that propels both segments into success.

Recently, I was thinking how much of a journey to success is similar between aspiring startups and music artists. Both industries seem to operate in a parallel universe where the people with the money are all challenged with investing, or may be even gambling today for a significant return in the future.

Investor vs. Record Label

In most industries there is a person or company that funds the ideas. Record labels fund artists and venture capitalists and investors fund entrepreneurs. Both have limited resources on what they can invest their money in –  which puts extreme pressure on entrepreneurs to develop cool, innovative and useful products and services that deliver significant value to a market segment.

Ideas are cheap, but having a plan, vision and a purpose become prerequisites of those that get funded vs. those who do not. The music artist and the startup have a common responsibility and reality – complete and full differentiation among its competitors. The ‘reality’ part of the equation seems to often elude both, whether it be the music artist or entrepreneur. Many aspiring music artists look in the mirror & tend to give themselves more credit than they deserve, and entrepreneurs fall in that same trap. The judge and jury is the customer and their voice can be heard loud and clear – they either support you with a purchase or they don’t. That’s ultimate metric!

{MJ wrote an article about this here}

To a certain degree, entrepreneurs have a double-sided sword they have to walk; an idea that’s far reaching and maybe too risky versus an idea that’s not innovative enough that gets lost, never to be seen. The closer the entrepreneur and investor are in understanding the realities – the better fit and probably the better outcome will be realized.

 Startups and Music Artists

Initially, the most important thing to know is the approach you will have entering a marketplace and what you want your audience to take away from you.  Kanye West positioned himself as a talented renegade type of artist while Taylor Swift has positioned her self as ‘wholesome’ and ‘Americana.’ Think of it as understanding your brand purpose and building a personality around it. Aspiring startups have the same challenge as music artists – building authenticity and value while increasing their ability to engage with their audience in a unique way.

Though it may be a lot to think about, it’s easier to get that sorted early in your brand development process than to have your target market ‘guessing’ who you are and what you have to offer.

As a music artist has to continually refine their lyrics and several other aspects to their end product, startups are no different. Peter Thiel (PayPal Founder) once said in a video, “ Starting a business is about iteration not laborious research” … he later said, “The latter is cocky and inflexible.”

Translation? Build something, put it out there, and tweak it and repeat until you have a product that is relevant and considerably differentiated from its competitors.

 The Few That Fall Between The Cracks

The very reason you love a particular music artist is the same for brands you love. Great brands don’t always have the coolest products, just like your favorite singer may not have the best voice from a technical standpoint. No matter the physical assets, the brand must communicate certain qualities that embrace the values of their marketplace. It is all about learning how to create a brand personality.

The best explanation of how to create a brand personality is from a video I watched a few years back;

 “ Build up a picture of the kind of brand you think you are. As the brand is learning what it is, It’s also learning what it is not.”

With many startups and music artists, creating a brand personality is often overlooked and usually ignored all together. As  products becoming more blurred, with regard to differentiation, there has to be value established outside of the product or service.

To learn more about this, I suggest watching a short video module I created entitled, 3 Components To designing A Brand Identity.

 The Take-Away

As we can see, startups and music artists have very similar challenges in breaking through and becoming successful. Though a valuable and innovative product or service is the price of entry in building a successful startup, I encourage you to build a soul at the core of your business that reflects the ideals and aspirations of your audience.

Stay Hungry & Hustle Hard!

Gary

The Number 1 Reason Great Brands Are Successful

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Take a moment to think about what brands today are currently making an impact in our society. Try to pick three or four that come to the top of your head… Now take a moment to reflect upon the great brands of yesteryear…

If you truly study what makes brands successful today, you will see a dramatically different picture of what made brands successful back then. Back in the day, the brands that may have come to mind were quite simply those who ran the most advertisements, or who had the most stores – wow have things changed! Cultural shifts change how we look at everything – it’s an all-encompassing change that some embrace and some fall victim to.

For many years, we defined stalwart brands as ‘institutions’ or ‘mega-brands’, but were they really brands? I guess if you defined them by size and revenue… then maybe they were. I guess we had no choice but to call them brands – after all we didn’t know any better because that’s all we knew. Big brands told us what to believe, and we believed it.

Well, those days are long gone. In fact, they have disappeared altogether. Brands like McDonald’s continues to struggle with the coveted Millennial market segment during this fast-moving shift because they are falling victim to what made them successful in the first place – scale, distribution, revenue… and by contrast the little guys (Chipotle, Smash Burger) are chipping away at them like piranhas in a feeding frenzy.

The Davids vs. The Goliaths

So the question becomes… how are the Davids standing toe-to-toe with the Goliaths?

They do so because they are a reflection of the cultural change in society today. They simply speak and deliver on the core values of their market place while the big brands continue to throw looping punches in a fight where speed, agility and integrity are the key skill-sets to creating a winning environment.

Note: For all the articles on this blog on branding and brand strategy, click how to brand a company.

Let’s take a look at the 3 brands below that understand the cultural shifts and deliver values that the marketplace actually cares about.

1) Tesla Motors

 Electric cars of the past exuded a very uninspired design vision. They spoke to the cultural shift of energy efficient and clean technology driven products, but lacked the design aesthetics to really lift the category to it potential.

Tesla bridged these two ideas into a beautiful car that speaks to the ‘clean’ movement in society. Design is function, and Tesla’s effort has led to them to being far and above the category leader (full size luxury sedans).  This category includes formidable brands with long heritages like – Mercedes, BMW and Lexus.

2) Whole Foods

If you were a betting person, you probably wouldn’t give many grocery entrants a chance among the giant retailers occupying that space – most notably Wal-Mart and host of other big grocery retailers. Wal-Mart is selling price, which is a big value to some, but not all.

Whole Foods understood the quality movement in society – not just in its products, but also in the entire process of bringing food and beverages to market.  Health, responsibility and fairness are the cornerstones of their brand and their customers love them for it. They can tell a unique and inspiring story that’s hard to duplicate.

Does Wal-Mart speak to any of those values? A better question might be, Can they? Currently the answer is a resounding ‘No’, as their story is in direct contrast to Whole Foods – lower cost… at all costs.

3) Nike

 There are two brands that tend to get overused when the discussion is about branding… Nike and Apple – but they get this notoriety because they have this ‘branding thing’ down better than most companies.

Nike has dominated the performance and active wear market since I was a little kid. They did, however, fall asleep at the wheel and Under Amour was able to penetrate the market in a very viable and relevant way.

What did they need to do to create distance and differentiation? They focused on consumers and community creation. The development of the FuelBand allowed them to connect products and services into a community of competition that joins people from all over the world. In short, they are selling products disguised as an integrated services offering.

The Wrap-Up

Tesla, Wholefoods & Nike have done a great job in understanding the prevailing movements in our society, and have built products that align with these movements.

As you are building the next great idea, make sure that it’s relevant and useful, but most importantly reflects the culture you are seeking.

 Stay Hungry & Hustle Hard!

 Gary

8 Reasons Why You Need To Hire a Brand Specialist

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In this latest extended video module, I discuss the necessity of companies to hire outside a brand specialist to provide creative business insights that will help them grow. As a brand specialist for a good part of my career, I have noticed that internal employees have daily challenges that inhibit high performance from being achieved.  This module discusses in detail 8 such benefits. Enjoy!

Power Tactics on How To Brand a New Company

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Start-ups are usually known for their innovative products and services, but many don’t understand how to plant the seeds of their branding message. These seeds are lines of communications that speak directly to the marketplace and express the brands essence and spirit . In this expanded training video, I discuss what it means to be a human brand – one whose core values are aligned with a target market. Enjoy, and ‘Brand Like a Human!’

How to Create a Brand Personality That Customers Will Love

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In the past, branding meant being consistent in what your company stood for and communicating that message in a unique way. We have seen many examples of this from the usual suspects, brand leaders Nike, Apple as well as a host of one-time hits that seem to grab loads of attention and take the world by storm, if only for a moment.

The truth is, it is not just about getting attention, as branding is much more than creating noise for the sake of being noticed. The facts are, it is what happens after you get noticed that counts. I believe the key to branding is to figure out how to introduce a product to the customer and create an emotional attachment.

If this reminds you of personal relationships, then you would be correct!

Creating a relationship in business requires many of the same characteristics of courting your partner… In fact, I would go as far as to say that not only do I think it’s a worthy comparison, I believe they’re nearly identical!

What Makes Humans Tick?

Welcome to your new company called “Human, Inc.” Why such a name? Because you are now in the human discovery business, and your focus is to understand what makes humans tick. In order to do that, you have to switch from being a broadcaster to a communicator. It’s not about what you say but rather about how you say it in a way that relates to the customer.

Just like our personal relationships thrive on understanding what’s at the core of our significant other, business relationships thrive on understanding what’s at the core of our customers.

The Seat of Emotion

 Your expedition should start and focus on the ‘Wants’ not the ‘Needs’ because frankly speaking, people talk about what they want – which usually has an emotional edge. As you make your way through all the different complexities of the human psyche, what appears is a molten pit of emotions at the core.

You may be thinking, ‘It is hard enough to deal with emotions on a personal level, do I really have to deal with emotions in business too?’ The answer is a resounding ‘YES’!!

Understand the spirit of your company in relation to the customer – that’s the final destination.

Reverse Engineering Emotions

I assume you’ve heard of reverse engineering a product, but emotions? Absolutely, although it is no easy task, but then again I didn’t say it was going to be easy!

Once you understand what’s going on at the core of your customer, you now have to understand how your company fits into their lives – not your product, but YOU the brand!

To get people engaged and in a take-action state, you have to stir the pot of emotion. And how you sprinkle your company in that pot, will determine if a relationship will manifest itself.

An Immersive Relationship With The Customer

 The best way to learn a new language is to live in the place that speaks the language. Understanding your customer is no different. Your relationship has to be an immersive one – deep customer understanding.

When Abercrombie & Fitch got started, the founders lived on a college campus for an entire semester. Their objective was to have an intimate knowledge of what the college kids preferences were. This ranged from what they preferred to wear to class, off-campus, studying and parties.

They took over 10,000 pictures of students in their everyday life. They had them pinned all over the walls in their house.

When it came down to actually creating the A&F brand, they were armed with an authentic picture of what it would look like and visuals that went along with it. That level of customer understanding created a multi-billion dollar brand!

Pull Then Push

Start with pulling then pushing. The objective is to pull (discover) as much out about what the customer’s challenges are, their feelings, emotions and opinions.

These are the little things people go through everyday.

So now comes the push – your message of shared values that align with the customer’s values.

If done authentically, your products will effortlessly become part of your customer’s lives.

Lastly, these are some of the touch-points you should hear and observe from the perspective of the customer;

 “Keep Me on Top of My Life”

“Give Me Something That Changes My Life”

“ Teach Me Something”

“Help Me Make The Most of My Self”

“Get Me To Act”

“Help Me Become What I Can Be”

Feelings are hard, but as you know with most relationships, personal or business, it’s not about LIKE, it’s about LOVE.! You hear it everyday – I love that restaurant, I love my phone, I love that show – so to get customers saying that about your brand, communicate a human message and wrap your product around that message!

 

Work Hard, Work Smart & Stay Hungry

Gary 

 

 

Are You Creating Your Headline for Your Customer or for Google?

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Unlike the days of the Roman Empire where wars were decided with the victor standing as living proof, creating impactful headlines has 2 winners, or more than likely, just a draw.

Being in this business you come to know and understand that there’s a war between writing headlines that are designed to stir interest and engagement, and those with mundane keyword strategy. I say mundane because keywords are boring. Boring as hell! Continue reading “Are You Creating Your Headline for Your Customer or for Google?”