Branding on a Shoe String
Pop over to the business section of your local bookstore, and you’ll find the shelves lined with dozens of books about branding. In addition, articles about branding abound in the business magazines, and a small army of consultants stand ready to lead focus groups, compile surveys, write reports, and make recommendations for branding your catalog.
But if you’re like most of the start-up catalogers with which our firm, Olson, Kotowski & Co., has worked over the years, you’re probably chronically short of two things: time and money. Fortunately, forging a unique brand identity isn’t all that difficult or expensive—if you apply a little common sense and some entrepreneurial thinking.
Beware of “Me-Too”Brand Identity
When most catalogers talk about the need to “brand” their catalog, they’re usually talking about their “brand identity”—the graphics, photographs, words, logos, typefaces and other elements their customers see when they pick up the catalog—the things that give the catalog its personality. So, by definition you can’t differentiate (i.e., brand) your catalog by doing what your competition is already doing. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Yet as I write this, five different computer catalogs stare back at me from my desk. All use bright colors, screaming headlines and covers packed with products, each competing for the viewer’s attention.
To even the seasoned buyer, these five catalogs are indistinguishable from one another. Swap their logos, and you’d have a nearly impossible time telling them apart. They have little or no unique brand identity. I predict within the next few years, half of them will disappear from our mailboxes, victims of “me-too” branding.
Some fashion catalogs also have fallen into the “me-too” trap. Is sans serif type with a lot of leading in vogue now? You’ll find at least a half dozen catalogs using it until the next “way cool” type treatment comes along. Are blown-out backgrounds the latest photo trend? You can count on seeing it over and over again as art directors embrace the “new look”... until the next new look arrives.