Mary Poppins and Branding Magic for a Happy New Year

Shortly after her arrival at the Banks household, Mary Poppins chided Jane and Michael for making a “pie crust promise — easily made, easily broken.”

I feel the same way about New Year’s resolutions. They’re flaky, a delectable characteristic in pastry, but a crumbled mess in business.

Life is better with pie. Business is better without resolutions.

Mary Poppins and Branding Magic for a Happy New Year | KOTAW Content MarketingYour business — your career — benefit from decisions and the thoughtful planning and goal-setting required to see them through.

Today, I will be eating pie — a vegetarian version of a French Canadian meat pie my mom made every year — and pondering KOTAW’s future in 2015 and beyond.

I will ask myself a lot of questions. These are not new questions — I ask them often and my answers are usually pretty much the same at the beginning of any month or the end of any year. But I learn something different every time I raise these questions, and they prompt me to correct mistakes, change my strategy or push harder on neglected goals.

The questions inspire me to take specific action, not make vague promises. My internal Q & A challenges me and, in the hope of challenging you to a happier, more prosperous year, here are three of my favorites:

1. What do you want to be known for?

If people read your blog, talk about you in social media or engage your services, what do you want them to remember about you?

Do you want to be remembered as the how-to-guy or the list-making gal? Do you cherish the role of instructor or organizer? If so, tutorial-style blogs and checklist-style Hangouts on Air are for you.

But, if you’re how to-ing and list-making just because you read an infographic that cited the statistical popularity of these tactics, stop!

Trends come and go — rapidly in digital marketing — and following the crowd serves a purpose only if you want to head in the same direction.

But maybe you’d rather do something that would get the crowd to follow you. It’s hard to be best at something everyone else is already doing.

Consider excelling at something no one can do better than you.

2. Are the sacrifices you’re making worthwhile?

Almost every successful career — and certainly every growing business — demands giving up some of the things you love and doing at least a few things you hate.

But how many trade-offs are you making every day and do they really help you reach your long-term goals?

Are you working until midnight because you’re having too much fun to stop, because you’re on a deadline project for an important client or because you’re afraid that your business will wither and die while you dine with friends or take your kids to the park?

If your work excites you and you know it’s helping you achieve a specific goal, the hours fly by and you sometimes need to be reminded to eat, drink and sleep. For as long as you have the passion and stamina, the extra hours make sense.

But, if you’re tired, stressed and depressed and still putting in 18-hour days, listen to your body and brain. When the joy ends, so does productivity.

Go out and find some joy. Work can — and should — wait until you do.

3. Where’s the magic?

“We make branding magic” is part of the KOTAW tagline, not just because I think it’s catchy, but because I believe there’s something mysterious and wondrous about branding and about all creative endeavors.

And I believe — insist — that every endeavor includes a creative element.

If I could easily define genius branding or great writing, I’d find them boring. And I have a very low threshold for boredom.

I try to sprinkle a bit of magic dust on everything I do, including routine emails, monthly status reports and household chores.

And, if I can’t, I speed my way through them. Or forget about them. My brain filters out things I don’t find interesting.

Fifteen years ago, I was hired to write a book about how to pass the CPA exam. I knew nothing about accounting but, to prepare for the project, I studied for and took the test — and passed it on the first try. Two weeks after I finished writing the book, I’d forgotten at least half of what I’d studied. The magic — the challenge of achieving a difficult intellectual feat — had died.

If you’ve got magic in your business life, hold onto it — it’s your most precious asset. If you don’t — if you’ve never had it or it’s slipped away — go find it.

Include a dose of Mary Poppins in your 2015 business marketing strategy. Get the job done, but include an element of fun.

And, for good measure, add a spoonful of sugar, too.

When I need magic, I find it by telling stories. I told a dozen stories in December, and each is a source of inspiration as I begin the new year. I will be rereading them today and, since magic is meant to be shared, I’ve included the stories below.

Have a happy, magical New Year!!

 , Katherine

12 Days of KOTAW: All Wrapped Up!

Brand Storytelling Inspired by Writer-Storyteller Katherine Kotaw's Holiday Traditions -- KOTAW Content Marketing


On the first day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Skate Your Story To Success

“You don’t have to be a skilled storyteller to captivate an audience with a story you care about. Passion sells better than the glitziest marketing campaign. Become a champion of your brand, and your enthusiasm will drive sales.”

On the Second day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Put Your Stories To The Sniff Test

“If you’re writing and publishing content just for the sake of achieving some arbitrary quota for quantity, stop. Bad content will soon go the way of bad links — it will harm you and your company. Write fewer, better stories. Aim for a single, perfect butter tart, not a platter of stale cookies.”

On the third day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Break Free From Your Personal Branding Corset

“Here’s my loosely-wrapped gift to you: You must bother with personal branding — it is no longer optional — but there are personal branding strategies to fit anyone’s style.”

On the fourth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Rebekah Radice: Christmas (or Lou Grant) in July

“Do whatever it takes — for as long as it takes — to find your own success in social media. The only connections that count are the ones that matter to you. Don’t give up on social media. Put my theory to the test and you’ll discover, You’re gonna make it after all.”

On the fifth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Are You Putting Your Brand Reputation To Sleep?

“Your brand is a promise. And your brand reputation depends on how well you keep that pledge. Don’t put your promises to sleep: it will kill your brand.”

On the sixth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

To Make Your Logo (and Business) Shine, Reach for the Star

“Every big company started out small. Every great company started out poor. But the biggest and best shone because of their stars. You will never find the best talent, the best people unless you reach out to them. Don’t wait for stars to fall from the sky.”



On the seventh day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Repurposed Content: Heartfelt Gift or a Fruitcake Idea?

“If the blog you wrote honestly serves a new purpose as a slide share, video or list, go for it. But, if you’re just slicing and dicing content to make it spread farther, don’t!”

On the eighth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Want Your Brand to Grow? Let it Snow!

“When you are defining or building your brand, a good strategist will tell you to focus on such things as your audience, your target market and your goals. A great brand strategist will do all this and teach you how to imbue your brand with the indefinable but essential ingredient to marketing success: magic.”

On the ninth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Jingle Your Way to Personal Branding Success

“Your personal brand is more — far more — than your list of accomplishments. Clients may be impressed by your flawless credentials, but they will remember your name — and hire you — because of your imperfections. Go ahead. Get silly. It will be seriously good for your personal brand.”

On the tenth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

California Dreamin’ on a KOTAW Winter’s Day

“Whatever you learned about social media last winter — or last month — may be as useless as a car battery that sits in sub-zero temperatures overnight. The website that was cutting edge two years ago may now look as appealing as curbside slush.”

On the eleventh day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Reindeer Games, Your Brand and the Pit Bull Challenge

“This is my New Year’s challenge to you: Imagine that you or your company were a Pit Bull. What would you do to redeem your brand? What will you do to build or bolster your brand in 2014 before a competitor, an unhappy client or a calamitous event tears it down?”

On the twelfth day of KOTAW, Katherine gives to you…

Ornamental Advice for Solid Business Success

“Success is like my ornament collection. You must seek it, grow it and protect it. Reach out to the highest branches to get what you want, but be willing to wait for what’s really important.”


  1. […] How to achieve Mary Poppins-esque branding magic for your company or small business in 2014. Content marketing strategies for creative entrepreneurs.  […]

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been trying to get back here and comment on your post for two days. Ah – thank goodness I finally have a little down time.

    How is that you always hit the bulls-eye with every post? This was brilliant and so on target. These are questions I ask often and have been asking myself a lot this week as I start a new year. I think finding the “magic” and harnessing it is the key factor.

    I have to say that your posts have really given me a lot of confidence to write with more personality. When I first started blogging I thought the more bland and generic I could be – the better. I’m not sure why I thought this, except that I’d always dealt with the technical stuff and it just seemed that a “just the facts” approach was the best solution. I know now how wrong that was. I’m still working on finding my writing “voice” but it’s starting to make some nice sounds! Thank you always for the amazing inspiration and Happy New Year!

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I’m honored that you took the time to respond — and so graciously!

      You already have a stronger writing voice than you imagine, and it will grow stronger the more you exercise it. It will seem almost effortless when you harness the magic!

      It is delightful to know that I have inspired you in any way, and your words inspire me to keep writing.

      Wishing you a joyous, magical new year, Elizabeth!

  3. […] the article at and follow Katherine on Twitter […]

  4. Adrienne says:

    Hi Katherine,

    I took the first of the year off but upon my return I did share with my readers some of the things I hoped to accomplish this year. I don’t make New Years resolutions and haven’t for years because I think most of them are filled with good intentions but unrealistic goals. I think most people really do want something better for themselves but because they never follow through I don’t think they were really something that they knew they could achieve.

    I love the questions you asked yourself for moving forward in the new year and I think those are very realistic goals we all can set for ourselves. Gosh, wish I would have stopped by here sooner but now is just as good a time as ever.

    Thanks for sharing these with us and I wish you the best year ever.


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I wish you the best year ever as well, Adrienne!

      And, you’re right, now is just as good a time as ever to ask ourselves the questions we need to examine before moving forward.

      January is one month of 12, 31 days out of 365. I like to keep the questions coming!

      Thank you so much for visiting here, Adrienne. You always make me smile.

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  7. […] year I penned The 12 Days of KOTAW, one of the most exhilarating – and exhausting – bodies of work I’ve undertaken. I took great […]

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