SOCIAL MEDIA: DO IT RIGHT OR DON'T DO IT AT ALL

Social media programs are important to many high profile companies. But, if a company can't commit resources to keeping their social media accounts updated and supplied with assets that are tied to sales, then those accounts can easily become detrimental. It's the same as having a bad website that's out of date; if something represents your company poorly, then it makes it less likely that a customer will commit to buying from you. One of our responsibilities to clients is to advise them on overall strategy, and it almost always includes questions about social media. It's not unusual for us to tell some of our client not to bother with microblogging sites like Twitter if they can't keep their accounts up to date, which is sometimes a shock to them. But basically, there isn't much benefit to your image in having a Twitter account with 25 tweets over the span of a year. That being said, this mostly applies to smaller businesses that might not have the right profile or have much that's very interesting to put out there, like a small law firm or a startup mining company, for example. When they do have something they want to share, doing it through the website or via the company email list, is probably a better way to go.

The best way to approach social media involves planning and allocation of resources. This means integrating social media into your business plan, and in many cases, assigning marketing budgets and time resources to them just like you would with your print or outdoor advertising. It doesn't have to be a lot of money either. Planning your social media efforts strategically means the ability to do a lot of cool things for Facebook and Twitter such as video tutorials, social media events like Google Hangouts or UStreams, and custom Facebook apps. For example, let's say your company is a microbrewery, you could plan for a series of videos about pairing beers with food, stream video feeds from tasting events, and create a custom app that shows customers the nearest shop carrying your beers.

Plan your social media resources properly, and you can do some really creative, and cost-effective things!

SUB-BRANDS ARE TRICKY.

A pervasive part of branding and brand design is the sub-brand, and dealing with them is tricky at best. In many ways, creating a sub-brand is like getting into a fight with yourself. Let’s outline an example: a restaurant chain has been established for more than ten years, with quality recognition and customers willingly paying price premiums for the experience. Now, the chain wants to enter the fast casual sector, so they create a smaller version of their larger, more established restaurants. These smaller versions offer popular items from the original menu, at a cheaper price. In order to avoid confusion, the management team decides to append the word “Express” to the sub-brand name. Sounds like a plan, right?


Well yes, it’s a plan, but it’s fraught with customer confusion problems. Let’s go over them. The first is an issue with brand recognition—you would think it would be a good idea to take a well-established brand name and just add “Express” to separate it from the original while keeping the brand equity you've worked to build. But, really what this does is create confusion and dilute the original brand. The stark reality is that you can't have it both ways. This leads to a number of messaging problems and difficulty handling customer expectations. For example, taking popular menu items and putting them on the fast casual menu might seem like a good idea. But, that also creates issues because if we assume that the reason for the original brand’s success is the quality of their product, then in order for customers to be satisfied, the quality of the product offered in the sub-brand must at least meet the original. That’s a tough proposition when you have young cooks in the sub-brand, and experienced professionals in the original. Also, making the prices cheaper to mitigate the difference between the brands never makes up for the difference.


The answer in this situation is to create a completely different brand that carries a similar philosophy to the original brand. In other words, create a new name, different décor, and different offerings, but still keep the same spirit. You can then let public relations or even plain word-of-mouth make sure that people know that the original brand is behind it so that you can create the same endorsement without the confusion. This way, the new brand is free to be whatever it wants without the preloaded expectations of the original brand.


A good example of this can be found in Gap and its fellow Gap Inc. subsidiary, Old Navy. As Gap adopted a more upscale image in the 90s, Target responded by trying to rebrand as a less expensive alternative. Gap responded by creating Old Navy, whom no one would mistake for Gap “Lite” or Gap “Express” from a branding or product perspective. This is despite the fact that Old Navy stores started out as Gap Warehouse. That was quickly changed to avoid all the reasons I’ve stated in this article. These differences allow Gap Inc. the flexibility to manage pricing in Old Navy without having to worry about people making direct comparisons to the Gap. The bottom-line: it’s usually a good idea to treat sub-brands as completely separate ventures—in this crowded marketplace, trying to get customers to create subfolders in their heads is next to impossible.

STUFF WE LIKE: DYSON AIRBLADE TECHNOLOGY

Innovation and change is stagnant sectors is exciting. And one of those sectors that has stayed the same for many years is hand dryers. That’s why Dyson’s Airblade technology is so interesting. If you haven’t yet used one, Airblade uses thin, flat sheets of air to scrape water from your hands as your pass them across the air jets. It’s also hygienic, using HEPA filters to clean the air before it passes through the jets. It’s a great product. It’s thinking like this that helps define recognizable brands. It’s thinking like this that makes us think, “Why hasn’t this been done before?”

Companies often get stuck in what they think they do best, and it becomes difficult to think very far outside of their respective boxes. Above a certain level, it can become hard for organizations to retool to support innovation or deal with manufacturing issues. These reasons, in addition to logistical, managerial, design and capital cost issues can contribute to the stagnation of many companies. It’s also the underlying reason why companies like Dyson are so broadly admired, and at the very least, a regular part of the public zeitgeist. The bottom line: taking a risk on potential innovation can often provide boundless benefits, both in financial success and public perception.

 
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