13 October 2007

Your Biggest Asset

It's been a while since I posted an actual marketing or brand related post, so...

As a business owner, are you aware of what your largest asset is? Some believe that their biggest asset is their people, some their product and some their tangibles (cash, real estate, investments etc.). While all of these contibute to the wealth and success of a company, the largest asset is in fact, their brand and it's association with how the customer experiences it.

Donald Trump has said that his largest asset is his name and he's absolutely right, his name is his brand. Aside from, "you're fired!", he is also known for building high quality real estate projects - his name is associated with the best when it comes to such projects. The Trump brand equates to high quality and the absolute best in workmanship, materials and service.

Each new project the Donald takes on gets bigger and better, and while there's good money to be made in doing this, a lot of money can also be made in slapping together a couple of really inexpensive projects, perhaps more as the quantities could be much greater. But, the equity in the brand would disappear faster than the air in a novelty whoopee cushion when sat on by an unsuspecting fat kid. The air around the brand however would not be as unblemished as that left by the fake fart.

The effects on a brand are far reaching when a customers expectations are let down buy not getting what they have been promised by years of brand development. A company can spend years nurturing and developing their brand profile and awareness (these are very different) and blow it in one campaign (new coke). The recovery from a brand let down can take years, if it happens at all. That's why it is important to always protect and nurture the brand and treat your brand like a child.

If you think about it, a child has defining characteristics; likes, dislikes, attitudes, looks good in certain colours has emotions and is very unique... just like a brand. The better you get to know and understand your brand the better you are going to get your brand out of diapers and into the real world (do I need to say metaphorically speaking or is it implied here?)

Be a good parent, get to know your brand.

And, always remember, decisions made in every aspect of your business can effect your brand and how it is perceived by customers, employees, suppliers and supporters. Whenever making a decision, it may be wise to ask yourself what would my brand do (WWMBD)? If you ask yourself that prior to a decision, you may not change your mind about the decision, but you may better understand the possible implications on the brand and develop a strategy to deal with it.

Great brands can live on long after the company has gone... the Pop Shoppe is one such example. This brand had great awareness in the 70's but could not continue to operate in the changing dynamic and competitiveness of the soft drink market and shut down eventually. Sure they could have changed their business model to better suit the changing marketplace, but that's another blog.

The Pop Shoppe brand has been resurrected and brought back into the mainstream by some enterprising entrepreneur that saw the value in starting something that was already familiar in the market. Starting any business has its risks, but starting with an already estabished brand has got to help - here is a quote from a customer from the new Pop Shoppe web site:

"I was shopping today at a little deli here in Halifax, Nova Scotia and I found a lone bottle of Pop Shoppe Root beer. I did a double take and smiled. I haven’t seen Pop Shoppe in as much as 20 years! I bought up the bottle and drank my childhood back."

Now, did you pick up on the line, I did a double take and smiled? When it comes down to it, that's the power of a brand and the way a brand should make you react... with feeling and emotion. Obviously, their brand experience twenty years ago was very positive. Now consider this: this is a new product on the shelf, one the customer has never tried (because it's new)... yet, they were able to make that huge impact and the sale I might add, simply based on the familiarity and credibility that the brand gave it. That's what I call powerful marketing stuff.

Anyhoo, bent your ear enough - now go do something productive, like nurture your brand.

04 October 2007

Robert C. Hicklin the Third

My first real job was as an advertising coordinator for Safeway, working out of the district office in Calgary. It was a relatively small office with about 40 people or so, everyone was very close and got along famously.

My job carried huge responsibility, I looked after weekly newspaper and radio advertising for all of southern Alberta and south eastern British Columbia as well as putting together sponsorship deals and launching national programs within the district... a pretty large responsibility and budget for a twenty one year old. My boss was located in Edmonton and when we finally met face to face (after a year of employ), I got the impression that he was expecting me to be much older.

As I said, we had a really tight group which I learned a lot from, it was a great group of people and they were all very helpful in my success back then. Because my boss was in Edmonton, Bob Hicklin, the southern Alberta District Merchandising Manager, took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. Bob was very easy going and quick with a joke, people looked forward to meetings with Bob. I learned a lot working in that office, but I learned the most from Bob Hicklin.

It's been nearly 20 years and I still remember everything I learned working under Bobby Hick. Working with Bob was such a gift. Bob treated everyone as an equal, no matter who they were. Bob's door at Safeway was always open; for staff to come in and discuss work or personal problems and for salesmen to come in and present new items. What's more is that Bob treated suppliers like partners, and worked with them closely and openly, this always impressed me and is something that I firmly believe in and practice to this day.

Bob made working fun: golf tournaments, parties, receptions, skiing, sponsorships, lunches, dinners, premiums, hockey games and Hooters and combinations of, were all part of working with him. Bob could recognize when someone was working hard and would reward them accordingly with one of the aforementioned items.

After about 2 years of working with Bob in Calgary, we were both transferred to the Edmonton Division Office for Safeway. At that time, I was the youngest person transferred with the company, breaking new ground has always driven and energized me. I was brought up to Edmonton to look after print advertising for all of Alberta, a challenge that I was ready for - what I wasn't ready for was a tenured staff that didn't want to listen to some 'kid' from Calgary. Bob helped me with this adjustment and provided me with support.

I remember when Bob announced his retirement about 8 or 9 years ago, everyone including myself was very happy for him, we continued to celebrate his announcement for months leading up to the retirement day, going for lunches, laughing, golfing and telling stories. When he finally finished working, the office was never the same. His retirement party was sold out - 360 people at $50 each (with a waiting list). Try and find another retirement party like that one!

My wife and I visited Bob and his wife Marion in their first retirement home in Celista, BC about 7 years ago. It was a beautiful home overlooking Copper Island at Shuswap Lake. We really enjoyed the visit and I remember thinking of how lucky I was to know and be friends with a great guy like Bob. We visited a few times when Bob came through Calgary the odd time, and I looked forward to getting the old gang together for a lunch and having another laugh with Bob. Bob and Marion even made a trip in to see our twins when they were born.

Bob Hicklin passed away last week. He will be missed by many.

Good bye my friend, my mentor... thanks for all you shared.