The Power of Simplified Branding

From the desk of Michael Doyle: 

If you hadn’t noticed campaign season is kicking in, which means it’s time for political advertising and marketing to get started. It is fascinating to pay attention and observe how candidates “brand and package” themselves. In many cases, the branding and packaging efforts are lack luster. Politicians produce contradictory and convoluted messages that are lost in translation when they attempt to convey them to the average voter. However, one candidate has taken a different approach. Herman Cain had been branding himself brilliantly, until his recent sexual harassment accusation, and has jumped from an obscure fringe candidate to a GOP front runner because of his efforts. In this blog, we will not focus on his recent sex scandal and instead focus on the power of his simplified message and brand prior to the accusation.

With a crowded field of GOP presidential candidates, the only way to get noticed is to come up with something different, unique and easy for voters to put their arms around. Step up a former businessman who understands the power of branding and packaging. Yes, he probably learned a trick or two from his pizza days, but the old “KISS” adage sure applies here, “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Cain and his team came up with this simple and easy-to-understand 9-9-9 Tax Plan to jump start our economy.

The 9-9-9 plan, since its debut, has generated significant buzz. Every other GOP candidate and President Obama are all talking about his simple tax plan. So much talk and notoriety in fact that Cain has vaulted himself from the fringe to the front of the class.

A common criticism of this plan is that running the country isn’t like running a pizza company. But the thing that Cain understands that all the other candidates don’t is that it takes effective branding and packaging to succeed in today’s challenging business and political environment. Those that are able to clearly and concisely communicate why they or their plan is different, unique and better, will appeal to those looking for an answer. Despite your political views, Herman Cain is setting precedent for all politicians to place high emphasis on how they brand and package their message so that people can clearly grasp it and make decisions based on it.

– Michael Doyle

How to Cheat Your Numbers

How to Cheat Your Sales Numbers and Increase Your Odds of Success

As a branding agency, we think of branding and marketing as a way to support sales and drive revenue. By thoroughly understanding your company’s revenue goals, you can learn how to work backwards to “cheat your sales numbers” and make sure your efforts are going to produce the desired results. The more you know how to cheat your numbers, the more you increase your odds of getting new business. Here are eight ideas you should apply to your business to increase your odds of success:

1)     Know your numbers

Know just how much marketing and sales activity you need to have in your pipeline in order for you to obtain your forecasted revenue goals and objectives. Understand and know your close ratio and how that affects your numbers.

2)     Have a large pool of prospects in the database

Most companies don’t understand that marketing and sales is a numbers game, it takes a large pool of quality suspects and prospects in the database to make the numbers work in your favor. So to cheat your numbers and reach your sales/revenue goals, you must have a big pool of prospects that you consistently stay in touch with.

3)     Use a CRM tool/database

It is consistently baffling that there are a number of companies that don’t have enough suspects and prospects to call upon to get the results they are aiming for.  Even more surprising is the number of companies that do not utilize a true Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. A CRM system can help manage the client information and provide help and real-time information on how you’re tracking against those numbers. Many companies are still relying on an outdated excel sheet to “manage” their clients, when using a CRM tool is far more effective.

4)     Regularly reach out and touch prospects

They say most sales people give up after 3-4 touches, which sounds about right; yet they say it takes 7-12 touches in order for a prospect to get to know your company and make a purchasing decision. Make sure you are a company that makes enough touches to get them in your store.

5)     Use strategic partners to help build relationships

One of the most effective things companies can do is to tap into strategic partners for referrals and co-market each other’s products or services to both customer bases. Utilizing a key contact for leverage and an introduction is priceless and often can be one of the most effective things companies can do to shorten the sales cycle. Get a quality referral, and stretch your marketing efforts.

6)     Identify your unique position and own your space

It is critical to not only be different, but also have strong value points spelled out clearly and concisely. These value points need to verbalize why you are better and what differentiates your company, making you the clear choice and the only real option available.

7)     Utilize a strong call to action

In order to help get the response you need for your marketing, advertising and sales efforts, make sure you have a strong call to action. To do this, utilize an impending date or deadline that a special offer expires, a value add that they can only get for a limited amount of time, or an added incentive or bonus to sweeten the deal if you act now.

8)     Reevaluate and refine your efforts

To ensure you’re going to reach your goals, you need to consistently evaluate whether your efforts are producing the desired results. If they aren’t, you will need to make adjustments, tweak your offer, or find other strategic partners that understand the benefits of a reciprocal partner relationship.

Cheating your sales numbers is like adjusting the carburetor on your car, a little fine tuning is sometimes required to have a smooth running engine. Once you get the engine running just the way you want it, you can blow the doors off your competitors.

Michael Doyle

CEO of Brand Iron

Branding Is About Winning

If you think branding is about flashy logos, being trendy and unquantifiable results, you are dead wrong. Branding is about winning, producing tangible results and reaching both your personal and corporate goals. Here are a few qualifiers on which you can measure your brands success and see those results.

#1 Branding is about owning your space in the marketplace and being the #1 brand whether you are a consumer product or a service company. Winning in your space means you will be the most frequently sought out brand in your industry.

#2 Branding is about quantifiable results which allow you to see an actual increase in the number of leads generated, greater number of overall sales, increasing revenue and ultimately more profit towards the bottom line. These results are not just for the company, they’re for your entire executive team who will also help you to reach your personal goals.

#3 Branding is about winning the hearts and minds of your employees. I call this Internal Branding. It is so important to have everyone within your company understand your brand, your position, your value proposition and how to make it a great brand experience for your customers. Communicating the brand message to the marketing team, the sales department and the operations team will help your company deliver on the brand promise and produce results.

#4 Branding is about gaining market share, expanding into new markets and regions, and increasing your brand recognition both locally and globally. This includes introducing new product lines, expanding service areas and allowing you and your company to grow as experts in your field.

#5 Branding is about being the go-to resource and the expert in your space. As an expert you will be the one the media calls on for information regarding your industry. Your company will be the one they follow and write about. Winning also means staying ahead of your competition and having other companies strive to emulate your brand and be like your company.

Beyond the look and feel, branding is about winning and producing results, it’s about branding and positioning the company and yourself to reach your bigger picture goals and objectives. A strong brand has the ability to help your company get to the next level, raise capital for growth, go public, and maybe even get acquired so you sail off into the sunset….

-Michael Doyle, Brand Champion

Re-Birth of a Classic Surf Brand Icon

As it officially becomes summer and the swimsuit suit season arrives, let’s look at a rebirth of a classic surf brand icon.

To begin, I must explain a little about my background. I grew up about a mile from the beach in Carlsbad, California. As far back as I can remember, we would ride our bikes down to the beach and spend the days of summer soaking up rays (pre-sunscreen days), catching waves, playing beach volleyball, tossing the Frisbee around and yes, girl-watching. I was a surf rat. I worked at a surf shop in Oceanside, California which was then called Hobie Oceanside, and has since been renamed Surfride. I grew up on brands such as O’Neil, Gotcha, Quicksilver, O.P. and Reef. My first job out of college was as a rep for several of these companies.

As a rep I learned early on that many of these brands were using sex to sell their products. Beautiful women in bikinis became a central feature of surf posters displayed in stores and on surfer boys’ walls. It had become a way for companies to make a name for their brand and to sell their product, and one of these famous surf companies did just that to stand out from the rest. Reef designed a marketing campaign that would change the face of “bikini girl marketing,” putting their models in tiny thong bikinis which they coined the “Reef Girl.” And what do you know; the idea of women in thongs was so outrageous that literally overnight this little flip-flop company became a world-wide brand. It catapulted them and their brand above the rest. From posters to calendars to bikini contests, Reef girls became the signature of the Reef brand.

After years of success in the surf company industry and wide spread popularity of the Reef brand they felt that Reef could survive without the marketing ploy of the
Reef Girl contest, and were confident that the Reef brand could stand on its own. Did they know they were cutting off their nose despite their face? The Reef Girls were such an important piece of the Reef brand, it had become their signature, and in a way it had become their brand. With the disappearance of the Reef Girls came the drop in sales for the company and Reefs marketing presence dissipated as other surf companies jumped at the opportunity to show off their own brands. Well, it wasn’t long before customers, dealers, and young boys came clamoring for their thong bikini babes to return on calendars, posters, and pictures on the website. And yes, for the Reef Girls and their bikini contests to return as well.

Following a two year hiatus, the Reef Girls returned. So is it coincidence? Could the brand and its products stand on their own without the wildly popular thong bikini stunt? Is it that the timing of repositioning their brand beyond a marketing stunt and the recession created a “perfect storm”? Is it because they listened to customers, dealers, and young boys around the world and relented to pressure? Or is it that this little marketing stunt which helped to propel their brand into a world wide recognizable one may have actually been a good idea in the first place?

Whatever the reason, they’re back and you can vote for your all-time favorite Miss Reef as well as enter to become a judge at the next Miss Reef bikini contest in Panama at http://www.surfline.com/surf-news/bikini-contest–win-reef-bikini-girl-trip_27263/. As for me, I am positive the return of the bikini thong girls will be driving tons and tons of traffic to their web site and creating quite a stir as well as helping to sell tons of flip flops. I’m also crossing my fingers that I win that contest!

by Michael Doyle, Brand Iron President

“Staying Power” from the Great Depression to Today

Every day we are reminded that we are in a recession…the countless news reports, articles and blogs remind us constantly about how to cut costs to assure survival during these tough economic times. As a struggling citizen of our latest societal problem, I couldn’t help but think “how did we get here?” In my lifetime as a working professional, I could never recall any economic times as tough as they are today. In fear that my generation may have to experience similar hardships as the Great Depression, I started to research more about how people (more specifically businesses) were able to prosper during that time. And what I started to discover was amidst all the negativity, we are forgetting what made some companies even more successful as a result of the Great Depression.

 

No doubt during “normal” economic conditions, companies wouldn’t dream about cutting their marketing budgets, so why should we stop now? In fact, since most companies are cutting their commercialization, wouldn’t now be the time to get your brand noticed while most of your competitors have gone silent? Additionally, wouldn’t you want your brand to be perceived as stronger than your competitors? Ironically the companies that advertised during the Great Depression became even more successful, once spending finally did increase. Their “staying power” actually gave the public a reason to be loyal to that brand and they came out on top while their competitors tried to gain lost ground. The common denominator among companies who persevered during the Great Depression: they did not decrease their ad spending. Therefore, those businesses who actually tried to save money and stop advertising, actually wasted the brand building dollars they had previously spent.

 

You could say I’m biased because I’m in marketing or perhaps that I’m overly optimistic, but with companies such as GE, Disney, HP and Microsoft all emerging out of recessions, perhaps we should all be reminded of the advertising and marketing history lessons of the past. What businesses fail to realize is, that even in recessions, people still spend money, they just look for better deals (and appreciate it more) when they do. Therefore saving money by cutting budgets in a down economy doesn’t automatically lead to successfully surviving a recession…especially if you’re not looking to stay top-of-mind of the consumer! 

Written by Rebecca Watry

Rebranding

I woke up the other day and was watching the news and I heard the newscasters talking about something called H1N1 and how it is spreading across the United States. My first thought was, “there another pandemic like virus in our country?” This new term caught my attention and I started to listen to what they were speaking about more closely. I quickly put two and two together and realized they were talking about “Swine Flu”.

So, why the new name? Right…

It turns out pig farmers of America have some media pull. Because of the uneducated general public’s fear for “Swine Flu” and the misconception you can get it from eating a pork product, people all but stopped buying pork products. The Swine Flu has been re-branded by name only to H1N1. I did look it up and it is a medical term for subtype form of influenza A better known as the “flu”. I still think H1N1 sounds just as scary.  Now I am not saying that H1N1 is something to not be worried about; it could still turn into a major pandemic.  I wanted to bring up that pig farmers in this country are seeing the effects of a branded name for a virus, which ultimately had an effect on sales.

This reminds me of a dietary supplement that was wildly successful in the 1970’s to mid 1980’s. The product was called “Ayds”. It was a supplement that was supposed to reduce your sense of taste to curb poor eating habits. Ironically around the same timeframe, just around the mid 1980’s the HIV virus and AIDs was largely becoming a social issue. The avid AIDs awareness in the media and public was the start of the down fall of the “Ayds” supplement. The company did not re-brand itself by name and clearly stating that this product is in no way related to the life threatening disease. So the Ayds product quickly stopped selling and eventually the product stopped being produced.

Luckily the pig farmers in this case spoke up to have the media change the name of Swine Flu. Now they should actively campaign through commercials and other media outlets to educate the public that pork could in fact help prevent H1N1 by keeping you level of protein up in your body keeping you healthy which in turns helps your immune system. Just a thought.

Written by Mike Slife

Branding – It’s Not About the Tactics, Part 1

I admit it, it’s taken me a long time to REALLY understand how to brand and position a company and produce tangible marketing results. The best companies don’t just blast a message out without careful thought and consideration. First and foremost, they take a step back and look at things strategically.

One of my favorite sayings is the old, “ready, fire, aim” analogy, which I see all the time when it comes to branding and positioning. The best companies take the time to, “ready, aim and then fire” when approaching their branding, their position and their go-to-market strategy. They really understand the value they bring to the marketplace and how to effectively communicate it.

I can’t tell you how times I’ve heard, “we’re going to throw some stuff against the wall and see what sticks”. Bad idea. You will damage your brand by going straight to the market tactically without first figuring out strategically what you want your brand to be.

Why figuring things out strategically is so important:

  1. Throwing things at the wall and coming off half-cocked makes you look like you are still trying to figure out what you want to be when your company grows up.
  2. I would estimate 90 – 95% of companies say what they do but not why they do it or why their product is better then their competitors’ products.
  3. Do you really want to be just like everyone else? Or do you want to be original, unique and stand out from the crowd?
  4. Do you want to be a leader or a follower?
  5. Can you clearly and concisely communicate your value proposition in a compelling 30-second elevator pitch?
  6. Does your brand help position your company for where it wants to go in the future (i.e., acquiring funding, going public, selling the business, etc.)?
  7. Have you figured out how your brand is going to become a reality with a company-wide, holistic launch? What’s your plan to launch your brand internally and externally?
  8. Will your brand have legs and resonate for a period of time or is it just a one hit wonder?

If you are committed to getting your company to the next level, following these strategic guidelines will help you develop your company’s brand and position – and will greatly increase the chances of a successful implementation. Add that to a holistic, managed brand implementation while pro-actively getting your message out to your target audience – you have a winning recipe for success.

Written by Michael Doyle, President of Brand Iron

The Economy is a State of Mind: Positive or Negative, Take Advantage

When in a service industry of any kind, the state of the economy can take a large toll on a company’s profitability. Lately, the economic downturn has forced many companies to cut budgets, freeze spending, initiate layoffs, or worse – close their doors. When speaking to many of our clients, partners and friends, it seems that many people are either suffering or prospering – there truly is a balance of good and bad right now.

However, it is difficult to ignore all of the negative media coverage regarding the current economic state. The media’s redundant message of “doom and gloom” eventually convinces us all that we must surrender and give in to the recession that is upon us.

Brand Iron disagrees.

As a company, we’re opting to not participate in the recession this year. Yes, you heard it here first. Brand Iron is not giving in to the “doom and gloom.” We challenge you to do the same.

Many companies are focusing on the positives and the new opportunities that this changing business landscape has opened up. For example, in an industry (luxury travel) where economic woes can take a gigantic toll on profitability Carnival Cruise Lines is saying “we will not go quietly into the night” and await the inevitable. Carnival continues to make strides towards out-of-the-box, interactive advertising.

I’m sure we have all seen the commercial with the large beach ball floating around downtown Dallas. That commercial was an extremely effective way for Carnival to catch the attention of the business-class professional on their lunch break. Throw a gigantic beach ball onto a bustling street full of unhappy professionals and see what happens – attention, positive feedback and enjoyment, that’s what.

Today, I came across an article about Carnival’s latest attempt at interactive advertising. They’ve managed to take advantage of the empty street-level office spaces in the Houston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York and D.C. areas by installing “virtual aquariums” for all to interact with.

Picture this, you’re walking down a cold city sidewalk on your lunch break when you look to your right – no longer is there an empty office space with a broker’s contact information in the window. No, you now see a 12-foot digital aquarium. Not only is this virtual aquarium engaging, it’s interactive. In five easy steps, you can use your cell phone to design a personalized fish to appear instantly in that very same window. This is an example of a company seeing an opportunity that may not have presented itself before the downturn in the economy. This is brand evolution and adaptation at its best. If there are three pearls of wisdom that we should all recognize after this economic downturn, they would be: never stay static, always engage new ways of marketing, and consistently separate yourselves from the competition.

Written by Nicole Salerno, Junior Brand Wrangler

“New Start”

I think we can all agree that after going through this past year, it is certainly time for a “New Start” for the New Year. We could all use a fresh start for the economy, housing, banking, government and business. As it applies to your business, if you aren’t prepared and proactive to the challenges that are certain to arise, you will be left behind.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard recently from our partners, clients, prospects, leads, etc. that people are “just waiting to see what happens”. Unfortunately, most who take this “wait and see approach” end up losing time and results.

With things being tight and people and businesses being guarded with resources, it’s a more competitive landscape than ever before. People and companies are struggling and the weak are getting ravaged. Are you positioning yourself and your company to be as competitive as possible? Now is the time to take advantage of the current economic situation and propel yourself to be the leader in your field.

Since it is the beginning of the New Year, it is time to make a “New Start”.

Revenue
Let’s start the thing that most people and companies are in need of: Revenue. Have you evaluated your lead generation activities? Are you doing enough to fill your pipeline? Are you utilizing online marketing, networking, partnering, calling and mailings to get people to say “yes” to meetings or walking through the doors of your business?

Sales
Do you know what it is going to take to get prospects to convert to clients? Do you know what it is going to take to move them off the dime? Are you asking for the business?

Brand Positioning
Do you have the right message? …a strong call to action? … positioning that separates you from the competition? Do you understand not just why you are as good as the competition, but why you are better than the competition? Why should someone purchase you, your product or service over the competition?

Are you being pro-active and creating enough opportunities for you to reach your goals and objectives? Are you doing enough marketing and sales activities to make the numbers work in your favor?

If you can’t answer “yes” to all of these questions, it is probably time to get off the dime and make the New Year a “New Start” to reaching your goals and objectives. Brand Iron can help you develop proactive goals for 2009 and a roadmap of what it is going to take to get you there.

It’s time to get started and map out a plan to succeed in this New Year.

Written by Michael Doyle, Brand Iron President

The “No Brand” – by McDonalds, an internet buzz sensation

McDonalds recently launched a new Quarter Pounder brand in Toyko. Thus far, it’s creating quite the stir in the branding world due to the fact the McDonald’s “Golden arches” are nowhere to be found.

According to Business Week (September 19, 2008), McDonalds ranks #8 on the Best 100 Global Brands lists. (Note: the only other restaurant brand that cracked the Top 100 was KFC at #64.)

With $37 billion in brand revenue – the big question is “Why would they deviate from their dominate brand?”
My only guess to why they would not use the brand they have spent decades and billions creating, is that they want to generate internet buzz around their new product offering. (Hey, it’s working right?)  I imagine this campaign will not rollout worldwide – but the new “no frills bundling” of this McDonald’s classic will be coming to a normally-branded McDonalds near you.

After the buzz has reached nearly every web-savy, fast-food consumer / pop culture junkie, I think they will ditch the black and red “no brand” and you will soon be able to walk into a McDonalds and order the no frills “Quarter Pounder” meal. No choices. No questions. No sizes to choose from. Actually, there is just one choice: single or double:

I think there are some things every business can learn from this.
• Creating buzz takes time, money and a great idea
• You can touch a lot of people thru the web
• Interesting and unique news travels fast
• Doing something controversial creates buzz

McDonalds has created a pseudo-brand and an entire network of stores in Toyko to drive web excitement around their new product. Most of us develop product sheets and an email blast to inform our customers and to drive excitement. Clearly, when you want BIG results, you need BIG ideas.

If you want to get to the next level, you need a unique idea that will set you apart from the competition and the gall to do it. Nice job McDonalds.

At Brand Iron, we’ll help you get outside the box when you want to create excitement around your brand. We’ll develop plans, creative ideas and tactics that will get noticed and will get your audience talking.

- Josh Barker, Brand Wrangler

Brands that stand out

A quick note: From time to time I will be writing about some brands I consider to be bold and who stand out for various reasons.

1] Southwest Airlines – Talk about being bold, unique and different. They have a strong business plan; they connect with their customers; have happy employees; are picking up market share, kicking their competitors’ butt and producing good results in a very tough market.

2] Mac – Here is another great example of a company that has clearly defined its own brand, [young, hip, easy to use, putting a young and friendly face with a computer] while going after and negatively defining its competitor, PC, [older, overweight, geeky, out of touch, unreliable, full of bugs and so on]. Talk about pro-actively defining and managing your brand.

3] Fox News – News has always been news. It was never right or wrong, left or right. As Sargent Friday, from the television series, Dragnet, used to say “just that facts ma’am”. Love them or hate them, Fox News came in seized the opportunity to redefine news as we know it. They must have felt that news had become one-sided and it was time for a new source of news that is “fair and balanced”. Fox has become the clear leader in cable news. Even in our office both parties are represented. We don’t ask which political representation they are affiliated with. We don’t have to, they just ask which news do you watch?

So today’s lesson: make your brand bold, effective and the results will follow.

Michael