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When I was young it was somewhat uncommon to see a Canadian goose in my neck of Indiana. I can recall one of my more colorful uncles going to great, mostly unsuccessful, lengths to get a pair of geese to nest on the ponds of his property. It was a real treat for a central Indiana Hoosier to witness “wild” geese coming in for a landing. Very cool.

Today, central Indiana Hoosiers are not so excited to see these beautiful birds. They have become domesticated. They live around subdivision retention ponds waiting to be fed. Some of them have forgotten how to migrate. Some of them are so foolhardy that they won’t even move out of the way for an oncoming car.

So how did something so novel become a nuisance?

In the early 1900’s marketing was easier. You simply told folks what you were selling and they bought it -even easier if your product or service was somewhat unique. Many companies continue to use this same practice in their marketing today, which can be a costly mistake in today’s marketplace. We need to realize that it’s not about us—it’s about the customer.

“Direct marketing has never worked for us. We tried that once. Didn’t really get many calls from it.” I hear this quite a bit from clients. I don’t doubt it. Direct marketing is a complete waste of time and money, unless it is part of a bigger plan.

Most of you will recognize the title of this article. It was Apple Computer’s tagline from 1997 to 2002. Whether you are a fan of Apple products or not, there’s no denying that the company has been one of the most innovative companies on the planet. Why? Because they “think different”. While critics scorned the tagline for being grammatically incorrect, Apple drew attention. Quite the strategy.

No, not your political position, or your position on who’s leading the smartphone race. The position I am referring to is in your customer’s mind. We all have a limited amount of space up there—some of us less than others. Have you fought your way past all the noise and competition to secure that precious slot in their brain that reminds them you are the one to call at the moment of truth?

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are branding ourselves and our businesses everyday. Through the process of doing business and simply communicating with other folks, we are leaving a lasting impression of our “brand”.

Brand is a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization. It is what your customers say it is . . . not what you say it is.

Web Folks: "Here's your box"
You: [ Puzzled look ]
Web Folks: "Place your marketing stuff in the box and we'll get it on the website."
You: [ Puzzled look with slightly elevated blood pressure ]