The Brand Killers Among Us

The Brand Killers Among Us
(or, Extreme Brand Makeover)

It's amazing to me how little consideration many business owners give to signage.

Most often, signs are what a customer relies upon to find a business. Often a sign can actually be a determining factor on whether a customer will take the next step and enter the store. A sign speaks volumes about the business it represents, and a bad one will totally undermine everything else you do to position your business. Common issues with location signage include inferior quality, poor placement, or lack of maintenance. Great signage is basic inside the box marketing.

Here is an experience I recently had when visiting a business:

My associate Gemma and I drove out to meet a business owner who, based on a referral, wanted to talk with us regarding a new marketing direction. Neither of us was familiar with the business, which indicated there might indeed be a problem. The initial phone call from the owner was intriguing; they sold a relatively high-end line of merchandise but they just weren't getting that message across effectively.

The business owner knew she had problems but didn't have any idea what to do other than spend more money on advertising. Knowing full well that more advertising is NOT always the answer, we set the appointment for later that week.

Wanna Buy Some Hubcaps?

The store's location was about 20 miles away so we fired up the GPS and set out on a fact-finding mission. A half an hour later the computerized voice informed us, "Destination one-half mile on the right." As we approached it was clear what the problem really was -- image. First issue: on the front lawn stood a changeable-letter sign with flashing arrow pointing to the store. It might as well have said, "Used Hubcaps! Cheeeeap!" And, to make matters worse, it was surrounded with pulsating, bare light bulbs (a number of them being burnt out).

Okay, this might not be an issue if they were in the business of selling comic books or live bait, but we discovered, to our amazement, that when we entered the showroom, much of the merchandise was priced in the four- and five-figure range and targeted to a rather discriminating, upscale clientele.

The not-so-permanent main sign was a brand killer as well - the store name in a difficult-to-read font on a turquoise-colored vinyl. Ouch!

We weren't shy about pointing these problems out, strongly urging that for the time being, they forget TV, forget radio. The immediate problem is not advertising - it's enhancing your brand. Get your house in order before you waste money on media that promotes a brand killer. Say it with me, kids: Inside The Box Marketing.

Fortunately, the client agreed and we are working with them to correct the problem as part of a complete (extreme, if you will) marketing and positioning makeover. Look out, Pennington.

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