Sell Dreams

As a professor who studies the marketing discipline as a passion and job requirement, I like to think that I am up on its fundamental tenets. However, it is always refreshing when I see marketing principles in action. A conversation with a business owner recently offered one of those moments.

I met the owner of a travel agency at a business networking meeting at which I made a presentation. As she told me about her business, she said that she owns a travel agency, but what she sells are dreams. Wow! What a powerful statement, but it is a mindset that is often lost on marketers and businesspeople in general.

We tend to define our business and careers by the industry sector or category in which we participate. I just realized I was guilty of it in my first sentence of this post! But, the value we add to the lives of customers and others does not reside in a sector or category label. Rather, the value comes from the impact we have on those people with whom we interact.

If any industry deserves sympathy for the rampant change that has taken place in the past 10-15 years, it is travel services. The transition of travel and lodging purchases to a self-service model online, 9/11 and resulting terrorism fears, and the recession have walloped virtually all businesses associated with travel. But, the travel agency owner said her business has succeeded for 20 years because she has never lost sight of what she does- selling dreams. Yes, travelers may be able to score lower prices buying directly (but not always). The agency’s expertise, network of contacts, and personal service bring comfort and assurance to the process of planning travel.

Define your business and personal brand by the value you deliver. It can be a differentiator between you and competitors stuck on defining themselves by industry and product. Sell dreams!

Brand Essence: Say it in 7

One of the best reads I have experienced this year has been The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. Anyone who works in a creative field or wants to strengthen his or her creativity should read this book. Unlike many business books, The Accidental Creative goes beyond telling you what you should do and provides guidance on how to become “prolific, brilliant, and healthy.” I have been a fan of Henry’s Accidental Creative podcast for some time; it is a treasure trove of useful ideas for creatives.

An example of actionable ideas in The Accidental Creative is the concept of a 7-word bio. The idea is simple: distill what you do and who you are into a 7-word description. I see it as a cross between mission and position. While Henry discusses a 7-word bio as a tool for individuals (ideal for developing one’s personal brand), it has applicability for organizations, too. Drilling down to 7 words forces an organization to strip away grandiose proclamations and get away from wordy mission statements. In other words, cut to the chase and define what we are as an organization. What is the payoff of having a 7-word bio? It provides grounding and focus that guides decisions on what projects you take on and how you manage relationships.

This week, I have challenged students in my marketing communications class to develop a 7-word bio for their personal brand. It is a challenge I am taking on, too. What are your 7 words?

Brett Favre on Branding

I have a confession to make: I believe I am falling under the spell of Brett Favre. I have resisted the urge for years, but I have finally succumbed to his magical powers. As I watched the nearly 40-year-old quarterback carve up his former team, the Green Bay Packers, I thought about the qualities Favre exudes. Brett Favre’s mystique offers lessons that can be applied to branding, whether it is personal branding or managing a product brand. Here are four characteristics (would you expect any other number?) of Favre’s personal brand that any brand would benefit from possessing:

1. Distinctive – There are other quarterbacks, some of whom are very good, but there is only one QB with Favre’s style. He is not different for the sake of being different (like Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Ocho Cinco), but he is genuinely different. Relevant difference is a key to winning in business and in life.

2. Consistent – Favre’s performance level has not changed dramatically over the years. His style of play is basically the same, and he shows up to play regardless of pain or injury. Brands must be consistent, too. When one encounters your brand, there should be no question about your identity and values.

3. Passionate – Favre cares deeply about what he does. Maybe that is one reason why he has had difficulty retiring from the game. He digs down and delivered some of his greatest performances when in the spotlight as he was against the Packers on Monday Night Football. Brands with passion resonate with consumers and the public. Authentic passion is noticeable; pretending to be passionate is not necessary!

4. Fun – Why is this guy smiling on the field when there are 11 people trying to hit him and hit him hard? He’s having fun at what he is doing. While carrying out 1-3, never lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing. What’s your purpose? What’s the mission you have set for the organization or yourself?

Thanks, Brett for the branding lesson. Now, if we could only get John Madden’s take on what we can learn about branding from Brett Favre!