“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent that will survive, but those who can best manage change.”
There are household names who seem to have had the same logo for decades, in some cases they are businesses that have now seen some part of three different centuries; some non-commercial entities even longer.
It gives them continuity, a feeling of reliability and strength.
But they have changed – they have evolved over the years, driven by a need to be “current”.
They have had changes that were desirable because the change came about through popular advertising campaigns or growth into other products and markets, but they have also had changes that were forced on them through mergers and new minds at the top; sometimes taking two steps backward to take one forward.
If you are any kind of organisation, you need to be honest about your stature in your market place – how large is your customer base, how prevalent is your image – if you could see the whole picture, how many would know who you are and how would they rate you against your competition? There is a point beyond which major changes in image may have a negative effect on sales, but most firms have not reached that point – some never reach that point.
Beyond that point the plan is always to evolve sympathetically and add sub brands and creative marketing concepts to raise excitement (it is still change) – but unless you are Heinz or Virgin et al the chances of you being beyond that point are slim to non-existent.
Before that point all positive change is good:
Planned, managed and taken full of advantage of, a change can inspire everyone inside the business, bring a boost to sales and greater awareness with your audience - “your audience” is a term we use a lot, this includes all your staff, stakeholders, suppliers, customers and everyone who could use your products or services. Whether they are taking the same or similar products from your competition, or if they just don’t know your products are available.
Even those who will never have a need to do business with you – but know someone who might - are still part of your audience.
Many companies are so up to their necks in day to day business and established relationships with customers, they have no time to think about it, never mind develop deeper ways to attract new business than the obvious ads and flyers; but life isn’t obvious.
Others are so confident with the rate new customers come along, they don’t worry about how that flow may be interrupted; but it can be interrupted quite easily – for one thing by a competitor changing image and direction, or a new entrant into the market place being well enough prepared to take it by storm!
So many things to think about, or not – if you accept that against a background of human beings in a modern society being easily bored, fickle in the extreme and hard to impress, then you know your visible presence as a business has a sell by date.
From that view point you can easily understand why no change means your image will date, go stale, attract bits of unsightly fluff, until your presence melts away more quickly, in the bright light of already changing competition, than an ice lolly dropped on a Greek beach...
Take a deep breath, then another, carry on till your head is clear, then close your eyes and imagine someone who knows nothing about your business, is looking at your business.
What do they see?
No, they don’t - you’re already thinking they can see what you do; they can’t, neither can you assume they would understand what you did if they just saw your name and maybe a strap line – or a one line description.
Start again with those deep breaths and clear head; now think about someone looking at you personally, someone who doesn’t know you, who has never seen you before. What is their first impression?
Don’t say “I don’t care” - it may be a healthy(ish) attitude or even philosophy in your personal life, as well as for your own sanity, but let’s say you want this unknown person to like you (make up your own reasons) – now how do they see you, don’t put yourself down or hype yourself up, try to be honest, put yourselves in their shoes – making no assumptions about their personal preferences or prejudices.
Can you do that?
Now think again about your business and apply the same method. You want this person to be attracted to your business, not because they are a potential customer, but just because.
This is the first step to learning everything you need to know about communicating your business offering through your image.
A major factor in the success of any company or organisation is simple preference – it isn’t quantifiable – because it isn’t a price comparison or even a convenience thing. You can bet there have been focus groups gathering facts and opinions of shoppers on every aspect of why they “like” a particular store – you’ll see talking heads on TV adverts telling you why. But it isn’t something you can really calculate or seriously put on paper.
Preference is preference – no need to analyse it they either like you or they don’t – you as an individual or “you” as a business, getting your brand image right (for you in the first instance) is the beginning of almost every future success. If you are making money now – you may already be doing it without knowing.
You and them.
When we are working with clients, who are improving their futures by managing change, we find from our point of view, there are (very, very broadly) two categories that most businesses and organisations fall into; Character Led and Arms-Length.
These each split into two more:
Each of these categories can then be split further by industry or market – but for now we will just talk about the character led organisations.
Alf had a sandwich shop – it was a goldmine; located within 5 minutes’ walk of several office blocks and on a direct route between a wider commercial district and both central train and bus stations.
It had competition in all directions, but Alf’s buttie stop was the most successful – until Alf sold it to set up a snooker club.
The new owners thought they’d been defrauded, the books showing much higher historical turnover than they experienced in the first month after the takeover – nothing had changed – same menu, decoration, even the sign hadn’t been changed.
They quizzed a couple of customers – the difference turned out to be the “under new management” note in the window.
The menu wasn’t actually that great, the decoration was tacky, the prices were average – but Alf was a character and banter as light relief at lunch time, or a “cheer up” on the way in from the train was what had kept the customers coming back. They were smiling too much to notice what the sandwich was like, and if they hadn’t been that impressed with the food it didn’t matter because they liked the guy they bought it from.
It comes back to preference – people will always do business where they feel comfortable, like they’re the only customer – happiness, even for those few minutes is a mighty sales tool.
During that first conversation we talked about in Your Story we are trying to get into the head of the owner manager, the company directors – your likes and dislikes, your personal and professional perspectives – basically what you are into.
This way, if we get the branding right, an image you can live with, we achieve two things – firstly you can be proud of it, and secondly you will attract people of a like mind, making them a pleasure to do business with – because if they like your taste they are likely to like you, and your business. Of course it doesn’t hurt if that is mutual.
Not everyone who stepped over the threshold of Alf’s buttie stop will have liked Alf, and those people won’t have gone back – but there is always plenty of business out there - you don’t need everyone’s work to be profitable or to be happy, so long as you are attracting enough.
Not everyone of course, is in the smaller end of the direct catering industry – but the same principle applies. When you aren’t in a position to “banter” with every customer your brand becomes your face, and your voice, in the world. The intention is to imbue that image with your character – or whatever character you want it to be imbued with.
There are other similar processes, for getting across an appropriate character for businesses where the owners rely on their staff to be customer facing, and for those realistically cynical businesses who don’t care if their personal image/character matches those of their customers because they never have to meet them to do business.
That’s all part of why we have the conversation.
You may have noticed that our website has a lot more text than those of other design or creative marketing companies. That is because there is so much to say when you are trying to explain to thousands of different types and sizes of organisations, all of whom need individual conversations and tailor made solutions – no scratch that, not tailor made solutions, YOU are the solution – you already have everything inside you as an individual, or inside “you” as a business for us to create the right image – we just need to find it and bring it out.
Chipping away at the marble until you see the angel – as Michael Angelo probably said something similar to.
One definition of “genius” is the ability to take something complicated and make it simple – so unless you have followed all this easily it means one of us isn’t; probably me. Sorry – go back and read it all again – or give me a call so we can talk about you.
If you have understood all above – Yay!! Let’s have the conversation anyway!