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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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4 Ideas for Your Hunting and Firearms Black Friday Campaign

By Firearms and Hunting

The biggest shopping weekend of the year is coming up and now is the time to begin preparing. 

U.S. Thanksgiving and Black Friday online sales last year totaled over $1.7 Billion in 2015. And with background checks setting new records in the firearm industry last year with 185K, you can bet that this year is going to be just as good or better. And a few industry resources of mine mentioned to me, although unverified—

  • “For the first time, more people shopped online than store purchases”
    (Black Friday 2015 –
    Dick’s Sporting Goods)

Assuming you’ve defined an offer on your website, whether it’s free shipping, a sales discount or you’ve arranged some kind of offer with your dealers, there is much you can do to boost this year’s Black Friday sales to get a piece of the action.

Below are four ideas to help you move the needle for your hunting, outdoor or firearms business—based on latest online retail statistics and what other savvy companies are doing to boost Black Friday sales.

1. Segment your email campaign
If you’re planning to send a blanket email to your subscriber list, you may want to take a step back and reevaluate. Sending blanket emails may work if you sell only one multi-use product, but if you have multiple buyer personas, who buy your product—you’ll need to segment those customers and tailor those messages to their preferences to make your email campaign more effective.

According to Mailchimp, segmented emails perform markedly better than non-segmented emails:

  • 14.1% more opens
  • 59.82% more clicks
  • 8.86% lower unsubscribes

“When we first started with digital marketing, we were one of those companies that would send a one-size-fits-all message to everyone,” says Matteo Recanatini, Beretta’s Digital & Ecommerce Manager. “We needed a more effective way to identify the different lifestyles and preferences of our customers and deliver content that actually mattered to them through different channels.” (Source: Hubspot

What if I haven’t been segmenting?
If you haven’t been segmenting your contacts through some kind of marketing automation software, and you have no idea who your subscribers are, then the next best thing is to get busy setting up individual landing pages per persona and offer an incentive or discount code so you can begin gathering this information. Create a form on your landing page that asks what their interests are and how they use your product for better understanding. After the initial blast, be ready to send a personalized email to those segments to increase engagement.  Once they fill out the form, direct them to a thank you page for them to claim their offer, whether it’s an ebook, whitepaper or even a coupon code. Your product may be one-size-fits-all, but your customers may have different interests. Figure out what those differences are and create personalized emails based on solving their problems or providing solutions while attaching a discounted sales price.

Don’t forget an attention-grabbing subject line.
Subject lines are critical—33 percent of subscribers decide whether or not to open your email based on the subject line alone. With email volumes increasing exponentially around the holidays, your subject line needs to work even harder to get potential shoppers to open your email and take action.

  • Stand out: Using emoji gun-emojican boost open rates.
  • Be festive: Beyond emoji, use words like “Holiday Sale” for promotions. Holiday-themed open rates tended to be higher.
  • Ask a question: “Ready to knock out your holiday shopping?” or “What will you do with your 50 percent off holiday coupon?”
  • Make it urgent: Emphasize pending deadlines like “Cyber Monday Sale ends today” or “Holiday door-busters till noon only.”

(Source: iMedia)

2. Send dealer locations
For hunting or firearms manufacturers who choose to downplay their online sales, you may want to help your dealers out by sending their offers to your subscriber list and then segment those dealers by location, so your subscribers know where to go to buy your products. Create some urgency around the sale and send them the address and store hours so they know where to go. This can also help you build stronger relationships with your most important buyers and show you care about them.

3. Put your deals on the home page
Americans plan to do almost half of their holiday shopping online this year, and one in five of those who own smartphones will use them to purchase holiday merchandise, the highest since NRF first asked in 2011. (Source: NRF)

If you have a website that is somewhat extensive, you may want to run your deals directly on your home page with a quick checkout option or link to your dealer locator. Make it simple and quick to take advantage of the shopping frenzy.

4. Get mobile now
For the first time, online traffic from mobile devices outpaced traditional PCs on Thanksgiving Day. As IBM predicted within one percent of accuracy, Thanksgiving Day reached a new mobile tipping point with smartphones and tablets accounting for 52.1 percent of all online traffic. Overall Thanksgiving online sales were up 14.3 percent compared to 2013. (Source: IBM)

If you haven’t gotten your website converted to a responsive platform—meaning that it renders well on tablet and mobile devices—you’ve limited your brand’s ability to take advantage of almost half of all internet traffic and potential online sales. (Source: Search Engine Land) The best hunting and firearm websites in the industry have converted over and so should you as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

Men say they always use mobile devices to check prices while shopping in stores versus just five percent of women. (Source: Kellogg Shopper Index)

Mobile will play a critical shopping role today, Saturday, and Sunday, with an estimated 60 million consumers planning to use their devices to shop, research purchases, or seek retailer information. (Source: InMobi)

If your site isn’t mobile, a quick fix is to redirect all web queries to a mobile-optimized page using the keywords of your deals during Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday and place your offers directly on that page.

Don’t forget to utilize your social media channels to amplify your sales and drive traffic.

So in conclusion, segment your emails to increase engagement, help your dealers out, put your deals on your home page for fast and easy checkout and make sure your site is mobile-ready to capture those in-store searches. 

[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 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, focus your marketing and branding effort and segment your email lists.

[easyembed field=”CTA”]

[/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-firearms-best-website-design

The Hunting and Firearms Industry’s Best Website Designs

By Firearms and Hunting

What makes a great website? Most of the time you know it when you see it, but you just can’t put your finger on it. To have a website that stands head and shoulders above your competitors, brands must focus on creating engaging user experiences. To do so, here are ten points to keep in mind: 

  1. Design for your buyer persona
  2. Less really is more
  3. Use interesting colors and quality imagery
  4. Make sure it works on all mobile and tablet devices (responsive)
  5. Gives users something to “stick” around for like a blog, videos or other forms of helpful content
  6. Write content in your buyer persona’s language
  7. Make your content easy to share
  8. Optimize for search engines
  9. Add an SSL for extra security if you’re running a shopping cart
  10. Must load in under 5 seconds

Earlier this year, Google announced that if your website was not mobile friendly—or in other words “responsive”, you could be penalized in search rankings. And with more than 95% of all product searches starting online and more algorithm changes on the way, it’s important to take advantage of these changes to make sure your website will remain competitive. One way most hunting and firearms websites are ensuring their survival is by adopting content marketing. By creating consistent content in the forms of blogs, videos, whitepapers and downloadable offers, companies can keep on top of the search engines and provide a “branded” user experience to their users. This is a significant trend away from which historically has been left to content publishers like Field and Stream, Guns & Ammo and others.

In this post, we looked at over 200 websites in the hunting and firearms industry and chose one from 25 categories to see how the industry is moving forward by adopting the latest web trends and technologies. Last time I checked the Webby’s  (Website awards) weren’t giving any awards for brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry, so we hope to change that with this post. 

Use this post to gain ideas for your own website or to get inspired. 

 


Accessories
Magpul’s great products combined with stunning imagery and their unique sense of humor reflects perfectly on their brand personality.

magpul

 

Ammunition

Barnes does a great job with imagery and creating some interesting features like their load data and information page. They also feature their community members that adds to its credibility and “social proof.”

barnes

 

Attractants
Big & J’s website uses great imagery and product callouts.

bigj

 

 

Blinds (and Tree Stands) 
Muddy’s website has a lot of engaging imagery and a full-screen interface that makes for a clean user experience.

muddy

 

 

Bows
Bear Archery does a great job using “parallax” technology on their page scroll and telling the story of their products. Along with clever imagery (see hunter in the sky) this site makes it fun to scroll.

bear

 

 

Clothing
5.11’s firearm accessories website does a great job of communicating quickly their large line of apparel and accessories and helps the user get to where they want to go quickly.

5.11

 

Coolers
No surprise here. Yeti’s website is also very clean and does a great job with text and imagery to convey their brand’s messaging. Thier “Field Notes” blog provides great recipes and how-tos on cooling game along with other interesting content.

yeti

 

 

Decoys
Bigfoot Decoys website uses really great imagery and a simplified navigation menu. Check out their dealer locator.

bigfoot

 

 

Fitness
Not only is Mountain Ops an interesting newcomer to the hunting industry, its products and branding are very persuasive as redefining hunters as “wilderness athletes.”

getmntops


Food Plot
Packed full of information, BioLogic’s website helps users figure out what products to use and provides relevant information about their products.

biologic

 

Handguns
Springfield Armory’s website is very clean and utilizes a good amount of whitespace. Packed with great video content, blog and reviews, the site does a great job using graphics and content to educate its users.

springfield

 

Game Calls
Knight and Hall gets honors in the game call category. They also have a great blog packed with calling tips and other great hunting information.

knighthale

 


Game Cameras

Wildlife Innovations combines their celebrity lineup with their line of innovations. Real faces of real people make it interesting to look at and scroll through.

wildlifeinnocations

 

 

Game Feeders
On Time’s brochure-ware site is super simple in look and feel and does a great job of communicating the brands products. If you have a low budget, this is a good example of what can be done.

ontime

 

 

Gun Cleaning
Although the Hoppe’s website is not responsive, it was still the standout among its competitors. This heritage brand does a great job of bringing its brand into the 21st century.

hoppes

 


Holsters
Interesting imagery and typography makes the Blackhawk! website very engaging. We also liked how they used vertical imagery to scroll the user down the page.

blackhawk

 

 

Knives
Kershaw’s website uses a clean and minimalistic design that showcases its products nicely.

kershaw

 

 

Lasers
Crimson Trace’s website uses an interesting type style along with their signature campaign imagery of peoples faces in silhouettes.

 

crimsontrace

 

 

Modern Sporting Rifles
Bring the rain! Black Rain Ordinance does a great job of communicating their unique brand on their website.

blackrain

 


Optics
Burris uses a unique minimalistic menu function that opens up the page to its great imagery and content callouts.

burris

 

 

Packs
Badlands website uses a darker (and meaner) color palette to communicate the seriousness of their brand, combined with their sponsored hunters and shooters makes the site very engaging.

badlands

 

 

Patterns
Mossy Oak leads the pattern category. With plenty of great content, interesting design and great imagery, Mossy Oak’s website is engaging and does a great job of presenting their sub-brands (upper left).

mossyoak

 

 

Safes
Securit leads the safe category with interesting imagery, persona-based navigation and a great library of content.

securit

 

 

Suppressors
Our leading favorite only because SilencerCo. is the coolest brand out there right now, but also because its got our good buddy Jep on the home page. Their #fightthenoise campaign has been highly effective.

silencerco

 

 

Rifles
The winner of our review is Mossberg. With helpful content, amazing imagery, persona-based navigation and a responsive design, you can tell a lot of work went into this website.mossberg-winner-3

If you’ve noticed one thing about the websites listed in this post, it’s the investment in quality photography, graphic design and copy. These three elements combined with solid programming and ease-of-use is only the first step in joining the digital age of marketing. Turn your website into a powerful sales tool by adding useful, helpful and consistent content that helps your customers solve their problems and that answers their most burning questions. 

What do you think of our list? Who did we miss? What was your favorite? Please post your comments below!

hunting-firearm-outdoor-website-ebook

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This free, 53-page guide is the ultimate resource to having a killer website.

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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.

[easyembed field=”CTA”]

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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-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

 [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.

[easyembed field=”CTA”]

 

 

 

 

better indianapolis brochure design

5 Steps To Better Brochure & Catalog Design

By Brochure Design, Graphic Design

In the age of digital marketing, it’s easy to forget the importance and value of a quality printed brochure or catalog. A professionally designed brochure is a vital sales tool and serves several purposes when it comes to sales meetings and communicating your services to your target market. A quality printed presentation piece can speak volumes about your company’s credibility, reputation, capabilities, products and brand message.

Just like magazines, brochures have a long “shelf-life” and serve as a persuasive “leave-behind” used to move your prospect further down your sales funnel.

hunting product catalogIf you’re in charge of creating a new brochure or catalog for your company, here are 5 steps to help you align your message, organize your team, stay within budget and create an engaging, brand-focused brochure.

1. What is the goal of the brochure design?
Before jumping in, spend some time thinking about what you want your brochure design to accomplish. For example, what do you want your prospect to take away from the brochure after they first see it? Who is the brochure for? In what setting will it be utilized? In-person meetings? Trade show? Direct mail? All of the above? Understand first how your brochure will function.

You should have a very good idea of who your buyer persona is and how your brochure will communicate/resonate with them. Do you know their basic demographics, likes/dislikes, pain points, their biggest challenges? Is the brochure going to be used as a top-of-funnel or bottom-of-funnel sales piece?  For more information on creating your buyer persona, click here.

2. Establish your budget
Can you spend $500 or $20,000? Pricing for design can run the gamut; adding embellishments can add cost. You may want to choose a higher quality paper stock or perhaps a textured stock. You may even want to emboss your logo or add a varnish (shiny ink coating) over your logo. There are several embellishments you can add to increase the value and presentation that should be based on your buyer persona. If you’re marketing to the affluent, high-grade paper stock and quality photography may be necessary to communicate luxury and competence.

brochure design varnish

Example of a print varnish

 

Here’s what a typical scope of work looks like:

  • Research (if needed)
  • Design
  • Copywriting and Editing
  • Infographics
  • Photography
  • Print and project management

Cost = $2500-$5000

3. Look for what you like on Behance
Before writing your outline, you may have difficulty envisioning how you want your brochure to look and feel. I suggest visiting Behance to take a look at what other companies are doing. Get an idea of what you like based on size, format, colors, photography, typography and style.

 

4. Write your content outline
Next is to begin your content outline. This saves time and cost when it comes time to hire a graphic designer or branding agency. By having an approved, text-only version of the brochure, you can save revision costs and time later in the process. Get whatever approvals you need from the higher ups before contacting an agency. You’ll be able to get more accurate pricing and reduce the timeline for production of your brochure whether you’re writing the content in-house or outsourcing it to a branding agency.

5. Identify photography and needed graphics
Do you have high-resolution photography in-house that you can use in your brochure? Photos must be at least 300 dpi to be used in print (versus 72 dpi for web). Was your photography taken from the intern’s iPhone? If so, this isn’t going to fly. Professional photography can influence a buyers purchase decision. Identify what shots you have that you would like to include in the design, determine if they’re big enough and if they communicate the right message. Great brochure design starts with great imagery. You can also do your own search on Getty, Corbis, Veer, Offset or iStock to save cost and time.

brochure design

Infographics also make great additions to your brochure and will communicate your main points quicker. Choose what areas of information you can turn into an infographic. Company and industry stats, processes, national reach, revenue or anything else that can be visually represented make for great “graphical embellishments.”

 

6. Choose the right branding agency
Now that you have set your budget, written your content, gained some ideas from Behance and gathered some photos and ideas for infographics—it’s time to find the best branding agency to do the job. A simple Google or Bing search for “brochure design” should suffice. Look for a branding agency with experience in print and who has an impressive portfolio of past work on their website.

Contact them to understand their process, including how they will work with you and how their approval and revision policies are applied. Most will already have relationships with a number of printers to produce the brochure. Ask to see how their print pricing is set up. Most agencies will add a markup to your printing and some will manage the project for you for a small fee.

In conclusion, creating a great brochure should start by identifying your goals and budget, finding some ideas on Behance, setting a budget based on your buyer persona’s expectations, choosing professional photography and choosing the right branding agency. By following these 5 steps, you’ll have a smoother design process and a better outcome. Professional brochure design can add great value to your brand, impression and sales meetings when properly executed.

If you’re interested in learning more about brochure design, please contact us in Indianapolis or Denver. 

Website Buyer Persona Template

 

FREE DOWNLOAD: A 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/client is. This will enable you to set SMART goals to help you focus your marketing and brochure design efforts. It will also help you present your buyer persona to your team for internal alignment and clarity.

[easyembed field=”brochureCTA”]


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.

[easyembed field=”u2CTA”] [vc_separator type=”large” dh=”1″ color=”light” icon=”” align=”left” margin-bottom=”40″ margin_top=”40″]

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.

[easyembed field=”doIneedabrandstrategyCTA”]

 

 

 

 


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.

[easyembed field=”brandinterviewCTA”]

 

 

 

 


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.

how to rebrand

The 7 Factors For Rebranding

By Brand Development

There are many factors to consider when evaluating the decision to rebrand your company. Typically you’re gripped with a sense of bewilderment as the word ‘rebrand’ typically means ‘change.’ This is always difficult, especially when you’re the one responsible for the success and longevity of your company.

Faced with undulating marketplace circumstances—a rebrand may be the only viable option you have to remain competitive. The entrance of new competitors, commoditization, internal changes and changing customer attitudes may have weakened your company’s ability to accurately articulate your unique value proposition. Perhaps you’ve been knocked off by faster, more agile competitors with more aggressive marketing tactics than your own or you let things get away on you by not keeping up to date on massive disruption that is taking place across various industries.

Whatever the case, re-branding can be a good thing. It signifies a stage in your business’ maturity and growth. It is an opportunity to more closely examine your mission, purpose and the betterment of your company.  

Brand development can be a catalyst for innovation—an opportunity to develop your current processes. It can bring clarity and alignment to you and your stakeholders and spur employee motivation. In the end this tunes up your company’s internal engine where the end result is customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

To help you understand the main reasons most business owners choose to rebrand, we’ve listed 7 factors that will help you determine if now is the time to consider a rebrand.  

Famous Corporate Rebrand

Famous Corporate Rebrands

1. Name change
Our name no longer fits who we are.

Naming is a long and difficult process. Most viable domain names have been taken or are listed as premium listings because of their necessity and acclaim. Be prepared to pay for a high-quality name or be prepared to make one up.  Start at Name.com to check out the availability of your domain. Work with a branding agency to help you come up with a meaningful, memorable and viable choice. Your name is the most important branding element of your business. A recent example is when Anderson Consulting became Accenture. Anderson Consulting changed their name due to global market expansion. “On January 1, 2001 Andersen Consulting adopted its current name, “Accenture”. The word “Accenture” is supposedly derived from “Accent on the future”. The name “Accenture” was submitted by Kim Petersen, a Danish employee from the company’s Oslo, Norway office, as a result of an internal competition. Accenture felt that the name should represent its will to be a global consulting leader and high performer, and also intended that the name should not be offensive in any country in which Accenture operates. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

2. Revitalize a brand

Our identity does not represent us any longer.

Due to the natural development, evolution and innovation of your products and services new vertical markets and channels will emerge that prove profitable changing the course of your company. You may have received feedback from your customers or have seen a decline in web traffic. Perhaps you were a packaged product company that has now evolved into a virtual product.  The move to the virtual environment will need to communicate a different message then one sold in a brick-n-mortar. When in doubt, interview and survey your customers to understand if your brand is still connecting to deliver value.

3. Revitalize a brand identity
Our identity is outdated.

Brand identity is a mixture of the visual representation of the product and service you provide and about how that product/service relates to, characterizes and represents your customers. Have your customers changed? Once again when in doubt, interview and survey your customers to understand if the brand is still connecting to deliver value.  Does it need a new look or a whole new service offering. In a recent example, Walgreens completely changed its course to remain relevant and to remain true to its brand values by completely eliminating tobacco from their stores and redesigning the customer experience and adding clinics due to the sweeping health care law.

Logo swooshes gone wild

Logo swooshes gone wild

4. Create an integrated system
Our visual materials do not look the same.

Over the years as marketing managers and designers have come and gone, they’ve left their own interpretations of your company’s brand on your materials. If standards were not put in place at the initial development of your brand—chances are your materials look inconsistent, scattered and unfocused. 

BRANDING TIP: Still using swooshes and drop shadows? These were hot design trends in the late nineties and early 2000’s. Today, flat design is ‘in’ lead by top global brands like Apple, Windows and Google.

5. When companies merge
We need a new brand to represent the new company.

Perhaps the #1 reason to rebrand is when two companies merge. Think Disney and Pixar. Sirius and XM Radio. Exxon and Mobil. When two cultures collide, key staff members are let go, leadership styles and philosophies change, everything is turned upside down and inside out. This especially takes a mental toll on your employees. Not knowing what is happening in the C-Suite, guesses,  estimations and imaginations run wild that result in anxiousness, worry and loss productivity. Communication is key in this time of transition. The brand development process will help you align and get your new team on the same page quicker.

6. When internal teams lack clarity

Our employees lack direction, engagement and purpose.

One of the most important outcomes of the brand strategy process is employee clarity and understanding of the company’s mission and purpose. The brand development process will allow you to re-discover the purpose of your brand—the why behind the what—providing direction, increasing employee engagement and purpose.

7. Attract Talent

We are not hiring the right people.

A strong corporate brand is helpful to attracting talent. However an employer brand must also be taken into consideration when rebranding. You must also define the values of your culture and why someone would want to work for you. This can only be fostered by the corporate brand’s values and how they relate to your customers.  The key to delighting your customers is to delight your employees. Outside of the normal perks, you must also communicate the purpose through your employer branding to attract the right talent.

BRANDING TIP: Delight your employees and you will delight your customers.

In conclusion, when faced with the possibility of a rebrand, always start with your customers and employees. Their responses to your inquiries will give you the understanding you need to intelligently make the decision to rebrand. If your name needs changing, your brand image is outdated, your materials are scattered, you’ve merged with another company, your internal teams are off center or you are not attracting the necessary talent to meet customer demand, it may be time to rebrand.

Interested in learning more about rebranding and brand development process? Our proprietary brand development approach—Brand+People™ —believes your people are the key differentiator in a marketplace full of identical competitors. We focus on brand alignment through employee engagement, customer experience and brand perception to create authentic human connections for business growth and success. As a seamless extension of your marketing and sales team, we blend branding, inbound marketing and creative design (professional web design, brochure design, logo design, infographics, package design and advertising) to maximize your business goals. Contact us today to learn more.

brand-interview-guide

Free 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.

 

5 Myths of Brand Development Debunked

By Brand Development

Push back to adopt brand development from the business owner can sometimes be very frustrating. You’re under fire to deliver quality leads to sales — recent tactics of PR, Ads and SEO just aren’t working. You struggle to find true marketplace differentiation but you are not sure exactly what that is. Your messaging is all over the place and the boss wants results.

Don’t give up! We’ve put together a few things to help you look more seriously at why it’s more important than ever to take the time to develop your brand and to help you start coming up with a pitch to turn things around.

In today’s economy, we have 10 to 20 of everything. People begin their purchases by going to the internet or by asking their friends. They block out nearly all advertising. 70% of the purchase decision is over before a customer even contacts a sales person or purchases something from you. Today, brands must go above and beyond to prove trust and authenticity to their customers. One bad experience —  and it’s all over Facebook. Below are 5 myths debunked to help you answer your critics on the need to engage in brand development.

1. Your brand is your logo
Myth. Your logo is just one piece of your brand. Your brand consists of many things: what a customer thinks, feels, tastes, experiences, hears and sees, the good, bad and the ugly about your brand. A fresh, clean and clever logo is very important as it’s usually the first thing customers’ experience.

2. Brand development is expensive
Not a myth. It’s funny how many companies try to do brand development on their own because they’ve gone down the road of trying to hire a branding agency and have gotten back an estimate that curls their toes. But when trying to conduct it themselves they end up screwing up their brand further and spending more money than they would if they would’ve just hired the branding agency. The brand development process takes a lot of work and is priced accordingly. Many hours are spent on research, competitive analysis, communication audits, customer interviews and plenty of time thinking and thinking and thinking. Brand Development is an exhaustive process. To develop a successful brand, you must have a professional brand strategist to provide fresh perspective, insight and direction.

3. Brand development does not need input from your employees
Not a myth. An employee by definition is: a person working for another person or a business firm for pay. True, but in today’s economy, an employee is more like your brand ambassador. He or she may know more than you (Marketing Director or Owner) about your customer. Ask them questions about what customers think about your brand and nine times out of ten you’ll get ten different answers. Your employees are the people who are typically face to face with the customer every day. If they are not accurately communicating the brand values, then your brand is not working to its full potential.

4. Your brand is not your product
Myth. Your brand is your product! People buy what your brand offers them not what you sell them. Take Apple for example; they sell computers, but what they really sell is ideas and the ability to create and think differently. See this video by Simon Sinek for a further understanding.

5. The process is over at rollout
Myth. We have seen so many companies develop brands, throw a big roll out party for their employees, give them a t-shirt and a mouse pad with a new mission statement and within a month, nothing from a cultural standpoint has changed and customer satisfaction surveys remain stagnant. Why? Because the brand development process doesn’t end at rollout, it begins! Companies must shift their focus to the employer brand to begin drilling into the culture through their recruitment and talent management practices. Every new employee hired, must be what the brand personifies otherwise your brand development process is nothing more than a creative exercise — it must be implemented properly or all that hard work I mentioned above will be nothing in 6 months.

Companies and startups need to invest in brand development to help them understand who they are, how they can better the marketplace and how they are going to attract the talent necessary to grow and remain sustainable.

If you are looking for help in defining who you are, what makes you unique in a cluttered marketplace and how to build a foundation of sustainability, culture and best hiring practices for your brand. Contact us today!