Tag branding

How do your customers identify you?

Here’s a question for you: What type of work do you do? Not what is it you do for a living, but what kind of work is it? Is it competent work? Is it mediocre? Is it horrible? Is it professional and white collar? Is it skilled and finely detailed? Is it rough, no-nonsense and immediately useful?

The purpose of this question is to get you to think about how your customers identify your company. I got to thinking along these lines recently while doing some research for a logo I was working on. I was surprised at how many small business logos for this particular field did little to convey the type of work they did.

When we see someone in a suit, we assume they work behind a desk. When we see someone wearing boots, we assume they work outside. That’s not a surprise. But it is surprising when someone is inappropriately dressed for they work they claim to do. If the guy who is supposed to clear your land of brush shows up in dress slacks, you’ll wonder if he is prepared for the job. You’ll think the same thing if a person selling you a suit is dressed in a sneakers and worn jeans. How they present themselves gives a clue to whether or not they are up to the job.

The same applies to businesses, yet a lot of small businesses inadvertently give the wrong message in their presentation. If you’re a selling something that has an appeal based on looks (clothing, furniture, whatever) then your business card had better look good. If you’re in a line of work where dependability is key, say transportation, delivery or courier services, then your marketing materials had better look dependable.

When a potential customer needs a dependable courier service, will they think you are dependable by looking at your web site? When a potential customer wants a nice couch to change the look of their living room, will they know you have good taste based on the sign outside your store?

Often a business owner will tell me that once a customer comes in to see their merchandise or tries their service, it sells itself. But the truth is that a customer won’t try your service or come in to see your merchandise until they are convinced that you are up to the job.

Saying you’re up to the job isn’t going to convince them. You show them your are up to the job by making a competent presentation through your marketing and advertising. Fail to do that, and you’ll be like the guy in sneakers and worn jeans trying to sell suits. He can say he knows suits till he’s blue in the face, but no one will buy unless it’s priced so low that it’s too good to pass up.

It’s not difficult to present your company in a competent fashion. Yes, it will take an investment of a little time and some money. But the investment in your business’s identity – the logo, the design of the business cards and the letterhead – is essentially a one-time investment. It is miniscule compared to the monthly ongoing expenditures you make in the course of doing business.

You’re going to have business cards printed up anyway. Why not do them right? Contact me. You have nothing to lose.

A branding exercise

Chris Brogan lets us in on a great little branding exercise. He suggests that we sit down and think about which magazine we are. It’s similar to a branding exercise that I suggested to you back in July, but Chris’s version may be easier for some people to think about and see the direction they need to take. It ultimately paints a picture in your mind and helps you visualize the results. While Chris applies the exercise to individuals, it also applies to small businesses. It’s worth the read.

Click the link above and read the article, and write down your thoughts. This type of thing is valuable to any business, big or small, because if you can’t define your business in your own mind, you’ll never be able to define it in your advertising.

What’s out of place in your advertising?

Seth Godin has a great article on hiring an architect. Only he’s not talking about architects for buildings, he’s talking about an architect for your business. Here’s my favorite quote:

I’m talking about intentionally building a structure and a strategy and a position, not focusing your energy on the mechanics, because mechanics alone are insufficient. Just as you can’t build a class A office building with nothing but a skilled carpenter, you can’t build a business for the ages that merely puts widgets into boxes.

My friend Jerry calls these people corporate chiropractors. They don’t do surgery, they realign and recognize what’s out of place.

It’s an excellent read. Go take a look and ask yourself, “does my advertising or marketing need an architect?”

What does the branding process look like?

American Express OPEN has a great series that looks at small businesses as they go through the rebranding process. I think a lot of small businesses are intimidated by this type of thing, and the Project Rebrand videos let the viewer get an inside look at what exactly takes place and why certain ideas are explored. I especially like where the business-owners share their perceptions about the process and how those perceptions changed as the began to see the value of a well thought out brand.

The videos are short and somewhat addicting. It’s almost like watching one of those make-over shows on TV, only these teach as well as entertain. They’re well worth watching. Click here to view them.

Doing it right

Since the last post showcased an ad that didn’t quite send the right message, I thought I’d show and example of a local business that seems to be on the right track as far as their advertising goes.

A few months ago I started noticing some billboards going up for a local chiropractic clinic. (Full disclosure: they are not a client, and I have never talked with them about their advertising.)

SandStone Chiropractic Billboard

It’s a nice bulletin and you can clearly read it from a distance. Other than the phone number and location, it’s is almost as if they followed The Art of the Billboard to a tee. I like it when someone does something right, so even though they are not a client I got a feeling of satisfaction from knowing that someone else “got it.”

I was even more pleased when I drove past their location one Sunday and saw their sign out front.

SandStone exterior sign

They actually use their logo on their storefront sign! You would be surprised at how many small businesses don’t do that. This practitioner’s identity is further reinforced by the use of color; the color of the storefront lettering is similar to the billboard’s background color. Maybe they’ve read Who Are You?

Then one day I am thumbing through a magazine to verify that a client’s ad had ran correctly, and what do I find? You guessed it, an ad for SandStone Chiropractic.

SandStone Magazine Ad

I was thrilled. Not only does the ad look good, I immediately recognized it as being SandStone Chiropractic and mentally connected it with the billboards and the storefront. That’s one of the things you want to accomplish with your advertising, a coherent identity.

I am a little disappointed with the lettering for the business’s name; it is not the same font used in the billboards or the storefront sign. The art-deco look of the magazine lettering is not nearly as professional looking as the serif font used in the other ads. However, because the visuals are almost identical to the billboards (color scheme, practitioner’s photo), the connection is still made and the ad works.

Interestingly, the lettering appears to be the same font used for the logo icon, which is a stylized SSC. Perhaps this was the original logo and it was changed either for ease of reading or to perhaps give a more professional appearance? It might be interesting to learn how this logo was developed.

Despite the logo/lettering issue with the magazine ad, this appears to be a strong advertising campaign for a local business. I wish them great success!

Clever advertising

My wife and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary last week. We have some close friends whose anniversary is the day before ours, so the four of us drove up through the Ozarks to Branson, Missouri to observe the occasions and take in some fall colors.

On the way up, we passed a billboard in one of the many towns we drove through. Since I’m in advertising and things like that interest me, my friends pointed it out. It was for a jewelry store and it read:

“We sell wife insurance.”

We  chuckled a bit, and the other couple both said that the ad had gotten their attention. I then turned to the wife and asked her, “Does that ad make you want to buy jewelry from that business?” She immediately said no. I turned to the husband and asked the same thing. He also said that it did not make him want to buy from them. The billboard’s cleverness got their attention, but it did nothing to persuade them to actually go into the store.

Why is that? Because while the ad is clever, it doesn’t strike a chord within its audience. It fails to make a connection.

A lot of small business owners mistake clever advertising for good advertising. Clever might grab your attention, but good advertising not only gets your attention, it awakens something within you and lingers in your mind long after the campaign is over. It does that by touching something within the viewer that they immediately recognize as true.

My question to my friends sparked a short conversation about what makes good advertising and why that particular billboard missed the mark. As we were talking, my friend’s wife brought up a billboard that I had done for one of my clients. Here is the billboard she was talking about:

Jeff's Jewelry Billboard "Show her Love"

The wife actually said that she loved this billboard. And she isn’t the first to tell me that. In fact, someone else had mentioned this same billboard to me a week or two before, saying it was one of their favorites. What’s interesting about that is that this billboard hasn’t been displayed in almost two years. But people still remember it. And talk about it. It strikes a chord within them and they can identify with the message, and they want to do business with that advertiser.

Does your advertising do that?

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.

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.

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.

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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