Search Results for: case study

BNBranding Case Study: GNL Golf, Lady Lake FL

BNBranding Case Study: GNL Golf, Lady Lake FL

Let me tell you about a business transformation. Not a rags-to-riches thing, but a success story, nonetheless.

It began back in the golden age of golf, when Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus were battling with even older greats like Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead.

John S. Ford was a young, hippy prodigy who worked in the custom club department at MacGregor Golf. He made clubs for the top-name pros, and made a name for himself in the golf industry.

Fast forward 30 years…

John Ford’s still making hand-crafted golf clubs, but for the average, retired golfer out of a shop in Central Florida that he called The Golf Institute.

When I met Ford he was running an inefficient, old-school operation.

He relied entirely on word-of-mouth, and he spent at least 45 minutes pitching every person who walked through the door. His closing rate wasn’t bad, but he also scared off a lot of people.

He knew he needed a better method, so we went back to the drawing board. Together.

The first step was to discover the heart of his business. Show me your soul and I’ll show you your brand. It’s a proven process that appealed to Ford’s analytical nature.

While Ford studied marketing I studied his business. I witnessed the miraculous work he does with lousy golfers. I went through his process myself. I felt it all… Skepticism, curiosity, hope, and finally, my own ah-ha moment.

Then I wrote the book on Ford’s brand.

We narrowed his audience. We identified the key storytelling element, the archetypes involved, and a pyramid of marketing messages.

It was a crossroads, both for Ford’s business and for his golfing customers. They could stay on the common path of frustration, or they could take a more direct route to lasting improvement.

Our insight proved that it’s not about clubheads, shafts, or even Ford’s engineering prowess. It’s contentment after every round of golf. It’s hope, preparation and payoff.

The name “Golf Institute” didn’t jive with the core brand concept, so step two became a quest for a new business name.

That’s where Ford and I disagreed.

“Golf at the Next Level” was not my first recommendation. Nor my second.

It ranked low on our “memorability” scale. And it didn’t have a nice ring to it.  (Also low on the audio quality scale.)

But it’s very literal, which he liked. And the tag line, “Up you go,” sealed the deal for him.

Next.

While our designer was working on the brand identity, I was showing Ford how he could transform his selling process from a time-sucking nightmare into a money making proposition.
BNBranding case study golf industry marketing
“Why don’t you do classes,” I suggested. “Get 10 or 20 people at a time and have them pay you to hear the sales pitch. Wouldn’t that be a lot easier?”

That’s how the “See Putt Sink” putting workshop was born.

Ford wanted to keep the classes simple, so we came up with the minimum viable product… For just $29 Ford would change your perspective on putting forever.

That’s a value proposition that resonates.

We built a website that pushed prospects to the putting workshop and enabled them to sign-up and pay online.

Then we did direct mail and local newspaper advertising to push traffic to the website. Everything is integrated, with the same messaging and the same graphic style.

Anyone who contends that print advertising is dead should talk to John Ford. Every little ad that he runs in the local paper fills up weeks worth of workshops. The ROI is indisputable.

The biggest challenge with the advertising was the amount of information, and the process of elimination. Ford wants to say everything, in every ad. We prefer brevity.

He wants to explain. We want to entice.

Today, 93% of Ford’s revenues come directly from the workshops. His sales pipeline stays as full as he wants it to be, and he doesn’t have to spend time making individual sales pitches.

Not only that, his closing ratio has improved.

The people who attend his classes are more informed because they’ve been to his website. Their expectations are set, they ask better questions and they’re more primed to buy.

So in a nutshell, Ford has an efficient new sales pipeline that’s constantly full of well-qualified leads. They pay him to listen to his sales pitch, and he closes 80% of those who attend a class.

Wouldn’t you like to have that business model?

It’s easy, and it costs a lot less than you might think. In fact, the first meeting is free.
Just click here to schedule a call. 

3 Keen brand strategy on the brand insight blog BNBranding

Keen Footwear is a great branding case study. If the shoe fits.

Keen brand strategy on the brand insight blog BNBrandingApparently, I have peasant feet.  At least that’s what the nice sales person at REI told me… Back in medieval Europe, peasant’s feet were short and stubby, with toes that were close to the same length. The nobility, on the other hand, had narrow, pointy feet, with toes that tapered off like an Egyptian profile.

Keen shoes seem to be tailor-made for peasants. But I don’t think that’s part of the brand strategy at Keen.

I’ve purchased two pairs of Keens for work, one pair of sandals, and two pairs of light hikers because they fit my feet perfectly. I’ve never heard anything from Keen about fit. ( Or about catering to peasants, for that matter.) Instead, the Keen brand strategy revolves around the theme of the “hybrid life.” Continue reading

8 ski industry case study from BNBranding

The difference between a new product launch and the birth of a brand – A Ski Industry case study.

ski industry case study from BNBranding

The author, enjoying freshies. Head skis with Knee Bindings.

It was the kind of day ski bums live for…  Ten inches of new snow, 18 degrees, calm winds. And the sky was clearing.

The experts were queued up before the first lift, chomping at the bit for fresh tracks. But for intermediate skiers accustomed to the forgiving comfort of groomed corduroy, it posed a bit of a problem. See, all 10 inches fell in the early morning hours — after the grooming machines had manicured the mountain.

There would be no “groomers” that morning.

A lot of people struggle in unpacked snow. So once the hounds had tracked up the runs and moved on, into the trees, the masses were left to flail around in cut-up powder on top of an icy base.

There were a lot of yard sales that day — tumbling falls where skis, poles and goggles were strewn all over the run. One guy I know broke a rib. Some snowboarders had broken wrists. And there were plenty of knee injuries.

Always are. Any ski patrolman will tell you it’s knees and wrists.

Modern ski binding technology has almost eliminated the broken leg from skiing. Helmets have reduced the number of head injuries, but knee injuries are common. Scary common. In the U.S. 70,000 people blow out their ACL skiing every year. On the World Cup circuit, you rarely find a racer who hasn’t had some damage to an ACL.

But now there’s a new binding brand that aims to put the knee surgeons and physical therapists out of business. So this is a ski industry case study featuring KneeBinding – the brain child of John Springer-Miller of Stowe Vermont.

While all modern bindings release up and down at the heel, KneeBinding also releases laterally. The product’s patented “PureLateral Heel Release” is a huge technological leap in binding technology. In fact, it’s the first substantial change in 30 years and it promises a dramatic decrease in the number of knee injuries on the slopes. They really can save your ACL in the most common, twisting, rearward falls. And they don’t release prematurely.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

KneeBinding has the potential to blow the ski socks off the ski industry. But will it?

If the company’s early advertising is any indication, they don’t have a very good handle on their brand strategy. This may, very well, be a ski industry case study of an under-achieving company.

Springer-Miller has been quoted saying, “This is a serious company with a serious solution to a very serious problem” And it’s true: It now costs an average of $18,000 for the initial  repair of a torn ACL.  That makes ACL injuries in skiing a $1 billion-a-year medical problem.  Plus, it takes eight months, usually with intensive physical therapy, for an ACL to heal well enough for the victim to get back on the slopes. One-out-of-five never skis again.

So why, pray tell, would you launch KneeBinding with goofy ads featuring a pair of 3-glasses? “Just tear them out, put ‘em on, and see the world’s first 3-D binding.”

I get it.  The idea of 3-D Bindings might have merit, but 3-D glasses? C’mon. It’s a gimmicky idea that will, unfortunately, rub off on the product. And the last thing you want is people thinking KneeBinding is just another ski industry gimmick.

It was an unfortunate move for a potentially great brand.

The tagline/elevator pitch is also problematic: “The only binding in the world that can mitigate knee injuries.”

First, it’s absolutely untrue: All modern bindings mitigate knee injuries to some degree. If we couldn’t blow out of our bindings there’d be a hundred times the number of ACL injuries. Plus a lot of broken bones.

Granted, the KneeBinding mitigates a specific type

of knee injury that the competitors don’t, but the line just doesn’t ring true. It sets off my internal BS meter and puts the credibility of the entire brand in question.

ski industry case study marketing

Besides, it sounds like

something an M.D. would say. Not exactly the stuff of a memorable, iconic brand.

KneeBinding is a perfect example of a company that’s led by an engineer/inventor. Springer-Miller has developed a great product, and hats off to him for that.  But the brand will never become a household name if the marketing is also driven by the engineers. (Is Too much information killing your adveritisng?) 

Even the name is a marketing nightmare. It’s so literal it excludes the most important segment of the market.

“Knee Binding” won’t appeal to fearless, indestructible 20-year olds who star in the ski films and drive the industry trends. It’s for the parents of those kids. The 40+ crowd who have been skiing long enough to see a lot of their friends on crutches.

That group — my peers — will buy the KneeBinding to avoid injury and maintain our misguided idea of youth. And we might buy them for our kids, as well. But that’s not the market

ski industry case study brandinsightblog.com

Springer-Miller needs if he wants to build a lasting brand in the ski industry.

And guess what… KneeBinding won’t appeal to either audience with technical illustrations of the binding’s components, or with 3-D glasses, like they have in their current advertising.

It has to be way more emotional than that. Not just the advertising, the brand itself. It needs a hook that goes way beyond engineering and orthopedics. (Three logical reasons why brands need more emotion.) 

I hope this product succeeds. I really do. I hope the KneeBinding technology becomes the industry standard. But I fear that the company and the current brand will not survive unless they get a handle on their brand strategy and their marketing program.

Launching a great product does not always equate to the birth of a lasting brand. KneeBinding needs to build a foundation for the brand that’s as good as the product itself. Right now, the quality of the marketing is not even close.

With the right marketing help and adequate capital, KneeBinding could give the major manufacturers a run for their money. Knee Binding was first in the market, which is big. They’ve won some industry accolades. The product stands up to performance tests. And they’ve established some degree of national distribution.

But this is not the first time someone has tried lateral heel release, and the older target audience remembers those failed attempts. The younger crowd doesn’t think they need it. They’re the most expensive bindings on the market. Plus, bindings have been a commodity product for the last 20 years. They’re not even on the radar of most skiing consumers.

How the engineers address all those issues could mean the difference between a safe, successful run and a marketing face plant.

 

About

Smiles make sales. Disarm them with optimism, and build on a friendly platform of genuine passion.

 

Successful brands have meaning beyond money. They’re built on a solid belief system that attracts like-minded people.

Here's what we believe:

We believe that creativity is the ultimate business weapon. Inspired, innovative thinking is behind every great brand, from Apple to Zappos. We also believe that it’s hard to be creative when you’re stuck, up to your neck, in day-to-day operations. Most business owners need a spark from the the outside. From ad agencies or creative marketing consultants.

We believe that Process matters. This is a service business, so how we work is often just as important as what we produce. We don’t take short cuts. For us, it’s Insight first, then Execution. Every time. It’s a process designed specifically to produce maximum results.

We believe in the persuasive power of disruptive words. Proven fact: Well-crafted messages with unexpected words and images have more impact. Because the human brain automatically screens out the normal, mundane language of most business pitches. It’s in one ear, and out the other, without disturbing a single brain cell. Great messages, on the other hand, fire the synapses and trigger an emotional response. Here’s an example of great messaging.

We believe that when it comes to selling, emotion trumps logic every time. Research it yourself… the latest brain science proves that people make emotional purchases, then use reason to justify the decision. No great brand has ever been built on reason alone. Not one. In branding, it’s what they feel, not what they think.

We still believe in the marketing MIX. Technology is a great new weapon in our quiver of marketing tools, but it’s not the bow. You still need a healthy mix of marketing tactics. Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat provide exciting new ways to tell stories and make connections, but technology itself isn’t the story. And yes, TV still works!

We believe in the glory of a good story.  Every great business has an engaging story to tell. So tell it!  Find creative new ways to spin that tale, and keep telling it over and over again. Tell it in ads, tell it on your site, tell it presentations, tweets and Facebook posts.

We believe in skeptical optimism. As creative thinkers, we’re naturally skeptical. But not in a pessimistic way. We question the status quo in order to move your business upward. Tell us that something can’t be done, that it’s too hard, or too “out there” and we’ll be positively skeptical about that.

We believe Design belongs in business school.  Tom Peters calls it “the soul of new enterprise.”  It’s Design that differentiates the world’s most valuable brand – Apple.  It’s Design that made Tupperware a cultural phenomenon. Design evokes passion, emotion and attachment… all required elements of great brands.

We believe in the art of persuasion. Data is a big deal these days. But effective marketing communications still comes down to saying the right thing, and saying it well. A brilliantly crafted combination of words and images will always be more motivating than data. Here’s a relevant case study.

 
Get Started.

Schedule a free phone call.  Put your beliefs to work.

Here's who we are:

John Furgurson

John Furgurson bend Oregon branding expertJohn’s been called an anomaly… A creative guy with a penchant for business. A poetic entrepreneur.

He can devise insightful strategy in the morning, and craft award-winning advertising over lunch. He has a left-brain right-brain one-two punch that few marketing executives offer.

John cut his teeth writing direct response ads — where sales were the only litmus test of success. From there, he worked for several ad agencies on a vast array of print and radio campaigns. But not much TV. So in his first of several reinvention exercises, John moved into the video industry. He wrote scripts and helped produce long-format videos and direct-response TV for big, national brands.

John Furgurson branding expert skiing at Mt. BachelorEventually, John moved to Bend, Oregon to raise his kids and strike that delicate balance between work and play. His first business was named AdWords, which worked out pretty well when Google decided they really, really needed that URL.

John’s advertising agency has touched many of Oregon’s iconic brands, such as Black Butte Ranch, Sunriver Resort, and Bend itself. He has also helped plan, manage and execute marketing programs for start-ups and many small businesses. The kind that can’t afford failure. John shares his expertise regularly on the Brand Insight Blog, which he’s been writing since 2007.

Elissa Davis

Elissa Davis bend Oregon branding expertIn this day and age, inspired design often takes a back seat to the bells and whistles of modern technology. Too bad.

We believe subtle, aesthetic considerations have a pronounced affect on your brand and your overall business. That’s why Elissa’s a key team member at BNBranding.

Elissa has the uncanny ability to absorb brand strategies and translate them into gorgeous, relevant design work.

Over the years, she’s been the design talent behind many award-winning brands, like the playfully random eBay logo, for instance, and the brilliantly simple Malibu Country Club brand identity.

Elissa’s talents extend far beyond logos, into print and web design as well. And she sweats every detail. From the psychological effects of a color change to the usability implications of a specific website font, she works with the precision and care of a true craftsman and artist.

Erik Zetterberg

EZ head shot for websiteErik’s our web master/programmer/technology consultant. Here’s how it usually goes with Erik…

We approach him with our initial concepts for a website or a digital advertising campaign. He tells us it can’t be done. No way. Then we go back and forth arguing the merits of the idea vs. the realities of HTML programming. (We’ll spare you the details on that.)

Eventually Erik goes deep down into some technological rabbit hole, and we don’t hear from him for a couple days. But he always emerges with a workable solution. Every time.

The results are stunning… Websites that look as good as they perform. Web-generated leads that actually lead to something. With Erik’s help you get higher conversion rates and analytics that your CFO will love. It’s better with Zetter. Berg.

 

BN Branding

Here's what they say:

golf industry marketing experts - client Andy Heinly“John Furgurson has been a great creative partner over the years. I’ve worked with him and his company in several different capacities… as the GM of a country club, as the co-author of our book on golf, as an independent clubfitter and as the owner of a retail golf shop. John’s been there for me the whole way… He really understands golf industry marketing, and he’s not afraid to take a unique creative approach to this business.” – Andy Heinly, Pro Golf of Bend

 

 

Travel industry marketing client - Preston Thompson“When I was doing travel industry marketing at Black Butte Ranch we relied on BNBranding for a number of things… They started out by doing the research and writing the book on the Black Butte brand. Then they refreshed our brand identity, produced new signage throughout the resort, and did some great advertising for us. Their work put heads in beds and helped us increase our golf revenues.” – Preston Thompson, Thompson Guitars

 

 

“When we found BN Branding, our website was in a state of emergency. John took great interest in our products and took the time to get familiar with what we did and who our clientele was. John came up with the new name and logo. And when the site was finished and launched, our selling proposition was much more clear, which led to more online sales without the “pre-call” to understand the product. All costs were well worth the results. I would recommend BNBranding to anyone looking for any marketing.”  – Scott Beydler

 

“I love learning, and I dive into subjects head first, including marketing. It’s kind of an obsession of mine. I’ve worked with some big-name marketing guys across the country, but John Furgurson is my go-to guy. I’m very analytical, and I always over-think things. John has a good process that he follows, and he always has good ideas. Some of the work he’s done for me over the years is just brilliant.” – John Ford, Golf at the Next Level.

Here's where we choose to work:

Yep, we have an ad agency in Bend, Oregon. It’s a lifestyle thing. The fresh air, the beauty and the outdoor action in Bend is beneficial to our creativity and productivity. It’s the juice that keeps the ideas coming. If you’d like to mix business with pleasure with a visit to Central Oregon give us a call. We can arrange a rejuvenating, brand-oriented business trip that you can write-off.

Bend Oregon branding company

Schedule a meeting


Here's what's new at BNBranding:

Capturing the not-so-corporate culture at Deschutes Brewery.

Deschutes Brewery video productionAugust, 2017

Thanks to Matt Hand, at Hand-in-Hand Productions for bringing me in on this one…  Scriptwriting and directing a video that explains the culture around Bend’s biggest brewery. My interview with Gary Fish and CEO Michael LaLonde provided the insight and context, while snippets from employees provide the proof. The 12-minute production will be used as a recruiting and PR tool during the brewery’s expansion into Roanoke, Virginia.

 

 

 

Surfing Legend and Superfood Brand

Branding firm client Laird SuperfoodFebruary, 2017

Laird Hamilton is an iconic figure in the surfing world. He has surfed some of the biggest, baddest waves on the planet and has been a leading innovator in his sport for more than 30 years. We’re helping him promote his new business, Laird Superfoods, based on his love of coffee and his devotion to a healthy, ketogenic diet. Our Bend, Oregon branding firm did message development, an investor pitch, trade advertising, collateral materials and a update to their brand identity.

Read more news »

BNBranding Home

The best brands are symbolic. Magnetic. Emphatic. 
They don't just stand out, they stand up.

 

What does it take to turn an average business into an iconic brand?

It takes insight to spot opportunities, conceive ideas and develop a decisive strategy. And, of course, execution… One without the other is like a Ferrari without a throttle.

Insight is the foundation of every ground-breaking idea in history. Insight drives the strategy that directs the execution that produces results. But insight alone doesn’t guarantee success.

the branding process at BNBrandingConsultants often deliver insightful strategies, but they don’t execute anything. Graphic designers, on the other hand, focus only on execution.

With BNBranding you get a sensible combination of both.

Strategic Insight + Creative Execution = Tangible Results.

No bones about it… You’re in business to make money. You need a marketing team with a disciplined process that produces results.

That’s what we do.

We provide Marketing Management Services with a keen eye toward long-term brand equity.

 

Turn on the creativity. 
Bathe in new ideas and brighten up your outlook on business.

 

Everyone needs inspiration and fresh perspective. Because you’re too close to it. Too stuck in the day-to-day.

With BNBranding creative energy will infuse your team and shed new light on your marketing efforts. Not only that, we’ll take a tremendous burden off your shoulders by pulling together all the pieces of the marketing puzzle.

It starts with your brand story. Chances are, your competitors are sharing facts, not telling stories. And they might not even be the right facts. BNBranding can help you distance yourself from the competition by pinpointing the most relevant story and then delivering it in a creative new ways.

It’s what to say, and how to say it.

It’s a unique combination of big, creative ideas, expert strategic thinking, and painstaking marketing management.

Get Inspired. It only takes 15 minutes.

Click to schedule a FREE phone meeting. Or just call us.

“Vision without action is a just a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese proverb

Golf Industry Marketing & Advertising - GNL Golf

John Ford has been a client for 11 years. We’ve done his brand strategy, brand identity, website, content marketing, direct response, point-of-purchase (right) print advertising and now we’re helping him launch a new start-up business.

“I love learning, and I dive into subjects head first, especially marketing. It’s kind of an obsession of mine,” Ford said. “I’ve worked with big-name marketing guys and branding firms across the country, and John Furgurson is my go-to guy.”

“We get frustrated with each other sometimes because we don’t think alike. At all. I’m very analytical. But John always has good ideas. He has a process and he always delivers what he says he’s going to. And damn… some of the work he’s done for me is just brilliant. We have more leads and a better sales process than we’ve ever had before.”

Here’s the case study on GNL Golf. 

 
BN Branding

 

This is business - where you grow or die. You need results. Nuts and bolts. Dollars and sense.

 

We make CFOs smile. Because our brand of marketing makes good business sense.

Not all marketers are smart business people. And not all business people are good at marketing.

We offer a refreshing combo of both. It’s a right-brain/left-brain approach.

We don’t just thinking creatively about your next ad campaign. We think creatively about your entire business model. Because we’ve seen how marketing initiatives can effect operations, production, HR, logistics and yes, even finance.

For better or worse.

We work within realistic budget parameters and set tangible, accountable goals. So we’re not just throwing money at the problem. And we’re not generating leads that translate into no real revenue.

Everything we do is based on three branding fundamentals: Relevance, credibility, and differentiation. We help our clients move the needle on all three counts. And when that happens, the bottom line always looks good.

 

“As a CFO, I’m pretty leery of branding firms. Most of them just end up costing the company a lot of money, without any measurable results. But, I guess that’s not always true. John Furgurson has a good head for business and he grasps the importance of results. Does he hit a home run every time? No. But it’s getting more and more measurable all the time. Plus, he looks for ways to save money, not just spend it. I wish we would have spent more money with John, instead of some of the other folks out there.”

Carl Rigney

CFO and franchise owner
 

Want tangible results? Here are a few dramatic examples of what we have accomplished:

Email campaign for a non-profit produced a 520% increase in click-through rate from their previous best. New ad buy dramatically increased exposure and web visits while saving the organization more than $15,000 a year.

Business-to-business marketing initiative tripled the ad revenues for Azure’s bi-monthly magazine.

New name, new brand identity and new advertising for Widgi Creek Golf Club produced a 210% increase in memberships in a highly competitive golf market.

 Sales incentive program for a $30 million manufacturing company boosted morale and increased sales 26% in just two years.

 Schedule a free meeting. 

Make the call. Get results: 541-815-0075. The first inspirational meeting is free.

 

Cut left. Pivot right. Pass on the corners and leave everyone in the rear-view mirror.

 

In business, things seldom turn out exactly as planned… Markets change, people leave, products evolve, but Brands endure.

If you need to change directions it pays to reflect on your passion and on the heart of your brand. This is not navel-gazing, it’s crucially important strategic thinking that you probably missed the first time.

PW brandWe can help with insight on your key messages, audience, competition, products, value proposition and brand stories. Once we have the new brand strategy clearly mapped out, we help you execute your marketing plan in amazing new ways.

Every case is different, but execution sometimes starts with a name change or a new website with sharper, more relevant messages and much higher conversion rates. Often we include online videos that help reframe the discussion. Social media campaigns can help, as well as new packaging and traditional advertising.

The solutions change, but the results are the same… When we’re done, your company will be heading in a new direction based on a fundamentally sound brand.

 

Branding in the Natural Foods Industry - Laird Superfood Inc.

Laird Superfood is a recent start-up that’s experiencing explosive growth. We helped them with an investor pitch, trade advertising, packaging design, message development and printed sales materials.

“In this sort of crazy, fast-paced environment, you need people who can jump right in and get stuff done,” said Paul Hodge, CEO. “John has a lot of experience in the natural foods industry, so he’s been a great resource for us. He helped us get established with our first national distributor, and things have just exploded from there.”

 
BN Branding

 

Nervy gets noticed, tweeted, talked up. Timid gets trounced.
The meek don't win market share, cocky bastards do.

 

It’s better to be offensive to some, than remembered by none.

In business, it’s all a gamble. In order to win big, you have to stick your neck out.

Marketing is no different. The campaigns that produce the best results are based on genuine consumer insight and big, bold ideas. They don’t tiptoe around important issues or sidestep major objections.

They tackle them head on.

So if you want to just maintain business as usual, and operate under the radar, you’re probably not a good fit for BNBranding. But if you want a branding firm that’s willing to step out and disrupt the market, give us a call. 541-815-0075. It’s surprisingly affordable.

 

Restaurant Marketing - The Where-To-Eat-Guide

The owner of The Where-To-Eat-Guide wasn’t afraid to offend restaurant owners. He hit them right between the eyes with ads, email, direct mail and printed sales materials that helped him expand his publishing business from Bend, to Portland, to Seattle and eventually Napa.

“I didn’t think I needed a branding firm,” said John Herbik. “I figured I could do a lot of it myself, with just some freelancers. But I need to thank John for his insight on branding and marketing. The stuff he did really got attention. And he was very helpful on my book project.”

 

Learn more about gutsy, memorable brands on the Brand Insight Blog.

 
 
BN Branding

Paninis - Where-To-Eat-Guide

 

 
 

Golf Industry

Golf is a tremendous passion of ours. So is advertising. So a golf industry ad agency makes sense. We provide golf industry branding and advertising that produces tangible results. No one knows the golf market better than we do. Forget-About-It!

Ad Agency BNBranding. Golf industry branding and advertising agency. Here’s the case study on GNL Golf

2 Non-profit branding (A story of start-up success and failure)

In 2009 I called it “A feel-good brand in a bummed out world.”  It was the type of organization that genuinely touched people, and put smiles on little faces. For me, a few minutes at Working Wonders Children’s Museum was a sure cure for a crummy day.

WWLogo - smallOur story of success, and failure, is valuable for anyone who’s starting a new business or running a non-profit organization.

When we started Working Wonders we did a lot things right. It was non-profit branding “by the book” all the way. First, we thoroughly researched the market and determined that there was a gaping need. (We conducted large-sample phone surveys as well as focus groups.)

Once we saw encouraging results from the research, we wrote a mission-focused brand strategy and built a business plan around that. After our strategy was clear, and the business plan written, we came up with a great name, designed a nice logo and put an operational plan in place based on our cohesive brand platform.

non-profit branding case study by BNBranding bend oregon

Print ad campaign

At first, it was just a concept. A “museum without walls.” Initially we raised enough money to build some traveling exhibits and we went to every event in town to introduce kids, and their parents, to our brand of educational play. It caught on. Before the days of Twitter, it went viral.

Our bootstrapping, “museum without walls” strategy achieve the immediate goal: Proof of concept. Parents and kids loved it. In less than three years we raised $400,000 and arrived at that crucial, “go or no-go” point. We had a location and we had enough money to open the doors. Just barely.

The argument TO go:  We figured it’d be easier to raise money once people could see a finished children’s museum. We knew we could spend years traveling around, trying to raise more money. (Many Children’s Museums spend a decade doing that.) Or we could get the doors open, and go from there.

The argument to NOT go:  We’d be undercapitalized. Cash would be tight, and there was no endowment safety net. We were relying on the on-going generosity of a couple key donors and most of all, corporate sponsors.

We chose to go. Damn the torpedoes!

A team of volunteers scraped up donated materials, did the heavy lifting, and created a children’s museum that was small, but delightful. We launched in less than one-third the time and for one-fifth the cost of most children’s museums. It was a labor of love. A thing of beauty. A non-profit branding success and the biggest accomplishment of my marketing career.

Working Wonders ran successfully for four years. It broke my heart when it had to close because of the economic tidal wave that hit our town in 2009. Despite our best efforts and exceptional marketing, it was not sustainable.

Some people contend it was actually branded too well.

Many customers and community leaders thought we were part of a national chain of some sort. Never mind that our marketing was done with volunteer labor. (mine) Never mind that our advertising was mostly donated space. The general public simply couldn’t conceive of a little, local non-profit doing things so professionally. They figured we had all the money we needed, from some, mysterious, out-of -town source.

But there was no endowment. By the time we identified the perception problem and started addressing it with overt messaging, it was too late.

Our lessons learned from Working Wonders tie-in directly to an online discussion that I’ve been following about branding for non-profit organizations. It’s an informative conversation between branding professionals that everyone can learn from. Profit or not.

One key question that came up:

1.What happens when the public image of a non-profit organization suffers because of commercial branding strategies?

One could argue that’s what happened with Working Wonders. However, there’s more to the story than that.

If not for commercial branding practices the children’s museum never would have opened in the first place. That’s how we were able to touch so many kids. In hindsight, the execution of our marketing was not the issue. We did a great job of reaching the parents of young kids. They came in — over and over again.non-profit branding by BNBranding Brand Insight Blog in Bend Oregon

Unfortunately, in the non-profit world customer satisfaction and brand loyalty doesn’t always translate to financial viability. For children’s museums loyal, repeat customers aren’t enough. They also need loyal, repeat donors.

That’s what we missed… the big dollar benefactors. In a town of only 100,000 people those are hard to find, so we relied heavily on corporate sponsorships, and those dried up overnight when the economy tanked.

As the online discussion points out, nonprofits are often torn between two marketing objectives. But the biggest effort HAS to be directed at board recruitment and fund raising.We woulda, coulda, shoulda spent less time getting kids in the door, and more time on a grass roots effort to raise money and load the board of directors with wealthy supporters.

So if you’re working with a small, local-level non-profit, by all means, do a professional job with your marketing. Non-profit branding is absolutely important! But first and foremost, make sure you’re telling your story of need to the right people. Solidify the base of financial support first, then open your doors.

It’s always a delicate balance to demonstrate that dire need without looking desperate. That’s your challenge as a non-profit marketer. And keep in mind, if the organization does not appear grass-rootsy, potential donors might jump to unfortunate conclusions about your funding sources.

If you’re in a for-profit venture, look closely at the passion and commitment of the people who help build non-profit organizations. At Working Wonders, we were all deeply passionate about the needs of our young kids. That cause is what fueled us.

What’s your “cause?”  Every great brand has one, beyond just making money. Is it written down somewhere? Is your operational plan aligned with that? Does anyone really care? These are some of the key strategic questions you need to ask yourself, before  you worry about executing your go-to-market plan.

And, of course, you have to balance that thinking with the practical, numbers and sense question of, “where’s the money coming from?”

For more marketing tips and non-profit branding advice, check out THIS post:

 

 

1 How to sell more stuff online.

Awwwww,  the traditions of autumn… Halloween candy, the first snow in the mountains, and holiday shopping. You’ve heard of Black Friday… the mayhem-loving bargain hunter’s favorite day of the year. And “Cyber Monday,” the online equivalent. They’re coming up quickly.

The Wall Street Journal predicts there will be ninety six million online shoppers. That’s almost one-third of America’s population Googling for bargains. And there are probably nine million shopping sites to choose from.

Every e-commerce site from Amazon to Aunt Matilda’s Potato Mashers will get their fair share of the buying frenzy. But most e-commerce businesses could get a bigger piece of the pie, if only they’d do something — anything — to differentiate themselves from pack.

You can’t just regurgitate the manufacturer’s product spiel. You need to customize your pitch, improve your copy, and mix up the words a bit.

Besides a ridiculously low price, what do online shoppers want? Most are looking for information. If they’re not quite ready to fill their shopping cart, they need facts, reviews, articles or some kind of credible content that helps them narrow their search.

Amazingly few e-commerce brands actually fit the bill when it comes to informative content and sharp, convincing copy.

Take ski shops, for instance. I’m in the market for new ski boots, and I can’t even get enough information to research boots on line, much less purchase them. After hours of work I know a lot more about boot fitting, but I don’t know which models are most likely to fit my feet. In fact, I’ve been to every online ski shop I could find, and only one – REI –  provides anything more than just the manufacturer’s stock product spiel.

My final choice: The Salomon with the custom fitting

If you want to establish a successful on-line brand you have to do more than just copy your competitors. You can’t just cut and paste the same exact blurb, same photo and the same specs and expect more market share than anyone else. You have to differentiate your store. Somehow.

You could offer unique products. (Most niched e-commerce sites offer the exact same products as their competitors. But even if you could find something they don’t have, it’s not a sustainable advantage unless you have an exclusive arrangement with the manufacturer.)

You could offer lower pricing. (Tough if you don’t have the volume of Amazon or Office Depot.)

Or you can have better content presented in your own, unique voice. That, you can do!

I have to admit, I’m not even entertaining the idea of buying ski boots on line. (For me, it’s hard enough buying sneakers online.) But if I were, I’d want a retailer that obviously understands the pain ski boots can inflict:

Toenails blackened and torn. Crippling leg cramps. Wasted $90 lift tickets. Ruined vacations. Endless trips back to the ski shop.

Those are the honest-to-goodness repercussions of getting it wrong. That’s the stuff of compelling sales copy. Not bullets from the manufacturer’s spec sheet. But not a single online ski shop capitalizes on those emotional hooks. They’re all just lined up, offering the same brands at the same prices with the same pitch.

That’s not retailing. That’s virtual warehousing.

Early in my career I wrote copy for the Norm Thompson catalog. Before J. Peterman ever became famous Norm Thompson had a unique voice that resonated with its mature, upscale audience. We wrote long, intelligent copy that told a story and filled in the blanks between technical specs and outstanding photography.

When the product called for a technical approach, we’d get technical… I remember writing a full page spread on the optics of Serengetti Driver sunglasses.

For other products we’d turn on the charm and use prose that harkened back to more romantic times.

Helpful.

Heroic.

Practical.

Luxurious.

Comfortable.

These weren’t just adjectives thrown in to boost our word count. They were themes on which we built compelling, product-driven stories. The narratives explained why the product felt so luxurious. Where the innovation came from. How a feature worked. And most importantly, what it all meant to the Norm Thompson customer.

It was the voice of the brand, and guess what? It worked. The conversion rates and sales-to-page ratios of the Norm Thompson catalog were among the highest in the industry.

It’s tough to find anything remotely close in the on-line world. And unfortunately, Norm Thompson hasn’t maintained that unique voice in the e-commerce arena. (If you know of any brilliantly different online retailers, like Patagonia, please let me know. I’d love to add a positive case study.)

Ski boots don’t exactly fit into the category of top on-line sellers. They aren’t impulse items that you need on a weekly basis. They’re heavy to ship. And returns on ski boots must be astronomical.

But on-line retailers could cut down on those returns simply by explaining the single most important thing:

Fit.

Most boots don’t even come close to fitting my feet, so no technical feature is as important as fit. And yet no website that I’ve found provides the simple problem-solving content that says: If you have a D width foot, try this make and model. If you have a high instep, try these. If you have a narrow foot, try these.

It’s not rocket science. It’s just simple salesmanship . The kind you’d get if you walk into any decent ski shop.

And I guess that’s what I’d like to see more of on line. Better salesmanship. At least for the product categories that require more than just a quick glance at the price. Like ski boots.

And one other thing… If you choose to sell like everyone else, at least make your site convenient to use, and functional from a usability standpoint.  I visited one online shop that didn’t even have a working search function. I typed in “Soloman Ski Boots” and got dozens of Soloman products, but not one ski boot. I’ll never go back. Online shoppers often know exactly what they want. Might as well make it easy for them to find it.

6 Porter airlines brand advertsing

Airline marketing (One little Canadian company stands out)

Here’s a news flash for all of you who are 35 or under: Flying wasn’t always this bad.

There was a time when racking up frequent flyers miles was, actually, a little glamorous. You could fly the friendly skies and have a pleasant time. Sometimes it even lived up to the advertising brand experience.

Sorry you missed it.

In the age of strip searches, baggage fees, laptop bans and physically bouncing people from flights, most airlines are as bad as Greyhound busses. Cattle have it better on the way to the slaughterhouse. Every time I board a flight I think, “wow, there’s gotta be an opportunity here for an airline to do things differently.”

Sure enough, a small airline out of Toronto is jumping in, and turning the clock back to better days in coach.

Porter airlines brand advertsing airline marketingAt just ten years old it’s too early to tell if Porter Airlines will become a success story in the airline industry, but there’s a lot to be learned from their launch. From a branding standpoint, they’ve done it right.

In 2006, Robert Deluce, Porter’s CEO, made a conscious decision to build his airline around the brand, and vice-versa. According to Marketing News, he approached branding agencies with his vision, a business plan and a well-defined value proposition built on three things: speed, convenience and customer service.

Convenience was guaranteed by making Toronto’s City Center Airport the home base, eliminating a long commute from Pearson International.

Speediness comes from fast turboprop planes and streamlined check-in and baggage service. And customer service… well the bar was pretty low, and Porter’s a fairly small airline, so it’s been easy to provide service that one customer described as “a real joy.”

Early on, Winkreative, a branding firm with offices in London, New York and Tokyo, was hired to coordinate the entire affair. They handled everything from naming the company to the interior design of the airplanes, website development and furniture selection in the airline’s lounge.

Rather than splitting it up between three or four firms, it was a well-coordinated effort based on a solid brand premise and a single creative approach. And it’s carried through in every aspect of the operation.

“It was meant to be something fresh, something innovative, something stylish,” Deluce said. “There’s a part of it that’s a throwback to the past… to a time when travel was a bit more fun.”

I love the simplicity of the name. “Porter” conveys how the airline would carry passengers with care and help lighten their load. And the tagline, “flying refined,” sums it up without pouring on the fluff.

Thankfully, the graphic design falls in line perfectly with the idea of refinement. If you say you’re refined, you better look refined!

The sophisticated, subdued color palette and the quirky raccoon character work tremendously well together. Sorta reminds me of Olympic mascots from years past. You can debate the wisdom of using a raccoon, but the design work is fun, distinctive and superbly executed in every medium. No one’s going to forget it once they’ve experienced it.

Porter airlines branding case study airline marketingFrom the blog, Design Sponge: “This Canadian boutique airline is the most well-designed airline I’d ever been on and seemingly every detail had been given a lot of thought (including their adorable lunch boxes and chic on-board magazine named Re:Porter).

But the Porter brand is a lot more than just pretty pictures and a fancy in-flight magazine. From what I’ve heard and read, the entire operation is living up to its brand promise and exceeding expectations.

Travelocity says: “From top to bottom, inside and out, Porter Airlines has raised the bar. This new standard in air travel is evident not only in their ultra-modern facilities, but also in the quality of their staff. Each team member has been specially selected and trained to put travelers first with impeccable and innovative service.”

Nine out of ten customer reviews on SkyTrax are overwhelmingly positive.: “It’s exactly what it advertises: flying in style… thanks for bringing back the type of air travel everyone should experience and expect!”

And after scouring the travel blogs, I couldn’t find a single negative review.

From the World Hum travel blog:  “I loved flying Porter Airlines… A smooth operation, friendly staff, and free snacks. It was a pleasant reminder that air travel doesn’t have to be a succession of minor inconveniences and discomforts.”

Many people have never known anything but discomfort and inconvenience in air travel. So for them, Porter will be an entirely new experience, somewhat foreign and unexpected. And once they’ve flown Porter, their perception of the other brands will be forever tainted.

For older generations, Porter is a throw-back. An emotional trigger that harkens back to a simpler time when all the airlines did a better job.

I haven’t flown Porter, but I hope to. (It’s almost enough to justify a trip to my grandma’s hometown in Nova Scotia.) I hope they can succeed in a tremendously difficult and competitive industry. I hope they can scale up their operation without sacrificing the heart of the Porter brand. And I hope more airlines follow suit.

But I’m not optimistic. Few airlines are built on such a solid brand premise, and most are just too darn big to change direction in any substantive way. So the opportunity for little carriers like Porter, will still be here for the taking.

If they can just remember those good ‘ol days.

3 One tough mother, two marketing objectives.

It’s an old debate… can brand advertising actually move the needle on bottom-line business objectives?  Ad agency execs say yes, but direct response guys don’t concur. Marketing Directors and C-level execs are often skeptical.

 My humble opinion… absolutely. When it’s done well, an “image” ad campaign certainly can move product, and I have a case study that proves it.

 Meet Gert Boyle, the iconic matriarch of Columbia Sportswear, and a face only a mother could love. 

 28_200705251701111Gert’s story is an inspiration and a testament to the power of well-executed advertising. The campaign by Borders, Perrin & Norrander bridged the great divide between image advertising and product-oriented response ads and helped the company become the number one outdoor apparel company in the country. No doubt about it.

 Gert inherited the family business in 1970 after her husband’s untimely heart attack. At the time, Columbia was generating $650,000 a year in sales, but was teetering on the brink of insolvency. Although the company made a popular line of fishing and hunting apparel, profitability had been a problem for years. To make matters worse, Neal Boyle had offered three family-owned homes and his life insurance policy as collateral for an SBA loan.

 The pressure was on, and after the first year Gert seriously considered selling. But when the deal fell apart she dug her heels in, made some tough decisions, and with help from her son Tim, turned the business around. By 1978 they reached $1million in sales. By 1983, they were up to $12 million.

 The first ad campaign that Borders did for Columbia touted the technical aspects of their product and said, “We don’t just design it, we engineer it.”

 Ooops. It was a message more suited for the biggest competitors, like Patagonia or North Face, than Columbia. Gert Boyle’s product wasn’t the most technical on the market, nor the most fashionable. It wasn’t a brand you’d see on an expedition up Everest, so the engineering angle missed the mark. It was brand advertising that didn’t capture the heart of the brand.

 Columbia products represented functional practicality. Their jackets sold for half the price of their competitors, and were perfectly suitable for 95% of the population who are outside enthusiasts, but not extremists. The brand was more about braving the Oregon rain than assaulting the seven summits.

 So in the fall of 1984, Bill Borders and his team came up with something completely different: They started featuring Gert herself in Columbia’s ads. They portrayed her as stubborn, finicky and overprotective. They showed the product and touted benefits in long copy ads, but always in context with Mother Boyle’s quality control efforts. Nothing gets by her!

As it turned out, Gert embodied everything the Columbia brand is about. She was the most obnoxious, bullheaded, effective pitchman ever, and people loved her.

In her book, Gert said  “The impact of the ads was almost instantaneous. Sales quickly increased, and I was surprised when strangers came up to me on the streets and asked if I was the “Tough Mother.” Better yet, the image created in the ads took hold. Instead of seeing us as just another outerwear company, our customers thought of us as the company where the cranky, crotchety old broad made sure they were getting a good product at a fair price.”

Once Gert and Tim realized they had a big hit they turned up the heat, outspending their competitors by a wide margin. They started running TV spots where Gert used her hapless son as a product-testing guinea pig. She sent him through a car wash, dumped him, unconscious, on the summit of a mountain. Froze him in the ice and drove over him with a Zamboni. All with the tagline: Tested Tough.

Fun stuff. And spot-on from a branding standpoint.  (See them at: www.columbia.com/tv_ads/tv_ads.aspx) 

 “Our ads set us apart from the corporate pack. People related to us because they believe there is a person at Columbia who really cares. And the best thing about our ads is that they are true. I really do care.” – Gert Boyle.

Authenticity. Differentiation. Credibility. And increased sales. What more could you want in an ad campaign?

When the campaign launched in 1984, sales were $18 million. By 1990 Columbia hit the $100 million dollar mark. Today they’re the number one outerwear company in the world, with 2008 sales of  $1.32 billion.

Unfortunately, there are signs that point to a backsward shift in Columbia’s advertising. Last year they left Borders and hired a bigger agency to “execute a global communications strategy.” 

Borrrrrrring.

Borrrrrrring.

Makes me wonder what that strategy is. Their website and on-line marketing efforts don’t have any of the brand personality of the old Gert-Boyle ads. Now you have predictable, stock photography of pretty-looking models staged in picture-perfect outdoor settings.

Gert said it best: “The tall, thin, blonde models in our competitor’s ads may be easier on the eyes, but they don’t care about you like good old Mother Boyle.”

And I bet they don’t move product like her, either.