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Welcome to the belivernomics blog

 

I will try my best to update this webpage with  thought provoking and interesting content, as often as I can.  Please feel free to leave comments as  there is much that can be learnt from the sharing of ideas.

By pa360, Feb 23 2019 12:59PM

Last week, I attended a leaving party for my dear friend, former colleague, and current Believernomics business partner. It was a terrific event, not just for the turn out of well-wishers, the genuine sentiments expressed by all present, but also for the sheer power of my friend's charisma. I had always known him to be charismatic and had told him so, but I did not fully appreciate the scale nor the extent of his wonderful gift. In fact, so impressed was I by what I observed, that evening, that I felt inspired to write this blog to deconstruct the key characteristics of charisma.


So, why should anyone care about charisma? In simple terms, it is often the 'secret sauce' of success and the key ingredient for a powerful personal brand. It can be the difference between being heard and being believed; being one amongst the many and standing amongst the few; following and leading. Let us be clear, charisma is not like other personal brand characteristics such as reliability, integrity or courage. Quite unlike those characteristics, charisma cannot be acquired, learned or taught. You either have it or you don't and for those that don't have it, you will know it when you see it. So here is my take on the 13 key characteristics of charisma.


1. it attracts others

People often conflate charisma with celebrity, but they are not the same thing. Celebrity can attract others, but if you take away the underpinning activity or event that creates celebrity, the attraction of it will invariably fade as well. By contrast, people with charisma attract others through their affability, manner or other personality traits. As such, the underpinning characteristics of charisma reflect who you are, not the status or position that you have achieved. Another important aspect of the way in which charisma attracts is through the universality of its language. In other words, the language of charisma cuts across demographics and boundaries.


2. it keeps others

With charisma, whilst the ability to attract people is always a very strong measure, it is the ability to 'keep' those you attract that is the higher standard. The relationships that charismatic people cultivate are rarely transient and more likely to be long-lasting and give expression to intense personal loyalty. This ability to maintain enduring relationships ultimately speaks to the quality of those interactions and by extension, the regard to which charismatic people are often held.


3. it is effortless and authentic

Charisma comes naturally and is not something that you can fake, because you either have it or you do not. In that way, I would liken charisma to humour. People who have a natural sense of humour never need try to be funny, they just are. They seem to have an innate sense of what makes people laugh and do it effortlessly, without preparation. So it is with charisma, it requires no effort, because it is not what you learn, it is what you have, because it is who you are.


4. it needs no introduction because it announces itself

Much as you might tell someone that they are charismatic, you are only really stating the obvious to them and others. The point to note here is that charisma speaks for itself; it is the presence that fills the room and the energy that causes others to gravitate towards it. If you have charisma you do not always have to be the most articulate person in the room, nor the one with the most powerful oratory. That is because, charisma also communicates though non verbal cues such as mannerisms, dress sense and idiosyncrasies.


5. it is influential

Charisma is an effective measure of influence and influence is evidence of soft power. Given that charismatic people are in their element when in the company of others, the scope for leveraging influence over them can be far-reaching. In a positive context, charisma can create highly productive relationships and drive change across wide spans of control.


6. it cannot be easily explained

Anyone who says that they can fully or properly explain how charisma works, really does not understand it at all. We often see the effects of charisma and can therefore witness it at work; but there are various intangibles that make it work. These are the things that are often described as the 'X-factor' (ie: the things that you know are there, but cannot see, weigh or measure). If that were not the case, then everyone would be charismatic and all anyone would need to do, to exhibit it, is follow the formula and apply the science.


7. it makes the difference

The fact is that a compelling, well-evidenced argument is often the most effective way to secure a favourable decision and drive an agenda forward. However, in truth, even that may not be enough. By contrast, with charisma, it is often the case that people choose to trust you because they want to trust you and are willing to do so, even when they disagree with you. Truly charismatic people understand this and use this brand 'super-power' effectively to build momentum and get things done.


8. it is mobile

Few brand characteristics are as transferable, or as mobile, as charisma. As a case in point, when people work for a new employer they sometimes worry about the challenge of starting again and the uncertainty associated with forming new relationships and establishing their reputation in a new place. However, this is not something that charismatic people often worry about. The reason for that is because charisma doesn't just work anywhere, it works everywhere.


9. it exudes the 'feel good factor'

At its most potent, charisma has the extraordinary capacity to make people who experience it, feel good or better about themselves. It is impossible to describe the mechanics of this, other than to say that charisma connects with people at an emotional and psychological level and is as much non-verbal as it is verbal. People want to and enjoy being around those who make them feel positive and people who make others feel positive, can much more easily build strong relationships.


10. it leaves a footprint

One of the most common characteristics of people who are charismatic is that they are memorable. Long after the event or interaction, 'charismatics' tend to be remembered by those they come in contact with. Notwithstanding that the interactions themselves might be mundane or uneventful; charisma can make those experiences memorable. With charisma, you will always know where it has been, when you see what it has done.


11. it is spontaneous

The ability to 'freestyle' and think on your feet is an impressive talent. There are some who can do it very effectively, but most cannot. However, it is one of the things that charismatic people do very well. This is because those with charisma are naturally good with people. The bigger and the more diverse the audience, the better they like it and the more comfortable they will be. The capacity to be spontaneous means that people with charisma will be utterly at ease in the presence of strangers as much they are in the company of friends.


12. it has a presence and an aura

If you have ever been in the presence of someone with charisma, you may sense that they have a certain aura about and around them. This is more likely to be evident when they are in the presence of others. An aura, is one of the most important and impactful non-verbal cues of charisma. It is intangible, but can you can feel it; it is invisible, but you know it is there.


13. it listens

One final thing that I have realised from observing my friend, over the years, is that truly charismatic people are also very good listeners. The ability to listen underpins the capacity to learn, Willing listeners are active learners who are better placed to harness and maximise the value of their gifts and talents. This is important because charisma is a brand characteristic. If you do not know what you have then you will not know how to use it and if you do not know how to use it, then it will likely go to waste.


In conclusion, by itself, charisma is not unique. Many people have it and we see evidence of its deployment in politics, business, the media and in everyday situations. Nor is charisma always used positively, by those who possess it, to impact the lives and life experiences of those around them. However, what is beyond dispute is the potency of charisma in establishing a powerful personal brand, a mechanism for inspiring others and a platform for leadership influence.

By pa360, Dec 1 2018 11:23AM

This blog is the third in a three part series on branding. In the first blog we looked at the '7 questions that will define your brand', whilst the second focused on '7 most common brand types'. In this third blog we look at '10 uncommon characteristics of incredibly successful brands'.


So, why is it so important to focus on 'uncommon characteristics'? Well, the reason why brands become incredibly successful is not just because they think the things that others do, it is because they think the things that others haven't thought of yet. An uncommon characteristic therefore, is not what it takes to fit in, it is what is required to stand out. Incredible success, is attributable to the nuance and point of distinction that differentiates a steady pace from rapid acceleration and big steps from giant strides.


Uncommon characteristics are the root system of every incredibly successful brand. They help to sway markets, drive change and deliver exceptional results. However, with or without uncommon characteristics, it is important to note that brands are defined by the lived experience of the consumer, not the artful promotion of the producer. As such, when those with whom your product or service engages, form judgements about it, then those judgements are your brand.


Incredibly successful brands do not develop simply because you work hard, or because you learn lessons, they develop because you do uncommon things. So here are 10 uncommon characteristics of incredibly successful brands.


1. they are relatable

An incredibly successful brand is relatable. As such, even if you cannot possess what it promotes, you can still aspire to what it represents. Take a Ferrari motor car, as a case in point, it is an item of ostentation that most people will never be able afford in their lifetime, but that does not stop people from relating to the brand as something that they should aspire to possess. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands recognise that aspiration is customisable, translatable and transferable.


2. they stay relevant

Relevance differentiates those who succeed from those who remain successful and distinguishes those who were on the journey for the ride those who stayed the course for the reward. To remain relevant, incredibly successful brands are able to master the art of conformity and surf the curve of change. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands are in a constant state of readiness and always anticipate the inevitability of change,


3. they never confuse sphere of reach with extent of impact

In branding, success is not about reach, distribution or even concentration it is about impact. Neither is brand ubiquity, evidence of brand influence. Incredibly successful brands recognise that being everywhere without the influence to shape anything, proves nothing. The measure of a brand's influence is its effect not its visibility. The uncommon characteristic here is that it is better to have a big impact in a small place than to be in a big place with little impact.


4. they understand that an incredible brand sells itself

Ultimately, incredible successful brands sell themselves. That is because, the strength of a brand is the measure of what your customers and competitors say about you long after your marketing and publicity campaigns are over and your budgets have been spent. The uncommon characteristic here is that no matter how much you invest in promoting the power of your brand, the value of word of mouth is always worth much more.


5. they attract imitators and drive innovation

Imitation by itself is not uncommon; but what imitation conveys, is not always commonly appreciated. Few actions will imbue a brand with authenticity, value and status more than those who choose to imitate it. Imitation establishes your brand as the benchmark and validates it as the standard against which others should compare. Similarly, because imitation triggers competition, it will often drive innovation and innovation helps to raise standards even higher. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands don't just actively attract imitators, they often encourage them.


6. they don't just set trends, they send messages

An incredibly successful brand does much more than affect and influence the behaviour of others; it communicates permission, validates choice and affirms action. Incredibly successful brands make a conscious effort to set the agenda and see every engagement as an opportunity to send a message. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands don't just set trends to change behaviour, they set them to drive the narrative.


7. they don't just attribute value to generating sales

In business, strong sales will always be a key measure of the success of an incredibly strong brand. However, the true measure of success is the extent to which you attend to the things that make you successful. I am often reminded of a comment made by the late Steve Jobs, who highlighted that the key to success is to focus on making great product rather than making a profit. The uncommon characteristic here is that, if you invest value, when you make it, others will attribute value when you produce it.


8. they see competition as a test of strength

Incredibly successful brands do not fear competition or opposition. That is because they understand that survivability, in the face of competition, is the truest test of resilience. A brand that faces competition will do one of three things; it will either concede defeat, accept the challenge or raise the stakes. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands find the strength to more forward, even when you try to push them back.


9. they recognise that not all loyalty is transferrable

Do you remember the 'new Coke versus classic Coke' debacle more than thirty years ago? If not, Google it as it is a fascinating account of how an incredibly strong brand can fundamentally rethink its approach, in the face of overwhelming consumer power. The point to note here is that people can develop unwavering personal identification with the brands that they patronise (Apple is another case in point). The uncommon characteristic here is that when people are passionate about your product, their loyalty is not easily transferable.


10. they don't just search for excellence, they seek out mediocrity

The search for excellence is a defining characteristic of incredible successful brands, but it is not an uncommon characteristic. Just as important, but much less common, is the fact that incredibly successful brands actively seek out mediocrity. The reason why is because they recognise that the market-place of mediocrity, is the most fertile environment for growth, expansion and improvement. The uncommon characteristic here is that incredibly successful brands obsess as much about mediocrity, as they do about excellence.


Much as this blog summarises the uncommon characteristics of incredibly successful brands, it is important to underline the fact that a number of these characteristics are scalable. As such a small start-up or medium-sized enterprise, can adopt the same habits and behaviours that will, over time, produce the same results.



By pa360, Nov 4 2018 12:35PM

In this second of a three part series on branding, we look at the seven most common types of brand.


Brands are defined by what they do, but more importantly they are defined by how customers perceive, receive and respond to them. Brands are not homogenous constructs. On the contrary, they are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, with unique characteristics and behaviour patterns that define and drive them.


Brands fall under a number of typologies, with each functioning as its own unique economy. There are brands that are time-defined and those that derive from extreme loyalty as well as others that communicate lifestyle choice, personal vanity and social concerns. For entrepreneurs, the better they understand the classifications and characteristics that define each brand economy, the more effectively they can cultivate customers, compete successfully and increase their market presence. Nothing drives success more than the power of a brand. So here are the seven most common types of brand.


1. the bubble brand

As the name suggests, a bubble brand is one with high impact, concentrated energy and a short life. The motion picture industry is a good example of where this sort of brand is most prevalent. It is well understood that the average life-cycle of a movie, from wide release to final showing, is about 10 weeks. During this 'bubble period' the biggest single point impact will be the film's opening weekend. Thereafter, the grosses will diminish, week-on-week, until newer offerings eventually displace it at the box office. A bubble brand is therefore intended to generate as much impact and as great a value, in as short a time, as possible.


2. the loyalty brand

A loyalty brand is one where consumer allegiance derives from reasons other than the quality or performance of a product or service. Some of the best examples of loyalty brands are in the sporting world, where allegiance to a team or franchise isn't transferable or negotiable. As case in point, in 2018, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, finished 15th and last in Eastern Conference. Despite this, during the season, the team still managed to pull an average attendance of 14,400 at their home games. The point to note here is that a loyalty brand is resolute, even in the face of the most negative consumer experience.


3. the endorsement brand

As the name suggests, endorsement is as much a branding technique as a brand in its own right. The purpose of an endorsement is to get the consumer to do something that they probably would not have done, but for the efforts of those who endorse it. A good example of this is when celebrities promote products or services in an effort to imbue them with their own credibility and glamour. However, the most effective and powerful form of endorsement does not come from well-known personalities, but rather from the word of mouth of ordinary consumers who use a product or service, have positive experience and recommend it to others.


4. the lifestyle brand

These brands are most closely identified with the needs, wants and particular preferences of an individual's everyday life. A lifestyle brand is something that speaks to you personally or something that you can customise to reflect your choice and tastes. Examples of this type of brand are tech products such as mobile phones, upon which people rely so heavily to perform every day functions. However, lifestyle brands are also reflected in the places that people regularly go and the things that they routinely do that underpin the rhythm of their daily lives. A good example of this are the restaurants, hairdressing salons and barber shops that people visit.


5. the status brand

A status or vanity brand speaks to the socio-economic statement that a consumer wants to make about themselves, whether or not that statement is accurate. Expensive cars, high-value jewellery, designer clothes and even some tech products are all examples of brands, which are assumed to convey a certain status on those who possess or utilise them.


6. the transferable brand

A transferable brand is one with such a high trust value, that it can be used across a diverse product and service range. One of the best known examples of this is Richard Branson's Virgin brand. Over the years, the Virgin name has been lent to everything from mobile phones and financial services, to multi-media and mass transit. Not dissimilar from an endorsement, a transferable brand, once attached to a product or service, confers value and standing and therefore communicates 'permission' to trust that product or service.


7. the conscience brand

A conscience brand is a form of status branding, where the consumer seeks to make a personal and social statement about the products and services that they procure. However, distinct from a status brand, which can often be a statement of ostentation or vanity, a conscience brand is communitarian and concerned with social welfare. Some examples of this kind of brand include products and services marketed as fair-trade, responsibly sourced or recycled.


In conclusion, a brand is an economy, reflecting the personal, social and commercial preferences of consumers. Whilst some brands intersect, making it possible for businesses to market products and services across boundaries, others are completely unique and require a more sophisticated approach. In the brand economy, the key to success isn't just the quality of your product, it is the ability to understand the psychology of your customer.




By pa360, Oct 19 2018 09:36AM

In this first of a three part series on branding, we look at the seven questions that will ultimately define your brand.


By itself, a strong brand is not a guarantee of success, but it is essential if you want to be successful. Businesses obsess over their brands, spending millions to cultivate, promote and, when necessary, re-brand their products. Brands matter because they are measures of trust, tests of authenticity and definers of relationships. A business with a strong brand can take risks, afford to fail and set trends. Brands can imbue status and standing to those who associate with them. A strong brand can also drive change by lending credibility, focusing interest and galvanising support for a cause.


Brands are personal and social, they are cross-cultural and geo-spatial. To ignore the importance of branding, is to ignore a simple reality that, even more than money, brands are the most tradable commercial and social currency in any economy, anywhere in the world. That said, it is important to remember that your brand is not the same thing as an image. In simple terms, you image is what you project, but your brand is what they experience. Therefore, if you want to create a great brand then create a memorable experience.


So what are the fundamentals of any brand and what are the factors that define it? Set out below are the seven questions that will define your brand.


1. what do you care about?

The things you care about and how you give expression to them, are powerful brand measures. They are encapsulated in the aims, objectives and purpose that you pursue as well as the relationships that you cultivate and how you manage them. However, the things that you care about can also be imputed. Take those who serve in the military as a case in point. By virtue of their service, the risk to which they willingly expose themselves and their example of self-sacrifice; service men and women are rightly seen as people of courage and character. The point to note here is that everyone cares about something and, more often than not, the best evidence of the things you care about, are the things that you do


2. can you be trusted?

Trust is a measure of consistency and stability. It speaks to your reliability and the extent of your influence. In business, trust doesn't just keep customers, it helps you to win new ones as well. A business that can be trusted, maintains standards. It is also in a good position to innovate and try new things, because customers will always believe, that whatever is done, is for the right reasons and with their best interests in mind. In a broader social context, trust speaks to your ability to provide assurance during times of uncertainty. As social commodities go, trust is probably the most valued of all. As such, any individual, business or interest that cannot answer in the affirmative to the question, of trust, has little of anything else to offer.


3. can you solve problems?

Few questions are as defining of a brand as whether it solves problems. Those who find problems are useful, but those who solve them are indispensible. In the branding context, problem solvers increase convenience, facilitate personalisation and save time. A brand that can be associated with problem solving will not just be the first invited into the room, it will ultimately be the last to leave as well. To build a brand that people want to associate with, or to graduate from a good brand to a better one, you must be able to solve problems.


4. is what you have to offer, worth what I am willing to give?

It is easy to forget that a brand is not just a product, it is also a currency. If you don't know what your currency is worth, you will not get value in exchange. Therefore, being self-aware enough to know the true worth of your brand is absolutely critical. If you do not know the value of your brand, how do you expect anyone else to? In a commercial environment, consumers do not want to pay any more for an under-valued brand than they do for an over-valued one. The onus therefore is on the supplier to do the due diligence and ensure that what they have to offer, is worth what others are willing to give.


5. when you speak who listens?

Does your brand have genuine authority? There are two key points to raise here; first, authority is not just about whether anyone listens, because even weak brands are able to attract an audience. Rather, the question is: when you exercise your authority, does anyone even care? Once you have spoken does your brand drive behaviour? Does it affect sentiment? Is it taken seriously? The second point, is not just about whether you attract an audience, it is about whether you attract the right audience? A brand with authority operates with influence and delivers the right message to the right audience at the right time.


6. are you adaptable?

Adaptability is the ultimate evidence of relevance. It speaks to the idea of openness, change and a capacity for innovation and re-invention. In a branding context, if you are relevant then you are relatable and if you are relatable then you have appeal. The point about adaptability is significant, because it is the ability to adapt that enables a brand to appeal to different demographics and be influential across a wider span of interest. This in turn creates opportunities for a brand to be more impactful and effective.


7. what do others say about you?

The ultimate strength of a brand is the number and range of people who are willing to endorse or recommend it. No matter what you say about yourself, or the image that you project, your true brand is what people experience and say about you. Therefore, if people have good experience, then they will not only talk about them, they will come back and bring others. There are few true measures that say more about the impact and effectiveness of a brand than the chatter it is able to generate by word of mouth.


In conclusion, irrespective of whether you are an individual or a business, the questions in this blog, are an evaluative framework for the critical assessment of your brand. In addressing these questions, it is worth remembering that whilst brands are dynamic, they are also uncomplicated and predictable. As such, the better you understand how they are defined, the better able you will be to determine both the efficacy and viability of your brand.



By pa360, Sep 23 2018 02:20PM

I am convinced that one day my 16 year-old nephew will become a multi-millionaire. For someone so young, he is incredibly lucid and innovative. Just last month he came to see me, about a new online business venture that he was planning to launch this year. However, as he presented both his idea and business strategy, I became convinced that, whilst the idea was a good one, he had thought his strategy through.


Over the next 30 minutes I began to ask him various questions and the very productive discussion that ensued, brought some perspective and realism to the challenges that lay ahead of him.


Reflecting back on that conversation, I realise that it represents something of a microcosm of the many reasons why small start-ups never get off the ground or never survive long enough to realise their potential. On the presumption that learning is transferable; set out below, are the ten questions from my 16 year-old nephew's start-up journey.


1. Who told you, it was a good idea?

Sometimes when people reflect on their ideas, it can often be like a person sitting in an echo chamber. One of the most dangerous things in business is the propensity to take one's own counsel or that of like-minded others. Let's be clear, that is not to say that you should ask people over 60, what sort of products would appeal to those under 20 or vice-versa. Rather, it is to say that any product assessment, should be based on a robust and considered appraisal of upsides and downsides, by those with some understanding of what they are talking about.


2. What do you know that they don't know?

Consider this scenario: you are in a room interviewing 100 excellent candidates for one vacancy; what would make you appoint one candidate over the other 99? Progress in the world of business, will present you with exactly the same conundrum. The only exception is that the complexity of the conundrum will be multiplied a thousand times over. By themselves, good ideas are not what makes you competitive. Neither, on their own, do good ideas produce the best businesses. The thing that makes the difference, is when a good idea can be translated into a viable commercial proposition.


3. What's the hurry?

What is the imperative that is driving you to act now? Is it changing consumer attitudes, or prevailing economic conditions or just your own impatience for action? Time spent testing and proving new ideas, is better than time spent re-launching products that fail for lack of proper planning. Never confuse decisiveness with desperation. Learning is an inevitable and essential component of any commercial success, but learning can also be costly. In business, you can recoup your losses, win back disaffected customers and rebuild a damaged reputation, but the one thing you cannot regain is lost time. Plan it thoughtfully, use it wisely and realise it productively.


4. How long are you prepared to wait?

The point here, is that; once you get started, how long are you willing to wait for success? In any business, you will have some idea of what success looks like and the sorts of margins you expect to achieve in the short, medium and longer-term, This is completely normal and any business will be able to re-adjust its financial forecast in the face of changing realities on the ground. The business of business is largely formulaic, but within that formulae, there are a wide variation of possibilities. Therefore, from the get go, you need to be clear about a reasonable return on your investment.


5. What do you know that you don't know?

In business, it is critical that you are aware of your space, but whilst vision is both forward and peripheral, no-one has eyes at the back of their head. Ultimately, however, the key to success isn't what you know and what you can see and plan for, it is what you don't know. Whilst it is true that, to achieve success you must be able to make the most of what you have and the opportunity that is put in front of you, to make success sustainable, you must be able to prepare and plan for the things that you don't know.


6. What if?

Anyone looking to start a business, needs to ask the fundamental 'what if' question. For example, what if your primary investor backs out? What if your suppliers let you down? What if things take off faster than you had planned? The greater the number of processes in your business and the more complex your supply chain, the greater the number of 'what if' questions you need to consider. If you haven't thought about the practical questions that could face your business and developed viable contingencies to moderate them, then you are not prepared.


7. What are the big challenges and small things?

It is natural and right to give the bigger issues your most urgent attention. By their very nature, the bigger issues are also the most important things and the pivots upon which the success or failure of your business is likely to rest. However, where small start-ups get it wrong, is in taking their eyes off the many seemingly less significant (but inter-connected) issues that often go under the radar. In business, the difference between success and failure isn't always the big things that you plan for, it is the cumulative effect of the little things that you ignore.


8. What are you not good at?

Knowing your short-comings is not an admission of failure. On the contrary, the ability to honestly appraise what you are and are not good at, should compel you to think about who else you might need to bring on board to help you. Muddling through and hoping for the best or believing that you will work it out when you get there, is silly and costly. The possibility of working alongside suitably qualified or experienced people, at the right time, is something that you should think about now not later.


9. Does anyone know you are there?

There is a reason why businesses invest in marketing campaigns and allocate resources to marketing budgets. It is because there is no point having a unique selling point, if no-one even knows what you are selling. Effective marketing is not just about making a loud noise it is about making a loud noise in the right places and at the right times. The same principles that apply to multi-billion dollar conglomerates, also apply to a small start-up, with a tiny operating budget and small profit margins.


10. What do you want them to remember?

When planning for your future customers, don't just think about what you want them to know, think about you want them to remember? There are so many points of interaction that any business will have with its customer base, from product development and marketing, through to service delivery and customer care. Each point of contact, represents a unique opportunity to communicate a powerful message, establish a meaningful relationship and demonstrate the value of your brand. In visual terms, knowing what you want people to remember, is the difference between writing your message on paper and setting it in stone.


In conclusion, the path to success doesn't start with the insight to capture a bright idea, it starts with the ability to ask the right questions. To that end, the most viable product of any start-up, is a penchant for perpetual curiosity.


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