I remember sweating.
Maybe 20ft away, standing in a rough circle, was ‘The Pack’.
They were laughing.
To my 12 year old brain they sounded like hyenas. They always sounded like that which is why I gave them the nickname.
OMG. So accurate!
I felt a nudge on my elbow. Maybe my back. I can’t remember it’s been so long. Anyway I do recall looking over at my best friend, Ramie Franco. He smiled and pushed me again.
“You scared?” he’d asked.
Nope. I was terrified.
See, The Pack was a group of girls in my grade. I didn’t deal much with them. No hate, they just weren’t in my circle.
They dressed nice.
I wore Ninja Turtle everything. So did my crew.
They sat together and gossiped like my older sister and her friends. They knew all the cool stuff.
My friends liked to form two lines and punch the idiot whose turn it was to run between them. We called it The Gauntlet.
Like I said, they weren’t in my circle.
But in their circle was Nancy.
I liked me some Nancy. Eventually, Ramie convinced me to ask her to be my girlfriend. That’s why I was sweating.
It was the day I decided to bite the bullet and ask her out.
The trouble was she was standing smack dab in the middle of The Pack. Getting to her meant going through them.
I already knew The Pack would be around. They never strayed far from each other. I also knew they were the gatekeepers. If those girls didn’t like me, Nancy wouldn’t either. At that age it’s just how girls work. Good thing you guys grow out of that, amiright?
So me and Ramie? We spent a month figuring out how to make me look cooler. We played Kung-fu masters around them during P.E. to hear what they talked about. Then we stopped playing Kung-fu masters because, well, we heard who they started talking about.
I still managed to get a bunch of info, though. I was a little bootleg spy.
When the morning of that fateful day came (let’s call it The Asking, cuz’ I like that kind of thing) I was ready.
There wasn’t a Ninja Turtle to be found on me. My mom had bought me a new outfit…for The Asking, ha! I even had a belt on.
I had on my dad’s Drakkar cologne, too. Ten good, healthy splashes had me smellin’ like a man (Nancy and The Pack always talked about how good cologne smelled).
When I took the first step toward them, I started rehearsing what I’d learned about 112, a singing group they liked that I knew nothing about before then. I was going to start by asking if they’d seen 112 perform on some show. I hadn’t actually watched the performance but I’d heard my sister talking about it. I figured I could wing it.
Like I said, I was ready to shine, ya’ll.
With every step I grew more confident. I knew my audience. I had a load of things to keep the conversation flowing. I’d even timed those girls and knew how long to laugh if they decided something was funny. I was a smooth operator. Call me Ryan, man!
He stole that from me.
In no time, The Pack was before me. I cleared my throat.
They turned. All big-eyed and curious. Nancy stared at me too, looking surprised.
I knew I needed to strike. That was a lesson my pop, military to the core, drove into me from day one.
I opened my mouth to speak…
…and then I looked down and saw it.
The cockroach was there on my shoe for a split second before it disappeared underneath my pants leg. I felt those hairy little legs scurry up my thigh a moment later.
Guys, I don’t remember much after that. Ramie said I flopped around like a fish on land. He also said I shouted out something that sounded like “Snap like a nugget.”
Is…is that a dance? Got you, fam.
It was a train wreck.
But I learned a lot from that experience. And to this day, I apply those lessons to my life.
When it comes to branding, specifically brand positioning, The Pack, Nancy and that freakin’ roach taught me some invaluable strategies.
So stop laughing at Reggie Roach and let’s take a closer look.
What is Brand Positioning?
To keep it simple, Brand Positioning is distinguishing your company from competitors so that you occupy a certain space in your customer’s mind. It’s how you influence them to think about you the way YOU want them to.
To do this you create associations. You’ve got to link your company and brand to things relevant to your industry and the lives of your customers which they find positive. That can’t happen if you don’t understand what they want.
If you find out what they desire get real clear on how your product or service satisfies those desires.
After that, research how your competitors are positioning themselves. That way you don’t copy their strategy and lose credibility with your customers.
Think back to The Asking. I may have been young, but instinctively I knew I the best way to get to Nancy was to align my image with what she surrounded herself with.
I had to associate myself with her happy place.
That took research. Remember Kung-fu masters, anyone?
Position Yourself and Dig In.
Why was I so confident once I’d made the decision to actually approach The Pack?
I’d studied. I wasn’t trying to be creepy (I was 12 guys, gimme’ a break). But I knew what I wasn’t and logically that meant I needed to be what The Pack and Nancy thought was attractive.
Was I nervous? Sure. But when crunch time rolled around, all that preparation kicked in and I took that step. I knew what I needed to be, even if I couldn’t articulate it.
Guys, you need to be confident in your brand. You need to know exactly what you want it to do. Short, simple and sweet. Like Einstein said, if you can’t explain something simply you don’t understand it well enough.
Take a step back. Can you describe how you want/need your brand to be perceived in four words or less? If not, do you really understand your brand and target audience? Or did you slap together a logo and some colors and drop them onto a website because they appealed to YOU?
Always remember, branding is a CONVERSATION.
If you built your brand off what YOU like or THINK your audience would like and don’t have research to back it, you don’t have a brand.
Because you can’t have a conversation with yourself and expect to get paid!
Here, take a look at this…
Expert. Approachable. Witty. Offbeat.
That, my friends, is The SHOP’s brand perception. It’s what I use to guide my brand conversation.
Because military spouses are my target audience I begin with expert. Military spouse businesses are serious…business. Ha. Sorry.
Above all, I need to be perceived as someone who knows their stuff. Knowing I’m an expert allows milspouses to trust their financial livelihood and dreams to my input and skills. I want you all to know I realize the weight of your decision to become an entrepreneur and take control of your lives.
If you go to my homepage and social media channels, the first thing you’ll see is my ugly mug in business attire.
It communicates my professionalism immediately. Even my slogan is straightforward and calls out why I’m here and what you’ll get.
No frills. No fuss. No misunderstandings.
But then you have my colors which are just as in your face as my headshot. The color blue is associated with seriousness and professionalism, but remember, my positioning statement says ‘approachable’. By using a lighter, vibrant shade of blue I’m able to shave off a bit of the stuckup-ness. There’s a youthful quality to it which works well with the age range of military spouses I target. Combined with orange, which is a complimentary color to blue, there is energetic harmony to my brand perception.
Thing of it is, branding isn’t just visual. So when I say I want expert approachability, it needs to be reflected in ALL areas. That’s why I write these articles and teach on the theory behind my branding strategies. There are some big, complex elements involved in all this. Psychology and data analysis. Trending and statistics. You need to know that.
Ah. Approachable. I almost forgot…
I could firebomb you with science but how approachable would I be then?
Instead I’ve learned how to break that science and other complex things down into digestible chunks. I limit big words and, if possible, leave them out altogether. You can go study up definitions on your own.
I equip you to work.
By writing plainly about complexity, in a conversational way, the perception I create is Expert and Approachable.
We could dive in more but you get the idea. If you read my articles you know my humor is witty, which is so cool because military spouses are sharp cookies. Ya’ll just get it and so I’m able to sprinkle in the funny without losing you.
At the same time I’m a little offbeat, so I approach humor from less direct paths. That’s why I love my random pictures and captions. They work even though they shouldn’t.
All of it comes together to have the dialogue I need to have with you.
That’s how you position your brand for success.
Branding is tough. It really is.
There’s so many moving pieces to it. If you don’t have a good grip on how the parts play together you can find you’ve boosted up one area and completely devastated another.
That’s why I teach what I know. I want you to understand how this works BECAUSE IT’S YOUR BRAND!
Whether you hire me or someone else, at the end of the day, you can’t make smart decisions about your company and it’s branding if you’re clueless.
Hire me, though. The SHOP is awesome.
My only goal is your success. That’s the only reason I exist.
So study hard. Check in regularly and read my articles. Don’t forget to download my Military Spouse Branding Toolkit, too!
The life you want is oh, so close guys. There’s work to do.
Let’s get to it.