You Get More Done When You Know What's Worth Doing

Being an independent musician or photographer is tough. Not only do you have to be a creative genius, you have to be an accountant, salesman, project manager, customer service rep and marketing guru, too. And based on my conversations with people who do it day in and day out, they're willing to do the work, they just don't know what is and isn't worth doing. So I'm launching a new idea to help on the branding and marketing front. It's called the BigHowdy Mini Brand Exam for creative professionals. Find out more after the jump. Since this is the beta testing stage, I'm going to work with the first FIVE people who raise their hands and I'm going to do it on the cheap — $199. It's for musicians, photographers, painters and other folks who need help with their marketing but aren't sure where to start and have a limited budget to consider. The key is priorities. With that in mind, I'll review your materials, sites and content and give you specific feedback on What Is Working, What Isn't Working and What's Next. This is NOT a full-on "dive in deep" brand audit. It's a short list of specific priotities that you can do to get things moving and headed in the right direction. The process is really simple:

  1. Email me at exam(at)bighowdy(dot)com and say "Examine Me, B!"
  2. Fork over $199 via PayPal, credit or debit card. Plus tip (I kid. I kid.).
  3. Fill out a short questionnaire and send links to all your work (music, portfolio, etc.), sites, pages, videos, merch and other stuff.
  4. I review everything and develop a series of insights and specific recommendations for what you should keep, what you should lose and what you should do next.
  5. We meet—either over coffee in Nashville or via Skype or phone—for up to two hours and talk through your materials and I walk you through my insights and recommendations.
  6. I tweak stuff based on our conversation and email you your very own BigHowdy Mini Brand Report in one of those fancy schmancy PDF documents a couple of days later.
  7. You go and do all your stuff and become an international sensation, guaranteed*. (*Not a guarantee in the literal sense, of course. More in the "No doubt, Bud!" or "For realz!" kinda way. You feel me on this, right?)

So what does a BigHowdy Mini Brand Report look like? Well, for starters, yours is developed 100% for you. It's broken down into three sections: What Is Working, What Isn't Working and What's Next. The first two sections include things like "You're a great writer and your blog seems to really connect." Or "Your photos and design don't fit with your music." Or "You are very focused on Twitter, but your audience is more engaged on Facebook." Or "Your website is full of typos and it reflects poorly on your attention to detail as a photographer." Or "You don't have up-to-date music on your pages."

What Next includes things like "Schedule one blog post per week and promote each post in these 3 ways…" Or "Make the photos on your website larger for more emotional impact." Or "Add a RootMusic BandPage to your Facebook." Or "Invest in a good photo shoot." Or "Check out BigCartel or Goodsie to set up an easy online store." It's specific, it's realistic and it's a realtively gentle kick in the pants.

So, if you're stuck and sick of feeling like you're spinning your wheels… If you need direction. Priorities. Honesty and objectivity… the BigHowdy Mini Brand Exam is a good fit and a great place to start. Email me at exam(at)bighowdy(dot)com and we'll get things set up. If you have questions, post them on the BigHowdy Facebook page or email me. Thanks for reading!

What The Hell Is A "Brand" Anyway? Part 1

I've been referred to as a "branding guy who hates the word 'branding.'" That's because it gets thrown around. A lot. And often by people who don't really understand it. Depending on the day and the person it might be used to refer to a logo or a pair of trademark glasses or the ability to get sponsors. Or whatever else happens to come up in conversation. But everyone is pretty much over-thinking it. Quite simply, your brand is what people think of when they think of you. That's it. It's what you represent in the minds of the audience. Nothing magical or technical about it. It isn't a typeface or a color or a tour sponsor. Those things can be part of a brand: they can represent it, be triggers for it or influence how people think and feel about it. And they can be really important tools. But the brand itself is nothing more than what your audience and potential audience thinks about you. So if reading this makes you think I'm a self-important opinionated jackass with a blog, welcome to your very own version of the BigHowdy brand. Thanks for dropping by.  = )

NOTE: Keep an eye out for the second and third parts of What The Hell Is A "Brand" Anyway? We'll talk about what it means that different people think different things about you as well as how a brand evolves over time.

The Bud Light Campaign? I'm Having A Little Trouble Getting It Down.

So you've seen the campaign. You probably don't give a crap, but you've seen it. Drinkability. Really? Drinkability? You have $100 million to spend and what you want me to take away is that your beer has cornered the non-existent market on people who wish their current beer wasn't so hard to drink? Bud Light IS a beverage, right? And you're saying you can drink it? Beautiful insight. Congrats. You've certainly set yourself apart from competitors like sand and molasses.It's tempting to wish I was a fly on the wall at the birth of this idea. But I'm guessing it's not necessary. I can write the script and probably get it close enough. I'm thinking it happened one of two ways, but my money is on this one: Bud Light brand team meeting in St. Louis...

TOM: "Guys, we need a new campaign. And the agency is just giving us more of that same allegedly funny stuff. But we have new ownership and we need to make our mark. We need a point of difference. We should go old school. Break out an Ogilvy-style USP - Unique Selling Proposition. People want a reason to choose the product. If we can just explain why they should love Bud Light, they totally will." BETSY: "Yeah, but we all know that legal won't let us get within 100 miles of the real reason people choose Bud Light." COREY: "Hey, here's a thought... what if we put it in code. Hold on, Betsy, let me explain. Obviously, we can't say "You don't really even like beer so ours is a good choice because it's almost not even like real beer. It's kinda like beer, but without the flavor and heaviness. Which means you drink lots of it so your MDA (minimum drinking age - wink, wink!)  brain can get sideways without upsetting your tiny little MDA tummy. Now... how do we say "you can drink more" without telling people they should drink more and getting legal all up in our grill?" BETSY: "Well, I guess if you can drink more, then... it's... more... drinkable. But it's not like you can just say it like that." TOM: "Really Betsy? Why can't you? It's true, right? The agency can dress it up a little. I say we put it in front of some groups and see what they say."

So if you're in the focus group and they ask you if the beer is drinkable, what are you going to say? No? It's Bud Light. I'm no beer drinker, but from what I understand, it's innocuous. If you like beer, you'll be fine. You won't love it, but it'll do. So there you have it. A campaign trying desperately to find a way to say (but not say) that the product is an easy way to get drunk, especially if you don't really like beer. I suppose that "drinkability" does sound better than "unobjectionable" or "it'll do." But here's a hint... when you launch your campaign with TV spots that make fun of your new slogan for being stupid and meaningless to anyone outside the walls of your company, that is NOT a good sign. If you have to come out of the gate apologizing, you should probably pick a different gate.