Category Archive: small business branding
After watching the Groupon ads today I just had to write this quick blog post.
For most of us, a major highlight of the Super Bowl is the creative advertisements punctuating each break in the game. Brands and advertising agencies really put their noggins together to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck in these astronomically expensive ad spots. But sometimes there are flubs or ads that push the limits of acceptable in order to garner mass press (remember the launch of the Godaddy Girls?). This time around one of the most talked about controversial ad campaigns was Groupon’s tactless bait-and-switch commercials.
If you haven’t seen the Groupon ads view a couple below:
We all love a good joke, but these ads were not really even funny. They are the kind of ads that a creative team may have come up with when they were still at the drawing board, but they should have never actually gone “to print.” Now this, of course, is just my opinion (well, and that of a few other people, too) but this is the point at which branding, including a set of company/brand values would have saved them from themselves.
The other day I was revisiting the book Rework and one particular concept stood out to me–an advantage of being “small”. In a chapter titled “Welcome Obscurity” the authors talk about being in the early stages of business. Specifically they say “Use this time to make mistakes without the whole world hearing about them…Keep Tweaking. Try new things.” When you’re the little guy and you haven’t built a large following yet you can test out some of your hair-brained ideas without the repercussions that a larger brand, like Groupon, will have to deal with. Groupon has really illustrated this point, we’re all going to make mistakes, but let’s try to do it when 100 million people AREN’T watching.
An article on CNN.com entitled “Groupon spends big on controversial (tasteless?) Super Bowl spots“ theorizes that dot.com startups like Groupon have acted like they were already established brands when they decided to shell out the dough for Super Bowl ad spots. Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland (an ad firm) is quoted in the article as saying, “When you’re introducing a new concept to the marketplace, you have to focus more on positioning, rather than personality.” I do agree, to a certain extent that is. In this situation however I theorize that Groupon was actually acting like “too small” of a company, believing that an inside joke they found funny would resonate with the market. It may have been better to think it through a little further.
The sad thing is that Groupon apparently is actually donating a portion of their proceeds to the charitble causes it pokes fun at in their ads. Perhaps if they had actually communicated that fact the ads would not have left such a bad taste in our mouths. As for the rest of us–if your business is still “small” try a few things, but remember to always default back to your original brand values as your guide.
That’s my take on it anyway. What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on this subject.
Oh & here’s Conan’s take on the Groupon ads:
These foundations are the key factors I’ve seen come in to play time and time again when working with clients and in the observation of major world-wide brands.
1. Know who you are and what you are offering
Some of the top branding professionals have been quoted as saying that your market determines your brand. That’s all well and great, but if you don’t figure out who you are, what your values are and what benefits you offer your market may be confused by your brand.
If you want your market to appreciate your brand for what it really is/does then you need to have a deep understanding of exactly where you stand. You need to dig into the “whys” and “hows” of your brand so you can gain the 360 degree understanding that will help you communicate effectively. The best way to do this is to sit down for a “brand audit” with your top decision makers and take a honest look at:
- Who Your Company is and What it does
- What your products/services are
- Who your competition is
- Your vision, mission and values
- Your advantages
2. Get in touch with your ‘ideal market’
Take a step back from your marketing plan facts and figures on “what” your demographic is and re-familiarize yourself with WHO they are.
I recently had the opportunity (while working on my book) to interview a top marketing VP for a huge beverage brand (can’t reveal it yet, but trust me it’s one of the top brands in the world) about branding. One of the key points he made about branding success was to not spend too much time positing and researching what your target market might like, but get out there and actually find out. In other words, don’t rely solely on research to tell you how to effectively reach them.
Get in touch with who they are, what they like to do and how they live. Then get out there and listen, both to what they say and what your gut says.
3. Create a clear message (or messages) that resonates with your ideal market.
After you’ve done your research, figured out what you do and who your ideal market is, it’s time to distill it all down into a message that will really “sing” to them. A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet and pick the brain of Wende Zomnir, creative dynamo behind Urban Decay cosmetics. I remember her sage advice: your brand should be describable in three short concepts/words. It’s a busy world and chances are people won’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what your brand is. So make it easy for them.
Start thinking…what are the top three things they simply MUST know about your brand?
4. Be consistent, Persistent and Expansive
Imagine your favorite TV show had a new intro song, time of day that it aired and was sometimes known by a different name…it would quickly lose it’s brand value and your attention (not to mention confuse the heck out of everyone). Now think of some of the small businesses you’ve seen out there–any similarities? Consistency is key. You need to take the time to first create something great and then stick to it. Even if “singing the same tune” might get a little repetitive for you, it will help your ideal market remember you.
Your logo, colors, layout, messages and overall brand feel should be consistent, whether you’re launching a new marketing campaign or just sending an email.
A common complaint of new bloggers or email marketers is that they posted a couple blog posts and deployed a few emails and nothing much happened. There is no “free” lunch in branding/marketing. If you want results you need to keep offering value over an extended period of time and show that your brand is worth caring about.
Think about the amount of information you are inundated with on a daily basis. Sometimes you’ll see a post or an email that you are actually interested in, but just don’t have the time to even look at. You are not alone. Provide persistent branding communication so that when your audience DOES have time they won’t want to miss what you’re sharing.
Take time every week (or at least every month) to put your feelers out there and look for new ways to reach your audience. Times are a changin’ and there are so many new opportunities for you to engage with your ideal market. It’s all the better for you if you can get there first or do it better than your competition.
No one likes to be told that they were wrong (especially me ) but in reality sometimes things will work and sometimes they won’t. So don’t be married to your ideas, be willing to allow your ideal market guide you into creating the best brand possible. It’s important to note, however, that I’m not advising you to change your values–those are the safeguard for your brand’s integrity.
One of the hallmarks of successful businesses and brands is the ability to adapt when circumstances change. If you’re stuck in your ways, you’ll just end up there–stuck. So embrace one of the only absolutes in life: change.
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