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Under Armour marketing — Sailing into a big, blue ocean of opportunity.

BNBranding logoKevin Plank, founder and former CEO of Under Armour, likes to tell the story of his origin as an entrepreneur. And it always revolves around focus…

“For the first five years we only had one product. Stretchy tee shirts,” Plank said.  “Great entrepreneurs take one product and become great at one thing.  I would say, the number one key to Under Armour marketing – to any company’s success – plain and simple, is focus.”

Under Armour marketing strateg on the Brand Insight BlogThe Under Armour marketing focus on stretchy tees for football players enabled Plank to create a whole new pie in the sporting goods industry. He wasn’t fighting with Nike for market share, he was competing on a playing field that no one was on.

It was a classic “blue ocean” strategy… instead of competing in the bloody waters of an existing market with well-established competitors, he sailed off on his own.

And Plank kept his ship on course until the company was firmly established. Only then did they begin to introduce new products and expand the Under Armour marketing strategy. It wasn’t until years later that they entered the footwear business and the golf business and the fashion business.

Under Armour marketing strategy on the brand insight blogThat’s good branding. That’s a Blue Ocean Strategy. That was Under Armour marketing in a nutshell… Stretchy Ts for football players. 

Plank didn’t have to explain the Under Armour value proposition to anyone… From the very beginning it was ridiculously clear what the company was all about. Potential customers grasped the idea immediately.

Often the lure of far-away treasure is just too tempting for the entrepreneur. The minute they get a taste of success, and have some good cash flow, they sail off into completely different oceans.

It’s a common phenomenon among early-stage start-ups, where it’s spun, for PR purposes, into a strategic “pivot.” 

Every meeting with a potential investor or new strategic partner triggers a dramatic shift in the wind…

“Wow, that’s a great idea. We could do that.”  “Oh, we never thought of that. Yes, definitely.” “Well, that would be a great pivot for us. We’ll definitely look into that.” 

Those are usually the ones that burn through their first round of funding and then sail off into oblivion. Because there’s no clear purpose. No definitive direction. No substance upon which a brand could be built.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne wrote the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” back in 2005. They don’t mention Under Armour, but it fits their blueprint of success precisely…

“Reconstruct market boundaries to create uncontested market space.” “Use value innovation to make a giant, disruptive leap forward in your industry.”

Plank was sailing into uncontested waters with one simple, focused idea. Plus he had a well-executed brand identity that was perfectly aligned with his blue ocean strategy.

The name, Under Armour, fits perfectly. It sounds strong because it was originally targeted toward strong, burly football players in tough tee shirts. Plus, it’s under shirts, not outter shirts. It even implied safety in an inherently unsafe sport.

When it comes to branding, simplicity trumps complexity. The strongest brands are always built on simple, single-minded ideas.

Take Ikea, for instance. They have thousands of products, but they all revolve around one simple core brand concept: Furniture for the masses.

They figured out how to offer functional, contemporary furniture for a lot less money… by leaving the assembly in the hands of the customer.

The products themselves are cheap, cheesy and downright disposable. But that’s not the point. You can furnish an entire apartment for what you’d normally pay for a couch. Plus, Ikea created a shopping experience that makes you feel like you’re getting something more. And consumers eat it up.

Ikea has a cult-like brand following. People camp out for days at Ikea store openings. They drive hundreds of miles and devour 191 million copies of Ikea’s printed catalog. All because of two things: price and shopping experience.

Ikea didn’t try to compete with traditional furniture manufacturers who focused on craftsmanship and quality. Instead, they ascribed to the old saying, “If you want to live with the classes, sell to the masses.”  Every Ikea design begins with one thought in mind: How to make common household items less expensive.

Their single-minded focus on cost-conscious consumers is their “Blue Ocean” strategy and the cornerstone of their success. They design products and a retail shopping experience to fit that core brand concept.

Uner Armour marketing on the brand insight blogSo the next time you walk into one of those giant, blue stores for some Swedish meatballs and bed linens, think about that…  Are you trying to slug it out with bigger competitors in the bloody waters of a red sea, or are you charting your own blue ocean strategy?

Take a page from the Under Armour marketing handbook and zig when everyone else zags. Go where the enemy isn’t. That’s how you’ll create a brand, and a business, that sticks. 

For more on effective marketing strategy, Try This Post.

 To put this idea to work for your company, give us a call. Our branding process starts with a simple, affordable brand assessment test drive.  541-815-0075

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Effective TV advertising — How to avoid TV spots that miss the mark.

brand credibility from branding expertsEffective TV advertising is hard to come by in my town. I just cringe when I see most local commercials… Not because of the horrific script writing. Not because of  the low, low, low production quality. Not because of the ill-advised choice of “talent,” or the mind-numbing jingle. I expect all that from the local TV stations.

BNBranding's Brand Insight BlogI cringe because many of the companies paying for those crummy commercials don’t belong on television at all. It’s not just bad commercial production, it’s bad media planning.

I’m talking about those cases where the medium – TV – missed the mark completely.

I’m talking about real cases where a business owner is spending a lot of money on TV to reach the wrong people, with the wrong message. That’s the most most glaring error you can make… the polar opposite of effective TV advertising.

Here’s an example of TV advertising that misses the mark:

There’s a retailer in my town that sells lavish, high-end patio furniture. It’s designer stuff, it’s practically bullet-proof, and it costs a lot of money. Guess what that business owner is doing for advertising?

Yep. Cheap TV spots.

Talk about the wrong impression. Nothing in his advertising matches his product line at all. Not the message, not the visuals, not the media schedule. It’s a total disconnect…

He says the ads are generating a lot of foot traffic, but it’s clearly the wrong kind of traffic. People walk into his patio furniture showroom (lured, no doubt, by the cheesy jingle they heard on TV) take one look at the prices, and hightail it down to Costco or Walmart.

One of his salespeople told me it’s not uncommon for them to actually cuss her out for wasting their time. So even if they win the lottery they won’t be going back to that store.

And yet the owner keeps doing the same thing, year after year. It falls into the “epic fail” category of advertising 101. It’s insanity.

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If you’re selling high-end, high-cost furniture you need high-end TV production a high-end audience, and a message that whispers elegance. Anything less will be a big whiff.

Here’s another example of how NOT to do effective TV advertising:

There’s a local company that offers jet charters for corporate and private use. If you own your own private island and want to sneak away to it for the weekend, you’re in luck. They’re literally selling to the jet set — the top 1% —and yet they’re advertising on local TV to Fred & Barney Rubble.

It’s a total mis-match.

Think about it… The very best outcome the company could hope for is a steady stream of inquiries from people who can’t possibly afford their service. And sure enough, they’re getting a few calls…

“Well gee whiz, I didn’t think it’d be THAT much to fly to my cousin Ethel’s place outside of Winnemucca.”

Filling your sales pipeline with hopeless leads is a waste of money, and probably the worst advertising mistake you can make. In cases like that, it can kill a brand.

No matter how many TV spots they run it’s not going to help sell jet charters.

In that case, better production value wouldn’t matter either. They could hire James Cameron to produce an epic, 10-million dollar 30-second spot and it still wouldn’t move the needle. It’d just generate more phone calls from non-buyers.

Because the company is advertising where the prospects aren’t.

There are digital alternatives now that would deliver their video message much more efficiently than TV. Straight to people who have expressed interest in jet charters. And there are plenty of options that allow the charter company to pay ONLY when qualified prospects actually view the ad.

Look, I am not a media buyer. I don’ t have the propensity for spreadsheets, number crunching and data analysis that’s required for that line of work. However, I know a basic, lousy media buy when I see one, and that is one of them. TV is not the answer in those two cases.

I’m not saying you should dump your entire TV schedule. You should just think adding other options to the media mix that are more targetable.

Here’s one more example, from my experience in golf industry marketing…

I have a client who recGolf industry tv advertising that misses the markently bought $35,000 worth of TV spots from the local cable company and he wanted my opinion on his media schedule. So I took a quick glance and saw, right off the bat, a whole bunch of time slots during daytime shows that skew heavily toward women.

How much golf equipment do you think women buy? How many golfers do you think are sitting around during the day watching “Psycho Coupon Horders?”

Again, it’s a mismatch. Why would you spend your money running ads that are geared toward affluent men, during daytime TV programs that attract only women?  It’s just not common sense.

If you’re in the position of reviewing media schedules like that, use your head. Eliminate those time slots. Make the sales guy work a little harder to match his commercial line up with your brand.

And when those salespeople come knocking, always remember this: It’s demand-based selling that hinges entirely on their limited inventory. The popular shows are in high demand, and sell out easily. So the TV salespeople are left trying hard to sell the shows that are NOT in demand.

Yes, the shitty shows and the worst time slots.

Sometimes I think they throw-in some of those dogs on the schedule just to see if you’re paying attention.

I’m not saying that all TV advertising is a waste of money. Not at all. With enough frequency,  the right product or service, and a well-honed message, you can do very effective TVadvertising.

If you have an airline that’s selling $49 round trip tickets to Disneyland, by all means! Buy a bunch of TV ads. Everyone wants to go to Disneyland. But if you’re selling jet charters to Disneyland, don’t waste your time on TV spots.

Duh.

So the first thing to do is make sure that TV is right for your company. Let’s assume that it is.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to do effective TV advertising in your local market:

A very clear message that’s aligned with your brand. You don’t want to be doing commercials on TV that doesn’t match your operation, like the patio furniture example.

A demonstrable product or service. TV is a visual medium. People are very quick with the Mute button, so your commercials better have some interesting visual elements that can tell a story with no sound. Drone shots of your parking lot or office building do not count!

Entertainment value. Effective TV advertising is the same as effective TV programming… it’s entertaining. It’s not just  information. In fact, too much information can kill your advertising.

A compelling story. Entertainment hinges on story telling. You ‘re not going to get an entertaining story if you rely on the sales rep to write a commercial for you. It’s as simple as that. Hire a copywriter or a commercial director with a lot of writing experience.

A campaign concept, not just one ad.  Broadcast advertising can win the hearts of your prospects long before they’re in the market for your particular product or service. But in order to do that, you have to play the long game and sustain your visibility year after year. So you need a big idea that can carry on through a series of commericals.

If you’d like a review of your current advertising program, we can assess your strategy, your messaging, your value proposition and the creative execution. We will also collaborate with a media buyer friend who can save you money on that side of the equation and make sure your buy is as targeted and relevant as it can possibly be.

In the end, you will get you fair, honest assessment from pros who have been in the business for 30 years. The cost is very reasonable, so rest assured, it’ll save you money in the long run. Call me. 541-815-0075.

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Enough, already, with the exclamation punctuation in advertising.

brand credibility from branding expertsI’m an advertising guy… a copywriter from way back. We’re not nit-pickers when it comes to grammatical details like sentence structure and punctuation in advertising. (Got Milk?) But there’s one thing we all know:  the fastest, easiest way to get better ad copy is to delete all those ridiculous exclamation marks.

Someone has to speak out about all the poor use of punctuation.  If I see one more marketing cliche or list of features punctuated with three of these !!! I’m going to scream.

Exclamation points are everywhere these days — in social media posts, on home pages, in emails, ad copy, and even in straight-forward product descriptions.

“All natural! Gluten-free! GMO-free! Vegan!!!”

3027633I have news for you…  There’s no correlation between the number of exclamation points and the effectiveness of your copy.  Just the opposite, in fact.

The more exclamation points, the less believable it is.

Yelling never works, and that’s the effect of all the exclamation points. Like a hyped-up used car salesman, in your face…”Seating for four! Steering wheel! Brakes! Air bags!”

Putting exclamation points on your list of standard features is not going to make them more compelling.

Give me a break. (See how I did NOT use an exclamation point right there. I could have said, “Give me a break!”)

Nothing says desperate, amateur writer faster than a bunch of  exclamation points at the end of  a sentence…

You’ll love the new John Deere riding mowers!

The longest, straightest driver ever!

Better comfort! Better feel! Better performance!

Your whole family will love it!!!

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your adsReally?  Those punctuation marks transform simple statements of fact into boisterous, unbelievable claims. It’s just not a normal tone of voice, and it’s going to affect your credibility.

If you want better ad copy, just shut up and use a period. Periods are the best form of punctuation for advertising. Exclamation points are the worst.

In business communications, credibility is critical. Your message needs to sound believable, professional, sensible. When you add the exclamation mark it sounds like your pants are on fire. All credibility is lost in a single keystroke.

Be understated instead.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for anything you write:  If you have to use an exclamation mark, you’re not using the right words. Go back to the well. Find words that punctuate the point in a dramatic fashion so you don’t need the extra punctuation.

 

You can add excitement and immediacy to your advertising copy and social media posts without adding exclamation points. Or worse yet — emojis.

Just try saying something meaningful. Different. And honest.

Start with a value proposition that holds water and resonates with your target audience. Then write micro-scripts that cement that idea in their minds. Test the microscripts on real people. Get a second opinion and don’t be afraid to re-write. You have to be patient and persistent if you want copy that really sells.

I’ve never seen a great headline with an exclamation mark after it. Ever. If it feels like your headline needs an exclamation mark, throw out the whole thing and start over. Try crafting a headline that is relevant and intriguing on its own, without all the grade school punctuation.

It’s not easy. If you need help writing better ad copy, call me. Or if you want more info on how to improve your advertising copy, click here.

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The secret to success: Clarity in business communications.

BNBranding logoClarity is the key to many things… Marriage, international relations, politics and parenting would all benefit from more clarity. But let’s stick to the subject at hand; Clarity in business communications.

Business owners and marketing people face an ongoing war of clarity vs. confusion. Simplification vs. complication. Persuasion vs. nonsense. Straight talk vs. bullshit. clarity in business communications BNBranding

Doesn’t matter what form of business communications we’re talking about — from a quick tweet or a simple email to an in-depth webinar or long-term TV campaign — you need to be clear and succinct about what you’re trying to say.

It takes discipline and creativity to maintain clarity in business communications.

It’s easy to confuse people. Eighty percent of my professional life has been spent helping clients clarify things. The message they have in mind is always clear in their own heads — and maybe to a few insiders — but it’s seldom clear to the outside world.

A lot gets lost in translation, and you have to find many different ways to say the same thing. Clearly.

The fact is, words matter. Images matter. Tone matters. A single misused word, photo or graphic can derail entire campaigns and leave your most important audience scratching their heads. You don’t want people saying “huh? or “wait, what?”

Want to avoid low morale and high turnover? Be clear with your people.

A Gallup Poll on the State of the American Workplace showed that there’s very little clarity in business communications. In fact, fully 50% of all workers are unclear about what’s expected of them. And that lack of clarity causes enormous frustration.

When confusion runs rampant, it costs a bundle.

So don’t just whip out that email to your team. Take time to think it through. Edit it. Shorten it. Craft it until it’s perfectly clear. You’ll be amazed how many headaches you can avoid when you just slow down and make the extra effort to be painfully clear.

Want to stop wasting money on advertising? Be clear about the strategy.

Think of it this way… Effective advertising is a combination of two things:  What to say, and how to say it. The “what to say” part means you need to articulate your strategy very clearly. The “how to say it” part is the job of the creative team. You need to be clear on both fronts.

The copywriter and the art director can’t create great advertising if they’re not clear on the strategy. Unfortunately, most business owners are quite wishy-washy on the subject of advertising strategy. And, unfortunately, a lot of marketing managers can’t spell out the difference between strategy and tactics.

So before you start writing ads, speeches or web copy, be clear about the strategy for that particular assignment. Clear strategy leads to clear copywriting and clear communications.

Want to build a brand? Be clear about what it stands for.

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock did a great documentary about product placement in the movie industry called  “Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”  There’s a scene where he’s pitching his movie idea to a team of top executives of a well-known natural food company, and they’re concerned that his spoof is not really right for their brand.

“So what are the words you’d use to describe your brand.” Spurlock asks. “Uhhhhhhhh. That’s a great question…”

41394 No reply. Nothing but a bunch of blank stares and squirming in their seats.

Finally, after several awkward minutes, one guy throws out a wild-ass guess that sounded like complete corporate mumbo-jumbo. They were in the spotlight, on national TV, and they had no business clarity whatsoever.

One thing you can do to encourage clarity in business communications is to write and produce a brand book that spells out exactly what your brand is all about. And what it isn’t!

Boil it down to a microscript your people will actually remember, rather than the usual corporate mish-mash mission statement. Then make sure that it becomes an integral part of your on-boarding procedure.

Because if your own people don’t know what your brand stands for, how will the customer know?

Want traction for your startup?  Find a name that’s clear.

Start-ups are hard enough without having to constantly explain your name. Like these internet inspired misses: Eefoof. Cuil. Xlear. Ideeli.  That’s just confusion waiting to happen…

“How do you spell that?”  “What’s the name of your business again?” “How do you pronounce that?” “Wait, what?”

Instead, go with a great name like StubHub. It has a nice ring to it. It’s memorable. And it says what it is. Digg is another good example. In that case, the double letters actually work conceptually with the nature of the business…  Search. Deeper.

Want advertising that actually drives sales? Be clear and overt about the value proposition.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your adsNot just a description of what you do or sell, but a compelling microscript of the value experience that your target audience can expect. It’s a sharply honed combination of rational and emotional benefits that are specific to the target audience, and not lost in the execution.

Creativity is the lifeblood of the advertising industry. Don’t get me wrong… I love it, especially in categories where there’s no other differentiation.

But sometimes you have to put clarity in front of creativity.

So start with strategy. Then be very clear about the value proposition.  Then a tight creative brief. And finally, lastly, ads. That’s how you can achieve clarity in business communication.

Want funding for your startup? You need overall business clarity.

When you’re talking about your amazing new business idea, be very, specifically clear about what’s in it for the consumer and how the business model will work. It all needs to be boiled down into a one minute elevator pitch that is painfully clear.

There can be no confusion.

You also need to be very clear with potential partners, employees, investors and especially yourself. If the idea’s not clear in your mind, it’ll never be clear to the outside world.

Want a powerpoint presentation that resonates? Be clear with your writing and stingy with the slides. 

Powerpoint is one of the biggest enemies of clarity in business communications. The innate human desire to add more slides, more data, more words and more bullet points just sucks the wind out of your ideas and puts the audience in a stupor.

Next time you have a presentation to do, don’t do a presentation. Write a very clear speech. Memorize it and make ’em look you in the eye, rather than at the screen. If nothing else, they’ll get the message that you’re willing to do something radically daring.

Learn more about more clarity in your powerpoint presentations.

Need help clarifying your messages? Need better clarity in business communications in general?  Call us. 541-815-0075 Keen branding

Working together for more effective advertising. (11 helpful tips)

BNBranding logoPlanning, creating, producing and managing an effective advertising campaign is not easy. There are details galore, many moving pieces, and an interesting array of individuals who all need to come together to make it happen.

When it does, it’s really quite magical. It’s a rare marriage of art and salesmanship that produces spectacular results.

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So here is some insight on the process that will help you succeed in advertising, no matter what side of the table you’re on.

This is how we can all work together to create more effective advertising. More memorable design. Better client-agency relationships. And ultimately, stronger brands…

If you’re a client…

1. Make your new campaign a priority.

Give the agency team plenty of your time and unrestricted access so they can be thoroughly prepared. Share everything. Put it all on the table, including the white elephants — if there’s something you absolutely won’t entertain or can’t stand, make that clear immediately. Remember, your agency team wants to help. They want to prove themselves. So as Jerry Maguire (aka Tom Cruise) once said “help me help you.”

2. Embrace the strategy behind the work.

When it comes to presenting ideas, advertising people love the preamble, or “pre-mumble” as a colleague once called it. We’re anxious to show off the thinking behind the work, probably because we know that most business owners don’t have tremendous respect for advertising guys. (They judge harshly and pigeonhole us as “artists” and “whacky creative types,” rather than trusted business consultants.)

We also know that no matter how great the work is, most people need to justify a good gut decision with some facts and data.

more effective advertisingSo we trot out the charts and graphs and point to the insight that we gleaned from all the market research. Then, in classic Don Draper style, we craft a speech to “set-up” the inevitable and brilliant creative solution that the client can’t possible resist.

But…  Many clients won’t hear it.

Their preconceived notions won’t allow it. They just want the sizzle, and if they don’t see it immediately no amount of strategic rationale will sway them.

In that case, “smarter” doesn’t necessarily sell. More research, better planning, and a sharply crafted creative brief count for nothing if the execution doesn’t tickle the client’s fancy.

Of course, just because it appeals to the client doesn’t mean it’ll work in the marketplace. So it gets complicated.  It has to be strategically sound, AND it has to appeal to the CEO.

3. Extricate yourself from the day-to-day, minute-to-minute, demands of your job.

I know it’s hard, but to be fair, you need some perspective. Block out a few days to immerse yourself in your brand without the worries of your daily grind.

You’ll be working with creative people, so get into a creative mindset of your own. At the very least, when it’s time to evaluate your new campaign put everything else aside and focus entirely on the campaign in front of you. That’s just common courtesy and professionalism. The agency team is giving you their full attention. They deserve the same. If you’re answering calls in the middle of a presentation it’ll be painfully obvious that you don’t value their work.

4. Throw the rear-view mirror thinking out the window.

Take a fresh new look at the marketing in your category. Think about the stereotypes that are hurting your business. How could you get past those? Make a list of all the industry conventions and cliches in your particular business. Review the “ways we’ve always done things,” and discard all that baggage for a day. Forget the old, and open yourself up to the genuinely new.

5. Be patient.

There are plenty of brilliant art directors and writers who aren’t good presenters. Listen attentively during the pre-amble, and be slow to criticize anything at that stage. It might not make sense at first, but wait until the presentation is complete. Only then can you judge fairly and delve into the inevitable questions that arise from an idea that may seem outlandish.

more effective advertising BNBranding6. Embrace the discomfort.

When you see a truly great advertising idea, it will NOT look like anything else you’ve seen. So yes, it’s going to be uncomfortably unfamiliar. You’ll feel like you’re really out there on the edge. Rest assured, you’re not alone in your squirming.

I once saw an amazingly effective, caring CEO get completely lost and befuddled by this. He really wanted to like the work — that much was obvious. But he could not get his head around the one, fundamental fact of advertising:

UNfamiliar is GOOD! Familiar is bad. That’s the secret to more effective advertising. If it’s NOT a novel idea, it won’t get noticed.

As Advertising legend George Lois once said, “Advertising is like poisonous gas… it should bring tears to your eyes and unhinge your nervous system. It should knock you out.”

So set your expectations accordingly… if they show you an idea that seems “way out there,” you’re probably on the right track. Lois says, “safe, conventional work is the ticket to oblivion.” If they show you something that seems “fine” and familiar, that’s when you should push back and say, is that all you got?”

If you’re the agency account executive…

1. Make a genuine connection with the client.  First, make sure you’re pitching to the right person. The one with the real decision-making authority. Then devote extra time to get to know that person.

One approach is to embed yourself — like a war correspondent — into the client’s business. Camp out. Shadow your client. Listen to everything that’s going on internally. You’ll often pick up subtle cues about the culture and the kind of advertising they’ll embrace.

But it’s not just the business you need to know. I’m talking about the client’s personal taste in everything… political leanings, entertainment preferences, family situation, personality traits. Take a page out of Harvey McKay’s sales playbook, (How to swim with the sharks without being eaten alive) and learn that person inside and out.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

It does you no good to schmooze with client if you don’t share your insight on that person with the creative team. Many AEs hold on tightly to that knowledge, believing it’s power. But that relationship you’ve worked so hard to build is worthless if you don’t win or keep the business. That means close, constant contact with the writer, the art director, the planner and the media person. Share everything you know, and your odds of making that client happy will rise dramatically.

listening for more effective advertising3. Know when to stop selling, and when to start listening.

When the client is presented with a campaign that does not resemble the recognizable, feature-driven advertising that he’s accustomed to, he might seize up. Not know what to say. Your job is to be comfortable with that uncomfortable silence.

Basically, shut up!

Stop selling. Let the idea sink in and let the client lead any further discussion. Don’t be jumping in with superlatives of any sort. They’ll only weaken your case. And defer to the creative team on the executional details.

If you’re on the creative team…

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Yes, good teamwork hinges on communication in both directions. So keep the account person in the loop. Share your ideas early and often. Shut up and listen to the AE, the planner, and anyone else who can help.

Art directors and writers need to be willing to defer to the AE on some issues. If the AE really knows the client, and she says he’ll “never go for it,” you just might have to, for once, defer to her judgement and go back to the well. There’s always another approach.

You might also customize your pitch to the prospect’s personality…

Most creative presentations reflect the personality of the presenter. Turn it around, and make the pitch match the personality of the client. If he’s highly analytical, then the preamble might be crucial.  If he has Attention Deficit Disorder, you’ll want to shorten everything. Cut to the bone. If he’s a contemplative intellectual, build in time for him to think and process.  If he’s funny and dynamic, then by all means, be funny and dynamic.

2. Nail the first 30 seconds.

The first impression is everything, so start with the simplest execution. Hit them between the eyes with one sharp visual or winning line that sums it all up.

Digital ads are great for this purpose… they have to work like billboards on the information highway… you got three seconds to impress.

Ready set go!

Then show how the campaign has legs, and can extend into print, TV, long format video, content marketing and social media.

Think about reorganizing your pitch. Turn the preamble in the post-amble. AFTER you have their attention, and AFTER you’ve blow them away with unexpectedly brilliant advertising or design, then you can present the rationale behind it. But keep it short and sweet. Remember, you’re not trying to solve all their marketing problems in one meeting. You just need to win their confidence so you can move deeper into the creative process.

3. Try to put yourself in his or her shoes.

Since the AE knows the prospect in and out, it should be relatively easy for her to empathize with the client.

But the creative team needs to do the same. Forget about your own position within the agency, and put yourself in your client’s shoes. Realize that he has pressure from all directions, and do everything you can to alleviate some of that. Don’t forget, Advertising is a service business, after all.

Is content marketing your idea of more effective advertising? check out THIS post.

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Dual Purpose Websites – How to create branding sites that sell.

brand credibility from branding expertsFor some reason, many business owners think that “branded websites” won’t sell product. And on the other hand, they don’t think an ecommerce site will help their branding efforts. As if the two are mutually exclusive. But we’ve been producing branding sites that sell since 2004.

You really can — and should — have a dual-purpose website… one that converts well AND presents a strong brand message.

But you’re probably going to need a whole new approach to website design and development than what you’re used to. You’ll have to go beyond the template driven who-what-when-and-where approach that’s so common these days. And you’re going to need more than just a programmer to pull it off.

Required elements for branding sites that sell:
branding sites that sell

1. A concept.    

A concept is the foundation of every great site, and probably the single most overlooked element for all business owners. And let me be very clear…

A wordpress theme is not a concept.

A new logo is not a concept.

A photo of your product is not a concept.

A drone video of the exterior of your building is not a concept.

A photo of your team is not a concept (unless they’re doing something rather unusual that conveys an idea about your brand.)

See, a concept is an idea.

In web design it’s an idea in the form of words, visuals and technical features that come together in compelling way. It’s image and presentation and persuasion and storytelling all coalescing to make a great first impression. So even the most casual website visitor says “hell yes, I want to know more about this company.”

examples of branding sites that sell

A concept from the Mini USA website homepage.

And isn’t that the job of your website? Make a great impression. Engage people. Impress them. Leave them wanting more. That’s marketing 101.

If you have a concept behind your site all the other elements will come together seamlessly.

The problem is, most website builders don’t have the creativity, or the sales skills or the knowledge of your business, or the necessary budget to actually develop a cohesive concept for your site. That’s just too much to ask of one person… They can’t do all that, and then write the code to boot.

That’s like asking the architect of your new house to also pour the foundation, do the framing, the plumbing, the electrical and the heating system, all by himself.

You need a team to do a good site. But let’s look at the other critical elements of web development, and then come back around to who’s going to do all these things.

2. A clear call to action

This one’s pretty simple, and it’s not just a big ass button that says “buy now.” Every page of your site should have an objective and a preferred action for the consumer. Think of it as leading them down the primrose path. You want to take their hand and show them the way…

Click here. Read this. Watch this. Listen to this. Order that.

Give the user something to do that leads them deeper into the site, and further along in the sales process. They will seldom behave how you want them to, but the alternative is a hodge-podge of pages and elements that lead nowhere.

3. Differentiating elements

A good story is your best differentiating element.

As the old saying goes, facts tell but stories sell. Narrative, characters and plot twists are universally appealing, and very few companies present compelling stories.

So find an interesting way to tell your story. Maybe it’s animation, or video, or a prezi-style slide show, or even a game.

A game can be a differentiating element as well as a concept. Can you transform your web experience into a relevant game? Would that be appropriate for your brand?

branded websites for mini cooper

Differentiating elements: Concept, photo, copy, call to action.

Photography can also be a great differentiator. The human brain skips right over familiar images, so don’t settle for the $10 stock photos that everyone else in your category is using. Hire a pro and make your stuff look better. Sexier. More graphic.

Copywriting can be the difference between a boring branded website and a lead-gen machine.

Don’t let anyone convince you that great web copy is only about keywords, search engine optimization and factual “content.” Every sentence is an opportunity to stand out — or be thrown out. (One quick click and they’re gone to the next site.) Your copy should be sharply crafted. Persuasive. And convincingly genuine, so it doesn’t sound like any other brand.

Here’s a test for you… pull up your branded website and the site of your biggest competitor. Side by side. Then imagine that the logos are swapped out. Are the sites interchangeable? The images the same? The copy comparable.

Are you saying anything they cannot say? If not, you better go back to the drawing board and get a differentiating concept.

4. Reasons to believe

Stories, concepts and images are important, but you also need some facts to back them up. That’s where some branded websites go wrong… they’re all fluff. You need proof that your brand delivers, as promised.

For instance, post some testimonials or reviews from your happy customers. Release engineering data. Competitive reports. White papers. Market research. Anything that’s credible that backs up your value proposition.

People make emotional decisions, but they often need facts to justify what they’ve already decided. So give them what they need, and do it in various forms on multiple pages. When they’re checking out, remind them that they’ve made a great decision.

A very clear brand message... this is Mini Cooper in a nutshell.

A very clear brand message… this is Mini Cooper in a nutshell.

So this is all great, in theory. But how do you get it all done?

Part of the problem is who’s doing the work… If your web developer doesn’t have anyone to collaborate with, you’re not going to get an big idea, or great imagery, or well-crafted copy.

You just get code.

It might be great code and a functional site, but it’s not going to contain the five critical elements of effective website design.

You need that programmer, but you also need a writer who can devise the concept and write the copy. Then you need an SEO specialist, a project manager and a designer. That’s the team. (Sometimes the writer or the designer can double as the project manager.)

The team approach may cost a little more at first, but it’ll produce a better ROI. It’s cheaper in the long run because you won’t have to re-do your site 9 months later when it’s not performing as you had hoped.

These days your site is a critical part of your business infrastructure. It’s your storefront and your main form of advertising. You can’t do without one, so you might was well invest in a website that builds your brand AND sells product.

Note… this is NOT a paid post for Mini Cooper, just a nod to their agency and their web design team. This is great work. Plus, it’s a cool brand.

For more about successful website design, try THIS post. 

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

TMI – How information is killing your advertising

brand credibility from branding expertsContrary to popular belief, information is the enemy of persuasion. Not the friend. In fact, too much information is the number one killer of advertising, presentations, speeches and brand messages in general.

Most people think they can convince, sell or persuade by piling on facts and stats. Well, it might make you feel smart, but it’s not going to produce results. In fact, the more information you stuff into an ad, the less you’ll get out of it.

Information is what web sites are for. You can cover all the nitty gritty details in the content of your site. That’s where you go deep with blog posts and white papers. Don’t try doing that in your advertising.

too much information in advertising and marketing

Lead them gently down that primrose path to conversion.

Effective advertising leads prospects to that information and moves them further down the primrose path to conversion. It doesn’t change minds, it simply gets people moving in the right direction… from ad, to website, to content, to store, to purchase. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Many people try the short cut, thinking they can do it all in one ad. There’s no thinking behind it. No strategy. No emotional hook. And worst of all, no story.

Just get the word out there. Load ’em up with product specs and features. Give ’em every detail of the coming event. Show ’em every product that’s on sale! Baffle ’em with the factoids.

Here’s an example: Several local hearing aid businesses run huge, full-page ads in the paper every week. It’s a wise media strategy, because the newspaper reaches senior citizens quite effectively.

Terrible execution though! The ads are all type and hype… packed with nothing but facts, retail features and weasels. Someone could easily win that marketing battle simply by removing the facts and taking a less-is-more approach.

Because seniors don’t like being bored to death either.

If you ignore the emotional benefits of hearing well, and start droning on about the techno-wizardry of the latest, greatest hearing aid, you’re missing it entirely.

Advertising is an arena geared specifically for stories and emotional benefits. The imaginative part of the sales pitch, if you will.  Save the product features, details, proof points and testimonials for your website or for the sales pitch once they’re in your store. And even then, you need to use information wisely.

A Harvard Business Review study revealed the underlying problem with more information… unnecessarily confusing paths to a purchasing decision.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

“Companies have ramped up their messaging, expecting that the more information they provide, the better the chances of holding on to increasingly distracted and disloyal customers. But for many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering—it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.”

The study compared the online advertising of two digital camera brands. Brand A used extensive technical and feature information such as megapixel rating, memory and resolution details. Nothing about the beautiful images you could capture.

And guess what? All that information didn’t lead people closer to a decision. It led them down a frustrating rabbit hole and drove them to consider Brand B.

“Brand B simplified the decision making process and helped prospects traverse the purchase path quickly and confidently.” The approach focused more on the end results have having a great photo, rather than the features of the camera. Duh.

“The research showed that customers considering both brands are likely to be dramatically more “sticky” toward Brand B… The marketer’s goal is to help customers feel confident about their choice. Just providing more information often doesn’t help.”

I’ve had bosses and clients who believe that every inch of every ad should be utilized to its fullest extent. In other words, pack it with facts. Leave nothing out. “White space is for people with nothing to say.”

The underlying reason for that is usually insecurity and/or inexperience. The results are predictably dismal… You end up with a frustrated creative team, confused consumers and lousy response rates.

So if you’re working on a new ad campaign, make friends with the Delete button. Embrace the white space. Learn when to shut up. When in doubt, take it out!

For more on this subject, check out THIS post

1 bank branding on the Brand Insight Blog from BNBranding

Is “Inspiring Bank” an Oxymoron? The Branding of Umpqua Bank

It’s interesting, where people find business inspiration. For some, it’s the pages of Forbes or podcasts with big-name entrepreneurs. For me it’s the bookstore or the latest issue of Communication Arts or working directly with business owners.

I don’t think anyone looks at bank branding as a source of inspiration.

bank branding on the brand insight blogBanks are not known for their inspiring interiors or groundbreaking marketing practices. The most exciting thing to ever happen at my bank was the emancipation of the counter pens…  They were released from their chains and replaced with crappy logo pens that are now free to take home with just a purchase of a $10,000 15-year Certificate of Deposit.

Nope. The banking industry is the last place I’d look for business inspiration or marketing insight. That is, until I met Ray Davis, the recently retired CEO of Umpqua Bank.

Turns out, he’s not inspired by the banking industry either.

According to Davis, the key question driving strategy discussions at Umpqua has been, “How can we get people to drive by three other banks to get to ours?”

That question has steered the bank’s team to look outside the financial sector for inspiration. For instance, Umpqua’s brand has been heavily influenced by the retail industry. “Build the branches around interactions, not transactions.”

Umpqua Bank has grown from $150 million to $24 billion in assets during Davis’ time as CEO. Today it has 350 stores in three states. But perhaps more importantly for the brand, Umpqua has been included in Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 best places to work  — eight years in a row.

Bankers and banking consultants from all over the world visit the Umpqua headquarters in Portland and the San Francisco branch to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. And what’s even more impressive is that executives in completely different industries are also looking to Umpqua for inspiration.

Turns out, we really can learn from a bank when it comes to branding.

So what’s behind it? What’s turned this small town brand into one of the fastest growing banks in the nation?

“Umpqua started to take off once we realized what business we’re really in,” Davis said. “I don’t believe we’re in the banking industry. We’re in the retail services business.”

When Davis applied for the job at Umpqua he warned the Board of Directors that he was going to throw out all the old conventions of the banking industry and start something completely different. Because he believed they couldn’t compete against the big guys in any conventional way.

“Banking products are a commodity,” Davis said. “You can’t differentiate yourself that way. The big guys are just going to copy any good new product we come up with. But they can’t copy the way we deliver the service. They can’t copy our experience.”

bank branding on the Brand Insight Blog from BNBrandingFor that, he borrowed ideas from two great retailers… Nordstrom and Starbucks.

Umpqua stores look more like the lobby of a stylish boutique hotel than they do a bank. You can settle into a comfortable leather chair and read all the leading business publications. Have a hot cup of their Umpqua blend coffee. Check your e-mail or surf the web. Listen to their own brand of music and maybe even make a deposit or open a new account. Who knows.

It’s a dramatic leap when you compare that experience to the cold, marble standards of the banking industry.

Clearly, Davis knows how to execute. He doesn’t talk about “execution” per se, but he obviously has the discipline to match the vision. He’s knows how to motivate and how to manage an organization through dramatic changes. And he’s built a corporate culture that aligns with the brand promise.

Here are some of the things Davis has successfully implemented and some reasons why bank branding is now on my inspiration radar…

• Random acts of kindness:  Local Umpqua teams just do good stuff, like buying coffee for everyone who walks into a neighboring Starbucks. They don’t have to ask permission.

• They get their customer service training from Ritz Carlton.

• Every Umpqua employee gets a full week of paid leave to devote to a local charity. That’s 40 hours x 1800 employees! Any other banker would do the math and say it’s too costly. Davis says it pays off 100 fold. That’s bank branding at it’s best.

• They have their own blend of coffee. Shouldn’t every great brand have its own blend of gourmet coffee?

• Proceeds from Davis’ book “Leading for Growth. How Umpqua Bank Got Cool And Created A Culture of Greatness”go to charity.

• They invented a way to measure customer satisfaction. As Fast Company Magazine put it: Umpqua Bank has a rigorous service culture where every branch and each employee gets measured on how well they deliver on what they call “return on quality.”

• They embrace design as a strategic advantage. At Umpqua branches, everything looks good, feels good, and even smells good!  It’s the polar opposite of a crusty old bank. It’s a pleasing environment, which makes an unpleasant chore much nicer.

• Davis GETS IT. He knows, intuitively, that his brand is connected to their corporate culture. “Banking executives always ask, ‘How do you get your people to do that?’ It’s the culture we’ve built over the last 10 years. It doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one day and say, gee, look at this great culture we’ve got here. Our culture is our single biggest asset, hands down.”

Umpqua-bank-interactive• He’s a great communicator. Davis doesn’t use banking stats to motivate and persuade. He uses stories, analogies and real world examples.

• He embraces the idea of a big hairy audacious goal. In fact, everyone answers the phone “Thank you for calling Umpqua Bank, the world’s greatest bank.”

So the next time I’m looking for inspiration, maybe I’ll skip my usual haunts and head down to the bank for a cup of coffee.

For more inspiration, try THIS post.

For inspiration regarding your own marketing efforts, call me at BNBranding.

 

3 Gratitude in business – 5 things every marketer should be thankful for

BNBranding logoOnce a year we all sit down at the dinner table and express our gratitude and appreciation… for the food, the friends, the family, the abundance. You might want to do the same thing at work once in a while. A little gratitude in business goes far.

It’s easy to forget the stuff we should be thankful for in the workaday world. We get so wrapped up in delivering the next deliverable, doing the next deal, and appeasing people who may be unappeasable, we just forget to be appreciative.

Or worse yet, we don’t see the good stuff at all. In fact, gratitude in business is tremendously under utilized.

But that’s pessimistic. I believe that great marketers are optimists. We see opportunities where others don’t and we choose to be positive, even in the ugly face of adversity.

So here are a few things that I believe are truly Thanks-worthy for anyone who’s involved in branding, marketing, advertising, or business in general.

1. Be thankful for the power of a brand.

After some years of care and feeding, a brand can be etched into the subconscious mind of your prospects. When faced with an overwhelming number of choices, those enduring emotional connections will surface and influence their purchase decision. Somehow.

As Kevin Roberts says, it’s loyalty beyond reason, and that can help you overcome all sorts of  operational issues, personnel problems, management changes and market fluctuations.

2. Be thankful for your clients and customers.

Even if you only have a couple, measly accounts, be thankful that someone is paying you for your service or buying your product. They have so many choices, but they believe in you or your product enough to give you their hard-earned money. That’s worth a heartfelt Thank You, so take this opportunity to reach out to your clients and show your gratitude.

In his book, “Selling the Invisible” Harry Beckwith says, “Few things feel more gratifying than gratitude, and few companies show as much as they should. There’s no such thing as too often, too appreciative, too warm or too grateful. Keep thanking.”

3. Be thankful for all your lousy bosses.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you have undoubtedly encountered at least one boss who was downright disagreeable. Sometimes they can wear you down and leave you feeling frustrated and powerless. If you’re in that boat, here’s a different perspective for you:

Gratituded in Business on the Brand Insight Blog

Be thankful for the screamers — they help thicken your skin and teach you how to deal with conflict in a constructive manner.

Be thankful for the completely un-qualified  “got-nothing-to-bring-to-the-table ” bosses — they help you recognize your own strengths and often push you to something bigger and better.

Be thankful for the micromanagers who won’t let go of the littlest things — they teach you what NOT to do when you get to that level of  management.

And be thankful for the aloof bosses who are too high and mighty to be bothered with details like treating their people well — they teach you to be humble and appreciative.

On the other hand, be even more thankful if you have a great boss. They are a pleasant exception, so don’t take a good boss for granted. That’s worth a lot more than a pay raise.

4. Be thankful for change.

In business, stagnation is a smelly, insipid enemy. If you’re not changing, adapting, and dodging bullets your brand will languish and your business will eventually die.

I have a saying… “If I keep reinventing myself often enough, I might get it right one of these days.”

But it’s not the outcome that counts, it’s the process of reinvention that really matters. So make reinvention a core value.

Stop looking in the rear-view mirror all the time, and forge ahead in new directions.

Be thankful when things change and relish the fact that you can always learn more, get smarter, acquire new skills and do new things.

5. Be thankful for all the modern tools at your disposal.

We take it for granted now, but for those of you who don’t remember what it was like before the internet, let me tell you…

Every facet of business is easier now; communication with colleagues and clients, research, advertising, networking, sales management, HR, collaboration, bookkeeping, design, accounting. It all used to be more painstaking than it is today.

Now there are marketing automation tools, social media channels, mobile apps and all sorts of technological wonders that make it easier to to do your job. (Just keeping up with all those tools is a challenge, so be thankful for IT guys who help with that too.)

All the answers are, seemingly, at your fingertips. And yet they’re not. You still  have to connect the dots.

Marketing and brand building always have been, and always will be, dependent on human insight and the big ideas that stem from that insight. Despite all the newfangled tools and channels, success still hinges on a compelling emotional idea.

These days we’re swimming in information and data, but starving for ideas. So be thankful that it’s all easily accessible, but don’t forget those who think differently and come up with the big ideas. We deserve your gratitude in business.

Thank you for reading. I do appreciate your time, and I wish you a very grateful week.

For more marketing inspiration, try this post

-John Furgurson is the founder of the Brand Insight Blog and Owner/Creative Director at BNBranding in Bend, Oregon.

4 ipod branding on the brand insight blog

Successful Branding — Zero-in on the Main Thing for Brand Loyalty.

BNBranding logoI love this saying: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  I think Steven Covey coined that one, and when you boil it all down, that’s the essence of successful branding: Zero-in on one thing you can honestly, passionately, expertly hang your hat on, and stick with it.

successful branding BNBrandingThen when it comes to marketing communications, come up with one idea to convey the main thing, and just pound that home in every way, shape and form you can afford.

One idea, multiple executions. Do that long enough — and handle your operations well — and you’ll achieve brand loyalty.

Unfortunately, most business owners and brand managers don’t have that kind of focus. Once they get a taste of success in one little niche, the temptation is just too much… They take their eye off the main thing, and dive into a lesser thing, hoping it will become the next big thing.

It seldom works out that way. The single biggest barrier to success, especially for young brands, is lack of focus.

Geoffrey Moore spelled it out in his seminal work, “Crossing the Chasm: “Target a specific niche as your point of attack and focus all your resources on achieving dominant position in that segment. It’s far better to be the big fish in a smaller pond, rather than flopping around in several small puddles.”

Al Ries and Jack Trout call it the most violated of their “22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.”  They rail against line extensions and point to IBM, Microsoft, Levis, Heinz and this classic case: Crest.

viewdental116successful branding case study on the Brand Insight BlogIt used to be very clear… Crest fights cavities. That was the micro script for the brand. The Main Thing.

Crest was the “first mover” in the cavity prevention category and it was a strategy that worked brilliantly, cementing Crest as the #1 toothpaste for more than 30 years.

Unfortunately, over time, other toothpaste brands entered the same niche.  Everyone started offering cavity prevention toothpaste, so Crest abandoned the claim and didn’t find anything to replace it. After holding almost 40% of the market through the 1970s, Crest’s position began to erode at about the same time they launched their first brand extension”Advanced Formula Crest.”

Now there are 41 different kinds of Crest toothpaste. Count ’em!  Crest Complete Multi-Benefit Extra White, Crest + Scope, Crest Lasting Mint, Crest Pro-Health Clinical Gum Protection, Crest Invigorating Clean Mint, Crest glamorous white, Crest vivid white, Crest baking soda & peroxide, Crest gel, Crest liquid gel, Crest whitening, Crest gum protection, Crest fluoride anti-cavity and sensitivity relief and even Crest Night Toothpaste.

Give me a break. The Main Thing now for Crest is just the next new gimmick. And it’s no longer the #1 brand.

Marty Neumeier in “Zag” says… people want choice, but they want it among brands, not within brands.”

More and more line extensions is not the key to successful branding. All that Crest clutter just dilutes the brand and confuses the consumer. We have no idea what Crest stands for anymore.

It’s natural for successful business owners and marketers to lose focus and start adding stuff to their portfolios of goods and services. They don’t want to miss any opportunities, and they argue that many successful companies have a wide range of products. Apple, for instance.maxresdefaultsuccessful branding examples on the brand insight blog BNBranding

successful branding example from Apple's iPod launch campaignBut every Apple product is designed around the one Main Thing: Delightful Simplicity. All the innovation, design and technological prowess of Apple comes together in those two words. That’s the heart of the Apple brand.

Remember this spectacular product launch for the iPod? The product design was disruptively simple and elegant. Even the advertising was delightfully simple.

There were plenty of other MP3 players on the market, but the white cord let everyone know you were listening to something different. And the graphic execution of the ads was brilliant. Overall, it was tremendously successful branding.

But you’re not running the world’s most valuable company. And chances are, you don’t have The Main Thing really nailed down like Apple does. When you do, things will become easier.

Ries and Trout say: “Focus is the art of carefully selecting your category and then working diligently to get your self categorized in people’s minds.”  In other words, successful branding is a long-term process that involves more than just the marketing department.

A good way to start is by saying no. Because when it comes to successful branding, what you DON’T do is just as important that what you do do.

Say no to the new investor that thinks you should add a mobile app to your mix.

Say no to the engineers who say “we can do this, wouldn’t this be cool.”

Say no to the marketing consultant who says you’re missing a great opportunity.

Say no to the guy who thinks you should open another location.

Sometimes you even have to say no to your biggest customer. It’s not easy, and it’s often unpopular within the ranks, but that’s what focus is… NOT trying to be all things to all people.

If you’d like some help zeroing in on your main thing, call us. Because focus is the fundamental element of successful branding.  541-815-0075. For more on developing a clear brand strategy, try this post.