At its core, a brand is ever only the people who represent it.
This weekend I attended the Clearwater Festival for the first time. If you’re not familiar with the festival, here’s a brief description from Clearwater's website: Since the 1960s, the Clearwater festival has grown into the country’s largest annual environmental celebration, its music, dance and storytelling, education and activism attracting thousands of people of all ages to the shores of the Hudson River.
Now, Saturday here was just a gorgeous day—the kind of day invented for outdoor festivals held in expansive parks tucked up along a beautiful stretch of river. I have no idea how many people passed through Croton Point Park that day; my friends and I stayed till the chilly end where a “full house” at the main stage enjoyed Arlo Guthrie and family doing the honors of closing down the day’s events. During the 8 hours we were there, we saw many, many families with young children, and many folks who toted in their own food and beverages, but what we didn’t see was a scrap of litter—even with an artisanal farmer’s market offering all sorts of delicious wares for sale and sample, food vendors, and beverage stands and water vendors stationed through the park. No napkins, food wrappers, empty bottles or cups; not even a cigarette butt carelessly tossed aside or abandoned in the grass.
Make no mistake: we didn’t see litter not because there were cleanup crews working round the clock to manage the mess that a boatload of thoughtless people can make in less time than you can say, “landfill” and “non-biodegradable”, but because people simply didn’t leave their trash behind. The environmental message of the festival and Clearwater itself, I’m sure, was a potent motivator, but more compelling was the highly visible “zero waste“ campaign Clearwater incorporated into the festival—the message clearly reinforced by trash and recycling bins placed in key locations around the grounds. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a cleaner event attended by even half as large a crowd!
Lining the main thoroughfare of the park, which gets you from one end of happenings to the other were banners displaying inspirational quotes by a diverse and varied group of contributors extolling activism and personal responsibility toward community. In this clever manner Clearwater compelled attendees throughout the day to aspire to “the better angels of our nature.”
And, for a festival that includes four different simultaneous music performances going on all day long, a full slate of dance and storytelling performances, a juried craft show, an artisanal farmer’s market, an environmental and activism expo, river activities and educational demonstrations, merchant vendor stalls, a healthy “food court”, accessibility services for wheelchair-bound, hearing-impaired and sight-impaired individuals, and much, much more, everything seemed to run pretty smoothly. No long line at the entrance, no dangerous crowd control issues, and everybody grooving to the music and able to get the information and assistance they needed.
Now, I’ve been to a lot of music festivals, many of them in the out-of-doors, and I’ve certainly been lured to any number of bucolic locales by the promise of a unique musical experience, but here’s the thing that really struck me about Clearwater--
From the compostable plates, forks, knives and spoons used by all the food stall vendors to the nifty hand-washing stations placed next to each port-a-john area to the fountains set up for refilling water bottles to all of the larger messaging mentioned above, Clearwater’s environmental mission that is the core and very essence of its brand identity was, well, absolutely clear and present. These weren’t showy or gimmicky stunts, but thoughtful details and thematic motifs that demonstrate how deeply those that manage the Clearwater organization and plan the festival really embody and live the vision and values of the organization. And that radiates out to everyone in attendance and is the reason Clearwater is truly a very unique and special kind of festival.
At its core, a brand is ever only the people who represent it. If you’re not getting the results you want and you’re wondering why your brand isn’t “sticky”, consider whether it's defined clearly and fully enough to win over your own employees—if they’re not sold, how can they sell anybody else? If you’re a solopreneur, how deeply are you committed to your own brand values; to what level of detail are they evident in how you conduct and manage your business?
Comment below, call or email me about how to create or deepen your brand values and customer relationships and experiences.
If you’re letting deadlines, To-Do lists and budgets rush critical decisions that’ll affect your business, you’re focused on the wrong priorities.
I’ve been helping one of my clients rework her website content and last week was the major push to get a lot of the content and architecture changes implemented.
It’s all been part of a larger discussion and strategy for her brand, which we both agreed needed a new tagline. I prompted her to do a deep dive around her brand values and attributes and then connect those to a straightforward concept that would strike a chord with her audience. All of a sudden, however, I found myself bombarded with emails containing lists of “variations on a theme” ideas all laced with urgency due to the looming deadline of her designer/web developer’s scheduled updates to her site.
Basically, my client was rushing through a critical element of brand development as though it were just another item on her To-Do list, because she wanted to be sure to add it to her designer/developer’s work order rather than have to pay for a second round of edits. Now, I do understand this on the one hand—money is tight all over. But, on the other hand, if you’re not taking the time you need to make the best, right strategic decisions for your business you’re not investing your money wisely to begin with.
My client, of course, is a very smart cookie. When I pointed this out to her, she immediately realized the error of her ways and took a step back to truly evaluate her options and consider what would work well for her brand, business and audience.
In the end, we quickly hit upon a tag my client loved, and I recommended a fun new way to use the elements of her existing logo on her business cards. Best of all, everything made it on to her designer/developer’s To-Do list within the requisite timeframe without sacrificing the cohesion of my client’s brand or dampening her enthusiasm or excitement for each element that, ultimately, represents her and her business.
If you’re letting deadlines, To-Do lists and budgets rush critical decisions that’ll affect your business, you’re focused on the wrong priorities. Good strategic decisions chart a course for development without impairing your ability to manage day-to-day operations. Alternatively, however, when you’re too focused on the day-to-day that you don’t give yourself time to think and plan strategically it’s hard to create long-term success.
No one is quite sure of the effect these new domains will have on search engines and behavior. Whether your site will became easier or harder to find is anyone's guess.
Earlier this year ICANN began opening up new internet domains, which means more choices right of the dot. You may have noticed some of them popping up in offers from your domain provider —.bike, .camera, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles and .ventures was the hodgepodge released the first week of February.
It's hard to say how many in total will be released by year's end, but there seems to be a fairly aggressive push to get many of the thousand or so submitted for approval launched for commercial and personal use. So it seems that in addition to the actual universe, the virtual universe is expanding at an exceedingly rapid rate far beyond one's ability to track competitors, let alone customers.
While expanded options for domains certainly affords some greater opportunity for small businesses, there's no doubt it amps up a host of real and potential threats from brand or copyright infringement to prospect siphoning to just a way bigger pond for small fish to get lost in. Not to mention the added expense of registering more domains to protect your business and then manage and monitor all of that online real estate.
Plus, no one is quite sure of the effect these new domains will have on search engines and behavior. Whether your site will became easier or harder to find is anyone's guess.
So just when you thought you had things well in hand — your social media strategy, Internet advertising plan, SEO and site security and all the rest of it, I'm inclined to think like Chief Brody in Jaws, "You're gonna need a bigger boat" if you want to survive what's to come. By this I mean you'll need not just the additional knowledge of what's happening, but some added protection for your business, brands, products, and intellectual property.
Solopreneurs, start-ups and small businesses are notorious for ignoring the necessary steps to protect their own assets in this manner, often to their own peril, because of the upfront costs. However, in some cases, the associated costs for some basic protections and safeguards are fairly low. Even just talking to a legal expert about your particular business and concerns can provide valuable insight into what you should do and what is not really worth worrying about or investing in. At the very least: