Archive for the ‘Business Blogging’ Category

The Business of Being Branded

December 30, 2009


I recently spoke to a group of franchise owners in New York. They had some interesting comments about the franchise business. Long story short, they did not make owning a single franchise sound too appealing.

The owners went into detail covering everything from fees, contracts, decorating to advertising and marketing.

This got me thinking: What is it you are buying when you invest in a franchise? I’m sure there are much more elaborate answers, however I believe you are getting four primary things.

1. Processes and Systems
2. Marketing and Advertising

3. Bulk Buying Power 

4. Branding

Most successful non-franchises have the first three covered  but branding seems to be what usually falls short with most non-franchise businesses.

Why is branding so important?
Because people buy what they are comfortable with. Think about it, the last time you went to a Subway sub shop was it because the food is so incredible or was it simply because you knew what to expect at a Subway? Did the awkward deli next door with the 400 meat posters in the window leave you a bit more cautious?


People are inherently afraid of the unknown; they stick with the familiar. Branding with good design builds a comfort level for consumers. Even if the brand is unknown, a professional logo, graphics and presentation create familiarity and give an idea of what your experience may be.

Philosophically, the concept is unfortunate because it removes new experiences from the life equation — and new experiences are what we remember the best. For example, you clearly remember that pizza place you went to on vacation four years ago but you cannot recall your 412th experience at Pizza Hut a week ago.

So, why does branding usually fall short?
Because owners have trouble understanding branding’s value. People consider the brand to be part of marketing and advertising, however this is incorrect. The brand is the organization, its definition, its heart and soul, the gut feeling someone has about Subway, McDonalds, Disney, GE and all the others. The marketing is what communicates the brand to the public.

Many business owners have trouble understanding brand because the ROI is not directly quantifiable. How much will I get back if I spend X on branding and there is no direct answer to this question, and clients don’t like that. Unfortunately here at GrafiQa, we often separate clients into the ones who understand brand and the ones who don’t because our experience shows that education on brand importance only works with some.

We believe the brand is even more important than the product or service itself because it truly is the product or service.  The organizations that have brand or are lucky enough to stumble upon a brand can have exponential success.

Franchise fees to start up a location can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, the agreements are ironclad and leave you very little room if things don’t work out like you planned.

But if you successfully put together the right combination of process, marketing and branding, a franchise may be unnecessary. It could even be more of a burden than anything else. If you can establish the processes, have a feel for marketing and can build a strong brand you may be better off on your own. And one day, you may be the franchiser instead of the franchisee.


Putting the Marketing Pieces Together When the Economy is Down

December 22, 2008


The sky isn’t falling – but it sure feels like it when you hear the economic news every day. And that causes a lot of businesses and not-for-profits to put the halt on marketing and advertising.

But slower economic times are the perfect time to market. If your competitors aren’t marketing, you can pick up their marketshare. If you don’t, it’s a pretty good bet that some savvy person elsewhere will.

The key is to ensure you’re getting a return on investment from the marketing dollars you do spend. That means implementing trackable and measurable programs with every piece of marketing you do.

Why not put custom web addresses on each type of your advertising and then look at your web stats to see what’s driving traffic? Then you can make adjustments based on real facts – not hunches.

Another tip: focus on e-Marketing. It’s less expensive, more effective, and trackable. And with Tivo, satellite radio and the web devaluing traditional media more every day, strong e-Marketing is a better way to effectively connect with your customers, clients or donors.

Want to see how good e-Marketing and new media can work? Check out our website or contact Bijoy at to talk about it in person.

Advertising and Social Media

December 18, 2008
the Brooklyn Museum's ArtShare application on Facebook allows users to share art and connect with museums.

the Brooklyn Museum's ArtShare application on Facebook allows users to share art and connect with museums.

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a good article about the current state of advertising on social media sites. The upshot: the average person goes to a social media site to be social, not to consume advertising or befriend laundry detergent.

I think one thing that is frustrating traditional “advertisers” is the fact that social media works much more on the old PR model, and that marketing/advertising/PR are becoming less and less distinct disciplines in this environment.

For real though – who is going to be an active contributor to Tide’s corporate page? Who has the time? The challenge for brands is being creative and delivering – yes, I’m going to use those two magic words again – valuable content. Apparently that doesn’t include a gallery of “America’s Favorite Stains.”(ps it’s a work-safe link.)

On the other hand, it will take a while, but behavior on Facebook will likely include shopping one day. I came very close to shopping at the Met’s store for a Christmas present because of an ad on Fb. I clicked through to the site and browsed. For me, that’s as much of a conversion as they’ll ever get because I am, at the end of the day, very cheap. I’ll go back after the holidays and buy ornaments for gifts for next year. I’m in that, much reviled-by-my-own-profession demographic.

And while Tide’s stain-o-rama page has fewer than 500 fans, the Met’s page? More than 35,000, including me. And I get valuable information about events and exhibits right there in my notifications, without having to search it out.

And if you want to talk about being really valuable to your constituents, look at the Brooklyn Museum’s ArtShare application, which allows people and museums who are passionate about art to share it on Facebook. It’s that kind of thinking that will win you a Groundswell Award, as well as distinction as an innovator in your field and exposure to an audience that might never have heard of you otherwise.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to share some Hopper with friends.

Is Online Writing Real Writing?

December 11, 2008

Seth Godin had a really interesting post today about how the Pulitzer Prize committee is finally getting (sort-of) hip to the fact that online writing is making a huge difference in the world – and is, therefore, worthy of being recognized with their fancy-schmancy award. The screwy part is that only writing associated with big outlets will be considered.

The web is a huge place. A lot of the content on it obviously isn’t associated with those big outlets. And a lot of important work is happening outside those big outlets.

Here in GrafiQa Land, a lot of our clients are having great success positioning their businesses or not-for-profits as the leading experts in their fields through business blogs or e-news tools. Some of them have experienced such success that we think they should get an award. I guess it just won’t be the Pulitzer.

If You Don’t Link Love Yourself….

August 18, 2008
By x-eyedblonde via Flickr Creative Commons

By x-eyedblonde via Flickr Creative Commons

How do you expect anyone else to link love you?

One of the reasons we suggest our clients use a blog in their overall online marketing plan is that search engines love to see activity. They love to see other sites linking to yours. The more inbound links the better. And if those links are coming from particularly active and relevant sites, that’s even better than better. It’s the betterest.

So how do you get that link ball rolling? It’s pretty unlikely that the big names in your industry will happen upon your site out of nowhere and write a link-filled and eloquent blog post about how amazing you are. (Although, Debbie Millman, if you’re listening, GrafiQa wouldn’t turn down any links you might be able to spare.)

It’s likely you’ll have to start by linking to yourself. And there’s no shame in that. We’ve even done it ourselves.

Your blog is your place to share wisdom and insights and passion about what you do. It’s the most natural thing in the world to illustrate that with links back to your own website.

At GrafiQa, we’re really passionate about Brand Development. We could talk about it all day long, because we believe that a well-designed and executed brand is absolutely essential to an organization’s success.

So we write about it a lot on our blog, and whenever appropriate, we link back to our site. It’s not a matter of trying to “trick” the search engine. You can’t do that, anyway, and you’ll be punished for trying.

It’s about sharing something of value and doing it in a way that has a better chance of attracting attention.

Communication 2.0

May 14, 2008

I’ve been thinking today about the curve on which people adopt innovation. Out in front, you have people who are innovation junkies. They are so far ahead of the curve, always knowing what’s in development long before it ever hits the street. By the time the latest software or mobile device or Internet innovation is actually available, it’s already old news to this group. They’re looking ahead to what’s next.

If you can imagine innovation like a wave turning under the surface of the water, the junkies are the ones who are pushed forward far ahead of any visible wave.

Then there are the innovation surfers who zip in and out of the curl, enjoying the thrill of a new toy or a new trick.

Behind them are the folks who miss the first wave, but still manage to catch the next one.

And then there are the people who think they can’t swim, so they stand on the beach and every so often get their toes wet.

When a lot of people hear the words Web 2.0, they start to feel like one of those beach sitters. They’re not quite sure what Web 2.0 is. They think it has something to do with blogs and MySpace. It sounds like a lot of work. So they spread out their beach towels and pull out their romance novels.

Learning new technology can be daunting. But the beauty of Web 2.0 is that it boils down to making things easier and – key for business – more efficient.

Instead of playing phone tag, technology and the web have allowed us to email. Web 2.0 takes it a step farther and allows you to meet in cyberspace – either at the same time or at different times, so everyone is always on the same page.

Sites like Slideshare and Google Docs and others can make the organizational and workflow parts of your life easier, as well as help connect you to like-minded people.

Web 2.0 allows you to not only reach out to your consumers, but allows them to find you. It allows you to have a conversation – a real relationship.

And relationships are increasingly the driver of consumer decisions.

Not every organization or business needs to use every single Web 2.0 application. You have to be smart about it. Look at your overall goals, look at what gets in the way of meeting them, and then look to the Web for the solutions that will make your life easier, make your goals easier to reach and make your time more efficient.