Home
  • About
  • Contact
  • Resume
  • As Seen On
  • Out Of Office
  • When business is your life.

    No, no, I’m not about to re-hash the debate on how we all got here, but I am going to talk about the best choice for a brand roll-out. I’m working on a couple of projects that involve creating a brand from scratch, and I just switched to the new Microsoft Outlook email system, so I’ve been following their roll-out of the re-brand. So, which is better: the brand evolution or the big bang roll-out?

    Honestly, I think both have merit, depending on the situation. The brand evolution is a piecemeal roll-out, where you implement new product lines, logos, campaigns, and platforms as you create them. The big bang roll-out goes all in from day one, with a content-rich website, booming Twitter presence, snazzy ad campaign, and forums with a ton of information. Can you guess which company chose the big bang? Microsoft, of course! One of my projects is for a musician, and I’m advising the piecemeal roll-out for him. So, why do some projects need evolution, and some need a big bang?

    The Big Bang:

    - Ideal for companies with an established brand identity

    - Companies with the time, money, and manpower to create, distribute, and manage content across multiple platforms

    - Companies that need to make a splash in the press – nothing says “big news” like the buzz of something big, and then flipping the switch on a new brand identity!

    - Products with a broad market appeal – you need to make a splash in the press to get their attention, remember?

     

    The Evolution:

    - Ideal for brands that are new to the marketplace

    - Roll-outs of each new aspect of the brand creates more customer touch-points by offering new reasons to invite your customers to view your content

    - Small companies/individuals will NEVER release a brand if they have to wait until it’s completely finished because they’ll be wrestling with themselves forever! (Trust me, I’m struggling to kick a project out of the nest right now, even though I know it will fly!)

    - Limited resources necessitate making a little money before spending a long of money, and the steady roll-out allows you to get a little business before you invest in the next piece. You won’t get in over your head by trying to manage a web site, an ad campaign, a Twitter presence, and… oh yeah, actually making and selling your product or providing your services!

    - Ability to test, try and fail. You might not need every tool in the marketing tool box, so start with the most effective tool, and work your way down. It’s easier to add it on later than to watch your whole brand crumble because you took on too many ineffective tools.

    I think there’s a strong case for each option, but it depends on your goal and your resources. Microsoft is a well-oiled machine when it comes to re-brands or brand roll-outs, and you expect to hit a fully formed marketing effort when they flip the switch. My musician, on the other hand, will be well-served by a slower release of his content. He’s excited to jump in with a website, blog, YouTube channel, and Twitter presence, but I’m advising him to slow down the releases. Instead of posting all 6 videos on launch day, just post one. That way, you already have a bank of content to draw from, and you can release the videos over several weeks to keep people coming back. Don’t commit to blogging every day, start with once a week. Again, you can always build up to multiple posts each week, but posting weekly will give you a reason to talk to your customers in the beginning.

    Do you prefer evolution or a big bang? Do you think one method is truly better than the other, or does it depend on your business?

    Share

    My travel schedule has calmed down quite a bit, but I was thinking about something odd: why is it so weird to eat alone at a restaurant, but it’s not weird to get coffee by yourself?

    I got funny, mostly sympathetic, looks while dining alone during a business trip. I got knowing looks while dining alone at a tradeshow. I get no looks while consuming coffee alone at Starbucks. Why? I think it’s partly because there’s nothing to “do” during the longer wait period at a restaurant. You are seated, and you wait. You order, and you wait. You hand your credit card to the waiter, and you wait. During this waiting, you have nothing to do but awkwardly glance around the restaurant, occasionally catching someone’s eye, and quickly looking away. I think this is less problematic at a coffee house, because the time between ordering and drinking (ie: doing something!) is so much shorter. And, at tradeshows, you’re probably flipping through marketing collateral or glued to your Blackberry, and the lunch is only about 5 minutes to scarf down stale pizza, so there’s much less time between actions.

    Hence, the reason people advise you to bring a book if you’re dining alone. Except, I never just sit quietly. Have you ever forced yourself to just sit quietly with your own thoughts? Maybe it’s just me, but this can be unnerving! You’re just sitting there…. quietly…. thinking the thoughts that come into your head! As business people, we’re always working out the next deal, hustling to the next meeting, or trying to answer email while talking and walking. Maybe it’s weird to go to a restaurant alone because no one just sits quietly alone. We always need something to entertain us, someone to talk to, some purpose other than reflection. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read, and I think bringing a book is a viable solution to avoid the funny looks from people in the restaurant. But, for those who rarely find themselves alone, I might suggest leaving the book at home, and absorbing the quiet time between sitting, ordering, and paying.

    How do you make dining alone feel a little less awkward?

    Share

    Sigh. I’m finally overcoming my writer’s block on the blog, but the last few posts I’ve written are still sitting in the “draft” folder, because I feel like I shouldn’t publish them. I’m back to the transparency debate about what to put out there for the world to judge.

    Once again, the posts aren’t controversial or damaging in a way that really warrants such internal debate. But, there’s things we just don’t talk about. Like frustration and burn-out, or anger and stereotyping. It’s interesting, because I feel like I’ve put some pretty bold topics on the blog from the “things we don’t talk about” category. It’s as if I think that if I don’t put it out on the blog, no one will find out that I’m a whole person, with thoughts and feelings that might conflict with their own. But, these thoughts and feelings don’t mean that I can’t still be a good employee, a good friend, a good whatever.

    I wrote about social media profiles being scrubbed clean of personality, in the interest of being “appropriate”, particularly when judged by a prospective employer. I feel like the posts languishing in the draft folder fall into that category. Nothing inherently wrong with going to boxing boot camp, but if I post that as a Facebook status, will potential employers think that I’m militant at the office? THE HORROR… ok, delete that status update, and post something mundane about how I like the sunny weather. Who could be offended by the sunny weather? And yet, anyone who knows me realizes that boxing boot camp is a perfect addition to my repertoire of activities! It’s the same with the career postings. One post is a bit rant-y about the media constantly telling everyone that we’re all “entitled’ 20-somethings. Who likes to be called “entitled” by every 3rd article in their newsfeed? But, again, what if someone reads it, and lumps me in with the whiners? Ok, delete that blog post.

    I’ll be wrestling with those posts, with the intent to publish them, over the weekend. We’ll see if they make to the blog. Anyone else want to open the discussion for things we just don’t talk about?

    Share

    There’s been a ton of virtual ink spilled in discussions over this article, The Busy Trap.  Essentially, it’s the phenomenon in America (and other parts of the world, but largely the US) where everyone is “too busy” to do anything, yet we aren’t really accomplishing that much more with our full schedules.

    This is me more often than not. I’m running around like a crazy lady because I don’t know how to live any other way. I’ve got to keep 20 plates spinning in the air, otherwise, I’m a failure. This is stupid. Who really needs 20 plates spinning to be fulfilled? I’m started to feel overwhelmed by all the activities, dreams, and obligations I’ve packed into my life. You know it’s a bad sign when your husband tells you that you’re not mentally present and your mom tells you that she hopes you won’t continue at this pace for much longer.

    I’ve taken their words to heart… sort of. This will inevitably be another failed challenge to myself: to slow down a bit. I just don’t know any other speed besides “fast”. It’s interesting, because I look at the Olympians and think that I’ve failed because I didn’t win medals at 16, or look at the latest pop stars and think I’m a failure because I didn’t top the charts at 20, or look at the tech billionaires and think I’m a failure because I didn’t found Google before 25. The thing is, all of those people have on singular pursuit that consumes them. Yes, they stay busy, and yes, they have a ton of activities filling up their days. But mentally, they’re running toward a singular goal, and the busyness is just a set of tactics to reach the goal. Technically, there’s an end in sight!

    I’m going to do my best to relax and re-charge during my 2-week summer break, but I’ll probably be so busy trying to relax that I’ll fail completely. Anyone else fall into the “busy trap”?

    Share

    As you’ve probably noticed, my posting has been quite infrequent lately, as I’m too busy with school, work, and personal commitments to dedicate a lot of time to the blog right now. That, and I’m doing a ton of writing for two of MBA courses, so the creative energy and general flow of ideas is being funneled elsewhere. So, I’ll leave you with a few snippets of song lyrics that have been playing in my head over the last few weeks for a little inspiration:

     

    “Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem to rhyme.” – Howie Day, “Collide”

     

    “Until the referee rings the bell, until both your eyes start to swell, until the crowd goes home, what we gonna do y’all? Give ‘em hell… this one’s a fighter.” – Gym Class Heroes, “Fighter”

     

    “I’m bullet proof, nothing to lose, fire away, fire away, ricochet, you take your aim, fire away, fire away. You shoot me down, but I won’t fall, I am titanium.” – David Guetta with Sia, “Titanium”

     

    “It’s time to try defying gravity. I think I’ll try defying gravity, and you can’t pull me down.” – Wicked, “Defying Gravity” (especially as sung by the original cast or me belting it out in my car, around the house, and walking randomly in a parking lot)

    Share

    A while back, I had an obsession with words and naming, and it’s been revived by the term, “seasonal vegetables.” You ever notice that the seasonal vegetables are always broccoli? I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a restaurant that offers something other than broccoli when the menu says, “served with seasonal vegetables”! Why can’t they just call it like it is? The entree is served with broccoli!

    It’s because broccoli has this terrible reputation for being a yucky food, the kind that kids turn their nose up at while parents watch them like hawks to make sure they aren’t feeding the broccoli to the family dog under the dinner table. Which, dropping broccoli for the dog is a pretty futile endeavor, since even the dogs know that broccoli is yucky. Restaurants know they won’t sell broccoli, but they will sell seasonal vegetables.

    This doesn’t make sense! Simply changing the name will make people eat the food in front of them? I’m a survey of one, but it’s true for me. I would never order broccoli for myself, would never purchase broccoli at the grocery store, and if asked, would reply that I don’t like broccoli. And yet, when my “seasonal vegetables” turn out to be broccoli, I eat every last bite! When my husband insists on throwing a few bits of broccoli into the stir fry, I eat them along with the rest of the items in the dish. In short, I eat broccoli. Essentially, you’ve either got a misnomer for broccoli or diners lying to themselves, because in the end, the broccoli is purchased, prepared, and consumed regularly enough that the grocery stores carry it in abundance, and the restaurants keep serving it as a default side dish. This is one of those times that the “evil marketers” have actually done something good. They’ve convinced the consumers to eat something healthy by calling it something else. If you don’t think a name has power, just look at the broccoli phenomenon! (Granted, some marketers use their power to sell us over-processed, sugary “health” food, but we’re not addressing that in this post!)

    So, can we all stop with the euphemism for broccoli? Can we agree that we’ll order “seasonal vegetables” with our eyes wide open?

    Share

    Hand-decorated theme cookies from Moon Glitz Delicioso

    I’m excited to welcome a very talented guest blogger today, my mother-in-law, Brenda Faus. She’s the owner of Moon Glitz Delicioso, a small business that specializes in hand-decorated theme cookies. Brenda donates most of her proceeds to the non-profit organization, World Vision, and she’s got a few thoughts on her journey from hobbyist to small business owner!

    “These are so good. You should sell them.”  That is such a nice compliment, and you may have even heard it about something you make, but could it be a reality?  I began to ask myself that question a couple of years ago.  My family loves eating my cookies, I enjoy making them, but would they sell?  Could I make a profit?  What are the legal boundaries?
    The most complicated aspects of creating a small business from a food product are the health regulations.  When the state where I live began legislation for a Cottage Food Bill I saw my opportunity.  I began to investigate the guidelines and how they applied to the custom designed cookies that I enjoy creating.  This could work.  The next step—a visit to the county courthouse. I paid for my license and I was on my way.
    The licensing process was actually fairly simple, but then the real work began.  After the Limited Liability Corporation fee was paid, I realized I had to get serious about earning a profit.  I had now made an investment and needed to see some return.  That first year was consumed by a lot of free cookie gifts and photos of cookies posted on every social network I could find.  There were times I wondered if I was becoming somewhat obnoxious to my friends and family.  Little by little I began to get orders, so my efforts must have been heading in the right direction.  I kept my prices low and sometimes felt discouraged by the money I made for the hours of work I put in.
    Those long and discouraging nights have now grown into productive and profitable weeks.  I have gradually increased my prices and have amazingly seen my orders increase as well.  My goal was to attain a price for my product that is in line with current market value for a boutique type cookie.  I am now fairly close to that goal.  Word of the quality and uniqueness of my product has spread through customer referrals, social media, and simple advertising efforts.
    My next goal is to expand my product line.  I recently added a cookie gift box that comes in two sizes and is packed in a quality, clear-lid box.  I would like to add more similar items, possibly some cookie bouquets, and expand my selection of cookie favors.  I have found it helpful to be a secret shopper on other cookie websites and see what large corporations offer.  After my research, I create a sample to use for a product photo on my website.  I often use this sample product for a contest prize or some kind of give-away to create interest in my business.  Who wouldn’t want to win a beautiful and delicioso cookie?
    Heavy social media advertisement, competition investigation, and contests for product giveaways have all been keys to my success. If I were to share a final word of advice for creating a business from a hobby it would be to consider product selection and pricing carefully.  Just because you love doing something or you can create a beautiful product doesn’t mean you can make an easy profit when selling it.  For example, I have learned that a cookie made to look like an antique car with chrome bumpers, a windshield, and a gum paste hood ornament may look amazing.  It also takes much longer to create than my average cookie. If I post a photo of it on Facebook, everyone tells me how amazing it is.  However, nobody would pay the $10 or more I would need to charge for it in order to make up for labor and other overhead while still making a profit.  Because of my inability to make a profit on this specific cookie in any reasonable sense, I would have to view it as merely a marketing tool or discontinue it as a product.  And these are the kinds of decisions that make the difference between a business and a hobby.
    Thanks for sharing, Brenda! If you’re interested in ordering some of her delicioso cookies, please check out her website. She ships anywhere in the world, and the cookies arrive fresh, beautiful, and unbroken (I can personally vouch for this!)
    Share

    Well, readers, July has been, and will continue to be, a crazy month! Between school, work, friends, and family, I’ve been running at breakneck speed for several weeks. I’m squeezing quite a few business trips in this month, which means a little less time for writing, and a lot more time spent in airports, cars, and hotels. So, I thought I’d talk about how to keep fit on the road, since I’ll be doing exercising outside of my usual boot camp classes for a few weeks!

    I love free weights, but sometimes you’re stuck with just your body weight. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck without a workout, and it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with just cardio options! On a recent trip, I decided not to bring my tennis shoes and extra workout clothes, since I needed to save space in my luggage, and I had no idea what time I would arrive at the hotel. I figured I could always do something if I got back to my room in time. Here’s what I did:

    - set of 25 lunges on each leg (you want a 90 degree angle on both the front and back legs, and you should feel the burn in the quads and gluts)

    - set of 15 push-ups (make sure you’ve got a straight line from the head to the ankles, no butts in the air or hips dipping to the floor! The whole body has to move up and down at once!)

    - set of 50 crunches (I alternate between a regular crunch, side crunch, and twisting crunch in each set)

    I did this rotation 3 times, and then moved into the next rotation with some interesting “weights”:

    - set of 15 squats with no weights

    - set of 10 shoulder raises with my purse (hey, that thing may only be 5 lbs., but it’s better than nothing!)

    - set of 12 bicep curls with my backpack full of books (again, you’re looking at ~10-12 lbs. of weight for each rep)

    I did this rotation 3 times, and moved into the final set of exercises:

    - boxing combo of jab, cross, hook, upper cut

    - holding field on the right and left side (basically “fast feet” and fast, continuous punching to the side)

    - boxing combo of jab and cross

    - continuous hooks

    - set of 50 crunches

    - set of 25 hip raises (lay on your back with your shoulders pressed into the floor and feet flat on the ground, raise your hips up using your hamstrings, gluts, and abs only)

    I did this set twice before I did a round of stretching.

    My exercises took about 30 minutes to complete, and I did them while simultaneously watching a lecture for one of my online classes. You don’t need fancy weights, or even fancy footwear, to get a workout in on the road! Got any tips for staying fit during travel?

    Share

    Alright, readers, time for another professional secret post! I recently read through a thread on Corporette about a lawyer that was frustrated with her summer associate because she didn’t take notes at a hearing. There are several arguments that, “she should know better”, a few arguments for, “notes are stupid if you don’t need them”, and a few others for, “just tell her she needs to take notes next time, no need to freak out!” Many of these personal preferences were stated as plain and simple facts, so you can see how it might be confusing for the summer associate. This thread made me think back to my days as an intern, and one particularly stupid thing I did.

    We were running a contest that involved posting videos from contestants and having people vote on the videos. The scores were calculated using a combination of daily posts + vote tally. The contestants could post unlimited videos each day, but we didn’t want duplicate videos on the site for people to vote on. At the time, our software wasn’t smart enough to recognize duplicate videos, so we needed a human to delete the duplicates. Guess who got that all-important job? That’s right, the intern, aka me! I was also tasked with deleting inappropriate content. Add the fact that the system would randomly freeze every hour or so, and you’ve got one mindless, tedious task!

    So, I’d been checking the boxes on duplicate videos for about a week for several hours per day. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click…. click. Delete. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click…. click. Delete. Bored yet? Yeah, try doing that for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, and you’ll probably understand why I did what I did. My life was pretty crazy at the time, so I decided to call my mom for some advice. I was sitting in a cube, clicking away at those videos, talking to my mom about my crazy life. Sure, everyone takes a quick personal call once every so often during the work day, but nope, not me… I stayed on the phone with her for a full hour and a half. In my mind, I was still working, clicking away at those darn duplicate videos!

    A couple of days later, my supervisor mentioned that if I needed to take a personal call, I could do so in the lobby downstairs. At that point, I realized that I was THAT intern. The one that supervisors write stories about on websites and lament the fact that my college professors and career center hadn’t taught me better, and how could that intern not know that taking a phone call in a cubical in the middle of the day was a poor choice? This is further compounded by the fact that I thought I was a star intern, super professional and prepared!

    Here’s the thing: interns make mistakes. Heck, bosses with 20 years of experience make mistakes! We’re human, and we can’t play by the rules perfectly all the time. Particularly in an internship, you’re there to learn, and get most of those stupid “you should know better” mistakes out of the way, before you enter the real world! So, I have to say to the supervisors, please cut your interns a little slack. Let them know that their behavior isn’t professional, but don’t embarrass or berate them if it’s a first offense or clearly a one-time mistake. And, I have to say to the interns, think about your actions before you perform them! I had the thought that chatting with my mom was probably not the smartest choice, but I didn’t listen to my own thoughts. If you think something might be stupid or unprofessional, either ask, or don’t do it! By the time you land an internship, you should at least know enough about the corporate environment to ask if something is acceptable before jumping right in.

    I’m pretty professional these days, but it wasn’t so long ago that I was THAT intern! Did you ever make a stupid choice during an internship?

    Share

    Today’s discussion is about dimensions of a brand, which I’ve discussed before. In particular, we’re going to talk about dimensions of my personal brand. Well, technically it’s the “personal” brand that I have at the office, but it’s really, “Who is business Ashley?”

    I feel like I portray a brand that balances an efficient, serious, ambitious person with that of an adventurous, creative, energetic person. I think all of these elements are crucial to my success at the office and my sanity as a human, but a recent conversation had me wondering if I really do show all the facets of my brand in the office. A co-worker asked about my plans for July 4th, and I mentioned that my husband and I would be heading to the lake to grill, swim, and watch the fireworks. My co-worker looked a little surprised, and said, “Oh, you’re going to swim in the lake?” I of course, looked confused as to why I WOULDN’T swim in the lake, which elicited a reply, “Wow, so you’re not one of those girls! That’s cool!” Apparently, I don’t seem like the outdoorsy type, and I must be afraid of the dirty, murky lake water! This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m not sure how this aspect of my life as has escaped the knowledge of my co-worker. I backpack and drink out of streams, for cryin’ out loud (and I think this post showcases the many facets of my brand as it relates to being outdoors and being a corporate marketer)! I feel like I make the aspects of my brand known to all, but clearly, I’ve missed the mark.

    This happens to individual and corporate brands all the time, and it’s worth looking at. How do you convey all the properties of your brand, without looking like you’re trying to be everything to everyone? How do you make sure your message is heard, without obnoxiously blaring out the message in bold print? I think you have to bring it up in casual conversation, and occasionally do something unexpected. Corporate brands do this with billboards and commercials, and then occasionally form an odd partnership to showcase a new aspect of their brand. Are you showing all the depth of your personal brand, or just sticking to a predictable message? What are you “known” for, and is that what you WANT to be known for?

    Share
     Page 4 of 37  « First  ... « 2  3  4  5  6 » ...  Last »