small-business adviser

By Barbara Miracle

MARKETING

What's in a Brand?

Branding means cultivating a recognizable name and logo.

by Jeffery D. Zbar

When executives with computer reseller Unique Solutions decided in late 1996 to change their corporate name to MacCenter, they swapped a generic, 9-year-old look for a fresh, unified image.

The new company logo became ubiquitous in all of its marketing efforts, recalls Mark Miller, director

of sales with the Fort Lauderdale-based company. A single font was chosen for printed and Internet-based collateral materials.

Themes, often humorous, carried over from one radio ad or campaign to the next. And in the end, a new brand was born. "Every detail of the written or broadcast word is consistent " Miller says. "Brand is an asset. You have to look at it as that."

Branding applies to the home office entrepreneur, corporations like Coca- Cola and Martha Stewart Omnimedia, or any business that wants to lead its category.

"It has very little to do with size and has a tremendous amount to do with how you want to communicate with your customers," says J. Elias Portnoy with The Portnoy Group, an Orlando marketing and branding consulting firm. He adds, "If you don't brand yourself well, somebody else will fill the void."

For many companies, branding has become a common element of every marketing strategy as advertising, packaging, public relations and sales all promote one goal: To positively impact how the public perceives and responds to a company. "Branding is not a buzzword. It's an imperative," insists Portnoy.

MacCenter carefully chose its new name and look to reinforce the idea that it caters to savvy, young design professionals who prefer Macintosh computers to PCs. Miller, the MacCenter director, notes that his company spends upward of 6% of its annual revenues on marketing (compared with an industry average of 1% to 2%) and worked with a public relations firm and advertising agency to accomplish its goals.

Branding doesn't have to be expensive though. Bill Panoff, president of PPI Group Inc., the Fort Lauderdale-based publisher of Porthole Cruise Magazine, invests sweat equity and technology to keep his magazine's name in front of thousands of consumers each week. In 1998, he created Porthole Preview On-line, an electronic magazine, or e-zine, that is delivered via e-mail to more than 25,000 e-zine subscribers each week.

The online effort helps reinforce name awareness for the 100,000-circulation bi- monthly print version of the magazine, Panoff says.

Whether it's Porthole's passenger surveys, a golf tournament, trade show appearance or other marketing effort, Panoff says he is building brand awareness among readers and newcomers alike. "It's like a jigsaw puzzle, and the pieces are starting to come together," Panoff says. "It's all about branding. We're hitting consumers at so many different angles, people are starting to notice and remember the name 'Porthole."'

TIPS

Make Your Company Memorable

Want to make your product or service the Coke of its category? Follow these tips from The Portnoy Group, an Orlando marketing and branding consulting firm.

Create a Brand Vision and Mission.This is the 'anything's possible" path where you'd like your brand to go- even if you're not sure it is realistic or attainable -and the tools and methodology for how you will achieve your vision.

• Cultivate the "Essence" of Your Brand. Using input from management and employees, determine what about your brand will establish a bond with customers. Make sure you direct consumers' "opinions, attitudes and points of view," toward how you want to be perceived, says J. Elias Portnoy, principal with The Portnoy Group.

• Create a Name. Your company or product name should be memorable and should impart to those who see or hear it what the company is all about.

• Develop a Logo. This graphical image, in the form of pictures or letters or both, conveys your unique message in a subtle way.

• Unify Your Image. Business cards, stationery, packaging, office signage, company vehicles, materials used at special events as well as the website should all present a common visual image. Use similar colors, fonts and styles across all mediums.

• Expand Your Marketing Vehicles. Marketing your brand can include traditional advertising as well as interactive tools, like a website or an electronic newsletter, or e-zine, that you write and distribute via e-mail.

• Be Consistent and Persistent. Design your marketing as a campaign that develops over time and reinforces your message.

Florida Trend

34

November 1999

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