Tag : brand-capital

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179: How to Build a Brand When Your Auctions Vary Greatly in Value

This is the second of two posts about advertising strategies from resort areas. (Here’s the first one.)

I had about an hour to kill before a meeting with an auctioneer in Camps Bay, a bustling community wedged between the mountains and the ocean at the southernmost tip of Africa. So, I did what I normally do in vacation destinations: I stopped by a few real estate offices to look at their advertising.

Every listing there was significantly more expensive than my house back in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but there was a wide range of prices—from $500,000 to $15,000,000. Despite that disparity, there wasn’t a wide range of design from one listing’s advertising to the next or even from one agency’s materials to the next.

Varied AssetsThe homogenous feel matched what I’ve seen in other resort or urban destinations but stood in stark contrast to what I’ve seen in the auction community.

Most auction companies book deals with a great disparity of values. And not just in real estate. Estates, business liquidations, and farm packages come in all shapes and sizes. So do their advertising campaigns.

Part of that makes sense, right? When a budget scales, why shouldn’t everything in the campaign get bigger and more expensive?

The answer to that question depends on what you’re trying to say to potential buyers and future sellers.

Uniformity makes your smaller listings look more valuable.

“Yeah, it’s easy when it’s luxury real estate,” you counter. First, tell that to a luxury asset broker. Second, proportions work regardless of the number of decimal places in the price. In Camps Bay, the top and bottom properties were separated by a factor of thirty. That means you can use this homogenous model, if you sell estates that range in value from $5,000 to $150,000 or farm equipment from $15,000 to $450,000 or real estate from $50,000 to $1,500,000.

Your biggest auctions won’t look shoddy, if they follow the consistent minimalism leveraged by premium global brands. Quite the contrary. Your small and medium auctions’ assets will look more valuable by association with your halo projects. That won’t go unnoticed by potential sellers of future small and medium auctions.

Trust a succinct first impression.

All advertising media apart from our website—our marketplace—should be treated as first impressions. It’s easier to have a premium and consistent advertising presence, when you simplify all advertising to the most intrinsic sales pitch and no more than a handful of supporting images.

Driving people to your website allows you to better track advertising response rates. After consistently collecting traffic data and comparing it to sales data, you’ll be better able to reach bidders and buyers and predict outcomes for future auctions—all because you forced yourself to say and show less with your first impressions. (One of my clients can predict within 5% the quantity of registered bidders his auctions will have based on Google Analytics the morning of his simulcast auctions.)

Consistency builds your brand more efficiently than fluctuation does.

If your brand’s impressions are inconsistent, the consumer either doesn’t connect current media to past ones they’ve seen; or they connect your brand with inconsistent asset values. So, that farmer on your mailing list who gets three different size postcards and two different-size brochures from you will wonder how you’d choose to advertise his assets, when it’s his turn to sell.

Also, buyers will assume the stuff crammed into small print media must not be valuable. Rather than send mail (or place newsprint ads) of different sizes or templates, distribute the exact same media layouts for every auction but to varying quantities of people (or different quantities of publication placements). Use Facebook’s Audience and Lookalike Audience tools to hit the folks you had to trim from direct mail.

Your advertising can grow cheaper.

If all your media requires just a few copy-and-pastes and a couple photo swaps, your pieces will become much cheaper to build. If in-house staff create your media, this saves you hourly wages and/or frees that staff to handle a wider bandwidth of projects. If you outsource, efficiency empowers you to negotiate lower design charges. You can spend that cost savings on professional photography or larger mailings or bigger Facebook audiences.

One of the reasons huge corporations overshadow small companies in advertising is that their wide reach forces them to simplify to consistent impressions. Simplification isn’t patented by big companies or luxury brands, and consistency doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want to grow your auction business or have more deals from which to choose, why not adopt some of that restraint?

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

Don’t Be a Cross-Dressing Advertiser

Aftergame AftershaveHave you seen the new ad where the NFL linebacker is selling an aftershave while wearing an evening gown? You know, the one where his chest hair shows lumpy through the exquisite, red-carpet style dress?

Neither have I. There isn’t one. Gillette is smart enough not to try that.

I wish I could say the same for small businesses, whose ads fill local magazines, phone books, and web sites. No, they don’t cross-dress in their staff pictures, but they force their brand into inappropriate fits all the time—through their questionable stock photography choices.

From my professional experience, I can tell you that here’s how it works: “Hey, I’ve got this really cool picture. Let’s come up with a tag line that matches the picture for this ad [or postcard or online banner ad]. I want something that will grab their attention—something creative.” Using puns and/or stretches, you can create a headline that bridges the gap, words that explain the picture.

The problem? The picture shouldn’t need explaining. You’re letting the artwork determine their message, instead of allowing your message to drive the aesthetics. Sometimes, you can get away with this, when your images closely relate to the service or product you provide. The rest of the time, though, the solutions will be forced—often to a comedic level. Indirect connections create a visual dissonance that is often loud enough to push people past your message.

So, don’t be a cross-dressing advertiser.

Before you choose your next stock photography, ask these five questions:

  1. What would my message be, if there were no picture?
  2. Does this picture illustrate that message without explanation?
  3. Does this image also match my clientele, my prospect, and my brand?
  4. Is this photograph “best foot forward” (illustrating the peak of my capability) or dishonest (illustrating something I am not or I am not selling)?
  5. Is this image available for purchase, or did I take it illegally from the Internet or another source?

I buy hundreds of stock images a year for biplane and its clients. I’ve found that sites with price tags give you a better selection and save you time from sifting through poor-fit and/or lower-quality images. But even if the images you acquire are free, you’re wasting money—and, more importantly, brand capital—when you buy the wrong ones.

I notice the change in me most, when I see the old me in other people. One of the biggest spiritual transitions I face is letting God out of the confines by which I used to define him, Christianity, faith, and the church. I’m finding him more creative, more gracious, and more sensible than the superstitious deity I had tried to appease.

The problem of forcing God into a contrived, me-shaped box, is that he becomes the kind of God I’d be: vindictive, superstitious, rules-oriented, OCD. My insecurities become his—and not in a good way. My traditions shackle his undefinable essence and limit the potential he has hoped for me since before Eden. I replace intimacy with religiousness, fulfillment with sin management.

When we attempt to box and package the infinite, we stunt our growth and maybe even put a barrier between our souls and his voice. When we define God by our man-made lists, we distance ourselves from a vibrant relationship in which we feel his pleasure. When we wrap our faith in our putrid, self-washed rags, we waft the stink of humanism over his new creation. And maybe worst of all: when we narrow our view of God, we make it difficult for others to see him in us.

[footer]Photo(s) used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]