Suddenly Marketing

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Tag: philosophy

Get mad: marketing from your dark side

Do what you love.

Follow your passion.

Lead with your heart.

I have more Pollyanna DNA than most, but this tired advice has always felt a little empty to me, a little one-dimensional. After all, life isn’t just rainbows and unicorns. Life has a dark side. The trick is learning to access that dark side for good instead of evil.


No one is a hero without a villain.  Click to tweet. 

Your brand is what you stand for. It embodies the things you want to be known for – speed, agility, creativity, beauty, progress, simplicity, the lowest price in town, etc. What so many people forget, however, is that the best brands also stand against something.

What is the opposing force that your brand is poised to fight? What war cry would your brand scream charging into battle? What sends you into apoplectic fits of rage and indignation? What injustice are you determined to undo? What piece of insanity do you want to wipe from the face of this Earth?

Everyone – even the sweetest, most mild-mannered of us – fights an enemy. What enemy are you fighting?


The villain isn’t a “who,” it’s a “what.”

Be careful not to confuse your enemy with the competition. They are not the same.

Your competitors are actually your allies, battling beside you against a common enemy. You compete against each other for the loyalty of your shared audience, but at the end of the day you’re fighting the same fight.

Your enemy is much bigger than your competitors. Your enemy isn’t a “who,” it’s an idea or a situation or a philosophy. It’s a way of life, the status quo, a lack of something, or too much of something else. It’s the thing that makes you want to write a proverbial letter to the editor each time you encounter it. It inspires you to get up on your soapbox and preach your personal gospel to the world.


The villain helps define the hero.

Without an opposing force, a hero is just a person who is going through the motions.

Without an opposing force, there is no fire in the hero’s soul. There is no sense of greater purpose, no fierce commitment, no do-or-die mission.

Without an opposing force, we never get to see what the hero can really do.

Like it or not, your enemy is a big part of who you are and why you are.

  • Who is Luke without Darth Vader?
  • Who is Frodo without the Dark Lord?
  • Who is Buffy without vampires?
  • Who is Erin Brokovitch without corporate corruption?
  • Who is Katniss Everdeen without the Captial?
  • Who is Liz Lemon without Jack Donaghy?

You get the idea.

What idea or status quo is your brand pitted against?


The battle brings critical conflict to your story.

You know that marketing with story is a powerful technique, but do you know what makes a story a story?


No conflict, no story.

If you haven’t identified and called out your enemy, your story lacks conflict. It will fall flat, failing to pique the interest of your audience, never mind inspire them to loyalty or incite them to action.

When you get clear about the nature of your enemy, you get clear about the war you’re fighting. You know what your battle cry should be. You can make a strong stand not only for something, but against something else.

This is important.


Do what you love, but know why you love it.  Click to tweet. 

Love does not exist in a vacuum.

  • I love being out in the quiet of the woods because it provides me with an enlightening escape from the overwhelming, multi-tasking world of my computer.
  • I love beautiful art because it strikes a blow against the boring and overly utilitarian.
  • I love simple, well-designed apps because they help me wrangle and manage the chaos of my life.
  • I love second-hand clothes because they help me express my individuality amidst the sea of mass-manufactured clone-clothes that hit the chain stores each season.


  • Quiet vs. Noise
  • Beauty vs. Blah
  • Simplicity vs. Complexity
  • Individuality vs. Mass Market

Like love, your brand exists in the context of what you’re passionate about and what makes you passionately crazy. They say necessity is the mother of invention, but being ticked off about something is often what drives someone to build a better mousetrap.


When you are working on your branding, don’t forget to look the dark side in the eye. Know your enemy. Name it. Call it out. Rally your troops and wage your battle. Get mad and then get even. Accept both the loving and angry sides of your passion – when you have both working for you, you will be unstoppable.


Can you name your enemy? What is your battle cry? How does the dark side of your passion – your anger – help define your brand in a positive way?

Image Credit: matthijs

The real secret of doing what you love

I have a confession to make. I don’t love what I do.

I am good at what I do, I often enjoy what I do, and I’m grateful that I can do what I do and make a good living at it; but … my heart does not burst with joy each morning as I contemplate the day’s tasks.

“Do what you love” – it’s such a tired cliché, isn’t it? Sometimes, it’s enough to make you want to punch someone in the mouth. I mean, it sounds good in theory, but how many people do you know who truly love what they do? I’m going to guess not many. For most people, doing what you love feels like an unreachable and even self-indulgent goal. We need to do what we need to do to pay the bills – whether we love it or not. I get that.

Still, even if we don’t necessarily love our work, I think there’s a way to bring passion into the picture. Here’s my secret:


It’s not about what you love; it’s about who you love. 

I love my daughter. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. No challenge is too great. I put all my resources – emotional, mental, physical, financial, etc. – to the task when there is something she needs. My desire to do right by her makes me a better mom. It gives me super powers that help me fit eight hours of work into a four-hour window so that she and I can spend the afternoon together. It sparks my creative juices when we’re facing a particularly sticky social situation or self-confidence issue. It injects me up with the energy I need to put on my happy face even when I feel like crying or kicking something.

I also love the people my business serves. It’s not the same love that I have for my daughter, but it does make me better at what I do. It makes me care more. I love “my” people as a group – as writers, entrepreneurs, fellow marketing folks – and I love them as individuals. My desire to help them accomplish their goals is what gets me moving on my To Do list each day. My concern for their success is the engine that drives my business and what brings personal passion into my work life.


How do you know if it’s love?

Think about the people you serve when you do that thing you do. Do you love them? Do you even like them? What is it, exactly, that you love about them?  What draws you to these people?

How much do you really care about them? Do you find yourself thinking at all hours about their problems and how you can solve them? Do you keep hammering away until you find the right solution, or do you just try your usual tricks and then give up? How badly do you want to make their lives better?

How interested are you in them and what they are doing? Does your curiosity and concern go beyond the boundaries of your official work engagement? When I’m working with someone, I get “tuned into” their world. Relevant information, people, and resources suddenly start popping up on my radar. I love to pass new tidbits back to my clients so we can get all geeky together. Do you do that, too?

Do you always want to know more? Instead of stopping at the “good enough” answer, do you find yourself wanting to dig deeper – to get at the really good stuff? Do you love learning more and more about your customers’ work, lives, and dreams?

Could you talk to these people all day? Do you get jazzed about working sessions and collaboration calls? Do you find a one-hour meeting turning (happily) into a half-day event? Do you wind up chatting on social media with these people?

Do you really “get” them? Do you feel their pain? Do you understand what drives them and feel it as acutely as they do? Were you once just like them? Maybe you still are?


Humans are not hardwired to love things or ideas as much as we love other people. 

Love for the people you serve plugs you into a well of positive and inspiring energy. Loving what you do won’t matter as long as it helps the people you love. Your work will start to feel less like work and more like a personal cause – like part of you, not something outside of you. Your passion for the people will give you the stamina to compete and keep going even when the going gets really, really tough. You won’t let little things like a lack of resources or a fear of asking for help or a little self-doubt get in the way of delivering what “your” people need. You’ll just make it happen, because you care that much.


What does this have to do with marketing?

I’m glad you asked. Three things:

  1. If you haven’t already read it, I invite you to read my post about the importance of enthusiasm in marketing. Enthusiasm about something and love for something go hand-in-hand. Being able to tap into those feelings gives you a serious edge over a competitor who is just in it for the paycheck. Trust me.
  2. Understanding your customers – really knowing your audience – is critical to your marketing success. If you can step into the shoes of your perfect customer and see the world through her eyes, you’ll know exactly what she needs to hear and how to say it.
  3. Finally, if you really care about helping someone, you’re not going to give up. Whether you’re a newly minted entrepreneur or the marketing manager for an established brand, being in it for the long haul gets a lot easier if you truly care about how what you do affects the people you serve. You will work harder, keep at it longer, and find new ways to get things done.

The bottom line – when you love the people you work for (your customers), the whole marketing thing gets a lot easier because you aren’t dealing with smoke and mirrors. You’re speaking from the heart about people you love and ways you can help them. You get them. They get you. It’s a beautiful thing.

If I had the chance to do what I love, I would be making my living going on long walks, writing fantasy novels, riding horses, and chatting with friends and family in real life and on social media. Since I doubt very much that anyone is hiring for a position fitting that description, I’m going to stick with doing stuff I’m good at for people that I love. So far, it’s working out pretty well for all of us.


Where does your work fall on the hate it/like it/love it scale? How about the people you serve? Where is the love in your business? 

How to create strong branding that kicks your fear to the curb so you can soar

In my last post, I talked about the fears that plague entrepreneurs as they set out to craft and share their Big Idea with the world – the power of the its-all-been-done-before belief to shut us down before we’ve even begun. (If you missed that post, go back and read it now (please). I want you to be in the right frame of mind before you read any further.)

Ok – all set? Ready now? Good.

“Brand experience” sounds suspiciously like some kind of marketing buzz word, but I promise you it really is the key to kicking your fear to the curb so you can get on with gettin’ on and making things happen. First let’s set some ground rules:

Ground Rule #1: Your “brand” is much more than your business name, logo, tagline, and content. It is a “living” asset that evolves or devolves based on the quality of the relationship between you and your customers.

Ground Rule #2: Your brand isn’t defined by what you say, it’s defined by what your customers say. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. What your customers say is influenced by one thing – their experience with your brand, hence “brand experience.”

Ground Rule #3: The stability and authenticity of your brand is at least as important to you as it is to your customers. A strong brand gives you a firm foundation to stand on. It brings clarity and boosts your confidence so that you can go forth into the world and deliver your Big Idea with persuasive conviction and contagious enthusiasm.


5 Magic Elements for a Kickass Brand Experience:

The traditional brand development process covers things like market analysis, perfect customer personas, value propositions, messaging frameworks, and … are your eyes starting to glaze over yet? There is value in these things, and I work with many of my clients on exactly these types of exercises, but they aren’t the whole story. A delightful brand experience needs something more – a little pixie dust, if you will.



Philosophy is the “why” behind what you do. It reflects how you see the world. It is what ties all your values together. It is your war cry, your soapbox monologue, your manifesto. Philosophy permeates everything you say and do. It’s part of your DNA and should also be part of your business’ DNA. Some people might refer to philosophy as “passion,” but – although I appreciate the fire-in-the-belly nature of passion – I like the way a philosophy conveys a sense of deep thought and conviction.

What’s your philosophy? How does that translate into your business’ philosophy? Could you write it down as a campaign slogan? How about 10 commandments? As a love letter?



Ah, the cult of personality. This is the “who” of your brand. Integrating your personality into your branding helps you stand out, connect more deeply with your audience, make a memorable impression, and feel more “at home” in your marketing. Often, personality is the only thing that differentiates two (or more!) similar businesses. Don’t miss the opportunity to give your brand something extra by bringing your unique and genuine personality to the party. People buy from people – not brands. More importantly, they buy from people they like. Don’t be afraid to be your best self – fully and honestly.

What are you sharing through your branding that expresses your one-of-a-kind personality?  How do the people you admire bring their personality to their brands? Can you apply what they do to your own branding?



Your approach is your “how.” What’s your roadmap, your plan of attack, your process? How do you get people from A to B? How do you break things down and put them back together again? Your approach stands firmly on your philosophy and includes a healthy dash of your personality. It’s a reflection of how your mind works – how you solve problems. Your approach might be very methodical or more freeform. You might come at things in a very direct way, or meander towards a solution by way of lengthy conversations. Your approach could involve a lot of formal documentation, or none at all. You might solve problems in a single session, or over the course of a longer engagement. Your approach could include research, role play, mind mapping, list making, hypnosis, tarot cards, or neuroscience. How you get things done is a big (and often overlooked) part of your brand.

Do you have a typical process? Have you mapped it out? How can you pull the concepts, benefits, and individuality of your approach into your branding?



Humans are built for story. We live in stories. We view the world in stories. We express ourselves in stories. How you use story and metaphor to shape your message also helps to shape your brand. I tend to use a lot of nature metaphors, for instance. Being out in the natural world is a big part of my life (personality) and I believe it has huge benefits (philosophy). It helps me see things more clearly so that I can solve complex problems (approach). (See how all these elements work together!) Stories bring context and texture to your brand. They give people an easy way to identify with you and your ideas. They are more memorable than lectures. Stories help you draw people into a circle around the campfire of your brand.

How do you use stories and metaphors in your branding? What stories can you tell that will help convey your philosophy, personality, and approach? What types of metaphors do you use to explain complex ideas? What do those metaphors say about you and your brand?



Finally – experience. This is what it all boils down to. You put philosophy, personality, approach, story, and metaphor into a big pot and stir. Your customer spoons a mouthful of the savory brew into her mouth. What does it taste like? Does it nourish her? Does it fill her up? How does it make her feel satisfied, tantalized, energized, relaxed, reassured, excited? Everything up to this point you can (but shouldn’t) fake. But, when it comes to experience, we’ve reached the point where you’re either walking the walk, or you’re not. People will know the difference. Crafting an “authentic” (to your philosophy, personality, and the rest of it) brand experience is about integrity – being who you say you are, doing what you said you’d do, delivering the goods and then some.

How does your brand experience stack up against your brand-on-paper? Are they aligned? What do your happiest customer say about working with you? What stories are they sharing about the experience of working with you? Are you making sure you’re recycling those glowing accolades back into your front-facing branding?



These are the elements that make up a deep, strong brand. If you build your brand with these pieces and questions in mind, you will give yourself a rock solid foundation from which to launch your ideas and your business. You will know who you are, why you do what you do, and how you do it. You will start to see stories and metaphors everywhere you look and you will learn to use these to tell your story and explain your ideas. You will understand exactly what you need to do to give your customers an amazing brand experience that will keep them coming back for more and telling their friends and colleagues about you.

Doesn’t that sound nice?


What do you think? Does your brand already include these elements? Do you think one is more important than the others? Have you seen any amazing examples of other people or businesses using these elements in their branding? 


Amazing and gorgeous photo by fiddle oak

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