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So…. What Do You Do?

Have you ever had difficulty explaining the really cool project you’re working on to people? You’re not the only one! Even really smart people get stuck at trying to tell us what they do.

The founders of Instagram, (the iPhone app that is taking communication in the social space by storm), Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger made an admission during an interview last week. They realised the project they were working on before Instagram, (Burbn a location based app) wasn’t going to fly because they were having difficulty explaining it to people. So they changed tack and built something that they could explain in a single sentence. Instagram is, “a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.”

If your audience doesn’t ‘get it’ then how are you ever going to resonate? Resonance is what makes ideas fly, and spread. It’s what elects leaders, creates lovemarks and propels movements.

We need to get better at helping people to understand what we do and why we do it, so they can figure out where our ideas, products and services might fit into their lives. We have only thirty seconds to convince them, that’s one sentence, maybe two.

And perhaps most important of all we need to give people a reason and the language to share us with their friends.

Image by Paul G.

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Framing Your Scarcity

Do you know a woman on the planet who wouldn’t get excited if she was handed this blue box?

I bet if a behavioral economist studied this they’d find that on a scale of one to ten, the excitement about the contents would rate lower than the elation experienced on receiving the box. The scarcity of the blue box is what creates the value Tiffany & Co. This works for your brand, business or idea too. Framing your scarcity enables you to demonstrate your value.

Understanding and acknowledging what’s rare or unique about what you do, or how and why you do it is the key.

Perhaps you make beautiful one off silk scarves? Maybe you only work with two design clients at a time? You might have the ability to stop people censoring their dreams? Or maybe you’re launching an event that sells to just 140 people? Can you build a website in a weekend, or an amazing iPhone app that’s scarce because everyone wants to try it?

Have you spent the best part of four years bringing about the dream of opening an Artisan Bakery that only opens for five hours and sells out of a tiny range every day?

Unless you’re making brass thumb tacks, there is an element of scarcity in what you do and how and why you do it, a combination of your story and your superpower.

Uncovering that and working out how to tell the world about it is your goal.

Image by Andrew Hoyer.

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Your Best Idea….

“There is no map. You are the mapmaker.” Shoshana Zuboff

Your best idea…..

is not always the one that will make the most money.
may be the one that people laugh at.
is true.
could be tested or implemented for close to free.
can be explained in 140 characters or less.
might seem insignificant.
may not be yours.
is scarce.
might be exclusive.
is already out there.
is original.
makes a promise.
is not for everyone.
is untested.
could be instinctive.
might be strategic.
is carefully planned.
is accidental.
has been tried by others.
tells and old story in a new way.
connects people.
scares you.
is impractical.
is generous.
creates meaning.
happens out of the corner of your eye.
is at the edge of what already exists.
doesn’t need the permission of others.
is the one they said wouldn’t work.
could be given away for free.
is your passion.
could be boring.
might fail.
deserves to see the light of day.
is an opportunity.
changes the way people think and act.
solves a problem.
benefits others more than you.
hasn’t come to you yet.
needs a deadline.
brings people joy.
is easy to share.
changes how people feel.

What else?

Image by John Cooper.

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There’s Only One Orla Kiely

There’s only one Orla Kiely but a hundred ways to experience her brand. A brand that appeals across generations from teens to youthful grandmothers.

That doesn’t mean that Kiely’s multicolored designs inspired by the 1960s and 1970s appeal to everyone, quite the opposite. You will either love them or hate them. Orla says that “they are for confident women who know what they like and who are not necessarily victims of fashion.”

I’m guessing that when she moved into designing handbags rather than hats (after her father noted during her first London Fashion Week that everyone was carrying a handbag, but no one was wearing a hat!), that Orla didn’t design things for everyone. She already had a clear picture in her mind of the women she was making things for.

And because they weren’t for everyone her bags were something to covet and once you had one, to share. I was introduced to a friend’s purse once with the words; “this is my Orla Kiely”.

Whatever your idea is, whatever you hope to sell or spread, you need to consider how and why your customer will share it with her friend. There may not be a scarcity of handbags or designers out there but there is a shortage of stories we care enough about to share.

Create those kind of stories and who knows maybe one day your design will be featured on a bus, car, or maybe even a postage stamp.

Image by Tilde Shop.

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What Makes A Good Tagline?

As entrepreneurs and brand builders we like to think that our tagline could be the thing that positions our brand uppermost in the minds of clients and customers.

We want something original and unique, a brilliant one liner that will make us unforgettable. I am asked what makes a great tagline a lot.

I could write a list and tell you that it needs to:

    • Be memorable.
    • Resonate with your idea and your mission.
    • Include a key benefit of your brand.
    • Appeal to the senses not to logic.
    • Help to recall the brand name. “Coke is it.”
    • Differentiate your brand.
    • Communicate positive feelings about your brand. “Love where you live.”
    • Convey the brand strategy.
    • Avoid current trends. Like the one word tagline which anyone could ‘own’.
    • Avoid corporate speak and jargon. Anything that sounds like a bank tagline.

I’d like to re-frame the question though by asking what does your tagline do?

Does it fill the white space on your business card and website header? Or does it communicate your intention to staff and customers? My friend Angela runs ‘Australia’s best cafe’.

Does your tagline stand for something customers can believe? Zappos’ really is, ‘powered by service’.

Does it tell and old story in a new way, ‘3 socks, 2 feet, 1 you’?

Is it easy to spread because it’s true, Moleskine, sells, ‘legendary notebooks’.

Does your tagline create meaning? Is this something your customers, clients or donors care about?

Are you making a promise you can keep, because that’s what really matters?

Image by Jamison Weiser.

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Make Meaning

Sharing your idea with the world has never been easier.

You don’t even need the marketing budget of Revlon like you did in the old days. Today the best brands tell stories that people want to believe and make meaning before making money. Some of the biggest successes of our time, Facebook, Google and Twitter made meaning first and money later. Tiny charitable foundations have found their voice in a crowded marketplace through their ability to tell and share a story that people wanted to believe.

Each of the foundations below started with the passion of just one person and their will to tell a story and spread an idea that would change something.

Childsi Foundation


charity : water

Room to Read

Designers, cafe owners and shoe retailers have done this too. There are a hundred different ways you could do this for free and nothing to stop you.

Image by Bethan.

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Why Magical Trumps Logical

Look around you. Think about the last thing that you bought. It might have been a $4 cup of coffee, the latest iPhone or an ecourse online. Now think about why you bought it. Was it something you needed? Or more likely something that you wanted.

If customers bought everything based purely on logic then Jimmy Choo would be out of business and everyone would be buying shoes from Target.

If every product sold purely because of its features and benefits alone then Alex wouldn’t be willing to wait (first in line) overnight outside the Apple store in Sydney so he could be one of the first to own an iPad 2 tomorrow morning. When I asked him why he would do that; (the magic of Twitter), he told me it was 90% passion, people, excitement and 10% product. He’s there for the story he can tell himself, for the “excitement of meeting people from all over with a common passion for something, a goal.”

“90% of lining up is the company you meet and 10% is the product. You will always have the product to use, but the mates you meet last longer and sometimes forever. Perhaps it is being in line for hours on end with nothing to do but chat with your fellow comrades; or just the excitement that you get from dreaming about having the latest gadget. It’s truly an experience and it’s simply exhilarating. Not easily replicable, but often compared to queuing for U2’s concert tickets or that End-of-Season sale at Manolo Blahnik. In one word, it’s passion.”
Alex Lee (via email from the front of the line 24/03)

Listen to how Apple introduces us to the iPad using adjectives like, magical, awesome, magnificent, gorgeous and unbelievable.

Your customers want you to tell them these kind of stories too. They want to get excited about what you do. They want to trust you to keep your promises. They want to connect and belong, to share in the story.

Most of all they want your brand and your products to be unique, incredible and magical so that they can feel that way too.

Image by mbeo.

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Questions To Ask Before Launching An Idea

It’s not that hard to get really enthusiastic about your own great idea for a business, product, service or movement. But how do you work out if other people will be excited enough about it to spread the idea and buy what you’re selling?

Launching something new might mean that you don’t have all the answers, perhaps though you could start by asking yourself some simple questions?

1. How is this idea different and better than what already exists?

2. What shortcut does it offer? A miracle, pleasure, money, fun, safety, social success or something else?

3. What does one person say to another when they recommend it?

4. Does it appeal to logic or to the senses?

5. Who is it aimed at?

6. Why will people want this thing, book, website or service?

7. Can I tell a story that nobody else can tell?

9. Will this change how people feel about what already exists?

10. Will it make someone laugh? Will it make them cry?

11. Can it be implemented on a tiny scale for little or no money?

12. How will I know when it’s working? What’s my metric for success?

Even if you don’t have all the answers you can still ask yourself the right questions?

Image by Simon Elgood.

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Finding Ideas That Spread

You have ideas every day. Some are great, others are truly awful. So how do you work out which ideas deserve to be executed or which ones have a chance to succeed?

It begins by understanding that the people you are trying to reach have an established ‘worldview‘, their own unique framework of ideas and beliefs through which they interpret and interact with the world.

That means there are some people you can’t and never will reach. They have already made up their minds long before you get there. You won’t convince the guy who buys a box of 200 own brand tea bags to spend $10 a pop on your calming herbal tisanes.

Spreading an idea doesn’t simply depend on finding a new and different “worldview’ either. What it does depend on is how the idea is framed and your ability to tell the story with your packaging, website, book, Facebook page and so on. Most ideas that spread tell a true story, from a different angle that not everyone will pay attention to. I know that feels counter intuitive in a world where we measure everything by volume. Our logic tells us to cast the net as wide as possible. Companies like Apple don’t market using logic and neither should you.

Let’s say you want to enter the bottled drinks market. You understand that you’re probably not going to capture the hearts and minds of avid Red Bull fans, that slot is taken. Maybe you start noticing how a lot of your friends are anti-energy drinks and would never touch one. You’ve worked out the importance of looking at the edges and identify a ‘worldview’. Now you’re ready to design the story from a different angle. So you become The Relaxing Company. You tell the people who are ready to hear it a true story that they can believe, buy into and share. Your aim is not to capture the whole of the drinks market. It’s possible to be successful by just honing in on a tiny portion of it.

Here’s part of how Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda tells their story:

Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda is perfect for stressful situations, when you need to relax, but still need the ability to function.
Long Day. First Date. Road Rage. Job Interview. Deadbeat Boyfriends. Lousy Girlfriends. Long Trips. Public Speaking.
It’s the all-natural soft drink that delivers euphoric relaxation and focus to a stress-filled life.
Within minutes of drinking, a “calming” sensation can be felt throughout the body and mind.
Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda is perfect for stressful, nerve-wracking situations or when you just feel like sitting back and enjoying life.
Made from herbal extracts, carbonated water, and all-natural cane sugar, it’s good for your body and mind.

The Relaxing Company are successfully spreading their idea because they discovered an ‘unfulfilled worldview’ and built something around it. You could spread your idea this way too by:

1. Identifying a worldview.
2. Designing the story from a different angle
3. Fulfilling the emotional wants not simple needs of your audience.

Before Little Miss Matched socks were sold in pairs. And before Twitter the news broke on TV. There are almost 7 billion people on the planet. All of the worldviews are not taken.

You just need a great idea!

Image by Andrew Hudson-Smith.

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Framing Your Brand The Ikea Way

You don’t need to be a multi-million dollar corporation to do what IKEA does really well. In fact it’s probably easier to implement some IKEA-think into your business if you don’t own a huge factory.

Sure IKEA might be an iconic brand but it’s not their size, their logo or their buying power that keeps us coming back. What is it that makes IKEA so irresistible to the millions of people who shop there every week? What makes them the biggest furniture retailer in the world?

The fact is the IKEA isn’t actually in the furniture business, they are in the aspiration business. They sell us a story that we want to believe. It’s a story about ‘loving where we live’ (even if that happens to be a back of beyond bedsit) and ‘making space for the things that matter’.

What’s amazing is that this huge, slightly irreverent brand seems to understand us. They know that our dreams are the oxygen of any shopping experience. Not only do they allow us to dream but they positively encourage it. Their room displays say: “This could be your place. Take your time, wander through, let the kids jump on our sofa’s, make yourself at home.”

So how does IKEA frame their brand story in a way that makes us want to keep coming back?

They start by telling us the truth.
This stuff isn’t going to last forever but it looks good and it’s affordable.

They walk in our shoes and anticipate how we are going to feel at every stage of the experience.
The store is out of town and we have to make a day trip. No problem they have a cafe which opens early. They understand that harassed parents means shopping hell, so they try to create shopping heaven with free childcare, reasonably priced food, toys you can touch and games consoles. And yes they know we hate queues and it’s been a long day but hey, the cheap hot dog is visible from the checkout so we’ve got something to look forward to.

IKEA speaks in our language.
There’s no jargon and no hype in their marketing. “Love where you live.” They make it about us not them…..this is how and where our stuff might fit into your life.

They give us what we want because they know how we live.
You’ve got a problem (too much stuff), we’ve got the solution (somewhere attractive to hide it).

They understand what we’ll need before we’ve worked it out for ourselves.
Food at the beginning, childcare and snacks. Loading bays and roof racks at the end.

IKEA sells us things we can’t get anywhere else.
Unless it’s another IKEA store.

There are no pushy sales people, they allow the products to tell the story.
We’ve got time to think, space to decide and we can work out where the product fits into our story.

They create an experience we can’t get anywhere else.
The store layout is a journey and everything form the meatballs to Småland feels out of our ordinary, like another world.

Anyone can take some or all of these elements and successfully apply them to their brand. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo entrepreneur selling hand crafted jewellery, a software designer or a cafe owner.

How could you make a hot dog a brand icon? How are you framing your brand?

Image by Aeternitas.

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