Any business that includes local customers into their business plan needs to be aware of the different sources available to market for their target audience. One of the biggest tools we use is Google Places for our local clients. It's free, provides analytics, and generally provides some decent traffic. Of course there are always new Google Updates that create another service to provide better ranking and results such as our local listings that we pushed early Jan 2011.
Many start-ups, entreprenuers, and small businesses fail to understand the importance of calculating their return on investment(ROI) from successful printcampaigns. Have you heard the term "It takes money to make money?" and thought that it meant hundreds or thousands of dollars? I disagree. To me the term means in order to make $5 you need to spend $1.
Color is one of the many tools we use to define the world around us. We often use color to describe our mood or setting. We use color to warn, excite, entice, scare, and advertise. We also subconsciously use color to define periods of time.
Color is perceived the same universally but has slight cultural differences in interpretation. Regardless of culture, it has a strong emotional impact on the human brain. There are certain colors in nature that universally signal danger, as found in the brightly colored and venomous Eastern Coral Snake and in poisonous Holly Berries.
I recently read the marketing classic “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” from Ries and Trout (2001) and much of the strategies that the authors discuss are quite obvious and straightforward but are often overlooked because we just love to over-analyze and complicate things.
Positioning is a Battle for the Consumer’s Mind
First off, positioning—how you’re going to brand the product, service or company—is about claiming a place in the consumer’s mind for the brand and fixing it there, preferably permanently.
The question is: with all the information that’s going into the prospect’s mind—about 100,500 words a day from all sorts of online and offline sources—the message will get lost in the melee.
You have to battle for messaging supremacy with a wide swath of industries and markets, products and services every moment of every day. But the consumer can only take so much and at some point, will refuse to accept anything else into her mind. Beyond the saturation point, the consumer’s mind will remain blank, numb and unresponsive to the marketing message. In which case, you’ll be wasting time and precious resources.
The solution: oversimplify the message. Make it short, sweet, sharp, tight, quickly digested, and easily understood. In short, KISS (keep it simple, why don’t you?)!
Don’t give the prospect a difficult time understanding the message. Use clever presentation—including language—only if it helps the prospect grasp what you’re saying. Otherwise, steer clear of clever or funny messaging that does nothing for the branding.
But creating a message that the consumer can easily grasp and act on is just one part of positioning. The other part is how to brand the offering effectively so you can fix the brand in the consumer’s mind.
The Different Positioning Strategies
The best and easiest way to create and fix a position for the product or service offering in the prospect’s mind is to be first in her mind.
The brand firsts are the easiest to remember and has the largest market share compared to those that follows next. Right off the bat, who’s the first man on the moon? Neil Armstrong. The first US president? George Washington. The first air conditioner? Carrier. The first double-edged safety razor? Gillette. The first cornflakes? Kellogg’s. The first photocopier? Xerox. To this day, these brands enjoy the leadership position in their markets.
Those who came next, or the seconds, are consigned to obscurity. Who’s the second US president? What is the second cornflakes brand to enter the market? The second razor? The second air conditioner? If the consumer remembers any of these seconds at all, that’s because these brands were able to own a niche that’s just as memorable as the firsts.
So in a positioning world where the firsts are already fixed in the prospect’s mind, how do you create the own immovable branding?
Find a hole and fill it. Often, the knee jerk reaction to latecomers in a particular product or service category is the “me-too but better” branding.
The problem with this is that consumers already have a fixed brand in that category and research says that the “first” position is the hardest to dislodge in the mind. Add to that, consumers often buy the same brand that they did on the last time they bought.
If you’re a Johnny-come-lately, the best bet is in finding a hole in the prospect’s mind and then grabbing it quickly before somebody else does. The market leader has the largest size in the market? The Volkswagen Beetle carved a profitable niche of its own by leveraging its compact size. Ries and Trout also suggest exploring the high-price, low-price marketing holes; focused niches; gender or age-related positioning; distribution; and so on.
Change the prospect’s mind about the leading brand. In a word, repositioning the competition. Ries and Trout says it succinctly: “to move a new idea or product into the mind, you must first move an old one out.”
The premise for this is the fact that once a consumer’s mind is made up about a certain brand, there’s no undoing that...unless you change the prospect’s mind about the leading brand first.
So how do you “move out” an established brand? You change the prospect’s mind about an established competition by bursting their bubble about that product. To do that, you pick apart the competition’s messaging about their features and benefits and categorically position the brand as the better alternative in each argument that matters.
The classic case is how Tylenol positioned acetaminophen against aspirin, then the undisputed leader in pain and fever relief. Tylenol decimated aspirin’s branding by presenting the dangerous side effects in aspirin as opposed to acetaminophen’s safer advantages.
Choose a brand name that has the potential of becoming a generic for the product or service. There’s Kleenex that’s used alternatively for tissue; Colgate for toothpaste; and Coke for soft drinks (at least, when I was younger).
Perhaps the best examples of this are Google (now a verb that means searching for information about something on the internet), Xerox (another verb for photocopying) and Polaroid (for cameras).
Brand the product or service with a name that has the possibility of later becoming the generic term.
Positioning is both an art and a science. Some find a good branding position quickly; some labor long and hard, spending hundreds of focus group and survey hours to nail their branding; and some just don’t get it. Remember this when you’re creating the planning the brand positioning against an established market leader, or even in carving the own niche.
One thing that I’m certain businesses do a lot of time doing is watching the competition. It’s a type of “keeping up with the Joneses” for business to maintain their competitive edge. All too often though, it’s more about pricing and less about creating a meaningful edge.
Knowing the competition is good but if what it does to the company branding is just to get you on top of the pricing war, then competitive intelligence becomes a waste of time.
To get the most out of competitive intelligence, it should define what differentiates you from the pack...what makes you more valuable to the customers than the other companies in the market.
Competition and Your Company Branding
How will a customer choose which widget to buy from a thousand other widgets? There are such typical considerations as color, size, material used, and convenience and more esoteric aspects as whether the manufacturers went green and organic in their materials sourcing and production process. Each widget maker is sure to define what makes their widget different from the widget of the shop next door in the hopes of getting the customer’s business.
In much the same way, define what sets you apart from the competitors by knowing what the competitors are up to because ultimately, thecompetitive edge is not just about offering a better or lower price.
Ask a lot of questions:
- Where are the competitors located—are they closerto the customers than you are or are they off the beaten path? Why so?
- What are the range of products and services they’re offering? Are they continuously innovating or are they regularly coming up with new offerings? What’s their research and development like...or do they even have one?
- What are the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, the threats they’re facing and the opportunities they’re taking advantage of?
- What are they doing better or worse than you? How do their products and services compare to yours?
- How are they marketing their offerings and where?
- Are they on a cost-cutting program or are they expanding their reach and offerings?
These are just some of the many questions you will need to ask of the competitors, and the kind of answers that emerge will help you define what makes you different—the heart of the branding strategy.
Spying on Your Competitors
We are not talking about covert activities like planting bugs in the competitor’s boardrooms or paying disgruntled employees to snitch on their company’s activities. We are talking about simple but effective competitive intelligence that doesn’t cost you money or morals.
There are many ways to see what the competitor is up to:
- Publicly available information like filings, hearings and documents submitted to government regulatory bodies
- Newspapers, company websites and press releases
- Social media and Google alerts
- Focused group discussions, surveys and product/service reviews
Best bet to stay current on the industry and on the competitors is to create a Google alert using relevant keywords used in the industry; product name or services; competitor’s brands and company names; and your own brands and company name, of course.
If you want real-time information on market chatter about you and the competitors, you can also create a Twitter feed.
Brand Identity and Positioning
In a way, brand identity and positioning are two peas in a pod when it comes to the competition. Both will define how you will place the company brand in the mind of consumers. Imagine the customer’s mind as a row of shelves where different brands for different products or services are stored.
Some brands are fairly new in their positions—recently fixed in their shelf because an old brand is perceived to be of lesser value, it’s the better alternative to an old brand, a newly invented product or service, or it’s the “in” thing right now. Whatever the reason they’re in particular shelves, they have a real value to the customer over other similar products or services in the market.
That value which separates you from and makes you a better choice over the other brand in your niche is what you want to nail down and communicate to the consumer. That is the brand identity or product/service positioning message.
You invented a widget that’s alone in its class? Then you brand it as the “first ever” gadget, like no other. You are a far second to the brand leader? Change the consumer’s mind about the competitor’s offering. Relate your brand to the leading brand, not to compare but to create a shelf that the competitor has not explored yet.
However you are branding the company, products or services, the most important thing about competitive intelligence is that you avoid being blindsided by the competitors’ moves. You can tweak the company branding into a more focused, more meaningful differentiation that gives real value to your customers if you’re aware of what your competition is up to.
Successful company branding is more about knowing what makes the customer tick and less about a huge advertising budget. Once you know what piques the interest of the target market, plan a strategy to best engage them.
To engage the target market effectively however, you will have to know the business inside and out. Knowing the business—every aspect of it, from the unique value proposition and market size to how to get market loyalty—is the key to communicating the unique company brand.
Do One Thing Great
Every product or service has a unique value proposition—what the customer will get from buying a particular brand or service. Some call it USP—unique selling proposition, what sets you apart from the competition and the only reason why customers should choose you.
However, many businesses can’t nail their unique value proposition because they want to be everything to everyone. Or at least, they want to win as wide a swathe of their target market as possible.
The result of such an unfocused marketing is ambiguous company branding that does not communicate any value to the market. On the other hand, if the message is laser-focused on a single benefit, you are 60% more likely to succeed on getting the market to “buy” whatever product or service you are selling.
Plus, think what it can do to the company branding. You can create a compelling position in the market’s mind as the go-to provider in a particular product or service, like Kleenex is to tissue and Xerox to photocopying.
Know What Your Brand Stands For
Much like the consumer that thinks of lower prices when they see Wal-Mart’s logo or social media when Chris Brogran’s name is mentioned, you would want customers to immediately think of the offering when they hear the brand or see the logo.
The one way to know what the brand stands for—besides knowing every aspect of the product or service, the market, the competition and the industry—is to ask the employees, customers (old and new) and even the man on the street what you do best.
The responses will be a gauge of how well you have branded the company. If they can easily respond to the question, then you have aced the branding. If there’s not one unified theme running through their responses, then it is time to re-think how you are presenting the business, and re-tool the company branding.
A basic springboard for re-imaging the company branding is to understand the specific challenges that the customers or clients are facing, and then have the product or service solve it.
A neat trick is to come up with an elevator speech—a 30-second to 2-minute summary of what the product or service is and the unique way it will solve the customer’s problems (unique value proposition).
Honing in On Your Business
- So what sets you apart from the competition?
- What is it exactly that your brand stands for?
- What’s the itch that you scratch most effectively?
- What’s the pain that you’re taking away?
- What’s the unique value proposition?
To some businesses, these questions are the easiest to answer. They’re so highly niched that they know everything about their business inside out and can explain what they do in under 30 seconds.
For those who have several product lines or service segments, branding may have to go to the molecular level. That is to say, to individual products or services. Nike is to athletic gear as Sony is to…what? Laptops? Movies? Digital games?
Sony’s offerings are so dynamic and so diversified that there’s a different branding for their individual products. They do have a company branding strategy that marries technology with imagination and creativity but you’d expect this to be a very expensive effort to communicate.
Knowing your audience should be a no-brainer as it defines how you’ll communicate company branding to your target market.
Others are stumped from the get-go though because they want to be all things to all people. That isn’t only highly impractical but it’s also absolutely illogical. Your target market is a group of individuals with their own opinions and preferences. They’re not just a demographic.
How you’re going to be effective at fixing your particular brand in your target market’s minds will depend largely on what is on their minds…and how you’ll connect using what fills their minds.
Your Audience’s Persona is Key to Unique Company Branding
The savviest of marketers seem to have no trouble communicating with their target market. They know exactly what to say or do to get their target market to “buy”—and how to keep them buying.
The secret? They create a living, breathing person—an individual with personality traits and quirks—from cold statistics and demographics. Once they’ve locked into this “audience of one”, they craft a marketing message that speaks only to her.
This marketing message, in turn, defines how they’ll reach her—the channels they’ll use, the materials they’ll disseminate, and the value add-ons they’ll create.
Questions to Ask About Your Audience
Getting to know your audience is much like chatting up a customer who comes into your store. You talk to the customer because you really want to know what makes her tick. That way, you can serve her better the next time.
So you ask questions like:
- What’s her name? How old is she?
- How would you describe her appearance?
- Where does she live? Does she live alone or with friends, parents, or a partner?
- Does she work? Where? How much does she make? What does she do after work?
- How does she spend her leisure time? With whom? Where?
- Who does she hang out with? What do they talk about? How do they talk with each other, the language they use?
- What are her life’s goals? Has she achieved most, or some?
- What hurts her? Her problems? Her pleasures?
How can you ease her pain or deepen her pleasure?
Obviously, these are just some of the questions that you can ask. Pose more questions to dig deeper, until you have a lock on your audience’s personality.
The most important though is to create a single persona—your “audience of one”—so you can get to know her more intimately. That intimate knowledge will help you create a tight, laser-focused message.
Company Branding For Your Audience of One
Branding—whether it’s for a company or a product—creates a particular awareness about you in your prospect’s mind. If you know your audience well, you can define how best to reach her, create a place in her mind, and make sure you stay in her thoughts (and in her budget!) for a long time to come.
Say your representative audience is Megan—a 35-year-old working mom with 3 kids all below the age of 12; a working husband who comes home late due to work demands; and a mortgage that’s creating a huge dent in her family’s monthly cash flow.
Based on that brief profile, you can define the many ways you’ll reach her:
- Business website. The “look and feel” of your website (including colors, fonts and navigation), the voice and tone of your site language, and the information you’ll present to her.
- Email copy. The same consideration in creating a website goes to writing email, but this time, you also need to how to get her to opt-in, how to write copy that makes her “buy” and so on.
- Mobile telephone. Will you engage her through free or paid apps, alerts, and special discounts?
- Tri-media (print, television, radio). Does she favor these channels more than the others?
- Brick and mortar store. Or would it be more effective to chat her up in a real-world setting rather than a company website, a phone app, or a TV ad?
Obviously, when designing your business websites, a young mother would probably be attracted to a soft, feminine branding than say, a teenager whose attention is piqued more by vibrant colors and energetic designs.
There are many aspects of company branding that your representative persona will dictate, from your company logos, product design and business websites to the channels you’ll be using to engage your target market. By sitting down now and taking the time to know your “audience of one” you’re better able to obtain increased response to your marketing and advertising efforts.
Google announced another update to their search algorithm that will be affecting many results. They are reporting that the theory behind this update is to provide relevant information pertaining to most recent updates / events. Using their example, if you search then it is possible you are interested in the upcoming 2012 event versus the 1980 events.
Social media influencer is a marketing expert that can help empower companies by interacting with facebook & twitter followers. A key benefit with using social networking is the ability to spread the message quickly throughout a large community of potential customers. What many companies fail to understand is the difference between interaction and impressions.
When it comes to marketing, we believe in creating a diverse strategy with a health mix of web services, printing products, and social networking to drive sales up. In the past year, we have done over 150 printing jobs and about 30 of them were looking for a custom solution. Whether it was a special shape, texture, or unique style.