Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Hallmark holiday.” It’s a term usually muttered by an ill-prepared husband called to the mat for forgetting to properly acknowledge a holiday of significance to the women in his life. Mother’s Day comes to mind.
“It’s just a Hallmark holiday, anyway,” said husband might say.
But to those of us who spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about marketing, the Hallmark holiday represents something else – unbelievably successful branding that has managed to infiltrate everyday language.
Though you might not have a Hallmark sized-budget, with a little clever thinking your company could still find a way to “care enough to send the very best”-- marketing message, that is.
In Morgan Spurlocks’ new documentary about product placement, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold , he pulls back the curtain on the relentless efforts of marketers to get their products featured in movies and TV shows. While most are large companies with whole teams dedicated to the cause, your company, too, could benefit from a little public exposure.
Opportunities to get your name or product featured in public abound. You could sponsor a local softball team, donate a prize for the school auction or sponsor a table at the county fair. Street fairs, too, offer an inexpensive chance to get your name in front of potential customers.
While one or two sporadic attempts at this kind of public outreach might not be terribly effective, a consistent effort will result in your company becoming a regular part of your community’s life.
This week, Apple was named the most valuable brand in the world . This might not come as a surprise to those of us who’ve witnessed the crowd that gathers, pressed up against the glass, waiting for the Apple store to open in the morning. Still, it’s important to remember that the mighty golden Apple was once just a startup seedling. How did it go from a quirky little computer company to the world’s most powerful brand?
Focus. Apple knows who it is and, more importantly, who its customers are and what they want. Everything it does is focused on keeping those customers happy.
You should be able to say the same thing about your company. Is everything you do done with your customer in mind? If not, what’s stopping you? Solving those problems might free you up to hone your brand image every day.
Sometimes, business owners assume customers don’t want to be marketed to, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, many recent academic studies have found that not only do consumers like branding, they become emotionally attached to it.
And, when you don’t deliver on consistent branding, you’re sending a mixed message. I recently broke up with a beloved brand after its customer service department didn’t deliver on the promise of the image the company spent millions of dollars promoting in the dozens of catalogues it mails me each month. I felt they’d broken the promise of who they pretended to be. Had the company been less focused on its branding in the first place, I may not have been so personally insulted at having bought into the brand’s identity only to be disappointed.
Small business has the same responsibility to its customers. Even a simple word-of-mouth referral carries the promise of a good product or reliable service. Breaking that promise is – for loyal customers – as bad as forgetting Valentine’s Day.
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Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily . She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .