Category Archives: branding

Marketing is Storytelling

Do you have a good story?

Seth Godin and I agree on a lot. Not everything, but a lot. Seth wrote the book on Permission Marketing and All Marketers are Liars. You'll notice he decided that title was unnecessarily provocative and also incorrect. He revised it to more correctly state that all marketers are storytellers and I agree.

I was recently reminded of the importance of good storytelling by a visit to the Montreal Auto Show – a showcase of marketing by big spenders at the automakers. They were focused on new car design concepts and electric vehicles, not so much on the company story which for many of the legacy carmakers is not very appealing.

I liked the story of a new player in the EV market – VinFast. VinFast is the automobile manufacturer in Vietnam that is part of Vingroup, currently Vietnam's largest conglomerate, founded in 1993 by Pham Nhat Vuong, a local billionaire who made his initial fortune in Ukraine when he sold his instant noodle business to Nestle. Vingroup currently operates in thirteen business sectors in Vietnam. VinFast is dedicated to building electric vehicles, "better than Tesla, at lower prices, with longer warranties and higher performance." And with a much better story of the entrepreneur-owner than the one Elon Musk has been writing for himself lately.

How good is your story? You’ve spent a lot of time and money on branding and product development to convince your customers to stick with you, but do they also love your story? That may be the deciding factor in holding their long-term loyalty.

(FYI: VinFast is accepting orders now for delivery in Canada by April. If not their car, then maybe their stock is a good buy. They’re planning for an IPO listing on NASDAQ this month. Note: NOT a stock tip! I’m not qualified. Just sharing the information.)

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs



Good branding?

Or a good first impression?  

It is an important distinction: Are we building a brand based on exceptional customer experience over the long-term; or, are we trying to get their attention with a glitzy logo and a catchy slogan?

The long-term experience and the first impression have to be consistent. Not initial false promises raising unreasonable expectations resulting in disappointed customers looking to leave us instead of becoming raving fans recommending us to everyone they know.

It’s easy to be attracted to the fun of continuously meddling with the glitzy logo and the catchy slogan and neglect delivering the goods and exceptional customer service on every interaction.

Good luck. None of it is easy.

Be better. Do better. 

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

Build, Buy, or Franchise?

Had your Subway yet, today?

The original co-founder of the Subway sandwich chain, Peter Buck, died earlier this month at age 90. He was a 34-year-old nuclear scientist (and expert in subway sandwiches, apparently) when, in 1965, he loaned $1,000 to a family friend, 17-year-old college  student, Fred DeLuca, to start a sandwich shop called Pete’s Super Submarines in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Today, Subway is the largest restaurant chain in the world with about 20,000 restaurants in the U.S. and 40,000 worldwide, and Buck’s net worth has been estimated at almost $2 billion.

Sometimes those loans to a friend turn out to be good investment. And you don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to make good choices.

What’s a good franchise investment today? Would you like to own and manage a fast- food franchise or buy shares in the franchisor and watch your investment grow? Be an active or passive investor? Recommendations by the experts – business brokers and financial advisors – are not very helpful. They’re always working to promote their own choices and are often biased by their own self interest. You’ll have to do your own research. Like Buck and DeLuca, visit a lot of sandwich shops and then eat your own cooking before you test it on customers.

There are lots of franchise opportunities, not just fast-food and coffee shops, but also personal and professional service companies from body-shops to fitness centres. I’ve always suggested to entrepreneurs that the choices for starting a business are to build, buy or rent. The rental option is to become a franchisee and pay to use the established branding and proven business model of the franchisor. You lose the freedom to make your own choices, which is the appeal that motivates most entrepreneurs, but you reduce the risks of making bad choices and unsuccessful investment decisions. Maybe get the experience with a franchise while you’re still a college student and learn how to reduce the risks and improve the results before you start.

For passive investing, there are many currently recommended stocks in the franchise and fast-food sector. But again, you should do your own research and make your own choices.

That’s the essence of successful entrepreneurship, confident and competent decision-making.

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, Your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs


Come on Canada! Get onside with Wayne Gretzky and cheer for Blackberry.

The new Blackberry Passport is more than a smart phone, almost a full-featured tablet.  I like it and think it will be a winner for Blackberry.  Maybe not a quick fix for the company turnaround, but a clear departure from trying to follow the leaders - Samsung and Apple  - with another consumer friendly wannabe.

BBY PassportFocused on "serious" users of the smart phones who appreciate the real keyboard and high security features over games and cute apps to impress their friends.

You may think I'm only interested in pumping up the sickly share price, but I'm OK holding on for $20 a share and we're not likely to get their  soon, even with a Passport.

I think the company has put in place more competent, less ego-driven management and a strategy to leverage its substantial strengths into market success.  A new and improved Blackberry that Canadians can be proud of again.

We don't need another technology success story that crashes and burns like Nortel or (AES Data that rose and fell before it).  Also an easier symbol of Canadian entrepreneurship to promote than the Alberta oil sands. (And much less controversial.)

A recent article in the Financial Post by Steven Kates, SFU Business Professor, prompted me to reply.

I also use Starbucks as an instructive example for other businesses. But Steven Kates has it wrong in suggesting that Starbucks needs to "emphasize that it is continually learning how to be a good corporate citizen, not simply appear as one." Sorry, but that is not a relevant response to recessionary times.

He has it right in the first sentence of his article, "I have an abiding love for the Starbucks brand." That is the hot button to push for Starbucks - their astonishingly loyal, dedicated customers. Leverage that relationship to make the business recession proof. Recognize and reward loyalty. Keep them coming back; don't disturb or distract them from the attraction of the ambiance and the attitude that comes with visiting Starbucks. I know of no other brand loyalists that are such fierce defenders of their daily fix. (Some even admit that it's somewhere between an addiction and a cult.)

Starbucks customers might back off the $5 latte for a cup at $3.95 in response to current economic pressures, but they are unlikely to go to Tim Horton's for their coffee.

My advice to businesses in these difficult times is to focus on key customer relationships and know what will continue to work and what needs to change for them to stick with you. Starbucks is doing that very well by eliminating outlets in oversaturated markets and by returning to the service concepts that made them indispensable in the first place.

Thumbs up or down for GM?

It seemed like a strange combination on the same page of the Business Section in a national newspaper.

All the headlines were about GM and the risk of bankruptcy. One of America's largest and most important corporations in dire straits because of the economic circumstances. Should they get bailed out by the US treasury? Something must be done to save them and all the jobs that depend on GM.

And across the bottom of the same page a full colour ad for the new Cadillac CTS with 556 horsepower for zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds at only $68,500. Just what we need for difficult times.

It seems to me that one message explained the other.

Bad management leads to bad results and the free market economy will help to decide who consumers (i.e. taxpayers) should support.

The value of a good company name struck me en route to spring skiing on Sunday. Flying by on the freeway I suddenly noticed two distinctive names that seemed to stand out in the row of businesses along the highway.

Stonedge and Simple Signman.

Memorable don't you think? A catchy, meaningful and memorable name is always a huge advantage in building brand recognition and corporate identity. Especially if it is a good fit to the business and its strategic positioning.

In working with entrepreneurs I often have to get them to re-think their planned business name after we've completed a thorough review of their corporate strategy and marketing communications plan because it is simply not consistent, not supportive, and often in direct conflict with the message and the corporate identity. For example; "J&B Java" for a retro '60's style diner and gift shop. Or "PBX Services" for an architectural and interior design consulting firm. It's worth the extra effort to try and be more creative and consistent with your marketing image.

You may want to invent a new word for your name, like Yahoo or Google, but unless you can spend a fortune making it known and putting it everywhere, like Starbucks or EXXON, then try something that is more meaningful and memorable.

Imagine the additional business that comes from customers who will instantly recognize who you are and what you do, as well as those customers that will more likely remember you for next time. Think of a good name as a valuable silent salesman - always working for you.