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#SMALLBIZHOWTO: AUTHENTIC BRANDING ON A BUDGET

CreativEnergy created the logo for FunniBonz Barbecue Sauce. You can view the products in markets and health food stores.

 

SEP 28, 2015 @ 01:56 PM  /  By Baldwin Cunningham / forbes.com Contributor

The most common questions had to do with priorities and resource constraints. Does branding require big budgets? When you have limited budgets, what is most important to focus on?

In this column, we look at how authenticity and creativity – particularly creativity in partnerships – are the real drivers of long term brand quality.

First, let’s dispel the notion that huge budget guarantees success.

One only needs to look at the canon of colossal, expensive marketing flops from the past few decades to see that money does not guarantee success.

Crystal Pepsi – In 1992, Pepsi ngIf: ticker jumped on a contemporary consumer marketing fad around ‘purity’ to launch a clear version of Pepsi. Pouring tens of millions into marketing, initial

Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water – Worried about reduced alcohol consumption in the early 1990s, Coors tapped into its massive bottling infrastructure to release a spring water.

Unfortunately, it was under the same brand as its beer, and consumers were confused. Despite millions sunk into marketing, it never took off and by 1997, the company relinquished all rights and trademarks in the water space.

Colgate Kitchen Entrees – What do you do if you’re a leading toothpaste brand? Diversify into frozen dinners, of course. In 1982, that’s exactly what Colgate did. The logic was that dinner and brushing your teeth were sequential activities, so the shared brand would make sense. It didn’t, and not only did the product flop, but it actually hurt Colgate’s toothpaste sales as well.sales were strong, but it was vapor. By the end of 1993, the product was gone from shelves.

The point is not to ridicule these brands. In fact, it’s the opposite. These are some of the most successful and enduring companies in the market. If they can even fail with so much money and smarts behind them, any business can. So, what are the lessons?

1. Lipstick On A Pig

Sometimes companies introduce new products that theoretically capture a consumer fad, but are really just the same thing they used to offer with new marketing. Consumers tend to be able to smell this a mile away, and even if there is initial interest, ultimately people know they’re being sold the same old thing all dressed up.

2. Every Company Isn’t Supposed To Sell Everything

One of the great temptations for business owners is to over extend what they sell. The Coors example above demonstrates this truth in the context of a large corporation, but it happens to small businesses as well. Think of the restaurant owner who constantly struggles with wanting to add new items to the menu to appeal to niche eaters. Maybe some of that is right, but where is the balance of no longer knowing what type of restaurant its supposed to be? It’s essential to remember that every company isn’t supposed to sell everything.

3. Being Authentic To Your Brand Matters, No Matter Who You Are

With their intended dinner entrees line, Colgate simply stretch the boundaries of their brand too far. Simply being related to the mouth does not make you a food brand. For every business, large or small, the lesson is that your company represents something specific to customers, and while you can stretch and evolving that understanding, the core of your brand needs to remain clear and consistent.

Welcome to the new era of Authenticity

In today’s market, nothing matters more when it comes to branding and marketing than authenticity.

At its core, authenticity means 1) understanding in what ways your brand matters to your customers lives; 2) understanding your company’s and your customers shared values, outside of the business; 3) telling stories that relate to that value proposition or those shared values.

For small businesses, this is a lot about understanding the “Why’s” and “What’s.” Why does my business exist? Why do customers buy from us? What is it about our company that makes us a better choice? When companies start to change their why, consumers tend to notice in a hurry.

Consumers expect authenticity now more than ever. Social media has changed our expectation of our relationship with the brands we interact with, bringing them much closer to us and making them much more accessible than ever.

How Partnerships Can Help You Be Authentic On A Budget

The question quickly becomes how to be authentic on a budget. Sure, it’s great if a company like Pepsi can spend millions of dollars on brand consultants and add spending, but what about my small business?

1. Don’t miss out on data

Even if you only have a few hundred customers, its never been easier to know as much about them. New Point of Sale systems can automatically track and build customer profiles; companies like Belly, FiveStars, and SpotOn offer interesting new approaches to loyalty; and even a basic email list can help you learn an incredible amount. This data can help you better understand who your customers are, what motivates them, and what else they care about beyond your business.

2. Social media is your friend

A small business owner concerned with the day-to-day of running their business could be forgiven for ignoring the noise of social media experts clamoring to sell them new solutions to problems they didn’t know they had. Still, the truth is that ‘social media’ is just the new place where people come to communicate and discover. For a small business, social media represents a chance to engage with their customers directly and one-on-one on the basis of whatever they’re interested in. One important note: social media isn’t free – it takes time and effort to truly engage. In small companies, time is at a premium, so its worth thinking about in advance. Still, its one of the best pound-for-pound investments a small business can make in its brand.

3. Partnerships, Partnerships, Partnerships

We’re moving to an era of partnerships, where there are so many companies specializing in so many aspects of business, that B2B relationships will be one of your company’s major determinants of success. We see this every day on Partnered, where even the biggest companies in the world are racing to find the right younger companies to work with. In that landscape, there are huge opportunities to think creatively and differently.

One tip for small business owners? Look for startups creating interesting new technologies around some part of your business that needs help, such as point of sale software, inventory management, new digital marketing platforms, etc. New startups always need testers and people to give them in depth feedback. If you reach out and offer to help them understand how their platform works inside your company, its pretty likely that you can get a free license or increased support.

Ultimately, branding is about telling the story of your company. To tell that story, you have to understand it. Once you do, however, there have never been better channels through which to articulate it.

Call CreativEnergy today at 239-303-4673. www.CreativEnergynj.com

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