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.