Chapters 17 & 18 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 17 Owning a powerful benefit (what is the ‘itch’ that only Brand YOU can scratch for your consumer?)

What is a benefit? A paycheck? A social service cheque? Unemployment payments? How about a bonus payment at the end of the year? Yes, these are benefits of a sort. But the type of benefit we are talking about is different. What benefit do YOU – the brand – offer to your consumers?

The benefit we are talking about is the consumer’s real reward that they get from your being a part of their lives. It goes much beyond money, a home, food and clothing, toys and other ‘things’. They can get those things elsewhere. Sometimes, they can get much more elsewhere – hence the high divorce rate prevalent in society today.

No, we are talking about providing a real scratch for an itch that the consumer has – and you are the scratcher. We are talking about the result of a deep understanding of what your consumer – your boss, your family, your co-workers – need and are currently missing in their lives, and being able to fill that gap, scratch that itch for them in such a way that the result is nothing short of a gigantic AAAAHHHHH for them.

Are you with me? Good. But, how do you go about building your ‘owned benefit’?

Start by reviewing your capsule. What was the core idea there? You have to push past the simple descriptive features of what you offer – these can be replicated and matched easily enough. No, you need to offer real benefits, and there are three types of benefits that you can offer:

1. Functional Advantage:
a. Brand X – ‘Helps you go longer, stronger…’
b. Brand Y – ‘Strengthens the digestive tract!’
c. Brand YOU – ‘Makes sure his family has the best lifestyle money can buy!”

2. Emotional Payoff
a. Brand X – ‘You will feel primed to pounce on every opportunity!’
b. Brand Y – ‘It will give you wings!’
c. Brand YOU – ‘Stands by her spouse through thick and thin!’

3. Experiential Reward
a. Brand X – ‘You’ll feel that second wind kick in…’
b. Brand Y – ‘Tastes like a blast of cold Rocky Mountain air…’
c. Brand YOU – ‘When I delegate a task to her, I have total peace of mind because I know it’s going to be done!’

Your owned benefit must meet the following criteria:

1. Is it Desirable: “I want that!”

No explanation should be required. It should answer the simple question – ‘What’s in it for me?’

2. Is it Deliverable: “I can tell this person can do what they say”

Will the consumer see the promise as being fulfilled? Don’t disappoint your consumers… you will lose them!

3. Is it Defensible: “Only this person owns this, and it is unique to them”

Can you own the association? It must be seen as your promise, and nobody else’s!

Remember – the benefit you own must be singular. The old adage of “you can’t be all things to all people” is never more true than here. Choose carefully.

A quick look at the technical difference between a Feature, a Function & a real Benefit might be helpful at this stage, as you start to work out your unique owned benefit, because the sad thing is that even seasoned marketers sometimes get this wrong.

1. Feature: a descriptive fact – something a product HAS.

E.g. The car you drive, the suit you wear, the accessories you carry.

2. Function: an operational advantage – something a product does.

E.g. The charities you support, the job you do, the sports you play.

3. Benefit: the real reward from the features & functions.

E.g. the real itch that you scratch for your consumer, which comes from what kind of a person you are, the values you hold. That makes you the father you are, the boss, the co-worker and the colleague.

Let me introduce you to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow postulated a theory that has come to be central to helping marketers understand consumer behaviour as it pertains to brands. It basically says that there are five stages of needs that all human beings evolve through:

Maslows Heirarchy of Needs

The hierarchy helps us to understand the way our needs – and those of our target consumers – develop and evolve over time, and in different situations. Why is this important? Because the benefit we offer our consumer has to answer that need – and any tool that can help us to reach a better understanding of needs and need states must be used!

Basically, the model says that until basic physiological needs – food, water, shelter etc. – are met, we cannot worry about higher level needs, such as health, friendship, self-esteem or overcome our prejudices… indeed, the hierarchy is a very powerful tool to help us understand ourselves and our reactions in various situations as well.

Look at the hierarchy – what happens when one level of needs is not met? Is it possible for someone to be successful in love when he or she is concerned about his or her safety and wellbeing?

So, if you are to be successful in offering a true benefit to your consumer, you need to truly understand your consumers’ as well as possible. Since we are talking about multiple consumers, you need to really dig deep and build a broad-based understanding that will stand you in good stead as you try to offer benefits that make you irreplaceable in the lives of those people.

Another useful tool is called the “mental mirror”. Here’s how it works:


a. Sheepishly confused by the complexity of financial documents
b. Publicly confident with the ease of the numbers as explained by you, their go-to person for accounting enigmas

a. Defeated & lost because of the flu
b. Calm and relaxed, resting in bed, knowing that everything will be alright

a. Exhausted & bitter from lack of sleep because the baby is teething, and crying all night
b. Positively refreshed by the respite that you bring by staying up all night with the baby

a. Dejected by the onset of old age
b. Jubilant at the way you make them feel about their future

Take your time with this. Identifying the real benefit Brand YOU offers, or are going to offer is central – and vital – to your long-term success.

Chapter 18 RTB (Reason-To-Believe – why should anyone buy what you’re selling?)

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need an RTB – a reason for people to accept the unique brand that is YOU. They would simply see YOU for what you are – an invaluable, irreplaceable part of their lives.

Unfortunately, that is often not the way it is. People can be quite cynical sometimes, specially when the new Brand Identity you have developed and are trying to bring to life is a significant deviation from what you have demonstrated and owned in the past. At least initially, it will need some convincing – and a good Reason To Believe can be essential part of your new Brand ID.

If you can do without, please do. If you can’t, then remember to keep it simple. Ask yourself if your consumer will demand ‘proof’ of what you have promised – the benefit you will deliver. If the answer is “Yes”, then choose the simplest proof that is directly related to the benefit – and the key word is ‘simple’.

There are three major criteria to keep in mind when selecting a powerful RTB:

1. Is it plausibly unique?

Is it unique, first? If not, then it could be hard to own. For example: ‘dependable’. You might indeed embody this trait, but can you own it entirely? And second, is it uniquely true about YOU? Only YOU? If it isn’t, then it may not work. Now if you can tweak it so that ‘dependable’ becomes something more, then it might be more powerful. “Never misses a ball game”. “Never fails to deliver insightful commentary that is bound to have you in stitches.” And so on.

2. Is it persuasive?

Does the Reason to Believe that you have come up with really ‘prove’ the benefit? Will your consumer nod his or her head upon hearing this and say – yes, I get that! If not, probably needs a bit of re-thinking. Remember, if it is needed at all, it must be convincing, or it is worse than useless.

3. Is it a ‘put-away’ shot?

Does it nail the positioning as YOURS? Is it a slam-dunk? Again, if it isn’t, then perhaps don’t bother with it at all. Because this is your final attempt to convince someone of the benefit of starting / continuing to engage with your brand, and after this, there is nothing else left in your arsenal. It better work.

Where can you find a “Reason To Believe” that meets the criteria above? Here are some possible areas:

1. Is there something about you that is unique – anything? How about your heritage? Ethnicity? Education? Experience? Character? Personality? Passions? All or any of these might make an interesting start point. Remember, what and who you are IS actually unique – and if you are struggling to find a uniqueness, its only because you have never actually looked at yourself in this way before. Also, if you are struggling to define your own uniqueness – guess how hard it must be for someone else to identify what makes you into a brand worthy of attention and engagement?

2. What are your passions? What do you believe in, strive for, drive towards? Are you a scoutmaster? A calligrapher? A football coach for the local primary school? These passions can provide a unique and compelling RTB that supports the benefit you are trying to own.

3. Who are the people that choose to be with you – choose your ‘brand’ – and why? Do they ‘get’ the benefit that you want to offer and own, or is it for other reasons? E.g. do you want people to acknowledge you for your creativity – but the real reason that they hang with you is that you are wealthy and can spend money fecklessly when you are with them? Or are you striving to be recognized for your accounting skills – but the boss only sees you as someone safe to flirt with (because you might not openly reject him / her for fear of consequences).

So, in a nutshell – have an RTB only if you must have one. Having said that, if your desired Brand Identity requires a significant departure from the Identity you currently have (not the one you THINK you have) then you will almost certainly need a powerful Reason To believe. And it better be a slam-dunk.

Because after you present your RTB, that’s it… if your target audience still doesn’t buy into Brand YOU, then they are probably never going to. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, I will do my best to help you re-evaluate the work you have done so far, and get you on the right track. My e-mail is omar at Hopefully, you won’t need my help, but if you do, I’m here to help.

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Chapters 15 & 16 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 15 Who is your target market? (Pick the one that suits you best!)

Your target market is the people that you – the product – is designed to please. Who is it that you are doing all this for? If you are a psychopathic personality (according to the clinical definition), then that is a small audience of one. You. And just so you know, between 4% and 6% of the world population fits the definition of psychopaths ☺

And BTW, CEOs in today’s corporate world are four times as likely to fit that profile. Are you surprised, given the callous & uncaring behaviour that we have seen, and continue to witness today?

So, assuming that you are not a psychopathic personality, which group of people are you trying to influence? How are you the solution that this audience is looking for – the ‘itch’ that they ‘need’ to scratch?

There are three major criteria that you can use to decide who your target audience should be:

1. A meaningful identity. If you defined the audience properly, and read them the definition you wrote, would they recognize themselves – and would they care? Would they say – ‘Hey, that’s me!” You can’t give a generic definition of this identity – something like ‘the boss that wants the best from their employees’ – because that is every boss. It can’t be that general…

To know if you have indeed developed a meaningful identity for your audience, you can use what we call the “Window Test”. If you were to climb up to the 10th floor of a building on a busy street and yell down to the street below – “Hey, all mothers who want the best nutrition for my children!” – the chances are you would attract all the women above a certain age. That’s no good. If on the other hand, you said something along the lines of – “Hey, all those who want to motivate, excite and drive their team to new heights of achievement!” – well, you would certainly get a different group, wouldn’t you?

Similarly, if you defined your target audience as “senior management” – that would probably be too broad. On the other hand, a more meaningful identity might be along the lines of “forward-thinking, tech-savvy, members of the senior management team who are devoted to building the technical backbone of your company”… now that’s a different bunch. Might be the same people – just defined differently. And I humbly submit – more meaningfully for you and for them!

2. Motivation. Does the definition you wrote clearly contain the itch that needs to be scratched – and show how YOU are going to scratch it – the unique benefit YOU offer? Let’s take a look at Jon Stewart. Implicit in all that he does and says is the clear benefit to you, the viewer, that he will take a certain point of view about the hot button topics of the day. You tune in – or tune out – for that exact reason! You appreciate – or not – his take on topics as varied as the Republican primaries, the situation in the Middle East or the peccadilloes of certain politicians, some of whom may or may not be his friends.

What about Richard Branson, the charismatic (despite being slightly crazy or perhaps, because of it!) chairman of the Virgin group of companies? Why do people – especially media and members of the press – turn out in droves for one of his events? Because he can be guaranteed to do something that will be newsworthy – that is the unique benefit he offers to the 24-hour news cycle. And boy, does he deliver column centimeters ☺ usually with gripping visuals!

3. Mass. Is the target market you offer this benefit to as big (or small) as it needs to be? You don’t want to restrict yourself, but you don’t want to go too wide either. At the same time, you want the category of people in your target market to want to be a part of the market – the way you have defined it. They need to want to be a part of the club – the exclusive club – that you are inviting them to – and they should be proud to be associated with it.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of these groups?

“Those with the guts to push themselves past their own limits!”

“Executives who have earned the power that prestige brings!”

“Career women who know how to be a great mom!”

So – who is your target audience? Think about how you are going to define them to your maximum advantage…

Chapter 16 With whom are you competing? (You get to decide your frame of reference!)

Who are you competing with in your professional and personal lives?

By the way, if you don’t think you are competing with anyone, you are way too Zen for this book. Read no further. Relax. Take another chill pill. (Please note – I am not advocating pharmaceutical solutions of any sort!). Continue down the path you are on, and I hope to join you on that path in a few years (or not).

If on the other hand, you recognize that – whether you like it or not, and whether it is fair or not – you are in a competition, then let’s continue.

Many times, it is not a fair competition. How many people do you know who have lost husbands to younger women? Been ‘reorganized’ out of jobs that have gone to younger people? What about parents dying alone, having lost relevance in the lives of their children, and their children’s lives?

The good news is that the competitive sets we live with are not necessarily those that we were born with. You – YOU – can choose who you are going to compete with. If you do this properly – you can actually make your competition irrelevant.

An example of how a brand has done this effectively is Apple. An iconic brand, yes. But most importantly – there are only two types of computers in the world today, as far as the public is concerned. Apple – and PCs. In one fell swoop, Apple (through a concerted and focused effort) made all the other brands of PCs redundant. They basically said – either you are an Apple user, or you are not. If you are not, that’s OK. But when you, Mr. or Mrs. User are ready to graduate to Apple, we will be here for you…

In marketing terms, Apple redefined the Frame of Reference so that it works only for them. Powerful stuff.

So how do we make this work for you? Here’s what you need to do.

1. Start by reviewing your competitive landscape – your Frames of Reference – all the landscapes available to you.

2. Determine the Frame of Reference (FOR) you can win in – and that’s worth winning in!

3. The Frame of Reference you choose must meet these criteria:

a. Simplicity: “I know exactly who I’m competing with!” Is the Frame of Reference that you have chosen understandable by your ‘consumer’ without explanation or effort? Most importantly, does it answer the following three questions simply and directly:

i. What ARE you? Father. Athlete. Accountant. Manager. Sales Rep. And so on.

ii. What do you DO? Provide an amazing home environment. Run the 4-minute mile. Provide accurate financial statements. Run your team like a well-oiled machine. Exceed your targets every single quarter. And so on.

iii. What Emotional Benefit do you provide? Always there for your children. Driven to excel on and off the track. Guaranteed to get the numbers right the first time. A job given to you is a job done. The go-to person in the sales team who always takes up the slack.

b. Significance: “I can demonstrate how the benefit I offer is unique, and stands out from the others in this group.” Does the Frame of Reference you have chosen set up a meaningful differentiation?

Remember, every Frame of Reference you choose will automatically have both positive and negative associations that go with it. This is just the way it is. Embrace it.

For example, take the category of ‘weight lifters’.

What are some of the positive associations that this category comes with? Strength. Muscles. Focus. Determination. Passion. Energy. Did I mention strength?

What about the negatives? Not very attractive to look at. Prone to injury. Linked to drug use & abuse. And so on.

So – understand well the category BEFORE you choose – think it through because it will stay with you once you define it for your ‘consumer’ to see, and invite them to view you in that light.

c. Scale: The Frame of Reference should be as large as the other two will allow. Remember, a bigger scale is not necessarily better. The issue is that of the ‘Zone of Authority’ (ZOA). How far does your ZOA stretch? It is often better to succeed as a power player in a smaller category – be a big fish in a small pond – than try to play in a category that is unnecessarily large…

And don’t forget to consider direct and indirect competition – many a brand has been knocked off its perch by competition that it never even saw coming. For example, the biggest selling camera in India a couple of years ago was actually Nokia – not Nikon, or Canon, or any other ‘actual’ camera brand. Do you think they saw it coming?

So. What is your frame of reference? Where in your world can YOU best compete & with whom do you compete? On what benefit can YOU win? Do you know? If not, well, you’d better find out.

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Chapters 13 & 14 – “Building Brand YOU!” – by Omar Abedin

Chapter 13 Positioning (how are you positioned against competition and what’s your strategy to WIN?)

A brand’s competitive positioning is the foundational discipline upon which the brand’s identity is built. It highlights the source of the brand’s advantage – the source of its differentiation.

It is the brand’s unique promise in comparison to competition…

The brand positioning answers the consumer’s four big questions with regards to any brand:

1. What kinds of people use it?

2. What kind of thing is it?

3. What makes it the one for me?

4. Why should I believe that?

A positioning statement looks like this:

To the (Core Target Market),

Brand X is the (Frame of Reference)

That delivers (an Owned Benefit)

Because (Reason to Believe)…

Let’s see if you can guess what brand this positioning statement is for:

“For those who do creative things with computers, Brand _____________ is
The computer brand
That’s their creative partner
Because it is easy to use, and very, very cool.”

If you guessed Apple, you were right. In fact, this positioning could not be true for any other brand. Therein lies its power. Now do you understand the power of a truly differentiated positioning?

Let’s try another one.

“For those planning a vacation the whole family will love,
Brand _____________ is
The theme park
That pleases the child in everyone
Because it is a magical world of characters that they love.”

Could it be any other park than Disney? No, not by a long shot.

So, the next question is – can this be applied to a person? Well, let’s see if you can figure out who this is?

“For those people sick of the right wing conservative media with its clearly defined agenda,
___________________ is
The must-watch political pundit / satirist
Who uses well-researched & scathing humour to expose the foibles & follies of those who would take America down a conservative, right wing path
Because his unique delivery, style, East Coast sensibilities & unerring sense of humour make his show the most-watched in its segment and great fun to boot!

Who could this be? Well, if you guessed Jon Stewart, the erstwhile host of the late night Daily Show on Comedy Central, you would be right? Could it be anyone else?

How about this person?

“For those who enjoy liberal political views and a heavy dose of satire in their political commentary,
___________________ is
The ‘faux conservative’ political pundit
Who plays a self-obsessed, ultra-conservative, right wing, ‘job creator’ on his show
Because he can make his point most effectively while keeping his audience in splits the entire time.

Anyone? It’s Steven Colbert (pronounced Col-berr as you well know :) of course. Who else could it be?

Those who are affiliated with these ‘brands’ would be able to tell you many, many things about them. What do people affiliated with you say? What does your brand’s positioning look like?

There are some rules of positioning that you need to be aware of:

1. If you are going to ‘compete’ in a particular category, you need to deliver on the ‘cost-of-entry’ factors in the category. E.g. if you want to be known as the go-to guy in the Finance team, you better be hot stuff in Finance. If you want to be Dad #1, then you will need to invest the time with, and put out the love to, your family – that leads to being awarded this highest of honours.

2. After you have delivered on the ‘cost-of-entry’, realize that you can’t differentiate yourself on this. This is simply a factor you have to deliver on just to be considered. As an example, if you are not capable of running the hundred metres in 10-11 seconds, don’t even bother trying to compete in the category of “world-class sprinters”…

3. Whoever is considered the leader in your chosen category, owns all the perceptions related to that category. For example, if one of the moms on your block is currently regarded as “Best Mom”, she will automatically be seen as the most caring mom, the one most likely to go the extra mile for her kids. If that’s you – great. If its not, and you want it to be, recognize that you will need to find a different Brand Essence to own.

4. You cannot be all things to all people. Its simply not possible, and the sooner you recognize that, the better off you will be.

5. Anyone trying to take on the mantle of leadership has to position relative to the leader. If you are the leader in your particular category, realize that everyone else is positioning relative to you.

6. You know the old adage “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, it’s absolutely true. The first impression is also the last impression – and it is terribly difficult to change. So put some thought into your positioning – it is a long-term decision, with really long-term ramifications.

7. And last but not least – every way the brand – YOU – touches your consumer must be consistent with the Brand Positioning. Inconsistency is Death.

Remember, the brand positioning answers the four big questions with regards to any brand:

1. What kinds of people use it?

2. What kind of thing is it?

3. What makes it the one for me?

4. Why should I believe that?

Before we start detailing each of these areas together, let’s take a step back and decide what your overall strategy options are. This is straight from the war manuals of Sun Tzu, and others. It is deep. Think it through. After all, it is your future we are talking about. Let’s go on.

Chapter 14 What’s your positioning strategy?

There are six major positioning strategies that are generally available to brands in today’s hyper-competitive world. They can work equally well for Brand YOU.

1. Remain the leader

If you own something unique and sustainable in the hearts & minds of your audience – never let it go. Even if it goes out of fashion, or becomes less popular for some reason… Don’t abandon it, instead build on it. You can shape it, redirect it – but walking away from it is not even possible, even if it were desirable. No, own it – really own it. Make it yours, so that no one can take it away from you. E.g. If you are the go-to person in the sales support team that the entire sales team relies on for timely and accurate data – BE that person. Embrace it. Build on it to branch out into new areas of expertise that you can also bring in to your ‘franchise’.

2. Take the leader head-on

For the record, strategy #2 is rarely recommended, because if you try and take away the leadership mantle from someone by trying to stand for the exact same thing that they stand for – you will end up strengthening their position, and they will not even bother to thank you for it. The only time this works is when you can demonstrate a tangible, ownable benefit that is currently not being offered – and deliver that benefit with a bang that you can own. E.g. If you want to be seen as ‘the power finance guy’ in your outfit, but this capsule currently belongs to someone else, you will need to do something major to take that mantle from them. Go back to school. Get another degree. It will require a major investment, and there are sometimes better and faster ways of achieving similar results. BTW, I’m not for one second recommending that you NOT invest in continuing education – I think it is a must in today’s competitive environment, and is one the few enduring sources of competitive advantage you can own – truly own. But sometimes, there are practical reasons that prevent you from going back to school immediately. Don’t lose heart – there is always another way.

3. Assault the leader’s relative weakness

Every leader, no matter how powerful, how strong, has an Achilles’ heel. A weakness. If you can find that, you can exploit it to create a powerful positioning strategy for yourself that will endure – and really help you to differentiate yourself in the long-term. E.g. If the capsule you are trying to own is ‘Best Dad Ever!’ and it is currently owned by a neighbour who seems to do everything right, invest some time to study the real needs of your ‘consumers’ – your kids. Do they really need you to be buying them stuff? Or would they prefer that you take out an hour in the evening to play outdoors with them? How important is that to you? Can you come home at 5pm to be able to do that? How about making it a point to go out camping with the kids on the weekend – even if it is only in the back yard? Once you find the thing that your neighbour is not doing, despite being seen as Dad #1, and start doing it with heart, consistently, you will find that you will soon become that person and own the capsule that you are looking for.

4. Take a vulnerable target market

Find a consumer group that the current leader is not speaking to, not appealing to, and speak to them in a way that they ‘get’ you, and truly understand the benefit that you bring to the table versus anyone else. E.g. If there is already a ‘go-to’ person for the sales team to turn to, is there another group of under-served ‘customers’ that you can impress with your work, your credentials, and your attitude? Perhaps your own team? Perhaps the operations team? Who knows how many people or groups of people are not currently aware of your abilities, your amazing skills? Find a new group and wow them.

5. Turn the tables

If the capsule you want – or are angling for – is owned by someone else, here’s another strategy that can be quite effective. Find the source of their strength, and turn it into a weakness. E.g. If someone works 24/7, that can be construed as a person incapable of achieving work-life balance. A person who leaves on the dot at 5pm – because they have a life – can be presented as someone unwilling to go the extra mile for your boss (your number one customer at work, remember?)… And so on.

6. Open new territory

Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, your unceasing attempts to differentiate yourself go unanswered and unrewarded. At that point, it is time to change the game. Whether it involves leaving an unappreciative boss, or getting out of a negative relationship, the decision to get out is always a difficult and sometimes painful one. Remember this – there will always be a situation out there that works better for you. Keep looking. Don’t compromise. Life is too short to be unappreciated and unrewarded – and underpaid. Find what you are good at – what your real identity is – and be that person.

Be the brand.
You can do it.

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