B-to-B Insights: Lost in Translation
Can you maintain your brand’s “look and feel” on an outbound phone call? Does your fulfillment packaging reinforce your company’s “one thing”? Is your brand clearly understood in your print catalog, but misinterpreted in your e-mail campaigns?
You may answer, “Our logo is on everything.” That’s important, but saying your logo is your brand is like saying a name tag is you. Your logo identifies your brand, but that brand is much more than a mere trademark. Think of your brand as your company’s personality: It makes your company different from every other company in your niche. But have you identified the one thing that makes it different from your competition?
If you answer quality, service and value, your brand isn’t well defined. In fact, you risk being beaten at your own game. Even Wal-Mart has backed off its low-price guarantee.
To define your brand’s unique selling position, find something no competitor has claimed. Here’s how a couple B-to-B heavyweights do it right.
Staples’ Tagline is Easy
Staples, the multichannel office supplies giant, differentiates itself in a crowded field with its now familiar and quite simple tagline: “That was easy.”
Staples’ Web site gets right to that point. The homepage minimizes gratuitous Flash elements and presents a highly functional table of contents as the main graphic and navigational component. The design may not win beauty pageants, but Staples.com always gets high marks in usability studies because it’s so easy to use. This is a brand that transcends logos, fonts and color palettes. Even site navigation delivers on its slogan.
Think of your brand’s position as a promise to your customers. Staples promises to make shopping for office supplies easy. This is significantly different from the overused promise of “service.” It’s the higher order benefit — the positive, emotional takeaway — Staples wants customers to feel when transacting with it. Literally, “that was easy.”
Livers Bronze Shows Big Images
Livers Bronze is a multichannel marketer that designs and manufactures high-end hand railing systems for the construction industry. Among its many innovations is the concept of glass-supporting walls for hand railings, which are now commonly used in modern architecture. Livers’ tagline, “Innovation by Design,” positions the company as the innovation leader in
Here was Livers’ challenge: Architects are visually motivated and like to see large images of products. The typical Web site simply provides multiple links to view the larger images, which means the customer has to do the work to see them.
True to its brand promise, Livers found a better way that lets architects quickly scan the company’s products. Its site uses a mouse-over function: Just moving a cursor over a product name changes the homepage’s featured image to that product.
Often, this type of technology is used because it’s the latest cool thing. Livers used it to solve an interface problem, and thus delivered on its brand promise. The solution is an innovation in and of itself.
Strive to infuse every customer contact with your brand’s promise. When customers receive positive, emotional benefits upon purchasing from you, they come back for more.
George Hague is vice president of the consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. (GeorgeH@JSchmid.com).
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.