Category Archives: Branding Strategies

How to Brand a Professional Services Firm

professional needing brandingAs a professional services provider, and having helped brand more than a couple of service firms, I know professional services branding is a unique proposition. So does Hinge Marketing.

For about a year now I’ve been following the web marketing created by Hinge, a marketing services firm that consults about “branding and marketing for professional services firms”. They practice what they preach and provide valuable guidance for professional service marketers, particularly those wanting to use the Internet to capture new business.

They just did a blog outlining five brand building strategies that deserves to be brought to everyone service provider struggling to differentiate their company. It’s entitled…

Top 5 Brand building Strategies for Professional Services Firms

Here a few excerpts.

1. Content marketing
Content Marketing involves providing a steady stream of useful information to potential clients or influencers. Think educational rather than promotional. It addresses relevance, reputation and visibility.

2. Develop Visible Experts?.professional doing business
Many firms have experts, but few of them go on to become well known and influential with their target client group. By deliberately developing one or more of these high-profile experts, a firm can dramatically increase the power of its brand

3. Cultivate prestigious partners
Partnering with prominent organizations to take on important projects is another proven strategy for building your professional services brand. Large, well-known businesses, trade associations or universities are all good partnering candidates

4. Seek high profile clients and case stories
There are many successful professional services firms that have been built on reputations made with a single name-brand client or a well-known case study.

5. Dominate the social media space
One of the most highly leveraged brand building strategies available to professional services firms today is based on the growth of social media. Businesses of all types are becoming regular users of social tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube

You can read the entire post here. And look around their sites for additional information they freely give to any professional firm.

If you’re looking to brand or rebrand a professional services company, I believe I can help. Just click here for more information.

Brand extensions: formula for diluting mother brand

Way back in the late 1970’s, Al Ries and Jack Trout introduced the concept of “positioning”. And one of the precepts they espoused was to stay away from product line extensions because they tend to dilute the mother brand, and often cannibalize it.

But people keep introducing brand extensions, some successful, some not. The latest to come to my attention is a line of body washes, deodorants and soaps exclusively designed for men introduced by Unilever under the Dove label. Yes, Dove products for men. Dove, the brand that has been catering quite successfully and exclusively to women for decades, has now consciously diluted their brand with this extension strategy.

Here’s the Dove Men+Care line.

Note they’ve incorporated the Dove logo, though the typeface is a little different, as well as the famous dove icon. The color palette is masculine, but I’m not sure the features promoted for the line are particularly compelling to men. Here’s their pitch for a body wash:

Dove® Men+Care™ Clean Comfort Body and Face Wash with MICROMOISTURE technology is clinically proven to fight skin dryness better than regular men’s body wash. This ultra-light formula rinses off easily for a refreshing clean and total skin comfort.

Below are soap packages for Men+Care and regular Dove.
Female Dove - Male Dove

I’m just amazed that the people at Unilever would extend a franchise brand based upon a very loyal and dedicated female market into a male-oriented product line. It dilutes the messaging of Dove, including their “Campaign for real beauty” self-esteem program for teenage girls. It also hopes to appeal to men who have heard the Dove story and positioned the brand as exclusively female in their collective mind’s eye.

Now I’m not against doing some line extension as Dove has done from soap to other feminine products like body washes, lotions, deodorants and shampoos. But this new line, well I’m afraid they’ve stepped over the line here.

I would rather they had established a brand new line based on a product exclusive or in some significant way differentiated their product from other male-oriented toiletries. Yes, they did differentiate by adopting the Dove signature, but it’s the wrong differentiation because it’s not relevant or creditable. I’d have advised them to begin from Ground One rather than take a chance on diluting the Dove brand with women and on convincing men that Dove can mean masculine, too.

But they didn’t ask.

Branding an Internet service provider

Another BrandingWire case study – Keeping the Books

The BrandingWire, is a loose network of bloggers about brands and branding – we call ourselves “a posse of pundits” – who offer entrepreneurs and others a chance to ask for help concerning their brands. They provide a branding brief and allow us to comment, suggest, question, challenge, admonish, carp and pontificate concerning their branding needs. Actually, anyone can participate by going to BrandingWire website and commenting on the posted brief.

Today’s entrepreneur plans to open a bookkeeping service for e-retailers. His brief can be read in full at BrandingWire. My comments are listed here as well as on the BrandingWire site.

How is your business different from your competitors?

Like many – or should I say most – entrepreneurs, our bookkeeper friend has jumped the gun. He immediately wants a name, logo and tagline but has given no thought to how he will differentiate his business from his competition.

Ask yourself, is the market real?

I see no indication that our friend has determined whether there’s a real market for this type of service. He has not specified the geography of his business, but I assume he’s offering this service over the Internet to e-retailers no matter their location within the U.S.. Alternatively, he may be attempting to establish relationships with e-retailers he can service face-to-face locally.

I would be surprised if even the most dedicated e-commerce retailer would look to the web for accounting/bookkeeping help. Just like legal counsel, I suspect a trusted accountant is one with whom you want a personal and local relationship. (There were no web searches for “e-commerce accounting” or “e-commerce accountant” according to Word Tracker).

But let’s assume there is a market, and it’s one that a sharp person with a “crash course” education in bookkeeping can serve.

How do you differentiate that business?

You start by finding something potential clients want that competitors aren’t providing. At least competitors aren’t promoting and making their differentiating strategy. That’s why I suggested concentrating on the one thing that worries every entrepreneur: cash flow.

If your business can establish and promote systems and procedures that enable a small business to weather the storms of poor months, if you can offer solutions and advice that will help them become more financially stable, you will certainly differentiate your service from ordinary bookkeepers. If this is beyond your area of expertise, then find another way to make your service unique and valuable while also being different from your competitors. (Use the search box in the upper right for “differentiation” to see suggestions about this important subject.). But before using any differentiating concept in your promotions, be sure you can deliver.

So what about a name, logo and tagline?

They should evolve from the differentiation (positioning) strategy. The name is particularly important in this branding approach. It should be based on these criteria:

Allude to the differentiating concept without being descriptive or business-defining.
Be unique and fresh.
Be short.
Be memorable.

With the perfect name, a tagline shouldn’t be needed, but that’s seldom the case. The tagline, if needed, should also arise from the positioning strategy and should re-enforce the name.

A logo needn’t be a big deal for a small service provider. The name rendered in a unique but legible typeface, perhaps with some unique kerning or letter combinations, should do the trick. You may wish to “box” or reverse the type into a solid background as well. Choose a color you like and then use it consistently. If you decide on an icon to accompany the signature treatment, be sure it’s not just another accounting cliché because that’s the way your competitors think.

So, best of luck entering a business where the basic service is identical to you competitors, where most new business comes from referrals, and you’ll find many not believing they require the services you offer.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Brand Smart from the Start

I’ve admonished entrepreneurs up and down the Internet to think about branding right from the start.

Yet for the most part I only get the “yeah, buts” in response.

Yeah, but branding is expensive.

Yeah, but we’re too small to think about branding now.

Yeah, but I’ve got to get this business up and running – branding can wait.

Yeah, but we’ve got higher priorities and no cash.

I’m a member of an organization called CEOSpace. It used to be called IBI Global. It’s an organization of entrepreneurs that are fortunate enough to have a very well-staffed, highly acclaimed workshop five times a year. It’s called the Free Enterprise Forum with a weeks worth of workshops, lectures and networking opportunities for all things entrepreneurial. Their faculty is top-notch. And one of the sessions is about branding. It’s well attended, but I sense a lot of reluctance by attendees to consider branding a priority.

They may put a line or two in their business plans, and maybe even budget some money for a logo. But very few understand the importance of branding, and only one in twenty-five are passionate about it.

Branding: a number one priority.

As entrepreneurs, these members have a lot of balls in the air – financing being one of the most immediate for people attending the Forum.

My contention is that a brand, complete with a positioning statement and a brand story up front, will help you get financed. If your brand is clearly differentiated and presented with passion, savvy investors will buy in.

Yet, a dull business plan and a private placement memorandum, perhaps housed in a nice binder, is their approach to attracting money.

But just as a brand can be a customer magnet, it can also be an investor attractor.

So think branding early and often. A brand can help you get to market faster and with more impact.

Brand smart from the start.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975
 

Should there be different approaches between B-2-B and B-2-C branding?

I first had to come to grips with this question as I cut my teeth as an assistant account exec at BBDO while working on the DuPont advertising account in 1960.

Would the messages we created for consumer ads for Telar the Never Drain Antifreeze, resonate with the auto dealers and service stations who would be our business customers?

The answer, of course was a resounding “no”. The appeals of the product as an end user looking to save money while protecting a vehicle where very different from the appeals to the dealer who wanted profits, fast inventory turnover and no servicing problems.

DuPont ignored the dealer networks, as they had done with other products with some success, to create “demand pull” from end users. This time it didn’t work. Telar was a flop.

And later, while working as account exec and copywriter on the IBM data products account at Marstellar’s New York office, I learned another lesson.

Appealing exclusively to engineers, programmers, systems analysts, operations managers, and business execs meant that rational messages on benefit and specifications were damned important. Making emotional appeals, unless very subtle ones that were meant to assuage human fears – “no one got fired buying IBM” – were not the way to sell computer systems.

Even though engineers were “human”, when evaluating business propositions they wanted to be treated as if they were, well, engineers. Just the facts, ma’am.

So the question I raise is just this: are there approaches to branding a B-2-B that should be significantly different from a consumer-goods company?

Well, I think so.

What do you think?

Please leave your comments, pro or con, about this question.

I’ll be exploring this question in several blogs over the next month concerning those differences and approaches to branding.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Get your Hyundai luxury car before they’re all gone.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article today about Hyundai’s entry into the luxury car market. The piece is comprehensive and addresses the major points any brand-conscious marketer might ask.

You can see the entire article by clicking “Hyundai Bets New Sedan
Is a Luxury It Can Afford”
. But before you do, here are my comments.

First, I’d ask Hyundai if they think introducing a luxury car under their own name (instead of founding new divisions such as Toyota [Lexis], Nisson [Infiniti] and Honda [Acura] have done) won’t “taint” the new model, called Genesis? 

Hyundai is claiming comparison to BMW and Mercedes, but at a much lower price.

Is that an oxymoron? Is a luxury brand sold on value? And can anyone ever think of Hyundai as a luxury vehicle?

 Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury carThe perception that Hyundai had been what my mechanic called a “throw-away” car when it first arrived in the U.S. still persists according to the WSJ article. People don’t know its quality rivals Toyota and Honda. I know because I drive a Hyundai Elantra and love it.

So how can Hyundai introduce a value-priced luxury competitor and have any credibility? Where’s the panache? Where’s the heritage? Where’s the prestige?

It takes a long time for perceptions of a brand to change. In this case there are two problems: the existing perception of Hyundai and the idea that a luxury car comes with a value price tag.

There’s another factor: their timing. Hyundai follows the Japanese “big three” by at least a decade. And the market is trending toward fuel efficiency and “thinking green”. For a company like Hyundai, that would be a better direction to take in today’s environment. There’s where they could make a difference sooner and with more impact and credibility.

Good luck, Hyundai. I love you, but I think you’ve taken a wrong turn.

Martin Jelsema

Positioning and unique selling proposition: two different concepts.

Back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s there was an advertising cult built around Rosser Reeves, Chairman of the ad agency named Ted Bates & Co., and his book, The Reality of Advertising.

He had invented a term that was the touchstone for the type of advertising he and his agency produced. The term: unique selling proposition, USP for short.

The unique selling proposition was (and is) a single feature or benefit of a product hammered home through ads that focused powerfully and solely on the USP. You’d have to be at least 50 to remember the ads he conceived for Anacin. There was a cartoon arm wielding a hammer to the head of a headache sufferer. Then came a clock face with the hands moving very fast and the single word, FAST, flashed on the screen four times in succession. Then the head become a smiling face signifying the headache was gone – fast.

They were most annoying and very intrusive. But they sold product.

Now Mr. Reeve’s concept of USP has carried on to this day. The idea is still sound and effective in sales as well as advertising.

However, some people have attempted to use USP and positioning synonymously. Well, they are not the same. I hear some marketing people expressing a USP as their position in the marketplace. They treat the USP as if it were a genuine differentiator when in reality it is a benefit/feature plucked from the market research indicating why people have said they buy a product from the product category.

A USP is just what it says it is: a unique selling proposition. It is an advertising campaign theme. Or the canned sales pitch. It is predicated on making a claim before s competitor can establish that benefit as its own. In other words, Anacin was no faster than Bayer, its only competitor back in the 1950’s. But Anacin used speed of relief first and loudly, making it their own.

Promoting a product’s benefit does not differentiate the product in a significant way. If a particular campaign doesn’t work or gets stale, you ask the agency to come up with another USP. The USP is a device, not a strategy.

I once heard a sale trainer in a room of some 300 entrepreneurs claim that you differentiated your product with an USP such as a coupon offer or a two-for-one sale. These may be USP,s but they are not differentiators in the sense of defining a position a brand can occupy in the collective minds of a group of loyal customers.

Al Ries, one of the creators of the term positioning and co-author of the book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, likes to say it’s the single word that comes to mind when the brand is mentioned. For Volvo it’s “safety”. For Whole Foods it’s “organic”. For Sierra Club it’s “environment”. These words come from the essence of the brand. It begins with the corporate mission and the vision for the product. It incorporates corporate values and culture. It’s the brand story, the brand platform, the brand presence. It’s the people associated with the brand at all levels of the supply chain. It’s the leadership of the company and of the brand champions within and outside the company. And it’s the word-of-mouth and status the brand enjoys.

The USP does not normally communicate a genuine product position. There needs to be more than a benefit at the root of the brand and its position.

Lets just sat that positioning is a strategic activity and developing a unique selling proposition is a sales or advertising tactic.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975
 

So what do I know that you want to know about branding?

That’s the question for today. I’ve been blogging about branding pretty consistantly for the past year at TheBrandingBlog. I’ve been showing off. I’ve been bashing some folks. I’ve even thrown a few cudos.

But I’m not sure I’m serving  readers as effectively as I could be. I’d like to grow the readership of this blog> I guess everyone that blogs has the same goal, but with all the years I’ve been around, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of knowledgeSo I’d like some feedback.

Here are five branding subjects. They’re numbered 1 thru 5.

Please review the list and then find the tiny “comments” link below the blog. After signing in, just give me your feedback. Either rank the five numbers representing the topics or list the first one or two you’d like me to address.

  • 1 – naming tips
  • 2- branding strategies
  • 3 – brand management issues
  • 4 – positioning
  • 5 – graphic brand representations

Of course, if there’s another topic you’d like addressed that’s not covered above, just write it down in your comment.

Helping me with this will help you and future readers get the most out of coming back for more.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975