Some Basic Branding “Don’ts”

Recent social media traffic has me feeling like some basic reminders are in order for companies who are using these channels.

Be your brand. Not something you saw on TMZ.

Don’t #1: Trendy Stuff
By the time you became aware of the Harlem Shake, it was already passé. That’s really swell that your CFO wanted to wear a gorilla suit. But you look like the most interesting thing you could find to say was to copy someone. Be your brand. Not something you saw on TMZ.

Don’t #2: Commenting Excessively on Social Topics
Your personal opinions are just that – yours and personal. Unless same sex marriage impacts your business in some way (for example, you’re a health care insurer and you have some cogent thoughts on the economic impacts of partner benefits) then leave it alone. While we appreciate socially aware companies, this needs to be part of a larger, well thought-out strategy. If you need guidance, watch Patagonia or Target. They both do it well. In fact, go read Yvon Chouinard’s excellent book Let My People Go Surfing if you want to build a socially conscious company. And, no, I won’t loan you my copy. It might be the best business book ever.

Don’t #3: Noise
Don’t have anything valuable to say? Then shut up. Your clients and followers are busy people – they follow you because you deliver value. When you don’t deliver value … well, you get the picture.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Rebranding is ticklish business. There are a myriad of issues and questions to address to achieve success. Do I just update what I have? Do I throw it all out and start over? Is there significant equity in my current brand mark? Do I rename at the same time? All of these (and more) are among the reasons we believe that working with a solid outside partner is practically mandatory.

I ran across an interesting example from the outdoor industry this weekend. With consolidation, a fair number of the major brands in fly fishing are being rolled up into families. The group that owns Sage fly rods also owns Rio fly lines – and more. Scientific Anglers has been under 3M ownership for a number of years. Last year’s acquisition of Ross Reels by 3M was a significant development.

Ross Reels Almost immediately, Ross was rebranded. Personally, I liked the old logo better – it had a lot of equity and was visually unique. But I see now that they’re trying to get the Ross and Scientific Anglers brands in alignment, so as a marketer I get where they’re coming from.

Sage fly rods, Rio fly linesSo now Sage feels compelled to get into the game by rebranding Rio. The old Rio logo looked like an escapee from the 80’s, so it was definitely time to freshen things up.

Here’s where I think it gets weird. The new Rio logo has been in-market for a few months. Something about it has been vaguely bugging me since I first saw it. This weekend I figured out what it was. What do you think?It sure seems to me to look just a bit too much like the new Ross logo. Yeah, I get it, I see the fish. But the basic letterform sure does have a lot of similarities to the Ross logo. And, it gives up one of the strengths of the old Rio logo – the fly line built into the image.

This brings up a key factor of rebranding – adjacency. You can’t just look at what your competitors are doing. What is needed is a holistic view of your segment. Both Rio and Ross are well-known and well-respected brands. I really believe that it would have been a good idea for Rio to consider what Ross had recently done before launching a visually similar brand.

Keep this in mind if you’re considering a rebranding. I think Rio made a major faux pas. One that could have easily been avoided.

But I will give Rio credit for one marketing win. It offered Facebook fans who visited their booth at the Midwest Fly Fishing Show a free hat just for stopping by and mentioning that they were FB fans. Solid way to tie social media to your trade show strategy – nice work, Rio!

What Marketers Can Learn From Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen seems to know a thing or two about marketing. Take a close look and you’ll see an odd brilliance to his wacky madness. Marketers can learn a few things from Charlie Sheen to help spruce up your marketing efforts.

  • Create a spectacle. Do you remember that one car commercial showing interior and exterior views of the car? Probably not. These bland commercials are a dime a dozen. Now, do you remember that car commercial showing Detroit and Eminem (and few shots of the car)? Yes, you do. To stand out and get noticed, you have to create a spectacle and be different. In a world of sameness, be different.
  • Drink tiger blood. Charlie Sheen described himself memorably as having “tiger blood and Adonis DNA.” Subsequently, Harcos Laboratories launched “Bi-Winning Tiger Blood‚” a $4 energy drink which is “made from 100% passion specifically to make your brain fire in a way that’s not from this particular terrestrial realm,” according to the Harcos website. Be like Harcos. Keep an eye out for market opportunities to launch new products.
  • Be your own drug. Charlie Sheen says, “I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available, because if you try it once, you will die and your children will weep over your exploded body.” Take some time to identify what makes your business stand out from your competition. Then create a compelling message that answers why you are the best choice. Why should people buy from you and not from your competitor? Charlie Sheen’s unique value proposition is his “drug called Charlie Sheen‚” and no one else has it. That’s unique.
  • Stay on-message. Whether he’s “dealing with fools and trolls”, “dealing with soft targets that are strafing runs in [his] underwear before [his] first cup of coffee”, or busy being “bound by the terrestrial descriptions of the term Goddess”, he is perplexingly persistent in getting his point across. Charlie Sheen isn’t allowing himself to get distracted from his purpose. Charlie has a consistent story wherever, whenever, whatever type of media you see him in. His tone, voice, and message are consistent. Is your marketing consistent? Are you using the same tone, voice, and message across mediums?
  • Be “#Winning”. In today’s era of social media, people want to connect with people, not faceless corporations. And don’t be just a pretty face. Give your brand a personality. Having a personality and a human face lets people more easily connect with your business. Research has shown that purchasing decisions are emotional and as a result people become attached to particular brands based on some personal connection. So, be sophisticated, or be whimsical, or be #winning.

Whether he’s out of his mind or out of this world, I think we all can learn a thing or two from him. What do you think?

Hocus Focus

I’ve run into three examples in as many days of companies with fundamental business (and marketing) problems tied to a lack of focus.

Unless you have a GIGANTIC marketing budget, you can’t be all things to all people all the time. I spoke at a local manufacturing symposium recently and this was one of my key messages. By trying to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.

Ask yourself three questions:

1. What do we do that’s unique?

2. Why is it better than the way our competition does it, or than alternative methodologies?

3. Does our brand support this value proposition?

If you can’t answer these three questions VERY rapidly, and in a sentence or less ‚Äì you have a problem.

One of the example companies was a local gym (frequented by PWB’s own Keith Kopinski) that’s about to go out of business. This gym is a tremendous place for hardcore types –  bodybuilders, competitive athletes, and more – it’s not Bally’s. But the owners couldn’t see this and never built a brand to support it. Instead they chose to enter the fracas on general fitness clubs. Bad idea. You’ll NEVER outspend these folks. Why not build a brand, and a loyal customer base among your target market by branding it as not a place for the masses?

Another example was a healthcare services firm. They have a solid track record helping small hospitals compete and improve. Unfortunately, they’re doing a shotgun marketing approach that goes after ALL facets of healthcare with almost no focus. Again, bad idea. Why not exploit your advantage?

Are you better at something? Say it. Then make sure your brand owns that superiority.

Think it Through

As marketers, it’s our job to get inside people’s heads to figure out how to attract their attention and then match our product/service’s attributes to their needs. We spend a lot time thinking about what triggers and what impedes actions. How does a prospect go from awareness, to consideration, to selection? A new Comcast ad is a good reminder to THINK through your value proposition to see if it will make any sense, or throw up red flags.

The ad touts Comcast’s DVR service and its ability to be programmed remotely through a PC, phone, or mobile device. Then it offers an iPod Touch as an incentive to new subscribers. Unfortunately, IMMEDIATELY after that offer comes the disclaimer. That disclaimer says, “Service not compatible with iPod Touch”.

Huh?

You’re promoting a feature, and then offering an incentive that probably should, but doesn’t actually work with this feature? Would you be pushing new left-handed golf clubs, only to follow-up with the condition that they’re not available to left-handed people?

This seems so basic. At some point, you need to step back (or find an outside perspective) and look at your approach. Do all the elements fit together? Is anything going to cause the prospect to make that funny *dog head tilt* when they hear it? If so, then change it.

Be Different. Be Simple.

Just returned from a major industrial trade show in Chicago. It was interesting to see some things surprisingly it seemed a pretty healthy show.

One big takeaway was the benefits of two things:

1. Being different.

2. Being simple and direct with your message.

Blue and grey are the new business camouflage. What was once comfortable and conservative now seems just dated in these new economic times. That doesn’t mean if you logo is those colors you have to drive everything off that. Be different. This show had a lot of European companies more willing to experiment with vibrant oranges, greens, and other colors. And it works. These booths really caught your eye. Machine builder Sidel was an excellent example. All black tombstones, highlighted with bold neon color stripes and VERY little messaging. Really stood out.

Another trend was overcrowding. Many booths looked as if someone just walked in and sneezed on the walls. Just a machine-gun spray of tech specs. But a few had given thought to integrating a clear, simple message everywhere. And those exhibitors were hard to overlook. Do your products make manufacturers more green? Say so. Do they cut operating costs? Then tell people. But pick one. And then stick with it. No one needs to see that your cycle time is 3.5 seconds, or that your new chiller has a 1,000mm by 1,500mm footprint. Save that for other tools.

Be different. Be simple. Be noticed.

What does it look like?

A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting coincidence of ideas. On my morning ride to nowhere (my elliptical trainer) I was reading Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. The authors told an interesting story of how Joshua Bell, the brilliant young violinist was in the subway, opened his violin case, which held a million dollar Stratavarius and started giving a concert. Few of the passers by recognized him or appreciated just what they were hearing and seeing, after all how often are the street musicians you hear in the subway brilliant virtuosos? People where swayed in their appreciation by the surroundings.

Later that day, in the office, I looked at a proof for a brochure we were producing for one of our clients. The brochure focused on using their technology in health care applications, an area they were hoping to penetrate using this tool. Our client’s reaction to the brochure was, “Well it sure looks like we’re in healthcare.” They were clearly hoping that this piece would help them to make that claim a fact.

Whether we like it or not, we, and our prospects are influenced, swayed as it were, by how we look. We’re often called upon to help clients move into new areas. They find it is easier to do if they look like they belong there. Some may be concerned that this is deceptive, we prefer to think of it as prophetic.

Open Your Mind

“Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got.” I wish this hackneyed quote was even still true. The reality is that in the new economy even this perspective doesn’t work anymore. I’ve heard far too many business people tell me they’re working twice as hard for half as much money.

But I’ve heard lots of interesting stories, too. A friend owns a fly fishing/hunting outfitter here in town. He was telling me he’s doing OK this year. But he’s doing it by adding a speaker’s series, working his e-mail list harder, going to shows he’s never attended, and more. All of these things are outside the norm and require an extra investment of time and effort, but they’re paying off.

One of my client’s markets industrial machinery – not exactly the most solid of markets in these risk-averse times. But they’re having a solid year. How? By recognizing that telling their story of expertise and systems solutions in developing economies affords great opportunity.

The point is simple – try new things. Take risks. Now more than ever they may pay off. But don’t dump your whole marketing program on these experiments. Go slow, measure your results, and do more of what works.

Content is King

Redone your website lately? Did you get held up when it was time to build out as all that content you thought you had wasn’t really there? Or it wasn’t in a form that was appropriate for the web?

We’re routinely finding that clients underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to generate good quality copy that’s useful for branding online marketing. And most clients I talk to about this are quick to agree that it’s a problem in their organization.

We’re currently running a program on mechatronics (the integration of electrical, mechanical, and software design in a single device like a cell phone or a car) with a major industry publication’s website. Over the course of the year, we quickly discovered that having fresh content fuels tremendous increases in traffic and click-thru’s. And, that consistently getting this content is harder than anyone thought it would be.

There’s no magic bullet for solving this problem, but we find that the organizations who take the difficulty of generating good, web-friendly content seriously have fewer problems. We suggest designating an “owner” who’s responsible for ensuring that content is gathered and is consistent with company branding. Of course, if you need help with generating content, we can help you. But to simply figure, “Ah, I’ve got it in my brochures‚” is probably not going to result in the best outcome.