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The Power of Branding

Why Should a Customer Choose You?

By Steve Aranoff & Robert FitzPatrick

The strength of a print supplier or printer, and typically its most powerful reason to buy for a customer, is the value of its brand. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about poor management of a brand’s regional strengths during a flat market got us thinking about how we use our brand and how well we understand what power the brand might have for us.

Even for a smaller company with a positive reputation, branding brings benefits to what you have already earned by focusing your strengths to your potential customers.

For every right move a company can do with its brand, it can also make multiple wrongs—actions that simply don’t contribute anything worthwhile to a brand’s presence, personality, strength, and ultimately, its sales volume.

So how do you know when you’ve made a wrong move before it’s too late? Our things-not-to-do checklist will help your branding efforts succeed.

Naming Your Company with a Weird Name
We all know about the companies whose names just sound weird. A recent customer told us that their funny name was an inside joke. If it sounds weird, the brand is not likely to be memorable to a customer in a positive way.

Fixation on the Superiority of Your Product
In our global marketplace, the differentiations between products have reached an all-time new level of commoditization. Business is no longer B&W but functions on the reality of "he who gets to the market first—and stays present—can outsell a vastly superior, similar product." A brand can’t rest on its laurels for long due in large part to the increase in online media and the swift spread of information via the Internet. The solution is to create a brand that ensures its image connects with and strengthens your product’s identity—not just its superior attributes—to your audience. Successful examples of this strategy are Intel’s Intel Inside, and HP’s Invent campaigns. They both invoke images, not products.

The "We’re Already a Brand" Syndrome
This concept rears its ugly head whenever a company reaches a level of complacency. With each company we work, we hope to have a product so well understood that all we would need to use in marketing is its brand name. For example, 20 years ago, put IBM in the center of an otherwise blank ad and everybody would know what we were talking about. IBM’s famous striped logo was introduced over three decades ago, but technology and trends don’t remain the same. Finally, even IBM had to change their design and branding to reclaim their heritage. Their new e-business campaign is simple and phenomenally effective, positioning e-commerce with IBM. Even if you’ve had successful branding, you can’t afford to sit on your laurels.

The Fear Factor in Branding
If you’re overly concerned about what your associates might think of your ideas instead of accurately portraying concern about your brand image, stay away from branding. You must have a firm belief in your product with a willingness to deliver what’s needed in the marketplace. The majority of the best brands came into existence driven by one person’s vision and persistent belief in that brand’s potential. Drive your brand.

Ignoring your Brand’s Image
When you go into any store and look around, you always see a proliferation of similar products. Products ignoring design and image are everywhere, which is why only a handful of products have become great brands. So what part does image play in the real world of branding? Everything.

Run of the mill packaging, or even the advertising used to promote your brand, must rise above the standard to achieve results. Does your package, logo, signage, brochures, and all collateral material stand out from the crowd? Minute Maid, when other juice suppliers copied their carton style, found that a revamp of their carton graphics alone increased sales by 24 percent. What could a good image do for your success?

Brand Schizophrenia
The confusion between building a brand, being consistent in its use, keeping a brand alive, and reinventing a brand when it has outlived its usefulness can become so confusing that disaster is inevitable. Random changes cannot provide the same impact as a well-planned brand evolution.

Stagnant messaging should not be confused with brand consistency. Do your efforts contribute to your brand’s image, position, and equity, or do they dilute it? If the customer can’t easily see the meaning of the image, only harm can be done.

The Customer Connection
Every strong brand has in some way become a product that represents what that customer is seeking—ease, convenience, power, stamina, pride, beauty, etc. But in each case, it’s the human factor that can easily be missed. A brand’s frailty is in direct ratio to the extent of its failure to connect with its consumer. Simply flaunting one’s wares is about as popular—and effective—as cramming in a term paper overnight. At every product’s end use is a person who is buying the product for a reason. Find the reason, keep it on personal terms, and you’ll be well on your way to avoiding this pitfall.

Forgetting Who Makes the Brand Work
If you ask a brand manager where their brand is, they might answer, "On the store shelf; with our product; in our annual report; or in the people that work here."

All these answers are basically wrong. Those are manifestations of how a brand gets disseminated, but not where the knowledge lives. Brands do not really exist anywhere but in the minds of the consumers and prospects —they’re who makes the brand work. It’s the job of the brand to help a product or service get its foot in the door of the buyer’s mind. It’s branding that will get your product to the point of having an army of believers who stand by the brand—and what it means—in their mind. The brand is different from the product itself.

Make the Brand Tell a Story
Classic, memorable stories all seem to begin the same way—with a simple statement that grows to paint a vivid picture. When told simply, using plenty of concrete imagery, these stories become powerful selling tools.

The best way to tell a business prospect about your company is through a solid description and memorable stories about the products and services you provide. These brand stories can then be learned and repeated by everyone on your team to convey a consistent message. Your brand story can be inspirational or memorable or anything else you’d like, but whatever it is, it must be real, and it must be yours.

Here are some simple ideas to help you organize your information to develop your own, powerful brand story.

Describe Your Brand in One Sentence
Don’t over-think responses, use business jargon, or be imprecise in your language.

Describe Your Typical Brand Customer in One Sentence
Every company has a typical customer they want to reach. Use that great customer you have as the one you want to reach as your typical customer.

Describe the Services/Products That Your Brand Delivers
Detail what you provide in simple language. If you develop plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator that allow for insertion of register marks automatically, say: "We develop add-ons for Adobe Illustrator to automatically add register marks." Don’t say, "We extend the ability of a leading illustration program to create more complete print and cut files." This may be accurate, but it doesn’t convey anything useful.

Describe the Benefit That You Provide Your Customer
What’s the big deal about your product or service? How will it benefit your customers? What’s in it for them?

Describe What Makes Your Company Different
What is your value-add? What makes you different? Why should a company hire your firm or purchase your products? When you finally put together the answers, you’ll have developed a simple brand story. Think about how your brand story telling customer approach differs from a lot of static numbers and bullet points. Imagine how much easier it is to tell a story to a group of people that they can then repeat—even when you’re not present. That’s the power of brand story telling.

Nov2007, Digital Output

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