Branding can be fundamentally defined as the constant and consistent use of the components of your image and identity. These components include your corporate colors, graphics, type style and spokespeople. In other words, branding is making sure the logo is always in the same location, the same typeface is always used in printed material, the correct corporate colors are always used and the same spokesperson is in each of your broadcast messages. Brand development, on the other hand, is the uncovering of a distinction about your company and developing communication based on that distinction.
Both branding and brand development are different functions-branding being tactical and brand development more strategic. Each is vital to the long-term, profitable success of any company. However, it is our agency’s observation that companies find it easier to implement branding tactics than to spend the time, energy and effort required for proper brand development. This is unfortunate because without defining what distinguishes your company from your competition, you run the risk of making your company seem generic or just another commodity. Without a point of distinction or difference in your marketing, your message will more than likely be reduced to hardware features and benefits. When this occurs, you are competing with your competitor’s hardware features and benefits, which could lead to reduced margins and lower revenues.
What is needed is a process that will uncover your company’s true distinction-those unique selling points that none of your competitors possess. After that, create a communication designed to accentuate that differentiation. We have found that many times the outcome of this process is either a powerful method of labeling the way a company a company does business or the way it provides service. In other instances, the distinction is embodied in a powerful positioning statement or is found in a character or method of execution that is developed to deliver the marketing message.
As an example, several years ago office equipment dealers began to publicize their customer service policies as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. Making a distinction was necessary because features on office equipment tended to be very similar. However, within months, a majority of dealers were advertising their “great” service and, just as quickly, all of the messages began to sound the same. As we worked with our office technology clients, we found that the key to their success was to uncover just how their “great” service was different and, more importantly, how this message should be communicated.
During our research, we discovered that some of our clients were willing to guarantee their service performance, in writing. With this information, we helped our clients to develop a “label” or “name” for their performance guarantees. The resulting “The Security Blanket” written guarantees were very effective and helped prospective customers to sense and feel that our dealer client had something they could not get from competitive dealers. “The Security Blanket” allowed our clients to approach prospects and customers in way previously unknown. In fact, one client even went as far as to deliver equipment with a real blanket draped over the machines. After a while, salespeople stopped selling great copiers backed by great service and started selling “The Security Blanket.”
More recently, we have assisted clients with labeling the way they do business. “TeamSourcing” for example, became a very successful label. Its power was in the implication that a customer was getting the resources of an entire team, not just one salesperson. Yet, once again, the key factor is not just the name or label, it is the fact that “TeamSourcing” is unique and creates a perception that the dealer has a unique, differentiating quality that adds values to the prospect.
Acquisition programs are another area where office technology dealers have the opportunity to differentiate their business. Because everyone leases equipment and most dealerships have cost-per-copy or cost-per-image programs, labeling your acquisition programs could set your programs apart and help prospects to perceive them as distinct and unique.
While the preceding were examples of brand development, another approach we have implemented for our office technology dealers have-customer testimonials! Using actual written statements from clients, we have designed a method of creative execution that incorporates the use of unscripted comments from existing customers into the most of the advertising. over time, the marketplace begins to identify our client as the dealership with all the happy and satisfied customers. This approach is very successful, yet requires a complete commitment (time, energy and budget) to consistently implement branding tactics.
Mapping a Course of Action
How can you begin to think about brand development? We use a system called the “Inherent Drama Blueprint” which serves to discover what it is, specifically, that differentiates our clients from their competitors. The trick here is to discern not only what the wants and needs are of prospects and customers (which can best be found through formal market research), but to also ask just what it is specifically that makes a company distinct. This means that our client must take two or three days out of their busy schedule to specifically focus on the company. In addition, our client must involve several key personnel to assist with the process. While this may appear very simplistic, we have found that many office technology dealers are unwilling to go through this process.
The “Inherent Drama Blueprint” has five components that must to be addressed and considered:
- Key marketing strategies.
- Key audience profile.
- The inherent drama of the Company, its products and marketing strategies.
- Creative strategies for positioning, key copy messages, motivational benefits to constituencies, and graphic driving force.
- Creative execution.
The “Inherent Drama Blueprint” is a useful toll to uncovering hidden or previously unconsidered distinctions of any company. If you are unable to effectively address the five points, get outside assistance to facilitate the process. The benefit of this investment in time, energy and budget could be the difference between becoming a leader in your market or just being one of the competitors that always struggles to grow revenue and net profit.
by Wes Phillips, CEO of Orange Label Art + Advertising