Saturday, January 21, 2012

billboard brands

Designing an effective billboard is always a challenge. This probably explains why so many are terribly executed. Billboards require concise copy — sometimes only a few words — that people are supposed to read, digest, and process in just a few seconds. If the copy is too long, or the billboard is too busy, consumers will take a quick glance and move on.
Branding should be approached in the same way.
You don’t want a billboard so junked up with extraneous items that consumers are unable to understand it. Brands, like billboards, should be simple and direct. The battle for a position in the mind of a consumer is much like battling for their attention in the few seconds they drive by an out-of-home advertisement. If it isn’t something they are already familiar with, you have but just a few precious seconds to grab their attention. The sharper, more narrowly focused your brand is, the likelier it is you’ll land a strike.
Brands that are complex, or vague, have a hard time fighting through the noise to reach the consumers. However, brands that are simple, narrowly focused, and clear as to their purpose, or value, resonate better.
If you have just a few seconds to reach consumers about your brand, what would you say? Think of what you would put on a billboard to describe your brand. Ideally, it would be just one key word. It would be the one word that your brand has come to dominate, and one that defines it. For example, here is what some of the top brand billboards might look like: “Apple: Innovation in Technology;” “Google: Online Search;” “Burberry: Fashion’s Luxury;” “Marlboro: #1 in Cigarettes;” “Toyota: Automotive Reliability.”
Just two or three words, paired with a logo, would be all these brands needed to not only advertise the brand visually, but also tell consumers everything they need to know about it. Apple is where to go for the latest technology. Google is where to go for online search. Burberry is what you buy to look posh. Marlboro is what you smoke (because if they are number one, they must be the best). Toyota is what you buy if you want a reliable car.
Taking a look at your brand, could you explain it to consumers in just a few seconds, with just a few words? Could you turn your brand into a billboard? If not, maybe it is time to revaluate the brand, and trim off some of the excess. The best brands are ones that are narrow in focus, simple, and consistent. If you have a busy brand — trying to be everything to everybody — it will never hold a spot in the minds of consumers, just as a busy billboard will never register with consumers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

outsource your marketing, outsource your ethics

Perform a Google search for the Avenger controller, made by video game controller manufacturer N-Control. Doing so will query a variety of sites containing information about the device. The search will also include stories about how a marketing firm contracted by N-Control nearly destroyed their brand.

When N-Control outsourced their public relations to Paul Christoforo at Ocean Marketing, they had no idea they were about to enter a PR nightmare that has forever tarnished the name of N-Control and the Avenger controller. While the actions of rogue egomaniacs can never truly be foreseen, N-Control should have known the dangers of letting their brand image be controlled out-of-house.

As attorney Eric Turkewitz says, “outsourcing marketing = outsourcing ethics.”

Managing a brand is more than deciding the colors on the packaging, or keeping your marketing message consistent. Brands are constituted via hundreds of moving parts, including every facet of the organization. From the ease of getting to customer service agents, to the copy on the packaging — everything a company does feeds into its brand image.

When marketing is outsourced, so are the ethics. And, if brands don’t keep a constant eye on the marketing, it can’t possibly ensure that the marketing tactics are within the ethics of the brand. This is why added to Turkewitz’s maxim, saying that one also outsources their “reputation” with their marketing, as N-Control saw in the worst way possible.

Outsourcing happens. Nearly every product that has been manufactured (outside of the lonely, wooden toy maker in a rustic Prague neighborhood) has used outsourced parts or labor. However, outsourcing a highly visible brand component, such as marketing or public relations, is a completely different story.

While not every instance is going to turn into Christofoesque nightmare, it has the potential to if not carefully monitored and managed. The Internet is fast. Christoforo’s infamous emails were sent on Dec. 26, 2011. The next day, they were on, one of the most highly trafficked sites in the nation (ranked 1,006 of US sites by

The word “blindsided” does not even begin to describe what happened to N-Control. But, by handing the branding keys to a little man with a big ego, N-Control opened the door for this to happen, and was crippled when it came to responding.

The lesson here is to outsource what you need, but be wary about doing so with crucial elements to your brand’s image. All it takes is a few emails to cripple a brand.