Whether you are in the early stages of marketing, promoting, and advertising a new business or are about to reintroduce yourself to the world (a necessity that could be created by a variety of circumstances ranging from a great new product or service to a need to come back in a somewhat altered form from a national pandemic), a typical group of activities are usually considered:
- Advertising via online and/or print publications
- Press releases announcing your presence and/or highlighting a change
- Direct mail/e-mail to existing and/or prospective customers
- Social media postings to highlight important details and communicate news
- Special events
To reach out to the largest possible audience in a coordinated way with a consistent message and visual component, basic branding practices are key. As you embark upon your campaign, we suggest you read the following blog entries . . . and keep checking back as we post new material on topics such as: building your own ads; properly preparing artwork for various print and online media outlets; understanding the role and use of paid search and ad words as an advertising tool; etc.
When read together, the articles shown below provide a branding tutorial relevant to marketing campaigns. (By the way, we are always interested in hearing from you and will carefully consider special requests to cover specific topics; either use the form at the bottom of this page to deliver your message or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Important Branding Background
BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING EFFORTS, take the time to create/review a style guide that puts into writing the most basic rules that must be observed to properly build the visual elements of your new campaign.
Note: Helpful downloadable tools/templates are included.
Your marketing/advertising campaign is almost certainly going to involve a variety of multi-media components – many of which are already included on our sample Branding Activity Calendar that could also be used to coordinate the various elements you’ve incorporated into your promotional campaign. (The template we’ve provided allows you to add the specific activities associated with your effort.)
Why does branding matter when your current focus is to launch your new sales campaign? Why get distracted by the time, effort, and resources needed to make sure your advertising and marketing efforts reflect your chosen branding? This article (as well as the one below) answers that question!
Free (and Needed) Tools
These articles provide tips on finding some of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) tools needed to build your own ads and other marketing and promotional materials.
Marketing and Promotional Activities
These pieces discuss the content and crafting of your direct mail message (including the document to be mailed/emailed) as well as the mechanics of obtaining your list and building your database of recipients.
These blog entries discuss the topics, voice, audience, format, and outlets to utilize in incorporating press releases into your marketing activities. Samples are provided.
- Press Releases as Another Opportunity for Branding
- Press Release to Introduce Ourselves as Part of National Small Business Week in May
The following articles cover various aspects of building a social media presence – from creating profiles on platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest to strategies used to identify appropriate content. As an added bonus, we provide tools helpful in promoting your social media accounts, including templates. (Last but not least, we address tools for requesting customer reviews so you won’t forget the importance of that aspect of social media.)
- The Simplest Social Media Strategy
- Get Your Business Started on Pinterest
- How to Create a Facebook Page for Your Business
- Social Media: One More Reason to Bother! (Betting on the Long Shot)
- Creating a ‘Follow Us on Social Media’ Sign in Microsoft Word
- A “Legal-Approved” Free Collection of Social Media Icons
- Creating a Review Request Sign in Microsoft Word
Worth Another Look at this Time
Branding involves far more than just creating a few recognizable visual elements. Customer Service is always at the heart of your brand. Taking a close look at this time helps identify those branding qualities that will resonate with your audience and are, therefore, worth promoting. Then, be sure to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that your customer service systems are properly tuned to support the front end of your sales efforts. Once you are successful, remember the value of repeat customers by immediately thanking them for their business.
As Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times They Are A-Changin’ . . . ” and will likely never be the same. Society cannot go through the kind of dislocations experienced during the current pandemic without being fundamentally altered, though in ways that may ultimately turn out to be good. (For example: During the global quarantine, scientific studies showed that the amount of pollution – especially in hotspots – decreased significantly.)
Hopefully, we have learned many positive lessons during this international “time-out” and developed a new openness to change.
During this period of quarantine, perhaps (1) your business had to be closed; (2) you remained open but strictly as an Internet/Takeout-Delivery operation; or (3) you were designated as essential to survival and kept going as best you could under adverse circumstances. Regardless of the category that applies to you, your business will have changed during this time.
Once the crisis has ended, business owners will be faced with deciding whether some of the changes should become permanent ones. (For example, you learned that a segment of your operations could be conducted on-line. Do you try to revert to old ways . . . OR do you capitalize on what you learned and maintain or grow your Internet activities – recognizing an opportunity for immediate profit as well as a hedge against a future need to run your business in a state of emergency?)
With changes of the kind we are discussing comes a need for you to consider whether you must also now REBRAND.
Over the years, I’ve probably been involved in a half dozen or more different rebranding exercises. Some were very necessary AND major, including top to bottom name, logo, byline, etc. adjustments while others were more minor and amounted to some after-the-fact tweaking of branding elements rather than new names and identities.
How do you know when the time has come? You certainly know when:
- Your product and/or service is no longer clearly or accurately represented by the brand.
- Your branding no longer resonates with your customers. (You may learn of this need by asking via a formal survey or focus group . . . or you may recognize that a problem exists because your customers no longer remember or relate to your name, logo, or product.)
- A change of ownership occurs. (Perhaps your old name is no longer applicable or perhaps your new owner has a well-known name you want to promote. For instance . . . when Berkshire Hathaway purchased my employer in 2012, we wanted to make the name of our parent part of our own name so their branding qualities also became ours. While various permissions and legal ramifications must be addressed first, the results justify the effort.)
- A new product or service has been added that you want to promote or a secondary activity has now become primary and dominant.
- Sales suggest your current brand just is not working well enough.
So . . . how extensive a rebrand is required? For instance:
- Is a name change required? If yes, do you want the new name to reflect the old name . . . or be entirely new. (For example, many years ago, the company that employed me was known as “The GUARD Network.” That name was chosen with the expectation of developing a diverse list of products that served many different industries. When that did not happen and the organization dealt strictly with insurance, the name became a bit of a handicap because people couldn’t tell what the company did. The decision was made to add the word insurance, but all parties believed the word GUARD communicated the right branding qualities of security and protection. As a result, the company became GUARD Insurance Group.
- Is a new or modified logo needed? When a name changes in a significant way, a new logo is probably required. However, a logo might be changed or tweaked independent of the name. At that same prior employer, our logo was finetuned multiple times across a five-year period – always including a GUARD icon so the benefit of past branding could be maintained . . . but gradually simplifying that image, which became broader and a bit more abstract over time. For an interesting look at the evolution of some famous logos over time (as well as information on debranding), check out Debranding: The Future of Branding.
- By-line? A change of by-line is another way to communicate an important adjustment without necessarily scrapping the investment made over time to your logo. (For Example, a restaurant that had started to feature delivery and take-out might start including that information as part of a new by-line – “Take out/eat in.”
Sometimes, the need for a rebrand is obvious . . . and I suspect that will often be the case post-pandemic. If you are not sure about the necessity, take the time to do some research with current and potential customers. In addition to evaluating the necessity, you might learn some useful tips about the correct measures needed to rebrand successfully.
Make No Mistake . . . Rebranding Comes at a Cost
Some of the expenses associated with a rebrand are obvious:
- The cost of performing research (surveys, focus groups, etc.)
- Cost of reprinting materials with the new logo
- Signage changes to reflect the new name
- Programming expense associated with changes to the branding elements in the computer system
- Cost of promoting the new name via advertising, mailings, and promotional giveaways
- Etc., etc., etc. (The list can keep going on and on.)
However, the less obvious costs must also be considered. For example:
- Lost labor. Staff time associated with name change activities as opposed to normal duties is an expense.
- Lost investment in the old branding. If you succeed in cleverly linking the past and present, perhaps some of that investment will be salvaged. If not – if a total break from the past seems advisable for some extreme reason – your effort in accumulated time and money will be totally lost.
Right now, we are still in the middle of a global health and financial crisis . . . so post-pandemic thoughts may seem somewhat premature. Still, we wanted to introduce this kind of thinking now so you can subconsciously collect information as you go along that might prove useful in the future. When that day comes, we have a number of blog postings that may be very helpful to you. Be sure to revisit “Building Blocks: The Beginning.”
Good luck. Stay safe.
If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you. Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page.