Archive for 2008
I just returned from a trip to Belize & Guatemala and took with me a valuable lesson, not only for life, but for your brand. The people of these countries live such simple lives (when compared to the US) and they are so happy. When they meet you they don’t ask “What do you do?” Or “what car do you drive?” And yet these are some of the most friendly, genuine, and peaceful people I’ve ever met. We Americans live such complicated lives in comparison to much of the world. Sure, we are “wealthy” compared to 99% of the world’s population, but we also seem to be a very unhappy nation.
We crowd our waking hours with task upon task and seemingly “important” things to do and see and buy. In the end it seems we are more about these “things” and we’re left with a void when it comes to who we are inside.
So what does this have to do with your business image–your brand? Well, a business is a reflection of the people who build it. If your organization is constantly grasping at the next big thing instead of focusing on building its core, it will, in the end have no leg to stand on.
It’s human nature to be hedonistic and constantly feed the pleasure centers of our brain. Our pop culture is built on this pleasure-seeking mentality. And yet, we see with some brands/companies a different draw. They appeal to the “deeper” feel good side of us–our morals, ethics, and values. Companies like Newman’s Own, Harpo, and New Belgium Brewing Co. are not just selling us a product, they are selling us something that taps into our values.
Of course, I don’t doubt that this interpretation is somewhat shallow in that ultimately we’re still talking about consumerism, but someone has to make the clothes, the food, the things we need. So why can’t it be a company that reminds us of the really important things in life? If I have the choice between a Newman’s Own cookie and another brand, I’ll choose the Newman, because not only does it taste great (brand integrity) but a large portion of my purchase goes directly to charity.
I encourage you (as I will be too) re-examine what your company’s real purpose is. What value are you bringing to the table? Are you making this world a better place or simply bumping along on the ride of life?
If all of the sudden all of the distractions of this “American life” dissappeared, would there be a void or peace?
That’s it for my “business therapy” today. Just had to share what’s on my mind.
In our current world of endless scams, here’s another important one to look out for: domain name scams.
I have personally seem numerous versions of domain name scams in two formats:
1. You get a notice in the mail, saying that your domain name needs to be renewed or transferred. (One of the most common sources is Domain Registry of America).
2. You get an email stating that you need to “unlock” your domain name, in order to allow your domain to be transferred.
These scams are just dubious because if you fall for them your website could end up in someone else’s hands, costing you time and money!
Follow these tips to protect your domain names:
1. Try to only use one registration service. If you decide to switch to another one, move all of your domains to that one. I recommend Surfsidedomains.com or Godaddy.com
2. If you MUST keep some of your domains with another service–make note of all your user names and passwords and setup all of your accounts to “auto-renew” so that you will receive notification, but will not need to take action when your domains come up from renewal.
3. Never email these scammers back or visit their websites! There are so many viruses that can infect your computer just by visiting a shady website.
4. When in doubt, login to your registrar’s site to see if there are any notifications for you. (They usually have all notifications available in your account). Or even better, call your registrar and ask if they sent you anything.
5. Avoid any domain name pre-registration service that guarantees particular top level domain names or preferential treatment in the assignment of new top level domain names.
Protect your assets!
More info: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/12/domainreg.shtm
“A great brand raises the bar — it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness, or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.”
- Howard Shultz (head of marketing for Starbucks and formerly Nike)
Your brand tells the world who you are. But, if you’re not explicitly defining your brand, it will end up defining you. We’ve all heard so much lately about the importance of “building your brand.” To many of us, the concept of branding can be rather vague. Simply put, branding is the impression people have of your business. It is the face of your business and will say things about you whether or not you are paying attention to it.
Branding your company is much more than just a logo or website—it is the connection you make with your customers. Here’s a great definition from Wikipedia:
“A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service.” Your brand is the overall message(s) that your company displays to the public.
Your brand is communicated visually AND experientially:
(website, ads, etc.)
-Product or Service
(how it looks/feels/works)
If you’re NOT paying attention to all of these elements, your customer will NOT conceive of your brand in the way you want them to! Your result, your brand, becomes a vague notion or worse, a negative concept. How will you attract the customers you want if they can’t “read your message” properly? It is important to think of your branding as more than just your “make-up;” it is the entire image your company, product or service portrays.
Why is Branding Important?
If you don’t read anything else in this article, remember this: your brand is of the utmost importance because it simply IS the opinion that people have of your business. Even if you aren’t actively thinking about your company’s branding—you’re still branding your business every day. HOW it is branded is up to you.
Why your brand is important:
-Your potential customer has two possible avenues to get to you: visual perception (ads, brochures, business cards, website, etc.) and by referral. Branding encompasses both.
-Your current client has the power to stay or leave. Your brand (good or bad) is what guides their decision.
-Your current clients, affiliates, employees and vendors can recommend you to their contacts or advise potential clients to steer clear. Your brand guides this decision as well.
-No one will really know your advantages, skills and benefits unless you tell them in a way they can understand. You guessed it—branding tells them.
So, let’s delve into the Essential Elements of Branding Your Business:
By the way, this will also help you with your marketing plan!
Step 1: Who are you?
The first step in branding is to examine the essence of your company. How do you operate? What are the values of the company? What is your business style–laid-back or all-business? Is customer service paramount? Or perhaps, product pricing is. Whatever your unique perspective is—identifying it is the first step in branding.
Step 2: Where do you want to go?
The second step is to decide where you want it to go. This is exciting. Where do you want to go? Do you want to end up the next Microsoft or perhaps a solid, neighborhood business? Either way branding is extremely important, but your brand will take different shapes depending on how “big” you want to be.
Step 3: What makes you special?
What makes your service or product unique? What is your advantage over your competitors? Decide on your top five qualities and then whittle it down to the one overall impression you’d like people to have of your business.
Step 4: How do people perceive you?
How do you want people to remember you? Let’s say people can only remember one thing about your company—which, in many cases, is actually true. If they could only take away one lasting impression of the essence of your company; what would it be? What one simple concept what would it be? “They have best customer service in town.” “They have the cheapest tires.” “They provide excellent service and really great products.” “They really have great products I was surprised because their ad looked so ‘cookie-cutter.’” “They have great service and they are really professional.” And on and on—you get the idea. People are emotional beings and your goal is to make sure they have good feelings about your business.
Imagine two people are discussing their experience with your business—how do you want them to FEEL about your business? You want the entire experience to be top-notch—don’t give them a reason to rethink using your service or buying from you. Give them reasons to feel good about your business and a desire to come back.
Step 5: Your Crew and Your Public: Learn how to relate to the people that make your company work.
This element of developing your brand is two fold; there are two types of people that make your business work: Your Public (your customers) and Your Crew (your employees, freelancers, vendors, and self).
Branding to Your Crew and Your Public is much like a see-saw—you really can’t have one without the other—if you lose one, the other will fall off.
Your brand must be obvious not only to your customers but also to your “Crew.”
An obvious example of this element of branding is Starbucks®. Regardless of your personal opinion of the company with a coffee shop on every corner, you’ve got to admit, from a branding perspective, they’ve done something right. Now, of course, they’ve branded their company in a memorable way, but not just to the public—they also brand themselves to their employees as well. Their baristas know the products, are usually friendly and have many industry perks. The result: the Starbucks® “crew” actually believes in the brand and they embody an essential element of Starbucks branding—good coffee, good people.
What do your employees, vendors, contractors say about you?
The second part of this branding element is Your Public (your customers). I can’t emphasize it enough—get to know them. Who are they: age, marital status, sex, family status, buying habits, color and style preferences, level of technology savvy, leisure preferences, education level, etc., etc? As you really get to know your consumer always ask yourself—how does this apply to my business? How can I get through to them and spark their interest in my business? How could my business benefit them — from their perspective? To learn more about “Your Public” you may need to enlist the help of some resources: demographic data sources, designers, marketing experts, advertising agencies, etc.
Step 6: Decide how you want your business to be perceived.
Now that you know your business better and who makes it work, you must decide how you want the business to be perceived. It’s time to narrow down what elements “embody the essence” of your company. It’s time to decide on your “brand.” Using all of the elements above you have several options depending on your unique goals.
Resources for different stages of business:
In this beginning phase of your business while you’re building your client base, it is important to start building the “Brand” that you want. It’s a learning period, but crucial to finding out what works and doesn’t and how to make the most of your talents! Keep in mind the brand message you are sending out—even in this early stage. This may be a very hard time to plan for the future, but it is essential to not only put together a solid business plan, but a marketing and branding plan as well. Creat the map for the future of your company!
Well, you know you’re doing something right since you have a growing customer base and stronger profits. Now is the time to really beef up your branding focus and efforts. It’s time to really nail down the concepts and boundaries of your brand and put them into action.
At this stage of the game your business has grown into a thriving entity. Perhaps your growth has become more routine. This is the perfect time to revitalize your branding image and continue to retain your loyal customers while expressing more freedom within your brand. (Think Coca Cola)
Whatever branding stage you are in, we are poised to help create innovative visuals that build your brand loyalty. We can help with branding, marketing, advertising, promotional materials and more. If you need some fresh ideas or have a few of your own give us a call. We would be thrilled to help.
Sources: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand
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