Archive for branding

You’re calling it WHAT?

Driving through CoPerformanceUtilitySupply_Underground-Utilities-Home1rona I spotted a roadside sign reading PUS.

Having a twisted sense of humor, I wondered who would want to buy the stuff.

The sign was attached to a company named Performance Utility Supply. They sell hardware to the power and lighting industries.

I’m guessing most of their customers are “manly” men in construction. Their website photo of an unshaven guy wearing his PUS gear reinforces my suspicion.

The company also has a sexually suggestive line emblazoned on their trucks. And if this strategy works for them, who am I to argue?

Still, one has to wonder about the long-term wisdom of this type of gender-based marketing. While today women only make up 9% of construction workers, change is inevitable.

Over the past 50 years, women have achieved parity in one industry after another. In the current political climate, their numbers can only be expected to increase.

All suggesting the eventuality of more women buyers in one of the last bastions of male domination: construction.

It’s no surprise that women oftentimes view the world differently than men. Historically, professional women are less likely to engage in sophomoric hijinks than their male counterparts.

Which all points to women buyers in construction and related trades who will want to be taken seriously and/or be offended by the PUS name and marketing strategy.

Naming a business can be tricky, easily going down the wrong path. Things to consider when you’re naming your business include:

  • How will your audience receive it?
  • How will your acronym read?
  • Is the name exciting, or a compromise reached to satisfy a committee?
  • Does the name say something, or is it just feeding someone’s ego?
  • Are you just mashing words together in hopes of being clever?
  • Do you stand out of the crowd in a good way?
  • Are you merely naming the business after the town you live in?
  • Are you using clichés or obscure words?
  • Is your spelling funky?
  • Can you get a domain to match your company name?
  • Are you budgeting enough to brand your name to customers?
  • Can you admit if the company name is just wrong?

Company names should bring value to the table. The last thing you want is for customers to be offended when they see your business’ name.

Delivering Savings Until Closing Time Today

A man walks into the post office…WONDERUSPS2

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it?

But there I was waiting to buy postage and I discovered a coupon jointly issued by Hallmark and the U.S. Postal Service.

In truth I shouldn’t have been surprised. For the past few years the Postal Service has been getting increasingly commercial in an effort to overcome an annual $5 billion deficit. And because the USPS is a quasi-governmental agency receiving zero tax dollars, that money obviously has to come from someplace.

So, a few years back they started selling ancillary items like packing supplies and greeting cards.

Then they struck deals to feature animated characters on postage stamps, including Bambi, Big Bird and Daffy Duck.

Today, stamps featuring Wonder Woman can be affixed to Snoopy greeting cards, both purchased at the postal counter.

The tie-in between postage stamps and Hallmark greeting cards is a logical one.

Post offices have a built-in customer traffic flow. Most cards get mailed and need stamps.

What better place to tie the stamps, card, and customers together than there?

Furthermore, free email graphics have been the source of headaches for Hallmark executives for a long time.

If they can sell more cards and pay the USPS a sales commission, everyone wins, right?

Their plan is obvious;

  • Customer chooses a card from the multiple displays in the postal store lobby;
  • Coupon offers $1 off 3 cards if purchased before Feb. 17, 2017 (That’s TODAY, in case you hadn’t noticed!);
  • Customer buys two additional cards and stamps for mailing them

The promotion’s demise date screams “Valentine’s Day,” though any cards sold there qualify for the discount.

Now let’s examine your business. Odds are good there’s a potential partner for you, regardless of what you sell.

Car dealerships can join forces with area gas stations. Bakeries can work with exercise studios, which, in turn, can partner with beverage companies.

The USPS isn’t collecting buyers’ contact information, but there’s no reason you can’t. A list of buyers is incredibly valuable, since:

  • They like what you and your partner sell
  • You have an established relationship
  • They’re likely to buy from you again

Partnerships must be carefully thought out and planned, but can be very successful if done right. Learn from the USPS and develop one today.

About that Walking Billboard…

jack-o-smashMoving to California in 2002, I immediately heard about the region’s famous “green flash” at sunset.

Over the past 14 years I’ve seen it exactly never, though I remain ever hopeful.

To compensate I drink lots of Green Flash beer. The only green I see through my bloodshot eyes is the stuff leaving my wallet to pay the barkeep.

So it was with a certain amount of relief that I saw a green flash at Tuesday morning’s Rotary meeting in Rancho Bernardo.

What I initially thought to be a hallucination, though, turned out to be whirlwind Realtor Sue Herndon. Her screaming green T-shirt was touting this Sunday’s Jack-O-Smash fundraiser at Poway’s SportsPlex.

As she talked about the fun times ahead and the charities being supported, I took a moment to notice the dozens of company logos represented on her shirt.

Their support of the PoVa therapeutic riding program, the Abraxas High School Transitions Program and PUSD’s special education foundation told me these are good corporate citizens, deserving of my respect and patronage.

Which, by one of those strange coincidences of life, was EXACTLY what they wanted me to take away from the experience.

Okay, I confess … when I put on a T-shirt I don’t necessarily think much about whose name or logo is on it.

Yet I recognize that my wearing that shirt has two implications. First there’s the obvious marketing message.

But there’s a second layer that subliminally ties my reputation to the organization and sponsors represented on the shirt.

In effect, my wearing that T-shirt is an endorsement of everything said on it.

Whoa! When did getting dressed become so complicated?

Here’s the thing: there are dozens of organizations worthy of your business’ support within a stone’s throw of where you’re sitting right now.

Beyond finding a cause you believe in to contribute to, you’ll also benefit by finding one where your contribution buys you space on their T-shirts.

For a few dollars you may be able to arrange to have hundreds of people using their own credibility, reputation, and network to market for you.

As you develop your 2017 marketing plan, set some money aside to help the community while helping yourself.

Admittedly this isn’t a fancy or high-tech communications strategy. But people DO pay attention to these things, and it can be effective.

Giving Away Customers

Confession time: I’m not always the biggest fan of the Postal Service.

In this column I’ve previously suggested they cut Saturday delivery and establish coffee kiosks in their lobbies.

They responded by selling Bugs Bunny stamps and greeting cards.

Hardly a novel approach to improving revenues.

Still, I’ve continued renting my PO Box, finding it economical and always accessible.

No longer. Mailbox lobby hours will soon stop at 8pm, removing my ability to retrieve my mail at odd hours.

Increasingly, small business owners want the appearance of an office, even as they work from home.

This means having an outside address where packages and checks can be delivered at the same time the boss is out hustling new opportunities.

Suggesting RB’s Postmaster would be wise to remember these people have options beyond the USPS.

100 yards from the Post Office is the new UPS Store. It offers a real street address with mailbox rental and 24-hour access.

It’s called competition…a sometimes alien concept to those who haven’t run their own firm.

Admittedly, UPS is selling more service for a slightly higher price, but many people will happily pay for the convenience of late mail pickup.

And what boggles my mind is that the USPS is willingly giving away their customers.

My suspicion is the revenue they’ll lose will dwarf whatever they save on electricity during those off-hours.

Now let’s look at your business. Whatever you’re selling, someone, somewhere is selling it faster, cheaper, or with better service. It’s inevitable.

Meaning if you can’t persuade customers you’re the preferred choice, you’ll lose that business.

Certainly, some customers will prefer you merely because you offer the lowest price. However, these same customers can be stolen by someone else offering a $2 discount.

To improve customer loyalty while making a fair profit, offer better service than the other guy and charge a bit more to cover that extra service.

In these days of self-help and automation, the missing ingredient is typically a smiling welcome and a “How can I help you?”

And human interaction with someone willing and capable of resolving customer issues will never go out of style. Just remember how you like being treated.

It’s something to consider as you plan your business growth strategy for next year.

Speak up, Sonny!

This morning I got my dog’s hair cut.

Buddy Weinberg desperately needed a haircut!

Buddy Weinberg desperately needed a haircut!

From across the parking lot a friend saw my hat and shouted “It’s impossible to miss you!”

It’s the power of marketing…finding ways to stand out of the crowd.

Regular readers know that the average American adult is bombarded with 5,000 marketing messages every 24 hours.

As consumers we erect virtual walls around ourselves to block out the onslaught. Marketers are tasked with finding ways to break through those walls.

Simple equation, right?

Still, what do you do with someone who doesn’t want to talk about themselves?

Consider my client Suzy. She’s brilliant, talented, and extremely photogenic. She knows her business inside and out, and has contributed hugely to her employer and her industry.

So I naturally nominated her for the Business Journal’s WOMEN WHO MEAN BUSINESS award…and she protested.

“I haven’t done enough,” she cried.

Now I protested. Because if I waited until she felt she’s done enough to warrant an award, Suzy and I will both be VERY old.

In these days of political bombast, when commercials are shouting at us from every direction that this one is great and that one can solve your problems, there’s more reason than ever to build those walls around ourselves.

And on one level it’s refreshing to find people who are humble. They put their heads down and work, never seeing the promotional opportunities from their productivity, talent or physical beauty.

They’re blessed with the “Aw Shucks” gene.

Yet surviving New York City’s rough-and-tumble taught me that being shy doesn’t equal good marketing. You need to stand up and shout who you are and why it’s important to pay attention to you.

And if you’re not comfortable doing so, you need to find a guy with a megaphone and a big mouth.

Yes, someone like me.

Because failure to promote yourself in your professional community means you’ll disappear from view.

You’ll find promotional opportunities all around you. They easily include speaking at conferences, posting columns to an ever-expanding LinkedIn universe, and schmoozing at Chamber of Commerce events.

Then relax. Even if you don’t win any awards, merely staying visible will introduce you to new friends and sales prospects.

And since so much success is based on whom you know…

Getcher Free Puppy Here!!

puppy_love_theme-201597-1230259247Millions of US pets need adopting. Regardless of the breed or age you’re seeking, petfinder.com has it.

That’s where we discovered Buddy, a sweet terrier/bichon mix found walking the streets. Given the inexpensive preponderance of man’s best friend available at this web site, I never understood why one would spend thousands at a pet shop.

Still, my family and I would regularly visit the Escondido Mall pet shop to sigh over the dogs from Midwestern puppy mills. Then we’d go home with new appreciation for the furball patiently awaiting us.

When that pet shop closed, I suggested the Humane Society open a storefront there to give away animals needing adoption. Economics and logistics prevented the idea’s implementation, but the universe apparently welcomed it.

Today a shop called Escondido Pets sits at the same site. While the majority of their inventory is expensive, the front dozen slots are dogs available for adoption.

For around $100 a family can walk out with the sweetest faces and personalities in town. These are dogs that have lived in unpleasant situations who’ll never forget the value of a loving home.

The store manager advised me they’ve placed about 100 dogs since the first of this year.

By no coincidence, the dogs being adopted also need leashes, collars, cages, dog bowls, snacks, and toys. All are available there for immediate purchase.

Which means unloved animals are getting homes and the store is increasing market share while doing something admirable. Even if their other dogs are from puppy mills, Escondido Pets deserves kudos for helping unwanted pooches get adopted.

Regardless of what you sell in your own business, somewhere there’s a worthy cause that’ll benefit from your involvement and participation.

Try collecting spare change at your cash register for the March of Dimes. Or contributing goods and services to a silent auction at your church.

Regardless of how you get involved, customers will quickly link your name with the wider good you’re doing. They’ll also think of you first when they’re looking to do business in your category.

Helping those most in need is worthwhile year-round. Even if it cuts into the bottom line short-term, it’s potentially profitable over the long-run.

Because let’s face it: giving is good for the soul.

Say the Secret Word

grouchoOn his 1950s game show You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx used to reward contestants who guessed the secret word of the day.

And though the words have changed, contestants in today’s business world are also rewarded when they determine their secret word.

Consider LA’s Magic Castle, where the secret word is exclusivity.

Behind these walls, patrons are entertained by the finest magicians in the world.

Seriously, this isn’t Harry Potter.

In the Hollywood Hills sits the equivalent of Broadway for the Merlin set. There you’ll find virtuoso magicians perfecting their craft and their patter, and experience prestidigitation sure to confound even the most careful observer.

It’s an experience unlike any other.

Entry into this private club is by invitation only. Jacket and tie are required, and the atmosphere is decidedly upscale.

We visited the club Friday night and left there sated by fine food and intelligent conversation.

We remain totally confounded about how that lemon got into that empty cup not 12 inches from my nose.

Joining the club costs $5,000 and involves jumping through hoops. Despite that, they have a waiting list a mile long.

Consider that: their reputation for rarified air combines with high prices…and more people want to buy their offerings.

Now consider the Rolls Royce: Handmade, limited quantities, negligible recalls…and VERY desirable.

Are you seeing a pattern?

Now examine your business. Regardless of what you sell, you can benefit from an image of exclusivity.

After all, if customers see your offerings as a commodity, you’ll find yourself in a race to the bottom. Price alone will determine whether you make the sale, since people can probably buy what you sell for less down the street.
And don’t kid yourself; many customers WILL go down the street to save $2.Or they’ll come to your store with their questions, then make their purchases online. Sometimes they’ll shop online while in your store.

However, if the public recognizes they can’t get your offerings anyplace else, several things happen:

•    You eliminate competition

•    You become more desirable

•    You can raise prices

Face it: if you’ve got the only lemonade stand in town on a hot day you’re going to get lots of business, even if you charge extra.

Making your business’ secret word “Lucrative.”

Got Original Ideas?

got-milkThis morning I drove past a truck that said “Got Tinting?” promoting a car window service.

Then there was a car saying “Got Cloud?” for computer storage.

In the afternoon I saw a shirt reading “Got Mary?” touting a church.

Tonight I saw “Got Debt?” campaign ads.

My question: Got Original Ideas?

These messages all reference a 1993 TV ad for California’s Milk Processor Board.

In it, a hapless history buff eating a peanut butter sandwich is called in a radio station contest to identify who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

He correctly answers “Aaron Burr,” but the peanut butter sticking to the roof of his mouth muffles his response.

Desperately he grabs a bottle of milk, only to find it empty. Our friend loses the prize as the commercial’s tag line appears: Got Milk?

And from that moment the phrase “Got Milk?” became part of the popular culture.

The ad is generally considered one of the best commercials of all time. It is even parodied in the Broadway musical Hamilton.

Here’s the thing; I recognize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Churches, computer firms, and others are obviously trying to leverage the Milk Board’s success into their own.

Regardless of what you’re selling, though, people expect you to address their concerns.

But if the best message you can deliver is a blatant rip-off of someone else’s ad campaign, that doesn’t say much about your ability to provide original solutions.

In fact, if you’re incapable of generating original ideas and the next guy can, shouldn’t I just hire him instead?

Because even if his ideas aren’t a home run, at least he’s making the effort. Just saying “Got Shoes?” or “Got Chocolate?” tells me you’re just phoning it in.

Please don’t misunderstand. You should be watching other marketing materials looking for ideas. Someone may have a great concept for photography, typography, or copy and you can use it as research.

But research and outright theft are completely different. Research Good. Theft Bad.

Get it?

So the next time you think it’s clever to just say “Got Whatever?”, think again. You’re NOT being clever…you’re being a “Me Too!”. And you’re fooling nobody but yourself.

One might even argue your marketing efforts are being counter-productive.

Beer: A Community Service

copy-Color-RBF-Logo-Web-Banner-2015I have two weeks to raise $1,250, and I need assistance.

This isn’t an email claiming I’m broke and lost in India. It’s a request to help our local community by drinking beer.

We’re obviously talking about Rancho Beernardo, the county’s only IPA festival. It’s sponsored by RB Sunrise Rotary and URGE Gastropub.

Full disclosure: I’m a club member…hence this plea for help.

It seems some genius decided everyone in the club must raise $1,500. Mrs. Marketing agreed we’ll cover $250 ourselves.

As for the rest…HELP!

The club expects to raise $100,000 this year, pouring it into scouting, YMCA, schools, and senior activities. We’ll build houses for the homeless, distribute dictionaries to third graders, and provide medical services to the poor.

We’ll financially support 20-30 organizations, plus provide hands-on help to Ronald McDonald House, PoVa, and others.

But we can’t do it all ourselves. You can participate in three different ways:

1)    Join us in Webb Lake Park on October 22, 2-5pm, for 50+ craft beers, savory foods, entertainment galore, and guaranteed fun.

2)    Market your business to 1000+ visitors. Six sponsorship levels are available, where $100+ will promote your name to very upscale attendees.

Sponsor benefits include free admittance, recognition in print, online, and at the event itself.

Oh yeah…did I mention you can be brewmaster for a day?  

3)    Send a donation to the RB Sunrise Rotary Fund at the San Diego Foundation to help wipe out polio.

Rotarians take the concept of “Service Above Self” QUITE seriously! All funds generated support local youth and community programs.

Now were I with another non-profit, I’d probably be ruffled by this request. After all, every group thinks their fundraiser is the most important one out there.

However, given the number and range of other groups this money will help support, your participation will help us AND them.

Furthermore, this is a golden (or amber) opportunity to target hundreds of local customers with disposable income. They’ll reward your business’ participation in the community with their patronage.

And I’m willing to venture the lifetime value of each new customer is significantly more than the cost of your sponsorship.

So for a good time, and to grow your business, plan to be part of Rancho Beernardo 2016.

—————-

Want to join us for some beer? Get more information about the festival, or buy your tickets directly.

Interested in being a sponsor for Rancho Beernardo? Here’s all the information you’ll need:

Still have questions? Talk to me and I’ll get you fixed up.

Has poor taste become the norm?

mbt pottyToilet humor is popular with children thrilled by flaunting cultural taboos about waste excretion.

This perhaps explains why one of my favorite movie bit is the sophomoric, way-over-the-top, hysterically funny campfire scene from “Blazing Saddles.” It’s my inner child striving to escape.

But introducing effective scatological humor into print advertising is difficult.

Consider this headline: “Tiffany, why did you…dookie…on Eric’s pillow?”

This copy stares at me from a coupon insert from a kitty litter company. I’m hard-pressed to see how cat poop on someone’s pillow passes for good messaging.

“Cats are complicated. Great Litter is simple,” the ad concludes.

My friend Lori Frank observed, “Litter IS simple. Buy, pour, clean up. DUH.”

As a dog person and finding the ad flawed, I know I probably didn’t have the right mindset.

So I asked cat owners on Facebook for their thoughts. Their unanimous response: It’s a stupid ad.

My conclusion: Great advertising is complicated. Bad taste is simple.

I won’t surprise you saying your business must market itself to be successful.

But effective communications combines thorough market intelligence, good strategy and sufficient budget.

Since children don’t typically buy kitty litter, this marketer apparently appeals to middle-aged women with 10-year-old humor.

Perhaps the advertiser didn’t properly understand the product or the audience. They didn’t do their research.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

Okay, I’m not Fred Astaire and I don’t reek from elegance at every turn. Over the years I’ve been known to say and do things that weren’t as refined as I might’ve hoped in retrospect.

Still, in my mind’s eye I’ve got a certain amount of class and expect to be treated accordingly.

I want my movies to have more clever dialogue than raunchy jokes. I’ll listen to classical and jazz over disjointed electronic thumping.

And I expect advertisers to deliver tasteful messaging that speaks to my image of myself. If they feel they need to talk to the lowest common denominator to make a sale, they’ve lost my attention.

I’m suspecting I’m not alone with this attitude.

Assuming I’m correct, brands should be combining class, style, taste, and good-natured humor to raise customers to a higher plateau. Appealing to lowest common denominators will drag those brands into the gutter.

We deserve better than that.