Landing Pages and Sales Campaigns (i.e., Make Them Land on Your Brand)

Whenever you are conducting a sales campaign, you are certain to have a “pitch” about the differentiating qualities of your product or service that results in a call to action such as a request to buy from you.  In our experience, a simple, well-executed, Internet landing page can be the most effective vehicle for accomplishing that task . . . and your landing page can provide an important opportunity to reinforce (and capitalize upon) your brand.

What Is a Landing Page?

According to “Unbounce” (a developer in the field):

“In digital marketing, a landing page is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s where a visitor ‘lands’ after they click on a link in an email, or ads from Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or similar places on the web.” (https://unbounce.com/landing-page-articles/what-is-a-landing-page/)

Getting Started

That said, landing pages are of course web pages . . . but unlike home pages or other content pages on your site, these have a very dedicated function and are constructed differently.  Whereas home pages – for instance – are created to communicate lots of information and encourage exploration, landing pages basically:

  • Reinforce your sales pitch as concisely as possible.
  • Offer supporting evidence (such as testimonials or research data) to help clinch the sale.
  • Provide a simple form to complete the transaction.
  • Include a logo that links to your home page (but just that) for those who need more information to finalize the sale.
  • Reflect the branding of the company to take advantage of past efforts to establish a readily recognizable identity that adds value to the product and/or service being sold.  (IMPORTANT:   Be sure your web site/homepage, sales vehicles, and landing pages all reflect the branding elements decided upon in your Style Guide to gain maximum value from each of them.)

Whether you are building your landing page from scratch . . . or are simply customizing one of the many templates now available, we have found a few key points worth remembering during your development:

  • Your goal is to be as simple, direct, and concise as possible.
  • Your headline and any body copy should reflect your sales pitch (i.e., differentiating sales qualities) being used at that time in ads, direct mail pieces, social media, mass e-mails, etc.  (Remember:  Landing pages are for TRANSACTIONS so keep copy and content short.  If a bullet point or two will suffice, use them.  Save your long, persuasively written copy for your web site and sales tools.)
  • Include art/graphic elements but limit the quantity to one or two mirroring the images of your sales pieces and consistent with the elements of your branding Style Guide.
  • Typically, a form will be used to complete the sale or other transaction.  Keep your requests as lean as possible with the absolute minimum number of fields required to accomplish your mission.  For example:  If your ultimate goal is to collect e-mail addresses to build a data base, just get that piece of information and use that at a later date to gather other details.  Your goal is to enable the interested party to complete the transaction as quickly and easily as possible, guarding against losing them along the way.
  • As part of incorporating your brand, plan (as previously mentioned) to include a copy of your logo that links back to your home page.  However, other navigation that does not fulfill the call to action should be excluded.  (Why risk the distraction?)
  • Sales campaigns usually use multiple media such as ads, direct mail, social media, etc.  Employing the same landing page for each of them can facilitate tracking efforts . . . but you want to be sure you can identify the source that generated the lead.  While a number of alternative strategies exist, one way to accomplish this objective is to use multiple copies of the same page with an identification such as “1” for ads, “2” for mass e-mails, “3” for snail mail, etc.  With all of your results arriving via your landing page, you get a very clear picture of your most successful sales vehicles AND have a bit more control over the closing of the sale, including any necessary follow up of now qualified leads that might be required.   Since so much time, effort, and expense is invested in developing a warm lead, you can’t afford to have any fall between the cracks.  (In my past life, we felt so strongly about this issue that our landing page was the only contact information provided on our sales vehicles; we did not include a phone number because we wanted to make sure all telephone contact was as timely and structured as possible.)

A Word About Testing

Like other sales materials, landing pages can be constructed in a number of different ways.  In our experience, running a controlled test of multiple versions before a limited audience should reveal which elements work best and which version should ultimately become part of your sales campaign.

Land on Your Brand!

Just for emphasis, we will close this article by repeating the importance of making your landing page reflect both the branding elements and the design and pitches used in the corresponding campaign.  Since your landing pages are designed to “seal the deal,” failure to fully reflect your branding wastes the time, effort, and resources spent shaping your identity and misses the last opportunity to have a positive impact upon the sales process.

Note:  To further develop this theme, a future article will be devoted to creating a landing page for our blog that further illustrates these principles in action.  For now, those interested in learning more can check out the writings of Neil Patel:  https://neilpatel.com/blog/beginners-guide-to-landing-pages/.

The One that Got Away . . . !

During the course of your career, you will more than likely have a few opportunities to brand or rebrand a business from scratch.  While very exciting, recognize that such moments occur sparingly . . . so be sure to approach the task with appropriate enthusiasm and seriousness of purpose.  Also, be forewarned that – once you become personally invested in the process – some serious disappointment can follow.

Failure is just part of a normal learning curve!

Many years ago, I had one such chance very early in my career – in this case, to brand a bank.  My employer at the time had just purchased a very small, rather archaic financial institution and was planning to broaden and modernize the level of services provided under a new national charter . . . while hopefully maintaining the modest, existing customer base within the immediate community.

Clearly, this circumstance called for some advertising and publicity to let customers know about present and future plans (trying to generate some enthusiasm for the changes) while reassuring them that the key qualities they already liked would not be lost.

An interesting . . .and difficult challenge!

To get started, we looked at the bank’s name and byline.  Since we hoped to build a bridge between the past and future, we retained part of the original name . . . but with some tweaking.  We were also looking to build upon the existing community identity but signal that enhancements in size, scope, and capability were coming, so we adopted the byline “Your Neighborhood National Bank,” which seemed to capture the idea (and benefits) of big and small in few words. With those two decisions and a few more about logo, color, and font already behind us, we were off and running to the next phase of our rebranding.

Working with a graphic artist, the two of us developed a proposal for an extensive branding campaign.  Since funds were available but somewhat limited, we knew such an initiative would have to unfold over time.

Deciding to give life to our new corporate byline (“Your Neighborhood National Bank”), we created a line drawing/cartoon of a typical community, showing the various elements – both commercial and residential – that would be touched by the bank throughout the course of the year.  For each structure portrayed, we saw a story being featured.  For example, the houses would be used to tell the tale of a family’s first mortgage with another involving the tale of a home improvement loan to add a new bedroom for the addition of a child.  A contractor’s truck in front of the latter provided a vehicle for illustrating small business loans . . . while a tale of college tuition being made available could be triggered by the photo of a teenager in a cap and gown getting a family picture taken up the street.  We would even try to highlight our bank’s growth into areas like new car auto loans by showing a billboard featuring the product.  Basically, we believed this flexible theme could be used to highlight every possible product while a consistent neighborhood brand got promoted that emphasized the very real human stories that got affected every day by the actions of our community bank.

Over time, we figured the regularly reused neighborhood artwork would become very familiar and well-known . . . and people would eventually understand, identify with, and care about the stories being told. Furthermore, the slice of the community shown could be enlarged as needed to accommodate new products and services featured by the bank . . . AND the overall approach worked well across multiple media – from print ads and brochures to TV and radio spots as well as billboards and novelty items.

In other words, we had a very broad vision for developing a brand that could support years of repetition while retaining sufficient flexibility to change and grow as needed to reflect reality in a fresh way and ever-evolving goals.  In our minds, we already saw the customers of the bank getting sufficiently attached to this neighborhood to do whatever was necessary to get the latest Christmas Club toy bank giveaway item for their homes.   Obviously, we had a vision for this brand and had allowed ourselves to get very excited by the possibilities.

So, Was this Campaign and Brand Strategy Successful?

Given the buildup I’ve already presented and the clear sense of the faith we had in our plan, the logical question that comes to mind is – WAS THE CAMPAIGN SUCCESSFUL?

Unfortunately, we will never know because this proposal is the one that got away!

At that time, funds were somewhat limited because the bank had just been purchased and lots of systems modernized with newer technology – all of which represented a significant investment AND expense.  While a certain amount of money had been allocated for advertising and publicity, some of the senior sales staff was proposing the available funds be used instead for a shorter-term promotion aimed at encouraging growth of a passbook savings product (a once very popular form of saving account that had already become a bit passe).  While we pitched our use of the funds for our longer-term branding plan, the head of sales was all for publicizing a 6% return on passbook savings with the focus of all publicity being a BIG  6 – including a full-sized Formica sculpture to sit outside the bank as well as in huge ads in the local newspaper.  Convinced this approach would do some immediate, short-term good, the sales team backed this pitch with full enthusiasm and argued that a branding proposal would not address our immediate need for growth.

In the end, the “BIG 6” campaign carried the day and was launched shortly thereafter.

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

In my mind, our extensive and elaborate branding plan woulda/shoulda/coulda worked to build a loyal and solid base of customers – a foundation for long-term growth.  Instead, the prototype artwork for the neighborhood sat in my desk for many, many years gathering dust.

Decades have now passed since this missed opportunity first occurred . . . but I still look back with disappointment and wonder whether the plan would have been successful. However, I’ll never know because this pitch is the one that got away.

On the other hand, the promotion that was implemented (with my help and participation I might add) was moderately successful and basically accomplished the more modest, very specific intended goal of savings account growth.  Furthermore, the bank increased in size and scope over time before eventually being sold to a much larger bank that was eventually swallowed up by an even larger bank.

So, was the decision to go with the Big 6 campaign the wrong one?  I’m quite certain that I’m the only one who was left with a sense of unanswered questions about this choice . . . and a few regrets.

The Moral of this Story

 I guess this particular story and experience come with several “morals”:

  • When developing a new brand, think BIG.  Come up with a plan that’s broad enough to encompass many initiatives in many different media over time . . . while still promoting the same basic, simple brand message.
  • Branding is a long-term effort that will often (if not always) end up competing with short-term needs for the use of the same funds (i.e., promotions).  Therefore, select branding that can support both long- and short-term strategies . . . if at all possible.
  • Learn to be resilient in dealing with failures – those magnificent pitches that lose out to “lesser” plans.  As an entrepreneur, you understand that loses are just part of the learning curve to success and that nine ideas out of ten will “crash and burn” . . . but you only need that one to make progress.   In other words, learn to “live to fight another day” and give yourself time and opportunity to find your one victory among the defeats. 

Overtime, the key role of branding has become more widely recognized and appreciated . . . but is still a “hard sell” very often because the benefits are not always either immediate or easy to quantify.  I kind of suspect that anyone involved in product branding long enough will have their own sad story about a plan that would woulda/shoulda/coulda transformed the company to a billion-dollar enterprise – in other words, their own versions of the one that got away.

Attention Small Business Owners: Yes, You Need a Web Site!

These days, every small business needs to find a suitable spot to launch an Internet site on the web.  You may think you are exempt because you:

  • Are already well-known in your community.
  • Deal exclusively in walk-in sales.
  • Have a procedure in place for responding quickly and effectively to customer needs.
  • Are very satisfied with your amount of year-over-year growth.
  • Have established a very hands-on identity as a brand that emphasizes personal service.

If this description fits you, I can understand that you might feel the web is unnecessary, but you are wrong.

NOT!!
DIY Small Business Owners do not have to become expert programmers or web site designers (i.e., masters of the content shown in the books above). Lots of user-friendly WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) tools exist that can help you launch a simple site for your business.

Web Sites Come in a Variety of Sizes . . . and Can Be Complex or Simple

First, let me point out that contemporary web sites encompass a broad spectrum from the highly sophisticated ones that allow you to accomplish all aspects of a sale from presentation of the product/service to payment and follow-up  . . . to the simplest variations that exist primarily to establish an on-line presence.

Recently, the WordPress Newsletter published a story about “Building Single-Page Web Sites on WordPress.com.”  Frankly, seeing this article got me thinking that the time had come to post an entry on web sites for our blog because the development of your on-line presence creates an important vehicle for branding . . . while positioning you (should you someday choose) to consider taking advantage of Internet Sales.

As the pandemic of 2020 has taught us, small businesses must be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances, and on-line operations can provide a very useful alternative.  Assuming you are not ready to (or do not need to) take that plunge, having the beginnings of a web site can only help create that flexibility if and when the day arrives . . . and you’ll already be establishing some history that can be helpful at a later date.

Convinced . . . ?   Not Yet . . . ?

Frankly, most consumers fully expect every small business to have at least a basic Internet presence . . . and become suspicious about the solvency and reputation of a company that does not.  At a minimum, you can simply put together a small web site that could have your:

  • Name plus a photo of your operations.
  • A brief bio of you and your staff to attach a face to a name and a voice.
  • Contact information, including physical address (needed for people looking to ship items to you or customers looking to use a GPS); phone number; e-mail; and (preferably) an on-line form to submit questions/comments and collect e-mail addresses.
  • Directions to your physical location (ideally tying into existing mapping services).
  • Days and hours of operation.
  • A clear statement and reflection of your brand and those qualities you want associated with your business – being sure to stay within the parameters you established in your Style Guide.  (Click to access our article on that subject.) 

Remember, this first on-line impression will start to set the tone for your brand in people’s minds . . . so choose meaningful content indicative of whom you are!

How Do I Get Started?

WordPress can actually provide many tools for developing web sites of all kinds and degrees of complexity.  If you are just starting out, you really should check out that article mentioned earlier.  However, lots of alternatives exist.

Consider using an existing simple template.  Many web hosting services and software packages provide a wide variety of perfectly acceptable ones that are easy to use and appear fairly customized once your content and images have been added and fonts, colors, etc. have been adjusted to reflect those already chosen for your brand.  Also, those same sources frequently provide widgets (i.e., application programs that can be easily incorporated to handle basic tasks like forms or searches) that you might want to include on your simple site.

Still a bit too hands-on for your taste and comfort zone (even though the camera on your cell phone can be used to generate all of the artwork needed)?

Consider hiring a local vendor or even a college student to give you a hand . . . but don’t allow yourself to accept any excuse for inaction!

In building a basic web site that incorporates the items mentioned earlier in this article, you:

  • Provide a service to your existing and potential customers who search for you on the web.  (You’d be surprised by the web traffic your brick-and-mortar operation will generate.)
  • Have created a valuable opportunity to further define and promote your brand.
  • Gain a potentially useful tool for sales prospecting.
  • Feature a new method of interacting with your clients.
  • Get access to a platform that can be used to experiment with expanding your operation to encompass on-line sales.  (In 2020, many small business – including restaurants — displayed impressive agility in shifting focus – of necessity – in this direction.  “Take-Out anyone?”)
  • Can help customers engage in self-service 24/7, which can increase their satisfaction . . . while reducing your expenses.

Don’t Be Intimidated!

I was involved in building my first web site over 30 years go.  The world wide web was a relatively new phenomenon, and the Internet was just graduating from the world of Archie and Gopher servers at colleges used to give users a way of communicating.

Frankly, I was too dumb and the process was too new to me to be as intimidated as I should have been though – over time – I learned better . . . and grew suitably threatened by the task of developing a good, highly visible web presence.  (Besides, getting intimidated is always much easier as demands and expectations grow more sophisticated.)

While our early efforts were just “brochureware” and were hardly an important source for sales or the delivery of services, we accomplished some very important goals that served us well over time.  We positioned our company as one of the first to embrace the Internet, helping to create a brand that incorporated technical sophistication as part of our calling card.  As more and more operations embraced technology, became involved in web-based sales, began featuring on-line processing and service, and adopted paperless operations, this branding was extremely useful in defining our company as an innovative leader across several decades.

Remember, all beginnings lack polish so don’t be intimidated.  Regardless, your early efforts are sure to embarrass you at a later date.  (Need proof?  Just take a trip via the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine” in about five or ten years to see some of your early versions and compare them to the current. 

So, take a chance and take a plunge into the web but be sure to always keep your eyes focused ahead when defining your brand.  Try to incorporate who you are now but also who you want and expect to be tomorrow.  Your dreams and aspirations are as much a part of whom you are today as any current limitations that you plan to overcome along the way.

Note:  We plan to address higher-end, more complicated web sites in future articles.

New Year Resolution: Perform an Annual 5-Step Brand Wellness Checkup

As I write this article, a New Year has just begun . . . bringing a much-welcomed fresh start. 

We all hope (and optimistically expect) that 2021 will be a much better, more normal year for all of us – including small businesses that suffered such hardships during 2020.  For them (our primary audience), I offer my best wishes for a strong start as well as a suggestion for an additional New Year’s resolution:  performance of a simple “annual brand checkup” to identify and make any needed adjustments.

Please note that I have chosen the word “checkup” very carefully to suggest a simple self-help exercise – not a complete “brand audit” that can be highly structured, very time consuming, and quite expensive when third parties are utilized.  As a quick DIY alternative that can, therefore, be accomplished much more frequently, the 5 Steps of a Brand Wellness Checkup include the following:

  1. Examine all of your advertising, web site, and collateral sales and instructional material to make sure the documents conform to your Style Guide.  If they do not, you need to determine whether the materials or the guide need updating.
  2. Determine whether the qualities used to define yourself and, therefore, your brand are still the right ones and are practiced daily by your staff and operations.  To do this, talk to your employees and check in with a few of your regular customers.  (Since we are talking about a checkup – not an audit – a number of informal conversations might be all that is needed . . . as opposed to surveys, telemarketing efforts, research focus groups etc.)
  3. Look at your logo and branding statements with a fresh eye to determine whether they still reflect who you are and want to be.  If not, incorporate a gradual revision into your plans – allowing sufficient time and resources to do the job well.
  4. Revisit your customer service protocols to make sure they are delivering the level of excellence you seek, making any needed adjustments to your practices.
  5. Reinforce your branding message with your staff to make sure your identity is getting communicated to customers in the intended way.

Remember, the point of this exercise is to make sure that at least once a year you stop and revisit your most basic branding decisions and their implementation.  By doing so annually, you can make sure you do not unwittingly drift off course . . . and can make minor adjustments to right yourself before a major, potentially difficult, and expensive overhaul is required.  (To learn more about activities associated with the items mentioned above, visit our menu item labeled “Your Brand:  The Beginning” or visit this page.)

While most New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned by February, this goal is one that can and should be done as early as possible at the start of the year.

Good luck . . . and keep thinking positive thoughts about 2021 and beyond.

Hallmark Knows Holiday Branding!

The snow starts to fall.

The camera zooms in . . . as the couple begins a long-delayed (at least two hours) passionate kiss.

The movie ends – HAPPILY, of course – with the pair united just in time for the Christmas holiday but clearly destined to live happily ever after.

For millions of people, December (which now starts on November 1st) means decorations, presents, Santa Claus, reindeer, AND Hallmark!!  The company has become (through years of careful brand building effort) inextricably associated with the warmth, cheerfulness, and good feelings of Christmas – not a bad set of qualities to have linked with your name and your brand.  In fact, so many people have found so much comfort from Hallmark Christmas movies, the company tried to ease the burden of the 2020 pandemic by providing around-the-clock Christmas fare outside the season during a period of heightened restrictions on normal, daily activities.

Clearly, Hallmark is a company that has learned an important truth – linking your brand to a holiday and feelings associated with that time can be a useful tool in your branding arsenal.

Other successful examples?

  • Do you happen to know someone who is a Dunkin’ spiced pumpkin latte fanatic?  (While not exactly tied to a specific holiday, the annual reintroduction of this special is invariably associated with the feelings of fall . . . and Halloween . . . and Thanksgiving.)
  • The Cadbury Candy company makes special Easter eggs, taking advantage of the natural and favorite tie-ins between Easter, the bunny, and candy.
  • Hershey (and the company’s signature kisses) are a Valentine’s Day tradition.

Other examples abound.  (If interested, read “How 5 Leading Brands Embraced The Holiday Season” OR perhaps about “Five Food Brands That Own Christmas”.)  Frankly, the list could go on and on, and I’m sure you can easily find a dozen examples of your own.

So . . . How Do You Make a Holiday Brand Happen?

To some degree, you have to rely upon luck – recognizing an early connection to a holiday that you see has potential and can build upon.  However, some basic steps can be taken.

Most holidays have some familiar sentiments and iconography associated with them.  Try making a list of those attributes and a list of the attributes and iconography already associated with your brand.  A sufficient number of matches between the two lists suggests you may have a likely candidate for brand building.  Starting with some basis for the connection (which is the point of this exercise) should increase your likelihood of success and reduce the amount of time required.  Once you have a candidate, some of the activities that can be used to build the connection between your brand and the holiday are:

  • Become involved with the community during that time of the year.  Linking yourself to charitable causes helps build goodwill and links your product or service to an activity associated with the season.
  • Plan to conduct your periods of heightened sales and marketing activities in conjunction with the holiday, including advertising and special promotions (budget permitting).
  • Do slight variations of your visual branding that encompass those of the holiday without sacrificing the continuity of your basic elements.

By consistently promoting the ties between you and your chosen holiday over time, you can gradually build a brand identity that assumes some of the characteristics of that celebration.  (Even Hallmark’s special relationship with Christmas did not happen overnight!!)

Looking for more suggestions, see “5 Branding Tips for the Holidays” by Debbie Laskey for the Digital Branding Institute.

Don’t Overlook Opportunities Presented by Lesser-Known Holidays

While you were certainly aware that Christmas and Hannukah were linked to December, were you also aware that these additional special observances existed?

  • National Tie Month
  • National Write a Business Plan Month
  • Bingo Month
  • Write a Friend Month

Above and beyond those monthly celebrations, you have special days (examples cited below are from 2020):

  • Giving Tuesday, December 1
  • International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3
  • Cookie Day, December 4
  • Volunteer Day, December 5
  • Aviation Day, December 7
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7
  • Start of Hanukkah, December 10
  • Human Rights Day, December 10
  • International Mountain Day, December 11
  • Green Monday, December 14
  • Wright Brothers Day, December 17
  • Winter Solstice, December 21
  • Festivus, December 23
  • Christmas Eve, December 24
  • Christmas, December 25
  • National Thank You Note Day, December 26
  • Boxing Day (Canada), December 26
  • Start of Kwanzaa, December 26
  • No Interruptions Day, December 27
  • Tick Tock Day, December 29
  • Bacon Day, December 30
  • Make Up Your Mind Day, December 31
  • New Year’s Eve, December 31

(As I sit and write this draft, I now realize I should be planning my International Mountain Day Celebration!!)

Dozens of such occasions occur throughout the year that could provide special marketing opportunities for small businesses.  For a complete list, see Anita Campbell’s article in Small Business Trends  “Huge List of National Holidays for Marketing in a Small Business”; you just might find a number of events already exist that are inherently symbiotic with your operations.

Regardless of whether you decide the time is right for you to act on the advice in today’s article, my blogging partner and I would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season, being sure to tune into a Hallmark Christmas movie or two while filling out your Hallmark Christmas cards to send to family and friends . . . to show you care.

Political Branding in the USA

Let’s start with a quick quiz.  Ever see these images?

Sagearbor, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

What does this picture of a red elephant mean to you?

  • Conservatism.
  • Preservationists.
  • Wealth.
  • Less government intervention (i.e., small government).
  • Donald Trump and George Bush.
  • The Republican Party.
  • . . . and perhaps more?

How about the blue donkey?

  • Liberalism.
  • Change.
  • Labor.
  • Government-funded programs (i.e., big government).
  • Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
  • The Democratic Party.
  • . . . etc.?

In other words, simply seeing these logos immediately brings to mind a wide range of adjectives and accompanying images . . . as well as an emotional response!  That said, we recently had an opportunity to witness the practice (and impact) of this very successful branding in action during the American presidential and legislative elections. 

Frankly, we waited until the election was over (and the votes had been counted) to avoid getting lost in endless partisan digression over details when our reason for bringing up the matter is to highlight these examples of powerful branding while the specifics were still front and center in people’s minds.

In politics, branding is sometimes the only basis upon which individuals vote (and brand loyalty plays a huge role).  Since the issues tend to be numerous, complex, frequently boring, and very often as clear as advanced calculus or nuclear physics, people tend to rely upon simplified measures that allow them to cast a vote that will – they feel – provide a shortcut to their approximate philosophical position.   When a Republican or Democrat votes along party lines, that choice generally assures that certain basic qualities will be present and criteria met by the candidate.  For their part, politicians benefit by closely aligning themselves with their chosen brand . . . rather than get lost in platform details.

In general, the most successful politicians not only align themselves closely with their party’s brand but also manage to enhance that foundation with a strong personal brand through use of campaign slogans, colors, and spokespeople-influencers who, in turn, lend their personal brand to the candidate’s.

Questioning whether a campaign slogan really makes a difference?  Then, check out these seven examples that appeared among the “Top 15 Presidential Campaign Slogans” identified by Martin Kelly (updated February 21, 2018):

Don’t Swap Horses in Midstream

“This presidential campaign slogan was successfully used two times while America was in the depths of war. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln used it during the American Civil War. In 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt won his fourth term using this slogan during World War II.”

All the Way With LBJ

“In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson used this slogan to successfully win the presidency against Barry Goldwater with over 90% of the electoral votes.”

Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?

“This slogan was used by Ronald Reagan in his 1976 bid for the presidency against incumbent Jimmy Carter.”

Happy Days Are Here Again

“In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt adopted the song, ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ sung by Lou Levin. America was in the depths of the Great Depression and the song was chosen as a foil to candidate Herbert Hoover’s leadership when the depression began.”

Give Em Hell, Harry

“Both a nickname and a slogan, this was used to help bring Harry Truman to victory over Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 election. The Chicago Daily Tribune erroneously printed ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ based on exit polls the night before.”

I Like Ike

“The quintessentially likeable hero of World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower, rose handily to the presidency in 1952 with this slogan proudly displayed on supporters’ buttons across the nation. Some continued the slogan when he ran again in 1956, changing it to ‘I Still Like Ike.’”

Change We Can Believe In

“Barack Obama led his party to victory in the 2008 presidential election with this slogan often simply reduced to one word: Change. It mainly referred to changing presidential policies after eight years with George W. Bush as president.”

In addition to the slogans identified by Kelly above, another recent example would be Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan (MAGA) modified to “Keep America Great” for re-election.  An expert brander, Donald Trump produced a wide range of paraphernalia bearing the phrase . . . and used the words to incite supporters at rallies.

Clearly, catchy statements such as these have been used to define the brand of a candidacy and get voters to identify with the candidate’s cause – tapping into existing associated emotion.   Certain songs have also been employed for branding purposes.  In fact, the artists – recognizing the power of branding – have sometimes ordered campaigns they did not support to stop using the tune – obtaining legal “cease and desist” intervention.

 So, what is the lesson to be learned about branding from the masterful uses employed by politicians?

Branding is the best – and often only – way to simplify complex content for a consumer audience in a way that attaches an emotional response and builds a sense of allegiance to a product.  Furthermore, political branding must (as always) be executed consistently and across all media from billboards to speeches to commercials to ads to pamphlets and flyers to promotional items and more.  The further a brand can be simplified and identified via a short phrase, use of a color, a few bars of a song – the better!

Small businesses can learn much by mimicking the example (however seemingly unsophisticated) of their local politicians building a base of support . . . a constituency.  Frankly, they tend to know their audience well and have found an effective way of appealing to them . . . and those people all represent your existing and potential customers.

A Bit of Trivia:

Ever wonder about the origin of the American political symbols – the elephant and the donkey?  The first appearances of both symbols are credited to the artist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly during the late 1800’s.  (Frankly, some of his cartoons were “Nasty.”)

What Comes Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Last year, we published a Small Business Saturday article that provided an overview of the history of the event as well as the potential importance, offering a glimpse at some of the strategies that could be used by small businesses to link this celebration to their brand.

That was last year, which now seems like a decade ago! 

Over 50 million confirmed Covid-19 global cases later, including over 10 million in the United States (see data), most small businesses have had to face incredible challenges as many countries closed down their economies in order to slow the progress of the pandemic.

While a truly unfortunate number of smaller operations have now permanently closed their doors, we need to take a moment this Small Business Saturday to celebrate the survivors . . . and support them in whatever means are available to us.

Expanded Internet activities.  Free delivery.  New products (maybe even including personal protective gear).  Go Fund Me initiatives.  Special Governmental programs.  All of these strategies and so many more have been essential to the continued existence of the survivors.

While statistics clearly indicate that a second wave of the pandemic is upon us and caution that the upcoming holidays will require us to practice some self-restraint, we feel confident that small businesses will survive while still managing to practice governmental safety standards.  Hopefully, by Small Business Saturday 2021 on November 27th, one or more vaccines will have been released and administered to a sufficiently large number of people to put this pandemic behind us for once and for all.

In the meantime, we will not use this article to do more than serve as a cheerleader for small businesses (including that of my blogging partner – Instant Invitation).  Instead, we will invite you to reread our story from last year and to check out some other valuable repositories of information and strategies.

Nicolas Straut, a contributing writer at Fundera, has put together an overview of Small Business Saturday

https://www.fundera.com/blog/small-business-saturday

Similarly, American Express, which founded the day and holds the registered trademark, makes a wide variety of useful resources available, including a Shop Small campaign:

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/merchant/shop-small.html#toolkit?linknav=us-loy-homepage-visittheshopsmallstudio

Nestled between Black Friday (a tradition which also appears to be undergoing transformations during this time of social distancing) and Cyber Monday, which continues to grow in size and significance, the role and importance of Small Business Saturday cannot be lost.

Small Business vs. Entrepreneurship vs. “Influencer”: Which Best Describes You?

The three categories of activity identified in the headline above have both similarities and differences. 

Since correctly recognizing the term that best describes you could have some bearing upon the way in which you brand your operation, we are using this article to explore these different categories.  That said, be aware that branding does play a key role in each . . . and you should understand that your personal brand may (but does not necessarily have to) play an important part in shaping your company’s brand.

Small Business vs. Entrepreneurship

According to the website DifferenceBetween.com

“The difference between small business and entrepreneurship mainly depends on the persuasion of growth. If the owner/owners of the business are content with the manner in which the business is currently operating and do not wish to engage in more growth opportunities, then it can be categorized as a small business. On the other hand, if the entrepreneur/entrepreneurs operate their business with a clear and creative vision and are interested in expansion opportunities, this type of business is an entrepreneurship. Since small businesses do not pursue growth, they remain small or medium scale throughout their lifespan. However, this does not mean that they are not successful; some small businesses may be cash rich.”

Entrepreneur vs. Influencers

According to a National Geographic article entitled, “Influencers:  The Modern Entrepreneur,” the following applies:

“Entrepreneurs are people who organize, manage, and take on the risks of a business. They often start a new business in response to a perceived need for a good or service. An influencer, on the other hand, is someone who has the power to affect or change people and their behavior through social media—often to get them to buy something. Influencers who start their own business certainly fall under the first part of the definition of entrepreneur, as they are managing their business and taking on risk.”

Brand Building

Typically, small businesses build brands overtime that reflect the product and/or service being provided.  The process involves finding the qualities that set the business apart from others and developing strategies to reinforce those traits and communicate them to customers.  Each interaction with the general public and consumer audience then plays a part in refining the brand to reflect the feedback received via comments, reviews, complaints, and sales.  This process of evolution should be never-ending.  (See our articles designed to help you get started building a brand.)

Very often, the brands of both entrepreneurs and influencers seem to take on the characteristics of the personal brand of the individual(s) involved.  (That said, a strong personal brand can be useful to a small business, too, which may not necessarily be seeking growth but would want strong customer retention – an attribute that could be helped by loyalty to an individual.)

Common Qualities of an Entrepreneur/Influencer

An Inc. magazine article entitled “10 Essential Characteristics of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs,” indicated that these individuals tend to be:  creative; passionate; motivated; optimistic; future-oriented; persuasive; flexible; resourceful; adventurous; and decisive.  In my experience, many of those kinds of words also ultimately end up being among those that define the brand of both the person and the company.

When I first started at GUARD (pre-Berkshire Hathaway days), the company was small (15 employees) and had been founded by a pair of entrepreneurs who had sketched the original structure of the organization on a napkin over lunch.  Frankly, each of the words identified by the Inc. article describe this husband and wife team very well . . . and also became the kinds of words that applied to the culture, products, and services of the company.

In the early days in particular, GUARD was an entrepreneurship that was independent, creative in thinking outside the box in developing unique products and services, flexible in responding to marketplace opportunities, resourceful in stretching available capital, future-oriented in building toward a big long-term goal, etc.

Understanding that personal and company brands tend to merge can be important in either choosing to intentionally build a personal brand OR in making sure steps are taken to separate the brand of the entrepreneur from that of the company.  Very often, this choice should be one of the first made by small businesses.

Ways to Enhance Your Personal Brand

Patrick Ambron in an Entrepreneur magazine article (“Is Your Personal Brand Losing You Business?”) identified four fundamental steps that could be taken to have a strong on-line foundation for a personal brand.

  • Claim your domain name.
  • Build a personal website.
  • Set up profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Do some basic search engine optimization. 
    (i.e., Use your actual name wherever possible and link all your various pieces of online content to one another.)

Taking these steps can be very inexpensive and (using readily available tools) should be relatively easy.  (Learn more about personal branding.)

And So . . .

If you are an entrepreneur or influencer (or perhaps both), assume your personal brand is going to become part of your business.  Therefore, you better start paying close attention to the kind of statement you are projecting.  If, on the other hand, you are a small business, ask yourself whether customer sales/retention would be improved by linking your identity to that of your company brand . . .  or whether you want the two to make a different statement.

Creating Ads that Communicate Your Brand

With the rarest of exceptions, advertising does not sell your product/service.  While you can strike gold every once a millennium (think – Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” campaign) and actually author an ad that creates a need and desire to make a particular purchase, the typical role of advertising is much more mundane (and less satisfying) –communicating the availability of your product/service to the right targeted audience via a well-chosen media vehicle at the right time (i.e., buying time).

That said, everyone who has ever created an ad dreams of producing the perfect one that entertains, sells, evokes a brand identity, and remains memorable years after the campaign is done.

As these remarks imply, good advertising involves a combination of contributions (especially at large companies) ranging from those who correctly identify an audience to those who understand the media outlets that best serve that audience to those that finalize the right cost-effective media buys that balance the often conflicting demands of size, frequency, cost, and placement.  Of course, the final contributor to the process is the person or teams of people producing “the creative.”

As the typical small business owner, you will often be the party wearing all of those hats!  Therefore, you may be comforted to know that most ad designs encompass a handful of typical elements, which – when known – will be helpful in creating your ad copy and deciding upon the ways in which these elements interact . . . and perhaps even enable you to determine the ones that must be eliminated on a specific occasion for a particular reason.

How does brand factor into this equation?

Well, advertising is one of the many ways in which you can promote your brand.  Conversely, your brand generally provides the vast majority of the content to be included in your ad copy while also defining the visual elements that get incorporated into the design.

The basic parts of an ad include:

  • Headline
  • Illustration
  • Caption (and/or Sub-Head)
  • Body Copy (including the Sales Pitch)
  • Contact Information, Logo, and Call to Action

That said, understand that the only real rule is that the art of creating a successful ad has no real rules, only exceptions.  While 90% of the ads I created probably involve most or all of the elements mentioned above, my favorite one broke all of those rules.  Specifically, I created a half page black-and-white ad done in reverse (white text on a black background) that basically included a single, huge, lowercase word (i.e., because) as a well as a logo and contact information.  While I could write volumes about the reasons I like that ad, I’ll simply explain that lots was communicated very simply in a manner that captured the attention of a person leafing through the publication.  While the piece did rely upon some prior brand presence to automatically communicate certain details to the reader upon seeing the company name, I also believe the ad helped define our style and attitude . . .  and, therefore, became part of the brand.

 The ad was (as I already mentioned) very much an exception.  The vast majority included the various traditional structural elements that I will now briefly describe.

Sample ad for our blog that highlights the basic elements. (I used CorelDraw to create this ad for reasons previously discussed in other articles; however, many other graphic arts programs will work equally well!!)

Headline

With the competition for attention very intense across all media, the first job of your ad is to be seen (not passed over), and your headline and illustration are probably the elements best suited to the job.  Three quarters of all my ad designs have started with a headline I thought was capable of grabbing our share of the readers’ attention.  (Yes, I’m tempted to list the top 10 headlines I’ve created that succeeded . . . but decided to spare you that exercise and move on to the next key element.)

Illustration

The photo or drawing included in your ad is obviously key to grabbing attention.  Some people – particularly graphic designers – would argue that the illustration is the most important factor. That said, the artwork can be essentially descriptive and show an attractive image of your product or service in action, OR the graphic can grab attention by being clever or arrestingly different in some way – perhaps even relying upon humor  (i.e., “Where’s the beef?”).

If you personally have artistic skills, this element of the ad can be great fun.  If, on the other hand, you are more of a writer or pure businessperson, you can still create a successful ad on your own – using photos or artwork available from some of those free sources already discussed in earlier blog articles.  (See FREE Pictures Are Also Worth a 1,000 Words (and Can Help Promote Your Brand)!

If you are going this route, be prepared to spend lots of time paging through stock images until you’ve found just the right one to make your point.  (Also, don’t forget that most phones now include cameras able to produce sufficiently high-res images that can be the key to capturing your product/service in action;  if you have the eye, the equipment is already in your pocket.)

Caption (and/or Sub-Head)

Your caption obviously relates to the illustration you’ve chosen and generally provides a key opportunity to introduce brand qualities most likely to result in a sale.  That said, you will no doubt find times when the caption is eliminated either because the artwork is self-explanatory or does not offer the opportunity to highlight your brand. If people are shown, the caption may be the best chance to provide identification and further humanize the brand while giving a face a name that might be memorable to all or a portion of your audience.

The ability to include sub-heads is obviously dependent to a large degree upon the size of the ad.  For a half page or less, chances are you will skip this element.  For larger sizes, your sub-head provides an extra opportunity to grab attention.  Or, perhaps the sub-head just gives you a chance to continue your major headline further down the page – pulling the reader into your content.

Body Copy (Including the Sale Pitch)

You use your body copy to describe your product or service to the audience, being sure to employ language that highlights those qualities that define your brand.  Frankly, repetition of that information in circumstances like advertising is one of the ways in which brand identity is created.  In selecting the words to include, you want the most sales worthy qualities of your brand and repeat them in every ad you create.  Also, be sure to use this space to highlight and explain any special promotions that might be happening at the time.

How many words should you use?  Frankly, long copy vs. short is one of the age-old debates in advertising among designers, business owners, experts, and amateurs.  You’ll find everyone has a firmly held opinion . . . and the jury is still split even among the luminaries in the field – all of whom are recognized as the best and most reliable source of information.

Frankly, I’m a word person . . . so I tend to think “more” has a better chance of being effective than “less.”  In support of this position, I’ll turn to David Ogilvy – one of the founding fathers of advertising – who was an advocate of long copy, especially for more complicated, technical, and expensive products.  He stated:  “All of my experiences say that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short.  I have failed only twice with long copy.”  (David Ogilvy – Ogilvy on Advertising.)

 My preference/bias duly noted, I’ll offer the following to balance my prejudices:

  • My favorite ad that I’ve created has (as already mentioned) basically one word (without further explanation) as the focus.
  • My blogging partner probably has a belief that (at least in comparison to me) less is more when talking about ad copy.
  • More of my ads probably ended up having less copy than I preferred because my bosses generally believed that more words than could be counted on 10 fingers were probably suffering from “wordiness.”

In the end, my advice is to include just the amount of language that seems right for a particular ad.  I believe each will be a bit different, and you will inevitably have a sense of the right quantity to make your point and pitch your product or service because – in the end — sales and reinforcing brand identity are the point of this exercise.

Contact Information, Logo, and Call to Action

The final elements of your ad are very basic ones that should never be forgotten.  Include your logo, address, phone, fax (WHAT’S THAT??!!??), e-mail, and/or web site.  (Exception:  If you are channeling all responses in a certain way, all other contact information can be excluded.)

You should also make some sort of statement that clearly tells your audience what to do next.  For example:

  • For more information, contact us at ____________________.
  • For more information, visit our web site at _______________________ and be sure to submit a customer service request form.
  • To order today, please __________________.
  • To speak with a live representative, ________________________.
  • Etc.

You get the idea.  Worth mentioning is that the nature of responding to any advertising and promotion should be determined in advance and used in all situations.  Perhaps, that process will involve setting up a special phone extension, a post-office box, or web landing page used exclusively for that purpose.  The advantage in taking such a systematic approach is better collection and assessment of data resulting from your efforts and immediate recognition of an inquiry coming from a sales lead that, therefore, enables a high level of customer service to help close a potential sale.

Branding and Your Overall Design

The elements discussed above are the ones at your disposal to mix and match in creating your ad.  When employing them, you must be absolutely certain to remain consistent with the rules described in your Style Guide, which will outline the fonts, colors, and perhaps even available types of illustration as well as highlighting key boilerplate language to be included.   Your ad must always conform to these rules while expressing the brand qualities you want to highlight as memorable and sales worthy. 

While much of the discussion in this article is applicable to both print and electronic advertising (especially electronic ads that basically mirror print equivalents), be aware that e-banner ads have typical very small sizes that create their own special challenge . . .  and call for a separate future article to discuss some of the techniques to be employed and pitfalls to be remembered.

Meanwhile, good luck and have fun.  Ads provide you with a great opportunity to explore your creativity and to benefit from customer responses/sales leads!