Tag marketing

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!

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 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.

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.

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.

Soda Pop by Mom and Pop

The Trader Joe’s post reminded me of a video I saw a while back featuring Galco’s Soda Pop Stop. The proprietor is a great example of a small business owner who is passionate about what he does and embraces the fact that he operates a small business. The way he does business is very different from his larger competitors. Because of that difference, he stands out.

Here’s the full video:

Obsessives: Soda Pop from CHOW.com on Vimeo.

You may not have a store full of soda pop, instead you might be an accountant or a home builder, or you might run a furniture or jewelry store. Whatever business you’re in, you’ve got to find a message that strikes a chord with your customers and proclaim that message as often as you can.

You haven’t found your message? Here’s a good place to start.

The small-store vibe of the neighborhood grocer

Fortune has an interesting article about Trader Joe’s, and it has a lot of food for thought for local small businesses. A lot of times small businesses try to make themselves look big. I think this is a mistake. For one thing, it’s deceptive, and if you are willing to mislead people on that point, then they’ll assume you’ll mislead them in other areas as well.

But it is a mistake for another reason as well: There are a lot of consumers who want to do business with small businesses and retailers. If you are pretending to be a large company when you’re not, then you’re sending the wrong message to these potential customers.

Trader Joe’s is fueling its growth by looking small. Here’s a quote from the Fortune article:

[I]t must find a way to maintain its small-store vibe with customers. ‘They see themselves as a national chain of neighborhood specialty grocery stores,’ says Mark Mallinger, a Pepperdine University professor who has done research for the company. ‘It means you want to create an image of mom and pop as you grow.’

If you’re a small business, embrace that fact and let your advertising and marketing speak the truth.

Advertising Gone Wild

I’ve been getting a lot of spam in the comments lately. Fortunately I use Akismet on this site and it catches the spam quite nicely so you all don’t have to be subjected to it. Being in advertising, I especially hate spam. You see, spam is advertising. Bad advertising. It’s every bad advertising practice pressed into one slimy mass.

How you advertise says a whole lot about how you do business and what you think of your customer. Spam isn’t limited to the internet. It’s served up in every ad that screams for attention but offers no real information. It’s in every ad that promises something that the business owner has no intention of delivering. Any time a business wants your money but doesn’t really care about delivering something of value, then its advertising is spam.

Advertising is not about who can speak the loudest or the longest, it’s about getting useful information to people who would benefit from your product or service. Ideally, advertising is the introduction that develops into a long lasting business relationship.

What does your advertising say about you?

Are you ready?

This is the first week of August, and this week is nearly over. By the end of this month, school will have started in most places. That’s only about three weeks from now. Right on the heels of school starting is the Labor Day weekend. Yep, September is upon us. Then in quick succession is Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For almost everybody, things really pick up in the fall.

If you haven’t started planning your promotions for the fall, you’d better start now. Do you know your message? It had better not be “we’re having a sale” because everyone will be having a sale. Have you thought about where you’ll proclaim your message? You’ve only got three weeks left of summer. If you don’t start planning now, then you’ll be stuck doing whatever can be done at a moments notice, and you’ll probably be disappointed with the results.

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