Monthly Archives: January 2008

1 A new approach to website design BNBranding

Getting to the point for better PowerPoint Presentations

BNBranding logoEvery year at the Mac Expo, Steve Jobs used to unveil some fantastic new, game-changing technology from Apple. His presentations were always outstanding, both for the content and for entertainment value.

macbook_air_introFor instance, when he introduced the MacBook air back in 2009, he didn’t just talk about the specs of the new product, he demonstrated its thinness by pulling thin new laptop out of a 9×12 manilla envelope.

That’s great showmanship. And salesmanship.

It wasn’t just passion and natural charisma that made Jobs an effective communicator. It was his ability to convey ideas in simple, concise ways. He used honest demonstrations. Stories. Theater. And yes, some Hollywood special effects.

Not Powerpoint. PowerPoint is the antithesis Apple, the enemy of innovation and the world’s biggest communication crutch.

 

 

If you really want better Powerpoint presentations, just go without it!

Some time ago I attended a two-day branding conference down in Austin, Texas. The keynote speaker was a wise old pro who speaks and teaches professionally all across the country. He had an assistant with him, as well as tech support from the conference facility staff.

It was a disaster. Three hours into it and he was still fumbling around with his computer…

Lights on. Lights off.

Sound’s way too loud. Sound’s not on. Sound’s out of sync.

Slides are out of order. Video won’t play. How many times do we have to look at this guy’s desktop?

For him, a better Powerpoint Presentation would have meant no computer at all.

But to be fair, even if the computer had behaved itself his Powerpoint Presentation still would have fallen flat. Because his ideas were totally scattered. His slides were loaded with text that he read verbatim. And his speech wasn’t really a speech at all.

Thank God, I’m not a middle manager in a big corporation where I’d have to endure daily doses of that crap. Powerpoint, as it’s commonly employed, is a terrible form of communication.

In “The Perfect Pitch,” Jon Steele says, “most presenters start with the slides, and then treat what they are going to say simply as an exercise in linkage. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the presenter is reduced to a supporting role. To all presenters, I say this: YOU are the presentation.”

That’s easy to say if you’re as big as Steve Jobs. But you don’t have to be famous to put on a gripping and persuasive Powerpoint presentation. You just have to change the process and forget about Powerpoint until you’re three-quarters of the way through.

If you want to deliver better powerpoint presentations, think of yourself as a storyteller, not a presenter.

better powerpoint presentations from BNBrandingI’m talking about the old-fashioned, verbal tradition of story telling. Stories are way more compelling than slides. No matter how boring the topic may seem, there’s always a story buried in there somewhere.

So tell the story. Write it down. Flesh it out and practice it before you ever open Powerpoint.

Here’s another way to look at: Concentrate first on how you sound and what you say, then use the software to create visual support for your main verbal points. Not the other way around.

You’ll be amazed how focused your message becomes.

The first rule of communicating is to eliminate confusion.

Make things clear! When you throw a bunch of data up on a slide, you’re not making things more clear, you’re just adding confusion.

AED1345115281_463_work_work_head_image_eepv1aBack in the day, before PowerPoint was ever conceived, corporate presentations were done with slide projectors. You had to send out for slides, way ahead of time!

So you were forced to think long and hard about the design and content of each and every slide.

You had to plan the flow of the presentation. You had to know the most important points and you were forced to boil it down until there was absolutely nothing else left. Then you’d cover the rest of the detials in your speech.

We were forced to be good speakers.

Powerpoint makes it too easy to add slides and overwhelm people with charts and graphs. The technological tool has become a crutch that hobbles great communication. Got an idea? Just jump right into PowerPoint and start creating slides.

Another unfortunate side effect of PowerPoint is lousy, truncated speaking. People think they have to limit their words to fit the slides. And what they. End up with. Is choppy. Confusing. Information. That doesn’t. Flow. Or Communicate. Much of anything.

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If you write the script first and then use PowerPoint slides as visual aids to drive home the main points, you won’t have that problem. You’ll be speaking from a coherent, human, story-based script, not reading random bullet points right off the slides.

The difference is dramatic.

I suspect that much of the problem stems from the fear of public speaking. And that’s understandable. People with that fear like to hide behind the PowerPoint slides. They can become almost invisible.  But that’s not how you’re going to make a sale, further your career or build a successful business. You have to suck it up, and put yourself out there.

Truth is, if you want to improve your presentations you’re going to have to get comfortable with public speaking.

Join Toastmasters. Watch some YouTube videos and see how the pros do it. Find a good mentor… Salespeople are usually the best at it, so if there’s someone really good at your company offer to be an audience as they practice. Watch, listen, and learn. And forget about mastering all the technical bells and whistles of PowerPoint. That will just distract you from the main objective.

So here’s the final word for better Powerpoint presentations:

If you want people to remember your words, translate them into a picture. Put the picture up on the screen, then speak the words.

Don’t put the written words up there, just to be repeated from your trembling lips. It’s redundant. It’s boring. And it’s unimaginative. Words up on the screen do not make great visual aids.

Steve Jobs didn’t put the words “thinest laptop on the market” up on the screen. He showed us. He demonstrated how thin it was while he talked about the details.

That’s how it’s supposed to be done.

If you need help writing better Powerpoint presentations, give me a call at BNBranding. 541-815-0075.
If you want more on how to be more clear and concise in all your marketing communications, try this post.

 

saying no in business

Just say NO. Sage advice for small business

BNBranding logoSaying no is one of the most difficult yet liberating things you can do when you’re running a small business. You might want to practice at home, with your kids.

 After 30+ years working with hundreds of clients, I can honestly say it’s some of the most sage advice for small business that I can offer. The most effective managers, and the most successful executives, say no a lot. And they do it without hesitation. Without any anguish.

For instance, they politely decline to pursue new business that doesn’t fit their strategic objectives. Even though it might produce a short-term bump in revenues.Sage advice for small business - saying no. BN Branding

They say no to employees and salespeople and suppliers who try to hijack their time.

They don’t tolerate overblown financial projections and long, drawn-out presentations.

They say no to new initiatives that don’t fit the brand or the corporate culture.

They even say no to their their best clients sometimes.

 

 

 

 

The typical small-business owner, on the other hand, says yes, yes, yes to anything that comes along.

Turning down work is just not part of the program. So in an effort to grow the business and put food on the table, they make a habit of appeasing people. 

Sage advice for small business - Say no to build your business BNBranding“Sure, we can do that.”  Yes, we can do that too.”

I have to admit, I was guilty of that for many years.  It’s a particularly common problem in professional service firms. Because after all, it IS a service business.

We serve our clients. We aim to please.

But an overly agreeable approach is often symptomatic of two glaring managerial shortcomings:

 

  1. Little or no strategic thinking. 
  2. A brand that’s not very focused or well defined.

 

Defining a Brand Strategy means choosing a specialty, setting specific goals, and turning away business that doesn’t fit with your core brand values. If you don’t say no in business, you’ll never have an iconic brand.

The clarity that comes from a well-defined, well written brand strategy makes it much easier to say no when you really need to.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 the company was, in his own words, “in deep shit.” They had at least 13 new initiatives and product ideas but no direction. No strategic focus. No “gravitational pull,” as he put it.

Jobs killed all but two of the initiatives. One was the iMac and the other was the G4. By saying no, he set the company in a specific, definable direction that’s still paying off today. It’s sage advice for any small business…

Sage advice for small business - BNBranding's brand insight blog“Companies sometimes forget who they are.” Jobs once said. “Fortunately, we woke up. And now we’re on a really good track…”

“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” 

Sage advice for small business: Say no to 1,000 things — in order to get one thing really right.

Peter Drucker believes the only people who truly get anything done are monomaniacs – people who are intensely focused on one thing at a time.

“The more you take on, the greater chance you will lose effectiveness in all aspects of your life.”

Best-selling author Ken Blanchard, (The One-Minute Manager, Gung Ho) says without clear goals you will quickly be a victim of too many commitments. “You will have no framework in which to make decisions about where you should or shouldn’t focus your energy.”

So I guess modern day multi-tasking isn’t the shortest route to success.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” That’s sage advice for small business

As a Creative Director I say no a lot. I say no to ideas that my team presents. I say no when clients make impossible requests at the 11th hour or float their own “creative” ideas in early strategy meetings. (Sometimes, I swear, they’re just trying to get a rise outta me. Deep down they know their ideas are lame, but they want to see how I handle it.)

Here are some good things that come from saying no in business:

• You have more opportunities to say yes to the right customers, at the right time. You can pick your battles. 

• You have more time to focus on more important tasks, like long-term planning, strategic thinking and branding.

• Your operation will become more streamlined and efficient. 

• You’ll have a better sense of balance in life — between work, home and play.

• Saying “no” expresses how you really feel. You’re not hiding anything, and you’re taking responsibility for your own feelings. It’s more authentic than a forced “yes.” 

• Saying no actually increases your value in the market niche you’ve choosen.

truth in advertising BNBranding

At BNBranding one of the goals of our new business development effort is to say no more often. And not just to accounts that are too small, but also to businesses owners, marketing managers and entrepreneurs who might pay well, but don’t share our core values.

As the old saying goes, “values mean nothing in business until they cost you money.”

We need more work, but not just any work. We need to do work that we’re proud to show off. Work that will help companies with a purpose that goes beyond just a fast buck. 

We need clients, but not just any clients. We need clients who we’re genuinely happy to help, and are honestly grateful for it.

Fast Company magazine always has sage advice for small business. In an article about Jim Wier, the CEO of Snapper lawn mowers, they demonstrate how his biggest NO was the best example of his leadership skills.

Wier said no to Walmart! 

He gave up tens of millions of dollars in annual sales with one visit to Arkansas. They wanted his mowers, but he was adamant that selling Snapper mowers through Walmart stores was incompatible with their strategy and their brand.

Now that’s courage. And focus. 

Most large companies with a well-respected brand like Snapper would be tempted to launch a line extension strategy to accommodate Walmart… Just produce a cheaper mower overseas and slap the Snapper name on it.

But Wier knew that would just dilute the brand and confuse people. That’s bad branding.

Like when Subway recently announced they’d be test marketing pizzas. How does that fit with their “eat fresh” healthy fast food strategy? Can you see Jared, the Subway spokesperson, losing 60 pounds while eating pizza?  I don’t think so.

Someone should have stepped up and said no to that idea.

For more on establishing a clear brand strategy, try this post.

If you need some help establishing a clear marketing strategy, and executing it, give us a call. We might say no, but we might not. 541-815-0075.

 

3 To Blog, or not to Blog.

john furgurson branding blog authorThis post is from the archives… John Furgurson’s first official branding blog post from 2007. There’s some insight here on why it’s still a good idea to start a blog. Especially if you’re in the professional services business.

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I have to admit, I’m a little slow when it comes to embracing the latest, greatest technology. Like this whole blogging thing… the internet is littered with the remains of some 200 million abandoned blogs. And here I am, crafting my first post.

So why bother? Why dive into a time-consuming new activity that’s already lost its novelty?  Well, there are all sorts of good reasons to start a blog. Here are my top five:

1. I believe in the old idea that you reap what you sow. I’ve learned a lot since I started my professional career. And I’ll never forget some of those early lessons from that little print shop in Gresham… like why the two-buck customer at the counter is more important than the big job you’re running in back. Or what a great corporate identity feels like on paper.

I’ve written, studied and compiled many great stories that can help you succeed, and I believe in sharing my insight. I think it’s good karma. And good business. In fact, we’ve made it a core value at BNBranding, so I’m using this as an opportunity to walk the talk.

2. I love to learn. Sounds trite, but it’s true. New creative outlets like this provide endless learning opportunities… I’ll learn how to start a blog from scratch. I’ll learn from the comments I get. I’ll learn from the process of writing every post. I’ll learn from my role as a business reporter, and the new perspective that provides. And I’ll learn from working in a new medium. (New to me, anyway.)

This persistent longing to know more affects everything I do… the shows I watch, the websites I visit, the sports I love and the causes I embrace. It’s no coincidence that I helped launch Working Wonders Children’s Museum. The whole point of that charity is to nurture curiosity and instill a life-long love of learning. It serves me well.

3. I believe in the commercial power of a few, well-chosen words…  Words move people, and blogs are perfectly suited to the written word. If you can write well, and you’re in business, you should start a blog because it’ll differentiate yourself from those who can’t write.

Inspiration for the words I write will come from many sources, but the take-away will always be the same: practical, marketing-driven advice that will help you succeed in business and in life.

Some of the material will come from articles I’ve written and published in the past. I’ll deconstruct some of the best — and worst — marketing programs around and share those “lessons learned.” I’ll do personality profiles of inspiring clients, companies and acquaintances. I’ll share much of the reading I’ve done and provide a handy executive review of the latest, “must-read” business books. And I’ll always have stories that will help you build your brand.

4. I believe it’ll help build my brand. Yes, there is a self-serving component to all this. But most of all, because I love writing.

This is not a personal, electronic soap box. I’m going to avoid topics that derail family gatherings, like politics and religion, and stay focused squarely on business. Specifically branding, advertising and marketing.

John Furgurson bend oregon branding expertHowever, I do reserve the right to digress occasionally into my favorite related subjects like the golf industry or skiing or anything related to life in Bend, Oregon.

Enjoy.

  • “Brand” Trumps Managerial Incompetence.
  • “High-Quality” Content – Finding or providing something genuinely worthwhile.
  • 1 Tough Mother, 2 marketing objectives: Image advertising AND results
  • 4 common advertising mistakes — Bad puns, bribes and other branding blunders
  • 4 Ingredients of small-business branding – Learning from breakfast cereal and a 4-buck burrito
  • 5 Things All Iconic Brands Have In Common.
  • A new approach to website design – What’s the big idea?
  • Absolutely better brand differentiation.
  • Absolutely Better Branding Strategies (Lessons from a strong shot of vodka.)
  • Advertising in a crisis: Shit happens, but brands endure.
  • Airline Industry marketing (One Canadian brand stands out)
  • As long as first impressions matter, website design will matter.
  • Automotive Advertising: Another ride down that twisting, mountain road of tired clichés.
  • Back to Basics (A working definition of Branding and Brand)
  • Bare breasts mean business at Starbucks.
  • Borrowed interest and other desperate attempts to attract customers
  • Brand authenticity (Keeping it real, honest, genuine and true)
  • Brand credibility killers — 5 things guaranteed to set off my BS detector
  • Brand design with a bang – Visual cues and consistency across platforms
  • Brand experience – How one ski area is trying its best to manage expectations.
  • Brand strategy: Put some meat in your marketing messages.
  • Branding Fundamentals – The ABCs of Branding are RCD
  • Branding the Olympics – leading by example in sports marketing
  • Brands and corporate mergers — F15 Fighter vs. the 787 Dreamliner
  • Brands of Love (How to build a loving relationship with your customers.)
  • Brands that are built to last. (Jim Collins on brand values)
  • Brewpub Branding: Messaging and attitude from Brewpub Beer Snobs.
  • Cammo brand personality (Duck Dynasty goes high fashion.)
  • Catching frogs and campfire songs — Branding lessons from summer camp
  • Class A office space, Class A brand — Brand alignment with your location
  • Comparison ads – From Cola Wars to Computer Wars
  • Craftsmanship in Advertising (God is in the details.)
  • Crowdsourcing logo design (Getting literal for little.)
  • Death in a small business — Brands outlive their founders.
  • Definition of digital marketing — 3 things you HAVE to know
  • Delivering your elevator pitch to potential investors — Gone in 60 seconds
  • Deschutes Brewing Going National (How to grow without selling your soul.)
  • Dual Purpose Websites – How to create branding sites that sell.
  • Ecommerce brands & on-line shopping — The best thing ever for MANkind.
  • Effective Personal Branding — The corporate head shot is not the ticket.
  • Effective TV advertising — How to avoid TV spots that miss the mark.
  • Enough, already, with the exclamation punctuation in advertising.
  • Fake thrills and false advertising — Another automotive marketing misfire.
  • Fear Of Loss in advertising — Another effective angle of attack
  • Garbage In, Garbage Out — How to avoid waste in advertising
  • Getting to the point for better PowerPoint Presentations
  • Golf industry marketing strategy – Parity vs “kickassery”
  • Gratitude in business – 5 things every marketer should be thankful for
  • How stock photos sabotage your brand image – Beware of visual clichés.
  • How to build a brand… First, own an idea.
  • How to build credibility for your brand, one chapter at a time.
  • How to compete in the booming Kombucha Market
  • How to differentiate your company (Disruption as a branding discipline)
  • How to do great branding ads — Subaru scores with skier-focused print.
  • How to do more effective advertising (Just the facts won’t do it)
  • How to hire the right marketing person — the first time.
  • How to make your copy more compelling: Mix up the words for better results.
  • How to survive when the economy tanks.
  • Is “Inspiring Bank” an Oxymoron? The Branding of Umpqua Bank
  • Is it car sickness, or just nauseating radio ads?
  • Judge Not. (And make good marketing decisions.)
  • Just a little trim around the ears — How to cut your marketing budget without hurting your brand image.
  • Just say NO. Sage advice for small business
  • Keen Footwear is a great branding case study. If the shoe fits.
  • Lessons learned from 30 years in a professional services business
  • Living The Brand, Scott Bedbury Style.
  • Logo contests: A bad idea for any good brand
  • Marketing for financial advisors – beyond gift baskets
  • Marketing lessons from all that annoying political advertising of 2020
  • Marketing lessons from GM — Will a $30 billion bailout buy them some focus?
  • Marketing lessons from the not-so-surprising failure of Sears
  • Marketing Management & Leadership – Who’s really running the show?
  • Marketing Resolutions (3 easy paths to better branding)
  • Masterful Brand Management – Golf industry marketing & Tiger Woods
  • Naming — Age-old advice on how to name a new business.
  • Naming a baby vs. naming a business
  • Naming, rebranding, and the role of your brand origin story.
  • Need a new logo? (5 things to know before you hire professional help)
  • New word, old idea — The definition of content marketing
  • Non-profit branding (A story of start-up success and failure)
  • Old-school advice from Mad Men: Improve response by using the USP in Advertising.
  • Packaging design — unwrapping a critical element of your brand
  • Paralysis by Analysis (How fear and big data can kill great marketing)
  • Pepsi logo redesign – A new spin on the Pepsi logo.
  • Personal branding strategy – Get to the heart of it.
  • Positioning — It’s not what you SAY. It’s what they THINK.
  • Predicting consumer behavior: Or the whacky, random ways people buy.
  • Restaurant Branding — Recipes for failure and success
  • Retail Marketing Strategy — Super Sales vs. Super Brands.
  • Secondary Reality (Alternative facts in natural foods marketing)
  • Ski Industry Marketing — New product launch vs. the birth of a brand
  • Small brands, big attitudes. How to create an XXL brand personality
  • Small-Business Management 2020 — Unusual times require an unreasonable approach.
  • Sorting through the endless “marketing opportunities”
  • State Farm is Where??? Insurance industry marketing
  • Storytelling in business — a good story equals strong leadership.
  • Strategic listening and consumer insight – Small business market research
  • Strategic Thinking vs. Tactical Acting – Your marketing needs both.
  • Successful branding – 3 logical reasons why brands need more emotional thinking
  • Successful Branding — Zero-in on the main thing for brand loyalty.
  • Successful brands are built on beliefs. (Not products)
  • The 4 Ps of Marketing – Plus one for Ecommerce
  • The Allure of Ecommerce (4 reasons why small retail brands often fail at online sales)
  • The ancient, proven path to marketing success – Credible, Emotional, Rational
  • The difference between marketing strategy and tactics.
  • The DIY mentality and small business marketing (2 clearly different paths)
  • The Inside-Out Approach To Building A Brand — Start with your people
  • The new normal for Ecommerce — How to sell more stuff online.
  • The new normal in e-commerce — How to sell more stuff online.
  • The rise of “Digital Marketing” — The death of advertising?
  • The secret to success: Clarity in business communications.
  • The secret, missing ingredient of content marketing.
  • The ultimate franchise retail branding experience – like a kid in a candy store
  • The Yin & Yang of Marketing – Are your efforts in balance?
  • These two words are NOT synonymous: Logo. Brand.
  • TMI – How information is killing your advertising
  • To Blog, or not to Blog.
  • Travel industry advertising – Wales misses the fairway by a mile.
  • Truth and clarity about Guerrilla Marketing
  • Truth, Lies, and Advertising Honesty.
  • Under Armour marketing — Sailing into a big, blue ocean of opportunity.
  • Wait, what??? The 5 worst words in marketing
  • Website Design — How to hone-in on a better homepage
  • Website Design & Development – How to make websites work on many levels.
  • What do great brands have in common?
  • What marketers can learn from the Olympics — Branding and the Olympic Rings.
  • When Branding outpaces the brand. And vice versa.
  • Who reads long copy these days? The hungry ones.
  • Why most marketing videos fail. (Unscripted advice on the missing ingredient)
  • Working together for more effective advertising. (11 helpful tips)
  • Writing better web copy — How long should that copy be? Really.