Archive for the ‘Communications’ 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.

So What Is This Social Media Stuff Anyway?

March 18, 2009

A lot of people talk about Social Media (or Web 2.0) – but not everyone knows exactly what it really means.

That’s okay. Like your mom told you when you were 13, it’s okay to be curious.

Web 1.0 was the first decade of the web, where the internet was a place to look and read. The information flowed one way: from a website to the user. Think of it like reading a brochure that happened to be online.

Social Media is a completely different beast. Over the last half-decade, the internet has changed from a one-way conversation to an active conversation between multiple parties.

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Blogs. e-Newsletters. Twitter. Facebook. Myspace. LinkedIn. Wikipedia. They’re all ways for anyone and everyone to take AND contribute information.

Since Social Media is where your customers, clients and donors are spending their time and money, it’s smart business to get in on that conversation with Permission Marketing.

It takes time and effort. Web 2.0 and Social Media tools require fresh, relevant and changing content all the time. But it’s worth it to stay connected with your market.

The Slow Death of Traditional Media

January 8, 2009

smashed-tv

Have you advertised on TV, on the radio or in a print newspaper lately? You probably found that prices are skyrocketing and effectiveness is plummeting.

Why? Same reason as most major social shifts in the history of mankind: technology. Tivo and DVRs are devaluing traditional television ads. iPods and satellite radio are keeping people from listenting to the radio. And ask anyone you know under the age of 30 when they last picked up the print version of a newspaper.

Old school interruption advertising isn’t the same “that’s where the eyeballs are” media buy it was years ago.

So what’s a business or not-for-profit to do to keep their customers or clients engaged – and to get new prospects to become customers?

Learn as much as you can about e-Marketing. Social media, Business blogs, e-Newsletters, Microblogging (like Twitter) and Podcasts are where your customers, clients and donors are moving. So, in order to keep at the top of their minds, you need to move there, too.

Putting the Marketing Pieces Together When the Economy is Down

December 22, 2008

hand-and-puzzle

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 bijoy@grafiqa.com to talk about it in person.

Burning Permission ESPN-style

December 20, 2008

I’m out of the norm at GrafiQa. I love sports. Really, really love ’em.

The NY Mets dominate my April through September (I’d be happier if it was April through October but it just doesn’t seem meant to be lately). It made 14 year old Bijoy’s decade when they located their AA team, the Binghamton Mets, in my hometown in 1992.

Sadly for me, the Cincinnati Bengals dominate my – well, not very long each fall since they perpetually stink.

Anyway, I get ESPN The Magazine because I read ESPN.com several days a week and want to get the latest baseball buzz in the middle of winter by seeing the pay-section Rumor Central (to see what #5 starter the Mets will settle on). Along with signing up for The Insider, I get a subscription to The Magazine.

I received my latest issue today. It’s all about how EVERY BOWL GAME MATTERS (as in college football bowl games).

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Now, I’m not a huge fan of college football. But I’m such a sports dork that I know what games matter and what don’t. Just about every b0wl game DOESN’T MATTER because of the asinine BCS system.

I also watch enough SportsCenter to know that ESPN carries nine million bowl games over the next few weeks.

So it’s clear to me as a professional marketer that The Magazine is pushing for ratings – not pushing to interest me as a sports reader.

That’s disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand that ESPN (and ABC, it’s parent company; and Disney, ABC’s parent company) are crazy serious marketers.

I just hate that my guilty pleasure on such a base level has been tarnished. The stuff I want to read about because it’s important in the sports world has been encroached on by less meaningless stuff that ESPN wants to promote for ratings.

Whoever is in charge of ESPN The Magazine is burning the rest of ESPN’s Permission with me.

Tweet, tweet…it’s your brand flying across the park on Twitter

December 18, 2008

Is Twittering going to work for business and marketing? Still yet to be determined in a meaningful way. There are lots of opinions on it out there. Here’s one now.

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We like Twitter. Want to know what we’re up to? Sign up to follow Chris’ tweets by clicking on his photo here.

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.

The Guns N’ Roses Brand and Natural vs. Artificial Exclusivity

December 5, 2008

One of the big recent fads in the music industry – especially for older acts trying to recapture former glory – is exclusive sales of new albums at certain big-box stores.

AC/DC just released “Black Ice” at Wal-Mart and one of my favorite bands of all-time, Guns N’ Roses, did it last week with “Chinese Democracy” at Best Buy (though they at least also offered tracks through iTunes, too).

Is it a good idea to create this artificial exclusivity?

I don’t know what kind of financial deals AC/DC or GnR got from Wal-Mart and Best Buy so who knows if it was good for their pocketbooks. But, as fans and consumers, it’s bad for us.

Like I said, I love GnR. Grew up on them. Learned to play guitar to “Appetite for Destruction”. Couldn’t get enough then. Even had my first date with my wife at a GnR concert (though it was the strange 2003 version).

 

A lot has changed from 1988 to 2008....

A lot has changed from 1988 to 2008....

 

But I was ticked that I had to drive 70 miles to spend my money to buy “Chinese Democracy” because my hometown doesn’t have a Best Buy. (Of course, I could have downloaded the album on iTunes but there’s something really primally satisfying about holding the actual album of rock in your actual hands.)

So Axl, Best Buy and Universal Music Group got my $14.99 (x2). That means that my brand loyalty to GnR was so high that I was willing to drive lengthy distances and overcome my annoyed-ness at having to do so.

But, if they do it again (hopefully not with a long 13 year wait again), my loyalty will fade a bit more.

A good brand creates a good gut feeling when you think about it.

Listening to the album (well, most of it at least) gives me that good gut feeling. But my experience purchasing it – forking over my money – sure didn’t.

I wasn’t the only one. “Chinese Democracy” debuted at #3 on the charts. 267K albums is certainly respectable – but it’s disappointing for what used to be the world’s biggest band.

Natural exclusivity can be great. But artificial exclusivity just alienates your customers and gives you short-term rewards for long-term loss of brand loyalty.

(I’ll save you my full review of the album – but the short of it is that I’m pretty happy minus a few duds. Here is Rolling Stone’s review if you’re interested)

The First Step to Good SEO: Have Good Content

November 14, 2008

A lot of our clients here at GrafiQa regularly ask us how to get ranked as high as possible by Google, Yahoo! and other search engines.

Their motivations are pretty obvious: get seen by more customers, get more qualified leads, get more business.

Many people think that Search Engine Optimization is about manipulating or tricking search engines into ranking your website higher. That’s dead wrong. Why would you want to trick Google or Yahoo? That means you’re tricking your potential customer (who isn’t really your potential customer anyway since he’s probably not really interested in what you’re selling if you tricked them).

Trickery isn't nice. And it's not real Search Engine Optimization either.

Charlie Brown knows that trickery isn't very nice. But it's not good Search Engine Optimization either.

The first step to effective SEO is actually having relevant and useful content about your product, issue or whatever it is you’re marketing.

Sounds simple, right? It is.

Think about it: if you want to buy small-scaled steel kettle drums, you want Google or Yahoo to direct you to the best, most relevant dealer for that type of specialized equipment. You don’t want them to direct you to some random music equipment dealer in Tacoma who’s really selling indian tablas but “tricked” the seach engines into thinking his selection was broader.

Successful search engine companies are smart. And they know that finding the best, most relevent sites for their customers is what is going to keep those customers coming back.

So, if you’re thinking about SEO, start by understanding that the first step is being honest about what you’re doing.

(Of course, there are a million more advanced things to do after that. But that’s a whole other post….)

Seth’s Blog talks POSITIVE

November 12, 2008

Here’s a great post yesterday from marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog about qualities that good marketers possess. While he’s framing this particular discussion in terms of hiring, what he’s really talking about is  (cliche alert) the Power of Positive Thinking.

Seth Godin: The Marketer’s Attitude

Cliches aside, it surprises me almost every day how many times I can consciously choose to change a negative feeling or attitude into a positive one – and that conscious decision usually helps produce a more positive result.

Sound hokey? Yes.

Still good advice for your business and life in general? Absolutely.