Stop Building Your Brand and Start Building Your Audience
I recently was talking to a speaker/author who had recently written one book.
Before creating an audience of people that wanted her services, she already had t-shirts, mugs and other chotskies with her name and logo on them.
She was trying to brand herself like Coca-Cola.
This is not a good approach, and it’s very, very hard to do.
You need to walk before you run.
And before you walk, you might need to do some crawling.
Too marketing agencies call themselves marketers, but when they tout that they will build my brand, I run for the hills.
Here’s a real simple rule you should abide by when you are a small business…
Drive into any shopping center and quickly identify all the stores that can solve your problem quickly and then look at the ones that make you scratch your head.
Your shopping center will have a dry cleaners, a liquor store, a deli and so on. These are descriptive names of what the store is and how they can be of service to you. This is what I mean about focusing on service before branding and logos.
For the longest time I didn’t know what Rita’s was.
And every day I drove past a local shopping center I was dying for ice cream. There were no other stores around. After about two years of driving by Rita’s for the hundredth time, someone finally told me that Rita’s was frozen custard—which was just I wanted.
Unless you are national brand like McDonald’s, you can’t get away with just your name being the brand that people will know what you do.
Even on the Starbuck’s logo it has the word “coffee” letting you—and the rest of the world—know that they serve coffee. Compare that to Rita’s.
Another example is Kumon. In a shopping center near me, it just says Kumon. I never knew what it was and never bother to check it out—until writing this blog post.
Kumon is NOT a national brand like a McDonald’s or a Whole Foods that can rely on just its name for recognition. I know it’s not a walk-in type of establishment like an eatery, but being in a shopping center it should take advantage of the drive by traffic for added advertising and brand awareness.
Millions of people drive and walk by every day. Would it have hurt them to say Kumon Learning Center? The ad agency probably thought so. Or maybe not.
The Circle Inn—A Branding Disaster. What not to do.
What prompted me to write this blog post (in addition to my speaker/author contact) is a small motel in my hometown. It recently went through a name metamorphosis that went from practical to downright confusing—all in an effort to build a brand.
The motel in question went by the name of the Fairfield Inn.
This was a good practical name. You knew right away that this was a place where you could get food and lodging.
Very simple and clear.
And on their sign, they also had a sign below that saying that there were rooms available. Very clear and simple. There is no better way to advertise to drive-by traffic than to be clear and direct.
Branding Metamorphosis Phase 1:
Then they changed their name to Fairfield Circle Inn. It still incorporating some practicality, but now it’s bordering on creating a brand.
(And the reason why they call it the circle inn is because it’s located near traffic rotary that leads to a major interstate highway).
No problem there.
I still know an inn is a place I can get a room because it has the word “inn” in it. We will see shortly how important this is.
On other hand there are some places that call themselves “inns” where there is only food available, so this still could be confusing for some.
Branding Metamorphosis Phase 2:
Finally, they re-branded themselves to just “The Circle”
This means absolutely nothing!
Especially when the exterior of the place looks like an old folks home.
Now, let’s look at this in a very practical manner. Imagine that you moved to this town, and six months later you had some relatives visiting.
Would you know to recommend a place called “The Circle” vs. a place called “The Fairfield Inn” for your relatives to stay in?
I drive by this place nearly twice a day and I wouldn’t know it was food and lodging that was open to the public with just a sign that said: “The Circle”.
So, do you see why branding is NOT a good idea unless you become so big you don’t need a descriptive word for people to identify what you do?
Even McDonald’s had the word “Hamburgers” on their signs when they first started. And some still exist today.
Don’t get caught up in logos, imagery and such. Leave that to the ones who have billion-dollar marketing budgets like Coke.
You need to show people how you solve their problem. That’s the only thing they care about. They don’t care about your brand or what you have done in the past.