Tag Archives: messages

Website-less in Cyberspace

Branding and Your Website

Labrador has no website Since 1993, there has been a small and steady footwear manufacturer in Zemun whose rise to recognition has been less than meteoric. It is a boutique shoemaker, designing for both men and women, and bringing out new and interesting models each season. Reasonably priced and attractive, this brand should be taking the country, the region, and maybe even the world by storm.

But you will not find them on the web.

Labrador Shoes. Ask anyone around me and you will see that I have been puzzling about this brand for at least two years. I am puzzled by the strategy. I am puzzled by the existence of a website address that has nothing behind it (for at least two years). Worse still, it also shows a Wrong websiteweb address that belongs to another company! I am puzzled by the shoemaker’s ambitions and goals. Are they only interested in Belgrade? Only Serbia? Is there a reason? All things that this inquiring mind wants to know.

Labrador has a Facebook page, adorned with lovely photos of the shoes, listing retail outlets, but not referring us to any kind of headquarters. Perhaps they have the market they want. Perhaps they are happy with organic growth – after all, they have been in business now for 24 years even if I only discovered them relatively recently. Clearly, there is a reason for it. I would very much like to understand it.

It makes me think a lot more about the nature of today’s brand and business environments. There was a day when having a shop on Main Street was your ticket in. You opened your doors, you had a listing in the Yellow Pages, you perhaps took out a few ads in local papers, and Voilà! You’re a brand!


In those days, no one could imagine a low-cost vehicle that placed you immediately in front of the entire known world. Dependence on word-of-mouth was high and, if supplemented by advertising, would be just about all you could do to get your brand out there and understood. Brands were built more slowly before the Internet: people grew to love them over time, with experience, and by testimonials.

Fast-forward to today, however, and the story is completely different. People use the web as a first resource in learning about products and brands, and even people. How many times has someone mentioned a name in a meeting and you have Googled them? Or checked them out on LinkedIn? We have developed an info-reflex that we trust more than our own brains and memories.

In this environment, it is a mystery to me how a company like Labrador – ostensibly a brand that wants to sell and wants to win hearts and minds – can be happy not having a working website.

Sine Qua Non

The reality is that a website is all but indispensible. You may not use it to sell your brand online, but it is a showcase for your brand and its messages. All the stories, the values, and the character of your brand can come out of your website. It encompasses all the value of word-of-mouth marketing in one place.

From the days before a websiteVery importantly, having a website is a legitimizer. A company without a website will not be taken as seriously as one that does. A business that only uses social media could be regarded as “cheap” or untrustworthy. Just like the Yellow Pages once was, when you can set up a website for the price of a good meal, it makes people wonder why you do not have one.

But a word of warning – your website must also be good. Since everyone else is out there online, you have to cut through the dross of bad content and poor resolution photos. You must make your website into your Brand Ambassador, always dressed for the occasion. Writing for the Entrepreneur, Tim Knox puts it nicely:

“It’s actually better to have no website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, ‘Hey, look, we take our business so seriously that we have created this wonderful site for our customers!’ or it screams, ‘Hey, look, I let my 10-year-old nephew design my site. Good luck finding anything!’”

– Tim W. Knox, Entrepreneur

Cyberspace, once a word reserved for Sci-fi films, is now the place where our businesses live. We owe it to ourselves and our brands to give them life and fill them with everything necessary to get to know us.

Being without a website in cyberspace is just not an option.





Branding and Blind Spots

While knowing the unknown may not be possible, it is certainly possible to imagine the unthinkable.


You have a new brand.

You are engaged in the production of Stuff for which you made an Investment. The Stuff you make requires a huge production Staff and a Factory. The Distribution of the Stuff requires a whole bunch of Trucks. The Sale of the Stuff requires a raft of salespeople traversing the country.

Stuff. Investment. Staff. Factory. Distribution. Trucks. Sales.

These are key messages that Stuff Inc. would like to communicate to the world at large and its stakeholder base about your brand. The Stuff you make is needed by many, desired by all, and you can talk about your commitment to manufacturing, your level of investment, your employment contribution and your efficiency in getting it on the shelves so consumers may buy it at a reasonable price. Nothing but good news here.

But the real story is the one that is sitting in your blind spot.

A blind spot is a point in the human eye where visual information is missing. Normally, the brain compensates for this spot by filling in information from the other eye or from the imagination. Therefore, when you merely look at something, you cannot be sure that what you “see” is exactly what there is. These blind spots are known as “scotomata” – and everybody has them.

By the same token, a company is made up of individual humans, each with a brace of human eyes and a collection of bigger and smaller scotomata. When you are preparing to deliver your Good News to the waiting stakeholders, you must ask yourself – what am I not seeing?

Perhaps your Stuff has harmful side effects. Maybe the Investment you made has been mismanaged. Your Staff may not be uniformly happy. Your Distribution may break down in certain parts of the country. Your Trucks burn dirty fuel. And your Salespeople may be chronic liars….

Out of SightShelfTutorial15

Getting the Good News to stakeholders is not a simple task. They will always see your situation from a different perspective. Some of them will want to shine a light into your blind spots and reveal aspects of your business that you have not discussed. This is where communications in companies goes astray. In fact, and in many instances, we are not taking about deliberate deception on your part. This is really a case of others seeing what you cannot.

A sound brand strategy relies on your ability to see the full picture – no dark shadows, no blind spots, no unexplored regions. As a result, many companies who know this may choose voluntarily not to communicate at all rather than run the risk of having something come to light that they may have overlooked.

This is, in my view, a mistaken approach. The fact remains that we can never have 100 percent certainty that we covered all the angles. We may have turned the chess board around several times and still not see the pawn which is about to corner our king.

Knowing the Unknown

By deliberately holding back and saying nothing out of fear, you are also sending a message about Stuff Inc., your nice little company with its nice little story, which tells stakeholders that you may really have something to hide.

If you choose to communicate, your job is simply to explore these possible dark corners, to create What-If scenarios to cover your blind spots. In this case, having an outside view will help apply a new set of eyes – colder and more objective eyes – to try to poke holes in your story. Your consultant, like your doctor, will make a full diagnosis and attempt to see everything before writing any prescription.

While knowing the unknown may not be possible, it is certainly possible to imagine the unthinkable. In this way, you can tell the world about the Stuff that you produce, how you do it, and what benefits it brings. Your blind spots are still there and still essentially dark, but by careful thinking you can be ready to explore them with the stakeholders and keep your nice story about your new business intact.