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The 5 Goals of Epic Brands

On a long enough timeline, an extraordinary communications plan will reveal itself in the form of a brand that has risen above its competitors to take over the marketplace. Another year is about to be written into the history books and it’s time to think about what your brand’s legacy has been if you haven’t done so already. History has shown us many examples of how stellar corporate identities have been built, and when you think about the biggest brands in the world it’s fun to think about the lessons that can be derived from examining their stories. These companies have many desirable things in common that industry leaders can learn from. Profitability, yes, but they’re also epic in the sense of having a storied and remarkable impact on their respective industries.

Financial news blog 24/7 Wall Street wrote an interesting retrospective of the world’s oldest logos still in use, which is a great resource for observing interesting examples and drawing conclusions about what some of the best brands of all time have going for them in the public relations department. Here are 5 common strengths that appear often in their stories:

1) Earn recognition

Recognition is often a benefit bestowed on the first. Just ask Ferdinand Magellan, Neil Armstrong and the Wright brothers. One great historical example is Bass Ale, which was the very first registered trademark ever issued by the British government. The brewery has stood the test of time, earning the sort of recognition that comes with longevity: it has been fought over by Napoleon, featured by the painter Edouard Manet and again by James Joyce in his novel Ulysses, and noted in reports of the Titanic, which was carrying 12,000 bottles of Bass in its hold when it sank.

Great branding is also often a big part of what merits recognition that stand the test of time, as in the case of another European brewery, Stella Artois. Borrowing from the Latin for “star”, Stella began with a Christmas Star brew that launched what has become the best-selling Belgian beer in the world. The famous horn that tops their red and gold logo, which was originally designed in 1366, is the instrument historically used to call road-weary travelers inside at dinner time. Their calling card for enjoying a cold one still works, as their parent company is worth over $40B these days. Both of these examples draw on popularity and a history of quality service to the marketplace.

2) Establish leadership

At a time when global food culture has produced literally hundreds of varieties of tomato sauce, the ubiquitous tomato condiment is nearly singular in Heinz ketchup which maintains leading market share in more than 50 countries worldwide. All of this dominance from a young Henry Heinz who used vegetables from his mother’s garden to bottle horseradish for sale. It took him ten years in business before he introduced his version of ketchup to the American consumer. They now supply more than 5,700 products worldwide and were recently purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway for $28 billion. The original logo remains unchanged.

The recognizable stamp of a logo is quite often the meaningful commitment to quality from a company’s founders that differentiate it from others on the shelf.  Johnson & Johnson, founded in 1886, was the first company in the U.S. to mass-produce sterile bandages. At a time when a great bandage was the difference between risking infection and healing safely, the cursive signature of the founder was his promise of safety that led them to become leaders in their respective product category and extend to the many more goods they offer today’s consumers.

3) Maximize audience exposure

Shell Oil is a global powerhouse by any standard, but their lesser known roots are a fantastic example of maximizing efficiency. Founded in 1833, Marcus Samuel and Company began shipping kerosene to India and picking up seashells on the return trip for sale in London. It’s hard to believe by today’s commodity values, but at the time the sale of shells was actually the more profitable half of the trip. In 1907, Shell merged with the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, retaining the logo that tells the story of their coastal profit source. Perhaps because they were the kind of company that took the opportunity to expand their potential, they remain one of the world’s largest energy companies with a market value of nearly $260 billion.

Facing the expiration of its exclusive patent in 1886, Levi Strauss & Co. first established its logo as a way to retain its market share for denim jeans. The logo became so widespread that early customers would often ask for pants with the “two horses” and they actually used the name “The Two Horse Brand’ until 1928, when Levi Strauss officially trademarked the Levi’s name. If they hadn’t taken the steps towards a more recognizable image, they would have likely missed out on the last century among the leaders of the clothing industry.

4) Build credibility

On top of a company’s exposure to a reliable client base, projecting a credible reputation is integral. Financial company Prudential, founded in 1875 as the Prudential Friendly Society, realized that they needed to project a stronger message to the American public for that very reason. They created a new image showcasing the rock of Gibraltar, which must have done the trick considering their revenue of $41.5 billion at the end of last year.

Building upon expertise and reputation is the growth strategy of many companies including Peugeot. They capitalized on their credibility in the steel commodities to transition into a bicycle manufacturer, and then automobiles when they became popular at the turn of the century. They’re still evolving, celebrating their 125th anniversary this year with a social media contest, which is more than you might expect from any other steel company.

As Gizmodo pointed out in a recent branding article, unique marks used by merchants for quality tracking were a kind of precursor to the modern logo put in place to associate credibility with a specific symbol.

5) Promote expertise

Sherwin-Williams knew more about paint than most people would ever want to know, which almost makes their audacious “cover the world” motto seem appropriate. They parlayed their expertise in manufacturing quality paint to engineering and patenting new can styles, creating a distribution model and setting up thousands of retail locations. They’re a great example of how audacity pays off if you know enough about what you’re selling.

Another fine example is the story of Thomas Twining, who knew tea and focused his company on the drink at a time when coffee, gin and beer were all more popular breakfast drinks in England. Twinings Tea has benefited from his investment and longevity as a leading tea brand, which remains family-owned after 10 generations. Their expertise has extended to manufacturing for new lifestyles and brewing formats as well. According to recent reports, their customers drink 7 billion cups a year including an evolving line of K-cups.

A big part of setting a communications plan for any company is realizing that the brand’s long term value is not in its day to day service but in its reputation and visibility. That is often where the competition is bested and the clients are won. In 2015, ensure that your corporate communication is focused on these top five goals: earning recognition, establishing leadership, maximizing audience exposure, building credibility and promoting your subject matter expertise. Putting the tactics in place to help you achieve those objectives will guarantee you and your team a happy new year.

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Eric Lachs is the Director of Client Relations at Marketing Matters (www.marketingmatters.net), a communications and design firm specializing in technology, consumer and custom electronics, audio-video and related industries.

The Best Websites of 2015

Here we are in Q4 2014, approaching the new year, and so many marketers are ignoring the fork in the road. It’s time to commit to your marketing goals for the next twelve months, and if you’re anything like most companies your website is in dire need of attention.

www.MarketingMatters.netSo let’s start with the basics: what’s the most important page of your website? If you thought “the homepage” then you’ve been tricked. The answer is “the most visited page.”

Earning the best website of 2015 requires taking a look at the analytics and statistics of 2014. Any marketer or strategist who operates without looking at the data available to them is missing the point.

Know how people use your website first before you presuppose why people would find value in your business. That information may reveal the need to make big changes. For example, if visitors spend less than a minute on your news page you may consider updating it more often with blog posts or adding other engaging features.

MM Website analyticsWith all we know about the need for search engine optimization (SEO), why is it so difficult to increase your traffic year over year? First of all, you may not be keeping pace with your competitors. Secondly, and more importantly, the algorithms and strategies for how to rank higher change more often than you think. Stay up to date or risk obsolescence. Consider these tips:

  1. SEO experts agree that average content with super keyword integration is now trumped by more natural writing styles. Context and originality over coding.
  2. You may be spinning your wheels if you’re employing the old tactic of link sharing and adding longer page text just for the sake of it. Due in part to social media networks, shareable and applicable images or video might do more for you than all that keyword-rich text.
  3. Specificity and niche are key. Sought-after rankings for short keyword combinations are in high demand and come at a high cost, but ranking for a more specific keyword combination gives you a higher probability of converting to actual click-throughs. In other words, it would be great to rank highly for “website design”, but it may be more lucrative for Marketing Matters to be known as “South Florida’s best website designer.”

Have you taken notice of your website analytics, and if so, what have you noticed changing? Contact me at eric@marketingmatters.net for a free website analysis if you need some help turning it into one of the best websites of 2015 today.

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Eric Lachs is the Director of Client Relations at Marketing Matters (www.marketingmatters.net), a leading South Florida marketing and public relations firm specializing in technology and related industries.

The Difference Between an Advertising and PR Agency

Knowing the difference between an advertising and PR agency is crucial to any business looking for a technology PR agency or advertising agency. In a world that is run by bigger and better technology and social media, you will want to get the biggest bang for your buck, and knowing the difference between these two options will help you along the way.

There is an old saying which says that “advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.” Put another way, if you go for an advertising agency you will certainly get what you pay for. However, the visibility you can achieve with a great technology PR agency, could potentially be repaid ten-fold in the quality of publicity and media relations work as well as the outcome of your marketing strategy. PR attention for your business is an earned privilege that your technology PR agency works diligently on to develop relationships with the right reporters and editors to encourage them to write positive stories and reviews of your product or service.

Another major difference is the perception of credibility of the advertising and where it appears. Advertising will always appear to be “paid media”, whereas PR pieces will appear in the editorial section of the newspaper, magazine, website, or TV station. This also adds credibility to your product or service as it comes with the earned verification of an independent and trusted third party and is not just a purchased space. So paying to tell people how wonderful you are has its place, but combined with a good technology PR agency handling your publicity, more people will be singing your praises. Take, for example, a woman who is paging through a magazine and sees an advertisement for a designer dress and then reads the fashion editor describing another dress as a “must-have” or “best buy”. The endorsement of an already trusted fashionista and industry expert for the second dress will likely have greater influence and be more effective than even the best advertisement. In fact, a 2014 study by Nielsen that was commissioned by inPowered concluded that PR is almost 90% more effective than advertising when it comes to the role of content in the consumer decision making process.

Lastly, one of the more important aspects of PR, which you will need to keep in mind, is the social and technological nature of our world. While a good printed advertisement might last a few months, it may be fleeting when compared to the weight and lasting effect a great article will have. With the advent and increasing popularity of social and online media, technology PR agencies are able to extend the lifespan of the efficacy of their work – tweets, retweets, sharing articles on Facebook, re-posting, and forwarding emails. This also makes PR markedly more versatile and potentially more cost-effective than an advertising campaign. In other words, great PR stands a chance of being just as powerful as an entire year of repeated advertising if you earn the right high-profile article.

So if you are looking for a new marketing strategy that has the potential to be more effective, influential and cost-effective, you should consider a good technology PR agency such as Marketing Matters to look after your company’s image.