INSIGHTS ON NAMES. PERSONAL BRANDING.

Branding is one of the topics I am working on and finding a suitable name is part of it. While doing some research I came across the video clip which is embedded at the end of the article.

Personal Branding

The video is more about personal branding. If we hear this term we normally think of emphasising our strengths and skills and figuring out our USP (unique selling proposition) that sets us apart from other people.

While watching this video I realised that the first step to our personal branding is not done by us but by our parents; our first-name(s). We normally just live with it since changing it is a bit cumbersome.

First Names

Every year there is a list of the 10 most popular names for boys and girls. In Switzerland of 2017 we are now back at the biblical roots: Mia (which stems from Maria) and Noah are on the pole position. The other 9 names go into the same direction.

Impossibilities

Some parents, however, try to bestow a USP upon their baby by choosing extra-ordinary first-names. While in the US you can name your children after fruit, vegetable and places there are limits in Europe.

Swiss parents try to name their child Sputnik, Störenfried (English Troublemaker) and German ones found Brain, Tarzan or Blaubeere (English Blueberry) appealing. Although some of them went to court to defend their “innovations” the judge denied it and they have to be content with tolerated names. Rest assured, dear parents, you will find some horribleness among them, too.

My own name is hardly a catch-line. Alas, it is rather common. Still, I am happy to have a brain and not to be called one.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS OR NEXT TIME I’LL DRIVE.

I already reported about my train adventure from Frankfurt to Zurich and also about the following communication.

You might remember that I booked my ticket by means of an app on my mobile which means I do not have a physical train ticket. Moreover, the receipt for the fare is being deleted from the records after 4 weeks. To me this makes absolute sense.

Meanwhile I found out that the so called service centre (what service?) from the German train company can only be reached by telephone – which as I know by now is completely useless – or by physical letters. My guess is that they are distributed by means of stage coaches. E-mails are unknown to them, let alone more recent technologies.

I called the “service centre” to explain to them that I had a reference and an order number but no ticket. The gentlemen was a bit puzzled about so much modern technology and promised to transfer my case to a different department.

This department obviously is totally overextended with my case. On October 25, 2017 – almost three months after my trip – they sent me another letter requesting the original ticket as this was the only possibility to get a refund.

Moreover, they encouraged me to call them if I had more questions. Well, I have many but there is no point in raising them.

As a matter of fact my answer would be:

Dear Deutsche Bahn,

I have a lot of questions (one of which would be why you still exist) but I rest my case. To me these were your famous last words and when I want to see my friends next time I will either try planes or drive.   #lousycustomerservice

Yours faithfully,

Your ex-customer.

THE DESIGN OF COMMUNICATION.

Today we all use smart phones. Hardly a news flash, I know.

You might also know that Steve Jobs’ credo was “Think Different” which also was the secret for his stunning ideas and Apple’s success.

But when I look at design history I see that the “think different” is not that new. Maybe it was not the official motto of anyone before Steve Jobs but some ingenious individuals always thought and still think outside of the box.

1931: Ericsson DHB 1001

Let us start with the phone classic. The Ericsson 1931. Even later in the era of mobile phones (the non-smart ones) Ericsson still played a role.

Back to 1931: The Ericsson Model DHB 1001 was made of Bakelite – a rather heavy plastic – and of metal. If I look at it I feel that it was not only a phone but due to its bulkiness and weight a weapon for one’s self-defence. Multi-functional as a side-effect; so to speak. At the time it bore some remarkable news.

The shape was considered elegant and modern and the success lasted for four decades. Before Model DHB 1001 phones were typically attached to a wall and the bell was an exterior device which was located at a different place in the house.

Now for the first time all the parts a phone needed were integrated: the bell, the dial, the receiver. The latter was made in a shape that assured a good sound quality. No wonder other companies copied this idea with only slight modifications.

1965: Grillo – The Next Leap

In 1965, the Italian architect Marco Zanuso and the German designer Richard Sapper brought another innovation to the market.

The model “Grillo” was made of light plastic and available in striking colours such as blue, red and green. Black and white for the “conservative” taste.

The novelty lies in the integration of all functions in a single piece.

2007: The Smart Phones

I am skipping all the various models of conventional phones and mobile versions and jump straight to the smartphone.

As already mentioned at the beginning it was Steve Jobs’ (and probably his team’s) idea to reduce the dozens of buttons other phones had to only one while all the functions could be managed by means of a touch screen. A revolution!

Soon other brands brought similar devices called smart phones on the market. The hardware looks similar, the different software types have similar functions.

From complex to simple and back?

DHB 1001 and Grillo clearly were a simplification; something people adore. Living a life is a full-time job and we all have too many important decisions to take.

The “one-button-idea” of course is also a simplification but at the same time smart phones are very complicated devices.

While the “normal” phones just had one function the “speaking” function of a smart phone is almost a side-effect. We shop, book trips, play games etc. on them and each of these functions needs a separate app.

Please do not get me wrong I also like having everything at one place and would feel strange without a smart phone. However, the regular software updates are not all that flawless and tend to destabilize the software hence the reliability of the phone.

Service

The fact that smart phones are largely made of glass and therefore fragile plus the software issue described above make a new service necessary: customer support.

Support is a complex business that requires a lot of resources. Apple is miserable at customer support; they even requested me to make an appointments for emergencies (I tend to not scheduling problems they just appear). So they lost me as a customer. I don’t know if Apple’s competitors are that much better but if I have a problem my phone provider takes care of this and their customer service is impeccable.

Bottom-line

To me it seems that simplicity is also a matter of definition. We can simplify to the max without making our lives easier.

In other words: There is no free lunch. Even simplicity has its price.

MY DIGITAL MARKETING TOOLBOX.

Some weeks ago I promised to create a toolbox for digital marketing. I did it. I ended up with tools and services provided by humans. We need both.

What’s in it?

Just like a physical toolbox the digital one has different compartments; in this case called category.

#creativecontent

This is the largest category by far. Knowing me that is not such a surprise. It comprises:

  • Several portals where you can download pictures legally; some free of charge
  • Websites where you can find very original fonts
  • A portal with the coolest icons I have ever seen
  • A tip of how to manage all the pictures you took with your mobile or your camera

Moreover, I contains services. Recently I needed a video a subject of which I have no knowledge and no interest to learn. Hence I found someone who did it for me.

Text content is also creative. As a non-native English speaker I need advice from time to time. Although I am quite familiar with HTML & Co. my ideas sometimes exceed my know-how. So I work with a pro.

#audiencemanagement

We all want to be heard out there. Social media is important. You can either ask a professional (no, this is not me) or look at the list of e-books in the toolbox; and also the e-book reader to manage your collection.

SEO is another service you might need. For this I also work with someone. Last, not least I provide a list of free blog directories. Maybe you can do with some backlinks; which goes right back to SEO.

#security

You want your work and your platforms to be secure. So I recommend to:

  • Encrypt your e-mail address
  • Use an anti-spam for your blog (Akismet); in my mind you cannot run a blog that allows comments without it
  • Run a test environment; it is a lot cheaper than you think and certainly less expensive than ruining your productive website or blog

#usefulgadgets

There is also a category #usefulgadgets. I invite you to explore it.

Your feedback is most welcome. If you found something else please share it with me.

THE ONE THING.

Recently I found and I am still finding a lot of articles and books about the value of focusing. They all make it clear that multi-tasking is from hell.

What Is Multi-Tasking and When Is It Bad?

Some years ago multi-tasking came up in the computer world. Real multi-tasking works if a device possesses two processors (CPUs). Most computers only have one micro-processor. What they do is called multi-threading. This means they are working on one task at the time.  Let’s say you were surfing the Internet and now you want to open your text programme. The CPU keeps the Internet alive (threading) while it takes care of the text programme. Threading requires a little bit of the CPU’s time.

It is quite similar in our brains. Of course we can walk and discuss a problem with someone simultaneously. The reason is that these two activities occupy different areas in our brain.

Did you ever try discussing an issue with someone and reading a book at the same time? Needless to say that it will not work for most of us.

If we are trying to accomplish this we jump from reading to discussing and back. And every time we interrupt our reading it takes us a moment to find “our” line again. So both processes are slowed down.

The Book

Yes, I admit I fell for the stylish book cover and for the title.

But when I started reading I could not stop anymore. The book is about focusing by which we not only would reach our targets but even go beyond our wildest dreams. The author claims that you have to go very small to end up really big.

Very small means that we have to concentrate on the ONE thing we want to achieve next. As a metaphor he (the author) uses the domino effect. When the first domino falls it touches the next and this one hits its neighbour etc. While the movement is very slow at the beginning it gains an incredible momentum towards the end of the “domino journey”.

Google became powerful with one thing: data retrieval. J. K. Rowling said in a speech that she became successful when she concentrated on the one thing that mattered to her. We know the result: Harry Potter.

Summary

Although I do a lot of multi-tasking (the “slowing-down” kind) I do see the value of focusing on the ONE thing.

The challenge is to find the ONE thing that makes us the happiest, the most successful or whatever we want. I am still working on this.

MY ACTUAL MARKETING CAMPAIGN. PART 2.

Last week we spoke about target clients and marketing tools. This week I will tell you about my experience with certain platforms.

Of course the choice of a marketing platform depends on the product, the target clients and on one’s budget. After some thinking I came up with four options:

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn is a platform for professionals. The portal also offers advertisement.

This tool has several more advantages:

  1. It forces you to find a short and crisp description for your offer. This is good because it really makes you think about the value you offer.
  2. You can determine where (geographically) and to whom (demographic settings like position and industry) the ads shall be displayed. This display is called “impression”.
  3. You set the budget per day. LinkedIn ads are charged per click. This means whenever someone clicks on your ad this person is being forwarded to your landing page.
    1. Once the daily budget is used up no more impressions will follow on this day.

However, there is also a considerable downside. One click costs easily between 4 to 7 US Dollars, depending on the keywords and competition.

The reason I did not choose this option is that my target customers are rather in the German speaking world. LinkedIn is almost too international for this.

Another Ad on a different platform.

Some years ago I sold my company within a very short time. I put an ad on a portal that targets people who sell and/or want to buy companies, brands etc.

These ads are rather inexpensive but the portal itself has never been updated (from what I can see) over the years. I wrote an e-mail since I needed an information.

  • A week later there was still no answer.
  • I sent another e-mail. Still no answer.
  • So I called them.
    • The lady who took the phone was audibly disinterested and could not provide the information but promised to get someone to call me back.
  • This was four weeks ago. And still  no answer.
  • Needless to say that I gave up on them.

Content Marketing

For a period of time I used to write guest posts on a content marketing platform because the owner found me somewhere and liked what I did. Meanwhile the company has grown quite a bit and he owns several different and highly targeted portals. So there was a chance that he would reach my target clients.

I called him up to ask about banners on his pages etc. (Banners are those linked images you also see at your right while reading here. He suggested that I could write one article for each advantage I listed for Saleswin. Each article would be linked to my landing page and each article would cost me the price for a link. This offer would also include banners. All together it sounded faire and not unattractive. I promised him a definite answer by end of the week since I wanted to check one more option.

Performance Marketing

Performance Marketing is basically only possible in the digital world. Similar to the LinkedIn Ad one pays by click. During my research I noticed that the largest media house in Switzerland who owns several newspapers (print and online editions) offers performance marketing. I called them. You will never guess what happened now.

It is all about attitude and service. Even in the digital world.

Well, I contacted the media house for whom I must be a nobody.

Wrong, totally wrong.

They provided a VIP service from the first moment on. The lady I spoke to apparently liked me and offered me a voucher to advertise for free for a while. I decided to use this chance and see where it will take me.

I still owed Mr Content Marketing an answer. I wrote him that I will first test the media house and might come back to him in due time. His answer was somewhere between shocking and hilarious. It is understandable that I did not provide his favourite answer but he wrapped is frustration in a rather unprofessional e-mail. If I ever will get back to him? Maybe not.

While I also discovered two issues with the media house I called them. They apologized, already fixed one of the two issues, are working on the second one. To compensate me for the inconvenience they presented me with an even larger voucher.

Clearly, service goes over cheap.

MY ACTUAL MARKETING CAMPAIGN. PART 1.

At this moment I am running a marketing campaign for Saleswin. This is a web-shop system one can purchase for their own business. The system is especially useful if a company sales bespoke products.

After defining potential customers I thought of the marketing strategies, tools and platforms I want to use.

Potential Customers

For Saleswin I identified the potential customers among entrepreneurs that sell bespoke products to returning clients. Geographically, I target the German speaking countries in Europe (which is mostly Switzerland, Germany and Austria)

The Marketing Tools

The Movie

For most people reading a manual is about as attractive as a toothache. So I needed some NICE illustration to point out the advantages of the product.

Given I am not exactly a movie maker I started searching for one on Fiverr.com, a platform where freelancers offer their services. After meeting some rather strange individuals I found Mary Johnson who answered all my questions. I sent her my German script which I translated in English so she would know what images she needs to add.

On the very next day I received the first version which already exceeded my expectations. After some minor changes and two more days we were done. I can really recommend her.

The Landing Page

Now it was time to create the so called landing page. When one is running a marketing campaign (like ads, newsletters etc.) it is normally wise to create a specific landing page. In my mind there are three main reasons for it:

KEEP THE VISITOR’S INTEREST

Interested parties might click your ad and you want to keep their interest. A normal website has a lot of links which could be distracting. A landing page is highly focused and contains a call to action.

Examples are: «Contact us» or «Download XYZ».

For evidence you might want to try one of these ads on LinkedIn.

ASSURE YOUR VISITORS

The person who clicks on your ad should find its sequel on your landing page; meaning the latter must meet the expectations the ad created. Moreover, they should find the slogan or wording already used in the ad. After all your visitors must be assured to have arrived at the right place.

CREATE SEVERAL LANDING PAGES

Maybe you are split testing, using various slogans or images? In this case you have the possibility of creating one landing page for each version. Given a landing page is specifically created for special purpose it does not affect your website at all.

There Are More Tools

Of course the above tools are only a fraction of the possibilities out there. You can also create leaflets, send mailings, distribute samples of your items, town hall meeting, a radio or a TV spot, record an podcast etc.  It depends on your product and you budget.

The Marketing Platforms

As for the marketing platforms I did quite some research and identified four possibilities, which I finally had a closer look at. I will introduce them next week and tell you about my experience.

EVERGREENS IN COMMUNICATION. IN SPITE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

Quite some time ago I wrote an article on Twitter, blogging and social media in general and pointed out my e-book “How to Blog with Ease” about these topics.

Social media platforms tend to constantly change their rules. I gave up on following the changes since my interests are digitalisation, marketing, style and design. Social media platforms are merely the tools to share my ideas and the resulting articles.

What I wrote about Hootsuite and Tweepi is no longer correct. Nowadays I find Hootsuite difficult to use and Tweepi shut down its doors some month ago to go live again. The same name with a very different service.

For the same reason the e-book is no longer online since the information about social media is no longer one hundred percent accurate. Still, most of the tools I speak about are still – at least in my mind – worthwhile and I also stick with the power of images.

At this moment I am building an online reference work with the tools I tested and recommend. Of course you will hear as soon as it is completed.

The Evergreens

Despite all these changes there are some “evergreens” to stick with.

Content is King

It has been emphasized many times and I still think it is true: content is king. Despite SEO and social media, if our content is dull or incorrect we will not reach the readers we are targeting. Personally, I write to share my ideas rather than pleasing the social media platforms.; although I use them of course . If I get comments to my articles I am very happy. But I never will write anything just to earn ten thousand likes or about something I do not believe in.

Newsletters

Publishers and bloggers cannot really control their readers. If our audience is fed up with us we might lose readers if we managed to entertain or teach them they might stay with us. Far be it from me to say that we should not at least try to make them stay by analysing why they read our writings and trying to deliver more of it; if we can.

Newsletters and blogs allow us to do so. Social media does not. Social media platforms use their own algorithm to decide what they will communicate to our followers and contacts. This system is constant subject to change. This even created a professions: SEO experts. I am not one of them. But if it is really important for your business you should hire one.

Find the right tone

You know that different subjects – hence a different audience – require different writing styles.

Some days ago I stumbled over an article about Professor Scott E. Fahlman and a computer scientist. He happens to be the inventor of emoticons. Already in 1982 – when pictures were yet to appear – he suggested to a bulletin board using emoticons in order to distinguish jokes from things that were not meant to be funny.

Originally probably invented for nerds, we not only use emoticons but extended them significantly.

Apparently, this is his original text:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
:-)
Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use
:-(

Did we go nerdier or did the frequent use “de-nerd” emoticons?

WHAT IF COMMUNICATION DOES NOT HELP?

Last week I reported the latest news of the German train company (“Deutsche Bahn”) and their letter that asked me for some patience.

The latest News

This week I received another letter with the information that they needed my train tickets.

Big problem!

I booked the ticket via the Swiss railways on their mobile app. I remember that they also sent me an e-mail but why keeping it (I am definitely not a collector) if everything is on my mobile and I already returned from my trip?

So I called the German customer support explaining my situation. I understand that they cannot help me unless I can give them their order number.

The next issue.

Online tickets are being deleted 31 days after the trip happened. The only thing I could offer was the receipt that contains certain reference numbers. I proposed to send it by e-mail.

Wrong again!

The customer support of the German train company only accepts letters. I MEAN PHYSICAL MAIL THAT GOES INTO A PHYSICAL LETTERBOX!

But I am glad they already know how to operate a telephone and accepted me to give them the respective numbers verbally. The gentlemen promised to give that number to the respective department which will bestow another letter upon me.

What is communication at all?

According to some system theories (e.g. Niklas Luhmann) communication and understanding are two different things.

Communication happens as soon as people talk about it. No matter if you understand the meaning of my words in this post. As soon as you tell someone that I wrote this article it is considered communication. In other words: Misunderstanding is as good a communication as complete agreement.

Form this aspect I had a great communication with the support centre. If it was also useful and I’ll get my fare or parts of it refunded is yet to be discovered.

And the story continues…

3 OUT OF 111 PLACES IN ZURICH WORTH A VISIT.

Of many cities there are books about 111 places in the respective city one must see. There is also one about Zurich.

Not only I want to present you the book but also 3 places I find particularly interesting to visit.

The Le Corbusier Centre

As the name reveals this centre has been built according Le Corbusier’s philosophy. If you have been reading here for a while you might remember his famous quote: “The house is a machine to live in”.

I only visited this place very recently. It was planned back in 1958 as a sort of “memorial”, when the architect was still alive. However, he never witnessed its opening in 1967 since he passed away in 1965.

The good news is that it still looks modern and contemporary and given the building’s large windows it is bright and you feel a bit like living outside as well as insight.

The downside of it is, that almost none of his famous furniture is there and the staircases are definitely too narrow to be practical.

Still, a very avant-garde place in a beautiful environment by the lake.

The “Frauenbadi”. An Open Air Bath for Women Only.

This place was built in 1888 in a time when hygiene and health just became a really important topic for everybody but many houses did not have running water in all apartments. In other words the “Frauenbadi” was not meant for fun but for hygiene as the “bath rules” that one can still read tell very clearly.

Nowadays we all have running water plus the “Frauenbadi”. The place is floating on the river Limmat (one of the two rivers meandering through Zurich) in the style of Art Nouveau. To this day it is reserved for women. Prude? Old-fashioned? Maybe. But it is quite cool there.

@Gentlemen:

  • In the summer evenings they turn the place into a bar where you are most wanted 😉
  • Moreover, there is also a swimming bath (also open air) for men only. We are fair around here. :-)

Zurich just has about 400 000 inhabitants but 19 public open air swimming baths and quite a number of indoor swimming pools.

A Piece of the “Forbidden City”. The China Garden.

Switzerland is in the heart of Europe with four seasons and a rather high amount of rain and cooler temperatures. Besides 38 museums and tons of shops you might still want something more exotic.

In this case I recommend the China Garden. Since 1982 the Chinese city of Kunming and small Zurich are partners. And the seven million metropole honoured us with a Chinese Garden. Its motto translates into “The 3 friends in winter”. The reason Zurich got this garden is because Switzerland sent engineers to Kunming to support the city with the installation of a sustainable tap water system. It is the largest thank you one can think of. All the parts were made in China who sent a delegation of experts to Zurich who built the garden according to the complex and traditional rules of such a garden.

These temple gardens – as I learned – have a ranking in their importance. According to the description the “Zurich-Garden” possesses the highest ranking outside of China.

In order to understand at least a small part of the secrets and symbols you need a guide. That is also the week part of it. The only public tours are once a month between April and October. The garden itself is accessible during the day but also only just in this period.

Book of the Month

To see the other 108 places please refer to this book. It is available in German only.

But if you need translation, you know where to find me.