Thanks for stopping by!

My passion is helping companies of all sizes unleash their growth by insightful connection with consumer communities across the globe. To help organizations do this, I bring a classical consumer goods background along with digital liberation. Together with the teams I have worked with, we have consistently delivered growth for brands/services for Fortune 50 companies, tech start-ups and non-profits. No brand is too big or too small. Too old or too young.  From CEO’s and their executive teams to entrepreneurs sitting at their kitchen counter!

Key drivers for successful growth are:

1. Building an aspirational brand promise that is grounded in current consumer reality and links to the business model . (Don’t laugh, I have seen plenty where there was no link!)
2. New thinking around consumer acquisition and profitability model.    (Love working customer conversion paths and building thoughtful attribution models.)
3. Engaging communication strategies designed to building lasting relationships .  (Once you have a relationship, it is much cheaper to build repeat conversions)
4. Dedication to staying connected with the consumer regularly, not just for annual planning . (Consumers are our life blood.  Engaging with them and constantly listening is critical.)
5. Nurturing a Team culture dedicated to growth that is rooted in a deep  understanding of the relationship between the brand, the customer, and profitability.  (If I only had a $1 for all the times members of the cross functional team had no clue how their day to day job really tied back to the brand, customer needs and profitability of the company!)

I now have proven marketing can be a profit center, not just an expense line.

Ideal Clients

• Start-ups and Investors in need of C-suite marketing support, without the full time overhead that goes with it.
• Small to mid-size companies looking for hands on help with brand identity and activation in the digital domain from customer acquisition and attribution modeling to community engagement.
• Organizations looking for a growth hacker!

Feel free to email me with any questions or business needs at rebecca@firebirdbranding.com.
Connect with me on LinkedIN at linkedin.com/in/cheersrebf or just search for Rebecca Fretty.
Follow me on twitter @rbfretty.

If you follow me on Instagram you will only see needlework, gardening and cooking. That is the other side of my life! #pinkimperfection
Cheers! REBF

New Tech I’m Digging: Mobilo

My business cards just got Smart!

It is always fun to try new products and technology throws numerous ones our way daily.  The latest one I have bitten into is Mobilo Card!  Here is mine for my Farm to Needle blog, Pink Imperfection.

Mobilo is the smart business card that makes sharing your information super slick.   Here is how it works: to share your contact information with anyone all they have to do is either tap the card on their phone or scan the QR code and instantly add you to their contacts on their iPhone or Android alternative for a phone.  (Yes, I’m an Apple girl!)

It also loads your social links, link to your website as well as offers a lead generation form.  Pretty darn awesome!

Three great things about this new “business card” if you will:

  1. I only have to keep one on me at all times – no more wondering if I have some in my bag.
  2. More environmental – not killing trees to share my contact information that folks just throw away after they put my information in their contact list.
  3. Efficiency – My contact information is instantly in other’s phone and also guaranteed to be added. Of course, folks can always delete me later, but at least I started in their contact list for a short while.

Plus, you get to custom design the front and back of your card on their website that is as easy as uploading a photo.  You don’t have to be a graphic design major to have a cool card.

Hope you will check it out.   This fun and valuable new tech was started by a past cohort of mine, Pieter Limburg when we were at Shapeways together.  Let him know I sent you his way and say hi! for me.


Cheers. REBF

Alternatives to your product.  Have you ranked them lately?

What are the current alternatives to using you?

As we dedicate ourselves to our products and services being the best in the world for our customers, we can lose sight of the fact that there might, just might, be alternative options that lure our consumers away from us.  For examples, when you google, “most comfortable golf shoes for walking” 21million options come up in 0.57 seconds, literally. Old products are always looking for new ways to innovate and steal our consumers.  New companies and technology are born hourly!

google search for golf shoes

Keeping tabs on all these alternatives is great.   But how do we prioritize which competitor to go after or defend against?   It can be cost prohibitive to fight every single one.  Plus the one’s we are watching may not be the ones that the customer is interacting with.   Competitive reviews should happen often and include two key steps; a list of the customer’s top ten alternatives PLUS a ranking from easiest to hardest for customers to choose over you.

Customer Centric List of Alternatives

At a recent workshop I held with a group of startups, each founder and team listed 10 alternatives their customers could be using instead of adopting their new product or service.  Their lists were based on interviews with current and potential new customers.  Most of the lists included similar products and services on the market AND “old school” options for their customers.  Some even included just ignoring the option all together.

One example in the additive manufacturing space of “just ignore this option”  is in large industrial manufacturing companies looking for ways to include 3d printing.   One company discovered New Product Innovation Managers lack well-organized digital files for legacy products.  This makes it quite burdensome for some manufacturing teams to fully leverage the potential of bringing 3d printing into their innovation process.  So, a major alternative to using this new additive manufacturing software was just don’t start.   But with the insight that a lack of well-organized digital file library is blocking product adoption, the start-up could decide if this was a customer service innovation they wanted to bring to market to help with sales growth.  Creating a customer centric list of alternatives is critical to removing barriers that are actually there.

Ranking Easiest to Hardest to choose over you

Once you have your list of 10 most common alternative uses (or lack of use), it is time to rank them.  Rank order the 10 from easiest to hardest for the customer to choose and use.   This ranking makes sure we stay centered from the Customer’s point of view, not our own.  Of course we feel it is super easy to choose us while we are sitting in our office or holding the product in our hands.  We already have it and have an intimate knowledge of its greatness. However, being “customer naive” is critical in this exercise.

After you have ranked the alternatives from your customer’s point of view, you will want to rank them from your internal perspective.   How difficult it is for you to disrupt this list of alternatives.   Difficulty based on time and money.   In smaller companies and start-ups the resource most challenged is time.  The team is small and you only have 24 hours in one day.  Choosing the top 1 to 3 barriers is plenty.  And once you have removed the first one, then you are free to move down the list.  But don’t try to solve for everything all at once.  Methodical elimination is more cost effective and easier to measure the impact.


Want help auditing alternatives and ranking them, give me a shout.  I’m always excited to get involved igniting your growth potential!  Just email me at rebecca@firebirdbranding.com

I found you! Where SEO/SEM really begins.

Sustainable business growth is finding a tribe of customers or consumers that love you.  But how do they fall in love with you?

They easily find you when they actually need you!


Long gone are the days where brands and services can highjack our eyes and stand in front of you until you consume them.  The days of road blocks and share of voice metrics have lost most if not all of their value in guaranteeing the consumer is going to buy you.  But what is so great about technology is we don’t have to road block the world anymore to get the 10 folks we care about.  We can go hang out where our customers are hanging out and organically engage with them about a common issue, interest, or need.

However, this can change the way we start our relationship with the customer.  We don’t need to lead with:

“I know you have been waiting all your life for me to magically appear here, today, right this very minute! Plus! I am ready to tell you everything you never wanted to know about me….so…  Buy me damn it!”

Not likely to get the click here response you are looking for.  However, brands that find the conversations on Redditt, Ada Fruit, Pinterest Board on “clogged sink remedies” and share relevant content that your customer is looking for start to build a relationship where the customer now sees a personally relevant reason to need you.


It is no longer our timeline, but the customer’s timeline that matters.   This is why the best brands and services have a vast library of evergreen content out there ready to serve their consumer whenever they might be looking.

2a.m.  “I can’t sleep, might as well get up and search for solutions to fixing my pink laundry…  Googling, googling, ah!  Rit White Wash!   add that to my grocery list for tomorrow.”

Consumers often search for information, inspiration, stuff at unusual times and places.  Tagging all your content and optimizing it for search terms, phrases and topics will make you discoverable 24/7 on Google or any of your consumer’s favorite search platforms.   You don’t need to play the guessing game anymore, but you do need to produce great content that is relevant and shows up when the customer is looking.

There are several plugins now that help you make sure your content is SEO optimized.  My favorite is the plug in on WordPress, Yoast SEO Premium.   It is comprehensive from readability and discoverability to tagging.  It gives you specific recommendations on how to optimize content and gives you red, yellow and green lights when you make adjustments.


Which brings us to being “easily findable”.   Marketing words need to be completely blocked from all marketeer’s brains.  Content should be in consumer speak, not company speak.  Go back to “Need” phase where we are finding all the places our consumers are chatting about the topics our brand or service can support, solve, improve.   What conversation topics are they actually engaging in and what words are these real consumers using?

Brand:  “Hartz Ultra Guard.  Best flea and tick drops for the money.  Don’t waist money on Vet brands.   We work just as well and we only cost $10!”

Consumer: “Nope, not really what I’m looking for.  My dog is the only member of the family that loves me.  If I have to spend $50 for flea and tick drops so be it…”

Brand through consumer lens: “National research report on the efficacy and safety of top 3 flea and tick drops shows that Hartz Ultra Guard is as efficacious and safe as brands sold in Vet offices at a fraction of the cost.   Plus conveniently available where dog and cat owners are shopping for groceries and home goods.  Take that extra $40 and buy your favorite family member a new toy!”


Easily findable may not be the easiest for us as brand stewards.  Easiest refers to the Consumer.  No one is going to work hard to find you.  But we can work hard to be found easily.

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing are critical to our success as brands and services today because they make us easily findable when the consumer is interested in our story.    The analytics we get for free from Google alone make it easy for us to see when and where consumers are engaging in brand relevant topics.   But all the analytics in the world won’t pay off if we don’t also recognized the art involved in SEO and SEM, often the hardest part of SEO/SEM.  Hard because we need to be dedicated to the time and effort needed to produce quality, ever green content for consumers to discover.  Hard also to be patient for consumers to find us, versus running around Time Square saying, “Look at me!  Look at me!”


Looking for help with your SEO/SEM.   Give me a shout at rebecca@firebirdbranding.com

What do great brands and your personal brand have in common? More than you think!

(This is a co-authored article with Dr. Wanda Wallace, President and CEO of Leadership Forum, Inc.)

The consumer brand industry has a long track record in creating great brands by deploying a variety of methods to identify the essence of a brand. We ask one simple question: What can consumer package goods brands teach us about branding that can help individuals create stronger personal brands? As it turns out, plenty.

Great consumer brands impact us in two ways: The tangible benefits consumers receive plus the intangible benefits of using or identifying with the brand. For a personal brand this translates into the tangible Business Impact, the intangible Human Impact and your Tribe, which is also intangible.

Your Business Impact is the tangible impact your actions have on the organization. This is the business benefits you provide the organization from achieving objectives to impacting market share, growth, profitability, new ideas and the like.

Your Human Impact is the intangible impact you have on the people around you. What intangible benefit do people get from from working with you? How do they feel when they are working with you — energized, disciplined, threatened, excited, empowered or something else? Is working with you fun? Do you bring out the best in the team to break through issues when the team gets stuck?

Your Tribe is who is in your corner, from your team to your network, peers, allies, managers and sponsors. These are the people who influence your reputation in the organization. The tribe is a critical element of your personal brand because part of your intangible impact is the people we come into contact with when we work with you.

Each element of your Impact is measurable. Tangible Business Impact can be seen in performance reviews. Intangible Human Impact can be seen from some external 360 assessements or from a coach’s interviews. Your Tribe can be assessed by mapping your network.

Consumer brands capture the impact that is delivered. What input, effort and capability drives the tangible and intangible impacts? That is, what does the company provide that results in the benefits consumers take from the brand. For your personal brand, input is composed of two things: Your Expertise and Personality.

Your Expertise includes all the skills, functionality you bring, to the impact you have on the organization: your expertise, skills, knowledge and execution capability. This is everything you can do that delivers results. Build a brag board. Reflect on the accomplishments you have delivered for your company. Identify your strengths. Examine what skills have been most critical for the successes you are most proud of.

Your Personal Style is who you are and how you show up at work. Are you confident, quiet, firm but fair, direct, passionate, a critical thinker and so forth? All styles have value and all styles have consequences. You can assess your personal style through any number of psychometric tests such as Myers Briggs (MBTI), FIRO-B, Hogan, to name a few.

Discriminating Essence
All of the above are assimilated for a consumer brand in order to identify a Discriminating Essence – the unique thing that only this brand stands for and that only this brand can deliver. For example, Dove has identified its brand essences as real beauty. While the first product in the Dove brand was a bar of soap, now the brand has shampoos, face lotions, men’s toiletries and on and on. What the brand stands for is real beauty in all of us. Grasping the Discriminating Essence is the most difficult part.

Your Discriminating Essence is the thing that is unique about you. You should be proud to wear it on a t-shirt. If a piece of paper with describing your essence was anonymously dropped on the floor, people should know it belongs to you. This will take time to hone.

Great brands and personal brands are always aspirational, what we strive to be. Look at where you are and where you want to be. Keep your personal brand updated and relevant. As you grow, so should your brand.


This personal branding model was developed in collaboration with Dr. Wanda Wallace, President and CEO of Leadership Forum, Inc.   Dr. Wallace coaches leaders, conducts seminars and works with teams to improve leadership capability.   Leadership Forum, Inc. helps organizations get it and keep it – from talent to strategic thinking.  Its focus is on enabling leaders to deliver better results through better thinking, better execution, better leadership, better teams and better diversity.  You can follow Dr. Wallace on Twitter @AskWanda and also enjoy weekly advice by subscribing to her podcast!

Listen to the specific podcast where we talked about our Personal Branding model here.

BBF’s (Brands’ Best Friends), Sponsorships and Strategic Alliances.

Do consumers really care who sponsors the Olympics? Will we actually drink more Coke because their logo is EVERYWHERE at the Olympics? Or do we choose our computers based on what system our schools used?

Yes and No. When brands work together with one another in an authentic way that enhances our experience the sponsorship or strategic alliance can be magical in unleashing new growth in our businesses. 1+1=3 or 5 or 10! New audiences. New uses. Unofficial endorsements of one another!

However, if they are not authentic or presented in a forced way, the result can be dilutive or negatively impact the business where 1 + 1 = a ton of money thrown down the drain!

Here are a few examples that were great and NOT so great to hopefully inspire more GREAT sponsorships and strategic alliances to keep your brands growing!

Hair Styles of the Month. This was a great strategic alliance between Unilever hair care brands and Conair back in the late ‘90’s. We secured a year long display at the end of the hair care isle in CVS stores across the country. Each month we showed a new hair style using styling aids from the Unilever and Conair product lines. Consumers had easy directions they tore off a pad at the display and all the implements/products right there to “do the do!”. Sales doubled that year for both Unilever and Conair. The only downside was P&G was not happy and they stole the display space the following year with their own program.

Lever 2000 Sponsors Movie Night with Lowe’s Theaters. This sponsorship had many opportunities to put the Lever 2000 brand in front of consumers in a unique venue, the movie theater. There were tons of live events across the country and millions of consumers reached. But, the connection between clean showered bodies and families going the movies was a bit of a stretch. The sponsorship yielded a ton of eye balls, but not a ton of sales. Several years later the team brought “Singing in the Shower” on the road with much better results because there was a logical connection between the brand and consumer behavior.

More recently, the 3d printing company, Shapeways, joins forces with Public Libraries to teach 3d printing and entrepreneurship. There is a huge learning curve to design in 3D and Libraries across the country are exploring ways to support their local communities beyond books. Why not 3D design capabilities. We developed a 10 week curriculum with the NYC Public Library Tech team so they could teach their library members directly. Once the curriculum was vetted, any library in the country can have the curriculum to share in their community. Libraries can officially join the Maker Movement and Shapeways is pioneering new ways to invite more folks to join the 3D Printing revolution!

My personal favorite is brands working with the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA). Here I have seen both great and not so great sponsorships and strategic alliances. TaylorMade and Addidas are the lead sponsors right now. The AJGA is a not for profit promoting golf with youth looking to play at the college level. While it may cost a fortune to sponsor Phil Michelson, it does not cost a fortune to sponsor the AJGA. And they are so appreciative of the brand support, they really go out of their way to recommend and thank their sponsors at every event with well over a million young athletes and their families. Every tournament, there is a parents meeting where the AJGA staff thanks TaylorMade and Adidas, explaining their contributions to the organization. Plus there are product samples given to each golfer. Adidas and Ralph Lauren both have plenty of new brand fans after every tournament. Trust me, I now buy them exclusively for my son, because they are “sick!” Or so I have been told!

However, there was a hard push by TaylorMade with their newest golf ball that just fell flat with the young athletes. TaylorMade TP5X golf balls produced a video with John Rahm from the PGA. It tried too hard to show how great the ball was and the kids mocked it for days. A clear example where knowing your audience is key. Put the balls on the driving range and let the kids see for themselves. Sponsor the social event at the AJGA for longest drive. But don’t make a video with the professional gushing about the ball like he is reading from a script. Authenticity is key and unless Jordan Spieth swears by this revolutionary golf ball, don’t bother with testimonials from the PGA.

Sponsorships and Strategic Alliances are all around us and can ignite significant credibility, remove barriers to use and unleash significant growth for our businesses. They also offer brand experiences you just can not do alone. The key is authenticity and obvious relevancy between the two brands by your target audience. Don’t be shy. Make new friends and enjoy the multiplier effect of your new relationship!

Extreme Consumer Immersion: Brand Ambassador PJ Party & Sleep Over

Want to REALLY get to know some of your most valuable community members?  Have them join you for a sleep over!

When I was just starting the Rit Studio, we met the most incredible brand ambassadors in the craft industry and through a colorful conversation at the Craft & Hobby Association trade show we decided they could teach me the most about brand ambassorships and dyeing with Rit if we just had a good old fashioned sleep over!  So, after my CEO first called me crazy, he consented to support my most unique consumer immersion yet, the Rit Studio PJ Party & Sleep Over!

Business Objectives:

  1. Learn best practices from other craft company brand ambassador programs
  2. Gain greater in depth consumer usage understanding with Rit Dye for renovation and innovation ideas
  3. Better understand crafting community members as we refine our definition of a “Ritster”
  4. Team building and bonding


Three brand ambassadors from other craft brands (not direct competitors with Rit) from three different locations in the U.S.  Geographic diversity is important.   Plus Rit’s Brand Ambassador Community Manager (herself a retired Fiskateer – brand ambassador for the awesome Fiskar orange handled scissors), Content Marketing Manager, Creative Director for the Rit Studio, Brand Manager and me (at the time CMO for Phoenix Brands and founder, the Rit Studio).

Two Day Timeline:

  • Brand Ambassadors fly in to meeting
  • Lunch and review of our plans for the next two days
  • PJ Dyeing extravaganza.   Dyeing tshirts and pj bottoms – our sleep wear for the sleep over! Duh.
  • Dinner – round table discussion about what it means to be a brand ambassador for a craft product.
  • Return to hotel – put on newly dyed PJs, meet in hospitality suite and discuss wishes for the perfect Rit Studio community and brand ambassador program.
  • Some sleep
  • Breakfast – review what heard yesterday and get clarity on anything that didn’t make sense from the day before
  • Innovation review – brand ambassadors offered all their ideas for making the product better or new products they would like to see (they had been briefed ahead of time so they had ideas coming in.)
  • Lunch and thank yours to everyone
  • Brand Ambassadors fly home, Brand team divide up notes to summarized and make recommendations for next steps

The Outcome!

  1. Product Renovation/Innovation!  In depth understanding of how different folks can use your product for the exact same outcome.  This gave our team great insights into package design, graphics communication, product application and Rit crafting project oppotunities galore.
  2. Enhanced Target Definition:  Greater vocabulary for describing our community.  Having three ambassadors from three very different perspectives as to why they used Rit helped us appreciate the breadth of values we need to be in tune with as well as sync with in communication outlets, tone, and core content.   So often I have made the mistake of trying to so narrowly define my target, it becomes completely untrue to who is actually consuming the brand or worse, just target all people with skin that breath air.   Not really a target, but more attempting to monopolize the entire population.
  3. Team Building:   It was fun, funny and built more bonds between the team members as well as with our new best friends in the community.  Fun at work must be a priority.  This is a critical key to keeping us engaged and continually thinking of new, better and more ways to keep growing.  The authentic interactions with the brand ambassadors opened up conversations so broad and rich.  This in turn give you a better ability to internalize what your brand/business stands for and helps the team make more efficienct decisions for the business.  It takes some of the guessing out the equation;  “will my community be interested in this?  Will they value this product innovation?  Did I just make that up or is that a real problem?”

Critical to the success of this and any consumer immersion for that matter is to have a proper debriefing/ what’s next meeting to develop an action plan coming out of your “sleep over” or what ever cool immersion you had.

I reccomend scheduling your follow up meeting one week after the immersion with the brand team.   Allocate adequate time to review write ups and develop a straw man action plans for product innovation/renovation, communication opportunities identified and for us after this event we built out our own Rit Brand Ambassador program plans.   Typically you want 2-3 hours set aside.   Discussions in these meetings is where the real business opportunities develop.   Give you and your team ample time to talk with each other.

Assign everyone action items and keep the rolling annual plans fresh with consumer driven insights FOREVER!  I strongly believe the days are over where you huddle for an offsite, make your annual plans and then go execute for the year all at once, only to review what happened at the end of that year.  Rolling quarter plans are probably most realistic with all the dynamic data we have in real time from digital communication to retail and website consumption.

This is just one idea for having a unique and personal consumer immerssion.  Have other ideas you would like to share, please comment below.  Or if you want some help brainstorming on a unique immersion, let me know below as well.  I will get right back to you.  We will figure out something fun and hopefully highly prolific in generating insights.
Cheers. REBF

A Pirate Raid can reboot your team!

Building teams and maintaining high productivity is crazy hard and crazy rewarding.   My all time favorite team reboot was having a pirate raid and so I thought I would share a few highlights of why a pirate raid and what it did for my team.

First, lets discuss why Pirates are such fantastic and effective teams!

  1. Ruthlessly driven and dedicated to achieving their goals – get the treasure.
  2. Highly enthusiastic, visionary leaders that get everyone in the crew fired up to participate in the plan
  3. Self governed by a strong a code of ethics where loyalty and trust are critical
  4. The enemy is very clearly on the outside – the other ship, on land, “them”
  5. Fun is always involved at the end of the journey – Party!

Second, when do you need to have a pirate raid?

  • Your team has forgotten their purpose
  • Your team is fighting internally – “them” is “us”
  • You as the leader have lost your enthusiasm and ability to keep the team interested in the mission/vision
  • You and your team are not having fun anymore…

Third, keys to a successful Raid:

A. Block the teams calendar for a whole day, but don’t tell them where they are going. Just to be ready to leave the office on time or else!

B. Find a great open space off site where y’all won’t be “rescued” or interrupted during the day.  (Great food throughout the day is also highly encouraged!)

C. Party Favors – you will need swords, bandanas, gold coins (both chocolate and plastic to take back to the office as a daily reminder)

Eldorado image
D. Get a copy of The Road to El Dorado – the movie by DreamWorks.   Or just show this link from YouTube.The two pirate con men along with Elton John’s great music set the perfect tone for a team finding their way forward.   However there are multiple scenes throughout that are a fun analogy to relying on one another when building a plan as well as executing it!

E.  The days agenda:

Determine what is holding your team back.   Do you need to reboot your brand vision?  annual plans? Innovation funnel?  Competitive war gaming session?  Pick a big, hairy, scary issue and then commit to spending the day solving it with three simple exercises:

Stop! – What are each of you going to stop doing that is blocking you and the team from a break through.   Post as many things as possible big and small.   Simplification of your professional lives often leads to so much greater productivity.  Then BURN everything you have written and posted on the walls.  Throwing these papers into a fire and watching them burn can be highly effectively to letting go of BS that is holding you back.

Keep! – What do you want to keep doing that is helpful and critical to getting to the treasure!  Acknowledge all the great things you have been doing and how they are helping you.   Here I have often paired folks up on the team and have them tell their partner what they are doing that is critical in helping.  So often we don’t even realize all the great things we do that help our team members.   This also builds pride and appreciation for our team mates.   Share everything discovered and build a manifesto wall of all the great things you will continue doing.  Take this back to office and post it somewhere prominently.  Daley reminders after an offsite can help you make it actionable afterwards instead of a one day oasis.

Start! – Wishing “if only we could…” doesn’t become actionable until you commit to doing it.   So wish away all the things you and your team want to expedite your ability to get the treasure and then figure out how to convert them from wishes to new weapons in your arsenol to claim your prize.  Assign each wish to a crew member in charge of making it a reality for the team in the shortest time frame you can challenge yourselves to.  Meet regularly after the offsite and add the new capabilities to your manifesto wall as each new ability comes to fruition.

After my most successful pirate raid, my team worked much more efficiently cross functionally because we appreciated everyone’s contribution better and also had gotten rid of a bunch of BS from the “stop” exercise.   We also had a clearly articulated common mission and easy way to remind each other when we forgot the enemy was “outside”.  You just picked up your sword and asked what crew you team mate thought they were on!
Sounds simple and yet we make is so much harder than is necessary.   Grab your swords and take no prisoners as you build your brands, companies and categories.  Goodness gracious – if you don’t have an interest in fighting fearlessly to get more folks to join your community, walk the plank and jump off the ship!


What pirate raid team building expedition have you found most helpful?  Please share in the comments below!

Branding.  What is your story?  And who cares?

Often when I’m working with a team or especially friends in new businesses, the question always comes up; “what is our story?” Sometimes folks actually say, Brand. But at the end of the day, using real people speak, the question is what is your story? You have to know this before you just starting doing stuff with your business. Otherwise you will be handicapping your efforts to grow effectively and efficiently as well as standing for something in particular vs just being a generic offering.
There are several models to help figure this out. Unilever introduced brand keys two decades ago. Good to Great (a must read) has the lighthouse Identity. And every agency I have worked with had their own model they enjoyed working through. Here is my evolved version to add to your models collection and hopefully to help you clarify your story.
There are four parts to the story that I see as an ongoing conversation between you and your consumer/community that ends in the middle of the perpetual conversation with an Essence – your rally cry for what you stand for. The four parts to the conversation are:
1. Functionality. What does your product or service offer?
2. Personality. How are you going to offer this product or service?
3. Emotional Value. How does your consumer/community ultimately benefit?
4. Discriminator. What is your competitive advantage? Why choose you over someone or something else?

The following four sections give you a few questions and thoughts on how to answer they questions for yourself so you can have your own Brand Identity to focus your efforts when growing your community and your business.

Functionality. Your Brag Board.

What are you actually giving to the consumer when they give you their money? A piece of jewelry? A cup of coffee? Vitamins and minerals that smooth fine lines and rejuvenate skin that is dehydrated. Protection from flea bites. Spend time taking apart your product or service and write down every aspect of what your product or service is doing for your consumer/community. Really blow out even the most minute details. Each ingredient in your product should have a functional benefit even if the consumer doesn’t know or appreciate it, yet.

This is an opportunity to take every single thing you have done to make this product available to the marketplace and brag about it. If you have kids, think about telling all the great things your child just did over the last few weeks. List out everything that is remarkable but folks probably don’t know. By the way, definition of remarkable is actions worth being noticed. I hope everything you have put into your product is worth being noticed. If not, stop doing those things and repurpose that time for things that are remarkable.

Once you have this list, start to highlight the ones that are the MOST remarkable, i.e. the top 3 – 5 reasons you are offering this product. This will be the foundation for why you exist.

Personality. Your wardrobe.

Now that you have a concise list of what you are offering, in what style do you want to offer this? No frills? All the frills? Made in America, red, white and blue forever? For me, this is where visuals tend to do more justice than words in the beginning. In team meetings, we often have magazines from difference places that we rip visuals from. You can also just have a blast on google images and type up words that are entertaining you at that moment. See what comes up and put a visual collage together.

Once your collage is up, bring it back to words. If you were at a cocktail party and overheard someone describing you (your product/service), what descriptive words would you hope they are using about you.
Quirky. Out there, but accessible. Always makes me happy. Classic without being stuffy. Always on trend but inclusive when I’m not on trend. Pushing boundaries. Ruthlessly honest. Have a rich vocabulary here. If this is going to inform you and others (agencies, team mates) that work with you to develop better packaging, communication, etc., you better use interesting words that are not generic. Cool. Honest. Transparent. Not especially helpful. Might as well say you are blue like the sky and stop reading this post.

Emotional Value. What is the consumer receiving?

Now it starts to get a bit harder. If you are trying to do this in one meeting/sitting. Stop and take a break right now. Clear your head and come back to this project.
Here you need to ask what is the higher order reason a consumer is giving you their money in exchange for a product or service. Wrinkle cream isn’t just to reduce wrinkles. It is to give a person confidence. Unfortunately dried apple dolls were never held up as the result of a life perfectly lived and so the more wrinkles the better you clearly have lived. Wrinkles show you are getting old and are getting worn out and maybe even too tired to keep going. So voila! Anti wrinkle cream to the rescue so you can project to the world you are not old and tired yet baby! Still count me in! No matter how old I am, I can walk into this room with confidence I still look young and vibrant.

As you start to articulate the higher order reason consumers/communities want to use you, it might be valuable to go back to your personality and supplement any additional ideas you have there that will reinforce this emotional value.

To help you get from all the functional benefits to the ultimate emotional value, try this ladder of benefits exercise:
A. List all your functional benefits from the first section of your brand story.
antibacterial ingredients and skin nourishing ingredients in a bar of soap.
B. Summarize in a sentence what this does functionally.
offers antibacterial clean without stripping your skin and making it dry.
C. Ladder that to a higher benefit functionally.
a thorough, healthy clean that washes away super germy and grimey dirt without dehydrating your skin.
D. Ladder the emotional value of this ultimate functional benefit.
Gives Moms confidence their kids won’t get sick playing in the dirt because they get a thorough, healthy clean that won’t harm their skin.
E. Ultimate emotional value.
Moms don’t have to worry about their kids getting dirty when they have this awesome healthy clean soap!

Discriminator. What is your competitive advantage?

This has always been the hardest for me and most teams I have worked with. It is so easy to make a grand statement, “We are the ONLY brand to blah, blah, blah.” Are we? Really? Here is where being first isn’t necessarily important. Google wasn’t the first or the best search engine. But it is the only search engine known universally. Has the biggest share of search by FAR and is almost a generic verb for getting answers. “Just google it.”

So, what is so special about you? Why choose you over someone else. Past consumer immersions can often help. Consumer reviews. Social comments. Consumer Care feedback. All incredibly helpful in determining what exactly is so special about choosing you over an alternative option.

Also make sure to really think through what all the alternatives are. Not just your immediate competitive set. Coke vs. Pepsi, or water. But also not drinking at all. This goes back to the emotional reason along with the functional reason consumers are consuming your product or service. What type of confidence or style or belonging are you bringing them that is truly unique to you?

For me, Apple’s discriminator could easily be technology enabled with style and grace. They have given me the use of the latest technology without making me feel stupid, but always inspiring me to be smarter with my tablets, phone and computer.

Now that you have the four steps in your consumer conversation you can have fun summarizing it into an essence. Teams often call this your rally cry! In the past I have had fun with “Freedom to Create”, “World in Living Color”, “Best Parts of Life”. No need for anyone to know which brands these were, because it was for the internal team. We knew what we stood for and why we came into work everyday. Our brand identities are fun and motivating. This is WHY you update them with your cross functional team. Brand stories and identities are for the whole company to align behind the mission and vision of the company. Without them, folks could be rowing in the wrong direction and not even know it. Enjoy updating yours or clarifying it with your entire time (even if this is for the first time). Y’all know the answers to everything above. Just take the time to get it articulated in the open for all to rally behind.

Comments? Questions? Builds? Great. Leave them in the comments below or email me at rebecca@firebirdbranding.com. Love to chat with you about your brands any time!

Cheers. REBF