Saturday, 9 June 2012

Problems with brand marketing and rushing to make your own business cards

Problems with brand marketing and rushing to make your own business cards: by Jason Li 2012 ©

I have seen a few times in the past businesses that were struggling with strong competitors but denied their problems were more to do with focusing heavily on brand marketing. As someone who has a qualification in Marketing Communications and taught entrepreneurs basic marketing, you will probably find this a bit strange.

Here are some issues I have seen businesses focusing on using branding to solve:

1.       Creating a new brand to roll out as the main answer to increasing sales

2.       Needing to get the branding right first believing this will be the main customer attraction

3.       Spending lots of money on the brand as the most important part of the business budget

4.       Thinking creating a brand is the best way to start a new product or service; a brand based on internal values and beliefs only, without listening to the niche target market... even if it is with just starting to make a business card

Brand, business cards, logo, themes etc

These are all branding exercises that many businesses spend a lot of money on. It is in fact the bit that gets most entrepreneurs excited. Maybe because it is tied into the ego, a reflection of the self? If the brand is perceived as nice and shiny by the world, then the business owner feels accepted and feels reinforced in their quest to push their brand into everyone’s face.

It’s also where the business owner or directors may get the chance to get their creative juices going and possibly thoughts of leaving a legacy. If it is accepted by society, as written above, maybe it’s a nice way to claim superior creativity or intelligence of some kind?

Brand acceptance

Yes, we all love brands. We are a brand consumer society after all. Some brands make us smile like Lynx or M&M’s; some make us feel safe such as Aviva insurance; and some make us feel healthy like Boots.

So it’s not surprising businesses place a huge emphasis and spend on branding. Furthermore, when the graphic design agencies show you the first few concepts of logos and you start to visualise your brand in every local paper and on Google, you get an emotional high and are very happy to spend a load of money with your very helpful graphic designer who is always very friendly too, did you notice? But hey, they are creating what you want and are usually brilliant at creating visual work: it’s up to you to see that you have jumped into branding so don’t blame the graphic designer. A lot of the work designers create is marvellous once you have nailed the marketing strategy for the business.
But why is the brand the starting point for many businesses, and should this be the starting point?

Substance over style

I’m pretty sure some old school business/marketing strategy people will not start with the brand first. It’s likely to be the brand consumer type of personality who is running a business who focuses so heavily on brands. If you are loyal to certain brands, or can easily fall in love with a brand, then you are a brand consumer.

At the beginning of your business, you should be focusing on creating an offer of value that suits your niche target market so that you create a business that is growing – because you have found the right value formula which prospective customers like.

Have you ever noticed that from the stage of finishing your business plan to a few months later down the line when your business has grown, some of the original ideas have changed? If you are in agreement at this point, that’s because your business had to tailor the offer to suit the market.

The offer is the substance, it’s what the customer says is of value to them; and as you know what they value the customer will definitely pay for it – now. You had to change the offers, even if it’s minute in the phrases you say, subtle pricing, terms and conditions, finishing, delivery, training and support... and so on. And if this is the case, spending a lot of money and time on the brand upfront before you know what is the offer that gets customers buying can waste a lot of your time.

In fact, the brand may need to change. That’s why you see brands in fact changing, from the name to logo designs to the slogan. It’s because a business has found the offer needs to change, and the brand needs to catch up with the offer. As you can see, it’s best to do it this way round rather than create a brand and sell an offer to suit the brand.

Brand strategy

You may come across consultants who emphasis that you create a brand and everything has to suit the brand. Stop! DO NOT PASS GO! Don’t get suckered into changing your business to suit everything according to a brand. If you make your internal business rules, offers, service and everything else to suit a brand, you will be inflexible and will not adapt to the changing tastes of the market, the consumer, and competitors who are innovating.

Imagine you have a brand that says for example you are an ultra cool holiday resort for young couples. Your ads like posters, leaflets, brochure, and website are just aimed at ultra cool young couples. What happens to these young couples five years later when they have more money, are not 21 anymore, are still relatively young, but have been to your resort for five years? Do you just say no, we cannot adapt and you cannot come back? How many of these regular customers will soon not be young and ultra cool in a few years? What if after trading you discover that ultra cool people generally don’t have much money, but geeky computer programmers have more money to spend at your resort? It’s a big problem if you strictly stick to a brand as the driver of business strategy.

Value led

At the end of the day, we only pay for what is of value to us. Have you ever looked to buy something and really did not even notice the brand much, or the brand was not the main deciding factor in your purchase?

Here are some examples: tuna sandwich, plasters, holiday T shirts, a scarf, chairs, memory cards, greetings cards, help-me guides and books, coffee mugs, and natural fruit juice. In fact, do we honestly really care about the brands of high street banks, petrol stations, some of the grocery shops or electric or water suppliers? Does what the supplier can do for you everymake a difference in your decision making process, or is it all just about the brand; everything else is secondary?

But what about some products you buy because of their brand, you may say? Well, isn’t your brand loyalty  because their whole product and service does what you want and the visual brand fits as part of their offer to you? Or the supplier has a history of providing what you consider good value? Would you buy Coca Cola if you really did not like it? Would billions buy Coca Cola if they did not like the taste? That taste has been refined over many years to get a formula that has just the right sweetness, fizz, viciousness, and feel.

Brand personality

Yes, a brand is more than just a logo or colours. Brand personality is very important too. However, focusing on creating value that get customers excited and willing to spend will do more for your business, and will save you money and time on branding. Once you have the right offer of value to the customer then your brand can develop from this – pretty much naturally.

Some brand personalities are absolutely brilliant, especially when you see TV ads using animals or cute characters. They can initially storm the market. If their offer is of great value, then they do well due to the right offer of value. If not, then it is likely that brand, although well loved, may start to lose customers who experience post-purchase dissonance: a bad buying experience.

So try to start with a minimal brand and minimal spending on branding, and get your offer right.

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