13 Quotes for Startups and Small Business from Noah Kagan

Noah Kagan Startup QuotesNoah Kagan is the founder of AppSumo, a website that provides daily deals for startups. But he may be better known as the man who missed out on a $100 million Facebook fortune because he was fired eight months after joining the company. You might also know he was employee #4 at Mint.com. Or maybe you know him as Austin’s biggest fan of tacos.

Whatever you’ve heard about him, you probably know that he’s a hustler. In order to prove that anyone can start any business doing just about anything, he challenged himself to make $1000  in less than 24 hours selling beef jerky—without using his existing network. In just nine hours he made more than $3000 in sales and $1,135 in profit.

Kagan applied that same hustle when he started AppSumo, creating the website in a single weekend and reportedly outsourcing the development to a team in Pakistan for just $60. The site was almost immediately popular, grossing more than $1 million in its first year. AppSumo has undergone a bit of a transition from its earliest days and now offers a free suite of tools that helps businesses get up and running and has nearly 1 million subscribers.

From Facebook to Mint to Gambit to AppSumo, Kagan has seen just about every challenge faced by entrepreneurs. And he’s been generous in sharing his experiences and advice. Here are a few of our favorite things he has said that we think other entrepreneurs and small business owners might be inspired by:

“My favorite business book of all time is experience.”

“A common pitfall is people over-thinking their name when they’ve made no profit. People just want the solution and could[n’t] care less what you’re called.”

“The secret to success… is work. That’s it. It’s hard and tiring, but if you want it, you can do anything.”

“When you hire people, there are three types of employees: 1–Grower. Someone who starts when the company is small and improves/adapts their skills as the company scales. 2–Show-er. Someone who can be good for the company where they are now but NOT where they are going. 3–Veteran. They’ve done it before and it’s second nature for them to teach you how to do it in your company.”

“To be in the 1% you have to do what the 99% won’t.”

“…constantly ask yourself: how can I make the company more valuable? You do that and you will never get fired (unless you do something really stupid or the company goes out of business.”

“A true measure of an entrepreneur/successful person is how they deal with adversity.”

“If it’s hard for you to see to people in your social network who know you, expect it to be more difficult with strangers.”

As an entrepreneur, you need to be very confident in your ability to generate ideas and opportunities. If you only have one idea, don’t start a business. Why? Because even if you launch your business and protect it until you lunch, as soon as you’re successful you’re going to have ten people trying to copy it.

“A startup can focus on only one metric. So you have to decide what that is and ignore everything else.”

“There is one key difference I’ve noticed among successful business owners and the ‘wantrepreneur’ crowd. One group is waiting for the right ____ (fill in the blank). And the other group decided to make things happen for themselves. Period.”

“Setting goals is always a good thing. They help you to have something to look forward to. But it’s the journey/process/in-between or ‘the liminal’ that is rewarding. It’s a 2 for 1 special.”

“When you start a business, it almost never ends up where you plan or expect it to be. You have to continually tinker with what you’ve built.”

—Noah Kagan, Founder and CEO of AppSumo


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Logo Design News This Week (5.2)

Here’s the latest news from the world of logo design—all the new brands, updated designs, and controversies about the artwork used by companies to brand their products. This is the stuff that we noticed, tell us about what you saw in the comments.

Coach.me Logo DesignLift, the app that was designed to help you reach your goals, not matter how large (run a marathon) or small (remember to floss) has a new name: Coach.me. And with the new name, they also have a new logo. It somehow seems appropriate that the app designed to help people change has changed. The new logo is certainly appropriate (the megaphone icon might be used by a coach yelling from the sidelines), but we’ll miss the more feminine and friendly feel of the old logo (which you can see here).

Enfield has a new logo to promote recycling. Its’ a design disaster, but if it gets people to keep their newspapers out of the garbage, who cares?

Business France Logo DesignThere’s been a lot of news from France this week (see below) so let’s take a look at the new logo for Business France, which was formed by the merger of the French Agency for International Investment and the French Agency for International Business Development. The two agencies are really two sides of the same coin, which is a pretty good way to describe this new logo design.

Pixar’s upcoming movie, The Good Dinosaur, has a new logo. See it at the link.

Austin Texas Anniversary Logo DesignWe saw a few city logos this week. We are generally skeptical of the ability of a logo to capture the essence and feel of a city and we’ve written about that quite a bit on this blog. There are exceptions and this new logo for the City of Austin Texas is one. It brilliantly captures the flavor of Austin (and note the star in the logo is about where Austin is on the map). Very nice design. Wish we could say the same thing for this new logo for the city of Bristol Connecticut, which got a minor update (changes to the fonts) and added a gear icon because, well, Bristol and gears, right? What gears have to do with “all heart” is beyond us. Lastly, check out this new logo for the City of Covington. We want to dislike it, after all, it doesn’t really capture anything about Covington in the way the Austin mark does for Austin. But then, there it is waving at us, and we don’t hate it. One imagines that it won’t be long before we see a version with a naughty hand gesture… and right on queue there it is in the comments.

Seth Godin on the difference between a logo and a brand. We couldn’t agree more. Here’s where to get your inexpensive but attractive logo design.

Jazzercise Logo DesignThese days there’s Zumba, and Ripped, and Boot Camps, and Insanity, and P90X, and the 7 Minute Workout, and PiYo, and the list goes on. Here’s the one that started it all way back in the 80s (okay, not really, but it was one of the first): Jazzercise has a new logo. Who even knew they were still around? The new identity is part of an effort to revitalize the brand and win over customers used to those other exercise programs.

Quick Burgers Logo DesignThere are a lot of places in the world where you can get a fantastic hamburger. Unfortunately, France and Belgium aren’t among them. At least not if you visit Quick, the European burger chain. We’ve had the opportunity to “dine” there once. Never again. Fortunately they are a bit better at logo design than they are at making hamburgers. This update to their logo is a good step forward for the brand. The symbol is much more simple, losing the “house” element of the icon—although Americans might confuse the Q for Intuit’s Quicken logo. They’re not the same, but the color and letter… Quick. Lousy burgers, acceptable logo.

Romanian soccer team, Steaua Bucharest has a new clip art logo after being stripped of their name and emblem by the courts. And in other sports logo news, check out the new mark for the Croyden Rangers.

Je Suis Charlie Logo DesignWe like to show off the latest Google logo designs at the end of this weekly column. We didn’t see any new Google logos this week, however Google added a “Je Suis Charlie” logo to their page in France, honoring the slain cartoonists and showing solidarity with the French people after the terror attacks in Paris. Kudos to Google for this move.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments:


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Another Thought on Starting Your New Business Now—A Follow-up to Yesterday’s Post

Balloon and Business230 years ago yesterday, two balloonists—frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jefferies—took off in a hot-air balloon from Dover England in an attempt to be the first to fly across the English Channel.

Blanchard wasn’t exactly what most people would consider an expert. His first flight in a balloon was just nine months earlier. And the first successful manned balloon flight by anyone was only three months before that. Blanchard had successfully flown in a balloon just four times before the attempt to cross the English Channel.

The two balloonists had planned for a long flight and had stocked the balloon with plenty of unnecessary supplies, adding significant weight to the balloon. Stuff like anchors, a hand-operated propeller that didn’t work, several casks of brandy, and silk covered oars that the duo planned to use to row themselves through the air toward France.

As the journey progressed, the balloon never rose to a safe cruising altitude. Blanchard and Jefferies were forced to throw everything possible overboard in a desperate attempt to lighten the balloon. The pair was so desperate that they even threw most of their clothing overboard.

Before the trip began, there were doubts that the balloon would carry both of the men and their supplies across the channel, so Jefferies, who financed the trip, had to promise that he would jump overboard in necessary.

Fortunately for him, it didn’t come to that. The balloon landed safely in France, just outside of Calais (which made the pair honorary citizens, despite the fact they landed dressed only in their underwear).

What does all of that have to do with starting your new business?

You don’t need to be an expert at something to give it a go. Blanchard had ascended in a ballon just four times before attempting to cross the channel. Chances are you already know more about the business you want to start than Blanchard knew about flying a balloon.

The important thing isn’t experience, it’s willingness to try something new. Just start.

Also note, that when things didn’t go as planned, Blanchard and Jefferies had to make quick adjustments, throwing everything that wasn’t critical to surviving overboard.

You’ll do the same thing as you start your new business—improvising to get enough altitude to get to your destination—even if it means throwing your pants into the sea. You just do whatever it takes.

Whatever it is that you want to do—from opening a food truck to building an online software product, it’s time to get in and take off.

Start your new business. There’s no better time than now.

(And if you need a logo to help brand your new venture, you know where to go.)


Photo Credit: Heartlover1717.

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Is It Time For You to Start a Business? Take the First Step.

Start Your Business 2015

Last week we noted you might have a resolution to start a business this year. And we threw out a couple of things you might want to think about before you jump into your startup. Stuff like having a good idea, having enough money to see you through the first few difficult months (or years), and doing your homework before you jump in.

If any of that hit a nerve for you, then maybe you are ready to start a business.

Which is a bit out of step with the rest of the world. According to a 2012 report from the New America Foundation, the number of Americans starting new businesses has declined by 53% since 1977. And self-employed Americans (those doing consulting, but not necessarily owning an official business) has gone down more than 20% since 1991. Last year, the Brookings Institute issued a similar report. Ouch.

Why so few new businesses?

Part of the reason is the dominance of big retailers and chains. Or the difficultly in raising or borrowing enough money to get started. And it’s not like the business atmosphere has been all that great for the past few years.

But maybe that’s a good thing for you. With so few people taking on the challenge of starting a new business, there’s less competition (from other startups) and more opportunities for you to succeed.

You’re willing to zag when everyone else is busy working for big corporations (zigging). You’re ready to prove you have what it takes to do your own thing and make it work. You want to work for something more than a paycheck.

So what’s the first step?

Last week, we suggested that you do your homework. Read a book or two about starting a business. Listen to a podcast or take an online course. You might even get your MBA, though that’s certainly not required (plenty of entrepreneurs start a business before they earn any degree). But doing all of this isn’t really the first step. As Guy Kawasaki writes in his excellent book, The Art of the Start:

“You could spend all of your time learning and not doing. And doing, not learning to do, is the essence of entrepreneurship.”

It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of looking for the next book, the next blog post, the next seminar that will finally give you the skills and insights you need to start your business. And the reality is, you will never be completely ready. You will never know everything you need to know. And that’s why so few people jump in and do it.

So the real first step is…

Start a New BusinessSTART. Maybe you have an idea for a product that you think people will like. Or a skill that people need. Or knowledge you can share. Maybe you have a unique network that you can leverage to bring people together. Or an asset that you can use in a new way. Or something you make. Whatever it is that you can do, you need to start doing it. Today. Now.

Launch a website promoting your services. Build a prototype. Write the software. Call a potential client and sell your service. Put up a page on Etsy or eBay. Send an email sharing your knowledge. Whatever it is that you can do, just start.

Don’t wait until your product is perfect. Nike founder Phil Knight made shoe treads with his waffle iron in his kitchen and sold them out of the back of his station wagon. The first bottle of Gatorade was just water, sodium, sugar, potassium, and lemon juice (and no label). The first Apple computer didn’t have a case, a power supply, a keyboard, or a screen!

If you wait until everything is perfect, you’ve waited too long. Way too long.

There are a lot of things that feel like starting, that aren’t: writing a mission statement, creating a pitch deck, or firing up excel and creating three years of financial projections. Don’t waste your time on this stuff.

Just start.


Are you a potential entrepreneur but you’re still looking for an idea for your business?Check out How to Find a Good Idea for Your Business to see a few places you can look for potential business ideas.

And, while it probably goes in the list of things that feel like starting, but aren’t, if you don’t have a logo for your new business, you can create your logo design here.

Now go start your business.


Photo credits: JakeandLindsaySherbert and Norlando Pobre.

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9 Quotes for Entrepreneurs from Whisper Co-founder, Michael Heyward

Michael Heyward Startup QuotesMichael Heyward is the co-founder and CEO of Whisper which he launched in 2012 with his friend Brad Brooks. Whisper is the champion of an identity-less online forum. It’s a place where questions and topics are discussed anonymously. The social app sees over 3.5 billion page views on a monthly basis and has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital alone.

An LA native, Heyward’s background is in consumer marketing. He previously worked for a company that specialized in messaging between coworkers. His work on that app in his early 20s is what led to the Whisper concept. Despite his short resume, his advice for entrepreneurs was learned the same as any others’: start-up experience.

“Stay focused on your goals and what you’re trying to do, right then in that moment, always…. literally incredibly laser-focused. You’ll have so many ideas, but what makes a good entrepreneur is someone who knows how to say no to most of their ideas and just focus on the ones that are going to have the highest impact.”

“Too many people spend too much time thinking about their ideas and plans and not actually enough time doing. Instead of writing up all these plans—business plans and PowerPoint presentations and lists—just focus on what your actual goal is and just do it.”

“If you have a good product that people enjoy and that people like, you’re going to be able to get good talent to want to work there. I’d much rather have someone who has less raw intelligence, but has more determination and passion. That beats the rocket scientist every single time.”

“What’s next for us is what’s always next: providing a great, awesome experience for our users. There are always new things coming, though nothing specific to talk about right now, but there’s always new stuff. We’re just trying to make the world suck less.”

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Be more concerned if there [aren’t] copycats because that [means you aren’t] doing something right.”

“You are who you are when no one else is looking,”

“Anonymity is a really powerful tool. Think about all the things you can do with a hammer. You can build something great, or you can kill someone.”

“Obviously, building any business is really hard…” but “There’s no business on the Internet that has achieved web scale—50 or 100 million users—and had a problem making money.”

“When you’re a public figure and in the when you are in the public domain, you’re in the business of promoting yourself.”

—Michael Heyward, Founder and CEO, Whisper

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Logo Design News This Week (5.1)

Welcome to a new year with all kinds of potential and possibilities. We start the year here at Logomaker’s Small Business Blog with a look back at the news from the world of logo design—everything that happened over the holiday break. Here’s what caught our eye:

New Mint Logo DesignLast month Intuit launched a new identity for Mint, its online money management tool (along with several new tools). But read through the comments on that linked blog post announcing the change and you’ll see that customers apparently want more than a change to the design. Um, Mint is a free tool. Use it if you like it, drop it if you don’t. Nice logo update.

The Toronto Raptors announced a new logo that is unfortunately very similar to the Brooklyn Nets’ not-so-new logo launched two years ago.

Chesterfield Borough Logo DesignSmall town logos have long been a steady source of news for this blog. And this week is no exception. Chesterfield, a market town in Derbyshire, unveiled a new logo that has been met with derision and surprise at the cost: £13,600 (roughly $20,000). The design is an abstract take on the local church’s crooked spire (check out this cool picture of the spire). There have been lots of “my nine year old could have done better” type responses. The old logo wasn’t great, but it was unique and representative of the church. It’s hard to see how this is an improvement. Also hard to say how this new mark will attract more people to using council services (the reason for the update) .

The best and worst sports logos of 2014. This is a pretty good collection. And we agree with the choice for the worst logo. It may be bad enough to close out the competition on the worst identity of the decade.

Google New Years Day Logo Design 2015 Of course, Google rang in the New Year with a new logo design celebrating 2015. Google also celebrated the Christmas holiday with three days of not-obviously-christmasy holiday logos and previous to that, two solstice logos (one for the winter in the North and one for the summer in the South). You can see those other Google Logos on this page.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

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Your New Year’s Resolution: Start a Business

Open for BusinessAccording to a survey conducted by Intuit (the guys behind Quickbooks and Mint), 72% of Americans want to own their own company. And 84% believe they would be more passionate about their work if they owned their own business. We certainly are.

If you’re among those dreamers, there’s never been a better time to start your business.

But before you quit your job and open your own company, make sure you have everything lined up for your success.

First, make sure you have an idea that will work. It doesn’t have to be original—in fact, you’re more likely to succeed if there is a proven demand for your product. Boring businesses like car washes, carpet cleaners, and caterers will never have the flash and notoriety of startups like Facebook or AirBNB, but you’re more likely to succeed with something customers know they need.

Second, make sure you can make enough money from your product or service. No doubt you’ve heard the advice to “follow your passion”. Don’t. At least, don’t follow a passion that no one will pay you to pursue. You need passion for your business, but that’s not the same thing as building a business from your passion. Your goal is to build a business, not a hobby.

Third, do your homework. You may want to jump in and get started, but you’d be wise to at least think through some of the challenges faced by other entrepreneurs and heed some of their advice. Read a book or two about starting a business. Check out an online course that walks through the stuff you need to know. Or talk to someone who’s done it before. Get into the details. Do your homework.

Having said that, don’t get stuck in the learning trap—thinking you need to read everything, earn your MBA, and figure out all the answers. You’ll never learn it all. Once you’ve got the basics, its time to get to work.

Fourth, make sure you have enough money. We’re not talking about raising venture funding here. This is about having enough to pay the mortgage or make your car payment in the months while you struggle to earn enough money to pay for equipment, advertising, and other business expenses (let alone a salary). Plan on at least six months without income, probably double that.

Fifth, think twice before starting an MLM-style “home-based business.” If you’re required to make monthly minimum purchases in order to have your business, you’re a customer, not a business owner.

In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at some of the basics (in more detail) that you need to consider as you work to complete your resolution to start a business. Until then, you might want to think about creating a logo design as the first step to getting started.

Photo credit: mag3737 via photopin cc

Posted in Advice, How To, Start-ups | Tagged | 1 Comment

Logo Design News This Week (4.46)

It’s Friday again so as usual, we’re taking a quick look back at the news from the world of logo design. The last weeks of the year tend to be a little slow when it comes to new and updated brand designs, so this may be out last update until the new year. We’ll keep an eye on the news and if something big happens, you’ll read about it here. Until then, this is what caught our attention this week.

New York Firefighter 150th LogoWe noticed a couple of New York related logos this week. First the City of New York’s Fire Department is celebrating its 150th birthday next year. And part of the celebration is the launch of a new logo featuring the city’s skyline (this may be one of the first new logos to include the Freedom Tower) and Statue of Liberty. Note the two blue lines shining upward in tribute to the fallen twin towers and the fire fighters who lost their lives on 9/11. A fitting tribute and a nice crest-type logo.



IDNYC LogoThe other Gotham-related logo is for IDNYC, the new identity card for New Yorkers that will be accepted by Police and other government offices as official identification. Plus the card gets you free entry into more than 30 different New York museums, parks, and other cultural institutions. The card is free for residents.

No doubt you heard about the data breach at Sony and the cancellation of the upcoming movie: The Interview. In response to what many people feel is capitulation, someone created this new logo for Sony. Funny.

NYCUA Logo DesignWe saw a bit of bank related logo news this week as well. First the Credit Union Association of New York is changing its name to the New York Credit Union Association. And they got a new logo. This change will make a big difference to anyone who sees the new name. One member of the board says that by putting New York first, they directly communicate what state they represent. Because the old name didn’t make that at all clear. Look, we’re all for updating brands and the logos that represent them, but why not be honest? No one knows who we are and we’re hoping by making a totally insignificant change to our brand that might change. But that’s not likely in our opinion.

Al Rayan Logo DesignThe other new bank logo we spotted was for the formerly named Islamic Bank of Britain which is now called Al Rayan Bank (its Qatari name). The name and logo change come after Al Rayan pumped several million pounds not the bank previously this year. The bank has ambitious plans for growth in the coming year.

We seem to be getting logos in sets of two this week. Let’s look at a couple of news items regarding college logos. First, a couple of weeks ago, we told you that the University of Southern Mississippi was considering two options for the school’s new logo. After some deliberation, the school ignored our advice and selected the traditional eye.

King's College London Logo DesignIn other college related logo news: King’s College London apparently has a new logo that cost something in the neighborhood of £300,000 (roughly $470,000). The new logo was supposed to be released last week, but an internal dispute has delayed the announcement. And when you see the mock-up that Roar had someone familiar with the design create, you’ll understand why. The resulting icon is befuddling. It is a red K with a white L almost superimposed on it, which no one will see. We’re all for hidden elements and double entendres in logo design, but this misses the mark. And at that price!

How about one more college logo: Trinity College in Dublin has updated their’s.

2016 NCAA Final Four Logo DesignEven though its still 16 months away, the NCAA unveiled the new logo for the Final Four (part of the March Madness Tournament) to be held in Houston, April 2016. And, like pretty much every other tournament logo, it is exactly what you would expect. A ball. A couple of color and symbol references to the host city (the star for Texas and the flag colors on the banner). Mix in the NCAA logo, which looks very out of place given its color and some odd shading on the type and you get this. Meh.

The Geek Girls have a first look at the logo for Disney’s live-action Jungle Book movie.

Google Kandinsky Logo DesignEach week we usually end our update with a look at a new Google logo from the previous few days. This week we saw this excellent design celebrating artist Wassily Kandinsky’s 148th birthday. Kandinsky was one of the first truly abstract painters. We first heard of Kandinsky when we saw Will Smith’s Six Degrees of Separation which featured a fictional two-sided painting with angles on one side and circles on the other. Now that would make a great logo.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

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What Katniss Everdeen and Mockingjay Can Teach You about Building Your Brand

You may have read the best-selling Hunger Games trilogy—the story of children forced to fight (and kill) each other in a dystopian society and the rebellion that follows. Or you may have seen one of the popular movies based on the series. They are troubling, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

As entertaining as they are, the books and movies also provide a good lesson on how to build a compelling brand. The rise of Katniss Everdeen from resourceful teenager to “Mocking Jay” and hero of the rebellion holds several great lessons for anyone trying to build a great brand and company.

Here are seven brand building lessons from the Hunger Games to keep in mind:

Mockingjay Pin1. Your Brand Needs a Symbol (Logo).
At the beginning of the story, after she has been chosen as a participant in the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is given a pin fashioned to look like a mocking jay—a bird genetically engineered to sing and repeat any sound it hears. She wears the pin throughout the games. During the games (and the story progresses) the mocking jay comes to represent not just Katniss, but also her defiance of the capital, and the entire rebellion.

Similarly, your brand’s logo comes to represent the products and ideas associated with your product or service. It may not even matter what the symbol is (a bear or wolf symbol would have worked just as well for Katniss). Or how much your logo costs. What matters is that you have a symbol that can be positively associated with your brand.

Don’t believe us that it can be just about anything? Great companies have made use of swooshes, lines, boxes, and dots. They have used cartoon characters and silhouettes. Animal shapes, arrows, and letters. Some have costs as little as $35, others cost millions. All have been successful.

What matters is that there is a symbol and that you use it consistently to represent the ideas associated with your brand. If you need a logo to start building your brand check out our logo design software.

2. Your Brand Needs to Stand for Something.
The Mocking Jay series starts out with Katniss volunteering to take her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games (a brutal competition that pits 24 kids in a days-long death match made for TV). Her only purpose is to save her sister. But as the story goes on, Katniss’ purpose changes and expands. She stands up to the government, defying its will, and before the end of the story, becomes the heroine who represents the rebellion against the police state of Panem.

Your brand story isn’t quite that dramatic, right? But you do need to stand for something. Marketing experts have long taught the principles of positioning—finding an idea that your brand can associate itself with and be known for.

Some examples from a few big brands that have done this well:

• Through consistently brilliant advertising, Volvo came to be associated with “safety”. Whether it was true or not, people thought of those boxy Volvos as a safe choice when buying a car.

• In the 60s and 70s, Avis was a distant second to car rental industry industry leader Hertz. So they embraced the idea that if they were going to earn your business, they would have to try harder than Hertz. The cars would be cleaner. Newer. Less Expensive. They would work harder to please their customers.

• Long before everyone carried their iPods and iPhones in their pockets, Apple embraced the idea that their products weren’t for everybody. They had less than 5% of the computer market. But those who did use them were often artists, designers, and other creative types. So Apple advertised that they were for people who “think different”—an idea many people still associate with the brand, more than a decade after the last ad in the campaign ran.

What does your brand stand for? It can be anything, but if you want to build a great brand, it must be something.

3. Design Matters.
One of the fortunate things that happens to Katniss upon her arrival in the Capital is the assignment of Cinna, a stylist with a flair for great design, to her team. Tributes from District 12 (Katniss’ home) are traditionally dressed as coal minors for their public appearances—a look that is a bit hokey. Rather than play to type, Cinna reimagines the District 12 look into something dazzling and totally unexpected.

Your brand’s design doesn’t have to be over-the-top or expensive. But it should support the ideas your brand stands for. If you brand is cheap or inexpensive, the design should reflect that. If your brand is exclusive, the design should reflect that. Whatever your brand stands for (whimsy, tradition, good taste, delicious, fun, etc), the design of your packaging, website, logo, and other marketing materials should help customers feel it.

4. Your Brand Needs to Get Attention.
Before the games begin, Katniss has an opportunity to perform for the game makers. But they’ve been watching contestants all day, are bored, and are paying more attention to their lavish dinner.

How to get their attention? Katniss pulls out an arrow, aims it toward the crowd gathered around the table, and fires an arrow at the apple stuffed in the roasted pig’s mouth, pinning it against the wall—and shocking the game makers. It works.

When it comes to brands getting attention, you could do worse than these:

Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell• On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell ran an ad in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell (to help reduce the national debt) and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. Readers were outraged. But the stunt got attention: more than 650 print publications and 400 broadcast reports covered the news. This was before anyone on the Internet could point out it was an April Fools Day joke.

• Pepsi filmed taste tests between their cola and Coca-Cola showing customers choosing Pepsi over Coke. It was wildly successful and forced Coke to change their formula in response (in what became one of the biggest marketing disasters of the century, but that’s another story).

• When author Peter Shankman jokingly tweeted that he wanted a porterhouse steak delivered to the Newark airport when he landed, Mortons Steak House delivered. A tuxedoed waiter was waiting for him upon his arrival. Twitter lit up with hundreds of retweets and the story was repeated dozens of times online.

What can you do to get attention for your brand?

5. You May Need to Take A Risk or Two.
Katniss forms an alliance with a very young tribute named Rue, who can’t possibly give her an advantage or any real help in fending off the professionally trained tributes from the richer districts. But it turns out that Rue saves Katniss from those very tributes when she points out a hive of genetically engineered wasps (tracker jackers) which she drops on the competitors, saving her life.

At the End of the first Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta (the other competitor from District 12) have won. But when the rules are changed to force them to fight each other to the death, Katniss suggests they eat the poisonous nightlock berries they had found depriving the Capital of a winner. She hopes that they game makers would rather have two winners than none, though she can’t be sure. The gamble pays off.

Fans of the books and movies can go certainly name other instances where Katniss (or even Peeta) does something that at first appears to be foolish or risky, but pays off in a big way.

What risks can you take to elevate your brand and grow your business?

Back when Starbucks was a tiny one store coffee bean seller, Howard Shultz became convinced that customers would flock to an Italian espresso bar experience, despite the fact that no one had done it before. When the owners of Starbucks rejected his idea, he left and started his own chain of coffee stores called Il Giornale. A year later, when the opportunity arose, he risked everything to buy the Starbucks name and stores (they had grown to six). 21,160 stores and $15 billion later, it would appear the risk paid off.

So what risks do you need to take to move your business to the next level? Is it an unconventional hire? Launch a new product category? Or maybe you need to cut back and focus on your core product? Try a new marketing strategy? What ever it is, building a truly great brand often requires taking significant risks with big potential pay-offs.

6. You Don’t Have to be the Best. But You Do Have to Survive.
Hunger Games VictorsAs the Hunger Games begins, it is obvious that Katniss is out gunned. She’s not trained to fight, she is disliked by the other competitors and her potential sponsors, and she isn’t up for the psychological trauma of the games (not that we blame her). Very few people would pick her to win the games.

But she does have a few skills that help her survive. She is good with a bow and arrow. She is compassionate (at times). And she wants to protect Peeta. She’s not the best contestant to win, but by applying the skills she does have, plus a bit of luck, she does win.

The same lesson is applicable to creating a great brand. The best product doesn’t always win. In the late 70s, Sony developed Betamax, a video recording technology that many believed was far superior to existing VHS tapes. Unfortunately for Sony, competing manufacturers adopted the other standard. Both products went to market, where customers preferred Sony’s competitors over Betamax.

The list of inferior products that have succeeded is long. Most markets have room for more than one competitor, which means several products of differing quality can succeed.

You don’t have to be the best, but you do have to do everything you can to succeed.

7. You Probably Can’t Do It Alone.
Perhaps the biggest lesson from the Hunger Games trilogy is that while one person can make a difference, it takes a lot of teamwork to win. Katniss needs help from Rue and Peeta to win the first games (along with stylists, sponsors, and advisors), and a larger contingent of allies to survive the second. And to challenge the Capital, she needs help from the districts, including the mysterious District 13.

From time to time, brands find it advantageous to work together to promote their mutual interests. This recent commercial from Arby’s is a good example. But it’s not the only one.

Automakers often promote complimentary brands with their cars—things like the brand of tires, satellite radio, or services like OnStar. Department stores often have kiosks or entire departments dedicated to particular brands. Airlines and credit card companies often promote each other. And the list goes on.

The same is true for your brand. To grow your brand and find real success, you’ll need the help of partners, customers, and others on your team. Who can you rely on for help in building your brand and growing your business? Are there products related to yours that you can hitch yourself to or cross-promote?

We’ve made it sound simple—follow these seven ideas and you’ll succeed. It’s not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. It takes a remarkable product, as well as a logo, a purpose, and great design. It requires taking risks and doing everything to survive.

But if you do what Katniss Everdeen does in the Hunger Games, you just might create and grow a remarkable, compelling brand.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.


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9 Quotes for Small Businesses and Startups from Costco Cofounder, James Sinegal

James Sinegal QuotesJames Sinegal cofounded Costco in 1983 and served as the retail chain’s leader and CEO until his retirement (to the board) at the end of 2011. Sinegal grew up in the retail world, starting his career as a grocery bagger where he fell in love and became forever committed to the business.

Sinegal’s business strategy for the top warehouse-club retailer is marked by his voluntarily low salary (compared to other CEOs) while making sure employee compensation was in the top percentile for comparable jobs in the market ($40k annually for legacy cashiers). In general, his business philosophy was to provide high quality at low prices, keep an open door policy throughout all levels of management, and essentially make every decision based on the long game without considering what the short-term gains might be. It worked.

Technology is important and so tends to steal the spotlight, but we don’t want to forget that sometimes the best business advice comes from getting back to the basics of retail strategy. These quotes from Sinegal can easily be applied to any business’s long term strategy:

“The one constant is value. Value is appreciated no matter where you go.”

“If you’re a big-picture guy, you’re not in the picture. Retail is detail.”

“We only have one bullet in our gun: the right product at the right price.”

“I think the biggest single thing that causes difficulty in the business world is the short-term view. We become obsessed with it. But it forces bad decisions.”

“When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors.”

“Paying your employees well is not only the right thing to do but it makes for good business.”

“If you’ve got to work for the rest of your life, you’d better do something you’ll enjoy.”

“In the final analysis, you get what you pay for.”

“You have to take the shit with the sugar.”

—James Sinegal, Co-founder of Costco

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