To most marketers, this guide is stating the obvious. However, for those of you who wish to market your business but do not have either the expertise or the luxury of a marketing professional’s advice, (or you simply want to understand some marketing basics) – this guide could be useful.
Evade bad design/branding
It’s all in the brief – Always give the best brief you can, preferably in writing. If you don’t know what design you want until you see it, then at least clearly identify your objectives, your target market, research results and any factual content. If possible, also specify a budget as this clearly defines some boundaries and ultimately helps the agency to meet your needs quicker. The brief should reflect your budget – for instance, don’t ask an agency to design a high spec, all singing all dancing exhibition stand, only to tell them retrospectively that you can’t afford anything like what they’ve designed.
Be consist in design – Inconsistency weakens a brand. Keep all design on-brand and on-message, but be prepared to let it evolve and grow to fit changing markets as necessary. This may involve subtle tweaks to bring about a gradual enhancement. If you look at how some of the big blue-chip brands have evolved over the years, comparing them over the decades, you’ll often see quite a significant change, done so subtly and gradually it went unnoticed by the general public.
Consider visual interpretation – To illustrate this point cast your mind back to the now defunct Happy Eater logo, interpreted by many as someone sticking their fingers down their throat! Not the best advert for a fast food outlet.
Keep your design simple – don’t over complicate things. Generally the rule of ‘less is more’ applies. Depending on what the design is for, (e.g. packaging, advert) you may have just a few precious seconds to get your message across.
Form should always follow function – Good design works on a commercial level. Don’t allow the aesthetics of design to cloud your marketing judgement. Does the design still sell the product/service effectively? Also don’t let your own taste bias you into selecting the most aesthetically pleasing design in your eyes. This happens all too often, as design is inevitably a subjective issue. End-user empathy is vital in appealing to your target market.
Communicate clear brand values and maintain any brand equity you might have. If the brand is new, aim to develop some brand equity by relentlessly maintaining consistency, clear messaging and the best possible customer experience you can offer. Think about what it is people expect from your brand and deliver it every time. Focus on what makes you different and why customers should come to you over anybody else.
Hit the target
Know your market – Research it and understand it. If necessary, break it down into core groups so you can hone in on specific end users. Get this wrong and your entire marketing strategy could be wasted. Do your brand values relate to your target market, e.g. if your product is targeted at the over 60s, does your brand message appeal generally to this sector, is it designed with visual impairment in mind?
If you’re operating on an international scale, then ensure that your brand works globally. Do you need to adapt it according to culture/country? What is completely inoffensive in one country, may cause great offence in another, or have a totally different meaning. Have you adequately researched each international market place? Who are your competitors? Local marketing expertise is highly recommended.
Protect your brand
This isn’t just about trademarking, although that does offer protection for elements of your brand, e.g. logo, strapline, graphic devices. To a large extent, continued, consistent use of your brand offers protection.
Remember that a brand is not just a logo, and that it is a combination of elements from the inside, out – from your company’s internal processes and culture, through to your service and promise. Using the much used ‘cake’ analogy – it’s not just about the icing and the cherry on the top – every layer must reflect the brand so that the customer experience at every level is consistent. By educating brand guardianship and constancy from within, you reinforce and therefore protect your projected brand. Protection stems from good brand management/guardianship.
Invest in marketing
Once you’ve gotten this far, don’t stop – some companies think that they only need to invest in one-off or adhoc marketing activity. Not continuing/adhering to a marketing strategy can result in all that hard work and expenditure going to waste. Support your brand with advertising and/or PR. Maintain the momentum as much as your budget allows.
Try not to spread your budget too thinly. Cutting corners doesn’t always pay off. Better to do a few key activities really well, investing in them for longer-term benefit.
Not measuring your marketing activity
You need to know what activity works best for your brand in order to spend your budget wisely and learn from mistakes. After all, marketing budgets are too precious to waste on activity that simply doesn’t work.
Start by considering where you are now, and where you want to be. Measuring your success rate in terms of sales and brand awareness, using end-user research and monitoring campaign responses.
If you don’t or can’t measure effectively, it makes budgeting and strategising for subsequent years much harder/less accurate.