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Three Pillars of Organic Brand Growth

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/04/2016 Jeff Lotman
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As founder and CEO of Global Icons, a global brand licensing agency, I've worked with dozens of brands over the years to help them reach new audiences and additional revenue streams. While every deal is different, there are core elements that remain constant in helping brands grow in organic ways. It occurs to me that these lessons aren't just applicable to brand extensions--it's even bigger than that. These lessons shape how we as consumers buy products, and all the factors that go into that decision making process. These are the core components that hold the key to you to building a strong future for your company and a successful career for yourself. These lessons make up the whole package, so to speak.
1. Packaging Matters
Think back to when you got your first iPhone, besides how cool the phone was - the actual packaging was a standout feature too. Just opening it promised to be an experience. Not only was the box well designed, it was also made almost wholly of recycled products, echoing Apple's commitment to the environment. From its launch, the iPhone conveyed an undeniable sense of purpose. Even the retail experience of shopping at an Apple store was radically different from other tech stores. Apple has built its reputation as a sleek innovator by creating a unique aesthetic that works across all its brand channels.
Beyond the packaging of a tangible product, how you package yourself--from how you dress to meet with clients to how you present your business plans--is paramount to growing your career and your company. Being aware of how you present yourself is the easiest way to convey a sense of purpose and to communicate your brand values. Steve Jobs was no 'suit man,' instead opting for his clean, functional and trademark black turtleneck, a look that complemented essential characteristics of his company's products. Jobs clearly understood the importance of packaging on a deep level.
Your personal packaging includes your behavior. Be switched on with everyone you meet at an interview, from the receptionist to the interviewer. Putting effort into how you come across--whether that is to your associates, your clients or your consumer--signals respect and also lends a competitive edge that will push you to the front of the pack.
I remember very early on when Global Icons started, we were out pitching a new client, and had worn suits and ties. Well, this client was a leader in the exercise equipment industry and we stood out like a sore thumb! Needless to say we did not get the job. Our personal packaging failed to reflect their brand values and message, and so we didn't make that meaningful first connection.When a client hires you, of course your recent successes matter, but many of your competitors will also have great case studies. It will usually come down to how relatable you - how well will you be able to work together, and how much passion you show for their brand. That's what closes the deal. The package you put on it should convey all this with a glance.
2. Know the Playing Field
Of course you know your brand. Are you 100 percent current on what is going on in your industry, though? How about your competition? Most importantly - how well do you know your consumer?
Brands spend a lot of time looking at market research to understand who buys their product, where their customers shop, and the best ways to reach them. The same is true in life and business: know your audience. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Right around the time we started the company we met with Taco Bell (owned by Pepsi at the time). On the day of our meeting, at a restaurant for lunch, I was eager to make the sale. Once we sat down, I ordered a Coke, not a fan of Pepsi. The client turned to me and said, "If you ever do that again, we won't work with you. When you are in my presence you drink Pepsi." The Coke vs. Pepsi rivalry is one you don't want to find yourself on the wrong side of, but the point here is that knowing your audience is critical.
Know your target base inside and out. Make use of online social networks like LinkedIn to get a sense of a business associate or even the business attitude itself, and gain some insight into what they value. This will teach you to how best to sell yourself and your services. Study the habits of successful people across the spectrum - professional athletes not only train to improve their skills, but they also study their opponents. From understanding your competition to your customers, expanding your business is all about being prepared and armed with the facts. We never landed Taco Bell, and I still don't like the taste of Pepsi, but that lesson has stuck with me throughout my entire career.
3. Cultivate Brand Loyalty
You buy your staple products--deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo etc.--because they are reliable, they are proven, and you can trust them. It is usually difficult to convince consumers to change brands in these categories. However, from ads to word of mouth to product reviews on Amazon, there are numerous resources a consumer might look to before making a purchase. Besides producing top notch products, stay consistent with your product and promise. Your consumers will stay put - in fact, they may just grow.
As a consumer, I was an avid and longtime fan of the Ironman Triathlon--inspired by these athletes' dedication to the sport 365 days a year. As a businessman, I saw an opportunity to translate the qualities associated with Ironman into consumer products. It took my agency over six years to land IronMan as a client, but we were persistent. Ironman had already established an amazing licensing program with over $500 million in retail sales. Since then, we've added over 10 new licensing deals globally. Consumers remain loyal to brands that fit their lifestyle, and the Ironman lifestyle is a growing niche market with huge opportunity.
Brand loyalty is fostered not only through your consumers, but through all of your business relationships. I used to work with a food supplier to McDonald's, who in their 50 years of working with them, never had a contract. McDonald's doesn't rely on contracts with their suppliers; instead they believe in relationships, and expect excellence every day. Approaching your business relationships like this reminds you that every day you are earning your clients' work - so stay focused on what matters. Your clients depend on your being able to deliver consistent effort, results and belief in the value of your work. It's not that different from how consumers choose their staple products. Deliver on these promises, and you'll find yourself with huge growth potential for your brand.

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