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What Three Words Do You Want Customers To Think About You?

SEO expert Nikki Pilkington reminded me recently of the three words test.

The idea is simple and works for business branding and personal branding.

What three words do you want customers and clients to think of when they hear your name or think of you?

Three Word Branding Examples

When I challenged Nikki, her answer was “SEO, social media, helpful” – OK that’s four words including one acronym but you get the idea.

When I thought about it for me, I want you to think “profit from differentiation” or something similar – in particular I want you to think of profit and differentiation as a united concept.

If I think of Maserati, I think of “fast, stylish Italian car”. Lamborghini is similar with “fast, flamboyant Italian car”. Ferraris are “red Italian racing cars” to me because of their grand prix heritage.

Aston Martins are “luxurious British grand tourers”

Mercedes means “prestigious, German engineering” to me.

Or for Kylie Minogue I think “Australian singer with a nice bottom.”

Applying The Brand Concept To Your Business

This simple test shows how clearly your brand is positioned in the mind of your customers.

I suggest you stop for a few minutes and ask yourself what you want your customers to think about you in three words.

Then ask a few of them.

If what they say echoes what you want them to say, then you can be reassured that you’ve done a fine job of branding yourself.

But if what they say is radically different, then you have a problem.

You don’t see yourself in the same way that your market sees you.

What To Do If Your Branding Isn’t What You Want It To Be

You have a choice.

Either you adapt your self-image to match what the market thinks and focus on using that to its best advantage.

Or you have to try to change the perceptions of the market to match what you want.

If the market doesn’t have a clear view, then you need to reinforce your brand through constant repetition of a few key ideas. Branding expert Ben Mack calls these “verbatim vitamins” because they pep up your brand.

But if the market has a clear view and it is wrong, then you’ve got a tough time ahead.

Look at Skoda cars as an example.

They used to have a terrible brand image and were the butt of jokes like

“What do you call a Skoda with a sun-roof?”

“Answer: A skip”

Since the takeover by the Volkswagen group, quality is much improved and the brand is strengthening.

But I bet there are people who don’t buy Skoda cars because of the old image.And others who buy despite reservations about the image.

Alfa Romeos have a similar problem. I can’t justify buying a Maserati, Lamborghini or Ferrari but I can afford an Alfa Romeo. I’m drawn to the brand because they are “Italian fine driving cars” but I can’t shake the old “unreliable rust-buckets” out of my mind that was the reputation the brand earned from the 1970s. I think I might need a second car if/when the Alfa breaks down and that makes buying an Alfa prohibitively expensive in my mind.

Why is this clarity so important?

Because it works the other way around as well.

When I think of Nikki, I think of an SEO expert.

And when I am asked about experts in SEO, I think of Nikki and a few others.

That top of mind awareness is powerful.

It’s where the money is.

Any other SEO expert who contacts me faces a big challenge.

He or she has to show me in great detail that they are worthy of being ranked alongside Nikki, Dan Thies, Leslie Rohde and Jerry West.

And it’s an even bigger challenge to create a preference because the space as SEO expert is filled in my mind. It would take a lot of time and it’s time I’m not ready to give willingly because I don’t feel any need to.

You have a simple choice.

You either stand for something and get remembered.

Or you stand for nothing and get forgotten and ignored.

What three words do you want customers to think about you?

It’s Your Turn

You’ve got the chance for a little self-promotion by leaving a short comment for your three words or phrase you want customers and clients to think when they hear your name.

No comment spam around keywords – it won’t be published.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, 4 – Lead Generation

The full title of this book by Sammy Blindell and Miles Fryer is

The 7 Reasons Why Customers Don’t Choose YOU!: And How You Can Change That

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave it Three Stars. This means Worthwhile.

Here is my review.

This is a book about branding and that surprised me given its title

This wasn’t the book I was expecting to read because the title doesn’t summarise the contents.

I was expecting to read about the seven reasons why people (not customers) don’t buy. Things like they don’t know you exist or they don’t believe your claims or they don’t think your value exceeds the price you charge and especially when compared to the competition. [continue reading…]

in Other Business Books

Blue Zebra Strategy – What’s In A Name & Image?

“I like your new blog (Differentiate Your Business now defunct), I think of it as blue zebra strategy” someone emailed me yesterday.

I can see that other people will also think of my blog as the blue zebra strategy blog and a quick search of the Internet shows that I’m not found for “blue zebra strategy”.

That’s a problem which I’m trying to fix.

There’s been a lot of rubbish written about branding and an enormous amount of money spent creating and changing brands. Branding is interesting when you see it as the position you hold in someone’s mind.

The Purpose Of The Blue Zebra – It’s Easy To Remember

Paul Simister is an unusual name which in some ways is good but like all unusual names, it can be difficult to remember.

That’s a branding problem although once you remember my name, the link to business strategy and differentiation should be strong.

Differentiate Your Business “does what it says on the tin” but like all generic names, it runs the risk of not creating a strong and lasting imprint on the mind. That’s another branding problem although the focus and benefits are clear.

I’ve written about the underlying meaning in zebra marketing. That’s about how “me-too marketing” can dazzle your potential customers into confusion, just like the problem that lions have when they look at a small herd of zebras. This phenomenon is recognised in the natural world because the collective noun is called a dazzle.

I believe that the dazzle of zebras is a powerful and interesting analogy that transfers nicely from nature to business.

The blue zebra stands out proud and gets noticed.

And remembered.

You want your business to stand out and to be remembered so you need to follow the ideas of blue zebra strategy.

What Do You Think About The Blue Zebra Analogy?

I’d like to know what you think. Does the blue zebra help to create a picture of the idea of differentiation in your mind and help you to remember my blog and whether or not you’ve visited before?

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Maserati Kubang : Is This A Branding Mistake?

I love Italy, I’m fascinated by cars so it’s no surprise that I feel a huge attraction towards Maserati but the new Maserati Kubang looks like a branding mistake to me.

Fiat have done a great job in reviving the Maserati brand after the dark days in the eighties. I fear the Kubang is a step backwards.

What is the Maserati Kubang?

Estimated to cost about £100,000 the Maserati Kubang  is a luxury 4×4 rival to the Range Rover and the Porsche Cayenne.

Maserati hope that it’s going to be a huge success but its image clashes with just about everything I associate with the brand name… Maserati.

Here is a short video of the Kubang being launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show 2011.

A Jeep Grand Cherokee With A Ferrari Engine

The V8 engine comes from Ferrari and the four wheel drive technology comes from the Jeep Grand Cherokee so it’s got a proven pedigree of performance.

But it’s not a traditional Maserati.

The Ghibli is a classic Maserati from the 1960s. It’s low and sleek and very desirable as it epitomises the glamour from the sixties along with the Jaguar E-Type and Lamborghini Miura.

The Attraction In Building The Maserati Kubang

Two words.

Porsche Cayenne.

According to figures I’ve taken from Wikipedia, Porsche sold 100,806 Cayenne vehicles between 2003 and 2010, 42% of their total sales.

Yes the Cayenne is ugly.

But it is so popular that it is changing what the brand Porsche means.

It used to be clear – a 911, a 944, a 928 – all small, quick sports cars. Even the down market 924 had style.

You can see the attraction that this luxury SUV market has for Maserati or the big bosses in Fiat who wanted to make the vehicle and squeezed it into Maserati as the most suitable home.

Will The Maserati Kubang Succeed?


I don’t like SUV’s, so I must admit I am biased but the lure of the three-pronged trident badge is strong.

Who except for the extremely rich wouldn’t rejoice in saying “I drove down here in my Maserati.”

Mind you I don’t think it’s going to be much of a “pulling car”. I can’t imagine the lady lured into the car park with the line “Do you want to see my Maserati?” is going to expect a poshed-up agricultural vehicle.

Will The Maserati Kubang Damage The Maserati Brand?

The brand has proven to be remarkable resilient from the magic days of my youth – the Ghibli, the Bora and Merak, the Khamsin were all cars to drool over.

Then things got messy but Maserati bounced back.

If the Kubang is a commercial success then hopefully it will provide the funds to launch more proper Maseratis.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Aston Martin Cygnet – Is It A Branding Mistake?

The Aston Martin Cygnet is a small, luxurious car based on the Toyota IQ which will cost £30,000 to £40,000 new.

Aston have taken the IQ and given it a new grill, door handles, leather interior and the prestigious Aston Martin badge (and probably a few other little extras).

I have mixed feelings about this.


Is There A Market For A Small Extremely Luxurious Car?

I believe there is a market for a luxury small car. Not sure about something this small but I always liked the idea behind the Panther Rio, a car from the seventies based on the Triumph Dolomite.

I think the baby Aston will sell.

The Cygnet is a well differentiated product – there’s nothing out there in the market that can be easily compared.

I fancy having an Aston Martin keyring myself although I won’t be buying a Cygnet.

But I also believe that it tarnishes the Aston Martin brand name.

What Does The Aston Martin Brand Stand For?

Play the word association game with me on Aston Martin.

If you’re like me, you probably get words like…

  • Fast
  • Expensive
  • British
  • Sporty
  • James Bond (from the films and not the books).

The Aston Martin Cygnet

So how does the Cygnet do?

Well it’s certainly expensive for a small car but it’s not in the £100,000 plus range.

But it’s not fast or sporty.  It only has a 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine. I read that 0-60 mph was in about 11.5 seconds.

And it’s not British. When I checked on the Internet, it seems that the IQ is made in Japan.

Aston spend 150 man-hours to convert the IQ into a Cygnet so you can see where a lot of the cost comes from.

As for James Bond?

Well I can’t imagine him trading in the DB9 for a Cygnet.

Buying An Aston Martin Cygnet With A One-77

I’ve read that a lot of people who have bought the £1 million plus Aston Martin One-77 have also bought a Cygnet in a “his’n’hers” style deal.

But I think it will damage the allure of the brand.

Why The Car Damages The Brand

“I drive an Aston” will no longer create a mental picture of the beautiful, sleek DB9 or a Vantage. People are going to assume that you’re a wannabee with a Cygnet.

It would make me less likely to buy a proper Aston Martin although I can’t see me rushing into the market in the foreseeable future.

This branding move by Aston Martin with the Cygnet is the opposite to that done by Audi when they introduced the R8.

Aston Martin Branding vs Audi Branding Changes

I had the pleasure of taking a close look at an R8 last week and there’s no doubt that it looks a great car and again it seems to be differentiated as a practical super-car you can drive every day. But even if I was in the market, I have my doubts on whether I’d ant to spend £100k plus on an Audi.

However, having the R8 in the range has added to the prestige of owning an Audi and would add to the appeal of a TT, even if I prefer the design of the old model.

It’s a tough choice at the top end of the car market.

What Super-Car Brand Would You Choose?

How do you choose between an Aston, a Ferrari or a Lamborghini?

Brand image matters and this is an even bigger stretch than Porsche with the Cayenne, which has been a big seller.

Sure the Aston Martin Cygnet may sell plenty but it damages the brand.

What do you think?

If You’re Interested In the Aston Martin Cygnet Car And Not The Brand…

Here are some links for anyone interested in the Cygnet as a car

Aston Martin website

First drive on Autoexpress

Car review

Autocar news

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Stella Artois Cidre – Is It A Branding Mistake?

Stella Artois Cidre is available in the UK. The famous Belgian lager/beer brand have started selling cider or as they call it cidre in the UK in the Spring of 2011.

As I’m partial to a drink of cider, I thought I’d give it a try and it’s not too bad.

But there is a problem.

The Stella Artois Brand

Stella Artois has a very strong brand.

Say “I’ll have a Stella” to a barman and he’ll know exactly what you mean.

Not any more?

If you ask for a Stella, do you want a lager/beer or cider?

This is another example of a company being lazy with it’s branding.

Sure Stella Artois is well known and it commands respect.

But by extending the brand from the lager/beer to cider, it’s lost its meaning.

It’s created doubt and obscured one of the best known, most focused drinks brands with its famous tagline “reassuringly expensive”.

This breaks the laws of branding.

Worse, it is another example of action taken by a big company which can encourage small businesses into making similar mistakes.

Stella Artois May Be Successful

Stella Artois Cidre may be very successful. The company has wide distribution and relationships with all the major supermarkets and it has the money to promote heavily and discount to encourage consumers to sample it.

That doesn’t make it a branding success.

In fact, the more successful Stella Artois Cidre,  the more damage it does to the clear meaning of the brand Stella Artois.

What Do You Think Of Decision To Brand Stella Artois Cidre As Stella?

I’d like to know what you think about the branding.

If you’re a traditional Stella drinker, does the brand name make you want to try Cidre or do you still think “I don’t like cider.”

Or if, like me, you enjoy drinking cider, does the Stella Artois brand tempt you to try it and does it add to your perception of the drink?

Please let me know by leaving a comment.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, 4 – Lead Generation

Guru To The Internet Marketing Gurus

I was watching or listening to Rich Schefren recently and he talked about his positioning as the “guru to the Internet marketing gurus” which he picked up from someone.

I think that someone is me.

I did a quick search on “guru to the Internet marketing gurus” and many of the references come from my blogs.

You see Rich Schefren has been the business coach to many of the biggest names in Internet marketing, a place where the word guru is often used because of their mystical powers to make money.

It’s a very strong personal brand and positioning which no one else can claim.

It’s ironic really because while Rich has built this great personal positioning, I’d say his main product – the Business Growth System – is poorly branded.

It’s a great course if you’re a serious Internet marketer, rather than someone who plays at it to make a bit of pocket money. (Read my Business Growth System Review).

But the name is bland and I bet many people struggle to remember what Rich’s coaching system is called.

In contrast, look at what Jeff Walker has done with the Product Launch Formula. It’s a very tightly focused brand, even though the words are still generic.

Or Frank Kern and Mass Control, full of sneaky psychological tricks to get people to buy.

Or Mark Joyner and Simpleology. I wish I’d thought of that name although I’m not so keen on the book which carries it.

A quick check on Google for search volumes is revealing – exact matches for global search

Business Growth System – 36 per month (and 46 for Rich Schefren business growth system)

Product Launch Formula – 1,600 per month (and 320 for Jeff Walker product launch formula)

Mass Control – 1,000 (plus an extra 590 for Frank Kern mass control and 91 extra for mass control Frank Kern and 260 for mass control 2.0).

Rich Schefren, Jeff Walker and Frank Kern are three of the biggest names in Internet marketing in recent years. This is confirmed by the Alexa.com rankings (Alexa is an independent source of traffic rankings) and is a great way to check on the credibility of anyone who claims to be an expert in the Internet and social media.

Rich Schefren with StrategicProfits.com is ranked at 12,965

Jeff Walker with ProductLaunchFormula.com is ranked at 24,031 and Jeff has just finished another of his launches for PLF so traffic spikes sharply in the last couple of weeks.

Frank Kern with MassControlSite.com is down at 54,267.

Rich Schefren is getting more general traffic but it’s not brand related.

The problem is that his Business Growth System is a business growth system. Product Launch Formula is a business growth system and so is Mass Control.

A strong brand name can become a generic term – think hoover and xerox – but a generic name can’t become a strong brand name.

in Internet Marketing

Marmite: A Classic Love It or Hate It Brand

I keep telling clients “no one buys OK”.

To create a strong preference in buyers, you need to be prepared to have many others take a look and reject what you have to offer because you’re wrong for them.

Bland and boring doesn’t cut it.

The classic love it or hate it brand is Marmite.

They even marketed themselves as a love it or hate it brand.

Now Miracle Whip is following a similar branding strategy. I know little about Miracle Whip but I do think that it’s an interesting way to build on social media.

What do you think?

Are you prepared to polarise your potential customers into those that love your brand and those who hate it?

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Britain’s Top Brands 2011

One way to differentiate your business is through branding although different people think branding means different things.

There’s an irony there since branding is meant to clarify the position of what a product stands for.

The Centre Of Brand Analysis has come up with its list of Superbrands 2011 and it contains some surprises.

There are two lists – for consumer brands and for business brands.

Consumer Superbrands 2011: Official Results

1. Mercedes-Benz
2. Rolex
3. BBC
4. Coca-Cola
5. Google
6. Microsoft
7. BMW
8. British Airways
9. Apple
10. Jaguar

Business Superbrands 2011: Official Results

1. Rolls-Royce Group
2. BlackBerry
3. Microsoft
4. Google
5. Apple
6. London Stock Exchange
7. PricewaterhouseCoopers
8. GlaxoSmithKline
9. Visa
10. Bosch

Personally I think the lists are pretty surprising but if you want to dig deeper, there are lists of top 500 brands for consumers and business.

The process that created the list is based on three stages

  1. Brand researchers create a list of brands
  2. Brand experts score the brands and eliminate the bottom 40%
  3. The brands are voted on by a YouGov panel of more than 2,000 British consumers which is intended to be representative of the general population.

The main focus is on three issues:

  1. Does the brand represent quality products and services?
  2. Can the brand be trusted to deliver consistently?
  3. Is the brand well known and differentiated from its competitors?

Do you agree with the list?

Are Mercedes, Rolex and the BBC worthy of the top 3 positions in the consumer list?

I don’t think so.

It’s been a few years since I last looked at Mercedes as a car to buy but what I found was that they looked nice, the dealership service was very good but when I checked on the reliability and post purchase customer satisfaction, i was shocked at how bad it was.

Perhaps things have improved a lot. They certainly needed to.

I admire Rolex for its ability to get consumers to pay way over the odds for something that has similar functionality to a watch that costs a few pounds. I’ve never owned one but again, I’ve heard some bad things about time keeping.

And the BBC?

Sorry but I think the BBC is a tarnished organisation which shows little of its famous objectivity. I am getting increasingly irritated with the biased reporting of the public spending cuts without any reference to the need to reign in the annual deficit to even slow down the rate of increase in the national debt.

Updated in October 2011

I’ve decided against writing a new blog each time I see a list of top brands but i will update this list.

Interbrand have recently published the best global brands list for 2011.

Top of the pile is Coca-Cola for the twelfth year in a row. No arguments there, but I was surprised by some other names in the top 10:

3 Microsoft
4 Google
5 General Electric
6 McDonald’s
7 Intel
8 Apple
9 Disney
10 Hewlett Packard

The first surprise is the dominance of technology brands. The first car company for example was Toyota at 11th.

IBM at 2 was a big surprise. I’ve little idea what the brand stands for these days and it seems to have fallen along way in my eyes from the days of “nobody got fired for buying an IBM”.

General Electric at 5 was also a surprise although this brand may carry far more weight in the USA. Hewlett Packard at 10 also surprised me.

Now I’m in the “branding is positioning in the mind” school so multi-category brands don’t fit that well with me.

Even Apple. I struggle with the idea of “what’s an Apple?”

Apart from a tasty fruit, is it a computer, a telephone, a music playing device?

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, 4 – Lead Generation

Beware of imitators – it is Guerrilla Marketing and not Guerilla Marketing – and certainly not Gorilla Marketing.

Typos and mis-spellings when searching on the Internet

The issues of typos and mis-spellings when people use Google and other search engines has been highlighted to me twice this week.

The first was in a promotional email offering to help me find common mis-spellings of my key words.

The second was a comment from my coach, Mitch Meyerson.”

This problem could present a great opportunity for your Internet marketing as it gives you a chance to leverage the strength of your website in less contested areas although Google is getting better at dealing with it as time passes. [continue reading…]

in 4 – Lead Generation