With the arrival of the New Year, it's time for clean slates in the marketing arena. Many marketing budgets have been refreshed and are set back to zero. Marketing campaigns have new objectives, and metrics have yet to be met. With all the possibilities in front of your brand, it's a great time to spend time thinking about your PERSONAL brand. In fact, here are five ways that the New Year can jump-start your personal brand.
 How does your personal brand look?
Do you need a new head shot for all your social media platforms? While it may be interesting to see someone standing in front of the Taj Mahal, that is not an appropriate photo except maybe for a travel agent – and maybe not even then. Interview photographers, look at their portfolios, and review LinkedIn profiles – and then arrange a photo shoot so you'll have lots of new photos in your personal branding tool chest. If you have a variety of social platforms and are active in social media, you'll want high-quality head shots. If you're a professional speaker, writer, etc., you may want pics taken with different backgrounds. Whatever your needs are, smile for the camera!
 What colors reflect your personal brand?
When you think about your strengths, do you think blue, yellow, or orange? What does your Twitter or Facebook profile image say about you? Your color palette should reflect your competitive strengths and positioning exactly how you want to present yourself. If you need a refresher in color associations, see below.
And let's not forget the color of the year. Pantone, known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer, has named Greenery as the color of 2017. "Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose," explained Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.
 What does your personal website say about you and your talents?
This question assumes that that you do, in fact, have an online portfolio or website. If not, do not pass go, don't collect $200 – create a website and reserve a URL with your name immediately. In this era when people buy URL's to hedge their bets that someone may want to purchase them or act with nefarious intent, reserve your name followed by .com. Then create a website with the basics including some of your work, links to your social sites, and your contact info. If you don't want to include your email address, phone number, or snail mail address for security reasons, create a form for a visitor to complete to connect with you – because you never know when Bill Gates may want to connect with you! In the alternative, create an email address specifically for your website. But no matter what you decide, in this social era, you definitely need a website.
 What does your personal blog say about you and your talents?
Everyone has an opinion. I've even seen realtors and doctors with blogs. Now I'm not recommending that you write posts about real estate or medical procedures (unless those are your specialties), but there is an abundance of mainstream news for you to read that will inspire you to generate content. Since I started my personal marketing/leadership blog in 2009, and with over 200 posts on my site and more than 200 on other sites around the Internet, my most popular posts have included these topics:
• Annual Marketing Highlights
• Annual Brand Tips
• Annual Marketing Terms
• Social Media Secrets
• Q&A with visiting thought leaders (an interview series)
 What new social platforms have you tried?
When was the last time you used Snapchat? What about the stories feature on Instagram? While you may not discover the next Facebook before tech journalists at TechRepublic, the Verge, SilconAngle, or BuzzFeed, you CAN try new apps in beta form or test their new capabilities as soon as you hear about them. This is a way to become an early adopter. And if you become an expert while using an app's new capabilities for your personal brand, you can extend the expertise to your 9-5 brand. Imagine your boss' smiling face!
What other ways will you jump-start your personal brand in early 2017?
Do you ever drop your key ring because it carries too many loyalty cards? Or do you use one of the many loyalty program applications on your smartphone to access your accounts, points, discount coupons, and other program perks? Whatever way you access your favorite brand’s loyalty program, there is no denying that loyalty programs are effective tools in the brand-building tool chest. However, there must be smart strategies behind the programs, or they will lose their impact and may even lose long-time customers.
Like you, I'm a member of many loyalty programs. While most don’t provide huge cost savings, the $5 coupons or 20 percent off discounts are welcome.
At the conclusion of the recent holiday season, I received an email from a nationally-known fine dining chain that has been in business for 87 years. While I had dined at the restaurant for special occasions throughout my life, I had not visited in about a year. From the wording used in the email communication, you would have thought my absence was a crisis of international concern. But upon further reading, the email takes a turn to the dark side with terms such as “inactive status” and “no longer.”
The subject of the email was: WE MISS YOU!
The email message follows below in its entirety, and was signed by the restaurant’s President and CEO:
We've noticed that you haven't been in to dine with us for more than 15 months. As a VIP, the points in your account will never expire. However, after 18 months of inactivity, your account status will become inactive, and you will no longer receive the full benefits of membership.
To maintain active status, you can:
* Dine with your VIP card
* Buy Gift Cards or eGift Cards
* Purchase gifts from our shop
If you have questions about your account, please call Member Services at (number). If there is a specific reason you have not visited, please call me directly at (number). We continually strive to better serve our guests. On behalf of all of us at (restaurant’s name), we look forward to serving you again. (Signed by the President/CEO)
With such a long and rich history, the restaurant welcomes Los Angeles natives and tourists on a daily basis, and during the holiday season, welcomes football teams who compete in the Rose Bowl football game. In fact, publicity abounds for this restaurant during December every year – publicity that every restaurant can only dream about. So why, I wondered, would a communications team write such a strongly-worded email that did not thank me for my lengthy customer status?
Perhaps, a better email would have been:
Dear Ms. Laskey,
We hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season! We missed you during the holidays and would like to welcome you in early 2017.
Our VIP guests are very important to us, and we are thankful that you choose our restaurant for family celebrations and other special occasions. As a VIP, your points never expire. But to entice you to visit soon, we’d like to offer you a complimentary dessert or complimentary glass of champagne (or $25 coupon) during January or February.
If you have questions about your account, please call Member Services at (number). If there is a specific reason you have not visited recently, please call me directly at (number), so I can address any concerns you may have. Our goal is to continually improve our guest experience, so on behalf of all of us at (restaurant name), we look forward to serving you and your family again soon.
It seems as if my accumulated points are more important to this restaurant than they are to me. All I ever expected from this restaurant was exceptional guest service and delicious food. But based on the tone of the email, despite many years of family celebrations, I will not return to this restaurant. One poorly written email led to the loss of a long-time repeat customer. This restaurant’s loyalty program was an example of an #epicservicefail.
If you think you know the restaurant, chime in. Happy New Year!
Image Credit: Digitalart via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
With 2016 now history, it's time for my annual "Top 10" marketing highlights post – incredible to believe this is my 7th annual post featuring annual marketing highlights. Without further ado, let's get to it! What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history as memorable as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad? What do you remember from the 2016 marketing reel?
With a quick nod to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:
Budweiser changed its name to "America" starting in the summer and lasting until the Presidential election in November. While it was certainly interesting to see the word "America" in that familiar script on cans and billboards, it was a little odd to see a country name on beer.
Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, and during the campaign, a new term was coined: BREXIT, a combination of BRITAIN and EXIT. This was an interesting example of how quickly a concept or political campaign can lead to a memorable word or term that can become part of everyday conversation. Did you use the word?
After 108 very long years, the Chicago Cubs won baseball's World Series. As a result, the city of Chicago and all things related to Chicago became big news. For a little while, everyone stopped talking about politics, and instead, talked about Chicago, Cleveland, baseball, and overcoming a 108-year curse.
Instagram changed its logo, and following in the footsteps of the Gap and the YMCA, there was little excitement.
For the first time since 1995, Taco Bell refreshed its logo at the same time it opened its 7,000th restaurant - located on the Las Vegas Strip. According to a Taco Bell spokesperson, "The new logo mirrors the new restaurant strategy: One size doesn’t fit all. In this modern take, color makes a splash and allows customization through patterns and textures, giving usage flexibility while maintaining its iconic framework." Again, little excitement.
The city of Las Vegas was awarded a new National Hockey League (NHL) team, named the Golden Knights, to celebrate the NHL's 100th anniversary. However, as 2016 came to a close, there were trademark concerns over the ability to use the Golden Knights name.
Prince William, his brother, and his wife launched a PSA (Public Service Announcement) campaign about mental health awareness. According to a Kensington Palace spokesperson, "It will be the biggest single project Their Royal Highnesses have undertaken together. The Heads Together campaign aims to change the national conversation on mental well being and will be a partnership with inspiring charities with decades of experience in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health challenges."
Time Warner Cable changed its name to Spectrum. However, unlike most re-branding strategies, there was no compelling brand story, no brand promise, and no memorable tagline. One day, the company was Time Warner, and the next day, it was Spectrum. And to add insult to injury, the customer service is worse. This is an epic #brandfail.
Talk show host Kelly Ripa has evolved from "Live with Regis and Kelly" to "Live with Kelly and Michael" to simply "Live with Kelly." Regis retired, Michael left under a shroud of mystery, and now, it would appear that Kelly prefers a variety of guest co-hosts. There is no question that she prefers the show to be an extension of her personal brand.
And Number 1 on my 2016 Marketing Highlights List:
If you refer back to my Marketing Highlights list from 2015, this is what I wrote: "Donald Trump evolved from business tycoon and TV host to Presidential candidate. While some may question his viability for this position, there is no doubt that he can teach everyone something about building a powerful personal brand."
Since Trump evolved from business tycoon and TV host to Presidential candidate to President-Elect during 2016, and since TIME magazine named Trump as its "Person of the Year," my comments from last year's post will remain as number one on this year's post.
What would you add to this list? Here's to 2017 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!
Image Credit: iStockPhoto.com