The Short-Short Version: 4 lessons about smart branding from Jeremy Miller

What’s a Short-Short Version? If you’ve seen Spaceballs, you know exactly what I mean. (And you can hang out with me.)

A short-short version is a very abridged segment of a longer piece—in the movie, a wedding ceremony, and in this case, a book. Think mini-mini Cliff’s Notes.

BUT Sticky Branding should be read by any small to mid-sized business owner.

Each chapter includes exercises that will help you grow a Sticky Brand, defined as a brand that is “easy to find, easy to remember, and easy to refer to… the brand is credible, and propels customers to choose it first.”

Why wouldn’t you want a brand people recognize & love?

Sticky brands emerge from business owners who make a personal commitment to creating an impactful brand:

It starts with you deciding, “This is what I want. This is what I am pursuing. This is my goal.”

Once you make the commitment, applying that vision consistently to all aspects of your business is critical. Here are 4 lessons you’ll learn:

1. Brand visibility starts with community

According to John Philip Jones, an advertising researcher and professor at Newhouse School, smaller brands have to spend disproportionately more than larger brands to achieve the same level of recognition.

But that’s because large brands have communities that help them grow. Fans and loyal customers—who offer reviews and feedback, who share content—help big brands to solidify and expand.

But even small brands can build community. As long as they commit to the goal.

In “Principle 8: Be Everywhere,” Miller gives real-world ways to build an active community around your brand:

You need people who want to be connected to you and your brand. Promotions and giveaways do not attract people seeking a relationship. They attract people seeking free stuff…

If you’re like me, you didn’t go to business school. You’ve learned in the field, you’ve made mistakes, you’ve wasted resources. You’ve gotten lucky sometimes. You’ve seen success.

You’re not satisfied yet.

The chapter “Principle 7: First Call Advantage” helps you learn to funnel your efforts to reach far beyond the top 10%:

The 3% Rule divides your market into two fundamental groups. The top 10 percent of the triangle are buyers. They have a need and they’re willing to act on it. The lower 90 percent don’t have a need for your services right now, and any sales or marketing pitch will fall on deaf ears. What this means is there are two modes of building relationships and creating demand for your products and services.

In order to avoid the false friend of vanity metrics—for instance, a single Facebook post generating 1000 likes but no sales or leads—nurturing a community adds confidence to every piece of content you release and every connection you make.

2. Fear must take a backseat to risk

In our last post, we emphasized the importance of taking a stance and projecting your opinion—even if you push people’s buttons and especially if you challenge the status quo.

The status quo is safe—and the status quo is BORING.

You can’t afford to hang out in Status Quo Land if you want to create a memorable brand.

But in order to do that, you very often have to figure out what you won’t do: which clients you won’t work with, which types of services or products you won’t offer, which people you won’t hire, etc.

Many companies experience a terrifying lull after they commit to a niche. A niche strategy requires sacrifice and commitment. Once you commit to the niche you cannot take on the generalist or opportunistic work outside of your specialty, because that will dilute your market position. It also takes time to ramp up the sales and marketing to bring on new customers in the niche, and get back up to full productivity.

And that means your days of taking any project or offer are over. Miller includes a few stories about companies that hit serious plateaus or whose sales fell off entirely, who laid off employees, and downsized.

Because that’s how much they believed in their vision. They sacrificed everything for the sake of the brand.

And that’s what you do—you live, eat, sleep, breathe for the brand until it can live, eat, sleep, and breathe on its own.

And then you build a better team or rehire those you had to let go.

As a group, you commit to new goals—not about numbers but about substance.

You stand for something more than making money. And that resonates.

Sticky Brands do not serve all people—they are not one-stop shops. To Tilt the Odds you have to set clear guidelines that explain who you are, what you do, and who you serve… Generalists ride the waves of the economy, but specialists outperform regardless of market conditions.

3. Pride is akin to quality

If you’re my kind of entrepreneur, you’re not building your business to turn around and sell it.

Which means you show up every day—even when you put in 14 hours the day before, and the day before was Sunday.

People call you a workaholic, maybe.

They don’t see or hear from you as much as they’d like, maybe.

They might accuse you of zoning out at weird, inopportune moments, maybe.

That’s the whisper of commitment to building a Sticky Brand. It’s about having genuine pride that you’re crafting something you believe in and you want to spend time on. Not to the exclusion of the rest of your life, but because it’s part of you—and a lot of days, it’s not even work.

It’s just life.

From that pride comes quality. It’s symbiotic. You want to get better. You learn. You train. You study. You commit time. You invest in your team. And your craft becomes greater as you go.

There is a timeless quality to their services, because Sticky Brands sweat the little things. They don’t ship buggy, partially finished products or sell poorly executed services. Their attention to detail is absolute, and it radiates through their products, services, hiring practices, operations, marketing, and every customer touch point. Companies with a Sticky Brand behave more like artisans than factories.

4. Purpose creates more opportunities to scale successfully

You know the other kind of business owner. Disengaged. Uncreative. Treating their staff like cogs. Showing up to their own business like they’re merely collecting a paycheck.

They feed on bottom lines, not purpose, which means when things go wrong, they don’t see opportunities to strengthen the team. They are suspicious and secretive. They lack true leadership and communication skills. They pump out content “just because,” but it’s not any good.

Take pride in your content. Take pride in your audience. Take pride in the relationships you are nurturing and scaling…. Your passion and excitement is infectious, and it will accelerate [your] community’s growth beyond anything else.

Those people are the reason I left the rat-race.

And guess what? As their businesses scale, they fall apart. Their people aren’t connected. Their goals—other than the directive “now do more, quickly and perfectly”—aren’t resonant. Mistakes abound, fingers are pointed, morale drops, people leave, processes are disrupted…

Because the business owner doesn’t really love what s/he’s doing. And under stress, the repercussions ooze through the cracks.

And everyone sees it.

Shaun Muldoon, CEO of Muldoon’s Coffee, explains, “We love our business. We love what we do. We are so involved in everything my people do and my company does, because we believe in it. As we grow the business, I don’t want to be twice as big, but half as good. That would just be such a disappointment for everyone involved.”

Muldoon’s last sentence is key, the phrase: “a disappointment for everyone involved.” Himself, his staff, his clients—the entire community that makes up his business internally and externally. He knows that he has built a culture of caring and quality, and he holds himself to the same standard as anyone else.

Sticky Brands are built by people: ambitious, impatient, talented people. People who are not satisfied with the status quo or growing just another business. Sticky Brands are built by people who commit to growing them.

If you are truly committed, this book belongs in your library. Go buy it.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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