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Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

The Brand of Bioblogging?

bioblog.jpgMichael Smith of bioblogging.com submits this branding challenge:

I own a niche (literally, the trademark) for a brand (a “bioblog”) that is also a new art form (for resumes). I own the book (Bioblogs: Resumes for the 21st Century, HarperCollins Fall ’06). I own the only blogs on the subject: on WordPress, Typepad, Blogspot. The book is in libraries but the concept is still hidden from the market (lazy publisher). I am trying to promote an idea, a revolutionary reaction to traditional resumes (of which I am an expert).

The recent global branding teleconference spoke of branding this and that, and the session with the ‘branding experts’ discussed resumes and CVs and bios, but only a bioblog is really anywhere near being a “branded resume.” I could only listen while I wanted to shout. Nobody knows. How does one man shout loud enough over the blogosphere to be heard when they don’t recognize the word: BIOBLOG!

This, to me, is a challenge. Mark Hovind (JobBait.com) and George Blomgren have been supportive, but how can I approach viral marketing when I am not trying to sell anything . . . just inform . . . and seed a future market?

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OK, this challenge is a bit different from some of those we’ve looked at in the past – it is more conceptual. So, you marketers and branders – what are your comments, questions, critiques, remarks? What advice would you give? The Comments are open!

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artists-pallette.jpgThis BrandingWire challenge is from a color consultant. What is a color consultant, you say? Read on, see how Rachel describes her business and her need to gain broader exposure, then give your advice in the comments. All marketers are welcome to pitch in with their ideas and counsel!

Background:
With a fine arts background, I painted pet portraits for several years, capturing the personality of each pet by utilizing color psychology. (http://www.rperls.com) This was a natural segue into color consulting. Now, I’m an independent color consultant, specializing in helping small business owners realize the full potential of color in their branding strategy. I also assist in the incorporation of brand colors into work and sales environments.

Current Status:
Having recently completed extensive training and certification through the International Association of Color Consultants, (http://iaccna.org) I’ve got the education, but need to get the word out about my services. I also author a blog about color, but haven’t figured out how to best utilize it as a venue for getting work. (http://hueconsulting.blogspot.com) Additionally, I’ve developed a detailed questionnaire to analyze businesses and determine their appropriate color/color palette, and would like to offer this as an online service. Since I am relocating to another state in less than a year, it seems like a better use of my time to focus my efforts online.

Goal:
I want to be known as the go-to consultant for small businesses looking to harness the marketing power of color. As a newcomer to the market, gaining credibility and establishing a name for myself is essential to success. The question is, with so many options out there, how do I develop this business to make it a viable endeavor?

OK, you bloggers/marketers. BrandingWire exists so you can show off your expertise in very tangible ways. What questions do you have that you’d ask Rachel? How would you help her, or someone in a position like hers, to grow the business? Get the conversation rolling in the Comments!

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A BrandingWire Shift

gear-shift.jpgFor those of you who have been following BrandingWire, you know that a group of us decided to conduct an “experiment” of sorts – tackling branding challenges as a group, one per month, pooling our expertise and perspectives. We’ve tackled coffee, a town in Colorado, car sales, and other themes, and its been an enjoyable ride.

But now it’s time to try to expand and morph the BrandingWire model a bit – to include YOU. Instead of a group of 10-12 of us tacking a single challenge once a month, now we’d like to open BW up and invite the entire community to contribute. Here’s how…

- Do you have a branding/marketing challenge that you’d like to borrow some expertise on? Great – submit the need in a brief [e-mail to: stevew(at)stickyfigure.com], describing the background, the current state, and the goal (here is a simple version of a backgrounder; here is a very thorough version). We’ll post appropriate challenges on the site. Any or all of the BrandingWire posse – and, in fact, any marketing blogger – will be welcome to post in the Comments with suggestions and ideas.

- Do you like wrapping your brain around real-life branding challenges? Great – then be a contributor, pitching in your expertise as new needs are posted.

What we have found here at BrandingWire is that we groove on REAL problems – we like to be presented with a variety of gnarly issues, and now we want to give the entire community of marketing bloggers an opportunity to “show their stuff” by generating creative ideas and asking relevant questions – maybe even having lively discussions and disagreements in the process!

Ready? Here we go – join the shift at BrandingWire, by submitting challenges you (and companies you know) have, and sharing your ideas.

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Here is a prime example of how marketing advice from the BrandingWire team has helped one small company.

If you or your company has been helped by our various writings over the months, why not add a comment or put up a post? We’d love to know what you think!

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consulting.jpgFor October, the branding consultants and experts at BrandingWire take on the challenge of helping to brand – well, consultants.

The topic is “How to Brand and Market a B2B Consulting Firm.” Below, we outline the details of the challenge:

The ideal client/customer for the consulting firm looks like:

    Revenues: $1 million to $25 million
    Employees: 150 or fewer
    Verticals: High-tech and health care
    Location: North America

The challenges facing these client/customers: consumers and other businesses have so many choices, that high-tech businesses (as well as their other target audience made up of clinics and hospitals) are experiencing stagnant growth, or even losing market share. Many of these clients don’t know how to differentiate themselves from their competition.

The consulting firm’s challenge: as a small marketing firm, they are losing contracts to lower pricing and to bigger firms. The consultancy after three years has stopped growing and most of its clients buy one project and don’t return for more assistance for several years, if at all. How do they position and brand themselves in order to return to greater marketplace success?

Here are the perspectives of the BrandingWire posse of pundits:

Lewis Green

Drew McLellan

Martin Jelsema

Patrick Schaber

Olivier Blanchard

Steve Woodruff

Becky Carroll

Valeria Maltoni

Kevin Dugan

Gavin Heaton

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This month’s BrandingWire challenge addresses the need of a small IT services group in Canada. This outfit (which remains anonymous in this post, but is very real) approached us at BrandingWire with the following business challenge:

    Would you say branding coffee and shoes and beer and other “lifestyle” products comes easier than branding… say, a small high-tech services company?
    I’ve been working in marketing for this sort of company for a short while, and have found it to be quite a challenge to really get a grasp of our brand. How can providing IT services be cool, let alone sexy? This is my fundamental dilemma when considering marketing campaigns, when writing for the website, when contemplating a blog… etc. etc.I would love to volunteer our company for your next collaborative post. Would you be interested?

Well, in fact, we were interested – and we invite other companies to submit a similar request for consideration. Here is an expansion of the need in a short branding brief:

computer-repair.gifCompany Description:
We are a small company based in Canada. We do just about everything IT: proactive work (such as network maintenance), monitoring of critical systems, emergency work (IT fixes, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), new user set-ups, procurement of hardware and software (at a discount through our top vendors), consulting work (which can be anything from upgrading all 100 of your Windows computers to Macs, or something simple like what open-source software alternatives we would recommend instead of Photoshop).

We are also offering services in a new area called Green IT. It is all about transforming the way IT is used to help cut down on energy use and waste. Solutions could include datacenters with virtualized servers, remote access of datacenters (to keep the systems in a stable environment), or sending software electronically to eliminate packaging waste. We want to get more into this area!

Target Customers:
Small to medium sized business in our city and the surrounding areas. (Note: we do provide support to branch offices of our customers across Canada.)

We seem to attract a lot of non-profit (environment, research, health) and financial/accounting clients. I believe we aimed more for non-profits when the company was first started, both because of the President’s contacts in that sector and also because they are easier to access than other businesses, and they have formed a tight-knit community in our city. The issue with non-profits is that, because of their tight usually government-controlled budgets, we’re in a constant struggle to get paid for our extensive work.

Our clients are typically not technically-oriented. Companies are both B2B and B2C, ranging in industry from financial and accounting services to commercial real estate, health care services, non-profits, and some retail.

We’d like to aim for businesses with younger staff that understand technology and can appreciate the need for IT, as well as the critical nature of technology services in relation to their business operations. But it has proven to be hard… which leads me to…

Biggest PR/Marketing Challenge:
We charge hourly for consulting, project hours and support time; the hourly price is lower with a contract than without a contract, where we would come out and do things on a case by case basis. It’s difficult to convince SMBs that our services are worth the amount we are charging – however, to draft a legal document, they’re more than willing to a pay a top notch lawyer $500/hour. If your IT services – your computers, your printers, your network, your data – are done incorrectly, you’re out of business. Customers view IT issues as a pain (i.e. my email is down again) instead of as a critical part of their business (i.e. without IT, we can’t function as a company).

Customers just don’t always understand the value of IT services.

Our monthly support contract covers just about everything “IT”. Then on top of that, say you’ve signed up for a 10-hour contract for support – we don’t just send a bill at the end of the month: we send you a full report of every single minute of work that was done for your company and what was accomplished. We log every incident and track all time and documentation within our Helpdesk. And because we’re a small company at heart (growing now; we’ve doubled our size in the past 2 years), we do give great customer service – our clients know us and they know if something goes horribly wrong with their email at 3 in the morning, they can reach us with one phone call.

Main Marketing/PR Goal:
1. Help our current clients understand why our services are worth the price tag. This may be an inherent problem in the industry (it’s known that IT is on average never properly budgeted for), but EDS and other huge IT corporations don’t seem to have a problem. We want them to see us as a partner for their business, not just an “IT repair service”.

2. Bring in clients who understand the importance of IT services already, and get them to pick us above our competitors for our value-added work.

We’re too entrenched in the technology/service provider perspective to understand how our clients and potential clients really see IT. Hopefully BrandingWire can help us see our company from a purely marketing perspective. Our company is great – we just need to get that idea out there to our current clients and to those that have yet to hear about us.

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OK, great challenge. Now, here is how the BrandingWire posse of pundits responded!

cat-fix-it-sm.jpgOlivier Blanchard

Becky Carroll

Kevin Dugan

Drew McLellan

Patrick Schaber

Steve Woodruff

Lewis Green

Valeria Maltoni

Gavin Heaton

Martin Jelsema

And, our 3 4 guest bloggers this month:

Cam Beck

Chris Brown

Matt Dickman

Mark Goren (Mark saw his invitation late but jumped in as soon as he could!)

So, what do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments!

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(Image credit tech)

(Image credit cat)

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Just came across this post on Seth Godin’s blog, about an (attempted) car-buying experience he had not long ago.

The money quote:

…it’s obvious that a great salesperson is going to sell far, far more than a good one. That’s because it’s not a linear scale. The great ones reach out. They work the phones when they’re not first in line. They understand what a customer wants. They’re not just better than good. They’re playing a totally different game.

His take on how to improve things (fire half the sales force!) is pretty interesting…

PLUS – here’s a quick post on how a Toyota executive outlined the problem of shoddy customer service at dealerships. I love this quote:

One consumer, responding to a survey of car buying, said she’d rather attend a funeral than do business at a dealership.

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Hurry on down! Bad credit, no credit – you qualify to read and comment!

truck-deal.jpgThis month, the BrandingWire posse takes on auto sales. No marketing backgrounder needed on this one – we’ve all experienced what it’s like to go into a car dealership. We all know how cars are branded and sold in the retail environment. Now, the BW marketing gurus give their suggestions on what works, and what needs to change.

But wait! Before you click on the links and read our various posts on the topic, we want you to take part! Tell us your stories – good, bad, or ugly. Click on the Comments and give all of our readers a paragraph on what you’ve experienced. How would you change the automobile sales process?

You see, the marketing blogger community, and certainly the group at BrandingWire, want to see better branding and marketing practices. And the best way to do that is to proclaim, with a loud voice, what is good, and what really stinks. Join us as we seek to provide input to the auto industry on what we, the customers, would like to see for a buying experience!

Here are the posts (so far!) from the BrandingWire team:

Becky Carroll

Drew McLellan

Steve Woodruff

Valeria Maltoni

Patrick Schaber

Lewis Green

Martin Jelsema

Olivier Blanchard

Kevin Dugan

Derrick Daye

And, a guest blogger post from Ed Roach (Brand Corral), with follow-ups from Ed here and here.

Also, Chris Brown decided to jump right in with a post of her own on this theme, as did Acorn Creative (both praising the Saturn customer experience).

UPDATE: Cam Beck weighs in with some thoughts of his own, as does Jeanne Bliss over at Marketing Profs Daily Fix.

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20070709174047.jpgThis month, the BrandingWire posse has taken on the real-life challenge of suggesting creative branding ideas for a “destination” town – Estes Park, Colorado.

For some background on the town, its demographics, and the branding challenge, read this post.

Each of the BrandingWire pundits has a unique take on the ways that Estes Park can differentiate itself, and more effectively market itself as a destination for various types of travellers. Practical ideas include logo/tagline development, website re-design, outreach to travel writers, more effective use of social media and referrals, and many more.

Here are links to our various posts on the topic:

Martin Jelsema

Lewis Green

Kevin Dugan

Valeria Maltoni

Steve Woodruff

Drew McLellan

Patrick Schaber

Derrick Daye

Gavin Heaton

Becky Carroll

(Image credit)

Be sure to check out last month’s challenge, the branding and expansion of a coffee shop!

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The July BrandingWire challenge is a destination – Estes Park, Colorado. Our collaborative suggestions for optimizing this town’s brand will be active on this blog on July 9th. However, this post will serve as a “Backgrounder” on the town, which we have used in our research and deliberations. You may also find it useful, to provide context for our branding ideas!

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Backgrounder for Estes Park, Colorado

Description

Estes Park has been a tourist attraction for over 100-years, even before the founding of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes borders the RMNP and has used the slogan, “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park” for some fifty years at least.

It is nestled in a high-mountain valley with spectacular mountain vistas. The area teems with wildlife (deer and elk saunter through the town’s side streets summer and winter). As a tourist town, Estes has acquired a cadre of attractions other than the outdoor hiking, fishing, horseback riding and sightseeing. There are go-carts, an aerial tramway, hayrides and other family-oriented activities.

The town itself is small with two streets running its length. In summer they can be extremely congested. This can’t be fixed because of the cliffs arising on either side. The streets are lined with merchants selling anything from cotton candy and salt-water taffy to fine leather goods and original paintings. This merchant group, approximately 250 of them, and the restaurants and accommodations provide the vast majority of the town’s tax base. The remainder comes from grocery stores, lumber yards, and other typical support businesses. There is very little industry.

Unlike many Colorado resorts, Estes Park is and always has been a summer destination. Trail Ridge Road through RMNP closes in October and doesn’t open again until May. Thus without a downhill ski facility close at hand, winter activities are confined to snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Many of the shops close or only open on weekends.

However, Estes has tried to extend their season, both fall and spring, with a variety of attractions and events. These are mostly pointed to day visitors from the “Front Range” (Front range is a term meaning cities from Ft. Collins to the north to Colorado Springs to the south. This is where the bulk of Colorado’s residents live – about three-million).

Population

The town and environs have been attracting new residents, mostly retired people for several decades. Over 54% of the area population is over 50. Most of these folks wish to limit growth and commerce now that they’ve established residences there. A vibrant economy is not their top concern. There are also professionals, consultants and “creatives” opting to live here – and it should be noted that without the sales tax from tourism, their property taxes would skyrocket.

Almost 55% of the permanent adult population are college graduates. Because of transportation costs mostly, everyday consumables are relatively high priced. Thus, permanent residents will travel to the front range towns to shop at WalMart and Target and Home Depot, etc. They also buy groceries and gasoline on these frequent (average once a week) trips. The cost of homes and land prices have accelerated greatly over the past ten years. Used homes and newly constructed condos will begin about $350,000.

Brand Owner

The town itself operates the Convention and Visitors Center and funds a promotional budget of around $1,000,000 a year. The town is solely responsible for its brand and its marketing.

A Convention & Visitors Bureau is responsible for overseeing tourism development programs including Special Events, Communications, Group Sales, Visitors Services, Film Commission, and facilities including Conference Center, Stanley Park Fairgrounds, Visitors Center.

Differentiators

Estes Park is unique in that it is closer to the front range – just 73 miles from Denver – than the resorts that were built for ski business. It must be passed through to enter RMNP from the east. It is very convenient to some of Colorado’s fastest growing areas – Ft. Collins, Loveland, Longmont. It does not have an airfield, however.

Estes Park prides itself on being a family vacation center. It is a friendly place, and generally less expensive than the ski-oriented resorts.

Estes Park has a horse-show tradition. Their Stanley Grounds is the site of almost-weekly summer horse shows as well as the “Rooftop Rodeo” in July. There are also Irish and Scottish weekends with traditional games, costumes and cuisine. Most recently a musical venue has been established where free concepts are performed three or four nights a week. A calendar of 2007 summer events can be found at http://estesparkcvb.com/calendar.cfm

Market Segments

Estes Park attracts four types of visitors: Day trippers, touring vacationers, conventioneers and destination vacationers.

Day trippers come from the Front Range. They are not usually “big spenders”, but may have favorite niche shops they frequent when they come. Many come for the outdoor activities, hiking, fishing, etc. If these Colorado residents host relatives and friends from out-of-state, hosting a trip to Estes may be mandatory for them. They may not contribute a lot to the tax base but they are a great source of referrals.

Touring vacationers travel as nomads by driving from one spot to another. They may or may not tote trailers or live in recreational vehicles. Usually they will spend a day, perhaps two, in Estes Park and then head for the next destination on their itinerary. They use camp sites and convenience stores and may fill up with gas. They may buy postcards and a tee-shirt but don’t contribute significantly to other segments of the economy.

Conventioneers account for the smallest segment today, but this may change. Conventioneers do spend money in the restaurants and accommodations, and they tend to purchase higher quality gifts. The town, through an active convention sales and promotional campaign is attracting more conventions and association meetings. A sub-section of this segment are horse owners participating in summer horse shows as well as those attracted to certain ethnic gatherings (Scottish games and the like), special musical performances and festivals (fall color tours).

Destination vacationers are usually families that come to Estes for several days, averaging six. They will take in the many attractions – concerts, horse shows, etc., stay at one accommodation during their time there, eat out, buy gifts and souvenirs, and generally contribute more per capita to the tax base than the other segments.

Major goal

The town wants to increase the tax base to enhance the lives of all residents. Tourism is the major vehicle for this endeavor. However, it must balance tourism with the desires and needs of its residents.

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