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    « June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

    July 27, 2006

    Branding Wisdom (Part 4)

    Following is an elaboration on some of the practices identifed a previous post.

    People will know you for what you tell them you do

    Managing your brand is more than just coming up with a name, a logo and a tag line. It is about constant communication to your customer base and prospect base. I was always amazed in the dotcom world at how effective some companies were at marketing themselves. I saw a lot of traditional "bricks and mortar" companies who spent a lot of money to rebrand themselves as an eCommerce company.  For example a company presented themselves as an indirect goods eCommerce company.  In reality they sold staplers, paper clips, etc.  The message sounded a lot more strategic and exciting.  Though many companies went so far it bordered on deceptive, there were lesson to be learned.  A company should brand itself in the direction it is going, not where it is.  There needs to be a balance or you will loose credibility.  If 95% of your business is reprographics, but the part of your business that is most interesting and has the potential for growth, why not brand yourself as a document management company (that also does reprographics).  The more you emphasise and communicate the document management services the more customers will associate your brand with document management.

    If you don't brand yourself the market will brand you
    If you do not communicate effectively and consistently your brand and value proposition the market will brand you.  This may not be the way you want to be branded.  This could range from a shortened brand as illustrated in my previous post, or the market may put you into a category you don't want to be in.  We were contacted recently by Wide Format Imaging who was doing a story on RIPs (Raster Image Processing).  They wanted to know if we wanted to be included.  Although PLP's background is with RIPs, our solution has evolved to a more extensive workflow solution.  We did not want to be branded as a RIP.

    Consider making your company brand the same as your primary product and service
    If you are striving to keep your branding simple you should consider having your company name the same as your primary product or service.  This is particuly true of you are trying to make strides into a new market.  People only have so much room in their brain to file your brand.  Customers can confuse your product names with your company.  I can't tell me how many people refer to their PlotWorks software as their "PLP System".  PLP is not the name of the product.  It is our company.  I have also seen this with Informative Graphics Corporation.  They have a viewer product called Myriad.  Myriad was a strong brand, but very few people knew that is was made by Informative Graphics Corporation.  They then created a web based product called Brava.  I was in a meeting where a company was trying to decide if they should stop using Myriad and switch to Brava as if they were switching to a competitor.  They did not realize it was developed by the same company.  A company that did a great job with this strategy is Agile Software Corporation.  They grew their company very fast and developed a very strong brand.  The brand is simple, easy to remember, and extraordinary.  The name of the company is Agile, and the name of their product was Agile.  They put "all of the wood behing the arrow" to market and brand themselves.  It worked.

    July 26, 2006

    Branding Wisdom (Part 3)

    Following is an elaboration on some of the practices identifed a previous post.

    Your brands do not have to be descriptive.

    Too often when people are creating a brand they convince themselves that it must describe what they do. This is not the case. A brand is like a bookmark or index in people’s brain. When they see or hear the brand, the brain uses that brand like an index. It “looks up” the associated emotions and feelings. You should be more focused on creating something that is easy to index and memorable. The second part is continuing to reinforce the emotions you want your audience experience when they see it. What emotions are conjured when you hear – “Starbucks”, “Accenture”, “FedEx”, or “Walmart”? None of these brands are descriptive, but they do bring about specific emotions. In the AEC reprographics industry most companies have the words “Blueprint, Blue, Reprographics, Imaging, etc.” Though there is nothing wrong with this, it is not necessary. I would also argue that this strategy can create a less simple brand and can pigeon hole you into a space that five to ten years from now you may not want to be in. When you pick a non-descriptive extensible brand, it can grow with your business. It gives you options. You do not have to rename you business as your business grows or morphs with changing market conditions. The longer you can keep your brand, the more powerful it is, and the more likely you are to build market momentum behind it.


    Make your brand "remarkable"

    Seth Godin has done a great job of branding himself around the concept of “being remarkable”. He is an expert in branding and one the common themes in all of his literature, blog posts, and seminars is “be remarkable”. This is best illustrated in his book “The Purple Cow”. He argues that in contemporary marketing practices great ideas get watered down. Marketers are trying to hit a mass market and don’t want to be too bold. They want to be politically correct, or they just want to be polite. The problem with this is there is so much clutter out there and a watered down brand or message gets lost in the clutter. I understand that when  Comedy Central was considering the South Park television show they ran focus groups. One of the groups contained mothers of young children. Some of the women became so upset in the focus group that they were crying and were quite adamant that the show should NOT be put on the air. The producers knew they had something that was edgy and remarkable. They believed that being edgy was a good strategy, and it has worked for them. I’m not advising to do something controversial or rude, but if you are re-branding your company, be remarkable. Don’t get trapped into something that is watered down and boring. Pick a name, a tag line, or logo that gets the attention of your target audience. Build on that brand with remarkable experiences that build on your remarkable brand.

    July 20, 2006

    Great Sales Reading

    I happened to pick up the current Harvard Business Review in an airport newsstand yesterday.  The cover of this issue says "Sales".  There are some really good articles in this magazine.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is pondering their sales strategy.

    July 19, 2006

    Branding Wisdom (Part 2)

    Following is an elaboration on some of the practices identifed in the previous post.

    Less is more

    Your customers and prospects only have so much room in their brain to remember your brands. They are constantly bombarded with marketing clutter. It is getting more and more difficult to get people’s attention. Fewer, simpler more remarkable brands will get people’s attention. Simplicity scales. Complexity creates drag. Admittedly, PLP has a branding problem. We have PLP, PlotWorks, OpCenter, RevLine, etc.  That is a lot for people to remember. We know this is a problem and will address it.

    Choose a brand with one or two syllables

    Following the “less is more” concept above, people will naturally gravitate towards shorter brands. The fewer syllables a person needs to utter the more memorable and scalable your brand is. Furthermore if you don’t create a brand with one or two syllables there is a good chance that your customers and employees will re-brand you. At Digital Paper we had a product called Intranet Docs. Our customers almost exclusively referred to the product as “I-docs”. This created a problem for us because someone else owned the trademark on “Idocs”. Digital Paper became DP. Federal Express has FedEx. FedEx changed their legal name to match what their customers had branded them. To validate this concept think of successful brands. They will more often than not have one or two syllables. For example: FedEx, Xerox, Kleenex, HP, Starbucks, etc.

    Choose a brand that is “extensible”

    It is impossible to describe the variations of your products or services with a single two syllable word, but you want to minimize the space people need in their brain for your brands. This can be accomplished by extending your brand. An example of this is FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Kinkos, etc. FedEx is the primary brand and Express, Ground, Kinko’s etc. are the extensions to the brand. If your customer only remembered one thing they remember the primary brand and they can look up the brand extensions.

    July 18, 2006

    Branding Wisdom

    Many in the industry are considering re-branding themselves.  This includes renaming their company or services.  I have been fortunate to have worked for, had on my board of directors, or been mentored by several entrepreneurs who have grown businesses from their basements to hundred million dollar public companies.  I thought it would be appropriate to share some wisdom I received from these individuals .  They provided me with some clarity to a topic I found confusing.  Below is a summary of the advice I received.  Subsequent posts will elaborate on these items with supporting anecdotes.  Let me add the disclaimer that we have not implemented this advice at PLP...yet!

    1. Less is more.  Those you are marketing to only have so much room in their brain to remember your brands.
    2. Choose a brand with one or two syllables.
    3. Choose a brand that is "extensible"
    4. Your brands do not have to be descriptive.
    5. Make your brand "remarkable".
    6. People will know you for what you tell them you do.
    7. If you don't brand yourself the market will brand you.  The market may not brand you the way you want to be branded.
    8. Consider making your company brand the same as your primary product and service.
    9. Multiple brands should be used to attack multiple markets.
    10. Each brand can be an asset, but also has an expense to develop it and maintain it.

    July 14, 2006

    The Definition of Competition

    As markets ebb and flow successful businesses morph to the changing market conditions.  Business that can't change to meet these changes go away.  Competition is the phenomenon that facilitates these changes.  If you are changing your business model or are in the middle of a market that is morphing identifying your competition can be challenging.  You may be sitting face to face with people who tell you they are NOT your competition, or people that are fearful of your new initiatives but you do not believe you are a threat.

    In a past life I founded a software company called Digital Paper.  We created a product to view engineering drawings over the Internet.  We incubated the company in the offices of another technology company which we gave equity for in-kind rent and services.  As we started to bring on customers and gain attention this other company started demonstrating a prototype of a product that looked very similar.  In some cases prospects coming to the office to see our product were shown their product.  This was maddening because our prospects were considering buying their product instead of ours.  When we confronted them with this they replied "it is not competitive, it uses different technology than yours."    I couldn't accept it.  Needless to say they stopped being our partners very quickly.

    It was at this point I developed a crystal clear understanding of competition that I have used ever since.  Competition is where your prospect sees two alternatives for solving the same business problem.

    July 13, 2006

    Branding AEC Reprographics - 3 Scenarios

    I have had several discussions with reprographers and vendors in the industry regarding the previous post.  One thing is certain, there is a growing discomfort when somebody asks "So what kind of company are you?"  As more traditional blueprinters make technology based services a core part of their offering there is confusion around this issue.  This branding issue manifests itself in three ways:

    1. What do you call yourself?  Reprographer, Blueprinter, Construction Information Manager?
    2. What do you name your company?  ABC Blue, ABC Imaging, ABC Technology, etc.
    3. How do we brand the industry trade association?

    Each of these needs attention because prospects and customers need to put you into a category and all of these can have an impact on this.  But it is important to realize that even though they are highly correlated they are separate initiatives.  I would argue that #1 is the more important and should be addressed at a higher level by the affinity groups, the IRgA or a combination.  It hurts the industry if sales people feel uncomfortable describing what they are.  It is also important that there is some broad market recognition for a new category of services.

    July 07, 2006

    Reprographer, Blueprinter, or ______?

    There has been a growing debate recently as to what to call “reprographers”.  I have seen this on the IRgA board with the re-branding initiative, but more importantly I have seen this where the rubber meets the road.  A “reprographer” telling a prospect what he IS.  Companies that are being successful selling value added services utilizing technology are uncomfortable using the term “reprographer” or even “reprographics”.  They feel it diminishes their position.

    Some have suggested that the industry should go back to “blueprinter”.  The argument is blueprint is a well recognized word.  In a previous post I did a simple Internet analysis.  My conclusion (by no way scientific) was that “blueprint” is popular and strategic, “blueprint-er” is unpopular and tactical.  Blueprint and blueprinter are worlds apart and adding an "er" at the end of blueprint totally changes the brand.  Note I called my blog - "The Blueprint", not "The Blueprinter".

    I believe that any brand that has “repro” or “print” in it undersells the value a reprographer delivers today.  They are terms of the past.  The companies that are seeing their business grow quickly in a supposed zero-sum-game are because they are distancing themselves from printing.  Printing and reprographics is a component of the services they provide, but is not all encompassing.

    Based on my discussions with reprographers whose business is growing and with contacts in the AEC industry, the strategic value offered is being the custodian of project critical construction content.  It is not providing low cost reprographics.

    The issue of branding seems like a complex subject, but it is quite simple. What do you want the people you are marketing to think about you when they hear your name or something that defines you?  As humans we have an innate need to categorize things and put things into “boxes” so we can deal with them.  What box do you want to be put in by your prospects?

    July 05, 2006

    Indian Tech Support

    Here's a little comic relief for anyone who has had trouble with outsourced tech support.

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