Build-A-BrandBranding is on the lips of almost every businessperson, politician, and organization these days. No, I’m not talking about the same type of branding they use on livestock, (although sometimes the process can be just as painstaking), I’m talking about building your identity.

For a business, this means your services or products. You want people to hear your name, see your logo, recognize your slogan, and understand exactly who you are and what you can do. More than that, you want people to think about a topic or product and immediately think of your company. Think about soda pop. Did Coca Cola or Pepsi come to mind? That’s because they spend millions and millions each year building their brand.

For a business, building your brand should be more than paying for fancy logos and advertising in the local newspaper. Often what you need to really get ahead of your competition is a few big branding ideas. Here are three big ways to build your brand that go beyond logos and marketing strategies.

1. Don’t just have a slogan, live your slogan

For some organizations, a slogan or tag line is just something catchy that people hear and think it sounds neat. You know what would be really neat? If your business actually lived up to what your slogan says. For CIK Marketing, our slogan is “Big Ideas for your Small Business”. Sure we do want you to have a cool logo and we want people to see your business advertised in traditional formats, and we can help you with that, but we also go beyond that. Our Big Ideas look to expose your company to a new market of people, in a new way. When you ask, “what next?” it’s our job to have the answer. If you’re a financial company and your slogan is “Live your wildest dreams,” that means nothing to me. Last night I dreamed about my dog roller skating. Why not make it clear what you will do for me, “Growing your investments for a secure tomorrow.” Got it. I invest with you, you make me money, my financial future is secure… no roller skating dogs involved.

2. You’ve got to give a little, to get a lot

Almost all businesses advertise. Most are getting online with a spiffy website. So how does your business stand out? How do you make your brand more recognizable? Start giving. Sure, an advertisement in the local newspaper may be effective, but having articles in the local newspaper about the contributions your business has made to the community will get you even further. Donate your time and donate your service, heck, donate your money to make your community a better place. Send out a press release if necessary. In recent months, we’ve donated to the OSPCA (animal shelter), United Way, a local minor lacrosse organization, and built a website pro bono for the “It Gets Even Better CK” project. We didn’t do it for the brand building, sure that’s a nice benefit, we did it to feel good, and help our community. Because when your community succeeds, your business will succeed, especially if you are a part of that success process.

3. Don’t forget your manners

Whether it’s customer service, customer loyalty programs, or customer complaints, don’t forget your manners. If your company makes a mistake, say you’re sorry. If you have loyal customers, say thank you. Current clients and customers are your best brand advocates. If you make them mad, your brand will look bad. If you make and keep them happy, even in an unpleasant situation, they’ll keep coming back, and more importantly, they’ll tell their friends about you as well. Customer service is a key….so don’t forget your manners.

What are you big brand building ideas? Share your thoughts below.

James, author of the recent CIK Blog article, 10 Lessons to Learn from Print Newspaper Ads is back again with another great guest post!

How to Marketing Boring ProductsSome products are so good or have such an esteemed reputation that they practically sell themselves, making them exceedingly easy to market. Unfortunately, the vast majority of products that you will have to market are mundane and frankly rather boring, only appealing so select groups of people. Your challenge as a marketer is to promote and sell as many goods as you can, but how can you broaden the appeal of a boring product to those people that are beyond your normal purchasing demographic? Below are four tips that can help you to market really boring products.

1. Create Emotional Connections

One of the best ways to market your product is to fabricate an emotional connection between your product and your target audience. In order to do so, you must first identify the strengths of your products and how they can play into the weaknesses and interests of your potential buyers. Ask yourself if the product fulfills a need or provides a solution to a common problem that a consumer may face. Once you’ve done your research on the product and how it can help consumers, the difficult part begins. You will have to use your imagination to connect the benefits of your product in some meaningful way with the needs of your target audience. For example, if you were marketing a set of knives, instead of talking about the merits of the knives, you could create an ad campaign that shows meals that are the end result of using the knives, which entices the senses and imagination far more than talking about the technical specifications of the product.

2. Make Use of Internet Video Marketing

One of the best ways to spread the word about your boring products is to market them on the internet. These days, more people than ever have access to the internet through their computers and phones. Virtually every one of your target audience will be connected in some way to the internet. Take advantage of the Internet’s multimedia capability and embrace it as a legitimate marketing tool. Video sharing sites like YouTube are excellent ways to promote your products. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Likewise, a video is worth much more. For example, a company selling blenders once created a successful campaign in which they placed different objects into their blenders to show their strength and durability. Aside from food, they also threw in other objects like golf balls and iPads. The sheer spectacle of throwing in an eccentric mix of objects into the blenders created an instant buzz with consumers, which made the videos go viral, allowing it to be seen by millions of people across the world. When creating videos for sites like YouTube, you’ll want to make sure that the material is memorable and connects with the audience. Humorous or self deprecating videos are often successful. Also, be sure to hire professional actors, since they are more likely to be able to convey the message that you want than amateurs.

3. Utilising Social Media

The hot trend in the last couple of years in internet marketing has been the emergence and use of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. These websites allow people to connect with their friends and share information over the internet. Social media sites are not limited to individuals, however. In recent years, many marketers have been using these sites to get the word out about their products. For example, you can create a Facebook page dedicated to your company or product that will allow you to connect with your customer base. Customers that feel more in touch with the manufacturers of products that they buy are more likely to stay loyal to the brand and to tell their friends about your products, giving you valuable word of mouth advertisement.

4. Blogging

Another good way to use internet technologies to promote your boring products is through blogging. Blogging is a great way to connect with your audience and to make them feel like you are speaking directly to them. You can use your blog to talk about the positive aspects of your products in a less formal way than a normal advertising campaign. In addition, you can also post content about related topics. This will help your audience to understand your product in a broader context and how they can benefit from making a purchase. Furthermore, you can use your blog to create buzz around your product by foreshadowing future events that concern your product. For example, if you know that a new version of whatever you are selling is coming out in a couple of months, you can use your blog to give the audience a sneak peak at the new features, which can help to build their anticipation for the product launch.

James Adams is a UK-based writer and blogger who also writes reviews of vacuum bags for hoover cleaners and other cleaning accessories. To read more of his work you can visit their website.

Have you ever had to market a boring product? How did you make your message more exciting?

Today’s CIK Blog post is another guest contribution – this time from James Adams of Catridge Save! Are you interested in gust blogging on the CIK Blog? Send us an email, we’d be happy to hand over the reigns for the day.

Newspaper and tea - image used with permission from Matt Callow The internet has changed the way that people do business. It has revolutionized the way that sales are made and products are advertised. Newspapers and other print sources are no longer the best way to find the things you are looking for, and everyone knows it. The internet is just vastly larger in terms of what is available, is so much more convenient, and offers an easy alternative. However, there are a number of things that the print industry got right, things that have been forgotten on the internet, and so there are a number of lessons that you can learn from print newspaper ads that will make your website more popular and successful.

10. The importance of bold headlining

The first thing to know is that headlines are still what generate sales. These are the things that people see, and they are just as important on the internet as they are in a newspaper – perhaps more so, since the internet is so big and there are so many headlines vying for the same attention. They must grab the reader’s interest and hold on.

9. Expertise and knowledge sell

The next thing to know is that expert advice is still extremely valuable. Just because anyone can write on the internet does not mean that everyone should. Experts should still be brought in to write about certain subjects, as then your website will be able to gather a reputation for intelligence. People still want to know they are getting the best information. Note that many big advertisers in mainstream media will include accreditation in some form from highly authoritative third parties.

8. An optimised design

Ideally your layout should be altered depending on what content is being run. Newspapers do this all the time, moving pictures and text around, altering the size of text, or running different sidebars, headers, and footers. A website can do the same thing, keeping it fresh and interesting, not letting it become a sterile, unchangeable format.

7. Only publish awesome content

The best content, and only the best, should be published. In this highly competitive market a newspaper must be beyond reproach, so the top papers are notoriously picky in the stories (and to some extent what ads) they run, and websites should be as well. Work should be carefully edited and altered until it is flawless and only then should it be published. Getting information on a website is easy, but the same care needs to go into the process.

6. Make your website look good

Graphics are still an essential part of the process. They should not be cast aside, certainly, and they should be used tastefully. The internet does not usually run the risk of under-using graphics, but of using them badly. Graphics are essential and should be very good, should be the best that they can to fit the theme and the content.

5. Use easily understood language

Another thing to remember is that the language should be simple and easy to scan. This gives your website the best reach to the highest number of readers. Some of your readers may be doctors, but if you write in a way that only doctors can understand, you will lose much of your audience. Keep it simple, and everyone can enjoy what you have to say. Newspapers have done this well in the past, as they are marketed to everyone.

4. Brevity

Any website can also take the lesson of brevity from a newspaper. The wide open space on the internet may seem unlimited, and may in fact be unlimited. However, if you treat it that way, most people will never read everything that you write because it will be convoluted and time consuming to consume. Try treating a website like a newspaper, setting a limited amount of space and filling it as well as you can.

3. Innovative design

The eighth rule is that clever design is still very important. Newspaper ads use cutting edge design to catch people’s eyes, the same way that they would use headlines. Internet ads are often the same all the time, not clever and creative. A bit of clever work should be used to make your website stand out.

2. Use humor appropriately

Another thing to focus on is using humor correctly. Advertisers have done this for years; despite their commercial and branding content, they would use humor to spice things up. A website should tastefully use humor as well to add character.

1. Interactivity

The final lesson is that interactivity should still be used. More recently this has become a more normal part of advertising in the mainstream (advertisers offer encourage people to write in, like them on Facebook or visit their website). Websites are generally good at this as well, and should strive to stay that way. Readers like to be able to contribute!

Overall, websites should take all of these lessons from print newspaper ads if they want to be successful. Whether this means that ads are funny, interactive, clever, well-designed, or some combination of them all, they should follow the guidelines that have been set down by print media. This will ensure that they do not stray too far away from the things that have made print great, and they will enjoy the most possible success.

James Adams works for Cartridge Save where is their in-house tech evangelist. James also writes detailed reviews of new Lexmark supplies and products for printers.