Marketing vs BrandingNot very long ago our firm was contacted by a company in the computer accessories business that wanted help with its branding strategy. The company, let’s call it Company “A,” is still closely managed by its two founders. It has developed a reputation for high quality and reliable premium-priced products and is the leader in its field. The need for a branding strategy arose when Company A bought one of its smaller competitors, Company “B,” known for its line of value-oriented products, for its creativity and new product development ability. Company A made the decision to keep both brands A and B, and was faced with the task of developing a marketing strategy that would allow the two brands to coexist and flourish. Marketing management wanted to find a way to differentiate the brands in their distributors’ and customers’ minds. They thought a branding strategy would do the trick.

It will not!

Company A’s management confuses branding with marketing and wants to use a “branding strategy” where a product line “repositioning” is called for. What it needs in the short term is to position each company relative to the market and its powerful distributors. This calls for a traditional positioning-concept development exercise based on identifying a market’s needs and aspirations, company strengths and weaknesses, and competitive offerings, so as to find a different position for each of the two companies to occupy. In a second step, Company A needs to develop a strategy to rationalize the two lines so that each product in each line has as clear and unique a reason for being as possible.

“And Branding?” you may ask. “Aren’t you going to also develop a branding strategy?”

Branding is important, too. But when two companies with different corporate cultures merge into one, there is upheaval and uncertainty which is detrimental to brand communication. We should add that, in this particular case, Company A didn’t buy Company B for its brand but for its production know-how, distribution, research facilities, etc. As far as we know, Company B didn’t even have a formalized branding strategy, relying, as is often the case, on the instincts and persona of its founder for branding direction. Because the “B” brand wasn’t a specific consideration in the purchase, Company B’s brand assets and values were not identified before the merger. In the absence of an identified brand profile, brand B will change as a result of its new long-term management idiosyncrasies. For that reason, we felt it better to wait until the long-term management would be identified and in place.

In confusing “Positioning,” one of the fundamental tools of marketing, with “Branding,” Company A is hardly alone. Many branding experts, be they from the academic or from the business world, routinely advocate using the tools of marketing to assist them with branding strategy. They’ll research their customers’ perceptions of the brand or investigate their needs and wants. In short, they’ll do “customer research.” Ask why one should research the customer instead of using a more introspective method to identify brand values, and you’ll get responses ranging from the robotic “because all marketing knowledge has its source in the customer” to the almost poetic “because our customer owns the brand.” It is no wonder that, as a result of all this confusion, one hears Product Managers (who are themselves often mislabeled as Brand Managers) speak of “brand repositioning” when they mean “product repositioning” as if the terms “brand” and “product” were interchangeable.

But the business strategist would be well advised to keep the two concepts well separated.

BrandingIn the world of a branding strategist, a brand is what results from marketing consistency: Marketing begins with the customer; Branding begins at home. The customer comes to expect that the brand will continue to display the same characteristics, and this expectation creates a covenant between the brand and the customer. The source of that consistency is often referred to loosely as the brand’s values, because it is presumed that, as is the case with a person, the only way a brand can be truly consistent is by being true to itself, its beliefs and creeds, at all times.

The process by which a brand identifies its set of values is, therefore, an introspective process. The brand will reflect the beliefs of its management, the idiosyncrasies of the company that markets it. When those beliefs and idiosyncrasies are expressed consistently, branding, that is the communication of the covenant to the customer, will occur progressively, over time. Since the entire process relies on consistency, the role of the all too fickle customer must be limited. Some marketers will object on the principle that the customer doesn’t get a voice in the branding process I have just described. Not so! As one of our clients observed, the customer is present in the branding process because the customer is present in the mind of company management so that management’s vision of the brand’s values should incorporate all they know and feel about their customer.

If the fact that marketing is extroverted while branding is introverted is not sufficient to convince you to look at the two as separate disciplines, please consider these other differences:

MarketingMarketing communicates quickly and single-mindedly while Branding is slow and multi-faceted. In fact, when marketing for startup ventures, quick communication is an essential aspect of marketing and the skilled marketer creates messaging to build brand awareness. Everything from concept testing to copy testing and developing content for social media and other platforms, is ideally achieved over a few months. All of which supports the idea that marketing is supposed to work fast.

Branding, on the contrary, is a slow process. That’s because communicating what a brand is about is akin to communicating a person’s character: it cannot be done proactively. You do not become convinced that someone is “trustworthy” because they say “Trust me!” The only way others can truly convince you of their trustworthiness is by displaying trustworthiness in situations you witness. This takes time. Communicating the character of a brand takes time for the same reason.

And, contrary to the focused marketing message with its USP (Unique Selling Proposition) mantra, branding is complex by design: a rich brand is a gestalt made of multiple messages, associations and character traits. After all, a person with a single character trait could hardly be described as “having character.” Likewise, the values and associations that form the character of a strong brand are never one-dimensional. The plurality of messages, which is a liability to the marketer, is an asset to the brand.

Branding and marketing are closely related business tools, so closely related that they are too often intermingled. I hope that these few lines help. For, to paraphrase the poet, “If you can keep your head in the midst of all this confusion, you’ll get a brand, my son.”

How to Design a Successful Print Advertisement or Magazine AdThe average reader spends half a second on a print ad before deciding to continue reading or moving on. Print ads are viewed as singular promotional items while television advertisements, by comparison, tell a story from start to finish.

Print advertising remains an important mix in an advertising campaign. However, planning to include print ads to successfully target markets means understanding the need to pick one point, product or offer and to build copy and design elements.

Great Advertising Design for Print Demands Single Idea Focus

Focus on one element in a print ad. This could include how customers might most benefit from a product or service or a competitive price point. Use this one area of focus to create advertising copy that speaks concisely. Avoid buzzwords or catchy phrases. Use short sentences that speak personally to readers.

basic design principles

A basic design principle is to keep the layout simple and uncluttered. Readers will immediately understand the focus of the advertisement’s idea with this clarity. When the draft design is complete, stand back and ask if the central idea is being communicated with ease. The best advertising graphic designers use white space to maximum effect.

Other print ad design tips include:

  • print ad design tipsInclude the name, url and other contact information in all print ads.
  • Using a solid block of color as a background tends to grab readers’ attention. This technique works best with ample white space.
  • Use a distinctive border or font to stand out on the printed page.
  • Buying a different shaped ad, such as a full vertical or horizontal edge on a page, guarantees the ad will not be buried against the fold of the newspaper or magazine.
  • Pay for preferred advertising placement in the publication. Good positioning doubles or triples response rates, so paying extra may be a good investment.
  • High quality photography or graphic elements are important. Pay for quality stock images or, if budget permits, hire a professional photographer to create original images.
  • Use a typeface that has a serif or a “tail.” This boosts reading space and comprehension many times over other fonts. Ensure the font size is at least 12 point. The font size should be 14 point if the target audience includes seniors.
  • Use a coupon in the ad, if possible. Coupons receive the highest response rates for all printed marketing materials.
  • Finally, enlist a team of eagle-eyed proofreaders to review the print ad. Proofread by reviewing the ad from the bottom to the start.

Punchy print ads take simple designs based around one idea or element of sales or service. Do not just assume that an advertising campaign can translate from online to television to print seamlessly. Instead, spend time to demand that print ads in newspapers and magazines stand alone as solid methods to attract attention.

Five Simple Ways to Measure Success in Email Marketing Campaigns

Despite the growth of new digital marketing channels like social media, email marketing can still be a highly effective way of reaching current and prospective customers, providing a way to deliver a message in an engaging and personalised way that can deliver good conversion rates.

Luckily, email marketing is also an activity that is highly measurable, and here are five ways to rate the success of any campaign.

1. Email Delivery Rates

It would be great if every email you sent was received by recipients, but the truth is rather different and hard bounces and soft bounces should be considered a normal outcome of any email marketing campaign.

Hard bounces typically occur because the recipient’s email address is invalid. A simple reason for this may be that it was incorrectly recorded or the recipient gave an incorrect address, possibly even on purpose. Another reason may be that a person has changed his email address, such as moving to a different ISP. With B2B email marketing campaigns, a common problem may be that the recipient has moved to a different company or even that the company’s domain name no longer exists, which can be especially so in the case of small businesses who cease trading.

By comparison, soft bounces occur when there is a failure with the recipient’s email system, for example if his inbox is full or his mail system is busy. Depending on how his mail system operates, it may either deliver the email later or not at all.

Any good email system will give you the names of recipients to which emails haven’t been delivered. Hard bounces should be removed completely, and if after several days those recipients with soft bounces still haven’t been delivered to, you may wish to resend to them. Aim for hard bounce rates below 10%.

2. Email Open Rates

Key factors that can mean the difference between recipients opening an email or not include the name of the sender and the subject line used. The Gmail Priority Inbox introduced last year is an interesting pointer of how increasingly important this may be in the future. It can automatically group incoming emails into “Important and unread,” “Starred” and “Everything else” based upon factors like how it observes the user opening other emails from the same sender or emails with similar keywords.

Aim for open rates of around 25% and remember that if the recipient chooses not to download images in an email, it won’t be recorded as opened as that is how email marketing software measures this.

Five Simple Ways to Measure Success in Email Marketing Campaigns - CTR3. Email CTR

So the recipient has received the email and he has opened it. What next? Clickthrough rate (or CTR for short) is a very important way to measure engagement. It’s possible to get high open rates without much in the way of engagement if the recipient trusts the sender or is interested in the subject line, but CTR measures whether the recipient clicked a link on the email to go through to your Web site.

In addition to straight-forward CTR, good email marketing software will also tell you which link was clicked on, which can be very useful with communications like eNewsletters that feature several articles. It can also be useful, for example, if the same link appears at the top and bottom of the email and is worded differently, as this may then lead to the design of your future emails being modified to increase CTR next time.

A UK study from UK-based permission marketing company Sign-up in August last year showed that with an average open rate in the UK of 18.98%, the CTR was 3.56, which is considered a great result. But averages depend on industry and whether the campaign is B2C or B2B.

4. Conversion Rates

Five Simple Ways to Measure Success in Email Marketing Campaigns - Email Conversion RateThe aim of most email marketing campaigns is to generate sales, also known as conversions. If the email features a telephone number, for example to a call centre, that is one way of measuring this, but another is to measure how many recipients took an action from the landing page on your website that they arrived on after clicking a link from the email.

To be sure everyone visiting the landing page came from the email, it may be necessary to create a dedicated page, but measuring conversion rates may include recipients submitting a request form or downloading a brochure.

5. Email Unsubscribe Rates

Unfortunately, there are times when a recipient decides he no longer wishes to receive emails from you, and that may be due to one marketing campaign or the result of several. If a large percentage of recipients have unsubscribed, it may mean that the email was poorly targeted.

You should aim for an unsubscribe rate of less than 1% for distribution lists you regularly send emails out to, but this will be much higher for lists that are purchased and where recipients haven’t opted in to specifically receive emails from your company.

To comply with international data protection laws, never send emails to recipients after they’ve unsubscribed.

Securing a Search Engine Optimization StrategyThere is no question that the world of targeted online marketing gives entrepreneurs and internet marketing specialists access to revenue streams that are otherwise unheard of and untouchable. From $100 per hour entry-level jobs to ultra-profitable marketing campaigns with no start-up costs, the targeted internet marketing industry rewards with opportunity and often negates any real risk.

Any type of search engine optimization strategy is often said to be risk-free. Its targeted internet marketing counterparts – pay-per-click search engine advertising and direct web traffic generation – carry associated costs, and while short-term and rapid, are also quite a turbulent marketing platform. However, implementing a search engine optimization strategy is often just as much of a risky venture as any search marketing campaign.

Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, and businesses are constantly adapting to the changes. In 2002, a few tagged images and some well-written website content were enough for a search engine optimization strategy to achieve the number one spot in a relatively uncompetitive niche. Today, they are barely enough to appear in the rankings at all. SEO, despite its “secure” reputation, requires constant attention and ongoing development.

These four strategies will help search engine marketers and internet marketing specialists do one thing: make sure that their search engine optimization strategy properties are safe and secure. Check out these SEO tips for maintaining search marketing success.

Knowing who your competitors are

Securing a Search Engine Optimization Strategy - SEO auditCompetition is always out there, especially in a domain that is as competitive and relatively low-cost as the implementation of a search engine optimization strategy. Whenever search engine marketers and internet marketing specialists spot a potential competitor intruding on a position, they should make an audit of the other website’s value (and potential value).

Once they have gauged whether the other website is worthy competition or not, they should craft a search engine optimization strategy that puts their website on top, no matter what the other may be planning.

Using Only White-Hat, Professional Search Engine Marketing Tactics

Implementing an unethical search engine optimization strategy can get websites ranked higher, faster, and more effectively than ethical and rules-driven counterparts. However, such tactics also put online properties in jeopardy of being taken down, unranked, or even removed from Google’s search index altogether.

Search engines actively patrol their listings for any user-unfriendly websites, and rarely hesitate to manually review or remove them. That is why it is important for search engine marketers and internet marketing specialists to stick with accepted and clean practices.

Diversifying Inbound Link Profiles for SEO

Some webmasters are fond of the one-shot approach – generating hundreds, thousands, or sometimes even tens of thousands of links from a single domain or website network. While great for rapid linking, this strategy rarely holds water as a long-term approach.

First, there is the risk of search engines detecting what has happened. Secondly, there is the risk of a website in the network going down, breaking the chain, and removing potential links. By keeping links divers, internet marketing specialists and search engine marketers will be able to insulate their websites from such annoying possibilities.

Securing a Search Engine Optimization Strategy - consult search engine marketing specialistsGetting the Opinion of Professional Search Engine Marketing Specialists

Valuable websites are not outside the radar of Google. In fact, many of the top-ranked websites are invited by Google to discuss their search engine optimization strategy and work out how they can help improve work between one-another.

The opinion of internet marketing specialists. professional search engine marketing specialists or search engine representatives, can be worth a lot. Remember, search engine marketers are not fighting the search engines – they are working with them to create results that are mutually beneficial.

There are always competitors out there, and they are always ready to pave over successful internet marketing specialists when their efforts turn into inaction. By putting these strategies to work, search engine marketers can secure assets that are crucial to their search engine optimization strategy and enjoy long-term earnings that are safe, secure, and relatively risk-free.

 

Flyers for Small Business Advertising

Advertising is a challenge especially if you are on a budget. Small businesses have to be creative and come up with affordable alternatives. Many small businesses find flyers a great way to advertise.

Flyers are inexpensive to use. Your flyer should have a sales message or a benefit for using your small business. It is inadvisable to make a flyer with just your business name, address, and a statement about what you do. Write a strong selling message on your flyer.

Advertise with Flyers

Flyers are a great way to advertise because they are effective in getting your selling points across. They are an easy method of sales literature and can be handed out at trade shows or posted in neighborhood bulletin boards.

Flyers Are Inexpensive to Produce

desktop publishing for small businesses

Flyers are easy to produce. The cost is low. They can be created on your computer and photocopied. You can use a color printer, if you don’t have a color printer you can buy color paper, and print them with black ink.

Ways to Create a Flyer

“One large advantage to creating flyers is you have all the space you want. You should design it well and describe your offer thoroughly,” according to Lisa Steinbacher’s book, The Professional Organizer’s Complete Business Guide, (Etemity Publishing, 2006). A flyer has a benefit for using your product or business. A description of your small business or your product should be written with your target audience in mind. It is printed on one or two sides of 8½ by 11 inch paper. It has a visual something simple that enhances the service, or the product.

Flyers Are Sales Literature

They have a selling message and can have strong selling points. You can use them with your sales letters, self mailers, or direct mail they can be used to sell products, or to sell technical products. If you have a sales letter for a technical product you might want to list all of the features on the flyer to accompany the direct mail. The flyer can be used to list all of the benefits of using your product or your service. It tells what you offer and explains how the customer can contact you. The benefits of your product can be put in the flyer taking each benefit and demonstrating why the product will help the customer.

Flyers are an effective way to advertise without leaving a gaping hole in your wallet. There are good reasons why small businesses use them, because they work.

Branding a business of product
Many of our clients ask us about branding their service company or new product line. These are questions that frequently come up that we are going to share.

How do I choose a designer for my logo?

Our design company makes checklists when we ask a client what they need out of their new project. We suggest clients do the same. Sit down and make a list of what you need from the logo. How it needs to function:

  • On letterhead or business card
  • Invoice
  • Vehicle decal
  • Packaging
  • Envelopes and/ or on the web

How it needs to be printed

Come up with a budget first and this will determine how many colors and what special processes you can afford. Do you need a vector or raster image? A knowledgeable designer can make a determination based on your list what will be best for your job. A vector image is easily sizeable and is based on a mathematical equation. A raster based image is pixel based and is limited to the original image size determined by the creator of the work at the beginning and is difficult to alter in the future. Often vector images are reserved for type and raster images are used for photographs. Our past nine clients have requested images in multiple formats for both print. We find this easy to do in Adobe Illustrator for the purposes of scaling and formatting for print and web without loosing image quality.

What kind of files should I ask for?

As previously stated, a good graphic designer will look at your specifications and tell you what you need. If you are going to be printing from a home computer or on a professional printing press, a pdf at 300 pixels per inch is the easiest and most universally recognized format. If you are going to put it on your website, a gif or jpeg image at 72 pixels per inch will be best.

Should I pay a flat rate or by the hour?

If you want all rights to the image and all file formats created during the development of your logo, paying by the hour is best. Anything created on your time is yours and you can use it in anyway you see fit. This is best if you have a large corporation or a growing business. You will need to ensure your brand identity is protected from duplication.

If you have a small business or a not for profit, paying a flat fee will work best for you. If your business is limited to a specific market or a not for profit, your brand identity will not be easily compromised. Be aware that the creator of a flat fee graphic can re sell that image over and over again unless the contract specified otherwise. Most designers will give special consideration for not for profit organizations and give reduced rates for maintaining related materials like print ads and annual reports.

Do I have to buy a typeface?

Sometimes, if you contact the person printing your job and ask them, they will tell you if you need to. This is really a part of past printing needs. Often it is more common for designers to save type as outlines in Adobe Illustrator and treat the type as an object. This method requires no need to purchase a typeface, although the type will no longer be editable. If you are a large business, it is best to look ahead and reason that you should buy the type face for future use. For a smaller business I do not think this is necessary.

What are infographics?

Infographics are usually reserved for annual reports, text books and charting web traffic. These materials are not always part of a branding strategy but can be useful internally (within the company). They express statistics and growth or any information that is best understood visually.

What makes a logo successful?

A logo needs to meet the clients needs. If it fails to do so, it is of poor design and the listening skills on the graphic artists’ part may be sub-par. A logo must represent an idea with simplicity, boldness, geometric recognition and style. A successful logo can hold its own alone on a page or a business card and be easily incorporated into an array of applications. Designers must take special consideration for logo recognition when scaling the image up or down for product labelling, packaging, envelopes and point of purchase displays (POP). Most importantly, a successful logo is loved by the client.

How do I choose the right logo?

Branding a business or product - graphics designer

From the client’s perspective, we know they want to choose the “right one”. Always choose what you like. Don’t let the designer tell you that you should like something that will not work for your needs. A good designer will give you many options in the beginning of the logo’s development and then determine by your preference what style is pleasing to you.

We often ask clients if they like a specific type face and give them a sheet of different logo options. It is like process of elimination. Often we will combine elements of two or three logos on the first sample sheet to come up with a workable image the client will like. Do not think the images a designer presents are set in stone. A good designer is flexible and easy to talk to.

How do I brand online? Is it important?

The short answer is yes! It’s very important. Recently we created a branding strategy for a client launching a new product line that was the customization of social networking pages. She told us that when she gets a product she likes, the first thing she does is look for their website. For a long time we thought that word of mouth was the most important. If you like something, you will tell your friends and do whatever you need to do to find that product, perhaps even buy in bulk. The combination of these two aspects of marketing a brand are more effective than just one alone.

We hope we have educated those of you intimidated by branding for a new or existing business. Remember that a designer is there to make you happy and help you make good decisions based on your needs.