Your Brand and Leveraging 10 Million
Years of Human Evolution
Second in a 4 part series on "Getting Creative with Your Marketing to Drive Sales"
No Matter How Good Our Products and Services Are
Today We Live and Die By Our Marketing and Sales
A good "brand" design can make every dollar you spend on marketing much more effective. This is all about human psychology and understanding how the human brain works. Our DNA has programmed us to react in certain ways instinctively and emotionally. These are powerful motivators, as we know most people buy on emotion.
Every company needs a brand but few companies can afford to spend money only to build that brand. In fact venture capitalists do not want to spend money on brand building because they know how expensive it can be. Defining your brand is not that difficult a process and must be done to have a cumulative impact from your marketing efforts.
First it is important to understand that the days of "image" advertising where building brand "awareness" was the goal are long over. Spending money just to "build a brand" is effectively a suicide strategy for most companies today. You must build your brand on the back of effective and profitable direct marketing that also drives real sales. Today brand advertising can only be done by large companies, generally with very broad customer bases. These are most often maintenance campaigns for commodity products (i.e. Coke). As an early-stage company you need real sales and ROI from each and every marketing campaign you invest in. You also need to learn from measuring the results and interpolate and extrapolate from these to constantly improve your marketing.
Twenty-five years ago you could build a national brand for $10 million by doing "block advertising" on TV across CBS, NBC and ABC at the same time. This would reach most households watching TV in a 15 minute period. Run this over a 13 week TV flight and most people would recognize your product name. Today due to media fragmentation this same level of reach (touching such a broad audience) would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Although this example is for consumer advertising this same phenomenon applies to the B2B market as well. We are drowning in advertising messages which are more expensive than ever. Rarely are our products so unique that potential customers do not have alternatives - even if the alternative is doing nothing.
A good brand takes advantage of the human "primitive", or "reptilian brain". This part of the brain reacts but does not think logically. Everyone knows most buying decisions are emotional, not logical. This is the biology behind this truth. Colors and visual images are a big part of this because we absorb pictures instantly and remember faces, people, colors and emotions naturally. Humans evolved to remember images and people to survive in a dangerous world - not text. A brand 'personality' is just that, elements of a person's personality applied to your brand. The personality and the look and feel of your marketing should be very similar in all your marketing, even across different media. Some people call this your company's identity but brand is more all encompassing.
A brand should have a Visual Selling Proposition (VSP). This is a visual cue that bypasses the logical brain to go directly to lower levels. Think about the close up of a Coke bottle popping with bubbles and the cold spray on hot summer day at the beach. Does this start your mouth watering? This creates a visceral reaction. It is possible, but hard for a logo alone to do this. So a logo is not usually a VSP but it is a visual memory cue.
A brand should also ideally have an Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP). Think about the old AT & T commercials about calling mom or your children on a holiday. Or Kodak's picture moments. ESPs pull the heart strings in some way.
One of my favorite and most memorable TV ads combines both these techniques of VSP and ESP. Remember the Michelin ad with the baby sitting on the tire and the tag line "Because So Much Is Riding On Your Tires". I'll bet you can picture that TV ad or image? Then this emotion can be rekindled (like at the tire store) with a simple picture. Genius! Are their tires better? Who knows but my kids are worth the premium right!
So how do you leverage these human emotions and the brain's wiring in your marketing campaigns? Here are the simple steps to creating your brand to leverage how we are all wired:
1.Define Core Brand Values (positioning in the market and target audience)
2.Select Your Core Message To Customers (tag line with a unique selling proposition)
3.Create Your Brand's personality (human characteristics affiliated with your company)
4.Create Your Brand Icons (visual queues to remember)
These will not change and now you can build marketing campaigns around these basics that are consistent and build long-term brand value.
These four things can often be agreed upon in a couple of senior staff meetings with the right people. You need someone to facilitate this process that is not totally immersed your company and its history. Someone that can think like an uneducated prospect. Otherwise you will often not see the forest for the trees. Doing your own branding alone can be like a dentist trying to drill his own teeth. It might be cheap but the results are not worth it. Besides this need not be a $50,000 project, though many marketing consulting firms will be happy to charge you this. It can be done well and quickly. C-Level can help you with this for a flat rate fee.
Done right you will find that with repeated hits of the right "brand package" your prospects will start remembering your company name and/or brand far better. Your conversion rates will rise over time instead of being steady. You can build your brand as long as the marketing impressions to your targets are linked and have commonality in the target's mind. Just remember this needs to be done on an emotional and/or visual level to take advantage of how the human brain works.
If you do direct sales a good brand program will also "soften the beach" for these salespeople and enhance their closing rate. With this kind of cost of sales you must have a good brand developed to compete effectively. Your brand done right will have a cumulative impact which differentiate the winners from the losers.
If you develop your brand correctly you will see a significant cumulative effect over time and have a real advantage over competitors. Your brand will become a barrier to entry. This adds no cost to your direct marketing really, it just becomes the philosophy or foundation of the other marketing you develop. Good thinking here that goes into your brand early will generate huge cumulative returns over time! It can double, triple or quadruple the results of your marketing over time because people remember your company and so you have an edge over competitors. This is why everyone needs a branding strategy and a clear corporate identity.
One problem is that "graphic design" people often do not understand this branding process well. And they are rarely marketing people who understand your market, positioning and the other strategic issues. They are tactical people who are artists. Or they might want to change your brand and throw out whatever brand equity you have built already for a better looking graphic they found for a single piece of collateral. This is, of course, the tail wagging the dog and must be avoided at all costs. Brands must be changed very slowly over time. This is strategic marketing and you need very experienced strategic level people and thinking to do it right.
This branding work is easy and cheap to do and pays big dividends for a long time. However, you need to use an outsider who is not too immersed in your company. You need an unbiased perspective more like your prospect than your employees. With a good brand and identify each successive marketing "touch" can become more effective so this investment will pay big dividends for many years.