Why Branding Like Big Companies Do It Doesn’t Work for Small Companies
Branding is creating an associative memory of something else in your customer.
Developing a memory that automatically comes up with a COMPELLING got-a-do-something or have something, or would LOVE to have that is the key to successful branding.
One example, although a very poor one is McDonald’s Golden Arches. The Golden Arches has nothing to do with the hamburgers or fast food that we have been conditioned to think of when we see the Golden Arches.
Yes, that’s branding, we’ve associated one thing with another. We see the Golden Arches and the memory McDonald’s wants us to have comes to us. It’s because they spend $4B a year to reinforce that association.
Big business, or corporation branding, brute force branding, will not work for branding for a small business. We can’t afford to throw that much at it to make it stick.
As a small business it’s not likely that we’ve got $4B to throw at it. We need to develop an association that is easier, and even more powerful. Something that grabs the memories.
Let’s step back for a minute and look at a study in branding that was done in 1904. We probably know it by the name of “Pavlov’s dogs.”
Ivan Pavlov studied a bunch of dogs. He’d give them a taste of meat while he rang a bell. After doing this several times, the dogs started salivating whenever he rang the bell whether he gave them the meat or not. In other words they now associated the bell with the meat. They were thinking about the meat whenever the bell rang.
That’s branding. That’s the way we WANT our marketing to work. We want our prospects to start salivating whenever they see or hear something they associate with us. We want them having all of the mouth watering sensations, the emotional excitement that they would have from the results they would get if they bought our products or services.
We aren’t after some weak reminder of a package of meat in the store, we want to generate all of the sensations of savoring the greatest tastes, smells, feelings, and excitment that we can generate. All from simply seeing or hearing something we want the client associating with us.
That’s the want branding should work.
The problem is that frequently “branding” is done soooo wrong.
The Golden Arches are one example of the wrong way for a small business. Without having $4B a year to spend on developing that association in our memory, it would be much better if we started with something that we already associated with the sensations.
To “memorize” or associate an ambiguous symbol with that mouth watering sensation we’d have to repeat that “taste the meat” and “ring the bell” a lot of times before it finally sticks. But if the symbol is very closely related then it becomes an “easy” association.
For instance I want to be associated with “multiplying business results”, “the excitement of seeing your business leap by 10’s or 100’s of times in a few weeks”. Here’s an example:
Last Christmas I met with Jenny, a Mary Kay rep and asked her how many new clients she got from the Mary Kay national website. She said, “Oh, about 1 a year.” I showed her a couple of things, and within the next 2 weeks she had 72 people checking out her web page, and about 10 sales from it. The multiplier from 1 a year to 10 in 2 weeks (about 250 for the year) is 250:1.
When Jenny talks about this at networking event after networking event, she’s excitedly bubbling at what just happened to her business. Now, that’s what I want to be known for.
THAT’s a brand. And I didn’t have to spend $4B to cause it to happen. In fact it only cost me about 2 hours of my time.
It’s also not a symbol on a piece of paper, or on a website, at least not any symbol, a logo, on a brochure or website.
Here’s another story that indicates the way NOT to do it.
I met with Bill, a salesman for a local well-known marketing company. he was trying to sell me his services to grow my business. When I asked him what kind of measurable response did they get from their marketing programs, his response was that “everyone is different” and they just can’t compare what I’d get to what a previous client gets.
That should have been the warning that this wasn’t a marketing company I wanted to do business with. However, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and asked to talk with some of his current clients.
When i asked the first one “what measurable results have you gotten from working with them?” The answer at first was, “Don’t know.” They hadn’t measured the results. So I asked them to “take your best guess, have you gotten any new clients from these marketinga ctivities.”
Their answer was “No, no new clients at all.” And since the marketing company had told them that “this was to be a ‘branding’ activity that it would take 1-2 years before they would see the REAL results.
Actually I got the same answer from 3 other clients I talked with. Some had worked with the marketing company for up to 2 years and hadn’t seen any results, but all 4 of them were expecting something to happen about 2 years out. That’s what they were told is required to develop a brand. They believed that it would take 2 years to ring the bell when they sent a letter. The problem was that the letter didn’t cause anyone’s mouth to salivate so even though they had sent a lot of letters it wasn’t being associated with anything significant.
After 2 years at $15,000 a month there weren’t any new clients and not likely even at 2 years.
Yet, when I helped a Mary Kay rep, within 2 weeks that word was spreading excitedly around town that if someone wanted to see 250 times more business in weeks call Alan.