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brand development

outdoor digital brand

4 Ways to Strengthen Your Outdoor Digital Brand

By Brand Development

The brand is the entire experience that a person has with your business’ purpose. 

Most brands start with their product/service and sell based on their features and benefits—which is important—but in doing so, leaves them only to compete on the product’s understanding, not its why.

“Brands have become the global currency of success.”
– Brand Atlas

At each touch point, your brand must be integrated for maximum efficiency that drives your prospect to your goals that simultaneously solves their needs and wants along the way.  

If you’re interested in building a strong brand rather than just a product-based company, here are four points to keep in mind when thinking through how to strengthen your brand in 2018.

 

1. Map your brand’s touchpoints

When thinking about what a brand is, you need to understand that it’s not just 2-3 pieces like your website, logo or catalog—but all the pieces. It’s your dealer sheet, the way your product feels, your customer service, your influencers, content, email signature, Facebook and Instagram page—everything.

Here is a simple representation of what brand looks like: 

 

What is a brand?

Each touchpoint is an opportunity to increase awareness and build loyalty.

 

2. Align your brand

Ask yourself and your key stakeholders (the people with invested interest) what your brand means and write it down. Then go ask your customers what your brand means to them and then 10 or so of your employees. If they all say the same thing—congrats, you have brand alignment! If they say something different, then you may want to rethink your brand and figure out why there are inconsistencies.

Brand inconsistencies take away from your marketing’s effectiveness and create confusion among your prospects. 

Common problems that cause brands to be out of alignment is clarity of the mission, customer service, brand identity and broken promises.

  • Brand Strategy AlignmentBrand promise – If what you’re promising isn’t being delivered on, then your brand isn’t trustworthy. Today, trust is everything in the age of #fakenews. Make every effort to fix and make good on what your brand promises to its customers.
  • Brand identity – Does your brand’s look and feel (color, shape, format, type, imagery, texture etc.) accurately convey the it’s key emotional and visual attributes? If not, it may be time for a redesign or invest in lifestyle photography.
  • Customer-centered – Is your customer service receiving high-marks? Without strong brand alignment between your employer brand and corporate brand you will not be able to deliver customer-centered service. 

3. Connect your brand to your customer

How do you connect your brand to your customer? In the past, most brand development processes solely focused on the product and what the marketer wanted the customer to think and feel. Today, every marketing brand strategy should start with the customer first.  This can only be done by defining what is called a buyer persona.

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

By defining your buyer persona, you will be able to develop a strong brand foundation to help guide you when you get lost in the day to day activities of marketing and running your business. Keeping regular tabs on what your customer is feeling will help you build brand loyalty more quickly.

The fastest way to connect your brand is to communicate how you solve your customer’s problem. Track these data points through your online forms, Facebook insights, analytics and artificial intelligence programs. It doesn’t hurt to survey your customers every once and while either.

“Solve their problems and be empathetic.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk

4. Brand is built on consistent, helpful service

Are you using Facebook Messenger, Drift or Intercom on your website to answer customer questions? These new tools allow you to communicate in real-time that have become central in providing an excellent customer service experience online. One bad customer experience, late delivery or rude response can tarnish your brand—especially when the person on the receiving end posts what happened on Facebook for the whole world to know.

The hard truth about your customers today is:

  • They want to help themselves, not call you.
  • They learn from friends, not salespeople.
  • They trust your customers, not your marketing.

According to Harvard Business Review: Evidence shows that customers will no longer tolerate the rushed and inconvenient service that has become all too common. And now with voice chat, chatbots and AI hitting the web, customers are more empowered than ever and demand answers to their questions faster than before. For example, 61 percent of participating Baby Boomers say a potential chatbot benefit is “getting an instant response,” while just 51 percent of Millennials say the same. (Source: Convince and Convert) The total chat volume in 2016 nearly tripled that in 2015. Both statistics can back up the conclusion that the demand for live chat has been steadily growing. (Source: Comm100)

Our recent research demonstrates that when customers contact companies for service, they care most about two things:

  • Is the frontline employee knowledgeable?
  • And is the problem resolved on the first call or chat?

Yet these factors often aren’t even on customer service manager or business owners’ dashboards. Most service centers continue to measure time on hold, time to respond and minutes per call, as they have for decades. Such metrics encourage agents to hurry through calls—resulting in just the kind of experience customers dislike.  

According to HubSpot, The key to growth in 2018 is:

  • Happy customers who recommend your company to their friends
  • Successful customers who share their results with the world
  • Modern customer support that matches how people communicate

More than half of the customers we surveyed across industries say they’ve had a bad service experience, and nearly the same fraction think many of the companies they interact with don’t understand or care about them. On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company. (SOURCE: HBR)

In conclusion, to strengthen your brand, you must map every touchpoint, align for consistency, connect with your customers problems by putting them center and focus on delivering helpful, consistent service. Once these touchpoints are built out and set, then you are able to provide a great experience built on the standards of today’s empowered consumer that will reward your company with future sales growth.

 

Firearm Brand Strategy

Do You Really Need A Firearm Brand Strategy?

By Firearms Marketing

Maybe you’ve just come out with some disruptive technology, game-changing accessory or new firearm platform.

Or maybe your business has been around for a while and you’ve realized that to compete in today’s environment, you need to focus more on your messaging and how your company and/or products are understood.

But, do you really need a brand strategy?

The truth is… a brand already exists, even if you’ve never taken the time to develop it.

Your customers, dealers, distributors, employees, and partners already have some kind of feeling, thought or understanding of you or your product—negative or positive. 

What is the difference between branding and marketing? Marketing and branding is a two-sided coin. Branding is about feeling and emotion (fonts, colors, imagery, tone etc.). Marketing is about generating activity in the marketplace (advertising, PR, email, trade show etc.). 

Below are 10 surprising facts that you may not have considered in regards to your brand development strategy and why it’s important to have one—if you intend to leave your mark on the firearms industry.  

1. Make it easier for the customer to buy
Customers make decisions on products they know and trust. If a customer is not familiar with your brand, they are less likely to buy it.

Think of the last time you were in the gun store and you had to pick up some ammo. Hornady—a ammunition category brand leader—was not on the shelf. Do you buy the “I’ve never heard of you” brand of ammo—or forgo the purchase altogether? Most likely, you’ll wait till the next trip or drive across town to another store. Brands help us make buying decisions.

Photo credit: Business Insider

2. Make it easier for the sales team (and dealers) to sell
Having a strong brand reputation in the marketplace will allow your dealers and sales team to close more sales based on brand performance alone. A reputation for service, quality and the ability to solve your customer’s problem will be more likely received and sought after.

3. Brand clarity and delivery spurs employee motivation
Brands give your employees purpose. Having a clear cultural direction, goal and mission based on your brand values will create higher performance and productivity. A strong brand will turn your employees into brand advocates versus people who just show up to collect a paycheck. It will also give you and your stakeholders a clear understanding of your vision, mission and purpose.

4. Increase the value of your company over time
Brands are line items on today’s most valued companies. The Coca-Cola brand alone accounts for 51 percent of the stock market value of the Coca-Cola Company (Source: Brandchannel). The same could be said for Ruger or Smith & Wesson.

By developing a strong firearm brand—especially for companies with/or seeking investors—brand development aids in building a successful exit strategy. 

5. Brand definition brings clarity to your business goals and direction

If you have a good product that everyone is excited about, alot of times you just have to stay out of your own way.

A brand strategy will save you from making costly decisions.

A recent example is Vista Outdoors’ Black Hawk product line of silencers. Black Hawk a gear supplier for military and law enforcement agencies—ventured into the silencer market and after just eighteen months pulled out.

brand strategy extension failures

Photo credit: Recoil

In May of 2016, when the silencers were first announced, many were musing if this was too far a departure from Blackhawk’s bailiwick. When asked why the line was being dropped, a Vista representative put that musing to rest: “After completing a strategic review of our product lines, we determined that suppressors did not align with our core business. In order to streamline our products more efficiently, we felt it was best to eliminate suppressors from our current line-up.” (Source: Recoil)

Millions of dollars would have been saved if brand managers would have practiced “brand discipline.” Read more on The 5 Rules of Brand Extension.

6. The brand development exercise creates innovation

Most of us are so busy we sometimes just go through the motions in our businesses day after day with the mentality of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it attitude.” By purposefully sitting down and thinking about your brand, product and business you will give yourself and your team time to create new processes, products, components and other ideas that will drive innovation. This is time well spent and the life blood of successful firearm brands.

7. Saves money on future design and advertising costs
Instead of reinventing the wheel every time that new ad needs to be placed, trade show booth or package redesigned—your brand standards will provide a guideline for consistency that creates visual recall and recognition.


8. A strong brand creates preference which, equals profit
By consistently delivering the same value, service and quality—along with the same visual identifiers—you begin to create preference and repeat customers. This is called “branding.” The goal of brand development is to create preference, branding is to create recall.  


Photo credit: Guns.com

9. Attract talented employees
In today’s war for talent—companies are struggling to find talented and skilled workers. Those with strong employer brands coupled with a strong corporate brand will win.

10. Provides the foundation of all your marketing efforts
Without a brand strategy, it will be very difficult to focus your influencer or inbound marketing efforts. The absence of your customer’s buyer personas, key messaging and brand-centric visuals will make any marketing effort less effective. 

So, do you need a brand strategy?

Well, if any of the above points appeal to you—I would say yes—brand development is a business necessity for business owners serious about growth and leaving their mark on the firearm industry. Even if competition is non-existent—you eventually will need to develop your brand to pre empt competition as Magpul has done, who by all measures dominates the magazine market.

firearm-brand-strategy

Photo credit: Magpul

 

We have in any given category 10-20 of everything (ammo, handguards, holsters, ARs, shotguns etc.). By having a well-defined brand, you will be able to compete at a higher level than your competition, stand head and shoulders above the rest and build a valuable asset for the future.  

One last thought to end on: Brand is the last remaining business currency.”

Photo credit: F4 Defense, Jason Swarr, Straight 8

Build Your Hunting Brand

8 Ways to Build Your Hunting Brand

By Hunting and Outdoor

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty percent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of other studies have recorded the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make.

Social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours. In the old days, you might buy a Remington hunting rifle or Bear Bow because that’s what your dad hunted with. Today, such considerations to brand loyalty matter much less due to the availability of customer reviews. Now, each product has to prove itself on its own.

A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – Office of Consumer Affairs

If you have a great hunting, outdoor or firearm product and are looking for ways to maximize your branding to increase sales and build your reputation in the industry—here are 8 sure-fire ideas to help turn your customers into raving fans that will increase your bottom line and build your hunting brand.  

1. Be somebody
The old saying goes, “you can’t be everything to everyone.” Companies must find a way to stand out among the marketplace clutter and find the “whitespace” to stand for something. Don’t just tell your customer your products are quality, superior or dominating—demonstrate it. Prove to them you are worth their time by demonstrating your brand values, mission and how it will benefit them.

 

2. Make them feel something
The best way to connect in today’s digital world is through storytelling and contextual marketing. Our ancestors sat around a fire telling stories since the dawn of time, and this still continues today—except now we get it from the TV, the internet or social media. There is something intrinsically valuable to storytelling. When you connect with people at the heart level and make them feel something—your message will go a long way. Today’s marketing isn’t about highlighting features and benefits, it’s about “celebrating the benefit in the way it impacts other people’s lives,” says Simon Mainwaring, author of “We First.”  Put your product in context of real everyday stories for greater impact.

“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

3. Be authentic
The best way to be authentic is to just to be yourself. Too many hunting and firearm brands try to be something they’re not. Weave your personality into your content, messaging and imagery. Through authentic and good-willed communication, customers will innately share your message and bring it to life.

4. Delight them after the sale
Do not have a “one and done” mentality. At the end of the sales process and after the product has been delivered, add value to your customers through events, continued education or through helpful content that continues to solve their problems. This will increase their loyalty to your brand. Show them you care after the sale. It costs 5 times more to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones. (Source: Forbes

5. Make it all about them
Every product or service should be centered around what is called a buyer persona. If you don’t know who your customer is, you leave a lot of opportunity on the table.  Make your customer the superstar of your business.

Here are a few examples:

  • I’m in the market to buy a new MSR and I can’t figure out which brand I like better. Daniels Defense, DPMS or Stag Arms. I may find an ebook on Daniel’s website “How to choose the right AR.” In an easy to understand format, it provides me options, use, price and other customer reviews to help me make a better decision. I’ll most likely choose a DD. 
  • I’m a gun store owner looking for information on how to best track my inventory. A manufacturer may send me a case study on how other gun store owners are using their product to help them to keep track of their firearms and remain compliant. The manufacturer then follows up with a series of emails that builds trust.
  • I’m a hunter who is not sure what kind of bow I will need for an upcoming elk hunt. A manufacturer might send me their top 3 bow recommendations based on my stated preferences.

6. Talk their language
Don’t use fancy terms and ‘gobblygook’. Talk their language. Using the examples above, meet them on the range, in their facility or on the mountain. Talk to them like an old friend. You have to earn your customer’s money more than ever.

7. Give them what they want
Do your absolute best to make a great product and don’t cut corners. If enough customers ask for something—give it to them. Give them a way to sound off on what is needed to make your products better. You can create a customer support portal with an area titled “Submit product ideas” to encourage participation in your product development. Don’t let Facebook be the platform they choose to voice their disapproval if something with your product goes wrong. 

8. Fanatical customer support
Last, but not least, customer service—has become the new marketing. When you provide great customer support, you are much more likely to have that experience passed on via word-of-mouth.

A survey by Harvard Business Review concludes that customers want knowledgeable front line customer service reps and that the problem be resolved on the first call. On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company. This points to the importance of companies hiring people who align and know their brand(s) products best. Hire your customers.

Are you in a boring industry segment? Then the focus should be shifted to recruitment and employer branding. There are 1.6 million people who work in the hunting industry (Source: Congressional Sportsman Foundation). Are the best people working for you?

A great non-industry example is Zappos, the shoe company. Who gets excited about selling shoes? At Zappos, the culture is the product and shoes are what they do on the side. Create a great culture to work at and the boring product stuff becomes fun. 

“So many people when they go to the office, they leave a little bit of themselves at home, or a lot of themselves at home. And they have to put on this different persona in the office, especially in corporate environments. And our whole…there’s a lot of talk about work life separation or balance and so on, whereas our whole thing is about work life integration. It’s just life.”— Tony Hsieh, CEO

In conclusion, it all starts with a great product that solves a problem on a massive scale. To connect that great product with your customer—you must be somebody, you must be authentic, play the guide, not the hero in their story, make your brand all about them, talk their language, give them what they want and provide outstanding customer service above all else so that good customer reviews come natural. 

Outdoor Hunting Shooting Sports Buyer Persona

 

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In this powerful template — we help you and your team think through and identify who your ideal customer is. This will enable you to focus your messaging and maximize your marketing and sales. It will also help you present your buyer persona to your team for clarity.

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firearm-brand-product-development-strategy

Daniel Defense: The 3-Legged Stool of an Effective Firearm Brand Journey

By Brand Development, Branding, Firearms Marketing

Your firearm brand is built by multiple touch points (advertising, customer service, product experience, etc.) repeated day after day, month after month, year after year to establish a collective understanding of what your brand stands for in the mind of your customers and the broader firearm industry.

According to an NSSF survey: Accuracy, Reliability, and Manufacturer Reputation are the most sought after qualities in a firearm—especially an MSR. How do you build a brand that conjures up these same feelings and opinions?

In this post, I’ll outline the journey your brand must take when looking at building an effective long-term brand strategy by using a three-legged stool analogy and the legendary story of Daniel Defense to help you think clearer about how to move your business forward and how to create a stronger brand reputation that increases your brand’s equity and ultimately your success. 

Where to start?
Brand strategy is the business case for change at a brand level. It envisages the future position of a brand in the marketplace, based on the company’s wider business aspirations and its ability to deliver and market brands that align with that desired position. (Source: BSI)

When asking what your desired position is—where do you see your company in 5, 10 or 15 years? Do you want to be known as the brand with the most aesthetically pleasing platform? Or perhaps to be referred to as the lightest firearm? These aspirations must be guided by a strategy to get you to a place in the market that belongs only to you in the mind of your customers. Getting to your desired perception may involve taking several paths. It may be first to target and invest in the government sector to establish a reputation before entering the ups and downs of the consumer market. It may be to build your reputation as an OEM first before creating your consumer branded line of products. Whatever your goal is—it must be linked directly to the problem you’re out to solve coupled with a scalable business model that gives you sustainable growth.

Stool Leg 1: Solve the problem

big-hole-upper

Photo credit: Daniel Defense

Marty Daniel started in 2001 by creating the Big Hole Upper Receiver—which forever improved the way we mount sighting systems to ARs. This led to several other products like the M4 12.0 hand guard that was a direct replacement for the Army Marksmanship Unit. Marty’s product solved a problem in the industry that gave him the starting point of building the reputable brand Daniel Defense is today. His starting point was recognizing a problem and solving it. (Source: Guns & Ammo)

How to get there.
The purpose of brand strategy, is to identify how far the brand must “travel” perceptually in order to be competitive, the benefits of getting there for the business, the purpose and values that the brand culture will need to adhere to in order to make that journey and the competitive resistance that the brand may encounter getting to that end point. It’s the why and the where. (Source: BSI)

Stool Leg 2: Build respect

What aspects of your story must be created and perfected to get you to your ultimate brand destination? Is it an investment in talent? Is it infrastructure? Is it a reputation among law enforcement or the special operations community? Define how you can link your marketing efforts to strategy, product development, operations, and other areas to create unique value for your customers, so you have a compelling story to tell.

After the success of Marty’s upper, and a follow-up sling mount product—he designed the RIS II Rail System and was awarded a lucrative contract with SOCOM. And then won an additional contract with the UK Ministry of Defense’ which in essence proved his engineering prowess and design capabilities as a serious manufacturer. This created the second leg of his stool: Respect.

How to stay there once you arrive.
Staying on top is sometimes much harder to achieve than getting there. So you must ask: “What’s my next success?” What has your brand planned for next? How will you capitalize on what works? Why will that feel like a natural extension of the relationship that your customers already have with you? Your purpose should provide clear guidelines for future development. (Source: BSI)

Stool Leg 3: Scalability

By thinking of itself as a manufacturer of the world’s finest weapon systems—not just rails or rifles—Daniel Defense has extended its development license considerably. It can literally look for new ways to give people experiences they haven’t had and positions them to be one of the largest manufacturers in the industry. 

three-legged-stool-brandTo scale his business, Marty saw three components to add to the momentum of Daniel Defense: In-house equipment (hammer forge machining) that allowed him to control quality, output, and price. This all lead to increased customer service and his intuition to surround himself with competent staff and employees. Today, Daniel Defense is the epitome of an American success story and one of the most admired brands in the firearm industry.

You can build a brand around the three most coveted value propositions in the firearms industry: accuracy, reliability, and a strong reputation—by thinking critically about the journey it’s going to take to get you to your desired brand position. This path may be somewhat familiar of other firearm brands, but proving your product’s ability to fulfill a niche in the industry, proving that your product is reliable and scalable, you have the three legs to sustain your brand that will stand the test of time and win the hearts and minds of those who depend on what you create.

 

LEARN HOW TO BUILD YOUR BRAND

hunting-firearms-brand-voice-marketing-2

4 Simple Ways to Differentiate Your Brand’s Voice

By Firearms and Hunting

Brand voice is often misunderstood and encompasses a long list of steps to get it right. But it doesn’t have to be so exhaustive if you’re just starting out, or if you’re just looking to narrow the focus of your current brand to achieve greater differentiation in the marketplace.

Brand voice is not what you say in your copy, but how you say it. Just like your logo, imagery, font style, colors, booth design or the guy with the beard in your ad; brand voice helps your brand cut through the clutter and stand out against other competing hunting, firearms and outdoor brands.

This article assumes you’ve taken the time to research and create your buyer personas. If you don’t know what a buyer persona is or what that means, check out this article. In this post, I want to give you four simple steps to help you focus your brand voice.

 

“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.”

–Philip Kotler, Professor at the Kellogg School of Management

 

1. Go back to the beginning.
To figure out your brand voice, you need to go back to the beginning. Why was your company started? What problem does your products solve? What were the founder’s spark and reasons (besides making money) for going all in on their dream to bring your company to where it is today? This story, no matter how boring or exciting it is, creates the foundation for your brand’s voice which is a crucial starting point.

Action Item: Fill in the blank.

  1. My brand’s products solve  ________ in the marketplace.
  2. I want my brand to make people feel _______.
  3. I want people to _______ when they come into contact with my brand.
  4. Three words that describe my brand are _______ , _______ , and _______.
  5. I don’t want my brand to be like________. 

(Source: Muse)

Your brand can’t be something you’re not. Be true to who you are. There’s no one like you or the people who make up your company’s history and story.

 

2. Define your values.
You most likely have a grasp on your company culture. (Or if you’re just starting out, what you might like it to be someday.) A company’s values are typically on full display in meetings, Friday night after work and how people act when things go wrong. How do people respond to emails? What are some of the things hanging up around the office? Do the people who work in your office use the same colloquialisms, slang, and buzzwords? By mere observation, you can begin to pull out some of the values you all collectively share by the way you work.

A tone of voice both embodies and expresses the brand’s personality and the set of values. It’s about the people that make up the brand – the things that drive them, their loves and hates, and what they want to share with the world. (Source: Distilled)

Action Item: Reference Duck Dynasty
An excellent example of how to understand brand values is to watch an episode of Duck Dynasty. I chose Duck Commander because it’s a hunting company we all get to have an inside look at. It doesn’t take long to figure out what values Willie, Jase, Martin, Jep, Phil, and Godwin live by—and how those values integrate and define their company’s brand voice.

 

duck-dynasty-brand-voice

Photo Credit: New York Times

 

Action Item:
Think about the values that define your company then boil them down to three to four words. See the examples below:

• Apple: innovate, inspire, dream.
• Duck Commander: faith, family, ducks.
• Red Bull: adventure, try, adrenaline.

 

3. What does your brand look, act, and sound like?
To start bringing it all together, it’s important to relate your brand voice to real-world archetypes you already know and trust and by adding in your brand’s unique twist. Answer the questions below. 

  • If you could have a celebrity be your spokesperson for your company, who would it be?
  • If your brand was a car, what car would it be?
  • If your brand was a band? What would it sound like?

Example:

Our brand is Clint Eastwood, driving down the road in a ‘69 Camero Super Sport listening to AC/DC holding (enter your brand’s product).

 

firearms-hunting-brand-voice

By using this example, you can begin to shape your brand’s voice that creates real differentiation in the marketplace. Use this brand voice statement to inform your copywriters and designers to help them in their ideation and the creative direction of your brand.

 

4. Bring your brand to life in your copy and imagery.
Now that you know your company’s origins, the collective values of your people and have given it some real-world representation, it’s now time to integrate it into your copy and brand standards. Don’t get all hung up on doing this perfect right out of the gate. It will take time to perfect, but with a little practice, your brand’s voice will begin to take shape. It’s also helpful to think and identify other brands who have similar voices.

A word of caution. Always use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Failure to do so will cause a piece of copy to come across as amateur and untrustworthy. Use a tool like Grammarly to perfect your writing. 

Experiment and add in the below elements (if they align with your brand’s voice) after you’ve written a concise piece of copy.

  • Use (and commit) to humor
  • Sometimes swear words work (sparingly, of course)
  • Add in your company’s slang words 
  • Use double negatives
  • Be bold and opinionated
  • Add in some creative or big vocabulary words
  • Bold statements
  • Descriptive analogies
  • Use the same words consistently
  • Use pronouns for style
  • Break some grammar rules

(Source: Distilled)

As marketers or business owners, it’s easy to get wrapped around the axle on what constitutes brand voice. By looking at your company’s origins, your company culture, and building some example archetypes, you’ll be able to shape your copy that gives it a real personality that connects with your target buyer personas.

 

 

hunting-outdoor-firearms-brand-interview-guideFree Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Developing your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to uncover your brand.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

hunting-firearms-brand-experience

5 Ways To Boost Your Hunting or Firearms Brand’s Experience

By Firearms and Hunting

With so much economic upheaval and pressure to stand out in today’s hunting, outdoor and firearms marketplace; business owners and marketers have been feeling the pressure to produce greater results.

One overlooked element is how you create better brand experiences for your customers. Brand experience goes beyond the basic function of the product or service and seeks to connect with your customer on an emotional level that makes your brand the preferred choice in your category by adding something extra. 

How do top brands create great brand experiences? I took a closer look at a few brands inside and outside the industry and boiled it down to five things that stood out to me on how to go about building a great brand experience—and how you can begin implementing them into your own branding and marketing efforts. 

1. Find your “one” thing
Most of the world’s best brands are known for “one” thing. It can be tough (Ford); it could be repeating arms (Winchester); it could be rugged (Marlboro) or status (Rolex)—it may even be duck hunting (Duck Commander). Whatever the case, the best brands are known for “one” thing that puts them head and shoulders above others—and in the process define an entire category. The first step in boosting your brand experience is to know and understand what your “one” thing is. Communicate your one thing over and over again in every piece of marketing until your name is associated with that one word that places your brand on the top shelf of your customers and prospects minds. 

2. Rise above function to connect on an emotional level
Once you’ve drilled your prospective buyer with what your one thing is, you then must begin to connect your brand at an emotional level. Zig Zigler said it best; “People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons.” Your product or service should mean something more than what it appears to be. Can your brand make your customer feel better about themselves? Can it make them feel different when they put it on? Will it win the admiration of their friends? Take a look at some of the top brands for an example of how they connect at the emotional level:

  • Coke is Brown Sugar Water > Happiness in a Bottle.
  • SilencerCo. is a Suppressor > Fight the Noise.
  • Budweiser is Fermented Barley and Hops > King of Beers.
  • Matthews is a Bow Manufacturer > Supremely Accurate.

Great brands rise above the functional attributes of their product to connect to their customers emotionally.

3. Take your customers somewhere
Does your brand take your customer somewhere? It doesn’t have to be a physical place, it can be a state-of-mind. For example, when you turn on your truck—how does it make you feel? Do you feel like a bad ass or a grocery getter? How about when you put on your favorite football team’s jersey—do you feel like you’re part of the team? When you sip on a Corona, does it take you to the beach? Great brands take their customers somewhere.

4. Build a cult-like following
There is a company out there called Johnny Cupcakes. Ever heard of it? Neither did I till I was at a marketing conference this summer. Johnny Cupcakes founded by Johnny Earle, named America’s #1 Young Entrepreneur creates custom designed t-shirts that are then sold in a store that looks like a bakery—all over the world. At first glance you’re probably like “what?” But what makes the Johnny Cupcakes brand interesting is its cult-like following. So much so, that people tattoo Johnny’s logo on themselves and stand in line for hours to get his latest designs. Think Apple when they release their new iPhone. When his customers order a shirt from Johnny online and receive it in the mail;  it’s better than Christmas. His packaging seeks to create an experience pre-primed by his brand’s irresistible appeal. Not only do they get the t-shirt they ordered, but there’s always something extra. Sometimes they get a sticker, maybe a book, a used candy wrapper or Johnny’s used sock. Sounds silly—but Johnny’s fans love it. What can you add to your customer experience that gives just that little extra touch? Doing so, may help you create a cult-like following that will give back to your business for years to come.

5. Give them a community
Another important aspect of great brand experiences is being a part of what Marketing expert Seth Godin calls a “tribe.” A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea…. People want connection and growth and something new. I’m a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association. I’m included in a community of other marketing professionals in the industry—giving me a network and a small sense of belonging. Think of the communities you belong to. How do they make you feel? 

It should feel good. Can you do the same for your customers?

All marketing doesn’t have to be tradeshow, print or a TV sponsorship. Marketing can be an app, a community group or some random chachki in your packaging. Look at other ways to stand out from your competitors. 

To sum up, to boost your brand’s customer experience, find your “one” thing that makes you different, be something more than just a function, take your customers somewhere and give them a sense of accomplishment and community.

 

[columns]
Hunting-Outdoor-Firearms-Buyer-Persona1
FREE DOWNLOAD: A Hunting, Outdoor & Firearms Marketer’s Guide to Creating the Buyer Persona


The key to maximizing your marketing and branding efforts

In this powerful template — we help you and your team think through and identify who your ideal customer is. This will enable you to set SMART goals that focus your marketing and create better brand experiences.

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[/columns]

Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

hunting-logo-design

5 Hunting Logo Design Failures To Avoid At All Costs

By Firearms and Hunting

It is inevitable that at some point in your company’s history you will be faced with a logo redesign or a rebranding of your hunting, outdoor or firearms company.

Remember the good ole’ start-up days? It was a lot easier just to design a few concepts that made sense, approve it and get on with building your business. But now things are a little more complicated: you have thousands of customers, a few sub-brands, hundreds of employees counting on you and a few more competitors. Suddenly, that little insignificant symbol that no one thought twice about is a big deal.

For business owners or marketers, managing a logo redesign is a major change—and change is hard! To help you stay clear of any potential pitfalls, here are five things to keep in mind during the course of your next hunting, outdoor or firearms logo redesign project.

1. Get an outside perspective
When designing a new logo, it’s critical to start with an understanding of what your customers think about your current identity and brand. Their input will form the foundation of your creative brief and give substance to your efforts. Their answers may provide key insights that you otherwise would have missed.

For more information on interviewing your customers please see: 8 Ways to Build Your Hunting Brand

2. Identify your value propositions
If you’re designing a new logo without a solid understanding of what your brand stands for, it’s likely you’ll struggle to define accurately what your key differentiators are and what value you bring to the marketplace, your employees, customers, and channel partners. If you’re struggling to identify what your “why” is, it may indicate a deeper problem, and you may need to take a deeper look at your brand. Below is a TED talk from Simon Sinek that explains how to create a brand that dominates your category—worth the watch. 

Remember, a logo is a representation of what you want to communicate and should be connected to your visual system or “kit of parts” i.e package design, trade show booth design, website design, product catalogs, advertising etc. A logo rarely functions on its own.

3. Write a concise creative brief
If points 1 and 2 (above) are not defined, then your creative brief will be filled with guesses and estimations. It’s possible to still create a logo, but you may be missing out on key insights that would be helpful to your design agency when they begin the project. A good creative brief contains the following points:

  • Project summary
  • Audience profile or buyer persona
  • Perception/tone/guidelines
  • What needs to be communicated
  • Competitors
  • Examples of logos you like/dislike

detailed creative brief saves time, endless revisions and equips your branding agency with the right information to maximize the design process.

4. Don’t design by committee
When you receive your first round of concepts back from your branding agency don’t email it out to everyone in your company for feedback. Chances are you’ll get a hundred different suggestions and “advice” on what needs to be changed. Don’t include those who haven’t been involved in the process from the beginning.

The famous maxim: a camel was a horse designed by committee—is true in this situation. Form a select team of 2-4 people to help you choose the best logo for your company. Make sure all options have been vetted and are properly understood before presenting to your company’s stakeholders—then send out your top 2 choices to the company (if you want their involvement).

And as hard as it may seem, make sure to design your logo based on what your customers want and expect, and not so much on what you like. 

5. Present the logo properly
Another reason not to send your concepts out to the company until you have a strong consensus of what the strongest 2 or 3 final concepts are—is to make sure each concept is explained properly.

Create a video or website (See American Airlines) about what the new logo means and how it will look with the other parts of your visual system.

Redesigning a new logo is a challenging exercise. To get it right, you must take the time to talk to your customers, identify your value propositions, write an accurate and concise creative brief, collaborate internally and present the concepts thoroughly. By doing so, you will avoid these common logo redesign pitfalls.


hunting-outdoor-firearm-logoFree Download: Creative Brief Template

Creative briefs help keep projects running smoothly and prevent misunderstandings and delays by:

  • Connecting objectives with creative strategies
  • Building team consensus
  • Aligning expectations
  • Defining clear, measurable goals

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy

Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

hunting-firearms-customer-reviews

How to Deal with Negative Customer Comments

By Firearms and Hunting

 

“This product sucks, I bought it and within five days it broke. I called the manufacturer and had to sit on hold for 15 minutes to figure out how to get my money back. And when I finally did get them on the line, I had to go through four different service reps to find out it wasn’t under warranty. I will never buy from this company again, and I’m going tell all my friends to stay away.” – John M. from Facebook

Sound familiar?

At some point if you’re a manufacturer and sell products online in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry, negative feedback is not a matter of if, but when. We work in an industry where reputation is everything. People are highly passionate about the shooting, hunting and the outdoor sports—any negative experience like faulty products, bad customer service or false information will be met with a highly passionate response.

According to a new survey conducted by Dimensional Research, an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. (Source: Marketing Land)

In this post, I’ll give you five ways on how to deal with negative customer comments to help you minimize damage to your brand and neutralize an angry customer.

1. Deal with the problem immediately
When a customer is unhappy, whatever the reason, it’s important to act quickly. A negative review or comment on your website or social media page has the potential to be seen by other potential customers. You don’t want the customer’s anger to fester. By acting quickly it shows you care about the customer and providing good customer service.

2. Be polite, apologetic and public
The old saying, “the customer is always right” is applicable here. You have to swallow your pride, be polite and apologetic. If the customer is unreasonable, others will see this on your feed and know you are doing all you can to remedy the situation. For example, if they sharpened their knife with a grinder and want their money back because it was milled to a toothpick, this obviously is not your fault. Be polite and explain to them that your product isn’t supposed to be sharpened in this manner. This makes you look better in the eyes of the people observing. If it gets too heated, take it offline. It’s not worth it to try and win an argument on social media for everyone to see.

3. Make it right, if possible
In all instances, whatever you can—within reason—try to make it right with the customer. If you have to send them a new product or refund their money—expedite their request. You’ll end up saving your brand’s reputation and cut off any negative reaction the angry customer might engage in. Like writing a blog or producing a video about their negative experience, posting a review on Google or filing with the Better Business Bureau. All of these are almost impossible to overcome and will affect your business’ bottom line.

4. Pick your battles
It seems like there are a lot of people who just like to kick up dust and cause trouble. We’ve all observed unwarranted attacks in forums from people who just want to attract attention or make someone else look stupid. If a person attacks your brand or product for no apparent reason, respond as politely and tactfully as possible. Use facts to back up your reply. Most of the time they are only trying to stir up controversy. Before responding, see how big of following they have on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and if others feel the same as they do. Sometimes, you may just have to ignore or delete their comment. Sometimes they may be right. 

5. Hire the right people
By employing the right people for your organization you can drastically reduce the number of customer complaints from a customer service standpoint. 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience. If you get an angry customer who calls in demanding their money back, it’s going to be very important that the person who takes the call incorporates the above points. We’ve all experienced the grumpy customer service person. Make sure your customer service rep is trained correctly and can resolve the situation quickly. In the same survey, 72% blamed their bad customer service interaction on having to explain their problem to multiple people. (Source: Zendesk)

Working in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry is highly rewarding work and sometimes not for the lighthearted. By dealing with negative customer feedback quickly, being polite, doing all you can to make it right, picking your battles and hiring the right people, you’ll be able to save and manage your brand’s reputation more effectively when dealing with negative customer comments and reviews.

 

Hunting-Outdoor-Firearms-Buyer-Persona1

FREE DOWNLOAD: A Hunting, Outdoor & Firearms Marketer’s Guide to Creating the Buyer Persona

The key to maximizing your marketing efforts

In this powerful template — we help you and your team think through and identify who your ideal customer is. This will enable you to set SMART goals that focus your marketing and branding efforts.

[easyembed field=”CTA”]

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

How To Measure The Value Of Your Hunting Or Firearms Brand

How to Measure The Value of Your Hunting or Firearms Brand

By Firearms and Hunting

Most company’s in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry today base brand value solely on sales volume, and sometimes even Facebook likes.

According to a recent survey of over 400 (non-industry) marketers, 80% of them believed building brand awareness is “extremely” or “very” important, 76% admitted that they don’t know what percentage of their target market is aware of their brand. And nearly 70% said they weren’t sure how to measure brand awareness. (Source: Survey Monkey).

I believe these numbers are even higher in our industry, because most brands still solely focus marketing spend on traditional methods like print, tradeshow and TV to boost sales that are hard to track and prove ROI.

In the past, figuring out brand value and brand equity, for the most part, were left to the academics and statisticians to figure out. Even today, there are still varying opinions from the experts about how to measure brand value and equity with not a lot of consensus or standardization to the process.

However, with the rise of email and web-based survey tools—hunting, outdoor and firearm companies that have invested in web-based ways to collect customer data, can now evaluate and understand their brand’s value without spending a fortune on complex traditional research. No longer are focus groups, mail-in reply cards, rebates, unsolicited emails and statisticians necessary. 

The goal of brand development and branding (two separate disciplines) is to create awareness and preference of your products over your competitors.

“Preference cannot happen unless you know how your customers think and feel about your brand.”

If you’re interested in understanding how you can maximize your brand for increased sales, gain market share or increase customer satisfaction, there are four aspects you need to take into account to figure out your brand’s value to understand how it impacts your bottom line.

To begin, you want to start with non-customers and customers alike. By utilizing a web-based survey system and tapping into your customer database—you can incentivize your customers to take the survey or utilize a non-customer sample to acquire the data you need.

According to the BrandAsset Valuator model, your company’s brand health and future can be determined by collecting consumer insights in these four key areas:

1. Differentiation
How well does your brand stand out from your competition? You can measure this by asking questions about how often your customers come across your brand, if they recognize it and if it stands out from your competition.

Takeaway: When your brand is different, people are curious and want to know why.

Industry Example: By being bold and utilizing a strong visual with a unique brand position and product features, people will naturally be curious about your brand and will want to know more about it. One brand that comes to mind is Patriot Ordnance Factory. POF-USA was the first company to take the gas piston AR to market and has been leading the way with their revolutionary platform innovations ever since. I like their approach to using 18th Century subject matter, and how they intertwine Revolutionary War concepts with present day 2nd amendment rights.

POF hunting outdoor firearms brand

2. Relevance
This area examines aspects of price, convenience, and if the products you produce are of use. You can determine this aspect by asking questions of the likelihood of them to purchase your product or whether they purchased it in the past.

Takeaway: If your product is more relevant than it is different, your brand may no longer be interesting which means you are competing on price and convenience alone. This will help you determine how to change your messaging and perhaps direct product development.

Industry Example: Your hunting product may have extensive distributorship in Cabella’s, Bass Pro or Walmart and other large retailers with high sales volume, but that doesn’t always means you’re the strongest brand customers prefer. Perhaps you’re just the cheapest and most convenient. If you’re the only product on the shelf, that the customer needs, you still may lose out to a competitor with a stronger brand when and if they come along. Don’t settle for second best.

Marketing experts like David Ogilvy believe that there’s more to a company’s success — or failure — than pricing, convenience, or location. Success is defined by brand equity or overall brand power, which is your brand’s value as determined by consumers’ positive or negative attitudes about your brand. (Source: Survey Monkey)

3. Esteem
How well regarded is your brand? Does it hold a high level of superiority and respect in your customers mind? Would they drive across town to purchase it? Are you on top of their list to visit at the upcoming trade show? By being able to answer these questions—you’ll be able to uncover how well respected and needed your product(s) are. This perhaps is one of the most important aspects of brand assessment.

Takeaway: When customers hold your brand in high-esteem, they want to buy it to know why.

Industry Example: When Colorado passed a law that limits ammunition magazine capacity to 15-rounds, Magpul, moved their entire operation out of Colorado—along with $80 million dollars in revenue and 200 employees and some other 400 supply chain jobs (Source: Washington Times). I assume it was a rough time internally for Magpul. But the industry stood next to them and the situation generated a great amount of positive press and a great deal of respect with their customer base. 

magpul-brand

Photo: Magpul

 

4. Knowledge
How well do your customers know your brand? Have you told the story correctly that they can tell it back to you? What makes you different and why? Is it positive or negative?

Takeaway: When customers have a knowledge about your brand, especially if it pertains to negative perceptions, they may think they don’t need to learn anything more and will begin to look at your competitors.

Industry Example: Heritage brands tend to suffer most from the knowledge aspect. For generations, your family may have used products or shot the same brand of gun, but one ammo or magazine malfunction or negative customer service experience may cause them to reevaluate their options. Beretta is an ideal example of how a 500 year old company continues to reinvent itself to remain relevant and attract a new generation of customers and brand advocates. 

berretta

In conclusion, gathering data for data’s sake without implementation is a fool’s errand. Make sure before conducting a survey that evaluates your brand—that it is connected with a clear initiative and goal you can use to spur growth, sales, attract talent, increase workforce efficiency, communications or direct product development.

Once you see how high or low the above 4 factors stack up, you can begin to determine your brand equity based on brand stature and brand strength. This will allow you and your team to create a strategy on how to maintain your brand’s position, or how to improve it.

When customers have a chance to choose between your product or your competitors, and they choose you, that’s good for business.

 

hunting-outdoor-firearms-brand-interview-guideFree Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Developing your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to draft the questions to ask your customers to uncover your brand’s most important messages.

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Indianapolis inbound marketing brand

3 Tips to Growing Your Brand in the Age of Inbound Marketing

By Brand Development, Inbound Marketing

The age of inbound marketing is here, and the rules have changed in regards to growing your company’s brand.

With so much content being created at break-neck speed, it’s important for your brand to have a clearly defined position so that your content is relevant, speaks to the right audience and achieves your business goals.

Marketers are shifting their budgets away from “interruption” advertising, and increasing their inbound marketing budgets (Source: HubSpot). Inbound marketing is changing how brands communicate.

Consider these statistics: 

  • 86% of people skip television ads. (source: Mashable)
  • Because 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, they are also more likely to buy from that company. (Source: Custom Content Council)
  • 90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. (Source: McMurry/TMG)
  • 4% more leads are generated by inbound than by outbound. (Source: HubSpot

In the age of inbound marketing, here are 3 tips to help grow your brand.

Tip #1: Establish yourself as a visible expert.

What is a visible expert? A visible expert is someone within an industry who focuses on a particular niche that he/she is known for. Studies have shown that 62% of visible experts accrue brand building benefits for their companies. (Source: Hinge Research Institute) Through specialization, content marketing, speaking engagements and book publications—you can boost your visible expert profile and attract more clients and customers.

visible expertExamples of some visible experts include: Darmesh Shah (Inbound Marketing, HubSpot), Karl Rove (Political Consultant, American Crossroads), Gary Vaynerchuck (Social Media, Vayner Media) and Warren Buffet (Investing, Berkshire Hathaway).

By establishing yourself as a recognized visible expert within your industry—you are able to charge higher fees, attract more leads and grow your company faster.

[box type=”info” size=”large”]LinkedIn is a highly effective channel to building visible expert status for the purpose of distributing your content and building your company’s brand.[/box]

Tip #2: Help. Don’t sell.

By creating relevant and valuable content that answers your customers most burning questions first—you build trust and credibility that earns you their interest, time and attention.

According to Marketo, 93% of B2B buyers begin their buying process using Internet search. By optimizing your blog articles, downloadable ebooks and whitepapers for search engines and social media networks, you pull customers to your brand through your content. 68% of consumers are likely to spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in. (Source: The CMA) By optimizing your content for search engines you have greater opportunities to attract customers, build your brand and promote your content through social media shares and likes that educates your prospects faster and can potentially shorten your sales cycle.

Tip #3: Perfect your messaging.

One of the greatest challenges in marketing is crafting the right messaging. How do you know if your messaging will resonate? Most companies don’t have large marketing budgets to test market. In the age of inbound marketing, you can dial in your brand messaging faster by conducting A/B testing—easier and cheaper—to find out what messages resonate with your target customers. By finding out what title or blog post gets the most traffic and social shares, you can begin to dial in your brand messaging that makes your marketing more effective.

In conclusion, by utilizing the above three tips of establishing yourself as a visible expert, helping—not selling, and utilizing A/B testing to dial in your messaging—you’ll have greater success in growing your brand more efficiently in the age of inbound marketing.

Interested in learning if Inbound Marketing is right for your business? Please contact us for a free inbound marketing assessment. 

Inbound Marketing Toolkit

Free Download:
Inbound Marketing Tool Kit
 

Growing your brand in the age of inbound marketing is all about having the right tools. This guide will dive into which tools you should use to conduct inbound marketing.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

U2-brand-development

6 Things You Can Learn From U2’s Brand

By Brand Development

I’m not going to lie. I love U2. And if you ask me—they are thee biggest band of our generation—I’m talking to all of my GenXers out there.

There is a reason why U2 (founded in 1976) has kept rocking for almost 30 years. U2 has done a number of things right that we as business owners and marketers can learn from to maximize our own success and longevity when building our brands.

Whether you’re a U2 fan or not—below are 6 things you can incorporate into your own brand strategy that can potentially provide the wherewithal your brand needs to go the distance.

Product
It goes without saying that U2’s signature sound delivered by The Edge’s “airy” guitar rifts, Bono’s larger-than-life vocals and disorienting lyrics and the strong back-up accompaniment from Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton on drums and bass, respectively—make U2’s “music product” unique. They have consistently delivered their product—album after album to their loyal followers—each on a grander scale than the last. All great brands start with a great idea. U2’s music has propelled the band’s brand over the years. 

Purpose
U2 has always been devoted to helping their fellow man. From Band-Aid, Live-Aid, World Vision, ONE, Music Rising and as of late, RED (Bono’s personal foundation devoted to the Aids epidemic in Africa)—U2 has always made giving back to humanity a priority, and it’s reflected in both their powerful music and their generosity in giving back. With each new effort comes forth a new song to bring awareness. Here are a few examples:

  • Do They Know It’s Christmas – Ethiopian Famine
  • Bullet the Blue Sky – San Salvador Civil War
  • Miss Sarajevo – Bosnian War
  • New York – for 9/11
  • Sweetest Thing – Chernobl Childrens Proejct
  • Walk On – Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi
  • The Saints are Coming – Hurrican Katrina
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday – Irish Massacre

Their purpose for existing goes beyond just making millions of dollars making music. Like most startups—the product (music) may have been their sole driver in the beginning—but now they use their music and fame to build awareness for various global atrocities and humanitarian crises that demand the attention and action of their followers. This purpose has made U2 a band to be admired and respected. And with admiration comes interest and more sales. 

u2 brand experience concertCustomer Experience
U2 has consistently created fresh songs and content, not to mention their ability to always push the boundaries on what can be done in stadiums. They are highly committed to their fans, which in turn has cultivated a cult-like following. They express their thankfulness to their crowds and bring them into their story through their purpose. Every concert by U2 is intertwined with some kind of political action that allows the concert-goer to be apart of their cause. Every brand should strive to incorporate their customers into the brand’s purpose and story.

Authentic
The band members’ personal lives are aligned with their purpose and product as well. They tend to be the same on camera as they are in their off-camera day-to-day lives. From the design of their album covers, merchandise and music, U2 is just different.

Branding
Their branding is always on target. Although the brand’s visuals have changed through the years, their core essence has not. If I had to guess, I would say U2’s brand essence would go something like this:

Create music that moves, relates and heals the world.

A brand’s essence is what creates purpose and answers the question: “why”? It is the center of all that you do that gets you out of bed in the morning. What is your “why”? 

Innovation
With more than 150 million albums sold, $700 million dollars in ticket sales (Source: Forbes)—their latest album, Songs of Innocence, is another example of what U2 does best: innovate. Every album released brings higher expectations from their fans than the previous one. They have consistently created billboard hits over the past 30 years because they continue to innovate. They do this by surrounding themselves with the best people and utilizing their unique talents and skills.

To wrap up, brands that start with a good product, possess purpose, experience, authenticity, maintain consistent branding and who can continually innovate can expect long term success. So go out and rock your brand!

 

Brand Interview Guide

 

Free Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Developing your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to draft the questions to ask your customers/clients to uncover your brand.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

Do I Really Need A Brand Strategy?

By Brand Development

Maybe you’ve just come out with some disruptive technology or game-changing gadget.

Or maybe your business has been around for a while and you’ve realized that to compete in today’s environment, you need to focus more on your reputation or brand. 

Do you really need a brand strategy?

Your customers, clients, employees, partners already have some kind of feeling, thought or understanding of you or your product/service—negative or positive.

The truth is… a brand already exists, even if you’ve never taken the time to develop your brand.

Below are 9 surprising facts that you may not have considered in regards to your brand development strategy.

1. Make it easier for the customer to buy

Customers make decisions on products they know and trust. If a customer is not familiar with your brand, they are less likely to buy it.


Think of the last time you were in the grocery store and you had to pick up some pickles. Vlasic—the pickle category leader—was not on the shelf. Do you buy the “I’ve never heard of you” brand of pickles—or forgo the pickles altogether? Most likely, you’ll wait till the next grocery trip or go to another store. Brands help us make buying decisions.

2. Make it easier for the sales team to sell
Having a strong brand reputation in the marketplace will allow your sales team to close more sales based on brand performance alone. A reputation for service, quality and the ability to solve your customer’s problem will be more likely received and sought after.


3. Brand clarity and delivery spurs employee motivation

Brands give your employees purpose. Having a clear cultural direction, goal and mission based on your brand values will create higher performance and productivity.


4. Increase the value of your company over time
Brands are line items on today’s most valued companies. The Coca-Cola brand alone accounts for 51 percent of the stock market value of the Coca-Cola Company. (Source: Brandchannel

5. Brand definition brings clarity to your business goals and direction

Having trouble getting along? The brand development process will get you and your key stakeholders on the same page that will align and foster greater cooperation.

6. The brand development exercise creates innovation

Most of us are so busy we sometimes just go through the motions in our businesses day after day with the mentality of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it attitude.” By purposefully sitting down and thinking about your brand and business you will give yourself and your team time to create new processes, products, services and other ideas that will drive innovation. This is time well spent.

7. Saves money on future design and advertising costs
Instead of reinventing the wheel every time that new ad needs to be placed or package redesigned, your brand standards will provide a guideline for consistency that creates visual recall and recognition.


8. A strong brand creates preference which, equals profit

By consistently delivering the same value, service and quality—along with the same visual identifiers—you begin to create preference and repeat customers. This is called “branding.” The goal of brand development is to create preference.


9. Attract talented employees

In today’s war for talent—companies are struggling to find talented and skilled workers. Those with strong employer brands coupled with a strong corporate brand will win.

10. Provides the foundation of you marketing efforts
Without a brand strategy, it will be very difficult to focus your inbound marketing efforts. The absence of your customer’s buyer personas, key messaging and brand-centric visuals will make any marketing effort less effective. 

So, do you need a brand strategy?

Well, if any of the above points appeal to you—I would say yes—brand development can help. Even if competition is non-existent—you eventually will need to develop your brand, if not direct it in some way. We have in any given category 10-20 of everything (toothpaste, cars, shoes, dishwashing soap, law firms, construction companies, healthcare providers etc.) by having a well-defined brand, you will be able to compete at a higher level than your competition and build a valuable asset for the future.  

 

 

brand-interview-guideFree Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Developing your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to draft the questions to ask your customers/clients to uncover your brand.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the outdoor, active lifestyle and health industries who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

Brand-Development-Interview-Guide

How To Create A Brand Development Interview Guide

By Brand Development

To discover what your brand stands for—you must start by asking your customers/clients the right questions.

By asking the wrong questions, you can completely miss the most important insights of how people view and feel about your brand.

As a marketer, you may have been tasked to rebrand your company or improve your brand’s performance. Within the brand development process one of the best ways to understand if your message and reputation is where you want it to be—is to interview your stakeholders and customers or clients.

In this article, I’ll share six points that will help you ask the right questions to accurately identify your customers/client’s perceptions, beliefs, feelings and motives. Your findings will give you a rich insight into how your brand is perceived and will equip you to build a more effective brand.  

 Brand interviews should consist of the following: 

  1. Basic demographic information
  2. Brand experiences
  3. Brand understanding
  4. Frequented marketing channels
  5. Feedback on how to improve the brand’s product or service.

The interview should only last about 30 minutes and consist of 10-15 questions (max). It may be necessary to create three different questionnaires depending on whom you’re interviewing. As an example, customer questions will be different than partner or internal stakeholder questions.

So let’s dig in…

1. Understand your industry’s challenges
To begin forming your questions, begin by looking at your industry. Every industry has some kind of challenge. Identify what those challenges or pain points are. Here are a few examples: 

  • Healthcare — regulation
  • Medical Device  — limited creative
  • Estate Planning — customer retention
  • Construction — antiquated processes
  • Retail — customer interest
  • Utilities — customer service

To get some background, start by doing some internet research to familiarize yourself with common industry obstacles and category imperatives. Twitter is a great place to start to locate industry news sources. This will give you a good foundation and help you in drafting your initial list of questions.

2. Interview your brand’s key stakeholders
The second step is to benchmark your investigation. Start with your company’s key stakeholders. This may include the CEO, COO, CTO and Sales Director. A lot of times, they will have insight that you may not have known or realized. Make sure to schedule your time via email well in advance. Try to pick a day where they are not too busy. Be aware and prepared to answer any potential skepticism. Their answers will give you a foundation of knowledge to test against.

[box type=”info” size=”large”]Interview Tip: Occasionally, you’ll encounter a cold facade that you’ll have to break through to get to the real truth. Don’t accept just any answer if you feel the answer given is too shallow, rephrase and ask it later on.[/box]

3. Interview your brand’s customers
To begin the customer survey, get buy-in from your stakeholders to conduct the interview and get feedback on the questions you want to ask. The best place to start is with your social media followers as they have already opted in to receive communication from you. Depending on how large of company you are, you may be able to personally email your customers to arrange the interviews.

Don’t rule out those passive-silent customers/clients. Their experiences with your brand are just as important to understand as those following you on social media. Make sure you have a variety of people to draw from. Interview your happiest customers as well as the ones who have constant complaints.

Interview Tip: You will encounter difficulty with scheduling.  I suggest asking 2-3 interviewees at a time over the course of 2-3 days. Use a tool like Sidekick to ensure your emails are received.

Interview 15-20 people (or as many as you can as time allows) and make sure to follow the same format throughout. If you are a bigger company, you may want to hire a marketing research firm. Remember, the better the questions, the better your investigation will be.

It may be necessary to send out an online survey through Survey Monkey for larger samples. 

Interview Tip: Don’t ask leading questions, focus your questions on getting a specific answer, don’t interrupt and try to transition naturally.

4. Analyze your answers
After you’ve completed each individual interview, write your responses on a whiteboard of what stood out to you and begin to look for potential trends.

5. Create your buyer personas
What is a buyer persona? Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what your customers/clients say it is.

By creating buyer personas, you will be able to focus your brand’s messaging, content and visuals to your customers/clients more effectively.

6. Brand alignment
As your interviews come to conclusion—your brand should begin to rise to the top. You should begin to see differences between what your company says versus what your customers say about your brand. 

The interviews will prepare you to conduct an educated and insightful brand discovery session where you will drill more into the internal side and business strategy of the brand. More to come on this later…

In conclusion, to begin the development of your brand, start by conducting industry research online, interview your key stakeholders, interview your customers, analyze your responses for misalignment and look for trends. Create your buyer personas to laser focus your messaging, visual and content.

Download a sample interview guide below to get started!

 

 

brand-interview-guideFree Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Discovering your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to draft the right questions to uncover your brand.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

 

How To Brand A State

By Brand Development

Earlier this year we were asked to submit an RFI and an RFP to help in the branding of a state. State meaning—the United States of America.

Being asked to development a brand for an entire state was an exciting opportunity. After all, how many branding agencies get a chance to brand a state? We corresponded with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in attempt to help them generate ideas on how to accomplish colossal task.

If you’re a governor, deputy/executive director or director of tourism considering a state branding initiative — I want to share with you 5 take-a-ways we learned through our experience in approaching state branding that may help you in attracting the right branding agency.

1. Clearly define your goals
Most state branding initiatives start with some kind of economic goal. However most of these goals tend to be broad and ambiguous. Having a goal like “Strengthen and grow existing business, both urban and rural.” is good, but too vague; or “increase innovation, entrepreneurship & investment” tend to create confusion amongst your constituents. Create and define your goals with actual numbers and implement the methods to accurately measure and track it. Use the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely) method to set goals. Focus on the methods to achieve the goal along with its desired economic impact.

2. Identify negative brand images and what it will take to overcome them
The state we worked with had a great business environment, low taxes, beautiful scenery and a host of outdoor activities to attract young, single professionals. However, the state had a negative reputation. As we dug more into the problem, it seemed to be an obstacle that would need an immense advertising/branding budget to overcome.

“The strongest, most powerful brands in the U.S. are state brands because they encompass forceful emotions of pride and self-identification—and everyone has a say in it.”

State branding is inescapable. Think of how many times you notice your state’s license plate on the way to work? — state flags on public buildings, utility bills, businesses named after states and the list goes on and on. Apple, voted the world’s #1 brand doesn’t even have that kind of exposure. Any attempt to brand a state must address what brand already exists.

Take Michigan.

As a business owner, I’m constantly being wooed to move my business to Michigan. I have nothing against Michigan. I love visiting the great lakes and would definitely consider moving there—until Detroit went bankrupt.

Texas State BrandingThe public feud between governor Rick Perry of Texas and Andrew Cuomo of New York is a great example of two state brands battling for economic brand equity based on negative state brand impressions. Governor Perry has been enticing businesses in New York to move to Texas for lower state and corporate taxes with the:Texas is Calling, Your Opportunity Awaits campaign. Every business owner knows that taxes are a constant hindrance in achieving growth goals—especially if you’re in one of the highest taxed state in the union like New York. (SOURCE: Taxfoundation)

Cuomo countered with the start-upny.com campaign that cost 15.2 Million dollars to reverse the negative perception, but it was too late. Perry successfully rebranded New York as the highest taxed state in the union. For a business owner, this doesn’t bode well for attracting businesses to New York.

Colorado State BrandingColorado recently legalized marijuana. People and businesses opposed to the drug and the culture, have had their once pristine brand image of Colorado’s mountains (John Denver singing “rocky mountain high” in the background) and miles of endless skiing tarnished—not to mention its vibrant economy and workforce. Now living in Indianapolis—a more conservative statethan Colorado, I now have reservations about telling people where I’m from, as most people view Colorado’s unconventional culture somewhat taboo.

Colorado Logo

In every case, don’t overlook what negative brand perceptions exist, they determine the entire course of your state brand development project.

3. Get budget approval and funding in advance
We were told that the branding agency selected would have to go 6 months without pay until the state legislature approved the budget. This was the nail in the coffin for us. How could they expect us to work for free for 6 months without guarantee of pay? We were also told that any travel on the agencies part would have to be self-funded. Some of this we were willing to do, but in the end the requests where a non-starter.

4. To attract business, you must play by business rules
The government sector is much different than the private sector. When working with private sector businesses—part of the process is getting to know each other to see if the right chemistry exists to work together. A good client/agency relationship is key to any successful outcome. It’s all about people. And the branding process can be very long (9-12 months). Don’t submit an RFP out for bid and expect to attract the best agency for your state branding project without taking the time to get to know them first. The typical government process circumvents what could be—in most situations—a great working relationship.

5. Reconsider the RFI and RFP process
We where requested to submit an RFI (Request for Information). I’m always somewhat skeptical of an RFI, but decided to spend the time exploring how to go about branding a state just for the exercise.

Our ideas earned us attention as we were then invited to submit an RFP. When we received the unorganized RFP, it was vague on budget, timeline, goals. It was also poorly written.

The biggest frustration was that our questions went unanswered. Most state governments are required to post the RFP for bid on cumbersome public procurement websites.

In the end, the requirements were unfeasible, and our ideas listed in the RFI where stolen. Not to mention that no business was generated through spending hours on the RFI and RFP.

In conclusion, almost every state branding project is a rebranding exercise where you must work against entrenched negative brand impressions. In order to be successful, set clear goals, identify negative brand impressions in advance and learn how to address them, change them or go around them. Do not take the typical RFI to RFP approach to attract the best branding agency, get the budget and funding figured out in advance and be willing to work with your branding agency candidates to create a good working relationship out of the gate.

Interested in learning more about our Indianapolis or Denver branding agency? Contact us today to learn how we can help your state.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

Brand Rollout

Why Your Brand Rolled Out The Back Door And Down The Street – Part 2

By Brand Development

In my last post, I talked about 4 things to keep in mind to make the most of your brand development investment when rolling out your new brand to your employees and how to create lasting brand change. I discussed the importance of getting your employees’ buy-in early and introducing the brand correctly.

In this post, I’ll give you 4 things to remember when rolling out the brand externally to your customers. Depending on what kind of company you are, changing your brand can be minimal to very complex.

1. Release brand standards to employees, vendors and partners

Instruct your branding agency to create brand standards and guidelines. This will contain rules on how to use the new brand’s visual elements for efficiency. Make sure to publish and deliver the guidelines to all brand ambassadors in the company—especially the sales and marketing folks. Make the brand standards accessible via a password protected website or a downloadable document. Announce the brand standards by email and who to contact for brand approvals.

2. Make it all about your customers
Unlike your employees who will typically push back on the new branding, your customers will typically welcome the change. Once again, make the external rollout all about them. Communicate why the change was made. Utilize social media, email and other channels to reach your customers. Invite your customers to visit the new website. Careful planning must be made so that there is no disconnect. If your brand includes product packaging, make sure to communicate the old and the new so no brand equity is lost in the transition.

3. Pick the right media mix
Larger companies will conduct million dollar multi-media campaigns to announce their new brands. They may hold special events or create a Q&A hotline. Create targeted messaging and repeat it over and over again for at least 9 to 14 months.

UPS BrandWhen UPS rebranded in 2007, their television ads showed their old logo changing from the drab 2-dimensional package icon to the more stylized 3-dimensional shield icon for at least a year. Their trucks seemed to be changed over the same amount of time. But who could forget their brilliant whiteboard commercials? They coupled their new branding with a new ad campaign communicating the company’s new positioning and tagline – What can brown do for you? (Which was later changed to We love logistics.)

For small to medium sizes companies—a typical press release will suffice that corresponds with the launch of your new website, email announcement. You may want to consider a soft launch of your website to work out any bugs before announcing it to the masses.

4. Pick the right time
Be sure to schedule plenty of time to conduct all the necessary activities. Think through the rollout by starting with the end in mind. What is the goal, who needs to know, how will they find out and where? Look at this as you would an advertising campaign, because that’s exactly what it is. Pick the right time to introduce your brand, either at a planned customer event or trade show. Time it to maximize your message and marketing dollars.

In conclusion, next to your people, your brand is your most valuable asset. Create and deliver the brand standards and guidelines, make the new brand all about your customers, pick the right media mix and time it with an upcoming customer event for maximum benefit.

For more information on how we can help you create real brand change within your organization, contact our Indianapolis or Denver branding agency for a complimentary brand assessment.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.