Category Archives: Branding

Brand is substance

As I was beginning my career in the late 1950’s, it was common to think of advertising and marketing as a way to persuade people to buy based on an image or proposition.

 Brand Identity

When we talked of corporate identity, we spoke of image.

And somehow the mind-set was to make people think the advertised product was really better than it was. Continue reading Brand is substance

Non-profits need branding just as companies do.

Brand smart from the start: that’s my advice to any beginning organization whether it be a business or a non-profit.

 Non-profits need branding, too

Last week I was invited to a meeting of the board of directors of a newly formed non-profit. A committee member had a bad feeling about how the organization was being formed and managed. He particularly saw a half-hearted and uncoordinated approach to branding. Continue reading Non-profits need branding just as companies do.

Brand platform: the competitive plank

for a B2B marketer

If you’re a business to business (B2B) marketer, gathering and using competitive intelligence for your brand platform will be entirely different from the process of Looking at how competitors brandinformation gathering I outlined earlier for a retail establishment.

First of all, you probably won’t have near the number of significant competitors a retailer has. I suspect you’ll have less than eight significant competitors to profile.

But as with a retail establishment, the reason for profiling and integrating this information into your brand platform is to better position your company. You don’t want to take a position already occupied by a strong competitor. It’s almost impossible to dislodge an aggressive competitor from an existing position. You end up being a “me-too”, or in the B2B world, a second source.

Significant information to determine a competitor’s position

First of all, you don’t need to know the confidential information industrial spying might uncover. Nor is financial data all that important to establish competitive positions.

You want to know two things from two points of view:

* How each company wishes to be perceived by its most important stakeholders?
* How successful does each company believe it is in fulfilling the promise of its brand.
* How stakeholders (usually customers and prospects) perceive each competitor.
* How stakeholders believe each company is fulfilling the brand promise they believe each company has made.

Competitor-generated information

To get each competitor’s insight into their branding and positioning goals, plans and actions, turn to the materials and messages they send to their various stakeholders – prospects and customers, investors, the media, their suppliers, their distribution chain members.

Check annual reports of publically-traded companies. Then track down articles written by management, press releases, association papers and panels, promotional materials of all kinds. Study material for at least four oe five years duration to get a feel for what they’ve promised and felt they’ve delivered. Also, look at the products they’ve introduced and how the companies have spoken about them during their lives.

It is likely there are ex-employees of your competitors working for you or for companies allied with you. Take the time to interview them and ask questions specific to branding and positioning.

If a competitor has a multiple-industry, multiple-category presence, attempt to isolate those aspects of the brand that are applicable to the industry/category in which you commonly compete.

Trade shows are a good place to both gather competitive materials and hear competitive points of view about the industry.

Try to determine the strategies competitors have developed to promote their brand(s). Most of these are self-evident with some study of their history and current situation.

External views of your competitors

Your prime source of information will probably be the customers and prospects you share with your competitors. Those folks will usually be helpful, as long as you’re not asking for confidential information. Purchasing personnel usually encourage competition, so if you’re a newbie, they’ll welcome your short, to-the-point questions.

You’ll probably want to begin with a questionnaire and telephone. Ask the easy questions first. First ask them to name your most significant competitors once you’ve informed them of your particular product/service category. Then for each they name, ask what their particular strengths are. Then probe about other competitors they haven’t named. It’s best not to ask about negative experiences, and be careful not to begin comparing your company/products with others. You’re gathering information, not making a sale.

From this questionnaire you’ll get some feel for how customers and prospects believe your competition is positioned. And positioning, when all is said and done, is a function of the collective minds of your market participants. You’ll also get a feeling for what gaps in the positioning grid are still open.

You’ll probably want to follow up the telephone interviews with a dozen face-to-face interviews with significant customers. Here you can probe more deeply to elicit stories about dealing with competitors, both the good and the bad.

I’d supplement these interviews with talks with editors of trade publications in your field as well as association execs, standards committee members and if appropriate, government regulators.

Sift, consolidate, compare, summarize the data

Once accumulated, your task is to determine for each competitor:

What position are they after.
What they’re doing to capture or defend that position.
How their stakeholders perceive them.
How their stakeholders think they’re doing.

From this info you can determine if you currently have a strong and defensible position. You can identify attractive, unfulfilled positions to which you can aspire. You can forge branding strategies that differentiate your business/product/service in unique and productive ways.

In short, this competitive intelligence and analysis can lift and separate you from your competition.

And coupled with the other planks of your brand platform, your brand could well become stronger and more durable than your competitors.

Next week, the competitive platform plank for consumer products.

Martin Jelsema

Criteria for logo development and evaluation

Logo design goes way backCertainly there’s quite a bit of subjective opinion being expressed when it comes to selecting a logo for your brand. Branding is more than designing a logo, but the logo is an important branding element, so it should be evaluated with the same thoroughness as the brand name itself.

Don’t just rely on opinions: Someone doesn’t like a certain color, another thinks the type isn’t distinctive enough, and you think the proportion is all wrong. Well, everyone has a right to their opinion, but for brand elements, professional criteria should reign.

A better way to evaluate and select a logo: Continue reading Criteria for logo development and evaluation

Branding or lead generation? Why not both?

Lead generation and branding can go togetherThere’s a headline in the latest issue of B2B, the ink-on-paper magazine devoted to business-to-business marketing, that caught my eye and brought me back to an old argument.

The headline: “When the going gets rough, branding or lead generation?”

For full attribution, the article is by Matthew Schwartz in the February 11 issue, and he makes a lot of sense to me. Now I’ve done a lot of lead generation programs, especially during the 1960’s and 70’s, and now I’m an evangelist for branding.

And from my point of view, lead generation can be a form of branding, and branding can be a great foundation for lead generation.

I’ve always believed you can perform both if you’re messaging is relevant to your prospects and customers. The article didn’t really vindicate this position. It’s tone was summed up in the final quote by Hayes Roth, CMO of Landor Associates, a major branding consultancy. He said, “You abandon the brand, you abandon your future.”

When I had my ad agency, I almost always advised my clients, B2B clients, to opt for benefit-oriented, prospect-pointed ads that asked for action. They were no-nonsense, product featured with a strong benefit headline, informative copy and a prominent logo and tagline. Then, either a coupon or a request to use the reader service for more information.

The ads were almost always a campaign with a similar look and tone. Their look in themselves built trust and recognition of the clients and their products. Even the direct mail campaigns we launched were brand-building as well as lead generating.

Neither function was diluted because of the dual role of the ads. We build for the future as well as for this quarter’s sales.

It can really be said, there’s no need to chose. Do both.

Martin Jelsema