Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How to assassinate your brand: 5 hacks that will KILL it dead.

Brands are alive. They breath. They require attention and nourishment. In fact, your brand is the driving life force of your business. The healthier it is, the more trust it has, the more loyal brand evangelists you’ll gain, and the more enhanced your bottom-line will become.

However, there are those who think they can achieve great branding by learning to do it themselves. (You know, read some articles, copy someone whom you think is “doing it right,” etc.) But the reality is that bargain-basement branding is a surefire way to erode trust with your customers, decrease your customer base, turn away prospects, and…well, you get the picture.

5 Brand-Killing Hacks:
  1. Shoot from the hip with your messaging.
    Who needs strategy, right? Don’t waste your time or money researching and planning. Why would you want to cultivate a relationship with your customer? Disregarding this will save you a lot of time.
  2. Tell the same story as everybody else.
    “We’re the best!” “Quality is our middle name!” “New and improved”. Whatever you do, don’t make it meaningful or significant. Resist the temptation to cultivate one brand voice. Keep mute on how it’s different from your competitors. Hide the passion behind your business’ launch and refrain from demonstrating and promoting this passion anywhere at any time. And by all means, don’t ever discuss how it benefits the consumer and their community.
  3. Don’t bother trying to connect with a prospect.
    You just want to sell a product not really talk with them. You’re not interested in relationship anyway. So keep any shared values and vision to yourself. Stay away from engaging with them where they live, especially on social media. Resist spending energy and resources sharing your story and educating and involving your customer in the process.
  4. Hire your friend’s nephew who’s in college.
    This will go a long way in helping him with his senior project and getting his your company’s expense, of course. The nephew can help you with all sorts of marketing projects like “designing” and building your own website, collateral, planning, and more. Don’t be baited into hiring a professional, who can get to the heart of your story, target your prospect, and convey your unique message and shared values. Understand that professional brand marketing skills—discovering, researching, analyzing, planning, executing, and supporting—and all the marketing tools of the trade, are waaaay over-rated. Besides, you’re helping a future marketing professional that some day may help other businesses actually reach their potential. Don’t linger on that irony.
  5. Ignore social media.
    It’s a time sucker anyway and kind of gets back to that whole relationship/trust thing. You don’t need to listen to your targets and what they are saying, they need to listen to you. After all, you’ve got something fantastic to sell them. Remember it’s not about them, it’s about you. It’s a monologue NOT a dialog. They need to help you’ve got bills to pay. Don’t be burdened with the hassle of trying to figure out what they want. They should know.... It’s your product. Besides, they know where to find you.
Obviously this is all tongue-in-cheek to make a point: Successfully targeted branding is not just about price, it’s also about the quality of the brand product boosted by the quantity of effort put behind its development. Just like you wouldn’t hire a football player to perform surgery on you, a branding professional can offer a wealth of knowledge and experience toward marketing and building your brand. They have the skills to plan, develop, influence, engage, and evolve your brand successfully.

How to Avoid Irking.

What’s the one thing that irks B2B buyers the most about their sales representatives?

  • The lack of understanding of their company? No.
  • The lack of understanding of their needs? No.
  • The lack of understanding of their industry? No.
  • The lack of listening? Yep. You guessed it.

It seems elementary, but the first thing sales representatives have to do is learn to LISTEN better.

A recent 2017 international survey asked 200 B2B buyers to choose from a list of their greatest challenges during the process of searching for and identifying which business products and services they would buy. Overwhelmingly, the most common complaint was that their sales rep was unwilling to listen.

Specifically, 65% of the buyers said sales representatives were more interested in selling their products and services than listening to their needs. By comparison, 31% pointed to sales reps not understanding their needs.

This survey exposes a huge problem: Many sales representatives are more company-focused rather than customer-centric. In fact, many B2B marketers admitted that most of their corporate content was company-focused rather than centered on the customer’s needs.

Other results indicated that B2B customers wanted help running their businesses, valued industry knowledge, and appreciated vendor dependability.

Are you listening?


Messaging: The Key to Winning More Deals

Sure, sales representatives want more qualified leads, but what else can their companies do to help them succeed?

According to a new survey by Televerde, better messaging is the key ingredient. They surveyed more than 200 sales representatives who sell B2B products/services, with companies who have $50 million+ in revenues. The respondents were asked “What can marketing do to help them win more deals?” Interestingly, “better messaging” was cited by more respondents as a top-5 assist (even more than “more qualified leads”). Sales wants the ability to deliver a distinct point of view that uniquely positions their company as THE solution provider.

Sales reps were looking for...
  • better messaging,
  • better marketing materials,
  • more case studies & testimonials, and
  • vertical and segment targeting and materials.

Sales reps said...
  • Content marketing has emerged as an important sales tool
  • Industry events are one of the most useful marketing activities
  • Value propositions are needed (something again tied to messaging.)
  • Case studies and sales presentations are also very important marketing assets. (The B2B buyers believe that the sales presentation is the most important content asset.)

In the end, most sales representatives felt fairly confident about their relationship and alignment with their company’s objectives and marketing goals.


5 Tips for Healthy Reputation Management

Online Reputation Management (ORM) has become big business. In many ways it's the digital division of public relations. Review sites and social media provide the means for immediate complaint (or praise) and have given rise to the need for companies to proactively monitor and address all comments. On the upside, these sites deliver a great opportunity for customer feedback and positive publicity. On the downside, it can be potentially damaging for a company’s reputation. Everyone has an opinion and the www gives them a forum.

Five Tips For ORM:
  1. Be your reputation’s watchdog.
    We can’t stress enough the importance of monitoring your reputation. And it’s not limited to human interaction, but also search engine finds, ie. SEO. With onlookers constantly checking, commenting, and rating your every move, it can be a daunting task to manage. However, there are agencies (like ours) that can help you manage the watchdog process.
  2. Proactively and empathetically respond to the comments.
    This is the number one tenet to managing your online reputation. Don’t ignore the bad review, but rather use this as an opportunity to demonstrate concern and excellent customer service. In other words be quick to address it and always start with an apology, even if you're not at fault. Get the story and develop a solution. Ideally, a phone call to the dissatisfied customer (when possible) with concern and resolution can alleviate and turn a frustrated customer into a happy one. For a large corporation this could mean 100s or even 1000s of contacts, but it will be worth it. When it’s not possible to call the person, address it publicly and avoid being negative in return. Make every effort to turn the naysayer into an advocate.
  3. Push the positive.
    This is PR 101 in both traditional and digital formats. Beat the drum with the good stuff by using online media to tout your company’s accomplishments and social consciousness, then provide clickable evidence. Be funny, if the opportunity allows. (It shows personality.) Tweet, post on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and your blog! The possibilities are vast.
  4. Be persistent in protecting your reputation and don’t game the system.
    Know what your current reputation is and be vigilant with improving it by encouraging people to give comments. After a successful transaction, make a call, invite them in person, or send an email with a link to rate your service and product. Keep your reviews current and don’t let them get stale. Consumers tend to ignore reviews older than three or four months anyway. But beware and be honest. Don’t hire “false positives.” They are almost always found out and exposed.
  5. Have foresight with a plan.
    Have a vision as to where you want your reputation to be in a year and have a preemptive “damage control” plan in place. No one can stop all negative comments or happenings, but having a proactive plan and response prepared in advance will go a long way to quickly reducing fallout, making today’s news yesterday’s.

Bottom line? The unpredictability of the future can be managed and even harnessed if you’re willing to play the game proactively.

Things that Make You Say "Hmm"...

Cover photo for "Parking for Dummies."

Fowl inspiration from Hitchcock's "The Birds."

Wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole...or higher.

This cat burglar is being framed for stealing the limelight.

Special deal on a granny bath! Limited time only.

The dozen-penny difference is a significant game-changer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Words that Will Change Your Business Forever: Focus. Focus. Focus.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle

“FOCUS” is a foundational principle of branding. Without it, generalities distract, distort, and discredit your brand. Here are five ways to develop and keep it:
  1. A laser focus is simple. 
What most companies lack are not ideas at all, but judgment. Good ideas are everywhere. Good judgment is a relatively scarce commodity. Thoughtfully consider all your options and then make your decision based on that simple “stand-out” idea.
  2. A laser focus is memorable. 
You can't make yourself or your company successful. Only your customers can do that. A memorable focus has an element of shock. If James Carville had said, "It's the economy," the media probably would have ignored the message. However, "It's the economy, stupid." got their attention.
  3. A laser focus is powerful. 
Does your choice of copy and visuals make an impact on your customers, or do you follow rote industry jargon and visuals? Step out of your box with a creative vengeance.
  4. A laser focus needs an enemy. 
For you to be truly successful, others must fail. Know what you’re up against and devise a plan of attack.
  5. A laser focus is the future. 
A laser-focused company puts its best people and most of its resources into the products or services that represent the future. In the short term there will be a need to handle yesterday's products in an efficient way. That should not, however, distract management from putting most of their attention on tomorrow's focus. Decide what single product, service, or idea is your best hope for the future and let this become your focus.

Millennials, Millennials, Millennials! That's all I ever hear. But what about...

Millennials are receiving more and more attention. Companies are developing marketing plans to target this demographic; the news media constantly features the sometimes erratic and wild behavior of this demographic; politicians tweet to influence; while the education system caters to their emotional needs.

It's easy to understand why everyone is clamoring: Their size is bigger than the Baby Boomer generation and they're on the cusp of becoming the generation with the most spending power and influence. What's not easy? Figuring them out. According to Goldman-Sachs, "Millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change, giving them a set of priorities and expectations sharply different from previous generations." Point taken.

But what about...the GenXers? It almost sounds like the middle-child (Jan Brady) syndrome, where the GenXers is often forgotten, being sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials. According to AdWeek, "The numbers tell the story. Last year, CNBC analyzed a large sample of companies' earnings calls with Wall Street analysts. In 17,776 transcripts reviewed, companies mentioned Generation X just 16 times. While executives gave millennials plenty of love, the network noted, 'companies do not seem to pay much attention to Gen X at all.'"

Interesting facts about the GenXer:
  • Born between 1965 and 1982 (they are in the mid-30s to around 50)
  • Have a sense of doom
  • Have been called the "Latch Key Kids," the "New Lost Generation," and the "Why Me Generation."
  • Only 49% think they are unique.
  • Only 41% associate themselves as Xers.
  • It is a smaller group than Boomers (77 million) and Millennials (83 million) at only 65 million.
Even more interesting facts as to why marketers should NOT ignore GenXers.
  • They have $125 billion in spending power.
  • 31% of the income dollars are in America.
  • They have the highest brand loyalty.
  • 81% are "moderate" to "extreme" brand loyalists.
  • 81% shop online, spending over $1,900 per Xer on average per year.
  • 75% are happy with their lives.
Given these facts, marketers will do well not to be distracted by the hype of Millennials and the demands of Baby Boomers, and pay a lot more attention to the "middle child."


The Art of Spreading Your Message

“Focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness.” 
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

People are hardwired to notice difference. In an information-rich, time-poor era, distinction that raises your brand above the competition is critical for success. So be different and consider integrating the following:
  1. Coherent brands deliver confidence. The physical appearance of your presentation and marketing literature conveys expertise, talent, and quality. A coherent system of communication saves time (and, by extension, money). A coherent system allows you to be prepared at every point in the sales cycle, from introduction to first meeting to client communications. Perhaps most importantly, a coherent package of information sends this critical message: "We have our act together."
  2. Branding helps establish your credentials. When presenting the services your company offers, don't forget to cover the basics in describing your firm: the six Ps--philosophy, process, people, products, performance, and price. This usually applies when prospects are getting to know you, but many even existing clients need to be reminded of your credentials and unique offerings.
  3. Good brands respect the rules of storytelling. Covering the basics does not mean pouring yourself straight into the philosophy-process-people mold. Keep in mind that your competitors will be presenting similar information. Capture the imagination of your audience by emulating the elements of any well-crafted story: a strong opening, passion, universal truth, satisfaction as the plot unfolds, and a memorable close.

Corporate Brand Culture: 5 steps toward improvement

Your brand's culture is an internal embrace. It's a belief system of value that's held by the company's leadership AND its employees. It's also the corporate environment that supports, presents, and projects the brand message to the public.

If every team member has the same values and ideas your company desires, then you've got a successful brand culture. This is rare and should be cherished. However, if company morale and confidence is low, employees are just punching the clock and getting a paycheck, you'll need to rally your team. In reality, most companies are somewhere inbetween...either way, your goal is always to energetically project a singular, vibrant brand message to the marketplace.

Just as Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” you don't want to keep repeating past mistakes. In order to change your brand culture, you'll to have to go outside the managerial/marketing stratagem and involve the people of the culture...your employees.

5 steps toward improvement:
  1. Diagnostics – Know your (internal) Strengths and Weaknesses and your (external) Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
  2. Involvement – Ask employees what central issues they believe about your current brand and where it's headed. What would stir their passions. Is it going green? Is it R&D? Is it more community involvement? What would make the brand more relevant and thus easier to market?
  3. Innovation – Involve employees in the decision process, asking their ideas on how to make things happen. This helps to promote ownership of the new culture. Allot freedom, a certain amount of time and space, and provide a system of measurement for employees to test drive their ideas. Post certain challenges and invite individuals to offer a portion of their work week toward solving them. Recognize these endeavors regardless of outcome.
  4. Peer Support –  Encourage peer-to-peer support and interaction. As employees take ownership in the decision process, build a system for ongoing communication, critique, joint ventures, and checks/balances.
  5. Brand Story –  Once the new culture is implemented, journal the journey. What is the new brand story? How did it grow from one perception to another? How is it evolving? How can the brand "live happily ever after"? Make sure each team member believes and is inspired by this story.
While building your brand's culture is an ever evolving process, applying these steps today will help solidify its transformation and future.

Things that make you say, "Hmm."

From head-scratchers to modernized messaging, enjoy these funny signs from across the U.S.:

Well, this is one way to combat carbon emissions.

Talk about mixed messaging.

But snap chatting is okay, right?

Excellent point! Thanks!

Wonder which president this colonial city is named after?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hornsby's "Fracture" Series Solo Exhibition Debuts at the Customs House Museum

Hornsby's first solo exhibition in the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center's coveted Crouch Gallery features 10 pieces of artwork from his “Fracture” series, which range in size from 43" x 43” to 90" x 90" and consists of 98 canvases. Upon entrance to the gallery, the focal point is the NYC-award-winning "Fracture 1," which sets the stage and begins the "Fracture" story with its impending size and stark imagery.

Stars in their own rights, the other 9 pieces—"F-Attack," "F-Ball," "F-Circle", "F-Defend," "F-Flight," "F-Nest," "F-Pod 2," "F-Try," and "F-X"—expand the "Fracture" story and reveal Hornsby's growth in the exploration of the ever-present tensions and contradictions existing in the human spirit.

Visitors from across Tennessee as well as other states attended the "Fracture" exhibition's opening reception held Thurs., Mar. 9, 2017.

Built in 1898, the Customs House Museum is located in the heart of historic downtown Clarksville and is Tennessee’s second largest general museum with more than 35,000 square feet of exhibit space, 20,000 permanent pieces, and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Hornsby's "Fracture" series is also being featured in the April 2017 issue of the Nashville Arts Magazine.

hornsby banner outside the museum
Banner advertising Hornsby's "Fracture" exhibit outside the musuem.

Fracture 1
A museum visitor views "Fracture 1."

A couple takes in the details of "F-Nest" in the gallery.

Art connoisseurs observe the contrasts and textures of "F-Ball" in the gallery.

F-Pod 2
A gentleman gets up-close and personal to "F-Pod 2."

Another couple enjoys "F-X" and the "Artist's Statement."

Side view of the gallery
In this side view L-R: "Fracture 1," "F-Ball," "F-Try," and "F-Attack."

Close up of Fracture 1
Close up view of "Fracture 1."

To learn more about or contact the artist, please visit

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hornsby Brand Design Wins Six Creative Awards

Hornsby Brand Design was awarded six regional Addy awards presented by the Knoxville Chapter of the American Advertising Federation at The Crown Plaza in Knoxville on Sat. night, Feb. 26, 2017. More than 300 people were in attendance with more than 400 entries competing. 
Hornsby Brand Design president, Chris Hornsby, said, “We always strive to offer the very best service and innovative solutions to our clients. The awards are an added bonus to that end. We greatly appreciate the recognition by our peers for our creative efforts.”
The Addy Awards ceremony is the premier event held annually by the Knoxville Chapter of the American Advertising Federation (a business organization comprised of leading advertising and marketing professionals), recognizing excellence in creativity in all media.

Hornsby Selected for Solo Exhibition at the Customs House Museum

In his studio, Hornsby works on his "Fracture series for his first solo show exhibiting at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, TN, Mar. 8 through May 4, 2017.
Chris Hornsby, president of Hornsby Brand Design, was selected for his first solo exhibit as a fine artist at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, Tenn. This show runs from Mar. 8 until May 4, 2017, and features 10 pieces of artwork from his “Fracture” series, which range in size from 43" x 43" to 90" x 90" and consists of 98 canvases. The Opening Reception is slated for Thurs., 5 p.m., Mar. 9, 2017.

Hornsby has shown his work in a variety of states and venues, including the nation’s art capital New York City, but this is his first solo exhibit. Hornsby said, “Art is a personal passion of mine of which I’m grateful to express both in my branding design business as well as in my fine art pieces. To be able to show and share my artwork is always quite an honor, but to have a one-man show in one of the state’s leading fine art museums is something that I’m very excited about.”

Inaugurated in 1898, the Customs House Museum is located in the heart of historic downtown Clarksville and is Tennessee’s second largest general museum with more than 35,000 square feet of exhibit space, 20,000 permanent pieces, and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

"Fracture 1" is the first of ten in the "Fracture" series and is the combination of stark black, white, and gray "shard" imagery that includes a total of 37 individual painting that make up one large-scale piece 90" x 90".

Hornsby’s “Fracture” series was born out of the artist’s exploration of dark and light fractured imagery used to express his vision of struggle, pain, defeat, and victory. Based on the complex interaction between control, contradiction, and humanity’s violent struggle to succeed, Hornsby experiments with shapes, mediums, ideas, and positions, birthing images that are unexpected, revealing, and exciting. He describes the rearrangement and juxtapositions of his design forms as expressions of raw emotional openings and “an evolution of experimentation and discovery.” Hornsby has been applying his artistic skills in a variety of capacities after earning a BFA in graphic design from the University of Georgia. He has garnered more than 100 creative awards, been inducted into the Knoxville’s American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Fame, as well as being published in numerous prestigious design annuals such as Print and How.

In addition to his dedication to a successful career, Hornsby proactively gives back to the community both monetarily and through donations of his time and talent to various regional, state, and international non-profits.

In his off time, he exercises his creative talent by continually exhibiting his sculptures and paintings, including a recent exclusive show in the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition’s “Black and White Show.” This show, of which his artwork was selected from 1,358 nationwide entries, garnered him a cash prize and an honorable mention awarded by NYC's art elite, Christiane Paul, the Curator of Media Arts at the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art.

Hornsby is also being featured in the April 2017 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine.

To learn more about or contact the artist, please visit his website at