mjw communications 

A lesson in differentiating your brand from an unlikely Masai village in Tanzania

I recently traveled to Tanzania with a not for profit organization focused on improving the lives of Tanzanian communities by fundraising and building classrooms and other educational infrastructure in the Northeastern part of Tanzania near the Serengeti.  

One of the projects involves the fostering of a bead collective run by Masai women who make elaborate native necklaces and intricate bead works that are then sold to tourists as part of Thomson Safari ‘s regular visit to the collective.

What I was looking for was not only bead work representative of my time in Tanzania and the Masai, but something a bit different I could bring back to friends and family.

On long tables displayed much like a North American flea market, the pieces that stood out were the small beaded baskets that were different from similar baskets.   One had a teacup handle on the side, another had an acorn shaped handle on the lid of the basket and still another had a rather abstract collection of spiky beads ringing the outside of the basket. Imperceptible to the ordinary shopper but to me they stood out as examples of wanting to differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace, when the prices were all the same; hoping to sell more than their counterparts.   Maybe I’m exaggerating one bead workers motive, but as a marketer, it resonated.

A bit of product innovation through a slight change in design, made all the difference and I bought them.

 The same goes for differentiating your brand in a crowded marketplace.  You may offer the same product or service and sales support but what can you deliver that is value added that transcends the similarities. Is it a variation in design? Or the added value in providing useful information that makes your customer’s job easier?  It might just be the little things that make a big difference.


Communication Matters

Trademarks: Making your mark helps set your company apart from the competition

In today’s competitive marketplace businesses may want to consider trade marking their products or services as a way to distinguish their business from their competition.

According to Wikipedia, a trade mark, is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business, organization or other legal entity to identify products or services to consumers and indicates the trademark originates from a unique source.  It is also used to distinguish products or services from those of other entities.
I recently explored this concept with two of my clients. One I suggested applying for a trademark to protect a process related to a training approach.  The other, a phrase that can be used to distinguish the way the company promotes its services as a specialist. In both cases, a trademark will give the company an added advantage –it can be used in promotional materials and prevent competitors from using the symbol, phrase or work and most importantly set the company apart for its competitors.

According to lawyer, Michelle Wassenaar, an international Trademark and Intellectual Property lawyer at Johnston Wassenaar, “It can be very effective to register a trade-mark since it gives the owner the exclusive right to use the trade-mark across Canada.”

A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo or symbol or a combination.  It may be designated by the following symbols:

The process starts with researching whether the trademark is registered; if it’s not then an application is made for a registered trademark.  “ When a company makes application for a registered trade mark (or simply decides that they have a common law trade-mark), they can use the symbol ™ “ says Michelle Wassenaar “ and when an application is registered, which typically takes about 2 years, then the ® symbol can be applied. “

Rewards & Recognition Celebrate Successes! Employee Recognition Programs can boost employee productivity by 15-25%

Letters of praise, commemorative plaques, the branded coffee mug – may not appear to be of value to employees, but when it comes time to clean up or de-clutter our offices or homes, these items are generally among the treasures we salvage. It’s a fact that we all value and need recognition for a job well done.

So powerful are employee recognition programs that a planned consistent program can actually boost employee productivity by between 15-25 per cent.

Just as interesting, studies indicate that companies with a strong internal communications focus increase morale, employee retention, productivity and profits. Just think, then, how powerful a planned consistent and well-communicated recognition program can be. Communications plays a significant role in all three key elements in building a recognition program- monetary and non-monetary reward, openly praising employees and communicating and celebrating successes.

Imagine if your birthday wasn’t acknowledged by your closest friends or not celebrated. It’s the same with employee rewards and recognition.

A job well done must be openly praised and recognized in a timely way to have impact. Off-site meetings are excellent venues to share successes and recognition. So are staff meetings, emails, a personal letter of thank you from the CEO along with recognition in an employee newsletter, a special parking space designated for the ‘employee of the month’ and of course that plaque presented in a public forum are all visible non-monetary ways to recognize employee contributions. Some awards, such as a citizenship award for example, may warrant mention in the local community newspaper.

Middle market companies may overlook rewards and recognition as a significant part of employee communications. However, while large companies have entire departments devoted to employee communications, some middle market companies may overlook the importance of communicating effectively with employees when it comes to sharing the company vision, or latest strategy.

This is also common with employee rewards and recognition programs. When reviewing various tactics used by a mid-sized company to show recognition, the CEO expressed frustration that the employees took the programs for granted and accepted them as part of their due, when the real reason was that the company programs were ad hoc and had not been packaged or communicated as part of an overall planned and consistent program.

Involve employees in the development of the program.

If you want your employees to share in the excitement of your company and become motivated, involve employees from the programs inception and include representatives from all employee groups on a planning team. If your program is up and running, involve employees in reviewing your process, that way employees not only provide feedback and insight into the development of a program, but become goodwill ambassadors of the program relaying company messages back to the workplace. Brand your recognition programs.

One newly merged national company that wanted to encourage a new entrepreneurial approach among its store managers, created an Academy Awards type celebration evening and awards program. It used a catchy and meaningful name for the awards not only for the awards, but also to characterize its top performers. Now the branded name has become synonymous with excellence and the employees as leaders. A prominent location on the main floor of the head office also displays the award trophies and names of the winners.

So when planning your recognition program, keep in mind that even long after that letter or plaque from the boss or team leader has been misplaced, the memory of where and how that message of praise was celebrated and recognized will be strong.