Helping family to move house a couple of weekends ago – yes, this is one more reason why I am so inactive on my little blog at the moment – I came across a couple of brand items that struck me as amazing.
Player’s Navy Cut (a cigarette brand part of Imperial Tobacco) has had a very different marketing approach than cigarette brands of today.
“The sales of Player’s Navy Cut Cigarettes for the past twelve months show a substantial increase over the preceding twelve months. Here is definite proof that “It’s the Tobacco that Counts,” and that “Quality will Tell.”
You don’t read that in the papers these days! Nor do you read “very gratified to have given so much more pleasure” on a cigarette advert – in fact, you don’t see cigarette ads any more… which also means that Swan had to change their brand strategy:
“The smoker’s match” seems dated for more than one reason. I spotted this Swan ad on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7gWAdy7Jwg Swan Vesta, now part of Swedish Match, has a bit of a hard to believe vision, considering the industry they are in, but it shows that even the most unlikely products can adapt to a changing market:
It’s perhaps a bit of a crass example illustrating the importance of keeping your brand current and relevant to trends in the market, changes in technology and in perception.
A brand health check is just as important as keeping track of your finances, your insurance, policies and business strategy. And as in most areas, working on your strategy a little bit frequently avoids having to consider a drastic shift in positioning because the brand and its vision have lost their ways.
It’s much talked-about in the media and favourite subject of a lot of marketing agencies – for good reason. An economic downturn inevitably means budget cuts, and marketing, design and advertising budgets are often conceived to be the outgoings which businesses can live without.
Of course everybody who knows even just a little bit about market positioning, purchasing cycles and consumer behaviour knows that this is a bit of a trap a lot of SMEs fall into. Because it is so hard to track the ROI (return on investment) of marketing elements, such as a new brochure design, an updated website or even a fully fledged re-brand, businesses find it hard to see why they have to keep the work up in order to reap the rewards.
I like to think of it as one of the vital habits of business. Just the way you can’t expect your teeth to stay clean if you stop brushing them because you are short of time (or toothpaste), you can’t expect your brand to flourish and grow if you don’t keep working on getting your brand message out there. So in that sense, all that marketing talk is very true. I do however think that the recession does give more than the challenge of continuing marketing activities to benefit from gaining market positions due to competitors bailing out or lying low.
When money is tight, creativity becomes extra valuable. Creativity allows to stretch a brand, to tweak out new methods of getting it out there, to household with budgets and still stand out with truly beneficial messages, information, services or products instead of expensive gimmicks. Looking beyond the print and online marketing could yield inexpensive answers that retain existing customers and get your brand talked about.
Consider some of the following:
Have you clearly defined your target market or are you ‘carpet bombing’ and thus having increased spending without guaranteed response?
How can you add value to your existing customers – can you share some expert knowledge that will help them and set you apart from competitors?
How do your target audiences engage with your brand? Is there a way to reach them that does not require expensive ad campaigns?
Do you have a single focus product or service that is the core of your brand and that convinces new and existing clients? Are you pushing this or are you in danger of diluting your brand by trying too many other things that may or may not increase business?
Do you excel through excellence in your field – and in the way you treat your customers? Are there ways you can improve the interaction between your brand and consumers with staff training, brand understanding and focusing on delivering an amazing experience?
Are you talking to the right people?
Could you use the press to gain some coverage through interesting stories?
Is your brand easy to recognise? Is your existing marketing material adding to your brand and are you proud to share it?
Do you spend your time and resources on perceived ‘free’ marketing, such as social, because it works for you or just because everybody else does it?
Each business is individual and has individual challenges. The recession is not great for most of us (money lenders and crooks not counting). It is however a definite opportunity to drive a brand forward and gain momentum when the competition seems to stand still…
Talking of large brands hesitant to try new things in this economic climate, Land Rover Dubai had something else in mind. Their survival guide doesn’t just explain how to survive in the Arabian desert, it also offers the reader to truly digest their information – with the nutritional value of a cheeseburger.
It’s just nice to see a big brand that stands for adventure be adventurous and communicate with their brand essence written all over it. It’s a simple idea but wouldn’t really be suitable for many brands. Use it for Land Rover, and a bit of marketing magic happens.
I think this is what I am struggling with when brands suddenly venture into areas that don’t seem to gel – I am still coming to terms with the Kelloggs handbag. Any news on that one?
Another really nice piece of creative is the latest Banksy design – assuming it is him. Ready for the celebrations, it’s just a simple and sweet statement that makes me believe in the power of creativity.
Whichever way you look at brand communications and marketing today, there is no real reason why advertising, social and print can’t be extraordinary. It may be a step in the dark, but a mixture of understanding what a brand is about and great creative ideas to get the brand personality across to the nowadays pretty demanding consumer usually pays off long-term.
Whilst I will always be the first one to point out amateurish signage or posters in shop windows as detrimental to a brand, I did have to smile about this one. It’s nothing special, but somehow it just works being subtle and a bit ‘Smile in the Mind’.
I am astonished actually how much Steve Job’s untimely death has affected me. I could explain it being due to a recent personal loss and that is probably the real reason, but the feeling remains that the world is a poorer place without him for he had vision and, without any scandals, loudmouth behaviour and eccentricity, he has changed the world.
Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of theatre and drama. As a brand visionary, he’s been a master of creating the substance behind those weaving the Apple cult. Without his innovations, the brand would probably just be another ‘Evesham Computers’ or (whatever is happening to) Dell?
His products made the brand happen. Not overnight, but year after year until suddenly not just those funny designers who want their own PCs knew of the name.
He has been a true master of brand strategy and I can learn a lot from him. Eight brand principles inspired by the man behind the Apple.
1. Be True
… to your brand values. They are at the core of a brand and create the link to the brand promise. Ensure you have a rounded view on your brand, including knowledge of what stakeholders think of your brand and what you want them to feel when they engage with it. Once established, communicate these brand values consistently and with believable passion that reflects your belief in the brand. That way, you can inspire others to see the brand’s true values.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs
2) Be innovative
… and dare to take risks. One of the most talked about factors in the survival and thriving of big brands is innovation. Research and development has been vital for years and businesses like Apple have shown the real potential of innovation for the growth of a brand.
Be it via in-house teams or through ‘open innovation’ via collaborations, successful brands don’t rest on their laurels but keep pushing and changing their products/services. One aspect of R&D, the focus groups, have been debated for a while now. Especially in this economical climate, they seem to be the number one tool of marketers. People like Steve Jobs realised the foresight displayed by Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
Don’t rely on focus groups. Dare to pursue your idea. See point 5 if it doesn’t work out.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Steve Jobs
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Steve Jobs in Businessweek, 1998
3) Be creative
… but not just for the sake of it. In brand design, we don’t just want to be ‘painters and decorators’. The visual translation of the brand values and ultimately the brand promise goes deeper than a fancy font and some photographs from a cheap stock library (no offence meant, iStock!)
If the brand itself is not creative in its approach to communicating with the public, there is only so much even a well-designed brand identity can do. Creativity goes beyond the marketing department and should, like innovation, be one of the foundations of a strong brand.
“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” Steve Jobs Interview with Fortune Magazine, 2000
4) Be in love
… and share your passion. We all will have had an experience with a brand where we felt disappointed by the lack of engagement with the brand’s representative – a snotty reply from a sales person; a less than enthusiastic assistant; a form wielding ‘this is the protocol so there is nothing I can do’ manager… It sticks. But it will also be contagious to others within an organisation. A brand lives inside and outside – and those who represent the brand are the vessels that carry the life blood through the body. Make sure you infect them with your love and understanding for the business and that they understand your passion and can translate it in their own work.
Until a few glitches recently, Apple always had staff that were fans, they were happy and eager to represent the business and added their own personal passion to the brand we’ve all fallen in love with.
Finding and selecting the right people to work together within an organisation will always remain a challenge. But by injecting culture into the business, by ensuring the different levels of management and workers know what it’s all about, by caring about them as brand representatives, you can harness the power of word of mouth and add value to your brand’s reputation.
“When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.” Steve Jobs
5) Be defiant
… and don’t give up. A brand does not ‘happen’ overnight. The big players have been around for decades and it does not mean they are safe from failure (remember the loss of high street brands such as Woolworths, Adams, Northern Rock during the credit crunch).
But then there are those like Apple who innovate and inspire. It’s hard to think of other examples that have changed the way we interact with technology to the extend apple has but there are those that had breakthroughs – Google, Skype, Groupon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Nissan…
They all took time, caused controversy and perhaps doubt, but ultimately they kept going and have proven their worth.
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Steve Jobs
6) Be focused
… on your brand’s core strength. Brand extension may seem good in the books and a money saving exercise for marketers, but it can easily dilute a message and alienate consumers and the media.
Many have tried (and failed) to extend their brand – Jack Daniel’s mustard? – Coca Cola’s water? Kellogg’s streetware?
In the end, no-one knew quite any more what Woolworth stood for. And Dell is on a slippery path at the moment. It worked for Virgin, who have a whole host of extensions within their monolithic brand architecture. Oxo moved into the office supplies market with their good grips pens. It can work, but it’s not the easy way to get more ROI out of your brand.
“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” Steve Jobs, The Seed of Apple’s Innovation
7) Be different
… and embrace the mavericks. When everyone zigs, zag. Especially in larger companies, where the original founder or owner has been replaced with a board of directors, shareholders or a management team with a very different decision making process, it is ever so important to have a team in place that embraces change, that will take risks and dares to try something new. Brands evolve naturally, and they gain or fall out of favour with the changing market – but sometimes it takes someone different to shake it all up.
When Burberry struggled with the loss in brand reputation due to the chav stereotype but Christopher Bailey has brought the brand from strength to strength. In fact, they are the first fashion designer label to release a single. That’s a bit different!
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs
8) Be human
… cause that’s what branding is trying to achieve. The brand experience begins and ends with the people engaging with a company. Consider them in all aspects of your brand strategy and you won’t run the risk of alienating your clients because your actions are conflicting with your brand promise.
Think about their culture, their acceptance of the product or service and the company’s capability. Tell a narrative people can relate to and follow. Invite them to become a ‘member’ of your tribe – but then be an honest like-mined partner for them. There is no point pretending to be something a brand is not because you will be found out – today’s consumers are experienced and not bedazzled by brand glitz. It’s easier to alienate them then to gain loyalty.
Of course there are exceptions to this, but in general, if you try your best to ensure brand stakeholders are king, they will keep your brand with them on the throne.
“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.” Steve Jobs
So what does a product need to go to market? A brand analysis. Tick. A strategy for its brand positioning in the market, its proposed dialogue with stakeholders, its social media engagement. Tick. A brand identity that captures the essence of the brand in a visually engaging manner. Thick. A website to start the dialogue (and sell the product). Tick. Packaging, a system of distribution and after sales care. Tick. The list goes on and there are more ticks in place – but also some big gaps appear on the scene.
A PR strategy. A way to contact buyers of B2B and B2C outlets. Search Engine Optimisation. Presence in relevant forums. Independent reviews of the product. And all this with no budget. Meet my Monday morning task list. No point in trying to run before I can walk , so this morning I concentrate on asking questions relating to approaching buyers.
I have long been a blackstar at Ecademy and the community has always been very helpful and professional, so off to the forum I go and ask my question. The answers are useful as always. There is a series of videos by Mike Harris talking about how to structure a pitch. I have a skype conversation lined up for Tuesday to chat to another blackstar about this – she did mention she thinks it’s a brilliant product so that is very encouraging.
Another reply from the owner of a merchandise business suggests that it will be very hard to pitch the product (the Standeazy phone stand that is) because the market already has a lot of different phone stands. So without having been able to view the videos talking about how to structure and develop a pitch, here is my attempt to explain why Standeazy is perfect as a promotional gift:
Proposed Sales Pitch for Promotional Gift Buyer
What is it? Standeazy is a universal phone stand for smartphones or devices such as the iPod Touch with a special mechanism that makes it stable, yet portable and very easy to set up wherever you are. (Patent pending.) Standeazy is manufactured in the UK, made from Priplak® Polypropylene and is identically sized to a credit card which makes it easy to keep in your wallet. Why should you care as a promotional gift seller? There are thousands of promotional products for the technology sector, at different price points and with different branding opportunities. However, Standeazy provides a unique credit card sized flat surface ready to carry the message of small or big brands – and because it fits in the wallet and is used time and time again in public, in the office or at home, this message gets maximum visibility.
The tab holding the phone provides a prominent place for a key message or brand identity.
When folded flat, the Standeazy acts as a business or marketing card.
It connects a brand with the ever-increasing smartphone market, and with a sense of clever, customer-friendly, innovative thinking.
Standeazy is not just a gadget a client may brand as their own, it is a marketing tool that is as cheap as a well-made business card and as practical as an expensive standard phone stand for hands-free use of smartphone applications. So what is that smartphone stand stuff all about? Smartphones are becoming more and more part of the consumer and corporate lifestyle. Standeazy holds smartphones with or without protective cases in landscape or portrait mode.
This means, for instance, that hands-free video conferencing via Skype or FaceTime is possible wherever you are – without any expensive or time-consuming set up. In the office, apps such as Air Display greatly benefit from the phone stand, enabling users to shift toolbars or selected applications to one side without the need for a second monitor.
We’ve had mums and dads feedback that the stands are now an irreplaceable part of toddler entertainment keeping the little ones occupied with some kids’ videos whilst recharging the parental batteries – with the phone safely placed on the table, away from curious fingers.
We’ve seen our stands being used by patients in hospital watching videos as a diversion without having to hold their iPod – and by business people on the train watching movies on their iPhone to pass the journey time.
Being useful for both males and females, for professionals and families, young and old, Standeazy is an ideal promotional gift that is not seasonal and, unlike the majority of conventional gift items, displays a company’s brand/message ‘on the go’ rather than being left in the office or at home.
Solving a growing need of smartphone users for an ultra-portable phone stand, it gives your client a unique platform to address their stakeholders be it as a giveaway at an exhibition, a direct mail item or a ‘welcome’ gift.
I am bracing myself for much appreciated feedback. I am not sure if this is too short, too long, too inconcise, if I need to mention the costs, the reviews, order times, etc. Curious to see what comes back…