Monday, September 28, 2009

Brand Building and Safety Equipment

In marketing of safety products, for example, one would think that quality and that perception of quality would be paramount in generating sales, even if the product itself is a cost effective safety solution.

What I find odd are the companies that choose to continually dilute their brand by white labelling their product, in effect providing the perception of multiple small competitors in one very limited market place.

The effect of such white labelling to me on such a product is quite clear: the customer is unaware of what is truly an original safety-tested product and what is actually a knock off, made in an environment with questionable quality control, of questionable origin, and ultimately of uncertain safety standards.

This white labelling, especially in this industry, can result in serious injury to unsuspecting users of the product.

On a related note, these same companies that do such white labelling do little to build their own brand and often do little to protect what brand they do have.

Brand dilution can happen in any market, in any number of ways, and ultimately reduces goodwill associated with a brand. This is the very goodwill that can be "sold" in the event of a purchase and can find its way quite literally onto a company's balance sheet.

What is dilution? It has its roots in trademark law. However, in layman’s terms, it is basically anything that takes a mark, which is designed to make a consumer's job in product selection easier by representing the brand, and permits sloppy and inconsistent use and enforcement, through its sales channel or otherwise.

In my fifteen plus year marketing career, I’ve seen it across all industries and it is especially rampant in small, rapidly growing businesses.

Lessons to learn: know your market.
  • Consider the true cost/benefit of white labelling vs. growing your own brand.
  • White labelling is not bad in all circumstances, just think carefully before proceeding, especially in a smaller market or where safety is paramount.
  • Do your best to protect your brand consistently through all channels and keep evidence of such to avoid dilution.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Entrepreneurship and Focus

One thing about entrepreneurship is that it is all consuming. I knew this going in, but it is different than I expected. Instead of being flat out busy doing business development, serving clients and jumping through miscellaneous hoops, it is easy to get pulled in many, many directions: both business and family related.

In my dealings thus far with the entrepreneurs Big Vox strives to help, it seems that that we are all faced with the same challenges and in doing so end up lacking the focus needed to drive any of our projects to unparalleled success. We find ourselves debating the benefits of any one project without moving forward on anything, and delaying in taking the next step, losing potential opportunities.

I can understand the perceived safety of having many "irons in the fire", but it is necessary to set some time aside to lay out goals, expectations and time to be spent for each initiative. We mustn’t forget we also need to allocate time for family commitments, lest we spin out of control, spending our precious start up resources without a clear concept of what we hope to achieve, while alienating everyone who means anything to us.

Big Vox helps give a voice to small business by putting professional marketing within reach. But to do that, first, we need to help folks stay focused on their goals and learn to quickly evaluate potentially profitable businesses, from time and resource hogs.

Lessons learned:

1) Be reasonable with your business expectations. Know you need to set aside time for commitments outside of work.
2) Don’t get sidetracked doing only outside-of-work commitments.
3) Avoid too many irons in the fire. Quickly separate the potential stars from the dogs and move on.
4) Plan, plan, plan.
5) But don’t forget to execute.
6) Practice what we preach.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back into the Blog

At last, I am able to access my blog!

I had gone on vacation for a week or so and had been getting errors since my return. Not that I have followers yet, but it still would be nice to keep up the frequency, especially now since I am starting out building a new entrepreneurial venture.

That's right folks, as of the beginning of April, I'm out on my own!

This blog will hence force serve as my journal of trials and tribulations, as I go through the process of discovery, while setting up my new business(es) with an eye to long term marketing strategy.

The first week was all about self discovery. It seems I'm suited to entrepreneurship after doing countless online quizzes. So off I went.

The last two weeks have all been about creating a business plan and conducting a feasibility study. So far, so good.

I've found tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype to be invaluable resources.

The thing about starting up, as it leaves little time to write. Got to go figure out accounting systems as I wait for some final quotes.

More as things progress...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

False Sales

Seriously. What is it with companies that insist on publishing print flyers or advertising sales that simply do not exist?

Okay. I'm a B2B Marketer, and I rarely am in the position to offer a sale. But when I do, I make sure that there is at least a reasonable amount of product for purchase. Why risk losing the good will?

I just spent yet another evening going to Canadian Tire to redeem advertised specials. Not one store in all of Greater Toronto had any of the three products I was looking for -- at least not according to the computer system -- but that is another challenge entirely. This happens on almost every occasion I attempt to purchase an item from a flyer. Do I purchase anything else when I'm in the store? No, not if I can help it!

I'm sure there is some B2C reason for luring customers in with false sales – perhaps the hope that customers will buy other items at higher prices anyway. Perhaps it works. But it certainly isn’t ethical. Think about it folks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Value of Marketing

What is it these days about everyone questioning the value of marketing? Each time there is an "economic downturn" or some other externally driven financial crisis, the first department that seems to take the blame is marketing.

As a professional marketer, this concept seems quite ridiculous to me: The economy is bad, so let's just go out and fire the people who know what their doing in marketing, and replace them with other staffers who may be cheaper, or who have been displaced from other departments and may be very capable in their own profession, but know _nothing_ about marketing, and then say, "See. This is why we had to cut. Look at these awful results!" I just have to scratch my head.

Companies, times are tough. Times are tough everywhere. What we need to look at is how is your marketing team performing compared to its historical performance and how is it performing compared to the competition. -- And as best you can, don't rely on hearsay.

FUDD: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt and Despair. My CEO used this word on me the other day. He suggested we use it in our marketing. Speaking of hearsay, do companies not realize their competitors are doing the same thing to make them think that they, the competition, are somehow doing better? Especially, as this very competition lays people off in a very public way: it's ridiculous.

If you have a good team, a team that has performed well and is comprised of dedicated staff, why mess with it? Reinforce it. Add to it. Build brand and when the economy turns around, you will be top of mind when your customers are ready to purchase.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The First Post.

Well, it's about time I got a blog going. I've been thinking about this for some time, and really just never had the motivation. I have spent too much time dealing with marketing crises at the office, and for various clients, that all things considered, could have been completely avoided -- if common sense was applied in the first place.Therefore, in an effort to help my potential clients, and the world at large, I plan to use this as an outlet share the learning experience with all.

Since 1992 or thereabouts, I've been helping companies with various aspects of getting the word about their products and services to their potential customers.