You Are Your Brand

Two years ago, I did a massive relaunch of my company, Northern HCI Solutions. I worked with a designed to come up with a new look, logo, and brand identity. My copy-editor and I came up with some beautiful brochures describing the new service we would provide: the Total Systems Health Check. My company was a member of the London Chamber of Commerce and had a booth at the Mega Business After Five networking event. I was ready to grab the bull by the horns and launch this puppy.

The day had arrived. Mega Business After Five. I was determined to make an impact in London and re-launch my company. I was going to show everyone that we had changed and we were ready to solve all of your problems. I was ready to sell Northern HCI’s services and close the deal. I set up the booth. I pitched to everyone who came by. I handed out brochures. I told people about what we could do for them. Three hours of solid networking and pitching. I was sure it was going to be a success.

Then after three weeks. nobody bit. No new sales. I had spent all this time and money trying to reinvent my company. I was devastated. What went wrong?

I looked around at what other people were doing and noticed something. I studied how successful entrepreneurs Jeff Walker, Stuart Knight, and Steve Jobs did their branding. At the same time, I was working with Quick Report Systems to help figure out their support and branding strategy, and I was beginning to use social media again.

Studying those entrepreneurs and watching some hashtags, I realized where I had gone horribly wrong. I was watching the #ldnont hashtag and saw some posts about my favorite local coffee shop, Black Walnut Café. People were posting pictures of their freshly baked cruffins and artistic lattes.

It hit me. People aren’t loyal to the brand of Black Walnut Café, they’re local to the people of Black Walnut Café. People aren’t loyal to the Toyota brand, they’re loyal to the person at the Toyota dealer who helped find them their last three cars.

People aren’t loyal to brands. They’re loyal to the people behind the brands. That was my mistake. I had made Northern HCI and my relaunch all about the brand, and spent my efforts trying to make it feel large and corporate, and missed playing my biggest trump card – me.

My customers trust me to solve their problems and work with them to make their business more successful. Watching an old episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares summed it up perfectly for me. He was working with the owner of a British bistro who had been stuck in a rut. Ramsay said the restaurant needed a friendlier name to help reinvent the identity of the restaurant to go along with the simplified food. The name was changed from “Rococo Bistro,” to, “Maggies.” While the owner wasn’t pleased with the name, Gordon reassured him, “in three months’ time, the name is irrelevant. The change is crucial.”

My customers don’t really care if I do business as Northern HCI Solutions, Puurunen and Associates, or just my name. They care about the results I get for them. My branding now reflects this – it’s all about me and the services I bring to the table, written in my style. I’ve shunned the “we”-speak – it’s disingenuous. I’m not interested in trying to fuel the myth that Northern HCI Solutions is a big corporation. I’m here to train and inspire staff so they can help their organizations run more effectively.

I urge all small business owners struggling with branding to learn from my mistakes. Use your personality as your brand. It will make you feel genuine and help attract the customers you want to do business with. Make sure you are featured in your branding, and make sure your content is genuinely you.

Published by Elias Puurunen

Elias Puurunen is a versatile entrepreneur and President of Northern HCI Solutions Inc., an IT consulting firm which has worked with Fortune 500 companies, governments, and startups. He has spoken at conferences in Canada and the United States and has been published around the world. Part of his work led to an agreement between the Canadian Government and Siemens Canada, creating jobs and investment into green infrastructure. His company's event management app, the Tractus Event Passport connects people at conferences, seminars and symposiums across Canada. Today he is a consultant and advisor to technology firms and government organizations. He lectures at the University of Waterloo on Coding for Policy Analysis for the School of Public Policy. He is the author of Beyond Passwords: Secure Your Business, a cyber-security book for small business owners.

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