INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MARSHALL, ‘THE BUSINESS DOCTOR’
‘The Importance of Branding and How To Creatively Accomplish It Cost Effectively’
Mid Fall 2008 – part 3
Thanks for giving us some additional time.
We have some questions for you and a few subjects we would like your comments and insights on.
The US economic conditions are driving many business changes.
Businesses worldwide are changing.
These things are communicated daily on television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines and most other media.
They are in most conversations at work, at home and out socially.
I think you probably have some fairly interesting questions for me as well as some interesting subjects to discuss.
Yes, we do.
We have discussed ‘Branding’ before and we are hearing from businesses how this is becoming more important.
Please give us another brief explanation what ‘Branding’ is and why is it becoming more important and such a Hot Topic.
Simply speaking, ‘Branding’ is creating thoughts, ideas and memories in people’s mind about a product, service, organization, person, event or something.
When someone sees your name, hears your name, reads your name or thinks of your name; what thoughts, feelings and memories do they have of you?
Attempting to manage this is sometimes referred to as ‘Managing Perception’.
Creating a ‘Brand’ occurs from customers’ or people’s experience, observations of others and the marketplace, advertising, a variety of other media and many other things.
A ‘Brand’ or “Branding’ often has two parts.
First, is what you want people to think about you.
Sometimes what people think about you is not what you want them to.
In this case, you and your ‘Brand” are not in sync.
Second, is possibly getting strongly associated to an icon, item, color, sound, shape or something creative, that when people see or hear it, can trigger or stimulate a thought about you or whatever you are trying to ‘Brand’.
As an example let’s use an apple.
What company or product uses the apple in their ‘Branding’?
A hint to who it is; think about something in offices that people often use, larger than pens and rulers and that are sitting on the desks.
Computer is correct.
Now what computer manufacture uses an Apple in their ‘Brand”?
Apple Computer is correct.
To create a ‘Brand’, the business organization, person or whatever decides what they want to be known for, remembered for and what they want people to think about them if they are to be thought of.
As mentioned it is also decided if a specific item, shape, color, sound or anything else is to be used constantly in all of their communications to help get them associated with it and hopefully become a trigger or stimulus to thinking about them.
The message and whatever being used to trigger a thought about them tends to stay consistant over years to help make it easy to remember.
The message can be modified to fit changing times though if necessary.
Even though the main message in ‘Branding’ is often carried in Advertising there are many other components to carrying or conveying the message.
It is normally a combination of numerous things that help create a ‘Brand’ and not just advertising.
‘Brand and Branding’ can be for more than products and services?
Political parties such as republican and democrat have a brand and they also have an icon associated with them even.
Individual politicians have a brand: you know of many.
Think of presidents Kennedy, Eisenhower, Carter, Clinton, both Roosevelt’s, Lincoln and others.
Think of government elections.
Those individuals with the strongest and best ‘Brand’ gets elected.
Events can have a ‘Brand’.
Think of the Olympics, World’s Fair, October Fest in Germany, Super Bowl, Baseball World Series and others.
Think of Monday Night Footbal here in the US.
I bet the event’s theme song just entered your memory.
Places and destinations can have a Brand.
Think of Hawaii, California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Chicago, Montana, Tahiti, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, France, England, Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean and many others.
Organizations can have a brand.
Think of Green Peace, Save the Whales, March of Dimes, United Way, Habitat For Humanity, The Peace Corps. , Goodwill, Salvation Army, Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard; and there are many others.
Publications can have a Brand.
Think of Times, INC, Fortune, National Graphic, Cosmopolitan, People and many others.
Companies and their products can have a Brand.
Think of IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Allstate, State Farm, Ford, Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Toyota, Nissan, and lots more.
Stores and merchandisers can have a Brand.
Think of Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Victoria Secret, LL Bean, Lands End and lots more.
Hotels can have a brand.
Think of Hyatt, Radisson, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Ramada and many others
Fast food restaurants can have a Brand.
Think about McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Hardies, Arby’s, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, and more.
Food can have a Brand.
Think about Campbell’s Soup, Chef Boyardee, Morton Salts, Stouffers, Banquet, Dole, and lots more.
Household cleaning solutions can have a Brand.
Think about Tide, Windex, Lysol, Dawn, 401, and lots more.
Almost everything can be ‘Branded’ and have a ‘Brand’; locally, nationally and internationally.
Why has ‘Branding’ become so important and such a Hot Subject?
Branding is critical for economic reasons.
In the past, the better the ‘Brand’ or ‘Branding’ the more money a product would be priced at and the bigger retail stores they would be placed at.
Profit margins could be increased based on the power of ‘The Brand’.
Think of the cost of a Timex watch compared to others such as Seiko, Citizen, Bulova, Gucci, Rolex and many others.
Think about brand names of ink pens.
Think about brand names of televisions.
Think about brand names of snack foods.
Think about the many brand names of beverages; such as vodkas, scotches, bourbons, gins, wines, beers, soft drinks, juices, fruit drinks, energy drinks, water.
Medical hospitals and medical doctors can have a brand.
Think about the hospital or doctor you select when you are in need of medical services and why you selected them.
Food and grocery stores can have a brand.
Think about the stores you go to and why.
There are unlimited examples of this.
Now with the economy struggling; companies, businesses, organizations and people are lacking spending money.
There is less money and funds available to spend.
Those with the bigger ‘Brand Recognition’ and better ‘Brand’ regarding stimulating positive thoughts are in a better position to attract more of the limited spending.
With strong ‘Branding’ you may have a better chance to stay in business and even possibly grow business.
Without effective ‘Branding’, businesses may decline and may not be able to stay in business.
With less income for spending, people are not donating as much and not to as many non-profit organizations.
Non-profit organizations that rely on donations are challenged to attract funds.
Those with the stronger ‘Brands’ have a better chance of attracting the limited donations and funds that are available.
Everything and everyone are affected by ‘Branding’.
Advertising and media placement can cost a lot of money.
Many companies and organizations do not have enough money to spend on this.
Does this mean many companies cannot create a ‘Brand’ or a ‘Strong Brand’?
Now you have come upon some of my favorite subjects;
Business Development, Marketing and Growing the Business utilizing ‘Creativity’, ‘Out of The Box Thinking’ and ‘Bold Innovations’.
All of this directly applies to ‘Branding’, ‘Developing a Brand’, and ‘Growing a Brand’.
Please expand on this and share.
As I mentioned before, advertising and media placement is only a part of ‘Developing a Brand’.
Customer experience, word of mouth and referrals are all a very big part as well.
Let’s continue down this train of thought.
What customers and people think about you is very important and this must be managed, measured and guided.
Remember, I previously mentioned the phrase ‘It Is Important To Manage Perception’ which is a main thrust of Branding.
There are numerous things that can help accomplish this that is not sophisticated and does not cost significant money depending on ones definition of significant.
We can discuss this for many hours, days, and weeks.
A book can be devoted to this.
This can be a university course and subject by itself.
I will just mention a few things on this and I am sure you will understand pretty quickly.
We are all ears; please continue on, with this.
You have really perked our interest.
Of course integrated marketing is an important part of ‘Branding’ for those who understand this and are appropriately trained in it.
I am talking about paid for advertising on television, radio and publications; literature, websites, direct mailings, email campaigns, participating in trade shows, PR public relations and more.
Basically, numerous marketing efforts is what I am referring to.
Businesses and organizations can also promote themselves and their ‘Brand’ with community and market involvement in numerous other ways.
– having interesting stories published in a variety of media, locally and nationally
– their own website
– support and participate in community events and market events
– support and participate in social organizations and groups
– strategic partnering with anyone who can promote you or refer business to you but this has to be a two way reciprocating arrangement to be effective
– be active in the education system with internships and supporting their events and needs
– tours of operations and facilities
– getting involved in professional associations and groups especially those that are synergistic
– and a lot more
The key for any of this is ‘Creativity”, ‘Out of The Box Thinking’ and ‘Bold Innovation’
As I have commented many times, most people consider themselves ‘Creative’, ‘Out of the Box Thinking’ and ‘Being Boldly Innovative’.
In reality most are not because this is not something that comes natural.
It normally requires formal training which most do not have.
You now can start understanding why so many businesses and organizations are struggling.
Now let’s continue on to something just as important:
managing your customers’ perception and strengthen ‘Branding’ and possibly increase business.
First, I am not an advocate for random sampling as a measurement or a guide, especially if being used for determining customer satisfaction.
Also, I do not believe that you can measure customer satisfaction and how they perceive you by the number of complaints received, product returns or repairs of a product.
What I am suggesting is that no matter what your business, service or purpose is, actively ask all customers for ideas, comments, suggestions for improvements and how they feel about you, your products and services.
Do the same with vendors and suppliers that you may have.
Do this during the service or product purchasing time, after it and at time intervals thereafter.
Do it with all customers and just not some random sampling or sending out customer surveys and then basing your information on only what gets sent back in to you.
For customers not sending back a survey, call them.
For customers sending back a customer survey, call them to say thank you and ask a few more things.
Build Referral Sources
Build Good Will
Uncover Things to Improve
Once you have suggestions, use them for improving.
Once you have data, compile it, analyze it, and summarize it to show true meaning.
Now communicate this information to your customers routinely.
Publish it in all of your marketing communications, website, your own employees and any other place you can.
If you do not aggressively communicate this information how would anyone know anything about you?
Progressively sharing information about your quality, performance and service will help you overcome things that happen that may not be the best.
But when things happen that are not so good, it is best that customers and the market know that you are normally far better than any one problem or mishap.
They may know this because you proactively communicated this with them.
Through customer interaction and communications you can ‘Build Brand’ and often grow the business.
It is the customer’s perception that is meaningful.
This is a lot of information.
This is obviously important.
Why don’t more businesses, organizations and senior executives know this?
Like I have commented many times.
This requires training and education.
Many organizations and individuals do not have this level of understanding and knowledge for many reasons and none of the reasons are good ones.
I have also commented that it is the responsibility of business leadership to understand these things and acquire what is needed.
This can mean getting current employees and staff more training along with improving internal measurements and processes to support such, hiring and retaining higher skilled people or retaining professional outside advisors, consultants and top level agencies that that have the skills and expertise to truly help.
For those that eventually get an understanding of all of this and are motivated to improve, what happens then?
That is a big question.
Again, as I have mentioned many times before; if a business leader, business or organization has allowed a decline of business over a length of time, they may not have enough financial funding or time to improve fast enough and survive.
With the fast moving global business environment, new emerging technologies and products, and new progressive competition; a business or organization cannot allow decline over any length of time.
A business cannot allow itself to get into a hole because it may be too difficult and costly to climb out of it.
Unfortunately and all too often, only when a business is in such a hole for a long period time do they wise up and get motivated to do something about it.
Then they expect great results miraculously and fast.
Again, for a business or organization to grow and stay in business, they must stay proactive and stay out of any hole.
It is this simple.
Putting fancy job titles on individuals lacking skills and training OR outsourcing critical business development activities to places with junior level people lacking skills and trainings will only lead to failure.
Are you saying that fancy titles on staff lacking training and appropriate skills; and outsourcing to the same, is a big issue contributing to businesses struggling and failing?
To be politically sensitive, let’s just say that it is a troubling issue.
We know you are trying to be politically sensitive about this.
Can you comment about if this is happening widespread across all markets, organization sizes and how frequent?
Remember, this seems to be an important point here.
You are really putting me in a corner on this.
Still trying to be politically sensitive, let’s just say that this is a troubling issue in all markets, in all industries, in all size businesses and organizations and far more frequent than most would ever think.
We have gotten the answer in a politically sensitive manner.
Sorry that we made you squirm.
This information is very interesting and valuable.
Again, you have been very nice to share information.