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!

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.