Watch the Episode Here:
Listen to the podcast here:
I am super excited to bring you someone who you’ve heard of already because when I say, “Me only branding, me only territory, me only products,” this is the guy I’m quoting. I’m bringing you my favorite branding expert in the world, Gerry Foster. He is Gerry Foster Branding. I am going to call him a branding evangelist. He is so passionate about branding, but he has so much experience with Procter & Gamble and big companies that do brands that you recognize every single day. That’s the market you’re competing with even if you think you’re just on Amazon and it’s not that big a deal because you’re showing up in the search engine. At the end of the day, if someone’s going to refer your product and tell their friends about it and you’re going to get that traction, you have to become a brand. Gerry knows the most about this, so I’m bringing him on for you. Gerry, thanks for joining us.
Tracy, thank you for having me. I am hyena happy and peacock proud to be here.
I want to talk about what a brand is because lots of people think it’s the logo.
It’s more than a logo because your brand is your reputation. It’s the promise that you’re giving to the consumer in terms of letting them know what they can be counted on to receive from you. If you think about it, it requires more than simply having it in image because a lot of times people think that the brand is the image, the look and the feel of the brand. The thing about them, which is interesting is that for most people, when you hear the word brand, that’s what they associate with it. The visual, the aesthetics, the look and the feel of the brand. That’s important, but the key is what are you going to be counted on to deliver to your market? From that perspective, that takes more than a look.
It is. The job for everyone is to shape those perceptions.
What you think you are may not be what they think you are.
Isn’t that the truth? The way you see yourself may not be how others see you. The moment you tell someone who you are and what it is that you do, they will slot you. They will put you into a box. They’ll come up with their own conclusions in terms of what they think you are capable of. “I’m a real estate agent,” I put you into the real estate pile. “I’m a financial player,” I’ll put you into the financial planning pile. “I’m a life coach. I own this business.” The idea with branding, particularly big branding, which you know is what I specialize in, is shaping perceptions so that people see you the way that you want them to see you. That’s the sad reality of business, Tracy. It is because in the scope of things, the whole marketplace is super crowded. It’s noisy. Everyone out there is competing.
There are 1.4 billion websites on Google. Is that crazy? It’s growing all the time.
Here you are as a small business owner and you’re competing with thousands, if not millions, of similar businesses around the world that are vying for your attention and your dollar. False perceptions occur and more importantly, standing out is getting harder and harder. It’s as if you were invisible.
Tell me about that because we quote you all the time here. We give you credit for it because I’m big on that. Tom and I used to call it original product but you have a great way to determine it. It’s me only. Tell me about the different categories of product that you talk about.
There are three levels that small business owners can play at. There is me too, me special and me only. If someone sees you as a me too, whoever or whatever, you’re now a commodity. You’re being labeled as being generic. You’re just a carton of milk, a bottle of water, a piece of furniture.
Let me translate that for Amazon sellers on here. For Amazon sellers, this is what we would call white label. You’re reselling, you’re wholesaling, you’re arbitrage and you’re reselling something that already exists. This is me too.
In that situation, you’re forced to compete on price and availability because you’re now a commodity. However, brands like Nike and Starbucks have shown us that the products they offer are less important than the brands they market and sell. The idea around branding yourself is it makes sure that people see you as offering something that they cannot get anywhere else, which leads to the next level called me special. Me special are those owners out there, particularly the Amazon folks who were saying, “Gerry, I’ve got something that’s different.” Is it relevant and do people care about it?
This is where you’ve made something customized. Maybe you’ve done some bundling, maybe you’ve made it a little bit better than the other guys out there and girls out there, but it’s not in its own territory.Make the decision to be an innovator, not an imitator. Click To Tweet
The level that owners want to play at is the level that I call me only, which means that you are now making the decision to be an innovator and not an imitator, that you’re going to take what you have and convert it into a me only brand proposition. That means that as an owner, if you’re going to put a product or even a service out there yourself, you’ve got to forge new territory. You’ve got to do things differently than your competition. You’ve got to get people to see you as being highly distinctive because you are providing value that’s unrivaled.
This is where we’re living here on Product Launch Hazzards. If you want to get to that big brand level, you’ve got to be playing at that innovator level. There’s no way to get past that. We have a lot of brands that we’ve worked with over the last five years or so that are Amazon brands that grew from the me too into me special and they cap out. What we found is that there’s about a $10 million cap. They could do pretty well with lots of great marketing and decent brand that with their products don’t head into innovator territory and their brand doesn’t head into the innovator territory, then they can’t make it past that into the hundred million.
You have hit the nail on the head because you have to put something out that is unique and believable and highly regarded, which means that you’re making a decision that you and I are going to follow the crowd, you’re going to lead the crowd. If you look at the big brands, the big ballers and shot callers, these are brands that have made the decision that they’re going to generate more love for their own brand by making it unforgettable and favored by the consumer they’re trying to attract. That’s why when you look at incredible brands that are innovators, not imitators, I don’t care if we’re talking old school brands from McDonald’s to TV Guide to Coca-Cola, to brands like Nike and Dove soap. There’s something associated with those brand names which make me come to the conclusion, “Me only rules. Me too stinks.
There’s Nike in performance. Why is that? We associate a level of performance with Nike gear and Nike sneakers that we don’t associate with others. Dove soap says, “Our brand is about fresh, beautiful skin.” What? Can’t you get the same thing from other soaps? Maybe not. Look at Pixar. With the innovative, animated stories and they are rocking the industry because people feel that the Pixar brand stands for something that is highly distinct and above the rest of the crowd.
It is shown to be again and again, but at the end of the day, what is important for you to remember is it doesn’t matter how great and innovative you think your product is. If the market isn’t buying it, if the market doesn’t believe that, if your brand perception with that audience is not connecting, you have a problem.
That’s why a logo is not enough. I don’t have anything against well-polished websites, edgy color schemes, eye-popping logos, packaging and all of that stuff. Anything that’s going to help to end up with good notice is important. However, your logo is not your whole brand. If you’re trying to have some real traction, then you’ll quickly understand that design alone is not the driving force behind rapid brand growth. Design alone doesn’t capture what I call brand power, which is the power of you as the owner, as a creator of your product, as the founder of your company. Whatever it is that you’re putting out there, it’s you making the decision that you’re going to put out a rock star brand that is going to create an engaging emotional experience that the consumer wants to be a part of. A logo alone can’t do that. I was speaking somewhere, this guy goes, “I appreciate what you’re saying because I can get a logo done for $50.” The guy goes, “I can go on Fiverr.com and get it done for $5.” I go, “Really? You think it’s that easy?”
The very first article I ever wrote for Inc. was Million-Dollar Companies Don’t Buy $5 Logos. It’s not a cut on Fiverr. You could get great design there, but only if you know what you’re asking for and that’s what the branding conversation is. Any decent graphic designer can execute a great brand strategy and a great outline of what needs to be communicated and how it needs to be communicated. That’s where it is. It’s not about the logo. At the end of the day, it’s not even about where you get it but if you think you’re going to get branding from 99designs and from Fiverr, you are totally wrong. They do not guide you on that.
Non-conforming brands provide traction. That’s the whole key. When you make the decision in whatever industry, whatever kind of product you may have or a service, a nonprofit, whatever it may be, you’re making the decision that you’re going to deviate and not conform. You’re going to forge new territory, put something out that is surprising and awesome that rocks your industry. That’s what Airbnb did. That’s what Uber did. You’ve got so many brands that are out there now because they understand you must leverage innovation.
What are the indicators? What should people come ready for? Should they have some amount of information? Should they have some amount of sales? Should they have some audience to talk to? What makes it easier for you to help them provide a great brand?
They should have something that can either solve a problem. The greatest brands on the planet are brands that allow us to say to the marketplace, “I know you’ve got this painful, annoying, aggravating problem that you are dealing with personally or perhaps your family or your company. My brand will make it go away.” That’s number one. Number two, can you give people a better outcome? In other words, in most industries think about this. Whatever category, whatever field of expertise she may be in, most people are either using a product or service like that already or they think they know of one that can do the same thing and so their attitude is like, “I’ve already got a vendor. I’ve already got a supplier. I’ve already got a product that can do this.”Design alone is not the driving force behind rapid brand growth. It does not capture brand power. Click To Tweet
You’ve got to come in and say, “You want to know what sets me apart? I can give you a better outcome than what you’re currently using or thinking of.” A better outcome is the second opportunity for anyone out there who wants to brand what they have. The third is, can you perform a miracle? There are brands out there that you are talking about, “We can perform a miracle for you. We’ll show you how to lose twenty pounds in twenty days without going hungry. We’ll get rid of your belly fat in ten days. We’ll get rid of your migraine headache in five minutes. Guys, you can have six-pack abs in 30 days if you use the add machine.” There are miracle stuff out there where we look at our situation and go, “This is impossible. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Help me.”
We’re always on the lookout for those incredible remedies. The fourth is when you can say to the consumer, “I can provide you the emotional payoff that you’re looking for.” In other words, “You can stop feeling stressed out or worried or embarrassed, whatever that negative emotion may be, my product or my skill set will make that go away.” When you look at those four items, can you solve a problem, proven outcome, perform a miracle of some sort or provide some emotional payoff? Then you got every opportunity and every reason to go out there and big brand it.
Sometimes we have to do a hypothesis brand. Some people call it a starter brand. You believe you have these things but you haven’t sold anything yet, you have no proof yet and so you’ve got to start somewhere. What should people start with when they have a starter brand? When they don’t have a lot of budget either?
The first thing they should do is lay down their brand foundation. That’s the key. What I mean by that is to understand that it’s like building a house. If you’re going to build a house, the first thing that you would do is work with the architect to get the blueprint that lays out the design of the house and what you have in mind and on. The first thing that an owner should do is lay down a solid, multi-layered strategic foundation. This should be done before they jump at any creative development work, before they think about trying to come up with marketing ideas and promotion ideas. What a foundation is designed to do is to give your brand a soul, a voice, a body where you’re pulling together all the key elements that make up an identifiable, powerful strong brand so that your buyers have a clear understanding of what makes you different and better than what’s currently out there.
If you don’t have a brand that says, “I’ve got something that is vastly superior to what else the competition may be offering,” you’re dead in the water. You’ve got to lay down the foundation that you can then build your unique value upon just like a house. Once the concrete is poured and the steel reinforcement, bars and studs are in place that will support a house that was set upon it, it’s the same thing here. We’ve got to make sure that all the key elements come together which increases the likelihood that people would think about your brand when they are in the market for a product or service like yours because they see you are offering something that is one of a kind.
We’re big here on plans and foundations because this is where all the wrong things and all the wrong order with all the wrong people happen. We’re about the right things in the right order with the right resources.
Let’s talk about the reality of going into business in the first place. When you made the decision that you’re going to navigate those waters, you’ve got to be able to re-stand the winds of unpredictable problems, challenges and changes, this thing called life itself so the brand is your seawall. You’ve got to have that seawall that is designed to protect you from all those outside elements. They are unforeseen and out of our control.
There are so many things out of our control in the big brand world.
When you dare to plunge into this emotional minefield with all these treacherous waters and storms that can come up out of this thing called, “I have my own business.” You’ve got to make sure that you put yourself in the best position to forge ahead, to work on your dreams coming true. Understanding that you’ve got to persevere in a business world that at times can seem tough, unfair, accessible and bruising in ways that we never ask for in. The best way to do that is to make sure that you have a me only, a one-of-a-kind rock star brand that says to the world, “I’ve got something fresh, different and original that you’re going to fall in love with it.” That’s the key. You’ve got to put something out that people want to fall in love with and be a part of. Tracy, you and I talked about that. This is our world. We love our brands. We have preferences.
We love our brands. We rave about our brands and that’s when you hit into those hundreds of million-dollar territory on up.
You’ve got folks out there who are putting together million-dollar brands within twelve months. You’ve got people who become multimillionaires in a few years because they understand the importance of strategically designing their brand. The greatest brands are strategically developed, not from image, not from a look, not from colors and all the aesthetics, but more about, “What can I put out into the marketplace that people are going to get excited about and want to fall in love with?” A consumer sees value, unheard of value in that brand. That’s what my work is about. My work is about making sure that people are able to make success possible at a high level by making their mark on the world, by making sure that their light shines brightly forever with a brand that people are going to notice and pay attention to and want to purchase.
That’s why I told you he was the branding evangelist. He loves branding as much as I love products. We’ve got a good match here, Gerry. I like to let people know that you’ve been there, done that again and again. One of the ways is through some of the stories of the things that go terribly wrong, the actual hazards that you might have encountered. We want to hear stories of where people really didn’t consider branding and it went terribly wrong. Do you have anything you could share with us?
Are you looking for products or services?
Probably products on this platform.
I would say that probably the biggest one is the fellow who thinks that the key to success is building a better mouse trap. I remember this one fellow who created this product. I can’t remember the category. His focus was on, “I’m going to put something out that is going to be great because I’ve got all the bells and whistles. I’ve got all the key features in it and I’m proud of it and people are going to want to buy it.” What was missing from him is that he wasn’t addressing the void in the marketplace. He wasn’t asking himself the simple question called, “What are people looking for that they cannot find?”
That’s the whole key. It all starts with asking yourself, “Where’s a big hole that they can fill and provide value that no one else does?” At the end of the day, if you cannot say to the consumer, “I’ve got exactly what you’d been looking for and you can only get it from me, no one or anything else even comes close. I am fearlessly original.” When you can say that to someone, you’re cooking with gas because you’re putting out something special that people are going to find interesting and appealing.What you think you are may not be what they think you are. Click To Tweet
We have a lot of people who think that they can go into it and automatically get on the shelf or get licensed, get their brand bought because they’ve got a great product idea. What we have said is that those days are over. It might have been that way fifteen years ago, but it’s not that way now. Now, you have to prove that your brand has fans, that people love it. It’s more important for that than it is to have a great product, which I hate to say that as a person who wants great products out there. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good product, but a brand can mean more unfortunately. We want to bring both things together. We want to bring great products that solve incredible problems that really do a service and emotionally connects with people because that’s when you have a highly valuable brand.
You’ve got to offer something unique and different that the world hasn’t heard or seen before. Let’s take the Amazon product. You may have a product and you’re rocking it, you’re making money and all of a sudden, others get into the market with a similar, if not the same, product. Here you are all of a sudden, you’ve gone from me only to me too.
It happens all the time because the buyers’ loyalty is to Amazon and not to your brand on there because you haven’t pulled them off, you haven’t got brand fans yet, you haven’t gone deep enough.
I’m working with a couple of companies who have health supplements. When they first came out into the market with their vitamins and the things that they offer to help people become healthy in the areas that they specialize in, they were pretty much the only game in town. Then all of a sudden, the market became saturated then the perception on the part of the consumer was, “I can’t see the difference between you and these others. What’s your price?” The moment that someone commoditizes you like that, labels you as generic, you are dead in the water. Let’s think about. What happened to Myspace? What happened to Blockbuster? What happened to RadioShack?
Their brand and their products didn’t keep up. They both didn’t keep up.
Blackberry, AOL, look at all these products. Blackberry was the first smart phone. They created it.
It’s completely gone. I don’t know anyone who has one anymore.
You have to have a competitive advantage and you’ve got to drive home the advantages that your product offers if your goal is to activate customer engagement, which means that you’ve got to carve out your me only image in a crowded marketspace that allows you to shine brightly above the competition.
The message that I want you to get a cost to everyone is also that this is not a static thing. Brand shifts over time. They pivot. They grow just like their product lines have to grow and if they don’t grow, if they don’t shift like Radio Shack did, they weren’t paying attention to where their customers were going even though they may have had great product still, things that people wanted, they didn’t shift to where the people were. You’re not doing a service to your fans, you’re are not keeping up with them.
You have the companies that did make the shift. One of the greatest examples of that is Target. Remember how back in the day Target was competing with Walmart, Sears, JCPenney and Kmart on a basis of low price. Who can outdo Walmart when it comes to low prices? Target rebrands itself and shifts from being known for low price merchandise to the affordable chic marketplace. Now a consumer says, “I don’t shop at Target. I shop at Target.” There you go.You’ve got to offer something unique and different that the world hasn’t heard or seen before. Click To Tweet
They did that through branding messaging, branding shift and through their products because they brought in Michael Graves and Cynthia Rowley and people like that to help upgrade their brand lines within that. These things go hand in hand. That’s why we have this platform here because we want to make sure that you can collaborate with all of us. That you can do the right things in the right order. That you can access early on, maybe before you’re a little ready for them then get ready for him. Then follow up with me afterwards and make sure that your products are delivering that original brand message that you’ve set for yourself and that original brand perception is being seen through in your products.
That you’ve got marketing funnels that express that instead of are counter to that. I’ve seen that so often when you have a wonderful brand and then you have this salesy funnel. It’s terrible. We want all those things to have synergy and that’s why we’ve invited the group that we have here, experts like Gerry and all of the experts on our platform. We want you to access them and ask them questions. That’s why they’re here to do live Office Hours. Join Gerry live on his next Office Hour because he’s brilliant. You can ask him so many questions. He’s an amazing person. You also should invite him to your event if you’ve got events going on.
It doesn’t matter at what stage someone is in. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a startup mode or they have an idea, a dream, an invention, a concept, the whole thing on a napkin. It does not matter if you’re at that stage or if you’re already in business and you’re in revenue. That product that you’re offering must come across as a brand. That’s the key if you want sustainable long-term growth and you want to make it a lot of money. I can help any of those folks, the part timers, the dreamers, the full timers, the veterans, it does not matter. Like Target, even if you have a company that’s out there and it’s been in the market for a while, it has to be refreshed. It’s all about re-imagination, reengineering, revamping and all that stuff to keep freshening up what you have.
Gerry, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. Product Launchers, if you want to connect with him, you go right into the profile on ProductLaunchHazards.com and you will find everything you need to know to connect with him and find Gerry. He’s got some cool programs and a few free downloads and things that I know that he’s going to contribute to our platform over time. Be looking for all the videos from Gerry and be looking for his Office Hours every single month.
Thank you, Tracy. It’s my honor to be a part of this and with your audience, whatever I can do to serve. That’s why I’m here.
Thanks again, Product Launchers. Until next time.
About Gerry Foster
Gerry Foster, a highly accomplished brand strategist, is the President of Gerry Foster
Branding, a Brand Development and Training Company based in Los Angeles, CA. He
is the creator of the Big Brand Formula which shows small business owners how to
create a big brand, and a strong message that sells, so you can excite, delight, and ignite
your market and make it easier to get new customers.
Known affectionately as the Branding Evangelist, Gerry is a dynamic, high energy,
charismatic international speaker.
- His presentations, training, and coaching are not about doing more of the same,
maintaining status quo, or playing small
- He wants to assist, guide, and support owners who are willing to flip the script, go
to the deep end of the pool, and turn the tables in their favor
- Gerry believes this can be attained by creating brands so unexpected, so profound,
and so striking … success to owners can only multiply over time
Since starting his company full-time in 1985, Gerry has helped over 100,000 small
businesses from over 600 different industries.
- A former brander with Procter & Gamble (P&G), he shows owners how to brand
as the big companies do – combining the best in entrepreneurial branding with the
best thinking, methods, and approaches from the world of big branders
- The recipient of many business awards, in 2008 Gerry was honored as the Father
of Business in Los Angeles County by the City of Los Angeles for his tireless and
faithful work with small businesses
Actively involved in education, Gerry was also an adjunct professor of branding,
marketing and advertising for ten straight years at California State University – Fullerton,
California State University – Long Beach, Pepperdine University, and the University of
California – Irvine (UCI)
- At UCI Gerry co-founded the Marketing Communications Certificate Program, a
distinguished program that has become extremely popular and successful for the
Gerry is a graduate of the University of Southern California, renown Marshall School of
Business, where he received both his BS and MBA degrees with honors (cum laude) in
marketing (with deep study in branding). His company website is