Category Archives: Branding

Life Is Good: How To Live With Purpose & Enjoy The Ride!

The authors of the Life Is Good book (and founders of the Life Is Good company), Bert and John Jacobs, grew up in my hometown of Needham.  They lived across the street from the Cricket Playground where we spent summers playing kickball, singing silly songs, and playing games in the field house on rainy days.  While I didn’t know the whole family, I knew Bert, who was close to my age – and I knew they had a big family and came from rather humble beginnings.

We all know what a great company Life Is Good (LIG) became, and many of us (myself included) own Life Is Good hats, t-shirts or other products sporting the image of “Jake” with his infectious orange-slice smile.  What a treat it was for me to read this book and learn the details behind the story of 2 college grads who sold t-shirts out of their van (named “The Enterprise”) and grew LIG into a $100 million company!

Viewing this story through my professional lens, I am impressed by the mission of Life Is Good — “to spread the power of optimism.”  What a refreshing change from all the negativity in the world right now.  I was also struck how these brothers remained true to their values through the ups and downs of growing a business and created a corporate culture that many organizations would love to have.

Reading this blog is no substitute for reading the book, but let me whet your appetite with an overview of their sage advice, linked to their “10 superpowers”:

  1.  Openness.  Be open to new ideas and experiences; changing up your routine and your physical surroundings will open your mind to fresh perspectives.  Adopt the rule of “yes, and…” used by improv comedians.  In short:  when you are brainstorming and collaborating, accept and build on each other’s ideas rather than “brainstomping” with the word “no.”
  2. Courage.  Challenges and adversity, self-doubt, skeptics – those barriers will always be there.  Don’t be afraid to fail forward, then adjust and move on.  Have the courage to try new things.  Heed hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s advice:  “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”
  3. Simplicity Say “yes” to the things that really matter and “no” to the rest.  Unplug.  Hit the “reset button” with yoga, meditation, fresh air, laughter and time with friends.  When these two brothers found they were becoming slaves to email, they made the bold move of dropping their email accounts and letting their team at Life Is Good prioritize and summarize the most important communication for them.  The result? Increased productivity and the freedom to focus on what is really important.
  4. HumorHumor is the great equalizer, according to Bert and John, and they have all the right instincts when it comes to creating a fun, productive work environment at LIG.  “When management is willing to let their guard down and laugh openly, especially at themselves, it invites others to do the same,” they said.  Humor leads to more unity and productivity in the workplace…and it is healthy to laugh!  Bert and John tell a great story of landing the Galyan’s account (later acquired by Dick’s Sporting Goods) before they had money to “wine and dine” – so they invited the Galyan executives to their small Boston apartment for a Ragu and pasta dinner.  In the end, it was the laughter around that dinner table that led to the long-term business relationship – and helped take the LIG brand national.
  5. GratitudeSee the glass as half-full, not half-empty.  Being grateful is a mindset:  change your mindset from “I have to” to “I get to.”  It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of the Jacobs brothers, because it showcases the superpowers of simplicity, love, humor and gratitude – but their advice is, “don’t limit gratitude to just one day.  Take time every day to express your gratitude to others.”
  6. Fun.  Bert and John point to Dr. Seuss as a great example of someone who brought the power of fun to the task of reading – and changed the lives of teachers, parents and students as a result. “Fun is not a dessert reserved for special occasions; it’s a healthy party of the main course.”  The company commitment to fun resulted in the birth of their Life Is Good Festivals; their “Backyard Athlete” competition at Fenway Park (featuring games ranging from seed-spitting to Wiffle ball home run derby); and their partnership with Camp Sunshine, an organization that offers vacation retreats and other forms of support for sick children and their families.  In 2006 on the Boston Common, LIG teamed up with Camp Sunshine to gather 30,128 pumpkins in one place – breaking a world record and raising over $500,000 for Camp Sunshine.
  7. Compassion. Kids are the ultimate optimists and the inspiration for the LIG brand, so they are a natural fit for LIG’s charitable giving – thus, the decision was made to donate 10% of the company’s annual profits to helping kids in need.  When friend Steve Gross started the nonprofit Project Joy, focusing on the social and emotional health of Boston’s most vulnerable children, Bert and John were “in.”  Eventually Project Joy pivoted to “helping the helpers” by providing training and care for frontline caregivers.  The partnership grew tighter and eventually, the Life Is Good Kids Foundation absorbed Project Joy, renaming it The Playmakers and placing their offices in the center of LIG’s headquarters in Boston.  Two takeaways relative to compassion:  1) compassion begins with kindness to yourself.  2) Adopt a “just like me” mindset to help break down barriers and find common ground and resolution. 
  8. Creativity.  According to Albert Einstein, “creativity is intelligence having fun.”  Decorate your home or work space with colors that lift your mood and inventiveness (a favorite quote from the book: “Who wouldn’t cancel a full day with beige to go to a meeting with green or a party with yellow?”.  Physically explore your world to find inspiration – “exploreate”.  Choose any subject you love – read about it, listen to information about it and do something related to that subject.  Lastly, don’t keep creativity to yourself – invite others to join you.  Connect, collaborate and create.
  9. Authenticity“Be yourself; everyone else is taken” (Oscar Wilde).  Bert and John’s definition of branding?  “Know who you are and act like it.”  Understand that customers build your brand. “It’s not rocket science; we listen and try to deliver what people want.”  When you screw up, admit it – people appreciate honesty.  Don’t be afraid to take a stand, or to make a decision based on what feels authentic to you.  Tell your “heritage story” by sharing what’s different and special about your company and your products; people appreciate companies, and individuals, that are real.
  10.  Love.  Bert and John compel us to “spread love like peanut butter.”  The more you share your love, the more you connect with the people you love and the richer your life will be.  Think about the strength of love during the Boston Marathon bombings.  As a direct reaction to that horrific act of hate in 2013, millions of people performed acts of love; and this inspired LIG to create their “BOSTON:  Nothing Is Stronger Than Love” t-shirt.  The Boston LOVE shirt became their best seller, generating over a half of a million dollars in profit (and in their own act of love, the company donated every penny to The One Fund, established to help the victims and their families). 

Here’s a question:  what superpowers do you have and which ones do you want to work on?  For further inspiration, learn more about this innovative company and its founders at www.lifeisgood.com.  And for heaven’s sake, read the book!

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is Senior Counsel and Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral PR and management consulting firm based in the Seacoast. For more information about JJ&W, visit www.jjwpr.com or contact Robin at rschell@jjwpr.com.

Stand Out From The Crowd: Research-Based Branding

My colleague Jayme Simoes and I had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of branding twice recently, first at the NH Nonprofits Conference and Expo and again at PRSA’s Northeast District Conference, NEXPRSA, in Providence, R.I.

Here are a few highlights:

  1. A brand is a space in the mind.  It’s more than a logo or a tagline; a brand is about the feelings and perceptions you stimulate when both internal and external audiences hear your name.
  2. Research is key to the process; it can help you test words, phrases and visuals before you roll out your branding campaign; create a baseline for measuring your success and provide an opportunity for a mid-campaign check with key stakeholder groups to see if messages are resonating with them.
  3. Articulate your U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition) in your mission statement.  Does your mission statement differentiate you from your competitors, or is it so “plain vanilla” that it could belong to anyone?
  4. Think strategically before you rebrand.  There are plenty of “triggering events” that may cause you to consider a rebrand (e.g. merging with another organization, expanding or changing the products and services you offer or even an upcoming milestone anniversary).  If you’re well-known and easily recognized, though, there’s no need to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” … a refresh of your brand may be enough.  For the “serial rebranders” – you may be doing more harm than good by confusing your customers.
  5. How effective are your brand ambassadors?  Is everyone in your internal family speaking with One Clear Voice?  Take the “elevator speech” test – select any 3-5 people in your organization and ask them, independently, to describe what your organization does.  Are they hitting on your key message points consistently?

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel and Partner Jackson Jackson & Wagner , 603/770-3607 or rschell@jjwpr.com

The Art & Science of Behavioral PR Research: Effective Strategies For Measuring Outcomes and ROI

I’m delighted to be visiting the PRSA Tucson chapter this spring to talk about “The Art & Science of Behavioral PR Research:  Effective Strategies For Measuring Outcomes and Return On Investment”.  To give you a sense of what I’ll be talking about on April 23rd, read on!

Choosing the right strategies (for example, using the best methodologies for collecting data you need from the right target audiences) and asking the right questions the right way will insure that you are on a productive path to getting the information you need.  In many cases, your best measure of success will be the behavioral outcomes you achieve as a result of your researched-based campaign.  For example, if your goal was to increase membership by 30% this past year, you can measure your success by the numbers – you either hit that target, or you didn’t.  If the proposal for a new Walmart is accepted by your town – and you are Walmart – that is a measure of success.

A few things to keep in mind when designing and collecting research data:

  1.  Use creativity in your data collection strategies.  To get feedback on the newsletter at a national laboratory we counseled, we polled employees passing through the on-site cafeteria – which is where most people grab a copy to read at lunch.  To test perceptions and barriers to purchasing beer, we stood by beer cases in select stores and waited for the customer to put their hand on the beer they planned to purchase before asking questions about why they made their choice.  Think about your target audience and the best way (as well as the best time) — to capture their feedback.
  2. Ask the right questions.  Finding out if a potential customer is aware of your product or service is a good first step, but don’t you want to go deeper to find out their behaviors around that product or service?  Would they recommend it to others?  Have they done so in the past?   How likely are they to try an upgraded version of the product or service at a slightly higher cost?  Why or why wouldn’t they do that? 
  3. Ask your questions the right way.  Avoid biased or “leading” questions.  Vary your scales to make the respondent really think about the answers, in order to avoid “auto-response” and the tendency to check the same number of the scale for every question.  Include some “open-ended” questions to get valuable data about the “why” behind the question.  Anticipate the cross-tabulations you’ll want before you finalize the survey.
  4. Choose methodologies with a double purpose.  Research can be an opportunity to educate as well as measure.  To get a handle on the energy-saving behaviors customers were doing now and would consider in the future, we asked about everything from unplugging appliances when they were not in use to buying LED light bulbs to purchasing solar panels.  When helping a public health network identify behaviors around preventing Lyme disease, we used a “pre” and “post” test to measure the jump in knowledge levels and likely behaviors as a result of a presentation on that topic.
     

For more information about behavior-based research, register for “The Art and Science of Behavioral PR Research:  Effective Strategies For Measuring Outcomes and ROI” sponsored by the Tucson PRSA Chapter on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.  For more information about Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA or Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit www.jjwpr.com or email Robin at rschell@jjwpr.com.

Changing Behaviors On Concussion Treatment Through “Chalk Talk”

The "4 Steps To Public Behavior Change"  by Jim Grunig, Harold Mendelsohn, Brenda Darvin,  Max McCombs and other behavior change specialists laid out a path of action that has been used with great success by such efforts as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), smoking cessation programs and others.  Now it has been applied to the problem of concussions and learning. 

The Brain Injury Association of NH (BIANH), in cooperation with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS), has developed a pilot program called “Chalk Talk” for returning students with concussions to the classroom with the same care taken that they would use to return them to the playing field.

For the past 3 years, BIANH representatives have worked with Concussion Management Teams at 9 high schools and two middle schools to establish a protocol that involves baseline testing before a concussion occurs, and careful monitoring to ease them back into their academic schedule to allow the brain time to recover.

“Instead of sending the student home for 2 weeks, where the temptation to watch TV and use electronics is high, the student recovers under the careful guidance of a team of school professionals.  This may include time out of the classroom in a specially designed location to address issues of fatigue or sensitivities to light or sound,” says Lynne Fleming, Program Coordinator. “It’s a team approach, and the school nurse, athletic trainer, teachers, parents, guidance counselors and Dartmouth Hitchcock’s pediatric neuropsychologists are all evaluating the student’s progress.  They are monitored and given a reduced work load, so they are only sent back to a full schedule of classes when they are ready.”

In addition to comparing post-concussion data with baseline data, parents, teachers and nurses are asked to complete forms to evaluate the student’s progress on a daily basis.  “Having the expertise of a trained pediatric neuropsychologist is key,” says Steve Wade, Executive Director.  “We were fortunate to receive a 5-year ACL (Administrators for Community Living) grant, much of which is used to pay the pediatric neuropsychologists for consulting to the education team.”

In 2012, NH Governor John Lynch signed SB402, otherwise known as “return to play” legislation.  This bill gave schools clear guidelines on returning a student to the playing field after they had sustained a concussion.  Now the BIANH is considering legislation for RLT or “return to learn” to take the protocols developed in Chalk Talk one step further.  “There are 7 states out there with Return to Learn legislation,” says Executive Director Steve Wade, “and we are in the process of studying how it has been implemented elsewhere.  We plan to talk with opinion leaders on the topic of brain injury here in NH about the merits of similar legislation here.”

So the 4 steps to public behavior change,  was ideal for successfully asking for Return to Learn legislation.

The 4 Steps In Action:

Step 1 developed a coalition campaign to educate the public that a concussion is a brain injury and it is critical not to overtax the brain while it is in recovery mode.  This involves identifying opinion leaders on the topic, getting them to recognize the problem and how they could be affected, and giving them opportunities to address the problem (by serving on concussion team task forces, advocating the proper treatment of concussed students, advocating legislation etc.).

Step 2, enforcement, or establishing laws or guidelines that would mandate the behavior change –is where Return to Learn legislation would come in .

Step 3, engineering, or enacting a structural change to work around the situation is what  BIANH has done with the creation of the Chalk Talk program and system for evaluating progress.

Step 4,  social reinforcement –is where the behavior becomes a socially-acceptable norm, and social rewards and punishment take over the job of enforcing it.  Ideally, in the future, every school will have a protocol for returning a student to the classroom after a concussion.   Just as we have learned we need to protect the developing brain from re-injury on the playing field, we now know we need to reduce cognitive demands in the classroom in order to give the brain time to heal.