<![CDATA[space2scale - Blog]]>Tue, 17 Nov 2015 10:17:24 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[All successful brands are ‘aspirational’]]>Tue, 17 Nov 2015 00:16:56 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/all-successful-brands-are-aspirationalWhen most marketers talk about an aspirational brand, they usually refer to one that confers economic status…Mecedes, Chanel, Dom Pérignon, Rolex, Swarovski…as if the only things that any of us ever aspire to are to be rich and important.
But consider what that says about our aspirations?  How shallow and one-dimensional many marketers believe us to be?  Maybe your customers truly aspire to be frugal, green, collaborative, flexible or fun.  Maybe they are trying to build up such qualities as calm or intelligence, reliability or simplicity, empathy or generosity.
In my experience, those are aspirational brand values with more commercial firepower…WalMart (frugal), Amazon (green), AirBnB (collaborative), UberX (flexible, Forever21 (fun)…than those who merely confer wealth and status.  So next time you think through your brand and the deeper aspirations of your ideal customer, notice if there isn’t a clearly differentiated value that only your product or service delivers in your category...and focus your branding efforts there.
And if there isn’t, it is probably high time to create it.

<![CDATA[Jessica alba meets topless]]>Mon, 03 Aug 2015 20:36:04 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/jessica-alba-meets-topless I am convinced that Jessica Alba – the talented actor and amazing social entrepreneur – conducts topless meetings…and likely for days at a time.  As does Jeff Bezos.  And Sara Blakely.  And Howard Schultz.  And Donna Karan.  As well as anyone else who has ever built a powerful brand in the digital age. 

According to Investopedia, a Topless Meeting is a meeting without laptops, smartphones or any other electronic device.  www.investopedia.com/terms/t/topless-meeting.asp 

Why meet topless for a couple of days?

An uninterrupted conversation about what makes your brand different is the most important conversation you will ever engage in as a business owner.  And yet most small businesses leaders don’t do it.  “I don’t have time for an offsite!  I have a business to run!”  “Just hire a graphic designer for the logo.”  “Maybe s/he can do the website too?”  “We need a facebook, twitter, pinterest, I think…”  “Let’s get an SEM/SEO specialist to get us leads.”

Leads for what?  What are you going to tweet about?  No one knows what you stand for – including yourself – except perhaps that you sell books or undies or coffee or clothes.  And maybe you’re good enough at it to grow your business year after year.

To build a scalable brand however, you have to break out from your category.  You have to build on top of your category promise.  You have to be the biggest (Amazon), or the slimmest (Spanx), or the friendliest (Starbucks) or the “uptown modern” (Donna Karan).  And, most importantly, you have to call it before you become it.

And no, you will never call it in an hour here or there.  To crystallize a category trumping brand statement like: “The Honest Company is a consumer goods company that emphasizes non-toxic household products to supply the marketplace for ethical consumerism” you’ll have to meet topless for at least a couple of days.

I’d be very surprised if Mrs. Alba did not.
One last thing:  Of course I intended the pun of my subject line.  Mrs. Alba is known in Hollywood for her strict no-nudity clause or, as she has put it:  I have yet to come across any material that would be ‘elevated’ by that.  In other words, she is a great steward of her brand, leveraging her fame for social good…just like Paul Newman did, for example.  And I’m sure, Mr. Newman met topless too (…no, I’m not talking about Cool Hand Luke).

<![CDATA[The 7th question]]>Mon, 22 Jun 2015 22:41:35 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/the-7th-question Too many communication services providers today want you to believe that marketing is a series of activities, not a discipline.  Of course, marketers have a plethora of new tools available (Instagram anyone?) but that does not mean you should use all of them.

Instead, the trick is to use the ones that make sense for your brand.
  And the way to do that is by developing the discipline to make the "which tool or tactic" question the seventh question.

Here, then,  are the first 6 questions you have to have answered before you ever answer the 7th:

1.            Can you describe your brand promise in 7 seconds?

2.            Have you created an Internal Brand Statement (your big, category trumping idea) for your brand that clearly frames the brand promise, story and experience?

3.            Do you know where you want your brand to be 10 years from now?

4.            Have you decided on whether you want your customers to think, feel or act differently?

5.            Have you decided if you’re going to focus on gaining new customers or getting current customers to use more?

6.            Have you narrowed down your target to those who are the most motivated by what you have to offer?

If you answered “no” to ANY of the 6 questions, then you need to forget about the 7th question – the one about marketing tools and tactics and design and copy – and discipline yourself to build your brand foundation first.

And most importantly, be leery of those who keep saying “marketing has changed”, because the fundamentals still matter most and it is usually non-marketers who are saying it who are trying to sell you something.   ]]>
<![CDATA[Consider "Social Reshoring"]]>Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:30:39 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/consider-social-reshoringPicture
Beginning at 8am sharp, at an operations center in Pasadena, CA, a worker named Alex leads five people on a quest: to match or beat yesterday’s numbers.  A stickler for quality, Alex establishes eye contact with his supervisor anytime something is not working quite right.  For more complex challenges, he pulls out a tablet. The supervisor makes sure everything is back on line, and quickly.  Later, at the end of the shift, he and his team sign their goodbyes.  Alex cannot speak.

A little over a month ago, I completed a development project for FVO Solutions, a social enterprise that creates jobs for people with barriers to employment.  The experience has fundamentally changed my understanding of what it means to have a disability, or, more accurately, what it doesn’t mean.  Just because you cannot speak doesn’t mean you cannot write.  Just because you cannot see doesn’t mean you cannot feel.  In fact, you may be better with your words or hands, and outperform “normal” people, despite or precisely because of your barrier.  Put differently, if it wasn’t for an observable disability, society might label you talented instead.  Think about that as you read the next paragraph…

Since working here, I have met Gina, a blind woman who excels with tactile tasks…and, incidentally, is amazing on the phone.  Michael, who effortlessly remembers thousands of baseball scores by heart, and might spot tiny mistakes in ‘the numbers’ you and I wouldn’t find – even if we were looking.  And of course Alex, one of their many nonverbal employees whose phenomenal work ethic makes the social enterprise turn out thousands of high-quality hand assembly, packaging and fulfillment jobs day in and day out.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Unlike my initial perception of this being simply a sheltered workshop – a place that employs people with disabilities in a safe and customized environment – FVO Solutions is organized as a logistics and sales gateway to major retailers and big box stores, including, for example WalMart, Target and Big Five, as well as US government and military outlets worldwide.  With a modern fleet of trucks, FVOS picks up their customers’ jobs directly at the LA and Long Beach ports or anywhere else in Southern California.  And then, (after your manufacturing, assembly and packaging is complete and your product is ready for retail) they deliver or ship locally, or by common carrier worldwide.  And if they cannot build or assemble your product 100% in-house, they reach out to a local contract manufacturing network of fabricators, die casters, injection molders, metal stampers, etc. – a network built over the past 49 years.  As the people at FVOS like to say: “We’re not your father’s social enterprise”. http://www.fvosolutions.com/

What does all of this have to do with reshoring, i.e. bringing outsourced jobs back to the location from which they were originally offshored?  Well, when was the last time you walked through a big box store and saw a product that you, a member of your family, or someone in your community had a hand in producing?  When was the last time you said:  “Look at that cosmetics kit.  I wonder if Alex put that together…?”

Historically, the biggest driver behind outsourcing or off-shoring has been labor cost…and the perception that if US business could just get labor costs down, US business will be able to compete better, domestically and globally.  The reality that is settling in however is that total cost of ownership is dependent on many more factors than competitive labor rates – factors such as lead time, IP risk, inventory management, mass customization/ rapid change opportunities, consumer proximity and, of course, energy and transportation costs.

Today, many companies feel that reshoring will curb those losses – even if that means paying more for US labor.  But are US labor cost really that much higher?  Not necessarily…if you engage people with barriers to employment.  In other words, you may get all the above benefits of reshoring, provide an incredibly valuable service for your community, label your products “Made or Assembled in the USA”…and still keep your labor costs down.  Now that’s doing well by doing good!

So allow me to coin a new term: Social Reshoring

Social Reshoring (def.):  The practice of bringing outsourced labor back to the location from which they were originally offshored and create price competitive jobs in our own communities: for veterans, wounded warriors, at-risk youth, people with disabilities and others with barriers to employment.

Now, to make social reshoring economically attractive, organizations such as FVO Solutions are structured as both a for-profit and not-for-profit…and at the intersection of these two models is where a social enterprise emerges.  Obviously, the model is attractive to individual donors, foundations and government agencies who want their funds to be a catalyst – instead of just a money sink.  But here is where the magic really happens: given said support, FVOS can pretty well guarantee a globally competitive labor rate on US soil.  That’s right, our people economically hand assemble, package and ship your goods…and everybody turns a (tidy) profit. 

At FVOS, many of the business partners become so inspired by the work they do that they become “funders” themselves – donating industrial equipment, trucks and even our building in Pasadena, i.e. resources that then further enhance the competitiveness of local social enterprise.

There you have it:  Enterprise revenue plus donations plus government funding support:  three revenue streams conspiring together to deliver competitive global market advantages locally…while enabling our most marginalized population segments to provide true value to our businesses and communities and lead a productive life.

So, all you entrepreneurs, marketers, general managers and operating officers: let’s take “Made in the USA” one step further – let’s make it social!

Embrace Social Reshoring, that is, consciously think through the job tickets you have on your desk (offshore or otherwise) and then assign every task that an American with a disability can do…to an American with a disability. Your community, your pocketbook – and your brand – will be the better for it.

And make no mistake:  Workers with barriers are competitive, do a quality job, love what they do, want nothing more than help your business excel…and get paid for doing so.  If Alex could tell you, he would.

<![CDATA[ Why People Love Lego …and pay double! ]]>Mon, 28 Jan 2013 18:38:12 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/-why-people-love-lego-and-pay-doubleEvery company likes to think they have loyal, raving fans, but the obvious truth is that they have to be earned. Check out this article to see how Lego's customer service supports their brand.

And that’s one example of how good brand stewardship enables Lego to market cheap molded ABS plastic at a premium price.  The intellectual property is long gone and there is no one stopping you, me, or Mega Blocks from producing identical bricks and sell them cheaper.  But do you want to show up to a kids’ birthday party and announce to everyone you took the ‘low bid’ on a relatively cheap children’s toy?
Talking about Lego, check out my friend Greg's awesome kickstarter project Never Built: Los Angeles!  They are building an 11-foot-tall Lego tower using 67,000 Legos.
<![CDATA[A Brand Called YOU]]>Wed, 12 Dec 2012 04:35:45 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/a-brand-called-youLast year, for the holidays, I wrote a little holiday poem relating to lessons learned over the past year.  This year, I thought I'd share a neat little editing trick, learned years ago to let you contemplate and project the contribution you truly are to your business and ultimately to the world at large.

Grab a piece of paper and jot down the answers to these 4 questions (one short sentence each):

1.  What do you do?

2.  Why do you do what you do?  (If you answered: to earn money, try again.  If you get misty or giddy, you nailed it.)

3.  Why do you think what you do is important? (Here it is a good idea to express your life philosophy.  You may want to start your answer with:  “I believe" or "I know…”)

4.   What do you want your legacy to be?  (Here you ask what ultimate, big problem do you want to have solved?)

Clients will recognize these questions (even if amended a little bit to work on you personally) as the second step in the brand huddle – right after defining your business opportunities.

OK, got your answers?  Here’s the trick: String your answers together in the following order:

[Answer to #2] and knowing [Answer to #3] I, first name last name [Answer to #1] so/therefore/in order to [Answer to #4]

The paragraph you are about to review is not for public consumption.  It is the core of who you are.  The brand of YOU.  I am hoping that during the most reflective time of the year, this little exercise will bring you some private clarity, joy and peace…and maybe even point toward a new direction closer to your heart.    
<![CDATA[You're the best!  Now what?]]>Wed, 07 Nov 2012 20:12:50 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/youre-the-best-now-whatYou are the best at what you do.  Nobody in your category or line of work can claim superiority.  You're second to none.  Period.  Then why is it so @#$% hard to grow, let alone scale?  Here's why:
Unless your customers are elves fresh off the permafrost, being 'the best' is barely the cost of entry.  Nothing more.

To get noticed, break through and ultimately reach scale, you have to (a) marry being what you are best at with a unique and relevant brand promise – one that either trumps your category or creates a new category altogether; and (b) patiently, yet unflinchingly, deliver on that brand promise, day in and year out.  Only if you do that – and I can help you do just that – will you get a shot at building something great.

The caveat?  It takes time.  Nowhere is it more true than in branding that people overestimate what can be done in one year...only to grossly underestimate what can be done in ten.  The upside?  It makes the journey a lot of fun!

Need an example?  Changing the face of men's health globally can be as simple as growing a moustache if you can muster the persistence, patience and guts to take that stand:
Think it's worth a shot?
<![CDATA[Is Philanthropy Still Part of Brand USA?]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2012 21:46:56 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/is-philanthropy-still-part-of-brand-usaPicture
Research shows that the United States is the most philanthropic country in the world, by far.  The community chest, that uniquely American drive to share one’s wealth with other less fortunate community members – so all of us get the chance to live healthy and productive lives – is the root cause of our success.  More than that, it is our brand!  Think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Gates, Kroc, etc.  Now think of a German philanthropist.  I can't either.

During this election season however, the philanthropic differentiator of Brand USA lost some of its luster for me.  Why?  It occurred to me that the ultra affluent who lobby forcefully for lower taxes should, by definition, be our most philanthropic individuals and families – and the torch bearers of our giving culture.  I am talking, of course, about billionaires supporting the republican ticket.**

From what I can tell however, they are not.

Here’s how I came to this conclusion:  I simply compared a list of the election's biggest republican billionaire supporters with the list of billionaires who have signed the Giving Pledge http://givingpledge.org/

Apart from Harold Simmons and Julian Robertson, there is no further overlap between taxation averse billionaires supporting the Romney ticket and philanthropic billionaires joining The Giving Pledge – a campaign thus far joined by 81 of the 400 richest Americans, pledging to give 50% or more of their wealth to charity during their lifetime.

Now I’m no statistician, but when in a total population of just 400 people (The Forbes 400) a group of about 20% (81 people) commits publicly to meaningful philanthropy; and a separate group of about 7% (29 people) spends well over $200MM this election to limit their tax burden; and when only one half of one percent (just 2 out of 400 people) belong to both groups, i.e. committed philanthropists who also support the republican ticket, then the “lower taxes = more philanthropy” argument rings mighty hollow.

Of course, you may do with your money as you please.  But from a brand perspective, this looks really, really bad.

So, my suggestion to the other 27 billionaires bankrolling the republican campaign (that means you, Messrs. Adelson, Rowling and Koch) is to join Simmons and Robertson, put your money where our brand is and publicly align your wealth with it.  And the easiest way to do this is by joining the Giving Pledge, for starters.

**Disclaimer:  I have no desire to enter into a political discussion regarding the merits of republican, democratic, libertarian, green or other political ideologies.  Heck, I don’t know where I stand most of the time given that I’ve embraced and rejected notions of all.  Just pointing out the misalignment of Brand USA with respect to philanthropy, and suggesting a remedy that will restore its luster.  Who knows, refilling the community chest from all sides of the political spectrum should prove to be a catalyst for a faster recovery, irrespective of who’s running the country. 

<![CDATA[NEW CUSTOMERS EXCLUDED?]]>Tue, 11 Sep 2012 17:57:44 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/new-customers-excludedPicture
There are three little words that virtually guarantee to increase your customer acquisition costs, erode customer loyalty and devalue your brand:


A “New Customers Only” promotion tells your existing customers that you value them less than people who have not yet given you their business.  It tells your existing customers that they are being underserved, overcharged – or both.  And it encourages your customers to look for a better deal elsewhere.  In short, a “New Customers Only” promotion punishes loyalty.

All of this comes at an enormous expense.  “New Customers Only” promotions reduce your margins, increase your customer service costs, limit your spending to actually differentiate your product/service and ultimately result in the (further) commoditization of your value proposition.

So why do these promotions exist?  They work in the short term.  But in all reality, they are an addiction dating back to the middle of the last century – the high point of mass marketing effectiveness.  Ever since then it has simply been easier and quicker to “buy” new customers than it is to delight existing customers to the degree that they would become and remain loyal -- that is, turn down a better price to continue doing business with you.  Absent that, it’s not loyalty, it's just repeat business.

Unfortunately, in our increasingly transparent digital world, buying customers with the promotion-du-jour is losing its economic attractiveness faster than you can optimize click throughs.


My two cents?  Stop the new customer acquisition wars that alienate your good customers, eat your margins and commoditize your business.  Instead, run "New Customers Excluded" promotions.  That is, deliberately look for ways to reward the customers you do have...over and above the customers you don’t.  Do that well, and your existing customers actually become loyal and rave about your business to the new customers you are currently trying to buy.  The best part?  In this hyper-connected world, your loyal customers will do it right away...and for free!

<![CDATA[Positioning Junior for Stanford?]]>Tue, 05 Jun 2012 17:35:21 GMThttp://www.space2scale.com/blog/positioning-junior-for-stanfordAs summer break is upon us, and it is raining report cards all over the land, many of you are talking to your kids about the need for spectacular grades and notable extracurricular activities to attain that elusive goal of a brand name college education.

But what about Stanford’s challenge?  Every year admissions is tasked with putting together an exciting, diverse and ambitious student body, yet all who apply have one thing in common:  Spectacular grades and notable extracurricular activities.

So, who makes the cut?  My daughter excelled in art and wanted to attend a good school to hone her craft.  Among fierce competition, she managed to get into her three top choices, with generous scholarship offers from all.  She chose RISD, the Rhode Island School of Design – arguably the best art school in the world.  Did she have better grades than students who were rejected.  No.  Was her skill level so outstanding that she was a shoo-in?  Not necessarily.  Did she position herself to remarkably stand out from other applicants?  Absolutely.

Employing the same processes I use with my clients we spent essentially a day sorting through her many interests to identify a passion for animal justice.  We then leveraged that by putting together a small but highly focused portfolio around that theme.  In fact, we deliberately eliminated most of her figure drawings, her huge collection of Manga, her portraits (including the one on this page…) and trivialized all kinds of other notable but undifferentiating extracurricular activities like her service at the Huntington Library and Gardens.  If you have worked with me, you know how I do this.

Now there isn’t a college counselor on the planet that will tell your son or daughter: “here is how you leverage your passion for just that one thing (animal justice, skin graft science, crop dusting, whatever…)” because they too are stuck in bland, undifferentiated advice by virtue of the sheer number of students they attempt to serve…and because branding and positioning is work, focused one-on-one work, to do it right.

But I assure you, top-tier colleges are looking for precisely that kind of differentiation...and the rewards of securing for your child said top-tier education cannot be overstated.  So as you look at your child’s academic potential, also develop your child’s brand potential as a unique and remarkable contribution to the incoming freshmen class…and make it easy for Stanford (Harvard, CalTech, Yale, Prineton, RISD, etc.) to say yes.