Company Names Need Great Taglines, Too

As if finding a unique company name weren’t challenging enough… guess what. You need a great tagline, too.

Since I spend a lot of time talking about company names, today, I want to give company taglines their due. While your unique company name may begin to tell the story of your brand, your tagline can further build on the intrigue. If the human tendency is to think literal for naming, that tendency becomes even more pronounced when you are trying to sell a client on a great brand-building company tagline. When clients are thinking function, function, function, I gently try to remind them of context. Since your three primary brand identity elements of name, tag, logo are more about “setting the stage” for the sale than actually making it, a tagline limited only to the “what” of what we do can be a giant missed opportunity. A missed opportunity for what, ask my two readers. A missed opportunity to stand for something larger than yourself and your own commercial gain. This is why, in brand discovery, we get into bigger picture issues of vision and values. Because if we can identify a point of target intersect, a place where the company’s beliefs overlap with customer vision and values, that’s a solid brand position. If we can capture the essence of that in a simple tagline, all the better.

Company name first, company tagline second

I know a lot of company naming agencies present name options with taglines. Over the years, I’ve really come to dislike this practice. To each his/her own, I suppose, but I think it’s a short-cutting of something ripe with possibility. The advantages of having a final name selection in place (including legal clearance) prior to developing taglines are:

  1. We now have the benefit of all the conversation held around the name options; odds are there were many strong contenders and the client had a lot to say about each and every one. Can any of the juice around those other names become inspiration for the tagline?
  2. The name is strong in many ways, but not all. Can we use the tagline to round your story out?
  3. Generating multiple taglines for multiple name options is exhausting. I think it’s akin to “using creative as a search for strategy” — something I’ve long since retired. It’s bad business, inefficient both for clients and for myself, and demoralizing for the creative talent involved.

By way of example, I want to salute two great taglines

Instead of talking about my own work like an egomaniacal, coked-up chef (wouldn’t it be more fun just to call — wouldn’t it make for a better story?), I just want to use two great taglines to illustrate at least some of what I like and why.

Dow Scrubbing Bubbles – ya know, the bath stuff? No, that’s not the tagline. It’s (as if I need to tell you):

We work hard so you don’t have to.

First, it’s conversational over wordplay (sometimes okay) and punniness (careful, kid!) Second, they tie the us-side into a direct human benefit. Most companies get lost (and lose all of their marketing muscle) in a world of me-centrism. Third, the previously mentioned benefit… it’s enormous! Less work? Are you freaking kidding me? I’m writing taglines here! Who’s got time to scrub, and that’s assuming I even know how to scrub. Come to think of it, maybe I should spray some on the laptop right now. Maybe those little dudes can help with this blog post? Fourth, the common sense inherent in the line is almost Franklinian; with a practical magic like that at work, I can think of this as a very practical purchase… and not the indulgence it probably is. (For what it’s worth, I do use this stuff on everything. With bubbles on my side, I can!)

USAA – the insurance company for veterans and their families:

We know what it means to serve.

Okay, so here there is some wordplay, but look at how good it is! It’s not clunky; you can read it as a simple statement without feeling goofy. What other brilliant thing did they do here? They tied their how promise – a qualitative distinction around the typically-to-be-avoided-at-all-costs abstraction of “service” – into their why! While I don’t know for sure it’s authentic, it certainly feels true for them. Relevant and resonant? I’d say their targets would appreciate the sentiment. Differentiating? Well, for their primary audience, I think they captured the difference already in the brand… and knocked it out of the park. Somebody’s getting a fan letter…

What does a brand consultant do?

The role of your brand consultant is to better connect you to your target audiences. Period.

Too many folks are out there calling themselves brand consultants. In reality, what they provide is image consulting. Drives me nuts. People are investing serious dough into their businesses. They’re doing it on the expectation that “being branded” is going to pay off. Sure, looking and sounding a little more professional and contemporary does pose some advantage, but this is marketing we’re talking about. We’re not off to the red carpet; we’re off to create customers. And that means not just looking and sounding great but looking and sounding right.

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Portfolio sample from Los Angeles branding consultant Scott Silverman showing how style meets substance.

Do perceptions matter? Absolutely! Real brand consulting is perception management of the highest order. But the truth of the matter is, you are already branded, by default. When you wish to bring more intention to your brand, the more you need to know about the overlap between you and your customer base. If that core business success imperative were easy, every business would have more customers lined up, salivating. But this is not the world you and I live in. Branding is far from easy. Anybody who tells you differently is doing it wrong. (For more on the difference between building a house of cards and building your brand on a solid foundation:  Los Angeles branding consultant.)

So, what’s the difference between those who invest in quick-fix brand makeovers and those who invest in genuine, problem-solving branding & design? It’s the difference between renting and buying. How long are you planning to stay?

If I were hiring a brand consultant, here’s what I would ask:

  • How would you define the difference between brand consulting and brand strategy?
  • What is your process for understanding the business — simplistic, superficial and tactical or deep, immersive, strategic and holistic? (Caveat: anybody can use these words. Does the personality match the promise?)
  • For the creative choices you made with prior clients, can you please explain why you made them?
  • What did you specifically choose NOT to do and why?
  • What new insights and understandings did you bring to bear on the business?
  • How did your brand consulting work tie in with the present-day realities of the business?
  • What were the unique complexities in helping get your clients to more connective design, more powerful positioning and more meaningful messaging?
  • Of the brand strategies he/she has helped conceive, are the platforms:

Authentic

Differentiating

Target relevant

Moat-widening

Robust enough to serve the business outside of marketing (operations, HR, etc.)

Actively leveraging known sales truths about the business

Aggressively positioning you for future opportunities

Anticipatory of competitor and marketplace shifts

  • What is his/her experience with taglines? Those short, little phrases sit as the cherry on the brand sundae he/she has just helped construct. Together with name and logo, these should tell the Cliff’s Notes story of your promise to the world. Wordplay is okay sometimes, mostly because it’s memorable. But what was the “angle of attack?” A pun on the industry? Something a competitor could have just as easily claimed? Look for big, bold, emotional promises. Look for a distinct point of view. Look for a company tagline that srender the business a one-of-a-kind force with which to be reckoned. That’s as sure a sign as any you’re talking to a brand brain and not a sloganeer. Here you can view some brand-building company taglines.
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Los Angeles branding consultant Scott Silverman wrote this brochure for a Montreal radio station. He branded it as the go-to source for media buyers and advertisers in search of female spending power.

Brand consulting is not image consulting.

This is not art for art’s sake. It’s not about gussying you up… for gussying’s sake! Genuine brand consulting obviously includes aesthetics, but the work of actually attaching objectives to those aesthetics? That’s where you need to be paying keen attention to the business model, its drivers and to the defined opportunity. When people entrust their brands to me, I feel as if a torch, often a multi-generational torch, is being passed. There’s just too much riding on it. There’s simply too much to protect and too much value to the opportunities that can be discovered, to confuse brand work with cosmetics. Even in personal branding and celebrity branding, the point is to connect our clients with income streams, revenue opportunities and relationship opportunities. Of course, we want our brands to exude personality and style. But growing businesses and individuals serious about taking their careers to the next level need more than stylists. They need substance, professional brand consulting from people engineered to help them better engineer their brands. Horses before carts. Good rule!

Web Copywriting With Personality

Why is personality so important to web copywriting?

Personality matters in web copywriting for the same reasons personality matters in sales… and pretty much everything else! Aside from boring your visitors to death, web copywriting that doesn’t connect you to your visitors isn’t worth much, is it? The problem, of course, is that there is already so much heavy-lifting to do on your website. We’re thinking about the architecture of your website and the user experience. We’re thinking about your fundamental marketing, and, if you’re me, we’re thinking about the entire business and its business development strategy. We’re thinking about how your web copy fits into your overall sales cycle. We’re thinking about SEO objectives. Now, how do we take all of that and give it a strong but empathetic human voice? Moreover, why should we even bother? And, dammit, Scott, why do we have to think about our brand? Isn’t it enough just to laundry list the features of our business and prattle on about how great we are? Um, no.

People buy from those they trust, respect and admire.

Whether serving as a brand strategist, a brand consultant, a copywriter or a company naming consultant, I face one fundamental challenge on every project. You’d think it would change from client to client or industry to industry, but it doesn’t. It’s, how am I going to connect you to the people that matter most to your business? While brand-savvy marketers know that simple statement opens up myriad, simultaneous inquiries and a scope of brand discovery few entrepreneurs and small businesses have planned for, let’s start with the basics.

People buy from those they trust, respect and admire. We agree on that, right? Good, but uh-oh. Here comes the rub. 99 times out of 100, your creative brief won’t spell out how to get to trust, respect and admiration. Your unique value props may provide a start, but they won’t get you to the T-R-A trifecta, either. Your whiteboard sessions where the team got together to list out all of your many features and benefits? A worthwhile endeavor, to be sure, but it provides no sure path to cultivating trust, respect and admiration. What we have, in most environments, are terrific supporting points, which is the equivalent of a great speech delivered by an egocentric, uncharismatic boor. (Be honest about your company’s personality. Put some adjectives on it. Now, send those adjectives off to a cocktail party or a picnic and ask yourself whether the guests enjoyed your company’s company.)

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Example of website copywriting with personality and humor; image from the Kalish & Sons’ website.

As a Los Angeles copywriter with over 20 years’ experience, I’d like to share 10 points with you on the uber-serious purpose of humorous, personality-infused web copy:

  1. You have somewhere between 3 and 7 seconds to show web visitors their time investment is going to be worthwhile. In other words, it’s show time!
  2. You will garner that attention more reliably by putting yourself in your targets’ shoes.
  3. When you put yourself in their shoes, you suddenly find they do not want to engage in a conversation with a cold, sterile enterprise. They want — all people want — to connect with something. Your business has a far greater chance of forging genuine human connections when the business itself is perceived as real and human.
  4. To be perceived as real and human, breathe life into your brand with web copywriting that pops with personality.
  5. If you can make them laugh, great! There are few things that can bring people together like a well-made joke and a shared laugh.
  6. If you can’t make them laugh, at least show them that your presentation to them mattered to you — prove that you were willing to invest in the sale, just as you are asking them to invest their time and attention.
  7. Instead of claiming to be a leader, demonstrate that leadership with a strong voice and an unapologetic Point of View.
  8. Instead of claiming success and experience, demonstrate that successful experience with web copy that telegraphs business maturity.
  9. In addition to arresting attention, you will also keep that attention, which leads to better traffic flows and increased dwell times… both of which lead to higher conversions.
  10. The big win:  by committing to website copywriting that has a distinct, tonally-appropriate personality you will achieve far more than greater credibility, greater engagement and greater sales. You will have set yourself apart from the competition (and competing demands on our time and attention) by providing a memorable experience, one that speaks volumes about the future value you have in store for them.
Los-Angeles-Copywriter-Manufacturing-Website-Personality-HumorScott-Silverman-Articulated-Brands

Example of website copy subhead with brand-building personality; image from Texollini website.

Have fun with your web copy. It’s okay. Tell ’em Scott said so. Even in B2B.

If a business enjoys what it does, if it takes its work seriously but not itself, a funny thing happens. By expressing itself more freely, it more freely attracts others to it. This includes customers, of course, but also the kind of employees and strategic partners that will also lead to future growth.

So go ahead. Start that new website of yours with a strong concept that lets visitors know from the get-go they’re in for something special. Then, use headlines and subheads throughout that, yes, make the points they need to, but while simultaneously exuding human warmth, intelligence and wit. Throughout, try to balance your sale on the table with their needs to express their own vision and values.

In the hands of the right website copywriter, you’ll have more fun with your marketing. More importantly, your targets will have more fun with your marketing. You’ll make more connections. You’ll make more money.

You can view more examples of personality-infused website copywriting.

 

Website Copywriter: Tips for How to Hire

When you need to hire a website copywriter, here’s 8 things to keep in mind:

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Recent website copywriter sample for an amazing educational technology product, Lessoneer, by EdCaliber of Portland, Orgeon.

  1. Great web copy needs to expand upon and give fresh meaning to your Unique Value Propositions. If you aren’t beginning with a clean brief and a solid strategic center, work with a web copywriter who has the brand strategy and brand consulting experience to help you sharpen your marketing sword.
  2. Website content needs to do 3 things simultaneously. To be effective, your online copywriting needs to solidify your marketplace position in order to advance the sale. It needs to breathe energy and life into your brand, further setting you apart so that visitors are actually moved by the online experience. Lastly, it should work to increase your authority and, thereby, your SEO ranking.
  3. Attention, connection and differentiation are, in my experience, marketing’s Golden Triangle. But too often I see companies (at every size, believe it or not) who are all too eager to build a website when they really need to be thinking about building a stronger brand first. Your website is an outgrowth of your brand strategy, not the other way around. I often use humor and human warmth to set my clients’ websites apart. Would your company benefit from having a stronger, more polished voice? Yes, indeed-y. (Industry term for “you betcha.”)
  4. Experienced designers and developers know we must think through the “what to say” side of the equation prior to exploring “how to say it best.” If you are beginning with the visuals, you are not only barking up the wrong tree, you are leaving your web copywriter very little room to help you crack your sale.
  5. Talk to any veteran, multi-million-dollar-producing sales person and you’ll be receiving earfuls on the undeniable importance of bringing the right message to prospects. Should you wish your website to serve in any kind of sales capacity (either primary or support), forget about hiring a wordsmith. Hire a copywriter who can balance your brand objectives (differentiating, staking claim to a bold position, making you sound smart and engaging) with your fundamental marketing & sales objectives.
  6. Should your web copy be short or long? This depends upon your industry, your ideal customers and, of course, your objectives. For a page to have any authority at all with the SERP’s, you need about 300 words. Big brands can get away with less because their authority is derived from the brand itself. Of course, it’s true many people won’t read every word of your copy. People skim, especially with mobile’s insanely fast growth rate. Just be sure your killer copy’s still there, though, because if you can hook them with a funny headline or a clever and engaging subhead, you’ve gotta back it up with something. I know I’d much rather buy from a company who actually has something valuable to say. You?
  7. Specific industry experience in your field is far less critical than many think. The real experience you want in your website copywriter is in building brands, helping companies better understand their strategy for creating target connections.
  8. As with all of your hires, there’s just no substitute for intelligence & problem-solving, character and drive. Don’t get too lost in the marketing and web jargon.
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Website copywriter Scott Silverman converts features into easy-to-understand benefits for companies who insist on breaking through.

Most web copywriters define the role as word-provider. I think it’s about growing your business.

I hope these 8 points have given you some good things to think about. I know it’s not easy to find a website copywriter who shares your performance expectations. But if mastering your web content is important to achieving your business vision, I’m here to help in every way I can. You can see more Los Angeles website copywriter examples, but please feel free to gimme a shout at any time.

Company Naming Agency Favorites

As a company naming agency, playing favorites would be like picking which of your kids you like best.

(Sorry, Timmy.)

So I’m not gonna pick a favorite company name. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent. (Man, haven’t made that Bush-Carvey reference in ages!) Nope! Not gonna pick a favorite product name, either. Instead, I’m going to discuss the various naming style types. Of these, I certainly do have two favorites:  the unexpected and the operative metaphor. I find these to be “the brandiest” of the bunch. Meaningfully different and wonderfully sticky.

Examples of company names from my company naming agency that benefit from the unexpected would be IfThenWow™ and ManifestEquity™. I think the reason I like these so much is that they’re just so hard to generate. You really need to be knee-deep in the company naming process for things like this to surface. IfThenWow™ was the name chosen by a software and web development firm; the combination of brilliant coding with elegant design was the perfect set-up for a name based upon coding language, with a twist. ManifestEquity™ is a financial services firm specializing in connecting Americans with overseas investment opportunities. Not right for everybody, perhaps, but certainly a good fit for their investor base.

Examples of metaphors, probably the most common naming convention in the Hall of Great Names, would include Wildfire Networking, Shine Candles, Libretto Espresso and the entire suite of license plate recognition cameras my naming agency created on behalf of Perceptics, among them:  the PassPort Series, the Sentinel Series, etc.

What other category types do company naming agencies use?

The most commonly utilized naming category is the portmanteau, a conjoined form of two other words or word roots. While it typically lacks the appeal of some other name styles and can often result in a meaningless mouthful, it’s always worth exploring. Recently, my Los Angeles company naming agency had some major hits with Lessoneer, Parfecta and Orgodomo, so I would never retire this category completely. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to name Intuit QuickBase developer, Sympo, and I continue to think this will be one of my best names ever. Short. Kid-like. Benefit-driven. Yay, me. Or, as the tagline has it:  Click, click, hooray! From my list of available .com pharmaceutical names, I continue to put full faith in www.Benogen.com. It’s from the Latin, meaning good life. Who doesn’t want that? Correction: who doesn’t want that for a cool million?

For more on my company naming agency, ya know, point, hover and click in the manner in which you’ve become so masterful. To see more pharmaceutical names, do the same thing, but this time, you’ve got an entirely new target.

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Okay, so this one isn’t a real fast food company name.

My friends Nick and Rich of Lucky Airlines were shooting a spot for Five Hour Energy and they needed a name to show what a pain the drive-thru line can be, especially during lunch hour. If you think your naming category is crowded, try naming a burger restaurant! It’s madness. Nevertheless, what was needed was a name that implied speed isn’t all it’s cracked to be. Also, costly and protracted litigation is a common client preference. Picky, picky. The answer: Beef Burners. Coming soon to a TV near you.

Brand Consultant Basics

How many branding consultants don’t get that position comes before brand?

Sadly, most. When you offer your branding consultant services to the general public, I think it’s important you tell them exactly from where your brand know-how comes. Now, I don’t expect to see Harvard or Wharton every time (I’m from the school of experience myself), but I do expect that you are more than a make-up artist, more than a web designer or web developer, more than someone who has the right trade alliances. My expectation, and I certainly hope it’s yours, is that your brand consultant will serve as your brand marketing consultant. It’s not brand instead of marketing and business development. It’s brand on top of the marketing and business development fundamentals.

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Personally, my 20 years’ experience includes not only copywriting and marketing but the study of successful business and marketing practices. Moreover, I’ve led the positioning and branding efforts for dozens of companies. Having worked both large and small, I know where the mistakes are made. More importantly, I know how to avoid them. And building brands atop weak, unclear or unsound positions is more than an egregious, costly error. It’s bad medicine. These brands will ultimately fail. The so-called branders get rich and the businesses lose time and money. Bad, bad, bad.

If you define brand as this branding consultant does, as a holistic method of creating stronger target connections, you know position must come first.

Your position is the space you want to occupy in your targets’ minds. Think of it as mental real estate. The property lines in this metaphor are:

  1. For whom you exist to serve… specifically (not just broad demographics)
  2. What you uniquely provide them
  3. The benefits (not features) those products and services deliver
  4. The experiential benefits they can expect by conducting business with you. From here, you can begin adding dimension to your brand personality, with design and messaging that even more precisely delivers a uniquely memorable experience.

But too many firms are out there building websites and so-called brands without first defining their client’s unique value propositions. They can’t help it. They’re not marketers. They don’t think that way. But do you want to know what sits at the heart of all great marketing campaigns? It’s not an idea or a funny joke or even a single piece of marketing insight. It’s the strategy brief. It tells the creative talent exactly what they need to say in order to capitalize on the identified opportunity. It includes your company’s Unique Value Proposition and your Unique Selling Propositions for each product & service, for each target market. If it’s important for a single piece of marketing communications, exactly how many times more important is establishing the strategic specs for your brand?

Build your marketing house in brick.

There’s only one solid foundation upon which enduring brands are built. Start with your strategic positioning. Know your value props, know what sets you apart from the competition, know why your clients and customers would be silly not to buy from you. Rely on a branding consultant who insists you solidify your positioning before tackling the even bigger, more nuanced and sophisticated issues of brand. (You’ll thank him in the long run, and the long run will come sooner than you think.)

If it seems regimented or diva-ish, please take a few minutes to think about what your branding consultant is really trying to tell you. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some legendary craftspeople and I now fully understand the similarities. When somebody’s counting on you to deliver enduring quality, when they expect you to live up to your reputation, you don’t compromise on your choices in materials and you don’t abandon a process that has served you so well for 20 years. In the world of brand consulting, I refuse to build anything less than a brand actually capable of forging profitable target connections. That means starting with a position engineered to fuel business development.

Basement before penthouse. I know, I know. Not as exciting. But do you know what is exciting? Doing the heavy-lifting (and thinking) required to ultimately give clients the brands that do a whole lot more than look good and sound good.

Seacrest out. (Is that show still even on?)

 

My Branding Beliefs & Business Development Philosophy

Copywriter, Brand Consultant, Brand Messaging Specialist, Scott Silverman, Articulated Brands, Los Angeles

I believe in some things about branding and business development I simply don’t see available anywhere else.

That’s why I founded Articulated Brands® in 2007.

I believe that how most have come to define branding (including too many of its practitioners) barely scratches the surface of what it really is, how it should be approached and how much it can do to accelerate your business growth.

1.  I believe a business is a machine of interconnected parts and that real branding presents an opportunity to reorganize and put “customer creation” (Drucker) back at the center of the enterprise.

2.  I believe position and message are the two tools every business has at its disposal, yet they go under-utilized and under-leveraged because they are too often dealt with downstream rather than in the CMO’s, marketing director’s or CEO’s office.

3.  While nothing can compare to the visceral power of design in setting expectations, elevating perceptions of value or creating a differentiated experience, design must take as its key inspiration and direction a company’s core position and its fundamental messages. When these are all spelled out ahead of time, you actually wind up with both better design and, get this, less copy. The holy grail. To get to simple, we must walk through the fires of the complex.

4.  I believe business is about leverage, allocations and timing; as tough as these may be to manage on a physical, real-world level, they are both exponentially more difficult to manage and proportionally more fruitful when we are playing in the realm of ideas. Your core values and vision are great starting points for creating customer connections. By all means, don’t stop there!

5.  I believe the business world has come to expect less of its agencies and so-called creative partners. As disappointing as this may be, it also leaves the door wide open for someone like me to come in and actually deliver the strategic business development service for which America’s companies have been clamoring.

6.  I believe in embracing the difficult in order to get to the simple. I believe people who seek out band-aid solutions to monumental challenges wind up wasting more time and money. I once had a client who called this “the tendency to step over quarters to pick up nickels.” I like that people may be wising up to brand’s unique combination of marketing proactivity with age-old sales wisdom.

7.   As a brand messaging specialist, I worry less about what the latest, greatest, flavor of the month tool of target reach may be. I worry more about the brand, position, core messages and content with which we’re going to fill those channels. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the onslaught of tactical choices these days forces people into a cart-before-the-horse mentality. You can find your audience via the media, but to reach them, to truly reach them, well, that takes a brand messaging specialist. Yes, that’s a sale, but it has the additional advantage of also being true.

8.  I believe in a process that is more authentic and personal than formal as I’ve always found it more conducive to genuine collaboration and innovation.

9.  I believe it doesn’t take a big firm to deliver big ideas or to facilitate big think. That said, I do believe there are some companies who are so massive, with so many different sub-brands, that they may be better off with an international branding firm with a deep bench of resources.

10.  I believe Articulated Brands market smarter and harder because they’ve taken the time not just to spell out who they are, but because they have neatly defined their points of target intersect. A company who knows who it must be in relation to its targets is a company that communicates with greater clarity, resonance and impact. When it defines itself uniquely, all go-forward dollars, marketing and otherwise, serve to carve out a more unassailable space, adding impact to the company’s customer creation efforts and increasing its marketplace value.

 

Branding Costs and Fees are Based on Your Scope, Time & Budget

Branding costs & fees depend upon the process selected (creative brief, positioning brief or full brand), timeline and your marketing budget.

For all of the aforementioned approaches (highlighted in the prior 3 blog posts), we utilize various tools to draw out the essential truths. Which ones we use and in what quantity is a matter of which initiative we’re working on, and, of course, time and budget. What you ultimately pay in branding costs and fees should always be in proportion to your annual marketing spend, your marketing objectives and your expected return on investment. For a brand strategist, positioning consultant or brand messaging specialist to work with you on sharpening your creative brief, expect to pay anywhere between $2500 – $5000. To evaluate and improve your company’s or product’s position, you could be looking at anywhere from $3750 for a small business, but considerably more for a larger business due to the complexities involved. To thoroughly define the brand opportunity and create a brand blueprint, your strategic branding fees at a smaller, independent firm could be $12,000 – $36,000, while the larger firms regularly charge hundreds of thousands of dollars (a worthwhile expenditure when you consider their work is often a major determinant of marketplace success.)

Branding process (brand discovery & brand strategy) elements:

Elements included in the recommended brand discovery process and your proposed scope of work obviously impact branding costs and fees. While thorough brand discovery may utilize all of these inputs, a positioning consult requires less meetings and less intense investigations, while a creative brief tightening is usually limited to the first four.

  1. One-on-one interview(s)
  2. A questionnaire typically forms the foundation of the interviews
  3. Immersion via communications audit – a study of your historical marketing examples
  4. Competitive analysis – via web or other collateral you may have on file
  5. Review of recent SWOT analysis
  6. Group meetings
  7. Kick-off Meeting
  8. Discussions
  9. Creative Exercises
  10. Conversation with existing clients
  11. Survey and digestion of any available data or research

Strategic branding costs and fees

Though the time and fees required to engage in thorough branding may seem substantial at first, this is a bit of a misnomer. You’ve got to amortize costs like this, just like it was real estate or capital equipment. In my opinion, for any business that will spend $500 – 750k on marketing over the next 3 years, a 6-8% spend on increasing understanding of the company’s approach to the market is more than a proactive performance marketing move; it’s an insurance policy, a hedge against more wasted marketing dollars moving forward. When you think about all of your other business expenses, how many can even hope to deliver the same customer creation you’ll realize (if done expertly) from your branding costs and fees?

If you regularly spend more than that or many multiples of that benchmark number, calculating the marketing ROI becomes even more of a slam dunk. Under that, and we’re going to want to create a tight plan for making brand progress while we’re tending to more immediate needs. The other thing I try to do for clients on a tight budget is scale back the items and time I devote to each one. But, at the end of the day, there should be a proportion between company revenues, marketing budget and what you’re putting into your brand strategy. What I try to do for startup brands and small business brands is position them with personality. It’s not exactitude or a permanent solution. It’s a bridge that puts them on a path to a better tomorrow, while helping them defray out-of-reach branding costs and fees.

 

The Articulated Brands® Brand Discovery & Brand Strategy Process

Brand Strategist & Brand Consultant, Scott Silverman, Articulated Brands, Los AngelesAn inside look at Articulated Brands® brand discovery and brand strategy process

The operative phrase I’m going to use when describing a higher standard of brand discovery and brand strategy is simultaneous inquiry. Whereas the creative briefing process or even the positioning process can be productive and successful with just smart, experienced answers to the briefing questions, branding requires more. We never want to answer any one of the questions with finality until we’ve had a chance to see how we might answer the other questions in relation. Solving for x is easy. Solving for a-z simultaneously is a variable juggle of massive proportions. But we’re on the road to authentic differentiation and sustainable competitive advantage here. Let’s not pretend for a minute this is kid’s stuff. Big business and marketing problems are solved, and big opportunities are seized, via big think. No shortcuts, no excuses, no whining. Okay, maybe some whining. But also some jokes and some excited laughs. It’s time to dig in. It’s time to dig deep.

Genuine brand discovery & brand strategy are the most intensive approaches to increasing marketing results and marketing ROI, yet the most rewarding of all.

Why? Because we are creating a new system of order. We are defining the company in a newly organized and prioritized way. We do this so that it will better connect to its targets and so that the business itself, operating on-brand, becomes its own engine of customer creation. To do so properly, we must be certain we have uncovered all salient facts and thoughts and that, upon delivery of the brand blueprint or upon brand roll-out, we can be positive that the brand as defined achieves the stated objectives.

If position can be equated to a sketch – the space you want to own in the marketplace, going to full brand would be the equivalent of the three-dimensional rendering. Here, in addition to assessing the current state of both your position and your brand, we are processing through many aspects of the company to identify all the things we need to create a winning recipe for maximum connection, scalable and sustainable growth, and deeper differentiation via beliefs, culture, functional & experiential benefits and personality.

Some of the brand discovery process elements you may wish for us to explore:

Who we (the company and its personnel) are:

  1. Our core values – what do we do, what do we not do
  2. What are we uniquely good at?
  3. Our history & prior successes
  4. Products & services
  5. Our vision
  6. Blue sky scenario
  7. Adjectives
  8. Benefits – what’s in it for them – functional, emotional, experiential
  9. Logical support for those benefits

Conversations and examinations of “who we are” need to be guided by a brand strategist who, while tracking of hundreds of independent variables, still manages to keep the participants excited and engaged and the process moving.

Who they are:

1. Past, current & future clients & customers

2. Current beliefs & behaviors – re: us and the industry

3. The buying process & customer empathy mapping

4.  Desired perceptions & experiences (widget exercise)

5.  Which media do they consume?

Discussions, exercises and examinations of “who they are” need to be guided by a brand strategist who facilitates your own breakthroughs and challenges you to think more like a prospect than an owner or an employee.

Who & what are the competition

1.  Direct competition – what space do they own or make claims to

2.  What are we willing to cede or not cede?

  1. What existing beliefs and behaviors also exert a competitive force?

Examinations of the competition require a brand strategist who can even at arm’s length assess competitive positioning and messaging so that you can better leverage the holes within and the holes created by them.

Other factors

  1. What might happen on our growth path that ought to be factored into our brand right now?
  2. Tracing trajectories – how might the marketplace and competitive offerings impact our brand’s position
  3. Often, a company has very specific questions, challenges and concerns about their branding and go-forward business strategy – these, too, should be factored and examined in the discovery process.

For me, the most important part of brand discovery is knowledge transfer. Nobody knows the business or its market better than the people who work there. By turning them onto both the company’s unique greatness and onto more of a brand mindset, I feel as though it will always be their future innovations and accomplishments that will far exceed my own up-front contributions.

PRIMARY BRAND STRATEGY DELIVERABLES:

  • A summary of the discovery process that highlights key findings and identifies primary issues and opportunities to be addressed.
  • A distilled and organized vision for the new brand that represents the best weighted approach to leveraging strengths, circumventing the competition and carving out a differentiated space.
  • A brand personality matrix to inform your corporate identity and your marketing collateral that includes: a core attitude and 3-5 pillars that support that point of view.
  • Updated, refined versions of the company’s Unique Selling Propositions and UVP’s for its divisions, products or services.
  • Answers to many of the organization’s most profound challenges with regard to forging stronger connections with various brand audiences.
  • Ideas, when appropriate, for how to capitalize on various business development or brand development opportunities uncovered via my discovery
  • A new “uber” creative brief that provides guidance and direction for future brand development executions such as company naming, tagline, logo, new website, new capabilities brochure, new digital marketing campaign, new trade print campaign, etc.

All of these strategic communications initiatives outlines in the preceding blog posts really depend upon what you fundamentally believe.

If you believe the source of marketing inefficiency and under-performance is that your creative partners or agencies aren’t doing their jobs, keep chasing vendors until you find the “right” one.

If you believe the source of marketing genius is in identifying the flavor-of-the-month tool of target reach, keep chasing tactics and incremental performance.

But if you believe, as I do, that genuine marketing breakthroughs come from genuine marketing think-throughs, consider having me sharpen your creative briefs, revisit your positioning or refresh your brand by defining it in a more target-resonant way via thorough brand discovery and a new brand strategy (brand messaging architecture).

Your Positioning Brief Sets The Course for Clarity & Marketing Impact

Copywriter, Positioning & Branding Consultant & Company Naming Agency Articulated Brands, Los Angeles

Your positioning brief positions you for maximum leverage, communications clarity and marketing impact.

Your positioning brief or strategy brief is many times more powerful than any of your day-to-day assignment-focused creative briefs. This is because instead of just informing or guiding a single marketing initiative, we are working at the company level to forge greater pathways of connection. Every downstream piece of communications now has a platform to run on, if you will.

First, be something. Then, say something. (Then, add difference, dimension and depth to your position with complete 360° brand discovery by a brand strategist.)

Brand ultimately sits atop position, but too many skip this critical step. It is far more important to know your strategic position and only then, perhaps, to assess whether there are previously unconsidered opportunities to build a stronger brand on top of it. Whatever the specific message, who that message is coming from matters greatly. The vast problem we see these days are companies running on promotion or brand alone. Neither will endure for the long haul. Knowing your position, making sure it’s the right one and reinforcing that differentiated position consistently and at every turn are the muscles behind your marketing budget. Keep healthy. Stay fit.

Some of the questions a marketing consultant, positioning consultant or content strategist asks to ensure you are building your marketing house on a solid foundation:

  1. Does your Unique Selling Proposition accurately and precisely capture why targets should care? In this way, greater focus for your marketing actually serves to create greater focus for the company as a whole.
  1. What three things render your market unique? If you are concerned that your business isn’t niche-oriented, this is an opportunity to carve out a niche based upon unique target needs or other demographic or psycho-graphic elements.
  1. Of course, we are going to examine the competitor positioning and messaging. But I am often able to bring new energy to the proceedings, and to the company as a whole, by asking the question in terms of competitive forces. What is preventing us from achieving our sales objectives and what is preventing us from connecting with our targets are two much more profound questions that help me steer my brand marketing and brand messaging clients in the right direction.
  1. Have you demonstrated the pure courage it takes to have your SWOT exercise or your list of First’s, Best’s, Most’s & Only’s by a fresh, objective, high-energy perspective?
  1. When we assess “who the company is” for the purposes of tightening up your positioning, we focus primarily on the target’s end-game, with the company being defined as the sole deliverer of these specific benefits. What are they thinking, feeling and doing post-consumption of the marketing message and post-transaction? (We judiciously save the bigger picture investigations into beliefs, culture and brand personality for brand work, wherein they can be more precisely reverse-engineered for greater enduring value.)
  1. If you are dissatisfied with either a) the creative work coming your way or b) the performance of your marketing in general, odds are very good that the disconnects and inefficiencies aren’t happening at a superficial level. Chances are also quite good that some solid positioning and brand messaging diagnostics will put you on a path to greater impact, greater resonance and a more effective, enduring target connection strategy.

What separates a great marketing consultant or positioning consultant from the also-rans?

It’s not that the questions that one marketing consultant asks or that one book invites you to ask are all that fundamentally different. What matters is that you’re working with someone who can very quickly get up to speed on the various elements of juice running through your business model, rapidly identify those areas where you are already strong and clear, and focus his/her attention around those cornerstone positioning and messaging issues wherein you are most likely to receive the biggest value.

As mentioned in the blog post on creative briefs, but it is yet more critical at the company’s strategic positioning level, you need to be working with someone who possesses enough experience to be able to trace the creative trajectory of any given point, notion or stipulation in the brief, sufficient tact and diplomacy to know where and when to probe more deeply and challenge the assumptions, but also enough instinct and confidence to know that an ounce of prevention in your company’s fundamental positioning is worth a pound of post-marketing cure. Time and money spent chasing incremental performance, paid to outside media outlets and agencies, is time and money you should be investing right into your own company. An increased internal understanding of how to better connect with more customers so that they will part with more of their money is invaluable. Follow the money.