leadership dot #3026: adapt

If only everyone would adapt as quickly as manufacturers to the pandemic! If you walk in any store or scroll through your social media feed, you’ll find a host of products targeted at new needs. There are “Hygiene Hands” and “Germ Keys” to allow you to be touchless, a full fashion assortment of masks, screen backgrounds to set up a home studio, UVC light and sanitizers in every size. Companies have jumped on the bandwagon to promote branded masks and virtual backgrounds – things that would have been laughed at in January but are now in hot demand.

Retailers have rearranged their space to provide a full selection of pandemic-related products in the front of their store or an aisle of masks along with the school supplies. They are capitalizing on new demand and leveraging their ability to meet it.

And what about your organization? Have you introduced new offerings in light of all the changes 2020 has brought? Have you shifted how you feature things, maybe resurrecting that previous resource that suddenly has new relevance? Or created new training for staff that focuses on wellness or physical safety instead of traditional professional development?

It’s time to reevaluate your branding and your services to see if some rearranging might be warranted to meet the needs of today.

leadership dot #2991: revive

My neighbor’s yard looks terrible as most of the front yard is dead year-round, not just from the summer heat. It’s not from a lack of attention; she pays to have it chemically treated, but to no avail.

I know she is working on it because every month there is a sign from the fertilizer company stating that they have applied chemicals to the area. If I owned the franchise, I wouldn’t want my name associated with that lawn as it proclaims “abject failure” to anyone who knows it’s not the first treatment. No matter how many applications, the yard remains barren.

The sign reminds me that brands are built on little interactions that often go without notice to those crafting a brand strategy. Some corporate person thought it would be a good idea to leave behind little flags as a reminder that the service was performed, but never stopped to consider the harm those would cause in situations where the treatments failed. What if there were two different flags, including one that said: “we’re working on it…” and gave a phone number vs. just stating the name of the company?

It’s hard to think of all the scenarios while sitting in an office. To understand the true impact of your brand, get out into the field and see where you intersect with actual consumers. What you find may make you reconsider how to revive your efforts.

leadership dot #2977: variation

When I worked at a university, we received an order of notecards that were printed in the wrong color. If you did not know that the official brand palette was a certain gold you may not have even noticed the slightly-orange-ish ink, but those of us in the marketing area were adamant that they be destroyed. I remember distinctly someone in a leadership role saying that they would “just use them on campus” rather than waste them, but we knew that if they left the delivery box there would be no control of the brand. The gold would morph into all variations of orange-ish as other things would be printed using the notecard color as the standard.

Although that was years ago, I thought about the incident recently when I was cleaning out some supplies of my own. I found a box of notecards with my name – embossed in all capital letters. At the time I purchased them, having anything be both personalized be affordable was a rarity and so I went with it, even though all-caps were the only option. Now, I was staring at a box of high quality, perfectly functional notecards that were totally “off-brand” and I thought about the previous debacle on campus – and cringed as I proceeded to cut them in half to use as scrap paper!

Everyone plays a role in adhering to standards. You can either preserve your visual identity with rigor or let it go. “Sort-of” isn’t a viable option.

leadership dot #2956: pampered

If you needed another example that you should think narrow when determining your audience, here’s one: Tailored Pet. This new service will craft a specialized mixture of dog food for you and deliver it to your door – a meal delivery service for Fido.

If you’ve ever been in the dog food aisle you know that options abound — puppy or senior, large dog or small, healthy weight, GMO-free, chicken, lamb, etc. etc. I buy the same food each time and still have to concentrate to find it among the options. So, Tailored Pet was born to allow pet parents to have the specialties they desire all together in one mix. You take a quiz, they match your needs and deliver it through a subscription.

In today’s world, something that saves time and caters to personalized needs can command a premium price. Cheap isn’t the most valued attribute. If you think narrow and craft the right niche, you can price your services accordingly.


leadership dot #2955: creative distancing

As I’ve written before, the amount of new signage due to COVID is staggering. Almost every business has added signs but Salem, MA wins the award for outstanding branding. Salem is known for its famous witch trials in the 1600s and they have embraced that legacy rather than fight it.

Here’s their version of social distancing signage:

What a great way to get the point across, add humor, and remain true to their brand. How can you take a lesson from Salem and craft your signs in such a way that they reflect your uniqueness? Those who must read them would appreciate your efforts to do so.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2935: tiny

Cedarburg, Wisconsin is one of those quaint little towns with a main street of boutiques that attracts people from the region and one of the “must-go-there” shops sells gourmet caramel apples. Not just any apples, mind you, but apples on steroids, coated in their luscious chocolate and a variety of toppings.

It’s hard to select one when your choices are macadamia coconut, patriotic sprinkles, s’ mores, wild hibiscus sea salt, butter pecan, rocky road, Oreo, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, Reese’s Pieces, Butterfinger, Heath, M&M, Snickers, strawberry shortcake – covered in white chocolate or dark – plain or decorated like a bride or groom or teacher’s apple – it just keeps going on.

These apples aren’t cheap, mind you, but they were so big that we had to cut them into sections and eat them in multiple sittings because they were too rich to savor all at once. Worth the price and angst in deciding!

Here is a tiny store in a tiny town that has a tiny product line – and yet makes itself a destination. They have taken one item and done it better than most, continually evolving their products to make them even more desirable and unique.

Take a lesson from Amy’s and imagine how you can keep your offerings small enough to become a big deal.

leadership dot #2913: pup cup

If you want an example of knowing your audience, Dairy Queen’s Pup Cup may be it. The local establishment sells ice cream, of course, to owners of dogs who want to provide a treat for their canine “kids.” But to make the item special the DQ includes a Milk Bone on top.

That bone is not there for the dog; it’s there for the human. It’s not as if the dog is asking for either the dessert or the treat, but by catering to the pet parents Dairy Queen can generate additional business for itself from those who want to spoil their companions.

Think about who your true influencer is. The dog may be the end user, but the human is the one handing over the cash. Whose tail should you try to make wag?

leadership dot #2907: don’t

In yesterday’s dot, I recommended adding smell to the repertoire of tools you use to shape your brand or environment. But some brands have taken it over the top.

My personal (least) favorite: McDonald’s candles. Who thought it would be a good idea to have a candle that smells like bun, onion or beef? The six scents are meant to be burned together (another crazy idea) with candles of ketchup, pickle and cheese to replicate a Quarter Pounder. No thanks!

The New York Times issued a candle that had the scent of newsprint and ink – something that may need to be preserved for future generations and Peeps allows you to fill your space with the “fragrance” of Marshmallow Chicks. Many other brands have unofficial candle options crafted by those on Etsy.

Having people love your brand enough that they want to experience it in many forms is admirable but for most companies, having your own candle scent is nonsensical.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just don’t.


Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2900: Mr. Bubble

You may not have heard of Harold Schafer but it’s likely that you know the product he sold: Mr. Bubble. Schafer was a door to door salesman that eventually ran a major corporation, the Gold Seal Company, which at one point had products in every home in America.

But Mr. Bubble not only made Schafer a rich person, it created an entire industry of products. In the 1950s, bubble baths were considered a luxury only for movie stars. Schafer wanted to capitalize on the 600 million baths/year and expand the use of products beyond just soap. He insisted on fun packaging for Mr. Bubble and the rest is history. Bath products now account for $325 million in sales and bubble baths are an affordable option for everyone.

Schafer did not invent the process of taking baths, bubble bath or the use of products in the tub rather he saw an opportunity for more people to enjoy something that was, at the time, only for the rich. He made millions on products that only cost a dollar or two by making them ubiquitous in every home.

You may not achieve the success of Harold Schafer but you can learn from him and see gaps between what is and what could be. Why can’t bubble baths be for kids? Why couldn’t high-end mixers be used by ordinary cooks? Why aren’t home security systems affordable for everyone? Rather than focusing on inventing new products or services, reimagine the audiences you serve.

Source: Mr. Bubble – The Harold Schafer Story (movie)

 Thanks, Mark!

leadership dot #2885: common sense

Along with the candle in a Bath&Body Works bag came a 5” x 10” piece of cardboard with “Important Candle Safety Information.” This sheet outlined such items as a WARNING that candles were a fire hazard and that you should NEVER burn candles on or near anything that can catch fire. I wonder what lawsuit compelled the company to spend its money on something that is so patently obvious to virtually everyone.

Where do we draw the line and leave people to discern evident behaviors for themselves? Milk doesn’t come with a WARNING: Refrigerate or your milk will curdle. Doors don’t say CAUTION: If you leave this equipment unlocked you could be burglarized. Computers aren’t plastered with stickers reading DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER. Glasses aren’t imprinted with CAUTION: this will shatter if dropped.

Resist the urge to over-explain instructions and to excessively compensate with warnings. Save your money and the trees. No placard or caution sticker is going to change the behavior of those who are oblivious to the apparent and commonsense use of an everyday item.