5 reasons to make branding the key ingredient in your food and beverage business

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The food and beverage industry is one of the fastest growing industries world wide with new concepts launching everyday and existing concepts growing by leaps and bounds. It is also the industry with one of the highest rates of failure. Successful concepts suddenly fade and disappear due to innumerable reasons. New concepts catch the attention of consumers and many fail right at the launching board itself. 

Though issues like planning, staffing, quality of food, location, cash flow planning and timing play important roles in the success and failure of F&B concepts, branding lends itself to help stand apart from and attract customers. A well thought out brand can cut right through the clutter and be a strong catalyst for evolving into a regional and eventually an international brand. With the emirates set to attract almost 20 million visitors  by the year 2020, the opportunity for great local home grown brands are phenomenal.

A well constructed and strategically created brand can  boost your F&B business. Here’s 5 key reasons why your business needs branding to help leapfrog past the competition.

1.Showcase your Unique Selling proposition

‘If you aren’t a little different than your competition, you are in trouble.’

-Mark Sanborn

Your business needs to have something unique that differentiates it from the competition. A concept that doesn’t have a unique story tends to fade out and be without a context for the consumer’s choice. Its important to work with the branding agency and discover whats sets it apart and weave a story that can be communicated across all consumer touchpoints. Competition on price and quality is a dangerous game without an entry barrier and pushes the business into becoming a commodity that doesn’t stay relevant. Often existing concepts don’t even realize they already have a USP and they havent gone ahead and manifested it. It may be simple aspects like how friendly the place is or how the food is made, or the passion for excellence, or a fusion of food and maybe even a special dish that was created by the chef. Branding allows to discover or express this uniqueness and showcase it into the logo, the messaging, the space and the vibe of the place.

2.Connect emotionally with your consumers 

‘If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

-Howard Schulz, Starbucks

Branding is the art of finding an uninhabited space in the consumers mind and sparking a positive  emotional response to the business that makes them come back again and again. When a brand evolves into an emotional relation with the client the risk of competition recedes. Emotional brand connect can happen through every manifestation of the brand and this is what translates into a concept that can then be marketed and eventually franchised. Without brand emotion, again the business tends to become a commodity until the next best thing comes along.

3.Your consumers to do your marketing 

‘A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is- it is what consumer tell each other it is.”

-Scott Cook

A good brand that stand apart and connects emotional creates evangelists that market your product for you. In todays age of social media being your biggest marketing force, having reasons for your consumers to scream about your brand is crucial. Smart branding that imbibes hash tags, messages, cool interiors, unique names for dishes, humor, ambience and rituals spark reasons to share these stories through social mediums and aggregator apps (Zomato, Trip advisor, Talabat etc). A well laid branding strategy can imbibe consumer led marketing and nudge their top marketing officers to go forth and scream from the rooftops.

4.Ready for expansion and franchising 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room’

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Branding standards, repeatable processes and detailed guidelines pave the way when franchisees come knocking, when new locations seek out your brand or you expand on your own. When each location has the same experience, you are officially a brand. It makes business sense to invest in systems and processes that allow your brand to take off into the next level.

5.Stand apart from the competition

‘If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.”

-Donald Trump

Around 19000 outlets are expected by 2019 in the UAE, almost tripling the current numbers according to a recent study. The market size for the UAE places it amongst the top 20 in the world and accounts for almost Dh 60 billion, making it attractive for concepts from all over the world even with the high rate of failure. New concepts will always be born, international chains will arrive and entrepreneurs will hunt down new and successful concepts and bring them to the region.

The challenge is for businesses to compete and stand out in this crowded market space and find their feet. A well crafted story manifested as a brand will help your business cut through and be noticed by consumers and set the business up for continued success. Without a brand, it becomes increasingly tough for home grown brands to stand head to head with international chains with established brand strategies and consumer programs that are tried and tested.

10 steps to rebrand your successful business

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In today’s dynamic global market space, competing on price and quality will never be a game changer. Businesses today are looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and expounds to  the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the economy at an alarming pace.

These simple 10 steps are important to know when you embark on the journey of rebranding your successful business.

1.Know your USP and differentiate clearly

The first step in a branding process is to know your strengths and understand what sets you apart. To look inside and see what attributes have lent themselves to your success. Basis this a clear DNA for your company will evolve and this is what has to be communicated in your brand and visual language to your prospective consumers.

2.Involve the full team

Rebranding is also an immense opportunity to install change management within the organisation. Communicating to your team that the company has ambitious goals and expect the team to also be involved in the facelift. The process is a catalyst to gear the entire team for the next innings of the organisation. It helps to involve the team in the initial briefing, brainstorming and presentations and be part of the rejuvenation of the organisation.

3.Speak to customers

During the rebranding, it always helps to speak to your consumers and key clients and see what they think of you. To ask them what keywords come to mind when they describe you, why they do business with you and what they feel is the DNA of your organisation.

4.Branding is not just about a logo

Most companies make the mistake of thinking that a brand is a logo. Its not. A brand is your voice and soul and its the emotional connect with your key stakeholders. A brand is a sum total of all the interactions with your business. Besides the visual aspects, your customer service, tone of voice, product or service and even small elements all add up to reinforce your brand values.

5.Think 10 years ahead

While doing a rebranding, its paramount to project the company 10 years ahead and think of expansion plans, diversification, acquisitions, geographies and even your exit strategy so the new brand stays relevant. If a firm currently manufactures food packaging and creates a brand that reflects that and later diversifies into logistics for example, the new brand will again be irrelevant.

 

6.Work with professionals

Many companies make the mistake of working with a freelancer, a relative or even the printer to save costs. They usually turn out as a disaster and the exercise is never strategic in nature but purely a visual depiction. An experienced branding expert will bring years of experience and will play a large role as a strategist and spend time understanding your vision, competition, benchmarks, limitations and marketing plan before they go to the drawing board.

7.Celebrate and announce your new avatar

When the rebranding is done and ready for a roll out, its a great marketing opportunity to connect with old customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Inform them proudly with your new look and share your new vision for the future. It builds new found confidence and respect and translates into business in the near future.

8.Follow the guidelines

After the branding is done and the initial roll out is achieved, many companies make the mess of tinkering and changing the look. Leaving it open for interpretations and short cuts will diffuse the impact of the brand. Make sure the DNA is respected and visual guidelines are adhered to.

9.Remember it’s an investment

The brand value is the largest asset in the balance sheer for almost all the the largest companies in the world today. A well brand that redefines your image will over the years convert into closed orders, goodwill,  set you apart form your competitors and help rapidly grow the organisation. Don’t see it as an expense but an investment for the future of the business.

10.Be ambitious 

A rebranding process is a great opportunity to think big and envision the future with lofty goals and aspirations. Its a time for the organisation to think big and see that the business will be able to compete and outrun large multinationals and competitors. Ensure your brand embraces this ambition and represents the image accordingly.

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped create over 1200 brands around the world.

5 ways to Humanise your brand

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With the advent of social media, a new era has opened up for brands and with it a plethora of challenges. Brands are now directly in touch with their consumers interacting one on one. This is both an opportunity and complex at step he same time. Today companies have to step down from their ivory towers and don a much more human face to engage with their consumers. Today, humanising your brand isn’t a marketing strategy or a unique idea, its a basic requirement for your brand. Here are some simple steps to get you going.

1.Have a brand DNA and persona in place

The first step to humanising a brand is to imagine your brand as a human. Imagine your brand as a person and define his or her personality. What  is your DNA? IS your brand serious? Fun? Responsible? How old is your brand? Whats the tone of voice and style off voice? How does it react to various situations? What are the values? The clearer this is defined and educated across the company, the more cohesive and integrated the voice becomes. If the DNA is set in stone, then everything else follows easily. Remember consumers don’t buy products, they buy aspirations.

2. Create a content bucket

Instead of reacting on the fly on social media and across platforms, define what information defines your brand. What do you want to say? Avoid bombarding consumers with offers and discounts but information that is engaging. Define what your brand is speaking each quarter, what you will share, what you want to say. What does your brand believe in? What are you championing? Do you have a CSR program?  Whats happening behind the scenes? What trends will interest the consumer? Set goals and targets and measure results and effectiveness regularly and recalibrate.

3.Know your consumer

If you don’t know your consumer, you can never speak  their language. Who are they? What do they do in their spare time? What media do they use? What engages them? Do your homework and study the trends, gather user research and keep your eyes and ears open. Without an intuitive understanding of the user, the brand will never speak their language. If you are a brand attracting teenagers, you better know your demographic and their language and mindset before you connect  them and come across like a granddad at a beach party!

4.Be authentic and unique

A big no no for brands is sounding rehearsed and like a robot. Well rehearsed cold communication which sounds fake will backfire. Its alright to make mistakes and owning up and sharing your weaknesses authentically connects well with consumers. Apologise and make amends with complaints immediately, Share stories, little victories and milestones so the audience can grow with you and take ownership. Avoid automated messages and ready birthday wishes. A brand thats humanised will sound unique and connect and engage allowing the consumer to become evangelists.

5.Connect emotionally 

Brands that tug at your heart, make you smile, get inspired, laugh, think, act, cry or get goosebumps will install a deep ingrained sense of long term loyalty. Vitality is linked to emotional connects and people love to share what they liked and connected emotionally with. Humour always connects and engages. Stay politically correct unless your brand persona is otherwise. Finding common interests with your consumers based on your product category works. Continue this connection offline too as your brand supports causes, sponsors relevant events.

Remember emotional connectivity and engagement across every consumer touchpoint and deliver a humanised brand experience and watch your brand equity sky rocket.

Our new business cards carry our promise

At Idea Spice, we were looking at a business card that clearly defined our USP. We realised our strength was doing creative work that helped our clients grow their business .The strategic aspect of the designs and our involvement in the differentiation and positioning was what we had to communicate. We also wanted to do this retaining our quirky and fun side. There had to be a promise which we made, which every team member had to also know and live by.

Our new designs is inspired by a currency note, which we promise our clients when we handover and say our designs will impact and grow your business and help you make a lot more money. Each person had to sign the promissory note which read “I promise to serve the bearer the most innovative ideas, offer the world’s best coffee and spice their business forever”.

Here are some pictures of the first batch of new cards printed for a few in the Dubai office. The same format is soon to follow for the rest of the team and offices.DSC_2151-1  DSC_2154DSC_2158-1DSC_2150-1  DSC_2160-1

The definition of business simplified in one line!

Danny Myers has set up some of the best restaurant chains in the world including shake shack. In his book “setting the table”, he defines business so beautifully. Within these words is an ocean of ideas. In essence, this is all an entrepreneur should ever care about.

He says:

“Business, like life, is about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Wow!! Superb, simple and all encompassing.

Read the book. It’s an eye opener even for people outside th F&B industry.

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10 ways for SMEs to build their brand image

An article I wrote for a business publication recently:

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10 Ways for SMEs to build their brand image

A company’s brand is one of the single most valuable asset. Your brand image can grow faster than any number on your bank sheet and today it is the biggest asset for any fortune 500 company. For an SME, brand image usually takes a back seat, as day to day issues and operational aspects take precedence. This is one of the biggest follies that companies with myopic vision fall prey to.

 

The brand image is the beacon that lets a company stand apart in todays market space, allowing customers, employees and vendors alike to be attracted instantly. Its an emotional bond that instantly builds a bridge and grows consistently to loyalty. In today’s fast growing market place in emerging countries, with the influx of multiple global brands that seek the attention of your customer, its the brand image that binds them emotionally. Its the bond that ensures your clients ignore the seduction of better price, quality, packages or add ons.

 

Every SME dreams of one day evolving into a Coca Cola, a Starbucks, a Nike or Apple. Becoming household names over decades and being entrenched in the everyday lives of our customers. Even a B2B business needs a strong brand image to attract the right partners, suppliers and even financial institutions that understand effortlessly what the company stands for and its defining purpose for existence.

 

For an SME, the journey to build a brand image that connects and endures need not be an uphill task if you gets the basics right. Its not just the advertising budget that defines the brand image. Rather, it is the basic principles and foundation upon which the company itself is built. This holds true for a FMCG, a service company, an individual, a manufacturer, real estate company, a government or even a country.

 

Here are some simple rules to get started without spending big bucks. These 10 rules will help define and build a brand image for your company.

 

 

1. Be unique.

 

In every business, if you don’t have a differentiated advantage over the competitor, chances are you will shut down soon or you have hit a glass ceiling. If you are growing successfully, then you have a differentiation and a unique way of doing business, but haven’t defined it. It may be the integrity with which you do business, it may be the process you follow or even something as simple as the unique skills of the employees you have. Having a unique selling proposition immediately sets you apart and makes the connect with the customer so much easier.

 

 

2.Know the consumer

 

It’s paramount that you know exactly why your consumer wants to do business with you. On a continuing basis, conversations, observations, discussions or research will allow you to know whats going on inside your consumer’s mind. Without this knowledge, you will never know whats their trigger and what the emotion you possess within their mind. The best brands have always reinvented themselves with the mindset of their customers, and those that failed are the ones that chose not to listen. Basis this knowledge you are constantly positioning and then repositioning your brand in their mind.

 

 

3.Know your DNA

 

A brand is born when you know what you stand for. Every brand has a DNA like a living organism, it has a personality which you build and breathe life to. Your brand has an age and characteristics. You could be youthful, fun loving, hospitable, caring and an extrovert if you are a cafe for example. Then, every manifestation of the brand has to live this DNA. The music, smell, the way your employees answer the phone, the colors, website, tone of communication and a hundred other aspects all live this DNA.

 

4.Delight your customer

 

The most effective way to build brand image is to delight your customers so much that they become evangelists of your products or service. The simple old school business rule of “under promising and over delivering” is tweaked to “promising and delivering way beyond expectations”. If every department and function has the laser focus to delighting customers and the company is consistently wowing them and bowling them off their feet, ignore all other points in this article! The first step to delighting the customer is to be able to know their end objective and most important reason for buying your brand. Then, its mapping the consumer’s decision making process, concerns and issues and installing systems to exceed expectations incrementally such that the experience as a whole is a whopping delight! Only when the experience exceeds their functions requirements and borders on delight, will real brand loyalty be born. This experience has to manifest even within departments like accounts, finance, administration or human resource, not just marketing and sales.

 

 

5.Stay connected always

 

Create reasons to connect with your customers regularly. A brand needs to be on top of mind always. Inform customers about new activities, products, services and your victories. Many of them may not even know what all you are doing now. Build events and information sharing and invite them to celebrate in your successes. Newsletters need to be exciting and interesting enough so it doesn’t reach the junk box as fast as they arrive.

 

 

6.Embrace social media

 

With the advent and acceptance of social media across age groups and demographics, media has suddenly become democratic. With the smart use of the right mediums for the right business, one could exponentially grow their visibility at almost minimal costs. So many businesses that have grown at the speed of light today attribute much of their success to being to connect directly with their consumers directly. Its important to work out a strategy and the brand voice on social media before diving into it and sinking. Clear objectives need to be assigned and responsibilities. Social media can hurt a brand faster than any medium in the past because of the lack of control on whats said and spoken. Its as important to have in your ammo fire fighting tools and methods predefined to combat an attack on your brand. With the use of Facebook pages, an SME can connect and speak to their consumers, the specific demographics can be mapped and the business can monitor the visibility very closely. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs etc all give voice and a face to the brand and can be used as catalysts to help consumers fall in love with your brand. Linked In can assist building bridges for the brand with prospective employees and decision makers.

 

7.Create brand ambassadors

 

The best way to build a brand image is to create brand ambassadors who will expound the virtues of your product and service. Every individual that a company connects with have the potential of becoming a brand ambassador. Happy employees who won’t devalue the brand no matter what. Even employees who leave the company should leave happily and remain ambassadors. Vendors, suppliers, bankers and competition can all be brand ambassadors. If other people can speak about your brand and its values its a million times the effect of you shouting it from the rooftops.

 

8.Staying focussed

 

One of the biggest pitfalls for an SME is to deviate from their core competency and strength. The more SMEs have a chief definitive aim and chase excellence in getting better at that, helps evolve a brand image of success. If the effort of an organization is to excel and have a mindset to continually improve with the focus of becoming the best at their industry, their brand will automatically sky rocket. Diversification and forward integration should emerge after conquering excellence and having a system to repeat that on an ongoing basis. Excellence is the biggest catalyst of brand success.

 

9.Adopt a cause and be a thought leader

 

Every brand should stand up for something and then become the voice for that which they hold most dearly. When the core team introspects they will find one or more key messages or words that springs up in multiple discussions. Innovation, empowerment, emerging markets, logistics, cloud computing or even employee welfare. Find these and use every opportunity to talk about it and associate your brand with them. Seminars, lectures, events and workshops all allow the company to build their image by what they say and do and become thought leaders in the field of their choice. Give interviews with your opinion on the cause, write articles, debate, research and implement innovations on your key cause.

 

I am writing this article because our company has adopted branding for SMEs and growing home grown brands as our cause. We help local companies compete with MNCs and put everything behind this cause. For us, this is passion and our ongoing quest. We speak at seminars, conduct workshops and have created 100s of brands that have gone on to hold their own against global established ones.

 

 

10.Innovate

 

Point number 10 is yours to innovate and evolve because the most effective ideas are born from your own knowledge and capabilities. Branding is a continuos process of innovation, so commit from here on to innovating for your brand and instilling in the organization a culture of innovating in each and every department.

 

Get ready for a brand that will soon be worth more than you have ever imagined!

 

About the author

Sajith Ansar is the CEO and founder of Idea Spice. Idea Spice is a branding firm that specialises in helping creating and evolving home grown brands around the world. The company has created and reinvented over 1500 brands including startups, SMEs and countries.

One of the most inspiring manifestos ever! The magic of Bruce Mau’s words

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A friend of mine handed me a copy of Bruce Mau’s incomplete manifesto for growth 15 years ago. These words have probably had the biggest influence on how I built the organisation and its philosophy.

I wanted to share this with anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

An incomplete manifesto for growth

1. Allow events to change you.You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you.You produce it.You live it.The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors.Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success.Resist it.Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent.Work on what it stands for.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic.Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow.The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon.The new conditions demand a new way of thinking.The thinking demands new forms of expression.The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context.That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget.The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic– simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it.Try to get as close as you can.You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable.
We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack.We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot.Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference.Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event.That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives.We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

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Yet another inspiring book on entrepreneurship !

Chanced upon a life changing book in Kinokuniya yesterday. “The Startup Playbook” by David S.Kidder is a sum of stories and secrets from some of the fastest growing start ups. Their CEOs share their wealth of knowledge in these pages. The book simplifies the process of business and will inspire fence-sitting-want-to-take-the-plunge entrepreneurs, it will share nuggets of wisdom to CEOs in business already.

The format is great. A few pages for each entrepreneur and their story, the company story, their advice from their mistakes, what they do for fun and their vision for the future. The end of the book has a best advice section across all aspects of business, from hiring to culture, to customers and marketing.

This is a must read. Personally I am loving the format, the ease of reading, how every page is reeking of inspiration, the publication design itself.

I particularly found this review of the book perfect and apt

I love this book. It’s like having a virtual advisory board of some of the best entrepreneurs in the world. You will discover valuable insights or a good idea on every page to add to your own Playbook. -Brian O’Kelly. Founder, App Nexus

The book features CEOs and founders of companies like TED talks, Spanx, AOL, Flickr, Blurb, LinkedIn, PayPal, jawbone, mimeo etc so the information and inspiration is very relevant and current.

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One of the most important tools in business- a mastermind

Napolean Hill in his book “Think and grow rich” talks about the Mastermind being critical for success and speaks about the subject in detail. He first defined the mastermind as a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

Hill’s concept of the “Master Mind” was inspired by Andrew Carnegie, wealthy steel magnate. According to Hill:

“Mr. Carnegie’s Master Mind group consisted of a staff of approximately fifty men, with whom he surrounded himself, for the DEFINITE PURPOSE of manufacturing and marketing steel. He attributed his entire fortune to the POWER he accumulated through this ‘Master Mind.’”

I have a mastermind group and the strength it adds to my life is immeasurable. We meet at least once a month and follow an amazing structure that directly correlates to becoming a catalyst for clarity of thought, vision, ideas and brainstorming on millions of subjects. After each meeting, I walk away with purpose, armed with clarity and eager to implement the ideas.

I wanted to share this video of Napolean Hill speaking about what a mastermind is. I am also sharing a few links I found online on how to set up a mastermind, run it and get the best out of it.

 

http://christinekane.com/7-real-life-tips-for-creating-a-successful-mastermind-group/

Design Secrets: 5 things a client really wants in a branding project

 An article I recently wrote for a design journal which looks at the design and branding process from a client’s point of view.

 

Clients who require branding and assigning in our hands the one thing that’s closest and dearest to them-their business venture.They breathe and live the concept and are completely committed to that success and will do whatever it takes to take the business idea to the next level.

This is what I have learnt are the critical areas of concern and conflict  for a client and what needs to be addressed to ensure a partnership model for branding.

 

 

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1.See the project from the client’s point of view

A client is looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and tells the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the fray. Clients who walk into the door and connect for a branding or a rebranding are usually ambitious and visionaries in varying proportions. They are looking for a firm and individuals who are creative and can translate their vision. I have realized that when you  stop viewing the conflicts and issues along the way as client versus designer and instead reflect on why they are saying what they are. Is there a fear of losing existing clients? Is it against their philosophy? Are they superstitious? Have they had a bad experience before? Then working keeping their point of view and thinking like them has always helped the process.

 

2.Understand their business as well as them

Clients are always seeking a branding firm that will understand them, their capabilities and craft a language that will become a catalyst for their success. They are expecting a thought partner and a strategic thinker that will relieve the strain of the next steps and guide them through the process. They want someone who will understand their business, be great listeners, ask them their dreams and soak in their ambition. They are looking for a firm that will get them from where they are to where they want to be.

 

The moment a client hears questions which want to understand their business, queries which are inquiries into the nature of the trade, the customers and a genuine need for knowledge before imparting ours. Clients are looking for a design company who want to know where they want to go and illicit enough information that allows the company to know the clear objectives of why they are meeting a branding firm. It’s important to know the history, milestones for success, team, operation model, future plans, diversification plans, HR policy, sourcing policy, CSR initiatives, succession planning, marketing plans in the past and a host of information if the company is already existing. More importantly, these need to be a conversation and not a questionnaire. A conversation which is industry trade talk where you can hold your own wows a clients and earns respect for the effort you have put in. The beauty of running and working in a branding firm is finally the exposure and expertise we have over time in so many businesses and the curiosity to learn more and more.

 

3.Make their consumer your client

Over time, I have learnt that the client respects a branding firm which is not trying to please him or the firm but is focused on the company’s objective. The due diligence of a branding firm is to work for the client’s consumer and not the client. Design work done for pleasing a client at the cost of what the right thing to do always backfires. I have also seen that design decisions explained logically and scientifically as opposed to retro fitting a reason is best. When a client sees that color, type, font, paper, textures, forms are all selected for a specific reason and his consumer is the target, decisions are easier.

 

For a good branding project there needs to be mutual trust and a partnership along with the client and his team. For this to happen, an in-depth knowledge of the clients consumer is paramount. Research, conversation with the consumer, observing decision making, seeing trends, influences and finding a clear segment in their mind is the most important step.

 

4.Differentiation, differentiation, differentiation

A great branding project is borne by having a distinct product or service. Without that, a business will rarely sustain or grow. If a business has been existing and they are successful they probably have one but they don’t know it yet. Speaking to their current consumers, vendors, employees and partners will highlight why they work with the company and what it stands for in their mind. When a start up business is being branded, its important to know the brand differentiator or create one with the client, one they can fulfill and embody effortlessly. I would go as far as saying, if the business doesn’t have a differentiator don’t do the branding, it is eventually going to fail and your equity with it.

 

A branding firm has to partner in breathing life into the success of the venture by communicating this differentiation to the world and help the business stand apart in the crowd, attracting more consumers than the client can imagine.

 

5.Make it your business

Once you sign a client, their business is yours.

Every decision needs then to be a business  led thought. If it were your business, would you print the visiting card with that stock? Does the brochure really need to be 80 pages? Is there a more value based alternative? Is this idea franchiseable? Can the concept be copied easily? Clients love a firm that becomes their thought partner and goes beyond the brief and does whatever it takes for them to succeed. Not a design company thats just interested in the design aspect and the look and feel. When their business becomes yours, and every designer and related members of your team know that, the chances of a successful outcome are heightened.

 

When the process is a thought partnership all along and the business flourishes you get a client who then becomes a friend and client for life and tells the whole world about you.

 

-Sajith Ansar

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm with 5 offices around the world and has worked on creating over 1000 home grown brands from startups, SMEs and destination brands.

 

30 quotes for CEOs and budding entrepreneurs

A collection of inspiring quotes and ideas for CEOs and people wanting to take the plunge into the world of business.

Each thought has so much depth and can trigger ideas and directions. The common thread of inspiration is about passion in work, risk taking, being the best at what you do, embracing failure, hard work and staying focused .

Read on and be inspired!

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The wisdom of getting rich and 5 untold secrets

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I find it fascinating meeting successful people and understanding what makes them who they are, absorbing their secrets to success, seeking inspiration and lessons. Over my  interactions with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I see extremely intelligent and innovative people struggle financially, dropouts become billionaires and billionaires become unhappy and unfulfilled. Then there’s a rare species that gets it all perfectly balanced.

A few questions I have often asked myself are:

“How do some individuals become so rich? What do they do different? “

How come certain people suddenly rocket across the business stratosphere? What suddenly shifts?”

“Why do some people who come across as inspirations turn out to be a facade of optimism as you peel away the layers? ”

“Why do so many achievers speak of regretting that they didn’t stop and smell the coffee along the journey?”

It’s interesting that how much money you make, how much you retain with you, how smart you are, how rich you are and how happy you stay is not always linked nor proportional to each other.

Having read so many books, research documents and discussed with mentors and role models, I have begun to comprehend some interesting home truths. They are so simple and staring us in the face. As I tried experimenting and began to feel the impact of the wisdom and found paradigm shifts in business and life.

The 5 important secrets are:

1.Resetting the financial thermostat

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Each of us have a relation with success and money. This evolves as a mix of genetics, experiences, things we have heard, preconditioning and internal decisions we made along the way. We often hear phrases like “you can’t make money without losing your ethics”, “dirty money” “money only brings unhappiness” and many more phrases and notions that condition our minds against it.

Deep rooted inhibitions with finance often create a love hate relation with money. Our grandparents and parents have views that stay rooted after generations. This festers like an old wound and leaves a scar.

I ran my business for years without thinking of money and as a creative person feeling that money is not a good thing. I discovered that my expenses would get covered because that was my desire but the cup would never overflow.

The simple rule is that money comes to those who love and desire it without contempt. When money is not a dirty word and welcomed with a red carpet, she visits and stays. When you long to be with money without cringing and when it’s not desired just for the material benefits of money, she appears.

This is the one simple first secret of every book on success and money. The intense desire for it. It’s as simple as that. If you intensely desire money and welcome it with open arms, money comes.

The starting point of all achievement is desire.

-Napoleon Hill

2.knowing what you want and having a map

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Imagine you are on a road trip and you want to drive to a nearby town and decide to get there without a map. You then decide you won’t ask for directions or follow the signs and don’t even know what the town is called. You set off and make a journey and you do reach somewhere, but with no reference point how far away you are and where you are. You are never going to reach and needless to say you would never know how far you are from where you want to be.

It’s the same with visions and goals. You need to know where you are going. One of the simplest secrets successful people share is that they knew what they wanted and where they were going. Writing down your plans like you already achieved them triggers actions without you realizing. Making a vision board and seeing it every day increases the chances of fulfilling them even further.

When you know where you are going, every crisis and issue become deviations, you just need a side lane to get back to the main highway of your goals.

The same rule eluded me. My vision was to do great work, work with good people, have a chic office and a cool car. All the wishes were granted very soon and then growth stagnated because I hadn’t reset my map not broadened my vision.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
–Steve Jobs

3 . The magic of saving

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The simplest rule of money is to increase your income, reduce your expenses and make sure theres a lot in between both. Then you got to keep it that away and widen this gap year on year. Ideally the expense shouldn’t grow more than inflation and the income should grow exponentially.

Having the discipline to force yourself to save needs a mindset change. How often I have caught myself saying that I had less expenses when I had less money. The secret is to spend much lesser than we make.

The joy of seeing money as investments and not just a means to spend more needs a mindset change which creates paradigm shifts. Having your rental income cover your regular expenses and your investment interest pay your luxury EMIs is a big high.

The day it dawned on me that cash is the king in business and the oxygen that keeps it going, I sensed a remarkable turnaround in strategy and direction. There are so many nooks and corners and hidden recesses where unnecessary expenses stay hidden without realizing as I moved along. I call it the spring cleaning of unwanted expenses and this needs to be done every 3 months.

Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.
–Will Rogers

4.Learning to give

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One of the most important secrets of wealth sharing as I read, spoke and understood is the ability to give. To share our wealth knowing that it comes back to you even more. As we move to an abundance mentality away from scarcity, the mind programs itself to know that as we give, more will take its place.

Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Buffet are all well known philanthropists. In a letter to his son, Rocketfeller wrote, “…in the beginning of getting money, away back in my childhood, I began giving it away, and continued increasing the gifts as the income increased…”

For it is in giving that we receive.
-St. Francis of Assisi

5 . Enjoying the ride

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When I converse with people who inspire me, I often ask them if there are any regrets along the way. The pattern of the answers is always the same “I wish I had watched my kids grow up” “I wish I had taken more holidays” “I wish I had more time for myself” “I didn’t spend enough time with my wife” “There’s a million things I didn’t do because I was busy making money”.

Everything you make becomes worth it when every day is lived like its your last day. What is money if you can’t enjoy it with the ones you love, if you don’t have time for yourself and for finding yourself too on the journey. I believe you get richer with experiences. As you get rich, your life needs to get richer too.

Early enough we need to decide that the pursuit of wealth doesn’t have to be devoid of soul, that the journey will be a celebration and not a struggle.

I needed a major mindset shift from my 90 hour weeks I proudly practiced in the initial years of business. Waking up and deciding that I want to enjoy the ride and never regret a moment helped to change the way I enjoyed the journey. The trick was to focus on things I am best at and termed “play” and finding other people or outsourcing tasks which was “work”.

It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.

–George Lorimer

 

 

Try out these simple ideas and see the effect!

The 7 forces of business mastery

I read this insightful and inspiring article in the Entrepreneur magazine. It featured an interview with one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Anthony Robbins. These simple pointers are home truths and there are so many nuggets at very nook and corner. I took away truckloads of ideas and I wanted to share the complete interview.

This is a must read:

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Robbins: They’re the seven parts of any business that have to be consistently managed to consistently grow and succeed. Most people know that 50 percent of all startups are gone within the first year and that 96 percent of all business fail after 10 years.

Why do so many business fail?
Because even a small business requires consistent improvement in many areas simultaneously in order to compete and win. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have some core skill sets — perhaps they’re extraordinary at writing code or creating extraordinary products — but their marketing skills are low. Or, their marketing skills might be off the charts but their inability to make effective financial analysis in the end destroys all they’ve built. They make poor decisions, and decisions shape our business destiny.

So, for a quick review, it’s best to start with the end in mind.

The seventh force and ultimate outcome for any business is to create raving fan customers and culture. Satisfied customers leave you when somebody gives them a better deal. Raving fan customers are loyal, they know who you really are and they stick around even when you screw up because you’ve consistently added value to them in a way that nobody else can.

After that, the first force that will shape a business is knowing where you really are and creating an effective business map. The biggest challenge for business leaders is that they’re not honest about where the business really is. They often see it better than it is, which keeps them going but it causes them to have blind spots that inevitably undermine or even destroy the business.

Knowing what business you’re really in, or what business you need to be in long term is critical. Knowing why you’re in the business and ultimately what outcomes you want the business to serve is critical for a business owner. Then, you have to know who you are and who you need in order to have long-term success.

You also need to know where you are. Every business has a lifecycle, just like a human being. Is your business in the toddler stage? Is your business in its prime? Is it aging? What to do in your business is completely controlled by where you are. Then you can decide where you want to go.

The second force of business is strategic innovation — finding a way to meet your client’s needs better than anybody else. Some companies innovate so often that they put themselves out of business because they are not being strategic about it.

The third force of business is world-class, strategic marketing. That just means having a process that gets a mass number of people to want to do business with you. Or, more importantly, the ideal client you want, to seek you out. It’s something I call “value-added marketing.”

The fourth force is sales mastery systems. It’s great that your marketing strategy is attracting clients, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you produce continued growth and sales.

The fifth force that business leaders must understand is the power of both financial and legal analysis. If you aren’t able to understand and analyze the financial condition of your business on an ongoing basis, you’re like a pilot of a plane who doesn’t know how to read the gauges in front of him. It’s easy to fly when there are clear skies (i.e., a good economy), but when you find yourself surrounded by storms and fog, if you can’t read the gauges, you’re going to crash. It’s only a matter of time.

Finally the sixth force is where you can create explosive growth in your company. Most people think in order to have explosive growth they have to make giant changes. In reality, if you understand the force of optimization and maximization of your people and processes, you can grow your business consistently while others are taking wild risks that don’t always pay off.

Entrepreneur: How can a business owner grow his or her profits by 50 percent in the next 12 months?
Robbins: The key to making documented, explosive profit gains is optimization and maximization. The goal is to make small, incremental changes that all together make your entire business significantly more efficient and profitable. If you’re not doing this already, you’re working hard every single day and you’re still not at the level you deserve. The secret is, little things aren’t little — they’re everything. Those little details — every lead you generate, every margin you increase, every promotion you run, every transaction you make, every sales person you hire — if you don’t measure it, you’re not managing it. So you’re not managing the driving force of what comes into your business to get those profit levels you deserve.

We’re treasure hunters. We know there’s treasure in our business, no question, and we’re going to find it no matter what it takes. If we try something and it doesn’t work, we’re going to try something else, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll make another change, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll shift something else until we get the result we’re after.

Entrepreneur: You say that looking through “a new filter” can help entrepreneurs uncover solutions to business problems. What do you mean by that?
Robbins: There are basic keys that offer entrepreneurs solutions, keys like finding a way to get more clients, and finding ways to increase your average transaction value. But beyond those basic keys, you need fresh perspective, or what I would call a new filter.

Take pricing for example. I did my first seminars for free. I advertised, I marketed, I did everything. I showed up in this room, I expected 500 people. Seven people showed up. Guess what I did for them? I dumped everything I had on these seven people. Can you imagine us in a room for a day? It was like Shallow Hal stuck in the elevator. But then I changed my filter. I changed my pricing, and I changed the size and venue for my seminars. Instead of intimate sessions in my living room, we were doing events at Madison Square Garden and people could learn from everyone else sitting there, which added even more value and reshaped the entire experience of the service. In many ways, it’s the same core product, but a different filter can make massive difference.

Entrepreneur: How can an entrepreneur become a better person in order to become a better business owner?
Robbins: People may come to my events to change their business, but I’m also here to help them change their lives. We all want to take both our business and our lives to the next level, and your business is a beautiful vehicle for doing that — it gives immediate feedback whether you’re in the right state, whether you’re telling the right story, whether you’ve got the right strategies. And it can provide a vehicle for your economic freedom and an expression of what you value most.

It’s important to remember that most people spend more time in their business than they do with their children, or with their spouse. For most business owners, the business is just an extension of their identity. So when we can help people make a shift or a dramatic change in their own psychology, that spills over to impact their business and every other area of their life.

If you’re able to meet your top needs in a positive way, then your life will improve. Similarly, if your business is able to first identify, and then meet, your clients’ top needs in a unique way, then you will develop a raving fan culture. Whether you’re becoming a better person or a better business owner, it’s really all connected.

Great blend of architecture and fashion

 

Hotel The Exchange is an independent fashion hotel in central Amsterdam that playfully weaves together fashion and architecture in unique rooms ranging from one to five stars.

At Hotel The Exchange fashion meets architecture in the most unexpected and inspiring way. Rooms are dressed like models by young designers from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), allowing guests to sleep in fashion and wake up in style.

Hotel The Exchange * Amsterdam Fashion Institute | Design Gallerist | Rare & Unique Products.

Engaging brands- an example!

I was at a conference today at Media one hotel dubai. The conference room at the business center was such a fresh breath of air. What was usually a strait jacketed atmosphere in a typical corporate settings was turned into a fun and engaging experience.

A message in the lift for the business center set the tone saying “if you are wearing a tie, this is not the place for you”. Set in the media city of dubai, the place new it’s target audience and had created the vibe for the creative clientele.

The attention to detail from the graphic red glasses, cutlery, candy in jars and the fun messages across all stationery was fresh with a hint of mischief. The coffee mug had various messages, note pads, writing materials and posters too. I could constantly see every participant smiling and connecting emotionally with the space.

This is what branding is about. Connecting emotionally and engaging the consumer and creating a memorable experience in the consumers mind. This place so nailed it!

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How we do what we do! How we added spice to over 1000 home grown brands!

A short animated film which explains the how, what and why of Idea Spice. This film explains in a fun manner who we are and what it takes for startups and SMEs to stand out from the clutter and connect emotionally with their consumer. We storyboarded this film and Ti22 animated the film. We had a blast making this film, hope you enjoy seeing it!

Home grown brands

A short film about inspiring start ups and their story.

Our heroes and inspirations who have taken that plunge and converted their ideas into successful entrepreneurial stories. We asked them a few questions and here are their responses and stories in a bid to galvanise other entrepreneurs.

In this session, we cover Pantry Cafe by Mahesh Kalwani, M2M bespoke tailors by Kamlesh Ramchandani, Little Champions by Sabina Azizova, Fuego by Arjun and Adarsh Kumar and Farada by Ravi Menghani. From over 1000 home grown brands we have partnered with to create, here are a few in an ongoing series of stories.

At Idea Spice design and Spice works interiors, we work with ambitious, visionary and fun entrepreneurs who have a vision to create and grown home grown brands into international successes!

Directed by Umair Tareen and Camera by Asif Limbada

Shot in Epic Red.