Tag: branding

 
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Be Imaginative

Whatís the easiest way to kill a great ad campaign before it even begins? Take it too seriously. Advertising is not rocket science. You shouldnít need a degree in the physical sciences to create or understand an ad.

And you should never, ever, under any circumstances, kill an ad because it is not literal enough. On the contrary, if you find your ads are too literal, you should destroy them all and start fresh.

Are Volkswagens flawed pieces of junk? No, but an ad with the headline ìLemonî gets your attention, doesnít it? It makes you want to read the story, which goes on to explain how the particular car shown in the ad would never be driven because VW cares so much it weeds out the lemons so you never get a bad car. Think what an opportunity would have been missed if the folks at Volkswagen had taken that headline too literally.

Think about it from this angle. Why do people read an ad or watch a commercial? The majority do so because they find them entertaining and informative. If your ads are all information and no entertainment, youíve wasted your budget.

This is not to say that an ad should be created purely for entertainment purposes. Again, a great ad is both entertaining and informative. The entertainment value should be derived from a feature of your product or brand. In other words, what youíre selling should be the star of the show. Sounds simple enough, but it is often hard to strike the right balance. Thatís what makes advertising so fun.

How much information does your audience really need? What kind of story will they find entertaining? These are questions that should be asked and answered early on so that when you finally are presented with an ad or a campaign, you can judge the work according to these preordained guidelines.

A good campaign will reach your target audience and talk to them on a personal level. This has a valuable effect on your sales and reputation. A great advertising campaign will do more than that. It will create a buzz outside of your target audience.

Apple Computerís ì1984î commercial ran only once. But it is still one of the most talked about commercials because it was rebroadcast on every major news show and written about in every major newspaper for weeks and months. And none of this cost Apple anything more than a single TV buy.

Itís worth noting that Appleís Super Bowl commercial helped make the company a household name and created unbelievable demand for the new Macintosh computer-yet the ad never showed the product or explained any details about it.

BMWís Mini Cooper was one of the first cars to be introduced in the United States with no TV advertising. Blasphemy! Instead, they bolted the Minis to the roofs of SUVs and drove them around major cities. They created tongue-in-cheek billboards, interactive print ads and great guerrilla promotions. Most importantly, they created a waiting list of customers who couldnít wait to get a Mini.

Companies that think bigger become bigger. Itís a self-fulfilling cycle. If you just think like a local operation, you might miss the opportunity to expand regionally, nationally, or even internationally. Your advertising campaign should reflect the direction of your companyóeven if youíre not yet there.

Challenge yourself and your agency to think bigger

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Guerilla Versus Gorilla – Small Companies Can Win

We make our living as guerillas not the bad kind, but more of a freedom fighter. By using the term ‘guerilla’ I mean EMJ (now a division of SYNNEX) fights for business against big gorillas (other distributors) in the field. Our competitors are almost 100 times our size; EMJ is a Canadian-based, $165 million per year distributor. We have made an operating profit for the past 80 consecutive quarters. So even though we are up against the big gorillas as a distributor, we must be doing something right.

If you are in a business where some of the competitors are much larger, you may be able to benefit from using guerilla tactics. The principles of running a guerrilla organization differ from running a gorilla organization. As a guerrilla, we hide from our competitor; we do not try to crush them. I even go so far as to examine what they do well and let them do it. At the same time, I look for under-serviced markets and get to these markets fast.

A gorilla takes all competitors head on, trying to crush the competition. Sometimes this takes the form of a price war. Sometimes it takes major prolonged, drawn-out investment. This works as long as you are the same size, or larger than the competition. Even then, such a long battle can sap power and ultimately profits.

Companies that die often believe they were gorillas. It is certain death for a business to fight gorillas unless they can withstand the siege. Any time we hire someone with a gorilla-company background, we watch and coach that person to make sure they are indoctrinated with the appropriate tactics. We have to make sure they understand out business model.

My 8 favourite guerilla tactics are:

1 Act fast. I use my company’s size for my advantage. I can act lightning fast. In the computer business, this is a huge asset. Things change so rapidly that moving fast and being first to market is a huge advantage. Larger companies do not react quickly. Develop a reputation for being first it gets the attention of customers.

2 Welcome smaller opportunities. Gorillas tend to say ‘no’ to manufacturers who don’t think they can do significant volume with. But a small opportunity rejected by a gorilla can be a very profitable opportunity for a guerilla. For EMJ, a million dollar per product line is an opportunity big enough to get the attention of my first string. In your business, look for the right-sized opportunity for you. Frequently, it is the smaller opportunity that has the best promise. The gorillas will leave you alone. There is always a right-sized opportunity for a company of any size. Knowing your rightful place in the market can help you to thrive.

3 Get focussed. Higher focus means we know more, stock more, and sell more product of fewer manufacturers. The smaller our product listing, the more powerful we become. We know a lot about a little. That means we know the products we sell better than a gorilla, and we become a sales tool for the reseller, not just an order-taker. Could you become more focused and specialized in a business area by giving up on a part of your business?

4 Be more flexible. We can adapt more easily to our customers and suppliers. We try not to be ruled by policy. The bigger a company gets, the more likely they are to have policy and some of it is required. As a small distributor, we can be more flexible. Are there areas that your competition is ignoring that by being more entrepreneurial, you can capitalize on?

5 Be smarter. This sounds too simple, almost embarrassing to write. Since we are smaller, we can look at the business we do more carefully and make sure it makes good business sense. We don’t pick up another manufacturer just to increase the size of our line card. That’s just not good business sense for us. That’s the way we have to think and so should you.

6 Lower your overhead. For some reason, most companies seem to choose more expensive offices and furnishings as they grow. This expectation tends to increase costs in all areas of the company that distribution, at current margin levels, can ill afford. At EMJ, we buy quality used furniture. We are on the outskirts of Guelph where the cost of land and taxes is less. Our capital base is even high enough that our cost of capital is less than some of the gorillas. Are there areas that you can be lower overhead than the gorillas in your field? Costs always add up on the bottom line.

7 Foster staff loyalty one major advantage guerillas have over gorillas is the ability to attract, motivate, and keep good people. Primarily this is because guerillas can be more flexible, easier to work for and give people more of a sense of accomplishment because what they do contributes more directly the company’s bottom line. I have always found there to be great power by being smaller and treating my people with respect and not just as numbers. Gorillas can try to do this but it is tough for them to copy you.

8 Just BE a gorilla. We like to enter market areas that we can dominate and specialize in. We may not be the biggest but in certain specific niches, we dominate. As long as we are the biggest in an area, we can act the part. We can under-price and over-service the competition forever. Anyone who enters our markets learns that it is expensive and often impossible to unseat us.

9 Be personal. One thing a smaller organization can do is to be more personal. People buy from people. You can foster relationships that will help you sell. Part of the way we are personal is by showing our customers what markets and products ARE profitable. There is nothing that cements a customer relationship better than making them money, because you’ll be making money for them AND for you!

10 Be opportunistic to sum up guerilla strategy is simply to be opportunistic. Take advantage of opportunities that the gorillas cannot do. There are many companies that remain profitable by being opportunistic.

In summary, unless you are huge think guerilla. Appropriate guerilla tactics for your size will win any battle.

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Joining The Conversation

Brand marketing is all about enhancing the mindshare of one’s products or services. The aim is for your brand name to be at the top of the consumer’s mind at the mere mention of generic terms relating to your company’s services. Arguably the best way of keeping that mindshare is by having a constant presence where your customers are. In this day and age of electronic commerce, there’s no better place to turn to than the World Wide Web.

Markets are conversations, so it is said. And the Web is perhaps the biggest conversation taking place, with exchanges of information going about the world in lightning speed, as people please-whether they be in email messages, forums, chats, or blogs. How people talk about your brand on the Web can make or break your reputation as a company, or your brand’s reputation as a product or service.

This is where blogs come in handy. The advent of the so-called Web 2.0 ushered in a concept previously unheard of in media and related industries-the massive democratization of content. Web 2.0, among other things, basically lets the consumers of information become the creators of content themselves. The Web is moving away from content with central editorial control, such as newspapers and magazines. Today’s most popular websites are not those controlled by one central group, but include mostly community- and enduser-managed sites, such as Wikipedia and DIGG.com.

Blogs let any individual or group join in on the big conversation. You write about anything online, and someone will eventually read your posts. That person can choose to talk back, and if so, a conversation is started. What’s great is that this conversation is open to the public, and anyone can join in or at least read what’s been going on.

In starting a blog, you can talk about your company’s services, or about the industry you are presently in. It would be fantastic for people to read what you write, and to respond by writing on their own blogs, or commenting on yours. You now have a direct line to your consumer-base. Isn’t that great? You are now able to get a feel of what the consumer wants. What’s more, your presence on the Web boosts recognition of your brand.

Consider adding more people to your army of bloggers-employees, partners, clients (or even hired freelancers), and the effect is multiplied. Your company is no longer represented by a stone-cold establishment. Your brand is represented by names, by faces-that of bloggers!

One notable success story in a “brand” blogging endeavor is Microsoft, the software giant considered by many people to be the “evil empire.” For so long, Microsoft has been the epitome of the stone-cold establishment. It had no human face, save for key persons like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer-executives and officers whom people don’t really know. Microsoft’s brand name had also been suffering because of anti-trust lawsuits being filed here and there. Something had to be done, or Microsoft’s brand might be further associated with “evil.”

In its desire to shift away from all this, Microsoft, in 2004, decided to let employees blog publicly-about their work, about technology trends, about anything under the sun. One mid-level manager by the name of Robert Scoble, stood out, with his profound views and innovative ideas on technology. He was able to successfully communicate with the rest of the world about the inner workings of his company, and along the way dispelling myths about the company. He is now considered to be the persona of Microsoft in the blogosphere. Blogging has now become part of his job description. He is also one of the world’s most popular blogging personalities.

Any business enterprise-no matter how big or small-can use blogs to the advantage of their brand. Whether you’re a startup needing exposure, or you’re an established company that wants to better relate to shed its stone-cold faÁade in favor of a more human approach to doing business, blogging will definitely help your brand go a long way.

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Be Single Minded

Youíve read about the importance of being courageous, rebellious and imaginative. These are all vital ingredients in an effective advertising campaign. However, they must be tempered with the most important ingredient of allóstrategy.

As long as the advertising industry has been in existence there has been debate about whether advertising is art or commerce. Quite frankly, this kind of divisive argument is a waste of time and has only helped to diminish what little respect the industry has earned through the years. Besides, the answer is simple. Advertising is the art of commerce.

It canít be pure art because pure art wonít engage the consumer on behalf of the brand. Art can certainly get peopleís attention, but it rarely causes them to take action. If the consumer is not actively engaged, the brand wonít grow. If the brand doesnít grow, the company wonít profit. And if the company ceases to make a profit, it dies and takes its brand with it.

On the other hand, advertising canít be mere commerce because capitalism, in and of itself, is not pretty. It doesnít make people sit up and take notice. Pure commerce deals with the exchange of money for goods and services. How boring is that. Besides, you donít want to encourage simple commerce. You want to promote branded commerce. That is what makes strategy so important.

Letís be clear. Weíre talking advertising strategy. Advertising is not marketing. Marketing involves several disciplines including product, pricing, packaging, distribution, customers and promotions (which encompasses public relations, advertising, point-of-sale, direct marketing, e-marketing, etc.).

If your ad agency canít tell the difference between marketing and advertising strategy, run like hell. Youíre liable to waste a lot of money. Now some agencies do understand the balance between the broader marketing picture and the narrow, targeted advertising scope. If they are capable and comfortable operating in both realms, they will be a very valuable partner to you.

The importance of a strong ad strategy canít be stressed enough. Creating ads without strategy is like throwing a ping pong ball at a speeding car in a wind storm. There is little chance you will hit your target.

With a sound advertising strategy, however, even a company with a limited budget can compete against deep-pocketed competitors. Such is the power of the single idea that remains constant over time. This, my friend, is the essence of long-term branding.

You must start by knowing to whom you are speaking and to whom you should be speaking. What are their hot buttons? What kinds of things are they paying attention to (art)? What would make them want your product or service (commerce)? What kind of life do they lead? What are some of their daily hassles? Can your product or service help with any?

The key, of course, is to begin thinking about your customers and potential customers. Focus on their needs instead of your own. By offering solutions to their needs, you will fulfill your own profit needs. It doesnít work the other way around. Trust me.

Only after you know your audience, should you start thinking about how to communicate with them. Because only then will you know how and where to reach them.

 

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Be Rebellious

 

In order to get consumers (whether they are retail or service customers or business-to-business audiences) to notice an advertising message, many companies resort to loudness and one-upmanship. Neither of these tactics works in the long run.

If your competition is talking loudly and you decide to yell louder, what do you think they will do? Yep. Theyíll start to scream. Nobody wins a shouting match when it comes to advertising. And usually youíll find you even lose a few customers in the process because they canít stand the noise.

Itís the same with one-upmanship. If you have to compete on more and better coupons or more and better discounts, giveaways or incentives unrelated to your core product, your revenue per sale decreases as well as your number of sales.

Customers see these types of games as gimmicky, fake and disingenuous; and they leave. The ones who do stay now view you and your competitors as commodities with no difference except your price. That is a dangerous place for a company to find itself.

The answer to clutter is not more clutter; itís finding who wants to hear you and speaking to them. So how do you compete if you canít out shout or out discount your competition? You get rebellious and radical with your advertising.

Do those words scare you? Thatís okay. Remember, youíre being courageous now. You can handle it. Besides, rebellious and radical arenít dirty words. They will help you draw attention away from your competition without resorting to screaming and insulting your customers.

Itís not about being outrageous just to get attention; itís about being remarkable. An advertising campaign with a strong rebellious strategy is, by its very nature, different from anything your audience will find from your competitorsí marketing efforts. Itís unexpected. Itís surprising. Itís effective.

There are two keys to creating a successfully rebellious advertising campaign. The first is the big idea. This idea comes from a strategy that is derived directly from your customers and their relationship with your brand. You arrive at this idea through a discipline called account planning. Weíll get into the details of both the big idea and account planning in later articles.

The second key to a successfully rebellious advertising campaign is attention. You canít gain attention if you donít learn to identify and then steer clear of the norm. It doesnít matter how great your product or service is or how large your potential market, if your target audience doesnít pay attention to your message, your ad budget has been wasted.

Think about these two keys while you flip through the newspaper or a magazine. Ponder them while you watch TV. You should notice something almost immediately. Most ads today donít seem to be based on any big idea. Many are so boring that you flip right past them without noticing them. Others get your attention but the ads donít have much to do with the product so you quickly forget the brand the ad was supposed to sell you. What an opportunity for your brand!

Now, there is a caveat to being rebellious. Your ads should never be different just for difference sake. The difference should be derived from your brandís uniqueness

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Be Courageous

For such a simple statement, this is one of the hardest things for people to do. It goes back to that damn survival instinct each of us is born with. If an animal draws attention to itself in the wild, it might soon find itself the main course of a larger animalís next meal. That fear of being chewed up and spit out has survived all our millions of years of evolution and is alive and well in todayís business environment.

Fight or flight is another instinct many of us havenít yet learned to manipulate. Itís easier to run away from a new idea than it is to stay and fight for it. With todayís leadership-by-committee mentality and intense public scrutiny, the easiest solution is unfortunately the most popular. Companies today often miss the forest through the trees. They tend to concentrate so much on short-term profit that they fail to make investments or take advantages of opportunities that promise long-term profit simply because they require a short-term loss.

It may also be argued that fighting for a new ideaówhether that means pushing for the development of a new product, staving off competitors or supporting a slumping brand rather than letting it dieóis usually undesirable because of such costs.

Certainly that might be true in the short term, but in the long run, giving up too soon my actually cost your company far more in lost revenues, public outrage or shrinking market share. It requires a different way of thinking. Advertising and promoting your business is an investment in your businessí future. Investments are not mere costs. They come with a benefit.

Letís get one thing straight from the very beginning. No company ever dominated its industry by operating with a philosophy of fear. And, ultimately, no company can survive if it doesnít learn to conquer its fear and take chances, make changes.

It is the ability to see past any short-term problems to the bigger, long-term picture that has fueled the meteoric rise of the worldís most successful companies. Nobody knew what Apple was before its history making 1985 Super Bowl commercial.

Apple paid to run that commercial only once, but it ran again hundreds of times around the country and the world during local and national news broadcasts. Stories about Apple and its commercial were front-page news for weeks.

When it comes to advertising, you might wonder what kinds of changes are needed. After all, itís just advertising. If your ads look like your competitorsí ads, if your messages are strikingly similar, if you talk to yourself instead of your customers, if you worry more about your logo being large enough than the message being attention-getting enough, you need to change.

Now this is just the first step, so we wonít get into any more detail here. The object of this step is to let you know that you need to screw up your courage and prepare to make some changes in your advertising that will have a profound effect on your bottom line.

Fear is the greatest motivator. However, instead of motivating people to act, it usually causes people to freeze or retreat. It takes courage to make the kinds of changes that are needed to survive in todayís crowded, complicated and competitive business environment.

Conquer your fear. Be courageous.

 

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