How to Find Your Brand

Some businesses can seem boring. It’s the truth. We all know that. Is your business dull? Do you have a really good reason for people to actually care about what you’re selling or offering? If you don’t, you need to fix the problem before you spend any money on advertising. Boring businesses will not succeed with advertising. Adversely, boring advertising won’t work for any business (even if it’s for a topless all you can drink coffee bar with hourly fireworks displays.) Let’s analyze your business. Write down ten reasons why someone would want to come to you. At this point, write whatever comes to mind. Once you have your list, we need to pare it down. Good advertising campaigns are always based around one interesting point. Don’t cut your message in half trying to chase down too many angles. First, let’s cut out the stuff people tune out. This includes service. I’m not saying consumers don’t want good service. It’s just one of those things that people don’t care about in advertising. Everyone says it. And when everyone says something, it becomes white noise. It’s no longer believable. So, we can also scrap other boring points like mentioning what awards you’ve won. It isn’t a point that resonates with listeners. Speak about why they should care. Mentioning your chamber of commerce award is not interesting to the average consumer. We’re also going to kill your charitable initiatives. These belong in your taxes, not your advertising. You may argue that big companies talk about their charitable donations. And yeah, that’s true, but my guess is you have a long way to go before you can mention your business in the same breath as McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s. Your advertising budget has to be spent on a message that will get your name out there. I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture now, so let’s kill talking about how long you’ve been in business, and how much parking you have. In fact, kill anything your competitors can also say about their business. If they can say it, it doesn’t matter. There is one exception to that though. If you have a very cool USP (unique selling propostion) that one of your competitors also has, it belongs to whoever talks about it the most, first (at least in the consumers mind.)

Ok, a lot of businesses are going to be left with a blank page after this exercise. Don’t worry! That’s fine. All that means is that we’re going to have to figure out something new. I promise there are infinite ideas out there. You just have to dream up something cool that will make people perk their ears up. You need them to remember your business as the guys that ________________________. Fill the blank and hammer it home with your advertising. Here’s a couple of ideas of how we can do that.

Car Rental Company – There are a ton of them out there, and all of them offer (basically) the exact same service. You’d think that one of them would try to break away from the pack and brand themselves differently. Unfortunately, not all of them do. The best example of a company doing this well is Avis. They were always #2 in their category. But, they used a genius idea to turn that into a great USP. They began branding themselves as “the #2 car rental company.” They told the world “We are #2, but we try harder.” It worked! It worked so well, that they continued using the campaign even after they became #1 in their category.

You’d also be hard-pressed to find an Enterprise rent-a-car commercial that doesn’t mention that “they’ll pick you up.” That is there USP. Other rental companies may do that as well. But, they never say so. So, we all remember, that Enterprise will pick you up. I can’t say their advertising is great, but they do stick with one point.

So, is there anything else we can exploit with our car rental company? Sure there is!! There are always plenty of things. What about if we became the car rental company that will fill the gas tank up after you return it? Not only that though, we’ll fill it up at the average daily rate (not the inflated price that everyone else charges.) Wouldn’t that make you stand out from the other companies? You’d be selling comfort of mind. Don’t worry about searching for the last gas station before the airport. It doesn’t matter. You’ll pay the same rate. It would be memorable. People just need a reason to remember you more than the other guys. If it’s interesting enough, you’ll be the counter they walk up to first. Give them value.

Taxi cab idea – I hate taxi’s. They smell, they cost a fortune, and at the end of your journey (for reasons beyond me) you’re expected to leave behind a big tip for the pleasure. This is an easy one. There are so many things a taxi company could do to set itself apart from the competition by using advertising. Unfortunately, few of them ever do. I don’t know why. Here’s what I’d do if I managed one. I’d put the radio in the back seat. Let the passenger choose what radio station to listen to. You’re paying an exorbitant rate for the ride right? So, why shouldn’t you be able to select the entertainment? A simple idea like this, with the right advertising behind it, could take a trailing brand, and turn it into the #1 brand in its category.

What could you do with your business? Believe me, there are plenty of options. And to be honest, sometimes you just need an outsider (like your ad guy) to tell you what is interesting about your business. There is always something. I remember one meeting with an owner of an auto-repair shop that couldn’t think of what set him apart from his competitors. After hearing him speak about his business for 15 minutes it was obvious to us what he should talk about. He mentioned that they had webcams in every repair stall. Clients could watch their cars get repaired online. How cool is that?!?!? Especially in a business that people don’t trust. Everyone thinks that they’re going to get screwed at the mechanic. Well, now he could brand his company as an honest place. If you don’t believe him, feel free to watch for yourself. Suddenly, just by saying that one fact in his advertising, he became the most trustworthy mechanic in town.

The great thing about taking advertising seriously is that it forces you to take a deeper look at your business. You have to step a away from it and think of it objectively. Why would anyone go to your business for anything? If there isn’t a damn good reason, you better make one. Once you have that figured out. Speak of nothing else in your advertising.