An overview of marketing and branding for entrepreneurs in 6 parts – Part one, branding
Wikipedia tells us that “An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome.” Which means that, as an entrepreneur, you are also responsible for most of your branding, marketing and advertising. These are vast areas of activity and we are trying to shed some light onto some of these issues that concern you. We can only focus on a few key things, but we aim at providing you with tips that you can utilize right away.
So, what’s a brand anyway?
Does your company have a brand? It sure does, as a brand is simply a synonym for “idea”. Let’s take a famous brand. “Google” for instance. All the name does is to spark a reaction for you to say “Search-Engine” or “Online Search”. When you start your business, you make a clear decision as to what the purpose of the firm is. That idea (see above) is your brand. When people see you, your logo and your other collateral, there should be a similar reaction. Your target audience should associate you with the service that you provide. Many people talk about branding in the context of an on-going activity. In our view, this is not the case. You define your brand once and then you keep working on making that brand successful. Only if the purpose of your company changes or if external factors force you to do so, you may have to “re-brand”. But then you are back to the same place where you have an idea that you need to communicate.
What does a brand look like?
Imagine an iceberg. Only 10 % stick out of the water. This is the portion that people will see. In the marketing context, that is your logo, advertisement, brochure etc. Underneath the surface lies the positioning, SWOT and PEST (SWOT = Strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threats PEST = Political, economical, societal and technology) analyses. Then there is the competitor analysis and much more. Everything that is below the surface shapes the look and feel of your brand. For instance, if you are in banking, certain colours, shapes and tones of voice apply. In the banking sector, you speak a specific language which differs from say soft drinks. The trick is to look different than your competitors. You also want to ensure that people like what they see. Remember, you never have a second chance for a first impression.
Since we are on this topic of impressions, let’s talk about the idea of being “cheap”. It is possible to focus on low cost, thus offering lower prices. However, you need to make sure that you don’t LOOK cheap. You still need to appear to be a trustworthy and caring company. This can be achieved by making sure your marketing material looks good. As an example: Air Asia. Ahhh! Cheapest flights (Now, that is the idea. In reality, MAS and Cathay Pacific can be cheaper). Note how Air Asia offers low cost but their material is top notch.
We use the idea of brand promises as the guiding light for an organisation. A simple statement that encapsulates what the place is all about. You can use it even for HR purposes. Let’s say your brand is to be “The provider of the most sophisticated websites”. If a client is asking you for a crude and un-sophisticated website, the answer is “Thanks, but we don’t do that”. Or if someone with very serious and stuck up applies for a job in “The funniest Kindergarten in town”, you turn them down.
Is a tagline really required? And what should it be?
Chances are that the name of your company is used by others. More importantly, not many people know what your company is doing. Today, you have about 7 seconds to communicate your brand. If your name and tagline can explain to someone what your business is all about, you have a winner. Many taglines don’t make sense. In fact, they are very important. Only when your business has grown to be a player that everyone knows and recognises, and then you may want to drop the tagline. Taglines used to be called “Bromides” after the plants that sit on other plants. And that is what they do. They go along with your logo. A good tagline enhances the brand.
Is your brand aligned with internal and external audiences? If not, you have a problem!
Now that you have decided what you are doing, what your organisation looks like etc, it is time for the field test. If people think of your place what you want them to think, then you have done a good job. If your target audience doesn’t associate you with your services and product, then you have issues. The same applies for your staff. EVERYONE and please allow me to emphasise this, EVERYONE, within the organisation needs to know what your brand is. As stated above, it will guide the organisation. The brand is the north star of corporate navigation. If people don’t know, then they steer into all directions and it is hard to move towards the chosen goal. As an exercise: Get someone from outside the organisation and let her/ him ask 10 staff across the organisation about the brand and what the organisations is all about. If you get 6-8 identical answers you are in a good shape. If you get 10 different answers, then you need to think about what went wrong.
Can a brand have more than one product?
Any brand should be treated as a single entity. “DingDong – We announce people” produces doorbells. If they were to offer car horns, they should create a new brand and whole new entity. If you think of it, you go to Royal Sporting House for your sports needs. Not to buy a coffee. The rule number one in marketing is to never confuse the customer. Your brand needs to be absolutely clear to them. It comes full circle. A brand is an idea and people can only connect one brand with one idea. So, if you are looking for a door bell, DingDong is the place to go. If you need a car horn it is a different vendor. Trouble is that you will have to manage a multitude of brands as opposed to products. That means that you need to have a website, brochure, logo, collateral etc for each brand that you have. However, this also comes with good news. Strong brands make more money and attract better suppliers, have more loyal customers and staff.
How easy is your branding really?
The most difficult part is to say “No!” to opportunities. If you are clear about what your brand does and doesn’t you are in good hands. There will be a time when people come to you and offer you money for something that is somewhat similar to what you are doing or simply because they think you can do it. It is best to turn these offers down. It hurts, yes. Think again. A hairdresser is good because all they do is to cut hair. They don’t offer haircuts with a service for your car. It is easy to attract customers if you are clear about what you offer. And if you are an expert, people happily pay more. Be absolutely focused! You may want to engage the help of third parties to do a brand audit in order to check where you are standing. The reason is simple: your clients, suppliers and staff may not tell you the truth about your brand, whereby they typically open up to a third party. You can then use the insights gained and incorporate this into your business.
“What do you think we are doing?” is a question you should be asking much more often. Internally and externally.
A final word of encouragement
Most successful brands have started small. You can do it too. Ensure that your material looks good, the brand expressions (Logo etc.) make sense and are appealing. Practice your elevator pitch and stay on track in pursuit of your brand building. Eventually, you will earn a reputation and become the “go-to address”.
In the next article in this series we will talk about marketing, which is often mistaken with advertising and promotion. We will show you how you can apply some simple but effective ways to go about your marketing.
Launchpad is a full-service, branding, marketing and communications group of forward-thinkers, devoted to brands that will shape the 21st Century. As Asia’s only partnership of strategic, marketing, creative and technology people, the group has diverse backgrounds, vast experience and a long track
record of solving tough marketing challenges. Launchpad’s expertise spans marketing, advertising, design, branding, digital / interactive, technology, and beyond. They work best with brands that have ambition for growth and want to make a difference. Launchpad is your ‘marketing lift-off in Asia’.
Stefan Pertz is the Group Managing Director of Launchpad Sdn Bhd.
Passionate about marketing, Stefan has practiced what marketing textbooks teach. He set up direct distributions in Singapore and Sydney, helped to open offices in Hong Kong and Malaysia. The successful launch of a new brand under his supervision resulted in the client, a postal service, being nominated among the top 10 direct marketing providers. The name Launchpad (Your marketing lift-off in Asia) depicts the sole reason for its existence: the company boosts companies in the region to new marketing heights. Learn more about Launchpad: www.launchpad.com.my or www.launchpadnews.com