Your brand is one of your company’s most important investments. Even after the initial heavy lifting is over, avoid the temptation to set it and forget it. Make it a habit to revisit your strategy on a regular basis and to maintain your presence in the marketplace.
By Sandy Schichel
In today’s world, where image is everything and perception is reality, a strong brand strategy can make a big difference for any business. For many business owners, there is an increasing pressure to break through the noise and separate from the competition. The visual tools for building a brand range from logos and Web sites to graphics and signage. In order to maximize the return on this important investment, it is helpful to know your options before making any major decisions.
While critically important, many companies are not aware of how the market perceives them. Once you know how customers and prospects see you, you can decide how to shape your image in the marketplace. Your brand may be well-known, but if it is not seen the way you want it to be seen, you may need to work on changing the company’s external communication, location appearance or other factors to be more in line with the market positioning that you wish to project.
You can start by conducting an audit of the various “touch points” your customers have with your business. Do they come to your offices? Perhaps they call on the phone. They certainly see your trucks driving down the street. Take a look at what you are currently putting out into the world and evaluate it through the lens of a customer. Make sure that, at each point, your brand reflects the experience you want customers to have. You may find that additional employee training, new technology or other investments are necessary to ensure that you are delivering on expectations.
Next, do a thorough review of your external communication, including your Web site, e-mail marketing, social media presence, direct mail, paid advertising and other communication efforts. Then, do the same for your competitors. Look at their Web sites, brochures and materials. If they are doing any advertising, what are they saying? How are they saying it? Are they consistent? What is the tone? Can you see an overriding strategy behind what they are communicating about their brand? From there, you can make more strategic decisions about how you will promote your brand and get your messaging out into the world.
As you work to define the right message you want to send and the image you want to project, take into account your priorities and values as a business. For example, sustainability has become an important factor in the mission statements of many brands, especially in the waste management industry. Decide what is important not only to your customers, but also to yourself as a business owner. This will help define your brand and put you on a path to ensuring consistency across the board.
In the waste management industry, business owners have a not-so-secret weapon when it comes to getting their brand recognized within a community: a fleet of trucks. These giant, rolling billboards are excellent opportunities for building and reinforcing your brand. In fact, your vehicle or vehicle fleet is one of your best chances to make a great and lasting impression. According to the American Trucking Association, a single intra-city truck with graphics can generate up to 16 million visual impressions in one year.
When it comes to adding brand messages to vehicles, graphic films are an efficient and cost-effective tool. Vinyl graphics can be fitted to the vehicle, creating bold, striking displays that both grab readers’ attention and capture massive numbers of impressions. Because there are many options on the market, here are a few considerations to help navigate:
1. Consider your “canvas”. Every vehicle has different specs, and you will need to tailor your design to work best on the particular vehicle you are wrapping. It is important to design with the open spaces and vehicle windows in mind. In addition, familiarize yourself with the laws of the states in which the vehicles will be driving. Some states have laws about window tinting and transparency.
2. Keep the message simple. One of the biggest challenges of designing vehicle wraps is editing the message and graphics so that the images and call-to-action are effective on a moving vehicle. That requires simplicity. While some designers try to show off “their graphic design chops,” trying to include too many images and too much text just makes the vehicle ineffective, since people cannot read it at 50- or 60-miles-per-hour. Instead, focus on one key concept or message you want to get across.
3. Keep contact information clear. Your wrap should always have clear contact information, usually on more than one side of the car. This may include a Web site with a specialized landing page or dedicated 800-number, which will help you track your reach. You may also choose to include your social media contact information, so customers may engage with you.
4. Make safety the priority. Today’s innovation in vinyl wraps has led to transparent materials that can be used over rear windshields and backseat windows. You may also want to consider a graphic film with reflective properties for higher visibility on the road day or night.
5. Ensure consistency. If your business experiences growth and needs to add vehicles to the fleet, be sure the new addition meets the same criteria and standards as the existing vehicles, in order to maintain a consistent look across the fleet. For example, Texas-based Royal Recycle and Disposal stayed true to their brand and extended their bright and colorful messaging to their fleet while maintaining consistency and brand recognition with multiple design iterations.
Evolving and Updating
Because waste management vehicles experience frequent wear and tear, it is important to keep those visuals looking fresh and clean. That is where the quality of the graphic film is very important. Additionally, because the graphic will likely need to be replaced with a new one at some point, you will want to consider how efficiently the graphic film can be removed from the vehicle. There are films out there that are specially designed to be removed easily and without damaging the paint underneath.
Above and beyond wear and tear, keeping your brand updated and modern is important in order to take your business to the next level and help it continue to grow. Here are four factors you should consider when it is time to refine your brand look and messages:
1. Deliver on your brand promise. Your brand promise is rooted in what you deliver to your customers better than your competition. Take a fresh look at this concept. Has your promise evolved or grown? You may have started out specializing in one area, but if you have added products or services, you may need to expand or change that customer pledge or your brand story. You should also make sure your operations are consistent with that promise. Do not just talk the talk. Walk the walk. For instance, if you make sustainability a priority and you are rewrapping your fleet, consider using non-PVC films.
2. Refresh without losing your brand equity. Sometimes, you need to give your brand an extreme makeover with a bold new look. But if the essence of your brand look still works for your business, it could be a good idea to build on that equity and update the look with fresh fonts and modern color adjustments.
3. Make it look great. This is your opportunity to create a new graphic image for your brand, including colors and other visual elements that you will be able to carry through your business, on your vehicles and on your Web site.
4. Set bigger goals. As you grow your business, also set bigger branding goals. What messages will you send to the market to tell them about your plans? How will you create bigger, bolder promotions that have more impact? How will you squeeze every square inch of possibility out of your space? It is time to look forward from your new base of business and set the goals for your future—and make sure you have a brand identity that can keep up.
Your brand is one of your company’s most important investments. Even after the initial heavy lifting is over, avoid the temptation to set it and forget it. Make it a habit to revisit your strategy on a regular basis and to maintain your presence in the marketplace. With an entire fleet of rolling billboards at your disposal, the opportunity to establish your brand and increase visibility is at your fingertips.
Sandy Schichel is Business Development Manager for 3M Commercial Solutions (St. Paul, MN), which delivers a full suite of solutions for branding. Sandy’s background spans business development, content marketing, sales operations, business process design and supply chain. During the past three years, Sandy has led the launch and development of 3M Brand You, an online content hub designed to help business owners maximize their brand and grow their business. She can be reached at [email protected].
For more information on branding ideas, visit www.3m.com/brandyou. The site features articles, case studies, and galleries of businesses and organizations who are successfully building and growing their brands. From vehicle wraps, and digital and illuminated signage, to interior and exterior graphics, 3M Brand You curates the latest in cutting-edge branding in one easy-to-access site. For more information on graphic films and/or to find a graphics installer in your area, visit www.3M.com/graphics.