Building Successful Brands
How does a new brand become successful? Understanding how the meaning of a brand changes over time is crucial to ensuring its success.
The first stage is differentiation, when the brand is rolled out, hopefully attracting attention and standing apart from the competition.
To achieve this, a brand must be linked to a unique advantage in the minds of consumers and not merely try to win over converts with superficial
elements such as logos, colors, or designs.
Next is positioning, during which time marketers must clearly identify why the brand is better than similar products on the market and explain
why consumers and employees alike need this new product in their lives. The third stage, personality, involves how the brand’s message is communicated
internally and externally; ideally, employees should be living examples of their brand. (Think of the “geniuses” at the Apple store or a hardworking
Following this is vision, in which management strives to convince consumers of the brand’s high-minded values—specifically, how it can contribute to social,
environmental, or economic well-being. With values incorporated—for instance, by contributing a percentage of a product’s sales to protecting national parks—
employees become more committed to the product and consumers feel better about their purchases.
The final stage, added value, is the pinnacle for successful brands. Like a customized computer, phone, or car, the brand is seen as a product that consistently improves
an individual’s life, enhancing self-identity. At the highest level, this can include inviting customers to become co-creators of the brand’s value; as prime examples, look
at the Nike and Lego Web sites, which offer interactive tools that let people personalize their products by choosing their own designs, colors, or styles.
When a community of respect builds around the brand, everyone—manager, employee, customer, shareholder—takes equal delight in participation.
Taking an idea for a new or different product to the stage where customers consider it an important part of their lives requires differentiation, positioning,
personality, vision and added value.
Source: Matt Palmquist is an award-winning feature writer for the San Francisco–based SF Weekly, and a founding staff writer and contributing editor at Miller-McCune magazine.
What are some good tips to remember when discussing employee performance during their periodic performance review?
A three-month (or six-month) meeting should just be a formalization and summary of the periodic informal follow-ups. In doing so,
you should concentrate on the following basics:
- Let the employee know well beforehand that the meeting is coming up and its purpose.
- Make the employee feel at ease.
- Remind the employee of their goals.
- Review progress with objective data. You can ask the employee to gather the data and bring it to the meeting.
- Identify areas for improvement.
- Identify roadblocks and actions needed to overcome them.
- Concentrate on the behaviors and targets, not the person’s character.
- Illustrate behaviors (wanted and unwanted) with concrete examples.
- Don’t diminish the importance of the negatives.
- Make it a two-way conversation throughout, often asking for the employee’s view before giving your own.
- Ask for feedback about your own performance.
- Be mindful of body language and “paralanguage” (how you say it).
- Remember: What you don’t say can be just as important as what you do say.
- Document the outcome and give the employee a copy.
- Congratulate and encourage the employee on positive achievements.
For over 10 years, Hedley lawson has been a contributing editor to VM, most recently as writer of the monthly column “Business Essentials.”
He is the Contributing Editor of VM's E-Newsletter Business Essentials. Contact
Business Essentials with questions or comments.
Easy-reference to Web resources about human resource policies and rules
Pietzsch, Bonnett & Womack
Internal Revenue Service
Maximize Your Open Enrollment Period
With the end of the 2009 calendar year nearing, and with Open Enrollment approaching for your 2010 health plan cost and
design changes, a little preparation can go a long way.
The Payroll firm, Ceridian, outlined five must-complete steps before your enrollment process begins.
- Establish and communicate to your employees your Open Enrollment period dates.
- List the tasks that need to be done for enrollment and how long each should take. If you have an insurance broker, ask them to provide you with this information.
- Determine who’s responsible for each task and look at their availability. (Note: This should include your employees and who may be on vacation.)
- Factor in some extra lead time for any planned changes: new employees, changing health insurance providers, plan design modifications, cost sharing changes.
- Create a training schedule for those staff members charged with assisting in the Open Enrollment process. Even if this has been smooth and uneventful in the past,
it’s worth touching base with everyone once again to update them on changes and share what worked (and what didn’t) during the last Open Enrollment period.
Following these simple steps will add greatly to the understanding and satisfaction of your health plan for your employees.
Principles of Effective Business Communications
Every now and again, it’s a good idea to take a step back and make the time to truly examine and understand the role of communications in business.
Hopefully, you’ll find that grasping underlying principals—versus following a set of rules specific to one form or another—will go a long
way toward advancing your career, business objectives and ultimately the bottom line of your practice. These pointers should also provide a good
starting point for any current or aspiring business owner or manager.
Be direct and concise.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. The same goes for writing. Make your point upfront with minimal preamble. Communicate as directly,
concisely, and economically as possible, almost as if you have to pay for every word. Frankly, people do pay for every word—with their precious time and brainpower. Remember that.
Be honest and genuine.
Words come from your mouth and fingers, but true wisdom and inspiration worth reading and hearing come from inside you.
If you’re honest and genuine about how you feel and express it well, people will listen and respond in kind. They will share
and trust and feel comfortable doing business with you. In time, they will follow you, which is the essence of leadership.
Remember, it usually occurs on an emotional level.
Be present and open.
Experience the moment, the here and now. You can only learn from the past and plan for the future, but the present packs a
tremendous amount of information and content. It’s only here once, then it’s gone. Listen carefully, not just to what people
are saying or emailing, but for the meaning and feeling behind the words. That’s truly priceless.
Be confident but measured.
Be confident and strong in your views and statements, but remember that whomever you’re communicating with has their own
thoughts, feelings, perspectives, ideals and objectives. Don’t shove things down their throats or threaten. That might
elicit proportionate responses you didn’t expect or plan for. Only be apologetic when you’ve truly behaved in a regretful manner.
Source: Steve Tobak is a marketing and strategy consultant based in Silicon Valley. He's a 20-plus year high-tech industry
veteran and former senior executive of a number of public and private companies.
Steve can be reached at
Retirement Plan Dollar Limits Remain the Same in 2010
The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that retirement plan dollar limits will not decrease in 2010 as a result of fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
According to the IRS, “the limitations...will remain unchanged for 2010. This is because the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2009, is less than the cost-of-living index for
the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2008, and, following the procedures under the Social Security Act for adjusting benefit amounts, any decline in the applicable index cannot result in a reduced limitation.”
Under prevailing regulatory guidance, various dollar
limits with respect to certain retirement plans under the tax code are adjusted annually based on the CPI for July, August, and September (the Third Quarter CPI-U) of the prior year.
Retirement plan sponsors had been concerned that the 2009 Third Quarter CPI-U could fall from the 2008 level, resulting in lower 2010 plan limits under the regulatory formula, and had urged the Treasury Department
and the IRS to provide guidance eliminating the possibility of a reduction in limits.
The Obama Administration previewed this action as part of an Oct. 14 announcement providing support for legislation that would provide an additional $250 Economic Recovery Payment to the seniors,
veterans and people with disabilities struggling in the current economy. The White House said that “the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Treasury will take steps to prevent reductions
in the amounts that workers can contribute to IRAs, 401(k)s, and other aspects of tax-favored retirement systems in 2010 that some feared could result from negative inflation over the past 12 months.”
Source: Michael E. Pietzsch specializes in employee benefits law and executive compensation with Pietzsch, Bonnett & Womack in Phoenix. He can be reached at
UnitedHealth Suggests Ways to Trim a Half-Trillion Dollars in Health Costs
The U.S. government could save more than half a trillion dollars during the next decade simply by pushing initiatives to reduce medical errors, to promote better treatment of chronic and advanced illnesses
and to step up case management, according to a study released by UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization.
With widespread adoption of programs already used by UnitedHealth, federal payers would shave more than $540 billion in health care costs, according to their study.
“Our data and experience show that—working in partnership with physicians, hospitals and other care providers—in practice it is possible to get more value out of health care spending
so as to fund increased access to high-quality care,” Simon Stevens, UnitedHealth Group executive vice president, said in a written statement.
The report, which puts a price tag on 15 potential ways to wring savings out of the $2.5 trillion-per-year health care sector, comes at a time when payers, providers and labor groups have made a highly
public commitment to help lower overall health care costs.
Many of the options are separately being mulled by federal lawmakers, who have been charged with drafting legislation that would reshape the current health system model. For instance, one calls for
better adherence to evidence-based clinical practices while another champions the medical home model.
Combined, those two provisions would save $122 billion during 10 years, the study states.
“This report provides concrete examples of how we can modernize our health care system in a thoughtful and sustainable way, partly through proven programs that are already working,” Stevens said.