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A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

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Brand Aid

Building a brand is simple: consistency and attention to detail.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (August 17, 2009)

Every marketer on the planet talks about branding and why it's so important for you to brand your business, but they never actually tell you how to do it. You can visit your favorite book store and peruse the aisles looking for a how-to book, or you can click on Amazon.com – Amazon has 51,166 different books on branding. And at the end of the day, all you are likely to be is confused.

Branding isn't hard; it's easy. Easy as long as you understand what it really is. And what it is not.

Your brand is more than the cool logo or symbol you spent hours designing; it's more than the colorful copy in your ads, brochures, packaging, or website; and it's more than just the name and/or slogan you chose to represent your business. (Don't misunderstand us here – each of those things is critically important to your brand identity, but they are merely components used to build your brand.)

So, what's a brand?

Adrienne Weiss, CEO of Adrienne Weiss Corporation, a brand consulting company and one of the foremost brand architects in America, describes a brand as a "country, complete with its own language, rituals, culture and customs." Let's apply that definition to some of our most celebrated brands.

When you hear the word "Starbucks," or see their familiar green logo, you think of more than just a place to grab a quick cup of coffee. At Starbucks the culture is clear: it's a place to kick back and enjoy a few minutes of quiet time. Starbucks rituals and language are equally as visible. Before Starbucks, we ordered our beverage of choice in small, medium or large. Now, we speak "Starbucks" and are quite comfortable asking for a Tall, Grande or Vente™ cup of coffee. In addition to more than 7,000 ways to enjoy our favorite beverages, the folks at Starbucks have introduced us to their favorite music, movies, and books.

The journey from Las Vegas' McCarran Airport to whichever hotel we are staying at always includes a detour to Fatburger: The Last Great Hamburger Stand™.

The Fatburger phenomenon began in 1952 when Lovie Yancey served up the biggest, juiciest hamburgers anyone had ever seen – Fatburger was the only way to describe them. At Fatburger, you enjoy your meal in a colorful and friendly place surrounded by Lovie's other passion: groovy music. The Fatburger language is fun: you don't order a hamburger, fries and a soda, you order a "Big Fat Deal." The in-store signing is a hoot, too: "The difference between our onion rings and theirs: We cry when we make ours. You cry when you eat theirs."; "ATTENTION CARNIVORES: Fatburger's this way. ATTENTION VEGETARIANS: Hey, look, a tree."; and "They say cooked. We say cooked to order. They say homemade. We say you big, fat stinkin' liar."

We can think of all kinds of companies with unique cultures, language, rituals and customs, and we bet you can, too. These companies have become household names because they have deep pockets and raving fans. Your store may not enjoy national brand equity, but you can become a local legend.

Your brand comes down to the emotional connection – the physical reaction – customers feel when they hear your store name, see your logo, visit your website, or walk in your front door. Your brand is the concept you own in the mind of the customer; it's an experience they can only get from you. So, how do you make that happen?

Ms. Weiss, the brand mastermind behind such companies as Build-a-Bear Workshop, says a brand begins with its story. What's yours?

There is a reason you got into this business – write it down! List the things that make your store special, unique and unforgettable. Write about your own customs and language and rituals. List everything that customers love about your store, and the things that set you apart from your competitors.

That's just the beginning of your story. After you finish your first draft, put it away for a couple of days, then revisit it with fresh eyes. Once you decide that's who you are, let everyone in on your store's story. Create a "60 second elevator commercial" and make everyone associated with your store memorize it. That way, the next time they are asked about your store, they'll know exactly what to say. Use your story in your ads, in-store signing, on your website – everywhere you can. The goal is to spread the word about your uniqueness.

Branding requires discipline and it requires consistency. Every single thing – the smallest details, like bags and price tickets, associate attire, and the trash can in your ladies room, must tell your brand story:

1. Choose a type font for your store name that works well in all applications. Sometimes a font that looks great on a business card is too hard to read when it's applied to your store front sign.

2. Pick a brand defining color(s) and stick with it. If you chose a particular shade of blue as your core color, then this is the shade you must use in all that represents your brand. So even if a vendor suggests a signing kit in a different color at a reduced price, you cannot buy it because that color is not part of your brand story. Do you think Tiffany would ditch their trademark blue boxes for red ones just to save a buck? Of course not, and you shouldn't either.

3. Take a look at your sales floor. The layout, displays, wall colors, choice of flooring, in-store signing, associate attire, fixturing, etc., play a big part in defining your brand culture. If your brand story isn't clearly evident, then it's time to change your store décor.

4. Rethink your bags and boxes and gift certificates. A plastic gift card might be okay for a mass merchandiser, but it's just plain wrong for you. Your gift certificates should come in something wonderfully handmade – the goal is to entice the recipient into the store as quickly as possible.

If custom supplies aren't in your budget, invest in custom stickers. Add them to generic boxes and bags for instant brand recognition.

5. Appoint someone the official "Keeper of the Brand" and give that person ultimate control over what's purchased and what's not. New signing program, ad campaign, or website update? Run it by the KOTB first. If it's cool with the Keeper, it's cool with the brand.

Branding's in the details. You have a head start because you already have a name, and maybe even a logo, symbol or slogan. Be a fierce defender of your brand story. Make sure it is always represented as you intended it to be. And if this concept is new to you, give us a call. We'll be happy to help you get started on the road to brand equity!

(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants, Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment. Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their "Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the media, including the ABC National News special report, "How Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.

You'll find thousands of strategies, tactics, tips, and techniques to help you grow your business on their Retail Adventures™ blog: http://www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com. They mean it when they say to call if you want to talk about your store. They know how tough it is right now, and they're happy to brainstorm ideas with you – they want you to succeed! The website is www.kizerandbender.com and you can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kizerandbender. To read previous articles by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)

© KIZER & BENDER . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

xxx

 

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