Expert Interview with Mike DiFrisco on Affordable Branding

by John Hargrave on January 2, 2015

Affordable brandingIn today’s hyper-competitive economic climate, businesses, no matter what their size, cannot afford to pass up any opportunity to raise brand awareness. It could mean the difference between you and your competitor up the road.

How-to-Branding‘s Michael DiFrisco realized the potential opportunities that were being overlooked by business owners, and started the affordable branding blog as a response.

DiFrisco took a moment out of his busy schedule to answer our questions about personalized mats and other branding opportunities business owners might be overlooking.

Can you talk about why branding is important, whatever size your business may be?
Branding is for everyone, not just large consumer products companies. Why? Because if you don’t establish your brand, your customers and prospects will do it for you. They will categorize you, label you, and decide for you what your value proposition is. So the best approach is to control your brand from the outset. What do you stand for? What makes your business unique? Why should a customer patronize your company? It’s best if that differentiator – your dominant selling idea – is a single thought or phrase. Domino’s Pizza rocketed to prominence on the singular idea of fast delivery. Volvo on the position of safety. Walmart on the proposition of low prices. You get it. Pick a uniqueness that’s relevant, authentic, and differentiated, and you’ll be ahead of 90 percent of your competition.

Can you give an example of some common marketing mistakes that people make?
Most businesses are dissatisfied with their marketing results. And the most common mistake in marketing that I see – especially for small- and medium-sized businesses – is what I call “me too” advertising: marketing that’s full of platitudes and features that don’t differentiate one business from another. You must give prospects a reason to do business with YOU. If you don’t, you’ll be perceived as a commodity and all your customers will care about is price – something they can easily understand.

You’ve also written about the importance of a solid marketing strategy. Can you explain how a simple thing like custom logo mats can play into a marketing plan?
There’s a famous study done by the American Medical Association that tested 3- and 6-year-old children on logo recognition. When shown several logos, 30% of 3-year-old children correctly matched the logo with the brand and 91.3% of 6-year-old children were able to recognize certain logos. The point is, visual marks and icons help us to categorize and file away positive characteristics about a business. We know, for instance, when we see the ubiquitous golden arches that we’ll get a consistent and budget-friendly meal wherever in the country we’re traveling. Displaying your logo helps your customers and prospects to impress your best attributes into their minds.

How can custom floor mats help increase brand loyalty?
The advertising specialty business is a $18.5 billion a year industry. Applying company logos and contact information to promotional products – including point-of-sale opportunities, like branded floor mats – help customers to retain your mark, your symbol of reliability, service, quality, or whatever it is your business stands for. In fact, the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) recently released research proving that branded products deliver advertiser recall among 85% of consumers surveyed. The superior advertiser recall exceeds other advertising and marketing options, creating a high return on investment (ROI).

Ad agencies would like people to believe that it takes thousands of dollars to launch an effective advertising campaign. You’ve written several books about DIY brand strategy, showing this isn’t the case. Can you give a few examples of things every company should be doing to take control of their brand?
First, know your brand. If you can’t say, right now, without digging through some documents on your desk or pulling a brochure out of a file drawer, exactly what your brand essence is – the one thing that makes your business different and relevant to your target market – you have some work to do.

Then, focus on your customer. Know who your customer is and know how your brand will resonate with your target market. If you know your brand persona, you’ll have a better idea of how to engage your customer.

Be consistent, be patient. Successful brands are not built overnight. As a small business, you can make a greater impact by portraying a consistent face – and promise – to your target market over time.


Finally, integrate your brand promise with one-voice consistency. Marketing organizations that integrate their brand essence into everything they do can exponentially leverage their efforts.

You use the phrase “brand personality” and describe it as, “The window to your brand’s soul,” and go on to talk about the Johari Window. Can you briefly describe what this is? What are some things that people should be doing to assess their brand objectively?
What you THINK your business is about may be quite different than what your customers and prospects think you’re about. I refer to this as the principle of brand alignment. Make sure that your character, your conduct, and your conversation are all aligned. Think of an arrow flying toward a target – your target market or primary audience. The head of the arrow – the point – is your unique sales proposition or dominant selling idea. For the arrow to fly true and straight to the bulls eye, your character (what you are, your offerings, what you stand for), your conduct (how you act, how your staff treats people, how customer service oriented you are), and your conversation (your marketing, your messaging, all the ways in which you communicate your difference) should all be in alignment – straight as an arrow.

There’s a post on How-to-Branding about logo theory, where you talk about some criteria for choosing an appropriate logo. What are some things people should be asking themselves when choosing a logo? Are there any specifics when choosing a logo to print onto textiles?
Keep these five things in mind when evaluating your current logo – or considering a redesign – to align your logo with your brand essence. Your logo should:

  • Be simple and readable.
  • Convey a sense of emotion and personality.
  • Express the appropriate voice and tone articulated in your brand strategy.
  • Be flexible and work well in a multi-channel sales environment.
  • Look different than other logos – especially those who share your same marketspace or prospect base.

For certain applications, like applying your mark to textiles, make sure that fine or delicate components, like typography, will translate well to the medium.

Do you have any statistics, or happen to know how much a custom floor mat could increase business?
Logoed items are a high-impact, cost-effective ad medium allowing even small companies to achieve as high an ROI as major corporations. Branded goods, like custom floor mats displayed at the point of sale, can help build deeper, more meaningful customer-brand relationships.

Yet, surprisingly few companies leverage the opportunity that logos represent, and most logos fall short in visually expressing a brand’s values and principles.

According to MIT Sloan, logos offer an untapped opportunity for companies to communicate and symbolize a brand’s essence to consumers, building closer relationships with them, creating strong positive emotions and facilitating top-of-mind recall.

What are a few other basic, and overlooked, branding opportunities?

  • There are FOUR fundamental ways to grow your business:
  • Get more customers
  • Get current customers to buy more frequently and for a longer period of time through loyalty
  • Get your current customers to buy different products and services from your business rather than jumping over to a competitor (upselling and cross-selling)

Being purposeful about developing your brand strategy can help you with all four of these business-building methods.

Why can people not afford to pass on any opportunity to market their brand?
When you build your business on sand, any minor storm – market conditions, the economy, or the competition – can blow your business away. That’s because when you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. However, when you build your business on a solid foundation of brand strategy, when you can say with ease and conviction that, “We are the only ______ that _______,” you’ll begin to market your business more efficiently and effectively. If you’re looking for a better return on your marketing investment, look no further than branding.

For more info and expert guidance on branding opportunities, great or small, like How-to-Branding.com on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

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