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    27 Replies Latest reply on Jan 8, 2009 3:06 PM by SBC Team

    Event: Making the most of your brand

    SBC Team Guide
      Chris Bradle founded Eye Design Studio, http://www.evokeresponse.com, in 2000 based on his vision to create a quality-driven agency, and blended that desire with over 10 years of industry experience. Since then, he's never looked back.

      This New York native has succeeded as the chief architect by expanding the studio's foothold amid Charlotte's economic growth. In addition to mastering the art of print design, Chris feels right at home creating environmental and interior experiences that transcend the norm and envelop the user in a rich brand experience.

      After a three year term as President of the Charlotte Chapter, AIGA, professional association for design, Chris was recently invited to continue in a counseling role to the chapter as a member of the Advisory Board. During his Presidency, the chapter experienced a renewed life with about 125% annual growth in membership and is organizationally flourishing since under going a multi-stage restructuring effort.
      Chris can answer questions like:

      • How do I communicate our company brand to our target audience?
      • How do I decide on a name for my small business?
      • What are good resources to learn more about branding?
      • Is it possible to rebrand without major changes to our existing company?

      Post your question here and then check back on January 8 at 2:00PM EST, or any time thereafter for Chris' reply. You can also post a question any time during the event hour
        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
          Vince Adventurer
          Hi Chris,

          What elements of a branding campaign can small business owners take on themselves and what should they outsource?

          Vince
            • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
              eye_clt Newbie
              As you can probably imagine, I'm a big proponent of encouraging clients to engage a brand development firm to either create, consult or manage the process of branding. The traditional 'ad agency' model would have you believing that this means the client is simply along for the ride with little or no voice. Although in the 'branding' model the client has a big role and using their voice is vital to the process. The list below is very brief but site some examples of items clients can implement. Note that I didn't say void of the direction of your branding firm. One of the key elements to branding is consistency. It's all too important to make sure all of your messaging whether in marketing or daily operations speaks the same language.

              As an example most clients (small business) are handling some of the following:

              - Implementation of operations procedures that convey the personality of your brand (ie: Planning company voice mail messages, Managing customer dialog in person, email, phone, and fax, and creating a distinct meeting experience)

              - Managing Internet Social Networking (ie: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Blogs, etc.)

              With a real world business example this list can easily expand. Without more specifics about the particular company you are branding it's hard to derive a long defined list.
            • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
              Tori Adventurer
              Chris, thanks for appearing on the SBOC!

              When rebranding, how should small business owners communicate to existing and past customers regarding this effort? Is there anything they should stay away from when rebranding? Any tips or best practices?

              ~Tori
                • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                  eye_clt Newbie
                  Rebranding is a very interesting process. It's very similar to branding a start-up. We hold true to the basic rule of launching the rebrand all at once when you are really, really ready. A HUGE mistake is progressively unveiling the rebrand to the market. When you are rebranding a company or product it's important to avoid having mixed messages in market at the same time. Imagine the confusion of a customer experiencing a brand in transition almost as if the brand is asking the market for an 'opinion' before truly launching. This activity leaves the market feeling uncertain about the brand. Is it struggling, it is authentic, and so on. Best practice: Launch with a Big Splash.
                • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                  caffeinated Scout
                  How do you suggest small business owners incorporate some of the web 2.0 technologies (Facebook, Myspace, RSS feeds, blogs, etc) into their branding efforts?
                    • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                      eye_clt Newbie
                      The first question to ask is "What am I trying to communicate?". Once you know this in your sleep, deciding which Web 2.0 tools to use should be easier to determine.

                      The blog is the most valuable in my opinion for two reasons. First, frequent activity on your site will increase your search engine presence. Second, your voice helps to communicate more about your brand. The key is figuring out what you will write about with consistent frequency that is of value to your customers.

                      Facebook is a phenomenal tool for businesses. Mainly the groups function. Companies can develop a fan base, invite fans to special events, or facebook fan only sales, etc. Having the group set up is a good entry level step, but your creativity will take it to the next level. Remember you are trying to stir people to talk about you. All the marketing tools in the world will never top 'Word of Mouth'. Offer a Facebook fan only sale of some sort and I'm sure if you're offering is right people will talk.

                      This really just scratches the surface of online tools available. Proceed with some caution. It's easy to get spread too thin on too many tools. Pick a couple avenues and become an expert in utilizing them.
                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                      mannmadepro Newbie
                      As a business, how can one get beyond the hump of being able to brand and marketing others, but haven't done it for themselves? Is it suggested that one outsources that job since marketing and design companies can be very critical of their own work and sometimes dissatisfied when coming to the conclusion of their own "look"?
                        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                          eye_clt Newbie
                          The contractor often neglects the projects in their own home. Taking the time for your own brand development is incredibly important. This is true even if you have business beating your door down. I've seen agencies outsource their brand development yet most handle it internally. Nobody knows your brand as well as you. Design companies do have the challenge of settling in on the "look", but treat the work like real projects with deadlines and the challenges diminish. A good practice is to dedicate one day a week to focus on your own brand. This may sound outlandish, but from experience.... this really works over time.
                        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                          adrianneb Newbie

                          Hi Chris,

                          I am very interested in talking with you. I do have a brand and need assistance branding it. Please contact me when your available to discuss at 404-433-7301.

                           


                          Thanks in advance.
                          • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                            studio789 Newbie
                            Good Morning .... and thanks for your participation!

                            I have an interesting situation, one that requires keen brand insight. Hopefully, you can help!

                            My company was part of a larger family enterprise. Due to an unanticipated family situation (divorce), I lost my interest in the company that I thought I owned. My division was shut down, although it was a successful supplier of creative consumer products for over eight years. After much effort, I eventually regained my patents, copyrights and product line. So now I am rather like an old "start-up."

                            The problem: in the interim two years, my patents have been infringed upon (I successfully defended them), my industry competition has knocked my products off, and I've had tremendous problems putting together a new manufacturing team on a shoestring. I've had interruptions in deliveries due to my having to take on additional consulting work to keep things moving ahead.

                            The good news: my customers still love me and my niche luxury product line, I still have a very good reputation in my industry, and I get calls daily from all over the world for my products. I'm entering my best season, and it should be a great one!

                            My question (about time!): how do I re-launch my brand in a small and manageable way, while letting my customers know that I now have the ability to deliver? And also, how do I polish up my formerly well-respected brand? I fear that it has become tarnished by industry rumors, and my competition.

                            Clearly my budgets are beyond tight ... your thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

                            My best for a safe, healthy, successful and prosperous '09!

                            Thanks.
                              • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                MoofyOne Newbie
                                Hello!

                                In these times of economic uncertainty is there criteria you can show a client for expected growth income? While spending money to make money is a basic business element, these days it's harder to remember that.
                                  • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                    eye_clt Newbie
                                    There is very little evidence or history to draw from to give clients proof that their investments in marketing and branding will yield predictable returns. In reality this is true in both strong and uncertain economic times.

                                    The most compelling reason that we have found for amping up your brand presence in this economy is that nearly everyone is scaling back. This movement reduces company's brand voice. While everyone else is retreating your clients should advance. Scary but true. It's all out battle in the market, companies simply can't win new business opportunities or gain market share from competitors by retreating. There is no black and white formula that will settle your client's nerves. Battle is terrifying, but so is the thought of losing market share while attempting to hide.

                                    Some clients will retreat even against all your best advice. The real deal is to seek out clients that are willing to make something happen in the midst of chaos.

                                    If you ultimately have to supply market data, there are a lot of opinions to sift through. Unless you are a trained market economist and brand expert, tread carefully in making predictions that may not come to pass since this may in the end cause irreversible damage to your working relationship.
                                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                    eye_clt Newbie
                                    Thanks for the detail. It really helps to have the story before the question. Your story is very intriguing and sounds complex. Without knowing more about your product and probably spending a full business day discussing options, your question is hard to answer in depth. Although, here are a couple general directions to consider.

                                    Your competition has taken advantage of your absence. Now it's your turn to spin your silence in your favor.

                                    Your product line will always be the "Original". Loyal consumers know the real thing verses the 'knock off'. Consider taking that position since no other brands can authentically make this claim.

                                    I would focus on communicating a story that addresses your two years. Of course you need to make it positive. Something like.... after two years of extensive research and development, the luxury brand you've grown to love now has even more reasons to prove it's love for you. You see where I'm going. Strategy is key. Take a look at my comments in previous posts about 'rebranding'.

                                    You don't need a huge budget to break back into the market for a force that will instill fear in your competition. You are the leader. Remember they are knocking you off. All you have to do is reclaim your seat at the throne.

                                    If you have more questions, we could further this direction off-line.
                                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                    SBC Team Guide
                                    Hello Commnity,

                                    Chris Bradle will be joining the SBOC today @ 2PM EST. Chris can help you with creating and managing your small business brand strategy. All questions are welcome, so ask yours now to ensure Chris has time to respond within the hour he's with us.

                                    Best regards,
                                    The SBOC Team
                                    • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                      Howard Adventurer

                                      A good friend of mine is opening up an antique shop in 2 months. They are in the process of renovating their leased space right now. My hunch is that because they have a lot of stuff to sell, they may go overboard with trying to display all their furniture & other wares, potentially creating a more bargain/flea market type of atmosphere - which is not what I think they want to do with antiques. Can you provide some general advice on how to create a brand/presence in a store? And how do you balance the need to want to display all you have without creating a cluttered environment?
                                        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                          eye_clt Newbie
                                          The best way to avoid the 'flea market' environment is to look organized, not cluttered. The visual in my head of a flea market is a cluttered environment that invites the bargain shopper looking for a deal. The advice is to segment the merchandise and keep the environment as logically organized as possible. When I say organized, I mean as the target customer would expect it to be organized.
                                        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                          mannmadepro Newbie
                                          Mann Made Productions, Inc. does more than "one thing" within the entertainment industry. We actually do about 8 different things. Is it smart to only brand Mann Made Productions, or should we brand each entity as well as the overall company. In other words, we do:
                                          • graphic, web, logo design, etc.
                                          • marketing and consultation
                                          • education services
                                          • computer services
                                          • jewelry
                                          • and more
                                          Should we brand each one of these as a separate business under MMP or just brand MMP with each operation being a subdivision?
                                            • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                              eye_clt Newbie
                                              Your business is very expansive in services. I see a handful of separate businesses when I look at the list you provided. Maybe consider allowing MMP to recede to the background (unless it's brand is well recognized for one of the services) and establish new brands for each segment of business. Of the eight services, I would group them in categories based on overlap. For example: graphic design meshes well with marketing and consultant. That would be one brand. Jewelry would be a totally different brand.

                                              This is a lot of work, but ultimately it will give each service a place in the spotlight. In the end I could see a potentially quiet side of your business now thriving. You may be pleasantly surprised by the success of a service with this approach.

                                              Avoid extending the brand with unrelated services. This is an activity that is quite difficult to pull off and essentially dilutes the core brand instead of growing it.
                                            • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                              SBC Team Guide

                                              Community,

                                              Please join us in welcoming Chris Bradle of Eye Design Studio to the Small Business Online Community.

                                              Chris will be posting as eye_clt. Having said that, we'll hand it over to Chris!

                                               


                                              The SBOC Team
                                              • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                Interpreter Wayfarer

                                                Chris,

                                                When choosing a business name, what's your view on using your personal name (e.g. Chris Bradle Inc) versus coming up with a clever/catchy name? Will it be harder to rebrand down the road?

                                                Thanks for reading
                                                Interpreter
                                                  • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                    eye_clt Newbie
                                                    Branding with your personal name can be very limiting long term. If you are in a service business named after yourself, your customers will expect to work directly with you. As you expand they take working with others on your team as a step down even if that is not the case. Also, your business may remain small in the mind of your target audience. Unless your name is already a brand like say, Donald Trump, then I'd stick with not naming a company with your name.
                                                  • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                    SBC Team Guide
                                                    We have little less than a half hour left with Chris. Get those questions in to ensure Chris has time to answer.

                                                    Don't forget to refresh your browsers to see the latest response.

                                                    Thanks,
                                                    The SBOC Team
                                                    • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                      flex_00 Wayfarer
                                                      In general, what are some most common mistakes small business owners make when attempting their own branding strategy?
                                                        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                          eye_clt Newbie
                                                          The biggest and most common mistake is trying to avoid engaging a firm that specializes in brand development. It's tough though. Branding is not an inexpensive line item in a company's budget and often attractive to cut or overlook. Reality is that without a strong brand, the new company upon launching may simply blend into the vast sea of competition. Don't be afraid to interview some firms. Ask for help and be clear about your expectations and budgets. If the budgets are tight, get creative. Just open the dialog with a firm that you trust.

                                                          The only exception to this rule is if your are a branding specialist who is starting a new company. Branding is vital. It very well could make the difference whether a company succeeds or fails depending on the market.
                                                        • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                          eye_clt Newbie
                                                          After responding to all of the questions, I couldn't escape the thought that many may be thinking, "What is a Brand Development firm?". That is the million dollar question for a company owner that has traditionally leaned on a graphic designer or ad agency.

                                                          The branding firm is a hybrid of the two models with an added level of strategic planning. There is more high level operational planning and business model crafting that goes on in the world of branding. Yes, all the typical design firm and ad agency activities in the marketing world are services of a strong branding firm. Yet you should expect the brander that you are working with to consult with you on a higher business level. As I've said in other posts, you should engage a trusted firm as they will function in a very close role on your management team. You will share a lot about the inner workings of your company so research and interview well.

                                                          Hopefully the firm you select will be with you for the long road ahead. Branding is more than a series of projects, it's a process.
                                                          • Re: Event January 8: Making the most of your brand
                                                            SBC Team Guide
                                                            Chris, on behalf of the Community, we thank you for your time and professional responses!

                                                            Community, although our time with Chris has concluded, feel free to discuss today's topic amongst yourselves.

                                                            If you would like more information on Chris and Eye Design Studio, please visit http://www.evokeresponse.com

                                                            Thanks again,
                                                            The SBOC Team