marketing+sales: Your Brand of Communications
Successful organizations recognize the power of branding and work hard to develop their brand through effective communications. This process includes establishing valuable brand equity as well as a recognizable brand name. So, what does this mean to you?
Think about our instant recognition of Nike's "Just Do It" or Apple's "there's an app for that" campaigns. These messages are effective in connecting a customer with the brand. The goal is to make a brand experience personal. For example, are you a McDonalds or Burger King person? A Coke or Pepsi person? You get the idea.
Successful communication of your brand is both the present and the future of marketing. It is not about you. It is not about what you offer. It never was. However, it is about customers. It always has been and always will be.
This means that the way in which a communications, marketing or promotional company communicates its message is of utmost importance. Always remember that building a strong, recognizable, reliable and consistent brand takes time, effort and commitment. It requires a deliberate, purposeful and intentional strategy. This hard work pays off by creating brand loyalty—one of the most valuable assets any organization can have. Quite frankly, brand loyalty is why customers will pay more for goods and services.
A brand is the sum total of key ideas, emotions and perceptions that are communicated to your audience and associated with your organization's work. A brand is like the "shorthand" for the identifying characteristics retained and recalled when your stakeholders reflect upon their experiences with your organization.
I have developed an acronym that is useful in helping us better understand and examine the subject of a brand. A BRAND can be considered the Barometer reading of one's Reputation, Attributes, Name and Distinctiveness. This means it is the "barometer" or measurement of your "reputation" (what your organization stands for); your "attributes" (the characteristics others use when describing you); your "name" (which suggests something good, bad or indifferent when a person hears it); and your "distinctiveness" (what makes you different/unique?).
So the question is not if you have a brand or not—all organizations have a brand. Instead the question is: What do you do with your brand? In short, your brand is not defined by what you say it is but by what others say it is.
So here are five things the promotional products and print industry should consider when it comes to "branding."
1. Refrain from saying, "Promotional products and printing are still relevant." Of course they are. The market has simply changed. I argue that such products are more useful than ever—and I spend a lot of time in the social-media and new-media world.
2. Don't get caught up with referring to yourself as a "marketing or communications solutions" company. This should be what you do—not what you are.
3. Don't become overwhelmed with social and emerging media. Note, it is all about the psychology, not the technology. These simply are new ways to communicate and, if used correctly, are an asset—not a threat. They are one tool in your marketing mix—not the only tool.
4. Determine what it is you are best at, embrace it and then build and promote your brand around it. Print it, email it, tweet it, etc. But always be authentic in your communications.
5. Remember: Your brand is that "extra value" you provide and the reason a customer stays with you over similar competition/offerings in the market.
When pondering your brand, you must first determine what it is all about. Obtain feedback from those around you as a first step. Be sure to obtain this 360-degree-feedback from those close to you as well as those who are more removed from you.
Once you know what your brand is you can determine the ways you want to grow, change, re-frame, promote and/or strengthen your current brand position. So, how do you define your brand? Does it matter? You bet. We all have a brand, and there is no better time than now to address it.
By Ryan T. Sauers
Ryan T. Sauers is president/owner of Sauers Consulting Strategies, whose focus is growing graphics- and promotional products-related businesses. Sauers founded the firm after nearly 20 years of leading such companies. The organization consults with printing/graphics/promotional product companies across the U.S. Sauers is working on his doctoral degree in organizational leadership. He is a certified Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and DiSC practitioner as well as a certified marketing executive. This article is based on a chapter from Sauers' best-selling book, "Everyone Is in Sales," which can be ordered through Amazon. For more information, visit www.ryansauers.com.