Archive for the ‘Little-Known Revelations On Branding’ Category

One of my new favorite shows is a show on “History Channel” called, “American Pickers

I know this is a NOT a new show, but it’s new to ME!

I hadn’t seen it till I “discovered” it this year on Netflix.

Today I want to share with you some insights that I’ve gained from watching the show.

Some of the insights on branding here add to the ideas in my series of blog posts called, “Little-Known Revelations On Branding” and some emphasize concepts from my “9 Challenges Every Successful Business Overcomes“.

Are you ready?  Ok.  Here we go…

First of all, if I told you 5 years ago that a show about two guys driving around the country buying “junk” from people, would be a smash hit, would you have believed me?

No!  You wouldn’t.  Come on.  Let’s be honest.  That doesn’t sound like the formula for a hit show!

But it IS a smash hit for the history channel!  It debuted with 3.1 million viewers and had 5 million viewers for a current episode.

So how did they do it and what can it teach you about business & branding?

Here is how I believe they did it and how you can use the same methods…


The first reason this show is a hit is because it’s not just a show about two guys buying junk from people.  It’s a continuing story of two “treasure hunters.”  And it’s not just the story of inanimate treasures.  It’s the story of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz discovering these amazing people who have lived interesting lives.

But there’s still more to the story than just discovering treasures.  This show also contains the element of suspense and surprise.  You never know where Mike & Frank will end up, who they’ll meet (or if those people will reject them or not), and what they will discover.

There is also an element I’d call “tension and battle.”  Part of the excitement of watching the show is the back and forth negotiating between Mike & Frank and the person they are buying from.

You want to see if Mike & Frank will get a good deal.  You want to see if the person selling it will get a decent price too.  (There’s also this element in the relationships between Mike, Frank, & Danielle).

Look at the list of those elements again.  Do they look familiar?  They should!  They’re the common elements of a good story!

That’s what gives the brand “American Pickers” the ability to draw such a large audience.  People might not care about “picking” or “antiquing” but they can’t resist the power stories!

All powerful brands and businesses have a compelling story.  Think of Apple as an example.

They have two stories: 1) a corporate story and also 2) a human story.  The corporate story that they’ve told is about themselves as an “us against the establishment” company (think of they’re classic “1984” commercial as an example).  Their human story is the story of Steve Jobs (and to some degree the other founders: Steve Wozniak, & Ronald Wayne).

Think about this.  The story of Apple is so closely tied to Steve Jobs (and vice versa) that the recent announcement of his resignation caused people to wonder and question the ability of Apple to continue!

Every powerful brand and business has a compelling story.  Their story is one of the things that causes people to buy from a businesses so they can align themselves with that business, identify themselves with that business, and in a sense “root” for that business.

What’s the story of your business and brand?  You have one whether you realize it or not.   But the question is: have you told it?  Learn from “American Pickers” and tell a compelling story.

But there’s one more lesson you can learn from them.  It’s a lesson that will make your story and your business stand out and become even more compelling. 


The second reason I believe this show is a success is because they didn’t just put some generic, boring people on the show.  They have people who are interesting and unique and not afraid to be themselves!  

I’m learning more and more that personality is one of the keys to success in life and business.  Think about it.

The people who succeed and standout all have personalities that stand out!  Want examples?  Ok.  Here are just a few off of the top of my head:

  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Jon Stewart
  • Martha Stewart
  • Donald Trump

You might NOT like all of their personalities, but they standout and are successful, because they have unique personalities and let them show!

It’s not just true of people.  It’s true of businesses and brands too.  Some examples:

  • Starbucks
  • In-N-Out
  • McDonalds
  • Chuck E. Cheese

Each of these places stands out in their category because they each have a different personality or feel.  Each of these places have powerful and meaningful brands, because the “personality” that each business embodies is unique and clearly presented!

In fact, I believe that it’s impossible to have a strong brand  if a business doesn’t have a “personality.”   A business without a unique “personality” probably doesn’t even have a brand at all.  They just have, at the most, a logo.

Awnry, Unusual, Or Different

This lesson was reinforced and redefined for me while I was watching one of the “American Pickers” episodes.  Mike & Frank were looking through the collection of a 72 year old picker named “Jerry” and they asked him what his criteria was for the eclectic collection of items he possessed.  

His response grabbed my attention.

I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something to the effect, “Awnryunusual, or different.  If an item is awnryunusual, or different then I pick it.  If it’s not, I don’t.”  

That is what I’ve been trying to say here.

The success of this show (and your business) is based on it being awnry (see definition #1, description 1 0r 2)unusual, or different.

On “American Pickers”, Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby-Cushman are completely unique from they way they look, talk, dress, and even carry themselves.  They’re awnry, unusual, or different!  And many of the people they meet and display on their show can be described the same way.

The combination of powerful stories and unique personalities is what gives “American Pickers” so much success.  It’s one of the keys to success in your business too.

Practicing What I Preach

I am going to show you how to do this by applying these things in my own business.  That’s what you’ll be seeing next in my upcoming posts.

You’ll SEE me do what you need to do.  How will I do this?

I’m going to begin to tell you the REAL story of who I am. You’ll see how I became an “out of the cube” business strategist and business recession solution expert.

I’m going to tell my story – with no hype but with all the crazy, true details that will include:

  • A childhood kidnapping
  • An alcoholic father
  • A martial artist
  • A wanna-be cartoonist
  • How my biggest fear became my biggest strength
  • A rapper
  • A pastor

I know it sounds like a list of random things, but you’ll see how this all goes together and makes sense when you read my story in my upcoming posts.

P.S.  My next post will be “Business & Life Lessons From The Day I Was Kidnapped (A True Story).”  Stay tuned.

*P.S. If you’d like to sign-up to be informed whenever I write a blog postand you’d like to hear more ideas and info from me, then sign-up here…


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It was the 1980’s and Pearl Fryar wasn’t aiming for anything big.

He just wanted to win the “lawn of the month” award. That’s all.

Why?  Because when Pearl (who is African-American) moved into the mostly white neighborhood in Bishopville, South Carolina, the neighbors complained.  They said they didn’t want him in their neighborhood.  Their reason?  They said it was because African-Americans don’t keep up their yards.

Pearl decided, “I’ll show them!”  And he did.  But he did it in a very unexpected way.

He went to the local nursery and took ONE lesson on topiary gardening.

Then, armed with FREE “throw away plants” that the nursery piled up to toss out, Pearl began experimenting with his topiary skills.

And guess what?

He won the “lawn of the month” award!

But something else happened in the process…
Pearl slowly became famous.

Professional topiary artists began to show up to see what he was doing.  Pearl said they’d see what he’d done and they were amazed.

They couldn’t believe their eyes!


Because Pearl was doing things that weren’t supposed to be possible.  I LOVE Pearl’s answer to them.  He simply said, “No one told me it wasn’t possible.” 🙂

And something happened to his neighbors.  (Remember the ones who originally didn’t want Pearl there?)  They became so impressed they asked PEARL to help him with THEIR gardens!

His fame continued to grow and so did the “Pearl Fryar” brand.

People began to come and visit to see this amazing accomplishment of this man named Pearl.

And they didn’t just come by the car-ful.  They began to show up by the BUS load!

Literally, buses on local tours began to take people to see Pearl’s work.  And Pearl welcomed them all.  People found out that this man with an amazing garden had an equally amazing heart.

The whole time Pearl continued to focus on his accidental passion: topiary gardening.  And when he did, he got better and better.

His skills became so honed and well-known that a woman at the local community college, who taught art classes, asked Pearl to come and speak to her students.

This art teacher was so impressed with who Pearl was and his great skill that she worked out for him to do a show of his work at an art museum.

Pearl shared with the class some of his powerful, simple wisdom.  He told them, “He who wants to rise above the average must do beyond the average.”

But it gets even better.

The man who just wanted to win the “lawn of the month” award was COMMISSIONED by the city of Bishopville to work on the plants downtown and give them that special “Pearl” look.

Even Pearl’s favorite restaurant “Waffle House” asked Pearl to design the bushes outside their location.

(Guess who gets free meals whenever he comes there!?!)

This person who just wanted to win an award, became a person that people all over knew of, respected and loved.  (You can watch a documentary about him on Netflix that is called, “A Man Named Pearl.”)

What was his secret?  His strategy?

Simple like all things that Pearl does.   (Pay attention to what I say next or you might miss it.)

He didn’t try to be someone he wasn’t.
He didn’t change his name to fit it.
He didn’t try to copy what all other topiary artists did.

Here’s what Pearl did…
He just was who he was, did what he did well and did it his way.

And because he did this, people were drawn to him!

They wanted to meet him.
They wanted to experience what he did.
They told their friends.
And then the accidental branding happened… they wanted to be like Pearl so much that they asked him to do what he did FOR THEM.

Are you seeing the lesson for you and your business here?

Listen to how Pearl explains it in his own words, “There’s no way they’re gonna forget me.  An African-American guy, in Bishopville, named Pearl Fryar with a topiary garden…  And it works in my favor.”

You just heard Pearl’s branding revelation.

I’d say it like this…

  • Stop trying to fit in.
  • Stop trying to copy everyone else in your niche.
  • Be YOU.
  • Better yet… Be you in all your uniqueness, with all of your idiosyncrasies.

*And here’s the secret: When you do these things, you will finally have your only REAL chance to create a powerful brand!

This is one of the things I realize that I need to do more than I ever have before.

Remember in my previous Branding Revelation posts (#1 & #2) how I told you if you stuck around I would SHOW you how to do this with my own example?

Well, that’s what you’ll be seeing next in my upcoming posts.  You’ll SEE me do what you need to do.

How will I do it?

I’m going to begin to tell you the REAL story of who I am. You’ll see how I became an “out of the cube” business strategist and business recession solution expert.

I’m going to tell my story – with no hype but with all the crazy, true details that will include:

  • A childhood kidnapping
  • An alcoholic father
  • A martial artist
  • A wanna-be cartoonist
  • How my biggest fear became my biggest strength
  • A rapper
  • A Pastor

I know it sounds like a list of random things, but you’ll see how this all goes together and makes sense when you read my story in my upcoming posts.

I’ll leave you with one more take on this brand revelation I’ve tried to reveal to you in this post.  It’s a quote from another unlikely source...

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver.

Do this and the world will be drawn to you like they were to Pearl. You’ll become unforgettable.

Stay tuned and watch as I show you how…

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Looney Tunes In my last post, I shared with you A Branding Revelation From The Movie Braveheart.”

Today I want to share with you another branding revelation I had recently.

But first, let me give you some of the backstory…

I grew up loving cartoons. In fact, for a long time in my life I wanted to be a cartoonist or an animator.  (I’ll tell you more about that story in an upcoming post.)

One of the cartoons I loved watching as a kid were Warner Bros “Looney Tunes.”

I have three sons ages 5 to 10.  I wanted them to experience the same joy that I did from these cartoon, so thanks to Netflix (I LOVE Netflix), I put one of the Looney Tunes compilation DVDs in our “queue.”  We received it in the mail a month ago.

We sat down and watched the cartoons and I was so proud that my boys loved the cartoons as much as I did! It was really fun to get to see some of the old cartoons I loved watching as a kid and to be sitting their with my own sons having them love them too.

In fact, my boys loved them so much that we decided to get the next “Looney Tunes” compilation DVD from Netflix.  And guess what?  The boys loved the cartoons on that one too!  🙂

But as I was watching the cartoons something surprising, and unexpected happened…  I suddenly became aware of another “Branding revelation.” Let me explain.

As I was watching the cartoons I realized how much I loved each of the different characters that Warner Bros created: Bugs, Daffy, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Slyvester, Tweety, and the list goes on!

That’s when I realized this: What made Looney Tunes cartoons so great was the totally unique characters they created.

  • There was no other rabbit like Bugs Bunny. He looked a certain way, talked a certain way (“Yaah, What’s up? Doc?“), walked a certain way, and always acted a certain way.
  • Foghorn Leghorn wasn’t just another rooster.  He had an “old south” accent, he always acted “smart-a-lecky” like he knew more than everyone else (“I say, boy, pay attention when I’m talkin’ to ya, boy!”), he walked a certain way and again always acted a certain way.
  • Even Wile E. Coyote, who hardly ever said a word, totally stood out from the average Coyote!  He had those “Wiley” eybrows.  We always knew he was a determined character.  We knew he was going to try another crazy trap to catch the Road Runner. But we also knew, because of who Road Runner was, that the plan would backfire and Wile E. was going to fail again.

If you’ve seen these cartoons, all I have to do is show you an image of one of these characters and you will instantly recognize them and know what they stand for and what they’re all about.

Can the same be said about your logo or the image of you or your business?  If you’re like most businesses, then the answer is probably “No!”

Most businesses suffer from what I call “genericism.”  They don’t stand out.  They describe what they do and what they are by the category they’re in.  They’re an Italian restaurant or they’re a plumber.

See why I call it generic?  What type of Italian restaurant?  What kind of plumber?  If I don’t know these things then you’re just a “me too” Italian restaurant or a “me too” plumber.

Your brand has to do the same thing that the Looney Tunes animators did with their characters.  It must represent you as unique.

Your brand must show me your uniqueness in these ways:

  • In the way you or business communicates with me
  • In the way you or your employees carry yourselves
  • In the way you or your employees act

You see your brand should telegraph the personality or “character” that represents your business.  You have to know the personality or character you want your business to have and to portray before you really have a brand!

Here are just some of the types of questions you need to answer to telegraph who you and your business are to me:

  • Are you or your business formal or laid back?
  • Are you or your business fun (or funny) or serious?
  • Are you or your business cool or common?
  • Are you high end/expensive, middle-of-the-road, or low cost?
  • Are you or your business corporate or more “mom-and-pop“?

It basically comes down to answering these questions: Who are you?  Who is your business? What makes you different?  What can I expect from you in my experience with you and/or from your product or service? (Remember the “4th Challenge That Every Successful Business Overcomes“?)

What I think of and how I feel when I see you, your logo, or your location comes from how well you uniquely communicate with me, interact with me, and portray yourself to me.

But wait. Before you go. Lean a little closer
Have you ever seen a Looney Tunes cartoon?

Never or not in awhile?

Well I have a treat for you.  Just click this link and watch a short cartoon with Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner.  It’s called “Zoom & Bored.”

If your boss catches you (or if your employees catch you if you ARE the boss), then just tell them you’re doing marketing research!  🙂

If you know someone else who might want to read this post, then use the links below to spread the love.  Thanks.

Coming Soon:
In the next post, I’m going to tell you about an African-American man named “Pearl” who accidentally discovered the real power of a brand.  It all began when he set out with the humble goal to win the “Lawn Of The Month” award.

P.S. And if you stick around, I’ll eventually show you how to put all this into practice for yourself and your business. In fact, I’m going to show you by my own example.

You’ll see what I mean.  If you stick around.

Subscribe to this blog by RSS feed or email to be updated when the next post goes live. (*You can do that by clicking on either link at the top left, under my pic.)

Braveheart movie poster

I’ve been thinking a lot about brands and branding recently.  And it has caused me to gain a whole new and deeper understanding of them.

I want to share these little-known brand discoveries that I’ve made with you in this post and in a few other upcoming ones.

This post will reveal the first discovery I’ve made about the real power behind a brand.

Many people think that your brand is just a logo you get designed for your company website or letterhead.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

A brand is much more important and more powerful than that!

Let me share with you one revelation I had about what a brand is and what it represents from watching the movie Braveheart.

If you don’t know or remember the story, let me tell you the basic plot, because knowing it will help you grasp the branding revelation I got from this movie.

Basic movie storyline…

In 1280 A.D., after the King of Scotland dies without an heir, King Edward “Longshanks” of England, occupies much of southern Scotland and he declares himself King of Scotland.

His oppressive rule leads to the deaths of William Wallace’s father and brother.

Years later, after Wallace has been raised abroad by his uncle Argyle, he returns to the highlands, determined to live as a farmer and avoid trouble.

All he wants is a peaceful life.

That’s the setting of the movie, but here is the part of the story that led to my branding revelation…

When Wallace returns, he seeks out and woos a woman named Murron that he knew as a kid in the village.  They secretly marry to avoid customs which prevented them from becoming husband and wife.

Everything seems to be going well until something horrible happens...

An English soldier attempts to rape Murron until Wallace rescues her and fights off other soldiers while she escapes.  But the moment of relief doesn’t last.  In fact,things suddenly take a turn for the worst.

You see, Wallace manages to get away, but Murron is captured and executed by the local magistrate.

Wallace gets his revenge on the magistrate by killing him and his actions inspire the local villagers to rebel against the English and capture the town.

Wallace then leads an ever-growing army of rebels to successive victories, eventually annihilating the English Northern Army and capturing the town of York.

Alright let’s stop there.  So you’re probably wondering… Where did I learn something about branding in this movie?

It’s in a subtle detail you might not remember or have noticed.
Do you remember this seemingly insignificant moment?

Wallace ends up with Murron’s handkerchief. At first, all it was was a simple handkerchief that reminds him of his love for her.  But as the movie progresses it becomes MORE than just another handkerchief.

It transforms into some bigger and greater and more meaningful.

In the final scenes, as Wallace leads his men into battle, he holds up the handkerchief and everyone watching the film is FILLED with emotion.


Because they know that this handkerchief is no longer just another handkerchief. It has become a symbol for freedom and all that Wallace and his men are fighting for.

That is what a brand is!  It is a meaningful representation of something else.  It should inspire feelings and emotion.  It should even convey attitude.  It might even remind you of an experience.

Want another non-traditional example of a brand?
The American Flag.  When people see it, they don’t just see a piece of cloth with stars and stripes.  It stands for all that America has been and is.  It stands for all the promises of this country.

It’s a symbol that many have fought for and some fight against.

Another more traditional example would be Coca-Cola.  When you see that symbol it doesn’t just stand for a company or a product.  It represents all the feelings, attitudes and experiences that the Coca-Cola company has associated with it’s product.

It has a deeper meaning than “this is just another can of bubbly, sugary water.”

Do you understand now?

You and I need so much more than a logo.  Logos are a dime a dozen (almost literally nowadays).  Instead we desperately need a brand.  A brand is priceless.  A brand is powerful.

I will share with you some more ideas on branding and why businesses that want to be successful need to move beyond what I call “generic-ism“.

Coming Soon:
My next post will reveal some more branding lessons I learned while watching Warner Bros cartoons.  (Hey, what do you expect?  I’m a father of 3 young sons!)

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