Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Leveraging Your Personal Brand and Your Business

An individual officially becomes a celebrity when people know you and you don’t know them. You are a personal brand. There really isn’t much of a difference between people and business. In fact, personal brands often last longer than companies do.
As internet sales of Senorita Limonita began, I was leveraging myself straight into the spotlight at networking events every night of the week. Other days were filled with product tastings at Arizona Farmer’s Markets along with a variety of special events throughout the Phoenix Valley. I started being featured in radio shows and publications while my internet presence continue to grow.
In order to propel a brand to success, It’s important to partner with successful people. I had teamed up with Catherine Cross and Bob Anderson of Ujena Swimwear with the intention of creating a long-term business legacy along with Senorita Limonita. I noticed that an internet search of the  word Limonita Bikini netted pages and pages of models in sunshine yellow bikinis.
Needing to capitalize on this phenomenon, something needed to change in the nature of my personal appearances. I placed a phone call to Catherine to bounce some ideas off of her. I told her I needed something appropriate to wear at the events I was attending, and that it needed to be created in the sunshine yellow color that I had branded.  A popular Ujena catalog item at the time was a very sleek and sexy little number called the Red Carpet Dress. When Catherine made the suggestion that Ujena produce that same dress for me in the same sunshine yellow color and material as Senorita’s bikini, the decision was made. After all, I wanted my personal brand to be professional and polished. I was on a mission and willing to do things in an unconventional way, unaware that I was indigenously turning myself into a celebrity.
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Two weeks later, I received that amazing dress in the mail. I wear it to every single personal appearance I attend. Believe me when I say that bold color makes me stand out in a room!
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
~George Bernhard Shaw

Define your brand and don’t be afraid to set the trends. Be prepared that what you start out with doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you will end up. Remain true to yourself and remember that your unique selling proposition separates you from the crowd. Being confident and owning what you do, no matter the opinion of others, is a character of leadership which will lead to business success. Having a unique selling proposition can bring your status up from from regular person to celebrity. Senorita Limonita and I became our own unique selling proposition and brand definition, and we continue to have FUN doing it!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Business Trademark Journey

A trademark is a distinctive word, name, phrase, symbol, design, or other device used by a company or person to distinguish its products or services from those  of other companies.Trademarks are basically brands, and must be protected by securing the associated trademark rights.
A logo is a type of trademark that consists of a design that is generally used by company or person and placed on its products or printed material related to its services. The logo may be a design by itself, a design with letters or words, or a design consisting simply of stylized words or letters.
“A great trademark is appropriate, dynamic, distinctive, memorable and unique.~Primo Angeli
I made the decision to name the product Limonita, as believed it carried an air of mystery to the name. Does it contains lemons, limes or limons? I wanted to keep the consumer guessing. The first step I took was making certain that no one else was using the word Limonita by performing an internet trademark search of the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. I discovered it was not being used, so I proceeded on the design. I made the decision to create my own font so that I did not have to pay any kind of royalty fees for the use of someone else’s typeface. I wanted the Limonita letters to be tropical, relaxed and fun! The accent marks were created to appeal to the Hispanic market and Spanish cultures throughout the globe. The “O” is actually a coconut, a subtle inference of possible product ingredients.
One the Limonita logo was completed, I wanted to take the proper steps to make certain that I secured the trademark rights to that logo. I began the application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although my goal was to eventually secure a worldwide trademark, I was planning on doing business throughout the United States initially, so I figured this was the way to go.
I knew that trademark applications can be rather complicated and subject to esoteric procedures and rules, and was prepared to wait up to 18 months for the approval.
Four months after the submission, I received a letter from USPTO stating a conflict of interest. Apparently, there was a company in Florida that trademarked the word Limonrita about five years earlier. Although their trademark was for a product that contained alcohol and they were not even using it, my logo was kicked out of the trademark process. I attempted to contact the company’s attorneys to see if I could purchase it, but no one returned my calls.
Not knowing what to do at that point, I contacted a trademark attorney. After describing my situation, the attorney said, “Debbi, gather up some friends, get yourself a Scrabble board and come up with a new name.” He said, “Look at Apple, what’s that got to do with it?” I pondered his suggestion and said, “You know what? Something strange has taken place. I call the drink Limonita because it’s short and sounds fun. However, everyone I know is calling the drink Senorita Limonita because of the character I developed. I thought maybe it was too long, but everyone seems to love it. What if I trademark the words Senorita Limonita along with the character in full color?” He said, “I believe that will work.”

The only other bump in the road on the trademark journey was that I specifically had to identify some of the bright colors in the logo, particularly the sunshine yellow bikini. I did so utilizing the Pantone Matching System. Once I did that, Senorita Limonita officially became a trademark logo. The process took a year and a half, but she was clearly on her way to becoming an amazing icon!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Color is Key to Brand Recognition

The psychology of color as it relates to persuasion is one of the most interesting aspects of marketing.
I was on a mission to create a label that set my product apart from anything that was on the shelf. I believed I could accomplish this not only with an interesting and intriguing character, but with the use of color. Those colors would speak powerful, convincing words to my customers.
The bright yellow bikini and sun in the sky would invoke happiness, while the blue of the water would represent peace, tranquility and escape from the stress of our lives. The green leaves represent power, nature and health - appropriate because Senorita Limonita promotes a lifetime of health, fitness and a cocktail mix that contains ingredients that are healthy and give you energy!

Orange is bright and peppy like her unique personality. Purple, often linked to respect and wisdom, strongly promotes a sense of creativity and stimulates problem solving - an essential element since Senorita Limonita solves two of the biggest consumer complaints about margarita mixes in the market.
In a unique, solid way, color offers an instantaneous method for conveying meaning and message without the use of words. For a business to effectively own a color, can provide it with a tremendous competitive advantage. Achieving instant recognition without a logo or even the mention of the name is the power of color done right.
Colors have a significant impact on people’s emotional state, and can increase the brand’s recognition up to 80%. Research has reinforced that 60% of the time people will decide if they are attracted or not to a message simply based on the color alone!
Normally it is a difficult task to select a color to represent your business. It’s not an easy process to determine how a color will affect you brand knowing that those colors are most effective when consumers believe that the brand’s color “fits” that brand.
I was completely unaware when I created Senorita Limonita’s playful character and bright yellow bikini that I would be branding the color sunshine yellow, nor was I aware that it is proven to catch the eye quicker than any other color. I am very pleased to watch this development and to know how perfect it is for a product that is all about fun! This phenomena simply happened.
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I embarked on a new awareness - a lifestyle that is all about YELLOW. I witness yellow everywhere I go. Yellow helicopters often fly by as well as yellow motorcycles, cars and trucks driving by. One time, I was walking on a sidewalk and a yellow balloon dropped out of a tree right before me! I knew I was on the right path!
“Brands are born, not created.” ~ Jane Lauder
Target has red, Barbie has pink, John Deere has green, and Senorita Limonita has Sunshine Yellow - the color of happiness!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Creating a Brand That People Trust

When marketing a product, I knew that I needed to create a brand that people recognized and wanted to know more about. A brand is your company and product "identity." It is how consumers perceive your products and, ultimately, buy!
Through advertising and marketing, it has always been my goal to educate, entice and compel consumers to purchase Senorita Limonita’s amazing new drink product. With so many cocktail mixes on the market, I knew it wasn’t just about the fact that it had amazing flavor! The label and the look of Senorita Limonita had to be like nothing else that was on the shelf.

“One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.” ~Lewis Carroll

I also knew in creating a company brand, that I had to clearly list the benefits. The secret to a great brand is one that solves a consumer complaint. Senorita Limonita solves TWO of the biggest consumer complaints about margaritas on the market.
  1. Many consumers will not drink margaritas because it gives them heartburn. A healthy blend of sugar and acidity, Senorita Limonita DOES NOT give you heartburn. Those who LOVE margaritas but can’t deal with acid reflux now have a choice!
  2. Many consumers complain that margaritas are too sugary sweet. Senorita Limonita does not contain ANY high fructose corn syrup. The flavor is very smooth!
Branding, advertising and event promotion make up the essential components of any successful marketing campaign for a product like mine. I was networking, asking questions and learning as much as I could from every individual that I communicated with. Determined to develop a strong brand that people trusted, I continued to engage in social media. To my surprise, I started getting requests from all over the world. “Where can I buy this product in Italy?” “ Where can I get Senorita Limonita in Australia?
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It was at those moments that I realized I had a definite purpose - I had to get Senorita Limonita to the planet!
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History was being made as I received my first product run of Senorita Limonita. You could not surgically remove the smile from my face as I accepted the delivery of the first three product pallets! I was excited about this tremendous step forward in making a difference in people’s lives.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Uniquely Defining Your Iconic Brand

Entrepreneurship is a challenging game. The road to business success, both online and offline, is a long and bumpy one. I was even prepared to be hit by a Mack truck or two. The truth is, once you decide to leave the safety net of your day job to build your own business, you are stepping onto a crazy rollercoaster ride. I could certainly identify with this, since I had already manifested myself into my fictional character Senorita Limonita, become a bikini model and a runner. I was about to experience the next step of my journey.
“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”  - Richard Branson
On the tip of Baja’s Western Peninsula lies an area known as Two Seas, One Paradise. It is a magical place where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez unite. There is a 20 mile coastal corridor that links two picture perfect towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.  It is also home to the Arch at Lands End, an amazing natural rock formation where the ocean meets the sea.
Ujena Jam’s next scheduled event was a golf tournament, and it was mandatory that all participating bikini models don a stunning pink outfit and assist the golfers in making that putt!  It is a pin girl’s responsibility to tend or remove the pin while the golfer is putting. Pins need to be tended when the ball is in such a location that golfers have trouble seeing the hole. To tend a pin, one must stand with one hand on it, and be prepared to remove the pin after the putt has been made. If the ball is close enough to the hole so the golfer can see it while putting, the pin can be removed right away.
I continued the feeling of maneuvering the road to success as I witnessed swing by swing. The combination of sea, sunshine, mountains, coupled with immaculate fairways and greens took my breath away! For the first time, I became a pin girl!
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Every day of my experience with the Ujena Bikini Jam was filled with adventure, and I reveled in the manner in which Senorita Limonita was brought to life! The Jam managed to uniquely define her iconic brand by this particular moment of notoriety.
As crazy as my story seems, it is these type of accounts that are relevant today to understanding the intricacies of corporate life as such events occur.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Experiences Can Make Your Business Thrive!

Being in business teaches a person not only how to act and what makes them thrive and flounder, but to see what trouble they can get into if left to their own devices. It’s certainly amazing to experience!

The days at the Ujena Bikini Jam were filled with photo shoots taken at the hotel, exotic beaches and the streets of Cabo San Lucas. Of course, no event is complete without parties. The Ujena Bikini Jam included an Opening Night Celebration, Clubkini Party, Costume Party and an Awards Celebration on the final night!

I was having a wonderful time meeting people from different countries and different places.  I served drinks, promoted the Limonita cocktail mix and was proud to debut the sunshine yellow Limonita bikini at this prestigious event!
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Then came the night of the Maxim Bisbee’s Clubkini Party. I asked, “What’s that?” I was first informed that there exists a Mexican version of Maxim magazine and that they would be present. I said “What’s Bisbee other than a mining town in Arizona?” They looked at me as if I should know better and said, “Debbi, it’s the largest sport fishing tournament in the world!”
The official name is Bisbee’s Black & Blue Marlin Tournament. In the evenings, I gazed out at the horizon with the setting sun’s reflection in the water, and counted over 100 fishing yachts at a given time cruising into Cabo after their day’s catch. Thousands of people crowded the marina walkways to watch huge fish being weighed in at the scales in front of the world famous Puerto Paraiso Entertainment Plaza. It is amazing to watch the individual boats unload as many as 50-100 beautiful, colorful fish in all shapes and sizes.
The role of the bikini models that evening was to go to a club in downtown Cabo San Lucas  Our instructions were to wear a Ujena bikini top and our choice of skirt, pants, or shorts.  Of course, Senorita Limonita wore her signature sunshine yellow top and thought, “This will be easy. I can do this!”  All I have to do is walk around and talk to people.
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” -Sara Blakely
We were 30 models on a bus on the way to the club, when something unexpected happened. It was announced that, “Oh, while we are there tonight, we are going to do a RUNWAY!” I thought, oh my god, I don’t know how to do this! I didn’t feel quite as bad when I found out that none of the other models had done a runway either. They said you’re bikini model or you’re a runway model, you don’t do both. Thank goodness they weren’t in their comfort zone either!
I gazed around the corner from the dressing room at an LED interactive dance floor in the center of the club. Our role was to go to all four corners and stop, then go the center to stop twice and pose. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone but, like the others, it was was something we had to do.  The lively streets of Cabo San Lucas were filled with people that were there to party, and the club was packed to capacity! Photography cameras were flashing and film cameras were rolling. What transpired could pretty much be described as organized chaos full of hard-core excitement!
All the while I kept realizing that not only had I become my fictional character Senorita Limonita, but I was a bikini model, a runner, and now a runway model!  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I was definitely along for the ride in the development of my brand!

Monday, November 21, 2016

When You Compete, You Gain More Than You Lose!

The Ujena Bikini Jam is all about FUN! This amazing program is packed with activities to put participants at ease and to promote a healthy, active lifestyle. Not surprising with founder Bob Anderson’s background as a runner. All competing models are required to run in a race adding a much needed component of fitness into an industry plagued by substance and diet abuse.

Me, I’m an Arizona hiker. I enjoy amazing scenery and the art of negotiation that is involved in moving gracefully over rocks and boulders. Running on a flat surface had always seemed boring and mundane to me. I like trail running, but probably never ran more than a half mile in my life.

It was mandatory that all competing bikini models and photographers complete a minimum 5k race.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

I trained for three months for the event, and did not have an an easy time finding places outdoors to run during the hot Arizona summer.  I felt that nothing could prepare me for running such a distance nonstop. I had to resort to indoor treadmills in the gym more than I wanted to.

The night before the race, I asked Bob Anderson what to eat, and he suggested carbo loading. On the morning of a race, he consumes a cup of coffee and a half of a banana. The next thing I knew, I was at the starting line.

I told myself that, once I am committed to something, I see it through. Emotions aside, I persisted on my quest. We ran through the streets of San Jose del Cabo - past stores, bars, restaurants and enthusiastic people cheering us on and passing out water. I remember thinking 'just let this be over'. And then it was.

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You experience a rush as you near the finish line. You run faster than you ever have because cameras are rolling and photos are being taken. A timed event, I wasn’t the first and I wasn’t the last, but interestingly enough, I came in first in my age group for females. I had completed my first 5k run!

The memory of crossing a finishing line for the first time is something you never forget! The feeling of triumph, of having conquered your own mind and body by pushing it beyond your self imposed limits . . . there's nothing like it!
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Gift certificates and cash were awarded at the finish line. I won $100 as a result of my efforts, but that didn’t compare to the pride I experienced from my effort. When you compete, you gain more than you lose!