Tag : brand-management

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179: How to Build a Brand When Your Auctions Vary Greatly in Value

This is the second of two posts about advertising strategies from resort areas. (Here’s the first one.)

I had about an hour to kill before a meeting with an auctioneer in Camps Bay, a bustling community wedged between the mountains and the ocean at the southernmost tip of Africa. So, I did what I normally do in vacation destinations: I stopped by a few real estate offices to look at their advertising.

Every listing there was significantly more expensive than my house back in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but there was a wide range of prices—from $500,000 to $15,000,000. Despite that disparity, there wasn’t a wide range of design from one listing’s advertising to the next or even from one agency’s materials to the next.

Varied AssetsThe homogenous feel matched what I’ve seen in other resort or urban destinations but stood in stark contrast to what I’ve seen in the auction community.

Most auction companies book deals with a great disparity of values. And not just in real estate. Estates, business liquidations, and farm packages come in all shapes and sizes. So do their advertising campaigns.

Part of that makes sense, right? When a budget scales, why shouldn’t everything in the campaign get bigger and more expensive?

The answer to that question depends on what you’re trying to say to potential buyers and future sellers.

Uniformity makes your smaller listings look more valuable.

“Yeah, it’s easy when it’s luxury real estate,” you counter. First, tell that to a luxury asset broker. Second, proportions work regardless of the number of decimal places in the price. In Camps Bay, the top and bottom properties were separated by a factor of thirty. That means you can use this homogenous model, if you sell estates that range in value from $5,000 to $150,000 or farm equipment from $15,000 to $450,000 or real estate from $50,000 to $1,500,000.

Your biggest auctions won’t look shoddy, if they follow the consistent minimalism leveraged by premium global brands. Quite the contrary. Your small and medium auctions’ assets will look more valuable by association with your halo projects. That won’t go unnoticed by potential sellers of future small and medium auctions.

Trust a succinct first impression.

All advertising media apart from our website—our marketplace—should be treated as first impressions. It’s easier to have a premium and consistent advertising presence, when you simplify all advertising to the most intrinsic sales pitch and no more than a handful of supporting images.

Driving people to your website allows you to better track advertising response rates. After consistently collecting traffic data and comparing it to sales data, you’ll be better able to reach bidders and buyers and predict outcomes for future auctions—all because you forced yourself to say and show less with your first impressions. (One of my clients can predict within 5% the quantity of registered bidders his auctions will have based on Google Analytics the morning of his simulcast auctions.)

Consistency builds your brand more efficiently than fluctuation does.

If your brand’s impressions are inconsistent, the consumer either doesn’t connect current media to past ones they’ve seen; or they connect your brand with inconsistent asset values. So, that farmer on your mailing list who gets three different size postcards and two different-size brochures from you will wonder how you’d choose to advertise his assets, when it’s his turn to sell.

Also, buyers will assume the stuff crammed into small print media must not be valuable. Rather than send mail (or place newsprint ads) of different sizes or templates, distribute the exact same media layouts for every auction but to varying quantities of people (or different quantities of publication placements). Use Facebook’s Audience and Lookalike Audience tools to hit the folks you had to trim from direct mail.

Your advertising can grow cheaper.

If all your media requires just a few copy-and-pastes and a couple photo swaps, your pieces will become much cheaper to build. If in-house staff create your media, this saves you hourly wages and/or frees that staff to handle a wider bandwidth of projects. If you outsource, efficiency empowers you to negotiate lower design charges. You can spend that cost savings on professional photography or larger mailings or bigger Facebook audiences.

One of the reasons huge corporations overshadow small companies in advertising is that their wide reach forces them to simplify to consistent impressions. Simplification isn’t patented by big companies or luxury brands, and consistency doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want to grow your auction business or have more deals from which to choose, why not adopt some of that restraint?

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

95: What Would Your Brand Do?

Image used by permission by purchase from iStockPhoto.comDuring the past couple Augusts, I’ve attended the Global Leadership Summit via satellite campus.  Each year, this gathering of business and ministry leaders (over 165,000 in 2011 alone) draws some of the leading thinkers and speakers from both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds.  It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to TED Talks.

This past year, Bill Hybels, the event’s creator and host, left us with a challenge, the completion of which has been on my to do list until tonight [New Year’s Day].  The assignment: define your organization in just five words.

For years, I’ve rolled my eyes at mission statements and the like, especially the ones that get posted on store walls or printed in company brochures.  I don’t really care what a company’s mission statement is.  If your customer service and marketing already exemplify it, I already know your vision and values.  If they don’t, why give me a yardstick to to measure your shortcomings?

Tonight, though, I finally assembled five words to define my company.

For the past week, I’ve been working on my content for 10.5 hours of classes I’ll be instructing at the Certified Auctioneer Institute (CAI) in March.  Tonight, I was working on a section of the material about defining your brand and then filtering various business and media decisions through that brand.  That’s when I bumped into the challenge of the five-word sieve.

After making my list of five words, I wondered what my clients would list as my five words and if any of their lists would resemble mine.  I also thought that it would be entertaining to hear from my friends, industry peers, and family as to what they, too, would list as biplane productions‘ emphases.  But it was my five words that stared at me like a list of New Year’s resolutions—to conduct my business in such a way in 2012 that the definitions of biplane productions‘ observers would fall as close to these five words as possible.

The point of this exercise wasn’t to create magic words or build a corporate guessing game for you.  My goals for biplane productions aren’t much different than yours: create mutually-beneficial transactions, cultivate long-term relationships (with both industry peers and clients), nurture an expert brand to an expanding audience, and get bigger black numbers that come with smaller red ones.

No, the point was to create a filter that will guide your brand and mine at each decision of literally hundreds or thousands of decision points—from website user interface to direct mail style sheet, from voicemail greetings to email signatures, from company dress code to bidding platform(s).  The ramifications of those cumulative choices will, in turn, move our companies closer to or farther away from our respective goals.

All of us may not need to make a five-word list.  We certainly don’t need another plaque on the wall.  But we all need to be looking at our everyday decisions through the lenses of our brands.

I lead one of the three squads of the parking team at my church.  Eight of us direct traffic for the 8:30am service.  After we get everybody into the building and the signs & cones rearranged for second service, we eat breakfast together in our church’s cafe.  During one of these breakfasts, I had each of the team members discreetly write the five words they’d use to describe who we are and what we do.  Using a flip chart, I transcribed the cumulative list of words; then we tried to find five common denominators.  It was a great exercise to recast the vision of why we exist and what we do.  I love the heart of my team mates, as they were expressed in these summations:

Common Grounds group chartRESPONSE
The working definition of worship at our church is “the appropriate response to God’s revelation.”  So, serving is part of our response to unmatched grace, mercy, love, acceptance, and truth.  We hope that people can see worship in what we do and how we do it.  Words that came in this category included: joy, serve, glorify, awesome, expressive, and excitement.

Every encounter with Christ and Christians either pushes people toward Jesus or away from him.  What we do out on the asphalt (and grass) could change someone’s trajectory; and we’ve heard multiple stories of those new vectors from attendees, other servers, and other team members.  This is more than showing up to check something off a guilt list; this is ministry.  Words that came in this category included: greet, desire, energy, welcome, encourage, smiles, safety, connect, humble, and touch lives.

The Christian journey was designed to be completed with other travelers, each helping one another grow closer to Jesus.  Even the toughest personalities on our team are frail, because we’re all human.  We need encouragement, accountability, acceptance, and even boots to our back pockets.  Some of the most authentic conversations I’ve experienced have been with members of my team.  Words that came in this category included: love, unity, observe, conscientious, encourage, connect, humble, growth, and initiative.

I have cried during our pre-game prayer circle time.  I’ve locked arms with friends, laid hands on those who’ve made themselves vulnerable, and heard prayers that have to shake heaven.  In the least, they have shaken me—shaken us.  I’ve held Rick’s iPhone on speakerphone, as we prayed with someone in prison.  When a need or hurt is expressed by a teammate via email or group text, prayer ensues.  Listening to new believers pray has been both precious and convicting, as they skip religious jargon for straight-up conversation with heaven.

This word appeared over and over again.  True, biblical love expresses itself in many ways—often in the ways categorized in the other four words.  Our pastor quotes some famous writer all the time: “Love is always on its way to someone else.”  As a parking team, it’s our role to be conduits to each other, to friends, to strangers—even to the combative.  If love isn’t the filter for our response, all of the above degenerates.  Love is the reason, the expression, the connection.  As Paul wrote, without love, we are nothing.

How would you describe the ministry or serving team to which you contribute?  Is it where you’d hope it would be?  If not, what can you do to affect change in the direction of that ideal?

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

88: 6 Marketing Myths Entrepreneurs Believe

Auctioneer Milk ClicheAuction billboards have been popping up next to highways all around the area where I live.  People have asked me if I designed them.  After I answer that they are not my work, my questioners look relieved.  “Oh, good.  They’re really weird.”

During a recent lunch break, I drove around Lynchburg to snap shots of a sample of these.  Upon later visiting the auctioneer’s website, I found a slideshow gallery with all of their billboard designs.  It’s not surprising to me that the auctioneer (whose name isn’t mentioned on the website at time of writing) was proud of his advertising, as many small business owners are proud of their ineffective advertising.

Why? Because they buy into marketing myths like the following.

Auctioneer Baby ClicheMYTH: Image Trumps Message

Western culture is visually driven.  Canon and Agassi were right: image trumps everything—when that image is rooted in the core of your brand.  We can see compelling images for free on the Internet; as a marketer, you need more than just a cool photo.  I’ve had entrepreneurs send me a picture and ask me to generate a headline to go with it.  Because I apparently like unemployment, I’ll regularly ask, “What does this picture have to do with your company and what you guys represent?”  Often, it doesn’t.  Grabbing a free stock image is a lot easier than paying someone to photograph your staff in action or professionally capture the items you actually sell. But using disconnected images with text that stretches your connection to them will cost you wasted media buys with ineffective impressions.

Auctioneer Logo on Bond's JacketMYTH: Humor and Cliches Attract More Than a Stated Benefit Does

Would a funny ad make you buy a station wagon instead of a sedan? Would a good turn of phrase sell you on a town house rather than a cape cod? Would a good pun change your choice of grocery market?  If you’re like the vast majority of people, the answer to all of these questions is, “No.” Despite this, marketers regularly hope to be the exception instead of the rule, taking the Fozzie Bear approach all the way to rolled eyes and changed channels.  Instead, crisply promote the key value proposition of your product or service for each audience group to which you market.
Auctioneer AlpacaMYTH: Consumers Talking Is Better Than Consumers Not Talking

Publicists multiply this myth to Hollywood and reality TV personalities; and in a land where sex tapes and “t-shirt time” get 15 minutes of lucrative fame, they might be right.  In business, though, it’s another story.  BP loved all the Deep Water Horizon coverage as much as Exxon loved the Valdez footage.  Tiger Woods’s eight-figure brand wasn’t rooting for more tabloid covers any more than Firestone was hoping for more Ford Explorer rollovers.  The conversations people have brought to me regarding Lynchburg’s new billboard campaign prove that advertising can be a liability like other brand blemishes.  Your objective needs to be far more specific and constructive than working into water cooler gossip and Facebook shares.

Dancing Bear AuctioneerMYTH: Creativity Trumps Consistency

As someone from within the creative industry, I’m at risk of treason when I say this; but faithful repetition of solid branding outperforms regular refreshes.  When I mention brands like Walmart, Hardees, eHarmony, Olive Garden, Corona, and Pixar, very specific images come to your mind—because their marketing adheres to strict branding standards down to even how their product is photographed and filmed, the style of music and voiceovers used in their media, and the colors and fonts of their layouts.

If you remove your logo and website URL from your advertising, would it still communicate a unified image?  If not, your marketing is inefficient.  Brands like Chick-fil-A and SportsCenter have proven that consistency can be flexible and fun.  So, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  (Bonus hint: consistency also makes scaling your advertising more efficient and less expensive, because you don’t have anywhere near as much billable time for ongoing creative work.)

Jersey Shore AuctioneerMYTH: I Have More Than Three Seconds to Advertise

Typically, billboards and other advertising are proofed on a monitor or printed copy, where the viewer has minutes—if not longer—to absorb the visual image and message of the advertising.  While it’s good to proof multiple times and in depth, the luxury of time can blind you to the fact that your advertisement has three to eight seconds to communicate.  Don’t believe me? Time your spouse sorting the mail.  Watch a family member click through websites and divide the seconds on each page by the number of ads on them.  Have someone in the passenger seat try to read aloud every word of each billboard you pass on your next trip down the expressway.  In your advertising, get to the point; and make the point about the viewer’s need.

Iron AuctioneerMYTH: If it Makes Sense To Me, It Will Make Sense to the Public

If you’ve ever traveled within a country where English is not the primary language, you’ve realized that your understanding of your needs, wants, and abilities isn’t as important as your audience’s understanding of them.  As business people, our default operating perspective is from within the business; but our audience generally has a much different perspective on their needs, your value proposition, possible solutions, etc.

When reviewing your advertising and other branding design before it goes live, make sure to include perspectives of those outside of your company and your family.  In the case of this “Iron Auctioneer” billboard, I needed my wife to explain the “Iron Chef” connection—which has nothing to do with an auctioneer’s value proposition.  And I still don’t get more than half the connections of the headlines on these billboards.  These billboard concepts weren’t vetted enough.  Make sure that indictment can’t be said of your marketing.
Auctioneer CowboyIn short, avoid myopia at all costs.  Get outside of yourself, your business, your ego.  Don’t get bored with your branding.  Instead, realize that well-policed marketing will accelerate your brand over the long haul—long after most YouTube sensations have come and gone.

I live in the southern band of the Bible Belt.  So, I’ve seen billboards like “Get Right.  Or Get Left.” and “Eternity: Smoking or Non-Smoking?” Oh, and bumper stickers far more trite, condescending, and filled with jargon.

I don’t get the purpose behind these any more than the equivalent political ones.

Does anyone think they can authentically, holistically affect change in someone’s political bent with one insult, someone’s faith system with one threat, someone’s sexual orientation (or view thereof) at one stop light?  Does anyone think Jesus would’ve resorted to passive aggressive slogans?

I don’t.

Christianity and its representatives often use these provocative barbs, though, to drive further wedges between Truth and the ignorant, Love and the unfulfilled, Peace and the restless.  I have a hard enough time being an authentic ambassador of heaven without carpet bombing traffic with hell-approved bumper stickers.

81: Your Brand Doing the Heavy Lifting

Global Force Auction Group

Full page trade publication ad

I recently had a conversation with a newspaper sales rep, who has been my contact at her newspaper for years.  She had called a couple weeks earlier to ask if my clients had any auctions in her region, and I had none to send her way.  That Thursday, she was calling to see if my client would be interested in any company promotion ads.  I told her that my client typically didn’t run lead-generation ads in newsprint—that they let the branding and content of their auction ads sell their services to prospective sellers.

That’s my recommendation to just about every auction marketer with whom I consult—and not just in newsprint.  If you’re going to spend company money on promotion, spend it making your auction promotion look better than what your seller is willing to pay to create.

If someone is looking through the classifieds for an auction vendor, they are going to be attracted by the professionalism communicated in a company’s ads.  They will also be looking to see the volume of auctions you have and if what’s being sold in the ads is similar to what they’d want to sell.  The same holds true in direct mail, signs, proposals, etc.

Counts Realty & Auction Group

Full page business journal ad

That said, there are situations and publications where accomplishing your goals will require a company promotion ad.  Before you craft your advertisement, take a stroll through your phone book, directory, trade publication, or ballpark outfield wall.  Take note of the advertisements you like and why and the ones you don’t and why.  Then use the following checklist to build your piece.

Keep your company name, logo, and contact information for last.
Phone book and trade publication ad designers know you take great pride in your business.  So, they will often build your ads so that you see first what’s most important to you: your business name or logo.  Unless your brand is ubiquitous (think: Walmart, McDonalds, Ford), assume that people are coming to the phone book, directory, or other print medium not knowing who you are or why they should care.  At the same time, don’t hide the logo, in case they’ve seen your brand somewhere else.  You want to build on any previous impressions.

Put information in order of the viewer’s wants or needs.
Unless you’re the only company under a publication category or in your market, you are competing for business.  And every company has a preeminent value proposition.  Maybe you’re the most convenient, the cheapest, the most thorough, the most established, the most innovative, the one with largest market share.  Whatever your competitive advantage is needs to be communicated first and foremost in your ad.  It needs to be framed by the prospect’s benefit.  And it needs to be simply stated and clearly illustrated.  If the shopper’s want or need is not met in your pitch, they don’t care what your name or phone number is.

Avoid mug shots or staff pictures.
The problem with using your face in your advertising is that your face isn’t for sale; your services or products are.  Unless you’re leveraging your own fame—which would require you to be famous (don’t kid yourself)—your portrait adds little, if any, value to the sales pitch.  Pictures also limit the shelf life of your ads more than stock images.  Unless you’re a model, assume that your face won’t sell your service or products.

Print Ad Redesign

One of these was scanned from a newspaper insert. One of these is my redesign.

Use only images that illustrate the benefit or process of what you’re selling.
It’s tempting to use some loud clip art or brash stock image to grab attention—and then try to stretch a pun or cliche to match it.  A good way to avoid this is to start with your core message first and then search for images that clearly illustrate this.  (Know that images aren’t always necessary.)  Before you purchase a stock image, grab a selection of potential images and show them to a handful of people (preferably of different genders and ages), asking them, “Do any of these images communicate [your message]?  If so, which one represents that best?”  It’s not uncommon for me to show clients 25-50 possible images for one ad.

Sheridan Realty & Auction Group

Black & white trade publication ad

Finish with one contact point emphasized over complimentary contact points.
Make it easy to get in touch with you.  If you use more than one phone number, emphasize one over the other(s) and annotate the differences between the numbers.  Never use more than one URL.  Your address only needs to be emphasized if you have more than one location or if you’re advertising a  change or addition in locations (example: “Now on Main Street, across from the courthouse!”).

Police your brand.
Make sure all fonts and colors that your designer uses exactly match your other marketing pieces.  I highly recommend keeping an email with your Pantone (also called “PMS”) color number(s) and font names.  That way, if someone other than your typical designer builds your piece, you can send them these specifications.  You will also want to save regular and reverse versions of your logo, and make sure you have .PSD and .EPS file formats of your logo available.  (JPEG logo files can create limitations or hassles on design work.)  Lastly, keep PDF copies of other advertising pieces available to send for reference.

Your company promotion can communicate something far different from what its words say.  Sadly, most small business advertising says, “I’m much better at what I do than telling you what I do,” or “You need to trust that we’re more professional than our advertising makes us look.”  Don’t be one of those companies.

If you’ve spent any length of time in organized religion, you’ve probably sat through a sermon or seminar on how to share your faith.  Many of these sessions are aimed at perfecting your presentation and knowledge of your faith.  I’ve found a number of these to be rigid in their approach.  Maybe it’s me; but I feel like some of these could substitute Amway or Mary Kay, Rainbow or Britannica—and fit in a hotel conference room or Zig Zigler video.

I prefer to advertise my faith the way I would market biplane‘s services—making the value and benefit inherently stated in my everyday work.  If the Holy Spirit’s influence on my personality, morality, and perspective isn’t creating new life in me, then why would anybody else want it?  And if nobody else would want it, why would I use practiced tactics to convince someone into drinking my ineffective medicine with me?  I’m not talking prosperity; I’m talking peace and grace and forgiveness—both absorbed and distributed.

All that said, the Source of our hope asks us to intentionally share it with others.  Through the apostle’s pen he asked us to be ready to give account of the hope that lives within us.  That means telling our respective stories—explaining what God has done and is doing in us and how that came to be from the Truth he left for us.  That means understanding life contexts and leveraging them for Truth.  That means listening before and after talking.  That means extending compassion, not just seeking conversion.

That means you.  And that means me.


[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

Marketing Can’t Buy Brand Integrity

PilotYou’ve probably heard the adage, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I guess there’s some wisdom there, but I’ve never adhered to that. My mind multiplies that life approach until I get, Frank Abagnale Jr., the true life behind Catch Me If You Can.

Maybe I’m not a good faker. Maybe I don’t trust my acting skills, but I prefer the less poetic mantra of, “Project it, as you grow it.” The difference rests in more than semantics. Projection expands real elements to a grander vision. Faking covers inadequacies and welcomes falsely-acquired trust. It has its place, I guess, but not in ethical advertising.

Entrepreneurs regularly hire me to produce materials that put their companies in the best light. I’m glad to do that. I like helping Davids compete against Goliaths or even just other Davids. Stock photos and some good copy can go a long way, but they can’t make up for deficiency in the actual products or services rendered.

I can help a client magnify their commitment to professionalism, even on a low budget. I can illustrate a company’s growing and potential capabilities, even with a few pages—or less. I can exemplify a firm’s value, even with a short business history. But I can’t guarantee that their clients get what they’re expecting.

Marketing, at its intrinsic level, is brand building and management. Super advertising proves hollow when not supported by super service. So, the onus for successful marketing lands on both my best efforts and my clients’ execution.

My customers don’t have to be the best in their field, as long as they dominate their niche (no matter how small that niche has to be defined for them to dominate it). They don’t have to have the biggest staff or the highest-grossing sales record. As long as their clients feel well-served, even best-served, we’ve done it. The more of that we’ve strung together, the more indelible that public perception grows. That works both ways; it can kill you, if the shiny brand continually acquires tarnish from substandard devotion to reputation.

So, I tell people that biplane productions is a one-man show in my basement. I don’t hide that I subcontract tasks I can’t do best. And I sell hard the abilities I gratefully own. Perceived inequities between me and my competitors can be my advantage to the right clients. If not, those accounts would only be a strain for me anyway.

So, if you want a glossy brochure that matches your slick new web site or new logo, give me a call. If you want to tout that you lead your market or even your industry, give your prospects proof. A phenomenal reputation can trump fancy advertising. Married to stellar design, though, that brand integrity will stand almost unbeatable.

I know a lot of Christians who think the best way to illustrate God’s work in their lives is to hide their foibles, bury their questions, and sheath their insecurities. This approach, however, shares the same crippling nemesis as communism: sin-bent human nature. Where socialism breeds corruption; plastic Christianity builds toward hypocrisy or sensational failure.

So, why give the secular skeptic ammunition? Why not diffuse their criticism of the infallible with the evidence of our frailty? Why not show them that faith is a journey toward heaven’s perfection, instead of a fault-wiped facade? The longer we fake the holy life, the greater chasm the unbeliever perceives between their life and a Christ-led life—or worse yet, between the religious experience and the abundant relationship Christ offers.

The reality is that Jesus calls, at most, one step away from all of us—whether to the initiation of a personal relationship or to just a deeper enjoyment of the relationship we already have with him. I prefer to project where I want to be, while divulging to any onlookers that my intentions many times outpace my performance. Hopefully, that authenticity will lead to someone wanting what’s real in me.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

13: Got a Milk Mustache?

Super MilkNothing builds brand recognition faster than consistency.

Not even repetition.

If the viewing public doesn’t see the same branding presented the same way, multiple views actually detract from brand establishment and growth. An internal dissonance builds and distracts from your message and image.

Brand management, as it is called, proves more than just using the same logo or having a company color. The design of your advertising should stand as recognizable as your logo.

You know you’ve seen a Milk Marketing Association’s “got milk?” ad, even before you spot the famous logo tag line. While their ads have looked the same for over a decade, they still capture your attention. Same goes for Absolut vodka and Corona, Best Buy and Target, Comcast and Verizon, MasterCard and MINI. All of these ooze creative, memorable images without sacrificing uniformity.

This is the whole reason why franchises can open new stores or restaurants with faster traffic gains than a mom-n-pop opening a new place in a new town. Consistent branding and predictable product create trust as customers order new things or visit new locations. They know what to expect. It goes deeper than marketing, but branding begins that process.

Whether you use a Madison Avenue advertising firm or a local college kid, you can accomplish brand retention by developing a style sheet. Larger auction companies like tranzon and United Country and others have given me style sheets for projects with their affiliates. This includes information such as: official colors [expressed as “PMS numbers”], logo versions and sizes for specific media, font names and usage [terms including “x height,” “kerning,” and “leading”], spacing, line thickness, and other significant—though seemingly small—guidelines.

You don’t have to know what all that means, but you should have it recorded all in one place. This way, no matter who does your design work, you have a consistency safety net. While I recommend using the same vendor as much as possible (whether biplane or not), this can keep internal or vendor transitions from being as noticeable to the public.

Most of all, brand management will help the public absorb and remember your brand quickly—probably faster than your competitor, who thinks their options are pricey agencies or newspaper comp room trainees.

So, let this be our little secret. You can thank me later.

The number one knock on the American Christian and our evangelical churches is hypocrisy. I can’t say I disagree with the sentiment. The longer I’ve lived in the Bible Belt, the more I’ve seen people for whom church is a social engagement or weekly car wash.

The primary way to communicate Christ to culture is through love. Second to that is consistency. Satan knows this. That’s why he works harder on those in the church than those outside of it. He turns holiness into prejudice, passion into faction, failure into duplicity.

Too many believers think they have to impress the secular with goodness or godliness. Pastors can get like this in front of their congregation; laity can get that way in front of their neighbors. Like a Hollywood celebrity, they’re just building the scandal for the next time they trip.

I’ve found that being candid inoculates a lot of that. “Hey, I just messed up. That wasn’t very Christian of me. I’m sorry.” The realness can trump the failure; the honesty can diffuse the impression of hypocrisy. In the end, God can use even our sin to reach people for him.