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Before I start this week’s blog, I do want to follow up on a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Avis. The story chronicled my less than fabulous experience in Columbus. If you missed it, click here.

After my post ran, I got an email from Avis. They apologized and asked for more details so that they could look into the unfortunate situation. After several emails back and forth, Avis credited me for a full day of the car rental, which was around $100 and they apologized again. Bad stuff happens to lots of good businesses. Their fast response and action to make my experience better was very much appreciated.

This week’s post

Something I don’t usually talk about – a bad gig.

I recently gave a talk to a small group of business owners. These were businesses generating under $10,000,000 in revenue. They were mostly business-to-business companies selling products and services to other businesses. In advance of my presentation, I extensively researched how these companies were currently branding their businesses.

I saw a pattern of branding missteps:

  • The majority of the websites looked very dated, circa 1980, from the design to old technology. Many of the sites were not responsive, meaning they don’t look good on cell phones and other digital devices.
  • Many of the logos looked even older. They did not work on digital platforms like the web.
  • The company names were non memorable.
  • Marketing content/copy read like corporate blah blah jargon instead of distinct, relevant, customer-focused words from a likeable human.
  • Images and photography were low quality or non-distinct.
  • URLs, company names, emails, and social media footprints were all different and lacked consistency.
  • Brand essence was missing from marketing and communication; there was no clear buyer benefit, brand values, points of difference, personality, or brand promise.

These businesses had a lot to be proud of. They appeared to be financially successful and growing. You can’t beat that.

However, all businesses, even when they are making their numbers and growing at a nice rate, can brand better. And when they do, the rewards can mean even stronger numbers, more growth, and most of all, everything they do becomes more efficient, from selling and marketing to recruiting top talent. The business will stand out because the market will “get” their story.

Most of these ideas I shared did not require a lot of money, but some creativity, and a willingness to break old ways of doing things. My big recommendation was: before any business builds a stellar, competitive brand, they need to get clear on what their brand essence is instead of random, non strategic, reactive tactics.

Here’s what I don’t usually talk about:
This presentation will not go in my “best programs delivered = homerun” file.

The group was very chilly, and even a bit defensive. They resisted change. They believed they were branding well. They were convinced that being a one-stop-shop and taking care of customers were points of distinction. They had closed minds and were not willing to admit branding weakness and the need for change.

Was it the egos of the group? They didn’t want to hear the truth, be critiqued in front of their peers? Or maybe my chemistry with the group was just plain bad. I’m not sure.

When I shared this story with a friend of mine, she explained that she had had audiences like that in the past, and so had Jerry Seinfield and Robert Downey Jr., etc. That’s show biz.

She also reminded me that sometimes, months or even years later, an audience that wasn’t quite ready to hear the truth will eventually have an aha moment and realize that the speaker they had heard actually had some very valid points. I hope that is the case.

This means:

  • Being current and relevant
  • Making sure the brand messaging and visuals work on digital platforms like the web
  • Delivering marketing content/copy in a customer-focused way that reflects unique brand position in likeable human fashion
  • Using distinct images and quality photography
  • Recognizing that consistency counts and inconsistency kills
  • Most of all, everything a company does should stem from a clear brand essence: buyer benefit, brand values, points of difference, personality, and brand promise. This brand essence should be reflected in all communications and experiences.

Brand on!