Choosing a Branding Company

When choosing a branding company, start with what they have accomplished

Choosing a Branding Company affects your successBranding companies promise to completely understand what your brand means. In the most basic sense, a branding company examines the logic and relationships between the services and products you produce or offer, and help better define the connections between disparate offerings and promises.

We try to clarify the values inherent in everything your brand does. This is an intellectual evaluation of everything you say about your brand and often it requires changes in your brand equities.

What are brand equities?

In a general sense, brand equities are the things your brand owns. Some are visual representations that Brand Equitiesare immediately associated with your brand. For example, when someone sees the silhouette of a hat with mouse ears, they immediately recall the Disney brand. These, like the NIKE Swoosh, are examples of a brand mark and are considered an equity— something the brand owns. Other visual cues can also be equities.

Pepto Bismol PinkFor example, a logo or a word mark is designed to be an equity. A specific color palette may also be an equity (like the pink color of Pepto-Bismol or the blue of Chase Bank) as can a shape (like the unique shape of the Coca-Cola bottle) or packaging (like Air Wick).

The conventional wisdom amongst branding companies Chase features the color blueis to identify something important about the brand and give life to that importance. This is why you see so many brands with a logo or brand mark that looks like what the brand does. This is why we have so many brands that are named after the technology or product (think Duracell and Energizer).

The purpose of all of these created equities is to help the customer or prospect remember the brand by creating associations. Human beings think visually and having something planted in their minds that is associated with a particular brand allows the brand to then place meaning and value in the minds of those they wish to influence.

When Choosing a branding company do they simply adhere to the traditional branding model?
The traditional branding model is about clarity but not importance

While some may do a better job with these tasks than others, most branding companies can point to examples of how they have created a brand by inventing these equities and identifying a distinct color palette. All the brand consultancy needs is a few smart and strategically thinking minds and a design team that makes appealing images.

Why Stealing Share rejects this model

The commercial world today is different then it was just a few years ago. Almost every category is crowded with competitors, so brands find themselves surrounded by strong competition. The customer has many choices and the field of battle is desperate to say the least. It is important to own something but that something needs to be important to the prospects you wish to attract and the customers that you wish to keep.

The Stealing Share Branding Model helps when choosing a branding company
The Stealing Share branding model includes the customer, research, brand anthropology and brand training

We ask more of your brand at Stealing Share than other branding companies. So should you.

The amount of importance your brand occupies is in direct relationship to what your target audience covets. If you want your brand to grow and steal market share from your many competitors then the foundations of the brand equities are going to be found in the beliefs and needs of the people you need to influence— not in the things you make or your company itself.

Persuasive brands find a way to merge the brand value itself with a reflection of the company AND the customer’s highest emotional intensity.

This is not easy to accomplish. It requires all of the parts of standard branding companies (smart strategists and talented designers) but also requires in-house market research and brand anthropologists who study human behavior and find ways to influence it. This rare element in branding science makes everything work together. The strategy, the research, the creative and the brand itself. Suddenly, nothing is the same and the game itself has changed.

So how do YOU choose a branding company?

Focus FroupStart by inviting us in for an hour of your time and we will change everything. Ask more of us because we brand for a purpose. It’s in our name and our brand DNA. Is it in yours? Our clients are aggressive, hungry and looking to grow. Clarity is what you want but purpose is what gets you there.

TriVantage

TriVantage Textile Distribution. Customers of TriVantage are awning and marine fabricators and installers who need their orders quickly and without complication. Stealing Share combined the utility of logistics with the feeling of expression to create a brand that inspires and acknowledges.

Business-to-Business: Brand May Be All That is Left

By Tom Dougherty

Brand Development in Manufacturing

brand development in manufacturing
Manufacturing Companies are often too literal

Like the rest of us, B-to-B does not live or function in a vacuum. We have all undoubtedly heard that we live in a world where we are constantly being bombarded by advertising messages. Everywhere we turn, from the TV to the bus stop bench to the blimps flying over sporting events, there is a consistent overwhelming presence of advertising messages. Even the pen on your desk, with a logo, is a marketing message.

While we see a plethora of consumer ads, we see very few strictly B-to-B ads. We forget that clients of B-to-B companies are consumers too. Quite often, the only way they may hear about a company is through advertising. A company may have the best new business development mangers in the world, but there is no way they can identify every potential client or industry with applications for their products or services. They can come close, but there will inevitably be some that fall through the cracks.

Most B-to-B companies are experts in the business of their business. They have to be. They present themselves as industry experts as well as experts in helping businesses. They are the experts, they have the products, and they know the business of their business.

No Brand Management

However, nearly all B-to-B companies lack coherent brand management to run the business of their brands. Contrary to the beliefs of many companies, their brand is vital for their long-term success. Creating a better brand is the key to creating a better B-to-B. Companies are in a constant battle to invent, borrow, re-invent, and perfect. First mover advantage, a term that marketing folks hold true like it’s the holy grail, does not mean as much as it once did. The recognition of being first to market is short-lived.

brand development in manufacturing is complex
Manufacturers need to see past their product

Those companies find their ideas being duplicated by the company down the street in a matter of weeks, negating their first mover advantage. B-to-B companies see this cycle all the time. It is characteristic of the industry. If all companies within a given sector are providing the same service, the only thing that they believe to be left for differentiation is price.

This is not true either. Price has become a table stake in the market space. Having the best possible price is a requirement of all clients seeking a B-to-B company. If a company does not have competitive prices, it will not be a successful company for very long. (See a case study on manufacturing brands here)

What do companies have left to differentiate them from one another? What companies do have left is brand. Since very few B-to-B companies are investing in their brand, this means there is great opportunity. The idea of brand probably seems foreign or nonsensical to many executives, but, when properly utilized, brand can be the difference-maker.

In their essence, brand development in manufacturing is not very different from other consumer products companies. They make something, whether it is a product or a service, market it, and they sell it. Most consumer products companies know that they operate in a market full of products just like theirs. They know that the only thing that separates products from one another is their brand.

Changes Are Needed

Strategic brand development in manufacturing
Manufacturers often serve a global audience

Companies must start behaving like consumer products companies. They must understand that if they want to differentiate themselves from the other companies in the market they must invest in their brand. Branding the company is not that much different than branding any other company. First, you must understand the market in which you operate, uncover factors in selection, and build your brand around the precepts (beliefs) of those who purchase your products and services. Brand is not about the company; it is about the consumer.

While there is surely a high degree of market segmentation for each B-to-B company, the branding message must remain unified. The marketing messages can be tailored to align with each segment of the market with the promise of the brand as the over-riding message. When brand is executed properly in any sector something amazing happens. The target market begins to covet your brand. In fact, in the case of these markets, it is often the way to get in the door of someone who currently does not choose you.

Prospects relate to your brand on almost an instinctual level. Margins begin to increase, and customers will seek you out even if that means they are inconvenienced to do so. You will become what your customers covet.

 

Read more on the B2B category here:

B2B Market Research

Is it all about price?

In B2B is low pricing ALWAYS the answer to growth?

Low Pricing. Is there no other way?

By Tom Dougherty

low pricingBusiness to business marketing seems to be a mere reflection of the nation’s economic trends as a whole, which means that there is one thing and one thing only that currently drives B2B brands: Price.

Every B2B company, rookie or veteran, seems to rely solely upon price point sales. At the end of the day, if your B2B brand does not offer a reasonable price, you do not have a chance in today’s competitive and highly commoditized market in the first place.

However, there must be more than price to not only meet but also exceed the standards and expectations of the customer. Simply stated, using brand as the platform of differentiation for your B2B business is how you will increase market share. With so many B2B companies attempting to flourish in an increasingly conservative financial marketplace, the only way to grow business is with brand identity and equity within the industry.

Take printers as an example

low pricingIn order for this to happen, B2B companies must be willing to commit to serving the customer with their brand even more so than with their product/service. Take printers, for example.

Every printing company should have technologically advanced equipment, quick project turnover, and reasonable quotes for jobs (which also includes online order forms and status reports). In addition, the staff should be friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable.

These are table stakes, basic standards for which every customer seeks. Contrary to popular belief, the customer actually does and will continue to look for more. What makes the customer choose one printer over another, or any B2B company over another B2B company, is brand.

Perhaps one printer recognizes that the need to target is local start-up businesses that specifically need business cards, signature systems, and signage. Positioning its brand around the needs of these target customers will ultimately attract new business and perhaps generalize to other customers who have similar needs.

Either way, the development of brand is what generates this initial trend, not price offers. In order to find an effective brand position and message, a lot of work must be done, especially in the commoditized B2B market.

Market Research helps

low pricingCareful market research that yields quantifiable and actionable results beyond the scope of price point is the most crucial element to your brand opportunity discovery. It is extremely difficult to let go of price as the main indicator of customer choice, but it is necessary to challenge your brand to assume the pedestal position price once held in your business model. You must be able to admit to yourself and to show your customers that you know their choices matter.

Customers like to be acknowledged for being smart consumers, regardless of the industry, product, or service. Noticeable change in your understanding of the customer must occur in order to grow your business; this we know for a fact. How that change takes place and is executed is something for which your brand should continuously be held responsible.

Loyalty

Another issue with placing price at the top of your list of business priorities involves customer loyalty. If you truly believe customers can continually remember where they go the best deal, you are mistaken. Asking an average consumer where he or she went out to dinner last week is hard enough, let alone asking where he took his suits to get dry-cleaned two months ago.

Price barely even factors into this kind of recall. The only way consumers will be able to answer such questions is if they have developed a habit of using the brand or if they have somehow absorbed the brand as part of their own identity. If Joe Consumer uses Henry’s Dry Cleaners every month, he will surely remember the name and recall the images he associates with Henry’s Dry Cleaners without a problem.

The question then is, what will make Joe Consumer switch cleaners? The answer to this question resides within Joe Consumer’s system of beliefs. What does he value and why? Has Henry’s Dry Cleaners ever asked him? If not, he is at risk and also a potential customer of any dry cleaner in the area who is willing to find out what his needs include.

The customer is the secret

low pricingIt is almost guaranteed that your competition is not doing its homework with regard to the most important factor of your business: the customer.

In the B2B market, it is safe to assume your competitors fail to view brand as an advantage. Your competitors will price point you to death until you do something different and better to steal their customers permanently from them.

Doing something different could resemble something such as changing your name or redecorating your building. Different is not enough. In order to gain trial from and keep the loyalty of customers, you must be different and better, and you must have a brand that reflects carefully researched consumer beliefs and trends.

When brand becomes the platform of your business, you will progress, and in the B2B market, you will accelerate past the competition that still tries to win with decimal points and dollar signs.

Customers remember brands, not businesses.

Read more here on B2B

Trivantage Case study

B2B Market Research

Brand is all there is in B2B

 Playing at the low price is a loser’s game

Business-to-Business Market Research: A Wide Open Opportunity

Business-to-Business Market Research Means Business

By Tom Dougherty

B-to-B Strategy Is Special

business-to-business market research provides surprising results
How the research is conducted matters

Developing and enhancing brands for companies whose main emphasis is business to business has very specific challenges.  These characteristic obstacles make the brand development model in B-to B strategy more complicated; however, this means the outcomes are all the more valuable. In general, the direct to consumer research process seems very straight forward, and it is assumed that this kind of market research is much more easily conducted.

This is not necessarily the case. In fact, the methodology of business-to-business market research is very similar to this model, and the importance is every bit as relevant. In all truly revealing research, regardless of industry, the value is dependent on both your ability to ask the right questions and your ability to identify the target audience to survey.

The questions that you ask to define your target are the same regardless of the venue. Who are the primary decision makers?  Who influences the decision? Who should be the decision maker?  The last question is most compelling because it requires innovative thinking and possibly even new category creation. In work that Stealing Share completed for a national logistics provider, discovering who should be the decision-maker opened the doors to new opportunity.

Do Homework

Before the study began, we agreed that we needed to place focus upon the corporate logistics managers, the individuals who held the responsibility of running the in-house logistics departments. Upon further thought and our preceptive behavior modeling, it began to emerge that a substantial opportunity existed with the “C” level executive.  Our modeling indicated a tendency in the logistics manager to be risk adverse, and committed to keeping logistics in-house.

The “C” level executive appeared more receptive to strategic messaging and more apt to embrace the change that hiring a third party logistics provider (3PL) represented. (Read how the CEO needs to be involved here). All of these hypotheses surfaced from the research. As suspected, the logistics manager did not want to give up control while the CEO viewed the gesture as a strategic decision. This discovery turned the industry on its ear, and all it required was simply assuming nothing and looking at the playing field with unbiased eyes. However, this is not ever where the work ends. Hypotheses lead to an entirely different series of questions, and the brand process continues.

What is Next?

After the target audience is identified, you then must understand the entire market by asking the right questions. You need to develop a means to profile the category in a way that will allow you to segment it in cross tabulations (for marketing purposes) as well as aid in developing sales messaging. Myers/Briggs profiling, for example, in our research questionnaire can be productive because it allows us to observe the target as if they represent an individual personality type. With this knowledge we are able to get our arms around the target and visualize them as a person rather then as a faceless company.

business-to-business market research looks at the customer as a person
Market share is the end game

Build your questions around your strategy and not around the known. Getting a business executive to speak with you during the business day is difficult, so assume that the incidence (the rate of completed surveys per number of calls made) will be low and more costly.

As the questionnaire is written, we like to think of it as a telegram and remind ourselves that we are paying dearly for every word. Do not ask questions to which you already know the answers. Most existing research is populated with non-essential data and sheds minimal light on the real marketing issues. Ask difficult questions that enable you to actually gain insight on the segment. In addition, you must compare your brand to the competitive set and find out who is credited with certain attributes.

The difficulty is that we are not talking about product attributes such as price. We are talking about brand attributes like beliefs and imagery. These answers will allow you to look at the market clearly and honestly. Furthermore, if you queried the target market as to the importance of these attributes, you will not only know what is important but who owns it.

In order to steal market share you must understand switching behaviors and beliefs. Open-ended questions will not give you the fodder you seek because price and availability are table stakes. If you ask consumers, they will tell you that price is the issue. This is what consumers regurgitate to protect themselves from looking foolish. Price is the first answer because it is the easiest value for your target audience to quantify. Obviously within your B-to-B category there is limited price elasticity, and you have no choice but to play in that range. What you seek to understand is, with all things being equal (read price), what makes a difference?

This requires careful thought because you must prompt the respondents and then get them to rank attributes dispassionately. This kind of business-to-business market research is involved work but indispensable in helping your B-to-B brand steal market share. Only when you fully understand the precepts (beliefs) of your target audience can your brand be implemented to influence the purchase decision. The secret is that the customer needs to covet your brand every bit as much as you covet the purchase transaction. (Read more detail on market research and the difference between methodologies here)

Read a B2B market study here