SON OF THE ATTACK OF THE BIG, BURNING, ROMANIAN BRANDING QUESTION...
In our last episode, we left Petru, our Romanian in Atlanta, hanging by a thread.
We'd answered part of his question about how to brand a small business.
We'd also answered two questions he didn't ask--keys to solving the puzzle.
Petru responded from the Peachtree State, saying, "IT IS AWESOME! I finally start to get it... Why does it have to be so confusing? I guess that the marketing GURUS must have confused me. :-)"
Never once did Petru bemoan our bastardized use of his mother tongue.
For that we thank him. More will follow.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THAT, WE REALLY WILL PROVIDE THE REST OF THE ANSWER
To recap for those among us who weren't here, weren't paying attention, or who've indulged in the recreational destruction of too many brain cells, our Romanian Man In Atlanta said he was confused about how to help a business brand itself.
He noted that many experts say small businesses should do only direct-response marketing and no branding at all.
And he wanted to know if there's a system that would help him figure out how to brand a small business?
SO, WHAT DID WE TELL HIM?
First, since aspires to have his own agency, we said it's important to be picky about who you work with.
At Slow Burn Marketing, we take a client only if we'd look forward to having dinner with that person.
Then, we answered the always burning, implicit question, "What is brand?"
And as you know, since you pay attention in class...
Brand is the ONE way your CORE CUSTOMER should FEEL about your business.
ONE because focus is essential.
CORE CUSTOMER because defining the person you're speaking to informs your brand voice.
And FEEL because emotions are inseparable from decisions. (Thank you, Neuroscience, for proving this.)
THEN WE WENT ABOUT BLOWING HOLES IN EXPERT DOGMA
Some marketing experts decree that branding is a waste of time and money, and small businesses should not do branding, only direct marketing.
That's just dumb. It's like saying, "Football players should not do weight training, only the inside run."
The football metaphor brought joy to the football fans out there.
There came a landslide of cards and letters saying things like, "Brilliant!" And "Solid!" One fan wished he could remember his Romanian. I told him that Google Translate is his friend.
Or, as a Romanian might say if he were as linguistically stunted and prone to sounding like a Cold-War era cartoon character as your relentless scribe, Google Translate este prietenul tau.
SO, WE'VE WASTED ABOUT HALF OUR AIR TIME IN RECAPPING
Simple: we show you the meat.
How do you help a small business brand, and is there a system?
Funny you should ask.
We believe there is no hard and fast system, not in the purest sense of systems. Too many soft and squishy variables.
Some actual, genuine experts, like the very famous Sally Hogshead, might argue. But we're not going to even try to argue with her because she went to Duke University, and her name is much cooler than mine.
So, if a system is a fixed series of steps that lead to a calculated outcome (like counting cards at blackjack), we do not use a system. The process of branding doesn't happen by the numbers.
BUT YOU CAN BLAZE A TRAIL TO BRAND
This is going to sound insanely simple.
Want to brand someone's business?
Start asking a boatload of questions.
The Fabulous Honey Parker and I joke that what we do is like therapy. We ask questions and listen to the patient talk.
We want to know everything there is to know about the business, ranging from, "Why do you do this?" to "What are some brands you love?" to "What's a really good day at work and how does it make you feel?"
LIKE I SAID: SOUNDS INSANELY SIMPLE
Again: It's not.
You have to listen to each answer-and then know what else to ask.
It's all about drilling way down and getting to the juice.
It's about figuring out what really makes a small-business owner love the work they do and feel a need to do it.
We want to hear the story of the business.
If they have any employees, talking to those employees is useful.
The employees get similar questions about why they love working there. (If they don't love working there, that's also worth knowing.)
We talk to a few of the client's best customers. We ask what feels so good about working with the client's business.
THEN, WE LEAVE
We go away. We start processing all the soft information, feelings, emotions, beliefs, the story of the business.
Here's an incredibly simplified example of how we work.
Once upon a time, we lived in Los Angeles and we needed a roofer.
We'd already called one roofer. It was a client of mine at the radio network where I was a Creative Director.
Honey called (without revealing my connection to the business) because the campaign we'd done for them was so good, so full of reasons to like them, I wanted to hire them.
Sadly, the visit from the guy who gave the estimate was unimpressive. The man inspired no confidence. And the price seemed really high.
So I asked a friend for a referral. He gave a glowing recommendation for his own roofer.
We called the guy.
IT'S A NICE, SUNNY, CALIFORNIA AFTERNOON
We're standing on the roof as the roofer looks around.
We explain the competitor's estimate.
He says, "That's really not necessary. It's a lot more than you need."
He gives us a quote that's 80% lower.
So we climb off the roof, sit down with him in the yard, have a beverage, and talk about roofing and marketing and advertising and shoes and ships and sealing wax.
(If you're from Romania and have never read Alice In Wonderland, "shoes and ships and sealing wax" comes from a poem within the book called "The Walrus And The Carpenter." It's nonsense. Or, as they'd say in your country, prostii.)
We also discuss integrity and performance and joy and doing good work.
We ask a lot of questions and listen to him talk. Which is fun for him. After all, we want him on our side.
And at one point, he suddenly says...
"WHEN IT RAINS, I SLEEP REALLY WELL."
The roofer suddenly rings the bell for a brand direction.
The roofer who sleeps well when it rains.
There would have been a whole lot more work to do on this brand.
But at its core, it's a really smart way to begin branding this roofer. It's a tough category. Horror stories abound. Homeowners never know who to trust.
The guy you want to hire is the guy who's happy and proud that his phone isn't going to be ringing on the days when LA turns into a mud river and everyone is swimming to and from their cars.
THIS IS ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
This story greatly oversimplifies what we do in branding a business.
But it is a nice little, illustrative gem about how it begins.
You listen to people talk.
You ask them questions.
You let them wax poetic about their lives.
And eventually, suddenly, you find yourself with a bright and shiny jewel that becomes your lodestar.
(Petru, back home, lodestar would be Steaua polară.)
WE HAVE NO SYSTEM AS MUCH AS WE HAVE AN ORDERED APPROACH
You can have one, too.
Because a few years ago, we wrote a book about our approach to brand. The book explains the thinking and orders the approach we take, and illustrates everything with real-life examples, many of which you know.
Written by Blaine Parker (that's me) and The Fabulous Honey Parker, the book comes to the world via publishing giant Morgan James.
It's called, Billion-Dollar Branding. Subtitle, Brand Your Small Business Like a Big Business and Make Great Things Happen.
Each chapter provides action items so the brand-curious reader can take steps to uncovering a brand.
If you'd like to know more about it, click here to visit the book's page on Amazon.
And bear in mind that there's work involved. This not some silver bullet. A brand does not miraculously pop into your head. It's real. It's understandable. It will make sense. As far as we know, this is the closest thing there is to a process for branding a business.
And know, too, that selling you a single copy of that book is going to make us wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. So you can feel good about that, too. Click that link today, and tomorrow we are on our way to retirement in Bermuda.
Go forth. Brand big.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.