What is a Brand and Why Does It Matter?

While homeschooling provides numerous tangible benefits, the opportunity to build a family business together and to teach business, management, entrepreneurship, work ethic, and good stewardship to our children provides immediate and long-lasting benefits that are hard to beat. After teaching our kids how to live in light of eternity and in relation to the God of creation, teaching them how to thrive (not just survive) in this world may be our most important job. Every subject should be taught in light of God’s word, with an eternal and a temporal perspective, and applied to real life. For example, when math is taught as a nebulous theory of numbers working together to make bigger or smaller numbers it is worthless. When math is taught as giving insight into an ordered universe, created by a God of order it becomes divine. When it is taught as the key to managing a household (basic math, algebra), to building and creating (geometry), to engineering (geometry, trigonometry, calculous), to managing a business (accounting), to teaching your own children, it becomes practical. Business, by it’s very nature is practical and divine. God has given a wealth of instruction on the subject in the Bible, and our failure to understand these principals directly affects our daily standard of living.

As we teach our children business and as we build our own businesses, one of our first considerations should be branding. Branding is integral to marketing and advertising (separate, but related fields), and even the most sound businesses are guaranteed failure if they do not master marketing and advertising. A business that fails to establish a brand fails! A quick side note: anyone who thinks that the unnamed fruit stand at farmer’s market, which has a hand-painted sign that says “fruit”, or the lemonade stand on the corner doesn’t have a brand doesn’t understand branding.

What do you think of when you hear the word brand or branding?  A company logo or a tagline of sorts?  How about this… what do you think of when you hear the word “apple?” Chances are good your first thought is not a piece of fruit but instead, you think of the tech company and maker of the iPhone.  Why is that? Truth be told, they have spent millions of dollars so that you would not think of the fruit.  What other worlds come to mind when you think of the company Apple? Maybe lattes, expensive, virus-free, cutting edge?

A brand is an expression of your company’s beliefs.  It is not a logo, tagline or slogan.  A brand captures the heart of what your company is about, what you represent.  Everything you do that’s connected to your company should run through your “brand filter.”  Everything from where and how you advertise, how you market the products or services within the brand and even what it is the brand offers.  Everything circles back to how it reflects on the brand.

For instance, if you pull up to a restaurant and see “reservations suggested” you automatically generate an expectation about that establishment and assume that the meal will cost more than $10.  At the same time, your expectations for the quality of food and service rise as well. It’s all a reflection of the brand for that restaurant.

Proper branding tends to be one of the most expensive elements of business and the importance of it is often overlooked by business owners and entrepreneurs.  When a company is sold, the contract will include a paragraph or two about the product or service.  However, when it comes to the brand, there may be two or three pages on how to protect the brand.

When done well, a brand can take on a life of its own.  For instance, if you have a cold and stuffy nose, you may ask for a “Kleenex.”  Everyone knows what you really need is a tissue, but the brand is so powerful, you call the item by a brand name.

If you cut your finger, you usually ask for a “Band-Aid.”  Technically, you need an adhesive bandage, but who says that?

In some regions of the country, usually the South, when you ask for a Coke the waiter/waitress will ask what kind since all soda is considered a Coke.  That’s a brand.

Another way to know when a company has done a good job on branding is when the public will spend their own money or make an effort to promote the brand for free.  How often to you see people wearing a hat with “YETI” or “Ford” or “Costa?”  How about decals on the back of their vehicle – “NASCAR,” “Glock,” or a favorite sports team?

A brand is what your business is, the product or service just happens to be what you do today to build that brand.  If you keep it that way, you can be fluid.  For instance, do not put what you do in the name of the company.  For example, if “Bob’s Plumbing” ever wanted to add roofing or pressure washing to his services as a result of a chance in the economy or personal desire, it will take more time, money and effort for him to adjust the brand image that has already been established.  It’s more challenging for Bob to pivot with “plumbing” in the name.  A better name to use would be “Bob’s Home Solutions.”  He would then have the flexibility to add additional services without completely changing the brand.

Think about Google.  That wasn’t even a word 20 years ago.  Now it’s used a verb.  Google is not only a search engine but they are now providing smart phones and other products with no pivoting issues.  If Apple wanted to start making smart cars next week, it would fit their brand since they did not go the route of Apple Computer Systems.

So, keep these concepts in mind when you are branding your business and when you are teaching branding to your kids, and remember, whether it be the name you choose for your homeschool, a co-op, a blog or even your personal brand, a brand is an expression of core beliefs.

Written by John B. Robinson with Purple Monkey Garage… Fixing Businesses and Repairing Lives.

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Top 5 Social Media Tips for Family Businesses

Our society has changed dramatically in so many ways. One of the most obvious changes in recent years is the creation and use of social media. Just a few years ago, many words that are now common place either did not exist or had very different meanings. For example, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, posting, tweeting, content, engagement, chat, SEO, AdWords, followers, likes, links, etc. These terms and actions have allowed us to connect with individuals, groups, businesses and long-lost friends. We are connected in so many new ways, but has it all really made us more social? That’s an entirely different conversation…

Many homeschool families are taking advantage of the freedom that comes with homeschooling to create successful small businesses, and from a family business perspective, social media offers benefits that few other tools can claim. Social Media offers powerful new ways to get exposure for a brand, service, product, and the families and personalities behind those brands. It is very unique and something that when done well, offers a powerful tool for entrepreneurs, brands and small business owners. However, we need to be very careful not to use social media platforms as a crutch or an excuse to be lazy. The various platforms that we now have access to are not a quick fix or an excuse to stop marketing. While these channels help with customer retention and relationship building, they can sometimes disappoint when relied on to generate new business.
With that said, how can we use social media to our advantage in business? Here are our top 5 tips to help your family business get the most out of social media:

1) You Can’t Be Everywhere At Once – as you know, there are numerous platforms to consider – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+. You need to determine where your audience lives and which channels will benefit you and your business the most. If you try to master them all, you will drive yourself insane and you will not accomplish anything beneficial.

2) Provide Value – there are “rules” that tend to change every few months as to the best practices for each social platform. At the end of the day, you want to provide your audience great value and consider them when posting content. As an example, for your personal Facebook page, most of your friends and family want to read mostly about you, your family, and your personal activities. Keep business posts somewhat limited. Once or twice a week is sufficient. If you insist on pushing a product or service, you may see a decline in your followers. A personal Facebook page is not where that audience wants to be sold to. Consider starting a fan page or business page instead. With that said, you can offer content that shows you are an expert in specific areas. For instance, if you are a real estate broker, rather than posting your listings, post articles that you have written or links to those written by others on how to stage a home or 5 tips on home inspections.

3) Be Consistent – when followers, or potential new customers, visit your social channels, they need to see current content. Therefore, decide on a schedule that allows you to post regularly. There are analytics available that can show you ideal times for posting so you will generate the highest levels of engagement and “industry standards” for how many times a day you should post. Until you can offer solid and consistent content, do not get too caught up in those stats.

4) Use Video – To help get your content noticed and to obtain a higher level of engagement from your audience, video is a key. I’m not talking highly produced video and scripts. The camera on your smart phone will get the job done. The video needs to match your brand, product and personality. You can talk to your audience on camera or you can narrate off camera while shooting an event or describing a product. Get creative with it.

5) When it Really Matters, Use Paid Posts – By now, you have probably heard that the powers who control the various platforms constantly change the algorithms which effects how your audience sees your messages in their news feed. One way to be sure your posts are getting out there is to “boost” them or pay for them to reach people. It used to be that all your “normal” posts (known as “organic”) would reach all your followers, now it doesn’t work that way. One good thing about paid posts is you can pick specifically who sees the post. You can pick age, regions, states, gender, etc. Keep in mind, you have probably seen these posts from others in your own feed. How many of those posts have you clicked on? How many of those “promoted” products have you purchased? Have any of those posts annoyed you because you have no interest in being bothered by a “digital ad” rather than a normal message? I suggest you limit the use of your paid posts to very important and/or special content. You can’t afford to waste the money or have a negative impact on your audience.

So, there you go. Simple, right? Social media is a moving target. Do not expect to become an expert over night. Just remember to try it at some level, be consistent and offer value. Oh, and you’re allowed to have some fun with it, too!


Written by John B. Robinson with Purple Monkey Garage… Fixing Businesses and Repairing Lives.

The Business and Entrepreneurship section of the Schoolhouse Rocked blog is brought to you by

Photos by William Iven and Linda Xu on Unsplash.com

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that it allows families to work together and it allows students to learn valuable business and life skills in the process. In fact, Schoolhouse Rocked is very much the business of HOMESCHOOL FAMILIES. God is using these homeschool families to do great work in His name!

Because we know how many homeschool families run home businesses, farms, craft businesses, and even growing companies, we have partnered with Purple Monkey Garage to bring you excellent, practical business and entrepreneurship articles. Josh Tolley is a nationally syndicated radio host, author, and founder of Purple Monkey Garage, where their mechanics are busy “Fixing Businesses and Repairing Lives.”

Marketing Vs. Advertising – How Do They Differ, or Do They?

If you own a small business, one of the most important responsibilities you have is generating business. In an effort to do just that, you need to promote your product or service.

There are a variety of ways to promote a business. Some methods are more creative than others. Most can be categorized under two main headings: marketing and advertising. We’ve all heard those terms thousands of times, but do we really know what they mean? Are they the same or different? Does it really matter? Do they both produce the same results? Can we expect a return on investment from both?

Let’s take a quick pop-quiz… look at the items below and determine if they are marketing or advertising:

  • Billboard along the interstate
  • Facebook page, Twitter & Instagram posts
  • Bi-monthly ad in a local newspaper
  • Promoted Facebook posts
  • Digital banners on various websites

What do you think…are these examples of marketing or advertising? Well, before we get to the answer, let’s define what marketing and advertising are so we know for sure.

Marketing is the action of finding your target buyer and giving them the experience of your product or service.

How about advertising? What is advertising really? Advertising is exposing your brand. It’s really that simple.

So, now that we have defined the two, let’s take another look at the pop-quiz above. Do all these items allow the target buyer to experience the product or service? No, they do not. Therefore, all the items listed above are examples of advertising. They all expose the brand through different avenues but none of them actually allow a potential customer to experience the product or service directly.

Here are a few examples of ways a current and/or potential customer can experience your product or service:

  • A tire company hosts a driving event where dealers drive on the tires and compare them to competitive brands.
  • A drink brand offers free samples to shoppers in the grocery store.
  • A plumber hosts a demonstration at a home show where he shows attendees how to repair a small pipe leak. Attendees are challenged to try it themselves.
  • A local dentist speaks at a Rotary meeting where he explains the latest technology in teeth cleaning.

All of these examples offer customers a chance to experience a product or get to know the personality of the person offering a service. There is much more interaction with these examples than there are with the advertising examples. Remember, marketing is about the experience. Marketing also provides an opportunity to measure your return on investment more accurately than most advertising. It’s a challenge to determine how many sales are directly connected to a billboard along the interstate. However, you can measure how many drinks you sold at the store during the time you shared the free samples.

The reality is, anyone who has a business should spend 50% of their time and effort related to marketing. The administration, product development, invoicing, staff training, sales, etc. should not equal more than 50% of your time and energy so you can spend the additional 50% on marketing.

One last thing to think about when it comes to advertising. Times have changed in a very dramatic way as it relates to the effectiveness of advertising. Take the DVR for instance. Besides recording your favorite shows or games, what do we all love about the DVR? We can skip the commercials!

Are you familiar with Pandora music service? How do they make money? Your first assumption is probably advertising. That is only partially correct. Their main revenue is generated by memberships that allow the listener access to ad-free music.

We now live in a time where the public is willing to spend their hard-earned money to avoid your advertising. On many occasions, ads make us mad. Think about your initial reaction to online pop-up ads. Do you actually click on them and say, “Oh, that’s awesome! Even though you just completely interrupted me and invaded my space, I’ll buy your product now.” No, most of us get upset and now have a negative opinion of that company. Something to think about…

So, back to the original question in the headline. I hope you now have a clearer understanding of what marketing and advertising is and how they do indeed differ from each other.


Written by John B. Robinson with Purple Monkey Garage… Fixing Businesses and Repairing Lives.

The Business and Entrepreneurship section of the Schoolhouse Rocked blog is brought to you by

Photos by James Sutton and Kate Trysh on Unsplash.com