Build Your Brand Mansion: A Free Step-by-Step Guide to Standing Out

Let’s talk about what a brand IS and ISN’T and how designing blueprints for a Brand Mansion will make you stand out from your competition.

A Tale of Two Battling Businesses

Once upon this one time, there were two restaurants that competed for the business of all the tourists that passed through their tiny town.

One day, a young family drove up and parked in the lot between their two businesses.

“Eat here!” the owner of the first restaurant called out. “We’re a family diner that’s been in business for 60 years.”

“Eat here!” the second owner invited with a wave. “We make authentic Italian cuisine from scratch every morning. We’ve won Best Italian in the State four years running.”

“Oh? We love Italian!” the father said before turning back to the first owner. “What do you make?”

We make everything!” the first owner replied, looking at the small family. “You name it, we can cook it. Burgers! Spaghetti! We even have lobster, if you’re feeling fancy!”

“Oh. What is your best dish?” the wife asked the first owner. 

“Whatever you order!” the man replied happily. “Everything we make is amazing!”

“How about you?” the wife asked, turning to the diner’s competitor. 

“Well,” he replied. “Our spaghetti with monster meatballs is easily the most popular with children, but our Chicken Parmesan is to die for and has won more than one state competition. Come in and find out why!”

Which restaurant would you try?

Where do you think the family ate?

Why Branding Matters

What is branding, and why does it matter?

Stated briefly: Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

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If your branding is weak, no one has heard of you and no one is talking about you.

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If your branding is poor, strangers mention you but never say the same thing (and probably ramble on about things you wish they wouldn’t).

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If your branding is good, strangers mention you and can recall at least one on-brand detail.

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If your branding is excellent, they can recite your language like a script you paid them to read.

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And, in this day and age, if your branding is false, you are dead to Millennials and Gen Z. Torched. Canceled.

Periodt.

This why branding matters.

Why Do So Many Companies Have Poor Branding?

When a business’s branding is poor, it shows the company hasn’t done the work to figure out:

  • who they are
  • whom they serve
  • what problem they solve
  • why customers should choose them

Weak brands spend all their time, effort, and energy trying to filter everyone INTO their customer filter.

Strong branding requires you to position yourself in a way that filters some potential customers OUT.

FOR EXAMPLE: Think back to the “Tale of the Two Battling Businesses”

Which of the two restaurants in the small town would you try?

The diner in the story is banking on everyone who is not in the mood for Italian. They do this by offering everything else you could possibly want while proclaiming it’s all equally “amazing!”

In contrast, the Italian restaurant is banking on everyone interested in trying award-winning Italian food. If Italian isn’t your thing, then they let the diner serve you.

This is a power move.

Not only is the Italian restaurant more likely to attract ideal customers, but just think of the inventory each owner must buy to support their menus.

Who has a more manageable and predictable budget?

NOW IMAGINE if there were more than two restaurants in that little town.

Let’s say there was also a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and a Chipotle.

Where do you think the traveling family would eat then?

The more you’re surrounded by people who know exactly what customer they’re aiming for, the more likely you are to disappear from the podium of competition.

And if you’re not competing up to current standards, you’re not in business.

This is why weak branding is a recipe for failure for all online businesses.

What Makes Branding Powerful?

Excellent branding requires an objective analysis of:

  • Business strengths
  • Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)
  • Product weaknesses
  • Company personality
  • Customer wants & needs

Getting this analysis in black-and-white of words and numbers takes some mental heavy lifting. This can be quite difficult and require nerd-level research, which is why it so often goes undone. In its place, business owners chase trends or do things that sound good to them.

One of the trappings of poor branding is to market general platitudes that are likely to resonate with 80% of everybody to support their growth. Poorly branded companies then cast wide nets then bank on their massive scopes to rake in something worthwhile.

There was a time when this kind of worked. But those days are over.

If you’re selling on the internet, you need a strong brand — which many confuse to be a cool logo and a few hyperbolic descriptive words.

Incorrect.

Remember: Your brand is what people say when you’re not in the room.

Branding is NOT your logo. Your brand is what people say when they recognize your logo. Your job is to get them to say exactly what you want them to say without having to think about it.

This doesn’t happen when you market to 80% of everybody, nor does it happen when you embrace your own hyperbole.

So when does it happen?

When you’re ready to take off your rose-colored glasses and get down to the brass tacks about how you serve your customer and whose lives you improve.

Strong Brands are the Result of Focused Grunt Work

Strong branding requires knowing both your audience and your product inside-out. This understanding is then used to find the language and imagery that connects with them in an internet city filled with competition.

Questions you need to be able to answer about your audience are:

  • Who are your target customers?
  • What are their goals?
  • What demographics do they belong to?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their motivators for purchasing?

Designing a sustainable brand means comparing these answers against your company strengths and skillsets.

You need to ask yourself:

  • What do you do best?
  • What kind of valuable content can you create regularly?
  • What do you enjoy promoting?
  • Where do you need to invest in trendspotting?

There is an entire world out there fighting for your customer’s attention. If you want people to remember you and give you their money, you need to make their world a better place in an ongoing way.

Because the benefits you trade for their time, money, and attention will become your brand.

All Designs Need a Framework

All great brands are carefully designed. There is no “right” design to use as an infrastructure; it only matters that the metaphor supports the concepts it’s being used to uphold.

FOR EXAMPLE: When I was a PR Manager at a publishing company, I used a spider web to demonstrate the effectiveness of each author’s marketing plan. When I was helping local businesses brand, I used a pyramid as the brand framework.

Now the market has shifted a bit and I’m going to use a Brand Mansion as the metaphor to bring your brand’s vision from a mental vision to the third dimension. I think you’ll like it.

But even if you find the imagery a bit cheesy, you won’t forget it. And that’s the point.

Because being unforgettable is one of keys to building a strong brand and the term “Brand Mansion” is hard to un-hear as a concept.

And that’s the goal.

Building Your Brand Mansion

Let’s build mansions together, shall we?

Your mansion can look any way you’d like, so long as every building block you include has a purpose.

We’ll talk more about those in the next post.

For now, all you need to know is: Just like building a REAL mansion, building a Brand Mansion requires taking action on your blueprints to build something in reality.

Random work in random ways on random days doesn’t cut it.

Concrete action is required to create concrete results. If you want 100 people who have never met you to all say the same thing about you, you have to give them all the same experience.

Wherever they are in the world, each customer needs to connect with you in a designed way. Only then will you start to see the results you’ve been working for.

Proven benefits of establishing a strong brand include:

  • LONGER engagement on your website
  • DECREASED bounce rates
  • INCREASED backlinks and social media shares
  • IMPROVED Google ranking

And, most importantly:

  • MORE SALES

I’m about to do this for myself while showing you how to do it

FOR FREE!!!

So subscribe to this blog and follow me on Twitter to design and grow a brand that stands apart in a sea of competition.

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Next Post: Establishing Reputation Bedrock.

The Huntsman: Chapter One

an original short story from the world of the Pimpernel

Picture of castle on a wooded hill with the moon in the background. Image by @waytogonate on Instagram
Image by @waytogonate on Instagram. Follow him for stunning pictures of his world travels!

Once upon this one time, a young queen lived in a mountain castle.

The queen was said to be equal parts heartless and cunning, with a visage that charmed even snakes with its beauty — a quality she often used to enchant those who threatened her before indenturing them to servitude.

But looks weren’t the queen’s only tool against her enemies. On her sixteenth birthday, her magician father had also gifted her a charmed mirror that would answer honestly whenever she asked it anything.

And the young queen had asked the mirror the same question every day since. 

After rising and grooming for the day each morning, the queen stood before her mirror and asked: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, show me how my enemies will fall.”

In reply to her query, the queen saw visions of how to ensure no one got the upper hand on her that day. And she followed those visions to the letter. After all, being flawless was kind of her thing, and maintaining that facade did not come easily. Even with a magic mirror.

One morning, as the queen dressed for brunch with her best frenemy, everything seemed normal … routine … no different than any other day.

Well, okay, one thing was different: she’d never worn the royal blue tunic dress before. And, as the queen stepped in front of the mirror, she nearly took her own breath away as she did a 360-turn to check the fit.

“Loves it,” she cooed to her reflection, admiring how the fabric contoured over her hips. The rich fabric also flawlessly matched the sapphires in the royal necklace she wore everywhere she went. “I’ll take one in every color.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” her attendant said from the side of the room.

The queen kept her eyes on the mirror. “That is all. You’re excused. I will be down shortly.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the attendant said. Then she disappeared behind a door and shut it behind her.

Finally alone for the most important part of her day, the queen took three steps closer to her reflection, admired her perfection for one more glancing moment, then completed her morning routine. 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, show me how my enemies will fall.”

In reply, the queen’s reflection morphed into a swirling of colors on the mirror’s surface that resolved into a reflection of a different space. 

The queen knew the place well. It was the restaurant she would be visiting that day.

“Only one possible vexation exists in Her Majesty’s day,” the mirror replied, revealing a blue-eyed figure peeking out from under the shroud of a little, rust hoodie. “My suggestion is to simply stay out of her way.” 

“Stay out of the way of some fashionless pauper?” the queen scoffed, even as she leaned in to get a better look at the woman’s eyes and skin. The queen would never admit it out loud, but her challenger of the day was quite beautiful for a nobody. “Who is she?”

“She is Shade to the Cobalt Pimpernel,” the mirror replied. “And you have no business with her master. Therefore, she has no business with you. Leave her alone, and she will ignore you.”

“Good,” the queen replied. “Show me how to defeat her anyway.”

Then the mirror did something quite odd. It hesitated before making its response. “There will not be a problem unless you make one, Your Majesty.”

“Nonsense,” the queen replied. “I never start trouble. I only finish it. And she looks like trouble. Now show me how to defeat this Little Rust Riding Hood.”

“I … cannot,” replied the mirror. “The way to overcome trouble today is to ignore it.”

It was then that the queen’s mood turned and her true colors became more apparent.

“I am queen,” she warned the mirror, taking a step forward. “I am in control of all those around me, or I am nothing. And I refuse to leave anything to chance! Now show me how to defeat this Shade of a Pimpernel. Everything you’ve got. I want to see it.”

“I have … nothing to show,” the mirror replied. “If you choose to engage her, the outcome is the same. No exceptions. Thus, your course of action is simply not to engage.”

“No!” the queen screamed in disdain as she reached out with both hands for the mirror’s frame and ripped the ornate fixture from the wall with all the strength she had in her. “Unacceptable!”

The mirror hit the marble floor below and shattered, sending shards of glass skittering everywhere — one of which nicked the queen on the side of her foot.

“Ow!” she hissed in pain, glaring at the mess she’d just made. “You’re a jerk until the end, aren’t you?”

The mirror didn’t reply, nor did the queen expect it to, as she reached for the servant’s bell and gave it a ring. The response was instant.

“You rang, Your Majesty?” her butler said, stepping into the room.

“Send in the surgeon to look at my foot,” she commanded.

“Will that be all, Your Majesty?”

She rolled her eyes at the man. “And re-forge my mirror. Obviously.”

“Of course, my Queen. If that is all, then your security detail is ready for departure and awaits you in the lobby.”

Her security detail. Yuck. What a sour-faced lot. It had been decades since they inspired proper fear in anyone and the queen found herself rather annoyed at the thought of seeing them.

It was then an idea struck the queen and she blurted out, “No!”

Her butler froze, awaiting further instruction as the idea finished forming in her mind.

“I don’t want a security detail today,” the queen declared. She already knew she didn’t need it anyway, thanks to her mirror’s prophecy. No one at the restaurant had any desire to harm her. “I want a hunter. Someone who never misses…”

A cat-like smile curved her lips as she realized who would be perfect.

“Go grab the Huntsman for me and tell him we’re going on a date to one of the finest restaurants on this planet. But tell him his meal will not be free. He will pose as my date, since security is not allowed inside. But …” She grinned wickedly. “… dueling patrons are. And I’m going to need him to kill someone for me.”

“The Huntsman, Your Majesty?” the butler asked, sounding uncertain. “I do not recall such a person. Where should I seek him?”

“In the dungeon, of course,” she said dismissively. “Right where he should be. Go prepare him for brunch while the surgeon sees to my injury. I’ll expect the Huntsman waiting on the plane when I am finished.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the butler said, then disappeared to the other side of the door as the queen took a seat and awaited treatment for her feet.

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” Movie Review

Im Thinking Of Ending Things. Jessie Buckley as Young Woman in Im Thinking Of Ending Things. Cr. Mary Cybulski/NETFLIX © 2020

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the type of movie you would expect to see at the Sundance Film Festival in the 20th Century. It’s high-concept, boldly experimental, and fully intends to live rent-free in your head after you’ve finished watching.

It’s also the type of movie that might inspire weird dreams in the impressionable, or open a tinderbox of repressed emotion that may have some moving up their appointments with their therapist.

Source: rhymeswithorange.com

Or not.

It all depends on the person because I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a rare cinematic Rorschach test for this day and age. It shifts through time and character approaches with a discontinuity that would seem like poor scripting and directing in a lesser film.

Yet it’s done so well that the warped-mirror effect stays intact. Characters switch from old to young and back. They shift from achingly polite to cognitively combative and back again with no explanation.

Because none is needed.

On its face, the movie’s plot could not be simpler:

A woman goes on a trip to meet her boyfriend’s parents on the night of a forecasted snow storm.

Netflix 2020 film "Thinking of Ending Things" couple in car

They make the drive, have dinner, then head home.

Netflix 2020 film "Thinking of Ending Things" characters having dinner
Netflix 2020 film "Thinking of Ending Things" characters in car in a snowstorm

Couldn’t be more straightforward. 

Yet this journey shifts and distorts like a reflection in a circus mirror — switching through perspectives in a way that tests the audience as to when they’ll toss up red flags and call a cinematic foul.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is intentional in a way American movies rarely are anymore.

It’s what low-budget films are supposed to be: passionately produced performance art with a philosophical dissertation at its heart.

I must confess that I didn’t watch this film for quite some time because I sensed the mental heavy lifting in it and I just wasn’t in the mood. 

But the film has Toni Collette in it. And while I can’t say I’ve seen every movie she’s ever been in, it’s my rule that: If I’m on the fence about watching a movie, and Toni Collette is in it, I watch the movie. She’s a rare and phenomenal actor with excellent taste in projects.

So, in the end, I watched I’m Thinking of Ending Things for her. And I’m glad. Although, I DO have some recommendations if you’re thinking of watching it, too.

Recommendations for watching this movie:

Recommendation #1: Watch this movie WITH someone who likes to talk about movies. Because this is a movie that wants to be talked about after it’s done and is definitely waiting to be nitpicked by people hoping to outsmart it. 

Yet this movie is so well-developed and stitched together that it can take the scrutiny of nearly anyone, I think. So find someone smart who likes to talk about movies and watch it with them.

Recommendation #2: If psychologically heavy movies aren’t your thing and give you strange dreams after, then this is the kind of movie you’ll probably dream about. So know that coming in and bring a coping mechanism.

My suggestion: DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIP BINGO CARDS

Write down a list of all the abusive behaviors you can think of that happen within a romantic relationship, then choose your faves to fill out a bingo card.

Then press PLAY on Netflix and go for BINGO!

Oh, the fun you’ll have watching the tropes play out. You might even get a blackout on your card!

This might make the film more fun to talk about once the credits start rolling and a little less-likely to send you retreating in a cave of overwhelmed and unprocessed anxiety.

Because, again, this is a film that is meant to be talked about with a group of friends you like talking about things with. It dares you to voice its insights and consider their accuracy. It asks you to admit the obvious, while giving you every excuse not to.

It’s true art.

So grab your friends, assemble your coping mechanisms (if needed), and make a night of watching and discussing I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

It’s a great film — a sleeper hit that will age well and stay relevant across generations, like Gaslight. And it is worth watching for all the same reasons.

Watch the trailer here:

Best Binoculars for Bird Watchers & Hikers of All-Ages

ATTENTION: Bird Watchers, Hikers & Nature Enthusiasts!

Need sleek-yet-robust binoculars for hikes, nature watching, and even indoor events?

4 out of 5 customers LOVE this Stilnend model!

Currently: $55.99

Stelnend binoculars

Features Customers LOVE about this model:

  • 12X magnification
  • HI-DEF images
  • Waterproof
  • Work well in LOW & BRIGHT light
  • SLIP-RESISTANT grip
  • Good for ALL AGES & skill levels
  • CASE INCLUDED!!!

Also, if you wear GLASSES, you can keep them on while using these DURABLE, LIGHTWEIGHT binoculars!

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Even squirrels love them!

Here’s a look at the details of this bestselling model. (Click the image to see even more!)

Stilnend 12 X 50 binoculars product details

These powerful Stilnend binoculars are:

USUALLY $79.99!!!

But you can grab them NOW for:

Does getting this level of quality at this price sound too good to be true? Check out all these customer reviews!

If you’re looking for an economically priced pair of SLEEK, LIGHTWEIGHT BINOCULARS the WHOLE FAMILY CAN USE, this Stilnend model might just be perfect for you!

Want to be alerted when I find more great products & deals for you?

SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER:

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THEN click this link to read all the 5-star reviews of these POWERFUL, 12X-zoom, high-definition, indoor/outdoor, sleek, easy-to-focus, waterproof, AMAZINGLY PRICED Stilnend binoculars!

STOP SCROLLING!!!

Everything starts HERE!

NUTTY, squirrel-fueled reviews START HERE!

HILARIOUS MEMES start here!

Maybe MOST IMPORTANTly: SQUIRREL EMOJIS start here!

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SO. STOP. SCROLLING. HERE

because EVERYTHING that follows below is PAST TENSE & tired & done.

And who needs that? Am I right? Like, it’s fine as a library, but unless you’re writing a research paper or stalking me, there’s really no need to proceed.

So scroll up and FEED THE SQUIRRELS
by CLICKing ON SOMETHING!

My Most-Used Microphone: The Zoom H1 Handy Mic

We all need microphones these days. I have 3, but one of them is so versatile that it’s pretty much the only one I use.

That’s the Zoom H1 Handy Mic.

The Zoom H1n goes everywhere and, if you remove the batteries when it’s not in use, then it is not a battery hog. (But if you leave them in when powered off, your fresh batteries may be dead when you come back.)

I’ve used this for all sorts of things. You can hear online that I’ve used it to record chapters or mobile podcasts, but I’ve also taken it to interview elderly people I know to capture their stories.

This mic is great at capturing close-up sound, but you can also put it in the middle of a room, just let people talk, and find that it picks up most voices equally.

I use the Zoom H1 more than any other mic because it goes more places and sounds better while its there. The Blue Yeti I have has literally only been used once because it was a step down in every way.

Even better, my mic is so old you can’t get it anymore (only its upgrade) AND IT STILL WORKS GREAT. And in a world where everything electronic is pretty much built to die within 2 years, I consider that a huge win. I’m on year 5 with mine, and it’s still working great!

So, if you’re in the market for a mobile microphone that captures great audio, give the Zoom H1n a chance.

It hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Oh, and grab some foam toppers while you’re add it. They’re an inexpensive add-on that will help you create expensive-sounding results.

Reasons to Get Your Dog a Kong

It’s time to get my dog a new Kong.

For those of you who have never met my dog, she’s pretty much the best good girl on the planet and her name is SeBi — which is short for SExy B*tch.

SeBi hiking in Goblin Valley, Utah

The first time I got SeBi a Kong, she was a puppy. Back then, the manufacturers were billing it as an indestructible toy, but I can assure you that is not true.

In SeBi’s 13 years, she’s chewed her way through more than a few Kongs, but their destructibility doesn’t change the fact that they’re a GREAT toy for your dog!

If you get one puzzle toy for your dog, I’d argue that a KONG is the best choice.

What IS a Kong?

A Kong is a very durable puzzle toy designed to make dogs work for the treat(s) you place inside.

If you have an anxious dog that freaks out when you leave, this toy might just be your best friend because if you put something amazing inside, your dog will have something to focus on for a while besides missing you.

Stowed properly, treats will take some work to get to, your dog will have to work for it in ways that makes it even more gratifying to eat. This means, by the time your dog is done, they will probably be in a much happier state of mind than when they watched you walk out the door and be able to relax a bit until they hear you come back.

Introduced properly, this toy can cut waaaay back on anxious behaviors, until one day you come back to find them sleeping.

Possibilities like this are why Kongs are the only toy I recommend for ALL dog owners. They stimulate your dog’s intellect while satisfying their taste buds.

And I can say that, after 13 years, it’s the only toy my dog has dropped at my feet no less than twice a day.

Which is why I have to get her new ones from time to time. Because she loves it.

They’re totally worth the price. So, if you don’t have one, my dog-owner tip for you today is: GET YOUR DOG A KONG & give it a try.

If you get good treats to put inside, there is literally no way your dog won’t enjoy the victory of getting them out.

Used it strategically, this toy can be a game changer for dogs with a whole lot of energy.

Enjoy!

Blog 2.0

For all the years blogging has existed, I’ve never really gotten into it.

When you write all day, most days, the thought of sitting down to write something more is like a mental rock you want to tell yourself you don’t need to carry one more of..

This means I usually did one of two things when it came to blogging:

* I didn’t do it
* I did it poorly

Well, it’s time to do better & have some fun at the same time so let’s upgrade this website & start making it a place you’re glad you visited.

Starting … now!

2021: The Year of the Butterfly

I don’t know if it’s official yet but, UNOFFICIALLY, 2021 is definitely the year of the Butterfly.

For many, 2020 was a cocoon year of pressure that demanded change, whether we were ready or not.

For others, this was not necessarily the case. Their job didn’t disappear and their quality of life and income actually improved.

If that’s you, then I salute you.

But, if you’re like me, 2020 was a pressure cooker for you that demanded that you evolve and fly, or hold your ground and die … and you’re beginning anew in a field you maybe never thought about before this lockdowns were a thing.

If that’s you, then I’m totally right there with you.

So here’s to 2021: The year of metamorphosis taking flight while showing true colors and shining bright!

(Full disclosure: I’ll be doing this picture again at the end of the year and see how much I improve over one year of practice.)