Small Business Branding Mistakes

John Morgan’s book “Brand Against the Machine” is really a full length definition of branding itself. Sure, there are examples of small business branding mistakes and a whole lot of what you should be doing. But as a whole, it’s what the dictionary should reference when you look up “branding”.

Blockbuster is an example of a company that didn’t see it coming. Coincidentally in Chapter 13, titled Extra Ordinary (not Bankruptcy Court), Morgan talks about the rise of Netflix and Redbox in the wake of Blockbuster’s meltdown. He makes the point that it wasn’t Blockbuster’s failures that made Netflix great. In fact, Netflix became great because they did something “extra ordinary”. They took something mundane like renting a video and added a spin no one had ever tried before. Redbox is now doing the same thing.

Emotion in Branding

What I find interesting about Netflix is their marketing plan has been solidly about their unique difference – video by mail. As Morgan suggests Branding should be about emotion, because a brand from the customer’s point of view is their overall view of it – which comes down to their emotional tie to it. Take a look at this old Netflix commercial, and see how Netflix uses emotion in the first 10 seconds of the ad:


Blockbuster, unfortunately, never was able to respond with an idea more powerful than Netflix’s. Some of Blockbuster’s problem was its inability to define itself in the marketplace. They were never the “low cost rental place” nor did they position themselves as the “best selection place”. And with their constantly changing late fee structure – they left customers thirsty for anything that could take its place.

Branding Mistakes

That brings me to John’s list of “10 Ways to Ensure Your Brand Will Fail” that will make you laugh but also cut to the bone. If I may so boldly exclaim, I’d like to add an 11th (read page 193 for the first 10):

#11. Don’t pay attention. Because a well branded buggy company will still be able to compete with a poorly branded Daimler Chrysler. And people will always visit their customer service oriented, family-run cathode ray tube TV repair shop. So go ahead and keep on not paying attention, Blockbuster.

Why you need the book

“Brand against the Machine” doesn’t assume a single Netflix example or a couple small business branding mistakes are going to teach you how to position your business in the marketplace. For most people it’s very hard to apply an example from another industry to their own. Taking that into account, Morgan goes on to teach in many different ways what you need to be doing to position yourself positively in the marketplace. You’ll learn how to:

  • Know who your target market really is and what they want
  • Define your position as the go-to authority in your industry
  • Determine your audience’s problem and create a solution for them
  • Produce valuable content that attracts your audience and engages them
  • Promote yourself without pestering people (#1 small business branding mistake)
  • Over deliver on your promise

Who is John Morgan?

Why should you listen to John Morgan when it comes to this topic when there’s a chance you’ve never even heard of the guy. Fortunately, that’s by design. The focus of his career has been to make sure you’ve heard of his over 300 clients (many of which you hear about every week). While a celebrities do knock on his door, it’s the other masters of branding that tout his name. Just look at the book jacket and you’ll see the likes of Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel, Scott Stratten, Carrie Wilkerson and MSNBC.

These aren’t people with limited resources. They’re people and companies who’ve chosen above all others to utilize the services of John Morgan. It’s that confidence and experience that fuels Brand Against the Machine. You’ll know instantly that you’ve purchased the right book and are headed for good things.

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