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2 how to differentiate your company - BNBranding

How to differentiate your company (Disruption as a branding discipline)

BNBranding logoThe word for the day is Disruption, with a capital D. That’s the easiest way to differentiate your company from the competition.

Be Disruptive!

Unfortunately, in our society there’s a stigma against all things deemed disruptive.

When I was in elementary school I learned to not be disruptive in class. Or else! Sit still in church and don’t disrupt the service. By the 6th grade it was “don’t cause a scene or call attention to yourself.”

How to differentiate your business - BNBrandingDon’t be different. Be the same.

Write like everyone else. Dress like everyone else. Behave like everyone else and you’ll get along just fine. That’s the message we got, and it’s the message our kids are getting.

Loud and clear.

Maybe that’s why so many business owners and executives flee from the idea of disruption like a fox from a forest fire. It’s ingrained in our society. Most business owners are deathly afraid that some new competitor with “distruptive technology” is going to come along and threaten their turf.

And yet, if you’re trying to differentiate your business it’s disruption that separates the iconic brands from the ho-hum ones.  Disruptive advertising. Disruptive product ideas. Disruptive marketing messages. Disruptive cultures. And even disruptive social media posts.

Jean Marie Dru, Chairman of the advertising conglomerate TBWA, has written two outstanding books about Disruption, but it’s still a hard sell. To most executives disruption is bad. Convention is good. And the results of this mentality are everywhere.

Brand differentiation is hard to come by.

As management guru Tom Peters says, “we live in a sea of similarity.” Social convention and human nature lead us into a trap of conformity where all websites have the same basic layout. All sedans look the same. All airlines feel the same. All travel ads sound the same.

And it works to some degree, because there’s comfort in conformity. (Vanilla still outsells all other flavors of ice cream.)

But in the long run, conformity is the kiss of death for a brand.

Great brands do things that are disruptive. Rather than shying away from the word, the executives embrace the idea of disruption and they make it a part of their everyday operation. They are constantly looking for ways to differentiate their companies, and every new idea is considered productive change that stimulates progress.

But even when they succeed with disruptive products, disruptive technology and disruptive marketing campaigns, it’s tough to sustain.

When Chrysler first launched the Plymouth Voyager the Minivan was a groundbreaking idea that threw the auto industry into total disruption. It was a whole new category, and everyone scrambled to copy the market leader. Within five years, minivans were — you guessed it —  all the same.

There used to be a Television network that was radically disruptive. MTV launched hundreds of music careers and shaped an entire generation, and now where is it? Lost in a sea of mediocre sameness.

When they first burst onto the scene in the 80’s, the idea of a micro brewery was very disruptive. Now, in Oregon, there’s one in every neighborhood and they’re all pretty much the same. Good, but IPAs are everywhere.

Successfully disruptive ideas don’t last because its human nature to copy what works. This process of imitation homogenizes the disruptive idea to the point where it’s no longer different. No longer disruptive.

how to differentiate your company - BNBrandingSo if you want to sustain a competitive advantage and continue to differentiate your company from new upstarts, you have to keep coming up with disruptive ideas. Not just incremental improvement on what’s always worked, but honest-to-goodness newness all the time.

Avatar is a disruptive movie that spawned numerous knock-offs.

The name “Fuzzy Yellow Balls” is brilliantly disruptive in the on-line tennis market.

brand differentiation on the brand insight blogThe American Family Life Assurance Company was utterly forgettable until they changed their name to AFLAC and launched a campaign featuring a quacking duck.

In the insurance business, that’s disruptive!

According to an interview in the Harvard Business Review, AFLAC’s CEO Daniel Amos risked a million dollars on that silly duck campaign.

Amos could have gone with an idea that tested incrementally better than the average insurance commercial, but he didn’t. He took a chance and went with that obnoxious duck. He chose to differentiate his company. He chose disruption over convention, and everyone said he was nuts.

But it turned out to be a radically successful example of brand differentiation.

The first day the duck aired AFLAC had more visits to their website than they had in the entire previous year. Name recognition improved 67% the first year. And most importantly, sales jumped 29%. After three years, sales had doubled.

AFLAC’s success was based on disruption in advertising and naming. But for many companies, there’s also an opportunity to stand out with disruptive strategy. In fact, Dru contends that breakthrough tactics are not enough, and that the strategic stage also demands imagination.

Here’s another good example of how to differentiate your company…

When Apple introduced the iPod, the strategy wasn’t just about superior product design. It was about disrupting the conventions of the music business. It was about introducing the Apple brand to a whole new category of non-users and establishing Apple as the preferred platform for all your personal electronic needs.ipod branding on the brand insight blog

 

Of course Apple also has brilliant, disruptive advertising.

You can get away with mediocre tactics if your strategy is disruptive enough. And vice-versa…  If your advertising execution is disruptive, you can get by with a me-too strategy. But if you want to hit a real home run like Apple did with the ipod, start with a brilliantly disruptive strategy and build on it with a disruptive product and disruptive marketing execution.

It’s kind of ironic… In business, no one wants to cause a disruption, and yet they’re clamoring for good ideas. And good ideas ARE disruptive. They disrupt the way the synapses in the brain work. They break down our stereotypes and disrupt the business-as-usual mentality.

That’s precisely why we remember them.

How to differentiate your company - BNBrandingRichard Branson said, “Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there.”

Steinbeck once said, “It is the nature of man, as he grows old, to protect himself against change, particularly change for the better.”

Ask yourself this: What are you protecting yourself from? What are the conventions of your industry?  Why are are you maintaining the stats quo? What are the habits that are holding you back? Are you copying what’s good, or doing what’s new?

What are you doing to be disruptive?  What are doing to differentiate your company on a dialy basis? Are you really willing to settle for vanilla or are you really committed to brand differentiation?

For more on disruption and how to differentiate your company, try THIS post.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

Advertising in a crisis: Shit happens, but brands endure.

brand credibility from branding expertsEvery entrepreneur experiences setbacks… Markets crash. Key team members leave with your biggest accounts. There are supply-chain snaffus, natural disasters, and now, a novel virus that slams the door on a robust economy.

It’s hard, but this is when your branding efforts can really pay off.

All the work you’ve done over the years to stay visible and be a responsible, authentic brand will pay off in spades when times are tough.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying that a nicely designed logo is going to make you magically immune from the business fallout of the Corona virus. (Logo is NOT synonymous with Brand and everyone will be affected)

brand credibilityI’m just saying that iconic brands are going to be more insulated — and more likely to survive — than the companies that haven’t been paying attention to branding.

This is a time of unprecedented uncertainty, and when people are unsure, scared or threatened, they want to be comforted.

It’s human nature.

We cling to what’s familiar, and we want an escape from the UNknown. We narrow our choices dramatically and don’t entertain new options. We buy Campbell’s soup and make grilled cheese sandwiches. We re-watch lighthearted TV shows from by-gone days to make ourselves feel grounded. Better.

So being known — ie. maintaining top of mind awareness during good times — is crucial in this situation. The best brands know this, and maintain a presence all the time. In good times and bad. They don’t wait for disaster to strike, they’re communicating with people all along. That’s what breeds fondness and familiarity,

If you’ve been invisible in your market you need to be very careful about launching a knee-jerk reaction ad campaign right now. Especially if your ads start with “now, more than ever…”

Now, more than ever, you need a new Kia.
Now, more than ever, you need to refinance your house.
Now, more than ever, you need a financial planner.
Now, more than ever, you need a lot of Kirkland brand toilet paper.

We saw thousands of fill-in-the-blank ads like that during the crash of 2009, and the same thing’s beginning to pop up on social media, in email campaigns, and on the airwaves. Cliches like that are NOT going to help your brand. They just add to the clutter and fuel the fear. So if you are going to run advertising during a crisis, it better be a complete departure from that.

So this is a good time to step back and re-evaluate the tone, content and context of your brand messages.

Advertising during a crisis should not be business as usual. It makes for bad optics.

Take Kia for instance, the automotive king of “yell and sell” advertising. They’ve established clear leadership in top-of-mind awareness, but it would probably be wise for them to stop running their current advertising that screams “Credit, come and get it.” “Credit, come and get it.””Credit, come and get it.”

More debt is the LAST thing people need right now. Sometimes the best ad strategy is knowing when to shut up!

It’s almost as bad as running TV spots for a “fire sale” when there are forest fires burning all over the West. It sounds dreadfully callous, given the current state of affairs. (I wonder who decided that predatory lending practices should be a key brand attribute for Kia, but that’s another issue entirely.)

Any advertising that attempts to capitalize on the world’s misfortune will be seen for what it is: Cheap profiteering. If you’re not careful, the public will forever associate your brand with the outbreak of 2020 and will never buy into any messaging you attempt in the future.

But when it’s done well, advertising during these “slow” times can help you reach more people and solidify relationships. Media consumption is up, while most companies are pulling back, ducking the exposure.

So if your message is human, heartfelt and kind you have a real opportunity to differentiate yourself. (And ad rates are lower than normal!)

But you can’t pull a Kia-style hard sell. In fact, you shouldn’t sell at all. This is not the time to persuade, it’s the time to reassure without asking for anything in return. Just stay aligned with your brand brand values and communicate what’s important, right now.

This is new territory…  even the most hardened business veterans haven’t faced anything quite like this. It’s going to leave a mark on us all, if not a festering wound.

So I’m not going to serve up platitudes like “It’s going to be okay” or “This too shall pass.” I’m sure as hell not going to say you need more advertising during a crisis or “now more than ever you need a branding firm.”

But I will share one of my favorite sayings… it’s an old Japanese proverb:

“Action is the antidote for despair.”

Do something. But stay safe.

If you don’t know how to proceed and would like some advice, even for the short term, give me a call. We can do a quick assessment and help you devise a smart response to all the mayhem.

BN Branding's Brand Insight Blog

 

 

 

About

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

 

Here's what we're all about:

With BNBranding you’ll sell more, grow faster, and prosper like never before. We can help in three three essential areas:

Strategic Branding. First we help uncover the DNA of your brand. Then we develop an honest, relevant brand strategy that drives all the rest of our services. It’s creative work based on a disciplined branding process.

Advertising. Once the brand strategy is set and the story is mapped out, you need an ad agency to execute the strategy in creative new ways. You’ll get an award-winning ad agency that can help you produce all forms forms of advertising, from print and TV to websites and digital advertising. Portfolio

Marketing management. We can help you navigate the complex landscape of modern marketing by aligning all the pieces and providing exceptional client services.

We’re here to help you succeed. Simple as that. Nothing gets us more fired up than seeing our clients achieve their dreams.

BN Branding

Here's who we are:

John Furgurson, CEO/ Creative Director

John Furgurson branding expert bend oregon ad agency ownerJohn’s been called an anomaly… A creative guy with a penchant for business. A poetic entrepreneur.

He can devise an insightful strategy in the morning, and craft award-winning ad copy over lunch. It’s 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 Portland-area ad agencies on a vast array of print and radio campaigns.

John also did a stint in the video industry where he wrote scripts and helped produce long-format videos and direct-response TV for big brands such as HP, Tektronix and WearEver.

John Furgurson CEO of bend oregon advertising agencyEventually, John moved to Bend, Oregon to raise his kids and strike that delicate balance between work and play.

His first Bend ad agency was named AdWords, which worked out well until Google decided they really, really wanted that URL So he took their offer and rebranded the firm in 2004.

Learn more about John’s origin story and his rebranding effort.

BNBranding has touched many of Oregon’s most iconic brands, such as Black Butte Ranch, Sunriver Resort, and Bend itself. John and his team have helped plan, manage and execute marketing programs for companies across the U.S. and Canada.

John shares his expertise regularly on the Brand Insight Blog, which he’s been writing since 2007. Find John Furgurson on LinkedIn:

 

Mattie Limon, Accounts and Business Manager

We need Mattie like an orchestra needs a conductor.

Mattie is the master of client services and precise project management. Under Mattie’s watchful eye, our operation sings along in relative harmony… Our creative teams can operate way more effectively and our clients aren’t ambushed with surprises. Mattie’s good-natured approach keeps everyone on task, including freelancers, vendors and, yes, even the CEO. It’s a win-win.

Mattie was born in Mexico, and grew up in Portland. She’s spearheading BN Branding’s Hispanic marketing initiatives. Her experience includes managing a variety of small businesses, for both herself and for others.

Connect with Mattie on LinkedIn

 

 

 

Elissa Davis, Art Director/Designer

Elissa Davis bend Oregon ad agency art directorIn 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 been a key team member at BN Branding since 2005.

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, Web developer

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.

 

Raise your right hand. Find your truth. Use it as a competitive advantage.

Here's what we believe:

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

As a Bend ad agency, BNBranding is built on these core beliefs:

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 up to your neck in day-to-day operations. Most business owners need a spark from the outside.

We believe that strategy is a creative exercise. Strategy drives the execution that produces results. If you have a me-too strategy, no amount of creative trickeration is going to produce the outcome you’re looking for. Creative strategy plus creative execution is a formidable combination.

BNBranding bend oregon ad agency branding process

We believe that process matters. This is a service business, so how we work is often just as important as what we produce. For us, it’s Insight first, then Execution. Every time. It’s a branding process designed specifically to produce maximum results with minimal headaches.

We believe that every company needs a seasoned marketing generalist. A generalist can help you navigate the entire marketing landscape and make sure you’re maximizing every marketing tactic you can afford. Something you’ll never get from a digital ad agency.

We believe in the persuasive power of disruptive words. Fact: The human brain automatically screens out the normal, mundane language of most business pitches. It’s in one ear, and out the other. Creative, well-crafted messages, on the other hand, fire the synapses and trigger an emotional response. Here’s an example of great messaging from a Bend Ad Agency.

We believe that 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 believe the marketing mix is more important than ever. The marketing landscape is evolving quickly. Social media provides exciting new ways to tell stories and make connections, but you still need a healthy mix of marketing tactics. Some high tech, some high touch. Some old school, some new school.

We believe in the glory of a good story. Every great business has an engaging story to tell. So tell it! Hire an ad agency that can help you find creative new ways to spin that tale… in ads, on your website, in presentations, tweets and Facebook posts.Bend, Oregon Advertising Agency

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 Nest a billion dollar brand. 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. That’s what a good ad agency brings to the table… A brilliantly crafted combination of words and images that can move the needle. Here’s a relevant case study.

 We believe in the power of collaboration. Ad agencies can be pretty possessive when it comes to creative work. But great ideas can come from anywhere. We don’t have a corner on that market, so we collaborate with you to uncover ideas and insight that we may never have thought of. Then we take that ball and run with it.

BN Branding

Here's where we choose to work:

Yep, it’s a Bend ad agency, but we serve clients from all over.

The come from Toronto and Detroit. They come from Florida, California and even Costa Rica.  The fresh air, the beauty and the outdoor action in Bend is a mecca for creativity. It’s the juice that keeps the ideas — and the clients — coming.

Won’t you join us? We can arrange a rejuvenating, brand-building business trip that will inspire you – and tire you.

Bend Oregon branding company



 

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

New word, old idea — The definition of content marketing

BNBranding logo“Content” is a sizzling buzzword in the marketing world these days. There are all sorts of specialists peddling different versions of content. “Content is King, Content is King,” they all scream.

Everyday I get multiple offers to provide content for this blog, and for my firm’s website, and for my clients’ websites. I hear from content marketing agencies, off-shore content factories, content producers, content designers, video content producers, social media content specialists and content journalists. Every one offers “expertise in my niche” and “professional” writers and producers.

Not one has ever actually panned out.

I’m not alone.  A recent survey from Forrester Research shows that 87% of all companies are struggling to find content that produces a discernible ROI. Companies are churning stuff out, but they’re not content with their content.

And here’s the ironic part… when you ask web development companies about their biggest daily frustration, without fail they all say “it’s really hard to get our clients to provide good content in a timely manner.”

The clients are waiting for the web guys to provide content, and the web guys are waiting for the clients.

Hmmmm. What’s wrong with that picture?

Part of the problem might be the term itself. It’s like the term “marketing”… no two people can agree on what it really includes. Some people think content refers only to copywriting for websites. Others say it’s infographics, or blogging, or video. Gotta have video!

They’re all right. It’s all “content.”

Content, the noun, is nothing new. 200 years ago marketing content appeared in the form of printed hand bills hung up in the local tavern or town square. Then there were newspapers, and magazines and the advent of paid advertising and editorial placed by publicists but written by journalists.

Radio brought sponsorships, jingles and professionally produced commercials. Many great brands were launched on that platform of “theater of the mind.”

In the late 1940’s TV became the original form of video content. At the same time, billboards started popping up, and in the 60’s, direct mail became a highly effective tool for marketers.

So content’s been around forever. It’s just the form and the delivery methods that have changed.

BNBranding long copy is more convincingThere are many more options now, and a totally new vernacular, but the crux of it is the same as always … It’s all designed to forge a connection with consumers. So when it’s time to buy, they are already convinced.

Seth Godin’s widely quoted as saying “Content marketing is all that’s left.” Well, I guess that’s true, in a sense, because content marketing is all there’s ever been.

Teaching prospective customers and giving them reasons to believe has always been the heart of marketing. But now it’s easy to go deeper than we could with Radio, TV, print or outdoor advertising.

The media mix is more fragmented than ever, so the exercise is twofold:

  1. Create content that resonates with your people. Make it relevant, regardless of the medium.
  2. Find the media outlets for that content that best fit your target audience and brand strategy.

If you want to be mindful and authentic about the content you use, you have to start with a deep dive into your business strategy. That’s probably why so many companies are unhappy with their content marketing efforts… there wasn’t any strategic thinking behind it. At all.

It’s usually just a purely tactical exercise.

Strategy work is the single most important component of your content marketing effort.

It’s the only way you’ll know what to say.

The fact is, every company has a lot of stuff they could say. But those messages may not be relevant to the audience, or they might not be differentiated from your competitor’s messages or they not be true to the operational realities of your business. There are a hundred things that could sabotage your content.

You’d be surprised how many companies are out producing content trying to “increase engagement” without even having their value proposition nailed down. So when you do that strategic work, you’ll immediately be ahead of the pack.

a new approach to website design BNBrandingOnce you’ve determined what to say, you also have to be creative in how you say it. That’s the execution piece.

When it comes to content, the right words matter. Concepts, themes and fundamental storylines matter. Images matter. Details matter. Guts matter. Restraint matters.

Many companies try to say too much, all the time. They pack their communications full of technical details that don’t enlighten or connect. They mistake facts and data for effective communications. They post ten times a day, just to say they did.  It’s a quantity over quality mentality.

You can’t just take a facebook post and turn it into a digital ad and expect it to perform well. Your content needs to be crafted to match both the target audience and the medium.

Make no mistake about it… no matter what kind of content you’re producing, precise word smithing and stunning visuals can mean the difference between failure and success.

In content marketing (and all marketing for that matter) what you show is just as important as what you say.

Part of the strategic work is determining what imagery should be attached to your brand. Here are some good questions to ponder:

Does your brand have its own, unique visual presence, or are you recycling the same stock images and selfies that every other company is using?

Would your social media person know if an Instagram post was completely “off brand?”

What’s the takeaway for people who don’t read a word of what you put out there? If you are seen but not heard.

If you have a food product, does your content look like something from Gourmet magazine or a tattered menu from a cheap Chinese place?

Once you’ve determined your brand visuals it’ll be much easier to define the type of images you want to pair with written content. There will be clear marching orders, and boundaries that will keep everything in alignment.

Long before”content marketing” was ever a thing, I was preaching about Relevance, Differentiation and Credibility.  Low and behold, the new model for content marketing fits perfectly with that tried and true model.

Try this post for more on content marketing.

a new approach to website design BNBranding

 

 

 

 

 

Clients

Case studies from some of our recent clients…

Branding in the natural foods industry

Client: Leslie’s Organics — Petaluma, CA

 

Brand: Coconut Secret

 

Initial Assignment: Update an old, outdated website.

 

Solution: Launch an ecommerce operation and turn the website into a profit center.

 

Leslie Caren was drawn to BNBranding through the Brand Insight Blog.

“When I read John’s article on the yin and yang of marketing, I just had to connect with him,” Leslie said. “I knew we needed to update our website, but John and his team ended up delivering much more than that.”

It was a classic case of delivering what’s best for the client, rather than what the client thought she needed.

Coconut Secret did not have its own ecommerce store, and we would have been doing her a disservice by not proposing that. So it wasn’t a case of migrating old content onto a new website, they needed a whole new approach to their online branding.

“They really went above and beyond, with a new tagline, new photography, new shipping methods and a whole new way of doing business.,” Leslie said. “I never dreamed we’d have this type of online store. Their service has been tremendous.”

 
BN Branding

 

 

Golf Industry Marketing

Client: GNL Golf — Lady Lake, FL

 

Initial Assignment: Rebrand the Golf Institute and create the company’s first website

 

Solution: Build a new business model that turns the sales pitch into a money-making educational service.

 

John Ford has been a client since 2006. We started with brand strategy, a value proposition and brand identity, then continued with a website, point-of-purchase advertising, direct response and print advertising. He’s one tough customer.

“Marketing is kind of an obsession of mine,” Ford said. “I’ve studied it. I’ve read tons of books. And I worked with big-name advertising guys all across the country, but I keep going back to this little Bend advertising agency.”

“They have a process that I like, and they always deliver what they say they’re going to. And damn… some of the advertising they’ve done for me is just brilliant. We have more leads and a better sales process than we’ve ever had before. We’re killing it with our putting clinics.” Read more about the GNL case study here.

 

 

BN Branding

 

Marketing in the natural foods industry

Client: Azure Standard — The Dalles, OR

 

Initial Assignment: Increase ad revenues in the company’s quarterly catalog.

 

Solution: Revamp the publication, launch a content marketing effort, and build industry goodwill.

 

Results:  Increased advertising revenues 10x in just 12 months.

 

Azure Standard is a national distributor of natural foods and organic products. We devised the Azure Indie Partner Program that targeted Azure’s vendors, industry partners and potential vendors in order to build the Azure brand from the inside.

“Sometimes the best branding projects aren’t focused on end customers,” said Debbie Pantenburg, CMO at Azure.

“What John created was a strategically brilliant concept that transformed Azure’s position in the industry. He connected suppliers, team members and customers in a common cause. The idea went right to our core values, and helped define a business model that differentiates Azure from the competition.”

“John was a key partner on the marketing team. He was also instrumental in the launch of our content marketing effort and advertising.”

 
BN Branding

 

 

Real Estate advertising and branding

Client: Morris Hayden — Bend, OR

 

Initial Assignment: Naming, brand identity and website design

 

Results: Successfully launched a new brand in a highly crowded market

 

Morris Hayden is a property management company and real estate brokerage in Bend, Oregon. We created this brand identity for them and built a highly functional website that differentiates them at a glance.

“Bend is overrun by realtors, investors and property management companies, so it’s tough to stand out,” said Erika Morris, owner of Morris Hayden.

“There are also a lot of companies that specialize in websites for realtors, but those sites all look the same. That wasn’t going to cut it for us,” Morris said. “We needed the site to be just as functional as all the rest, with the MLS listings and all that, plus it had to look different.

“The idea of Rosey the Riveter was perfect for us. We get compliments on that site all the time. It’s an integral part of our business.”

 

BN Branding

 

Branding and advertising in the software industry

Client: SaleFish Software — Toronto, CA

 

Initial Assignment: Build a new website

 

Solution: Rebrand the company with a new identity, new value proposition, new website, new sales materials and digital marketing.

 

Results:  Stay tuned…

 

We talked with Rick Haws for two years before he decided to pull the trigger on a new website. His company’s one of the entrenched leaders in the proptech arena, and he needed some help taking SaleFish to the next level.  In order to go global he knew he needed a better web presence. But he also needed a whole new way of looking at his value proposition.

“John was very thorough, in his process, and he determined that we needed to change the way we sold our software,” Haws said. “In a nutshell… We quit selling the nitty-gritty features, and started focusing on the outcomes that we achieve for our clients.  And the response was immediately positive.”

The BNBranding team devised all new messaging, a new brand identity, new website and new collateral materials. Work is ongoing on an animated explainer video, info graphics and digital marketing to drive traffic to the new site.

“I’m very, very happy with the new branding. It’s all coming together fabulously,” Haws said.

 
BN Branding

 

 

Bend, Oregon advertising agency software industry case study

 

Client: Black Butte Ranch

 

Assignment: Brand re-fresh, advertising, resort signage, collateral, direct mail.

 

Results: A record number of heads in beds

 

We literally wrote the book on the Black Butte Ranch Brand. We also ran a ground-breaking radio ad campaign, devised seasonal promotions and produced new signage throughout the resort.

“When I was at Black Butte Ranch  BNBranding was our advertising agency of record. 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.”

“I think the radio campaign that John did for us was some of the best radio work I’ve ever heard. It was “out there” for Black Butte and yet it was right on brand. The story telling, the script writing, the choice of talent… it was amazing.”

 

BN Branding

 

 

 

Branding a Non-Profit Organization

Client: Working Wonders Children’s Museum

 

Assignment: Launch a new non-profit brand from the ground up… Naming, identity design, advertising

 

Results:

Launching a start-up is hard. Launching a start-up non-profit organization is even harder.

BNBranding was the advertising agency that helped build Working Wonders Children’s Museum from the ground up. We devised the name, tagline and brand identity, helped with fundraising and board development, wrote their mission statement and acted as the museum’s ad agency. We even helped create and build the playful, hands-on spaces in the museum itself. It was a labor of love.

 
BN Branding

 

 

Marketing to Restaurant Owners

Client: The Where To Eat Guide — Bend, OR

 

Initial Assignment: Create sales materials and a pitch deck

 

Solution: An integrated, in-your-face campaign that opened up two new markets.

 

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 opened a lot of doors for my sales people.”

 

BN Branding

examples of copywriting from BNBranding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's what they say about us:

 

“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 John Furgurson has a good head for business and he grasps the importance of results. His batting average is very good. Plus, he looks for ways to save money, not just spend it. I wish we would have spent more with BN Branding, and less with the other firms we’ve hired.”

Carl Rigney

CFO and franchise owner
 

“From a branding standpoint, we were pretty well lost before we hired BN Branding. They’ve helped us organize our product lines, create a comprehensive brand strategy, and design two fantastic brands. It’s been a great combination of strategic consulting and creative design… I’ve been very impressed.”

Dan Corrigan

Organic 3
 

“As an interior designer I really appreciate the art and craftsmanship of the work they do at BN Branding. Their design work is meticulous and very well thought out. John Furgurson is the consummate professional… always delivers what he says he’s going to deliver. They did my website and some very nice printed sales materials. It’s first rate. I would definitely recommend them.”

Lisa Slayman

Slayman Cinema
 

“My “aha” moment with BN Branding was truly remarkable.  They helped me recognize a far broader application for my product.  They also went above and beyond with their namestorming process and came up with Kittigan Crossboats. My relatively small, early investment with BN Branding was immensely worthwhile.  John is a skilled strategist with some mad creative skills. “

Michael Grant

Kitigan CrossCanoes
 

“We didn’t think we needed an ad agency, but when we found BN Branding, our website was in a state of emergency. They took great interest in our products and took the time to get familiar with our business model and our clientele. 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”.  I would recommend BNBranding to anyone looking for any marketing.”

Scott Beydler

Beydler CNC
 

BN Branding News

Big things happening for our client in the proptech software industry.

July 16, 2019

SaleFish Software is a SAAS company out of Toronto that serves residential real estate developers. Rick Haws, SaleFish CEO, hired BN Branding initially to do a new website. However, as the research & discovery work progressed we determined that SaleFish needed to rebrand itself in order to achieve the goals that Rick set out.

The scope of work has progressed from a simple website refresh to a new brand identity, collateral materials, video production, content marketing and digital advertising.

“I’m very happy with the new branding,” Haws said. “It came together perfectly… with the new logo and the new site, and some new sales materials… now we’re poised to expand our global reach.”

 

Bend branding firm redesigns GutPro packaging

Jan 2, 2019

Organic 3 Inc., makers of Gut Pro probiotics and owner of Corganic Ecommerce has hired BN Branding to design a new brand identity and packaging for their GutPro line of probiotics and enzymes.

 

 

Bend, Oregon advertising agency BN Branding chosen to help launch a new health benefits company in California.

Nov 15, 2018

Bend, Oregon branding firmIncentive Health of Bakersfield, California has hired BN Branding to help them stir things up in the health benefits arena. The Bend, Oregon branding firm is working on a brand strategy, go-to-market plan, website, sales materials and a tactical marketing plan for the new company.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to help create a disruptive new brand, from the ground up,” said John Furgurson, owner of BNBranding. “We’re going to change the way CEOs look at health benefits. It’s exciting.”

Until now, CEOs have faced a difficult decision when doing their annual review of health benefits.

“It’s always been a trade off,” Furgurson said. “They had to choose between their people and their profits. It’s a no-win. But now there’s an alternative to that.”

 
 

BNBranding launches new website and ecommerce store for Coconut Secret

Aug, 2018

BNBranding website for Coconut SecretWe’re proud to be working Leslie’s Organics, makers of the Coconut Secret Brand of natural foods. Leslie and Randy chose BN Branding to launch an ecommerce website and provide tactical marketing assistance.

Coconut Aminos is the nation’s #1 selling brand of soy-free Asian condiments. They also have a delicious line of candy bars, chocolate bars and granola bars, all sweetened with coconut nectar. So we’re getting some tasty photography for that. (Thanks to Mike Houska, at Dogleg Studios.)

www.coconutsecret.com

 

Read more news »

Some of the brands we’ve helped over the years…

Brand identity design by BNBranding


Black Butte Ranch brand identity design by BNBranding


Coconut Secret logotype and tagline by BNBranding

Print advertising for Desert Orthopedics by BNBranding




client list of BNBranding

advertising and content marketing for Azure Standard

BNBranding client list

Advertising for Bend Cable - now BendBroadband

Broken Top brand identity by BNBranding

Advertising for COPA in Bend, Oregon

trade advertising for Clif Bar

golf industry branding by BNBranding


new approach to website design

Brand design with a bang – Visual cues and consistency across platforms

BNBranding logoA lot of people ask me about our brand design and the graphics that accompany these blog posts.

They see the same visual cues on the BNBranding website, in social media posts, in our ads, on video and even on good, old-fashioned post cards, emails and invoices.

brand design that produces resultsThey comment about the work on LinkedIn and, yes, they respond to it. Some people have even said, “Wow, that’s really cool. Can you do something like that for my company?”

Of course.

Because the fact is, bold graphics such as these stop people in their tracks. It’s brand design that produces response.

It’s like direct response branding.

As prospects are scrolling quickly through a Facebook feed, they breeze right over all the stuff that looks the same as everything else… Stock photos, charts and graphs, head shots, even stupid cat videos get ignored these days.

They only pause when they see something that “Pops.”

The incongruity of the image or message, relative to everything else they see, creates natural human curiosity. It’s just the way our brains work.

a new approach to website design BNBrandingOn the other hand, we are wired to ignore the images, sounds and words that are familiar to us.

So familiar words, sounds and imagery do not belong in your advertising efforts.

Thanks to an increasingly fragmented marketing landscape, the need for consistently UNfamiliar visuals is on the rise. There are just so many different marketing tactics these days, it’s hard to get them all aligned into one, cohesive campaign. Most companies lose that “Pop” they could get by maintaining visual consistency across various platforms.

The same goes for sounds. The very best Radio, TV and video campaigns include unique sound cues that tie all the components of the campaign together. For instance, I wrote an award-winning radio campaign for a glass company, and the audio cue couldn’t have been more clear… the squeek of windex on a window.

It was an audible punctuation mark that proved very successful.

Visual punctuation marks, such as the images in our “Be” Campaign, can make small budgets look big. It’s one of the little things that small businesses can do to become iconic brands in their own, little spaces.

Brand design advice Tom PetersTom Peters, in his book The Little Big Things, says “design mindfulness, even design excellence, should be part of every company’s core values.

Because the look IS the message. Because design is everything.”

Some people seem to think that “branding messages” do not belong on social media or in digital advertising. And that you can’t design a “branding” website that also moves product.

That’s hogwash.

As Peters said, every message out there is branding. You can’t differentiate sales messages or social messages from brand messages. It’s all connected. You might as well make them look that way.

Consistent, unexpected brand design is the easiest way to improve the impact of your messages and leverage your marketing spend.

If you’re not thinking about branding and design aesthetics when posting something on LinkedIn or Instagram, you’re missing a huge opportunity. People will just scroll on by.

truth in advertising BNBranding

If you’re not thinking about design when crafting headlines for your website, you’re not seeing the big picture. People will just click right out.

If you’re not thinking about your brand image when choosing a location or decorating your office space, you’re missing the boat.

Design is just one element of your overall branding efforts. But it’s an important one. Too important to ignore. Because every time you hammer home those visual cues, you move one little step closer to your objective.

If your business needs a stronger visual presence across all marketing channels, give us a call.

Or click here for an inexpensive yin/yang assessment of all your marketing efforts.

a new approach to website design BNBranding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same with sounds.

 

 

Website development services

branding sites that sell

 

Websites That Rank.
Online Storefronts That Sell.
And Brands You Can Take To The Bank.

 

At BNBranding, results are built in to our website development process.

The sites we build work well because they’re driven by a rock-solid SEO strategy, which in turn, depends entirely on exceptional content.

Ours is a content-first approach that you won’t find at any other website development company in Bend, Oregon.

Our sites deliver high Google rankings, good sales volumes, and exceptional engagement analytics. Because we start with adequate planning, a marketing mindset, and an actual content strategy.

For us it’s website strategy first. Then content. Then design and development. Not the other way around.

Our Content-First website development process will save you money and produce better result. Here’s how:

  • Faster turn-around time and fewer rounds of changes and approvals. There are no false starts.
  • Highly prioritized and expertly produced content means better relevance, higher search engine rankings, and more credibility for your brand.
  • Our websites are highly differentiated. You won’t look or sound like the competition.
  • Our websites provide a better user experience because they’re well thought-out, well written, and quite simply, better looking.
  • Our websites are brand driven, not technology driven. So you get consistent messaging and maximum leverage from all your marketing efforts.

We’ve been building websites since 1998, so our process is well-tuned. We know how to get projects through to completion, with the least amount of hassle and the most cost efficiency.

Step 1: Research
Our Bend, Oregon website design services begin not with design, but with research. Competitive analysis, keyword research and a keen understanding of the target audience. That’s what you need to start with if you want a successful website.

Step 2: SEO-based Content Strategy
Content Strategy means that your site will deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time, for all the right reasons. For us, copywriting and graphics are not after-thoughts. They are the foundation of a successful SEO strategy and the key to differentiation. We team up with BNBranding to ensure the very best content in your business category.

Step 3: SEO- Based Site Architecture
User flow, linking strategy and URL structure has a huge impact on your future SEO rankings. So we do it right from the beginning.

Step 4: Design
Gorgeous, arresting design can mean the difference between a click-out and a check out. Our graphic designers will help polish up your brand for the most effective ever.

Step 5: Development
We’ve seen it all. Currently we build our sites on the WordPress platform or on Shopify, depending on your objectives. Then we layour-on all the necessary bells and whistles to make your site function perfectly in context with the rest of your business.

Step 6: Testing and Iteration
This step is surprisingly easy when you begin with a solid strategy and exceptional content. We don’t spend months going back and forth because it was all approved up front.

Step 7: Maintenance and training
We’ll work with your in-house webmaster or marketing coordinator to make sure the site is easily updated and constantly monitored. Because SEO rankings are not static. You always have to mind the store.

Step 8: Traffic Building
No matter how good our SEO is, you can’t rely on organic traffic alone. We team with BNBranding to devise digital ad campaigns, sales funnels, content marketing and other promotional strategies to drive traffic to your site.

 

1 new approach to website design

A new approach to website design – What’s the big idea?

BNBranding logoI grew up on the creative side of the advertising industry. In that world, big ideas produce big bucks. Agency creative teams toil endlessly to come up with the spark of an idea that can be leveraged into a giant, category-busting campaign.

When it comes to winning new accounts, ad agencies pit their ideas, head-to-head, with the big ideas from competing agencies. Winner takes all. In that business, big ideas are the currency of success.

a new approach to website design BNBrandingBig ideas are also the bread and butter of the start-up world.

Entrepreneurs and VCs are constantly searching for innovative, disruptive ideas that solve a problem, attract venture capital and produce teaming hordes of 28-year old billionaires.

And in Hollywood, producers are aways searching for high-concept movie ideas that break out of the normal, predictable patterns and produce box-office mega hits like Avatar or Titanic.

There’s absolutely no doubt that big ideas can transform a brand — from bland to brilliant. And there’s no doubt that your website is great place to showcase that big idea.

But you’re going to need a new approach to website design.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the typical website project, big ideas are as rare as a Harry Potter blockbuster.

Most small business websites are nothing more than bad corporate brochures in electronic form. Everywhere you look there are cookie-cutter templates, lousy stock photos and “keyword-rich” copy that sounds like it was rendered by a robot rather than written by a pro.

You wouldn’t take a generic ad template that all your competitors are using, fill in the blanks, and then spend $20,000 to run it in a national magazine. But that’s essentially what a lot of companies are doing with their website design projects. It’s like paint by numbers, and the results are mind-numbing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need a whole new approach to website design.

Because the current standard operating procedure for website projects is all wrong. It shouldn’t be a project at all, it should be an ongoing initiative. It should always be evolving and improving, just like your business.

“When’s it going to be done?” is the wrong question to ask.  It should never be done.

Instead, ask “What’s the big idea?” What’s the novel concept that will differentiate this website from all the rest, and move viewers to action?

A new approach to website design BNBrandingEveryone in the web development world knows that web projects get bogged down by one thing: “Content.”

The tech guys who build sites are always waiting for interesting headlines, engaging copy, uncommon offers, authentic stories and brilliant graphics to arrive from the client. Sometimes, it seems, for an eternity.

Because that’s the hardest part. Building a site on a WordPress theme is easy compared to the work that has to be done, up front…

First you need some Strategic Insight. Then the Big Idea. (Think “Got Milk” or “Where’s The Beef.”) THEN execution… That’s where all the elements come together.  1-2-3.

Unfortunately, most companies jump right to Step 3.

In the web design arena, the tail is definitely wagging the dog. It’s technology first, process second, content third, design fourth. Nowhere does the big idea come into play. It’s the most commonly overlooked element of any web project.

So here’s my advice for any business owner or marketing person who’s thinking of “doing a new website”:

Forget about that. Stop thinking of it as a website design project, and instead, launch a campaign that starts with a with a big idea that is showcased on the website. Think of it as a long-term marketing program, not a short-term project. Think of it as a new approach to web design that’s more wholistic, more integrated, and more effective than the old way.

Yes, paddling back upstream is often difficult work. And you often need outside help to come up with the strategic insight and big idea you really need. But the effort will pay off.

The big idea is the branding thread that connects all your marketing efforts… It’s not limited just to your website. It should carry through to your social media campaigns, your paid advertising, your PR and even your customer service procedures.

a new approach to website design by BNBrandingWhen you begin with a big idea, the website falls into place quite naturally. It’s just another tactical execution of the big, strategic idea. When it’s done right, it obviously aligns your marketing strategy and tactics into one, kick-ass idea.

For more on the new approach to website design, try this post.

If you’d like an affordable, honest assessment of your current strategy and website tactics, click here. 

If you want expert marketing assistance, just give us a call. 541-815-0075.

a new approach to website design BNBranding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

branding sites that sell

The Allure of Ecommerce (4 reasons why small retail brands often fail at online sales)

These days, everyone wants a piece of the Ecommerce action. I understand the temptation… There are many stories circulating about the demise of brick and mortar stores and the rise of the bricks and clicks model.

It’s a shiny penny that many can’t resist. But if brick and mortar retail is the heart of your brand, you better be careful when it comes to ecommerce.

First of all, the tales of retail armageddon are greatly exaggerated.

According to The Economist, only 10% of all products sold in America in 2017 were sold through online retailers. So if you have a retail store, don’t give up. Ninety percent of all the stuff in the world is still being sold though brick and mortar stores, many of which are small, locally owned establishments.

retail marketing Amazon Go store

According to The Atlantic, the retail industry isn’t dying, but it is at an inflection point.  “Some brick-and-mortar retail brands with large footprints are struggling, while some e-commerce brands, like Warby Parker and Amazon, are now realizing the value of storefronts. Indeed, Amazon sees an uptick in online shopping in regions where it has a physical store, according to CNBC.” 

So it goes both ways.

More on retail industry branding.

One thing’s for sure… There’s an inevitable march toward the “bricks and clicks” model, where all retailers have elements of both ecommerce and traditional retail sales.

Here’s why: It feels better to buy from a real person. Simple as that.

We all appreciate the infinite information available online and the lazy-ass convenience of one-click buying, but it leaves us feeling empty. Unfulfilled. Vaguely dissatisfied when compared to traditional retail shopping.

Which leads me to 4 common problems that arise when successful little retailers try their hand at ecommerce…

1. They forget what they’re really all about.

If you have a successful, specialty retail store, chances are you provide a fair amount of personalized service. You wouldn’t stay in business without it.

For many of the retailers I know, that personal touch is a core element of their brand promise. That’s what they’re all about, and it’s impossible to duplicate that online.

Even if you devise the world’s greatest online shopping user interface, the shopping experience will always feel better in real life.

So when it comes to ecommerce, your value proposition no longer applies.

too many choices BNBranding Brand Insight Blog2. They don’t differentiate their online store from the sea of competitors.

There’s a ton of competition in the wide, wide world of ecommerce, but very few companies do anything to differentiate their online store from all the rest.

It doesn’t make sense… They wouldn’t open a brick and mortar store that’s exactly the same as the store across the street, but that’s what they do online.

They use the same Ecommerce website template. They offer the same products for the same MAP price. They even use the exact same wording for the sales page of every product.

You can’t just cut and paste the same exact blurb, same photo and the same product specs and expect good results. You have to differentiate yourself somehow. You need to customize your pitch, improve your copy, and mix up the words a bit. You need to give people a reason to buy from you, instead of Amazon.

So how are you supposed to do that?

You could offer a unique mix of 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. So scratch that.)

You could offer lower pricing. (Actually, most MAP pricing agreements preclude you from doing that.)

You could use different technology. (There are many different back-end Ecommerce systems these days, and they all work pretty well. A good user interface is the cost of doing business in this space.)

You can have better content presented in your own, unique way, based on brand values that prospects will actually care about.

That, you can do!  Learn how with this post.

3. They fail to see the difference between Ecommerce transactions and in-person sales.

Besides a ridiculously low price, what do online shoppers want?

Information. Insight. And peace of mind.

Even if they’re ready to pull the trigger online shoppers want facts, reviews, articles or some kind of credible content that helps make the purchase decision a little bit easier.

But amazingly few e-commerce sites actually fit the bill when it comes to informative content. Most offer no insight. No salesmanship. No differentiation whatsoever. They just regurgitate the manufacturer’s product spiel and hope for the best.

In fact, most online ecommerce sites aren’t really retail sites at all. They’re more like virtual warehouses.

If you want to establish a successful Ecommerce store you need to act like a real retailer, but in the online world. That means content marketing. That means sharp, convincing copy, and inspiring product stories. That means salesmanship.

ecommerce differentiationEarly in my career I wrote copy for Norm Thompson. Before J. Peterman ever became famous, Norm Thompson had a unique voice that resonated with its mature, upscale audience. We produced long, intelligent product pitches that went way beyond technical specs and pretty pictures.

For instance, I remember writing a full page spread on the optics of Serengetti Driver sunglasses. You could buy Serengetti’s in many different places, but no other sales outlet was as thorough as Norm Thompson.

Those spreads were helpful. Heroic. Practical. Luxurious. Readable. And convincing. 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 direct response industry. It’s tough to find anything remotely close in the on-line world. And unfortunately, Norm Thompson has failed to maintain that unique voice in the e-commerce arena. There’s no “Escape From the Ordinary” on their websites.

4. They’re not prepared for the added operational complexities of Ecommerce.

It’s a lot of work, running a profitable store. And guess what?  It’s just as much work running an Ecommerce store.
That’s what you have to get your head around before you dive into ecommerce… It’s like having two different businesses.
I know at least one retailer who thinks she can just “put up a website to take care of her excess inventory.” It’s never as easy as that. Here are just a few of the operational challenges you’ll face:
Buying gets more complicated, since there may be items that you sell online but not in your store, and vice versa.

There are technical issues galore… You better make sure that your POS system syncs seamlessly with your ecommerce platform. You’ll need a webmaster and someone to handle continual site updates as well as SEO, SEM and all the other components of digital marketing. You can easily get sucked into doing a lot of behind the scenes management that you’re not qualified for, and you really don’t enjoy.

Labor costs will increase. You’ll need more help to get those orders filled and the website maintained. You have to run a pick, pack and ship operation out of the back of the store.=

So ask yourself this: Do you have the bandwidth for ecommerce? And will your traditional retail business suffer if you’re pulled in another direction?
According to Gartner Research, 89% of marketing leaders predict that customer experience will be the primary basis for competitive differentiation in the coming years of retail. Here’s an example of how well the customer experience of bricks and clicks can work:

Bricks & clicks REI coopI recently bought a new pair of walking shoes.  I could have purchased them online — I certainly did enough research — but I wanted the front-line opinion of a good shoe salesman. I wanted to talk with a human being, have a conversation and get a read on the three different shoes that I was considering.

I wanted to feel the difference.

So I went to the local REI and made a great purchase.

I trust that place. I love what the brand stands for. The salesmen know their shit. And REI’s site was a great source of information that started me on the path to purchase.

REI’s website was more credible than the manufacturer’s website, and it had better info on hiking shoes than Amazon or any other online resource that I could find.

The manufacturer’s brand and the local REI store both benefit from REI’s online presence and the REI brand ethos. The REI brand benefits from the expertise of its local salespeople to help close sales that started online.

That’s how it’s supposed to work! Bricks and clicks.

It’s a great model that can work for a big company like REI. But it’s not so easy for a small retail chain or an individual store. So before you start fishing for new customers through ecommerce, I’d suggest that you do some soul searching. Maybe you’ll find your brand.

marketing strategies for alcoholic beverages

Absolutely Better Branding Strategies (Lessons from a strong shot of vodka.)

dill pickle vodka BNBrandingbrand credibility from branding expertsChocolate vodka? Dill pickle vodka? Bacon flavored vodka? Cinnamon Roll Vodka? Smoked Salmon Vodka. I kid you not. When it comes to marketing strategies for alcoholic beverages, fantastical flavors are all the rage.

Seems like there’s a new flavor-of-the-day every time I visit a liquor store. Ten years ago there were basically only four or five choices of vodka. Now there are 20 brands, and every brand has a dozen different whacky flavors.

Where’d the vodka flavored vodka go?

It’s great news for mixologists, but a bit overwhelming for the average consumer.  And it poses huge challenges to marketers who are trying to succeed in this newly crowded space.

Doesn’t matter if it’s vodka, gin, whiskey or rum, the marketing strategies for alcoholic beverages are getting more and more involved.

So here’s some advice, based on one of the classic marketing case studies from this category: Absolut Vodka.

The first rule of advertising is this: Never take the same approach as your closest competitors.

If you want to differentiate your brand, you have to think “different.” Contrarian even.

Everything that you say, everything that you show, and everything that you do should be different, to some extent than what everyone else in the industry is doing. Study all the market strategies of alcoholic beverages, and then choose a different path.

BNBranding can help you do that. ”Here’s how:

• Even if you’re selling the same thing, don’t make the same claim.

There are hundreds of different ways to sell the benefits of your product or service, so find one that’s different than your competitors. That often comes down to one thing: Listening. The better you are at listening to consumers, the easier it’ll be to differentiate your brand.

• Don’t let your ads or your website look or sound anything like competing ads.

Use a different layout, different type style, different size and different idea.

The last thing you want to do is run an ad that can be mistaken, at a glance, for a competitor’s ad. If all the companies in your category take a humorous approach to advertising, do something more serious. Find a hook that’s based on a real need of your target audience, and speak to that. Zig when the competition is zagging.

• If you’re on the radio, don’t use the same voice talent or similar sounding music.

Find someone different to do the voice work, rather than a DJ who does a dozen new spots a week for other companies in your market. Same thing for tv spots. (This is an easy trap to fall into if you live and work in a small market… there’s not enough “talent” to go around.)

Unfortunately, every industry seems to have its own unwritten rules that contradict the rules of advertising.

These industry conventions aren’t based on any sort of market research or strategic insight. They’re not even common sense. Everyone just goes along because “that’s how it’s always been done.”

The problem is, if that’s how it has always been done, that’s also how everyone else is doing it. In fact, some of these industry conventions are so overused they’ve become cultural cliches.

• Don’t use the same images or advertising concepts that your competitors are using.

The rule in the pizza business says you have to use the “pull shot:” A slow-motion close-up of a slice of pizza being pulled off the pie, with cheese oozing off it.

In the automotive industry, conventional thinking says you have to show your car on a scenic, winding road. Or off the scenic winding road if it’s an SUV.

In the beer business, it’s a slow motion close up of a glass of beer being poured.

marketing strategies for alcoholic beveragesThose are the visual cliches… the images that everyone expects. They are the path of least resistance for marketing managers, but they’re virtually invisible to consumers.

But if you go down that road, and follow your industry conventions, your advertising will never perform as well as you’d like. In fact, history has proven you have to break the rules in order to succeed.

Absolut Vodka won the market by winning the imagination of the consumer through brilliant print advertising.

In 1980 Absolut  was a brand without a future. All the market research pointed to a complete failure. The bottle was weird looking. It was hard to pour. It was Scandinavian, not Russian. It was way too expensive. It was a me-too product in the premium vodka category.

But the owner of Carillon Imports didn’t care. He believed his product was just different enough… That all he needed was the right ad campaign.

So he threw out all the old conventions of his business and committed to a campaign that was completely different than anything else in his industry. And he didn’t just test the water, he came out with all his guns blazing.

TBWA launched a print campaign that called attention to the unique bottle design of Absolut. It was brilliantly simple, and unique among marketing strategies for alcoholic beverages of any kind.

Needless to say, it worked.

The “Absolut Perfection” campaign gave a tasteless, odorless drink a distinctively hip personality and transformed a commodity product into a cultural icon. In an era where alcohol consumption dropped, Absolut sales went from 10,000 cases a year to 4.5 million cases in 2000. And it’s still the leading brand of Vodka in the country.

The moral of the story is this: When you choose to follow convention, you choose invisibility.

“To gain attention, disrupt convention.”

marketing strategy for alcoholic beverages That’s my own quote.

Instead of worrying about what everyone else has done, focus on what you could be doing. Take the self-imposed rule book and throw it away. Do something different. Anything!

Long before the days of dill pickle vodka, Absolute added a nice local touch to its ads in major markets such as LA, New York and Chicago. (ads at left)

They made the campaign timely and locally relevant by hitching onto well-known events, famous people and iconic places. It was a brilliant example of wise brand affiliations.

marketing strategies for alcoholic beverages

This disruption mindset doesn’t apply just to the marketing strategies of alcoholic beverages. It’s important for professional service companies or any other category where it’s tough to differentiate one company from the others.

Take real estate agents for example. Realtors are, in essence, me-too products. Flavorless vodka. In Bend, Oregon they’re a commodity. Even if a realtor has a specialty there are at least 500 other people who could do the same thing. For the same fee. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, even though there’s no difference in price and no discernable difference in service, you could still create a major difference in perception. If you’re willing to think different.

Like Absolut Vodka, a unique approach to your advertising is the one thing that can set you apart from every other competitor. Advertising is the most powerful weapon you have, simply because no one else is doing it. At least not very well.

But putting your picture in an ad won’t do it. That’s the conventional approach.

Remember rule number one and run advertising that says something. Find a message that demonstrates how well you understand your customers or the market. Run a campaign that conveys your individual identity without showing the clichéd, 20-year-old head shot.

Do what the owner of Absolute did. Find an approach that is uniquely yours, and stick with it no matter what everyone in your industry says. Over the long haul, the awareness you’ve generated will translate into sales. Next thing you know everyone else will be scrambling to copy what you’re doing.

Eventually your campaign just might become a new industry convention. Maybe not on par with bacon vodka or dill pickle vodka, but iconic nonetheless.

For more on marketing strategies for alcoholic beverages, try THIS post. 

 

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