Category advertising & marketing

How to create a brand

“Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.”

— David Ogilvy

That isn’t as complicated as it sounds. But it does take some thought before you begin to create your ad.

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The other day I saw an ad…

I hear this phrase all the time from small business owners, even from marketing directors. They want their ad to look like someone else’s ad. Huge mistake.

“In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”

William Bernbach

Your ad has got to strike a chord within the viewer and make them think of you and nobody else but you.

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The main advantage of a small business

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll notice that I talk a lot about reputation and why someone should do business with you rather than your competitor. I think small businesses can compete with large companies, and I suspect you think so too or you wouldn’t be a small business owner.

TechCrunch writes about a recent survey that says that 82% quit doing business with a company because of bad customer service. It’s easy to see why a large company can give poor service. A smaller more personal company will always be able to run circles around a larger company in this area. But only if they choose to do so.

If you are still looking for that defining reason for someone to do business with you rather than your competitor, take a hard look at the customer service you provide. If your service truly is better than most, then make that a part of your marketing message, maybe even make it your sole message.

But  you’d better be committed to providing outstanding service. If your service isn’t great, and you tell people it is, then you’ll sink your own boat.

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How much?

How much would you expect to pay for a nice suit? They aren’t inexpensive, but barring any trendy fashion whim (leisure suits, anyone?), a good suit will be last many years and many events. I don’t know about you, but I usually have to replace a suit because of my growing middle, not because I wore it out.

Now what about a tailored suit? One made specifically to fit you? You expect it to be more costly than even a really nice off-the-rack suit. After all, not only are you paying for the time and materials to make your suit, you are paying for the tailor’s expertise in fitting the suit to you and sewing the materials together in a way that makes you look your best.

Now, what if you require a suit that is not only tailor-fitted to you, but is completely unique? It can’t look like any other suit out there. When someone sees your unique suit, they must immediately think, “That is (insert your name here).”

When you ask a design professional to create a logo for your business, you are essentially asking for a one-of-a-kind, completely unique tailor-fitted suit for your company. Now do you see why a logo costs more than a couple of hundred dollars?

As a small business, you shouldn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for logo design, but you shouldn’t expect to only pay a few hundred dollars for one either.

Back in 1980, CNN paid about $2500 for their logo. That is a small investment by business standards, but their investment has payed off handsomely. I promise you that they have gotten their money’s worth from it.

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Smart logos

If you haven’t guessed by now, I love logos. Webdesigner Depot posted a great collection of logos. Click the link, have a look, and see if your small business’s identity could use a make-over.

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How not to be taken seriously

It takes quite a bit of skill to match the tone of an advertisement, or a sign for that matter, to its message. Even your choice of font or typeface can drastically affect how you or your business is perceived by the public.

Your Logo Makes Me Barf has a perfect example of a mixed marketing message. The typeface used in that particular sign would be great for a childcare center, but not a professional building.

Just because someone has a copy of Photoshop doesn’t mean they can help you with your advertising. The same goes for your friend who knows a lot about computers or that guy with a video camera. Make sure they have the skills you need to communicate your message effectively.

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The only good advertising is effective advertising

The previous post on controlling costs reminded me of a famous quote:

“The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.”

— Aldo Gucci

The money you spend on your advertising and marketing is not an expense, it’s an investment that you are counting on to bring a return. If you are looking for a financial advisor, your first concern is their track record; their fees only really come into play when comparing the similar track records of different advisors. However, when many small businesses look for help with their advertising and marketing, they look at fees first and often never make track record a concern.

The only good advertising is effective advertising. Anything else is a loss. Be aware of fees and certainly count their cost, but don’t think of your advertising as a commodity that is bought based on price alone. You’ll sure to have a bitter experience if you do.

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Why now is the time to start your marketing strategy

If you taken the advice found here in this blog, you’re probably already pretty far into the process of planning and implementing your marketing and advertising strategies. If you haven’t started, I’d like to give you one good reason why you should start today. The reason is this: the sooner you start, the less it will cost. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Controlling Costs

Planning and preparation are the key to containing the cost of any project. The same holds true for advertising and marketing.

Marketing and advertising are collaborative endeavors. You’ll need to collaborate with someone else to fulfill your advertising and marketing. That someone else may be a graphic designer, a web expert, a copywriter, a production company, or it may be the newspaper or radio station that is running your ad, but you will be enlisting someone else’s help at some point in order to implement and fulfill your marketing or advertising.

What does this collaboration have to do with planning, preparation, and controlling costs? Glad you asked! What this means is that you will need to give your collaborators, the people you are working with to implement your promotional strategies, time to to plan and prepare your ads, web sites, or media plans. The less time you give them, the higher your costs will be. Let me illustrate.

Three Things

Whenever you are buying something, be it shoes, furniture or whatever, there are three features you that you want: you want it to be of high quality, you want it quickly, and you want it to be as inexpensive as possible. Now if you are dealing with a commodity, all three of those things may be possible. But marketing and advertising are not a commodity, they are custom-created for your product or service. You can’t pick an ad off the rack and run it, you must have something custom-tailored to your specific needs. Since marketing and advertising are essentially custom items, it means that you can’t have all three of our desired features. Looking at the three features, high quality, quick, and inexpensive, you can only have two.

Why only two?

You can have fantastic quality and get it quick, but it won’t be inexpensive. The reason is that all the planning, preparation and effort that your custom solution requires must be compressed into a short time frame. For your collaborator, that means long hours with few breaks, overtime charges, and giving other client’s projects a push to accommodate your project. Those other clients won’t like the delay in their schedules, and the only thing that makes risking their displeasure worthwhile is the higher rate you’ll be paying to expedite your project. High quality, quick turnaround, but expensive.

If you wait until Thanksgiving to plan your Christmas advertising and you want great results, this is where you’ll find yourself.

Or, you can have your marketing or advertising implemented quickly and inexpensively, but it won’t be of high quality. All products or services take a certain amount of time to complete, and custom items that cannot be mass produced take even more time. Your ads or media plans will take time to put together. The only way to push it out the door quickly without added expense is to cut corners on the quality. Fast and inexpensive, but it will be neither fantastic nor effective.

This is what most small businesses settle for in their advertising and marketing. They wait until the last minute, then rush through a half-thought out media buy, create a half-baked ad, and come away wondering why their advertising didn’t give them the results they were expecting. The money they spent on advertising ends up being a complete and expensive loss.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Better Choice

You can get high quality and have it relatively inexpensive. The key is to give your collaborators the time to do their thing. When your ad executive, graphic designer, or copywriter are given the time it takes to put together a high-quality, fantastic campaign, you won’t incur overtime charges and rush fees. You’ll get to hear the reasons for their choices and the justifications for their recommendations, and you’ll have the time to think those things over to see if they truly accomplish the goals you have set for your advertising and marketing. Fantastic and inexpensive, but it won’t be quick.

Start now, so you and your marketing and advertising partners will have the necessary time to plan and implement your creative and media planning. You’ll be far better pleased with the results.

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Apple: a lesson in branding

We’ve talked about branding a lot on these pages. Here’s a video of Steve Jobs introducing Apple’s “Think Different” advertising campaign which launched in 1997. He gives one of the best explanations of what a brand is that I’ve ever heard.

Notice that although he talks about their product and how he believes it’s the best available, he recognizes that a brand is more than what you sell, it’s what you stand for. So they set out to define what they stand for and distill it down to a simple message. Jobs gives a well thought out look at branding a business, and the result is a great example of how a fresh message that resonates with its audience can reinvigorate a business.

And, it’s something that you can do for your small business. Simply ask yourself what you really sell and begin to tell people in a way that’s easy to understand.

(Hat-tip to Jason Kottke)

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The need for simplicity

TechCrunch has an excellent article on the need for simplicity in communicating what you do. While the examples in Michael Arrington’s article are bigger than the small businesses that read this blog, the advice still applies no matter what you are trying to sell or to whom you are selling.

You would think this would be an easy task for a small business, after all, they operate in a smaller market and often don’t have a large variety of services to offer. But when you look at many small business advertisements or marketing material, so much is crammed into the space it gives you a headache looking at it.

I recently completed a print ad for a new client (you can see the ad here, and I did their logo a couple of months ago). When the ad ran, I picked up a magazine to have a look and verify that the ad ran correctly. The magazine is local, running almost exclusively local business advertisements, and does a pretty good job of targeting its chosen demographic. But what struck me was how busy most of the advertisements were. Most of them had no real message. They were just a quick shout out of their name — “HEY, DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME!” Unfortunately, the shout out often got lost in the noise of their own ad and the noise of the other ads around it.

The few ads that had simple messages stood out like an oasis in a desert. They caught your attention because their message was so simple it was easily understood at a glance. One of the ads that stood out to me was for a local gift shop (who is not a client, by the way). Their ad broke through the clutter by having lots of white space and featuring just one product. It was effective because it stood out. It also was a national co-op ad, which explains why its execution was so much better than many of the other ads, and is a rare example of how to use co-op advertising effectively.

The message your small business communicates to its potential customers is vital to your business. Good communication of a simple message brings in new customers and has people talking about your business in a positive way. Poorly conceived communication leads to muddled messages and you get lost in the crowd and forgotten. Take the time and make the investment to craft your message and communicate it well.

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