This category has to do with the strategic aspect of branding.

Dave Murray

3 Branding Essentials for Your Business!

I’ve been wanting to write this branding article for quite some time, simply because it’s so important

First, because I get this question a lot: what’s the difference between marketing, branding, and advertising? Your brand is the why, the who, and of the look…the foundation of your business, so branding is strategically building that foundation. Marketing is figuring out the best ways to get that foundation in front of your target market. And advertising is actually getting that foundation in front of your target market. So obviously, it makes about as much sense to advertise without a brand as it does to have a house party without a house. Sure, some of your buddies will pull up some lawn chairs, but most of your friends are going to a real shindig.

Now, I’m gonna type about three of the most important things when it comes to your brand: your “why,” your focus, and your differences.

Let’s start with the “why.”

There are two reasons for a solid “why”:

1. It creates the emotional connection your clients and potential clients have with your business.
2. If your “why” is strong enough, you’ll know you have the passion and drive to power through the ups and downs of early entrepreneurship.

My “why” is the reason Mayniax Branding exists. We’re in it, truly, to give gutsy business owners and entrepreneurs a shot at better lives. And, of course, we brand the hell out of their businesses to make that happen. People who’ve been keeping up with my blog know our “why,” so here’s a recap for the newbies:

For years, my parents ran a cleaning business in Jackson, MI. Most of their business was through word-of-mouth, and it was feast or famine. My sister and I were enrolled in private schools, however, and never knew just how bad it could be. They always made sure we were taken care of, many times at their own expense. It was my great dream to retire them, myself. When dad died, so did that dream. As silly as it sounds, I regret not having the knowledge then that we have, now. I know branding would have gone a long way toward making their business successful. In the years since, we’ve seen the same thing happen to those we’ve come to know as friends. Now, I’m over it. Now, helping business owners is personal.

A word of caution: if your “why” is because you like money or simply because you know how to do something, you’d better look for another line of work. While nothing’s absolute, those whys rarely lead to massive success. And, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’re into that whole “massive success” thing.

Now, let’s talk focus.

Focus is huge, and there are three areas we talk about when it comes to it:

1. Your product or service – singular for a reason.
2. Your target market – also singular.
3. Your internal processes. We don’t do a lot with those, but we can’t overstate their importance.

I’ve already typed about the importance of focus in a few blogs – Why Diluting Your Brand is Bad, LEGO: The Rise and Fall. And Rise, and The Dangers of Bad Brand Strategy. and The reason for it is simple: you want to be number one in the minds of your clients and potential clients. If you have too many products, that won’t happen. As an example, Mayniax Branding is a branding company. If we decided to offer advertising, marketing, S.E.O., and P.R., as well, what would you think of us as? The answer is, you wouldn’t. We’d be offering too much for any of it to stick in your head. And at that point, we’re not an option, because you wouldn’t even think of us. The right way to go about that scenario, would be to start a new brand for each individual service.

Your target market should be just as focused, because if you’re targeting everybody, then you’re targeting nobody. This is another reason why we suggest one brand per product or service: if you have one product, it’s much easier to go after one target market. As an entrepreneur / business owner, when you go after one target market, things become so much simpler for you, as well. How many meetings have you been in where you have to pick who to target with the current ad? How many where someone’s said, “Yeah, but do we want to leave out this other demographic?” Keep it simple on your target market, and keep it simple on yourself! That way, you can free your brain space up for far more important things. Like brand strategy.

Time for a little differentiation.

I shouldn’t have to point out the importance of differentiation, but while everyone says they understand how huge it is, few people really market it. Researching your competition will tell you everything you need to now about how your company is, or can be, different. But that’s not where that ends. Differentiation needs to be communicated through marketing materials! If you and another company sell the same shoes online, but they ship from one facility and you ship from six – let your target market know. “On average, we’re three days faster on shipping, which gives your little athlete more time to break in their shoes for the big race!”

To summarize: tell people about your “why,” go for one target market, and make sure your differences show up in your marketing materials.

And make sure you have a house before your invite people to your house party.

Stay gutsy!

Dave Murray

The Dangers of Bad Brand Strategy

Readers of my other blog posts might know the mission of Mayniax Branding. They may even be able to recite it, themselves. Come on, say it with me: “Our job is to give gutsy business owners and entrepreneurs a shot at better lives by branding the hell out of their businesses.” Ahh, that felt good to type. But, what happens when an entrepreneur or business owner doesn’t know much about branding or brand strategy? Or worse, what if they think they don’t need to know anything about it?

I recently had my first meeting as a member of a marketing committee, where there was talk of adding two brands to three existing, and struggling, brands. It quickly became apparent these people were ignorant to the ways of the branding arts. They were focused on the wrong things, and worse, could only suggest things to the real powers-that-be, rather than make any changes themselves. I felt bad for them, because I’ve seen this movie before. They’re screwed, and I can’t save them.

When the top people don’t understand brand strategy, bad things happen. Sometimes, it’s a simple case of brand extension causing employees to work harder on more brands with the same resources. This puts unneeded stress on employees, and results in one or more of them quitting for greener pastures.

Sometimes, however, it’s a whole lot worse.

Ya Hate a Bad Apple

Gil Amelio, the man Steve Jobs replaced shortly after going back to Apple, knew a little bit about strategy. Brought in as a turn-around expert, Amelio realized one of Apple’s problems was that the company had lost its focus. And, in an effort to re-focus, thousands of people were fired. The sad reality is, for the sake of Apple, that was the right move.

I have to think the previous regime didn’t set out to fire thousands of people, but their ignorance of brand strategy caused it to happen. They tried getting into too many markets with products that Steve Jobs once remarked as having “…no sex in them…” When Jobs came back, in order to really focus Apple, even more product lines were cut. And again, the sad reality is, for the sake of Apple, that was the right move.

Microsoft and Nokia

On April 25, 2014, Microsoft bought Nokia. In July of 2014, Microsoft laid off 13,000 people. In September of 2014, Microsoft laid off another 2,100. And the majority of those 15,100 employees were Nokia workers. So, what the crap happened?

Satya Nadella, the current C.E.O. of Microsoft, happened. Specifically, his “…vision of a leaner, meaner Microsoft” – which, if true, is a good brand strategy move – happened. Just as Amelio and Jobs had to re-focus Apple by cutting thousands of employees, so too did Nadella with Microsoft. It obviously sucks for those thousands of people who got pink slips, simply because the former C.E.O.s – one of whom was Bill Gates – didn’t know about brand strategy.

A Ringless Saturn

Since 1959, General Motors has had problems with brand strategy. They seem to have that “but we’ve always done it this way” culture that impedes innovation. And because of that, 2,000 workers in Spring Hill, Tennessee were laid off.

Saturn had become a powerful brand all its own, with a “…unique power train, its polymer body panels that didn’t dent or rust, its sand-cast aluminum engine block and its no hassle, no dickering retail sales experience…” General Motors and the U.A.W. disapproved of Saturn people not thinking of “…themselves as G.M. Subordinates or as U.A.W. card carriers,” and proceeded to destroy everything that differentiated Saturn from other G.M. brands, until all their vehicles were just like all General Motors vehicles: the same vehicles with different nameplates.

In Conclusion, Class…

Apple and Microsoft ended up having to fire thousands of people because of brand expansion – putting their names on too many products in too many markets, which made it so neither brand stayed in the minds of potential customers. Thousands were fired from Saturn because G.M. didn’t understand just how important differentiation is in the marketplace. And in all three cases, ignorance led to tragedy.

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and C.E.O.s can destroy careers, lives, and even towns, simply because they’re ignorant to brand strategy. Or, they can talk to branding experts, and be heroes.

Which one are you?

Stay gutsy, gang!

Sources
Low End Mac: Gil Amelio fires thousands, Steve Jobs Returns.
Tech Times: Satya Nadella wants “…a leaner, meaner Microsoft.”
Forbes: General Motors halts Saturn’s differentiation
Slate: 2,000 people fired from Saturn.

Dave Murray

Should Small Businesses Brand?

Full disclosure: I’m a brander. I brand. I’m a practitioner of the branding arts.

With that obvious fact out of the way, let’s get to it!

First, because it’s annoying to me, stop thinking of your business as a “small business.” It puts a limit on your vision, and makes your endeavor sound like big business’ sad little brother – the sad little brother that big business gives atomic wedgies to. Think HUGE!!! Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), and Bill Gates (Microsoft) probably didn’t think to themselves, “I’m gonna start a small business, and keep it that way, so I can try to move up to the ranks of middle-class! And maybe I’ll even get to retire on a modest income! YEAH!!!”

elon-musk-howard-schultz-bill-gates-mayniax-branding

In our last blog, – Branding vs. Marketing – I typed about how Peter Drucker, the grandfather of business consulting said that marketing and innovation are the only things that bring money to the table, and are thus the most important things you can do for your business. The assumption there, of course, is that your business is already branded. You’ve already developed your identity, your brand strategies are set in stone, and now you’ve just gotta let people know how to find you – which is where marketing comes in. Without a solid brand, though, you have nothing to market to or about. You haven’t figured out who your target market is. You haven’t figured out what your main product or service is. You haven’t figured out a consistent look. And, most importantly, you haven’t figured out how to articulate why you do what you do.

And that’s just a small part of branding and brand strategy. Again, without knowing that stuff, you have nothing to market to. Because marketing is so important, do you think that’ll hurt your business? If you answered “yes,” here’s your e-cookie!

cookie-mayniax-branding

The killer is, a lot of small business owners do “okay” doing what they’re doing, now. They go to networking events, referral groups, and join their local Chambers. They may even learn all about targeted flyers and social media. Well, those things are great to do, and they will generate some income, even if they don’t brand. Without the brand strategy to go with all that, however, they’re leaving money on the table, and making their lives worse in the process. You simply can not market to something that doesn’t have a real identity.

On the plus side, for the rest of you business owners, those people leave the door wide open for you! A lot of branding and brand strategy has to do with competitive analysis – with the goal of being first in your clients’ or prospective clients’ minds – and if your competition hasn’t branded themselves, the world – or market – is yours for the taking. With a fully realized brand, and proper marketing, you’ll not only be first in the minds of prospective clients, you’ll be the only one in the minds of prospective clients!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know our why: I grew up with entrepreneurial parents who didn’t know how to brand their business – who made sure my sister and I went to great schools – and as a result had far more tumultuous lives, financially, than they should have. I don’t want that happening to other business owners. But it will if you don’t brand.

The goal of Mayniax Branding is to give entrepreneurs and business owners the opportunity to live better lives, and we brand the hell out of their businesses to make that happen. Right now, we offer branding services in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and most of Southeast Michigan – but our goal is to spread Mayniax far and wide so we can help as many of you as possible. Until we get there, however, please hire someone who only handles branding, brand strategy, rebranding, and / or brand consultation. If they offer more, they don’t actually understand branding at all. I promise you’ll be glad you listened.

And now, it’s tip time!

Today’s tip topic: your business name! The ideal name is a single, made-up word. Here are the reasons:

1. The hope is that your name will one day become synonymous with your service, ie: Coca-Cola = Pop, Google = Search, Kleenex = Tissue
2. For Trademark and website purposes, a short, made-up name is easy to acquire.
3. When people search for your business online, by name, yours are the only sites that will show up.

Here are some extra tips:

1. Keep words like business, advisor, consultant, association, company, group – any word that’s generic enough to have multiple meanings in the mind – out of your business’ name. Be honest with yourself: when someone says their business’ name is “Blah Blah Consulting Firm,” what does that really mean? If you thought it could mean more than one thing, it’s a bad name.

2. Keep it as short as possible, and definitely no more than 15 characters. The reasons? Simplicity and – Twitter. You don’t want to have to shorten your business name on social media – you want it the same across the board.

3. Take your current business name and type it into Google. If more than your business comes up after the first word, and especially if more than one business comes up with the entire name, it’s a bad name.

Some of you will be annoyed and not change the name because of whatever excuse you have. For the rest of you, however, it’s going to be a great first step toward a very successful brand. And, even more importantly, a better life!

reverend-cleophus-james-brown-mayniax-branding

Thanks for reading, and if you found my zany ramblings helpful, please feel free to help your fellow business owners and entrepreneurs by sharing this on the social media accounts of your choosing.

Have fun, and stay gutsy!