Tag : brand-image

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199: Why Manure Spreaders Are In Increasing Demand

Recently, I was consulting a non-auction business that had an incredible business opportunity, especially for their geographic market. I’m talking about the kind of concept I’ve seen featured in viral Facebook videos and profiled in Fast Company. I was excited for them until I heard their brand message, saw their visual branding, and learned their marketing strategy. They had adequately identified their ideal prospect but somehow totally misunderstood their prospects’ various levels of needs, habits, and expectations. I mean, like 170º in the wrong direction.

As I gently questioned these misalignments, they dismissed my concerns. They wanted to know more about the tools and tricks I use on Facebook to reach more people. They just wanted to get their bad message cheaply in front of more prospects like their ideal customer.

I see this all the time, actually—just not so drastically. I’ve seen it from people I’ve consulted in emails or phone calls, in conference hallways or Facebook threads. Entrepreneurs don’t want to improve their advertising; they just want more targeted places to put it.

Apparently, lots of folks want a more efficient manure spreader.

Dung Spreader

Knowing where to be on a platform or in a specific media outlet is important. Targeting makes advertising more efficient. But content is advertising’s linchpin, especially on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms reward ads with compelling and empathetic content by giving them lower costs per click.

The problem most auction marketers (like other small business marketers) face is our inherent bias. We wrongly assume our ideal buyers and sellers are just like us. We assume the marketplace looks at auctions and the assets in them through the same lens we do. “If we talk about us and our stuff louder and in front of more people, we’ll get more customers.” We don’t say that. We just operate from that mindset.

This can work in spite of itself, but you’ll get more efficient results from your advertising if you delve into the thing behind the thing.

What problem does your auction’s assets solve?

How will their life be easier or better after the purchase?

What aren’t they able to do that they will be able to do after a winning bid?

What dream could come true if they are willing to pay more than anyone else is willing to pay?

For instance, most real estate investors don’t want to own more property. They want more cash flow and/or more financial security. Most sportsmen already have access to a place to hunt or drive their UTVs. What they want is to avoid asking anyone permission or having to call in any favors. That twenty-year-old John Deere 9600 is easier to work on than a newer combine, even if it is less efficient and autonomous than one you have to take to the dealer for service.

A collector wants to complete their collection, find the item nobody else has, or even make their peers jealous. A young mom wants her children in the right school system. Many startups don’t care if the furniture matches or if the equipment is new, if they can operate with lower overhead. Flippers want to make money quickly with a little elbow grease or ingenuity.

When you advertise to targeted audiences, does your advertising speak to their needs and wants?

Even if your advertising doesn’t leverage this progressive, psychological analysis, you can still benefit by sticking to the asset over the event. People don’t buy auctions. They buy assets, and they hope to buy at “auction prices.” (The exception: at benefit auctions, they’re buying ego, belonging, participation, an eased conscience, and/or a sense of altruism.)

When you implement the tools for targeting but then give those prospects a faulty message, you might actually drive business away—whether from imminent or future customers. The American advertising legend John Caples posed this reality in his book, Tested Advertising Methods. “The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. . . . George Hay Brown, at one time head of marketing research at Ford, inserted advertisements in every other copy of the Reader’s Digest. At the end of the year, the people who had not been exposed to the advertising had bought more Fords than those who had.”

When we push our agenda, our brand can become seen as a source of unwanted content—white noise surrounding content consumers want.

If we’re trying to sell people something instead of meeting their needs, we become that screaming mattress or carpet or used car salesman on TV. Even if someone wants what we’re selling, current and past impressions might detract from buyer willingness to interact with our brand.

You can stick with “AUCTION!!!!!” as your headline and the date as your subhead. You’ll still have your cadre of wholesale buyers, but you could confuse or annoy your retail buyers out of the process. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer commissions on retail prices rather than wholesale prices.

Avoiding that buyer disconnect is difficult, but it’s not expensive. In most cases, it doesn’t cost more money to have the right words in your headlines than it does the wrong ones. When it does, there’s a good chance the extra cost is outweighed by the extra benefit.

Don’t get me wrong: I know how to upgrade your manure spreader to hurl waste farther or place it more strategically. It’s just that I grew up next to a farm, and I come from a family of dairy farmers. Trust me. Your buyer community already has a perception of how your advertising will smell.

Stock image(s) purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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180: 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

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130: 5 Rules for Celebrity Spokespeople

Jordan WingsMichael Jordan hasn’t played professional basketball in over a decade, but he still makes as much as $100 million per year from his endorsement deals. No retired professional athlete has yet to match such an accomplishment. And no celebrity endorser outside of sports has yet achieved more than a third of that annual figure—retired or otherwise.

No small business can afford this level of celebrity endorsement, but many use this marketing approach at a much smaller scale. Regardless of the number of zeroes in the deal, the same rules of engagement apply. These five celebrity criteria should be true, if you want endorsement deals to work for your brand.

They sell more value in units/interactions than their endorsement costs.

Somewhere, Nike and Hanes have determined that Jordan makes them more money than it costs to retain his rights and services. It’s hard to believe that, but I trust their accounting departments. All marketing initiatives should be judged on whether they pay for themselves. That goes for specific media, specific campaigns, and even specific endorsers. While you might like having a particular celebrity shill your brand, they can actually be hurting your business, especially if they cost you more than they contribute. The question to ask yourself is, “Do I want to be well known; or do I want to be profitable?”

They add credibility to your product or service.

One error businesses make with endorsement deals is hiring people with fame instead of people with influence. Michael Jordan can sell a ton of basketball shoes and apparel. President Obama and JK Rowling could not. Beyonce Knowles can get beauty products moving off the shelves; Will Ferrell and Michael Jordan could not. Your paid endorser should have obvious connections to what you’re selling—whether that’s industry credentials, subcultural significance, or endeavors that require use of your category of product or service.

They don’t need identification or introduction.

I regularly laugh when I see an ad with a celebrity endorser, and they say their name or have it printed with an explanation line in a print ad. Doesn’t that defeat the definition of “celebrity”? Sometimes, I need that introduction, because I have no idea who they are. Other times I wonder who doesn’t know who the celebrity is. In either case, few celebrities can influence a purchase without first being known by the audience.

One exception would be spokespeople whose role is a quiet one but whose choice would be deemed critical. For instance, I saw an ad for a waterproof watch represented by the current record holder for free diving. Duracell does this with firefighters and medical professionals—and a relatively-unknown deaf professional athlete who depends on batteries in his hearing aid.

They reflect the personality of your brand.

Red Bull sponsors extreme athletes because they want to be connected to a highly-caffeinated lifestyle. Ford paid Mike Rowe for seven years because of his affiliation with Dirty Jobs—the kind of work that often requires their fleet trucks.

Not only do you want your spokesperson to be a likely user of your product or service, you want them to fit your organization’s core values and public perception. That proves true for rebranding or growth cycles, too, when they can give credence to your aspirational image.

Their contract comes with a clause for personal conduct.

When your paid endorser gets a public DUI or attention for racist tweets, you want to be able to get out of the deal. Should your professional athlete end up in a slow white Bronco or beaten in his SUV by his wife with a golf club, you will want to create space between them and your brand. It would be wise to schedule their payments over the term of the contract rather than having to sue them to get that money returned later.

The celebrity endorsement strategy makes your advertising a high wire act. Some brands will find the risk worth the reward. If that’s you and your brand, ask yourself these five questions before you and your celebrity sign on your respective dotted lines.

Taking It Personally

One of the most frustrating aspects of identifying with American Christianity is the affiliation with its celebrity endorsers. Politicians and pundits, athletes and entertainers regularly make the rest of us look like idiots and bigots, blind sheep and doomsdayers. Their debacles or demises fill cable news shows and social media with a lot of negative attention.

But the hypocrites that turn people off to the Gospel, the Bible, and even absolute truth as a concept don’t always live in gated communities and the tabloids. Much of the time they are you and I. It still amazes me that Jesus leaves us here as imperfect spokespeople and embarrassing ambassadors; but I think what he wants us to dispense is grace, mercy, and authenticity. Thankfully, we don’t have to be be perfect to demonstrate those aspects of his character.

That doesn’t let us off the hook for growing in holiness. It just means that our foibles don’t negate our eternal contract with an unbelievably merciful God.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com

110: Rebranding Strategies from Super Bowl Commercials

Two of my favorite commercial’s from the 2014 Super Bowl had something in common.

One commercial used self-deprecating humor with 1980’s icons.
The other hired a movie director to shoot an abbreviated action movie scene.

Radio Shack made an established one-liner come to life. “The 80’s called. They wanted their [insert item] back.”

Jaguar leveraged a subtle movie trope and used a white car in a dark ad.

What one point were both the Radio Shack and Jaguar commercials—two very different brands with very different ads—trying to make?

“We’re not who you think we are.”

Both had the same goal: change their respective brand’s engrained perceptions. Radio Shack had been wearing a pocket protector long before Best Buy took its lunch money, broke its soldering gun, and stuffed it in a locker. Jaguar had been showing people it’s yearbooks from the 1960’s, while yelling at Audi to get off its lawn.

Both now wanted you to know that they aren’t old, that they aren’t has beens. Both brands needed to tell you that they aren’t just evolving; they are going in a new direction.

Together, these two strategies encompass the most common ways that brands reinvent themselves. Radios Shack courageously showed you their past in order to contrast and give context to their future. In contrast, Jaguar grabbed a dramatic car from its garage and hoped its raspy exhaust note and some movie villains would wipe your memory of Jaguar’s recent AARP street cred.

Entrepreneurs ask me about how to “phase in our new look,” usually after a logo change, merger, or other important mile marker event. My answer to that question is twofold:

  1. Make the transition period no longer than six months—hopefully shorter.”
  2. Develop as many of the new media templates as you can before launching the new look, so that as many matching media pieces as possible can launch simultaneously. (This requires patience and self-control. If you’re like me, the secret proves a tough one to keep.)

For an auction company, it might be easier to transition a brand than it is for most other businesses, because—in addition to company promotion—auction marketers generate a lot of media to promote their sale merchandise. So, it’s relatively easy to distribute a large quantity of quick impressions for a new company image in a compressed period of time. Also, every once in a while, an auction company will get a premium asset to sell that will make a high-visibility campaign on which to start a new brand look—for that clean break.

Consumers who buy at auction are primarily shopping for specific items. Their search for that item draws them to photos and online mentions of that asset category, specific items, or distinctive attributes. As long as those assets remain the primary emphasis in auction campaign advertising, the brand image should be happening in the periphery, anyway. So, a style makeover—while seemingly abrupt to the advertiser—will not be jarring for the consumer.

Whether you’re showing a new era for an established company or just wowing people with new capabilities to replace old perceptions, don’t linger in the limbo between brands. Go boldly toward your new image.
[tip]

When my pastor and his wife told their country church that they were changing the brand, 75% of people (including family members) left the congregation. Becoming a church that made unchurched folks feel welcomed meant making some church attenders feel uncomfortable. Candidly, every once in a while, I still get uncomfortable when my spiritual mentors challenge me to extend grace like God does—even when there are lots of positive peer pressure at what is now a megachurch.

Changing the dress code or the music style or the Bible translation from those of a traditional church can make you a contemporary church. Moving away from programs and dogmas and denominational jingoism can make you a culturally-relevant church. But I’m thankful that my spiritual mentors didn’t stop there—where form can still trump function.

Successful church happens when Christians don’t hold ownership of their local assembly—when it’s bigger than a brand, when we’re evangelists instead of multi-level marketers. When outsiders feel at home while still challenged by Scripture, growth can’t help but happen. Where there’s growth, there’s life. Often, life requires the death of an old thing for a new thing to sprout. Old things like the way church used to be.

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