brand identity

Rethinking Your Brand: When Your Audience Doesn’t Like Your Brand

Last week, Canadians were glued to televisions across the country as they watched The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in what became their final playoff game of the season. As exciting as that was for us Canadians, a separate story was emerging, focused on something other than the sport itself, specifically the name “Cleveland Indians”.

This team’s name has been involved in controversy for many years, but this year in particular it all came to a head. The term “Indian” is a derogatory term that just isn’t used anymore, as it is very insulting to our First Nations people. The Canadian public was so offended by the team’s brand that even an activist filed a request to ban the team from using their name and logo in the remaining games on the grounds of racial discrimination.

I draw your attention to this issue because as a marketer, it highlights the importance of a brand. The Cleveland Indians’ brand is obviously alienating people, and as public opinion influences buying decisions, this in turn affects the baseball team’s bottom line.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of rebranding to adjust to social values isn’t unheard of. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC in 1991 as health concerns around fried foods as well as rumours of genetically modified chicken were growing. By taking the words chicken and fried out of the brand name, it allowed them to distance themselves from these unpopular public opinions, diversify their product offerings and thereby strengthen their relationship with existing customers ad appeal to a new ones.

If your audience is weighing in on your brand, and it’s creating a negative buzz about your brand as it is with the Cleveland Indians, then it’s time to revaluate your brand strategy. The first step in doing this is conducting market research.

While your brand might not be offensive or politically incorrect, make sure it reflects the values your customers expect to see from your product or service. For example, if you’ve always been known as the leader of a certain product, check to see if your competitors have met your match, or if your loyal customers value the fact that you are a leader.

Hire a marketing agency familiar with your brand, or work with a research firm to conduct market research on your customers and find out more about what they value, why they choose you, and what your brand means to them. Getting feedback directly from your audience will allow you to not only identify who your audience is, but also the types of messaging and values that have meaning to them.

Your brand must be aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values, so conducting research with your customers to help with your audiences will allow you to create a brand identity that will benefit both parties.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It represents your organization’s values and sets you apart from your competition. It is who you are. Rebranding your company to align better to the values of your customers is a big first step to improving the connection and relationship you have with your audience. And ultimately, don’t we all want loyal customers who value what we do?

Do You Have A Blog Strategy?

shutterstock_86238016When quickly scrolling through my emails, I came across an email from a business offering blog writing services.

The email proceeds to detail how they are a large business with a wide range of expertise in blog writing. The company extolled the value they offer and the savings they can provide, at $10 a blog! WOW! I dig a little deeper to find spelling errors, inconsistencies and learn that the company is based in India.

Although it would be fabulous to have blogs written for $10, you do get what you pay for. My thoughts then turned to my clients – what if they received this email? Would they be tempted to hire this company because they are affordable or would they know that a blogger must know a lot more about a company in order to write a valuable blog?

Being a marketing expert, I believe you can still hire an ‘experienced’ blogger but before you do, you’ll need to give them a blogging strategy. A strategy is important because it sets the stage and provides purpose for the blog. Without this, how could a writer know their objective and their audience? Let me share with you some key questions that must be answered through a well-developed blogging strategy:

  • What is the company known for?
  • What’s the brand of the company?
  • What is the tone of the blog?
  • Who is the target audience that will be reading the blog?
  • How long will the blog be?
  • Will there be several contributors?
  • From what perspective is the blog written?
  • Does the blog endorse other brands?
  • Is this blog a working partnership with other writers?
  • Is this a conversational or formal blog?

The answers to all of these questions set the stage for a valuable blog. By following the criteria, you can ensure that the blog is positively reflecting and enhancing your brand. This is your business’ voice, so ensure that the messages will be properly conveyed by those that really know your company.

Have you used a discounted blog writer in the past? Did you feel that there was value for the price? Do you have a strategy for your blogging practices? I look forward to a lively discussion!

How Canadian Brand Identities Get Lost in American Franchises

UnknownAn interview with a Canadian owner of the U.S. brand Edible Arrangements

As a Canadian marketer, I am often faced with the challenge of trying to market an American franchise to a Canadian audience. When a Canadian buys a U.S.-based franchise they must deal with the many trials and tribulations that arise when defining a nation specific brand identity for a well-known U.S. brand.

In today’s blog I decided to interview Tiziana Cannella, the owner of the Edible Arrangements franchise in Vaughan, Ontario. Edible Arrangements is a U.S. franchise originating from East Haven, Connecticut. They handcraft fruit baskets to customers all around the world. With over 1,100 stores in 14 countries around the globe, they are all about making a customer say “WOW” to every product they create.

I sat down with her to discuss what her experience has been like as a Canadian operating an American franchise.

Q: Do you feel the need to create a Canadian brand identity? Why or why not?

A: I believe that although it is really important as a franchise to maintain brand and product consistency across the board, it is equally important to identify with my Canadian market too. I’d like to have a brand that reflects Canadian practices, habits and lifestyles which are different from Americans. For example, when our customers see the Edible Arrangements TV commercial they automatically assume we are only available in the states. Canadians shouldn’t be surprised to find us locally when searching online, but they often are due to much of the advertising coming out of the U.S.

Q: What are some challenges you face with creating a Canadian brand identity?

A: When marketing is approached from an American mindset, Canadian franchises are not taken into account. We have different spending habits, and lifestyles that cause different marketing tactics to be adjusted when reaching out to different audiences. For example, in the U.S. most advertising is done around large holidays such as Mother’s Day and Christmas, however, Canadians don’t buy just for these holidays, in fact, they spend more for everyday needs. When the recession hit the US a few years ago, heavy markdowns were issued in both US and Canada, but Canadian sales were doing just fine. This caused Canadian buyers to believe they were overpaying the rest of the year because the recession was not affecting the Canadian market. Prices did not need to be adjusted in Canada and this is something that challenges us as franchisees trying to be that brand for Canadian consumers.

Q: Do you know of any examples of how brands can have a U.S. and Canadian brand?

A: Yes. Starbucks is a great example, just by visiting the homepage of their American website and their Canadian website you can see different messages coming across as proof that they are speaking to different audiences. On both sites the home page features are the same except the U.S. site is advertising the health of a breakfast sandwich, while the Canadian site is promoting the new feature pastries they’ve brought into Canada. Starbucks feels the need to talk to their audiences differently by the things they want their different audiences to see.

CANADIAN HOMEPAGE

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USA HOMEPAGE

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This example shows the importance of talking to your consumer and creating a brand experience for your consumer. By creating a region specific brand identity, you are letting the consumer know they matter and letting them know that your brand is accessible to them.

Q: What do you think is the first step to changing this problem for Canadian franchises?

A: Somebody at the head office in the U.S. needs to understand that since a percentage of my sales is spent on marketing, the way they spend the marketing budget and promote their brand needs to be different in Canada. Once we have their buy-in and approval for a separate Canadian marketing budget, then we can work with an expert like an agency or a marketing professional to tell us where we should be focusing our marketing efforts, where our audience is and when we should be doing marketing activities.

Many thanks to Tiziana for taking the time to discuss this provocative topic with me and providing me with her insights and frustrations.

If you are a Canadian franchisee of a U.S. company, how do you define your Canadian brand? What challenges and solutions could be offered to this solve this issue? I look forward to a lively discussion on this one!

Brand Storytelling: Why It Still Matters

once-upon-a-brand“Storytellers, by the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning.” – Chris Cavanaugh

With almost two decades in the marketing business, I believe that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to add life and character into your brand. Capturing and sharing stories gives your brand and identity (it’s also a great content marketing approach!) that takes your target audience on a journey where they can find a personal connection with your brand.

The goal of storytelling is to increase your consumer’s emotional involvement in your brand by being well integrated into their daily online and offline lives. Although the idea of brand storytelling isn’t a new one, the emergence of digital media, content marketing, and social media, has presented opportunities for brands to share their tales in a strategic way.

What is a brand story?

A brand story is far more than a narrative with branded content. Everything you do tells part of your brand story. From the colours you use and the staff you hire, to the texture of your business cards and what your tagline is, each element should convey a truth about your brand to your intended audience.

Your brand story should be authentic, creative, and inspirational, and go beyond what’s written on your website and in your brochure. I tell my clients all the time that their story is not only what you tell people, but also what they perceive you to be, based on the messages your brand sends.

Speak the truth with some personality.

Try to keep in mind honesty and transparency are important when crafting your brand story. Your story should be rooted in the reality of your brand, industry, products, and services, and should follow the three primary steps of brand building: consistency, persistence, and restraint. If your stories are inconsistent, they will complicate things for your customers, which will set them off in search of another brand that meets their expectations. Be creative and keep your brand promise in mind.

Remember – brand stories are not marketing materials, advertisements or sales pitches. Exciting brand stories, full of personality, will attract and retain potential customers!

Create characters your audience will identify with.

Emotional branding has great potential to drive revenue and keep customers coming back. Since brands are a matter of perception, how a person feels about your brand typically determines whether or not they will buy your product.

When you tell a story that represents human challenges and triumphs, you create an experience that resonates with potential and existing consumers. Creating well-crafted characters that your audience will like and root for will deepen the bond customers have with your brand, and as a result, increase brand loyalty.

Why should you tell your brand’s story?

Without a brand story you are just another commodity with no way to distinguish your brand or business. However, creating a brand story isn’t all about getting noticed – it’s about building something people can care about and buy into. Frame your brand’s weaknesses, dictate your brand’s strengths, and help customers think beyond the usefulness and functionality of your products or services.

If I can leave you with one final thought – a potential customer’s relationship with your brand most likely begins before they buy your products and/or services (those are only part of the story). Your brand story is the foundation of your brand, and a strategy for future growth.

Does your business have a brand story? Share your brand stories with me and tell me how they have helped you reach success.

Brand Strategy Tips: Is Your Brand Having An Identity Crisis?

online-identity-crisis-300x243The most successful brands never fall victim to an identity crisis because they know who they are, and the responsibility they have to those who they serve.  Their innovations are consistently delivered, genuine and true.  They are focused on what matters most to their consumer (B2B or B2C) and on continuously making the experience better.

Today, we are constantly challenged to create a brand that customers want to identify and grow with, and one that earns their trust, reflects their values and makes them feel valued.

Whether you are a Fortune 500 company, business owner or entrepreneur, here are my top 3 tips to help you create and maintain a strong and differentiated brand:

  1. Create an Engagement Experience

Create an engagement experience that you want to have with your target audience. Be consistent, but at the same time mix it up, and don’t be too predictable. Your customers are reevaluating their needs more often than you might think, so instead of being reactive to your audience’s needs, be on the front end and help guide them.

  1. Establish an Identity That is Easily Relatable

Keep it simple. Your customers don’t have the time to figure out what your brand is trying to convey. Too often brands complicate their unique value proposition (UVP) to get attention.  In their efforts to reinvent and renew, they complicate things that frustrate their customers and shareholders.

A brand identity is most powerful when it evolves and its value proposition strengthens in alignment with the changing demands of its audience. Your customers want a brand to be deliberate with their identity – straightforward while at the same time forward thinking.

  1. Educate and Inspire

Even for B2B businesses, it is important to make sure your brand educates, communicates and inspires your audience about the totality of your brand – what it represents and what it stands for.

Your brand’s value proposition must come to life and have an impact on your audience with messaging that is educational and innovative.

A winning branding strategy must be ambitious in its commitment to knowing your audience inside and out.  Always be accountable to the needs of your audience and take responsibility to keep the momentum of the relationship moving forward.

What experience you are attempting to leave behind for your brand, and what will your audience remember most about how it impacted them? I look forward to your comments below.

For 93% Of SMBs Branding Is More Important Now Than Ever

survey

According to a survey released this summer by the American Express Small Business Monitor, the vast majority (93%) of small business owners (SBOs) cite having a unique brand that differentiates them from the competition is more important now than ever.

The following is an excerpt from a CNW news release on this survey. It highlights the key outcomes of the survey and also some of the reasons why SMBs feel the need for strong branding is more relevant today than in the past:

“In today’s highly competitive business climate, creating a recognizable and trusted brand is an important concern for many small business owners (SBOs). Increasingly, SBOs recognize the importance branding has on business success, and as such, are focusing on providing an overall brand experience to their customers.

It’s evident that business owners have seemingly prioritized branding strategies with 71 per cent saying brand experience is the most important part of their business’ overall brand.  SBOs are also placing a high value on branding as the majority (51%) report branding is critical to attracting new business.

“Having a powerful brand is vital in today’s economy, it can be the difference between a business that blends in with the crowd or stands out from the competition,” says Athena Varmazis, Vice President and General Manager, Small Business Services, American Express Canada. “It’s refreshing to see business owners placing an emphasis on branding since it’s their platform to tell their business’ story with current and future customers.”

SBOs display a willingness to go digital but stay true to traditional approaches

With consumers increasingly embracing social media and leveraging social platforms when making purchase decisions, almost three quarters (73%) of SBOs report that they need to constantly monitor their brand’s perception. As such, SBOs have welcomed digital elements into their branding with over half (52%) of business owners utilizing a company website to build their brand.

Yet many still rely heavily on traditional approaches stemming from internal communications. A full 60 per cent of business owners rely on the actions of their employees to communicate their brand to their customers and almost half (45%) of these report it being effective. Furthermore, 32% of small business owners leverage events to help increase brand awareness.

SBOs desire a strong brand presence, yet have room for improvement

The demand for a strong, prominent business identity is at an all-time high with 84% of business owners stating that branding is important to the overall success of their business.  While SBOs feel an increased need to stand out from the competition, 55 per cent aren’t refining their brand annually and may be missing the opportunity to assess the evolving trends to ensure their business stacks up in the market.

Thirty-six percent of SBOs admit that they are interested in expanding their brand but don’t know where to start. Despite this, a substantial 86 per cent of SBOs still choose not to capitalize on the resources third party experts offer with over one quarter (29%) of SBOs rely on themselves in the development of their business’ brand.

“It is surprising to see that the majority of SBOs aren’t investing in the necessary third party resources to help them develop and refine their brand, yet they are willing to invest in other areas, such as accounting, legal or payroll,” says Varmazis. “Branding plays a significant role in the overall success of their business and shouldn’t be taken lightly by business owners.”

Do you agree with this survey?  Is branding become more significant to your business?  I look forward to reading your comments below.