Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Don’t Neglect the Branding

As advertising goes, there are few things that are as powerful in the long run as branding. If you do it right, you can make your company into a household word, a pop culture icon, a part of life so entrenched that you would have to make a pretty seriously major marketing mistake to die, or even to lose market share.

Let’s think for a minute of some examples. What are some of the companies that have become a part of our culture? McDonalds, Coca Cola, Ford and Chevy… The list goes on and on. These are companies that have achieved some deep market penetration. If you walked the streets of any city in the US, stopped someone and asked that person if they knew about that company’s products, they’d be able to tell you yes. They probably have bought one or owned one at some point. They might own one now. They might even be able to quote or sing you that company’s latest commercial.

Coke’s a great example: People are willing to pay them for the privilege of advertising their products. That’s a pretty great coup, isn’t it? How do they do that? In Coke’s case, they branched out their product line by offering clothing. T-shirts, sweaters, jackets, even purses and accessories, all with the Coke name and the swoosh. People buy them. They want to wear them. And when they wear them, they’re advertising for Coke.

But I have to warn you. In order to do branding advertising right, you have to aim for the long run. Don’t expect quick results. It takes a lot of long-term, consistent effort.

See, branding is advertising that doesn’t generate immediate results. It’s a billboard with a product name, but no phone number. It’s a TV commercial that creates a mood for the product, but doesn’t tell you where to buy it. It’s a magazine ad that captures a company’s image and logo. It’s a sharp radio jingle that sticks with you for months or even years after the commercial has stopped airing.

Here’s how to do branding:

1. Get a USP and a hook

First of all, what makes your business special? What makes you unique. Find that and you’ll have your USP (Unique Selling Position), then capitalize on that. Create a “hook”. Something catchy that people will be able to associate with your business and your uniqueness. There’s a company that will do a lube job and an oil change on my car quickly. That’s their USP and their hook.

2. Choose a name

You want your business name to reflect your uniqueness, your USP. You want it to sum up, in your potential customer’s minds, who you are and what you do. IBM (International Business Machines) is very clear. In the previous example, the company is JiffyLube. Pretty clear what their focus is, isn’t it?

3. Get a logo

Much of the world today is visual. People find it very easy to associate companies and products with logos. The “X” of the Microsoft X-box. The Nike “swoop”. As I mentioned before, the Coca Cola wave, and the 7-Up spot.

It might cost a little bit up front, but hire a professional designer and get a logo made. Simple, clear, and memorable.

4. Write any slogans or taglines

Some slogans are a part of the company for life. Others last throughout a single ad campaign. Back to JiffyLube, I can remember one of their slogans, “Some people want to change the world. We just want to change your oil”. McDonald’s “You deserve a break today” hasn’t been on the air in over a decade, but I can still sing it.

5. Put it everywhere

The key to branding is using it. Lots. Everywhere. Once you have an identity, use it over and over and over and over. The foundation of a good branding campaign is repetition. That means doing it again and again. Am I making my point here?

The only way people are going to start to recognize your brand is if they encounter it many times, so it’s vital to have it somewhere in every place that a customer interacts with the company.

6. Keep on doing it forever.

Like I said when I started, branding is for the long-term. Many people, when buying advertising, don’t see the value in purchasing ads that don’t bring in immediate business or customers. But there is great value in it. The more you advertise, the more you share your identity with the public, the more they will recognize you and come to you when it’s time to buy. Don’t neglect it.

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