Eye On The Pie: Branding From an Investors P.O.V.

When building a business as a brand it's important to avoid a myopic view and consider another important aspect of the business game as well-- investing. After any amount of toil and hard work to create a valuable product, service or company the big game is when you go public-- when money-minded people want more, they want a piece of your brand pie.

For many entrepreneurs who are just starting out or are flying solo for any amount of years, it's often inconceivable that anyone would want a piece of their business in the future when they are struggling to grow now. For those who find themselves in this implausible thought or for those who believe in the 'brass ring' of going public there are four things you should consider now that will enable that kind of big future.

On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Orlando I experienced a flight of fancy beyond anything I have ever felt before. When I booked through Delta airlines, I was issued a ticket on a company I had not heard of before called Song. I thought it odd but nothing beyond that. That all changed from the moment I got to the gate.

Waiting for the plane to board, I sensed a light buzz flowing through people at the gate. They were actually thrilled to be waiting. I thought that happy gas had been pumped into just this section because across from us was another group on another airline waiting to board who were not feeling the same thing. Then the pre-boarding began.

A male Latin voice came over the intercom and began the boarding with... a joke-- a different experience. He then went on to announce the boarding procedure with so much joy that I couldn't wait to get in line. I wasn't even in a hurry to get on the plane. When I got to the door, the woman taking my ticket greeted me as if I arrived at her home for a party-- a very different experience.

I walked on the plane and heard upbeat music, saw the colorful comfortable seats, and was greeted by fashionably dressed flight-attendants by the time I sat down, the first thing I said to Nanci, a perky brunette from Atlanta, was "How can I invest in Song?" The plane hadn't even taken off yet!

When working with entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes, I often stress the need to create a brand experience for the customer from every point of contact. Never was this point hit home so beautifully... and so fun.

Let's breakdown my desire to invest in this company just from just a single contact in four points of connection we humans can relate to:

One, most airlines are scrambling to cover losses and willing to slash prices to get people flying again-- Delta included. As they scramble to react, new airlines were capturing market share with lower price points. With Song, Delta made the decision to expand rather than dilute Delta's existing brand and value proposition. They needed to go in another direction and create something completely different to join the battle. Now I wasn't here too observe this personally, but it seems to me they responded like a nimble entrepreneur eyeing a market opportunity, not a giant digging in. To make big advances, bold steps are needed.

Two, from the very beginning they had me emotionally. From the moment I was at the gate through when I stepped off the plane they touched me. I got to choose from a menu of great food and I got to choose my entertainment-- the music selection was better than a record store. I felt so good I didn't even think I was in the air. No emotional detail was spared. They nailed it big time. It was all planned down to the detail. I wouldn't have been surprised if the Captain came on and introduced Cirque du Soleil (the famed performers from Canada) would be performing soon. They had me from... the joke. Create and experience I'll buy more than a ticket.

Three, they were able to make this emotional impact on me because the airline itself came from a deep place of belief. After the unfortunate events of September 11th, the airline industry was reeling. Delta employees knew they had to do something to capture the hearts of flyers or cutbacks and layoffs were on the horizon. They believed they had to deliver an exceptional service never before experienced at a price that the public would pay. No more doing business as usual, they had to create something that they personally would want to experience. They took the big business of flight and made it deeply personal. They were able to get me emotionally because of their deep belief.

Four, as a smart investor I knew that if Song was able to keep up this level of experience for their customers in a dependable fashion that it would indeed become "the airline of choice" for me. I also knew there are lots of me's in the world. At this rate of experience, it would be no time at all before they expanded their routes and create a powerful brand presence in the marketplace. A smart investor knows to follow their own instincts and invest in more than just the numbers-- what they experience as valuable-- what they believe in.

And all of this was woven together with the CEO's passion of music, hence the name. This was by far the best branded experience I have ever witnessed... no... experienced!

If investors look at businesses from this viewpoint, then shouldn't you as a business owner do the same?

Whether you are a small business owner or a new entrepreneur develop your brand by focusing on "experience," doing so will undoubtedly put your business closer to your customer AND closer to the investment pie. And you will also enjoy the journey!

Unfortunately, Song is not public... yet. I'm first in line.

Kim A. Castle, Co-founder BrandU?, Co-Author of Why BrandU: Big Business Success No Matter Your Size, and BrandU? Bible, the only step-by-step workbook for developing your business as a brand.


2004 Castle Montone, Limited Reprinted with Permission

Kim Castle successfully helps hundreds of small business owners grow their businesses and is co-author of the 150+ page BrandU Bible, the only step-by-step workbook that gives entrepreneurs the tools to develop their business as a brand and the upcoming Why BrandU: Big Business Success No Matter Your Size.

Kim Castle's motto is "Whether your market is the globe or your zip code, you have the power to communicate your business as a brand. You just haven't been shown how? until now."

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