Are You the Sort of Brand that wants to go Steady on a First Date?

Are you the sort of brand that subtly pops up a subscribe box when I’ve been on your site for less than 15 seconds? Well hold on a sec we hardly know each other. Or the sort that sends 2 emails a week if I do give you my email address? One enticingly titled: Place subject line here.

That’s not you is it?

Maybe you’re the one that tried to sell me a vacation 2 days after I already booked one with you.

You’re not that sort of brand are you?

If you are, it isn’t working and it’s not you it’s me.

You see I’m just not that sort of consumer.

I want to be wooed, not harassed.

Brand it Like Balotelli

After Italy’s Euro 2012 semi-final win against Germany no one can deny that Mario Balotelli is a superb footballer. In case you missed the match, he scored twice within 16 minutes of the first half, effectively killing the game and propelling Italy into the final.

The first goal was good – the second was spectacular, a contender for goal of the tournament.

Granted, Italy hasn’t won it yet but Balotelli has already eclipsed Ronaldo, as the striker of an admittedly somewhat lacklustre Euro 2012.

Of course what’s got everyone talking as well as the goals is his celebration.

The history of goal celebrations makes an interesting footnote in the annals of football history.

From Roger Milla’s dance in the 1990 World Cup, to Bebeto rocking the baby four years later or Jurgen Klinsmann’s satirical dives in the mid 1990’s, goal celebrations are about taunting and intimidating the opposition just as much as celebrating goals.

They’re about imposing the striker’s personal brand by being smarter, cheekier, more outrageous, more athletic, more…something.

But this celebration is different.

It’s a negative celebration, a celebration that isn’t.

A beautiful example of less is more.

By standing as still as a statue of a svelte Mr. T and impelling his team mates to come to him, Balotelli has defiantly re-defined the category with an inspired example of predatory thinking.

And if you score spectacular goals, they will come running.

He’s out-competing by not competing, by literally doing nothing.

There’s confidence verging on arrogance in this demonstration of apartness.

And as much as the ritual is calculated to gain our attention and maybe our animus, it is also evidence of steely self-awareness and presence of mind.

Because the natural thing to do, the thing you’ve been doing since you were a kid, is celebrate a goal in motion with your arms raised.

And when Balotelli first started scoring for Manchester City that's exactly what he did.

But sometime during the 2011/12 season the celebration evolved into his current celebration of minimalism.

Overcoming the natural impulse to actively celebrate and overturning a life-long habit can’t be as easy as it looks.

And I think we can learn some lessons from Mario that have nothing to do with football and quite a lot to do with branding.

Because whereas Balotelli the footballer is all about power, skill and athleticism, Balotelli the brand is great example of contrarian positioning with a goal celebration built on stillness.

The thinking is every bit as predatory as his footballing instincts.

As a brand Balotelli is a brand leader that still thinks subversively like an emerging brand.

That’s how to dominate a category.

That’s how to distinguish your brand.

And sometimes it doesn't take much.

But you need the intention.

You need the confidence.

Not Every Business Needs a Brand

Mario the Tiler doesn’t have a logo. I’m not sure he even has a business card.

And I know he doesn’t have a website.

He doesn’t need one.

Everyone in the hood knows if you want decent tiling at a fair price you call Mario.

His phone never stops.

Call him and he'll come round in his beat-up van and give you an estimate.

It’s a straight-forward value proposition.

The work is good not great.

But good tiling is good enough for most people.

The price is modest not cheap.

So you get a deal and you don’t hate looking at it.

And Mario works fast so it works for him.

If you’re an architect or a perfectionist, you might want to use someone else.

Mario won’t mind.

He’ll be busy tiling, he’s good at it.

He’s even better at getting customers and keeping them.

In contrast to Mario and his van, Honest Ed's takes up a whole block.

Ed's as everyone calls it is a Toronto landmark.

In business for over 60 years, it was a big box store before there were big box stores.

At around 160,000 square feet it still is.

It sells everything and anything it can buy, and then sell, cheap.

Ed’s is a refreshingly random shopping experience.

Want a DVD for 88¢ how about Abbott & Costello or vintage TV series Dragnet?

No, how about an 88¢ baseball hat?

Sometimes when I'm stuck on a brief, I’ll stroll round Ed's incredible retail smorgasbord and free associate.

Pooch shampoo, sardines, kitsch religious artwork, clothespins, BBQs, cleaning supplies, hey I need cleaning stuff!

Ed’s doesn’t do branding, so much as anti-branding via cheesy hand painted signs that tell it like it is.

Everyone likes Ed’s.

They keep you coming back.

In contrast to Ed’s prime real estate,  Casa Rosa is a garish pink motel tucked behind the bus station, in the Mexican resort town of Tulum.

It lacks curb appeal, and if you just arrived, you would probably walk past it.

I certainly would have, if a hotel owner in Valladolid hadn’t recommended it.

That was my good fortune, because Casa Rosa is an excellent budget hotel.

Less than forty bucks gets you a spotless room with a king size bed, air-conditioning and TV.

It may lack a bit of charm, but the same amenities on the beach would cost you at least three times as much.

The word is out and not surprisingly Rosa’s gets busier every time I stay there.

I love brands, but not every business needs a brand.

Every brand, on the other hand, needs a business.

Which means getting customers and keeping them.

Not quite as sexy as selling your 2-year-old start-up for a billion dollars.

But the first step in doing an "Instagram" is getting and keeping customers.