Brand Values In A Recession

I recently attending a breakfast discussion at the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor. It was facilitated by Dr. Fritz Rieger. The subject being discussed was how to anticipate the outcome of two companies joining forces, through Acculturation – a model of cultural adaption.

Ed Roach

He essentially outlines four directions the corporate cultures would go. First of all they would either assimilate completely into the new culture or the opposite, separate themselves and the stronger entity would continue their home culture. The other two directions are the softening of the model and probably the more desirable positions. They are that the companies would integrate and benefit from their mutual contributions or they would de-culture and assume an entirely different model unique to either side.

Dr. Rieger then gave real-world examples of this and their outcomes and where they fit into the diagram. His best model was the American company Chrysler and the German company Daimler. Each company has a traditional cultural difference. It was a great example for his model. A question from those assembled intrigued me. It was asked,” Where might a company typically fall into the model, when their motivation to partner is desperation due to a down-market?” – the key word (to me) here was “motivation”.

When desperation is the motivator, how clear is a company in making rational decisions that may in the long term be detrimental? There may be some immediate return in moral support (strength in numbers) but what is the potential damage to your brand, if you are even able to maintain your brand or will it be absorbed into the other partner’s culture? The Dr.’s acculturation model is a good one if one is considering a move to partner but maybe hasn’t thought through the possible brand impact due to differing corporate cultures. The model nicely takes into account egos and maturity.

If your brand is a strong one, but numbers have slipped across the board due to the economy, many companies in their war rooms entertain many solutions. If partnering is considered – the fit is naturally one consideration. Invariably one of the candidates will be the stronger company with the deepest pockets, but lets say that this company has actually the weaker brand at this point in time. Which brand will rise to the surface in the partnering? If both parties can put aside egos, would the resulting corporate make-up see an opportunity in attempting to grow the stronger brand as opposed to the one of the richer company, which may actually be the weaker brand. Would they recognize that the stronger brand has a better chance of returning bigger profits in the long run and benefit more from the combined strengths of the partnering or would the relationship implode?

Ed Roach

I contacted Dr. Rieger and shared my thoughts with him. He proposes the following scenario would probably happen based on his research:
“At the end of the day, the stronger (takeover) partner (with the deepest pockets) will be the one to decide how the “acculturation” will take place. If the stronger partner believes that adopting the brand of the weaker has commercial value, then it may indeed choose to adopt that brand name and identity. However, in much the same way that the incoming settlers may choose to “go native” in order to survive in a new land, over time, the conquering settler will seek to modify the “native” culture to better fit their own customs. Often the only aspects that survive of the native culture, or brand, are the external commercial trappings and everything else (management) reflects the takeover partner. Over time, there will be little left of the stronger brand, since all of the “culture” that supported that brand has been stripped away.

A good example is the Sears takeover of Eaton’s (in Canada). Eaton had the stronger brand and Sears kept the name in hopes of retaining the customer base but ran it much like Sears. Customers noticed the difference and the customer base shifted. After a while, even the name was abandoned and takeover Sears became Sears in name as well.

While it is possible to “assimilate” in one aspect, to remain “separate” in another, it is really quite difficult. The result doesn’t last because cultures (and companies) are holistic. Management affects operations affects morale. ”

So, in the world of corporate branding, Dr. Rieger’s scenario adopted the brand image but NOT the brand values. They maintained their own values, which of course would work against the company with the stronger brand recognition. That brand being built on “their specific values”. Without those unique brand values the conquerer fails because a brand is the sum of it’s many elements. (Values are not interchangeable)

When I discuss branding with companies, one key element in our discussions are the company brand values. It is commonly understood and agreed that with out them the company would cease to exist. They are the foundation of the company. So then Eaton’s had to fail. Sears were not prepared to just be a silent partner, and the customers were not prepared to accept the altered brand – it was not what they had grown to love. Once you change the brand values the customer loves, the brand withers. This betrayal of values is what Starbucks is going through this very moment – they moved away from the customer which was the core of their brand values – the customer moved on – now they are back-pedalling as fast as they can.

Branding Your Business Through SEO

Here is an interview I did recently with with Joe Balestrino of www.MR-SEO.com:

Kevin: How did you come up with MR-SEO.com?

Joe: I had just started my small business, focused on search engine optimization and knew I wanted to come up with a name that would be memorable and would help me brand my business. As a small web-based business, it is important to choose a name that has to do with your industry and will count in search terms. I liked MR-SEO.com but when I typed it into the search engines a bunch of guys were coming up that had nothing to do with my business. I knew I wanted that name and had to think of a way to capture people based on my spelling of MR-SEO. To make it happen I had to work constantly on getting other sites to link to me.

Kevin: Why is link-building so important? [Read more…]

How To Guarantee Showing Up In Google

You might recall the article by Kevin recently where he asked should we brand our company or oursleves.

Personally I encourage my clients to build three distinctive but interconnected brands:

  • their corporate brand
  • their employer brand
  • their personal brand

As you are thinking of naming your company, it is critical to consider the vision of success for the business. For example, is this a business that you will want to build and dispose of; or is this a business you want to create as a legacy company and see generations of your family leading in years to come? The answers to these questions can also guide you as to whether to name your company with a name that is connected to your own name.

Naming your business is almost as challenging as naming your children – especially if like me you are parents of multiples. (I have twins and we didn’t know what sex they were going to be before they were born so that was double headache for us to come up with both boys names and girls names and permutations of each!).

However as a leader of a business it is important to ensure that we too are able to be found online. You see over 35% of people will search for us by our own name online before they make contact with us or meet us.
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This Guy Is Responsible For My Small Business Having A Number One Google Ranking

Many years ago I launched my first serious small business, BetterEdit.com. For the first few years it was a tough hard slog to get new clients. My marketing was okay, but it was very labor intensive since it focused on placing posters at university campuses to promote the editing service. If I didn’t put up posters then I didn’t attract new clients.

During 2004 and 2005 I spent a lot of time researching about Internet marketing. I realized the potential for the web to deliver new clients to my business but I hadn’t optimized my website. As a result if someone searched for my top keywords in Google my website would be listed on the second or third PAGE, and if you want people to come to your site as a result of a search you have to be on the first page, preferably in the first, second or third position overall.

Eventually I stumbled across a guy named Brad Fallon who had a course back then called “stomping the search engines“. I took the course, went back to my website and began implementing the techniques I had learnt, like adding a site map, optimizing my title tags and building links to my website.

The immediate impact was not significant, but eventually my site started to rise in the search engine rankings. Eventually I made it to page one on Google for nearly every keyword phrase I targeted.

Shortly after that something amazing started to happen. New customers were submitting jobs who had found my website via search engines. These customers cost me nothing to acquire AND they kept coming without me needing to do any extra work.

Today I have Google rankings of either number one, two or three for the phrases I target, which means if a person searches for something that my business offers, for example “thesis editing“, potential customers find my business as a top ranked result.

The end result has been a steady stream of clients over the past two years whether I put out posters or not. The business turns over over $100,000 a year now in revenue and most of that comes from clients acquired from search engines directly or via word of mouth from people who originally found the business via search and told friends.

In short, a well optimized website can do amazing things for your small business, and it’s worth spending the time on professional training to improve your Internet marketing.

How Would You Like Internet Marketing Training From The Best?

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Marketing With Blog Directories – BlogCatalog.com Review

Blog CatalogBlogging, it’s all the rage these days. If you know me, you know I love blogs and I love blogging. A good chunk of my living is made from blogs and blogging and I constantly recommend them as a means to market your business and develop a personal brand (see Small Business Branding – It’s Not “We”, It’s “Me” for details).

Today the folks behind BlogCatalog.com contacted me for a sponsored review here at Small Business Branding, so I’m going to give you my opinion of using a blog directory like BlogCatalog as a means to market your blog.

Directories Generally Suck

I’m going to start with the harsh truth – I’ve never been a fan of directories. I find them next to useless for search engine optimization purposes, although many people will tell you to use directories to build some easy incoming links. The direct traffic you get from directories is often minimal and in my experience isn’t worth the time it takes to submit your entry – you are better off writing an article or producing some form of content.

That being said, there are a few top directories – authority sites – that are worth paying attention to. BlogCatalog is definitely the highest ranking blog specific directory I could find, so you if you do choose to spend a few minutes of your marketing time using directories and you have a blog, this catalog is a top choice.

Not For Search Engine Optimization

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Text-Link-Ads Review – A Monetization Solution For Small Business Bloggers?

This is a sponsored review containing affiliate links. I’ve been using Text-Link-Ads on this blog for a while as a means to monetize it. Far and away Text-Link-Ads is the best method to make money from a blog like this, focused on small business marketing and branding. The people behind the company contacted me through the ReviewMe.com site and requested a review, and I since I have a good history with Text-Link-Ads I decided to oblige.

Bear in mind this isn’t an article about marketing or branding a business, rather a service that other bloggers may consider as a monetization method to use on their blogs. The small business niche can often be hard to monetize given the nature of the audience, so if you blog about small business or similar topics you might consider testing Text-Link-Ads yourself.

If nothing else this article will serve as a fantastic example of an online business model that generates revenue as a “middleman” service using a many-to-many system, which is ideal and affords the owners near-unlimited potential for growth and scale without significant increase in infrastructure costs. You may also find the ReviewMe model interesting because it is also many-to-many and is owned by the team behind Text-Link-Ads. Two great small businesses concepts that created unique ways to make money online and satisfy the needs of two types of users – publishers and advertisers – using the new darlings of the web media world – blogs.

How It Works

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SoloSEO.com Product Review – A Beginner’s Perspective On SEO

(Note: This is a paid review for SoloSEO.com, which is a product that I’ve actually wanted to try out for a while now because I’m curious as to if it can effectively teach this novice about search engine optimization.)

Ok, I’m about to throw my hat into the blogging game here in 2007 and I can already tell that I’ve got A LOT to learn. Creating a successful blog requires much more than just a comprehensive understanding on a particular niche, and the ability to write beyond the skill of a 11 year old – You’ve also got to be a marketer and a internet expert to boot. Luckily I’ve got the marketing skills stashed away in my back pocket, but I’m far from being the web wizard that I need to be. Hopefully this program will make an expert out of me so I can go off and create the internet’s 2,923,299th blog that provides tips and tricks on search engine optimization. SoloSEO.com, here I come!

[Read more…]

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