Over the weekend i saw a great biography on Frank Perdue - you know the chicken guy. If you are one of 98% of the people in the United States - you know who this guy is. And what he did was truly astounding - he turned a commodity into a brand and built in into one of the most successful businesses in the world. And yes - brand recognition studies in the US for chicken say that 98% of people when asked to name a brand of chicken say Perdue.
Frank's father started out in the egg business, but Frank had bigger aspirations. He revolutionized the poultry industry, even blending his own unique feed. He did his research - he spent months talking to butchers in New York to find out what they were looking for in a chicken. But what really pushed the brand over the top were the commercials where he was the star.
This was the brainchild of an ad firm in New York - whose name escapes me. Everyone remembers the 100+ commercials staring the meek but honest Frank Perdue. The guy's obsession with quality came through in every spot - and boy did it work. Frank passed away, but his son has since taken up the torch with a similar set of commercials.
Why does this type of branding work. To simplify - it makes people comfortable and confident. We like to buy from people we know and trust. If given the chance - we don't want to do business with faceless corporations.
Dave Thomas of Wendy's is another very likable guy who left an incredible legacy, and who the world mourned when he passed away. Look at Ben and Jerry the ice-cream guys. George Zimmer of Men's Wearhouse is another person who puts himself in his commercials and puts his values up front. Who says nice guys finish last?
What worked for Dave and Frank is their genuineness. They weren't actors playing a role - they came on as themselves and openly expressed values they actually believed in. Contrast this with the slew of personal injury attorneys and car salesmen that put themselves in commercials that come off as less than trustworthy. While this advertising works on some level, it will never build the powerful brand of companies that people trust.
"You've only mentioned these huge corporations, how does this relate to small business marketing J D?" Keep your pants on, I'm about to get to that.
As a small business owner, you are in a unique position to create a brand that is yours. There's a great restaurant in Boston called Dolce Vita. Franco, the owner, greets everyone as they come in the door - shaking men's hands and kissing women on the cheek. About halfway through the meal Franco roams around through the restaurant singing love songs accompanied by an accordion player. There is not a face in the house without a smile. Yes, the food and wine is fantastic - but the ambiance and the feeling of welcoming hospitality leaves an indelible impression.
Being a part of your brand doesn't mean that you need to advertise on TV or radio. A local grocery store here puts out a couple of special items in the produce section with a picture of the produce manager. The sign reads - I have tried this today and I know you will love it. The impression is that the produce manager is interested enough in his own quality to try different items every morning.
Here are a few steps to help you think about your brand:
- What are your values? You should get very clear about your values. If you don't know how to do this, find a coach who can help you - the money and time investment will be well worth it. It's not enough to spout a bunch of values that you think sound good - your brand must be genuine. One of my values is value. The principle behind the value is that I always strive to give my clients a value worth many times more than what they are paying me. I love to blow people's minds with stuff to build their business and have them come back and tell me that they aren't paying me enough.
- Describe the principles behind your values. I just described one of mine above. The principle is the working mechanics, and the clarification behind the value. What does the value mean to you. If you say you value family - how does that manifest?
- Get a grip on your identity. Just be your yourself, unless you're a jerk of course. Describe yourself in a few sentences and then ask some family and loved ones to do the same. Look for discrepancies. I have an impish sense of humor, and one of my friends described me as a "short blue-eyed devil." That cracked me up - and I adopted it. Your identity doesn't have to be about physical characteristics - your personality is more important. Are you down to earth, high-energy, gregarious, loving, humble, smart, simple, whatever?
- Infuse your values and personality into your business in truly genuine ways. The key word is genuine. Obviously you need to be appropriate as well. One of the funniest guys I ever knew was a funeral director. Obviously he wouldn't be in business if he was cracking jokes during funerals. But his ability to create rapport with people and help them with difficult emotions was very useful and appreciated.
One of my values is relationships. I strive to be a connector - creating useful relationships among people I know while building the depth and quality of my network. If you read my blog, or my articles regularly - you see that I always talk about the relationship with the client. I am not about transaction - based marketing. This is my value and I infuse it into everything I do.
I am not saying that my values are better than anyone else's, and neither should you. My set of values are unique to me, so everyone else's will be different. That's OK. Sometimes I just want to run into Walmart and get a screwdriver and a $1 bag of popcorn. Other times I want to go to a mom and pop store where a knowledgeable employee will walk me through a purchase.
Whatever your values are, if you infuse them into your business, they will resonate with some customers and not others. This is great. You can't have every customer in the world, but you can have a good-sized group of very loyal customers who will bring you more and more business to make you grow.
Build your brand and it will serve you well.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet